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People walk past the U.S. Capitol dome in the hours before President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington, Jan. 12, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

New fissures emerge in Senate Republicans' Court blockade

03/25/16 08:00AM

The arithmetic on the Senate Republicans' Supreme Court blockade certainly leans in the party's favor. The GOP conference has a 54-member majority. If there's a filibuster against Judge Merrick Garland, as seems likely, he would need 60 votes to have a chance at confirmation.
 
Are there 14 Republican senators who might break ranks and join with 46 Democrats to advance Garland's nomination? Objectively, it's difficult to imagine such circumstances -- so long as the far-right GOP conference sticks together, linking arms on a gambit never before tried in American history, odds are Republicans will succeed in blocking the same Supreme Court nominee some GOP senators urged President Obama to choose.
 
But as the process continues to unfold, there's at least some evidence that Republicans are not yet united. The Washington Post reported yesterday:
A third Republican senator broke with party leadership this week to say that Supreme Court nominee Merrick B. Garland ought to be granted hearings, according to a news report.
 
The Garden City Telegram reported that Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) told a small group gathered in a Cimarron, Kan., courthouse on Monday that GOP senators "should interview Garland and have a hearing on his nomination," in the paper's words.
According to the local report, Moran said he expects to oppose Garland's nomination, but the senator nevertheless believes "the process ought to go forward." In a separate local report, the Kansas Republican was also quoted saying, "I think we have the responsibility to have a hearing, to have the conversation and to make a determination on the merit."
 
Before yesterday, only Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) had endorsed confirmation hearings for Garland. Moran, a former chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee who also happens to be up for re-election this year, has joined a very small club.

Citations for the March 24, 2016 TRMS

03/25/16 12:07AM

Tonight's guests:

  • Mary Spicuzza, politics reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • Robert Costa, national political reporter for The Washington Post
  • Matea Gold, national political reporter for The Washington Post
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar

Tonight's links:

read more

Down-ballot Republicans fear Trump fallout

Down-ballot Republicans fear Trump fallout

03/24/16 09:34PM

Matea Gold, national political reporter for The Washington Post, talks with Steve Kornacki about Republican donors rallying to protect Republicans in Congress from any political damage that may come from Donald Trump's new role as the party's standard bearer. watch

Fallout continues over Arizona voting debacle

Fallout continues over Arizona voting debacle

03/24/16 09:29PM

Steve Kornacki reports on the continued outrage over long wait times to vote in Arizona's primary, particularly in Maricopa County, with new calls for a federal investigation and new legislation filed to ensure it doesn't happen again. watch

Thursday's Mini-Report, 3.24.16

03/24/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* News from the FBI: "Seven Iranian computer experts linked to the government in Tehran were charged Thursday with cyber attacks against American banks and a dam in New York."
 
* Brussels bombing: "Belgium's justice and interior ministers acknowledged Thursday that the authorities had erred by not acting on Turkey's request last year that they take custody of a Belgian citizen arrested for suspected terrorist activity. The man was one of the Islamic State suicide bombers in the devastating Brussels attacks."
 
* Related news: "The two brothers named as the suicide bombers at the center of the Brussels airport and metro attacks this week were listed as a potential terror threat in U.S. databases, NBC News has learned. According to two U.S. officials, Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui were known to U.S. counter terrorism authorities prior to Tuesday morning."
 
* ISIS losing ground: "As European governments scramble to contain the expanding terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State, on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria the group is a rapidly diminishing force."
 
* This may not be a sustainable posture: "Striking a defiant tone as scandals engulf her government, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil insisted in an interview on Thursday that she would not resign, even as momentum builds in Congress for her ouster."
 
* Radovan Karadzic: "A former Bosnian Serb leader was found guilty of genocide and other charges on Thursday for his role in deadly campaigns during the Bosnian war in the 1990s, including the massacres of thousands in Srebrenica, as an international tribunal announced a long-awaited reckoning in Europe's bloodiest chapter since World War II."
People wait to vote in the U.S. presidential primary election outside a polling site in Glendale, Ariz. on March 22, 2016. (Photo by Nancy Wiechec/Reuters)

Controversy surrounds long voting lines in Arizona

03/24/16 03:00PM

Ordinarily, the most interesting thing about an election day is the results showing who won and who lost. But this week, with many watching the Arizona primary closely, the big surprise had nothing to do with the vote tallies and everything to do with the voting lines.
 
MSNBC's Zach Roth reported that some Arizonans were forced to wait as long as five hours to cast a primary ballot.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, called the long lines in Maricopa County "unacceptable," adding: "Our election officials must evaluate what went wrong and how they make sure it doesn't happen again." An editorial in the Arizona Republic called the lines "shameful."
 
Some voters in downtown Phoenix reportedly waited until after midnight to cast a ballot, after standing in line since before 7 p.m. A bipartisan presidential panel said in a 2014 report that voters shouldn't have to wait more than half an hour.
In theory, someone might generously suggest this is the result of stronger-than-expected voter interest. Maybe, the argument goes, Arizonans were so engaged in both parties' competitive contests that they showed up in droves and completely overwhelmed the system.
 
Except, that's not what actually happened. Turnout was strong, but it wasn't that strong.
 
So what created this fiasco? As it turns out, Arizona can blame, at least in part, the five conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court.
A window sticker on a downtown Indianapolis florist, on March 25, 2015, shows it's objection to the Religious Freedom bill passed by the Indiana legislature.

