September 20, 2017

On Tuesday, Vox interviewed nine Republican senators about the Graham-Cassidy bill, the GOP's last-ditch effort to repeal ObamaCare. Republicans have until Sept. 30 to pass the bill with a simple majority vote, but 10 days out they seemed to be struggling to pin down exactly why the Graham-Cassidy bill should pass.

Though senators generally agreed that the bill would return power to the states, they had less to say on the finer points of how this could happen without millions of Americans losing insurance coverage and why the bill calls for such drastic cuts to federal spending.

Below, catch some particularly illustrative tidbits from Vox writer Jeff Stein's conversations with these lawmakers. And then head over to Vox to read the rest. Becca Stanek

  • Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) on why Graham-Cassidy makes "things better" for Americans:

Pat Roberts
"Look, we're in the back seat of a convertible being driven by Thelma and Louise, and we're headed toward the canyon. That's a movie that you've probably never seen — "

Jeff Stein
"I do know Thelma and Louise, sir."

Pat Roberts
"So we have to get out of the car, and you have to have a car to get into, and this is the only car there is." [Vox]

  • Sen. Richard Shelby, on the bill's proposed cuts to federal funding for states by 34 percent over the next decade: "But it wouldn't cut Alabama, though."
  • Roberts on why Republicans are pushing a bill that could cause millions to lose insurance: "If we do nothing, it has a tremendous impact on the 2018 elections."
  • Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) on what this bill does "right, policy-wise":

John Kennedy
"I think it's an improvement over ObamaCare."

Jeff Stein

John Kennedy
"My position has always been that, number one, I think ObamaCare has been a failure.

Number two: First chance I get to vote for repeal it, I'll do it.

And number three: If it's replacement, if replacement is better than ObamaCare, I will vote for it." [Vox]

  • Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) on how he knows the "savings" from federal funding cuts "will be close to enough to protect everyone": "Well, nothing protects everyone."
3:53 p.m.

Roy Moore, the 2017 Republican nominee for Senate in Alabama who lost the race after being accused of sexual misconduct, on Thursday announced he's running again.

Moore in a press conference announced his intention to run for the Senate seat in 2020, telling reporters, "Can I win? Yes, I can win." Sen. Doug Jones (D-Al.), who defeated Moore in the 2017 special election to replace Jeff Sessions, has previously announced he'll be running in 2020 for a full term.

During his press conference on Thursday, Moore said that there is "such opposition" to his run because "they know I can" win. When asked what he'll do differently in his campaign this time, Moore responded, "I would like to make more personal contact with people."

Moore while running in 2017 was accused of sexual assault and of pursuing sexual relationships with teenagers while in his 30s. Moore denied the allegations from nine women, saying he did not "generally" pursue relationships with teenagers as an adult. He contended on Thursday that he would have won in 2017 if not for the "false information" put out about him.

President Trump supported Moore during the 2017 election in spite of the allegations against him. But he cautioned Moore last month against entering the 2020 Senate race, saying he "cannot win." Donald Trump Jr. also went after Moore in a tweet, saying he's "literally the only candidate" who could lose the seat and that he should "ride off into the sunset."

Moore told reporters on Thursday he supports Trump, a comment Trump Jr. quickly seized on, writing, "I can assure everyone that by running, Roy Moore is going against my father and he’s doing a disservice to all conservatives across the country in the process."

2:33 p.m.

Apple is recalling certain MacBook Pro units after saying that their battery "may overheat and pose a fire safety risk."

The company on Thursday announced a voluntary recall of some 15-inch MacBook Pro units sold "primarily" between September 2015 and February 2017, asking customers to stop using them and get a free battery replacement.

"Customer safety is always Apple's top priority, and we have voluntarily decided to replace affected batteries, free of charge," Apple said.

Apple described the recall as affecting a "limited number of older generation" laptops.

Users can visit this page on the Apple website and enter their MacBook's serial number to find out whether this recall applies to them. If it does, Apple says battery replacement service may take one to two weeks. This announcement comes, Fox News points out, after Apple in April previously recalled some AC wall plug adapters and Apple World Travel Adapter Kits after saying they "could break and create a risk of electrical shock if touched." Brendan Morrow

2:29 p.m.

Britain's race for prime minister is officially set.

Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson will face off in a runoff vote to decide the next British prime minister, a Tory leadership vote decided Thursday. Johnson, the heavy favorite to win the race, got the support of 160 MPs, while Hunt earned 77 votes, per The Associated Press. The winner of the runoff will be announced July 22.

Hunt, the foreign minister, beat his nearest competitor, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, by just two votes on Thursday. Home Secretary Sajid Javid was also edged out of the race in a vote earlier that day. Meanwhile, Johnson secured more than half of his party's support, even after his supporters reportedly "lent votes to the foreign secretary to knock out his bitter rival Gove," The Guardian writes.

