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US Senator David Vitter (C) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill, September 30, 2013.

Vitter gears up to fight Lynch's A.G. nomination

12/16/14 10:14AM

In early November, President Obama introduced U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch as his choice to be the nation's new Attorney General, at which point Senate Democrats had a decision to make. Would the outgoing majority hurry up and try to confirm Lynch in the lame-duck session, making it more difficult to tackle other priorities, or would Dems put the nomination on the backburner, confident that Senate Republicans would eventually approve Lynch for the job?
Democrats ultimately went with the latter approach. One far-right Republican senator believes he can make Dems regret that decision.
One of the new Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee says next year's Senate should block President Barack Obama's attorney general nominee.
Louisiana Sen. David Vitter is trying to stop the nomination of Loretta Lynch, the current U.S. Attorney based in Brooklyn, over Obama's recent executive action on immigration.
In a press release, Vitter characterized his obstructionist plan as retribution for an immigration policy he doesn't like. "I'm looking forward to providing a check on President Obama's illegal executive amnesty," the far-right Louisianan said, adding, "We'll have the opportunity to push back on executive amnesty with one of our first major battles: the Attorney General nomination. The attorney general is one of the linchpins to Obama's amnesty plan, and I'll be working to get the new Congress to block this nomination."
No one has ever accused Vitter of having great strategic instincts, but this gambit seems unusually misguided, even for him.
US President Barack Obama (R) listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting in Los Cabos on June 18, 2012 on the sidelines of the G20 summit.   (Photo Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian economy faces freefall conditions

12/16/14 09:34AM

A friend of mine recently asked why I'm so hung up on Russian President Vladimir Putin and the adulation he's received from Republicans in the U.S. I think it comes down to two things.
The first is that GOP gushing over the Russian autocrat has always struck me as a historical oddity: I simply can't think of a comparable moment in modern American history in which the United States butted heads with a major foreign rival, and prominent figures from an American political party started publicly praising the other country's leader. It served as a reminder that Republican contempt for President Obama has reached levels that defy simple, patriotic norms.
The second, however, is more basic: a variety of conservative Americans not only expressed their admiration for Putin, they also saw him as a strategic mastermind, guiding Russia towards power and greatness, and demonstrating the kind of leadership needed in the United States.
And so, as we watch conditions in Russia deteriorate to alarming lows, I continue to believe it's incumbent on Republicans to offer an explanation for how spectacularly wrong they were.
A funny thing happened on the way to Vladimir Putin running strategic laps around the West. Russia's economy imploded.
The latest news is that Russia's central bank raised interest rates from 10.5 to 17 percent at an emergency 1 a.m. meeting in an attempt to stop the ruble, which is down 50 percent on the year against the dollar, from falling any further. It's a desperate move to save Russia's currency that comes at the cost of sacrificing Russia's economy. So even if it "works," things are about to get a lot worse.
In a not-so-subtle shot at Putin's American fans, Matt O'Brien's terrific report concluded, "Putin might be playing chess while we play checkers, but only if we lend him the money for the set."
Russia suddenly has nothing but awful options. Falling oil prices has crushed Russian currency, which leads to brutal inflation. In response, Russia's central bank -- in a panicked, middle-of-the-night move -- created much higher interest rates, which will crush Russian economic growth.
All the while, Putin's military misadventures have isolated the country economically and diplomatically, leaving Russia with sanctions that make matters even worse.
All of which brings us back to the fact that much of America's right was absolutely convinced of Putin's genius.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) at the U.S. Capitol, October 8, 2013 in Washington, D.C., was been identified as one of two Republican senators who placed a hold on Sen. Franken's new mental health bill.

