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House Speaker John Boehner listens as GOP leaders speak to reporters following a Republican strategy meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 29, 2014.

The Speaker, the ACA, and the 'Be Careful What You Wish For' Adage

07/23/14 08:50AM

The closer one looks at the D.C. Circuit's ruling yesterday on ACA subsidies, the harder it is to defend. Two conservative jurists not only want to destroy the health care system over an out-of-context drafting error, they also based their reasoning on a farcical foundation. Scott Lemieux explained that the far-right judges effectively said Congress consciously decided to give states veto power over the law's implementation.
Why would the ACA's architects do that? They wouldn't -- and they didn't. The argument is a sham, which is why so many are so confident that yesterday's truly absurd decision simply cannot stand. Ezra Klein called the argument "plainly ridiculous."
But while the legal process plays out, there's a political angle worth watching. After the Halbig v. Burwell decision came down, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement that the ruling proves that the Affordable Care Act is "completely unworkable" and "cannot be fixed."
As it happens, it's funny that Boehner would use those particular words.
I rather doubt that Boehner actually believes his own rhetoric on this. Indeed, the talking points are pretty silly -- a system that was working well is "unworkable" because of a lawsuit intended to sabotage the American health care system? Please.
But it's the notion that the ACA "cannot be fixed" that's especially important. The Republican Speaker may have been thrilled by yesterday's news that millions may lose access to medical care, but whether he realizes it or not, if Halbig continues to go his way, this mess may very well land with a thud on Boehner's desk -- and the Speaker will be ill-equipped to respond.
David Perdue

The stage is set in Georgia

07/23/14 08:00AM

Going into yesterday's Senate primary runoff in Georgia, polls suggested Rep. Jack Kingston (R) was fairly well positioned to win his party's nomination. As Benjy Sarlin reports, that's not quite how the race turned out.
Businessman David Perdue will be the Republican nominee for Senate in Georgia after narrowly defeating Congressman Jack Kingston in a runoff on Tuesday.
With 100% of precincts reporting, Perdue held a lead of less than 2% of the vote.
Perdue, already labeled "Mitt Romney Lite," will face Michelle Nunn in the fall in the race to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R). And though Georgia may be a "red" state, and 2014 is supposed to be a great year for Republicans, Democrats believe they have a realistic shot at picking up this Senate seat -- optimism bolstered by polls showing a very competitive race.
The basic contours of the general election have already taken shape: Perdue will present himself as a political outsider with a fresh perspective; Democrats will point to Perdue as a gaffe-prone Romney clone with history of laying off American workers through outsourcing.
Just as important, though, were the congressional primary runoffs. With U.S. Reps. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), and Kingston leaving Capitol Hill after failed Senate bids, Georgia's delegation is due for an upgrade, right?
Well, that's a matter of perspective.

NJ Anaconda? and other headlines

07/23/14 07:55AM

First MH17 victims flown out of Ukraine. (NBC News)

Sec. of State Kerry flies to Tel Aviv despite FAA ban. (LA Times)

U.S. pushes for truce as Gaza battle rages. (AP)

Georgians pick their Republican Senate nominee, and Bob Barr will not be returning to Congress. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Obama administration to revise part of contraception rule. (Wall Street Journal)

Michele Bachmann wonders why no one wonders if she will run for President again. (Washington Post)

The (possible) anaconda of Lake Hopatcong. (AP)

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European patience with Putin wearing thin

European patience with Putin wearing thin

07/22/14 10:57PM

Nina Khrushcheva, professor of international affairs at New School University, talks with Rachel Maddow about Russia's increasing isolation in the world community and patience running out for Russia to end its support of Ukraine rebels. watch

Anti-choice protests put New Orleans on alert

Anti-choice protests put New Orleans on alert

07/22/14 10:52PM

DuVergne Gaines, National Clinic Access Project Director at the Feminist Majority Foundation, talks with Rachel Maddow about anti-choice demonstrations in New Orleans, emboldened by the recent Supreme Court "buffer zone" ruling. watch

Ahead on the 7/22/14 Maddow show

07/22/14 08:05PM

Tonight's guests:

Nina Khrushcheva, professor of international affairs at New School University and the author of "The Lost Khrushchev: A journey into the Gulag of the Russian Mind." She is also the granddaughter of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

duVergne Gaines, National Clinic Access Project Director at the Feminist Majority Foundation

No preview video tonight. 

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A frame from a video the Mark Shauer campaign says was created by the Michigan Republican Party while spying on a Democratic event with hidden camera glasses.

