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Friday's Mini-Report, 9.8.17

09/08/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Irma: "Gov. Rick Scott urged residents in evacuation zones, including more than a half-million people in Miami-Dade County, to leave their homes as the Category 4 storm with its 155-mph winds lurched closer. In total, about 1.4 million people across Florida and Georgia, which is also in the cross hairs, were ordered to evacuate."

* Mexico: "The death toll from the most powerful earthquake to hit Mexico in a century rose to 30 and is expected to climb Friday as rescue crews searched through the ruins of collapsed buildings in the coastal areas closest to the epicenter."

* Ninety Republicans ended up voting against this: "The House passed a $15 billion disaster relief package Friday morning with a broad bipartisan majority, sending the measure to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it into law later in the day."

* On a related note: "House Republicans hissed and booed senior Trump administration officials Friday as they pitched President Donald Trump's deal with Democrats to increase the nation's borrowing authority."

* Don't be surprised if Rachel gets to this on tonight's show: "Russia's newly installed ambassador to Washington said on Friday that he had a warm and constructive meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian news agencies reported."

* The latest in a series of defeats: "President Donald Trump's travel ban policy suffered another defeat Thursday as an appeals court rejected the administration's attempt to deny grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins of Americans a temporary exemption from the controversial executive order."

* Equifax: "A massive cyber security incident at Equifax -- one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the United States -- may have exposed private information belonging to 143 million people -- nearly half of the U.S. population."

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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.8.17

09/08/17 12:00PM

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

* With Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) retiring, Democrats have another pick-up opportunity, but winning in Pennsylvania's 15th district won't be easy. John Kerry may have won the district in 2004, but Donald Trump carried it last year by eight points.

* Reinforcing the impression that Alabama's Republican Senate primary is pitting the GOP establishment against the party's activist base, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is throwing its support behind appointed Sen. Luther Strange, His runoff against Roy Moore is on Sept. 26.

* Speaking of Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who rose to the position after Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign in disgrace, confirmed this week that she will seek a full term of her own in 2018.

* With only two months remaining in Virginia's gubernatorial race, the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity has launched a new attack ad targeting Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D). It's not clear exactly how big the ad buy is, but AFP said it's investing at least $1 million in the spot.

* In Tennessee a few years ago, then-state Rep. Joe Carr (R) nearly scored a major upset in a Republican primary against Sen. Lamar Alexander (R), and this year, Carr is gearing up to challenge Sen. Bob Corker (R) in a primary.

* Though Ohio's statewide races are still several months off, a group called Ohio Conservatives for Change has launched the first television ad buy of the cycle, investing $350,000 in a commercial supporting Secretary of State Jon Husted's (R) Senate campaign.

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Image: Trump Announces Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act

Trump suddenly sees the light on the debt ceiling

09/08/17 11:11AM

Before launching his presidential campaign, Donald Trump used to whine incessantly about debt-ceiling increases. In January 2013, for example, Trump declared on Twitter, "I cannot believe the Republicans are extending the debt ceiling -- I am a Republican & I am embarrassed!" A day earlier, he wrote, "The worst negotiators in history (otherwise known as Republicans) have just offered to suspend debt ceiling for four months. Pathetic!"

It's a message that, with the benefit of hindsight, appears quite foolish, with Trump agreeing this week to extend the debt ceiling for three months, as part of negotiations in which Democrats got everything they wanted in exchange for nothing.

But Trump's evolution on the issue goes considerably further. It's not entirely clear if he knew what debt ceiling was when he used to complain about it, but this week the president declared, "Always we'll agree on debt ceiling automatically because of the importance of it."

In fact, the Washington Post reported that Trump is prepared to do away with the debt ceiling altogether.

President Trump on Thursday signaled openness to a proposal to effectively eliminate the federal limit on government borrowing, a dramatic reversal from his view as a candidate and the long-standing position of the Republican Party that the debt limit should be raised only if other steps are taken to restrain the size of government.

On Wednesday, Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D–N.Y.) reached what one senior White House official called a "gentlemen's agreement" to develop a plan that would no longer require Congress to routinely raise the limit on government borrowing.

When I say this is one of the smartest ideas Donald Trump has ever considered, I'm not being sarcastic. The debt ceiling is an incredibly dangerous tool that should not exist. If the president is inclined to get rid of it, Democrats should welcome the opportunity with vigor.

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Elizabeth Warren, who was then still a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 5, 2012. (Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters)

Warren throws support behind Sanders' single-payer plan

09/08/17 10:24AM

About a week ago, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) raised a few eyebrows when she announced she'd sign on as a co-sponsor to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) “Medicare for All’’ bill. As the California Democrat said at a town-hall meeting in Oakland, she sees a single-payer system as “the right thing to do.”

The Boston Globe reports that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) apparently agrees.

Senator Elizabeth Warren said Thursday she will support Bernie Sanders' single-payer health care plan, thrilling liberals who see the legislation as the next major battle for the soul of the Democratic Party.

The Massachusetts Democrat described the bill as expanding Medicare, the government insurance that covers people age 65 and older, to all Americans. She said it would guarantee care for everyone at the lowest prices, and she downplayed an emerging split between liberals and Democratic centrists over such a massive expansion of a government-run program.

The Globe article added that Massachusetts' other senator, Democrat Ed Markey, also intends to sign on.

