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A general view of the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., Dec. 30, 2014. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

ACA faces high court test, security for millions on the line

03/04/15 08:00AM

About two years ago at this time, the fight over the future of the Affordable Care Act was effectively over. President Obama had won re-election; the Supreme Court had endorsed the law's constitutionality; Republican leaders were referring to "Obamacare" as "the law of the land"; GOP governors were grudgingly accepting Medicaid expansion; and systemic improvements were taking root.
For all intents and purposes, the debate over health care reform had been settled. The ACA had won and the nation was benefiting as a result.
But as it turns out, anti-health care forces had one last Hail Mary pass left to throw, and as Suzy Khimm explained, it lands at the Supreme Court today.
The Supreme Court will hear a case on Wednesday that could jeopardize the future of Obamacare and imperil insurance coverage for millions of Americans.  [...]
If the plaintiffs prevail, more than 7 million Americans in up to 37 states are expected to lose the subsidies they receive to help pay for their insurance coverage they purchases on the federal Obamacare exchanges.
The case may seem complicated, but the dispute is actually pretty straightforward.

Obamacare in court and other headlines

03/04/15 07:25AM

Obamacare goes to the Supreme Court. (New York Times Magazine)

Opening statements in the Boston Marathon bombing trial today. (AP)

Clinton ran homebrew computer system for official emails. (AP)

NJ lawmakers say they will go to court to block Chris Christie's Exxon settlement. (

Koch network offers a clue of whom it will back in the 2016 GOP primary. (Washington Post)

Alabama reacts to state Supreme Court halting gay marriages. (

Pentagon calls briefing about a planned assault on Mosul a mistake. (AP)

read more

Maddow gets real on the Clinton e-mails

Maddow gets real on the Clinton e-mails

03/03/15 11:14PM

Rachel Maddow separates distills what's important about the Hillary Clinton e-mail story and talks with Ann Gearan, national politics reporter for The Washington Post, about whether Clinton is at a disadvantage for not having more primary competition. watch

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 3.3.15

03/03/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Ferguson: "The Justice Department has released a scathing report based on its investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department, in which it says the police department engaged in broad pattern of conduct that routinely violated the constitutional rights of African-Americans."
* Also in Missouri: "In a eulogy that doubled as a stunning rebuke of a top official in his own party, former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., declared Tuesday that 'politics has gone so hideously wrong,' and implicitly blamed that tone for Missouri gubernatorial candidate Tom Schweich's suicide last week."
* What a fall from grace: "Former CIA Director David Petraeus will plead guilty to mishandling classified information, a Department of Justice spokesperson said Tuesday. The plea agreement outlines the terms in which prosecutors will recommend a sentence of two years of probation, with no jail time, and a $40,000 fine."
* Nancy Pelosi was unimpressed with Benjamin Netanyahu: "'I was near tears throughout the prime minister's speech --saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States,' she fumed in a statement afterward, adding that she didn't appreciate 'the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation.'"
* Classless: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took a cheap shot at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday over her reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech.... In a private fund-raiser after the speech, [Graham] pointed to Pelosi's behavior as evidence that a Republican majority is better for those who support Israel. 'Did you see Nancy Pelosi on the floor. Complete disgust,' he said, according to one attendee. 'If you can get through all the surgeries, there's disgust.'"
* West Virginia: "As expected, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Tuesday vetoed a bill banning late-term abortions in West Virginia, citing constitutional concerns, an action that sets the stage for the first legislative override of a gubernatorial veto in nearly 28 years."
* Speaking of West Virginia, the state told the Supreme Court that it "predicated decisions" about health care on the assumption that ACA subsidies were conditional. By all appearances, that was a brazen lie.
Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) attends the Faith and Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference in Washington, June 14, 2013.

