Trump Announces ‘America First’ Health Care Plan

President Trump Delivers Remarks On His Healthcare Policies In North Carolina

President Donald Trump on Thursday evening signed a series of executive orders which he said constituted part of a long-promised health care plan.

Speaking before a crowd in Charlotte, N.C., Trump said that his plan would would offer “better care, with more choice, at a much lower cost, and working to ensure that Americans have access to the care they need.” He detailed a set of concrete policy goals: affordable insurance, cutting prescription drug costs, ending surprise billing, increasing price transparency, and protecting patients with preexisting conditions.

How the administration will achieve those goals, however, remains unclear. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told reporters earlier in the day that the orders would make it the “policy of the United States” that individuals will not be denied insurance coverage on the basis of preexisting conditions, and calls on Congress to produce legislation to that effect. Absent such legislation, Azar would be required to investigate regulatory alternatives—although what those would be remains undefined.

Text of an Executive Order released Thursday evening is similarly light on details. The order establishes preexisting condition coverage as official policy of the United States, alongside “more choice, lower costs, and better care.” It instructs the secretaries of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to find ways to pursue these goals, including calling on Congress to end surprise billing. The order’s sole concrete action requires Azar to add information about hospital billing quality to Medicare.gov’s Hospital Compare service.

“The president will protect people with pre-existing conditions, end surprise billing, drive down prescription drug prices, help seniors pay for medicine, and provide affordable insulin and EpiPens for low-income Americans,” Tim Murtaugh, Trump campaign communications director, said in a statement. “This builds on his record of success in healthcare, which includes reducing Obamacare premiums for the first time, eliminating the unfair Obamacare individual mandate, expanding healthcare choice, enacting Right to Try legislation, and making real progress in reducing the price of prescription drugs.”

Trump’s order comes just weeks before the eight-man Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit, brought by a bevy of states, contending that the Affordable Care Act is now unconstitutional after Republicans removed its tax on those without insurance as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Judicial repeal of Obamacare would remove the law’s ban on denying coverage on the basis of preexisting conditions—an outcome Trump’s executive order seems meant to avert.

Trump’s “America First Healthcare Plan” is also meant as a counterstrike to 2020 opponent Joe Biden, whose own health care proposal has been available for much of the campaign. Biden’s plan would seek to implement a public option—a scrapped component of the original Affordable Care Act—as well as enhance the minimum quality of Obamacare exchange plans in what, one health care expert previously told the Washington Free Beacon, would amount to a substantial handout to insurance companies.

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Saudi King Slams Iran’s Funding of Terrorism in U.N. Speech

The 84-year-old King Salman of Saudi Arabia blasted Iran for its production of “chaos, extremism, and sectarianism” on Wednesday in his first speech to the United Nations since taking the throne in 2015.

“[Saudi Arabia]’s hands were extended to Iran in peace with a positive and open attitude over the past decades, but to no avail,” Salman told his fellow U.N. members. 

“Time and again, the entire world witnessed how the Iranian regime exploited these efforts in order to intensify its expansionist activities, create its terrorist networks, and use terrorism, and in the process squandering the resources and wealth of the Iranian people for the purpose of its expansionist projects which produced nothing but chaos, extremism, and sectarianism.”

Salman cited Iran’s efforts to destabilize Yemen, Lebanon, and its launching of over 700 drone and missile strikes through proxies on Saudi Arabia to date. In Yemen and Lebanon, Iran uses proxy forces such as Houthi militias and the terrorist group Hezbollah to inflict violence. Salman blamed Hezbollah for the massive explosion in Beirut in August that killed nearly 200 people.

The Saudi king also briefly touched on coalition efforts to root out ISIS and al Qaeda groupings in Yemen as a part of the larger efforts Riyadh has made in combating extremism in the region.

Aside from detailing the record of Iranian aggression, Salman made clear his interest in achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East. To this end, he took note of major deals brokered by Washington between Israel and neighboring Gulf states.

“Peace in the Middle East is our strategic option,” Salman said. “We support the efforts of the current U.S. administration to achieve peace in the Middle East by bringing the Palestinians and the Israelis to the negotiation table to reach a fair and comprehensive agreement.”

