HUD Secretary Ben Carson: Recovery from hurricanes Harvey and Irma is ‘going to take years’

WASHINGTON — Billions in federal aid to rebuild communities ravaged by hurricanes Harvey and Irma is weeks, perhaps months, away from starting to flow as the painstaking process of assessing damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure is far from finished, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said Wednesday.

USA Today

After Irma, Can Private Utilities Be Trusted to Rebuild?

In the coming days, millions of Floridians will return home to rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Also now tasked with rebuilding are Florida’s major utilities—companies like NextEra Energy, Inc., Duke Energy and Emera Inc.

These companies face a choice: To double down on a utility model that’s vulnerable to storms and fueling more brutal ones, or start transitioning to a grid better equipped to handle hurricanes—and help keep them from getting worse. The question is whether they can be trusted to choose well.

Insurers Come Out Swinging Against New Republican Health Care Bill

WASHINGTON — The health insurance industry, after cautiously watching Republican health care efforts for months, came out forcefully on Wednesday against the Senate’s latest bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, suggesting that its state-by-state block grants could create health care chaos in the short term and a Balkanized, uncertain insurance market.

In the face of the industry opposition, Senate Republican leaders nevertheless said they would push for a showdown vote next week on the legislation, drafted by Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

New York Times

NC attorney general investigating role opioid manufacturers, distributors play in epidemic

WILMINGTON, NC —Attorney General Josh Stein discussed new developments in the multi-state investigation into opioid manufacturers and distributors Wednesday.

The attorney general’s office is working to determine what role opioid manufacturers and distributors may have played in creating or prolonging the opioid epidemic.

“A group of 40 other attorneys general and me have come together to investigate the role of the drug companies,” Stein said. “If we determine that the drug manufacturers and drug wholesalers unlawfully created and fueled this crisis, I’ll hold them accountable, and that’s what we’re going to look into.”

SCANA being investigated by federal grand jury over failed nuke project

A federal grand jury in South Carolina is looking at SCANA’s actions concerning the company’s failed nuclear construction project in Fairfield County, multiple sources have told The State newspaper.

A federal grand jury is normally activated when there is evidence of possible criminal wrong-doing, and its investigation can result in a criminal indictment, or formal criminal charge. However, a grand jury may also determine as a result of its investigation that there is not enough evidence to bring an indictment.

The State

As Protests Escalate Under Trump, States Seek New Ways to Deter Them

Americans have a constitutional right to assemble and protest. But they don’t have the right to do it in the middle of a freeway.

In contrast to demonstrations in recent decades, which were often held in fenced-off “free speech zones,” many protesters are now being more disruptive — whether they’re blocking access to highways, chaining themselves to pipelines, damaging businesses or being physically violent toward other people or property.

In response, state lawmakers — mostly Republicans — are seeking new ways to regulate or criminalize protests.

‘You’ve got to go’: How the GOP persuaded Trump to campaign in Alabama

President Trump had formally given Sen. Luther Strange his “complete and total endorsement.” But as recently as last week, his advisers were deeply divided on whether the president should risk jetting to Alabama to prop up the Republican, who was trailing in his primary race behind a challenger who had become a darling to Trump’s base.

That prompted GOP establishment forces to wage an intense behind-the-scenes campaign to convince Trump that he could carry Strange across the finish line with an appearance in Alabama.

Private polls were circulated in the West Wing showing a more favorable race for Strange than public surveys — including one the U.S. Chamber of Commerce commissioned from Trump campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio, whose imprimatur Republicans thought could sway the president. A close ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) briefed Trump and Vice President Pence on the contest. Jeff Roe, Strange’s top consultant, fed regular updates to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

Roy Moore disrupts Alabama Senate race — and prepares for new level of defiance in Washington

With the thunder and fire of an old-time revivalist, U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore rose before the assembled souls at the Redemption Baptist Church, a front-runner in the polls days out from an election that could rattle the rickety structures of the Republican Party.

“You think that God’s not angry that this land is a moral slum?” asked Moore, 70, reciting a rhyming poem he had written years earlier during a 50-minute address before several dozen believers. “How much longer will it be before his judgment comes?”

Washington Post

Fact check: Sen. Bill Cassidy on his health care bill assertions

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., made several statements about his and Sen. Lindsey Graham’s, R-S.C., health care bill that seemed worthy of some fact-checking. Below are four assertions and our explanations for them based on conversations with health care experts.

STATEMENT: “There will be more folks covered under this bill than the status quo and it protects people with pre-existing conditions.” – ABC News interview

FACT CHECK: The Graham-Cassidy bill would scrap the individual mandate requiring people to buy insurance -– the crux of Obamacare which is so anathema to its opponents –- meaning people would no longer be penalized for not having insurance.

James Capretta, a fellow with the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, told ABC News the absence of the individual mandate means Graham-Cassidy is “highly, highly unlikely” to cover more people than current law.

ABC News


The Note: Republicans say ‘trust us’ on health care, but can you?

Sen. Bill Cassidy insists his bill passes “the Kimmel test,” but health care experts resoundingly disagree. Policy wonks from universities, think tanks and insurance groups were quoted in article after article yesterday, explaining that states could get waivers and allow insurance companies to discriminate against patients with pre-existing conditions. States are required to keep coverage “adequate and affordable,” but those terms are undefined. That debate, plus the sweeping Medicaid cuts in the bill, is part of the reason medical groups have lined up against the legislation. Now, maybe the secretary of Health and Human Services has an idea for defining those terms or enforcing state practices. Maybe that language would be enough to guarantee affordable coverage. Maybe different experts could explain how states could do more with millions less. Perhaps Cassidy reads the text differently and his legal team could make a convincing case. Perhaps a few small tweaks could have a huge difference. And voila! The reason legislative process exists. Hearings are designed to debate “maybes.” Committee markups are opportunities to make sure the text reflects lawmakers’ intentions. Big picture: without that process, Republicans are asking voters just to trust them.

ABC News