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A sign at an Affordable Care Act outreach event in Los Angeles, California, September 28, 2013.

When premiums drop under 'Obamacare'

08/20/14 11:29AM

The entire conservative case against the Affordable Care Act has unraveled to the point that some Republican campaigns no longer even want to talk about the issue. The right's predictions have been proven wrong; the ACA system is working well; and even consumers who thought they hated "Obamacare" are realizing the law is a whole lot better than they realized.
What's left? Premiums, or more to the point, the right's belief that the dreaded Affordable Care Act won't be so affordable once consumers see "skyrocketing" premium increases. In keeping with the larger pattern, this isn't working out well for right, either (via Jeffrey Young).
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield's individual-market customers will, on average, see a slight decrease in their premiums next year under new rates approved by the Connecticut Insurance Department.
Anthem, the state's largest insurer, initially requested approval to raise rates by an average of 12.5 percent. But the insurance department rejected the proposal and asked the company to resubmit its plan using different calculations.
The result: An average premium decrease of 0.1 percent for Anthem customers.
That's not a typo -- on average, premiums in Connecticut are now expected to do down a little.
Dylan Scott added, "Connecticut is yet another reminder that the news on Obamacare premiums is more complicated than some of the media coverage would have you believe. Not only are consumers mostly protected from any actual rate increases by federal subsidies, but the proposed rate increases are routinely subject to approval from state insurance regulators."
Some states, it turns out, are more comfortable pushing back against insurers than others.
President Obama Delivers Statement At The White House

'A Congress that's reluctant to cast tough votes on U.S. military action'

08/20/14 10:54AM

About a year ago, President Obama was convinced that Syria had used chemical weapons -- crossing a rhetorical "red line" -- and his national-security team had prepared a military response. First, however, the president would go to Congress to seek authorization to use force.
Congressional Republicans suddenly became the dog that caught the car. Some of the same GOP leaders who'd spent months calling for U.S. military intervention in Syria suddenly decided they were against their own idea. Congress ultimately decided to do what it does best: nothing.
It turns out, lawmakers' aversion to action did not carry adverse consequences. On the contrary, while congressional Republicans abandoned their own position, President Obama and his team struck a deal to rid Syria of its chemical weapons altogether, and it's working out quite well.
A year later, however, as Obama launches military strikes in Iraq, Congress is once again confronted with questions about the responsibilities it doesn't appear to want.
Mingling with Senate Democrats at the White House earlier this summer, President Obama had a tart comeback to the suggestion that he should seek a vote of Congress before deepening American military involvement in Iraq.
"Guys, you can't have it both ways here," Mr. Obama told the group, according to Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. "You can't be ducking and dodging and hiding under the table when it comes time to vote, and then complain about the president not coming to you" for authorization.
Kaine, of course, has been one of the more prominent voices calling for a congressional vote -- one way or the other -- on the use of force in Iraq.
But he doesn't have many partners in this endeavor. Members of Congress are perfectly comfortable complaining from the bleachers about President Obama's foreign policy, but when it comes time to meet their constitutional obligations and authorize military intervention abroad, these same members think "hiding under the table" is the right way to go.
Ryan speaks at the SALT conference in Las Vegas

Paul Ryan on Ferguson: 'Let law enforcement do its job'

08/20/14 10:09AM

It's probably tricky for an ambitious politician to know exactly what to say about recent developments in Ferguson, Missouri. Especially in Republican politics, where the party's base is responding to the crisis differently than others, striking the right tone is obviously challenging.
That said, this probably isn't the ideal line.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) waded into the Ferguson, Missouri, controversy on Tuesday and said the best way to bring about resolution is to let law enforcement do whatever they need to do.
"We should take a deep breath, sit back and let law enforcement do their job," he said during an interview with SiriusXM's David Webb. "Let the investigation take place so that the facts can be taken as the facts, and let justice be done appropriately."
Re-emphasizing his point, Paul Ryan went on to say in the same interview that it would be "disrespectful" to "try and attach our own personal political agenda to this tragedy," he prefers to just "let law enforcement do their job."
As those who've been following this story know, however, local law enforcement has been doing its job and the results have been extremely controversial. It was, after all, an incident in which an officer shot an unarmed teen that sparked this crisis, and police responses to the subsequent protests have drawn international security and unanswered questions about excessive force.
Jennifer Bendery's report added, "What Ryan didn't address, though, is that much of the current controversy in Ferguson stems from the use of excessive force by local law enforcement. A militarized and mostly white police force has been turning up nightly -- with tear gas, armored vehicles and rubber bullets -- to counter a group of mostly peaceful black protesters furious about the lack of answers surrounding Brown's death."