While relations are not normalized between Riyadh and Jerusalem at present, Salman’s explicit mention of developments between the Israelis and Gulf neighbors are significant. As more states continue to normalize their ties with Israeli, many hope Saudi Arabia will follow suit. 

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner indicated earlier this month that Saudi Arabia could soon reach a peace agreement with Israel.

“I do believe it’s an inevitability that all countries in the Middle East” will eventually make peace with Israel, Kushner said during a phone call with reporters. “I think [the agreement] was noticed by everyone in the region, how well the deal with Israel and UAE was received.”

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County Sheriff Won’t Help Portland Police, Citing Mayor’s Tear Gas Ban

The Multnomah County sheriff declined the Portland Police Bureau’s request for backup at a planned demonstration on Saturday, citing the city’s strict regulations on crowd control methods. 

Portland mayor Ted Wheeler (D.) banned the use of tear gas earlier this month as violent nightly demonstrations—which led the mayor himself to move out of his condominium—reached their 100th straight night. County sheriff Mike Reese told the Portland Police Bureau that he would not send his team to assist local police under the mayor’s orders, which leave “no sound tactical options” to disperse violent crowds. 

“If officers have to use high levels of physical force to protect the safety of the participants, it may lead to substantial injuries and may not be effective in achieving the desired outcome,” Reese said in an email to the Portland Police Bureau. 

Chris Davis, deputy chief of the Portland Police Bureau, asked Reese for backup after learning that two opposing groups, the far-right Proud Boys and far-left Antifa, both plan on demonstrating Saturday night. These groups, according to Reese, have a history of violent feuds. 

Police chief Chuck Lovell said in a press conference earlier this week that he and the mayor are creating plans to address the two demonstrations this weekend. 

The Justice Department called out Portland, as well as Seattle and New York City, for their failure to quell violence in their cities this summer during a wave of anti-police protests. Wheeler said earlier this summer that, instead of addressing violence, he planned to just let it “burn itself out.” 

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‘Boystown’ Neighborhood in Chicago Changes Name Over Gender Exclusion Concerns

Boystown, a prominent LGBT neighborhood in Chicago, is changing its name, citing the need to be more inclusive to all genders. 

The Northalsted Business Alliance changed the name of “Chicago’s Proudest Neighborhood” to Northalsted after some residents complained the name “Boystown” was exclusive. The business alliance said they are already working on a new marketing campaign as well as new signs and flags for the district featuring its new name. 

LGBT activist Devlyn Camp created a petition to rename the neighborhood in July, which received more than 1,300 signatures. The alliance will move forward with renaming the neighborhood, despite a survey launched by the group finding that nearly 60 percent of respondents wanted to keep the name, and 80 percent said the name was not offensive. In a press release, the alliance said the new name will “ensure all members of the LGBTQ community feel welcome in the business district.” 

The neighborhood became known as Boystown in the 1990s, assuming the name of a well-known column in Outlines, a newspaper in Chicago marketed toward the gay community.

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Democratic Senate Candidates Largely Opposed to Court Packing

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said “everything is on the table,” including court packing, if Republicans fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat, but his current slate of candidates could thwart those efforts next year.

No Democrats running in competitive 2020 races publicly support expanding the size of the Supreme Court. Those who have spoken out are either opposed—such as Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Jon Ossoff (Ga.), and Cal Cunningham (N.C.)—or hesitant to commit.

Ossoff and Kelly both announced this week they opposed court packing after earlier ambivalence on the issue. Cunningham told reporters court-packing efforts were the “exact wrong path,” and Alaska independent Al Gross, who is running with Democratic support, said on MSNBC he also opposed adding new justices. Alabama senator Doug Jones (D.), who has the dimmest reelection hopes of any incumbent Democrat, called court packing “crazy.”

Montana governor Steve Bullock (D.) said during his failed presidential bid that expanding the Court should be “on the table,” but he reversed course with a statement through a Senate campaign spokeswoman that it is not a “solution to the challenges we face now.”

Polls have consistently shown majority opposition to court packing since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s failed effort to add six justices to the Supreme Court in 1937. A 2019 Rasmussen poll found only 27 percent of respondents supported expanding the Court’s size, and a Fox News survey that year showed only 37 percent in support. A 2019 Marquette poll found 42 percent in favor but 57 percent still opposed.

