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President Barack Obama is applauded after signing the Affordable Health Care for America Act during a ceremony with fellow Democrats in the East Room of the White House March 23, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

ACA succeeds with Supreme Court decision looming

06/25/15 09:50AM

The Supreme Court will hand down a ruling in King v. Burwell sometime over the next several days -- possibly as early as this morning -- leaving much of the political world to wonder how much damage, if any, Republican justices intend to do the American health care system.
 
While we wait, however, the legal controversy comes against an amazing backdrop. Despite the partisan peril the Affordable Care Act faces, the system itself has never been stronger or more effective. The latest CBS News poll even shows rising popularity for "Obamacare."
As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to issue a ruling that could impact the Affordable Care Act, 47 percent of Americans now approve of the health care law, the highest in CBS News and New York Times polling (although support is still short of a majority). For the first time, more Americans now approve than disapprove of the ACA, but by a narrow margin.
Less than a third of the country supports the Republicans' repeal agenda. What's more, a whopping 70% of Americans believe the Supreme Court should leave the current subsidies in place -- only half of GOP voters agree with their own party's litigation -- while 64% want Congress to protect the subsidies if the court strikes them down in states without their own exchange marketplaces.
 
But public attitudes are really just part of a broader success story. We learned on Tuesday, for example, that one of the ACA's principal goals -- expanding the availability to health insurance -- is being met with impressive efficiency. The New York Times reported:
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump makes a point as he formally announces his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination during an event at Trump Tower in New York, June 16, 2015. (Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

The Republicans' new top-tier contender?

06/25/15 09:11AM

A couple of days ago, the latest Suffolk poll in New Hampshire showed Jeb Bush leading the GOP presidential field with 14% support, which surprised no one. The poll ended up causing quite a stir, however, because of who was in second place: Donald Trump enjoyed 11% support and was the only other candidate to reach double digits in New Hampshire.
 
There was ample reason to be skeptical. The poll's sample size, for example, was quite modest, and most recent polling in the Granite State doesn't show Trump with nearly that much support.
 
A day later, however, another poll -- this time, national survey results from Fox News -- raised eyebrows again.
There's been a lineup change in the race for the GOP nomination, as businessman Donald Trump moves up after declaring his candidacy. He's now second in the order after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who also got an uptick in support after his formal announcement. [...]
 
Bush tops the list of GOP contenders with 15 percent support among Republican primary voters.  That's up from 12 percent last month and his best showing yet. Support for Trump more than doubled since his announcement and that catapults him into the top tier at 11 percent. He's followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 10 percent.
How many other candidates reached double digits in the Fox poll? None. Just the brother of a failed president, the host of a reality show, and a retired right-wing neurosurgeon who sees parallels between modern American life and Nazi Germany.
 
Regardless, if Trump is now running second nationally, at least in this poll, is it time to start looking at him as a serious contender for the GOP presidential nomination?
 
Not really.

Jobless claims remain steady at 271k

06/25/15 08:40AM

Sometimes, when it comes to the economy, boring news is good news. Take the latest Labor Department report on initial unemployment claims, for example.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits edged up by 3,000 to 271,000 in the seven days from June 14 to June 20, but layoffs remain quite low amid a steady increase in hiring and a tightening labor market. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to total a seasonally adjusted 274,000.
 
The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 3,250 to 273,750, the Labor Department said Thursday.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it’s worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it’s best not to read too much significance into any one report.
 
In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it’s considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape. At this point, we’ve been below 300,000 in 35 of the last 41 weeks.
A fence is seen surrounding the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters)

Obama's trade agenda, back from the brink

06/25/15 08:00AM

For those engaged in the debate over trade, the last six weeks have been a roller coaster unlike anything the political world has seen in a while. Opponents of President Obama's trade agenda were winning, the supporters were winning. Then opponents reclaimed the advantage, only to see supporters take it right back.
 
As of late yesterday, however, it appears the White House and its unusual set of allies are going to get exactly what they want. NBC News reported last night:
A critical aspect of President Barack Obama's economic legacy got a boost on Wednesday when the Senate voted to approve giving him "fast-track" authority to negotiate a sweeping 12-nation trade pact without the threat of Congress adding amendments or filibustering the final deal.
 
The vote was 60-38. The measure now heads to the president's desk for signature.
The final roll call on the Senate vote is online here.
 
Note, Congress passed Trade Promotion Authority -- better known as "fast-track" -- without the labor-friendly Trade Adjustment Assistance, but that will soon change. Under the plan hatched by the president and Republican leaders, TAA will be on its way to the Oval Office by tomorrow. Indeed, it passed the Senate late yesterday on a voice vote and is expected to clear the House with relative ease.
 
House Democrats originally blocked TAA, which they support, in the hopes of derailing the larger trade agenda, but now that fast-track has already passed, the Democratic minority no longer has an incentive to oppose the policy they like. Several House Dems who oppose the trade agenda acknowledged yesterday that the fight is "over."
 
That's largely true, though there's likely to be one more round.

