BREAKING NEWS: House Republicans pull health care bill after shortage of votes

WASHINGTON (ABC News) – House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled his Obamacare repeal bill from the floor Friday, a day after President Donald Trump had threatened to walk away from health care reform if he didn’t get a vote.

After a dramatic day on Capitol Hill, Ryan rushed from the White House to Capitol Hill to tell Trump he did not have the votes to pass the measure, the culmination of seven years of Republican efforts to eradicate President Barack Obama’s proudest domestic achievement.

As Ryan presented the dire vote totals in his meeting with Trump, he explicitly recommended the President pull the bill, according to a senior GOP official. The decision was ultimately Trump’s. Trump made the call at 3 p.m., as the rest of House leadership was gathering in Ryan’s office.

Ryan told fellow Republicans they are “moving on” from health care, Reps. Andy Barr and Bill Flores told CNN.

The decision to delay the vote marks an acute embarrassment for Trump, who had gambled big by presenting holdout House conservatives with a take-it-or-leave it ultimatum on Thursday night and put his own credibility on the line.

It also puts Ryan in a much weakened political position, after being defied by his own conference, which seems just as unsuited to governing in the Trump era as it was when it was effectively a protest coalition under Obama.

It became clear during a day of intense political intrigue Friday that despite fierce arm-twisting by Trump, Ryan and other leaders that the votes simply were not there to pass the bill and the leadership and the White House were headed for a lopsided defeat.

They were unable to narrow the schism between Freedom Caucus conservatives, who believe the bill keeps to much of Obamacare intact and moderates who worry they will pay an electoral price if millions of Americans lose health insurance.

The House meltdown on Obamacare repeal has perilous implications for the American health care system, with Republicans apparently unable to repeal the law but also unwilling to fix the deficiencies that the White House says will collapse the law.

Politically, Friday’s momentous events will race like wildfire through the Republican Party’s conservative, establishment base which has been told repeatedly by candidates that the first order of business with the GOP President in the White House would be the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Now the President may decide to go ahead with another priority — tax reform — yet the intricacies of that effort may be far more difficult to solve than the GOP divisions over Obamacare.

Before the vote was canceled, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday afternoon that Trump has “left everything on the field when it comes to this bill.”

But Republicans had few firm commitments from conservatives and watched a continued exodus of moderates. This was exactly what House leadership was worried would happen when they changed the bill, the source said.

Friday afternoon, moderate Republicans and members of the conservative Freedom Caucus have indicated they won’t back the bill.

Blame game

The decision to pull the bill puts into question the state of Trump and Ryan’s relationship.

Trump has confidence in Ryan, Spicer said earlier Friday.

“I think the speaker has done everything he can,” Spicer said. “He’s worked really closely with the President. I think at the end of the day, you know I said this yesterday, you can’t force people to vote.”

But the President is said to be “agitated” by the process, an aide said, which he thinks is all “political.”

There have been whispers against Ryan, suggesting that if the bill fails it will inflict a series blow to the relationship between the speaker and the President which will be vital to moving forward the Republican agenda.

State of play

The vote was already delayed a day to give Republican leaders a chance to eke out a majority for the bill, is currently scheduled to proceed following Trump’s huge gamble in warning he would walk away from health care reform if the GOP did not follow his desires.

Spicer told reporters “you guys are so negative” as they asked about the poor prospects for the vote.

Trump started calling lawmakers early in the morning, Spicer said. “The President and his team have committed everything they can to making it happen.”

Ryan needed to get a simple majority in the House — around 216 votes depending on how many members show up to vote. He can probably afford to lose no more than 21 Republican votes.

Freedom Caucus holding out?

Vice President Mike Pence met with members of the House Freedom Caucus at the Capitol Hill Club, a source familiar with the meeting says.

Freedom Caucus members stood by their ideological objections to a bill they say does not go far enough in repealing Obamacare.

There are signs of frustration in the White House at the Freedom Caucus, which has won a series of concession but is still holding out against the bill.

“We’ve emboldened them,” one White House aide said.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, was mum about his plans. “I’m not making any comment,” he said.

A Republican official involved in counting votes said it would need about 25 of the roughly 36 members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus members to back the GOP health care bill if it’s going to pass Friday.

But while Mark Meadows claims lawmakers are allowed to vote their conscience, White House and GOP leadership don’t think the Freedom Caucus members take that seriously.

The Freedom Caucus traditionally votes in a block and it will be hard to break from that.

Will moderates flee?

Rep. Leonard Lance, R-New Jersey, said that without a doubt, the decision to concede the repeal of essential health benefits to the Freedom Caucus definitely moved some of his colleagues to “no.”

