Why This Democrat Is Focusing On California In Fight To Take Back The House In 2018

WASHINGTON ― A new organization launched Monday argues that the road to a Democratic majority in the U.S. House “runs through ‘red’ California.”

Red to Blue California PAC wants to help Democrats take back the chamber in 2018 by supporting and mobilizing Democrats challenging Republican incumbents in seven congressional districts that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton carried in last year’s presidential race. Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats for a majority in the House.

The PAC’s founder, Michael Eggman, is a Democrat, farmer and beekeeper in California’s Central Valley who ran twice against Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) in a district Democrats had hoped to flip. The idea came to him after he narrowly lost in last year’s bid against Denham, whose district voted for Clinton (and for President Barack Obama before that).

The PAC will focus on advising candidates on the mechanics of running campaigns, from online fundraising to speaking at events, guidance Eggman wished he had before his first congressional bid.

“You can have the best message in the world, but if you don’t have the resources to get that message out, or if you don’t have the proper platform to communicate your message, it’s not going to do you any good,” Eggman told HuffPost.

In designing an effective message, it’s important for candidates to recognize the “nuances of that specific district,” Eggman said.

The competitive districts and Republican incumbents the PAC is focusing on are:

  • 10th District: Jeff Denham

  • 21st District: David Valadao 

  • 25th District: Steve Knight 

  • 39th District: Ed Royce

  • 45th District: Mimi Walters 

  • 48th District: Dana Rohrabacher 

  • 49th District: Darrell Issa 

All seven GOP representatives voted for House Republicans’ health care bill in May, an issue Eggman pointed to as evidence of the divide between the representatives and their constituents.

“These reps are standing with [President Donald] Trump and not the constituents of their district,” Eggman said. “Their constituents don’t share Trump’s values, and it seems like these reps do.” 

Several of the districts are in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, a Republican stronghold that last year went for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1936.

In several of the seven races, Democratic candidates have already thrown their hats in the ring, buoyed by increased party activism.

Eggman said the PAC is not likely to endorse any specific candidates until after the primaries, but could intervene “on a case-by-case basis” if there is a particularly competitive primary.

Red to Blue California will also fund and train Democratic candidates vying for local office, to help them learn how to run sophisticated and efficient campaigns on the local level and to build a network of future leaders. 

“We want to pay attention to the bench, which is something that hasn’t been done on our side of the aisle. Of course, Republicans have been doing it for a couple decades, and I would attribute that to a lot of their success,” Eggman said.

“It’s great that a beekeeper ran for Congress, but it would have been better that a beekeeper that was also a county supervisor, that had already had a constituency footprint, ran for Congress. That would have given me a tremendous advantage.”

Fresh off defeats in several special elections that had been seen as bellwethers for the 2018 midterms, particularly last Tuesday’s race in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, Democrats nationally are at a crossroads.

But Eggman pointed out that, in those special elections, Democrats made significant improvements compared to prior elections and overperformed — in some cases, by double digits.

“If we did double-digit gains in all seven of these seats, then we win. I am very hopeful, but I’m in it for the long haul too,” he said, noting that he would not see it as a loss if Democrats did not pick up all seven seats in 2018. “You’ve got to be resilient.”

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Conservative’s Story About ‘How Republicans Are Born’ Backfires Spectacularly

Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist seemed to think he had the perfect example to explain his problem with taxes, and to illustrate ― as he put it ― “how Republicans are born.”

On Sunday, the head of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform wrote on Twitter

The post quickly went viral, but probably not for the reasons Norquist expected. Of the more than 4,500 comments, many explained exactly what the tax on that guitar would be used for.

Here are some examples: 

Here’s some of the reaction to the reaction: 

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Michelle Obama’s Tribute To Chance The Rapper Literally Moved Him To Tears

It’s one (rather humbling) thing to be honored with BET’s Humanitarian Award ― it’s another to be praised by Michelle Obama and to have her call you a friend. But leave it to Chance The Rapper to accomplish both by the age of 24. 

