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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 3.14.17

03/14/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Following up on last night's show: "A New York real estate company owned by the family of President Donald J. Trump's son-in-law is negotiating to sell a $400 million stake in its Fifth Avenue flagship skyscraper to a Chinese insurance company with ties to leading families of the Communist Party."

* Quite a scandal: "The Justice Department unsealed a fresh indictment Tuesday charging eight current and former Navy officials -- including an admiral -- with corruption and other crimes in the 'Fat Leonard' bribery case, escalating an epic scandal that has dogged the Navy for the past four years."

* The Trump administration has a personnel problem: "Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has withdrawn retired senior diplomat Anne W. Patterson as his choice for undersecretary for policy after the White House indicated unwillingness to fight what it said would be a battle for Senate confirmation."

* And speaking of personnel: "A massage therapist and former Donald Trump campaign operative with a history of making disparaging remarks about Muslims on Twitter is no longer employed with the Department of Energy, following a BuzzFeed News inquiry, and a story from Greentech Media, about his tweets and status."

* Those Trump guys and their email controversies: "U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp, used an alias email address while at the oil company to send and receive information related to climate change and other matters, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman."

* McCrory: "Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) is struggling to find a new job due to widespread public disapproval of HB 2, a state law he signed last March that targets transgender people."
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Image: Sean Spicer

Republicans consider the subtle nuances of the word 'everybody'

03/14/17 04:33PM

Two months ago, Donald Trump made a seemingly unambiguous commitment on the issue of health care: "We're going to have insurance for everybody." Soon after, BuzzFeed reported that congressional Republicans were working under the assumption that the president didn't actually mean what he said, and were working on a plan that did not, in fact, cover all Americans.

And as it turns out, GOP lawmakers were correct; Trump didn't mean a word of it. But this creates a political challenge for the White House: if the president guaranteed "insurance for everybody," and the Republican plan Trump supports would increase the ranks of the uninsured by tens of millions of Americans, how in the world is the president's team supposed to spin the obvious contradiction?

The answer is, by pointing to the invisible fine print. Today, for example, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the administration supports coverage for "everybody who wants to get it."

See the difference?

This came up a bit yesterday, when the Congressional Budget Office's report on "Trumpcare" was first unveiled, and news accounts noted that 14 million Americans would lose their coverage next year, and that number would expand to 24 million by 2026.

Not so, Republicans said. Sure, an additional 14 million Americans may no longer have health security next year, and that total may grow to 24 million in a decade, but it's wrong to say they've "lost" their coverage. Rather, Republicans argue, it's correct to say these millions of people simply won't buy it.

Consider a real-world example. The CBO score pointed to a hypothetical, single individual with an annual income of $26,500. If that individual is young, say 21, he or she would fare quite well in terms of cheaper premiums under the American Health Care Act. But....
But if that person is 64 years old, he would be hurt by the Republican bill. Under Obamacare, he would also pay $1,700 in premiums for insurance. But under the Republican bill, he would pay $14,600 -- more than half his annual income. That amounts to more than a 750 percent increase in premiums from Obamacare to the Republican bill.
According to Republican rhetoric, that person would almost certainly not buy insurance, which seems like a safe bet. But by the same GOP rules, we shouldn't say the 64-year-old consumer "lost" his/her health insurance; we should instead say he/he chose to go without coverage.
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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) meets with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) (C) and Vice-President elect Mike Pence on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Paul Ryan won't escape blame for failing on health care

03/14/17 12:56PM

About a week ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a harsh critic of the House Republicans' health care plan, said something interesting about the state of play within his party.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Wednesday accused House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) of trying to deceive President Trump in an effort to win his support for House Republicans' measure repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

"I don't think it makes any sense and I think he's trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the president," Paul said in an interview with Breitbart News.
I didn't think much of this at the time, but Rand Paul may have raised a legitimate point.

It's not unreasonable to conclude that Donald Trump is an easy mark. Love the president or hate him, the amateur politician has no working understanding of public policy in any area, especially health care, and as recently as late October, Trump made clear that he hates the Affordable Care Act despite not understanding the basics of how it works.

Along comes the Speaker of the House, who convinced the president of his credibility -- a trick Paul Ryan has pulled on a few too many journalists -- and persuaded Trump to follow the House GOP's lead on scrapping "Obamacare." Ryan no doubt assured the White House, not only in the merits of the party's American Health Care Act, but also in the Republican leadership's ability to get the bill through Congress.

Trump, unprepared, impatient, and indifferent towards the details of a debate he knows nothing about, trusted Ryan to get it right -- unaware of just how badly Ryan would screw this up.

Why does this matter? A couple of reasons.
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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 3.14.17

03/14/17 12:00PM

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

* Donald Trump's decision to fire dozens of U.S. Attorneys has apparently given Democratic officials an idea: recruit these federal prosecutors to run for office in 2018.

* Before he departed Capitol Hill, former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reportedly summoned Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to his office so he could encourage her to run for president in 2020.

* Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who's up for re-election next year, was thinking about retiring, until he saw Donald Trump's presidency. "I am probably more energized right now than I've been in 16 years," the moderate Democratic senator said.

* The filing deadline in South Carolina's congressional special election was yesterday, and there are 15 candidates vying to fill Mick Mulvaney's vacancy. Over the weekend, Democrat Les Murphy, a Marine veteran who's worked with the Carolina Veterans Commission, threw his hat into the ring.

* The field of Ohio Democrats running for governor next year grew by one yesterday, when former state Rep. Connie Pillich launched her candidacy.

* In a bit of a surprise, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn (D) has decided not to run for governor in Florida next year, though the rush is on among other Dems to secure his endorsement.
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Flowers on a tree bloom near the Treasury Department building in Washington, DC on March 10, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty)

Ready for the next fight over the debt ceiling?

03/14/17 11:35AM

I don't imagine anyone who watches American politics is bored. Between multiple ongoing policy fights and White House controversies, dull moments are in short supply.

And yet, conditions are about to get quite a bit more intense. There's growing talk about a possible government shutdown next month, and much to everyone's chagrin, it's nearly time to raise the debt ceiling. CNBC reported the other day:
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has called on Congress to raise the United States debt limit "at the first opportunity."

In a letter to congressional leaders dated Wednesday, Mnuchin said the Treasury will stop issuing certain state and local securities on March 15, when the most recent suspension of the debt limit expires. Mnuchin said the Treasury will likely start taking "extraordinary measures" the next day, when the U.S. will be at its statutory limit, to prevent default.
March 15, by the way, is tomorrow.

Mnuchin specifically told lawmakers, "As I said in my confirmation hearing, honoring the full faith and credit of our outstanding debt is a critical commitment. I encourage Congress to raise the debt limit at the first opportunity so that we can proceed with our joint priorities."

We don't yet have a specific date at which point the Treasury will have exhausted their "extraordinary measures," but with Mnuchin's letter in mind, it looks like Congress will need to act within the next few months.

In theory, this should be effortless. Raising the debt limit costs nothing; it's a one page piece of legislation; and the whole thing can be wrapped up in an afternoon.

In practice, as we've seen in recent years, it's an entirely different story.
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The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is reflected in a puddle on a rainy morning in Washington.

On health care, Republicans find themselves lost without a map

03/14/17 11:11AM

Imagine being a House Republican right now. You hate the Affordable Care Act -- at least, that's what you've told your constituents -- and you're inclined to stick with your party leadership, but you've also seen a striking rise in progressive activism in your district. You're probably a little more concerned about next year's campaign cycle than you might otherwise would be.

And then the Congressional Budget Office releases a devastating report that says your party's health care plan would push tens of millions of Americans into the ranks of the uninsured.

Given these circumstances, how inclined would you be to follow House Speaker Paul Ryan's lead and vote for the American Health Care Act ("Trumpcare")?

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a critic of the House GOP legislation, had an interesting conversation with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos over the weekend. This exchange, in particular, stood out for me:
STEPHANOPOULOS:  So you're saying House Republicans if they vote for this bill are going to pay the price without getting any benefit?

COTTON:  I'm afraid that if they vote for this bill, they're going to put the House majority at risk next year.... And I don't want to see the House majority put at risk on a bill that is not going to pass the Senate.
And this is why I see the American Health Care Act on life-support. House Republicans are being told they have to support a bad bill that would produce bad outcomes. They can't expect much in the way of cover from the White House given Trump's unpopularity and ongoing scandals. They know that if they vote for the bill, the Democratic attack ads will be both brutal and accurate.

And they know that if the House passes the bill, it'll die in the Senate, which means they'll have taken the political hit for no reason.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks at a sheet of notes and talking points as he speaks during a rally in Eugene, Ore., May 6, 2016. (Photo by Ted S. Warren/AP)

As health care debate intensifies, GOP takes aim at empiricism

03/14/17 10:15AM

The Republican campaign against the Congressional Budget Office, an office headed by a Republican, has been ongoing for months, and the ferocity of the criticism intensified last night in response to the CBO's score of the American Health Care Act ("Trumpcare"). It's worth pausing, however, to note something important about Congress' official scorekeepers:

The CBO is not perfect. It's run by people relying on the best information availabile, which officials use to make estimates shaped by models. Sometimes those projections are excellent, sometimes they're close, sometimes they're wrong. Far-right Republicans are going after the CBO now, but there have been all kinds of instances in recent years in which these same partisans -- including Donald Trump -- accepted CBO data as gospel when it suited their purposes.

The problem with the ongoing attacks is not that the CBO should be shielded from any and all criticism; the problem is that Republicans are trying to delegitimize any neutral source of independent information. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent put it this way yesterday:
We're seeing a broad White House effort to corrode the very ideal of reality-based governing, something that includes not just a discrediting of institutions such as the CBO but also the weakening of the influence of science and data over agency decision-making and the deliberate misuse of our democracy's institutional processes to prop up Trump's lies about his popular support and political opponents.
Welcome to the war on empiricism. For Team Trump and its Republican allies, some may present themselves as authorities -- on health care data, on the unemployment rate, on climate science, on how many people showed up to witness a presidential inauguration -- but right-thinking people should dismiss those sources as illegitimate.