Johnson is one of Britain's most recognizable political figures, previously serving as foreign secretary to outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May and as mayor of London. He's so far campaigned on pulling Britain out of the EU by the Oct. 31 deadline with or without a trade deal. May has so far been unable to deliver Brexit, requesting extensions on withdrawal deadlines and even offering up her own resignation if Parliament would agree to the deal she drew up. But even that didn't work, so May has committed to stepping down as prime minister as soon as her party chooses a new leader. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:33 p.m.

President Trump on Thursday morning said that Iran made a mistake in shooting down a U.S. drone — and he suggested later in the day that he's speaking literally.

After reports that Iran's paramilitary Islamic Republican Guard Corps had shot down a U.S. drone, Trump on Thursday tweeted simply, "Iran made a very big mistake!" He later spoke to reporters in the Oval Office and said that he has "a feeling that it was a mistake made by somebody who shouldn't have been doing what they did." He also said that "I may be wrong and I may be right, but I'm right a lot."

Asked to clarify if he's suggesting the drone was not shot down intentionally, Trump said he finds it "hard to believe it was intentional," again speculating that it "could have been somebody who was loose and stupid who did it."

Iran had previously said that the U.S. Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk violated its airspace as the U.S. called this an "an unprovoked attack," The Associated Press reports.

This drone being brought down came amid escalating tensions with Iran, and when asked Thursday whether members of his administration are pushing for a conflict, Trump denied this, saying that "in many cases, it's the opposite." Asked how the U.S. will respond, Trump said, "you'll find out." Brendan Morrow

1:13 p.m.

A bipartisan swath of senators on Thursday voted to block President Trump's emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

In the first of three resolutions, all Democrats and seven Republicans joined for a 53-45 vote to express their disapproval of Trump's planned arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The remaining two resolutions are expected to pass as well, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) leading the charge, The Washington Post reports.

Last month, Trump announced he'd use his emergency powers to let American companies sell $8.1 billion worth of munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Much of Congress had loudly opposed the arms sales, particularly following Saudi Arabia's alleged killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. That prompted Graham to join Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) in co-sponsoring 22 separate resolutions blocking the sales, though they later condensed the number to three in a deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), per The New York Times. The deal will also force the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to consider a bill limiting a president's authority on using emergency powers for arms sales.

At least four Senate Republicans, including Graham, are expected to block the remaining two resolutions, the Post says. Still, it's unlikely the resolutions will get the 67 votes they'd need to avoid Trump's inevitable veto. The Democratic-held House is also expected to have no problem passing the bills. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:56 p.m.

U.S. gamers are getting their Hogwarts letters of acceptance a bit earlier than expected.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, the free Pokémon Go style mobile Harry Potter game from Niantic, is now available for download in the U.S. Niantic had previously announced the game would launch on June 21st, making its availability on Thursday a nice surprise for American players. The Verge notes that mobile games of this kind typically launch across the world gradually over the course of several days.

Like Pokémon Go, Wizards Unite is an augmented reality game, meaning it overlays the game's elements onto the real world. Just as players use their phone's camera for Pokémon battles in Pokémon Go, Wizards Unite utilizes a player's camera as they cast spells. The game also has players hunt for items and encounter magical creatures, and it makes use of real world locations similar to the way Pokemon Go does, Polygon notes.

Niantic, which worked with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the game, held an open beta for Wizards Unite in Australia and New Zealand, and it received more than 100,000 downloads, VentureBeat reports. Although Pokémon Go's 2016 launch was infamously bumpy, Gamespot writes that "what's evident about Wizards Unite, though, is how much Niantic has learned from its early struggles with the game's predecessor."

After Wizards Unite, plenty of more games of this ilk are coming, with a Pokémon Go style version of Minecraft also on the way from Microsoft. Polygon last month described this game, Microsoft Earth, as "a lot like Pokémon Go, except deeper, richer, more ambitious and more technically advanced." A closed beta for Microsoft Earth will take place this summer. Brendan Morrow

10:09 a.m.

Nearly 30 years after his death, a never-before-seen Freddie Mercury performance has just been released online.

Mercury sings "Time Waits For No One" in pristine video footage released on Thursday, with the performance having originally been recorded for a concept album produced for the musical Time in 1986, according to a statement on the Mercury website.

Although a version of the song was released at the time, this new one, which Mercury's longtime friend, Dave Clark, worked to bring to life after finding it "buried deep in the vaults," includes just Mercury's vocals with a new piano track added, the statement explains. Variety writes that the edition of the song released on Thursday is a "dramatically different version from the heavily produced, officially released one."

Along with the performance, behind-the-scenes footage was also released on Thursday of Mercury and Clark discussing working together. Both the video of the performance, and the behind-the-scenes footage, can be watched on YouTube. Brendan Morrow

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