Even with Joe Biden in the White House, Democrats could not change the size of the Court without Congress replacing the Judiciary Act of 1869, which set the Court’s current number of nine justices.

Some candidates were not clear in their position. Like Bullock, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper expressed openness to expanding the Court during his ill-fated presidential bid. Now a Senate hopeful, he told the Colorado Sun he would not entertain hypotheticals on the subject. In Maine, Democratic challenger Sara Gideon left open future support but said she had “doubts” that expanding the Supreme Court would make it a more independent body, according to Politico.

Iowa Senate hopeful Theresa Greenfield’s campaign released a statement that “instead of adding more justices to the Supreme Court,” she would support reforms like banning dark money and corporate PACs. Asked for clarification by the Free Beacon, the campaign did not respond.

Rev. Raphael Warnock, the leading Georgia Democrat in the jungle election for Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s (R., Ga.) seat, declined to comment to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution when asked for his position. His campaign told the Washington Free Beacon it had nothing to add.

Some Republicans led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) support passing a constitutional amendment that would cement the number of Supreme Court justices at nine. Loeffler and Sens. Thom Tillis (R., N.C.) and David Perdue (R., Ga.), who are all running for their seats this year, cosponsored the resolution this week.

Michigan senator Gary Peters (D.) and Democratic challengers Amy McGrath (Ky.) and Jaime Harrison (S.C.) did not respond to requests for comment.

Sens. Ed Markey (D., Mass.) and Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii) both called for court packing this week, but Schumer’s threat against Republicans appears hollow without more support.

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Seattle Hires Ex-Pimp as ‘Street Czar’ As It Moves to Fire 100 Police Officers

Seattle hired a former pimp who was once convicted for prostitution-related charges to serve as the city’s “street czar” while at the same time moving forward with legislation to fire 100 police officers. 

Seattle signed a $150,000 contract with Andre Taylor, who will serve as a “community liaison” and advise the city’s police department on deescalation tactics. This comes as Seattle City Council on Tuesday voted to override Democratic mayor Jenny Durkan’s veto on their police budget, which cuts $3 million in funding and 100 jobs from the police department. 

According to his contract, the pimp-turned-community activist will provide “urgent de-escalation of conflict and violence” between police and Seattle residents and will also provide recommendations to city police on police engagement with the community. Taylor told the Seattle Times that he saw a gap in communication between the police and some residents. 

“Not too many people can go talk to gangbangers in their territory, and then go talk to the government in their territory,” Taylor said. 

Taylor served more than five years in prison after being convicted on prostitution-related charges—one of which involved an underage girl—in Las Vegas. He later turned from his pimping lifestyle and started a nonprofit called Not This Time after his brother was killed by Seattle police in 2016. 

While Taylor was hired in July, PubliCola first reported on Taylor’s contract earlier this month. 

Repeated disputes with Seattle City Council over their police department budget cuts pushed police chief Carmen Best—the first black woman to serve as Seattle’s top cop—to resign. On Monday, the Justice Department labeled Seattle, as well as Portland and New York City, “anarchist jurisdictions” for their failure to control violent demonstrations this summer.

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COUNTERPOINT: Unacknowledged Offspring ‘NJR’ Weighs in on Biden Family Drama

The endless drama surrounding Hunter Biden is bound to come up at next week’s debate between his father, Joe Biden, and President Donald Trump. That’s bad news for Joe, who tends to react hysterically when asked to explain, for example, why Hunter received a $3.5 million payment in 2014 from the wife of the ex-mayor of Moscow.

Hunter’s daughter Naomi recently logged onto Twitter, the popular social networking website, in an effort to set the record straight about her father. Among other things, she explained, Yale Law School accepted Hunter as a transfer student because he wrote an amazing poem.

Because the Washington Free Beacon is dedicated to the pursuit of journalistic fairness through the promotion of dissenting viewpoints, we didn’t believe Naomi’s biased views should be allowed to stand unchallenged.

That’s why we reached out to the child referred to in Arkansas court documents as “NJR.” Following a court-ordered DNA test, the child was found “with scientific certainty” to be the son of Hunter Biden and former gentlemen’s club employee Lunden Alexis Roberts, aka “Dallas.”

