Within weeks of the 2014 midterm elections, the new Republican-led Congress made clear one of its priorities would be trying to limit the Clean Water Act. The Obama administration's EPA expanded pollution restrictions on previously unregulated waters -- through a policy called the Waters of the United States rule -- and conservatives said this could not stand.
And for the most part, Republicans took some steps towards their goal. Using "a rarely invoked law known as the Congressional Review Act," GOP lawmakers voted in November for a measure, championed by far-right Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Okla.), to curtail the Clean Water Act. It passed both chambers.
As a practical matter, though, Republicans were just wasting their own time -- they knew President Obama would veto the effort, and this week, he did exactly that.
President Obama issued the ninth veto of his presidency Tuesday, rejecting a congressional resolution that would have overturned federal regulations on clean water. [...]
"Too many of our waters have been left vulnerable," Obama said in a veto message to Congress. "Pollution from upstream sources ends up in the rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and coastal waters near which most Americans live and on which they depend for their drinking water, recreation, and economic development."
GOP lawmakers knew they'd never have the votes necessary to override the veto, but they nevertheless moved forward on the idea today, and came up far short. A veto override would require 67 votes in the Senate, and a procedural vote today needed 60 votes. Republicans managed to get 52.
Or put another way, this priority from the GOP's wish list will have to wait until next year, when Republicans hope to control the House, the Senate, and the White House.
But what struck me as especially noteworthy about this is the timing.
After more than seven months on the presidential campaign trail, Carly Fiorina can't be altogether pleased with how things have gone. Perhaps the most memorable moment of her candidacy to date was when Fiorina lied about anti-abortion videos, and when confronted with reality, she refused to acknowledge the obvious fact that she wasn't telling the truth.
But while that incident may serve as Peak Fiorina, The Guardianreports today on a separate incident that, if true, is nearly as striking.
Carly Fiorina has been accused of "ambushing" a group of children, after she ushered pre-schoolers, who were on a field trip to a botanical garden, into an anti-abortion rally in Des Moines.
On Wednesday, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive embarked on a day of campaigning across Iowa, in an attempt to boost her ailing presidential campaign.
The alleged ambush occurred when Fiorina hosted a "right to life" forum at the Greater Des Moines botanical garden. Entering the rally, before a crowd of about 60 people, she directed around 15 young children towards a makeshift stage.
And while that may not seem particularly alarming at first, according to at least one parent, some of those children just happened to be visiting a botanical garden -- and the families hadn't given the Republican candidate permission to include the kids in her anti-abortion event.
Indeed, this wasn't just some random photo-op. According to the article, the children were seated "in front of a huge banner bearing the image" of a fetus -- while Fiorina "talked about harvesting organs from aborted babies."
One parent said plainly, "The kids went there to see the plants.... She ambushed my son's field trip."
Last night, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) talked with The Atlantic's Molly Ball about the 2016 race, and he offered an expected opinion. If given a choice between the Republicans' top two presidential candidates -- Donald Trump and Ted Cruz -- Lott would prefer Trump.
As it turns out, Lott's immediate predecessor as the Senate's Republican leader had some related thoughts. The New York Timesreported:
Bob Dole, the former Kansas senator and 1996 Republican presidential nominee, has never been fond of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. But in an interview Wednesday, Mr. Dole said that the party would suffer "cataclysmic" and "wholesale losses" if Mr. Cruz were the nominee, and that Donald J. Trump would fare better.
"I question his allegiance to the party," Mr. Dole said of Mr. Cruz. "I don't know how often you've heard him say the word 'Republican' — not very often." Instead, Mr. Cruz uses the word "conservative," Mr. Dole said, before offering up a different word for Mr. Cruz: "extremist."
Dole, who has endorsed Jeb Bush, added that while "nobody likes" Cruz, Trump could "probably work with Congress, because he's, you know, he's got the right personality and he's kind of a deal-maker."
Some recent history might help put this in context. In 2014, Cruz was not yet an official candidate, but the Texas Republican nevertheless made a lot of public appearances before far-right audiences, laying the groundwork for his future campaign. His standard stump speech included this pitch: "All of us remember President Dole, and President McCain and President Romney. Those are good men, they're all decent men, but when you don't stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don't stand for principle, Democrats celebrate."
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* With 11 days remaining before the Iowa caucuses, a new Loras College Poll shows Donald Trump with the narrowest of leads over Ted Cruz, 26% to 25%, with Marco Rubio third with 13%. In December, a Loras poll found Cruz leading Trump, 30% to 23%.
* In related news, the final KBUR/Monmouth College poll of Iowa Republicans shows Cruz narrowly leading Trump, 27% to 25%. The same poll found Ben Carson third with 11%, followed by Marco Rubio at 9%.
