Zinke incorrectly identifies VA chief as 'fellow veteran'

Jul 26, 2017 0

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke incorrectly identified Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin as a “fellow veteran” in a photo Zinke tweeted from Air Force One.

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, tweeted a photo of himself with Shulkin, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on the way to Youngstown, Ohio, Tuesday with President Donald Trump.

“Aboard (hash)AirForceOne w/ fellow veterans (at)SecShulkin & (at)SecretaryPerry for (at)POTUS (hash)AmericanHeroesWeek in (hash)Ohio,” Zinke tweeted.

Perry is an Air Force veteran. Shulkin, a medical doctor, was appointed by President Barack Obama as the VA’s undersecretary for health in 2015 and became secretary this year. He did not serve in the military. He’s the first VA secretary who is not a veteran.

Representatives for Zinke and Shulkin did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump announces ban on transgender individuals serving in military

Jul 26, 2017 0

President Trump touched off a firestorm Wednesday after tweeting that he wants to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military in any capacity — citing advice from his “generals” and medical costs.

In a series of tweets, he wrote: 

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow…Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming..victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”

The president’s tweets came only a few weeks after Defense Secretary James Mattis said he would give military chiefs another six months to conduct a review to determine if allowing transgender individuals to enlist in the armed services will affect the “readiness or lethality” of the force. The deadline for that review was Dec. 1, 2017.

“This is worse than don’t ask don’t tell, this is don’t serve, don’t serve,” The National Center for Transgender Equality said in a written statement. “This is an appalling attack on our service members; it is about bigotry rather than military readiness, reason or science. It is indefensible and cannot stand.”

The Family Research Council praised Trump’s action.

“I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to return to military priorities – and not continue the social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation’s military,” FRC President Tony Perkins said in a statement. “The military can now focus its efforts on preparing to fight and win wars rather than being used to advance the Obama social agenda.”

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said “we don’t need to be experimenting with the military. Plus there’s no reason to take on that kind of financial burden.”

But Trump himself tweeted during the campaign season that he would “fight” for the LGBTQ community while his opponent “Hillary (Clinton) brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”

During his confirmation hearing in January, Mattis was asked whether he believed that allowing LGBT Americans to serve in the military or women in combat would undermine the military’s lethality.

“Frankly, senator, I’ve never cared much about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with,” Mattis testified.

Transgender expert Abbie Goldberg, professor of psychology at Clark University, told Fox News “no one wins under Trump’s plan.”  

“Some people will not serve, which is a loss to the military and the country,” Goldberg said. “Others will serve, but not openly, and thus they will be at risk for discharge or verbal, physical and sexual abuse.”

The Pentagon has refused to release any data on the number of transgender troops currently serving. A RAND study found that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members in the active-duty military, and another 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves.

The study also found that allowing transgender people to serve in the military would have a “minimal impact” on the health care costs.

The Pentagon announced it would “continue to work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the commander in chief on transgender individuals serving in the military.”

“We will provide revised guidance to the Department in the near future,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in statement.

Trump’s announcement comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill debate the current practice of requiring the Pentagon to pay for medical treatment for gender transition.

Missouri Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler offered an amendment that would prohibit the Pentagon from spending money on transition surgeries or hormone therapy. Her amendment was narrowly defeated earlier this month. 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Trump’s decision a “cruel and arbitrary decision designed to humiliate transgender Americans.”

“On this very day in 1948, President Harry Truman signed the executive order desegregating the U.S. military. Sixty-nine years later, President Trump has chosen this day to unleash a vile and hateful agenda that will blindside thousands of patriotic Americans already serving with honor and bravery,” she said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.,slammed the sudden announcement and said anyone who is fit to serve in the military should be allowed to do so. 

“The president’s tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter,” McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said.

Transgender service members have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when former Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban. Since Oct. 1, transgender troops have been able to receive medical care and start formally changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon’s personnel system.

But Carter also gave the services until July 1 to develop policies to allow people already identifying as transgender to newly join the military, if they meet physical, medical and other standards, and have been stable in their identified genders for 18 months. 

