Show StoriesRSS

select from

E.g., 7/25/2014
E.g., 7/25/2014

Thursday's Mini-Report, 7.17.14

07/17/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Gaza: "Israel began a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip on Thursday night, saying it would target tunnels that infiltrate its territory after cease-fire talks failed to de-escalate the air war that has raged for 10 days."
 
* Surface to air: "A Malaysia Airlines jetliner with 295 people on board was shot out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile Thursday as it cruised over a hostile region of Ukraine, U.S. officials told NBC News."
 
* Governing with a broken Congress is hard: "How can a president fix more roads and bridges without any new money to spend? President Obama's answer on Thursday was to announce new initiatives to encourage private-sector investment in the nation's infrastructure, including the creation of a 'one-stop shop' at the Department of Transportation to forge partnerships between state and local governments, and public and private developers and investors."
 
* Wildfires in the Pacific Northwest: "Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in response to a rash of wildfires burning in steep, rugged terrain across the state."
 
* Christie scandals: "An aide to Gov. Chris Christie says she texted him her thoughts about testimony on the closure of traffic lanes near the George Washington Bridge but later deleted the messages. The aide, Regina Egea, testified Thursday before lawmakers who continue to probe the lane closures, which appear to have been politically motivated."
 
* Climate: "President Obama announced a series of climate change initiatives on Wednesday aimed at guarding the electricity supply; improving local planning for flooding, coastal erosion and storm surges; and better predicting landslide risks as sea levels rise and storms and droughts intensify."
 
* Obviously the right call: "A top Justice Department official on Thursday brushed aside GOP requests for a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS's treatment of Tea Party groups, saying the evidence didn't warrant such an appointment."
 
* GM: "General Motors' top lawyer came under withering attack from senators on Thursday at a hearing investigating the automaker's failure to recall millions of defective small cars for more than a decade."
 
* I bet John Oliver had something to do with this: "The Federal Communications Commission has received more than 1 million comments on its plans for new regulations on Internet service providers."
A wedding cake is seen at a reception for same-sex couples.

Marriage equality reaches (part of) Florida

07/17/14 05:04PM

Over the last year or so, there's been no shortage of court rulings on marriage equality in about a third of the country. And during that time, each of the rulings has fallen into one of two categories: (1) a state ban on same-sex marriage has been struck down, effective immediately; or (2) a state ban on same-sex marriage has been struck down, but will remain in place pending appeal.
 
Leave it to Florida to find a way to do things a little differently. As msnbc's Emma Margolin reports that a state judge did, in fact, rule that Florida's law prohibiting equal marriage rights is unconstitutional -- but the ruling only applies to the Florida Keys.
A Florida judge declared it unconstitutional Thursday for the Monroe County clerk to deny gay couples marriage licenses. The ruling struck down Florida's 2008 ban on same-sex nuptials, but only in Monroe County, which covers the Florida Keys.
 
Two more rulings are expected at any moment in the Sunshine State – one that would apply only to Miami-Dade County and another that would have statewide impact from a federal judge in Tallahassee. Unlike the Monroe and Miami-Dade suits, which only name the county clerks as defendants, the federal case seeks to stop all state officials from enforcing the ban.
"This court is aware that the majority of voters oppose same-sex marriage, but it is our country's proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and the rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority," Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia wrote today.
 
The judge's decision is set to take effect on Tuesday of next week.
 
The five-day delay is not related to a possible appeal, but rather, is intended to give the county clerk's office time to prepare for the logistical and administrative change.
A picture taken on July 17, 2014 shows wreckages of the malaysian airliner carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it crashed, near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine.

The latest on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

07/17/14 04:10PM

Following up on our earlier item, there are still many unanswered questions about Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but NBC News is reporting some additional details about this breaking news story.
Malaysia Airlines jet with 295 people on board crashed Thursday in the hostile eastern region of Ukraine, near the Russian border, and a Ukrainian government adviser said that it had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile.
 