* On the other side of the aisle, the same KBUR/Monmouth College poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders among Iowa Democrats, 48% to 39%. Martin O'Malley has one of his stronger showings of the season in this poll with 7%.
* On the campaign trail in Iowa yesterday, Bernie Sanders went after Hillary Clinton's 2002 vote in support of the Iraq war AUMF. Clinton later expressed regret for having voted for the resolution.
* Though Vice President Biden hasn't had much to say about the presidential race lately, he delivered a keynote address at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland yesterday, and denounced the idea of moving towards "socialism." Biden did not, however, mention Sanders by name.
* In North Carolina, the latest PPP poll shows Clinton leading Sanders with a comfortable lead over Sanders, 59% to 26%. North Carolina's primary isn't until March 15.
* In Florida, the latest statewide poll from Florida Atlantic University also shows Clinton with a big lead, 62% to 26%, over Sanders.
There's something amazing about elections that end in an exact tie. It doesn't happen often, and the larger the election the more statistically improbable it becomes, but once in a great while, we'll see a race in which two rivals end up with the exact same number of votes, which often leads to some kind of card game to determine a winner.
Last fall, in Mississippi 79th legislative district, there was just such a tie. Incumbent state Rep. Bo Eaton (D) ran for re-election against challenger Mark Tullos (R), and when the dust settled, the two ended up tied. The local tie-breaker called for the candidates to draw straws. In this case, Eaton pulled the long straw, was declared the winner, and went back to work in Jackson.
But that was more the beginning of the story than the end. Tullos contested the results and took his case to the Republican-led legislature. Yesterday, the Clarion-Ledgerreported that state lawmakers undid what the tie-breaker decided in the fall.
The Republican-controlled House voted late Wednesday, mostly along party lines, to unseat longtime Democratic state Rep. Bo Eaton and name Republican challenger Mark Tullos the winner of the District 79 seat. [...]
After more than three hours of debate, the House voted 67-49 to unseat Eaton and declare Tullos the winner of the seat which has been in limbo since the Nov. 3 general election. The full house voted on a five-member committee's recommendation made earlier Wednesday.
Leaders from the GOP majority insisted that they weren't motivated by partisanship, but rather, they claim Eaton benefited from five provisional votes that Republicans believe shouldn't have been counted.
At the most recent Republican presidential debate, Donald Trump recited familiar concerns about immigration, which has helped propel him to the front of the pack. "We have no borders.... Illegal immigration is beyond belief," the GOP frontrunner said. He added, "I'm tired of seeing what's going on, between the border where the people flow over; people come in; they live; they shoot."
That's probably a decent summary of how many Republican voters see the problem of illegal immigration. Imagine how surprised they'd be if they considered the real-world evidence. The L.A. Times reported overnight:
The number of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally is at its lowest in more than a decade and, for the first time in years, has probably dropped below 11 million.
A new study by the Center for Migration Studies estimates that 10.9 million immigrants are living in the country without authorization. That is the lowest level since 2003 and the first time the number has dipped below 11 million since 2004.
A Washington Postreport on the findings explained, "The number of undocumented immigrants has fallen each year since 2008, the report says, driven primarily by a steady decline in illegal migrants from Mexico." The article added that the evidence "could impact the fiery debate over immigration unfolding on the campaign trail."
Well, I suppose it could.
Kevin Appleby, the Center for Migration Studies' senior director of international migration policy, told reporters yesterday, "The facts of the report tell a different story than what you might hear on the campaign trail or in the halls of Congress, where many send a message that we're being overrun by undocumented immigrants. The facts and the data show that's just not true. Hopefully, political discourse will be more fact-based going forward."
Let's go ahead and start lowering expectations now.
As the climate crisis intensifies, the latest evidence is some of the scariest to date.
Last year was the warmest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday, breaking the previous record for warmth set in 2014.
With Earth's average land temperature 2.39 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, it was also "the largest margin by which the annual global temperature record has been broken," NOAA said in a news release. Ten months had record-high temperatures for their respective months during the year.
Keep in mind, for climate deniers, including nearly every Republican presidential candidate and member of Congress, the argument has been that "global warming stopped in 1998," and temperatures have been "paused" ever since. The New York Timesnoted this morning, "Statistical analysis suggested all along that the claims were false, and that the slowdown was, at most, a minor blip in an inexorable trend."
But now those claims are just plainly ridiculous. Last year wasn't just the planet's warmest year "since record-keeping started in the 1800s," the data shows 2015 was much warmer. We're talking about figures that break the old record easily.
