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Speaker of the House John Boehner looks on as U.S. President Barack Obama meets with bipartisian congressional leadership in the Old Family Dining Room at the White House on Nov. 7, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Boehner's bold new idea: suing Obama again

01/28/15 09:05AM

Last summer, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) took the unusual step of announcing a lawsuit against President Obama. Boehner wasn't sure what he would sue over, exactly, but the Republican leader was sure he wanted to take the president to court -- for something.
Eventually, Boehner picked a topic -- the delayed implementation of an obscure ACA provision --- and after a few fits and starts, House Republicans agreed to pay a D.C. law firm $500 an hour, in taxpayer money, to handle the case. The whole thing became quite farcical when the GOP's lawyers quit the case, followed by the replacement lawyers also quitting the case.
And as that case stumbles through the judiciary, Boehner yesterday began talking up his brand new idea: filing another lawsuit against the president. Suzy Khimm reported that the House Speaker apparently hopes to challenge Obama's new protections for millions of undocumented immigrants.
Boehner discussed the next potential steps at a closed-door meeting with House Republicans on Tuesday. "We are finalizing a plan to authorize litigation on this issue - one we believe gives us the best chance of success," he said, according to a source in the room.
The options included filing a lawsuit against Obama over the issue or to join the handful of states that are already suing the president. If Boehner moves forward, he would put a resolution authorizing such action up for a vote.
Won't that be fun.
On the merits, it's very difficult to take any of this seriously. The president already has well established prosecutorial discretion, and his actions last fall on behalf of immigrants were rooted in precedents set by Obama's predecessors. There's no reason to believe the courts would reject the White House's policy -- the judiciary generally doesn't like intervening in food fights between the branches -- and it's unlikely the case would even be resolved  before Obama's term in office expires.
Chances are, Boehner knows all of this, but will proceed with litigation plans anyway, It's important to understand why.
President Barack Obama nominates Loretta Lynch as Attorney General in Washington D.C., on Nov. 8, 2014. (Photo by Rex Features/AP)

GOP readies partisan circus as Lynch hearings begin

01/28/15 08:35AM

The first sign that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) may not have been the best choice to lead the Senate Judiciary Committee came two weeks ago. The conservative Iowan boasted that, since his promotion, the Senate had already confirmed 11 judicial nominees. The actual number was zero: Grassley was counting confirmation votes from the last Congress, pointing to nominees he opposed.
The second sign that Grassley is probably the wrong man for the job came around the same time, by way of a deeply odd response to the terrorist violence in Paris.
But the third piece of evidence will arrive this morning.
If you don't count the Republican members of Congress, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder has no more determined critic than Sheryl Attkisson. The investigative reporter, who left CBS News last year and now contributes to the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal, spent years investigating the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal. Her stories were part of a corpus that convinced the House to hold Holder in contempt of Congress for dodging questions. Just last month, Holder was among the people sued by Attkisson in a case that accuses the federal government of spying on her; she's asking for compensatory damages, punitive damages, and an injunction preventing the feds from conducting "any surveillance" of her.
And [Wednesday morning], Attkisson will lead the expert testimony on Holder's likely replacement. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley took control of after the Republicans' 2014 wins, has called Attkisson to speak on a panel of witnesses after nominee Loretta Lynch is introduced.
Attkisson has become a rather tragic figure in recent months, undermining her own reputation with genuinely bizarre allegations, strange conspiracy theories, and commentary on journalism that really didn't go well. Grassley, or at least the Grassley staffers who help him make decisions, has decided this far-right media figure is the best person to make the case against an Attorney General nominee? What, were the folks at busy?
Is this really what passes for grown-up Senate oversight in a Republican-led chamber?
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, leaves the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center after he was booked, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas.

