• Hemera/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- The Koch brothers' political network plans to pick up the pace of spending in the run-up to 2018, despite major policy disagreements with the Trump administration that includes skepticism of the health care bill now being debated in the Senate.The Koch network of organizations –- funded by some 100,000 donors, with billionaires Charles and David Koch front and center -– had previously announced plans to spend between $300 million and $400 million in the 2017-18 cycle."We think it's going to be on the high end of that range," Tim Phillips, president of the Kochs’ political wing Americans for Prosperity, told reporters Saturday as the Koch network's twice-a-year conference started.Charles Koch told donors that the network he and his brother control is growing and getting stronger. In his opening remarks to the gathering, at a posh resort in Colorado Springs, he made no mention of President Trump, who has had a tense relationship with the Kochs."We are more optimistic now about what we can accomplish than we've ever been," Charles Koch said. "I see us taking it to the next level."In Colorado this weekend, hundreds of wealthy conservative donors have joined four governors, six senators, and five House members -– all of them Republicans -– to discuss policy and strategy under the thematic batter of "the courage to lead."As for leadership in Washington, leaders of the Koch-backed political groups are expressing optimism about progress in some areas, particularly judicial appointments and the rollback of regulations.But they are airing sharp differences with the Trump administration in other areas, including criminal justice reform, trade agreements, and drug enforcement.Mark Holden, Koch Industries' general counsel, told reporters that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is embracing a failed "big-government approach" that is "based on fear" when it comes to following tougher sentencing guidelines. Holden has led efforts to reach out to Republicans and Democrats -– including the Obama administration -– on sentencing reform, only to see Sessions move in the other direction."Hopefully we can change people's minds," Holden said.The Koch-backed groups have stopped short of endorsing the Senate health care draft revealed this past week. They came out against the initial House proposal, but relented after changes were made to reflect conservatives' concerns."We're still hopeful on the health care front," Phillips said, adding that the bill "needs to get better" from a conservative perspective to earn his group's support.He called it "flatly wrong" for Republicans to support continuing Medicaid expansions -– something moderate lawmakers are pushing for in the Senate."Their position is not the compassionate way to go, because this program is failing," he said.The Koch brothers have had a tense relationship with Trump, dating back to a primary campaign where the president attacked his GOP rivals for their ties to the billionaires. Charles Koch told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl last April that "it's possible" Hillary Clinton would make a better president than Trump for small-government priorities; the Kochs wound up attacking Clinton in local races while staying away from outright support for Trump.As part of an effort to patch up relations, Vice President Mike Pence met privately Friday night with Charles Koch. Pence was in Colorado for unrelated political events and did not attend the donor gathering.
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  • Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Bernie Sanders is headlining a "don't take our health care" rally tonight in Pittsburgh as a first stop on a three-state tour to mobilize opposition to the Senate health care bill, which the Vermont senator has called "by far the most harmful piece of legislation I have seen in my lifetime."Sanders teamed up with progressive advocacy organization MoveOn.org to hold rallies this weekend in Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio; and Charleston, West Virginia, with the goal of pressuring Republican senators in each of the states to oppose the legislation released Thursday.Republican Sens. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Rob Portman in Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia have said they’re reviewing the legislation and have not made a final decision.Toomey issued the most supportive statement of the three, calling the Senate bill, “an important and constructive first step in repealing Obamacare and replacing it.”Five GOP senators have so far announced their opposition to the bill drafted by some of their Republican colleagues. Republicans can afford only two defections from the 52 senators in their ranks to pass the bill.The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its assessment of the bill early next week.Sanders has slammed the legislation as "disastrous," saying in a statement Thursday that it "has nothing to do with health care. It has everything to do with an enormous transfer of wealth from working people to the richest Americans."Sanders spokesperson Josh Miller-Lewis told ABC News, “We’re at a pivotal moment in the fight to save health care and the goal this weekend is to elevate that fight.”All three of the states where the senator and MoveOn are holding rallies were won by President Trump in the 2016 election.The first rally is Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Pittsburgh, followed by events Sunday in Ohio and West Virginia.
