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    At the request of four Democrats in the Congress, the Government Accountability Office has agreed to formally review how much money the feds spend, and what security precautions are taken, when President Donald Trump takes a weekend away at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida. The request for a GAO review came from three Democratic Senators and one House member – the GAO says it will “review security and site-related travel expenses related to the President’s stays outside the White House at Mar-a-Lago. The lawmakers who made the request were Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). On 2/16, @RepCummings @SenWarren @SenWhitehouse & I wrote @USGAO & asked they review Mar-a-Lago security procedures & taxpayer funded travel — Tom Udall (@SenatorTomUdall) March 28, 2017 This is not new territory for the GAO, which from time to time is asked by one party or the other to review the costs of travel. When the White House was under the control of Democrats, Republicans a few years ago were the ones asking about costs – as they had the GAO look at a February 15-18, 2013 trip made by President Barack Obama. In that review, the GAO estimated that an official speech in Illinois, followed by a golf weekend in Florida, cost about $3.6 million. This GAO report will look at more than just the cost of the weekend trips to Trump’s resort in Mar-a-Lago, as it will also review security matters there. (CBSMiami/AP) — A government watchdog will investigate the taxpayer-funded travel costs of President Donald Trump’s trips to Mar-a-lago. — Liz Quirantes (@lizquirantes) March 28, 2017 Democrats raised those concerns during a trip that Mr. Trump took with the Japanese Prime Minister, when the two men were seen with aides in a public dining area, speaking about a developing national security issue with regards to North Korea. One question from the four Democrats centers on whether those who are at the Trump club have gone through normal security and clearance procedures, including any foreign nationals who might be there. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has downplayed the costs of the Mar-a-Lago visits, saying that’s ‘part of being President.’ “That is a vast reach,” Spicer told one reporter, who cast the question of the cost of the Mar-a-Lago visits, versus proposed cuts in the federal budget. Before he became President, Mr. Trump often criticized his predecessor for taking weekend golf trips to Florida and other parts of the country. While our wonderful president was out playing golf all day, the TSA is falling apart, just like our government! Airports a total disaster! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 21, 2016 The GAO will now be in charge of determining how much Mr. Trump’s own weekend getaways are costing taxpayers.
  • Still smarting from last week’s meltdown on a bill to overhaul the Obama health law, House Republicans used a closed door “family meeting” in the U.S. Capitol to both clear the air, and see if there was a way to push forward again on a plan to make major changes to Obamacare. “I think there’s a good healthy discussion going on in there,” said Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), one Republican who has been publicly critical of the more conservative group of lawmakers known as the Freedom Caucus. “We need to not quit until the moment that we find the right solutions,” said Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL). Various GOP lawmakers described the meeting as a “soul searching” moment; one said it was a “family feud of sorts.” “It was really about trying the best we can to come together,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), a prime ally of President Donald Trump in the House. While Collins said the GOP should avoid recriminations, he still managed to throw some verbal elbows at the Freedom Caucus, at one point labeling them as a group of “perfectionists on our far right.” As for the Freedom Caucus, the leader of that group again said they are willing to reach a deal on health care, as Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) urged lawmakers to postpone a scheduled Easter break if needed to forge a deal. Freedom Caucus Chair Meadows say he doesn't think members should go home for recess until they pass healthcare bill, wants to get to 'yes' — Deirdre Walsh (@deirdrewalshcnn) March 28, 2017 Others in the Freedom Caucus though were ready to support only one thing first, and that is repeal of the Obama health law – and then move on to figure out what’s next. “We will find out who is truly for repealing Obamacare, and who is not,” said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), who says he will use a process known as a “discharge petition” to try to force action on his bill to just repeal the Obama health law. In the end, while there was a lot of positive talk about moving forward, there was no concrete sign that somehow differences had been bridged among more moderate and conservative lawmakers in the GOP on health care. GOP SUMMARY: Republicans cannot agree on whether to agree to disagree. — Lisa Desjardins (@LisaDNews) March 28, 2017 After the meeting, Speaker Paul Ryan echoed the assessments of his rank and file. “This discussion was an honest and very constructive step forward,” he told reporters. But there was no immediate breakthrough on an overhaul of the Obama health law.
  • Three days after a GOP health care bill melted down in the U.S. House before a vote, the White House said President Trump is not giving up on his desire to overhaul the Obama health law, as Republicans in the Congress also urged the President to keep pushing ahead on major health insurance changes. “I don’t think it’s dead,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said of the failed GOP health bill, which foundered even after repeated efforts by the President to twist the arms of reluctant Republican lawmakers. “We’re at the beginning of a process. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of health care,” Spicer added, labeling the Obama health law, “an abysmal failure.” Spicer said the White House is currently going through a post-mortem on what went right and what wrong in their effort, as he said members of both parties in Congress had already reached out to both the White House and Mr. Trump about finding some common ground on health care policy. Spicer: Trump has received calls from Republicans and Democrats offering to work with him to improve health care https://t.co/ZQHMnWGI3O — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 27, 2017 On Capitol Hill, both parties were still sifting through the embers of the GOP health care bill, which was yanked off the House floor on Friday afternoon before a final vote, clearly short on support, as it divided Republicans along several fault lines. For many GOP lawmakers, the idea of giving up after just 18 days of work on health care changes, was not an option. “We cannot walk away now, without even a vote,” said Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), a junior member of the House GOP leadership, said on the House floor. “I will continue to fight for a conservative bill to repeal Obamacare and rebuild a people-first health care system,” said Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC). But there was no immediate signal on whether the White House or GOP leaders in Congress would look to tinker with the failed health bill of last week, or maybe start to develop a new plan.