Malaysia Airlines said that it lost contact with the plane, Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, about 30 miles from the Russian-Ukrainian border. Photos from the scene showed the blackened wreckage of the plane and bodies scattered in a field.
It is not yet clear whether there were any Americans on board the flight, though President Obama told a Delaware audience today that the information remains a top priority.
 
Regardless, there were reportedly 280 passengers and 15 crew on board this Boeing 777 and there are no accounts of survivors.
Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft is seen on the tarmac at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang

Malaysia Airlines jet reportedly crashes in Ukraine

07/17/14 12:31PM

Live msnbc coverage of today's crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is available online here. The details of the story are still coming together but NBC News reports:
A Malaysia Airlines jet with 295 people on board crashed in Ukraine near the Russian border on Thursday, according to the Interfax news agency and an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister.
 
The reports could not immediately be confirmed by NBC News, but Malaysia Airlines said on its Twitter account that it had lost contact with an aircraft, Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
The Associated Press, citing a Ukrainian ministry adviser, reported that the plane, a Boeing 777, had been shot down in Eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have been fighting Ukrainian security forces.

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.17.14

07/17/14 12:02PM

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 Mississippi, as we talked about on the show last night, attorneys for state Sen. Chris McDaniel have told reporters "they expect to file a challenge of McDaniel's June 24 GOP runoff loss to incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran within the next 10 days."
 
* In New Hampshire, former Sen. Scott Brown (R) seemed to forget again what state he's running in, referring to himself yesterday as a member of Massachusetts' congressional delegation.
 
* In Colorado, nearly all recent polling from independent outlets show Sen. Mark Udall (D) with modest leads over Rep. Cory Gardner (R), but Quinnipiac's new poll shows the conservative congressman up by two, 44% to 42%.
 
* George Cicotte, a Republican congressional candidate in the state of Washington, argued over the weekend that environmentalists are responsible for "energy problems," adding that according to the Bible, the environment is "here for our use."
 
* SEIU, one of the nation's top labor unions, is launching a Spanish-language ad campaign against four House Republicans this week, focusing on their opposition to immigration reform: Reps. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), David Valadao (R-Calif.), and Joe Heck (R-Nev.).
Texas Governor Rick Perry awaits the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama in Dallas, July 9, 2014.

Perry, Paul, and an overdue debate

07/17/14 11:42AM

At first blush, this week's dustup between Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) over foreign policy seems easy to overlook. After all, their squabble almost certainly has everything to do with 2016 positioning, and since neither of them has demonstrated any real proficiency on international affairs anyway, their disagreement isn't likely to add much to the public discourse.
 
But taking a step back, it's best not to dismiss this too quickly.
 
For years, Republicans were considered the dominant party on foreign policy. For most of our lifetimes, nearly every prominent GOP voice was united behind a similar set of principles; the party had statesmen eager to defend those principles; and there wasn't any real doubt as to how the party approached international affairs.
 
All of that has changed quite dramatically in recent years. Ed Kilgore argued this week that the Perry/Paul food fight offered little in the way of substance, but there's a schism that Republicans are going to have to deal with, probably quite soon.
The sharp exchange last weekend between Rick Perry and Rand Paul over Iraq -- and more broadly, its relationship to the "Reagan legacy" in foreign policy -- may have seemed like mid-summer entertainment to many observers, or perhaps just a food fight between two men thinking about running against each other for president in 2016. But from a broader perspective, we may be witnessing the first really serious division in the Republican Party over international affairs since the 1950s.
 
Republican unity on foreign policy and national security matters during the long period since "isolationists" and "internationalists" battled for party supremacy in the age of Taft and Dewey has been remarkable....
The streak has ended, though, and the party's vision has fractured. Right now, in 2014, what's the Republican Party's position on U.S. policy in Iraq? On relations with Russia? On intervention in Syria's civil war? No one can say for sure, and prominent GOP officials don't agree among themselves.
 
