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Image: Members of the United States Congress are hosted by US President Donald J. Trump at the White House

Trump trips over his own ignorance on health care

07/20/17 10:01AM

A couple of months ago, Donald Trump sat down with Time magazine and boasted that once the debate over health care started in earnest, "In a short period of time, I understood everything there was to know about health care."

He didn't appear to be kidding. In fact, after meeting with Senate Republicans yesterday to urge them to pass some kind of health care bill, the president told the New York Times, "[T]hese guys couldn't believe it, how much I know about it. I know a lot about health care."

I wish that were true. It's not.

During the public portion of yesterday's White House meeting, Trump made a series of bizarre claims about his party's proposal, making clear that he had absolutely no idea what he was talking point. He said the Republican proposal would offer "better coverage for low-income Americans" than the Affordable Care Act, which isn't even close to being true. Trump added that the GOP plan is "more generous than Obamacare," which is bonkers.

Towards the end of his public remarks, the president added, "Your premiums will be down 60 and 70 percent. People don't know that. Nobody hears it. Nobody talks about it." In reality, people don't know that or talk about it because it's spectacularly untrue.

At a meeting among federal policymakers on overhauling the nation's health care system, the most ignorant person in the room was also the one leading the discussion -- which generally isn't a good sign.

In the New York Times interview that soon followed, Trump offered this gem:

"So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you're 21 years old, you start working and you're paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you're 70, you get a nice plan. Here's something where you walk up and say, 'I want my insurance.' It's a very tough deal, but it is something that we're doing a good job of."

Huh?

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Automatic voter registration expands to its ninth state

07/20/17 09:20AM

As recently as early 2015, a grant total of zero states had automatic voter registration. As of yesterday, however, AVR is now the law in nine states.

Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed a bill that allows qualified voters to automatically register.

The new law would provide automatic voter registration for eligible citizens when they're obtaining or renewing a driver's license, unless the person chooses to opt out.... The bill passed last month in the House and Senate and had bipartisan support. Rhode Island becomes the ninth state to put in place automatic voter registration.

Illinois appears likely to become the 10th state to adopt the policy, with the legislature already having approved AVR and Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) is expected to sign it. What's more, the issue will be on the statewide ballot in Nevada next year, and the consensus is it's likely to pass.

Circling back to our previous coverage, this is a policy that's tough to argue against. When it comes to registering to vote in the United States, the burden has traditionally been on the individual: if you’re eligible to vote, it’s up to you to take the proactive steps needed to register.

Automatic voter registration, which already exists in many of the world's democracies, flips that model. The idea is exactly what it sounds like: states would automatically register eligible voters, shifting the burden away from the individual. Those who want to withdraw from the system can do so voluntarily without penalty, but otherwise, Americans would be added to the voters rolls automatically.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, May 17, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

CBO shines a brutal light on latest Republican health care plan

07/20/17 08:40AM

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) unveiled a health care plan a month ago, with the hopes of passing it before the 4th of July. Lacking Republican votes, it failed.

So, McConnell tweaked his bill and tried again. This week, it too fell short. "Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful," the GOP leader said in a statement.

McConnell then said he'd move forward with a "repeal and delay" plan in which Congress would eliminate the Affordable Care Act, and then take two years to try to think of something to replace it with. This proposal, dubbed the "Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act," was scrutinized by the Congressional Budget Office, which released its report late yesterday.

A Republican Senate bill to repeal Obamacare would cause 17 million fewer people to have insurance within one year, premiums to jump by 25 percent, and insurers to pull out of counties across the country, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. [...]

After 2020, the CBO estimates, half of the nation’s population would live in a county where there were no insurers at all in the individual market. By 2026, 32 million fewer people would have insurance compared to Obamacare and premiums would have doubled.

The full report from the CBO is online here. It is, not surprisingly, brutal.

This is, however, the plan Mike Pence publicly endorsed last week. Donald Trump, meanwhile, generally seems to have no idea what he's saying from one day to the next, but he also backed this approach two weeks ago and again this week.

White House support notwithstanding, there's simply no way this proposal can pass. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told reporters yesterday he questions whether such a bill could get 40 votes in the chamber.

He was describing the bill McConnell said he intends to bring to the floor next week.

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Image: Jeff Sessions

Trump takes aim at a longtime ally, AG Jeff Sessions

07/20/17 08:00AM

In March, when the House Republicans' health care bill initially failed, White House aides told Politico that Donald Trump was largely unfazed. The president, the staffers said, was far more upset about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election.

