POLITICO Playbook, presented by UnitedHealth Group: THE BIG DAY: TRUMP’s risky bet, THE STAKES, the

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Today's PLAYBOOK presented by UnitedHealth Group 03/24/2017 07:13 AM EDT
By JAKE SHERMAN (; @JakeSherman) and ANNA PALMER (; @apalmerdc) with DANIEL LIPPMAN (; @dlippman)  

Driving the Day
Listen to Playbook in 90 Seconds http://bit.ly/2nPr9u7 ... Subscribe on iTunes http://apple.co/2eX6Eay ... Visit the online home of Playbook http://politi.co/2f51JnfTHE BIG BET -- PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP is getting a vote on his health care bill today on the House floor. If it fails, he's leaving Obamacare in place.-- BY THE WAY ... Trump, who has branded himself a dealmaker without parallel, gave this whole health-care process 18 days -- including weekends and days Congress was out of session! Let us be abundantly clear: We were in the Capitol yesterday and talking to our vote-counting sources until late last night, and the situation is extremely fluid. Nobody knows how this is going to play out. But in Congress, 18 days is nothing.BEFORE TRUMP'S ULTIMATUM, Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan did not have the votes to pass this bill. The conservative House Freedom Caucus and a dozen or so moderates were banding together against the health-care bill, keeping it well short of the vote threshold required for passage. THERE HAS BEEN MOVEMENT. There are signs in the Freedom Caucus that their bloc of 'no' votes is dwindling. They are expected to hold a bunch of members against the bill -- but not nearly as many as they previously thought. Many of them huddled until late in the Capitol, trying to get their bearings and decide whether they really have the gumption to cross Trump. (Many of them don't care about the president or his threats. Same goes for many of the moderates against the legislation.)BUT some members of the conservative group who were opposed to the bill seem eager to please their president -- despite their loud and staunch opposition. Watch what Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) does. If he votes yes, he'll be seen as easy to roll. The Freedom Caucus drove a hard bargain. And yes, they've won some significant concessions. But if they flip, they'll show they can be cowed just by the president walking away. That's a good preview of his power, and a show in the shift of the dynamics in D.C.THE SCENARIOS. Inside the top levels of every wing of the Republican Party on the Hill, there are a few scenarios playing out. Not a single senior whip truly knows where this thing will end up. -- THE WIN. Trump's ultimatum flips enough non-Freedom Caucus members and a few conservatives to get this thing across the finish line. The vote will be early enough -- right now it is expected in the 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. range, per CNBC's Kayla Tausche -- that they can keep it open for hours without slipping into the night. Arm-twisting under the bright lights of the House floor can be a powerful thing. And it's not so easy to abandon a president of your own party on his first major policy fight. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office says the House will be out by 5 p.m. today. -- THE LOSS. Many in the Freedom Caucus say they still have close to enough votes to block this bill. Even if they have 15 no votes -- a low estimate -- this bill would fail with another roughly eight no votes from moderates and conservatives outside the Freedom Caucus (the number needed to defeat the bill shifts depending on how may people show up). Many House Republicans from across the political spectrum have issued strong and seemingly irreversible statements about the bill. See the Huffington Post's Matt Fuller's whip list http://bit.ly/2n0zuqr-- THE REALITY. If it looks like this bill is going to fail, expect a LOT of people to vote no at the last minute. If you have a district where parts of the Affordable Care Act are at least somewhat popular, why would you walk the plank for something that will fail in the House and go nowhere in the Senate? Just ask House Democrats how that worked out for them on cap and trade. -- THE STAKES. What happens today will go a long way in dictating what the next few months look like for President Trump, Speaker Ryan and their agenda on Capitol Hill.