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5 things for Thursday, July 27: Transgender ban, 'skinny repeal,' Ohio fair death

Posted July 27

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1. Transgender ban

It's the tweet that shocked everyone (and for President Donald Trump, that's saying something). Trump said he planned to reinstate a ban on transgender people from the military, saying they can't serve "in any capacity." It reverses a policy OK'd by President Barack Obama last year, but still under review, that would have allowed transgender individuals to serve openly.

The move seemed to catch everybody off guard. Trump said he had consulted with generals and military experts about it, but the Pentagon referred all questions on the matter to the White House, where press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn't have any answers to reporters' queries -- such as what happens to the thousands of transgender people currently in the armed forces

There was bipartisan confusion and anger as well. GOP Sen. John McCain bashed Trump over the move and said Twitter's probably not the best forum for major policy announcements. Even conservatives who had been lobbying the President on the issue didn't expect him to go this far; they only wanted the Pentagon to stop paying for sex change operations.

2. Health care legislation

OK, so here's where the GOP effort to get rid of Obamacare stands right now in the Senate: A repeal only bill -- dead. A repeal and replace bill -- also dead. So what's going to be voted on next? The "skinny repeal." This bill would get rid of the Affordable Health Care Act's individual and employer mandates and some of its taxes, but pretty much keeps the rest of the law in place, including its expansion of Medicaid. (Conservatives are sure to hate that.) The Congressional Budget Office says a skinny repeal would also raise premiums by 20% and leave 15 million more people uninsured. If the GOP can get 50 votes on this, then they can work with the House on a final proposal in conference.

3. Ohio fair death

The opening day of the Ohio State Fair turned deadly when a ride malfunctioned. One person was killed and seven people were injured -- three critically -- when the Fireball ride broke apart, throwing riders at least 20 feet through the air. The Fireball has six rows of seats that spin around as the whole structure swings like a pendulum. The fair will be open today, but all rides will be closed so they may be inspected.

4. Russia sanctions

Looks like a deal to send a Russia sanctions bill to the President's desk has been reached. Under this deal brokered by House and Senate GOP leaders, the Senate will pass the House legislation -- which hits the Russians with new sanctions and limits the White House's ability to remove them -- and send that to Trump to sign (although it's not clear at this point if he will). In return, the House promises to take up sanctions against North Korea that came out of the Senate, something that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker really wanted.

Speaking of North Korea, US intelligence officials think the regime will be able to launch a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile by early next year.

5. Venezuela strike

A second day of a 48-hour national strike hits Venezuela today. Many Venezuelans are upset about a vote set for next week for a national assembly that could rewrite the country's constitution. These critics view it as a power grab by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The United States doesn't like it either, so the Treasury Department is slapping sanctions on 13 Venezuelan government officials. During today's strike expect to see more of the street protests that have raged for months as Venezuela struggles through an economic collapse and a food shortage.


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