In an interview with the New York Times yesterday, Trump made clear he hasn't let this go.

President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision "very unfair to the president."

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions's decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. "Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else," Mr. Trump said.

Let's back up for a minute. When Sessions took over as attorney general, the Justice Department was already pursuing a counter-espionage investigation into Russia's election attack. The probe included scrutiny of the Trump campaign and its interactions with Russian nationals, which created an obvious problem for Sessions: he not only played a role in the Trump campaign, he also had previously undisclosed conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Sessions' recusal, in other words, was a no-brainer.

But the president is nevertheless convinced the attorney general's decision was "very unfair" and "extremely unfair" to him. Based on what the Times has published, Trump didn't explain why he believes this, but figuring this out is a rather straightforward exercise.

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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 7.19.17

07/19/17 05:32PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Trump continues to make Putin happy: "President Trump has decided to end the CIA's covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials."

* Trump's Muslim ban: "The U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday cleared the way for a broader list of family exceptions to President Trump's ban on issuing visas to people in six Muslim-majority countries."

* We knew this would happen, but that doesn't make it any easier to accept: "The Justice Department announced on Wednesday that it will be restarting a federal asset forfeiture program that had been shut down by the previous administration."

* The closer one looks, the more interesting this story becomes: "A group of House Democrats are seeking information about Ivanka Trump's security clearance after her husband and fellow White House adviser, Jared Kushner, failed to report dozens of contacts with foreign officials, including meetings with Russian officials, during last year's presidential campaign."

* For those keeping score, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) also opposed the most recent iteration of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) plan, bring the total of GOP "no" votes to five.

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A voter marks a ballot for the New Hampshire primary inside a voting booth at a polling place, Feb. 9, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (Photo by David Goldman/AP)

Trump's top voting commissioner questions 2016 popular vote

07/19/17 04:47PM

American voters were given a choice last year between two major-party presidential candidates, and to the annoyance of the White House, Donald Trump came in second. In fact, Hillary Clinton not only earned roughly 3 million more votes than her Republican rival, she had the strongest performance of any American candidate ever who wasn't inaugurated.

This not only denied Trump a credible claim to a mandate for his regressive agenda; it also hurt his feelings. And with this in mind, the GOP president responded to the election results by repeatedly telling people that he secretly won the popular vote, pointing to evidence that exists only in his imagination.

He is, however, not the only one thinking along these lines. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the voter-suppression pioneer who's helping lead Trump's "voter integrity" commission, spoke today with MSNBC's Katy Tur, and it led to an interesting exchange:

TUR: Do you believe Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 to 5 million votes because of voter fraud?

KOBACH: We'll probably never know the answer to that question, because even if you could prove that a certain number of votes were cast by ineligible voters, for example, you wouldn't know how they voted.

The host, seeking clarification, added, "So, again, you think that maybe Hillary Clinton did not win the popular vote." The Kansas Republican responded, "We may never know the answer to that question." Tur, incredulous, said what I was thinking. "Really?" she asked.

But this led to an equally interesting exchange, looking at the absurd conspiracy theory from the opposite direction:

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Donald Trump, Kris Kobach

Trump's controversial 'voter integrity' commission gets to work

07/19/17 01:10PM

Donald Trump, apparently still annoyed that he received far fewer votes than his principal rival, is moving forward with his "voter integrity" commission, whose members will be tasked with finding evidence of widespread "voter fraud," which doesn't actually exist.

The panel, led in large part by Kansas' Kris Kobach, a voter-suppression pioneer, held its first formal meeting at the White House today, where the president gave a spirited endorsement of the commission's work.

President Donald Trump spoke Wednesday at the first public hearing of his vote fraud commission and raised the possibility that substantial voter fraud had occurred in the 2016 election, but he did not repeat past claims that millions of illegal ballots were cast.

"This issue is very important to me because throughout the campaign, and even after, people would come up to me and express their concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities, which they saw," Trump said. "In some cases, having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states."

None of this should be taken seriously by anyone. Voters may have expressed concern to Trump about "irregularities," but that's because conservatives have been conditioned to believe, without proof, that fraud is a scourge on our democracy.

Indeed, it's largely self-fulfilling: Trump tells people there are "very large numbers of people" casting illegal ballots, which his followers accept as true, which leads conservatives to "express concerns" about the imagined problem they've been told to accept.

