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State Sen. Joni Ernst waves to supporters at a primary election night rally, June 3, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Iowa's Ernst dabbles in nullification extremism

07/29/14 08:39AM

In 2010 and 2012, Republican primary voters nominated some pretty outrageous candidates who were so extreme, they alienated the American mainstream and helped deliver key victories to Democrats. The names are as familiar as they are infamous: Todd Akin, Sharron Angle, Richard Mourdock, Christine O'Donnell, et al.
 
There's a sense that the GOP learned valuable lessons from these fiascos, and made a conscious, concerted effort to nominate fewer extremists for statewide contests in 2014.
 
Iowa's Joni Ernst is a notable exception.
 
As Rachel noted on the show last month, Ernst has said she would ban abortions and many forms of birth control; she would privatize Social Security and abolish the minimum wage; she would back an anti-gay amendment to the Constitution; she's open to impeaching President Obama for unknown reason; and she believes there's secret information that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction.
 
Yesterday, Ben Jacobs ran a report that's arguably the more alarming revelation to date: the right-wing U.S. Senate candidate "appears to believe states can nullify federal laws."
In a video obtained by The Daily Beast, Ernst said on September 13, 2013 at a form held by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition that Congress should not pass any laws "that the states would consider nullifying."
 
"You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. Senator why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We're right ... we've gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the Tenth Amendment's states' rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators -- as senators or congressman -- that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line."
Jacobs' report added that Ernst, during her brief tenure as a state senator, hasn't sponsored pro-nullification legislation, but she did back a resolution that says "the State of Iowa hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States." It was introduced in response to "many federal mandates [that] are directly in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."
 
I can appreciate why issues like nullification may seem esoteric to everyday concerns on the minds of Iowa voters, but it's important to appreciate how this fits into a simple truth: the more the picture of Ernst comes into sharper focus, the more radical she appears.
A woman reads a leaflet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, California March 27, 2014.

Chutzpah Watch, Mississippi edition

07/29/14 08:00AM

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has gone out of his way to make sure the Affordable Care Act doesn't work in his home state. It's ironic, then, to hear him complain about the results.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) blamed President Barack Obama for a reported increase in uninsured Mississipians. The problem is, Bryant didn't acknowledge that he's been a staunch opponent of expanding Medicaid under Obamacare and refused to encourage enrolling in private coverage through Healthcare.gov.

Bryant directed his blame at Obama in response to a question about a WalletHub study that showed an increase in the percentage of uninsured Mississippians. The study found that the uninsured rate increased by 3.34 percentage points to 21.46 percent of Mississippi's population, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

The Republican governor characterized the results as "a broken promise" from President Obama.
 
It's an interesting trick, isn't it? Bryant has done as much as he can to sabotage the ACA in Mississippi, and by standing in the way of Medicaid expansion, among other things, the governor has largely succeeded in hurting his state on purpose. As "Obamacare" sharply reduces the uninsured rate elsewhere, Mississippi is being left behind, by its governor's design.
 
And so he's blaming the White House.
 
It's as if you gave me a car, I took off the wheels and refused to put gas in the tank, and then blamed you when the car doesn't go anywhere. In this case, Bryant is blocking the law's full implementation and whining that the law isn't working effectively. Under the circumstances, shouldn't the governor be bragging? He is, after all, getting the results he set out to achieve.
 
Away from Mississippi, meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act's successes are becoming increasingly undeniable.

Fixing the V.A. and other headlines

07/29/14 07:56AM

Senate votes to confirm the new Sec. of Veterans Affairs today. (The Hill)

Rep. Jeff Miller thinks he can sell the new V.A. reform bill to his fellow Republicans. (AP)

NC to stop defending amendment outlawing same-sex marriage. (WRAL)

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) blocked a resolution acknowledging the reality of climate change. (The Hill)

Doctor held for pointing AR-15 rifle toward women at Phoenix airport. (AZfamilly.com)

The U.S. says Russia has violated the 1987 arms-control treaty. (NY Times)

Israel strikes fuel tanks at Gaza's only power plant. (NBC News)

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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):

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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.
Image: US-POLITICS-STATE OF THE UNION-OBAMA

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.

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