In addition to taking home the award for Best New Artist during the 2017 BET Awards, which aired Sunday, the rapper and activist became the youngest person to receive its Humanitarian Award.

Chance donated $1 million to public schools in his hometown of Chicago in March, led campaigns to give outerwear to Chicago’s homeless and even led a march to Chicago voting polls on Election Day 2016. 

His list of social deeds can go on for days, which is probably why he was able to get a shoutout from our favorite first lady. 

“We are so incredibly proud of you, Chance,” the former FLOTUS began. “We have known Chance and his family since he was a wee little baby rapper and it has been a thrill watching him come into his own in so many ways.”

“In addition to making some really amazing music, Chance has been taking that big bright spotlight that follows him around and shining it on our hometown of Chicago,” she continued. “Chance is showing our young people that they matter, they have something inside of them that is worthy of being expressed.”

After the first lady’s touching words, cameras caught Chance with tears in his eyes. 

His acceptance speech, which he said was impromptu because he wanted to “speak from the heart,” proved his accolades from Mrs. Obama were well deserved. 

After declaring a love for black people, Chance went into a spiel about how this country can start making things right. 

“I had plans originally to try to tell the world and everybody watching how to make it a better place,” he said.

“To tell everybody in this government that y’all need to let everybody out of jail for selling weed before y’all start making it legal for people to sell it and make capital off it,” he continued, making pointed eye contact with the camera. 

“I was going to tell the Chicago public school system not to take out a loan from Chase Bank when they know that our schools are planning on failing in our district,” he said to increasing applause. 

Before ending his speech, Chance declared that he also wants to work on himself and become a better father, cousin, etc. 

He then had the nerve to say he doesn’t yet feel the award is deserved. Let the humbleness take a seat for one night, Chano. 

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Jimmy Kimmel Pleads With Senator To Put Trumpcare To Kind ‘Kimmel Test’

Late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel is pleading with a Republican senator to put the latest version of Trumpcare to the “Kimmel test” before voting for it.

Kimmel, whose baby son Billy required surgery shortly after birth to repair a congenital heart problem, tweeted to Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) Sunday: “No family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can’t afford it.”

Cassidy himself first coined what he called the “Jimmy Kimmel test” in early May during a CNN interview when asked about caps on insurance coverage in Trumpcare.

“I ask, ’Does it pass the Jimmy Kimmel test?’” said the senator, who is also a doctor. “Would the child born with a congenital heart disease be able to get everything she or he would need in that first year of life, even if they go over a certain amount? I want to make sure folks get the care they need.”

Cassidy said in his latest interview Sunday on CBS that he hasn’t yet decided how he will vote on the Senate’s version of Trumpcare, which will eject some 23 million people from health insurance and will carve $800 billion out of Medicaid.

Right now I am undecided,” Cassidy said on “Face The Nation.” There “are things in this bill that adversely affect my state, that are peculiar to my state. A couple of the things I am concerned about, but if those can be addressed I will [vote for the bill]. And if they can’t be addressed, I won’t.”

On Friday, Cassidy said in response to a question from a Washington Post reporter that the Senate bill “begins to address the Jimmy Kimmel test.”

Just days before Cassidy’s CNN interview in May, Kimmel had tearfully recounted the story of his newborn son’s open-heart surgery on his program in April. It was the “longest three hours of my life,” said Kimmel, who reassured the audience that the story had a “happy ending” for baby Billy.

Kimmel used his own horrifying ordeal to make a plea for access to health care for every American. He said his son’s situation was a classic case of a “pre-existing condition” because it happened at birth.

“If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make … whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?” he asked to wild audience applause. Politicians need to “understand that very clearly,” he added.

“Let’s stop with the nonsense. This isn’t football. There are no teams. We are the team. It’s the United States. Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants.”

Crying again, Kimmel talked about other families at his son’s hospital. “No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life,” he said. “It just shouldn’t happen. Not here.”

