RISE: GOP health bill compromise; new immigration target; German gay marriage

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Senate Republican leaders considered keeping one of former President Barack Obama’s big tax increases on wealthier Americans and using the money to fatten proposed subsidies for the poor in a bid Thursday to placate moderate GOP lawmakers and salvage their struggling health care bill.

wire reports

GOP may keep some Obama tax increases to save health bill

WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders considered keeping one of former President Barack Obama’s big tax increases on wealthier Americans and using the money to fatten proposed subsidies for the poor in a bid Thursday to placate moderate GOP lawmakers and salvage their struggling health care bill.

With a core priority tottering, top Republicans also assessed an amendment pushed by conservatives to let insurers offer plans with low premiums and scant benefits. To do so, a company would also have to sell a policy that abides by the consumer-friendly coverage requirements in Obama’s 2010 statute, which the GOP is struggling to repeal.

Both proposals were encountering internal Republican opposition, and it was uncertain either would survive. But the effort underscored how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., needed to mollify both wings of his divided party if he’s to rescue one of his and President Donald Trump’s foremost campaign promises.

McConnell postponed a vote on an initial version Tuesday, forced by conservative and moderate GOP senators prepared to block it.

Feds will now target relatives who smuggled in children

SAN FRANCISCO — The Trump administration plans to arrest parents and other relatives who authorities believe smuggled their children into the United States, a move immigrant advocates said would send a wave of fear through vulnerable communities.

A new “surge initiative” aims to dismantle human smuggling operations, including identifying and arresting the adult sponsors of unaccompanied minors who paid coyotes or other smugglers to bring young people across the U.S. border, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials confirmed Thursday.

That marks a sharp departure from policies in place under President Barack Obama’s administration, during which time tens of thousands of children fleeing gang and drug violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador crossed the border and were placed with sponsors in communities nationwide. Sponsors — typically parents, close relatives or family friends — have been expected to care for the children while they go to school and seek legal status in immigration court.

“Arresting those who come forward to sponsor unaccompanied children during their immigration proceedings, often parents, is unimaginably cruel,” said Wendy Young, president of Kids In Need of Defense, a nonprofit that has matched thousands of unaccompanied minors with pro bono attorneys in the last eight years. “Without caregivers to come forward, many of these children will languish in costly detention centers or be placed in foster care at great expense to states.”

German parliament paves way for same-sex marriage

BERLIN — German lawmakers have agreed to put the legalization of same-sex marriage to a vote in parliament’s last session before its summer break, paving the way for the likely passage of the law.

Bringing the measure to a vote in Friday’s session, the last before September elections, was fast-tracked after Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday lawmakers could take up the issue as a “question of conscience,” freeing members of her conservative coalition, which has been against same-sex marriage, to individually vote for the measure.

Germany has allowed same-sex couples to enter civil partnerships since 2001, but same-sex marriages remain illegal.

Doping drug gives no edge to serious cyclists in study

The blood booster at the heart of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal does not improve real-world cycling performance, according to the most rigorous study yet of how the protein EPO affects athletes.

The results, published Thursday in the journal Lancet Haematology , may convince some to pay more attention to the harms of supposed performance-enhancing drugs by punching holes in the myths surrounding them, researchers said.

Dutch scientists staged a bike race up a mountain to study whether erythropoietin (EPO) lives up to its reputation, transporting a large group of avid cyclists to southern France in a tour bus and putting on a grueling day of cycling for them.

“It was hectic and stressful, but also a lot of fun and exhilarating,” said Jules Heuberger of the Centre for Human Drug Research in Leiden, Netherlands, who led the effort and describes himself as “an active, fanatic cyclist.”

Previous studies of EPO in sports have been flawed, Heuberger said. Participants weren’t trained athletes, knew they were getting EPO, or testing was limited to short bursts of strength and endurance.

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