McConnell eyes more shutdowns following GOP gains

08/20/14 09:08AM

It's tempting to think the 2014 midterms may not matter much. Assuming Republicans keep their House majority, which seems very likely, the legislative process in 2015 and 2016 will probably look an awful lot like the legislative process since 2011 -- congressional inaction. GOP lawmakers will continue to reject compromises and negotiations no matter who controls the upper chamber.
As this line of thought goes, the part that enjoys the Senate majority will have the power to watch the other party filibuster, and little more.
But there's a flaw in these assumptions: if rewarded by voters with their first Senate majority in a decade, Republicans don't intend to use their new-found congressional power to just spin their wheels. Manu Raju reports today that GOP leaders have a very different kind of plan in mind.
Mitch McConnell has a game plan to confront President Barack Obama with a stark choice next year: Accept bills reining in the administration's policies or risk a government shutdown.
In an extensive interview here, the typically reserved McConnell laid out his clearest thinking yet of how he would lead the Senate if Republicans gain control of the chamber. The emerging strategy: Attach riders to spending bills that would limit Obama policies on everything from the environment to health care, consider using an arcane budget tactic to circumvent Democratic filibusters and force the president to "move to the center" if he wants to get any new legislation through Congress.
In short, it's a recipe for a confrontational end to the Obama presidency.
McConnell told Politico, "We're going to pass spending bills, and they're going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy. That's something [President Obama] won't like, but that will be done. I guarantee it."
There's no reason to think this is campaign-season bluster. McConnell is more than comfortable making demonstrably false claims about public policy and his partisan rivals, but when it comes to process and legislative strategy, the Kentucky Republican is one of Capitol Hill's most candid officials.
The result, however, is a curious pitch: just 76 days before this year's midterm elections, the Senate's top GOP leader wants the voting public to know that a vote for Republicans is a vote for government shutdowns.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, leaves the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center after he was booked, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas.

Texas' Perry booked, takes mug shot

08/20/14 08:39AM

A Texas grand jury indicted Gov. Rick Perry (R) on two felony counts late Friday, and yesterday, eager to get it over with, the Republican governor went in for booking.
Gov. Rick Perry appeared at a county courthouse Tuesday evening to be booked on felony charges after a grand jury indicted the Republican governor on abuse of power charges.
Reporting to the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas, Perry, who is accused of two counts -- coercion and threatening to veto funding to the state's public integrity unit -- surrendered to authorities and had his mug shot and fingerprints taken.
Naturally, Perry once again condemned the charges -- and then went for ice cream.
A state judge set an arraignment date for this Friday, Aug. 22, though the governor will not have to be present for the hearing.
As for the political and legal debate surrounding the charges, I find it heartening, on a principled level, to see so many center-left observers blast the charges as baseless. At least on the surface, it speaks well of progressive voices in general that so many people who find Perry's views abhorrent are nevertheless eager to defend the far-right Texan in this case.
I'm just not sure they're correct.

A 'turning point' in Ferguson?

08/20/14 08:00AM

Around 2 a.m. local time, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson told reporters that Ferguson had reached a "turning point." There were several dozen arrests last night, but the police did not use tear gas or fire a shot.
And as msnbc's Amanda Sakuma and Zachary Roth reported from the scene, the result was an evening that was less dangerous than the night before.
As midnight arrived on the 10th evening of demonstrations here, a small group of people protesting the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown began throwing plastic bottles in actions eerily similar to what set off confrontations with police the previous night. Peacemakers formed a line around the instigators, and officers called for groups to disperse and for media to return to the staging area. Multiple people were restrained with their arms tied behind their backs and placed in a St. Louis County Police van.
The flurry of activity came on the heels of what seemed to be the first calm night after a series of chaotic run-ins between protesters and police.
Attention has also turned to St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch's office and calls from many in the community for a special prosecutor in the Brown case, removing local officials from the process. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D), citing the need to avoid "legal uncertainty," has rejected those calls and decided to stick with McCulloch's office.
That will not, however, be the only investigation. The Justice Department launched a probe of the Brown shoot last week -- FBI officials have been on the ground, interviewing witnesses -- and there's new reason to believe the federal investigation may be even broader than first believed.

Holder to Missouri and other headlines

08/20/14 07:47AM

47 arrested overnight in Ferguson. (KSDK)

Grand jury probe starts today. (Bloomberg)

From Eric Holder: a message to the people of Ferguson. (St. Louis Post Dispatch)

Holder and Obama differ in approach to underlying issues of Missouri unrest. (NY Times)

Victim of a shooting after a Michael Brown rally last week wants to know what happened to the bullet taken from her head. (Riverfront Times)

Fmr. Alaska A.G. Dan Sullivan wins the state's Republican Senate primary. (USA Today)

Virginia prepares for the possibility of gay marriage. (AP)

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New day, new uncertainties in Ferguson

New day, new uncertainties in Ferguson

08/19/14 10:51PM

Rachel Maddow recaps the past 24 hours in the events surrounding the police shooting of Michael Brown, including another deadly police shooting, many arrests overnight, but also several peaceful protests. watch

Protest future follows Brown case progress

Protest trajectory follows progress in Brown case

08/19/14 10:45PM

Patricia Bynes, Democratic committeewoman of Ferguson Township, talks with Rachel Maddow about the trajectory of protests over the police shooting of Michael Brown and the importance of a public sense of official progress being made on the case. watch