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Russia sanctions deal reached without changes Trump sought

Donald Trump is pictured here.

The White House had pressed to dilute the bill's provisions empowering Congress to block Trump from easing or ending sanctions against Russia, but its request fell on deaf ears among Republican leaders. | Saul Loeb/Getty

Negotiators in both parties on Saturday released a sweeping sanctions deal that does not include changes President Donald Trump's administration sought to make it easier for him to ease penalties against Russia.

The accord on a package of sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea is set for a House vote on Tuesday, according to the announcement from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office. To resolve a partisan clash over giving House Democrats the power to force a vote blocking Trump from easing sanctions on Moscow, the deal expedites House consideration of any anti-Trump vote that the Senate has already passed.

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The sanctions legislation is expected to pass with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate before lawmakers leave for their annual August recess, giving the Republican-led Congress a major bipartisan achievement to tout amid struggles on health care and taxes — albeit an achievement that delivers a thumb in the eye to Trump.

The White House had pressed to dilute the bill's provisions empowering Congress to block Trump from easing or ending sanctions against Russia, but its request fell on deaf ears among Republican leaders.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's top Democrat, Ben Cardin of Maryland, hailed the agreement Saturday.

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"I believe the proposed changes to the bill have helped to clarify the intent of members of Congress as well as express solidarity with our closest allies in countering Russian aggression and holding the Kremlin accountable for their destabilizing activities," Cardin said in a statement.

Cardin added an encouragement for Trump to sign the bill once it reaches the White House, despite his administration's failure to secure more "flexibility" to deal with Vladimir Putin's government.

"A nearly united Congress is poised to send President Putin a clear message on behalf of the American people and our allies, and we need President Trump to help us deliver that message," Cardin said.

The sanctions deal makes a technical change to the portion of the bill by ensuring that Congress would not review minor and routine licenses for businesses seeking to operate in partnership with Russian entities.

The deal also gives oil and gas companies some of what they sought in order to avoid what they feared would be undue hindrance of their ability to partner with Russian entities. While the industry had asked for a 50-percent interest threshold for sanctioned Russian entities before penalties kicked in on joint projects, the final agreement set a 33-percent threshold.

Rachael Bade contributed to this report.

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Senate committee slaps subpoena on Glenn Simpson

Senate committee slaps subpoena on Glenn Simpson

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley is still in negotiations with representatives of Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort about his request that they testify publicly. | Andrew Harnik/AP

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Parliamentarian rules against key provisions in Obamacare repeal bill

The U.S. Capitol building is pictured.

Republicans plan to vote next week to start debate on Obamacare repeal, but it is not yet clear whether the Senate will vote on the repeal-and-replace bill. | Detroit News via AP

Republicans plan to vote next week on whether to begin debate on Obamacare repeal.

By Jennifer Haberkorn and Seung Min Kim

07/21/2017 06:14 PM EDT

Updated 07/21/2017 07:37 PM EDT

2017-07-21T07:37-0400

Several key provisions in the Senate's Obamacare repeal and replace bill, including language targeting Planned Parenthood, may have to be stripped or could be eliminated on the Senate floor by Democrats because they don't comply with budget rules, according to Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee .

The Senate parliamentarian advised Friday in an informal and preliminary ruling that key conservative agenda items, including defunding Planned Parenthood for one year and banning coverage of abortion in Obamacare insurance plans, do not comply with Senate rules on reconciliation, the fast-track procedure the GOP is using to repeal Obamacare.

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Republicans plan to vote next week on whether to begin debate on Obamacare repeal, but it is unclear whether the Senate will vote on the repeal and replace bill. The other option for the GOP is to bring up a repeal-only measure that passed the Senate two years ago and was vetoed by President Barack Obama.

The 52 Senate Republicans would need to muster 60 votes to preserve each provision flagged by the parliamentarian for potentially violating the so-called Byrd rule. But Democrats have united in opposition to the GOP repeal effort. In addition to the Planned Parenthood and abortion language, other provisions identified by the parliamentarian would fund insurance cost-sharing subsidies and impose a six-month waiting period for individuals attempting to enroll in coverage for the first time.

The parliamentarian's guidance — provided as part of a process known on Capitol Hill as a "Byrd bath" — amounts to a significant win for Democrats, who are aiming to eliminate as much from the health care bill as possible. But Republicans cautioned that the rulings apply to a prior version of the Senate bill and suggested the language could be rewritten. GOP lawmakers faced similar obstacles over language eliminating Obamacare's individual and employer mandates when they drafted the 2015 repeal bill but overcame them through rewrites.

"The parliamentarian has provided guidance on an earlier draft of the bill, which will help inform action on the legislation going forward," said Joe Brenckle, a spokesman for Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee.

