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Surprising stature among pope's protectors

Surprising stature among pope's congressional protectors

09/25/15 09:52PM

Rachel Maddow reports on which Democratic members of Congress were charged with the task of keeping their colleagues from crowding Pope Francis on his visit to the House chamber, and takes important advice that the size of the protectors is not necessarily an indication of their capabilities. watch

GOP's hard-right makes party course uncertain

GOP's hard-right a wild card in replacing John Boehner

09/25/15 09:38PM

John Stanton, DC bureau chief for Buzzfeed, talks with Rachel Maddow about whether the conventional wisdom that Rep. Kevin McCarthy will replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House is accurate, and how the hard-right Republicans that made Boehner's job so difficult are likely to respond to the replacement process. watch

Boehner shocks with resignation announcement

Political world shocked by John Boehner resignation announcement

09/25/15 09:00PM

Rachel Maddow reviews some of the high and low points of John Boehner's tenure as speaker of the House and talks with Robert Costa, national political reporter for The Washington Post, about the considerations that likely went into Boehner's decision to resign and whether his replacement will have an easier time getting things done. watch

Friday's Mini-Report, 9.25.15

09/25/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Guantanamo: "Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter has notified Congress that he has approved sending a high-profile detainee at the Guantanamo Bay prison to Britain, a move that will ease a point of diplomatic tension between the United States and a close ally."
* Cybersecurity: "The United States and China have agreed that neither country will conduct economic espionage in cyberspace in a deal that addresses a major source of tension in the bilateral relationship. The pact also calls for a process aimed at helping to ensure compliance."
* The right won't like Pope Francis' comments, Part I: "A day after taking a surprisingly deferential tone with climate change skeptics in the U.S. Congress, Pope Francis stood before the United Nations General Assembly to issue a soft-spoken but thunderous call for the world to address global warming, connecting the issue to the wider pursuit of equality, security and justice for all."
* The right won't like Pope Francis' comments, Part II: "Pope Francis offered his clearest praise yet for the international nuclear deal with Iran, in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly. The deal 'is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy,' the pope said before a gathering of hundreds of global diplomats, according to an English translation of his prepared remarks."
* VW: "Volkswagen on Friday appointed Matthias Mueller, the head of its Porsche unit, as its new chief executive, asking him to lead a recovery from an emissions cheating scandal that its chairman described as a 'moral and political disaster.'"
* Somewhere, John Oliver is smiling: "The Swiss attorney general’s office announced Friday it is opening a criminal investigation into outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation of FIFA funds."
The dome of the Capitol is reflected in a puddle in Washington, Feb. 17, 2012.

Boehner resignation changes the shutdown calculus

09/25/15 04:47PM

As recently as yesterday, another Republican-imposed government shutdown seemed almost inevitable. GOP leaders had a decent plan to pass a short-term spending bill that would keep the government's lights on, but far-right opposition to the solution was significant enough that the strategy was likely to fail.
To avoid a shutdown, something truly dramatic would have to happen -- something like the Speaker of the House announcing his resignation in the middle of his term.
All of a sudden, the shutdown that seemed unavoidable will be, well, avoided. The Washington Post reported that it now looks like "there won’t be a government shutdown -- at least not yet."
Republicans said Thursday that the House will vote next week on a stop-gap spending bill to fund the government after Sept.  30, without the controversial language that would defund Planned Parenthood.
Dozens of House Republicans acknowledged the plan on Friday after the closed-door meeting where Boehner (R-Ohio) made the bombshell announcement that he’ll resign as speaker at the end of October. The strategy all but ensures there will be no imminent shutdown and leaves any future budget battles in the hands of new leadership.
What about the far-right House members who said they'd kill any stop-gap measure that includes Planned Parenthood funding? Those threats have quietly been scaled back.
Indeed, a separate Washington Post piece added that "several" members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus -- the same 42-member group of House members who were pushing aggressively for a shutdown -- said "they will now support the spending bill without demands that it include language to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood."
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said, simply, “The commitment has been made that there will be no shutdown."
Boehner's decision to quit is consequential in more ways than one.
Kevin McCarthy, John Boehner, and Eric Cantor listen during a news briefing on Jan. 14, 2014.

Who wants the Worst Job in Washington?

