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Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, January 24, 2015.

Christie faces pushback on questionable Exxon deal

03/04/15 11:20AM

After Exxon damaged more than 1,500 acres of wetlands in northern New Jersey, the state filed a major lawsuit against the oil giant. Over the course of several years, the case seemed to be going pretty well for New Jersey -- Exxon's culpability was effectively already decided. The only remaining question was how much Exxon would pay in damages.
 
The state had a specific price tag in mind: $8.9 billion. Of that total, $2.6 billion would help restore the damaged areas and $6.3 billion would cover compensatory damages.
 
But on the eve of a court judgment, the Christie administration had an announcement: they'd agreed to settle the case. Exxon would pay New Jersey $250 million -- about 3% of the $8.9 billion originally sought -- and most of that money would go towards closing the governor's budget shortfall, rather than environmental repair.
 
The Asbury Park Press reports today that some state lawmakers "intend to intervene," struggling to understand why the Christie administration would agree to such a settlement.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Sen. Raymond Lesniak said they'll file a motion to intervene in the lawsuit because the reported settlement amounts to just 3 cents for every dollar of the estimated damages.
 
"The agreement would sell us short by failing to make up for the harm to natural resources and the threat to the public's health," Sweeney said. "It would let Exxon off the hook when they have already been held responsible."
The same article added that ExxonMobil "contributed $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association last year," when it was chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). (The paper may be understating the oil company's generosity towards the Christie-led RGA.)
 
Democrats in the state Senate aren't the only ones with questions about Christie's deal with Exxon -- two state Assembly leaders announced this morning that hearings into the settlement have been scheduled for March 19.
 
The editorial board of the Newark Star-Ledger, meanwhile, is urging the Christie administration to "come clean" on the Exxon deal.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks at the American Action Forum on Jan. 30, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Walker pushes for new abortion restrictions

03/04/15 10:40AM

For a candidate who frequently talks about "leadership," Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has an unfortunate habit of dodging fair questions.
 
In recent weeks, for example, the Republican governor has dodged easy questions about evolution and President Obama. During his re-election campaign last fall, Walker also dodges questions about contraception access, pay equity, and marriage rights.
 
And then, of course, there's abortion. As a candidate for re-election last year, the governor refused to say whether he'd support a 20-week abortion ban, instead making campaign ads saying he supports an abortion policy that "leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor."
 
Oddly enough, after Walker won re-election and started gearing up for a presidential campaign, he adopted a new posture.
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin said Tuesday that he would sign a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, coming out strongly on an issue important to social conservatives that he played down in his re-election campaign last year.
 
"As the Wisconsin Legislature moves forward in the coming session, further protections for mother and child are likely to come to my desk in the form of a bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks,'' he wrote in an open letter. "I will sign that bill when it gets to my desk and support similar legislation on the federal level.''
It's a curious brand of leadership that leads a politician to believe he should hide beliefs like these until after voters have cast their ballots.
US House Speaker John Boehner returns to his office after a visit to the House floor for procedural votes for legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 27, 2015. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The scope of House GOP's schism comes into focus

03/04/15 10:04AM

Late last week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) thought he had a short-term plan to deal with Department of Homeland Security funding. It failed miserably -- the Speaker's own members, once again, ignored his guidance, killed his bill, and left Boehner humiliated.
 
Asked over the weekend about the fiasco, other Republican leaders tried to downplay intra-party divisions. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told Fox News that "about 80 percent of our conference" endorsed Boehner's plan, as if that were impressive. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said of his trouble-making colleagues, "We're talking about maybe 40 or 50 people at most."
 
Scalise and King were wildly understating the scope of the problem. For one thing, for House Republicans to have effectively lost control over a fifth of their conference is, on its face, a serious problem. For another, the problem is actually far broader, as we saw yesterday afternoon.
Only 75 House Republicans joined Democrats on Tuesday to approve legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security without provisions to undo President Obama's executive actions on immigration.
 
The 75 Republicans who voted with all 182 Democrats in the 257-167 vote are mostly centrists, appropriators or lawmakers in tough reelection races next year.
The final roll call on the clean bill to fund DHS is online here. Note that of the 242 House Republicans to vote on the measure, less than a third followed Boehner's lead and voted to take care of Homeland Security through the end of the fiscal year.
 
In other words, when GOP officials characterize this as an isolated problem, limited to "maybe 40 or 50 people at most," there's ample evidence to the contrary.
President Barack Obama takes part in a MSNBC town hall event on immigration in Miami, Florida on Feb. 25th, 2015. (Photo by Charles Ommanney for MSNBC)

Obama balks at health care backup plan

03/04/15 09:20AM

Last week, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska acknowledged what is plainly true: if the Supreme Court's GOP justices gut the Affordable Care Act, the impact on many families' lives will be devastating:  "Chemotherapy turned off for perhaps 12,000 people, dialysis going dark for 10,000. The horror stories will be real."
 
Naturally, Sasse's op-ed blames the Obama administration. "Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell claimed in Senate testimony earlier this month that the administration has no plan to help the seven million citizens who could lose their coverage in the weeks following such a ruling," he complained.
 
This is a surprisingly familiar tack. Congressional Republicans are outraged that the White House has not yet unveiled a backup plan on what to do if the Supreme Court takes a sledgehammer to the American health care system. The whining is built on a curious foundation -- Republicans used to say, "We're outraged you reformed the healthcare system." Now these same Republicans are adding, "We're also outraged you didn't create a backup plan for what happens after we tear down the healthcare system."
 
It's all the more reason to take note of President Obama's response to the GOP criticisms.
President Barack Obama on Monday said he thinks there is no "plausible legal basis" for the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a key plank of Obamacare, defending his administration's lack of a contingency plan. [...]
 
"Look, this should be a pretty straightforward case of statutory interpretation," Obama said.
In the same Reuters interview, the president added, "There is, in our view, not a plausible legal basis for striking it down. And what if the Supreme Court takes an implausible path?
Milton Persinger, left, and Robert Povilat wait for a marriage license at the Mobile County Probate office, Feb. 10, 2015, in Mobile, Ala. (Photo by Sharon Steinmann/AP)

Alabama court re-imposes marriage ban

03/04/15 08:40AM

As of a few weeks ago, the status of marriage rights in Alabama was no longer in dispute, despite some strange legal wrangling. Federal courts had struck down the state ban on marriage equality, and though Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) tried to intervene, telling state courts to ignore federal court rulings, U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade, appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, explicitly told Alabama that this matter is not optional.
 
And so, Alabama joined the growing collection of states in which same-sex marriage is now legal. That is, until last night.
The Alabama Supreme Court ordered all the state's probate judges late Tuesday to stop issuing marriages licenses to same-sex couples, the latest in a growing legal tussle playing out in Alabama over whether the decisions of federal justices trump those made by state judges. [...]
 
"...Each such probate judge is temporarily enjoined from issuing any marriage license contrary to Alabama law as explained in this opinion," [the Alabama justices] wrote.
State Supreme Court justices in Alabama are elected, and in the current makeup of the court, all nine jurists are Republicans.
 
The case was brought to the state court by a group called Liberty Counsel, an organization created in part by Jerry Falwell's ministry.
 
So what happens now? According to a report from al.com:
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. (NJ.com)

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. (AL.com)

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.

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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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