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Obamacare’s still got it; Catalonians are voting again.
The ACA sees just a slight dip in sign-ups this year
- Nearly 9 million people signed up for Obamacare coverage this year. [Vox / Dylan Scott]
- The enrollment numbers are slightly lower than last year. But overall, the health care marketplaces didn’t see a dramatic drop in sign-ups, even with the Trump administration’s attempts at sabotage. [Vox / Dylan Scott]
- The Trump administration shortened the open enrollment period and cut back on advertising. And yet Obamacare didn’t “implode.” [NYT / Robert Pear]
- The health care law still faces challenges — most significantly, the repeal of the individual mandate in the Republican tax bill. But Obamacare is going to survive. [Vox / Dylan Scott]
- Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted that another attempt to repeal Obamacare won’t be on the legislative agenda in 2018. [Politico / Cristiano Lima and Jennifer Haberkorn]
- Congress will also find a short-term remedy to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It approved a temporary spending bill to avert a government shutdown that will include $2.8 billion for CHIP through March. This is not a permanent solution to finance the program, but it will prevent millions of children from losing insurance next month. [NYT / Thomas Kaplan]
A close election in Catalonia
- The Spanish region of Catalonia declared independence after a referendum in October. Now, after a tumultuous few months, the region has gone to the polls again. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his government called this snap election after stripping the region of its autonomy and ousting its leader. [New York Times / Raphael Minder]
- That October referendum sparked Spain’s most dramatic constitutional crisis in four decades. Thursday’s vote is the latest chapter in this unfolding political disaster. [Vox / Sarah Wildman]
- The polls closed at 8 pm Catalonia time, with record turnout. It appears the pro-independence parties will hang on to their majority in the regional parliament. [Guardian / Jon Henley]
- Catalonia's pro-independence leader Carles Puigdemont cheered the news from Brussels, where he’s in self-imposed exile to avoid arrest by Spanish authorities. Through a spokesperson, he said: "As you see, we are the comeback kids.” [Reuters / Sonya Dowsett and Sam Edwards]
- There’s a catch: The pro-independence vote is split among three parties. The pro-unionist party, which wants to remain a part of Spain, is expected to win the biggest individual share of the vote. This might set up a showdown over who has the right to form a government. [BBC]
- A pro-independence victory delivers a major political blow to Rajoy, who called the election in hopes of pushing out the pro-independence separatists. [Washington Post / William Booth and Pamela Rolfe]
- Apple has confirmed it actually is slowing down older phones whose aging batteries have less capacity. Techies say it’s a legitimate tactic to prevent spontaneous shutdowns. But it probably won’t quash those conspiracy theories. [The Verge / Tom Warren and Nick Statt]
- A Virginia recount ended in a tie. A random drawing from a bowl could determine the winner — and the balance of power in the House of Delegates — next week. [Virginian-Pilot / Jordan Pascale]
- President Donald Trump granted the first commutation of his presidency to former meatpacking executive Sholom Rubashkin, who was eight years into a 27-year sentence for bank fraud. [NYT / Mitch Smith]
- Prince Harry and Meghan Markle released their engagement photos, and they are probably better than yours. [Vanity Fair / Hilary Weaver]
“He’s taking meetings with Russians to get additional stuff. This tells you everything about Jared. … They were looking for the picture of Hillary Clinton taking the bag of cash from Putin. That’s his maturity level.” [Former Trump aide Steve Bannon on Jared Kushner, to Vanity Fair / Gabriel Sherman]
Watch this: How Trump makes extreme things look normal
The scariest part of Trump's first year as president isn't how abnormal he is — it's how normal he makes everything else look by comparison. [YouTube / Carlos Maza and Coleman Lowndes]