Paul Ryan touts his health care pseudo-plan

03/03/15 04:42PM

Just yesterday, three Republican senators co-authored a Washington Post op-ed saying Americans need not fear GOP justices on the Supreme Court gutting the Affordable Care Act. "We have a plan for fixing health care," they boasted, reassuringly.
Upon further inspection, however, the "plan" lacked something important: a plan. The Republican senators had some pleasant sounding platitudes and vague goals, but to describe the op-ed as a credible policy solution is silly.
A day later, three leading House Republican committee chairs -- Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and John Kline (R-Minn.) -- were equally proud to announce this morning that they have "a sane health-care alternative" to the dreaded "Obamacare."
[After the Supreme Court tears down the current system] the question is: Then what? What about the people who will lose their subsidies --- and possibly their coverage? No family should pay for this administration's overreach. That is why House Republicans have formed a working group to propose a way out for the affected states if the court rules against the administration.
What we will propose is an off-ramp out of ObamaCare toward patient-centered health care. It has two parts: First, make insurance more affordable by ending Washington mandates and giving choice back to states, individuals and families. And second, support Americans in purchasing the coverage of their choosing.
Oh, good. There's a "working group" with an "off-ramp." Americans who'll soon no longer be able to afford chemotherapy will no doubt be thrilled.
Jonathan Bernstein asked this afternoon, "Just how stupid does Paul Ryan think we are?" The answer, I suspect, is that Paul Ryan isn't thinking about us at all -- he's trying to persuade Republican Supreme Court justices to work as an extension of the GOP policymaking apparatus. The endgame is denying people health care coverage; nothing else really matters.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of the United States Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol March 3, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

Netanyahu's missed opportunity

03/03/15 03:53PM

All eyes were on Capitol Hill this morning, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech to a joint session of Congress, hoping to undermine nuclear diplomacy with Iran. Everyone involved in the debate, regardless of their position, had a pretty good idea as to what the Israeli leader was going to say, and he met expectations.
A senior administration official told Jake Tapper there was "literally not one new idea" in Netanyahu's speech, and "not one single concrete alternative" to the ongoing P5+1 talks. The official added that the prime minister's speech was "all rhetoric, no action."
The complaints have the benefit of being true.
Putting aside the fear-mongering and the Cheney-esque rhetoric, what Netanyahu's remarks boiled down to was a straightforward message: Iran is bad and the deal that's coming together with Iran won't work. What Netanyahu's speech was supposed to do was offer policymakers and critics of the talks a viable alternative solution, and on this front, the prime minister blew it. As Jon Chait noted:
Netanyahu's panicked plea for what he called  "the survival of our country" is hardly a figment of his imagination. His recitation of the evils of Iran's regime was largely correct. He might conceivably be correct that the Obama administration could have secured a stronger deal with Iran than the one it is negotiating, though that conclusion is hard to vouchsafe without detailed knowledge of the negotiations. [...]
But Netanyahu did not make even the barest case for a better alternative.
It's a familiar problem for President Obama's critics: there's an obvious problem in need of a solution; there's a proposal preferred by the White House; and there are Obama's critics, insisting they hate the president's solution without offering a credible alternative of their own.

On Homeland Security funding, it's Obama 1, Boehner 0

03/03/15 12:50PM

The Republican plan for funding the Department of Homeland Security never really made any sense. As GOP lawmakers saw it, they'd refuse to fund the cabinet agency unless Democrats agreed to destroy President Obama's immigration policy -- but it was painfully obvious all along that Dems would never accept such terms.
The resolution was always going to be the same: Congress would have to pass a "clean" DHS bill, funding the department, and go after the White House's immigration policy through the courts. It was only a matter of time before Republicans realized they had no other credible option.
House Speaker John Boehner told congressional Republicans Tuesday morning that he will bring up a vote to pass a "clean" bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security with no strings attached, according to NBC News.
With his back up against a wall and funding for the critical government agency set to run dry by Friday at midnight, Boehner alerted the House GOP conference during a closed door session Tuesday that the lower chamber will be voting on the clean bill as early as that afternoon. Boehner's announcement was met with dead silence from the room, NBC News reported.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of Congress' fiercest anti-immigrant voices, told the AP after the meeting that this resolution is "the signal of capitulation," a complaint that happens to be true. But again, the question has always been when, not whether, congressional Republicans would fund Homeland Security. They could play games, fight with one another, point fingers, and make all kinds of threats, but sooner or later, a clean bill would clear Capitol Hill and become law.
Boehner could have saved himself quite a bit of hassle and humiliation if he'd guided his conference in this direction weeks ago -- the Speaker knew as well as anyone that this day was inevitable -- but he just isn't in a strong enough position to lead effectively.
On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, meanwhile, there's President Obama, who's won another round.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 3.3.15