We asked “NJR” to weigh in on the Biden family drama, and to respond to his grandfather’s repeated refusal to acknowledge his existence. Biden has seven known grandchildren, according to science, but has never given any indication that he considers “NJR” to be a part of the family. We are reprinting the child’s response in full below. Enjoy!

Untitled

By “NJR”

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University of Illinois Student Government Buries BDS Provision in Racial Justice Resolution

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s student government buried a boycott, divestment, and sanctions provision in a resolution opposing violence against blacks.

On Sept. 23, the UIUC student government passed a motion calling on the school to divest from companies such as Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Company, Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar Inc., and Elbit Systems Ltd. for allegedly partaking in “human rights violations” in “Palestinian lands.” The BDS resolution was placed inside a larger resolution that called out anti-black violence on campus and supported efforts for racial justice. The university’s Hillel center called the referendum an “antisemitic litmus test” and accused the student government of forcing Jewish students to pick between their Zionism and condemning violence against black people.

“After five failed attempts in as many years to pass BDS, student activists enshrouded calls for divestment within a resolution opposing anti-Black violence,” a statement from Illini Hillel reads. “This was an attempt to paint Israel and Jews as the obstacle to racial equity, amidst the holiest time in the Jewish calendar.”

According to the Jewish News Syndicate, the resolution called out each company for its alleged role in human-rights atrocities and called for a student representative from Students for Justice in Palestine to work on a task force with the university chancellor. The task force would be “charged with divesting from corporations and index funds that violate human rights and reinvest in socially and environmentally responsible companies and index funds.”

Several left-leaning groups endorsed the resolution, including the Illini Democrats, the Illinois Coalition Assisting Undocumented Students’ Education, Students for Environmental Concerns, and the Muslim and Arab student associations.

Earlier this year, the school’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine sponsored a separate BDS bill that passed the student government in a 20-7-9 vote. The separate referendum called on the university to sever ties with any company “that profit[s] from human rights violations in Palestine and other communities globally.” The bill also called on the school to end all partnerships with companies that provide “weaponry and technology” to United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Universities have increasingly harbored anti-Semitism under the guise of human-rights activism. Columbia University will hold a student-wide vote to decide whether the university should “divest its stocks, funds, and endowment from companies that profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s acts towards Palestinians.” The bill is being sponsored by the Columbia University Apartheid Divest group, which suggests that Israel is an apartheid state.

In a statement, the University of Illinois said that the student government is an independent organization that can pass nonbinding resolutions on any topic it chooses. The school said, however, it found the resolution unfortunate insofar as it was “designed to force students who oppose efforts to divest from Israel to also vote against support for the Black Lives Matter movement.”

“The resolution includes several points on which we can agree, but a foundational value of this institution is inclusion, and this resolution includes language that we cannot and will not support,” the university statement reads.

The Illini student government did not respond to requests for comment.

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This Is What Amy Barrett Actually Wrote About Catholic Judges and the Death Penalty

News reports and social media commentators have repeatedly claimed that Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the frontrunner to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court, argued Catholic judges must recuse themselves from death penalty cases in a 1998 law review article. In fact, the paper argues almost the opposite.

Democrats and allied advocacy groups made the article, “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases,” a centerpiece of their opposition to her nomination to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. They cited the piece as evidence that Barrett believes judges should privilege their religious beliefs over the law if the two conflict, and a fresh round of imprecise reporting is feeding that charge.

Barrett and her coauthor say that Catholic judges with conscientious objections to capital punishment are morally and legally required to recuse themselves from the sentencing phase of a death penalty case. The article concludes, however, that a faithful Catholic judge can participate in most other parts of death penalty litigation, including the trial phase of a capital prosecution and post-conviction reviews involving death row inmates. Death penalty appeals are a closer question, but the authors say Catholic objectors can hear such cases in most instances.

Barrett herself said she does not feel obligated to step back from any kind of case when she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017.

“Sitting here today, I can’t think of any cases or category of cases on which I would feel obliged to recuse on grounds of conscience,” she said.

As a Supreme Court justice, Barrett would have a steady diet of death penalty appeals. By the article’s lights, many of them would not raise problems for a Catholic judge because they deal with auxiliary issues—like trial procedure or jury instructions—and not the sentence itself. Appeals related to sentencing are trickier, but a Catholic’s involvement may be allowed given the nature of appellate review. The job of an appeals judge is to “check for a few defects,” the authors note, and decide whether a decision is allowed under the law—not to endorse the decision. The paper stresses that a Catholic judge should not bend the law to “save a life by cheating.”