  • Democrats used rules on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday to force a one week delay in a vote on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court, as Democratic opponents sent mixed signals on whether or not they would lead an all-out filibuster against President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. The delay by Democrats – which they can do only once before the Judiciary Committee – also included two other top nominations by President Trump to the Justice Department. All three of those nominees are expected to gain committee approval next week. BREAKING: Democrats force one-week delay in committee vote on Supreme Court nominee, choice still on track with GOP support. — AP Politics (@AP_Politics) March 27, 2017
  • Democrats used rules on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday to force a one week delay in a vote on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court, as Democratic opponents sent mixed signals on whether or not they would lead an all-out filibuster against President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. The delay by Democrats – which they can do only once before the Judiciary Committee – also included two other top nominations by President Trump to the Justice Department. All three of those nominees are expected to gain committee approval next week – from there, it is on to the Senate floor. BREAKING: Democrats force one-week delay in committee vote on Supreme Court nominee, choice still on track with GOP support. — AP Politics (@AP_Politics) March 27, 2017 For now, a number of Democrats are making clear that they will try to block the Gorsuch nomination, once it reaches the U.S. Senate floor – but it’s not clear if all Democrats will join that move. “As of now I do not believe I can support Judge Gorsuch,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary panel. But Leahy left himself some wiggle room on a filibuster. I am never inclined to filibuster a SCOTUS nom. But I need to see how Judge Gorsuch answers my written Qs, under oath, before deciding. — Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) March 27, 2017 Democrats are still angry about Republicans blocking action last year on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court. If they stick together, they could deny the GOP 60 votes on the floor of the Senate, and bottle up the Gorsuch nomination. Some in the GOP have threatened to “go nuclear” and change the Senate rules to get rid of the 60 vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees, as has been done for all other Presidential nominees.
  • After a Republican push in Congress on a GOP health care overhaul bill melted down last Friday, there are not many opportunities for President Donald Trump to turn things around on Capitol Hill right now, as with little of his agenda in the pipeline, it is possible that the President may have to waits months for a significant legislative achievement to make it through the Congress. Here is where things stand on Capitol Hill for the Trump Administration. 1. Lots of campaign promises, but little ready for action. With the GOP health care bill seemingly now off the agenda in the Congress, where does President Trump go for a much-needed legislative victory? The answer reminds me of what I said about health care and Republicans for the last six years – they have lots of ideas, but there is no GOP consensus on what to do, or how to get it through the House and Senate. That description could apply to a number of big issues, like tax reform, budget cuts, entitlement reform, balancing the budget, building new roads and bridges, and many other issues. For a variety of reasons, there are no bills ready for action on anything major at this point on the Trump Agenda, as Mr. Trump is definitely behind where things stood eight years ago legislatively. Laws signed by Obama, at this point in 2009 · Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act· SCHIP reauthorization· DTV Delay Act· Stimulus bill· Omnibus — Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) March 26, 2017 2. The one bright spot for Trump – Neil Gorsuch. Let’s not ignore the one possible victory in the short term for the President, his choice for U.S. Supreme Court. Neil Gorsuch was untouched in last week’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but his final approval is not a slam dunk, as Democrats are threatening to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination. Still, it’s not clear that all Democrats will go along with that, and Gorsuch may get approved after an Easter break on Capitol Hill. That would certainly be a big victory for Mr. Trump and Republicans – but it may be about the only major item they will celebrate on any time soon in the halls of Congress. 'Neal Gorsuch. Neal Gorsuch. Neal Gorsuch.' My closing comment on @MeetThePress 30 years from now, God willing, Justice Gorsuch will still b — Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) March 26, 2017 3. Tax reform unlikely to produce a quick victory for Trump. While the President has made clear he wants to move on from the GOP health care debacle to tax reform, that is not an item that will fly through Congress. If you think health care reform is tricky, just wait until you get every corporate lobbyist imaginable in Washington, D.C. involved in a major tax reform effort. The last time the Congress approved a tax reform bill, it took a little over a year to get it through the House and Senate and to the President’s desk – that was the Tax Reform Act of 1986. There is a reason they call the lobby outside of the House Ways and Means Committee, “Gucci Gulch” – it will be packed with very well paid lobbyists of all stripes. Attention members of Gucci Gulch https://t.co/Oy3RQKTxjp — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) March 24, 2017 4. A U.S.