Rachel Maddow explains that an appeals court has upheld several state bans on same sex marriage, a decision at odds with those of other appeals courts, which will likely mean the Supreme Court has to settle the matter. watch
Joe Gerth, political reporter for the Courier-Journal, talks with Rachel Maddow about the effort by Kentucky Republicans to find a way around a law barring Rand Paul from running for both Senate and president, making him vulnerable to losing both. watch
Ret. Col. Jack Jacobs, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, talks with Rachel Maddow about the cultural code among elite military members of "quiet professionalism" and the unseemly violation of that ethos by those seeking credit for killing Osama bin... watch
Rachel Maddow reports that the school board that voted to tear out pages from the honors biology textbook to remove mentions of abortion has lost its tea party majority, leaving the censorship plan in question. ArizonaHonorsBiology.com remains, just in... watch
Rachel Maddow talks with Chris Hayes about the difficulty she had erasing the long-standing note on the show whiteboard that there would be no discussion of 2016 until the 2014 election was over. watch
* More on this tomorrow: "The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld same-sex marriage bans Thursday in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, becoming the first federal appeals court in the nation to rule against marriage equality since the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down last year."
* Syria: "American fighter jets carried out a series of airstrikes in northwestern Syria on Thursday that sought to kill leaders of a Qaeda-linked militant cell that is plotting attacks on the West, American officials said."
* Iran: "U.S. President Barack Obama secretly wrote Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the middle of last month and described a shared interest in fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, according to people briefed on the correspondence. The letter appeared aimed both at buttressing the campaign against Islamic State and nudging Iran's religious leader closer to a nuclear deal."
* Speaking of Iran: "Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who has been detained in Iran since July without trial, could be released in less than a month, according to a senior Iranian official."
* More on this on tonight's show: "Two different alumni of SEAL Team Six, the secretive group of highly trained warriors that killed Osama bin Laden three years ago, have been profiting off their role in the terror leader's death since leaving the military."
* I guess we won't have to impose a travel ban on Texas: "No additional Ebola cases have been diagnosed in Texas in connection with a small outbreak earlier this fall, state health officials announced Thursday. The Texas Department of State Health Services touted the good news as the last person being monitored approached the end of the Ebola virus's 21-day incubation period."
* Mexico City: "It's been 40 days since 43 college students vanished and on Wednesday there was anger in the streets here. Tens of thousands of demonstrators brought parts of Mexico City to a standstill as protesters demanded more action from federal authorities to find the students who have been missing since late September."
Just last year, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made a public commitment on immigration reform. The Republican leader vowed to the nation that his Republican-led House "is going to do its own job in developing an immigration bill." He added, "It is time for Congress to act. But I believe the House has its job to do, and we will do our job."
Boehner, we now know, broke his word. He made a commitment and then failed to follow through. The Speaker, whose word wasn't exactly golden before, failed not only to hold a vote on the popular, bipartisan immigration bill, he also failed to keep his promise about offering an alternative.
And so, President Obama began plans to act on his own through executive action, taking advantage of the executive branch's powers under prosecutorial discretion. As of yesterday, Obama said he intends to move forward with his plans -- though if Congress gets its act together and passes worthwhile legislation, the White House's executive actions would disappear.
House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday warned that the president will "poison the well" for the new Congress if he takes executive action to address the deportation of undocumented immigrants.
"I've made clear to the president that if he acts unilaterally on his own outside of his authority, he will poison the well and there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress," Boehner told reporters at his first news conference after big GOP gains in Tuesday's midterm elections.
"When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And he's going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path," he said.
It's times like these that I really wish Speaker Boehner was better at policymaking.
This isn't complicated. Here's the mind-numbing state of the debate on immigration policy:
The Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate has received all kinds of attention, and for good reason -- major national institutions do not change party control often, and the fact that the GOP has been rewarded with so much congressional power will have real consequences for the nation and possibly the world.
But to appreciate the scope of the Republicans' 2014 victory, it's just as important, if not more so, to focus on state capitols, not the U.S. Capitol. Reid Wilson reported overnight on a conservative state senator in West Virginia who left the Democratic Party yesterday to become a Republican, and in the process gave control of the West Virginia House of Delegates to its new GOP majority. It further cements an astonishing sweep of controlling state policymaking from coast to coast.
When new legislators are sworn in next year, Republicans will control 68 of 98 partisan legislative chambers around the country, six more than their previous high-water mark, which came after 2011 elections in Mississippi.
Republicans have total control -- meaning the legislature and the governor's mansion -- in 24 states, compared with just six states in which Democrats control all levers of the legislative process.
As a practical matter, it's arguably 25 states, since Nebraska has a new Republican governor and its unicameral legislature, for all intents and purposes, is run by a GOP majority.
What's more, this doesn't include several states that were run by a Democratic majority, but where state government is now divided.
This matters more than much of the country probably realizes.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* In Louisiana's U.S. Senate runoff, the Koch brothers' Freedom Partners Action Fund is investing $2.1 million in the hopes of crushing centrist incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D).
* Is Alaska's U.S. Senate race over? Not just yet: "A day after Republican Dan Sullivan sprung to the lead in Alaska's U.S. Senate race, his opponent, incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, refused to concede, citing tens of thousands of outstanding votes -- particularly those in rural parts of the state."
* As for Alaska's gubernatorial race, it may be two weeks until voters get a final result, but independent Bill Walker, who appears to be leading, has decided to move forward with his transition plans.
* House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reportedly asked Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) to stay on as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, but he declined. It's not yet clear who his successor will be.
