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Vox Sentences: Ugh, Paul Ryan is totally going to be smug about this forever, right?

Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world, curated by Dylan Matthews, Naomi Shavin, and Dara Lind. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

The House managed to hold its breath for long enough to pass a health care bill that didn’t fall apart. But, um, no promises.

The House actually just passed an Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill

President Trump Speaks At The White House After The House Voted On Health Care Bill Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • After seven years of empty promises and meaningless floor votes, today the House passed a bill designed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. [Vox / Sarah Kliff]
  • The vote was extremely close; Republicans needed 216 yes votes to pass it — and got 217. In what is not even a little bit of an exaggeration, the New York Times called the vote “a remarkable act of political resuscitation, six weeks after House leaders failed to muster the votes to pass an earlier version of their bill” (…which kind of sounds like a review blurb for a really boring horror movie). [New York Times / Thomas Kaplan, Robert Pear]
  • Last-minute negotiations and phone calls from President Donald Trump himself won over undecided conservatives. But apparently, many Republican representatives don’t necessarily like the result (i.e., the bill they voted for). Some have already come out stating that they expect the bill to change if and when it goes to the Senate. And Trump, for his part, is reportedly concerned that if it passes and people lose health care, he will be blamed. [Politico / Josh Dawsey]
  • Part of the problem is that the Congressional Budget Office hasn’t yet scored the bill, which means it’s unclear how many people would lose health care and how much it could cost. Making matters murkier, some representatives have admitted that they didn’t actually read it before voting. [Washington Post / David Weigel]
  • The eleventh-hour negotiations to cobble together an alliance of enough conservatives, Trump loyalists, and moderates to get to 217 ultimately involved making compromises that render an already-underthought bill nearly incoherent. For example: the Upton amendment. It throws an extra $8 billion into a finite pool of money intended to offset the costs of people with preexisting conditions. But that money will make it easier for people who don’t maintain health coverage to sign up once they’ve developed a problem — exactly what the GOP has been trying to avoid by creating a penalty for people who lose insurance and then buy it again. [Vox / Dylan Scott]
  • But the much bigger population is the people who’d have a harder time affording health care to begin with under the AHCA. That list includes: pregnant women and new mothers; Planned Parenthood patients; families with chronic conditions that can cause health care costs to sky rocket; children in special education programs; low-income workers who gained Medicaid under Obamacare; low-income Americans who are not on Medicaid and relied on Obamacare tax credits to bring down the cost of insurance; anyone who qualified for Medicaid before Obamacare, like seniors and the disabled; seniors who buy insurance on the exchanges; and residents of states who choose to “block grant” Medicaid. Odds are you personally know more than a few people this bill would hurt. [Vox / Dylan Matthews]
  • Democrats were united against the bill — and 20 Republicans joined them in voting no. Interestingly, of 23 districts represented by a Republican that went to Clinton in the presidential election, only nine voted against this bill. [New York Times / Gregor Aisch, et al]
  • House Republicans decamped to the White House after the vote to celebrate with Trump, who gave a victory speech that, incredibly, included mocking Paul Ryan’s leadership capacities. [Reuters / Yasmeen Abutaleb, David Morgan]
  • It was a weird celebration, and it likely won’t last long. Medical groups have come out strongly against the bill. But the most rain on the parade seems to be coming from the Senate — whose members appear to have no intention of taking up the House bill rather than writing their own. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee literally said, “We’re writing a Senate bill and not passing the House bill.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) characterized its problems succinctly: “Any bill that has been posted less than 24 hours, going to be debated three or four hours, not scored? Needs to be viewed with suspicion.” [Politico / Burgess Evertt, Jennifer Haberkorn]