09/25/15 12:52PM

House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) communications director told Time magazine yesterday, “He’s not going anywhere. If there’s a small crew of members who think that he’s just going to pick up and resign in the middle of his term, they are going to be sadly mistaken.”
That was literally yesterday afternoon, reinforcing the fact that this morning's news was, to put it mildly, unexpected.
There are all kinds of questions surrounding this story, but near the top of the list is a pretty straightforward inquiry: who in their right mind would actually volunteer for the job Boehner is giving up?
Not only is it practically impossible to lead the current crop of House Republicans, but there's also the inconvenient fact that recent GOP Speakers tend to meet unwelcome fates: Newt Gingrich resigned in disgrace; Bob Livingstone resigned in disgrace; Dennis Hastert is under criminal indictment; and John Boehner is quitting mid-term.
Already today, we know that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has withdrawn from consideration. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who tried to oust Boehner, said he's not running, either. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was going to be Speaker, but his Republican constituents abandoned him in a primary last year.
And that apparently leaves his successor, current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Politico reported today:
[McCarthy] is widely expected to serve as the next speaker. But there is serious unrest in the House Republican ranks, as a small clutch of conservatives have continuously clashed with establishment Republicans. It takes 218 votes on the House floor to win the speakership, and many GOP insiders believe that McCarthy is the only person who could cobble together a coalition to win. [...]
Boehner allies appear to be rallying around McCarthy for speaker already, providing him a hefty base for the internal House Republican Conference election, and a speaker vote on the House floor.
It would have been difficult to imagine such circumstances up until very recently.

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.25.15

09/25/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* In New Hampshire, the latest WMUR poll shows Donald Trump continuing to lead the Republican presidential field, this time with 26% support, up two points from July. Carly Fiorina is second with 16%, followed by Marco Rubio's 9% and Ben Carson's 8%. Jeb Bush, who used to see the Granite State as a sure victory, is tied with John Kasich for fifth in the poll with 7% support.
* The same WMUR poll found Bernie Sanders with a big advantage in the Democratic presidential primary, leading Hillary Clinton, 46% to 30%. Vice President Biden is third in the poll with 14%.
* In Florida, a Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Poll found Trump leading in the Sunshine State with 24.4% support. Jeb Bush is second with 16.9%, followed by Carly Fiorina at 15.6% and Ben Carson at 15%. At least in this poll, Marco Rubio is fifth with 14.9%.
* Carly Fiorina campaigned in South Carolina yesterday, where she actually joined a pregnant woman in an exam room and watched her receive an ultrasound. All of this took place in a crisis pregnancy center.
* Speaking of Fiorina, the Republican candidate likes to tell audiences she "started as a secretary" before working her way up to being a CEO. It turns out, that's an incredibly misleading description of her career trajectory.
* Marco Rubio's presidential campaign has struggled, to a surprising degree, to lock up congressional endorsements, but Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) threw his support behind the far-right Floridian yesterday. The Michigan congressman is Rubio's third congressional backer.
* Asked yesterday about his plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, Donald Trump replied, “It will take place and it will be done effectively and warmly and humanely."
US House Speaker John Boehner returns to his office after a visit to the House floor for procedural votes for legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 27, 2015. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The legacy Speaker Boehner leaves behind

09/25/15 11:20AM

One my favorite moments of House Speaker John Boehner's tenure came in July 2013, when the Ohio Republican sat down with Bob Schieffer on CBS's "Face the Nation." The host asked the GOP leader a question on the minds of many.
SCHIEFFER: Any way you cut it, and whoever`s fault it is, you have presided over what it perhaps the least-productive and certainly one of the least popular congresses in history. How do you feel about that?
BOEHNER: Well, Bob, we should not be judged on how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws that we repeal.
As we talked about at the time, it was an unintentionally amusing exchange. Boehner was effectively trying to rebrand failure -- instead of finding solutions to ongoing challenges, the Speaker argued Congress should be focusing on undoing solutions to previous challenges.
But the argument suffered from one serious flaw: Congress was historically inept, but it wasn't repealing any laws, either. In effect, Boehner was arguing, "Sure, by your standard, I look like a failure, but I prefer my own standard, by which I'm still a failure."
As the Speaker leaves the stage, it's difficult, even for the most sycophantic of Republican partisans, to boast about the Boehner Era. It was on his watch that Congress ceased to function as an effective legislative body, saw its popularity plummet to unprecedented depths, and routinely struggled to complete even the most basic tasks.
It's just below the surface, though, where the more interesting conversation takes place.
As we discussed in February, there are basically three schools of thought when it comes to Boehner. The first is that he’s a terrible failure who’s been unable to lead or govern. The second is that he’s a terrible failure, but it’s not really his fault because the radicalization of Republican politics has made it impossible for anyone to be an effective Speaker. He wasn't up for the job, but it's an inherently impossible task.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH, answers questions from reporters during his weekly briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Dec. 5, 2013. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

