Action on the Senate floor has been stymied of late by a bizarre partisan dispute, but members finally reached a compromise yesterday that will clear things up. But before senators strain themselves patting themselves on the back, they might want to consider raising their standards for success.
Republicans and Democrats in the Senate reached an agreement Tuesday on an anti-human-trafficking bill, clearing the way for a vote on President Barack Obama's nomination of Loretta Lynch for attorney general.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he expected a vote on Lynch "in the next day or so."
The anti-human-trafficking bill has been pending since February, caught up in an obscure fight over abortion language. The delay over the Lynch nomination has lasted even longer, after Republican leaders tied it to the trafficking legislation for reasons even they can't explain.
But yesterday, members worked something out. As Sahil Kapur explained, the agreement now says "victims can use compensation funds for legal aid and a separate pool of taxpayer money for medical services.... Hyde Amendment restrictions on abortion (with narrow exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the mother's life) apply."
So what happens now? The trafficking bill will advance, likely with near-unanimous support, which will then lead to a confirmation vote for Lynch, probably tomorrow. She appears to have the votes needed to prevail.
Stepping back, Capitol Hill seemed quite pleased with itself after yesterday's breakthrough. The Hillreported this morning that Senate Republicans "are on a bit of a roll," adding that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has "passed an important leadership test this week by reaching a compromise."
His top lieutenant, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), boasted yesterday, "I've actually been somewhat surprised and more optimistic than I have been in a long time about how the Senate is beginning to work again."
That's one way to look at recent events. The other way suggests Cornyn has it backwards.
Rachel Maddow contrasts the rush to court billionaire among Republican hopefuls for 2016 with the Democrats' and Hillary Clinton's campaign posturing against the role of big money in politics (though obviously no less willing to spend to win). watch
Rachel Maddow reports on how states are looking for new ways to kill death row prisoners and reviews some of the history of how lethal injection came to be the standard before pharmacist objections led to a scarcity of the drug. watch
Last night we learned that the author of the new anti-Hillary Clinton book has had particular success getting access to mainstream news outlets to manipulate coverage of campaigns he opposed. Perhaps the media's reluctance to look a gift-story in the mouth makes it more vulnerable to this sort of ...
* Iran: "The convoy of Iranian ships suspected of carrying weapons destined for rebels in Yemen is parked in the north Arabian Sea, U.S. officials said Tuesday. The aircraft carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt and a guided missile cruiser, the Normandy, are safely to the northeast, the officials said. The Theodore Roosevelt and seven other American ships arrived in the Arabian Sea on Monday, and U.S. officials said that they could intercept the convoy."
* Yemen: "The Saudi-led airstrike coalition campaign in Yemen is ending after nearly a month of pounding Iran-allied Houthi rebels, according to a statement read on Arabiya TV."
* The scale of the tragedy worsens: "Investigators are just beginning to debrief the few survivors of the wreck: 28 men out of the estimated 850 people who packed onto the migrant vessel. But they have arrested its captain, identified on Tuesday by prosecutors as Mohammed Ali Malek, 27, a Tunisian, on suspicion of multiple homicide."
* It's about time: "Republicans and Democrats in the Senate reached an agreement Tuesday on an anti-human-trafficking bill, clearing the way for a vote on President Barack Obama's nomination of Loretta Lynch for attorney general. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he expected a vote on Lynch 'in the next day or so.'"
* DEA: "The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration is expected to resign soon, according to U.S. officials, following revelations about 'sex parties' involving prostitutes overseas and other misconduct among its agents."
* Baltimore: "The U.S. Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation Tuesday in the death of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore man whose spine was allegedly severed while he was in police custody."
Congressional Republicans generally shy away from President Obama's rescue of the American auto industry, and it's easy to understand why: the White House's policy was a striking success. GOP leaders condemned the rescue and told Americans it would fail. The right ended up getting the whole thing backwards.
For that matter, it's become a political loser, too. "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" made it nearly impossible for Mitt Romney to credibly compete in Michigan in 2012, despite his hometown roots, and Terri Lynn Land's opposition to Obama's policy contributed to her miserable failure in Michigan's U.S. Senate race in 2014.
But as the Detroit Newsnoted the other day, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is nevertheless following a familiar GOP script.
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said Friday that the $85 billion auto bailout was not the "right way" to handle the troubled sector in 2008 and 2009.
