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Morning News Brief: GOP Health Care Revisions, Trump In Paris, Malala Yousafzai In Iraq


And I'm David Greene in Culver City, Calif.

Steve, it feels like I have said these very words before. Senate Republicans are ready to unveil a health care plan.


Maybe it feels like that because you have said those words before...


INSKEEP: ...Or words like them because Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a plan in June that few Republicans seem to like. So he is offering a new version today. He's already said the Senate will shorten its August vacation to make time to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, if possible. Vice President Mike Pence is promoting the measure.


VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: This legislation puts American health care back on the path to freedom - more choices, more affordability. This bill will repeal Obamacare's mandates and taxes on the American people and American businesses and restore freedom.

INSKEEP: A previous Senate bill, the one we mentioned, was found to cut taxes, mainly for the wealthy, while leaving about 22 million fewer people with insurance over time. We do not know yet how this bill would change those numbers.

GREENE: And we also don't know if this bill is all that different from the last bill. But NPR's Scott Detrow is going to answer that question for us.

Scott, is this bill different?

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: We can expect a lot more money for opioid treatment. That's one of the early changes that we saw a couple of weeks ago after the bill first hit a speed bump. One thing that we don't know the answer to but to look for today is whether this new plan embraces a plan being pushed by Ted Cruz from Texas, which would basically let markets offer stripped-down, cheaper plans as long as they have one plan that covers all of Obamacare's requirements. Cruz says that gives more options, lowers costs. Most analysts say that would really disrupt the markets and have all the cheaper, younger, healthier people flee to the cheaper plans, leaving more expensive coverage for the people who need a lot of coverage.

GREENE: Well, it sounds like there are still concerns about the effects of this bill. So I mean, I wonder what the mood is within the party. Do Senate Republicans feel like they're going to come out with something that actually could get passed?

DETROW: Well, if you guys have asked this question before, I think I've answered it.

GREENE: You have.


GREENE: Answer differently. Can you say something different now, Scott?

DETROW: I'll try my best. But those same dynamics remain, and they haven't changed at all. You have a camp of moderates, people like Lisa Murkowski from Alaska saying, we're really worried about what this does to Medicaid. We're worried about those 22 million people who might lose insurance. And you have a camp of hard-line conservatives, like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee of Utah, saying, we need to repeal as much of Obamacare as we can. It's hard to split the difference, which is why we're - the Republicans are in this holding pattern.

GREENE: Who are the key Republicans we should be watching for to see how they react to this?

DETROW: Interested to see how Dean Heller from Nevada reacts today. He was a vocal, forceful critic of the original bill - really surprised a lot of people by how much he went out on a ledge saying, this hurts his state; it hurts his state government.

INSKEEP: Really publicly, a press conference saying that.



DETROW: Standing next to Nevada's governor. So if he is happy, that goes a long way. But he has said he has deep concerns, and it's hard to see how a change addresses that.

GREENE: Is there a plan C if this doesn't work out for the Republicans?

DETROW: Yeah, McConnell has warned of something really dire. He might have to work with Democrats on a bipartisan...


GREENE: Which Republicans have said they're not ready to do yet. But maybe this will cause that to happen.

INSKEEP: Remember, there's an element of political theater to all this, a kind of political progression, which actually worked in the House. They brought forth one bill. It didn't have the votes. It collapsed. And they came forth then with a second bill, which was adjusted just enough so that just enough lawmakers signed on. So one thing we begin to learn today is if they've adjusted the Senate bill enough to get those extra votes.

GREENE: And Scott Detrow, our colleague, will be watching. Scott, thanks.

DETROW: Thank you.


GREENE: So two leaders who seem, honestly, to disagree on just about everything are about to spend some quality time together.

INSKEEP: Or at least some time together...

GREENE: Or some time together.

INSKEEP: ...We'll find out if it's quality. Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron - those are the two. President Trump arrived today in France, for which he's expressed little love. He has told audiences in the past that his friend Jim no longer goes to Paris. Apparently, migrants changed it too much. The Associated Press reports it is unclear if Jim exists. We do not know his last name. But when the president withdrew from a climate accord a few months ago, he took another shot at Paris.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.

INSKEEP: OK. So what can he accomplish when meeting the man who does represent Paris?

GREENE: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is on the line from Paris. And Eleanor, didn't these two men have that awkward handshake a few weeks ago? What's happening on this trip?

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Right, David, they did. You know, Macron has been criticized for inviting Trump. But the French president says he wants to use this historical occasion of America's entry into World War I to highlight the alliance between the two countries, the centuries-long alliance. And Macron wants to keep America engaged in the circle of nations. He said, you don't turn your back on an old friend just because of some disagreements.

But more than that, he wants to emerge as sort of the facilitator, the intermediary between Europe and Trump's America. Now, Trump doesn't get along very well with many European nations. He's...