-Mexican border wall is no slam dunk. President Trump has asked the Congress to approve $3.1 billion so his administration can jump start work on a wall along the Mexican border, but that’s no gimme on Capitol Hill. Mr. Trump wants some of that money approved as part of budget plan for the rest of the current fiscal year; a temporary budget runs out on April 28. While that is just over a month from now, the Congress will soon be gone on a two week Easter break, and there are some fears a mini-budget showdown next month could even lead to a government shutdown. One thing that may rile up some Republicans is the need to use eminent domain to get the land along the border to build the wall. Trump likes eminent domain – many in the GOP do not. Report: Texans on Mexico border receive letters threatening eminent domain for Trump's wall. https://t.co/g0Aw80wqH7 — Houston Chronicle (@HoustonChron) March 17, 2017 5. What about the Trump Infrastructure plan? Through the campaign, there was a lot of talk by the President about a $1 trillion package for infrastructure spending – not all from the government, but a public-private partnership to deliver construction jobs on news roads, bridges and more. But over two months into his administration, the White House has not yet delivered a plan, and Congress is not ready with any bill as of yet. The odd part of this issue is obvious, as Republicans spent the last eight years resisting much smaller infrastructure plans offered by President Obama, mainly on the grounds of the cost. This is another major issue that’s not ready for a vote in either the House or Senate. Which committees/members of Congress are working on or drafting infrastructure legislation? — Sydney (@Sydney843) March 26, 2017 6. Trump budget likely to bring even more Capitol Hill intrigue. If you enjoyed the ebb and flow of the internal Republican troubles over health care, just wait until we get to the budget presented by President Trump. That plan is asking for $54 billion more in defense spending next year, offset by $54 billion in budget cuts from non-defense programs. Just as the GOP was divided into different camps on health care, the same is true on the budget. Some Republican lawmakers are aghast at the lack of effort by the White House to deal with the budget deficit. Others want much more in defense spending. There are many ready to resist various cuts put forward by the White House as well. Some of the specific Trump cuts that would be felt in local communities are already drawing fire, with little push back from the White House. Here’s a perfect example of budget concern coming from a red state: Trump’s budget cuts could affect Topeka, Billard airport operationshttps://t.co/hueNlp384X — CJOnline (@CJOnline) March 26, 2017 7. GOP finger pointing won’t help produce legislative wins. President Trump on Sunday used Twitter to lash out at conservative Republicans in Congress and outside conservative groups that were opposed to the health care reform bill that ran aground last week, as he singled out the Freedom Caucus for criticism. “Mark Meadows betrayed Trump and America and supported Pelosi and Democrats to protect Obamacare,” said Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), again going after the head of the House Freedom Caucus. Not only is the country divided politically, but so too is the Republican Party in Congress, and that was very obvious in the last week. If the majority party isn’t united in Washington, that makes life difficult when it comes to legislating. This tweet shows you some Republicans aren’t scared of crossing the President one bit. Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2017 I take it GOP leadership still hasn't told Trump the PP provision was a 1yr bait and switch? See page 23 of CBO https://t.co/O9cGKQeqzb https://t.co/yKVPG1UvHe — Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 26, 2017 8. It’s not just the Freedom Caucus that Trump is mad at. As more stories leak out about the President’s lobbying efforts on health care, it’s becoming apparent that he gave an earful to some Republican moderates as well. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) acknowledged that he had been on the receiving end of one Trump jab, as the President reportedly told Dent that he and other opponents of the health care bill were “destroying America,” as the New York Times reported that Trump told Dent his position would endanger future efforts in Congress at tax reform. One had Trump wondering aloud, “Why am I even talking to you?” when Dent said he would be a “No” vote. 9. Whither the Freedom Caucus? Whether they’ve been called the Freedom Caucus or Tea Party Republicans, those more conservative Republicans elected in the GOP since the 2010 elections have been very straightforward in the amount of change that they want to see in Congress and in the federal government – a lot. But the problem is, they’ve done little more than just be the block of votes that says, “No” – they have not been a group that’s bubbling over with legislative ideas, they have not been on the floor leading the charge on budget cuts and other government reform proposals. This latest battle over health care prompted one Republican to quit the Freedom Caucus on Sunday – Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) made clear that he wants to see legislative achievements in the future. Thx for your leadership @realDonaldTrump @SpeakerRyan Some only want to be the party of 'no' & would've voted against the 10 commandments — Ted Poe (@JudgeTedPoe) March 24, 2017 10. So, where does that leave Trump? Don’t buy into the stories that say everything is collapsing for President Trump. But don’t go whistling by the graveyard either. I wrote five weeks ago that the GOP Congress had nothing really in the legislative pipeline for Trump to sign, other than some bills that repealed individual rules from the Obama Administration. While those certainly fit into what Trump promised during the campaign, most of that is not tip-of-the-tongue kind of stuff for politicians back home. But it’s all that Republicans have right now in terms of action in Congress. Trump seemed to understand that, as he made it part of his pitch to reluctant Republicans on health care. And for now, there seem to be few opportunities for legislative success in the near term for Mr. Trump. Momentum is important in sports. And it is important in politics as well. 'Trump didn't offer any arguments for why they should support the legislation other than to give him his first legislative victory' — DennisM (@newsagg) March 25, 2017