In his State of the State address this week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) apologized publicly for the water crisis in Flint, conceded that he let the community down, and vowed to try to put things right. And to that end, the Republican governor released 274 pages of emails yesterday, which Snyder says represents all of the Flint-related correspondence he had in 2014 and 2015.
This may not be adequate. As the governor's office has already acknowledged, the decision to switch Flint's water source away from Detroit, for example, was made in June 2013. In other words, as Rachel noted on last night's show, the key decisions were made before the time period reflected in Snyder's emails.
When The Rachel Maddow Show asked the governor's office whether the Flint-related emails from 2013 would also be publicly released, Snyder aides were non-committal.
Meanwhile, the materials that have been released are serious enough that Snyder may owe the public another apology or two. The New York Timesreported this morning:
A top aide to Michigan's governor referred to people raising questions about the quality of Flint's water as an "anti-everything group." Other critics were accused of turning complaints about water into a "political football." And worrisome findings about lead by a concerned pediatrician were dismissed as "data," in quotes. [...]
[T]he documents provide a glimpse of state leaders who were at times dismissive of the concerns of residents, seemed eager to place responsibility with local government and, even as the scientific testing was hinting at a larger problem, were reluctant to acknowledge it.
In one particularly damning email from late September 2015, the governor's then-chief of staff said he couldn't "figure out why the state is responsible" for the Flint crisis.
Perhaps because Flint was under the control of an emergency manager appointed by the governor? Because state officials were responsible for policymaking decisions in the city of Flint? Because those officials did not report to the city's residents, but rather, reported only to Rick Snyder?
Those expecting the race for the Republican presidential nomination to change by Labor Day were wrong. Those who said we'd see a whole new contest by Halloween were wrong. So were those who saw Thanksgiving and Christmas as possible turning points.
As for those who said the new year would bring new results, the latest evidence offers more bad news. Here, for example, is the latest poll of Republican voters in the Granite State from CNN, WMUR, and the University of New Hampshire.
1. Donald Trump: 34% (up from 32% in early December)
2. Ted Cruz: 14% (up from 6%)
3. Jeb Bush: 10% (up from 8%)
3. Marco Rubio: 10% (down from 14%)
5. Chris Christie: 6% (down from 9%)
5. John Kasich: 6% (down from 7%)
5. Rand Paul: 6% (up from 2%)
The remaining candidates are each below 5%. Trump's 34% backing is the strongest showing of any Republican candidate in any CNN poll in New Hampshire this cycle.
This is, of course, only one poll, but if it's an accurate reflection of current attitudes, it suggests Cruz is making major gains in the state as the primary draws closer, while Christie and Kasich are starting to fade at the worst possible time. Rubio, meanwhile, is counting on a second-place finish in New Hampshire, but this survey suggests he's moving in the wrong direction.
Perhaps the GOP's anti-Trump contingent will find better news elsewhere? At least for now, no.
It's generally important to consider a politician's family, especially his or her kids, off limits to political scrutiny. It's simply unfair to go after private citizens, outside the arena, simply because of their familial connections.
But when a politician chooses to put a spotlight on their family members, on purpose, and uses them to advance an agenda, standards and expectations of privacy change.
On Monday, for example, one of Sarah Palin's sons, 26-year-old Track Palin, was arrested, charged with domestic violence, possession of a firearm while intoxicated, and assault on his girlfriend. A day later, Palin endorsed Donald Trump, and yesterday she hit the campaign trail -- where she suggested President Obama bore some responsibility for Track Palin's issues.
Sarah Palin suggested Wednesday that her son's arrest on domestic violence charges this week stemmed from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and -- in part -- the president's lack of "respect" for veterans.
Addressing what she called "the elephant in the room" during a rally in support of Donald Trump, Palin said her son Track came back "different" from his year-long deployment in Iraq.
Referencing her son's problem, Palin specifically said, "[I]t makes me realize more than ever, it is now or never for the sake of America's finest that we'll have that commander-in-chief who will respect them and honor them." She added that veterans like her son "come back wondering if there is that respect ... and that starts right at the top."
Last night, Donald Trump took credit for the rhetoric, saying he "suggested" to Palin that she talk about the issue.
Rachel Maddow reports on the release of hundreds of pages of e-mails from Michigan Governor Rick Snyder that show the Snyder administration's awakening to the Flint toxic water crisis, but points out that key decisions about Flint's water supply happened in 2013, which is not part of the e-mail release. watch
Rachel Maddow shows how the campaign fighting between Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Marco Rubio has turned particularly acrimonious and then shows recent Senate video in which Cruz speaks of Rubio with fawning praise. watch
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