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New deal struck on VA bill, but will it pass?

Congress does its job, but no medal for that

07/28/14 11:25PM

Rachel Maddow reports on a new bipartisan, bicameral deal on a bill to benefit veterans and fund the V.A., but points out that recent history shows that a deal does not mean it will pass the House to become law, so more time passes while veterans wait. watch

Congress targets Obama before long vacation

Congress targets Obama before long vacation

07/28/14 10:59PM

David Nakamura, White House reporter for the Washington Post, talks with Rachel Maddow about the politics of President Obama trying to get things done through his executive position while Congress tries to hold him back with accusations of overreach. watch

Boehner resurrects Romney's debunked smear

Boehner resurrects debunked smear circa Romney 2012

07/28/14 10:55PM

Rachel Maddow reviews some of the lies and distortions produced by the Mitt Romney campaign as it became more desperate to attract white voters, and shows how one lie in particular has been re-introduced to the public discourse in a John Boehner op-ed. watch

Governor's criminal trial to focus on gifts

Luxury gifts challenge defense in corruption case

07/28/14 10:49PM

Rosalind Helderman, reporter for the Washington Post, talks with Rachel Maddow about some of the legal strategies in the criminal trial of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, and how the defense will explain the gifts the couple received. watch

Ahead on the 7/28/14 Maddow show

07/28/14 08:16PM

Tonight's guests: 

  • David Nakamura, White House reporter for the Washington Post
  • Rosalind Helderman, broke the McDonnell scandal story in the Washington Post more than a year ago, and has been covering it comprehensively ever since

And here's executive producer Bill Wolff with a preview of tonight's show (cue accompanying soundtrack):

read more

Monday's Mini-Report, 7.28.14

07/28/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Netanyahu "Israel's prime minister on Monday signaled no quick end to the three-week-old Gaza war, telling Israelis that they must prepare themselves for more fighting in order to crush what he described as the double threat of rockets and 'death tunnels' into Israel dug by Hamas and its associates."
* Nightmare in Guinea: "Health workers here say they are now battling two enemies: the unprecedented Ebola epidemic, which has killed more than 660 people in four countries since it was first detected in March, and fear, which has produced growing hostility toward outside help. On Friday alone, health authorities in Guinea confirmed 14 new cases of the disease. Workers and officials, blamed by panicked populations for spreading the virus, have been threatened with knives, stones and machetes, their vehicles sometimes surrounded by hostile mobs."
* Someone wants attention: North Korea, apparently jealous that global attention has shifted elsewhere for the last few weeks, has issued yet another threat against the United States.... 'If the US imperialists threaten our sovereignty and survival,' military chief Hwang Pyong So said at a nationally televised speech, 'our troops will fire our nuclear-armed rockets at the White House and the Pentagon -- the sources of all evil.'"
* This is just sad: "House Republican appropriators are scaling down an emergency funding bill to address the surge of child immigrants crossing the border."
* Related news: "The number of unaccompanied minors illegally crossing Texas' southern border with Mexico has dipped dramatically over the past month, though reasons for the decrease remain elusive."
* Afghanistan: "Taliban fighters are scoring early gains in several strategic areas near the capital this summer, inflicting heavy casualties and casting new doubt on the ability of Afghan forces to contain the insurgency as the United States moves to complete its withdrawal of combat troops, according to Afghan officials and local elders."
* VA agreement announced: "The bipartisan deal, which Sanders and Miller unveiled at a press conference Monday, will include both long- and short-term fixes aimed at making [the] VA 'more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals,' according to a release from Sanders and Miller. The bill will also make it easier and faster to fire or demote VA employees, although there will be a 21 day window to review appeals."
* But Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) doesn't want VA facilities in Tulsa to be too nice for veterans. "They're building a Taj Mahal when they should be building a medical clinic," Coburn said. Classy.

An old lie makes a shameful comeback

07/28/14 03:40PM

USA Today ran an editorial today on House Republicans' anti-Obama lawsuit, and the paper was clearly unimpressed, calling it a "political sideshow." As the paper always does, it then ran a companion opinion piece making the opposite case. Defending the litigation was, of course, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
The basic pitch was copy-and-paste boilerplate, but it included something specific that's worth additional attention.
I believe the president's actions in a number of areas -- including job-destroying energy regulations, releasing the "Taliban 5" from Guantanamo without notice and waiving the work requirements in welfare -- exceed his constitutional authority.
Remember, Boehner -- or whoever writes these unpersuasive missives for the Speaker -- could have picked any examples he wanted to bolster the case. If Obama "exceeds his constitutional authority" all of the time, as congressional Republicans claim, Boehner and his office presumably have a lengthy list to choose from.
And what did the Speaker come up with? Climate regulations, in a rather literal sense, can't be an example of the president "exceeding his constitutional authority" -- using the Clean Air Act to address the climate crisis has already been authorized by the U.S. Supreme Court. A prisoner swap to free an American POW is also a bizarre example, since prisoner swaps do not require congressional or judicial approval. In other words, Boehner's 0 for 2.
And then there's the claim that President Obama "waived the work requirement in welfare." This is a lie, and if Boehner doesn't know that, the Speaker owes the public an explanation for how he can be so uninformed.

