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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate is in the middle of thick debate, struggling to pass any option for repealing or replacing the Affordable Care Act. After a proposal to only repeal the majority of the law failed Wednesday afternoon, Senate sources said, the Republican leadership's next move will likely be to introduce a narrower repeal bill that would scrap just portions of the ACA.

This path, dubbed skinny repeal, since it would be limited in scope, is still in the works. The precise, final text has not been publicly released, but according to a draft being circulated by the Senate Majority Leader's office, it would repeal the individual mandate for health insurance coverage, the crux of Obamacare, as well as the employer mandate and a fund meant for research and development.

Other provisions include defunding Planned Parenthood and giving that money to community health centers, which could turn off moderate Republicans like Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. But it's still possible that some of those measures don't end up in the final amendment.

At least four Republican senators have threatened to block the so-called skinny repeal proposal unless they have assurances from House Speaker Paul Ryan that it is only a placeholder and would not be passed in the House and sent to the president’s desk. They, and others, want this to serve a vehicle for the next step of negotiations between the House and the Senate.

"The skinny bill as policy is a disaster. The skinny bill as a replacement for Obamacare is a fraud," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said. He said he could support the bill, but warned of the dire consequences if it was allowed to become law.

Graham said he has had conversations with Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., in which Meadows has warned him that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise has apparently been telling "some" people that the House will just take up the skinny repeal and pass it and put it on the president's desk.

"I need assurances that it will not be the final product," Sen. Graham went on during a press conference Thursday. Graham said he worried about rumors that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who has been recovering from a gunshot wound but was released from the hospital this week, was considering bringing the narrow repeal bill up for a vote as is.

Amid the negotiations Thursday evening, House Speaker Paul Ryan opened the door for the Senate proposal to be considered in a conference committee with House lawmakers, giving the Senate efforts a much-needed boost.

"It is now obvious that the only path ahead is for the Senate to pass the narrow legislation that it is currently considering,” Ryan’s statement read. “Senators have made clear that this is an effort to keep the process alive, not to make law. If moving forward requires a conference committee, that is something the House is willing to do."

As the possibility of the Senate passing a partial repeal bill loomed Thursday, several patient, hospital and insurance groups put out statements arguing that scrapping even just the mandate that individuals buy insurance could have real consequences for health care marketplaces.

Blue Cross wrote in statement: “A system that allows people to purchase coverage only when they need it drives up costs for everyone.”

America's Health Insurance Plans CEO Marilyn B. Tavenner echoed their concern, writing in a statement: “We would oppose an approach that eliminates the individual coverage requirement, does not offer alternative continuous coverage solutions, and does not include measures to immediately stabilize the individual market.”

The AARP called it a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Citing a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office that predicted repealing even just the individual mandate could lead to 15 million more Americans uninsured in the next decade a 20 percent premium increase for folks buying their own insurance.

This increase in premium costs could lead to some people's being priced out of plans, or the federal government may aid those people through subsidies and tax credits.

The individual mandate provides social cost savers as well. If people don't have insurance and get sick, hospitals, taxpayers and local governments end up covering the costs. "In the absence of a mandate, those social costs would probably increase relative to the case under current law," the CBO said in a report last December.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., indicated he would vote for a bare-bones package as long as it kept the process moving forward. "We'll keep the process going. If we've got to do something less than obviously I'd want to keep the process going, we'll do it," he said.

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US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- After Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was just one of two Republican senators to vote against proceeding to debate on a health care bill on Tuesday, she received a phone call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke voicing President Donald Trump’s displeasure about her vote.

The call, first reported by the Alaska News Dispatch, was confirmed by Murkowski’s office to ABC News.

“This was a difficult conversation,” Murkowski later said in an interview with MSNBC. “What I told the president, what I have told the president since he was elected, was I'm here to help the people of my state.”

The Interior Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment from ABC News.

The Alaska News Dispatch report also alleged that Zinke placed a call to Alaska’s other senator, Dan Sullivan, and expressed the same message about Murkowski’s vote.

Sen. Sullivan’s office did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Murkowski is the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which oversees the Interior Department and its funding.

On Thursday morning, the committee announced it would be postponing a meeting to consider nominees to both the Interior and Energy Departments.