Kimmel also retweeted a message Sunday from Child Health USA saying that the Senate’s Trumpcare bill doesn’t pass the Jimmy Kimmel test, “not even close.”

In addition, Kimmel retweeted a Jake Tapper tweet about a CNN interview Sunday with Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, who refused to say if his taxes would be cut with Trumpcare.

Kimmel had Cassidy on his program on May 8 via satellite to discuss the House version of Trumpcare, and Cassidy talked then about how the Senate would address some of the holes in that bill. That’s when Kimmel clarified the “Jimmy Kimmel test” that he repeated in his tweet Sunday to Cassidy. “Hey, man, you’re on the right track,” Cassidy said on the program.

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33 Fierce Signs Of Resistance From Pride Marches Across The U.S.

LGBTQ Pride marches ensued across the U.S. this weekend and the signs did not disappoint.

Thousands of people hoisted colorful signs of resistance above their heads as they flooded the streets of New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco and other cities during the annual demonstration.

Many signs carried traditional Pride messages of love and unity while celebrating the LGBTQ community and their push for equal rights throughout history.

Other signs took aim at President Donald Trump, whose administration and policies have been largely condemned by LGBTQ community members. Last week, six top experts resigned from Trump’s advisory council on HIV and AIDS, a major issue affecting the LGBTQ community, over the president’s lack of policies to combat the HIV epidemic.

Other signs demanded justice for those disproportionately affected by police brutality, including people of color and those in the LGBTQ community.

Black Lives Matter activists carrying banners that read “No Justice No Pride” delayed the Pride march in Minneapolis. The demonstrators claimed the event was furthering “white supremacy” by ignoring the verdict that found a policeman not guilty in the shooting death of Philando Castile in a suburb of St. Paul last year.

New York City began its 48th Pride March this year with what some interpreted as a sign from Mother Nature ― a rainbow shining over the city skyline.

Check out the roundup below for some of the most powerful signs from this year’s NYC Pride march and other LGBTQ pride events across the country. Prepare to be Babashook!

Warning: Some of these signs and images could be considered NSFW.

I ❤️ this mom! #pridemonth #lovewins #chicagopride #transgender #pride2017

A post shared by Jason Proper (@jproper3) on

GAY PRIDE PARADE ️‍ #prideparade #pride2017 #pridemonth #minnesota #minneapolis #pride #me

A post shared by Manuel Cárdenas (@manuel_ae) on

Flowers not guns. #gag #gaysagainstguns #pride2017 #pride #nyc #resist

A post shared by brettdavi (@brettdavi) on

#pride2017

A post shared by nava (@xanuelnava) on

⠀ s a s h a y ⠀ *snap snap* ⠀ #pride2017 #beVISIBLE #bitchBYE ______________________________________ ⠀

A post shared by Gerri-Michelle (@ms.pascual) on

#sfpride #prideparade #sfprideparade #pride #pride2017 #stayawake

A post shared by Atefeh Taheri (@atefeh_t) on

San Fransisco Pride Parade #pride2017 #sanfransiscopride #lovetrumpshate

A post shared by Johan & Josefine (@dansktband) on

I was feeling sad @thejinkx wasnt at nyc pride, so i decided to bring her in spirit #pride #babashook

A post shared by duck the dick (@theducko) on

Messages to some Ohio pride attendees fill #pride2017 with solidarity #blacklivesmatter @tko.creative

A post shared by Working Families Party (@workingfamilies) on

The sign pretty much says it all. # #prideparade #pride #RealLove #RealMagic #ThePeopleWhoKeepMeGoing

A post shared by Calibre Grace Resua ☼ (@calibregrace) on

#pride #nycpride #lgbtq #

A post shared by ACLU (@aclu_nationwide) on

NYC subway poster ! #mta #nysubway

A post shared by Graham Marks (@acugraham) on

Igualdad ️‍ #pussypower #loveislove #pride #condado #sanjuan #pr #equality #igualdad #lgbt #lgbtq

A post shared by Brianna Saranchock (@bsaranchock) on

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Facing FBI Bank Fraud Investigation, Bernie And Jane Sanders Hire Lawyers

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and his wife, Jane Sanders, the former president of Burlington College, have hired lawyers in the face of a federal investigation into bank fraud allegations related to a multimillion-dollar loan for the now-defunct liberal arts college.