Barrett has already participated in a death penalty case involving Daniel Lewis Lee, a federal death row inmate who was executed in July for murdering a family of three and stealing their possessions to support a white-supremacist organization. Days before he was put to death, Barrett sat on a three-judge appeals panel that lifted an injunction pausing Lee’s execution because of the pandemic. Relatives of Lee’s victims were slated to be on hand for the execution, but were unable to travel due to the coronavirus. A federal district judge said the government was wrong to schedule the execution without considering the relatives’ right to observe the execution. Barrett joined an opinion lifting that order.

By her article’s reasoning, Barrett’s participation was permissible because the issue—whether the government should have considered the relatives’ right to be present—did not concern the capital sentence itself.

Barrett was the second author on the piece with John Garvey, himself a prominent Catholic scholar who currently serves as president of Catholic University in Washington, D.C. In her 2017 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barrett said that Garvey asked for her support while she was a third-year law student at Notre Dame. If the article becomes a problem for her prospective nomination this time around, her subordinate position could provide an escape hatch.

“I was very much the junior partner in our collaboration, and that was appropriate given our relative statures,” Barrett said during her 2017 testimony.

Barrett’s religious views are expected to feature prominently in the confirmation battle if she is selected for the High Court. Democratic lawmakers bungled questions about the intersection of her faith and her legal views during her appeals court confirmation in 2017. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) told Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you,” in reference to her past writings. The hearing made Barrett a conservative folk hero and Supreme Court frontrunner almost instantaneously. President Donald Trump is spoiling for a repeat of that 2017 fight, hoping Democratic missteps will reverse his flagging numbers with evangelical and Catholic voters.

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Cal Cunningham’s Problematic Ties to Shady Super PAC

Cal Cunningham, the Democrat running for Senate in North Carolina, has a narrow campaign platform: He served in the military (as a lawyer), opposes corruption, and is pro-democracy. The millions of dollars he’s receiving in outside campaign contributions, however, don’t seem to bother him.

VoteVets, a Democratic Super PAC that doesn’t disclose its donors, has already spent nearly $5.8 million on ads supporting Cunningham and almost $1.5 million on ads attacking his opponent, Sen. Thom Tillis (R., N.C.).

Cunningham says he wants to represent the people of North Carolina, not the “special interests that already have too much influence in Washington.” But that didn’t stop the candidate from launching his campaign in 2019 with the help of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and donations from his wealthy New York friends.

As it turns out, Cunningham knows a thing or two about representing “special interests.” In 2011, he worked as a lawyer for Southern Durham Development, which was trying to win approval for a $500 million luxury multi-use development project opposed by local officials and environmental groups.

Cunningham’s client sought to buy influence. The company created Durham Partnership for Progress, the first ever Super PAC in Durham County, and started funding county commission candidates who supported the new development.

The Super PAC went on to become the top spender in the 2012 county commission race, helping to elect friendly politicians who would go on to cast votes in support of the company’s agenda. Cunningham personally lobbied on the project’s behalf in Raleigh by reaching out to a contact in state government.

In 2019, a spokeswoman for Cunningham’s campaign told The Intercept that the candidate “has no connection to this PAC,” which ended operations in 2013, after successfully advancing its controversial interests. Her use of the present tense is odd—and telling.

Morgan Jackson, whom the Super PAC hired to provide “direct mail and compliance services,” is a veteran political strategist now employed by the Cunningham campaign. Jackson also worked as a consultant on Cunningham’s failed 2010 Senate campaign.

As a Washington Free Beacon handwriting expert noted, too, the handwritings on a Durham Partnership for Progress document, a 2011 Cunningham campaign financial disclosure, and a personal application for a historic preservation tax credit are all suspiciously similar.

Durham Partnership for Progress

Cal Cunningham financial disclosure

Cal Cunningham historic preservation tax credit application 

Democrats, who are constantly railing against the influence of money in politics, have a shot to retake the Senate next year, in no small part because of Super PAC spending for Cunningham and others. If they do, maybe they’ll start passing new campaign finance restrictions. Probably not, though.

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