When asked about the call at a press briefing, incoming White House press secretary Sarah Sanders deflected questions on the subject.

“I’m not going to speak about conversations between Cabinet members and other individuals that I wasn’t a part of and haven't had a chance to talk to either individual about,” Sanders said.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, did not comment on Zinke’s call, but he defended Murkowski’s stance on the health care discussion.

“I understand there are plenty of moving parts in the health care discussion; however, the facts on the ground for Alaskans haven’t changed. We still face the highest health care costs in the nation. 187,000 Alaskans -- one-fourth of our population -- are covered by Medicaid, and nearly 35,000 of those have coverage thanks to Medicaid Expansion. My team and I will continue engaging with our congressional delegation to make sure Alaskans are protected,” Walker said in a statement.

Many pointed to the call as a potential abuse of power on the part of Zinke if it was meant to threaten political retribution against Murkowski.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, announced his intention to ask for a formal investigation of the incident.

“Running a department of the federal government means you serve the people as a protector of their rights and freedoms,” Grijalva said in a statement. “It doesn’t mean you serve the president as a bag man for his political vendettas.”

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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate has approved new sanctions to punish Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election in an overwhelming vote, sending the bill to the White House and setting the stage for a potential showdown with President Trump.

The bill, cleared by the Senate in a 98-2 vote, would limit Trump's ability to lift or waive sanctions against Russia, and imposes new sanctions on Iran and North Korea. It passed the House earlier this week in a bipartisan 419-3 vote.

The Trump White House has not taken a position on the bill amid the administration's efforts to improve relations with Russia and the ongoing probes into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

"The President and the administration support sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday. "We continue to support strong sanctions against those three countries, and we're going to wait and see what that final legislation looks like and make a decision at that point."

In an interview with CNN Thursday morning, incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci suggested Trump could veto the measure.

"He may sign the sanctions exactly the way they are, or he may veto the sanctions and negotiate an even tougher deal against the Russians," he said.

Republicans and Democrats urged Trump to quickly sign the measure into law after the House and Senate cleared it with veto-proof majorities in both chambers.

"This bipartisan bill is about keeping America safe, and I urge the president to sign it into law," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., said in a statement.

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Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci responded Thursday evening to an article detailing an expletive-ridden conversation a reporter with The New Yorker says he had with Scaramucci wherein he criticized key members of the Trump administration's senior staff.

“I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump's agenda. #MAGA,” Scaramucci said in a tweet after the article posted.

Scaramucci was responding to an article posted on The New Yorker’s website (warning: this article contains offensive language), in which journalist Ryan Lizza detailed an expletive-ridden phone conversation that Lizza says the two had about Scaramucci’s hunt for leakers within the administration and his frustration with certain key members of the Trump administration, including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.

At one point, Scaramucci called Priebus a “f------ paranoid schizophrenic.”

At another, Scaramucci used a vulgar phrase describing how he alleges Priebus prevented him from becoming a part of the administration in the first six months.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Reince Priebus is still the White House chief of staff and on Wednesday he told ABC News he intends to remain in the position, but people close to President Donald Trump say he is increasingly frustrated with the management of the West Wing and the president’s most trusted advisers are already making suggestions about who could be the next chief of staff.

Here is a list of possible Priebus replacements being talked about:

White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway: Conway has had some tough days in the White House over the past six months, but by all accounts her stock is rising. Close personally to the president and first lady, Conway was the first woman to serve as campaign manager on a winning presidential campaign. She would be the first woman to serve as chief of staff.

Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg: Currently the chief of staff and executive secretary for the National Security Council, Kellogg already spends a lot of time around the president. He was also an important adviser to the president during the campaign and one of the first senior military officers to endorse Trump. He has earned the trust of a president who likes to be in the company of generals.

Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney: Mulvaney didn’t have much of a relationship with the president before the inauguration, but he came highly recommended by Vice President Mike Pence to be OMB director. The president has come to rely on him when it comes to dealing Congress and, of course, on budget issues.

Retired Gen. John Kelly: To many in the president’s inner circle, Homeland Security Secretary Kelly is considered the MVP of the Trump Cabinet. Kelly might well be the president’s first choice for chief of staff, but there is a big downside: He also likes him in his current role.

