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US military soldiers march during the Veterans Day Parade in New York on Nov. 11, 2014. (Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty)

GOP's Planned Parenthood fight blocks bill for veterans

07/23/15 08:00AM

Late yesterday morning, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) turned to Twitter to deliver a message to Senate Republicans: "Don't take something that should be above politics -- our sacred duty to veterans -- and pull it down into the muck of petty politics."
 
It quickly became clear exactly what the Democratic leader was referring to -- and the degree to which GOP senators were inclined to ignore her suggestion. The Washington Post reported late yesterday:
The burgeoning controversy over Planned Parenthood's fetal-tissue practices may have claimed its first victim: a bipartisan bill to help wounded veterans have children.
 
The Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act, a bill authored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that would require fertility treatment and counseling for "severely wounded, ill, or injured" military members or veterans, had been expected to proceed through the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday. But Murray said she has asked that the bill be pulled thanks to proposed amendments from Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) -- including one that would have, in Tillis's words, prevented the Department of Veterans Affairs from working with "organizations that take human aborted babies' organs and sell them."
Left with little choice, Murray had to pull her bill -- a measure that had been considered uncontroversial -- because of the Republicans' new-found interest in crusading against Planned Parenthood.
 
It was a discouraging setback for proponents of expanded veterans' benefits, but it was probably just the opening salvo in a much larger campaign. Politico reported overnight that some GOP lawmakers intend to connect Planned Parenthood to a pending highway bill, too:

Trump's third-party threat and other headlines

07/23/15 07:36AM

Trump threatens a third-party run. (The Hill)

Pres. Obama makes his first trip to his father's homeland as President. (AP)

President Obama's trip to Kenya sets off gay rights debate in Africa. (New York Times)

Details of Chattanooga shooting emerge: 3-5 minutes of terror. (The Tennessean)

Sheriff: Sandra Bland told Texas jailer of prior suicide attempt. (AP)

Ted Cruz's thoughts on Star Trek captains, Tony Stark, and Spider-Man. (New York Times)

Defense Secretary Ash Carter makes a surprise trip to Baghdad. (AP)

Want more of Rachel on Seth Myers last night? Here are their discussions of Donald Trump and of Bernie Sanders. (Late Night with Seth Myers' youtube page)

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How will Trump out-Trump Trump?

How will Trump out-Trump Trump?

07/22/15 09:58PM

Rachel Maddow alerts viewers to an upcoming appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers and shares a clip in which the two speculate about how Donald Trump will out-do himself in order to retain the media spotlight. watch

Obama drafting new plan to close Guantanamo

Obama drafting new plan to close Guantanamo

07/22/15 09:48PM

Neal Katyal, who represented Guantanamo detainees before the Supreme Court, talks with Rachel Maddow about how President Obama could fulfill his goal of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, with or without the cooperation of Congress. watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 7.22.15

07/22/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* South Carolina: "Dylann Roof, the man accused in the mass shooting last month at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on 33 counts, including federal hate crime charges, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced."
 
* An important detail: "A service member opened fire on the Chattanooga gunman after he crashed the gates of a military reserve center last week, an FBI investigator disclosed on Wednesday."
 
* Related news: "A Lawyer representing the uncle of Chattanooga gunman Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez says his client has been questioned for five days by the FBI and Jordanian intelligence without access to a lawyer."
 
* Iran: "The Washington Post appealed to the United Nations on Wednesday to help secure the release of jailed reporter Jason Rezaian, accusing the Iranian government of flagrant human rights violations in a year of 'arbitrary and unlawful' detention of the veteran journalist, company officials said."
 
* Though nearly all recent polling shows Americans endorsing international nuclear diplomacy with Iran, a Pew Research Center poll found a plurality disapproving of the deal, with Republican taking their cues from party leaders and turning against the agreement.
 
* Afghanistan: "After suffering setbacks and heavy casualties at the hands of the Taliban in 2014, Afghan security forces came into this year with what Afghan and Western officials acknowledge were relatively modest goals: hang on till the end of the fighting season without major collapses."
 