“I continue to maintain that what matters in choosing those who serve is that they are best qualified,” Carter said in a statement. “To choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military. There are already transgender individuals who are serving capably and honorably. This action would also send the wrong signal to a younger generation thinking about military service.” 

Key concerns include whether currently enlisted troops have had medical or other issues that cause delays or problems with their ability to deploy or meet physical or other standards for their jobs. Military leaders also wanted to review how transgender troops are treated, if they’re discriminated against or if they have had disciplinary problems, the officials said. They were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations publicly, so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson, Christopher Carbone and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Trump’s not alone: Congress digging into DNC-Ukraine connection

Jul 26, 2017 0

Republicans in Congress have joined the White House in asking questions about the extent to which a Democratic Party consultant may have worked with Ukrainian officials to hurt then-candidate Donald Trump’s presidential bid last year. 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley wrote a letter earlier this week to the Justice Department asking whether the Democratic National Committee broke the law. Grassley, R-Iowa, specifically asked if the DOJ was investigating Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American DNC consultant who allegedly had meetings at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C., to discuss incriminating information about Trump campaign officials.

President Trump, trying furiously to tamp down the controversy over alleged Russian coordination with his associates, has questioned why the same scrutiny is not being applied to the Democrats’ alleged Ukraine connection. 

In a Tuesday tweet, he complained about the lack of an investigation into Ukraine efforts to “sabotage” his campaign. 

Prying into such claims, Grassley’s letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein flagged the “deficient enforcement” of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and asked why the Justice Department did not require Chalupa to register.

“Chalupa’s actions appear to show that she was simultaneously working on behalf of a foreign government, Ukraine, and on behalf of the DNC and Clinton campaign, in an effort to influence not only the U.S. voting population but U.S. government officials,” Grassley wrote to Rosenstein, claiming that if that were the case, Chalupa would have been required under law to register under FARA.

FARA requires individuals to register with the Justice Department if they act, even through an intermediary, “as an agent, representative, employee or servant” or “in any other capacity” at the behest of a foreign actor to engage with a U.S. official, according to Grassley’s letter.

DEMOCRATS BLOCK KEY WITNESS AGAINST SHADOWY FIRM FUSION GPS

Grassley requested a response from Rosenstein by Aug. 3. The Justice Department declined to comment on the matter. Grassley said it was “imperative” that the Justice Department explain why Chalupa had not been required to register. 

But Chalupa’s attorney, Conrad Nowak of Hinshaw Culbertson, LLP told Fox News that the law was “inapplicable” to Chalupa’s actions.

“When discussing the actions of Alexandra Chalupa, the spirit and letter of FARA could not be more inapplicable. In contrast, Mr. Manafort, we must remember, was in fact directly working for a foreign entity for enormous sums of money,” Nowak said, referring to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. “Chalupa was nothing more than an individual involved in ethnic relations, not unlike countless other ethnic and heritage communities throughout the United States.”

Chalupa, who has since left the DNC, worked as a part-time consultant, primarily in ethnic-American outreach.

Her attorney blamed the “attack” over her activities and the “attempt to force them into FARA” as “nothing more than continued anti-immigrant, anti-ethnic rhetoric.”

Nowak did, however, point out that FARA has “never had a successful prosecution under its provisions,” and that it “exempts certain cultural, social or academic activities.”

“It’s my belief that all of this is nothing more than misdirection from the real issue and that is Russian intervention in our presidential election, which it is important to point out, has been already proved and supported by intelligence agencies,” Nowak said. “Believe me, if there was anything to this Ukraine red herring, we would’ve heard about it a long time ago.”

Chalupa was first brought into the conversation in January, after Politico published a report exposing her as a DNC operative, who worked in the Clinton White House and met with officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in an effort to expose ties between Manafort and Russia. 

Even before Trump tweeted on Tuesday, the White House was raising questions about Democrats’ ties to Ukraine. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders even suggested it could amount to “collusion” — the same charge critics level against the Trump team and Russia. 

A DNC spokeswoman told Fox News the White House has been “pushing this narrative” to “distract.”

