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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 10.6.15

10/06/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* DOJ: "The Justice Department will grant early releases to about 6,000 federal inmates within weeks, the federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed Tuesday."
* More on this tomorrow:  "Legislation that would set the nation’s defense policy overcame a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday despite a looming veto threat from the White House."
* South Carolina: "The deadly, record-smashing rainfall that soaked South Carolina may have finally passed, but the threat was far from over early Tuesday. Much of the state was still underwater, with more than 20 flooded rivers and 10 failed dams."
* Afghanistan: "With the United States struggling to account for an airstrike that decimated a Doctors Without Borders hospital, the American commander in Afghanistan on Tuesday took responsibility for the sustained bombardment of the medical facility, which he said took place in response to an Afghan call for help."
* Keep expectations low, Part I: "Senate Democrats are planning to unveil a new gun-control proposal on Thursday in the wake of a shooting at a community college in Oregon."
* Keep expectations low, Part II: "Russia offered Tuesday to resume talks with the United States on managing separate airstrike operations in Syria, even as the former Cold War foes bicker over Moscow’s objectives in the civil war."
* “Right now, if I was taking the advice of some of the members of Congress who holler all the time, we’d be in, like, seven wars right now,” President Obama said last month to a small group of veterans and Gold Star mothers of slain U.S. military personnel. He added, “I’m not exaggerating. I’ve been counting."
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., talks to CNBC correspondent John Harwood, left, during an interview at the New York Stock Exchange, Oct. 5, 2015. (Photo by Mark Lennihan/AP)

On immigration, Marco Rubio remains at odds with Marco Rubio

10/06/15 04:27PM

It may seem like ancient history, but 2013 wasn't that long ago. It was just two years ago that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), eager for any kind of major legislative accomplishment, co-wrote a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform package, helping make the young, far-right senator a prominent GOP voice on a major national issue.
Soon after, however, the Republican base decided the legislation constituted "amnesty," prompting the Floridian lawmaker to begin running away from his own failed initiative.
As Rubio's presidential campaign picked up, so too did the intensity of his shift to the right-wing cliff on immigration. Last week, the Senate Republican said policymakers shouldn't even begin to have a conversation about possibly considering a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants until 2027 -- after Rubio plans to have served two terms in the White House.
This week, the GOP candidate sat down with CNBC's John Harwood, and he continued to reject the ideas he used to support.
HARWOOD: You pushed that Senate bill that had a path to citizenship after a number of years that ended with people -- they had 10 years they could apply for a green card, right?
RUBIO: Right, some of them. Right. The ones that qualify.
HARWOOD: That's right, and you've said more recently you support letting them go for a green card still but no special path. As you know, the Senate bill had a special path... Do you still support that provision?
RUBIO: No, because we can’t pass it.
The senator added he's "convinced" that policymakers cannot address the immigration issue in one comprehensive package, which is itself a bizarre argument. Less than a year ago, a comprehensive solution enjoyed the support of the White House, a majority of the Senate, a majority of the House, a majority of the public, the Chamber of Commerce, labor leaders, reform advocates, law enforcement, and the faith community.
How can Rubio be "convinced" an idea is impossible when we already know how plainly possible it was as recently as 11 months ago? And more to the point, why should anyone take Rubio seriously on an issue when he goes out of his way to disagree with his own policy positions?
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham speaks at the the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Forum in Des Moines, Ia., Sept. 19, 2015. (Photo by Brian C. Frank/Reuters)