Newt Gingrich: Gingrich has spent a lot of time with the president in recent weeks and has become a close confidant of the Trump family. He is a loyalist from the early campaign days but is not afraid to tell the president when he thinks he is making a mistake. Most recently, Gingrich told Trump he should not fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Other possibilities being bandied about include Tom Barrack, Corey Lewandowski, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Gary Cohn.

As the president considers changes in the West Wing staff, he is relying more and more on the advice of his most loyal advisers from the campaign. Campaign veterans like Lewandowski and David Bossie have been spending more time around the West Wing. Conway has been playing a more central role, while Gingrich has been spending more time with the president.

On the other hand, the staff that came in from the Republican National Committee -- including Sean Spicer (on his way out), Katie Walsh (already gone) and Priebus (status unclear) -- have been pushed out of the inner circle.

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ChrisSuperseal/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When President Donald Trump tweeted his decision to ban all transgender men and women from serving "in any capacity" in the U.S. military, he specifically cited the "disruption that transgender in the military would entail." Hours later, Sarah Sanders, the incoming White House press secretary, reiterated that argument, noting that the presence of transgender troops "erodes military readiness and unit cohesion."

From women to African-Americans, gays to now trans individuals, the idea that a category of people could destroy an army from within is an argument as old as the U.S. military itself. To critics, it is one that has not stood the test of time.

Shortly after George Washington became commander-in-chief of the America's revolutionary army, he banned blacks -- freed and enslaved -- from service, according to the Pentagon. Eventually, he relented, but only after the British offered freedom to any slave who joined their ranks and he was desperate for more troops. Despite their service, the new Congress passed legislation barring African-Americans from serving shortly after the war ended, but eventually blacks would serve in segregated units in every American conflict, including the War of 1812, the Civil War and World War I.

During World War II, the number of African-Americans grew enormously, with nearly 700,000 serving in the U.S. Army in June 1944. That put growing pressure on the administration to desegregate the armed forces, but there was concern that doing so would hurt America's fighting power.

"The policy of the War Department is not to intermingle colored and white enlisted personnel. ... To make changes would produce situations destructive to morale and detrimental to the preparation for national defense," reads a confidential War Department memo from January 1944. The War Department is the predecessor of the Defense Department.

It's an argument that resonated with war-time President Franklin D. Roosevelt who, despite his progressive policies elsewhere, kept the armed forces segregated because he feared disrupting the military's spirit.

"In the present dangerous crisis, Negro Americans, as well as all other Americans, must make sacrifices to meet the emergency," he said in a statement in 1940. "At this time and this time only, we dare not confuse the issue of prompt preparedness with a new social experiment however important and desirable it may be."

After the war ended, President Harry Truman found the time was right, and in July 1948, he issued an executive order desegregating the military. But even then, he asked it be done slowly enough to not affect "efficiency or morale."

But perhaps what's most interesting is that after serving together, soldiers dropped their opposition to integrating the military. According to a survey conducted by Truman's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services in 1945, 64 percent of white soldiers had an unfavorable view of serving with African-Americans before they fought in an integrated unit, but 77 percent said they had a favorable view after.

Despite the finding, the same argument was used to defend the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of the Clinton administration, which barred gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. President Bill Clinton signed the executive order in December 1993.

"When men go into battle and fight, they don't fight for God, country, mom, and homemade apple pie," Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, former commander of U.S. Central Command or CENTCOM, told ABC's Barbara Walters in 1992. "It is the unit cohesion, it's your buddy on your left and on your right, and your not wanting to let the unit down."

Letting gays serve openly would ruin that, he argued: "It does tend to polarize on the organization. It does tend to break down the cohesion."

Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia told ABC News the same thing in 1993, saying, "The presence in military units by persons who, by their acts or by their statements, demonstrate a propensity to engage in homosexual acts, would cause an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are absolutely essential to effective combat capability."

But to soldiers on the battlefield, that once again didn't ring true. After his two tours in Iraq, U.S. army medic Sgt. Anthony Bustos told ABC News' Jonathan Karl in May 2010, "I know that none of my guys would have traded me for another medic whether that medic be straight, gay, lesbian, whatever."

"Don't ask, don't tell" was repealed by legislation that President Barack Obama signed in December 2010.

The argument still persists with female troops, with women viewed as disruptive to unit cohesion and even "distracting."