  • In a surprise legal turnabout, Alex Jones, the chief of the website Infowars has publicly backpedaled on the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, issuing a written and videotaped apology to the owner of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor that became a target for many election critics of Hillary Clinton. The Pizzagate theory developed from emails hacked from top Clinton aide John Podesta – many seemingly taken out of context – which somehow convinced people that a child sex ring was operating out of the Comet Ping Post restaurant in D.C., a popular neighborhood pizza joint owned by Clinton supporter, James Alefantis. “We raised questions about information in Mr. Podesta’s emails and the Comet Ping Pong restaurant,” Jones explained, reading directly from a script that was shown on screen in his apology video. “I made comments about Mr. Alefantis, that in hindsight, I regret, and for which I apologize to him,” Jones said, in what seemed like a very legalistic apology. The video surfaced on the same day that a North Carolina man plead guilty to a series of charges stemming from a December incident, in which Edgar Maddison Welch drove to D.C., armed and ready for a possible shootout at the restaurant. Patrons and staff fled unharmed as Welch entered the restaurant with an AR-15 rifle; he was convinced that he would find evidence of the child sex ring, but nothing but food at Comet Ping Pong. While no evidence to back up any wrongdoing at Comet Ping Pong has emerged, the conspiracy theory lives on, as was evidenced by a very small rally in D.C. on Saturday that supported the child sex claim. Couple dozen people at the WH #pizzagate protest. This is one crazy country. pic.twitter.com/eHDKiDjy4G — Will Sommer (@willsommer) March 25, 2017 Even with the reversal of Alex Jones and Infowars, there are still plenty of people on social media pushing a link between John Podesta and child sex ring. One of the more vocal about it remains Michael Flynn, Jr., the son of the ousted National Security Advisor to President Trump. The younger Flynn tweeted this past week, “What else is John Podesta covering up?” No Skippy, but you did use disturbing slang referencing child porn #Pedogate #PasswordisPassword #PodestaEmails #HeavyBreathing.net https://t.co/TriKNXcm0G — Michael Flynn Jr (@mflynnJR) March 21, 2017 A few weeks ago, my wife and I took our kids to Comet Ping Pong for the first time since the December incident involving the guy who was convinced there was a child sex ring in the restaurant. It was a busy Saturday, as the restaurant was jammed – the ping pong tables were all in use much to the consternation of my kids. But while the patrons have stuck with the restaurant, the impact of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory is still being felt, as different security measures had to be taken by the owner, as there are still some people who won’t let go.
  • After the collapse of health care reform legislation in the House on Friday, Republicans in the Congress and President Donald Trump now must decide what’s next on their respective agendas, as the GOP tries to pick up the pieces from a very public legislative failure over an issue that had been their central political focus for the last seven years. Here’s the look from Capitol Hill. 1. The first big setback for the Trump agenda. You can try to downplay what happened, but there was little positive to take from this health care debacle in the House. “I will not sugarcoat this; this is a disappointing day for us,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan after the vote was canceled. President Trump tried to blame Democrats, but that rang hollow since the White House had done no serious outreach to the other party. With this setback, it’s even more apparent how little has been done so far by the GOP Congress with respect to the Trump Agenda. Other than approving a series of plans to reverse specific regulations of the Obama Administration, no bills of any import have been passed. Infrastructure, jobs bills, tax cuts, cutting government – all of that sounds good – but so far, no action. And Trump wrote 'The Art of the Deal' — Bill Mitchell (@JerseyGuy_Bill) March 25, 2017 2. Trump allies turn their sights on Speaker Ryan. It wasn’t hard to hear the low rumbling of some supporters of President Trump, as they used the Friday health care debacle to immediately try to make Speaker Ryan the scapegoat. Ann Coulter bluntly said, “Ryan is not on Trump’s side.” Pro-Trump websites like InfoWars and Breitbart immediately attacked Ryan as well, with some conservatives urging the House Freedom Caucus to help dump Ryan, arguing that he is the perfect illustration of the Republican Establishment that needs to be excised from Swamp of Washington, D.C. Paul Ryan is not on @POTUS' side – https://t.co/QVOHBDIKiT #KilledTheBill #FunFactFriday — Alex Jones (@RealAlexJones) March 24, 2017 3. Full repeal of Obamacare needs 60 votes in the Senate. If Republicans couldn’t muster a majority in the House – how are they going to get 60 votes in the Senate to really change the bulk of the Obama health law? The answer – they’re not going to do that any time soon. But full repeal was still the mantra from a number of Republicans as the House GOP health care bill went down the tubes on Friday. “I remain committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with conservative reforms,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN). “Congress should take its time and pass a good bill that actually repeals ObamaCare,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). But the truth is, unless Republicans get 60 votes in the 2018 elections, an Obama health law repeal bill faces a difficult road in the Congress. I applaud House conservatives for keeping their word to the American people. I look forward to passing full repeal https://t.co/ftyj6sCw0v — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 24, 2017 4. This fight on health care is already over? It seems hard to believe that Republicans are just going to drop the issue of health care reform, especially after making it such a central part of their political message in recent years. But President Trump seemed to send the signal that he is going to focus his political capital on other issues, like tax reform. “That one is going to be fun,” the President said earlier this week, as his Treasury Secretary predicted a final tax bill would on the President’s desk by early August. The last time Congress approved