Senate Republicans pull plug on latest Obamacare repeal bid

Grim-faced lawmakers, who had hoped to hold the vote this week, made the announcement shortly after a Republican luncheon in which senators discussed the impasse, and possible future paths forward for their efforts to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s landmark 2010 health care reforms.

南京夜网

“We’ve made the decision that since we don’t have the votes we will postpone that vote,” Senator Bill Cassidy, one of the bill’s main authors, told reporters.

Republicans had scrambled to pass health care reform before a September 30 deadline, using special rules that would have allowed them to avoid a Democratic filibuster and pass the bill with a simple majority.

Republicans, who hold 52 seats in the 100-member chamber, could afford just two defectors. But three, including most recently Senator Susan Collins, have declared their opposition.

“Am I disappointed? Absolutely,” Cassidy said.

The collapse, yet again, of an effort to fulfill one of Trump’s primary campaign pledges is sure to be an embarrassment to the White House, which has seen several Obamacare repeal and replace bills crash and burn this year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the party, still searching for a first major legislative victory under the Trump administration, will now turn to another Trump priority.

“Where we go from here is tax reform,” he said.

Despite the latest collapse, Senator Lindsey Graham insisted the effort to sink Obamacare — and fulfill a seven-year Republican promise — was alive and kicking.

“We’re coming back to this after taxes,” Graham said. “There’s plenty of fight left in us.”

But Democrats immediately claimed victory, with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer saying that with the failure of the Graham-Cassidy bill, “the health care of millions has been protected and preserved.”

The Republican plan had aimed to replace the Affordable Care Act with a system of block grants to states.

It would make sweeping changes and cuts to Medicaid, with experts projecting a staggering $1 trillion plus in cuts between 2020 and 2036 to the federal health program for the poor and the disabled, which has been expanded under Obamacare.

Compounding the problem for the bill, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released a preliminary analysis of the new legislation Monday, and projected that it would leave “millions fewer people” with comprehensive health insurance.

Restarting bipartisan talks?

With the latest repeal failure, Democrats swiftly said they wanted to restart stalled bipartisan talks aimed at boosting the existing health care system.

“GrahamCassidy is officially dead,” Senator Martin Heinrich tweeted. “It’s time to get to work, hold hearings & find bipartisan ways to improve our #HealthCare system.”

Democrats have said the first task at hand is to stabilize the Obamacare insurance markets. At issue are the billions of dollars in federal reimbursements to insurance companies for covering millions of low-income Americans under Obamacare.

Trump in the past has threatened to suspend the so-called cost-sharing reductions as a way to speed Obamacare’s demise.

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic Senator Patty Murray have led efforts to craft a bipartisan plan to stabilize the insurance markets.

Their talks broke down as Republican leader pushed for a vote on Graham-Cassidy, but Murray said she is ready to resume them on a moment’s notice.

“Making sure that the president made the payments that he can right now… is the single most important thing to do over the next several years to stabilize the marketplace, which will reduce the premiums for everyone,” she said.

Trump friend denies Russian interference

Roger Stone, an advisor to Donald Trump for many years before he entered the White House, on Tuesday told Congress that the mogul’s presidential campaign did not coordinate with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

南京夜网

Appearing before the House Intelligence Committee in a closed-door session, Stone denied having any prior knowledge of the leak involving e-mails of John Podesta, the campaign director of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“I understand the committee’s interest in me … I am provocative and partisan, but let’s be clear: I have no involvement in the alleged activities that are within the publicly stated scope of this committee’s investigation – collusion with the Russian state to affect the outcome of the 2016 election,” Stone said.

The House and Senate intelligence committees are investigating Russia’s involvement in the election and the Kremlin’s possible links with the Trump campaign.

Stone responded to lawmakers’ questions for more than three hours in a private session and told reporters later that he refused to answer when asked about who his “intermediary” was for communicating with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

After the hearing, Democratic congressman Adam Schiff threatened to subpoena Stone for not answering questions.

Democrats are interested in pressuring Stone about his communications with Assange and the Russian hacker known as Guccifer 2.0, citing a public tweet in which he suggested that he had prior knowledge about the leak of the Podesta e-mails.

After being asked if he felt Trump should have fired Robert Mueller, the man who is leading the investigation, Stone responded, “yes.”

Food aid and face masks dispatched to Bali as 75,000 flee volcano

Mount Agung, 75 kilometres from the resort hub of Kuta, has been rumbling since August and threatening to erupt for the first time since 1963 – a potential blow to the country’s lucrative tourism industry.

南京夜网

Increasingly frequent tremors show the molten magma is still rising towards the surface, with the mountain entering a “critical phase”, said the national disaster mitigation agency.

It said the number fleeing their homes had increased as fears grow that the mountain could blow.

RELATED READING

0:00 Experts monitor Mount Agung activity Share Experts monitor Mount Agung activity

“The local mitigation agency reported that until 12 pm Tuesday, the number has reached 75,673 people, spread across 377 evacuation centres in nine districts,” said agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

Around 62,000 people lived in the danger zone before the evacuations, according to the agency, but residents just outside the area have also left as a precaution.

“The number is expected to continue to rise,” Nugroho said.

More reading

The Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation said there has been an increase in volcanic tremors, with a total of 564 recorded Monday.

Evacuees have packed into temporary shelters or moved in with relatives. Some 2,000 cows have also been evacuated from the flanks of the volcano.

Speaking in Klungkung district, President Joko Widodo told evacuees the government would do its best to reduce economic losses incurred during the evacuation.

0:00 Tens of thousands flee rumbling Bali volcano Share Tens of thousands flee rumbling Bali volcano

“It is not easy to handle a volcanic eruption because there is no certainty when it’s going to happen, or if it’s going to happen at all,” he said.

