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Less partisanship greets Obama's seventh year

Partisanship easing as Obama enters seventh year

01/19/15 09:36PM

Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, talks with Rachael Maddow about the context of President Obama's State of the Union address, and whether the President Obama's agenda is typical of presidents beginning their seventh year. watch

Tea Party plans SOTU response, rejecting GOP

Tea Party plans SOTU response, rejecting GOP

01/19/15 09:25PM

Rachel Maddow reports that the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address to be delivered by Senator Joni Ernst is apparently not representative of tea party Republicans, whose response will come from Rep. Curt Clawson. watch

Three states celebrate Confederacy on MLK Day

Three states celebrate Confederacy on MLK Day

01/19/15 09:23PM

Rachel Maddow points out that while all 50 states celebrate the holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., three states, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas, celebrate the birthday of Confederate general Robert E. Lee on that same day. watch

Scalise opposition to MLK holiday haunts GOP

Scalise opposition to MLK holiday haunts GOP

01/19/15 09:08PM

Rachel Maddow points out that several politicians in office today initially voted against honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. with a holiday and have since expressed regret. Rep. Steve Scalise opposed the holiday as recently as 2004. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 1.19.15

01/19/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Syria: "American support for a pair of diplomatic initiatives in Syria underscores the shifting views of how to end the civil war there and the West's quiet retreat from its demand that the country's president, Bashar al-Assad, step down immediately."
* Related news: "An Iranian general was among the dead in an Israeli airstrike that also killed several Hezbollah fighters in southern Syria over the weekend, the official Iranian news media announced on Monday. The announcement compounded the tension and unpredictability in the region stemming from the strike, which placed Israel in a direct battlefield confrontation on Syrian soil with its longtime enemies Iran and Hezbollah."
* And speaking of Syria, the Assad regime "has started the long-delayed destruction of a dozen underground bunkers and hangars that were used for the production and storage of chemical weapons, diplomatic sources told Reuters on Monday."
* North Korea: "The trail that led American officials to blame North Korea for the destructive cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November winds back to 2010, when the National Security Agency scrambled to break into the computer systems of a country considered one of the most impenetrable targets on earth."
* We know why this happens: "A measles outbreak linked to Disneyland has nearly doubled in size since last week with 45 reported cases in California and more illnesses confirmed in at least three other states and Mexico, health officials say. Orange County, Disneyland's home, has the largest cluster of confirmed measles cases at 16, according to that county's health department."
* I wonder if Blair is more popular with American Republicans than his former British constituents: "Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair drew three standing ovations when he addressed the joint House-Senate Republican retreat Thursday with a speech that one lawmaker likened to the oratory of Winston Churchill."
President Barack Obama waves to guests as he arrives for a speech on Oct. 2, 2014 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Why Obama's increased national support matters

01/19/15 04:00PM

Rush Limbaugh appeared on "Fox News Sunday" about a month ago and mocked the president's standing in the polls. "Barack Obama's approval is in the 30s," the right-wing host said.
An improving economy is putting Barack Obama back in the game, boosting the president and his party in a striking turnaround from their devastating midterm losses.
Americans approve of the president's job performance by 50-44 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, a remarkable 9-point gain in approval and a 10-point drop in disapproval just since December. It's his best rating in a year and a half, and matches his previous best one-time advance, after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in spring 2011.
The usual caveats certainly apply -- it's only one poll, and no other major national survey puts the president's approval rating at 50% -- but it comes on the heels of recent poll results from CBS, Pew, and CNN, all of which show Obama's support growing steadily in recent weeks.
When one survey shows a small increase, it's easy to overlook. When several credible pollsters show a significant increase, there's reason to believe the president has seen a genuine bump in his overall support. As FiveThirtyEight put it the other day, "The rebound In Obama's approval is real."
Right about now, I imagine there's a small army of Democratic campaign operatives asking themselves, "This couldn't have happened in October?" Indeed, Brian Beutler noted on Friday that if the midterm elections were held now, the combination of lower gas prices and the president's increased backing "might have saved the Democrats' skin" and prevented major GOP gains.
Of course, it's obviously too late for Dems' 2014 hopes, but the bump in Obama's poll numbers matters nevertheless.
"Obamacare"  supporter Margot Smith (L) of California pleads her case with legislation opponents Judy Burel (2nd R) and Janis Haddon, both of Georgia, at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 28, 2012.