Women were first allowed to serve on the battlefield only as nurses during the Spanish-American War. With World War II and the advent of the Women's Army Corps, new positions including cryptographers and pilots opened up, culminating in Truman signing the Women's Armed Service Integration Act in June 1948 and establishing a permanent presence of women in the military.

That expansion of opportunity continued until 1994, when the Clinton administration signed the Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule that prohibited women from serving in direct combat on the ground. The decision came after a 1992 report from the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces argued that women should not be allowed in these roles.

"Unnecessary distraction or any dilution of the combat effectiveness puts the mission and lives in jeopardy," the report said. "Risking the lives of a military unit in combat to provide career opportunities or accommodate the personal desires or interests of an individual, or group of individuals, is more than bad military judgment. It is morally wrong."

It wasn't until January 2016 that the Obama administration ordered all military occupations and positions be opened to any woman who could meet the standards and qualifications.



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US Department of Justice(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions stands by his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation despite the barrage of criticism he has received publicly from the president this week, he said.

"I talked to experts in the Department of Justice, people trained in that. I am confident I made the right decision, the decision that is consistent by rule of law," Sessions told Fox News' Tucker Carlson in an interview that aired Thursday night from El Salvador, where Sessions is meeting with officials to discuss violence and the gang MS-13.

"An attorney general who doesn't follow the law is not very effective in leading the Department of Justice," Sessions said.

Sessions also acknowledged the president's frustration."I understand his feelings about it because this has been a big distraction for him," he said.

While President Trump's criticism of him is "hurtful," he said, he appreciates that the president has the country's best interests in mind.

"Well, um, it's kind of hurtful," Sessions told Carlson."But the president of the United States is a strong leader," Sessions said. "He is determined to move this country in the direction he believes it needs to go to make us great again. He's had a lot of criticisms and he's steadfastly determined to get his job done and he wants all of us to do our jobs. And that's what I intend to do."

Sessions also responded to Trump's assertions that he has been "weak" in prosecuting leaks from the intelligence community-- something the president tweeted about days ago.

Compared to this time last year, Sessions said, the department has already surpassed prosecutions related to leaks. "We are stepping up those cases, it cannot continue. People need to go to jail. If we can make cases, they are going to jail," Sessions said.

"The president has every right to ask the Department of Justice to be more aggressive in that," Sessions said.

Sessions, one of the first to endorse Trump during the campaign, was confirmed attorney general in February. About a month later, as the investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia got under way, attorneys at the Department of Justice suggested Sessions recuse himself from the probe because he played an integral role in the campaign as a surrogate. Sessions recused himself in March.

The first shot across the bow for Sessions came in a July 19 interview with the New York Times that highlighted the president’s frustration over Sessions’ recusal. “If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president’,” Trump told the Times.

Since then, Trump has fired out tweets relaying his dismay with Sessions multiple times and commented on the “unfairness” of his recusal in a joint press conference from the Rose Garden.

In his first tweet, he called Sessions “beleaguered.” Soon after, he tweeted that Sessions was “VERY weak” in his position on a multitude of issues, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s deleted e-mails, an investigation into the DNC server from the summer and leaks coming from the intelligence community.

Push back from conservatives has been steadfast and largely in defense of Sessions, who served as a senator for 20 years.

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believes Sessions “is doing a fine job” as attorney general and “made the right decision” in recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, alerted Washington, D.C. on Twitter that even if the president wants Sessions gone, there’s no room in the 2017 schedule to approve a new attorney general. “AG no way,” Grassley tweeted.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham went further. Not only will there be no confirmation for an attorney general in 2017, but “if Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay,” he said. “Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong.”

In recent days, others have come to Sessions' defense, including Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham warned on Thursday that there would be “holy hell to pay” if President Donald Trump fires U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“This effort to, basically, marginalize and humiliate the attorney general is not going over well in the Senate,” Graham told reporters on Thursday. “I don’t think it’s going over well in the conservative world. ... If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay.”

The South Carolina senator also pointed out that “any effort to go after" special counsel Robert Mueller "could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong.”

Graham, a Senate Judiciary Committee member, stressed that there would be no confirmation hearing for a new attorney general in 2017 and that Trump should respect Sessions as a person who “deserves better.”

