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E.g., 1/25/2015
A Tea Party member reaches for a pamphlet titled "The Impact of Obamacare", at a "Food for Free Minds Tea Party Rally" in Littleton, New Hampshire in this October 27, 2012. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

Republicans plow forward with misguided ACA 'fix'

01/08/15 10:54AM

It's actually difficult to put together a health care bill that adds to the deficit and reduces coverage at the same time. Usually policies do one or the other.
Congressional Republicans, however, are unusually bad at crafting sensible proposals in this area. It's comparable to someone going on a diet and going out of their way to find foods that have too many calories and taste terrible.
In this case, the issue is an Affordable Care Act provision that requires many employers to provide health care coverage to full-time employees -- and the law defines "full time" as those working 30 hours a week or more. Republicans desperately want to move that threshold to 40 hours a week, and yesterday, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office sketched out what would happen if GOP lawmakers got their way.
A bipartisan measure changing ObamaCare's definition of full-time work would raise the deficit by $53.2 billion over 10 years and move up to 1 million people into government sponsored health insurance, congressional budget analysts said Wednesday.
The projection from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) poses a messaging challenge to Republican supporters of the measure who are using it as their first attack on the healthcare law this Congress.... The number of uninsured would also increase by less than 500,000, the CBO said.
Well, it might cause a messaging challenge if Republican lawmakers cared even the slightest bit about substantive policy analyses. [Update 4:33 p.m.: The bill passed the House this afternoon, 252-172. Literally zero Republicans voted against it.]
Remember, GOP lawmakers were told yesterday that their proposal would cut off insurance for hundreds of thousands of Americans, while costing taxpayers more money. They were also told the day before that President Obama will, without question, veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.
Confronted with that reality, House Republicans are proceeding anyway, not because it's a good bill -- even conservative media doesn't see the point -- but because GOP lawmakers consider their bad bill ideologically satisfying.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (R) speaks with Speaker of the House John Beohner (R-OH) in Washington in 2012.

GOP lawmakers hit the ground running to the far-right

01/08/15 10:09AM

In the weeks immediately following the 2014 midterm elections, there was an enormous amount of talk about the need to avoid "poisoning the well." The point seemed to be, policymakers should be cautious about picking political fights in order to avoid partisan rancor in the new Congress.
Clearly, those concerns have been thrown out a Capitol Hill window.
House Democrats on Wednesday knocked down a GOP bill that would have delayed a key Wall Street reform known as the Volcker Rule, stunning Republican leaders who had expected it to pass with ease. [...]
The bill would have allowed banks to hang onto billions of dollars in risky collateralized loan obligations for two additional years by amending the Volcker Rule, which is part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The rule bans banks from speculating in securities markets with taxpayer funds, requiring them to dump their CLO holdings. A Volcker Rule delay would be a major boon to the nation's largest banks.
Note, a majority of the House voted for the measure, but because Republican leaders brought the bill up under the suspension calendar, it needed a two-thirds majority to pass. It fell far short.
There are a few ways to look at yesterday's failure. The first, of course, is that House Republican leaders still haven't mastered the art of vote-counting. The second is that GOP lawmakers clearly remain committed to using their power to do Wall Street's bidding.
But even putting that aside, let's not miss the forest for the trees: on only the second day of the new Congress, House Republicans immediately turned their attention to a controversial proposal, backed by financial-industry lobbyists. These guys really aren't wasting any time.
Indeed, it's amazing to see just how aggressive the new Republican majority has been since taking its oath of office on Tuesday.
Colorado Springs police officers investigate the scene of an explosion Jan. 6, 2015, at Mr. G's Hair Salon at 603 S. El Paso Street in Colorado Springs, Colo.

John Lewis shines spotlight on attempted Colorado violence

01/08/15 09:12AM

The investigation continues this week into the failed detonation of an improvised explosive device in Colorado Springs, and yesterday, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) made a point to shine a spotlight on the incident.
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a leader during the civil rights movement, said he was "deeply troubled" by the Tuesday detonation of an explosive device outside of a building in Colorado that houses a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
"It reminds me of another period. These stories cannot be swept under the rug," he said in a tweet.
The FBI has taken the lead in the investigation and is reportedly looking for "a balding white man in his 40s who may be driving a dirty pickup truck which could have an open tailgate or a missing or covered license plate."
As KUSA, Denver's NBC affiliate, reported last night, investigators consider this a possible act of domestic terrorism, but they have not yet determined whether the NAACP offices were specifically targeted.
The same report noted that the explosive device "was placed next to a gasoline can and detonated, but the gas didn't ignite and the explosion caused only 'minimal' damage."
This is obviously a story worth watching closely, and if there's reason to believe the NAACP was targeted for by a domestic terrorist, a serious public conversation should ensue.

