How the Supreme Court could make things easier -- or harder -- for the GOP on health care and gay marriage… The court also will decide whether independent redistricting commissions are valid… Our updated look at who makes the debate cut -- and who doesn’t… Big trade vote set to take place in House on Friday.
*** How the Supreme Court could make things easier -- or harder -- for the GOP: Later this month, the Supreme Court is set to deliver rulings on two cases -- on health care and gay marriage -- that could have a profound impact on the 2016 issue terrain. And here is the growing political reality: The court could either make things much easier for Republicans, or much harder. On health care, the court ruling that subsidies for states with federal marketplaces are illegal would affect nearly 6.4 million Americans and increase their health costs by almost 300%. That could create a potential PR nightmare for congressional Republicans and GOP governors. Why? Well, don't take our word for it. Take Sen. Ron Johnson's, who said back in April: “[Obama will] have the ads all racked up with the individuals that have benefited from Obamacare on the backs of the American taxpayer.”
As John Ullyot, a GOP strategist and former Senate aide, told The Hill newspaper: “The politics of the King vs. Burwell case are extremely treacherous and tricky for Republicans because if the subsidies are thrown out by the court, Republicans are in the position of having to create a fix that would be seen as a problem by their most conservative supporters.” Bottom line: The court upholding the subsidies -- which is seen as a 50%-50% prospect, if not higher -- would be a safer outcome for Republicans, because they wouldn’t have to own (or partly own) a fix over which their party is deeply divided.
*** The court could either take gay marriage off the table, or put it on the ballot in 2016: Meanwhile, the other Supreme Court decision that could play a role in 2016 is the case about whether there should be a constitutional right for same-sex marriage. Why could that have that an impact? The court ruling that there is a constitutional right could potentially take gay marriage -- supported by roughly 60% of Americans, according to polls -- off the table for Republican presidential candidates. Some of them could say, “I adamantly disagree with the court’s decision. Marriage is something the states should decide, not the Supreme Court. But the court has spoken, and it’s time to move on.” Conversely, if the court rules that gay marriage is NOT a constitutional right and must be decided by the states, that could possibly lead to a situation where states (including presidential battlegrounds) put gay marriage on the ballot in 2016. That would mark a 180-degree turn from 2004, when gay-marriage BANS were used as a wedge issue to drive conservative voters to the polls. Remember, it is possible that the Supreme Court decides that states don’t have to legalize gay marriage, but that they have to recognize gay marriages established in other states. That outcome would also likely lead to the ballot referenda reaction we described above.
*** The court also will decide whether independent redistricting commissions are valid: There’s one other Supreme Court decision this month that could have a big political impact -- on redistricting. As our colleague Pete Williams reminds us, the court is deciding whether Arizona’s independent redistricting commission is valid, or whether redistricting should be done solely by state legislatures. Arizona and five other states (California, Hawaii, Idaho, New Jersey, and Washington) all have set up independent commissions to conduct their congressional redistricting. So the court striking down Arizona’s system could be a HUGE setback to redistricting reform. In other words, gerrymandering could become even harder to stop.
*** Who makes the debate cut -- and who doesn’t: After mounting criticism of Fox News’ participation rules for its August GOP primary debate, the network announced that it will host a forum earlier on the same day for candidates who fail to qualify for the evening’s primetime event. Fox’s rules still limit the evening’s main event to the Top 10 GOP candidates as measured by the average of the most recent five reputable national polls. We crunched the numbers and calculated who would make the cut if the debate were held today – and who is still stuck at the kids’ table. (Note: The polls used are May surveys from CNN/ORC, ABC/Washington Post, Quinnipiac University and two from FOX News.)