House Speaker John Boehner is resigning

09/25/15 09:58AM

Late last year, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), one of House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) closest allies, said of the Ohio Republican, “He’s never wanted to just be Speaker. He’s wanted to be a historically significant Speaker.”
And in a way, Boehner is poised to become exactly that. There's no modern precedent for a Speaker simply quitting in the middle of a Congress -- but that's exactly what the GOP leader is doing.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner will resign as Speaker and leave his seat at the end of October, NBC News has confirmed.
A Boehner aide told NBC News that the Speaker “believes putting members through prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. He is proud of what this majority has accomplished, and his Speakership, but for the good of the Republican Conference and the institution, he will resign the Speakership and his seat in Congress, effective October 30.”
This is nothing short of stunning. There's been increasingly loud chatter on Capitol Hill about right-wing House members plotting a coup against the Speaker, but by most measures, the rebellious members lacked the numbers to pull it off. Most believed Boehner would continue to serve, at least through the end of next year.
But those assessments are suddenly being thrown out the window. The beleaguered, often hapless Speaker isn't just ready to give up his gavel, he's walking away from the institution in which he's served for nearly a quarter-century.

Economic growth starts to look even stronger

09/25/15 09:25AM

As the race for the Republican presidential nomination heats up, Americans are hearing from 15 people who desperately want the public to believe President Obama has ruined the economy.
Reality keeps getting in the way.
The U.S. economy grew almost 4% in the second quarter, powered by higher consumer spending and a bit stronger business investment than previously reported, revised figures show.
Gross domestic product -- the value of everything a nation produces -- rose at a 3.9% annual rate from April to June, according to the government’s second update of how fast the nation’s economy expanded during the spring. Previously the Commerce Department had said GDP increased 3.7%. The figures get revised as the government gets more data on how the economy performed.
As 2015 got underway, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued that Republicans deserve credit for the nation’s improved economic conditions. They hadn't actually done anything, McConnell conceded, but Americans were just so darn excited about a GOP-dominated Congress that it gave the whole economy a boost.
With that in mind, I'd bet good money that at least one prominent Republican voice -- someone, somewhere -- will argue today that stronger economic growth is the result of Americans feeling excited about the prospect of a GOP president in 2017.
Barack Obama, Xi Jinping

Facing a crisis, a breakthrough offers new hope

09/25/15 08:56AM

Just last week, at the debate for Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was asked about climate change. The far-right senator, who's consistently balked at doing anything to address the crisis, repeated a familiar refrain.
"America is a lot of things -- the greatest country in the world, absolutely -- but America is not a planet," the Florida senator argued. "And we are not even the largest carbon producer anymore, China is."
It's become the go-to excuse for Republican climate deniers for many years: China is a huge country, producing massive amounts of carbon pollution, so there's no reason for the United States to act unilaterally. Indeed, the right has long assumed that President Obama simply wasn't an effective enough leader to persuade Chinese officials to take action to address the crisis.
It now appears conservatives are going to need new talking points.
China will announce Friday that it will launch a national carbon emissions trading market in 2017 as part of a joint climate change statement with the United States meant to boost prospects for a global climate pact, U.S. officials said.
The statement will be one of the few policy announcements the two countries are expected to make during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama Friday. 
The announcement will reportedly sketch out China's plan for a cap-and-trade system, covering the country's energy industry. But the commitments also extend to truck emissions, building efficiencies, appliance standards, and financial assistance "to poor countries to help them adapt to climate change or adopt cleaner energy technology."
As Rachel noted on the show last night, this may be about as big as environmental news can get.
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talks with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as they fly on his campaign plane to Miami Fla., Oct. 31, 2012. (Photo by Charles Dharapak/AP)

Echoing Romney, Jeb reflects on black voters, 'free stuff'

09/25/15 08:00AM

In the 2012 elections, Mitt Romney didn't just struggle to connect with minority communities, he seemed unable to even understand them. After an unfriendly welcome at an NAACP convention, Romney told a group of donors, "I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this: if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy -- more free stuff."
Five months later, after he lost, Romney told donors President Obama won re-election because he bribed minority voters with “big gifts” -- such as health care and education.
It quickly became obvious to Republican officials that Romney's message, even if they agreed with the substance, was tone-deaf and counter-productive. It was a learning opportunity for the party -- GOP candidates would have to be smarter when discussing these issues.
Jeb Bush did not take these lessons to heart -- or if he did, he's forgotten them.
The Florida Republican campaigned in South Carolina yesterday, speaking to a mostly white crowd, when a voter asked Bush's outreach to African-American voters. The Washington Post reported on his response.
Bush pointed to his record on school choice and said that if Republicans could double their share of the black vote, they would win the swing states of Ohio and Virginia.
"Our message is one of hope and aspiration," he said at the East Cooper Republican Women’s Club annual Shrimp Dinner. "It isn't one of division and get in line and we'll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting -- that says you can achieve earned success."
I'll go out on a limb and say this isn't a winning message.