-- RYAN . Defeat here would be bad for Ryan. It's his chamber, his strategy and it would be mostly his loss. Ryan's allies and even some cool to the speaker are trying to point to others -- namely the Freedom Caucus -- for taking an outsized role in the negotiations and dealing directly with the White House. But, just like we saw with John Boehner, the speaker cannot avoid all blame, whether he deserves it or not. -- TRUMP. He needs a win. If he loses, watch for him to blame Ryan, politics or Congress as an unruly and broken institution. But he said it was him -- and only him -- who could close deals. -- MUST READ -- GLENN THRUSH and MAGGIE HABERMAN on NYT A1, "Trump the Dealmaker Projects Bravado, but Behind the Scenes, Faces Rare Self-Doubt": "Mr. Trump has told four people close to him that he regrets going along with Speaker Paul D. Ryan's plan to push a health care overhaul before unveiling a tax cut proposal more politically palatable to Republicans. He said ruefully this week that he should have done tax reform first when it became clear that the quick-hit health care victory he had hoped for was not going to materialize on Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the act's passage, when the legislation was scheduled for a vote. Two of his most influential advisers -- Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist, and Gary D. Cohn, the National Economic Council director, who had a major role in pushing the bill -- came to agree, and did not like the compromise that was emerging." http://nyti.ms/2nJVGsz -- THE TRUMP-RYAN AXIS. The knives are already out in the West Wing for the House speaker. It was Ryan who devised the sequencing of this year's legislative agenda. And, at this point, it looks like a mistake. Every Republican is having to spend precious political capital to squeeze this bill through, including Trump. Ryan's allies, however, insist that the two men are in a good spot, and the president now sees that the Freedom Caucus isn't the best negotiating partner. They say the unhappiness with Ryan is a staff-driven narrative. Even so, the fact that Trump's staff feels like they have an opening to dump to the press on a sitting speaker is not necessarily a good sign. A THOUGHT FOR TRUMP: You probably don't want to encourage -- even tacitly -- a coup against Speaker Paul Ryan right now. A fight for the speakership will be messy and time consuming. It's also hard to believe Trump would find a better partner to get his agenda through. -- THE TIMELINE. House Republicans have kept in the bill a provision to eliminate essential health benefits -- coverage for mental-health issues, emergency services, hospitalizations and more. Some senior Republicans believe if the House passes the bill, the Congressional Budget Office will take a while to judge the budgetary impact of this element of the legislation. This would slow down Senate consideration of the bill and force the health-care fight deeper into the spring.-- WHAT WE'VE LEARNED. Just a quick reiteration of what most Washington veterans think: This episode shows that tax reform and infrastructure will take time. Keep in mind, Congress has some time-consuming deadlines in the coming months: government funding expires and the debt limit needs to be lifted. Even if this bill passes, many Republicans want the White House to abandon its artificial timelines -- and quickly.
****** A message from UnitedHealth Group : Building a better health care system is challenging. By building on what works, we can create a bridge to a more modern, high-performing, and simpler system. Learn more at www.unitedhealthgroup.com. ******EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK: BEHIND THE SCENES -- SHOWTIME'S "THE CIRCUS," the Mark Halperin/John Heilemann show, has been taping on Capitol Hill this week. Here's a three-minute sneak peak from this Sunday's episode, which will air at 8 p.m. on Showtime. Watch the clip http://bit.ly/2ocholJ OVERHEARD last night on 5th Street NW as two people stumbled out of a bar: "Hey! If it fails tomorrow, lunch martinis on me!" SHOT -- @AliceOllstein: "I asked Sen. Roberts if he supports scrapping Essential Health Benefits. 'I wouldn't want to lose my mammograms,' he snarked. #AHCA" ... CHASER -- @SenPatRoberts: "I deeply regret my comments on a very important topic. Mammograms are essential to women's health & I never intended to indicate otherwise." MEANWHILE IN ASPEN - "Family fun day: Ivanka Trump straps baby Theo to her chest as she and Jared Kushner take their kids and nephew Donald III toy shopping after day in the park during Aspen vacation" -- The Daily Mail: With 90 pics on one page! http://dailym.ai/2oaXGH4 BUZZ -- We hear the White House is expected to issue an executive order on H1B visas in the coming weeks. This tracks how they've been discussing high-skilled workers, but would almost certainly create a firestorm with the tech world and immigrant rights groups.