major tax reform was 1986. There’s a reason it hasn’t happened in over 30 years. It is not easy. And the lobbyists of Gucci Gulch will be ready. President Trump says tax reform is the next item on his agenda https://t.co/dLNduSPgl6 — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 24, 2017 5. This wasn’t really much of an effort. The White House said the President “left everything on the field” to get a health care bill. But it doesn’t look like that at all. Go back eight years, and Democrats were just launching their 13 month effort to forge what would become known as Obamacare. It went through the spring, summer, fall, winter, and then into the next spring of 2010, before being achieved. By contrast, the GOP introduced its health care bill on March 6 and gave up on March 24. Back in 2009 and 2010, Democrats struggled to keep their side together, but managed to get 60 votes for their package in the Senate. The GOP couldn’t even get a majority in the House. There is still time to go back to the drawing board. But it takes more than 18 days of work. Remember when Republicans promised they would try to fiddle with Obamacare for a few weeks and then give up? — Ramesh Ponnuru (@RameshPonnuru) March 24, 2017 6. Let the Republican finger pointing begin. One of the biggest immediate targets was the Freedom Caucus, the group of more conservative lawmakers which for years has been very good at holding out against the GOP leadership, but has done almost nothing in the way of substantive legislating. Some of that ire was aimed at Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the head of the Freedom Caucus. “Mark Meadows is more interested in being on the TV than solving problems,” fumed Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), who then aimed some more barbs at Meadows and pointedly made sure to tell a reporter – “You can quote me on that.” Exactly right. GOP & Trump own this,but @freedomcaucus & @Heritage_Action & others caused it. They are the pie-in-the-sky caucus. https://t.co/9tMcfk45ox — Brit Hume (@brithume) March 24, 2017 7. Don’t downplay the importance of this setback. Yes, it’s just one bill. Yes, it’s not the end of the world. But this failure was a big deal. Republicans have been talking for years about how they would repeal and replace the Obama health law. Donald Trump said he would do it right away. But for years, I have been reporting – and taking flak for saying – that while the GOP had lots of ideas, they didn’t have consensus on any plan. And that was obvious as they desperately tried to stitch together deals at the last minute to keep the bill moving. It’s pretty easy to lob verbal grenades at the other party – it’s a little different to offer substantive legislation and pass it. Humiliating defeat for GOP after years to prepare. Real blow to their argument that they could govern if only given the chance. — carl hulse (@hillhulse) March 24, 2017 8. This was not a good week for President Trump. It started Monday with the FBI Director publicly confirming that not only was there an investigation of how Russia meddled in last year’s election, but also a probe of any links between the Trump Campaign and Moscow. The FBI chief also made clear there was no evidence to back up Trump’s claim that he had been wiretapped in 2016. And the NSA shot down talk that British Intelligence had helped with surveillance on Trump Tower. Meanwhile, the Trump travel and refugee ban stayed on hold the courts, despite Mr. Trump’s declaration that judges were overstepping their authority. Then the week ended with a health care thud. Tomorrow's cover: Trump forced to cancel health care vote in stunning blow https://t.co/53Po4iXVbM pic.twitter.com/lEQe5Qc22g — New York Post (@nypost) March 24, 2017
  • Unable to convince GOP lawmakers to get on board with a plan to overhaul the Obama health law, Republicans in the House decided not to even force a vote on the measure, a major setback for both President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. “This bill is dead,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who played a central role in cobbling together this plan. 'This bill is dead,' House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Walden says — Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos) March 24, 2017 The bill never even came to a vote, as it became obvious that Republicans had nowhere near a majority of lawmakers ready to vote for it. Democrats were more than happy to pile on the GOP legislative debacle. #ObamaCare 1 – #Trumpcare 0. — Rep. Hank Johnson (@RepHankJohnson) March 24, 2017
  • After hours of negotiations that featured personal intervention by President Donald Trump, Republican leaders in the Congress were forced to back off a planned vote on a GOP health care bill, unable to find enough votes approve it and send it on to the Senate for further work. While House leaders said votes were possible on Friday, there was no final agreement to vote on, as more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus refused to get on board with a deal offered by the White House. “We have not gotten enough of our members to get to yes,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the chair of the Freedom Caucus. “I am still a no at this time,” Meadows told a crush of reporters. “I am desperately trying to get to yes.” Rep. Mark Meadows: “I am still a no at this time. I am desperately trying to get to yes” https://t.co/cQi0OGdJGY — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 23, 2017 Other Freedom Caucus members said very little as they exited a Congressional hearing room after a two hour meeting on the health bill, leaving Meadows to get out the message. “No comment,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). “Mark’s got everything,” referring to Meadows. “You know I’m not going express the substance of anything that we talked about in there,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) said as reporters trailed him down the hall. Earlier at the White House, there had been optimism after a meeting between Freedom Caucus members and the President. Lengthy standing ovation from the Freedom Caucus when @POTUS walked into the Cabinet Room just now. Big momentum toward #RepealAndReplace. pic.twitter.com/N1FLGAVFMN — Cliff Sims (@CSims45) March 23, 2017 But, there was no deal.

