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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, on March 2, 2015. (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Netanyahu heads to Capitol Hill as Dems balk

03/03/15 08:00AM

At the invitation of the House Republican leadership, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress today. His goal is simple: the Israeli leader, in the midst of his own re-election campaign, hopes to derail international diplomatic talks with Iran.
 
Quite a few congressional Democrats, who have no interest in bolstering Netanyahu's goals, have decided to make other plans today.
[T]he impending speech has further strained already-tense relations between the White House and House Republicans. And now, dozens of Democrats -- including 2016 hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren, according to a scoop by The Boston Globe -- have announced that they will not be attending Netanyahu's speech.
Estimates vary on exactly how many Dems intend to skip Netanyahu's address -- NBC News puts the total at 47 members (39 in the House, 8 in the Senate), while The Hill's tally shows 55 members (47 in the House, 8 in the Senate) -- but the fact remains that what was a small contingent has obviously grown considerably in recent weeks.
 
What's more, the totals don't include Vice President Biden, who will also not attend, and President Obama, who said he will not meet personally with the prime minister during his D.C. visit.
 
The entire incident, as has been well documented, has put an ugly and unnecessary strain on U.S./Israeli relations, and cut across some of the predictable lines: on the one hand, there are some Democrats who will welcome Netanyahu, while on the other, many notable Israeli leaders, including former members of Netanyahu's own cabinet, have criticized the speech and urged the prime minister to cancel.
 
Jeffrey Goldberg added last week, "For decades, it has been a cardinal principle of Israeli security and foreign-policy doctrine that its leaders must cultivate bipartisan support in the United States, and therefore avoid even the appearance of favoritism. This is the official position of the leading pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington, AIPAC, as well, which is why its leaders are privately fuming about Netanyahu's end-run around the White House. Even though AIPAC's leadership leans right, the organization knows that support for Israel in America must be bipartisan in order for it to be stable."
 
Netanyahu and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are putting all of this at risk, and it comes to a head on Capitol Hill later this morning.

Execution on hold and other headlines

03/03/15 07:22AM

Georgia woman's execution postponed because of problem with drug. (WXIA)

Cross section of Democrats to snub Netanyahu's speech. (New York Times)

Obama: Iran must halt key nuclear work for at least a decade. (NBC News)

Obamacare case: all eyes on two Justices. (Politico)

McConnell's move to quickly pass DHS bill attracts grumbling. (The Hill)

Fierce clashes outside Iraq's Tikrit after new offensive. (AP)

'Jihadi John' recording: Mohammed Emwazi denied extremism. (BBC)

read more

Citations for the March 2, 2015 TRMS

03/03/15 12:56AM

Tonight's guests:

  • Ayman Mohyeldin, NBC News foreign correspondent
  • Chris Jankowski, former Republican State Leadership Committee President, former RedMap executive director

Tonight's links:

read more

Mikulski retirement alters Democratic dynamic

Mikulski retirement alters Democratic dynamic

03/02/15 09:22PM

Rachel Maddow salutes retiring Senator from Maryland, Barbara Mikulski, for her pioneering role as the longest serving woman in the Senate, and points out that the vacated Senate seat may hold more appeal for Martin O'Malley than a run for president. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 3.2.15

03/02/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* ISIS: "The Iraqi military, alongside thousands of Shiite militia fighters, began a large-scale offensive on Monday to retake the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State, a battle that could either become a pivotal fight in the campaign to reclaim north and west Iraq or deepen the country's bloody sectarian divide."
 
* Stunning news out of Moscow: "A prominent Russian opposition leader, Boris Y. Nemtsov, was shot dead in central Moscow late Friday night within sight of the Kremlin walls."
 
* BBC published a list of "violent deaths" suffered by Vladimir Putin's Russian opponents.
 
* LAPD: "An enhanced version of a video recording of L.A. police officers fatally shooting a homeless man on skid row Sunday appears to show the man's hand reaching in the direction of an officer's waistband. A Times review of the video shows the officer quickly pulling away at that moment. Then, three of his colleagues open fire on the man."
 
* Tamir Rice: "In a response to a lawsuit filed by the family against the officers, the City of Cleveland last week blamed Rice and his family for his death. The injuries alleged by the child and his family 'were directly and proximately caused by their own acts, not this Defendant,' the city wrote."
 