Appeals court strikes down Virginia same-sex marriage ban

07/28/14 02:58PM

Proponents of marriage equality have been on an extraordinary winning streak in the courts over the last year, but in nearly every instance, the judicial rulings have come by way of state and federal district courts. When federal appellate courts start weighing in, the decisions carry even broader consequences.
Take today, for example. NBC News' Pete Williams reports:
Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled Monday -- the second appellate court to rule on the marriage issue.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Virginia, said the state's laws "impermissibly infringe on its citizens' fundamental right to marry."
The 2-1 ruling is available online here (pdf). Note, it was written by Judge Henry Floyd, who was appointed to the federal bench by W. Bush, but elevated to the 4th Circuit by Obama. He was joined by Judge Roger Gregory, who originally received a recess appointment from Clinton, before being re-nominated by W. Bush.
The majority ruling was unequivocal. "We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws. Civil marriage is one of the cornerstones of our way of life. It allows individuals to celebrate and publicly declare their intentions to form lifelong partnerships, which provide unparalleled intimacy, companionship, emotional support, and security.
"The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual's life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance," the court said.
US Customs And Border Security Agents Patrol Texas-Mexico Border

How not to debate the border crisis

07/28/14 12:43PM

Congress' newly-chosen House Majority Whip, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), appeared on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, and Chris Wallace asked the far-right lawmaker about a possible solution to the humanitarian crisis at the U.S./Mexico border. The Louisiana Republican said, "Well, Chris, we're going to keep working until we get this problem solved."
Asked if that meant possibly delaying the month-long August recess, which begins this Friday, Scalise refused to answer, instead pushing a loosely strung-together list of talking points, many of which didn't make a lot of sense.
"We want to actually fix the law, and wouldn't it be good to allow the governors of those border states to be able to call the National Guard and to help security the border? This all has to start with securing the border, not writing the president a blank check, to keep doing what he's doing that's not working.... And ultimately, this is the president's responsibility. He could fix the problem today. He's chosen not to, but the House is going to lead. [...]
"It's ironic, we're here in Congress right now, and the president doesn't want to work with us while we're in town. He wants to wait until we're gone. The president has a lot of time on his schedule to secure fundraisers. He has no time to secure the border.... He's flying around doing fundraisers. He doesn't have time to come and sit down and work with Congress. We're going to get this problem solved. [...]
"The House is going to take leadership.... And if the president wants to sit back and just continue to point fingers at other people, he's the president of the United States. He could solve this problem today. He's been AWOL on it. He doesn't want to solve this problem. But we do.... We're going to actually do our job."
If Chronic Word Salad is a disease, it would appear the new House Majority Whip is in desperate need of treatment.
I'm going to hope Scalise didn't actually mean most of what he said on the air, because if he was sincere, it suggests the new House GOP leader isn't even keeping up on current events. The National Guard talking point is foolish, as is the "blank check" rhetoric. The congressman can argue that lawmakers need to change the 2008 human-trafficking law to fix the crisis, and he can argue that Obama can fix the crisis without a change to 2008 human-trafficking law, but he shouldn't make both arguments at the same time.
The White House isn't waiting for the recess to work with Congress; the White House presented a proposed solution to the crisis weeks ago and Scalise's House Republicans have done nothing but complain since. Obama "has no time to secure the border"? Actually, in modern times, the border has never been more secure -- and the current crisis has nothing to do with border security.
"He's been AWOL"? Obama's the only one in Washington who's actually done any work addressing the problem, suggesting Scalise may not understand what "AWOL" means.
After the interview, even Fox's panel found it tough to defend Republican antics on the issue.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.28.14

07/28/14 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:
* On the generic congressional ballot, a new CNN poll shows Democrats leading Republicans by four among registered voters, 48% to 44%. Among all respondents, the Dems' lead is a little bigger, 48% to 42%.
* In a bit of a surprise, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce intends to support Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D) re-election campaign in Louisiana. The business lobby is nearly always closely aligned with Republicans.
* In Iowa's closely watched U.S. Senate race, where Rep. Bruce Braley (D) has lost his lead against right-wing state Sen. Joni Ernst (R), the Democrat shook up his campaign team late last week, replacing his pollster and admaker.
* With two weeks remaining before Hawaii's Democratic U.S. Senate primary, the League of Conservation Voters hopes to boost appointed Sen. Brian Schatz (D), launching a $380,000 TV ad buy. Schatz faces a tough fight against Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D).
* In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R) recently refused to take a stand on climate science, telling reporters, "I'm not a scientist." His rival, former Gov. Charlie Crist (D), said over the weekend, "I'm not a scientist either but I can use my brain and I can talk to one." Crist made the comment before attending a presentation on global warming by Professor Jeff Chanton of Florida State University's Earth and Atmospheric Science Department.