“No one is buying it,” DNC Deputy Communications Director Adrienne Watson told Fox News. “The Trump campaign embraced an offer from a hostile foreign government to interfere in our elections. Trump and some of his family watched for months as the Kremlin attacked our democracy, and did nothing but encourage and celebrate their efforts.”

Watson added: “The FBI is investigating whether the Trump campaign was involved in these efforts.”

But Grassley has applied scrutiny to both sides of the aisle. His committee initially subpoenaed Manafort to appear in a public hearing Wednesday to discuss the same issue – Foreign Agent Registration. The committee then reached an arrangement with Manafort to avoid public testimony for now. 

Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Russia probe: Democrats block key witness against shadowy firm Fusion GPS

Jul 26, 2017 0

Senate Democrats used a parliamentary maneuver Wednesday to cut short a high-profile hearing, where a key witness was set to testify on Russia’s misdeeds and also raise fresh allegations against the company behind the infamous anti-Trump dossier.

Bill Browder, the CEO and co-founder of Hermitage Capital, was set to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee that the co-founder of the firm Fusion GPS was hired to conduct a “smear campaign” against him. Further, he planned to testify the campaign was orchestrated by Natalia Veselnitskaya — the Russian attorney who sought the highly scrutinized Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort in June 2016.

Browder released written testimony ahead of the hearing but his public remarks were delayed when Democrats invoked the “two-hour rule” to protest Republican efforts to repeal ObamaCare. The seldom-used rule bars committees from meeting more than two hours after the full Senate begins a session. 

“Veselnitskaya, through Baker Hostetler, hired Glenn Simpson of the firm Fusion GPS to conduct a smear campaign against me and Sergei Magnitsky in advance of congressional hearings on the Global Magnitsy Act.”

– Bill Browder, in prepared statement to Senate committee

Browder now is expected to testify Thursday, but his statement makes clear that he will have plenty to say about Fusion GPS, the shadowy intel company founded by a pair of former Wall Street Journal reporters, including Glenn Simpson.

“Veselnitskaya, through Baker Hostetler, hired Glenn Simpson of the firm Fusion GPS to conduct a smear campaign against me and Sergei Magnitsky in advance of congressional hearings on the Global Magnitsy Act,” Browder wrote in his prepared testimony, adding that the firm helped to organize a Washington D.C.-based premiere of a “fake documentary” about Magnitsky and himself.

“While they were conducting these operations in Washington D.C., at no time did they indicate that they were acting on behalf of Russian government interests, nor did they file disclosures under the Foreign Agent Registration Act,” Browder’s prepared testimony said.

Browder added: “This was one of the best examples of Putin’s propaganda.”

Browder hired the late Sergei Magnitsky to uncover details of massive financial fraud in Russia involving corrupt Russian government officials. Magnitsky was imprisoned and ultimately beaten to death by Russian officers in Moscow. In the wake of his death, the U.S. passed a law named for him that brought sanctions against Russian oligarchs suspected of money laundering.

Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, noted that he had been asking about the Russians working with Fusion GPS since March 2017. He cited the widely discredited dossier compiled about Trump that circulated among Democratic operatives and the media during the latter stages of the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Mr. Simpson’s company, Fusion GPS, is the same firm that oversaw the creation of the unverified Trump Dossier,” Grassley said in his opening statement. “It is vital for the Committee to fully understand Fusion’s failure to register under FARA and its role in the creating and spreading of the dossier.”

Grassley acknowledged that around the same time Fusion helped to “orchestrate a propaganda campaign” to repeal the Magnitsky Act, Fusion “appears to have been involved in the creation of the dirty Trump Dossier.”

“There are public reports that the FBI used the dossier to kickstart its Russia investigation—Did the FBI know that Fusion pitched Russian propaganda for another client as it pushed the Trump dossier?” Grassley asked in his opening statement, delivered before the hearing was cut short.

Grassley questioned Veselnitskaya’s meeting at Trump Tower.

“Was it just a clumsy bait-and-switch effort in their unregistered propaganda and influence campaign? They offered dirt on the opponent to get the meeting and then made their pitch against the Magnitsky Act?” Grassley asked. “Or was it an offer of collusion? Or maybe both?”

