Morning briefing: Wisconsin Democrats regroup after 'gut check' 2016 election – Madison.com

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Take a look at the stories from around our area and world that are making news today.

Wisconsin Democrats regroup after ‘gut check’ 2016 election: Scott Bauer of the Associated Press reports: Wisconsin Democrats, still stinging from unexpected and deep losses in the 2016 election, voiced optimism Friday at the kickoff of their annual state convention that they can defeat Republican Gov. Scott Walker and re-elect U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin next year. “We are not afraid,” said Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach. “Bring on 2018.” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, of Illinois, joined with Baldwin and other Wisconsin office holders to rally an announced crowd of more than 1,100 Wisconsin Democrats at a hotel outside of Madison. Baldwin urged Democrats to stay focused on the fights that really matter to working people and not get distracted, while also ripping President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts to health care and Great Lakes cleanup while cutting taxes for the wealthy. “Folks in Wisconsin are fed up with getting screwed over,” she said.

GOP is running out of time, and options, to repeal and replace Obamacare: John Harwood of CNBC reports: Congress returns to Washington next week amid mounting Republican skepticism that the party will be able to deliver on its pledge of repealing and replacing Obamacare. “I’m not sure I’d put a bet on it,” Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin told me in an interview. His comments followed an interview Sen. Richard Burr gave to a North Carolina television station in which he called the House-passed health-care bill “dead on arrival,” adding: “I don’t see a comprehensive health-care plan this year.” A third Republican senator, speaking on condition of anonymity, told me the only health-care bill capable of passing the Senate would be a “narrow” approach repairing marketplace exchanges and preserving Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, while perhaps loosening regulations on states and changing how the federal government shares Medicaid expenses with them. The problem with that more modest approach, the Republican senator conceded, is that the more conservative House Republican caucus might reject it.

Special Counsel’s Trump Probe Adds Manafort Case: The Associated Press reports: The Associated Press has learned that the special counsel running the U.S. investigation into possible ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia’s government has assumed oversight of an ongoing investigation involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller may also expand to look into the roles of the attorney general and deputy attorney general in the firing of FBI Director James Comey. The Justice Department’s criminal investigation into Manafort, who was forced to resign in August amid questions over his past business dealings in Ukraine, predated the election and the counterintelligence probe investigating possible collusion between Moscow and associates of Donald Trump.

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Former Sanders Surrogate Preparing To Challenge Paul Ryan In 2018: Andrew Kerr of Western Journalism reports: A former campaign surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is making preparations to challenge House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for his seat in the House of Representatives, according to The Wall Street Journal. Randy Bryce, a local labor activist who campaigned for Sanders during the senator’s run for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, is preparing to launch his campaign in the coming weeks with the help of Bill Hyers, a Democratic political operative who managed successful campaigns for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Bill de Blasio, the Democratic Mayor of New York City. Bryce, an Army veteran who took some classes in college but did not graduate, hopes to topple one of the most powerful men in Washington, D.C., by connecting Ryan with President Donald Trump in the minds of voters.

EPA chief and Trump aides won’t answer this simple question: Does the president believe climate change exists?: Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post reports: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was asked the same question over and over and over again during a Friday briefing with reporters: Does President Trump still believe global warming is a hoax? And each time, Pruitt refused to answer with a “yes” or a “no,” telling reporters that as he and the president discussed exiting the Paris climate deal, the topic of climate change never came up. “All the discussions that we had through the last several weeks have been focused on one singular issue: Is Paris good or not for this country?” Pruitt said when asked the question a first time. “That’s the discussions I’ve had with the president. So, that’s been my focus.” Pruitt gave that sort of answer again and again as he dodged similar questions, then he turned the stage over to White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who also repeatedly refused to answer the simple question.