* Two GOP senators, Mississippi's Roger Wicker and Nevada's Dean Heller, are reportedly poised to face off in the hopes of becoming the new chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
* Why the winner may have a tough job: "The majority of the Senate battleground in the next election cycle will be fought on Republican turf, with the GOP defending 24 seats to the Democrats' 10. There is more trouble for the party beneath those raw numbers; only two Democratic seats are in competitive states, while more than half a dozen Republican incumbents face re-election in states President Barack Obama carried at least once."
What can a Republican Congress and Democratic White House reasonably expect to work on? One big issue came up quite a bit yesterday.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran (Kan.) said the new Senate GOP majority will first focus on the basic tasks of governing.... But he added that GOP leaders would also set their sights on ambitious goals such as tax reform.
"Tax reform is a great opportunity for the Senate and the House to come together," he said. "I think there's still a huge opportunity for the Senate to find common ground on tax reform," Moran added. "I think the country's economy, people's jobs, significantly demand that tax reform."
In the new op-ed from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the nation's top two GOP lawmakers added that addressing "the insanely complex tax code" is one of the Republicans' biggest priorities.
Best of all, President Obama also expressed an interest in tax reform, highlighting the issue as a priority during his White House press conference.
Taken together, one might be tempting to think something might actually get done on this issue.
But that's extremely unlikely, and it's important to understand why.
President Obama used an interesting phrase more than once yesterday when talking about the new Republican Congress. Whether it was deliberate or not, the repetition touched on a broader point.
"What we're going to make sure that we do is to reach out to Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, who are now running both chambers in Congress, and find out what their agenda is," Obama said. He added, "The good news is that now Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are from the same party; I think they can come together and decide what their agenda is.... They're in the majority; they need to present their agenda."
Right. Ordinarily, a party offers some sense of its agenda before the election, but Republicans chose a different course in 2014, leaving everyone -- from the White House to the media to the public at large -- to wonder "what their agenda is." We know Republicans wanted more power; we're less sure exactly what they intend to do with it.
To help fill in the gaps, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have an 800-word op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, explaining what they hope to do to "get Congress going."
Looking ahead to the next Congress, we will honor the voters' trust by focusing, first, on jobs and the economy. Among other things, that means a renewed effort to debate and vote on the many bills that passed the Republican-led House in recent years with bipartisan support, but were never even brought to a vote by the Democratic Senate majority. It also means renewing our commitment to repeal ObamaCare, which is hurting the job market along with Americans' health care.
I hate to be a downer -- the Beltway seemed so excited yesterday about the possibility of progress and compromise -- but reading this so soon after the midterms is a reminder that now is the time to start lowering expectations.
It was literally yesterday when Republican leaders suggested they'd try to work with the president. Just hours later, the top GOP leaders published an op-ed in a Murdoch-owned newspaper, "renewing" a "commitment" to destroy the Affordable Care Act, eliminating health care benefits for millions, because of economic arguments that have no foundation in our version of reality.
Can't you just smell the prospects for compromise?
By most measures, President Obama's post-election press conference went pretty well yesterday afternoon. He laid out some short-term priorities; he talked up areas of possible compromise; he made the case for national optimism; and the president made clear there were some areas of policy where he just won't be able to accommodate far-right demands.
Four years ago at this time, the Beltway panned Obama's post-midterm comments, but yesterday, the president seemed to handle himself pretty well.
That is, unless you're in the Republican media, which seemed to collectively freak out in response to the White House press conference.
Right-wing media reacted with disbelief and outrage at President Obama's post-election speech, in which he said he intends to cooperate with Republicans -- despite Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell making the same claim earlier the same day.
As Alexandrea Boguhn noted, the conservative pundits' reactions were over the top, even by their standards. Fox News' Sean Hannity whined about Obama's "breathtaking arrogance." Erick Erickson, without a hint of irony, called the president a "petulant man child" who gave "the middle finger" to Americans." Drudge said Obama intends to "do whatever he wants anyway" because Republicans "won't arrest him." Another Fox News contributor concluded, simply, "Obama's insane."
As if this weren't quite enough, this morning, National Journal published the latest from Ron Fournier, whose new complaint is that the president isn't changing enough in response to election results. (True to form, the columnist didn't mention any kind of substantive or policy changes the president should pursue, only that the White House should do something, about something, to satisfy some unstated standard.)
Fournier, whose demands for more presidential leadership have become a widely ridiculed cliche, apparently believes true leaders respond to adversity by guessing what others might want them to do and acting accordingly.
But the more I hear from the president's detractors on the right, the more I'm inclined to ask: what'd they expect to happen yesterday?
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hosted a press conference yesterday that generated quite a bit of attention, largely as a result of the Republican's tone. The senator who mastered the art of obstruction -- to a degree unseen in American history -- raised eyebrows by talking about governing and the prospect of governmental progress in Washington.
I'd recommend skepticism, but putting that aside for now, McConnell also managed to make a little actual news at the Q&A.
"There will be no government shutdown or default on the national debt," he said, making clear he doesn't agree with some tea party-backed lawmakers who have supported one or the other in the past -- or may want to in the future.
This was actually a fairly important comment from the GOP leader. As recently as 2011, McConnell acknowledged publicly his hopes of creating new debt-ceiling hostage crises going forward, with Republicans threatening to hurt Americans on purpose unless Democrats meet GOP demands. As of yesterday, the Kentucky Republican, now burdened with actual responsibilities, seemed to take default off the table.
Similarly, as recently as three months ago, McConnell boasted that he would use the threat of more government shutdowns as leverage to secure far-right policy concessions from the White House. And yet, here was McConnell effectively ruling out the possibility of another GOP shutdown.
The question then becomes whether anyone should actually believe what McConnell said.