03/03/15 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:
* Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) announced this morning that he will not run for Sen. Barbara Mikulski's (D) seat next year. "I am hopeful and confident that very capable public servants with a desire to serve in the Senate will step up as candidates for this important office," he said. "I will not be one of them."
* In related news, Rep. Chris Van Hollen's (D-Md.) office says he's "very likely" to run to succeed Mikulski, though the primary may soon get crowded. Keep an eye on, among others, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D).
* As if New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) weren't having enough trouble, a new Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll shows his approval rating in his home state dropping to just 35%. A majority of Christie's own constituents now disapprove of how he's doing his job.
* Speaking of Christie, some of the governor's financial backers are launching their "first event for bundlers." A total of 25 donors, who'll raise between $25,000 and $100,000 each for Christie's political action committee, will meet later this month in suburban Bernardsville, N.J.
* Though paid speeches are unusual for presidential candidate, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) will deliver a paid speech to the American Council of Life Insurers today in Las Vegas. It will reportedly be his last paid speech before officially kicking off his campaign.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks to guests at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Jan. 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Christie's Exxon deal spurs questions

03/03/15 11:24AM

The New York Times had a report out of New Jersey last week that probably deserved more attention than it received. Today, the paper moved the ball forward with an interesting development that seems to make matters worse.
Before we get to that, let's recap what we know.
A long-fought legal battle to recover $8.9 billion in damages from Exxon Mobil Corporation for the contamination and loss of use of more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, marshes, meadows and waters in northern New Jersey has been quietly settled by the state for around $250 million.
Keep in mind, Exxon's culpability was effectively already decided -- the talks among the lawyers was not whether the oil giant was responsible for severely damaging New Jersey wetlands, but rather, how much Exxon would pay in damages.
As the Times' report explained, the costs were enormous, because the state had a high burden "restoring and replacing the resources damaged by decades of oil refining and other petrochemical operations, as well as of the public's loss of use of the land."
Indeed, this was no small contamination -- we're talking about 7 million gallons of oil, ranging in thickness from 7 feet to 17 feet. It's no wonder New Jersey sought $8.9 billion in damages when its Democratic governor first filed suit in 2004. By all estimates, it would cost billions just to repair some of the obvious environmental damage.
And yet, there was the Christie administration last week, settling the case for roughly $250 million. As Rachel asked on Friday's show, "Did Exxon just get the deal of the century from the state of New Jersey?"
U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Jordan's King Abdullah II, right, shake hands following their joint new conference at the King's Palace in Amman, Jordan, Friday, March 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Abdullah endorses Obama line on ISIS

03/03/15 10:47AM

For much of last year, Republicans celebrated Russian President Vladimir Putin as an exemplary leader they wished President Obama would emulate. A few crises, invasions, and economic collapses later, the right quietly decided their Putin affections may have been misplaced.
More recently, however, Republicans settled on a new favorite: King Abdullah of Jordan. At one point last week, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins suggested Abdullah was "responding in a more direct and authoritative way to these attacks of ISIS than our own president," prompting Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) to respond, "That is true. Other countries seem to be doing more or taking it more seriously." (It's not true; U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets far out number Jordan's.)
Fox News was so enthralled with Abdullah that "The Daily Show" devoted a whole segment to the Republican adulation for the Jordanian king.
It looks like conservatives will now have to pick a new foreign leader to adore.
Fox News has been talking up King Abdullah of Jordan for weeks as a strong leader going after ISIS in contrast to President Obama's ineffectiveness. He opened up about the fight against ISIS in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria yesterday, talking about how this is the "third world war by other means." But beyond that, he actually said something that the people at Fox might not be so keen about, when he showed agreement with President Obama in not calling ISIS Islamic extremists.
Fareed Zakaria asked if Obama is right not to call ISIS "Islamic extremists" and King Abdullah said, "I think he is right." He said that ISIS is "looking for legitimacy that they don't have inside of Islam" because they are "outlaws on the fringe of Islam."
Remember, in some Republican circles, President Obama's military offensive against ISIS doesn't count and is better left ignored. What really matters is the president's word choice -- much of the right is heavily invested in whether the president uses phrases like "radical Islam" and/or "Islamic terrorism." Whether Obama's broader national security strategy is effective is largely irrelevant.
Except, here's King Abdullah of Jordan -- the man the right has cheered on in recent weeks -- reminding Americans that Obama is right and Republicans are not.


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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