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The guidance from parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough could still amount to yet another obstacle for the repeal effort. Two key groups that oppose abortion — National Right to Life and the Susan B. Anthony List — have been prominent advocates of the overall bill because of its abortion and Planned Parenthood provisions.

Planned Parenthood

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Priebus downplays reports of tension with Scaramucci

Priebus downplays reports of tension with Scaramucci

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus reportedly was not in favor of bringing Scaramucci aboard to lead the White House communications. | Carolyn Kaster/AP

Priebus also agreed with Hannity's assertion that reports that he and Scaramucci didn't 'like each other' were 'a lie.'

By Cristiano Lima

07/21/2017 07:27 PM EDT

Updated 07/21/2017 08:00 PM EDT

2017-07-21T08:00-0400

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus downplayed reports that he opposed President Donald Trump tapping financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director on Friday in his first public comments since one of the largest staffing shake-up the Trump administration has seen to date.

"Obviously we’ve done a lot of things together, he was Scott Walker’s finance chairman in Wisconsin, I even, you may have seen the clip, I even almost worked for Anthony after the Romney loss," the Priebus said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity set to air Friday night.

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Priebus also agreed with Hannity's assertion that reports that he and Scaramucci didn't "like each other" were "a lie."

Priebus, along with White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, reportedly was not in favor of bringing Scaramucci aboard to lead the White House communications. But on Friday, he told told Hannity that reports about internal friction over the staffing change was overblown.

Scaramucci said during his official White House rollout Friday that he and Priebus have been “personal friends” for years, casting any feuding between them as akin to familial squabbling.

“We are a little bit like brothers, where we rough each other up once in a while, which is totally normal for brothers,” Scaramucci said.

The incoming communications director, who said his start date will be in a few weeks, also expressed a desire to work closely with the White House chief of staff.

Hannity also spoke with outgoing White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who said he was leaving the White House despite President Trump wanting him to stay in order to give a new team a "clean slate."

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"The President obviously wanted to add to the team, more than anything," Spicer told Hannity. "I just thought it was in the best interest of our communications department, of our press organization to not have too many cooks in the kitchen."

Spicer, who did not appear at Friday's daily press briefing, where his resignation was announced, told Hannity that Trump wanted him to stay but "after reflection, my decision was to recommend to the president that I give Anthony and Sarah a clean slate to start from."

In his interview, Priebus vouched for the relationship between the president and Spicer.

"Sean leaving doesn’t mean that Sean isn’t going to be out there supporting President Trump and it doesn’t mean that President Trump isn’t going to be out there supporting Sean

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Inside the 24 hours that broke Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer came to the White House on Thursday completely unaware President Donald Trump was planning to meet with Anthony Scaramucci, a longtime Wall Street friend, and offer him the job of communications director. Other top aides, including Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, also had no clue.

But in Trump's White House, where rumors of staff shake-ups loom for months, it all happened quickly. By Friday morning, over the strenuous objections of senior aides, Trump had a new communications director. And Spicer had made a spontaneous decision to resign, offended by the whole turn of events. He had been blindsided by Trump before, but he took particular umbrage at this one.

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The wham-bam events of the past 24 hours were exceptional even by Trump's standards: the dismissal of his top lawyer and the lawyer's spokesman, West Wing blowups between the president and his top aides, a press secretary fending off rumors about his possible demise without knowing the entire truth, all while new reports landed about Trump going on the attack against the special counsel investigating his White House.

What struck one adviser who speaks to Trump frequently is that the president seemed calm — like he had a plan in mind all along — but just hadn't shared it with many others.

"In the president's business, you don't have the luxury of time," said Vincent Pitta, a longtime Trump friend from New York. "And marketing and communications has always been very important to him."

The outgoing press secretary — who became a national celebrity for his contentious news briefings, inspiring Melissa McCarthy's "Saturday Night Live" impressions with a mobile podium — had tried to lower his profile, wary he was getting too close to the sun. Random passersby would honk and scream at him outside his house in Virginia while he talked on the phone.

"Just look at his great television ratings," Trump wrote in a statement, praising him upon his departure, even though Spicer had not delivered an on-camera briefing since June 20.

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Spicer thought he had succeeded in reducing his public footprint. One friend said he seemed to be returning to a more normal version of himself, with less stress and more positive things to say about other people. He had told friends he liked being away from the podium and working on longer-term issues, like tax reform, and had told others how well the White House was going to handle the issue under his stead. And he was coping relatively well with the stress of serving as both press secretary and communications director after Mike Dubke resigned in May.

Spicer had been spotted laughing and drinking with friends, colleagues and reporters at various events such as embassy parties and the Trump International Hotel. He seemed at peace with

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