-- "Trump Administration Orders Tougher Screening of Visa Applicants," by NYT's Mike Shear: "The Trump administration is making it tougher for millions of visitors to enter the United States by demanding new security checks before giving visas to tourists, business travelers and relatives of American residents." http://nyti.ms/2nddiKSHERE WE GO -- "Schumer prepared to force nuclear showdown over Gorsuch," by Burgess Everett and Elana Schor: "Chuck Schumer is prepared to push the Senate into a nuclear confrontation over the Supreme Court. In an extensive interview with POLITICO Thursday, the Senate minority leader made his most definitive statement to date that Democrats will deny Neil Gorsuch the 60 votes he needs to clear a Senate filibuster and ascend to the Supreme Court. Dismissing the notion of a deal to confirm Gorsuch floated by some members of his caucus this week, Schumer all but declared that Donald Trump's nominee will not receive the requisite eight Democratic votes - and that it will be up to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell whether to try to blow up the filibuster to get Gorsuch through."There's been an almost seismic shift in the caucus [against Gorsuch],' Schumer said as the Senate Judiciary confirmation hearings wrapped up Thursday. 'He did not win anybody over with his testimony.' If Schumer stops Gorsuch during a filibuster vote in early April - and the New Yorker was brimming with confidence that he will - it will almost certainly force McConnell's hand on the so-called 'nuclear option.' Schumer is betting McConnell does not have the votes to do away with the 60-vote requirement for Supreme Court nominees. 'I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that Mitch McConnell changes the rules,' Schumer said. 'There are people in his caucus who really don't want to change the rules, OK?'" http://politi.co/2njr1kYFINALLY -- "Trump, Tillerson Settle on No. 2 at State Department," by WSJ's Felicia Schwartz and Gordon Lubold: "President Donald Trump is expected to nominate John J. Sullivan to be the State Department's No. 2 official, according to U.S. officials familiar with the discussions. Mr. Sullivan, 57, initially was the Trump administration's pick to be the Pentagon's general counsel, news the White House announced earlier this month. But in recent days Trump administration officials decided they would instead tap him to be deputy secretary of state ... Mr. Sullivan most recently was a partner in the Washington office of the law firm Mayer Brown. He served in the George W. Bush administration in senior roles in the Commerce Department and the Pentagon." http://on.wsj.com/2nJV71VNUNES EXPLAINS HIMSELF -- "Nunes: 'Duty and obligation' to go to Trump with surveillance intel," by Cristiano Lima: "House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said Thursday he 'felt he had a duty and obligation' to inform President Donald Trump that transition officials on his team may have had communications intercepted inadvertently, a decision that has drawn the ire of congressional Democrats. 'It's clear that I would be concerned if I was the president and that's why I wanted him to know,' the Republican lawmaker told Fox News' Sean Hannity during an interview ... Thursday night. 'I felt I had a duty and obligation to tell him because as you know he's been taking a lot of heat in the news media.' Nunes added that he felt sharing the information was necessary for Trump to make his own determination on whether the surveillance was carried out improperly." http://politi.co/2nYepy2HAPPENING TODAY -- Trump is meeting with Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Charter Communications CEO Thomas Rutledge to discuss infrastructure and job creation.KEYSTONE XL ANNOUNCEMENT COMING -- TRUMP is meeting with pipeline manufacturers and reps from TransCanada today to make an announcement on the pipeline.THE JUICE ... -- FIRST IN PLAYBOOK -- PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY is putting out a TV and digital ad urging viewers to call their senators to oppose Trump's SCOTUS pick, Neil Gorsuch. The ad features Jeff Perkins, the father of a student with autism whose lawsuit Gorsuch denied. The ad will run in Missouri, Maine, Indiana, North Dakota, Nevada, Montana and Washington, D.C. The ad http://bit.ly/2nP1BgE-- BUZZ: BROCK LONG is being floated to be FEMA administrator, according to a well-wired source in the homeland security world. Long is the former Alabama director of emergency management and currently with Hagerty Consulting Group. The White House and Long did not respond to a request for comment.--FIRST LOOK: PRIORITIES USA and PATRIOT MAJORITY , two Democratic pressure groups, commissioned a poll of 1,001 voters across 20 Republican-held House districts to test the impact on GOPers if they vote for Trumpcare. The findings: "when voters are told their Republican member of Congress supports the plan, they move from approving of their congressperson by 12 points (46% approve, 34% disapprove) to disapproving by 21 points (35% approve, 56% disapprove) - a net shift of 33 percentage points. The voters also move from saying they would reelect their congressman, 44-38, to saying they will elect a Democratic challenger, 45-38. That is a net 13-point swing away from the Republicans in the vote for Congress." Memo http://politi.co/2nKYm9e -- THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE used their Snapchat account for the first time yesterday, doing a snap of the trucks that came to the WH. Screenshot http://politi.co/2mxVM77
Playbook Reads