After S.C. floods, Lindsey Graham reverses course on disaster aid

10/06/15 03:09PM

When Congress considered federal disaster assistance in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) voted against it. The right-wing lawmaker said at the time he didn’t “think Arkansas needs to bail out the Northeast.” Two years later, when it was his state that was hammered by flooding, Cotton reversed course, requesting and receiving emergency aid.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also voted against the Sandy-relief bill, though three years later, the Republican senator fought for federal funding for Texas in the wake of flooding.
Today, they have some company.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) “is asking for federal aid for his home state of South Carolina as it battles raging floods, but he voted to oppose similar help for New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2013,” CNN reports.
Said Graham: “Let’s just get through this thing, and whatever it costs, it costs.”
Asked to explain the discrepancy -- aid for his state, regardless of the price tag, but not Sandy victims -- the Republican senator and presidential candidate said he doesn't remember this part of his record. "I'm all for helping the people in New Jersey. I don't really remember me voting that way," Graham said.
Pressed further during a CNN interview, he added, "I don't really recall that, but I'd be glad to look and tell you why I did vote no, if I did."
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks during a campaign rally at the Sharonville Convention Center, Sept. 22, 2015, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Minchillo/AP)

Carson eyes guns in kindergarten, boasts of his imagined bravery

10/06/15 12:57PM

In the wake of the latest mass-shooting, Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson appears to have been thinking a bit about gun violence, and the often ridiculous candidate has drawn some curious conclusions.
For example, Carson said yesterday that if he had a child in kindergarten, he'd feel better knowing there were loaded firearms in the classroom. “If the teacher was trained in the use of that weapon and had access to it, I would be much more comfortable if they had one than if they didn’t," the GOP candidate said.
Last night on Facebook, Carson added, "As a Doctor, I spent many a night pulling bullets out of bodies. There is no doubt that this senseless violence is breathtaking -- but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away. Serious people seek serious solutions."
To date, the retired right-wing neurosurgeon has offered no solutions, serious or otherwise, to combating gun violence. On the contrary, he's begun rejecting solutions he used to support.
But Politico flagged Carson's comments on Fox News this morning, where there GOP candidate was in rare form, first complaining about President Obama traveling to Oregon to meet with grieving families and a recovering community, then indirectly criticizing the victims of the mass murder.
Asked what he would have done had a gunman walked up to him and asked him to state his religion, Carson said he would have been more aggressive.
"Not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me, I would say, ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all,'" he told the hosts.
You've got to be kidding me.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.6.15

10/06/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* In New Hampshire's closely watched U.S. Senate race, a new WMUR poll shows a very close contest, with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) narrowly leading Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), 45% to 43%.
* Despite a wide variety of controversies in his background, Arizona sheriff Paul Babeu (R) is launching a congressional campaign, hoping to succeed Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.).
* In Florida's U.S. Senate race, the Libertarian Party's candidate had acknowledged participating in an unusual pagan ritual. "I did sacrifice a goat.... I sacrificed an animal to the god of the wilderness," Augustus Sol Invictus said. He added, "Yes, I drank the goat's blood."
* In Maryland, Joel Rubin, "the State Department's point person for the House of Representatives, working to build support for the Obama administration's Iran nuclear accord," announced he's running for Congress.
* Donald Trump's campaign team has hired new aides in Virginia, Texas, and Florida, which staffers for the candidate consider proof "that the real estate mogul will remain in the race for the duration."
* To the surprise of no one, former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie announced that he will, in fact, run for governor in 2017.
A woman points a handgun with a laser sight on a wall display of other guns during the National Rifle Association convention Friday, April 13, 2007, in St. Louis.

Republican who shut down gun research now has 'regrets'