Republicans divided on ACA's future

01/19/15 02:07PM

Describing the Republican Party's health care policy is, at one level, quite easy. The GOP has an irrational, overwhelming, all-consuming, wild-eyed hatred for the Affordable Care Act. Period, full stop.
But it's every relevant detail after this where the troubles kick in. Republicans don't know how (or if) to come up with an "Obamacare" alternative, despite over five years of behind-the-scenes efforts. Republican don't know how (or if) to pursue a full repeal of the law. Republicans don't know how (or if) to help those families who would suffer greatly if their efforts to undermine the law succeed. Republicans don't even know how (or if) they should use the budget "reconciliation" process to go after the ACA.
Perhaps the most striking division, however, is between those in the GOP who are desperate to gut the nation's health care system and those Republicans who quietly hope the law survives intact.
We learned last week, for example, that Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) did not sign on to the Republican effort at the Supreme Court to destroy the ACA through the King v. Burwell case. A few days later, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) devoted parts of his "State of the State" address to highlighting how great the Affordable Care Act has been for his state's residents (though he neglected to credit the law directly).
The New York Times reported, meanwhile, that some Republican officials are actually afraid that their party might persuade Republican justices on the Supreme Court, with adverse consequences for everyone -- including their own constituents.
After President Obama's Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, Republicans at both the state and federal levels seemed to speak with one voice in flatly rejecting it.
But in subsequent years, though most Republican governors remained critical of the health care law, nine accepted a central but optional element, expanding Medicaid programs to cover many more low-income residents of their states. At least four others, urged on by hospitals and business groups, will try to do so this year.
And now, briefs filed last month in support of a major legal challenge to the law -- King v. Burwell, which is now before the Supreme Court -- are raising new questions about divisions within the Republican Party over the law.
Just how divided are they?
U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about college cost initiatives during a visit to Pellissippi State College in Knoxville, Tennessee, Jan. 9, 2015. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Obama to throw down the gauntlet in support of middle class

01/19/15 12:35PM

Free community college, an expansive broadband initiative, and a national effort on paid family leave -- are there any other major proposals President Obama has in mind for his State of the Union address tomorrow? Actually, yes, and it's arguably the biggest component of progressive governance yet.
Suzy Khimm reported over the weekend on the president's proposal for tax reform, which Republicans really aren't going to like.
Democrats have offered one proposal after another to tax the wealthy to benefit ordinary Americans. But Obama's new tax plan takes a more targeted approach: He wants to raise taxes on the richest Americans' inherited wealth, not income, to help the middle-class build their own wealth.
Obama's plan, unveiled on Saturday night, would eliminate a loophole that allows wealthy Americans to pass on tax-free assets to their heirs. He would raise the capital gains tax for those with incomes above $500,000 from 23.8% to 28% and eliminate a loophole used by a handful of wealthy individuals -- including Mitt Romney -- to turn tax-preferred retirement plans into tax shelters.
One can see the evolution in the White House's thinking in recent years. After Obama's inauguration in 2009, the first goal was an immediate rescue of the nation's economy, which ended the Great Recession. From there the president wanted to establish a foundation of economic security for Americans, which he did through the creation of the Affordable Care Act.
But as has been widely documented, the growing wealth gap and stagnant middle-class incomes remain persistent national challenges, which in turn leads Obama to this next phase of his economic platform -- ensuring prosperity that's more broadly shared.
Some of you are probably thinking this latest pitch isn't entirely new. After all, tax reform has been on the table for a while, and middle-class tax breaks have already been a major part of the president's agenda.
But this really is new.