* Keep expectations low: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that he has 'some significant issues' with the 1,030-page highway bill that was unveiled by Republican leaders in the Senate on Tuesday."
Pro-choice activists hold a vigil outside the U.S. Supreme Court on January 23, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty)

Appeals court strikes down state abortion ban

07/22/15 05:05PM

Republican lawmakers in plenty of states have gone after reproductive rights in recent years, but in 2013, North Dakota lawmakers went much further than most. While the trend among conservative policymakers has been to impose abortion bans after 20 weeks of pregnancy, North Dakota passed a "fetal heartbeat" bill -- which banned abortions after just six weeks of pregnancy.
 
The measure, which would have required some women to terminate unwanted pregnancies before they even knew they're pregnant, was never actually implemented, since a district court judge said the law was unlikely to prevail in the courts.
 
And on the heels of North Dakota's defeat at the lower court, the state lost again at an appellate court today. Politico reported:
A federal appeals court has struck down the earliest state ban on abortion in the country, a move that could invite the Supreme Court to weigh in on one of the nation's most controversial social issues in the middle of a presidential election year.
 
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday struck down a 2013 North Dakota law banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, or about six weeks into a pregnancy. The court said the North Dakota law violates Supreme Court precedent establishing that abortion is legal until a fetus is viable outside of the womb, usually about 24 weeks into pregnancy.
When North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) created the law two years ago, he acknowledged that legal fights were inevitable, but he saw the measure as "a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade."
 
In other words, North Dakota taxpayers were on the hook, financing an experiment of sorts -- the state would create a dubious law, knowing it would likely fail, as a political test. In the unlikely event that the law survived court challenges, policymakers would have successfully curtailed reproductive rights. If the law failed in the courts, North Dakota would have wasted time, money, and energy, which state Republicans were glad to invest in a culture-war cause.
 
The state can now appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but there's no guarantee the justices will want to hear the case, and even many on the right would prefer to see North Dakota quit now, rather than risk setting a new precedent in a case conservatives would almost certainly lose.
Razor wire-topped fence at the abandoned "Camp X-Ray" detention facility at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on April 9, 2014. (Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty)

Guantanamo plan in its 'final stages'

07/22/15 04:02PM

Just last week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) complained that he's still waiting for a formal Obama administration plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. In May, the Republican senator, who's occasionally expressed lukewarm support for closing the detention facility, reportedly met with President Obama about the issue, and McCain says he told the president, "Okay, give me a plan. Give me a plan, okay?'
 
The senator added last week, "I have not heard a word since."
 
This was familiar rhetoric from McCain, though I've never been entirely clear on what kind of "plan" he's looking for. The plan seems to involve (1) transferring the prisoners; followed by (2) closing the prison.
 
But it turns out, there's a little more to it than that, and a more detailed blueprint is nearly complete. Time reported this afternoon:
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Wednesday confirmed that a plan to "safely and responsibly close" the prison at Guantanamo Bay is currently being drafted by members of the Administration. Earnest said closing the prison is in the national security interest of the United States.
"The administration is, in fact, in the final stages of drafting a plan" to close the prison, Earnest told reporters. "It is a priority of the president. He believes it's in our national security interest to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay."
 
The timing of the remarks matters. The New York Times reported this morning that the administration's "fitful effort to shut down the prison is collapsing again," in part the result of ongoing Pentagon resistance.
In this July 14, 2015 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, speaks during a campaign event in Las Vegas. (Photo by John Locher/AP)

Scott Walker, the 'uniter'?

07/22/15 12:55PM

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) has adopted a strategy that's worked pretty well for him. Slate's Jamelle Bouie summarized it simply as "divide and conquer."
 
Reporting on the Republican's message in Iowa, Bouie noted earlier this year that Walker delivered an "effective, unwavering, and uncompromising" message to conservative activists. The governor believes he's won statewide office -- twice, in a state President Obama carried twice -- by rallying far-right voters and pushing an unapologetic, aggressively partisan agenda.
 
It came as a bit of a surprise, then, when the AP reported yesterday that the Walker campaign sees the candidate as a "uniter."
Scott Walker's top adviser said Tuesday that the Republican governor who survived an attempt to recall him from office is running for president as someone who can bring together a polarized electorate.
 