10/06/15 11:10AM

When President Obama delivered public remarks last week in response to the mass-shooting in Oregon, he touched on an under-appreciated angle to the debate over gun violence.
"We spent over a trillion dollars and passed countless laws and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so," he said. "And yet we have a Congress who explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?"
This wasn't entirely a rhetorical question -- concerns about the availability of public research on domestic gun violence have been ongoing for two decades.
As we discussed last year, it's common knowledge that the NRA and its allies have fought to kill any kind of restrictions on firearm ownership. What was less recognized was the fact that the gun lobby also helped block basic data collection, to the point that there’s “no current scientific consensus about guns and violence,” in large part because the NRA “has been able to neutralize empirical cases for control.”
There is no mystery as to how this happened. In the 1990s, the Clinton administration’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began expanding its research into gun-related deaths as a public health issue, so conservatives in Congress added language to the appropriations bill that finances the CDC: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
Nearly 20 years later, the principal author of that language, Arkansas Republican Jay Dickey, conceded to the Huffington Post that he has "regrets" over the policy that came to be known as the Dickey Amendment.
When [Dickey] helped pass a restriction of federal funding for gun violence research in 1996, the goal wasn't to be so suffocating, he insisted. But the measure was just that, dampening federal research for years and discouraging researchers from entering the field.
Now, as mass shootings pile up, including last week's killing of nine at a community college in Oregon, Dickey admitted to carrying a sense of responsibility for progress not made.
The Arkansas Republican now believes the policy that bears his name should be fixed, if not scrapped.
Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and other members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi speak to reporters at a press conference on the findings of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's personal emails at the U.S. Capitol on March 3, 2015.

Uncertainty surrounds race for the next House Speaker

10/06/15 10:20AM

When House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced his resignation, the pieces appeared to be in place for a relatively smooth transition. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) would move from the #2 to the #1 post, and he'd get the promotion without a lot of drama and infighting.
McCarthy's accidental honesty about the partisan Benghazi investigation, coupled with far-right concerns that he'll simply be another Boehner, has created a very different dynamic.
In just two days, House Republicans will meet behind closed doors to hold a secret-ballot election. Their task is simple: nominate the GOP's next Speaker. The winner doesn't need 218 votes; he'll simply need the backing of a majority of the House Republican conference. The full House will then vote on Oct. 29 -- the day before Boehner ends his career -- presumably to ratify the GOP's selection.
But in practice, it's unlikely to be a smooth process. McCarthy will face two intra-party rivals this week -- Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Dan Webster (R-Fla.) -- neither of whom appears to have the support necessary to prevail. The odds are in the California Republican's favor that he will be the Republicans' official choice.
But there will be a three-week gap between the closed-door nominating process and the actual election of the next Speaker on the House floor. And a lot can happen in three weeks.
The Washington Post, for example, notes today that some of Rep. Trey Gowdy's (R-S.C.) supporters still believe the Benghazi Committee chairman can succeed Boehner as Speaker.
Gowdy denies interest in running for majority leader, and Steve Scalise claims he has the votes locked up for the #2 job, but there is buzz that the South Carolinian could always change his mind. John Boehner yesterday postponed down-ballot leadership elections from later this week until Oct. 29. That is a week after Gowdy will get to question Clinton. His allies hope that, if he does a good job, there will be energy for a fresh Draft Gowdy movement.
The last "Draft Gowdy movement" came together quickly early last week, before the South Carolina Republican shut it down.
But let's not miss the forest for the trees: even if McCarthy is chosen by the Republican conference this week to be the next Speaker, it doesn't mean the outcome is a foregone conclusion. On the contrary, three more weeks of palace intrigue is quite likely.
Republican presidential hopeful and former Ark. Governor Mike Huckabee speaks to the press on July 31, 2015 in Tinley Park, Ill. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Huckabee picks a fight with a bag of chips

10/06/15 09:20AM

It's not unusual in an election cycle for national candidates to pick some fights. Usually, though, candidates are strategic about the confrontations, taking on primary rivals, the other party, occasionally a critical news outlet, etc.
Leave it to Mike Huckabee, however, to start a feud with a bag of chips. Time magazine reported yesterday:
At 3% in national polls, Mike Huckabee faces an uphill fight against more than dozen Republican candidates for the presidential nomination. But that hasn’t stopped him from adding another opponent in recent weeks: a bag of rainbow-colored chips.
They’re not just any chips. They’re a limited edition Doritos product called “Rainbow Doritos,” presented as a partnership between Doritos’ parent company Frito-Lay and the It Gets Better project. Donate $10 or more to the It Gets Better Project, an organization dedicated to fighting anti-LGBT bullying, and you get mailed a bag of Rainbow Doritos. The campaign was so popular that Frito-Lay is already out of Rainbow Doritos.
The Republican presidential hopeful, however, isn't happy. Huckabee has urged Frito-Lay to distance itself from the It Gets Better Project -- the former governor is particularly outraged by sex columnist Dan Savage's role in the project -- and according to Time's article, he also "called on Christians to boycott all snacks made by the company."
Just at face value, Huckabee's priorities seem odd. When a candidate for the nation's highest office is outraged by bags of snacks, it's probably time for a shift in focus.
But just below the surface, there's an even more striking problem.
Marco Rubio