At an appearance in Manchester, New Hampshire, the Florida senator said the rescue of General Motors Co. and then Chrysler Group LLC was not the right position for the federal government to take. "I don't think that was the right way to handle it, but certainly our auto industry is important. Again, it was a problematic approach that the federal government took to doing it....
The Florida Republican then transitioned to his support for conservative tax and regulatory policies.
Six years after the Obama administration's approach to the auto industry was implemented, it's unusual to hear Rubio's complaint. but the real oddity is the way in which the senator is still looking at the issue.
The Affordable Care Act's policy successes have become so obvious, it's become hard not to laugh at critics who stick their heads in the sand and pretend the system is "failing." By every fair measure, the ACA is thriving in ways even optimists didn't expect.
But the successes have consistently come with a caveat: the law still isn't popular. To this extent, the ACA has cultivated a very specific reputation as a policy victory and a political failure.
And for many years, this reputation was largely accurate. Polling has consistently found that Americans broadly support the provisions within the health care reform law, even while saying they oppose the law overall. As Greg Sargent noted this morning, however, it's probably time to revisit old assumptions about the ACA's popularity.
The new Kaiser Family Foundation monthly tracking poll finds that Obamacare has edged ever so gingerly into positive territory: 43 percent of Americans approve of the law, while 42 percent disapprove of it.
That's the first time the law has been in positive territory since the last presidential election. More to the point, it's the first time the law has been in positive territory since implementation of the law began and it suffered hideous roll-out problems, followed by months and months of GOP hyping of every Obamacare horror story Republicans could find (or invent).
The same survey found that only 29% of Americans endorse the Republican line on repealing the law. This is roughly consistent with the latest Bloomberg News poll, which found 35% support full repeal.
The GOP's entire posture is based on a bogus premise: that there's broad public support for scrapping the entirety of the Affordable Care Act. There clearly is not. It leaves Republicans with literally nothing to offer in the debate: no alternative proposal, no repeal strategy, no substantive arguments, and no political advantage over a law that's enjoyed renewed support.
As Hillary Clinton readied her 2016 presidential campaign, the complaints from some of her more liberal critics were hardly surprising. Many on the left feared, for example, that the former senator from New York would be too cozy with Wall Street -- concerns that have fueled interest in Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) agenda.
But Bloomberg Politics reported yesterday on a familiar sight: one week into her candidacy, Clinton is already striking pretty populist tones.
Hillary Clinton is likely months away from offering policy proposals on taxes and financial regulation, but she hinted on Monday that she hopes to get tougher on traders and reexamine the capital gains tax.
Clinton said at a small business roundtable here that she plans to "take a hard look at what is now being done in the trading world, which is just trading for the sake of trading."
These comments came just four days after Clinton tapped Gary Gensler, a "former top federal financial regulator and strong advocate for strict Wall Street rules," to be her campaign's CFO.
Matt Yglesias noted last week, "This is, for Wall Street skeptics, a huge deal: Gensler is the kind of regulator a President Elizabeth Warren would be expected to pick, not a President Clinton. But if Clinton is going to pick the kinds of regulators Warren was going to pick, then the difference between them isn't as large as many thought."
What's more, let's not forget Clinton's comments in Iowa last week, when she complained of the growing wage gap in corporate America, and took aim at the carried-interest loophole that Wall Street loves and benefits from: "[T]here's something wrong when hedge fund managers pay lower tax rates than nurses or the truckers that I saw on I-80 as I was driving here over the last two days."
Remember, this is all coming from the candidate who's believed to be too close to the financial industry.
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:
* Charles and David Koch are reportedly partial to Scott Walker's presidential campaign, but they are also prepared to give Jeb Bush a chance to "audition for the brothers' support."
* The fact that the GOP presidential field is already overflowing with candidates apparently isn't dissuading Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), who launched a 527 group yesterday. The organization, called "New Day For America," will allow the governor to raise money for travel and related campaign-like expenses.
* Chris Christie was very likely counting on support from Joseph Kyrillos, who chaired the governor's 2009 campaign, but Kyrillos just made a $10,000 donation to Jeb Bush.
* For the third time in three weeks, a high-profile Florida Republican has decided to skip next year's U.S. Senate race. Yesterday, it was Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) who said he'd run for re-election, but not Marco Rubio's Senate seat.
* Jeb Bush, eager to bolster his foreign policy bona fides, will travel to Germany, Poland, and Estonia, in early June. It's probably not a coincidence that all three are NATO members.
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.
Rachel Maddow LIVE
Speak out! Make your voice heard by tagging your posts #maddow