Graham’s warning partly echoed Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who subtly critiqued Trump on Twitter Wednesday morning, saying the Judiciary Committee is focusing for the rest of the year on judges first and sub-cabinet nominees second -- and not any attorney general nominee.

Everybody in D.C. Shld b warned that the agenda for the judiciary Comm is set for rest of 2017. Judges first subcabinet 2nd / AG no way

— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) July 27, 2017


Senators such as Graham and Grassley have backed Sessions as Trump jabbed him this week for being “weak” on the Clinton email investigation and for not “firing” Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who was closely tied to former FBI Director James Comey.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said to ABC News on Wednesday, "Well, I'm a little bit surprised at some of the reported comments. Jeff has been very loyal to the president, and I think that he deserves loyalty back."

The Trump-Sessions tension gained steam July 19 when the president told the New York Times that he was disappointed that Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation, leaving the power to appoint a special counsel to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein appointed Mueller, who Trump said in the interview “should never have been appointed.”

Graham reiterated his support for Mueller’s continuation of the Russia investigation, saying he has no “reason” to think that Mueller is compromised. Graham warned that he would be introducing a bill next week that prevents the special counsel from getting fired when “empanelled to investigate the president” unless there is judicial review of the firing.

“The idea that the president would fire Mueller or have somebody fire Mueller because he doesn’t like Mueller or Mueller is doing something he doesn’t like, then we have become Russia,” Graham said. “So the red line should never be drawn. ... No president can do that.”

Graham added that the “president is not in the business of drawing red lines when it comes to the law” and said he hoped Trump would “calm down” to work together on Afghanistan, taxes and health care instead.

When Rosenstein appointed Mueller on May 17, Trump took a defensive stance, saying a thorough investigation will confirm “no collusion” with Russia and that he wanted to “fight back.” Mueller resigned from law firm WilmerHale, which boasts clients such as adviser to the president Jared Kushner.



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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has issued guidance to military commanders stressing that there will be no change in military policy toward transgender service members until Defense Secretary Jim Mattis receives further direction from the White House.

President Trump Wednesday announced via Twitter what appeared to be a reinstatement of the military's ban on transgender service members.

"I know there are questions about yesterday’s announcement on the transgender policy by the president," Dunford said in a written message on Thursday to military commanders, according to a copy obtained by ABC News.

"There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president’s direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance," the nation's top military commander continued.

"In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect," Dunford said. "As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions."

A Pentagon spokesman on Wednesday referred questions to the White House.

Vice Admiral Robert Burke, the Navy's top personnel officer, issued guidance to his commanders Wednesday that no personnel actions should be taken until further guidance is received by the White House and no ongoing medical treatments for transgender sailors should be ceased.

"With regard to implications for those currently serving, OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) is working to quickly discern the president's intent," Burke said in a copy of the guidance obtained by ABC News. “Treating service members with dignity and respect is something we expect from our sailors at all times."

The military does not track the number of transgender military service members through its personnel records, but the armed services do have information about service members who have contacted military medical services about a possible transgender transition.

About 160 sailors and fewer than five Marines are undergoing some form of transgender transition through the Navy's medical services, according to a Defense Department official. About 80 Army personnel are in similar transitions. The Air Force does not provide details about how many service members may be in transition.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Even though Jeff Sessions has indicated he has no intention of leaving his post, President Donald Trump’s continued public criticism of his attorney general has raised speculation about whether the president might seek to use his recess-appointment authority to replace Sessions without Senate oversight should he resign or be fired.

So how would it work?

If Sessions were to resign or be fired by the president, the Constitution allows for the president to fill the post through a recess appointment if the Senate goes on recess for a period of more than 10 days.

Article II of the U.S. Constitution states that the president can “fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.”

Under those terms, the president could appoint whomever he wants, with the pick remaining in effect until the end of the Senate’s next session -- through Jan. 3, 2019 -- without any need for Senate approval altogether in selecting a new acting attorney general.

It’s a prospect so worrisome on Capitol Hill that the Senate is set to block the scenario from presenting itself in the first place by keeping the Senate technically in session through the planned August recess.

Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said Tuesday that "we're exploring the ways right now” to keep the Senate formally in session through the August recess, calling the prospect that the president could use the recess to stop the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election “unacceptable.” While the attorney general has the power to fire a special counsel, Sessions has effectively waived that authority to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, due to his recusal from campaign-related investigations.

Democrats could filibuster the motion to adjourn so that the Senate would gavel in every three days as a means to keep the Senate formally in session.

It’s not a new approach and was used commonly during the previous administration.

Jane Chong, deputy managing editor of the legal blog Lawfare, notes that Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., did just that while Barack Obama was president.

“Under McConnell, we saw the Senate do pro forma sessions specifically to prevent from going into recess under this definition and, by extension, to prevent President Obama from exercising his recess powers,” Chong said.

The power to decide whether the Senate is in session rests solely with that legislative branch, with Chong pointing to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 2014 National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning case.

"We hold that, for purposes of the recess appointments clause, the Senate is in session when it says it is, provided that, under its own rules, it retains the capacity to transact Senate business,” the case reads.

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Vstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Numbers from a 2016 Rand Corp. study show that the ban on transgender people in the military announced by President Trump may affect only a small percentage of the 1.3 million active-duty service members currently enlisted.

On Wednesday, Trump wrote on Twitter that transgender people would not be allowed to serve in the U.S. "in any capacity," but it is unclear how the ban would affect transgender people already serving.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was unable to say during a press briefing Wednesday how the new policy would be implemented.

Here are the numbers on transgender individuals in the U.S. military:

How many transgender individuals serve in the military?


Advocacy organizations have wide-ranging estimates on how many transgender people may be serving in the military.

The 2016 Rand study, titled "Assessing the Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly," estimates that between 1,320 and 6,630 of 1.3 million active-duty service members may be transgender.

A mid-range estimate states that 2,450 active-duty service members and 1,510 members in the U.S. reserves may be transgender, according to the study.

The Department of Defense does not provide official numbers on transgender service members, but four of the military services have some numbers that indicate how very few active-duty members of the military have officially self-identified as transgender.

One defense official said the number of service members that have identified as transgender is in the low hundreds.

Only a "subset" of service members would seek a gender transition-related treatment, according to the Rand study.

Estimates derived from data from surveys and private health insurance claims indicate that between 29 and 129 active-duty service members could seek transition-related care that could "disrupt their ability to deploy," the study states.

What are the estimated costs to health care?

The cost of extending gender transition-related health care coverage to transgender service members would increase active-component health care costs by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, according to the study.

This represents a .04 to .13 percent increase in active-component health care expenditures, according to Rand.

How would transgender individuals affect military readiness?

There would be "little to no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness," according to the study.

"Policy changes to open more roles to women and to allow gay and lesbian personnel to serve openly in the U.S. military have similarly had no significant effect on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness," the study states.

Commanders of foreign militaries that allow transgender personnel noted that integration policies "had benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force," according to the study.

Why did Defense Secretary James Mattis decide to delay review of transgender applicants to U.S. military?

On June 30, Defense Secretary James Mattis decided to delay the Obama-era review of allowing transgender individuals to join the military.

A statement from Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Dana White indicates that Mattis made that decision based on recommendations from the services.

"Secretary Mattis today approved a recommendation by the services to defer accessing transgender applicants into the military until Jan. 1, 2018," White said of the June 30 decision. "The services will review their accession plans and provide input on the impact to the readiness and lethality of our forces."

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Newly named White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci on Wednesday wrote in a now-deleted cryptic tweet that the "leak" of his financial disclosure form is a "felony," adding that he would be contacting the FBI and The Department of Justice.

"In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony, I will be contacting @FBI and the @JusticeDept #swamp @Reince45," read the tweet, posted at 10:41 p.m.

Scaramucci was referring to a report by Politico which revealed the findings of the former Wall Street financier's disclosure, which was filed with the Office of Government Ethics. According to the report, Scaramucci earned $4.9 million from his stake in the investment firm SkyBridge Capital and a salary of more than $5 million between January 2016 and June 2017.

But to contextualize it as a leak is incorrect. Why? Because it's a public document.

Wikileaks, for example, tweeted, "Your financial disclosure report is a public document," with an image of instructions on how to obtain such a report.