It's tempting to say the party's position is "the opposite of whatever President Obama thinks," but that's hardly the basis for a credible foreign policy. It's equally tempting to say the Republican line "whatever we think Reagan may have liked," but that's arguably even worse.
An Affordable Healthcare Act supporter (R) talks with a student (L) about the law on the campus of Santa Monica City College in Santa Monica, California, October 10, 2013.

'Big Government Program Working'

07/17/14 10:50AM

There's quite a bit of good news surrounding the Affordable Care Act recently, but one development this week seems to have been largely overlooked.
The growth of federal spending on health care will continue to decline as a proportion of the overall economy in the coming decades, in part because of cost controls mandated by President Obama's health care law, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday.
 
The budget office said in its annual 25-year forecast that federal spending on major health care programs would amount to 8 percent of gross domestic product by 2039, one-tenth of a percentage point lower than its previous projection.
 
With the latest revision, the budget office has now reduced its 10-year estimate for spending by Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs by $1.23 trillion starting in 2010, the year the health care law took effect. By 2039, the savings would amount to $250 billion a year today, or about 1.5 percent of the economy.
To be sure, the usual caveats apply. Budget projections that look ahead 25 years into the future are based on estimates, not unshakable data. No one can say with certainty exactly what the nation's fiscal status will be a quarter of a century from now.
 
That said, officials routinely rely on projections like these when considering the potential impact of various policies. If you've ever heard House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) give a speech about his perceived "debt crisis" and/or seen his charts, you know that Republicans take these CBO estimates seriously.
 
And in this case, the CBO believes the Affordable Care Act will make a significant, positive difference in the nation's fiscal future. As Matt Yglesias noted, "For years now, budget wonks have been warning that the real deficit problem is in the long-run, and it's driven by the cost of federal health care programs." Right, and now there's evidence that these programs will cost much less than we thought, thanks largely to the health care reform law that Republicans said would make the nation's finances worse.
 
All of which raises a related question: why is it most Americans probably didn't hear anything about this?
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio meets with reporters in Washington, July 15, 2014.

One week later, Boehner's anti-Obama lawsuit already struggling

07/17/14 10:09AM

It was just a week ago that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) unveiled his long-awaited lawsuit against President Obama, which immediately landed with a thud. After weeks of buildup about a lawless, out-of-control White House, Boehner identified one executive action worthy of litigation: a shift in a deadline for an obscure Affordable Care Act provision.
 
Making matters slightly worse, the Republican Speaker was suing to require the Obama administration to immediately implement a policy the Speaker does not actually want to see implemented.
 
Yesterday was supposed to be a day for the case to get back on track, starting with a House Rules Committee hearing featuring two witnesses, both of whom would explain why the lawsuit has merit. Republicans could have chosen any two witnesses in the country, but for one of the slots, they chose a law professor, Florida International University's Elizabeth Price Foley, who recently argued the lawsuit would be thrown out of court. She wrote in February:
When a president delays or exempts people from a law -- so-called benevolent suspensions -- who has standing to sue him? Generally, no one. Benevolent suspensions of law don't, by definition, create a sufficiently concrete injury for standing. That's why, when President Obama delayed various provisions of Obamacare -- the employer mandate, the annual out-of-pocket caps, the prohibition on the sale of "substandard" policies -- his actions cannot be challenged in court.
So, Republicans picked a witness to argue the polar opposite of what she'd already argued.
 
Worse still, Boehner hasn't fully convinced his own members that the lawsuit is worthwhile.
Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., speaks to people demonstrating against the health care bill on the U.S. Capitol steps a day before Congress is set to vote on health care reform on Saturday, March 20, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Georgia's Kingston dabbles in impeachment politics

07/17/14 09:14AM

We've seen some House Republicans talk up the idea of impeaching President Obama, and we've seen some GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate talk up the same scheme, but Georgia's Jack Kingston appears to be the first Republican to fall into both camps.

Kingston, an 11-term congressman currently running in a Senate primary runoff, was recently asked whether he's on board with the impeachment drive. He refused to comment. But the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported yesterday on a recent radio interview in which the far-right lawmaker shared his general take on the matter with host Aaron McCready.
Kingston: Not a day goes by when people don't talk to us about impeachment. I don't know what rises to that level yet, but I know that there's a mounting frustration that a lot of people are getting to and I think Congress is going to start looking at it very seriously.
 