On Saturday, CBS News confirmed that the couple had hired high-profile defense lawyers in light of the FBI probe looking into whether Jane Sanders falsified bank documents in 2010 in an attempt to secure a $10 million loan to expand Burlington College’s campus. That loan, which was obtained, was a factor in the school shuttering its doors in 2016 after it found itself unable to pay off its debt. Jane Sanders, who served as president of Burlington College from 2004 to 2011, has been accused of falsely inflating projected donor contributions in the loan application. 

The federal probe, according to Politico magazine, may also be looking into whether Sen. Sanders used his political influence to put “improper pressure” on the bank to approve that loan. The outlet said the evidence for that seems “thin at best,” but the investigation has still prompted Sanders to hire Burlington lawyer Rich Cassidy. Jane Sanders has reportedly retained Larry Robbins, a Washington-based defense attorney.

The Sanderses have kept mostly mum about the probe. During a May interview with Burlington’s WCAX-TV, however, the senator dismissed the allegations as “nonsense” and suggested they were politically motivated.

“[This] was initiated by Trump’s campaign manager, somebody who does this all of the time, has gone after a number of Democrats and progressives in this state,” said Sanders, referring to Brady Toensing, a chairman for the Trump campaign in Vermont who submitted the original complaint that led to the investigation.

Toensing has said the probe was launched in early 2016, during President Barack Obama’s tenure. “The FBI has not disclosed what prompted its investigation, but it was started more than a year ago under President Obama, his Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and his United States attorney, all of whom are Democrats,” Toensing said in a May statement, according to VTDigger.

Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ top political adviser, told CBS this week that the accusations against Sen. Sanders are “baseless” and that the bank loan in question had been “approved by the financial board at the college.” 

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California Mosques Hit By Possible Hate Crimes During Last Days Of Ramadan

Authorities are investigating two possible hates crimes against Islamic centers in California during the last days of Ramadan, officials said.

A burned Quran filled with bacon ― a food forbidden in Islam ― was found outside the Masjid Annur Islamic Center in Sacramento on Saturday. Law enforcement officials discovered the defiled book of religious text hanging by a handcuff on a fence after a citizen reported the incident around 2:30 p.m.

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department said it was investigating the incident at the mosque, the largest in the Sacramento area, as a possible hate crime.

“The Sheriff’s Community Relations Unit contacted leaders of the Islamic Center to offer any assistance,” the department also said in a statement.

A representative for the Masjid Annur Islamic Center did not immediately respond to request for comment.

About 20 miles away, the Islamic Center of Davis was the site of a possible hate crime on Friday. Officials told The Sacramento Bee that someone driving by threw ripped out pages of the Quran as members of the mosque gathered inside during Ramadan Taraweeh prayers.

This isn’t the first time the center has been the targeted. In January, a woman was arrested and charged with a felony hate crime after leaving bacon strips by the mosque’s entrance and breaking some of its windows.

Sheikh Ammar Shahin, the center’s imam, did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Basim Elkarra, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’s Sacramento chapter, thanked law enforcement officials for their quick response to the “troubling incidents,” which took place as Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims, came to a close.

“Decisive action by law enforcement authorities sends a strong message of deterrence to anyone who contemplates turning their bigoted views into acts of intimidation,” Elkarra said in a statement.

The recent incidents reflect a pattern of increased hate crimes against Muslims. The Council on American-Islamic Relations released a report last month that found a 57 percent increase in anti-Muslim incidents from 2015 to 2016. 