Charleston shooting survivors and other headlines

06/25/15 07:50AM

3 survivors of the Charleston church shooting grapple with grief. (Washington Post)

Bernie Sanders gains on Hillary Clinton in early-state polling. (Bloomberg Politics)

Pres. Obama has issued 19 secret directives. (USA Today)

Obama's transgender, undocumented heckler: 'I just had to send a message.' (The Advocate)

Ted Cruz speaks to the right, shuns party leaders. (Wall Street Journal)

The amazing story of war profiteers who scammed Iraq with fake bomb detectors. (Vanity Fair)

Noriega asks for Panama's forgiveness. (AP)

How the turtle got its shell. (Washington Post)

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Prison guard arrested in escaped killers case

Prison guard arrested in escaped killers case

06/24/15 09:21PM

Rachel Maddow reports the breaking news of the arrest of corrections officer Gene Palmer, a prison guard in connection with the escape of two convicted murderers from the maximum security wing of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Upstate New York. watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 6.24.15

06/24/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* More on this in the morning: "After no shortage of fits and starts, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's trade agenda -- Trade Promotion Authority -- is finally heading to his desk."
 
* The Pakistani death toll has topped 800: "After four days of punishing heat that killed hundreds of people in this southern port city, the temperature and death toll were lower on Wednesday. Health and rescue officials said the number of deaths, which have surpassed 800, was down on Wednesday as the temperature dropped to 98 degrees Fahrenheit."
 
* Ali Awni al-Harzi: "An American drone strike last week killed a midlevel operative with the Islamic State who had been a conduit for the militant group's outreach to extremists in North Africa, Defense Department officials said on Monday."
 
* France: "French President Francois Hollande branded alleged spying by the National Security Agency on him and two predecessors as 'unacceptable' on Wednesday."
 
* South Carolina: "The Chief Magistrate widely criticized for soliciting sympathy for the family of a man accused of fatally shooting nine people during a Bible study last week has been replaced, according to a Wednesday order from the S.C. Supreme Court."
 
* Baltimore, Part I: "Freddie Gray suffered a single 'high-energy injury' to his neck and spine -- most likely caused when the police van in which he was riding suddenly decelerated, according to a copy of the autopsy report obtained by The Baltimore Sun."
 
* Baltimore, Part II: each of the officers charged in the Gray case has pleaded not guilty.
 
* Boston: "A choked-up Dzhokhar Tsarnaev apologized in court Wednesday to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, then was formally sentenced to die for the attack. 'You told us just how unbearable it was, this thing I put you through,' Tsarnaev said at a hearing in Boston. 'Now, I am sorry for the lives that I have taken.'"
 
* Eastern Europe: "The U.S. will spread about 250 tanks, armored vehicles and other military equipment across six former Soviet bloc nations to help reassure NATO allies facing threats from Russia and terrorist groups, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Tuesday."
Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks at a luncheon at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada March 29, 2014.

The challenge of being a Wall Street candidate

06/24/15 04:46PM

There was a point late last year in which Mitt Romney clearly wanted to run once again for president. Romney and his aides kept telling reporters about his interest, and just as importantly, they told Republican donors to wait before rallying behind a 2016 favorite.
 
Team Romney realized that Jeb Bush was well positioned to be the GOP establishment's candidate of choice, but Romney and his staff also saw Bush as vulnerable. "You saw what they did to me with Bain [Capital]," Romney reportedly told allies behind closed doors. "What do you think they'll do to [Bush] over Barclays?"
 
The argument may have lacked self-awareness, but it raised a legitimate point. Jeb Bush's work with the investment banks Lehman Brothers and Barclays would likely be a problem if he wins the Republican nomination.
 
But perhaps no candidate would be as closely associated with Wall Street as Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R). The Democratic National Committee circulated this clip today of the Ohio Republican talking about his private-sector background.
"My military reform activities were basically completed, so I decided to leave Washington [in 2001]. So, I went out and spent 10 years in the private sector and I just loved it. I never thought that I would be back in politics."
Kasich made similar comments to Time magazine just last week. Asked whether he has any regrets from his time in the private sector, the Ohio Republican was incredulous.
 
"It was fantastic," Kasich told Time. "Are you kidding? Regrets? I thought it was a fantastic time. I traveled all over the country. I got an incredible education. I worked my tail off. It was great."
 
As much as I appreciate the governor's enthusiasm, there's a small problem with his "fantastic" experiences in the private sector.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 24, 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

A week after Charleston, Walker expands gun rights in Wis.

06/24/15 03:49PM

It was just a week ago that a gunman murdered nine people in a Charleston church, renewing an ongoing debate over, among other things, the public's easy access to guns.
 
Given the way the argument usually goes, it was hard for cynics not to wonder how quickly some policymakers would expand gun rights after the massacre. Now we know.
Scott Walker expanded gun rights in Wisconsin on Wednesday by signing into law two bills that, respectively, get rid of the state's 48-hour waiting period and let retired or off-duty law enforcement officials carry concealed firearms into public schools. [...]
 
Walker, who is expected to jump into the 2016 presidential race in the next few weeks, often touts his efforts to roll back gun laws in the state. He also has an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association.
In fairness, it's important to emphasize, as the Politico report does, that these state measures have been in the works for quite a while -- the Wisconsin bills are unrelated to developments in Charleston.
 
Still, the timing is jarring. To expand gun rights so soon after yet another mass shooting suggests a certain indifference to the broader debate.
 
As for the policy itself, Wisconsin Democrats reminded the state's GOP majority that a 48-hour waiting period has been an effective "cooling-off period for those contemplating suicide or who might shoot another person in a fit of passion, especially in cases of domestic abuse."
 
Walker and his Republican allies were evidently not persuaded.

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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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