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Former Gov. Rick Perry prepares to address the National Press Club's Newsmaker Luncheon on his economic plan on July 2, 2015. (Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

The 'intellectual' debate Rick Perry says he wants is already over

06/28/17 09:20AM

Last week, Energy Secretary Rick Perry told CNBC he considers his skepticism towards climate data to be a sign of a "wise, intellectually engaged person." Yesterday, at a press briefing at the White House -- it's apparently supposed to be "Energy Week" -- Perry used similar phrasing, calling for "an intellectual conversation" on global warming.

"Can we agree we ought to have a conversation as a people?" the Republican cabinet secretary asked. "Intellectually engaged, not screaming at each other, and not standing up in the middle of my speeches and saying you're a climate denier, when the fact is, I just want to have a conversation about this."

At face value, this may sound perfectly defensible. All Perry says he wants is a free exchange of ideas, with people of good faith sharing evidence as part of an open, deliberative process. Who's prepared to take a stand against reasoned discourse and polite discussions? If Perry wants a conversation, why not engage in one?

The answer, as The New Republic's Emily Atkin explained very well, is that Perry's posture is a sham.

Make no mistake: When Perry says he just wants an "intellectual conversation" about how much carbon dioxide impacts the climate, that is a lie. Or, in the most generous interpretation, it's a misunderstanding of what an "intellectual conversation" really is. Any intellectual person accepts that the scientific method is among society's most reliable tools for determining facts. And climatologists have overwhelmingly determined, by use of the scientific method, that carbon dioxide emissions are the primary cause of current climate change. Perry is unwilling to accept the scientific method. Therefore, an intellectual conversation is not what he wants.

What Perry does seem to want is further delay any actual intellectual conversation about climate change: a conversation that focuses on how best to solve it.

Quite right. Wise, intellectually engaged people have already wrapped up the conversation Rick Perry says he's eager to have. They've now moved on to different conversations about solutions, stop-gaps, consequences, and points of no return.

If Rick Perry wants to get up to speed and participate in those discussions, I'm sure he could find some scientists who'd donate their time and help him understand the issues about which he's still confused.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Dec. 12, 2016. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP)

Republicans see bipartisan policymaking as the worst-case scenario

06/28/17 08:47AM

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly called Donald Trump on Monday to deliver what Politico described as "a reality check."

[F]ailing to repeal the law would mean the GOP would lose its opportunity to do a partisan rewrite of the law that could scale back Medicaid spending, cut Obamacare’s taxes and repeal a host of industry mandates.

Instead, Republicans would be forced to enter into bipartisan negotiations with Democrats to save failing insurance markets.

To hear GOP leaders tell it, the ongoing effort to approve a far-right health care overhaul is a strictly partisan enterprise, not because Republicans want to jam their bill down the nation's throat, but because those rascally Democrats just aren't interested in playing a constructive role.

At a Capitol Hill press conference yesterday, at which McConnell announced he'd scrapped plans for a vote this week, a reporter asked if the ongoing discussions about the future of the bill might involve Democratic senators. "They're not interested in participating in this," the Republican leader replied.

In that sentence, the word "this" is doing a lot of work.

If the point is that Senate Democrats won't help Republicans take health coverage from 22 million Americans, and force much of the country to pay more for worse insurance, then sure, Dems aren't interested in "participating in this." But to say there's no room for bipartisan talks is plainly wrong.

Democrats have practically been begging to work with Republicans on health care. They've put their appeals in writing for months. GOP leaders have thus far ignored every appeal.

And yet, the president and his allies continue to whine on a nearly daily basis that congressional Dems aren't "helping" on the issue. The question Republicans seem reluctant to answer is simple: do they want a cooperative, bipartisan effort or not?

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Image: First Lady Melania Trump Hosts A Celebration Of MilitaryMothers Event

Trump's ignorance about health care carries real consequences

06/28/17 08:00AM

A few months ago, when the House was trying to pass its far-right health care plan, Donald Trump thought some presidential pressure could help seal the deal. The president's ignorance about the basics of the debate, however, kept getting in the way.

Politico reported in March that when the president tried to lean on the far-right House Freedom Caucus, its members found Trump charming, but it became clear "that no serious changes were going to be made" during the conversations, because "the president didn't have sufficient command of the policy details to negotiate."

Trump has had ample time to get up to speed in recent months, but by all appearances, he doesn't feel like it. The president hosted a meeting yesterday with Senate Republicans -- after GOP leaders scrapped a scheduled vote on the party's far-right plan -- and some came away with the impression that Trump still doesn't know what he's talking about. The New York Times reports today:

A senator who supports the bill left the meeting at the White House with a sense that the president did not have a grasp of some basic elements of the Senate plan -- and seemed especially confused when a moderate Republican complained that opponents of the bill would cast it as a massive tax break for the wealthy, according to an aide who received a detailed readout of the exchange.

