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Vox Sentences: The 115th Congress is 1 day old, and the GOP has already overreached

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The 115th Congress brings ethics drama in the House and Obamacare repeal (for real this time) in the Senate; Turkey keeps cracking down for the sake of "security" — and keeps getting less safe.


It's about ethics in congressional oversight

Envelope containing House rules package Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
  • On Monday night, in a closed-door meeting, House Republicans approved a "rules package" for the new 115th Congress that included placing the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under the control of the House Ethics Committee — and stripping it of nearly all of its power. [Vox / Libby Nelson]
  • The Office of Congressional Ethics was created in 2008, after revelations of major corruption (Jack Abramoff) and sexual misconduct (Mark Foley) by members of Congress. But members have never had much love for it. [Vox / Jeff Stein]
  • Some of their objections seem fair — in some cases, members have had to spend six figures on lawyers during investigations that didn't go anywhere. [Washington Post / Chris Cillizza]
  • But the office is the only way to ensure that members of Congress didn't let each other off the hook for bad behavior. [Matt Fuller via Twitter]
  • Regardless of the merits of OCE reform, though, passing midnight, closed-door rules on the eve of the new Congress to gut ethics standards was a bad look. House Republicans got an earful from constituents and even mildly critical tweets from the president-elect. By midday, they'd scrapped the proposed changes. [NPR / Susan Davis and Brian Naylor]
  • It's the first defeat for 2017's (soon to be fully unified) Republican government. And it's a reminder that shame and public pressure are still capable of holding politicians accountable. [Huffington Post / Ryan Grim and Matt Fuller]
  • But the ethics changes haven't been killed — merely delayed. [Mother Jones / Kevin Drum]
  • And unless citizens can muster as much noise to stop the ethics office from being gutted the next time it's proposed — or in response to the breaking of any other norm — the fact that this norm didn't get broken this time won't matter. [Vox / Dara Lind]

The battle royal to repeal Obamacare has begun

Senate Republicans Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • The House may have gotten all the attention on the first day of the 115th Congress, but don't get it twisted: The Senate is the chamber on which Donald Trump's presidency will rise and fall. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • It's got an incredibly ambitious agenda ahead. (If you're thinking that Republicans merely plan to roll back the Obama years, you're thinking far too small.) [Washington Post / David Weigel]
  • First up: repealing the Affordable Care Act. On Tuesday, Senate Republicans introduced a budget resolution that allows the Senate to vote for repeal with a simple majority. (There are 52 Republicans in the Senate, so this would be eminently doable.) [Vox / Dylan Matthews]
  • In theory, repeal is only the first part of "repeal and replace." [Vox / Sarah Kliff]
  • But Republicans are increasingly gravitating toward "repeal and delay" instead — much to the consternation of conservative health care wonks (who worry it will turn into repeal without replace)... [Health Affairs / Joseph Antos and James Capretta]
  • ...and repeal advocates (who worry that the GOP will skip the "repeal" step entirely and just delay the whole thing). [Reason / Peter Suderman]
  • There's good reason to believe it won't get any easier for the GOP to make hard choices. After all, some of their voters benefit from the ACA and don't want to lose coverage entirely (even though they voted for people who promised to repeal Obamacare). [Vox / Sarah Kliff]
  • The CBO has made it clear that it's going to define "replace" very strictly — and won't consider partial coverage to count as a "replacement" for full coverage. [Vox / Sarah Kliff]
  • And the president-elect's team isn't helping. Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway promised Tuesday that Trump didn't want anyone who currently had insurance to lose it — a promise Republicans have been avoiding because it will make repealing the ACA near impossible. [CNBC / Dan Mangan]

Turkey ends 2016 on a dangerous note

Mourners in Turkey Yasin Akgul/AFP/Getty Images
  • Police are still searching for the gunman who killed 39 people at a nightclub in Istanbul on New Year's Eve. [CNN / Ian Lee and James Masters]
  • ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, signaling what some experts feel is a new phase in the group's Turkish operations, in which it can operate more "openly" than before. [NBC / Don Melvin]
  • This is very bad news for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As his country has seen increasingly frequent terrorist attacks, Erdogan has used them as opportunities to crack down on dissent and civil liberties. But if anything, Turkey has gotten even more unstable — inspiring more distrust between citizens and the government. [NYT / Tim Arango]
  • (Case in point: 16 people have been detained in connection with the New Year's Eve attack, many after tips from citizens. But the gunman is still at large.) [Al Jazeera]
  • The destabilization of Turkey might be a big reason the country is helping Russia and Iran negotiate a ceasefire in Syria — after all, the Syrian civil war has helped stimulate the growth of ISIS and the flow of its operatives into Turkey. [Bloomberg / Stepan Kravchenko, Henry Meyer, Taylan Bilgic, and Dana Khraiche]
  • It's also true that Turkey's stated goal in helping Syria's rebels was to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power. Not only is Assad likely to remain, but Turkey has increasingly cooperated with his main booster in the war: Russia. [The Atlantic / Kathy Gilsinan]

Miscellaneous

  • Stop saying "drain the swamp." It's an insult to swamps, which are good and should not be drained. [Washington Post / Adam Rosenblatt]
  • Singapore is taking an aggressive approach to cybersecurity: turning off the internet entirely on public servants' computers. [The Straits Times / Irene Tham]
  • Some of the 401(k)'s earliest proponents are starting to think they made a huge mistake. [WSJ / Timothy Martin]
  • The New York State Restaurant Association is warning that the state's minimum wage hike will force restaurants to "consider reducing portion sizes." Ohhhhh nooooooo. [AP / David Klepper]
  • Today I (Dylan) learned that not everyone runs through conversations in their heads; inner dialogues aren't a universal experience. [New Yorker / Jerome Groopman]

Verbatim

  • "Here’s the thing: Hipster style is just queer style, particularly queer women’s style. Put another way: Lesbians invented hipsters." [NYT / Krista Burton]
  • "Burnett skipped college and joined the British army’s elite Paratroop Regiment, and after the end of the Falklands War, he immigrated to Los Angeles, where — the legend has it — he convinced a wealthy Beverly Hills family that no one made a better nanny than a former paratrooper." [The Ringer / Kelsey McKinney]
  • "It might sound weird, but I always cry at the end of Step Brothers. I’ve seen the movie 10 times, and it still touches me at the end, when Will Ferrell sings. You don’t expect to cry watching that type of comedy, but I always do." [Marion Cotillard to W]
  • "[Marlene Dietrich's] personal German dictionary has only one underlined word—the term of endearment by which Hemingway addressed her in his letters: 'kraut.'" [New Yorker / Megan Mayhew Bergman]
  • "For 39 years, American children have been learning about the Galactic Civil War before they learn about the Vietnam War. To paraphrase Yoda, it’s hard to unlearn what you have learned." [NY Mag / Abraham Riesman]

Watch this: Fake news wasn’t the biggest media problem of 2016

It's nothing new, and it didn't swing the election. [YouTube / Matt Yglesias, Liz Scheltens, and Mac Schneider]

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