Jobless claims inch lower, remain below 300k

01/08/15 08:38AM

As the new year gets underway, initial unemployment claims have not yet returned to the great numbers we saw in October, but all things considered, the latest data isn't bad at all.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits at the end of the year fell slightly and remained below the key 300,000 mark ... offering more proof that the labor market is still on the upswing. Initial jobless claims dropped to 294,000 in the seven days ended Jan. 2 from an unrevised 298,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to total a seasonally adjusted 290,000.
The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, inched down by 250 to 290,500. The four-week average smoothens out seasonal volatility in the weekly report and is seen as a more accurate predictor of labor-market trends.
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, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. At this point, we’ve been 300,000 in 16 of the last 17 weeks.
The US Capitol dome is seen on Capitol Hill on Jan. 5, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty)

Will Paris attack alter congressional GOP plans?

01/08/15 08:00AM

Yesterday's terrorism in Paris, and the ensuing manhunt for the attackers, obviously represents an important crisis in France, but the violence has garnered attention around the world. For those of us who follow domestic politics, there's an unanswered question about the effects yesterday's attack may have on Capitol Hill.
It was, after all, just last month when Congress approved a spending package for the federal government with an important caveat: at the demand of far-right lawmakers, the budget for the Department of Homeland Security was put in limbo.
Republicans, outraged by President Obama's immigration policy, weren't able to force a government shutdown, but they did lay the groundwork for a February showdown: if the White House doesn't back away from its immigration plan, GOP lawmakers are prepared to effectively shut down much of the Homeland Security operations.
Given yesterday's terrorism, and fears of related violence, are Republicans still prepared to follow through on their partisan threats? A reporter posed that question to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at a press conference yesterday.
"Listen, I said what happened over there [in Paris] reminds us that we should be vigilant. There are terrorists around the world who are intent on killing Americans and other freedom-loving individuals around the country. I believe that the president's executive actions with regard to immigration are outside of the Constitution and outside of his powers.
"And I believe that we can deal with that issue in the Department of Homeland Security bill without jeopardizing the security of our country."
On that last point, officials at the Department of Homeland Security disagree, warning lawmakers that a partial shutdown would undermine the department's operations.
Of course, there's often a difference between what Boehner is willing to say and what Boehner is willing to do, so it's an open question whether Republicans intend to follow through, putting DHS funding in jeopardy a month after a Parisian attack, even during a military campaign targeting ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told Fox News yesterday, "The juxtaposition would be terrible -- a terrorist slaughter in Paris and U.S. cuts back on Homeland Security funding."

Manhunt in France and other headlines

01/08/15 07:37AM

Two suspects still at large after Paris massacre. (New York Times)

Paris massacre suspects are said to have robbed a gas station in northern France. (BBC)

In new role in Senate, Democrats grind gears. (New York Times)

Sens. Cruz, McConnell vie for influence over GOP Senate freshmen. (The Hill)

House GOP plots immigration strategy. (Politico)

NJ Gov. Chris Christie's reelection campaign gets subpoenaed. (Wall Street Journal)

First day of Colorado legislative session targets gun, abortion laws. (Colorado Springs Gazette)

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Republicans run into veto dead-end

Republicans run into veto dead-end

01/07/15 09:42PM

Rachel Maddow reports that in addition to President Obama's threat to veto Keystone pipeline legislation Republicans plan to pass in Congress, the White House now says that the second priority of the new Congress, a change to Obamacare will also be... watch

Attack shows Muslim extremist ire for France

Attack shows Muslim extremist ire for France

01/07/15 09:29PM

Fawaz Gerges, Middle Eastern studies professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, talks with Rachel Maddow about the particular animosity Muslim extremists feel toward France and its embodiment in the newspaper Charlie Hebdo. watch