“I suspect some became a no because of that,” Lance said. “That certainly didn’t help.”

The northeast Republicans are the ones to watch, he said.

“New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania — that’s where you should count heads.”

What was in the bill

The GOP health care bill would eliminate many of the taxes and eradicate the individual mandate imposed by Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act. Instead of the Obamacare subsidies that are tied to income and premiums, the GOP plan provides Americans with refundable tax credits based mainly on age to purchase health insurance.

The bill also significantly curtails federal support for Medicaid and allows states to require able-bodied adults to work. After 2020, states that expanded Medicaid would no longer receive enhanced federal funding to cover low-income adults like they did under Obamacare, and states that haven’t expanded would be immediately barred from doing so.

However, the GOP bill doesn’t touch some of the most popular pieces of Obamacare, including letting children stay on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26 and including protections for people with pre-existing conditions. But it would end the requirement that insurers offer comprehensive policies that cover maternity, drugs, mental health and substance abuse.

BREAKING NEWS: Small plane crashes onto residential street in Bayonne, NJ

A plane crashed in Bayonne Sunday morning, police confirmed.

The Bayonne Office of Emergency Management said the plane is small. It crashed on Avenue E between 41st and 42nd Street.

People have been advised to avoid the area. It is a residential section of Bayonne.

No information is available on the type of plane. It is not yet clear what caused it to crash or if anyone was injured.

BREAKING NEWS: Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, dies at 69 Norma McCorvey, who was 22, unwed

Norma McCorvey, who was 22, unwed, mired in addiction and poverty, and desperate for a way out of an unwanted pregnancy when she became Jane Roe, the pseudonymous plaintiff of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that established a constitutional right to an abortion, died Feb. 18 at an assisted-living facility in Katy, Tex. She was 69.

Her death was confirmed by Joshua Prager, a journalist currently at work on a book about Roe v. Wade. The cause was a heart ailment.

Ms. McCorvey was a complicated protagonist in a legal case that became a touchstone in the culture wars, celebrated by champions as an affirmation of women’s freedom and denounced by opponents as the legalization of murder of the unborn.

When she filed suit in 1970, she was looking not for a sweeping ruling for all women from the highest court in the land, but rather, simply, the right to legally and safely end a pregnancy that she did not wish to carry forward. In her home state of Texas, as in most other states, abortion was prohibited except when the mother’s life was at stake.

On Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court handed down its historic 7-to-2 ruling, written by Justice Harry A. Blackmun, articulating a constitutional right to privacy that included the choice to terminate a pregnancy.

The ruling established the trimester framework, designed to balance a woman’s right to control her body and a state’s compelling interest in protecting unborn life. Although later modified, it was a landmark of American jurisprudence and made Jane Roe a figure­head — championed or reviled — in the battle over reproductive rights that continued into the 21st century.

Ms. McCorvey fully shed her courtroom pseudonym in the 1980s, lending her name first to supporters of abortion rights and then, in a stunning reversal, to the cause’s fiercest critics as a born-again Christian. But even after two memoirs, she remained an enigma, as difficult to know as when she shielded her identity behind the name Jane Roe.

She admitted that she peddled misinformation about herself, lying about even the most crucial juncture in her life: For years, she claimed that the Roe pregnancy was the result of a rape. In 1987, she recanted, saying that she had become pregnant “through what I thought was love.” Although the details of her account were legally unimportant, abortion foes pointed to the lie to discredit Ms. McCorvey and her case.

According to the most sympathetic tellings of her story, she was a victim of abuse, financial hardship, drug and alcohol addiction, and personal frailty. For much of her life, she subsisted at the margins of society, making ends meet, according to various accounts, as a bartender, a maid, a roller-skating carhop and a house painter. She found a measure of stability with a lesbian partner, Connie Gonzalez, but even that relationship reportedly ended in bitterness after 35 years.

Harsher judgments presented Ms. McCorvey as a user who trolled for attention and cash. Abortion rights activists questioned her motives when Ms. McCorvey decamped in 1994, after years as a poster child for their cause, and was baptized in a swimming pool by the evangelical minister at the helm of the antiabortion group Operation Rescue.

The minister, Flip Benham, told Prager, who profiled Ms. McCorvey in Vanity Fair magazine in 2013, that he had come to see Ms. McCorvey as someone who “just fishes for money.”

By her own description, she was “a simple woman with a ninth-grade education.” She presented herself as the victim of her attorneys, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, whom she accused of exploiting the predicament of her unwanted pregnancy to score a victory for the abortion rights cause.