“I ask everybody near Gunung Agung to listen to the officials, the governor, and the mayor’s instruction so we can all minimise the impact of this volcano.”

Balinese residents, international NGOs and the central government have begun organising aid.

Vehicles loaded with noodles, mineral water and blankets have been sent to the evacuation centres, while residents around the island have been collecting donations.

Mount Agung is seen from Datah village in Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia, 26 September 2017.AAP

Bali’s “sister village” programme and tradition of communal assistance means evacuees have been able to stay in villages outside the danger zone.

I Ketut Subandi, head of logistics at the village of Tana Ampo, said basic food items like rice, instant noodles, cooking oil and water were most needed.

“This morning we were worried because we had limited rice supply, but now we have received more rice stocks from donors,” Subandi said.

Indonesia’s national disaster agency has sent 640,000 face masks, 12,500 mattresses, 8,400 blankets and 50 tents. The central government has a relief fund totalling nearly $150 million to meet the cost of natural disasters, which could be tapped in case of an eruption.

The Indonesian Palace shows Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo (white) visits Indonesian displaced people at a shelter in Karangasem on the island of Bali.AAP

Officials announced the highest possible alert level on Friday due to the increasing volcanic activity and warned people to stay at least nine kilometres away from the crater.

Operators have cancelled trekking tours on the mountain  but officials have otherwise been at pains to assure tourists the island is safe.

The airport in Bali’s capital Denpasar, through which millions of foreign tourists pass every year, has not been affected, but several countries including Australia and Singapore have issued a travel advisory.

Flights to and from the island have not been interrupted but airlines are watching the situation closely.

Virgin Australia said it would be making an extra fuel stop in Darwin for some of its flights between Australia and Bali in case it is forced to turn back.

Singapore Airlines said customers travelling between September 23 and October 2 could rebook flights or ask for a refund.

Mount Agung is one of more than 120 active volcanoes extending the length of Indonesia, which straddles the Pacific Ring of Fire.

It last erupted in 1963, killing nearly 1,600 people and sending ash as far as the capital Jakarta.

Dual citizenship: Roberts, Ludlam ineligible, Commonwealth will argue

But it believes the five other politicians referred to the High Court – including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce – should not be found ineligible.

南京夜网

The government believes only those who “voluntarily obtained, or retained” citizenship of another country should be affected by section 44 of the constitution which prohibits dual citizens running for parliament.

That does not include “a person who does not know that they are, or ever were, a foreign citizen”.

The government’s stance also gives hope to Nationals senators Fiona Nash and Matt Canavan and crossbench senator Nick Xenophon, who all claim they never thought they could be a citizen of another country by descent, and former Greens senator Larissa Waters, who is said to have not voluntarily acquired or retained her Canadian citizenship.

The government believes that the requirement to take “all reasonable steps” to renounce foreign citizenship doesn’t actually require the person to take any steps.

“Taking no steps is reasonable in these circumstances,” its submission reads.

In the submissions filed on behalf of Attorney-General George Brandis on Tuesday, the Commonwealth claims One Nation’s Senator Roberts and Mr Ludlam – a former Greens senator – were incapable of being chosen to sit in parliament.

The High Court last week ruled Senator Roberts, who was born in India to a Welsh father and Australian mother, was a dual British and Australian citizen when he nominated as a candidate.

Mr Ludlam resigned in July after learning he was still a citizen of New Zealand, where he was born.

The Commonwealth believes Mr Ludlam and Senator Roberts voluntarily retained their status as citizens of New Zealand and Britain respectively and failed to take all reasonable steps to renounce it and should be disqualified.

Their vacancies should be filled by a special count, it submitted.

“The other referred persons are not disqualified,” it said.

The matters will go before the full bench of the High Court on October 10.

0:00 Joyce says he’s ‘shell-shocked’ after citizenship news Share Joyce says he’s ‘shell-shocked’ after citizenship news

Inventor Dyson aims for electric car

James Dyson, the billionaire British inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, said on Tuesday his company was working on developing an electric car to be launched by 2020.

南京夜网

Dyson said he was spending $US2.7 billion to exploit his company’s expertise in solid-state battery technology and electric motors.

“Battery technology is very important to Dyson … I have been developing these technologies consistently because I could see that one day we could do a car,” Dyson said.

Dyson said a 400-strong team of engineers had already spent 2-1/2 years working on the hitherto secret car project.

However, the car itself still has to be designed and the choice of battery to be finalised.

The company was backing solid-state rather than the lithium ion technology used in existing electric vehicles because it was safer, the batteries would not overheat, were quicker to charge and potentially more powerful, he said.

Dyson said his ambition to go it alone was driven by the car industry’s dismissal of an idea he had of applying his cyclonic technology that revolutionised vacuum cleaners to handle diesel emissions in car exhaust systems in the 1990s.

“We are not a johnny-come-lately onto the scene of electric cars,” he said.

“It has been my ambition since 1998 when I was rejected by the industry, which has happily gone on making polluting diesel engines, and governments have gone on allowing it.”

But the car does not yet have a design nor a chassis, he said, and the company had not yet decided where it will be made, beyond ruling out working with the big car companies.

“Wherever we make the battery, we’ll make the car, that’s logical,” he said. “So we want to be near our suppliers, we want to be in a place that welcomes us and is friendly to us, and where it is logistically most sensible.

“And we see a very large market for this car in the Far East.”

Dyson gave no details of the concept for the vehicle, beyond saying it would not be like anything else already on the market.

“There’s no point in doing one that looks like everyone else’s,” he said, adding that it would not be a sports car and it would not be “a very cheap” car.