GREENE: Right.

BEARDSLEY: ...Got a cold relationship with Angela Merkel. So Macron wants to be the one to do that. Macron is going - has perfectly choreographed this visit. He is going to wow Trump, quite simply. Trump is going to get a military parade like we don't have in the U.S. He's going to see tanks - you know, a good, old-fashioned one - rumbling down the Champs-Elysees. He's going to show all France's military might. He's going to see historical grandeur, Napoleon's tomb - seven coffins, one encased in the other...


BEARDSLEY: ...Underneath a gold cupola. Right.

And he's going to be, even till the end, wined and dined in a Michelin-star restaurant, culinary grandeur, in the Eiffel Tower, architectural grandeur. But David, all along the way will be little nods to the long relationship, the links between France and America. For example, Gustave Eiffel, who built the Eiffel Tower, built the skeleton for the Statue of Liberty. So maybe after this, President Trump might have some more positive tweets about the City of Light.

GREENE: Well, I mean, that's - we sort of joke about those tweets. But also it's a serious question. Like, all of this symbolism, it's one thing. But, I mean, do observers of French politics really think that this relationship could deepen in some meaningful way?

BEARDSLEY: Well, people are angry about the U.S. pulling out of the climate accord. But some analysts here are saying that that even was a boon to President Emmanuel Macron. Listen to what Christophe Barbier told me.

CHRISTOPHE BARBIER: Donald Trump is looking to the past. He has not understood that a new economy, a green economy, is there. It is easy for Macron to be suddenly the great hero of the ecologists, the great hero of a new economy.

GREENE: It doesn't exactly sound like these two men are obvious leaders to work together, Eleanor.

BEARDSLEY: No, they're not. But they can, David, because France and America have a great military alliance. And Macron, in an interview today, said America's an indispensable ally, especially on fighting terrorism and counterintelligence. The men can also agree on how to end the war in Syria. They're both pragmatists and realists, and they want to do that. And they said the main goal is to fight terrorism.

INSKEEP: And they have something politically in common because Macron, like Trump, is an insider who positioned himself, really, as a political outsider, who said I want to completely overturn the system.

BEARDSLEY: That is one thing they have in common, Steve.

GREENE: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris. Thanks as always, Eleanor.

BEARDSLEY: You're welcome.


GREENE: All right, some young women who are living under ISIS control met a woman who confronted the Taliban.

INSKEEP: The young women are part of a religious minority that was once besieged in Iraq. And now that they're safe, they received a visit from Malala Yousafzai. That's how the Nobel laureate spent her 20th birthday. She told the Iraqi women her story of being shot by the Taliban for her activism as a teen.


MALALA YOUSAFZAI: They banned girls' education. They were against women's freedom. And I could not go to school at that time. So in response to that, I started speaking out. But then, like, later on, I was targeted by the extremists.

INSKEEP: She survived the attack and is now traveling to help give a voice to other young women.

GREENE: And NPR's Jane Arraf was in the room following, listening to this whole visit. Jane, you don't get to cover many uplifting stories on your beat and in that region. This feels really different.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: It does, David. It's like finding pieces of treasure in a very grim landscape, to be honest.

GREENE: Well, what exactly was Malala doing in Iraq? And what happened here?

ARRAF: So she was shot when she was 15. And this week, she turned 20. So in the intervening time, in between getting the Nobel Peace Prize - the youngest laureate ever - she has been traveling while she - apart from going to high school in Britain. And she's an activist to press governments and world leaders to let girls go to school.

So she met these former captives of ISIS, and that really was quite grim there. They've obviously been very traumatized. Then she went to another settlement where there are also Yazidi women and girls. Yazidis are that ancient religious minority that ISIS has - they've killed a lot of the men, and they have captured thousands of the women and girls. And they've used them as sex slaves. So this is a community that's really suffered.

So she told them her story, and she told them that she wanted to hear their stories as well.

GREENE: So that - so it was a moment for them sort of to learn from one another. Is that what seemed to be happening?

ARRAF: It was. It was actually a little bit of magic because she told him a little bit about how she was shot and how she continued to press for education. And then she asked them to tell her about them. And two of the girls got up. And one of them, Hadia, who's 19 now, talked about how she wasn't allowed to go to school by her parents. But she took her brother's books, and she studied at home. And she insisted on going to school. She even ran away at one point so she could go to school. And then she said, she remembered when Malala had said that it only takes one pencil, one book, one student to change the world.

GREENE: Oh, that's right.

ARRAF: And she said, and I believe, too. Girls can do anything.

Like, how cool is that?

GREENE: Really, really cool. It does sound like a moment of magic. NPR's Jane Arraf, thanks so much for bringing that story to us.

ARRAF: Thank you.


Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.
Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.
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