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Politics & Government

Weekend Politics: Graham-Cassidy, Trump Vs. Athletes


The Republicans are in a last-ditch attempt to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. And that effort is in jeopardy. But on Twitter, what's been occupying the president's mind is sports. He's been firing salvos at the NFL and NBA. He's also been making threats against North Korea, saying they won't be around much longer after their foreign minister called him a mentally deranged person on a suicide mission. Mara Liasson joins us this morning to check in on the state of things. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mara, this morning, Republican Senator Susan Collins - everyone was waiting to see what she was going to say. And she appeared on CNN, saying that she can't envision a scenario where she votes for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. Does this mean it's the end of the repeal effort.

LIASSON: I think the repeal effort got a lot harder today. Republicans in the White House are still trying to turn Rand Paul. He's the other senator who said he'd vote no. And we have John McCain as a no vote, and they can only afford two no votes. Meanwhile, we're waiting for Lisa Murkowski, who's the Alaska senator who voted no last time - seeing if she's going to vote yes or no. So the bill, I think, is still alive. But it's getting much more difficult for the Republicans.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. Let's talk about football, which it seems is what the president is interested in this morning. He said, following up on his remarks calling NFL athletes to be fired for protesting racism during the national anthem, that NFL fans should boycott the games. And in London, we just saw the Jaguars and the Ravens begin a game just a half an hour ago. Mara, what happened?

LIASSON: What happened is the president is getting a lot of pushback. More players in that game in London took a knee - the owner of the Jaguars linking arms with his players. This is all after the president called players SOBs - that they should be fired for kneeling - mocked the NFL for trying to prevent traumatic brain injury in its players, saying they're ruining the game because they're making it less violent. So what the president did is he turned this into a First Amendment issue, a fight between President Trump and black athletes. This goes way beyond Colin Kaepernick protesting the national anthem, which is deeply, deeply unpopular with the president's base. But now you have NFL owners, including Robert Kraft, the president's friend, issuing statements condemning him for his divisive statements about this. The - one of the only voices of support the president got today was from his treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, who said the players should have free speech off the field.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. And, quickly, let's talk about North Korea. Obviously, a serious situation.

LIASSON: Serious situation. And despite the urging of his top aides not to personalize the fight between North Korean leaders, nevertheless, the president persisted. And he has made this fight very, very personal. Today, he tweeted, they won't be around much longer, seeming to repeat his threat to destroy North Korea. The problem is that the president keeps on threatening them. And North Korea keeps on testing missiles and nuclear bombs.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR's Mara Liasson, national political correspondent on all the latest news this morning. Thank you so very much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.