POLITICS
03/21/2017 05:46 pm ET Updated Mar 22, 2017

HUFFPOST HILL - Aimless, Rain-Soaked Merrick Garland Stops To Watch Confirmation On Storefront TV

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

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What on Earth would the 1980s think about President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, a guy first elevated to the federal bench by George Bush’s son, being grilled so thoroughly by Senator Al Franken? Trump will meet with the Congressional Black Caucus tomorrow, and why it took April Ryan to arrange the meeting is beyond us. And Twitter erupted in a flurry of  “Find you a man who looks at you like Ted Cruz looks at Neil Gorsuch,” memes, but, once again, Heidi’s feelings were left out of the equation. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, March 21st, 2017:

TRUMP BIFFING AHCA - Michael McAuliff and Matt Fuller: “President Donald Trump made a personal pitch for his Affordable Care Act repeal bid Tuesday, promising that Republicans who vote against the bill will face political consequences…. Trump argued that the party’s future ― and by extension, his legacy ― is on the line. And if members did not fall in line, especially the conservatives of the House Freedom Caucus, Republicans would pay a price. ‘If the Freedom Caucus kills this bill, which they could, then they will have voted to continue Obamacare, which, as the president pointed out, in 2018 probably means we would lose the House and the Senate,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.).’ … Both his political capital and much of his remaining domestic legislative agenda rests on passage of this, lawmakers said…. But even with these moves and the stakes Trump laid out Tuesday, the president ― at least so far ― appeared to have swayed only a few votes.” [HuffPost]  

But how can we make people…sicker? “The Freedom Caucus is now pushing for the elimination of certain minimum coverage standards mandated by the Affordable Care Act ― the so-called ‘Essential Health Benefits,’ which are minimum services that insurance plans must offer, like hospitalization and lab services. Conservatives also have their sights on similar language in Title I of the ACA that constitutes a ‘Qualified Health Plan.’ Eliminating those mandates would lower premiums because insurers could offer plans with huge gaps in coverage.” [HuffPost’s Matt Fuller]

GORSUCH, DAY TWO: ORIGINALIST BOOGALOO - We just today realized how much Neil Gorsuch could be Anthony Bourdain’s older brother, Neil Gorsuch (this fictional brother would also be named “Neil”). Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung: “Answering questions from senators during the second day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Gorsuch said Trump never asked him to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion nationwide, saying if the Republican president had done so ‘I would have walked out the door.’ … Democrats probed Gorsuch on whether he would be willing to hold Trump accountable. Asked by Senator Patrick Leahy whether a president has the power to violate a law on surveillance of Americans, Gorsuch said, ‘Nobody is above the law in this country, and that includes the president of the United States.’” [Reuters]

Congratulations to the Brady Campaign: “[Gorsuch] said Tuesday that the court’s 2008 decision declaring a fundamental right to possess guns for self-defense in the home is settled law. ‘[District of Columbia v.] Heller is the law of the land,’ Gorsuch told Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on the second day of his confirmation hearing. ‘Whatever is in Heller is the law, and I follow the law,’ he said earlier during that same exchange.” [HuffPost’s Cristian Farias]

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UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER ACCUSES MANAFORT IN MONEY-LAUNDERING SCHEME - Is there a word that is more salacious-sounding — but only when in a political context — than “payments”? Andrew Roth: “A Ukrainian lawmaker released new financial documents Tuesday allegedly showing that a former campaign chairman for President Trump laundered payments from the party of a disgraced ex-leader of Ukraine using offshore accounts in Belize and Kyrgyzstan. The new documents, if legitimate, stem from business ties between the Trump aide, Paul Manafort, and the party of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who enjoyed Moscow’s backing while he was in power. He has been in hiding in Russia since being overthrown by pro-Western protesters in 2014, and is wanted in Ukraine on corruption charges.” [WaPo]

RUST BELT GOING TO BE SO GREAT AGAIN - Our web-toed children will be able to be so much more efficient at their jobs. Arthur Delaney: “The Trump administration’s budget proposal would slash overall EPA funding by a third and would cut the budget for the agency’s enforcement division by a fifth. Echoing comments that [EPA Administrator Scott] Pruitt has made over the years, the budget proposal said the EPA should focus its enforcement work on federal laws for which states aren’t primary enforcers. One regulation for which states have primary responsibility is the federal Lead and Copper Rule ― the regulation that Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality admitted it failed to enforce in Flint, leading to the water crisis.” [HuffPost]

BREITBART UNDER INVESTIGATION - Peter Stone and Greg Gordon: “Federal investigators are examining whether far-right news sites played any role last year in a Russian cyber operation…. Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed.. millions of Twitter and Facebook posts carrying links to stories on conservative internet sites such as Breitbart News and InfoWars, as well as on the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News, the sources said. Some of the stories were false or mixed fact and fiction, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the bot attacks are part of an FBI-led investigation into a multifaceted Russian operation to influence last year’s elections. Investigators examining the bot attacks are exploring whether the far-right news operations took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives. Their participation, however, wasn’t necessary for the bots to amplify their news through Twitter and Facebook.” [McClatchy]