Grassley and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called for the president’s eldest son to testify, along with Manafort, and Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS in the committee’s oversight hearing on FARA. All three witnesses have since reached arrangements to interview with the committee, for now, in private.

“There was no mystery of who Natalia Veselnitskaya was. A simple Google search would have shown that she was the main in house lawyer for a high level Russian government official whose son was accused by the US DOJ of money laundering from the Magnitsky case in the US,” Browder told Fox News before his appearance before the committee. “Either the people in that meeting didn’t do any due diligence in advance or someone made an error in judgement agreeing to meet with her in the first place.”

But with regard to Fusion GPS, Browder told Fox News that he didn’t know what else Simpson was involved with, but that the group did not register under FARA.

“Natalia engaged Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS in order to run an anti-Magnitsky Act smear campaign in Washington D.C. which was funded by sources connected to the Russian government,” Browder told Fox News.

Though he did not testify before the committee Wednesday, Thor Halvorsson, a human rights advocate with the Human Rights Foundation, submitted statements for the record to the committee in regards to his experience with Fusion GPS.

“It’s the sort of thing they specialize in—mainstreaming false smears, allegations that are so salacious and over the top that people assume they must be true,” Halvorsson told Fox News, noting the crude dossier about the president. “They did this with Browder, they did this with two other whistleblowers and they did this with me –they are outrageous accusations where innocence just isn’t enough.”

Halvorssen said public exposure is key to combatting Fusion GPS, which he said has been active in international smear campaigns.

in his written statement, Halvorssen told the committee that Fusion GPS targeted him and several others because of their criticism of Derwick Associates, a Venezuelan energy company that was reportedly being investigated for an alleged multi-billion dollar bribe.

“I think it’s clear that this is not the case of a company that forgot to register, or didn’t know that they had to register,” Halvorsson told Fox News. “Fusion GPS purposely, and quite deliberately, chose not to register so that their activity would fly under the radar, leading people to see the result of their work as organic and real, pushing a noble vision of truth, instead of what it actually is –smear campaigns in return for large enough retainers.”’

But in its statement given to Fox News earlier this month, Fusion said it had nothing to do with the Trump Jr. meeting.

“Fusion GPS learned about this meeting from news reports and had no prior knowledge of it. Any claim that Fusion GPS arranged or facilitated this meeting in any way is absolutely false,” the statement read.

Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Majority Whip Steve Scalise discharged from hospital after nearly 6 weeks

Jul 26, 2017 0

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday and was moved to an inpatient rehabilitation facility after more than a month of surgeries, Fox News confirmed.

Scalise, R-La., had been treated at MedStar Washington Hospital since June 14, when he and four others were shot during a congressional baseball practice.

“Congressman Steve Scalise has made excellent progress in his recovery from a life-threatening gunshot wound six weeks ago,” the hospital said in a statement Wednesday. “Yesterday, he was discharged from MedStar Washington Hospital Center and is now beginning a period of intensive rehabilitation.”

The hospital said that Scalise is “in good spirits” and is “looking forward to his return to work” once his rehabilitation is complete.

“He and his family are grateful for the care he received from the trauma team as well as the other doctors, nurses, and staff of MedStar Washington Hospital Center,” the statement said. “The family also appreciates the outpouring of support during this time.”

Scalise underwent multiple surgeries for his injuries. Doctors and Scalise’s family were hopeful that he would be moved to the rehabilitation facility several weeks ago, but he contracted an infection and was re-admitted to the intensive care unit earlier this month.  

Scalise is expected to be in the rehabilitation facility for weeks recovering.

Scalise sustained a single rifle wound, entering his left hip and passing through his right hip, also known as a trans-pelvic gunshot wound. The round did substantial damage to bones, internal organs and blood vessels, according to Dr. Jack Sava, the director of trauma at MedStar Washington. 

Scalise was injured along with four others on June 14 when gunman James Hodgkinson opened fire at a Republican congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va. He was later shot and killed by police.