* Ferguson: "The Justice Department has nearly completed a highly critical report accusing the police in Ferguson, Mo., of making discriminatory traffic stops of African-Americans that created years of racial animosity leading up to an officer's shooting of a black teenager last summer, law enforcement officials said."
 
* A tough sell: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to defuse tensions Monday ahead of his highly-anticipated address Tuesday before the U.S. Congress.... 'My speech is not intended to show any disrespect for President Obama,' he said."
 
* Nebraska joins a growing club: "On Monday, U.S District Judge Joseph Bataillon -- a President Bill Clinton appointee -- struck down the Cornhusker State's voter-approved amendment prohibiting gay and lesbian couples from marrying.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney walks out of a Republican Senate luncheon, Nov. 2011.

Dick Cheney has found his base

03/02/15 03:20PM

The running joke for much of the Bush/Cheney era was that it was hard to know where Vice President Dick Cheney was on any given day because he was always at "an undisclosed location." Lately, however, his location isn't a mystery at all: Cheney spends a lot of time on Capitol Hill.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney will speak to the House Republican whip team Monday evening, a source familiar with the meeting said.
 
Cheney will likely address the series of foreign policy issues before Congress, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming joint address on Tuesday and the ongoing negotiations with Iran over Tehran's nuclear program.
In addition to the Politico report this morning, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise's (R-La.) office later confirmed that Cheney will, in fact, participate in tonight's meeting with the House Republican whip team.
 
The point of these meetings, by the way, is fairly specific: when Congress is in session, the House GOP whip team meets weekly to "outline its strategy and message for the week." Apparently, they're looking for some guidance from the former vice president.
 
Cheney will be back on Capitol Hill in a few weeks to headline a fundraising dinner for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
 
All of this comes on the heels of a briefing Cheney delivered in the fall to House Republicans on foreign policy.
 
Which came on the heels of Cheney meeting with members of the Republican Study Committee.
 
Which came on the heels of Cheney delivering a foreign policy briefing to House Republicans.
Snow begins to gather on a statue outside the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, Dec. 10, 2013.

Where Congress excels: manufactured crises

03/02/15 12:40PM

Since the Republican victories in the 2010 midterms, Congress has become dysfunctional on a historic scale. Lawmakers have no meaningful legislative accomplishments since the Democratic majorities of 2010, and tasks that were once simple are now nearly impossible.
 
But since January 2011, Congress has excelled in one area: manufacturing avoidable crises. If there's one thing a GOP majority has guaranteed, it's that the nation's legislative branch will careen, over and over again, from one self-imposed crisis to the next.
 
* April 2011: House Republicans threaten a government shutdown unless Democrats accept GOP demands on spending cuts.
 
* July 2011: Republicans create the first-ever debt-ceiling crisis, threatening to default on the nation's debts unless Democrats accept GOP demands on spending cuts.
 
* September 2011: Republicans threaten another shutdown.
 
* April 2012: Republicans threaten another shutdown.
 
* December 2012: Republicans spend months refusing to negotiate in the lead up to the so-called "fiscal cliff."
 
* January 2013: Republicans raise the specter of another debt-ceiling crisis.
 
* September 2013: Republicans threaten another shutdown.
 
* October 2013: Republicans actually shut down the government.
 
* February 2014: Republicans raise the specter of another debt-ceiling crisis.
 
* December 2014: Republicans threaten another shutdown.
 
* February 2015: Republicans threaten a Department of Homeland Security shutdown.
 
I suspect for many Americans who only passively follow current events, the crisis cycle has become exasperating, and they're right -- great nations can't expect to function this way indefinitely. But it's important to realize this isn't just the result of historic differences between the two major political parties. Rather, it's the result of a deliberate approach to modern governance -- and it's quite new in historic terms.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 3.2.15

03/02/15 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:
 
* Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress, announced this morning she'll retire at the end of her current term next year. Expect a crowded field, though the DSCC is optimistic about keeping the seat in Democratic hands.
 
* Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) won the CPAC Straw Poll over the weekend, edging out Gov. Scott Walker (R), 25.7% to 21.4%. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Ben Carson were the only other candidates to reach double digits. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) finished 10th, just behind Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina.
 
* It took him a couple of weeks, but Scott Walker has apparently come up with an inoffensive answer on whether or not President Obama loves America: "He and anybody else who is willing to put their name on the ballot certainly has to have a love for country to do that."
 
* One of Bill Kristol's political entities appears to have launched the first attack ad of the 2016 presidential campaign. The Emergency Committee for Israel, a neoconservative group created by Kristol, launched the $200,000 ad buy to connect Hillary Clinton to Democratic criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress.
 
* Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) will have to decide relatively soon whether to seek a second term or run for the White House. Local reports suggest the governor is likely to run for re-election.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT., talks to reporters as he walks to the weekly Senate policy luncheons in the U.S. Capitol on June 4, 2013.

Hatch's health care plan lacks a plan

03/02/15 11:20AM

The New York Times asked Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) the other day what he intends to do if the Supreme Court takes health care benefits from Hatch's own constituents. The Republican said Republicans are "going to have to have an approach," but it won't be "some simple approach" -- such as a straightforward technical fix that would protect families' existing coverage.
 
And why not? "Obamacare is going to bankrupt the country," Hatch said.
 
This is plainly silly. Whether the Utah Republican knows this or not, the Affordable Care Act lowers the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next couple of decades. There's simply no way to argue coherently that this is a recipe for national bankruptcy.
 
As for Hatch's preferred approach, with just two days remaining until the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the Republican senator joins Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) today in coauthoring a new Washington Post op-ed. The headline reads, "We have a plan for fixing health care."
Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about whether the Obama administration used the IRS to deliver health insurance subsidies to Americans in violation of the law. Millions of Americans may lose these subsidies if the court finds that the administration acted illegally. If that occurs, Republicans have a plan to protect Americans harmed by the administration's actions.
It's not clear which Obama administration "actions" the senators are referring to -- it's Republicans, not the White House, who hope to take away Americans' access to medical care -- but more important is the fact that when these Republicans claim to "have a plan," there's a problem with the boast. Specifically, they don't actually have a plan.
 
As Ezra Klein explained, after some vague assurances, the GOP senators fail to offer much of anything to the public.
Former Governor of Texas Rick Perry adjusts his tie as he listens to his introduction from the side of the stage at an event in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 24, 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

The wrong Republican to question Hillary Clinton's 'loyalty'

03/02/15 10:40AM

It stands to reason that former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), like every other Republican seeking their party's presidential nomination, will have some unkind words for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D). This, however, seems like a mistaken avenue for the former governor.
Responding to news that the Clinton foundation had not notified the State Department when it previously accepted a donation from a foreign nation, Perry argued that Clinton was disloyal.
 
"I think it falls flat in the face of the American people when it comes to, are you going to trust an individual who has taken that much money from a foreign source? Where's your loyalty?" Perry said in an interview that aired on CNN's "State of the Union."
As Clinton moves forward with her apparent presidential plans, scrutiny of the Clinton foundation and its donors seems entirely legitimate. That said, Perry's description of what we know isn't quite right -- Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, runs an international charitable foundation, which has received support from contributors located around the world.
 
Given the available evidence, there's no reason to assume there's anything untoward about any of this, and more importantly, there's no reason to believe Hillary Clinton herself has "taken that much money from a foreign source." Unless the Texas Republican can back the allegations with something specific, the former governor seems to be playing fast and loose with the details.
 
But even putting that aside, "Where's your loyalty?" is an exceedingly difficult question for Rick Perry, of all people, to ask.
House Speaker John Boehner walks away from the microphone during a news conference after a House GOP meeting on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Washington.

An ineffective Speaker finds his job in jeopardy

03/02/15 10:00AM

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed on Friday to appear on "Face the Nation" when he was confident his Homeland Security bill would pass. As he learned soon after, it didn't -- Boehner's own members ignored him and killed his legislation -- making yesterday's interview on CBS a bit more awkward than the Speaker had hoped.
 
At one point, host John Dickerson asked Boehner whether he can still lead his party effectively on issues like immigration. "I think so," the Speaker said.
 
The timidity of his response is matched by the uncertainty surrounding Boehner's weak political standing. Politico reports:
Boehner's allies are concerned after Friday's setback that his critics inside the Republican Conference may try to oust him as speaker if -- as expected -- he puts a long-term DHS funding bill on the House floor next week. While Boehner shrugs off such speculation, close friends believe such a move is a real possibility.
 
"There is a lot of speculation about this," said a GOP lawmaker who is close with Boehner. "People are watching for this very, very closely."
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), one of Boehner's closest allies, said late last year, "He's never wanted to just be Speaker. He's wanted to be a historically significant Speaker."
 
In case it's not obvious, becoming the first modern Speaker to be removed from office during the congressional session would, indeed, make Boehner "historically significant."

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About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.

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