TRUMP GIVES ULTIMATUM TO CONGRESS ON HEALTHCARE BILL: Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Mick Mulvaney were dispatched from the White House to tell House Republicans that if the bill passes, it will move on to the Senate. If it fails, the White House is prepared to move on from one of its biggest campaign promises and keep Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation. “Tomorrow, tomorrow, we will have a vote tomorrow,” Bannon said. The gambit is a high-stakes political scare tactic. White House leaders are warning rank-and-file members of Congress that if they vote against the bill on political principle, they will be responsible for keeping Obamacare on the books, not President Trump.
REPUBLICAN CHAIR OF COMMITTEE INVESTIGATING RUSSIA GIVES PRIVATE BRIEFING TO TRUMP: Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican and member of President Donald Trump's transition team, told reporters after his committee's closed-door meeting Thursday that the presidential briefing was "a judgment call on my part" and added, "Sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the wrong decision." Democrats expressed outrage that Nunes would meet with Trump before talking to committee members and cited the incident as another reason to question the panel's independence. On Wednesday, Nunes spoke to reporters and the president without sharing the new information with Rep. Adam Schiff, the panel's top Democrat. On Thursday morning, Nunes apologized to Schiff and other Democrats during a 20-minute meeting on Capitol Hill. "It was a somber discussion," said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, a committee member. Speaking to reporters after his apology, Nunes ducked questions about whether he was parroting information given to him by the White House, saying only that he was "not going to ever reveal sources."
SPEAKER MOORE CAGEY ABOUT HB2 REPLACEMENT BEING CONSIDERED: Speaking to reporters, Moore said the HB2 changes won’t be filed in a bill just yet while House Republicans consider the proposal this weekend. He offered few details about what’s on the table, but he dismissed Twitter posts from House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson, who said the GOP wanted to replace HB2 with language similar to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA. “That was fake news right there,” Moore said. “There is not a RFRA provision being discussed.” Moore’s comments come after Republican Rep. Chuck McGrady said Wednesday night that “RFRA has been discussed, RFRA light, RFRA first cousin.” McGrady had been leading HB2 negotiations with Democrats, but he said he had not seen a copy of Moore’s latest proposal.
STATE BUILDINGS LITERALLY FALLING APART IN DOWNTOWN RALEIGH: Lawmakers, however, had more questions about the budget’s $4 million general-fund allocation to construct a permanent canopy around Green Square – which has been plagued by falling glass since its construction was completed in 2012. Bondo said that money would supplement existing funds to “completely fix that situation.” Kent Jackson, director of the State Construction Office, told lawmakers that over the last few months inspectors were able to determine the glass used at Green Square was up to state building codes and that there has been a decrease in falling glass. What caused the breakage in the first place? Nickel sulfide inclusions, a naturally occurring phenomenon when glass is tempered to make it stronger, he said.
ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF INSTITUTIONAL BIGOTRY: House Bill 2 architects Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger can travel the nation and state, trying to minimize the intent and impact. Those who concocted the whole HB2 fiasco, like former Gov. Pat McCrory, continue to wrongly blame the tragedy on those they sought to exploit. McCrory and others chalk up the self-inflicted mess on some vast conspiracy orchestrated by “politically correct thought police.” No one buys it. Forest, Berger and the other backers have damaged North Carolina’s reputation. The perception of North Carolina’s brand has gone from an incubator for enlightened innovation, commerce and hardworking creativity to a bastion of rigid ideology and mediocre expectations. After 50 years of building a reputation as a beacon of the New South, it’s taken just a year for HB2 to obliterate it – leaving many to ponder just how a state could become so dim so fast?