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Republicans Face, or Duck, Town Halls

Sen. Jeff Flake faces angry crowd. AZ Republic: “U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake endured a brutal face-to-face confrontation with angry constituents Thursday as liberal voters dominated a standing-room-only audience at a town-hall meeting in downtown Mesa … Flake was battered with questions about that issue as well as President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall; his resolution to stop an Obama administration-era rule on internet privacy; his opposition to taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood; and his support for eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees to secure the confirmation of Trump’s pick, Neil Gorsuch. But the conversation kept coming back to health care…”

Rep. Greg Walden faces two. Oregonian: “An angry, overflow crowd of about 500 in The Dalles gave Rep. Greg Walden an earful Wednesday about his positions on health care, immigration and climate change. Two hours later, an even larger, more vocal group did the same in Hood River …

Republicans get creative to elude town hall anger. The Hill: “Many are turning to telephone town halls where constituents dial in, while others are live-streaming events on their Facebook pages to avoid direct interactions that could go viral online. Other lawmakers are opting to meet with small groups of constituents to avoid the circus atmosphere of large crowds.”

Dems Draw Line On ACA Payments

Dems demands disputed insurer subsidies be included in bill to keep government open. The Hill: “Congressional Democrats are demanding that key ObamaCare payments be included in the next spending bill, raising the possibility of a government shutdown if they are not. The calls come a day after President Trump on Wednesday threatened to cancel insurer reimbursements in an effort to force Democrats to negotiate on healthcare reform … They say they won’t cave on ObamaCare repeal because of Trump’s threat to cancel the payments and sabotage the law.”

New HHS rule does not sabotage ACA. The Hill: “The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will make changes favorable to insurers in an effort to keep them from leaving the ObamaCare exchanges or raising premium costs next year. It’s a sign that the Trump administration will try to keep the marketplace stable while Congress works on repealing and replacing the healthcare law. … The new rule includes several changes insurers have requested …”

But rule might may insurance more expensive. Reuters: “[The] final rule … will shorten the Obamacare enrollment period and give insurers more of what they say they need in the individual insurance market, likely making it harder for some consumers to purchase insurance … It could also raise out-of-pocket medical expenses, the experts said, because it gives insurers more flexibility in determining the value of their coverage.”

Cohn Rising

Gary Cohn exerts influence in WH. W. Post: “The president’s new positions move him much closer to the views of Cohn and others on Wall Street … In a White House short on experienced personnel, Cohn has found an edge by hiring two dozen policy experts, most with government experience. His team produced detailed proposals on overhauling the tax code, rebuilding infrastructure, cutting back financial regulations and restructuring international trade deals … ‘From a pure political perspective, I do not know if the White House appreciates how Gary Cohn is a liability with the Republican and conservative base, as well as the Republican Congress,’ said Sam Nunberg, a strategist on Trump’s 2016 campaign.”

The Nation’s David Dayen is unimpressed: “… Cohn-ism is also deeply harmful to any American outside of an executive suite. The new agenda is rooted in aggrandizing the economic power of the 1 percent and keeping the tide of corporate welfare flowing. It turns out Trump doesn’t resent elites; he just wants their approval.”

Conservatives Assess Trump Flip-Flops

Some Trump voters don’t care about flip-flops. NYT: “…while much of the country sees the swerving on policy as another sign of White House dysfunction, many conservatives shrug it off as esoteric jockeying …They are focused more, they say, on what they see as a litany of recent victories. Illegal border crossings are down sharply … The Department of Homeland Security just closed its process for accepting bids for construction of a border wall. A new Supreme Court justice adored by conservatives, Neil M. Gorsuch, joined the court this week. And Mr. Trump signed legislation on Thursday aimed at cutting off federal funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Some do. Politico: “The swiftness and abruptness of Trump’s shift from bomb-throwing populist outsider to a more mainstream brand of Republican has taken the president’s stalwarts by surprise … The deflation of Trump’s base threatens to further weaken a president who’s already seen his public support drop to historic lows. Frustration among the president’s allies has intensified in recent days, with many expressing worry that Bannon … is being pushed out.”

CEOs behind Trump flip-flop on China currency. NYT: “Mr. Trump had long insisted that China was devaluing its currency and should be punished, but the executives pushed back and told him Beijing had actually stopped. And while Mr. Trump at first resisted — as late as this month calling the Chinese ‘world champions’ of currency manipulation — after many talks like the one in February he reversed himself, declaring this week that ‘they’re not currency manipulators’ after all.

Breakfast Sides

Federal government job cuts could mean more costly privatization. Politico: “[OMB Director Mick] Mulvaney’s April 12 guidance, like the executive order from President Donald Trump that preceded it, is premised on the notion that the federal bureaucracy is like a kudzu vine that never stops growing … But the federal bureaucracy is not growing. As of 2014 … the civilian executive-branch workforce was 2.7 million workers. That’s slightly more than the workforce’s 2.5 million in 1962 … even as the U.S. population … nearly doubled. Since 1962, total federal spending has increased from about $600 billion to about $4 trillion … [b]y ballooning the size of the private-sector workforce to which the federal government contracted out the work.”

Justice Dept. ends forensics program. AP: “Defense attorneys say they will step up their challenges to certain forensic practices now that the Justice Department has disbanded an independent commission that was studying how to improve their reliability. But the absence of research or guidance from the National Commission on Forensic Science could make the task of challenging questionable scientific evidence in court even harder, according to experts who worry that ‘garbage science’ will continue to cloud court cases across the U.S.”

“Iowa’s New Voter-ID Law Would Have Disenfranchised My Grandmother” notes The Nation’s Ari Berman: “ I thought of my grandmother, who passed away in 2005 at 99, when the Iowa Legislature passed a strict voter-ID law today … The ACLU of Iowa reports that 11 percent of eligible Iowa voters—260,000 people—don’t have a driver’s license or non-operator ID, according to the US Census and the Iowa Department of Transportation, and could be disenfranchised by the bill. My grandmother, if she were still alive today, would have been one of them.”

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