DARK ARTS -- "RNC paid intel firm for Clinton dirt," by Ken Vogel and Eli Stokols: "As the general election was taking shape last summer, the [RNC] initiated a series of payments to a low-profile firm started by retired [CIA] officers that worked closely with an ex-Russian spy. The payments attracted attention in political and intelligence circles, largely because the Virginia-based firm, Hamilton Trading Group, had particular expertise in Russia, which was emerging as a major campaign issue at the time. RNC officials and the president and co-founder of Hamilton Trading Group, an ex-CIA officer named Ben Wickham, insisted the payments, which eventually totaled $41,500, had nothing to do with Russia. "Instead, they initially claimed the payments were entirely for an assessment by Hamilton Trading Group of building security concerns at the RNC's Capitol Hill headquarters. But RNC officials now acknowledge that most of the cash - $34,100 - went towards intelligence-style reports that sought to prove conflicts of interest between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State and her family's foundation." http://politi.co/2nY95un COMING ATTRACTIONS -- "Trump Administration Eyes $1 Billion in Cuts to U.N. Peacekeeping," by Foreign Policy's Colum Lynch: "The White House is seeking to cut $1 billion dollars in funding for U.N. peacekeeping operations and to eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars for other U.N. programs that care for needy children and seek to lift the world's poorest out of a life of grinding poverty, according to two diplomatic sources briefed on the plan. The proposal is certain to face strong pushback from Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders, who warned that the president's budget will never be passed. But it reflected the White House's clear desire to jettison America's traditional role as the champion of the downtrodden and embrace that of a military powerhouse to be feared." http://atfp.co/2mZI2ODDEPT. OF YA CAN'T MAKE IT UP -- "Trump's Longtime Lawyer Is Defending Russia's Biggest Bank," by BuzzFeed's Anthony Cormier, Jeremy Singer-Vine, and John Templon: "One of President Donald Trump's personal attorneys was just named a lead attorney to defend Russia's largest state-run bank against claims that it helped a granite-mining company raid and kill off its main competitor in the Russian market. Marc E. Kasowitz is representing OJSC Sberbank of Russia, which is accused in US federal court of conspiring with granite company executives - including Russia's former minister of economy and trade - in what the plaintiffs say amounts to a 'textbook case of Russian corporate raiding.' Kasowitz has served as an attorney for Trump for more than 15 years. ... In December, Trump named another partner at Kasowitz's firm, David Friedman, to serve as the ambassador to Israel." http://bzfd.it/2oaBzk4ETHICS WATCH -- Justice Department investigating Rep. Duncan Hunter," by San Diego Union-Tribune's Morgan Cook: "Duncan Hunter is being investigated by the Department of Justice over whether he improperly used campaign funds for personal use, according to a statement released Thursday by the House Ethics Committee. The committee announced that it had unanimously voted to defer its own investigation of Hunter at the request of the Justice Department. Prosecutors typically ask congressional committees to hold off to avoid having their inquiries conflict with criminal investigations. A federal law enforcement official familiar with the investigation confirmed Thursday that the FBI is investigating Hunter for campaign finance violations." http://bit.ly/2njr3JyHMM -- "Wilbur Ross will shepherd Trump's trade policy. Should he also own a shipping firm?" by Center for Public Integrity's Carrie Levine and Chris Zubak-Skees: "When private equity billionaire Wilbur Ross Jr. signed on to be President Donald Trump's commerce secretary, he agreed to divest millions of dollars in assets. But one asset Ross plans to keep is his stake in Diamond S Shipping Group Inc., one of the