Week in Review
- President Donald Trump took a victory lap after the House narrowly passed its health care bill. Polling figures released earlier in the week showed voters were concerned about a provision that would allow states to opt out of certain protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
- An executive order signed by Trump directs the Internal Revenue Service not to take “adverse action” against tax-exempt religious organizations that engage in political activity. The order, more broadly, instructs the government to enforce religious freedom protections. It fell short of the expectations of many evangelicals.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump spoke by phone for the first time since the U.S. airstrike on Syria last month. Along with Syrian peace talks, the two also discussed North Korea’s nuclear program.
- During a White House visit from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Trump vowed to be a “mediator, an arbitrator or a facilitator” in peace talks with Israel.
- Senators said they will look at the House-passed health care bill and might include some of its components, but they’ll be writing their own legislation.
- Congress passed a $1 trillion spending bill that will keep the government open through September. The measure includes a permanent extension of health care coverage for coal miners and increases in defense spending and border security, but it won’t fund Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico. Trump signed the bill into law on Friday, averting a government shutdown on Saturday.
- FBI Director James Comey testified on Capitol Hill and said he expects the Russians to attempt to meddle in the 2018 and 2020 U.S. elections. Comey defended his handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, and he mostly brushed off questions about the FBI’s ongoing probe into potential Trump-Russia ties.
- The Senate Intelligence Committee requested records of communications between Russian officials and four former Trump campaign associates: adviser Roger Stone, policy adviser Carter Page, chairman Paul Manafort and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
- Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas), who some Democrats had been hoping would challenge Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) next year, said he would not enter the campaign, paving the way for Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) to secure the party’s nomination.
- Democrats solidified behind a candidate for the May 16 special election in South Carolina’s 5th District to fill the seat held by White House budget director Mick Mulvaney before he joined the Trump administration.