Mr. Trump said he planned to tackle tax reform later, ignoring the repeal's tax implications, the staff member added.

This isn't a point-and-laugh-at-the-amateur-president moment. There are practical consequences to Trump's ignorance.

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 6.27.17

06/27/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Chicago: "Three current or former police officers in Chicago were indicted Tuesday on charges of conspiring to cover up the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager killed by an officer in 2014."

* Syria: "American officials have seen chemical weapons activity at a Syrian air base that was used in the spring nerve gas attack on rebel-held territory, the Defense Department said on Tuesday, scrambling to explain what prompted a White House statement a day earlier that Syria would "pay a heavy price" if it carried out another one."

* Russia scandal: "FBI agents have repeatedly questioned former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page about his contacts with Russians and his interactions with the Trump campaign, according to people familiar with the investigation."

* As Rachel noted last night, Jared Kushner "has hired Abbe Lowell, one of the country's leading criminal defense lawyers, to represent him in the special counsel's probe of potential Russian collusion with the Trump campaign and his financial dealings, as well as in separate congressional inquiries."

* The Guardian reports that Jay Sekulow, making the transition from representing the religious right to representing Donald Trump, "approved plans to push poor and jobless people to donate money to his Christian nonprofit, which since 2000 has steered more than $60 million to Sekulow, his family and their businesses."

* A story worth keeping an eye on: "The House Ethics Committee said Monday it is reviewing charges lodged against two high-profile Democratic lawmakers and a senior Democratic aide."

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Without mentioning Donald Trump by name, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., denounced Trump's recent remarks about restricting Muslim travel during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 8, 2015. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Short on votes, Senate Republicans scrap vote on health care bill

06/27/17 03:49PM

Over the weekend, Politico said that Senate Republican leaders were leaving the "door open to delaying" a vote on their health care bill. Yesterday, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) responded to those reports by saying, "I am closing the door. We need to do it this week."

Cornyn, whose leadership responsibilities focus primarily on counting votes, reiterated this morning that the GOP bill was poised for success on the floor, with a procedural vote on track for tomorrow.

A few hours later, the plan changed.

Senate Republicans Tuesday postponed a planned vote on the GOP bill to replace Obamacare until after the July 4th recess. Senators were told of the delay at a Republican lunch by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to multiple sources.

At least five GOP senators had said they were not prepared to vote in favor of a procedural measure that was slated to take place as early as Tuesday evening. That vote was necessary to begin the process that would have allowed the senate to take a final vote by the end of the week.

There's no great mystery as to what happened here. When Senate GOP leaders announced last week that they would hold a vote by the end of this week, they assumed they'd have the votes. After yesterday's report from the Congressional Budget Office, and a wave of pressure from voters, it quickly became clear they weren't close.

Indeed, the number of Republican opponents of the proposal was growing, not shrinking, leading to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) retreat today.

There's no sugarcoating the developments: today was an embarrassing setback for GOP leaders -- and a comparable success for health care advocates and their allies. As recently as late last week, the conventional wisdom was that everything was on track for passage, and yet, there was the Senate Republican leadership on the Hill today, admitting they had no choice but to slink away, defeated (for now) by their own members.

But to see this as an end point would be a major mistake.

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An employee at a money changer counts $100 bills.

Tax cuts in the Republican health care plan are the 'central' issue

06/27/17 12:58PM

Jesse Lee, a former official in the Obama White House, wrote on Twitter yesterday, "I say this in all honesty: you could easily write a bill with ideas from both parties that would fix issues in ACA & make Trump look great." This happens to be entirely true.

Indeed, it's the secret hiding in plain sight. If Republicans were serious about identifying and addressing the Affordable Care Act's real shortcomings, they could work out a deal with Democrats, stabilize the marketplaces, offer incentives to insurers, and make meaningful improvements to the system. This would be an incredibly popular move, and more importantly, it would help a lot of people.

But it wouldn't satisfy any of the Republicans' ideological goals, starting with the GOP's raison d'etre. The Washington Post's Matt O'Brien had a good piece yesterday on the central pillar of the party's health care plan.

The Senate health-care plan isn't a health-care plan. It's a tax cut.

That's clear enough from how little thought it puts into actually stabilizing insurance markets versus how much it does into showering the rich with as much money as possible. Indeed, it would go so far as to retroactively cut the capital gains tax -- something, remember, that's supposed to be about incentivizing future investment -- in an apparent bid to get people to create jobs six months ago.

That may sound like a joke, but it's quite real. The Senate health plan actually includes a provision that cuts taxes with an effective date of Dec. 31, 2016.

It's part of the broader plan to cut taxes, primarily on the wealthy, by hundreds of billions of dollars according to yesterday's report from the Congressional Budget Office.