Rubio's risible ruse: his tax cuts won't pay for themselves

10/06/15 08:48AM

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is such a deficit hawk, the Republican presidential candidate wants to change the Constitution to forever prohibit federal budget shortfalls. Kasich does not, however, want these restrictions to apply to himself -- the GOP governor said two weeks ago that voters should expect "to see the deficit increase," at least for a while, if he's elected to the White House.
A few days later, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump largely conceded their economic plans would increase the deficit. Bush, in particular, chided those who "freak out about the deficit."
It's quite a turn of events. In the recent past, the Tea Party "movement" took shape in part because of far-right fears about federal budget shortfalls. Throughout President Obama's tenure, congressional Republicans have insisted that every White House priority be fully paid for -- a demand that never existed during the Bush/Cheney era, when nearly every major initiative was simply tacked onto the national debt -- even after Obama cut the deficit by $1 trillion.
We nevertheless now have GOP presidential candidates going back to their old habits, now that the Democratic president has fixed the problem that Republicans pretended to care about.
But against this backdrop, Marco Rubio tends to be in his own category. Consider the far-right senator's comments yesterday to CNBC's John Harwood.
RUBIO: Well, within the ten-year window, my plan begins to create a surplus. The second point I'd make to people is, you can't tax your way into a stable budget.
HARWOOD: Wait, your plan creates a surplus because of the dynamic effect?
RUBIO: Absolutely.
Um, no. Absolutely not.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during her campaign stop at the Broward College Hugh Adams Central Campus on Oct. 2, 2015 in Davie, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Clinton campaign seizes on GOP Benghazi admission

10/06/15 08:02AM

By any fair measure, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) delivered an amazing gift to Hillary Clinton last week when he admitted his party's Benghazi committee was really a partisan election scheme. This week, Clinton has opened the gift, taken it out of the box, and begun putting it good use.
The Clinton campaign unveiled a new television ad overnight, titled, "Admits It." For those who can't watch clips online, here's the script:
Audio voice-over and text on screen: The Republicans finally admit it.
MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell: Republican Kevin McCarthy saying the committee investigating Benghazi and Clinton’s emails was created to destroy her candidacy.
Kevin McCarthy: Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. What are her numbers today?
Audio voice-over: The Republicans have spent millions attacking Hillary because she’s fighting for everything they oppose -- from affordable health care to equal pay. She’ll never stop fighting for you and the Republicans know it.
The 30-second ad is part of a national cable-TV ad buy, which will begin reaching viewers today.
The spot is a reminder of just how valuable Kevin McCarthy's accidental candor is to Clinton and her supporters. For much of the summer, the Democratic presidential hopeful has been on the defensive, leading to "a poll-deflating feedback loop." All of a sudden, however, the likely next Speaker of the House inadvertently told the truth, acknowledging facts that Republicans aren't supposed to admit in public, and Clinton is bouncing off the ropes.

Oregon shooter's writing and other headlines

10/06/15 08:01AM

Oregon shooter rants in writings about having no girlfriend. (AP)

Could Congress actually pass new gun-control laws? (New York Magazine)

Ben Carson suggests more people should be armed. (USA Today)

U.S. government deports fewest immigrants in nearly a decade. (AP)

Texas inmate set for execution. (AP)

Frogs find themselves in a downward spiral. (New York Times)

Nobel Prize in Physics. (New York Times)

read more


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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