Criminal case against Texas' Perry moves forward

01/28/15 08:00AM

A few months ago, not long after he was indicted on two felony counts, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) forgot what crimes he'd been charged with. "I'm not a lawyer, so I don't really understand the details here," he said in August.
The likely Republican presidential hopeful was nevertheless certain that he didn't do whatever it was he was accused of doing, and Perry's legal team still hoped to have the charges thrown out.
As the Austin American Statesman reported late yesterday, things clearly aren't going the way the former governor had hoped.
A judge denied a second and more substantial request Tuesday by former Gov. Rick Perry to dismiss the indictment against him prior to trial, likely extending his criminal case for the next several months as Perry continues mounting a possible presidential campaign.
The ruling by Judge Bert Richardson, a San Antonio Republican, comes five months after Perry's attorneys filed the writ of habeas corpus, a sign of the slow speed at which the case is churning through the criminal justice system. Immediately after the ruling, Perry's attorneys filed formal documents appealing the ruling to the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals, a process that could take several months and stall possible resolution of the case.
In case it's not obvious, most presidential candidates try to avoid launching national campaigns while under felony indictment, and Perry's legal team was counting on a victory it did not receive yesterday.
By all appearances, however, the Texas Republican apparently won't let a little thing like criminal allegations get in the way of his ambitions, largely because Perry just doesn't believe the charges have any merit.
The question then becomes, is he right? I don't believe so, no.

AG confirmation hearing and other headlines

01/28/15 07:55AM

Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch begins 2 days of Senate Judiciary confirmation hearings today. (Los Angeles Times)

Bill would grant war powers to fight Islamic State militants. (AP)

Pres. Obama to request a big Pentagon budget hike. (AP)

GOP lawmakers confront Heritage's Jim DeMint over ratings. (Politico)

Koch donors liked Marco Rubio the best. (Politico)

Meet the top 50 donors who influenced state elections. (Time)

Alleged American ISIS commander killed: reports. (NBC News)

read more

'Drunk droning' results in White House breach

'Drunk droning' results in White House breach

01/27/15 11:37PM

Carol Leonnig, national reporter for The Washington Post, talks with Rachel Maddow about how a drunken government employee accidentally crashed his drone on the White House grounds, setting off a new round of alarm about White House vulnerability. watch

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 1.27.15

01/27/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Libya: "Terrorists launched a bomb and gun attack on a Libyan hotel popular with government ministers and Western diplomats Tuesday, killing up to five people. One American citizen was among the dead, NBC News' Paul Nassar reported. A handful of other Americans were evacuated after the attack."
* The global chess match: "The reaction in China to the breadth of strategic and economic issues discussed by the United States and India during Mr. Obama's visit and to their obvious, though not publicly expressed, mutual anxiety about China has been cool but controlled."
* It's quite a delegation: "President Obama met with King Salman of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, leading a bipartisan delegation of prominent current and former officials to shore up an important relationship and offer condolences for the death of King Abdullah."
* Capital punishment: "A two-time killer is waiting to hear if the U.S. Supreme Court will stop his Tuesday night execution, which is being used to challenge the state's uniquely strict standard for intellectual disability. Warren Lee Hill's lawyers claim the 54-year-old has the mental capacity of a child -- but the state says that hasn't been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, as it requires."
* Criminal justice system: "A record number of convicts were exonerated last year, fueled by a backlog of lab tests that cleared drug suspects in Houston and a string of murder cases linked to a single New York City detective."
* Economy: "The latest reading on consumer confidence rose to another milestone. The Conference Board's consumer-confidence index rose to 102.9 from 93.1 in December, the best reading since August 2007 and above the MarketWatch-compiled economist forecast of 96.9. Consumer assessment of both current conditions and the outlook for the future brightened. "
An Affordable Healthcare Act supporter (R) talks with a student (L) about the law on the campus of Santa Monica City College in Santa Monica, California, October 10, 2013.

Obamacare price tag keeps shrinking

01/27/15 04:32PM

The Congressional Budget Office released a whole lot of information yesterday, all of which caused a fair amount of chatter, but some of it matters more than others.
Most of the coverage I've seen highlighted the CBO projections on the budget deficit, most notably an expected shortfall of about $468 billion -- 2.6% of GDP -- for this fiscal year. This puts the U.S. on track for the smallest deficit in eight years, and over $1 trillion in deficit reduction in the Obama era.
The same report noted that the era of extremely fast deficit reduction will probably end soon after, which will invariably lead deficit scolds to start demanding cuts to social-insurance programs. But that won't make any substantive sense it won't be social-insurance programs that cause the larger deficits.
What I found more interesting, however, is what the CBO had to say about the Affordable Care Act.
Obamacare, as it is commonly known, will cost 20 percent less than previously projected over the next decade, the CBO said Monday. The reason for the revised estimate is a result of a decline of healthcare inflation, the Los Angeles Times reported. In addition, the number of uninsured Americans has fallen by 12 million, the CBO estimates, and an additional 12 million are expected to gain insurance by the end of 2016.
Through 2019, the law's insurance provisions will cost an estimated $571 billion, down $139 billion from the CBO's initial estimates.
One of the more common complaints from the right is that the nation "can't afford" the ACA. Even if it's working, even if it's saving lives, the argument goes, the massive reform law simply carries too large a price tag.
That argument cannot be taken seriously. For one thing, "Obamacare" reduces the deficit -- repeal it and the shortfall conservatives sometimes pretend to care about gets worse, not better. For another, the price tag keeps shrinking, not growing, making the "we can't afford it" argument nonsensical.
A sign at an Affordable Care Act outreach event in Los Angeles, California, September 28, 2013.