Here are the top ten candidates, by polling average:
1. Jeb Bush – 11.6%
2. Scott Walker – 10.8%
3. Marco Rubio – 10%
4. Ben Carson – 9.8%
5. Mike Huckabee – 9%
6. Rand Paul – 8.4%
7. Ted Cruz – 7.2%
8. Chris Christie – 5%
9. Donald Trump – 4%
10. Rick Perry – 2.8%
And here are the candidates who don’t make the cut: Kasich (2.0%), Santorum (2.0%), Fiorina (1.6%), Pataki (1.2%), Graham (1%), Jindal (0.8%)
*** Big trade vote set in House for Friday: “House Republican leaders are preparing a major two-day debate and ultimate showdown vote Friday on President Barack Obama's trade agenda, despite heavy Democratic opposition,” the AP writes. A snag that has upset Democrats: “A Senate-passed bill now facing the House would divert money from Medicare to fund the job retraining program. But House Democrats call that unacceptable, and demand another funding source. Republicans agreed, but insisted on putting the alternative funding mechanism in a trade bill separate from the fast-track measure. They are desperate to avoid changing even a comma in the fast-track bill, because that would send it back to the Senate and give opponents another chance to filibuster and throttle it there.” As the Washington Post’s Paul Kane observes, House Republicans are daring Democrats to torpedo Obama’s trade agenda over this Medicare issue, forcing them to stew over Dem-vs.-Dem press coverage.
OFF TO THE RACES: RIP, Iowa straw poll?
The Iowa Straw poll may be on its deathbed, with a vote coming Friday on the event's fate.
Yahoo's Jon Ward has an in-depth look at the "all-out war" over voter contact data between the Kochs and the RNC.
The New York Times' Ashley Parker writes on a unique challenge for Republican candidates: finding a digital firm with the skills and experience they need.
BUSH: The big Washington Post piece on Jeb Bush's early stumbles: "In interviews this week, dozens of Bush backers and informed Republicans — most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to comment candidly — described an overly optimistic, even haughty exploratory operation. Strategic errors were exacerbated by unexpected stumbles by the would-be candidate and internal strife within his team, culminating in a staff shake-up this week." MORE: "Forced to make up lost ground, Bush, his aides and his super-PAC allies are now preparing plans to attack the records and experience of his GOP competition, especially Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. A summer envisioned as a season of slow and warm introductions to voters is poised to be a battle as Bush tries to recapture his place atop the pack."
CARSON: He's calling himself a "pragmatic dove" in his speeches to Iowa conservatives.
CLINTON: She's planning a major announcement about a student loan reform plan, and it's got fingerprints from Elizabeth Warren's favorite policy experts, POLITICO writes.
Bill Clinton told Bloomberg that he would likely stop giving paid speeches if his wife becomes president.
FIORINA: Team Fiorina is out with a new web video arguing that Hillary Clinton's title and impressive travel statistics as Secretary of State don't amount to real accomplishments.
KASICH: The Washington Examiner writes that some influential South Carolina Republicans might not be happy with the Ohio governor's decision to hire two operatives who worked to unseat their governor in 2014.
TRUMP: He's heading to Iowa right after his June 16 announcement.
OBAMA AGENDA: What more U.S. military advisers to Iraq means
The Washington Post's take on the president's announcement of more military advisers in Iraq: "Taken together, the steps and limits show Obama’s deep-seated conviction that only the Iraqis can resolve a fight driven by Sunni feelings of anger, persecution and abandonment at the hands of the Shiite government in Baghdad. The president’s focus, for now, is on forcing the Iraqis to solve their own problems. He is also determined to keep Americans — who haven’t suffered a single combat casualty in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — out of harm’s way."
How are Russians funding the conflict in Ukraine? Crowdfunding, writes the New York Times: "These organizations are part of an online campaign that is brazenly raising money for the war in eastern Ukraine, using common tactics that have at least tacit support from the government of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Although they often portray their mission as humanitarian, most of the groups explicitly endorse the armed insurgency and vow to help equip forces in the two regions at the center of the fighting, Donetsk and Luhansk."
CONGRESS: Trade vote in House set for Friday
The latest on the trade vote, from the Wall Street Journal: "House Republican leaders worked to lock up support for fast-track trade legislation that could come to a vote as soon as Friday, attracting more GOP votes with new immigration and trade-enforcement provisions while also trying to stamp out a flare-up among Democrats. GOP leaders have concluded they have lined up enough support to give the fast-track bill a good chance of passing on Friday. An issue involving a workers’ aid program, however, threatened to upset their efforts to assemble a majority for the trade bill, prompting new talks between House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.)."
Mark Murray and Carrie Dann contributed reporting.