Roe v. Wade, which became a class-action suit, was a watershed for women in general but irrelevant for Ms. McCorvey in particular. After an initial court victory for her, Texas mounted an appeal that dragged on long past Ms. McCorvey’s due date. By the time the Supreme Court announced its decision, her baby was 2½ years old. She had given the child up for adoption and learned of the ruling in a newspaper article.

A difficult start

Norma Nelson — her middle name was variously spelled Lea, Leah and Leigh — was born in Simmesport, La., on Sept. 22, 1947. Her father, a television repairman, was largely absent from her life.

She grew up in Texas, spending part of her adolescence in a Catholic boarding school and at a reform school for delinquents. Her mother told Prager that she beat her daughter in fits of rage over the “wild” behavior that included sexual promiscuity with men and women.

In her teens, Norma began a short-lived marriage to a sheet-metal worker, Elwood “Woody” McCorvey. Her mother raised their daughter, Melissa. Ms. McCorvey’s second baby, born out of wedlock, was adopted by another family.

She said she became pregnant with the Roe baby during a relationship in Dallas. An adoption lawyer referred her to Coffee who, like Weddington, was a recent law school graduate seeking a plaintiff to test the constitutionality of the Texas abortion law.

At the time, many well-to-do women seeking abortions traveled to states or countries where the procedure was legal or easily available, according to Leslie J. Reagan, a historian and the author of the volume “When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973.”

Women like Ms. McCorvey, who did not have money to travel, had several undesirable options. They could entrust themselves to abortion providers who were not medical professionals or attempt to perform abortions on themselves — decisions that frequently resulted in infection or death — or they could obtain no abortion at all

 
Here’s what abortion was like in the United States before and after the landmark Supreme Court case, and where it may be headed next. Video: Everything you need to know about Roe v. Wade in 2 minutes (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

Years later, Ms. McCorvey expressed bitterness at what she described as her attorneys’ unwillingness to help her find what she needed — an abortion, even an illegal one.

“Sarah sat right across the table from me at Columbo’s pizza parlor, and I didn’t know until two years ago that she had had an abortion herself,” Ms. McCorvey told the New York Times in 1994. “When I told her then how desperately I needed one, she could have told me where to go for it. But she wouldn’t because she needed me to be pregnant for her case.”

“Sarah saw these cuts on my wrists, my swollen eyes from crying,” she continued, “the miserable person sitting across from her, and she knew she had a patsy. She knew I wouldn’t go outside of the realm of her and Linda. I was too scared. It was one of the most hideous times of my life.”

‘I wasn’t good enough for them’

After the Supreme Court ruling, Ms. McCorvey did not live in total anonymity, as has been erroneously reported, but lived a mainly private existence before revealing herself in interviews and then in a memoir written with Andy Meisler, “I Am Roe” (1994). She worked in abortion clinics, “trying to please everyone and trying to be hardcore pro-choice,” she told Time magazine.

“That is a very heavy burden,” she said. Moreover, she said that her social background as a poor high school dropout made her ill at ease among the largely upper-class and well-educated activists who helped make abortion a matter of urgent national importance in the 1960s and 1970s.

“I wasn’t good enough for them,” she once said. “I’m a street kid.”

Her conversion came about when Benham, the head of Operation Rescue, opened an office near one of Ms. McCorvey’s clinics and befriended her. She announced that she opposed abortion rights except in the first trimester — a position that put her in fundamental conflict with other antiabortion activists, who opposed abortion in all circumstances. Nevertheless, her defection was hailed as a victory for their cause.

Weddington looked suspiciously on Ms. McCorvey’s conversion and once described her former client as a person who “really craved and sought attention.” Ms. McCorvey attributed her philosophical reversal to her being “worried about salvation.”

She wrote another memoir, “Won By Love” (1997), with co-author Gary Thomas, founded the Dallas-based Roe No More ministry and reportedly became a Catholic. She participated in antiabortion protests and was arrested in 2009 for disrupting the Senate confirmation hearings on Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Gloria Allred, the women’s rights lawyer who for a period represented Ms. McCorvey, told the Times in 1995 that Ms. McCorvey was justified in feeling abandoned by the women’s movement.

“She was shut out of many national pro-choice celebrations. She attended but for the most part she was not invited and it was a very hurtful experience,” Allred said. “When she did speak … she was really very eloquent, not well-educated but speaking from the heart, and I think she had a lot of common sense in what she was saying about choice.”

But neither did Ms. McCorvey find a comfortable home among conservatives in the antiabortion movement, many of whom regarded lesbianism as immoral.

“Neither side was ever willing to accept her for who she was,” the historian David J. Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and the author of “Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade,” said in an interview.