OTHER-IZING! GET YER FRESH HOT OTHER-IZING HERE! - This is the Ground Zero Mosque on steroids. Akbar Shahid Ahmed: “The Republican Party of Virginia is attacking the state’s Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, for visiting one of the U.S.’s largest mosques to talk about President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban. ‘On March 17, Mark Herring joined with a Hamas-linked group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, to host a town hall to oppose the Trump Administration’s efforts to keep Americans safe from terrorism,’ reads a petition on the state Republican Party’s website that appears designed to collect emails. ‘Sign our petition to demand that Mark Herring apologize to the victims of Islamic terrorism.’ The message’s characterization of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a major Muslim civil society organization, as an affiliate of the Palestinian terror group Hamas echoes a theory that is popular in the right-wing media and Islamophobic circles but has never been proven.” [HuffPost]

LOCAL TV NEWS IS TERRIBLE - Coming up next on Good Morning, Tulsa, the resurrected corpse of Joseph Goebbels shares his secret blueberry pancakes recipe! Michael Calderone: “The president’s bogus ‘wiretap’ claim was surely on the mind of other Washington journalists Monday afternoon given that FBI Director James Comey dismissed it during a congressional hearing that morning. Comey also confirmed in that hearing that the FBI is investigating several Trump associates regarding Russia’s alleged attempt to influence the 2016 election. But when Trump did a couple interviews hours later with local newscasts prior to his rally in Louisville, Kentucky, those two stories consuming the capital didn’t come up. A representative for a Cincinnati station interviewing Trump says they chose to focus on local concerns, while a Louisville reporter who spoke to the president said those two issues were off limits.” [HuffPost]

‘FIRST DAUGHTER,’ NOT A CRAPPY 90s MOVIE YOU FORGOT ABOUT - ICYMI. Annie Karni: “Ivanka Trump, who moved to Washington saying she would play no formal role in her father’s administration...has secured her own office on the West Wing’s second floor — a space next to senior adviser Dina Powell, who was recently promoted to a position on the National Security Council. She is also in the process of obtaining a security clearance and is set to receive government-issued communications devices this week…. As her role in the White House grows — a role that comes with no playbook — Trump plans to adhere to the same ethics and records retention rules that apply to government employees, Gorelick said, even though she is not technically an employee. But ethics watchdogs immediately questioned whether she is going far enough to eliminate conflicts of interest, especially because she will not be automatically subjected to certain ethics rules while serving as a de facto White House adviser.” [Politico]

THE KNEE BONE CONNECTS TO THE...SKULL - News from Texas, where you can vote with a gun license but not a student ID. Catherine Pearson: “Senate Bill 25, which will now be sent to the Texas House, prevents parents from suing their medical provider if their baby is born with disabilities, even if that doctor discovered the condition during routine prenatal testing and failed to inform the parents. The architects of the so-called ‘wrongful-birth’ bill have argued it would protect children with disabilities and prevent doctors from facing unnecessary lawsuits. ‘It is unacceptable that doctors can be penalized for embracing the sanctity of life,’ Senator Brandon Creighton (R-TX) said in a press release when he introduced the legislation last fall. But reproductive rights advocates have been relentless in their criticism of the measure, arguing that it would effectively make it lawful for a care provider who is opposed to abortion to avoid prenatal testing, downplay test results or even lie to patients about results if they believe those patients might consider terminating a pregnancy.” [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR - Here’s a cat with eyes like a hawk.

LOL, LIKE DONALD TRUMP WOULD PART WITH $500 - Anna R. Schecter: “Donald Trump’s business, The Trump Organization, is in violation of New York City law, NBC News has learned. The Trump Tower skyscraper located at 725 Fifth Avenue — where President Trump and Melania live in the penthouse apartment and his two eldest sons work in offices just below — is not registered this year with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development, a spokeswoman for the department confirmed on Tuesday…. Failing to register can result in a fine of up to $500, and revokes some of the rights usually enjoyed by property owners.” [NBC News]

COMFORT FOOD

- The sickest burns about Roger Stone’s inauguration outfit.

- A dictionary made up of analogies rather than definitions.

- History’s most unsatisfying video.

TWITTERAMA

@samsteinhp: Yes, the president with the 39% approval rating under FBI investigation will save you politically for your vote on an unpopular HC bill.

@GregJKrieg: Cruz very impressed by Byron White’s ability to throw ball through ring

@okkervilriver: Looking back, the amount of time they spent in grade school drilling the spelling of “Mississippi” into our heads seems disproportionate.

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