Local News

  • Rabun County authorities are seeking a missing 28-year-old woman who has her three sons with her, officials said. According to a post on the sheriff’s Facebook page, Brittany Rebecca Stewart has been missing since Thursday. Her children are 7 months to 7 years old. She’s believed to be driving a maroon 1999 Ford Explorer with Georgia tag RCP0743, the sheriff’s office said in the post. Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Stewart and her children is asked to call 911 or Rabun dispatch at 706-782-6226.
  • A dinner meeting is set for tonight for Clarke County School Board members and the first of three finalists to be the next Clarke County School Superintendent: the Board is looking for a replacement for the departed Dr. Phil Lanoue. The United Way of Northeast Georgia holds its annual meeting and awards banquet, 5:30 this afternoon at the downtown Holiday Inn.  Another meeting of the Envision Athens steering committee is on tap for today, underway at 4 o’clock at the Classic Center.  There is an afternoon meeting of the Classic Center Authority: 4 o’clock at the Classic Center in downtown Athens. There is a jobs fair today in Athens: the Benson Hospitality Group is setting up shop at the downtown Holiday Inn at 5 o’clock this afternoon.  Tonight’s Oconee County Commission meeting gets underway at 7 o’clock at the Oconee County Courthouse in Watkinsville. It’s an agenda setting session.  Barrow County Commissioners meet tonight, 7 o’clock at the Historic Courthouse in Winder. 
  • Police in Winder have released the name of the man whose body was found in a car in a shopping center parking lot. Todd Davis was 52 years old, from Winder. His body was discovered Sunday in a vehicle parked in the Holly Hill shopping center on West Athens Street in Winder. Police say there are no immediate indications of foul play; also still no word on the exact cause of death. Hall County authorities have released the name of the husband and wife killed in what is believed to have been a murder-suicide: the bodies of 75 year-old Larry McGinness and 69 year-old Shelly McGinness were found last week at a home in Gainesville. The GBI is in on the ongoing investigation. 
  • State Rep. Tommy Benton believes the history of the Confederate army is part of Southern cultural heritage and should be recognized formally in the state. Benton, a Republican from Jefferson, sponsored House Resolution 644 along with state Reps. Alan Powell, Steve Tarvin and Jesse Petrea to commemorate the “brave” men who fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War by recognizing April as Confederate History Month and April 26 as Confederate Memorial Day. His resolution, however, makes no mention of the “Civil War,” instead referring to it as the “four-year struggle for states’ rights, individual freedom, and local governmental control, which they believed to be right and just.” But when asked whether the resolution, which is written to “encourage our citizens to learn about Georgia’s heritage and history and to observe the occasion with appropriate ceremonies,” includes the need to understand the role that slavery and systemic exploitation and oppression of African and African-American people played and an acknowledgement of what the war was fought about, Benton declined to answer. “Next question,” Benton said Monday during a press conference about the resolution. A former schoolteacher and unapologetic supporter of preserving Georgia’s Confederate heritage, Benton has previously backed a measure that would protect state monuments from being moved or removed. He has also said the Ku Klux Klan, though he didn’t agree with all its methods, “made a lot of people straighten up.” Benton said the intentions of his proposal, which isn’t expected to gain any traction in the final days of the legislative session, have been misunderstood and misinterpreted. “It should never have been a controversy,” Benton said. “We’re not honoring slavery.” After a gunman and avowed white supremacist shot and killed nine people praying in an African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, S.C., many Southern states came under fire for their embrace of Confederate memorabilia and traditions. The fourth Monday in April had for decades been known in Georgia as Confederate Memorial Day. But in 2015, Gov. Nathan Deal quietly struck that reference, as well as Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s birthday, from the official state calendar and renamed each date as a “State Holiday.”
  • The Georgia DOT is holding an afternoon meeting on plans to widen Highway 441 in Oconee and Morgan counties. The first session with the Oconee County Citizens Advisory Committee is set for 5 o’clock in the Community Center at the Oconee County Veterans Park. It is expected that plans for a Bishop bypass will be up for discussion at today’s meeting.  Your drive through Madison could be disrupted again this week: more movie work is taking place in Morgan County, with production of a film that stars Reba McIntire. Southbound lane closures on I-85 in Franklin County are scheduled for tonight, as the DOT continues work on the Interstate weigh station near Lavonia. 