Indiana, feds reach a deal on Medicaid

01/27/15 03:46PM

Every time a Republican-run "red" state embraces Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act, the pressure increases a little more on the dead-enders to come to their senses. The latest news is out of Indiana, where the Indianapolis Star reported on the agreement between Gov. Mike Pence's (R) administration and Obama administration officials.
Indiana has been given the green light to expand its Healthy Indiana Plan, which would offer insurance to an additional 350,000 Indiana residents, who currently lack insurance.
The state will begin taking applications today for its so-called HIP 2.0 plan, for which coverage begins Feb. 1, Gov. Mike Pence announced Tuesday morning at a packed speech at St. Vincent Health.
His announcement culminates more than two years of back and forth between state government and federal health officials over whether to grant the state a waiver for the plan debuted in 2006.
With this announcement, 28 states have accepted Medicaid expansion -- an optional part of "Obamacare" thanks to a Supreme Court ruling -- a list that includes 10 "red" states.
And these totals are growing, not shrinking.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel walk along a section of the recently-constructed fence at the U.S.-Mexico border on Feb. 26, 2013 in Nogales, Ariz. (Photo by John Moore/Getty)

Add border security to the list of GOP 'stumbles'

01/27/15 01:04PM

In its first month, the Republican-led House, with its largest GOP majority in generations, has tackled a series of awful bills that have no chance of becoming law. We've seen Republicans splinter and complain about one another. We've seen GOP leaders schedule floor votes on some key priorities, only to pull the bills from consideration soon after.
It's probably not what the congressional majority party had in mind.
House Republicans are not off to a strong start, Speaker John A. Boehner acknowledged on Tuesday. Asked about the eleventh-hour withdrawal of bills related to abortion and, most recently, border security -- both of which were initially considered easy lifts for the emboldened Republican majority before intra-party divisions emerged -- Mr. Boehner attributed them to their attempts to fast-track the legislation without committee consideration to work out the disagreements.
"There have been a couple of stumbles," he said.
Um, yeah. Worse, these aren't "stumbles" Republicans can blame on the White House or the Senate -- the giant Republican majority, filled with optimism in the immediate aftermath of the 2014 midterms, is struggling to get its own act together.
Yesterday, much of the attention inside the Beltway seemed to be focused on the weather, but in the House, the day's "stumbles" actually helped capture much of what's gone wrong for the party.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 1.27.15

01/27/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* This is an unintentionally amazing sentence: "If he runs again in 2016, [Mitt] Romney is determined to re-brand himself as authentic."
* A new USA Today/Suffolk University Poll found Republican voters nationwide preferring Romney as their presidential nominee, but he's struggling with an embarrassingly low 16%. Jeb Bush is second with 13%, and while no other candidate is close to double digits, Ben Carson is third with 6%. [45% are undecided]
* The same poll asked Democratic voters about their party's preferred nominee and Hillary Clinton was the clear favorite with 51%. Elizabeth Warren and Vice President Biden are around 5% each, while 31% of Democrats say they're undecided.
* In a quote that will no doubt make the rounds in GOP circles, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was asked about 2016 hopes, and referencing Mitt Romney, Pelosi said, "Let me put it this way -- I hope he's their nominee."
* Politico reports that social conservatives in Iowa are "determined" to have each of the Republican presidential hopefuls denounce marriage equality, regardless of what happens at the Supreme Court later this year.
* Bob Ehrlich, a former one-term governor of Maryland who also served four terms in Congress, is apparently serious about launching a Republican presidential campaign. He'd obviously be a longshot, but Ehrlich has been far more successful at the ballot box than Romney.