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Donald Trump Becomes First President In Two Decades To Not Host A Ramadan Dinner

Breaking with tradition, the White House under President Donald Trump did not host an iftar dinner, the meal Muslims eat to break their daily fast during Ramadan.

The dinner, which has been often attended by prominent members of the U.S. Muslim community, began in 1996 during former President Bill Clinton’s White House tenure and continued through the subsequent Bush and Obama administrations.

Trump and first lady Melania simply issued a brief statement Saturday that offered “warm greetings” to Muslims celebrating Eid al-Fitr, which marks the close of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting.

On behalf of the American people, Melania and I send our warm greetings to Muslims as they celebrate Eidal-Fitr.

Muslims in the United States joined those around the world during the holy month of Ramadan to focus on acts of faith and charity.  Now, as they commemorate Eid with family and friends, they carry on the tradition of helping neighbors and breaking bread with people from all walks of life.

During this holiday, we are reminded of the importance of mercy, compassion, and goodwill.  With Muslims around the world, the United States renews our commitment to honor these values.

Eid Mubarak.

Trump’s decision to skip hosting the dinner comes after he released a controversial statement meant to mark the beginning of Ramadan. Many members of the Muslim community condemned the message, which largely focused on terrorism.

“This year, the holiday begins as the world mourns the innocent victims of barbaric terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom and Egypt, acts of depravity that are directly contrary to the spirit of Ramadan,” read a White House statement issued in May. “Such acts only steel our resolve to defeat the terrorists and their perverted ideology.”

Trump’s remarks starkly contrast with those by then-President Barack Obama during Ramadan last year. In June 2016, Obama and then-first lady Michelle announced plans to host an Eid celebration in the White House and praised American Muslims for their contributions to the U.S.

“Muslim Americans have been part of our American family since its founding,” the Obamas wrote in a statement roughly five times longer than Trump’s Ramadan message. “We look forward to welcoming Americans from around the country to celebrate the holiday.”

U.S. secretaries of state have also traditionally hosted Iftar dinners since 1999 ― but not this year. Trump’s top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, declined an invitation this year from the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host an Eid al-Fitr celebration, according to CNN

With its break from precedent, the Trump administration shunned an opportunity to reach out to the U.S. Muslim community whose leaders have said has been ostracized by the president’s rhetoric and his policies, including his proposed travel ban.

Imam Talib Shareef, president of the Nation’s Mosque in Washington, D.C., called Trump’s decision “disappointing.”

“To stop it doesn’t send a good message” Shareef told Newsweek.

Referring to one of Trump’s main pastimes, he added: “You get the chance to go golfing and all this other kind of stuff. How come you don’t have time for a population of your society that needs some assistance?”

The White House message on Eid al-Fitr just hours after Trump was spotted visiting the golf club he owns in Virginia.

This story has been updated with the report of Trump’s visit to his Virginia golf club.

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Koch Brothers’ Groups Oppose GOP Senate Health Care Bill For Not Being Conservative Enough

The network of political advocacy groups funded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch is waging a campaign against Senate Republicans’ health care bill because the conservative organizations feel it does not go far enough toward undoing the Affordable Care Act.

At a weekend retreat to strategize for the 2018 midterm elections, representatives from the Koch brothers’ sprawling network said the groups hope to influence GOP lawmakers in designing an even more stringent bill that further rolls back measures implemented by Obamacare.

“This Senate bill needs to get better. It has to get better,” said Tim Phillips, the president of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity.

The Koch brothers and their political groups have spent years advocating for the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, particularly its expansion of Medicaid, which has been popular even among Republicans.

Phillips said the Senate legislation, which goes even further than the House GOP bill in making deep cuts to Medicaid, is just a “slight nip and tuck.”

“At the end of the day, this bill is not going to fix health care,” James Davis, the Koch network’s spokesman, told reporters Saturday. “We are going to be focusing our efforts out into the future on how we can fix it.”