As part of the scheme, Trump has created a commission to bolster the conspiracy theory that the president believes because (a) it makes him feel better about coming in second; and (b) he's looking for some kind of justification to impose new voting restrictions.

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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.19.17

07/19/17 12:00PM

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

* Democratic success in state legislative special elections continued last night in New Hampshire, where Kris Schultz easily won a state House race. The seat was already "blue," so it doesn't change the makeup of the Granite State's legislature.

* The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Democrats leading Republicans on the generic congressional ballot, 52% to 38%, among registered voters. Among likely voters, Dems still lead, but the advantage slips to 50% to 41%.

* This findings are roughly in line with Public Policy Polling's latest survey, which found Democrats ahead nationally on the generic ballot, 50% to 40%.

* That same poll found congressional Republican leaders are not at all popular nationwide: House Speaker Paul Ryan's approval rating is 24%; Mitch McConnell's approval rating is 18%; and support for the GOP-led Congress is just 11%.

* PPP also found that a third of Trump voters don't believe Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer during the campaign, despite the fact that participants in the meeting don't deny its existence.

* Paul Ryan's re-election campaign is apparently concerned about Randy Bryce's (D) challenge to dispatch trackers to one of the Democrat's campaign events. Bryce said he hopes the trackers receive health care benefits as part of their employment.

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Image: Donald Trump, Andrzej Duda

Trump struggles to make up his mind about health care

07/19/17 11:28AM

For a while, Donald Trump was a fan of the House Republicans' far-right health care bill, until it became unpopular, at which point the president discarded it. The House proposal, Trump decided, was "mean" and "cold-hearted."

Which led to the Senate Republicans' bill, which Trump also liked, until it couldn't pass, at which point the president endorsed a different bill. As recently as Monday night, Trump threw his support behind a "repeal and delay" proposal, in which Congress would repeal the Affordable Care Act now and then come up with an alternative plan in two years.

Yesterday, Trump changed gears again, saying he wants to "let Obamacare fail,"  which he insisted would be "easier" than Republicans trying to legislate on the issue.

This morning, Trump switched positions once again, declaring in a pair of tweets that he's back on board with the Senate GOP plan, which he expects to somehow improve this afternoon.

"I will be having lunch at the White House today with Republican Senators concerning healthcare. They MUST keep their promise to America!

"The Republicans never discuss how good their healthcare bill is, & it will get even better at lunchtime."

There's no shortage of problems with this, including Trump's own broken promises on health care, and the irony of him complaining about Republicans "never discussing" the merits of a plan he hasn't read, doesn't understand, and has made no effort to promote.

But even putting that aside, it's hard not to notice that the president's approach to health care has changed repeatedly -- including three different positions from Monday night to Wednesday morning.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) listens to a question during a press conference following the weekly policy meeting at the U.S. Capitol Dec. 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

After failing on health care, McConnell's reputation takes a hit

07/19/17 10:59AM

When Donald Trump sat down with the Christian Broadcasting Network last week, TV preacher Pat Robertson noted in passing, "Mitch McConnell is a tactician of great skill."

This is certainly the reputation the Senate Majority Leader has cultivated over the course of many years. McConnell, Kentucky's senior senator, knows the institution and its procedures as well as anyone, and knows how to navigate difficult legislative waters. For months, many have assumed that Republicans would eventually pass a far-right health care bill, largely because of McConnell's skills.

But with the party's gambit apparently collapsing, Politico noted just how "serious" a defeat this is for the Senate Republican leader.

It's ... a blow to McConnell's reputation as a master legislator and raises doubts in the White House about what Senate Republicans can actually deliver for President Donald Trump. McConnell, like Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), finds himself caught between the factions in his own party. And like Ryan, McConnell hasn't demonstrated that he knows how to resolve the dispute.

"This is an impossible hand," said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), McConnell's closest ally, of the party's fragile majority.

Well, not really. Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House, and they created a process in which their long-sought priority could advance with 50 votes instead of 60. As has become clear, that's challenging, but calling it "impossible" is a stretch.

Regardless, McConnell, his reputation as a legislative mastermind notwithstanding, couldn't make it happen. His task was to thread a political needle, satisfying competing constituencies within his party, and the Majority Leader couldn't find a way.

Along the way, McConnell managed to not only undermine his reputation, but also to alienate some of his allies. When an NBC News reporter asked Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) yesterday whether he still has faith in McConnell as the Senate GOP's leader, the Wisconsin senator wouldn't say. “I don’t know what’s going to happen moving forward,” Johnson answered.

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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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