Your financial disclosure report is a public document. https://t.co/H8goxJlmFG pic.twitter.com/Ir28JpYZdA

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 27, 2017


Scaramucci's tweet also raised eyebrows because he included White House chief of staff Reince Priebus's Twitter handle.

At a press briefing last week, though, Scaramucci said he had no friction with Priebus. "Reince and I have been personal friends for six years," he said last Friday. "We are a little bit like brothers where we rough each other up once in a while, which is totally normal for brothers. There’s a lot of people in here who have brothers, and so you get that. But he’s a dear friend. He brought me into the political system. He brought me into the Republican National Committee network."

After the Twittersphere lit up, pointing out to Scaramucci that the disclosure form is public and that it appeared he was threatening Preibus, he deleted the tweet, and posted a new one at 12:47 a.m., writing that he wasn't calling for the FBI and DOJ to investigate Preibus: "Wrong! Tweet was public notice to leakers that all Sr Adm officials are helping to end illegal leaks. @Reince45," he wrote.

Late Wednesday night the DOJ released a statement, agreeing with Scaramucci that leaks, in general, are an issue.

"We have seen an astonishing increase in the number of leaks of classified national security information in recent months," DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said. "We agree with Anthony that these staggering number of leaks are undermining the ability of our government to function and to protect this country. Like the Attorney General has said, 'whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail,' and we will aggressively pursue leak cases wherever they may lead."

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US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate is in the middle of thick debate, struggling to pass any option for repealing or replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). After a proposal to only repeal the majority of the law failed Wednesday afternoon, Senate sources say the Republican leadership’s next move will likely be to introduce a narrower repeal bill that would only scrap portions of the ACA.

This path, dubbed the “skinny” repeal, as it would be limited in scope, is still in the works. But senators say one possibility would be a bill that only repeals the individual and employer mandates in the ACA as well as the medical device tax.

This approach could leave other parts of the current law intact, including the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, marketplace regulations about what insurance companies have to cover and what they can charge, and subsidies for people buying their own insurance. GOP lawmakers hope this will increase their chances of passing the bill.

But so far, senators have not proposed specific language for a limited or “skinny” repeal.

"We’re going to figure out from our members what the traffic will bear in terms of getting as much of the Obamacare repeal and other elements into a bill that gets 50 votes," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., a member of the Senate GOP leadership, said Wednesday.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., indicated he'd vote for a bare-bones package as long as it kept the process moving forward. "We'll keep the process going. If we've got to do something less than obviously I'd want to keep the process going, we'll do it," he said.

Under current law, the individual mandate places a penalty tax on those who choose to opt out of insurance plans, while the employer mandate requires companies with a minimum of 50 full-time employees to offer coverage to their workers. The repeal will likely also propose cuts on the current taxes on medical device companies.

Some Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said they would not support a vote on any repeal efforts that do not lead to another push to draft a comprehensive replacement option. "We’re trying to find those things that we can agree upon. The main thing to me is a vehicle to do something bigger," Graham told reporters.

With the individual mandate revoked, more young, healthy Americans may choose to forgo coverage. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted that just repealing the individual mandate could lead to 15 million fewer Americans having health coverage as opposed to current law. By 2026 they estimate that 43 million people would be uninsured.

Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution and Urban Institute scholar Robert Reischauer wrote in a Brookings report that this would leave “insurers with a pool of sicker and costlier-than-average customers,” driving companies to increase their premiums in the non-group market. The CBO estimates that premiums would likely jump by 20 percent relative to rates under current law.

This increase in premium costs could lead to some people being priced out of plans they can no longer afford, or the federal government may compensate for these people through subsidies and tax credits.

The individual mandate provides social cost-savers as well. If people don’t have insurance, but still get sick, hospitals, taxpayers, and local governments end up covering the costs. “In the absence of a mandate, those social costs would probably increase relative to the case under current law," the CBO said in a report last December.

The employer mandate would likely have some coverage consequences, but less than the individual mandate. If passed, a limited repeal could also serve as a placeholder legislation that would allot GOP Senators to plan a more comprehensive replacement to the Affordable Care Act in coming sessions.

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Photo by Michael Hernandez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The acting chief of diplomatic security is leaving the State Department Thursday, vacating two important roles that ensure the protection of American diplomats serving around the world.