McCready: Well, if this lawsuit, and I said this in the first half of the show. I'm concerned about this lawsuit because, and first of all, I agree that the president needs to be held accountable. But with this lawsuit, by the time there's any resolution in it, he'll be out of office, so is this maybe the first step to issue articles of impeachment?
 
Kingston: You know, it could go in that direction if there was a big discussion. I mean, I think it's possible, it keeps getting worse and worse. It could go in that direction.
Note, the Republican congressman didn't explicitly endorse impeachment. He said Congress "is going to start looking at it very seriously" -- though no one seems able to explain what, exactly, President Obama has done to warrant this conversation -- and the process could "go in that direction," but he didn't specifically advocate the idea.
 
Kingston also said "it keeps getting worse and worse," though I have no idea what "it" refers to.
 
So, is the Republican congressman on board or not? His spokesperson still refuses to say. Perhaps he's "impeachment curious"?
 
But because Kingston is a leading candidate in a competitive Senate race, that may not be the best place to be.

Jobless claims inch lower, beat expectations

07/17/14 08:37AM

Slowly but surely, the Labor Department reports on initial unemployment claims have offered encouraging news over the summer, and today's new data points to the second lowest total in seven years.
The number of people who applied for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits in the week that ended July 12 fell by 3,000 to 302,000 - the lowest level in nine weeks - signaling that employers are still laying off few workers, according to government data released Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected initial claims of 310,000 in the most recent weekly data.
 
The average of new claims over the past month declined by 3,000 to 309,000 -- the lowest level since June 2007, the U.S. Labor Department reported.
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.
Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz's new 'top priority'

07/17/14 08:00AM

The humanitarian crisis at the border has clearly riled the political landscape in ways that are still unfolding, but which have changed the calculus of the immigration debate. Most notably, Democrats who were united behind a comprehensive solution, unified against Republican intransigence, are now splintered on how best to deal with these migrant children.
 
GOP officials would like nothing more than to keep Democrats off-balance and arguing among themselves, though Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) might have missed the memo.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz plans to take a hard-line stand that could rile up conservatives just as lawmakers -- including two from his home state -- are struggling to address the growing humanitarian crisis along the southern border.
 
The conservative firebrand believes that any bill to deal with the unaccompanied migrant children at the border must also include language to stop a 2012 immigration directive from President Barack Obama -- a proposal unlikely to go anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The senator's spokesperson told Politico that ending the White House' deferred action plan is now Cruz's "top priority."
 
There are two broad angles to this: the policy and the politics. Cruz, true to form, is managing to screw up both.

Fixing the VA and other headlines

07/17/14 07:56AM

Acting head of the V.A. seeks nearly $18 billion to fix systemic problems. (Washington Post)

Sen. Ted Cruz has his own immigration legislation. (Politico)

The FBI is looking into lost IRS emails. (ABC News)

House votes to limit DC's ability to enforce gun laws. (The Hill)

California's death penalty is unconstitutional, federal judge rules. (Washington Post)

Rep. Michael Grimm seeks staffer willing to 'live on the edge.' (New York Magazine)

Another Christie insider testifies about the George Washington Bridge scandal today. (NJ Star-Ledger)

Israel-Gaza ceasefire deal 'reached'. (BBC)

read more

Weak faith in GOP support stalls border deal

Weak faith in GOP support stalls border deal

07/16/14 11:01PM

David Nakamura, White House reporter for the Washington Post, talks with Steve Kornacki about anticipation by Democrats that Republicans still won't support a border funding deal even if they're given concessions to make child deportations easier.  watch

Tea party undaunted in Mississippi challenge

Tea party undaunted in Mississippi challenge

07/16/14 11:00PM

Steve Kornacki reports on why the Mississippi Republican Senate primary is still unresolved even though the winner has been declared, and what the political consequences are likely to be depending on the ultimate outcome. watch

Pages