Venezuela’s descent into chaos

World Leaders Address The UN General Assembly Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
  • If you, like me (Naomi), are regularly stressing out about the state of Venezuela, you’ll recall that the country took a major step in the direction of authoritarianism back in March. Its president, Nicolás Maduro, and his supporters on the Supreme Court dissolved the power of the National Assembly, effectively giving the court the power to write rules itself and giving Maduro nearly one-man rule. [New York Times / Nicholas Casey, Patricia Torres]
  • In the weeks since, the country has been gripped by a sustained protest movement, which has at times seen violence. On Wednesday, a police officer was shot at a protest, and today it was announced that he died from his wounds, but it seems the majority of those killed are protestors. The total number of people who have died in these protests is now up to 36. [ABC News / Associated Press / Hannah Dreier]
  • The Maduro regime’s response has been (in the words of the Washington Post editorial board) “brutally uncompromising.” It has used tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters. It announced that it intends to withdraw from the Organization of American States because of demands to obey a democratic charter. [Washington Post / Editorial Board]
  • And on Monday, Maduro announced he would be convening an assembly to rewrite the constitution. As Nicholas Casey noted for the New York Times, while it’s “unclear precisely how Mr. Maduro wanted the Constitution changed,” some experts posit that a constitutional assembly might be a tool to further weaken the opposition-controlled National Assembly — and essentially put an end to legislative elections. [New York Times / Nicholas Casey]
  • It’s worth remembering, as writer Hugo Prieto points out for the Times, that protest in Venezuela is born of economic desperation as much as political frustration. “One protester, a woman in her 60s, sought refuge from the tear gas by hiding behind a tree. We opened the door for her, but she wasn’t too happy about taking shelter; she felt that she was shirking her duty as a citizen by not facing the attackers openly. ‘We can’t do anything if we’re dead, Missus,’ said a young man who obviously sympathized with her. ‘And they’re starving us to death, so nobody can stop me going out on to the streets to protest,’ the woman said.” [New York Times / Hugo Prieto]
  • She isn’t exaggerating; Venezuela’s economic crisis is dramatic. There is nearly 1,000% inflation and food and medical storages have put its lowest-income citizens in danger of a humanitarian crisis. The country’s highest denomination, 100 bolivars, is worth less than 10 US cents. [Guardian / Jonathan Watts]
  • How did oil-rich Venezuela find itself in this predicament? As Francisco Toro writes for Vox, the “punitively misconceived microeconomic policies” and “mindlessly self-destructive macroeconomic policies” of Hugo Chávez positioned the country for an inevitable collapse. [Vox / Francisco Toro]
  • Another way to think about it: The country’s socialist roots rather inconveniently set it up to follow the same populist path toward authoritarianism we’re seeing play out around the world. [New York Times / Max Fisher, Amanda Taub]