At the retreat in Colorado, the groups announced they will spend $300 million to $400 million to support conservative candidates and policies in next year’s midterms.

The Kochs were highly critical of President Donald Trump during last year’s election and chose not to deploy their vast political network to help the then-presidential candidate. But they consider Vice President Mike Pence a conservative ally, and according to multiple reports, Charles Koch discussed the health care bill with Pence on Friday night.

Some of the senators attending the retreat have voiced opposition to the bill as well, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), who also think the bill does not go far enough in repealing Obamacare. Also in attendance, according to The Washington Post, are Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), as well as Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.).

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Kellyanne Conway Defends Medicaid Cuts, Says Adults Can Always Find Jobs

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Sunday came right out and said what so many Republicans are probably thinking ― that taking Medicaid away from able-bodied adults is no big deal, because they can go out and find jobs that provide health insurance.

Apparently nobody has told Conway that the majority of able-bodied adults on Medicaid already have jobs. The problem is that they work as parking lot attendants and child care workers, manicurists and dishwashers ― in other words, low-paying jobs that typically don’t offer insurance. Take away their Medicaid and they won’t be covered. 

Appearing on ABC “This Week” program, Conway faced tough questions about steep cuts to Medicaid in the Better Health Care Act ― the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act that Senate Republican leaders released on Thursday and hope to bring to a vote this week.

The Affordable Care Act ― Obamacare ― offered states extra federal matching funds to expand Medicaid eligibility, so that anybody with income below or just above the poverty line would qualify. Under the Senate bill, like its House counterpart, the federal government would withdraw those extra funds, forcing most of the 31 states (plus the District of Columbia) that accepted the money to roll back their expansions partly or entirely.

When ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Conway about this possibility, she offered an increasingly familiar argument ― that Obamacare had over-extended Medicaid by taking the program away from its historic mission of covering children, pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled.

“Obamacare took Medicaid, which was designed to help the poor, the needy, the sick, disabled, also children and pregnant women, it took it and went way above the poverty line to many able-bodied Americans who … should at least see if there are other options for them.” 

She added: “If they are able-bodied and they want to work, then they’ll have employer-sponsored benefits like you and I do.”

If only it were that easy.

Among the able-bodied adults that Conway and congressional Republicans have in mind ― that is, non-elderly adults on Medicaid who don’t qualify for disability benefits ― 79 percent are in families where someone works and 59 percent have jobs themselves, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

The problem is that many work in low-paying, temporary, or part-time jobs that don’t offer coverage. In 2014, just 30 percent of working adults with incomes at or below the poverty line had employer-sponsored coverage available to them. 

As for the idea that the House and Senate GOP bills would strengthen Medicaid by focusing on its more traditional populations, that claim would appear to be inconsistent with the other big change they would make.

Both proposals would fundamentally change Medicaid by ending the federal government’s open-ended commitment to providing its share of funding for the program, no matter how many people become eligible and no matter how much their care ends up costing.

Federal payments would likely fail to keep up with costs, forcing states to make cutbacks that would inevitably affect all groups that depend on the program ― very much including the disabled and elderly, whose predictably high medical needs mean their bills account for roughly half of all Medicaid expenditures, even though they represent a minority of enrollees.

When Stephanopoulos asked Conway about this, she said, “These are not cuts to Medicaid, George. This slows the rate for the future and it allows governors more flexibility, with Medicaid dollars, because they’re closest to the people in need.”

That claim, which the Trump administration and its allies in GOP leadership have made repeatedly in recent weeks, has drawn rebukes from Republican senators ― including Susan Collins of Maine, who appeared on “This Week” shortly after Conway.

“I respectfully disagree with her analysis,” Collins said. 

The Congressional Budget Office has not yet evaluated the Senate bill. But when the CBO analyzed the House version of the legislation, which envisions slightly less severe cuts over time, it predicted the bill would mean 14 million fewer Americans would have coverage under Medicaid by 2026.

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