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Politics This Week: Health Care And Obama's Russia Reaction


And where to begin? Health care, where there may be a vote next week on a Senate version of the bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, or the ongoing Russia investigation? Well, let's do both. And joining us now to do just that is NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hey, Mara.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Health care first, I think. And the bill the Senate Republicans are now debating among themselves - where are we on that?

LIASSON: Where we are is we're waiting for the Congressional Budget Office analysis of it. And that score will affect public perception of the bill, just as it did with the House version when the CBO found that 23 million fewer people would have insurance after 10 years, and premiums for older and lower income people would go up.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is the president planning to be the face of this bill? Is it fair to call it Trumpcare?

LIASSON: I think it's fair to call it Trumpcare. I think he'll be involved in selling it, although he's going to leave most of the heavy lifting to Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader. And right now McConnell has five holdouts, moderate and conservative Republican senators he has to cut deals with, each one of them in a way that doesn't alienate the others.

This bill does fulfill several longstanding Republican goals like tax cuts, entitlement cuts. But it doesn't meet the president's stated goals for health care. He said he wanted better coverage at less cost. And his spokesman the other day said that no one on Medicaid will be affected in any way. That certainly isn't true right now.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So, Mara, what's the timetable now?

LIASSON: The timetable is very short. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, wants a vote before July 4 recess. That means this week. And if that happens, it's possible the House takes up the Senate bill and votes on it rather than going to conference committee.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Let's turn to Russia. Some statements the president made online about Russian interference in the elections are raising eyebrows. Trump has now moved past his denials to some finger pointing.

LIASSON: Yes, he has. He's now tweeting, accusing the Obama administration of not doing enough to stop the Russian hacking. This is something that, in the past, he's denied altogether and said that the story of Russian intervention in the election was a big hoax. Remember, the Obama administration did announce in October that Russia was trying to influence the election.

But Obama didn't make any dramatic public moves because, among other reasons, Trump was on the campaign trail at that time, calling the election rigged. And Obama didn't want to give him any more fodder for that. And also at the time, Mitch McConnell reportedly told the Obama administration that if he did come out publicly forcefully against Russia, he would accuse the Obama administration of politicizing the CIA on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So is Obama's reaction to Putin and McConnell, then, an example of his no-drama Obama ethos backfiring both for him and, really, the country?

LIASSON: That is certainly the growing consensus among Democrats who feel that Obama was too cautious. And now Trump is needling Obama about it in these tweets, which is bizarre because the new president is accusing the former president of not doing enough, while Trump has shown very little interest in Russian interference. And Russia interfered in several different ways - not just hacking and weaponizing those DNC emails. They also tried to infiltrate voter files across the country. They used sophisticated social media bots to get anti-Hillary stories to just the right audiences.

And that's the big story. A hostile foreign power tried to affect the way Americans think and voted. Beyond anything about obstruction of justice or collusion, that's the scandal. The former president didn't do enough. And now President Trump doesn't really seem to care about it at all.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We'll be covering more on Russia and the health care debate elsewhere in the show. But for now, that's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.