Trump’s watered-down religious liberties executive order

President Trump Signs Executive Order On Promoting Free Speech And Religious Liberty On National Day Of Prayer Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
  • At a ceremony for the National Day of Prayer this morning, President Trump signed an executive order that instructs the IRS to exercise leniency toward tax-exempt religious organizations that speak on “moral or political issues from a religious perspective.” The order also opens the door to “regulatory relief” to protect organizations objecting to a provision of Obamacare on religious grounds (essentially the mandate to provide health services that include insurance coverage for contraception). [CNN / Kevin Liptak]
  • This is fairly toothless stuff. First off, it gives the IRS more discretion to refrain from going after the tax-exempt status of religious organizations that endorse political candidates — but it doesn’t strike down the law that created the rule. Only Congress can do that. [USA Today / David Jackson, Maureen Groppe]
  • (And the rule Trump just told IRS agents to use their discretion not to enforce is already not enforced very often.) [NPR / Tom Gjelten]
  • It doesn’t do much on Obamacare either — it just directs the Treasury Department, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Health and Human Services to consider changing the Affordable Care Act regulations that mandate contraception coverage in employee health care plans. [Atlantic / Emma Green]
  • Indeed, it’s religious conservatives — the intended constituency for this order — who are criticizing it the most harshly. David French writes for National Review that the executive order is “worse than useless” and, arguing that Trump owes evangelical voters much more, that “If Evangelical voters had not turned out in mass numbers, he would be sitting in New York right now plotting the comeback of Trump Steaks.” [National Review / David French]
  • Conservatives’ disappointment in this nothingburger is compounded by the really high hopes they’d had for it. Many expected Trump to sign an order that would also give organizations the right to deny services on religious grounds, for instance refusing to do business with LGBTQ clients. [Politico / Matthew Nussbaum, Colin Wilhelm]
  • A draft order of that nature leaked in February, to swift and harsh criticism from progressives. The language would have enabled groups and individuals to claim religious objections under a broad array of circumstances, leading to accusations of “government-sanctioned discrimination.” Rumors swirled that Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, leaked the draft to kill that provision, as both have positioned themselves as allies of the LGBTQ community. [Politico / Timothy Alberta, Shane Goldmacher]
  • Not that LGBTQ groups are copacetic with the text of the order as Trump signed it Thursday. “We plan on closely monitoring the implementation and interpretation of the executive order,” Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus executive director Roddy Flynn told CNN. GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis shared her concern that “my children could be turned away if a pediatrician doesn't accept my wife and me.” [CNN / Eugene Scott]
  • Notably, Trump also used his event for the National Day of Prayer to announce a trip abroad with heavy religious overtones. His first trip out of the country as president will include stops in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Vatican. Senior White House officials have said the trip is intended to improve relations between the US and the larger Muslim world. [New York Times / Associated Press / Nicole Winfield​]


  • Donald Trump wanted Tom Marino to be his drug czar. Then it turned out that Marino went judge shopping to get a friend's cocaine-dealing record expunged. [US News / Steven Nelson]
  • Fyre Fest organizers paid thousands of dollars, including $250,000 to Kendall Jenner alone, to buy endorsements from models and other "influencers." Only one of them, Emily Ratajkowski of "Blurred Lines" fame, correctly labeled her social media promotion as an ad; the others all violated Federal Trade Commission regulations. [Vice / Gabrielle Bluestone]
  • What One Direction can teach us about non-toxic masculinity. [MEL / Alana Massey]
  • The neuroscience of why diets fail — and often lead to weight gain. [NYT / Sandra Aamodt]
  • Reading Ivanka Trump's new book Women Who Work, which has "more the aesthetic of a Pinterest board than a career guide." [NPR / Danielle Kurtzleben]


  • “Anxiety, which has been my lifelong companion, was not considered a disorder until we began to expect that life would be comfortable.” [Catapult / Laura Turner]
  • "Joking about reincarnation once, she said I must have had great karma to be a human in this life. 'It couldn’t have been that good,' I said, 'or I wouldn’t have wound up in a girl’s body.' She rolled her eyes. 'It’s not a girl’s body. It’s yours.'" [NYT / Malcolm Conner]
  • “If you don't know what a fidget spinner is, you have likely spent the last month in a cave 500 miles from the nearest child. Congratulations. I hope you enjoyed yourself, as those may be the final moments of peace you'll ever experience.” [Chicago Tribune / Rex Huppke]
  • “It felt like all the Muslim boys I knew were dedicated fans of the game, which I resented. … I asked them: Doesn’t it feel weird to be playing a soldier engaged in warfare in Karachi, where we have family? Doesn’t it feel weird that the enemies of these games are from the Middle East, speak Arabic, and wear keffiyehs?" [BuzzFeed / Ahmed Ali Akbar]
  • “I am deeply concerned about what appears, on the evidence available, to be an egregious episode of collective persecution that breaches longstanding norms, not just of academic life but of civilized behavior.” [José Luis Bermudez via Brian Leiter]

Watch this: Cory Booker on why Trump should try being nice on Twitter

Social media could be a uniting force. [Vox / Matteen Mokalla, Dean Peterson]

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