Lobbyist Matt Mika, House GOP aide Zack Barth and Capitol Police Officer Crystal Griner also were wounded in the rampage, and Capitol Police Officer David Bailey and Texas Rep. Roger Williams were injured.

Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Clinton reportedly to focus book on Russia, Comey blame

Jul 26, 2017 0

Perhaps Hillary Clinton hasn’t heard the criticism from Democrats to stop blaming Russia and James Comey for her 2016 election loss.

The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee reportedly plans to focus her forthcoming memoir on the role that Moscow’s meddling and former FBI Director Comey’s public statements about her email investigation played in her defeat to now-President Trump.

The Hill reported that Clinton has told friends she wants “the whole story out there,” for a book expected for release in the fall.

“She really believes that’s why she lost, and she wants to explain why in no uncertain terms,” an individual identified as a longtime ally told The Hill.

The report suggests Clinton would return to hammering allegations Russia was involved in the hack of emails from Democratic officials including her campaign chairman, as well as the election impact of Comey’s late-stage decision to briefly reopen the email case. 

SCHUMER TELLS CLINTON, ‘BLAME YOURSELF’

The news comes just days after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., suggested it’s time to look forward.

“When you lose to somebody who has a 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself,” Schumer told the Washington Post. “So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

Democrats, including Schumer, this week tried to rebrand the party under a new slogan, “A Better Deal,” looking ahead to the 2018 election.

Former Vice President Biden has also criticized Clinton’s candidacy in recent months, questioning whether Democrats paid enough attention to blue-collar economic issues.

Who is Bill Browder?

Jul 26, 2017 0

Businessman Bill Browder is expected to testify on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Russian investigation into U.S. election meddling. 

Browder, who is the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, was previously a hedge fund manager in Russia and one of the country’s most successful foreign investors.

The businessman also worked on reducing corporate corruption in the country for years. But in 2005, his entry into Russia was revoked after the government declared him a “threat to national security,” according to his website

In 2012, he spearheaded the Magnitsky Act — a sanctions package on Russia that was imposed for the first time in 35 years. The sanctions were created to punish Russian officials involved in the death of Browder’s accountant, Sergey Magnitsky, who was jailed in 2008 and died under mysterious circumstances a year later. 

Magnitsky uncovered a $230 million corruption scheme involving Russian officials just before he was arrested. 

Browder also is familiar with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who recently came into the spotlight when it was revealed she met with Donald Trump Jr. last year during the U.S. election, reportedly to offer damaging information on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Browder told NPR Veselnitskaya was part of the campaign to repeal the Magnitsky Act. 

On Wednesday, Browder is expected to testify about Russian foreign agents working in the U.S. and Russia’s attempt to repeal the Magnitsky Act. Browder said in his prepared opening statement ahead of his testimony that he will be speaking about “the enablers who conducted this campaign in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, by not disclosing their roles as agents for foreign interests.”

What's ahead on ObamaCare bill: GOP Senate works overtime this week on support and amendments

Jul 26, 2017 5

The Senate will be working overtime this week to pull together its ObamaCare overhaul measure — voting on a pile of amendments and procedural matters to get a complete bill on President Trump’s desk as soon as possible.

Essentially all of the work will fall on leaders of the Republican-controlled chamber who must get enough votes for final passage of their measure, after clearing a major hurdle Tuesday of getting enough votes to even begin debate. (No Senate Democrats or independents support the measure.)

Math is always critical on Capitol Hill: Nothing better exemplified that assertion better than the return of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to the Senate on Tuesday afternoon following brain surgery. McCain trekked back across the country to make the procedural vote to launch the debate.

His presence (and yes vote) gave the GOPers 50 yeas on the motion to proceed. Had McCain not been there, the vote likely would have been 49 Republican yeas and 50 noes. That would have killed the health care effort immediately. McCain’s presence produced the tie and allowed Vice President Pence to break the deadlock, 51-50.

The Senate is using a special process for health care bill to sidestep a Democratic filibuster.