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS – For years, Georgia’s head football and basketball coaches used to go on an extensive spring speaking tour, answering questions and shaking hands with fans who paid a small fee at the door. Those days of extensive touring around Georgia appear to be over. At least for now. The university has planned five events this spring featuring Kirby Smart, but they will be private donor events – and for now only one will be in the state of Georgia. The school will host events in Nashville, Charlotte, Jacksonville and Houston, with the lone in-state event being in Atlanta in July. These events will be closed to the public and the media, open only to donors. But there will also be two additional in-state events featuring Smart, athletics director Greg McGarity said Monday afternoon. Those events will just be branded differently. “We’re still working through two in-state events that would be branded under the Georgia Bulldog Club, or under UGA athletics,” McGarity said. In the past, Georgia football and basketball coach did as many as 12 spring tour stops, almost all in the state, from Columbus to Macon to Augusta and even smaller stops. But those tours have gradually dissipated: In Mark Richt’s final year, he only went to seven stops. Last year Smart went to five stops, though four of the were in-state, the exception being a donor event in Dallas. This year it’s going all-private, which someone with knowledge said evolved from Smart coming in with a new approach, and UGA wanting to do fundraising. There’s a feeling they don’t need the old model, where fans get a chance to hear from coaches and ask them questions, because of social media and other factors. Crowds at these events had also been going down. “The university is trying to be strategic to generate the money that everybody needs to generate right now,” McGarity said. “The purpose of these events have changed, they’ve morphed over the years.” The athletics department did seem to anticipate some fan blowback. “As for our donors, I realize there may be some sensitivity to the majority of the events being out of state this year,” associate athletics director for development Matt Borman wrote in an internal e-mail earlier this month. “If donors bring this up to you please just say that we are excited to be in Atlanta with an event in July and we wanted to take an opportunity this year to visit some of our supporters who don’t have the opportunity to make it to Athens on a regular basis. “After this year of events we will reevaluate and definitely consider bringing some of these events back into Georgia.” There are other speaking events for Smart that aren’t directly affiliated with the school. For instance, he is speaking Monday night at the Athens Touchdown Club, and spoke last month at the Macon Touchdown Club.
  • ATHENS, Ga. --- The University of Georgia women’s tennis team extended its win streak to six matches with a commanding 4-0 victory over Mississippi State Sunday afternoon at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.   The Bulldogs (13-3, 7-1 SEC) continued to roll in doubles as they grabbed the point for the seventh-consecutive match. The 28th-ranked duo of Elena Christofi and Kennedy Shaffer clinched it on court two for the sixth time in the streak. In singles, Mariana Gould blew by her opponent 6-0, 6-1 followed by a Shaffer win at No. 3 and a clincher at the net by Christofi on court two.   “We are in the middle of this conference race and it's been tough every time we play all these schools,” Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace said. “I keep saying in the SEC we have 11 in the top 25 rankings and everybody comes ready to play. Mississippi State was another one of those teams. I thought the doubles point was great. Getting that 1-0 lead is critical for us. It was a good match and a great day and now we hit the road for the next three before we conclude our season here at home.” The shutout was Georgia’s fifth of the season. The Bulldogs have now rallied off six straight conference wins with four of those against teams in the top-25.   In doubles, the No. 2 court sat at 4-3 before Christofi/Shaffer finished the last two games strong to win 6-3 over Khrystyna Vozniak and Jennifer Brown. The Georgia twosome showcases a 6-1 record playing No. 2 and an 11-2 slate on the year.   Mississippi State (11-5, 4-4) started doubles with the lead after 11th-ranked tandem of Jasmine Lee and Lisa Marie Rioux edged No. 18 Ellen Perez and Caroline Brinson on court one. However, Gould and Marta Gonzalez evened up the score on court three winning 6-3 before Christofi and Shaffer secured the point.   In singles, junior Mariana Gould, ranked at No. 102, overpowered her opponent 6-0, 6-1 on the last court to put Georgia up 2-0. Gould, of Boise, Idaho, ups her win streak to five on court six where she has a 10-2 dual record.   The remaining singles matches featured two first-set tiebreakers and four that spilled into the third set. On court No. 3, Kennedy Shaffer edged Madison Harrison in the first-set tiebreaker 7-2, then carried that momentum into the second set winning 6-2.   In the battle of freshmen on court two eighth-ranked Christofi defeated Rioux in the deciding third set 6-1 to seal the win for the Bulldogs. The clincher was Christofi’s fourth on the season en route to a team-best 26-4 record.   Georgia was leading in two of the three remaining third-set matches that went unfinished. At No. 4, Brinson was on the verge of victory leading Anastasia Rentouli 5-0. After Perez dropped the first-set tiebreaker, she took the second set over 32nd-ranked Jasmine Lee and was up 2-1 when play was called.   “This year is going fast we got to keep working and stay excited and continue to compete like we're competing,” Wallace added.   