Ms. McCorvey supported herself in part through honoraria, book royalties and other income she generated from her role in the abortion debate. By 2013, according to Prager’s article in Vanity Fair, Ms. McCorvey was relying on “free room and board from strangers.”

Survivors include her daughter Melissa and two grandchildren. Nothing is publicly known of the two children Ms. McCorvey gave up for adoption, according to Prager.

“I don’t require that much in my life,” Ms. McCorvey told the Times in 1994. “I just never had the privilege to go into an abortion clinic, lay down and have an abortion. That’s the only thing I never had.”

BREAKING NEWS: N. Korean test missile ‘flies 500km, lands in Sea of Japan’

North Korea on Sunday launched a missile in the direction of Japan, South Korean and Pentagon officials have said. Although the projectile landed into the sea before reaching Japan’s economic zone, it alarmed the military amid Pyongyang’s claim of developing an ICBM.

“The flight distance was about 500 kilometres, and South Korea and the United States are conducting a close-up analysis on additional information,” South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

A Pentagon official has confirmed to Reuters they detected a missile launch and were assessing the type of the missile in question.

It was not immediately clear if the rocket was of a known type, or the alleged new intercontinental ballistic missile, which Kim Jong Un said Pyongyang was preparing to test in his New Year speech.

BREAKING NEWS: NYC, NJ could see up to foot of snow; blizzard on Long Island may dump 18 inches

NEW YORK — A powerful storm set to bring a foot of snow or more is making its way through the tri-state area Thursday.

People walk on the pedestrian walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge in the snow, Feb. 9, 2017 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
A winter storm warning is currently in effect for the tri-state area, except for Nassau and Suffolk counties, where a blizzard warning is in place. A state of emergency has been issued in Suffolk County.
Snow will fall at a rapid pace during the morning hours, with up to 3 inches an hour in some areas expected, along with strong winds and low visibilities.
Officials warn of possible white-out conditions and caution drivers to avoid using their vehicles if possible. Public transportation is recommended.
Click here for a look at what your commute will look like.
Schools throughout the tri-state area will also be closed due to the winter blast.

Click here for a full list of school closures.

New York City
Snow will be heaviest between 6 and 10 a.m. throughout the five boroughs. Total accumulation is forecast to be 8 to 12 inches.
The New York City Department of Sanitation has 689 salt spreaders on the job across the five boroughs. More than 1,600 plows will be dispatched when more than 2 inches of snow fall.
City officials warn of “blizzard-like” conditions. If people must go out during the storm, officials urge them to use public transportation.
New Jersey
Northern New Jersey will be hit the hardest from 5 to 8 a.m. Up to a foot of snow is expected in the area.
In central and southern New Jersey, precipitation will start out as rain before changing into snow from 6 to 9 a.m. The heaviest snow will land from 9 to 11 a.m. and total accumulation will be around 4 to 8 inches.
Long Island
All of Long Island faces hazardous weather conditions, with accumulations expected to be more than a foot of snow, up to 18 inches in spots.
A blizzard warning has been extended from Suffolk County into Nassau. Snow is expected to hit hardest from 8  a.m. to 2 p.m.
Heavy snow and gusty winds up to 45 miles per hour will reduce visibility about a quarter-mile or less at times.

BREAKING NEWS: San Antonio Police responding to active shooter at Rolling Oaks Mall in San Antonio, TX

Police in San Antonio are responding to reports of an active shooting at the Rolling Oaks Mall, according to local media outlets.

Police are advising people to stay away from the mall.
There is no word on whether anyone is hurt.
This is a developing situation and we are working to confirm more information.

BREAKING NEWS: Gene Cernan, the last man who walked on moon, passes away

 

Retired NASA astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, has died, the space agency announced. He was 82.

 

Cernan was the spacecraft commander for Apollo 17, the last scheduled US manned mission to the moon. The launch was the first manned nighttime launch for NASA. The voyage established several other firsts for manned spaceflight, including: longest manned lunar landing flight (301 hours 51 minutes); longest lunar surface extravehicular activities (22 hours 6 minutes); largest lunar sample return (an estimated 115 kg (249 lbs.); and longest time in lunar orbit (147 hours 48 minutes).

Apollo 17 was Cernan’s third space flight. Prior to the December 1972 launch, he was the pilot for the Gemini IX mission in June 1966 and the lunar module pilot for Apollo 10 in May 1969. He also served as the backup pilot for Gemini 12, as backup lunar module pilot for Apollo 7 and as backup spacecraft commander for Apollo 14.

Cernan logged a total of 566 hours, 15 minutes in space, more than 73 of which were on the surface of the moon.