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  • Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates is publicly criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his hardline stance on drug-related crimes.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Hours after a Washington Post article detailing the Obama administration’s response to Russian cyberattacks was published, President Donald Trump reacted to the issue on Twitter.
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  • Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- Protesters outfitted in red robes and white bonnets -- the signature look of "handmaids" in the Hulu series "The Handmaid's Tale" -- greeted Vice President Mike Pence Friday outside a speaking engagement in Colorado at the conservative Christian organization Focus on the Family."The Handmaid's Tale" is set in a dystopian future, where fertile women are forced into sexual servitude and identifiable by their distinct wardrobe.The robe-wearing protesters -- who were part of a larger group of about 100, according to Colorado Springs ABC affiliate KRDO -- carried signs that read "Abort Mike Pence," "Stop Targeting Women's Healthcare" and "Stop Teaching Hate.""This organization believes being gay is a sin and that it's possible to convert people from being gay to straight -- it's ridiculous,” protester Nancy Stilwagen told KRDO about Focus on the Family. "So many people say we don't want sharia law in this country. People are pushing it. It's just not Islamic law. It's Christian law."Stilwagen carried a sign that read, "The Handmaid's Tale is not an instruction manual. It's a warning."Pence told the audience of 1,650 that the organization should rekindle its interest in politics, especially in light of the Trump administration's proposal to slash funding to Planned Parenthood."The time is now," Pence said, explaining that former President Barack Obama's health law is "dead."Then, to a roar of applause, he said, "This is when we are going to defund Planned Parenthood once and for all."Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republican leaders are planning to move fast now that legislation was revealed on Thursday to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- otherwise known as Obamacare -- and drastically change the current health care landscape.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he ambitiously hopes to pass the bill before the July Fourth recess. In order to do so, Republicans would need to bypass the traditional committee process and forgo public hearings.While advocacy groups argue the effects of the bill are complex and demand debate, many health care providers argue that women's health in particular could be greatly impacted if the bill were to pass.Here are some of the ways the legislation could potentially impact women in the U.S.:MedicaidOne program the bill contains significant cuts to is Medicaid, which currently provides health insurance for 74 million Americans. Experts argue that the Medicaid cuts proposed in the bill could impact women in particular, because of the disproportionately large number of low-income women and women of color who depend on the program, particularly for maternity care.“Women are much more likely to work in low-wage jobs and be tip workers. All of those jobs are more likely to come without health insurance,” said Andrea Flynn, an economic policy fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focusing on major health care issues, reported in 2015 that about half of all births in the U.S. were covered through Medicaid.By cutting federal funding to states to cover Medicaid, states would then have to decide to either cover fewer people, provide less substantive coverage or find alternative ways to shoulder the costs.Women of color could be particularly affected by such Medicaid cuts. According to the Center for Global Policy Solutions, one in four black women of reproductive age is on Medicaid.The bill also states that in order to remain eligible for Medicaid, a woman must return to work 60 days after she gives birth. Judy Lubin, a project director for Allies for Reaching Community Health Equity at the Center for Global Policy Solutions, notes that because there is currently no work requirement to be on Medicaid, the inclusion of this clause underscores the “false narrative” that “people on Medicaid do not work.”Maternity CareUnder the proposed bill, states would also be able seek a waiver from Obamacare rules and specifically permit insurance companies to offer plans that don’t meet the current baseline benchmarks for care and coverage.For example, under current law, all plans must cover so-called essential health benefits, including maternity care, prescription drugs and ambulances. Under the Senate bill, states could do away with those regulations. Supporters argue that this makes the bill amenable to distinct, individual needs, namely those of men who do not want to pay for plans that cover maternity care. The Affordable Care Act precisely aimed to prevent the uneven opportunity and cost disparity between men and women.Flynn argued that when men buy into the same pool, costs equalize.“We all pay into a system, and some of us use some benefits and some of us use some others," Flynn said, adding that it isn't just a "women's issue."
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