The Bulldogs are back in action Saturday, April 1st at No. 23 Tennessee. First serve is slotted for 1 p.m. ET.    ## Tennis Match Results Mississippi State vs. Georgia Mar 26, 2017 at Athens, Ga. (Dan Magill Tennis Complex)   #3 Georgia 4, #25 Mississippi State 0   Singles competition  1. #26 Ellen Perez (UGA) vs. #32 Jasmine Lee (MSU) 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 2-1, unfinished 2. #8 Elena Christofi (UGA) def. Lisa Marie Rioux (MSU) 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 3. #57 Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. Madison Harrison (MSU) 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 4. #59 Caroline Brinson (UGA) vs. Anastasia Rentouli (MSU) 6-4, 1-6, 5-0, unfinished 5. Marta Gonzalez (UGA) vs. Khrystyna Vozniak (MSU) 4-6, 6-3, 0-1, unfinished 6. #102 Mariana Gould (UGA) def. Sara Lizariturry (MSU) 6-0, 6-1   Doubles competition  1. #11 Jasmine Lee/Lisa Marie Rioux (MSU) def. #18 Ellen Perez/Caroline Brinson (UGA) 6-2 2. #28 Elena Christofi/Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. Khrystyna Vozniak/Jennifer Brown (MSU) 6-3 3. #68 Marta Gonzalez/Mariana Gould (UGA) def. Sara Lizariturry/Madison Harrison (MSU) 6-3   Match Notes: Mississippi State 11-5, 4-4; National ranking #25 Georgia 13-3, 7-1; National ranking #3 Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (6,3,2) UGA Rankings: ITA #3, USTA #T6 Official: Karen Badger-Mabry T-2:15 A-460 
  • FROM UGA SPORTS COMMUNICATIONS  Athens, Ga. — For the second straight year, Georgia’s J.J. Frazier has been named the state of Georgia’s Men’s College Basketball Player of the Year by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. The club announced its annual award winners on Thursday. Frazier, 5-10, 155-pound senior from Glennville, Ga., led the Bulldogs and ranked among the SEC’s top-10 performers in scoring (third at 18.8 ppg), assists (fifth at 4.1 apg), steals (third at 1.9 spg) and playing time (first at 34.6 mpg). He finished the 2016-17 season with 640 points, the fourth-best mark in school history. Frazier set the Georgia career record for free throw percentage (.841). He had a school-record streak of 45 consecutive made free throws during his senior season, which is also the second-longest streak in SEC history. Frazier has collected a long list of accolades this season. He was named SEC and National Player of the Week on Week on Feb. 27 after averaging 28.5 points in wins over Alabama and LSU in a 49-hour span. Frazier was also voted first-team All-SEC by both league coaches and the Associated Press. He was named to All-District teams by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). UGA players have won Tipoff Club’s statewide honor 10 times since its inception in 1984. Frazier is just the second Bulldog to earn Georgia Player of the Year honors twice. Jarvis Hayes was honored following both the 2002 and 2003 seasons.  Vern Fleming was the award’s initial recipient in 1984, followed by Litterial Green in 1992, Jumaine Jones in 1999, Hayes in 2002 and 2003, Rashad Wright in 2004, Trey Thompkins in 2011, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in 2013 and Frazier in 2016 and 2017. 
  • There will be a new policy in place for football fans who go to games at Sanford Stadium later this year. The University of Georgia says it will be following Southeastern Conference guidelines and requiring fans to bring items into the Stadium and other athletic venues in clear plastic bags. UGA says the policy will be in place for the April 22 G-Day spring football game.  From the University of Georgia…   In the interest of public safety and to expedite entry into its venues, the UGA Athletic Association will begin to implement the Southeastern Conference Clear Bag Policy in 2017. This policy will be in effect at the annual G-Day intrasquad football game on April 22. It will go into effect permanently for the 2017-18 competition season and will include all UGA venues that host ticketed events: Sanford Stadium (football), Stegeman Coliseum (men’s & women’s basketball, gymnastics) and Foley Field (baseball). Following are the basics concerning the Clear Bag Policy: > These bags will be permitted inside UGA athletic events: Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl, or PVC and do not exceed 12”x6”x12”. One-gallon clear plastic freezer bags. Small clutch bags, with or without a handle or strap, that do not exceed 4.5” x 6.5”. Bags that contain necessary medical items, which must be inspected and approved at a designated gate. > Each ticket holder is allowed one large clear bag such as a one-gallon Ziploc style bag or clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bag that does not exceed 12” x 6” x 12”, plus a small clutch purse > Prohibited bags include, but are not limited to: purses larger than a clutch bag, briefcases, backpacks, cinch bags, fanny packs that are not clear and/or exceed the size restriction, luggage, computer bags/cases, camera bags/cases, binocular bags/cases, or any bag larger than the permissible size. > Several SEC schools began implementing this policy in the 2016 school year. All SEC schools will have this policy in place by the 2017-18 school year. > Fans can still carry items such as binoculars, smart phones, tablets and cameras (with lenses shorter than four inches), so long as they are not in a bag or carrying case. > Seat cushions -- without arms or pockets -- will still be permitted into the venues. Fans may also bring in blankets during cold weather events, provided they carry them in over an arm or shoulder to allow for easy screening upon entry. > More information on this new policy can be found at the following website: http://georgiadogs.com/clear-bag-policy/
  • The Clear Bag Policy will be in effect in Sanford Stadium, Stegeman Coliseum and Foley Field.