It's become a staple of the Trump presidency. As we discussed last month, the White House isn't exactly subtle about its vision: Don’t trust news organizations. Don’t trust the courts. Don’t trust pollsters. Don’t trust U.S. intelligence agencies. Don’t trust unemployment numbers. Don’t even trust election results.
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A stethoscope sits on an examination table in an exam room at a Community Clinic Inc. health center in Takoma Park, Maryland, April 8, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

Remember those Medicare 'cuts' Republicans deemed outrageous?

03/14/17 09:28AM

Paul Ryan's speech at the Republican National Convention in 2012, when the Wisconsin congressman was his party's vice presidential nominee, was one of the most dishonest displays of political rhetoric I've ever seen. Nearly five years later, however, one portion of that speech seems newly relevant:
"You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn't have enough money. They needed more. They needed hundreds of billions more. So, they just took it all away from Medicare: $716 billion, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama.

"An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed.... The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we're going to stop it."
Even at the time, Ryan's rhetoric was ridiculous. Not only did the Affordable Care Act strengthen Medicare without undermining benefits, but listening to far-right Republicans who were desperate to privatize Medicare pretend that they were somehow the system's champions was a bit much.

But Ryan wasn't alone. Republicans, well aware of Medicare's broad national popularity, invested heavily in attack ads, accusing Democrats of "slashing" Medicare when the Affordable Care Act became law. "Let's save Medicare," the NRCC said in an attack ad during the 2012 cycle. Similar GOP ads ran in 2010 and 2014.

Whatever happened to those Medicare "cuts"? Well, it's a funny story.
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The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty)

Why the White House isn't sharing health care numbers of its own

03/14/17 08:41AM

Donald Trump and his White House team reacted with unusual speed yesterday afternoon, denouncing the Congressional Budget Office's brutal report on the Republican health care plan almost immediately after it was released. Last night and this morning, the Trump administration's fierce pushback continued, with officials desperately hoping to convince people not to believe the CBO.

Hanging over the public-relations campaign was a fairly obvious question: if Team Trump doesn't like the Congressional Budget Office's numbers, why doesn't the White House release competing data?

The answer, according to this interesting Politico report, is that Team Trump's numbers are actually worse.
A White House analysis of the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare shows even steeper coverage losses than the projections by the Congressional Budget Office, according to a document viewed by POLITICO on Monday.

The executive branch analysis forecast that 26 million people would lose coverage over the next decade, versus the 24 million CBO estimates.
It's worth noting that the White House insists that the Politico piece is misleading. According to Sean Spicer, the report in question is real, but it was an administration effort to project what the Congressional Budget Office was likely to conclude, ahead of the CBO score's release. In other words, we're supposed to believe this document was the White House's best guess as to what the CBO would say -- and officials were pretty close.

Is Team Trump's pushback true? I have no idea, but given recent history, these folks clearly haven't earned the benefit of the doubt. There is, however, good reason for skepticism about the White House's line. Indeed, we're left with three possibilities:
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Empty hospital emergency room. (Stock photo by  DreamPictures/Getty Images)

Official report exposes GOP health care promises as falsehoods

03/14/17 08:00AM

Last week, Donald Trump's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, did his best to sound optimistic about the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the Republican health care plan. "I hear all the talk about the CBO score," Mulvaney said. "The only question about the CBO: Is it going to be really good or is it going to be great when that number finally comes out?"

Late yesterday, the report finally came out. For Republicans, it's neither "really good" nor "great."

On the contrary, it's a brutal analysis, offering new details that cast the GOP's American Health Care Act -- "Trumpcare," to many of the bill's critics -- in a deeply unflattering light. There are plenty of reports on the Congressional Budget Office's findings, but let's start with something simple: the degree to which the evidence exposes Republican promises as brazen falsehoods. NBC News' Benjy Sarlin explained last night:
President Donald Trump rode to the White House making big promises on health care -- pledges that he is now in serious danger of breaking.... So now that the House GOP's American Health Care Act (AHCA) is here, how do these pledges look?

Not good, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released on Monday. The report found the House plan -- which the Trump administration has thrown its support behind -- would cause millions to lose insurance and raise costs for vulnerable populations.
Let's review the top eight most brazen Republican falsehoods exposed by the CBO's report.

1. Donald Trump vowed, "We're going to have insurance for everybody.... Everybody's going to be taken care of." That's now obviously ridiculous, with the Congressional Budget Office concluding that the ranks of the uninsured would grow by 14 million by next year, and that number would expand to 24 million by 2026.

2. Trump said, "I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid." As the CBO score makes clear, the Republicans' American Health Care Act would gut Medicaid, effectively ending the program as we know it.
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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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