It's worth noting that Sanders' proposal has not yet been introduced, which means we don't yet have any legislative details or a full list of the bill's co-sponsors. That said, we know it's a single-payer plan and we know that this approach has growing acceptance in the Democratic mainstream, which is itself pretty remarkable.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), meanwhile, is moving forward with a related proposal, which as Politico noted yesterday, would allow "every individual and business buy into Medicare as part of Obamacare’s exchanges." It's not single-payer, but because Medicare is a socialized system, it'd be a significant step in a progressive direction -- and offer an interesting alternative to lawmakers who aren't yet on board with Sanders' model.

I wonder if Republicans fully appreciate their role in creating these political conditions.

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History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many

GOP again moves to help keep Trump's tax returns secret

09/08/17 09:20AM

For the most part, the controversy over Donald Trump's secret tax returns has been replaced with other presidential scandals, forcing the story out of the headlines. Much of the political world has accepted the fact that the materials will likely never reach the public.

Trump said he'd release them, as every major-party presidential nominee has done since Watergate, but for reasons the Republican hasn't explained, he refuses to be transparent in this area.

But some congressional Democrats remain tenacious on the issue. NJ.com reported overnight:

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. tried once again Thursday to force President Donald Trump to release his income tax returns. And once again walked away empty-handed.

The Republican majority on the House Ways and Means Committee turned down Pascrell's latest motion, as it has his previous attempts to force the president to follow a 40-year precedent and release his financial information.

Pascrell, who's measure demanded Trump's personal and business returns, argued, "How can we debate tax reform proposals without seeing the president's tax returns? [...] Congress has the authority and the duty to obtain and review President Trump's tax returns to ensure there are no potential conflicts of interest in the tax policies he is proposing."

This, evidently, did not prove persuasive. The Ways and Means Committee voted 21 to 14 to reject the New Jersey Democrat's motion, which would've directed the Treasury Department to provide the documents to Congress, with literally zero Republicans breaking ranks.

Why did the panel bring up the motion in the first place if the majority intended to kill it? Well, it's an interesting story.

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Image:

ACA repeal crusade starts to look like 'the zombie apocalypse'

09/08/17 08:41AM

At 1:50 p.m. (ET) yesterday, Politico reported that the Republican campaign to overhaul the nation's health care system has effectively run its course.

Senate Republicans are throwing cold water on the idea of holding another Obamacare repeal vote before their opportunity to gut the law on a party-line vote expires at the end of this month.

Almost exactly an hour later, at 2:52 p.m. (ET), Bloomberg Politics reported the exact opposite.

Republican Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham said Thursday they will introduce a revised version of their proposal to replace Obamacare, with the goal of getting a vote by the end of this month.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a vote in September if the senators can line up 50 of their colleagues to back the measure, Cassidy said in an interview, adding that President Donald Trump is supportive of the plan.

So, which of these reports is correct? As odd as this may seem, they're both largely right.

A week ago, when the Senate parliamentarian announced that Senate Republicans have until the end of the month to pass their health care bill with just 50 votes, it looked like the GOP's repeal crusade was just about dead. Indeed, one of the most striking political aspects of this was that practically no one on the right responded to the parliamentarian's ruling by saying, "Quick, let's get this done before it's too late!" Instead, the news was met with quiet resignation.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) seemed to throw a lifeline to the repeal campaign this week, before clarifying that he expects any health care bill to follow regular order, which involves a process anti-health care forces simply don't have time for.

GOP leaders, reluctant to keep banging their heads into this particular wall, and still recovering from its last attempts at health care legislating, sent every signal that they'd welcome the Sept. 30 deadline and leave this issue behind them.

The trouble is, there are 52 Senate Republicans -- and they're not all on the same page.

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Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA)

A rare Republican moderate decides to walk away from Congress

09/08/17 08:00AM

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) likes to say he's from the "governing wing" of the Republican Party, which is a  helpful summary of how the Pennsylvania Republican approaches his responsibilities. In an era of radical Republican politics, with GOP "moderates" in short supply, Dent has seen his party jump off a right-wing cliff -- and he's refused to follow.

As the Morning Call reported last night, after nearly three decades of serving in elected office, Dent has apparently seen enough.

Republican U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent stunned his colleagues and constituents Thursday evening when the seven-term Lehigh Valley lawmaker announced that he will not seek re-election next year. [...]

Dent, 57, said his decision against an eighth term was one that had been building since 2013 and became final in mid-summer, after consulting with his family, close friends and senior staffers.

The GOP lawmaker said his thinking was "driven by personal matters," though he added that conditions in D.C. were "a factor, to be sure." Dent told the Morning Call that "even the most simple basic tasks of government have become excruciatingly difficult."

His departure probably won't help matters. As The Atlantic's James Fallows noted, Dent was one of the few congressional Republicans who "looked for solutions, not tribal war." It's not that the Pennsylvania congressman relied on a center-left ideology -- the era of "Rockefeller Republicans" has long since passed -- but Dent has long believed in compromise and constructive policymaking.

And that left him out of step with the contemporary GOP, to the point that Dent did not vote for his party's 2016 presidential ticket. As he put it last year, Donald Trump was simply "a bridge too far."

Looking ahead, as the ideological median of the party moves even further to the right, it's worth considering what retirement announcements like these tell us about Republicans' national direction.

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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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