Dr. No is wrapping up his career on a disheartening note

12/16/14 08:35AM

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has a nickname that he's apparently always liked. The right-wing physician-turned-politician is often referred to as "Dr. No" because of his willingness to oppose popular measures with broad support. In fact, Coburn almost seems to revel in his role as a one-man obstruction machine.
And as the Oklahoma Republican wraps up his final week on Capitol Hill -- Coburn is retiring before his term is up due to health reasons -- he's ending his career in the most disheartening way possible.
An energy-efficiency bill written by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) already passed the House, but it's stuck this week because of Coburn's objections. The Senate is trying to reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, but Coburn is blocking that, too.
And as Rachel noted on the show last night, the Senate is eager to approve the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act, which cleared the House last week with unanimous support, but Coburn is literally the only member standing in the way.
Veterans groups blasted Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn Monday for blocking a bill intended to reduce a suicide epidemic that claims the lives of 22 military veterans every day.
"This is why people hate Washington," said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an advocacy group. Rieckhoff accused Coburn of single-handedly blocking a bill that could save the lives of thousands of veterans.
Coburn delivered remarks on the Senate floor yesterday, attempting to explain himself. See for yourself whether or not the senator's defense made any sense:
Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, President Barack Obama's nominee to be the next U.S. Surgeon General, prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Feb. 4, 2014. (Photo by Charles Dharapak/AP)

Vivek Murthy 1, NRA 0

12/16/14 08:00AM

The National Rifle Association has certain expectations when it comes to dictating developments on Capitol Hill. But once in a while, the NRA picks an important fight and loses. Take yesterday, for example.
The Senate on Monday narrowly confirmed President Obama's pick for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, after the nomination was held up for more than a year. The Senate voted 51 to 43 to confirm Murthy, who received both an M.B.A. and M.D. from Yale. 
More than a year has passed since anyone has served as the U.S.'s top doctor; the country's most recent surgeon general, Regina Benjamin, served from 2009 to 2013.
The final roll call on Murthy's confirmation is online here. Note, three conservative Senate Democrats -- Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) -- voted with Republicans to defeat the nomination. One Republican, Illinois' Mark Kirk, voted with the Democratic majority.
For Murthy, the fact that he's qualified and well suited for the position was never in doubt. As regular readers know, the nation's new Surgeon General-designate is an impressive medical professional with sterling credentials. He's also an attending physician, an instructor, and a public-health advocate -- who, like so many in his field, sees a connection between gun violence and public health.
And that alone was enough to draw fierce opposition from the NRA, conservative media, and nearly every Republican in the Senate, including alleged "moderates" like Maine's Susan Collins.
Indeed, let's not forget that when Murthy's nomination first reached the Senate floor back in March, Republicans derailed him, at least temporarily, with the help of nervous red-state Dems with election-year jitters, which is why the nation didn't have a Surgeon General during the Ebola public-health scare.
So what changed? A couple of things, actually.

Taliban attacks school and other headlines

12/16/14 07:36AM

126 killed, including dozens of children, in Taliban attack on Pakistan school. (LA Times)

The latest on the manhunt for Pennsylvania man who allegedly killed six people. (Allentown Morning Call)

Senate may confirm up to 88 judges. (AP)

Iowa Gov. seeks to end Iowa GOP straw poll. (AP)

Ted Cruz quietly seeks peace with GOP's big spenders. (National Journal)

Family of executed Ohio inmate sues expert witness. (AP)

Democrats in Congress fight to allow gay men to donate blood. (National Journal)

Senate GOP announces new committee assignments. (The Hill)

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'A bloody mess': Warden on Oklahoma execution

'A bloody mess': Warden on Oklahoma execution

12/15/14 11:03PM

Ziva Branstetter, enterprise editor for Tulsa World newspaper, talks with Rachel Maddow about new details revealed in the botched execution of Clayton Lockett by the state of Oklahoma of what took place after a curtain was drawn closed on witnesses. watch

Democrats take advantage of Cruz showboating

Democrats take advantage of Cruz showboating

12/15/14 10:41PM

Rachel Maddow reports on how political grandstanding against President Obama's immigration actions by Ted Cruz in the Senate allowed Senate Democrats more time to confirm more presidential nominees, including Vivek Murthy for Surgeon General. watch

Outrage over police behavior not subsiding

Public outrage over police behavior not subsiding

12/15/14 09:50PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the large crowds that turned out in cities around the United States over the weekend to protest police misconduct, from New York City to Nebraska, and notes that public outrage over the issue does not appear to be subsiding. watch

Can we say that on TV?

Can we say that on TV?

12/15/14 09:48PM

Rachel Maddow shares a piece of video from today's show meeting at which there was discussion of how to report on a story based around a phrase that Rachel isn't allowed to say. watch