Six months in, the Trump administration still has not named its pick for Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security -- and dozens of other top roles at the State Department -- despite then-candidate Donald Trump's constant criticism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's handling of the Benghazi attack.

Bill Miller has been the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service since 2014, and he was made Acting Assistant Secretary after his predecessor Gregory Starr, a career foreign service officer, left in January.

Miller was not forced out and has not resigned in protest, according to the State Department, and with his departure, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs Christian Schurman will assume the Acting Assistant Secretary role.

But the departure is causing outrage from some Democrats, who are crying hypocrisy from a president who raged about the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans serving in Libya, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“It's an absolute abrogation of leadership by the President and Secretary Tillerson, and it's putting American lives at risk,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a paper statement.

“If [Trump] cared about protecting our Foreign Service officers, he would have long ago nominated an Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security,” he added.

Miller’s departure is also a reminder of how few positions the Trump administration has filled at the State Department. They still have no senior officials confirmed by the Senate other than Secretary Rex Tillerson and his Deputy Secretary John Sullivan. Only six individuals have been named for senior positions and are awaiting confirmation.

The empty slots include four of six Under Secretary positions that are vacant; one is filled by an individual in an acting role, and the other is filled by Tom Shannon, who was confirmed by the Senate in 2016.

There are 108 other senior roles -- some that require Senate confirmation and some that don’t -- including Assistant Secretaries who are the policy lead for different regions, like the Near East or East Asia, and special envoys who are focused on particularly vexing issues or hot spots, like counterterrorism or anti-Semitism.

Of those 108 other roles, 31 are filled by someone in an acting role, and 41 are completely vacant, with two more soon to be empty: the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, in charge of diplomatic engagement on cyber issues and security, and the ambassador-at-large for Global Criminal Justice, who advises the Secretary on war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

The State Department has said that there are candidates in the pipeline who are held up by paperwork and that some roles will not be filled until Tillerson completes his review and reorganization of the agency's structure.

"All of those functions will still remain here at the State Department," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Tuesday. "A different person may handle it. In some instances, it may get combined with an existing bureau. That doesn’t mean that the priority goes away and that doesn’t mean that the functions of that job or its duties will go away."

CBS News was the first to report Miller’s departure.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shot down rumors of his own resignation, saying "I'm not going anywhere."

When asked how long he would serve for, Tillerson said "as long as the president lets me." He also said his relationship with President Trump is "good."

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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- With the failure Wednesday afternoon of the 2015 House bill that would just repeal the Affordable Care Act, Congress’ two best chances to scrap the legislation in one fell swoop dissipated before senators’ eyes.

That amendment, which also contained a provision to delay the implementation of a repeal by two years to allow lawmakers to come up with a replacement system, failed 45-55, with seven Republicans joining their Democratic colleagues in opposition.

The Senate will now continue voting on measures from both parties, with the Republican ones mostly geared toward scrapping individual aspects of Obamacare one by one -- still in pursuit of the goal Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., laid out Wednesday morning.

"Ultimately, we want to get legislation that will finally end the Obamacare status quo through Congress and to the president's desk," he said.

The straight repeal-only option was based on 2015 piece of legislation that passed both chambers of Congress but was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama.

Although that language cleared the House and Senate back then, some Senate Republicans acknowledge now that the vote was symbolic. It was used by some at the time to send a message to Obama and to their constituents back home even though they knew it would be vetoed. And before Wednesday’s vote, some Republicans said they would not back the repeal-only option this time.

Senate Republicans' first attempt at passing their replacement legislation failed last night, with nine Republicans joining all of the chamber's Democrats to defeat it, 43-57.

That outcome was not a surprise, given that the bill was previously pulled from the Senate floor because of lack of support.

Republicans from several factions of the party stated their objections to it for a variety of reasons, including its proposed cuts to Medicaid, failure to cut premiums sufficiently and failure to repeal Obamacare entirely.

Republican leadership is expected to move through various versions of repeal, including limited repeal options that would scrap only portions of the Affordable Care Act, such as the individual and employer mandates.

After those votes, the full Senate, even Democrats, will be able to offer additional amendments.

That so-called vote-a-rama later this week could open the floodgates for all senators to introduce as many amendments as they want.

That process could last until senators are physically exhausted.

Democrats have said they have hundreds of amendments to offer and are preparing for a marathon.



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