Georgia faces business pressure over 'religious liberty' bill

03/24/16 12:48PM

A year ago at this time, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) and his state's Republican-led legislature sparked a national controversy when it approved a right-to-discriminate measure, intended to empower workers to cite religious objections to deny services to the public. Initially, GOP officials weren't especially concerned about criticisms from the left.
 
But Indiana's state government changed direction when prominent businesses and private-sector leaders said they would start avoiding the state unless Indiana changed course. Pence did exactly that soon after.
 
A year later, Georgia's Republican-led state government is moving forward with a related "religious liberty" measure. The Washington Post reported this week reported that the Human Rights Campaign urged the entertainment industry to threaten to withhold business from Georgia if the bill becomes law. Variety reported yesterday that one Hollywood giant agreed (via Ron Chusid):
The Walt Disney Co. and Marvel Studios indicated opposition to a Georgia religious liberty bill pending before Gov. Nathan Deal, saying that they will take their business elsewhere "should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law."
 
With generous tax incentives, Georgia has become a production hub, with Marvel currently shooting "Guardians of the Galaxy 2" at Pinewood Studios outside Atlanta. "Captain America: Civil War" shot there last summer.
A company spokesperson said yesterday, "Disney and Marvel are inclusive companies, and although we have had great experiences filming in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law."
 
They join other major corporations headquartered in the state -- Coca-Cola, Home Depot, UPS, and Cox Enterprises -- in opposing the bill. AMC Networks, which films "The Walking Dead" in Georgia, also called for the state to reject the proposal. High-profile corporations from outside the state, including Apple, have joined the call.
 
Complicating matters further, the National Football League suggested "that such a law in Georgia could affect Atlanta's attempts" to host an upcoming Super Bowl.

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 3.24.16

03/24/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* The next primary on the Republican calendar is Wisconsin, which hosts its contest on April 5. An Emerson College poll released yesterday found a very competitive GOP race, with Ted Cruz narrowly leading Donald Trump, 36% to 35%. John Kasich is further back with 19%.
 
* That same poll found Hillary Clinton with a modest lead over Bernie Sanders among Wisconsin Democrats, 50% to 44%.
 
* Speaking of Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) hasn't formally endorsed any of his former presidential rivals yet, but he made his intentions clear yesterday. "Ted Cruz is the only one who's got a chance other than Donald Trump to win the nomination," Walker said.
 
* Clinton delivered a speech yesterday at Stanford University on her national security strategy as it relates to ISIS. It represented quite a contrast from what the public heard from the leading Republican candidates the day before.
 
* Pennsylvania will host a critically important primary in late April, and a new Franklin & Marshall poll shows a tight GOP race. Trump leads Kasich in the survey, 33% to 30%, with Cruz third with 20%.
 
* The same poll showed Clinton with a big advantage, at least for now, over Sanders among Pennsylvania Democrats, 53% to 28%.
President Barack Obama speaks at El Gran Teatro de Havana, March 22, 2016, in Havana, Cuba. (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Obama on ISIS: 'They're not an existential threat to us'

03/24/16 11:20AM

As part of his trip to Argentina, President Obama co-hosted a press conference yesterday with President Mauricio Macri, and a reporter asked about the "optics" of Obama continuing with his schedule in the wake of the terrorist attack in Brussels. The American leader's response raised some eyebrows.
"Groups like ISIL can't destroy us, they can't defeat us. They don't produce anything. They're not an existential threat to us. They are vicious killers and murderers who perverted one of the world's great religions.
 
"And their primary power, in addition to killing innocent lives, is to strike fear in our societies, to disrupt our societies, so that the effect cascades from an explosion or an attack by a semi-automatic rifle."
The president went on to explain that he believes in reminding terrorists about the weakness by rejecting their efforts to change how we live.
 
But for some on the right, there was an important problem. What does Obama mean ISIS isn't "an existential threat"? How could he possibly say that?
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder speaks to the media regarding the status of the Flint water crisis on Jan. 27, 2016 at Flint City Hall in Flint, Mich. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty)

Panel pins blame for Flint crisis on Gov. Snyder's administration

03/24/16 10:50AM

Last fall, when Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) started to recognize the severity of the catastrophe in Flint, he appointed members to a task force to determine what went wrong. There were concerns that the panel might hesitate before pointing the finger at the same governor who tasked them with uncovering the truth.
 
It was all the more striking, then, when the panel issued a report yesterday that said it's the Snyder administration that's "fundamentally accountable" for the Flint crisis, because it was the governor's environmental regulators and state-appointed emergency managers who created the mess. The state Associated Press reported:
The panel ... said what happened in Flint is "a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction, and environmental injustice." It also cited "intransigence and belligerence that has no place in government."
 
"Flint water customers were needlessly and tragically exposed to toxic levels of lead and other hazards through the mismanagement of their drinking water supply," investigators said.
 
Moreover, the 116-page report described as "inappropriate" a frequent claim of Snyder and his representatives that the Flint water crisis represents a failure of the local, state and federal governments. That suggests "that blame is attributable equally to all three levels of government," the report said.
The document, available online in its entirety, concluded, "The state is fundamentally accountable for what happened in Flint.
 
And what about the effort on the part of Republicans and both-sides-are-always-to-blame pundits to hold the federal EPA responsible for Flint?

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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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