Sixty votes are needed to overcome conventional filibusters. Republicans knew they didn’t have the votes for that. So they opted for the special, filibuster-proof gambit. But the problem wasn’t with Democrats. Republicans were barely able to scrape together enough votes from their own side of the aisle just to begin debate on the legislation.

There was no better example of this than when Pence broke the tie on the motion to proceed. Yes. Fifty senators may have voted to start debate. But as McCain predicted in his speech, getting 51 yeas for this bill — or even 50 so they can again turn to the vice president — is problematic.

The bill can’t shift too far to the right or left. It’s fragile enough as is. It seems as though the Republican brass may never be able to get Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to vote yea. And whether they can persuade Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska is unclear.

The GOP senators on the right to watch will be Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Ted Cruz of Texas.

Those in the middle of the Senate Republican Conference — whose votes also are no sure thing — include Sens. McCain, Dean Heller of Nevada,  Jeff Flake of Arizona, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rob Portman of Ohio.

This is the problem House Republicans encountered with the health care bill they passed several months ago. The leaders fixed one problem for the conservatives and simultaneously created another problem with the moderates.

The turning radius is narrower in the Senate than in the House. That’s why the margin for error is virtually nil. It will represent a Herculean effort if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., holds everyone together and doesn’t lose more than two votes.

 In the coming days and expected late nights, all before Congress leaves for its August recess, Americans can expect to hear the senators talk about such procedural matters as “budget reconciliation,” “point of order,” “waive the Budget Act,” and “vote-a-rama.”

Budget reconciliation is the special procedure the Senate is using to debate the health care bill.

The parliamentary procedure or tactic limits amendments and debate (debate, nothing else) to 20 hours.

The advantage of such a procedure is that it turns off filibusters — provided the Democrats or Republicans who control the chamber are united.

Points of order are grievances senators may lodge against a bill if they don’t feel the Senate is operating within the rules or strictures of budget reconciliation.

However, the Senate can vote to “waive the Budget Act” (which created the budget reconciliation process in 1974) with 60 yeas.

The Senate already ran into this problem Tuesday night, after the successful procedural vote.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., made a point of order against an amendment written by Cruz to pare down coverage plans/requirements.

The Senate then attempted to overcome Murray’s point of order and waive the Budget Act. But the Senate fell short of 60 yeas. That vote alone to exclude the Cruz amendment casts doubt on the potential for success with the health care bill.

Vote-a-rama is when the Senate votes on all amendments and points of order in a tranche. The Senate may vote for hours on end, just one roll call tally after another.

A final vote on the bill is expected late Thursday or midnight Friday. 

What about the House if the Senate approves a health care bill?

McConnell has delayed the start of the August recess by two weeks. But Fox News is told there is no plan to keep the House here past Friday, the scheduled start of the recess.

A senior House leadership aide tells Fox it will evaluate what the Senate approves (if senators can in fact pass something) and determine whether the House needs to come back in August.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told members he reserves the right to recall lawmakers within a 72 hour period.

Also, if the House and Senate adopt different versions of health care, it may take weeks or months to resolve the differences.

The House passed the original version of ObamaCare in November 2009.

The Senate approved its version a month later. The House and Senate then took until late March 2010 to merge the bills and send a final, unified product to then-President Barack Obama’s desk.

Just the required reading all of the amendment will take time. At 5:52 p.m. Tuesday a Senate clerk began reading out loud all 178 pages of the GOP’s health care plan from the dais in the chamber. Four reading clerks rotated in this exercise until 8:23 p.m.

In fact three readings are required before a vote.

The custom dates back to when there was often only one copy of a bill.

Bills were “read” out loud in the chamber so all members understood the issue at hand. In the 18th and 19th Centuries, some members relied on “hearing” the bill read aloud … because they were illiterate.

The so-called readings of bills and amendments rarely go on for more than a few sentences before someone asks that the reading end.

But if someone in the Senate objects, the reading must continue. That’s exactly what happened late Tuesday afternoon. Democrats objected to suspending the reading. The reading eats up inordinate amounts of time and is a dilatory tactic.

At 8:23 pm et, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, asked unanimous consent that the clerks cease the reading. Nobody objected even though the clerks were only about three-quarters of the way through the bill.