The Michigan GOP's spying operation: an exclusive report

07/22/14 05:46PM

A fixture of many modern campaigns is a phenomenon known as "tracking" -- candidates for major offices are trailed publicly by someone from the opposing side, recording every speech, exchange, and off-hand remark throughout the campaign. As George Allen can attest, sometimes the footage recorded by these trackers can make the difference between winning and losing.
But candidates and their campaign teams realize these trackers are omnipresent, at least in public, and try to adjust accordingly. It's all out in the open. What happens, though, when a party wants to start recording private events, too? And what if that party doesn't want its targets to know they're being filmed?
That requires a spying operation.
Last week, the Detroit News published a striking report on the Michigan Republican Party's repeated efforts to record Democratic gatherings with a spy camera mounted to eyeglasses. State GOP officials made no effort to deny their efforts, conceding that the party sent Republican operatives to record Democratic events surreptitiously. Darren Littell, communications director of the Michigan Republican Party, described the spying as "a newer approach" to acquiring information.
What hasn't been previously reported is the scope of the Michigan Republican Party's spying operation.
As it turns out, some of the state GOP's operatives not only failed to record damaging information for later use; they also proved to be fairly clumsy in the spy business itself. The Rachel Maddow Show obtained an exclusive look at footage recorded by Republican staffers and interns, one of whom accidentally left their handiwork behind at a Democratic event on a minidisc.

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 7.22.14

07/22/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Ukraine: "Bodies of victims and the flight recorders from the Malaysia Airlines jetliner destroyed by a missile last week over eastern Ukraine were delivered by a lumbering freight train on Tuesday to Kharkiv, a city controlled by the central government, completing the initial phases of an agreement with pro-Russian rebels negotiated by Malaysia."
* EU: "Under pressure to display resolve and common purpose following the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine, European Union foreign ministers on Tuesday discussed limited new sanctions against Russia. But their action fell short of stronger measures, like an arms embargo, that some member states had called for."
* In search of a ceasefire: "Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday said that the United States was prepared to address the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and the political demands of the Palestinians living there, but that a cease-fire first needed to be carried out."
* Related news: "Federal aviation officials issued an order to airlines prohibiting them from flying to and from Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport for 24 hours after a rocket struck near the airport earlier Tuesday. The Federal Aviation Administration said the notice to airmen, also called a NOTAM, applies only to U.S. operators."
* A rare display: "As President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Tuesday -- a job training that passed the House earlier this month -- he thanked Democrats and Republicans alike for the rare moment of bipartisanship, joking 'I am also inviting you back, let's do this more often, it's so much fun.'"
* This was inevitable: "Congress on Tuesday moved one step closer to preventing a shortfall in federal transportation funding that could stall road projects across the country in August. Senate Democrats said they would not pursue their own stopgap fix for the transportation funding, instead bringing up legislation passed by the House that would renew the funding until next spring."
* VA: "President Obama's nominee to lead the troubled Veterans Affairs Department promised Tuesday that he would hold employees accountable for long waiting times that may have contributed to the deaths of some veterans. 'Those employees that have violated the trust of the department and of veterans must be, and will be, held accountable,' Robert McDonald said at this confirmation hearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs' Committee."
* Neil Irwin wrote a great piece explaining why businesses really need to spend more: "Five years into the economic recovery, businesses still aren't plowing much money into big-ticket investments for the future. Nonresidential fixed investment -- what businesses spend on equipment, software, buildings and intellectual property -- still hasn't bounced back to its pre-crisis share of the economy, let alone made up for lost ground from the record lows of 2009."
A patient speaks with Doctor Leon Yeh in the Emergency Room at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois, Nov. 26, 2013.

The politics of a health care ruling

07/22/14 03:49PM

Republican-appointed judges on the D.C. Circuit today took a step towards gutting the Affordable Care Act, ruling that consumers that receive coverage through the federal exchange marketplace are ineligible for subsidies. If the ruling stands, the effects on "Obamacare" could be catastrophic, which is why it matters that the ruling may not stand.
While we wait for the appeals process to continue -- the status quo of the ACA will remain in place as the case continues -- the politics of today's developments are worth appreciating.
When the right supports tax hikes
Conservatives are absolutely delighted today for reasons that are rather twisted -- for the right, it's terrific news that millions of families, many of them in red states, are poised to lose tax breaks. After all, by contemporary Republican rules, if Americans are receiving a tax subsidy, and policymakers try to take that subsidy away, that effectively constitutes a tax increase.
So let's pause to note the oddity of the circumstances: Republicans nationwide are thrilled by the prospect of millions of working-class families facing a tax hike that may push basic medical care out of reach.
Judicial activism
Too often, "judicial activism" is little more than a lazy criticism -- a euphemism of sorts that means "court ruling I don't like." But when a couple of Republican-appointed jurists, who sounded like Fox News pundits during oral arguments, decide to gut the American health care system based on their interpretation of a drafting error, "judicial activism" seems like the only fair assessment.
The D.C. Circuit duo ignored the context of the statute, ignored Congress' intent, ignored the administration's position, and ignored the findings of lower courts. Since conservatives generally claim to find such activism offensive, I'll be eager to see how many on the right concede today's decision was ridiculous.
An elusive moral center
The right is cheering the prospect of soaring premiums, families facing financial hardship, and more Americans lacking access to basic medical care, all because of the ambiguity of a possible drafting error. If your values guide you towards celebrating others' hardship -- if your character tells you to rejoice at the misfortune of working families -- it's probably time for a long look in the mirror.