I mention this in large part because it appears to be one of the parts of the legislation that the bill's architects prefer not to talk about. White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has insisted the tax cuts in the GOP plan are "not central" to the policy debate. Why not? Because he says so.

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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.27.17

06/27/17 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* In Nevada, a new Public Policy Polling survey shows incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R) with the narrowest of leads over Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) in a hypothetical 2018 match-up, 42% to 41%.

* Though I'm skeptical anything will come of this, America First Policies, a pro-Trump group led by the president's former top campaign advisers, is threatening to run attack ads against Heller because of his opposition to the Republican health care plan.

* It's not just GOP lawmakers who've been put on the spot by difficult questions about the party's unpopular health care bill. In Ohio, the Cleveland Plain Dealer asked Republican Senate and gubernatorial candidates for their opinions on the GOP plan. They didn't want to talk about it.

* A new Associated Press report on the effects of gerrymandering at the congressional level, and found that House Republicans gained 22 seats through district lines drawn in their partisan favor. That's not enough to explain all of the GOP's House majority, but it's close.

* In a bit of a surprise, Ted Kennedy Jr. has decided not to run for governor in Connecticut next year. It's a wide-open race, with incumbent Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) stepping down at the end of his second term.

* Republican leaders are hoping to get Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to run against Sen. Bill Nelson (D) next year, which makes it notable that Scott will be on Capitol Hill today, meeting with Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), ostensibly to talk about health care.

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.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)(R) watches as John Cornyn (R-TX) speaks to the press on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 14, 2012. Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted Cornyn as the new minority whip on Wednesday.   REUTERS/Jason...

Republican rhetoric on the uninsured descends into incoherence

06/27/17 11:05AM

Republicans have plenty of criticisms for the Affordable Care Act, and some of their points are more credible than others, but of all the arguments GOP officials are pushing aggressively, I think we've identified the worst.

Yesterday afternoon, for example, Donald Trump's White House published a curious tweet:

FACT: when #Obamacare was signed, CBO estimated that 23M would be covered in 2017. They were off by 100%. Only 10.3M people are covered.

I realize the White House's communications office is struggling right now -- the communications director recently quit after a few months on the job, and no one wants to replace him -- but someone over there probably should've read this before publishing it. If the Congressional Budget Office projected that the ACA would cover 23 million Americans, and the CBO was "off by 100%," that means it would've been off by 23 million -- because 100% of 23 million is 23 million. According to the White House's own message, that's not what happened.

Worse, by claiming that "only" 10.3 million Americans have gained coverage through the ACA, Trump World has cut the actual number roughly in half (though it is a nice change of pace for Republicans to acknowledge that the ACA has brought coverage to millions, even if the White House's numbers are all wrong). The figure only includes consumers who've bought insurance through exchange marketplaces, and ignores others who've gained coverage through the law.

But the underlying point of the tweet is that coverage levels matter. If you want to evaluate a health care blueprint, the argument goes, then take seriously how many Americans are insured under that system.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), in a message apparently intended to serve as criticism of the ACA, added yesterday, "28 million uninsured under Obamacare." The White House has been pushing this data point, too.

It's baffling to see Republicans push this argument because it makes their own side look so much worse.

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The White House's international credibility collapses in Trump era

06/27/17 10:03AM

During Barack Obama's presidency, Republicans chose a strange line of attack. As regular readers know, Obama's GOP detractors seemed absolutely convinced that the Democratic president had done real damage to the United States' international standing. The opposite was true, but GOP officials nevertheless argued, with unnerving vigor, that America had forfeited the admiration of the world -- and it was Obama's fault.

During the Republican presidential primaries, for example, Jeb Bush insisted that during the Obama era, “We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends.” Around the same time, Scott Walker and Donald Trump had a chat about “how poorly” the United States is now “perceived throughout the world.” Mitt Romney added, “It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office."

All of this was bizarre and sharply at odds with the evidence. But perhaps more importantly, it's also terribly inconvenient for the GOP now that those same criticisms actually apply to a Republican president.

Although he has only been in office a few months, Donald Trump's presidency has had a major impact on how the world sees the United States. Trump and many of his key policies are broadly unpopular around the globe, and ratings for the U.S. have declined steeply in many nations.

According to a new Pew Research Center survey spanning 37 nations, a median of just 22% has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. This stands in contrast to the final years of Barack Obama's presidency, when a median of 64% expressed confidence in Trump's predecessor to direct America's role in the world.

The sharp decline in how much global public trusts the U.S. president on the world stage is especially pronounced among some of America's closest allies in Europe and Asia, as well as neighboring Mexico and Canada. Across the 37 nations polled, Trump gets higher marks than Obama in only two countries: Russia and Israel.

The Pew Research Center's report included several helpful charts to help illustrate the data, but I made the above image to help drive the point home.

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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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