"I think he is running as a uniter," Walker adviser Rick Wiley said during a luncheon hosted by the political website Wispolitics.com.
As proof, Wiley pointed to Walker's victory in his 2012 recall election. "If he's able to unite this state and win that recall when it was the most polarized state at the time," Wiley argued, "his message works."
 
It's a bizarre argument. Walker was so polarizing, pushing such a radical agenda, that a big chunk of his constituents tried to force him from office hallway through his first term. The governor held on, but not before drawing the ire of nearly half of Wisconsin.
 
"See what a uniter he is?" one of Walker's top aides effectively asks.
 
The funny part of this isn't just how wrong the argument is. There's also the fact that Walker himself is pushing in the exact opposite direction. Consider this Washington Post report from last week:

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.22.15

07/22/15 12:00PM

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

* If you're waiting for Donald Trump to apologize for giving out Lindsey Graham's private cell-phone number, stop. "I did it for fun," Trump told Fox News this morning. Trump added, in reference to Graham, "He calls me names, you have to fight back."
 
* Though national polling shows Hillary Clinton faring pretty well in hypothetical matchups against leading Republicans, new Quinnipiac polling paints a different picture at the state level. The new results show Clinton trailing Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker in in Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia -- three states President Obama won twice.
 
* Though Scott Walker's presidential campaign is still too new to have real fundraising totals, some affiliated entities, including a super PAC, have reportedly raised $26 million for the Republican Wisconsin governor.
 
* Speaking of fundraising, Jeb Bush, in his first two weeks as an official candidate, reportedly received contributions from "at least 136 top-tier donors to his brother, former President George W. Bush, signaling that the family's vaunted fundraising network is quickly mobilizing to push a third Bush presidency."
 
* Scott Walker has apparently scheduled a motorcycle tour of New Hampshire, and he'll be accompanied for part of it by former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R), whose Senate bid in the Granite State failed last year.
 
* A year ago, Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R) political operation in Kentucky called Matt Bevin a "con man" who lies "pathologically." This week, McConnell agreed to hold a fundraiser in support of Bevin's gubernatorial campaign.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., arrives in the U.S. Capitol for votes on extension of provisions of the Patriot Act on Sunday, May 31, 2015. Sen. Paul has vowed to block the extension. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP)

Being discredited is not always a barrier to success

07/22/15 11:21AM

Before Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul grabbed a chainsaw, he sat down with some far-right economists.
Rand Paul huddled with Art Laffer and Steve Moore yesterday ahead of a new push to promote his tax plan.
And before Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich kicked off his national campaign, he chatted with some of the exact same people.
Just after his recent New Hampshire foray, he met in New York with an influential group of fiscal conservatives including the former CNBC host Larry Kudlow, Reaganite economist Arthur Laffer, and the Heritage Foundation's Stephen Moore.
I can appreciate the fact that Art Laffer and Stephen Moore aren't household names, so the fact that they're having conversations with national GOP candidates probably won't raise a lot of eyebrows with the American mainstream. But these chats nevertheless touch on an important point about Republican politics: being discredited is not a barrier to success.
Launch Of New Axon Cellphone

O'Malley draws RNC scorn over Syria, climate

07/22/15 10:40AM

Republican leaders have generally been content to ignore former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democratic presidential hopeful, focusing their energies instead on Hillary Clinton, but that wasn't the case yesterday. The Huffington Post reported:
Republicans are outraged that Democratic presidential contender Martin O'Malley cited actual scientific research in comments about how climate change has contributed to internal conflicts in Syria.
 
In an interview with Bloomberg on Monday, O'Malley discussed the national security implications of climate change. "One of the things that preceded the failure of the nation state of Syria and the rise of ISIS, was the effect of climate change and the mega-drought that affected that nation, wiped out farmers, drove people to cities, created a humanitarian crisis that created the symptoms -- or rather, the conditions -- of extreme poverty that has now led to the rise of ISIS and this extreme violence," he said.
Republicans and their allies pounced. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called the Democrat's comments "absurd." In conservative media, Fox' Stuart Varney dismissed O'Malley's concerns as "nonsense," while another conservative outlet said the former governor is "saying truly brazenly silly things to get attention."
 
It's hard to say what role facts and evidence play in a dispute like this, but isn't O'Malley correct?

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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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