House Republicans

10 things you need to know today: July 31, 2014

Health workers treat an Ebola patient.

Health workers treat an Ebola patient. (AP Photo/Samaritan’s Purse)

The Week

House Republicans vote to sue Obama, the Peace Corps leaves West Africa over Ebola outbreak, and more

1. House GOP approves lawsuit against Obama
House Republicans voted Wednesday to authorize Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to file a lawsuitagainst President Obama for allegedly abusing his power with executive actions, including delaying parts of his signature health-care law. “This isn’t about Republicans and Democrats, it’s about defending the Constitution that we swore an oath to uphold,” Boehner said. Obama called the move a “political stunt.” [The Washington Post]

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2. Peace Corps volunteers leave West Africa as Ebola spreads
The Peace Corps announced Wednesday that it was pulling its 340 volunteers from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea because of an Ebola outbreak that has killed 456 people in West Africa. The World Health Organization has confirmed more than 800 cases, although there could be as many as 1,200. “This epidemic is without precedent,” said Bart Janssens, director of operations for Doctors Without Borders. [CNN]

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3. Second quarter economic growth jumps to four percent
The economy grew by an unexpectedly strong four percent annual rate this spring, according to government data released Wednesday. The rebound was fueled by robust spending by consumers and businesses rebuilding their inventories. The numbers marked a stark contrast with the first quarter, when harsh winter weather weighed on growth. [The Washington Post]

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4. Russia scoffs at new U.S. and European Union sanctions
Russia reacted defiantly on Wednesday to harsher new economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe over its support for Ukrainian separatists, saying the measures would only push it to strengthen its economy while worsening its relations with the West. Ukraine welcomed the measures and vowed to continue an offensive against the pro-Russian rebels. [The New York Times]

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5. Bank of American fined $1.3 billion over Countrywide loan program
A federal judge in New York on Wednesday ordered Bank of America to pay $1.3 billion in penalties over a mortgage program that Countrywide Financial ran. Insiders referred to the program as “the hustle.” It involved the fast-tracking of mortgage applications from August 2007 through May 2008, ending shortly before Bank of America bought Countrywide, so the parent bank is paying for mistakes made before it took over. [Los Angeles Times]

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6. Ex-IRS official said some conservatives were “crazies”
Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner referred to conservative talk radio hosts as “crazies” and “a**holes” in emails released Wednesday by House Republicans. The messages were part of a collection of evidence delivered to the Justice Department by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) to support a GOP call for a special counsel to investigate the IRS’ Tea Party-targeting scandal. [Politico]

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7. Argentina misses a debt-payment deadline
Argentina defaulted on its debt when it missed a deadline for paying interest on $13 billion of restructured bonds on Wednesday after talks with bondholders failed. It was the second default in 13 years for the South American nation, which has $200 billion in foreign-currency debt, including $30 billion in restructured bonds. The court-appointed mediator in New York said the consequences were uncertain, “but they certainly are not positive.” [Bloomberg News]

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8. Economy gains 218,000 private-sector jobs
American companies hired 218,000 workers in July, falling slightly short of projections and the figure for June, according to a survey released Wednesday by private payroll firm ADP. It was the fourth straight month in which the U.S. gained more than 200,000 private jobs. Economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics said the figures indicated “a steadily improving job market” on target to “return to full employment by late 2016.” [Reuters]

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9. Netanyahu says Israel will destroy Hamas tunnels, even with a truce
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel would destroy all of the tunnels Hamas militants have used to launch attacks in Israel, “with or without a ceasefire.” Israel, which just called up another 16,000 reserves, has dismantled most of the 32 tunnels it has uncovered, and expects to demolish the rest within a few days. Neighboring Arab states, wary of Islamist groups like Hamas, are quietly siding with Israel over the Palestinians. [CBS News, The New York Times]

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10. George W. Bush writes his father’s biography
Former president George W. Bush is writing a biography of his father, former president George H.W. Bush, that will be released in November, Crown Publishers told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The book, which does not have a title yet, will cover the elder Bush’s life and influence on his son, from their earliest campaign trips together to the younger Bush’s own two-term presidency. [The Associated Press]

House GOP Lowers Taxes On The Rich

Liberland

Surprise surprise.  The House GOP, largely incapable of passing any legislation did manageto pass a tax cut on Friday.  Guess who it helps?

You’ve probably heard this story before: House Republicans choose to cut taxes for the rich instead of the poor. On Friday, they did it once again. The House GOP had an opportunity to address an expiring law that would result in a significant tax increase on the poor. Instead, it passed legislation that would cut taxes for high-income Americans. . .

If the House legislation became law, the Center for Budget and Policy Prioritiesestimated that a couple making $160,000 a year would receive a new tax cut of $2,200. On the other hand, the expiring provisions of the {Child Tax Credit} CTC would cause a single mother with two kids making $14,500 to lose her full CTC, worth $1,725. The CBPP projects that 12 million people, including six million children, would either fall into poverty or fall deeper into poverty if Congress does not extend those 2009 changes. Taken together, these changes would be extremely regressive.

Yup, you guessed.

How Obama’s immigration push could hand the House to Democrats

A return to this?

A return to this? (CC BY: The White House/Pete Souza)

The Week

Even if Republicans seize the Senate

Everyone assumes that Republicans will easily hold the House in November. The dominant storyline among the chattering classes centers instead on the possibility that Republicans could seize control of the Senate from Democrats. But the rapidly escalating immigration face-off between President Barack Obama and House Republicans raises the possibility that Democrats could win back the House — even if Republicans do take the Senate

How is that possible? It’s simple: There are more competitive House races than Senate races in areas with significant Latino populations.

Last year, David Damore, a polling analyst for the firm Latino Decisions, found that there are 44 congressional districts with Republican incumbents that could be ousted if their Latino constituents flex their electoral muscle. “This includes districts where the Latino voting-age population exceeds the 2012 margin of victory or swing districts won in 2012 by President Obama and the House Republican candidate that also have notable Latino populations,” he wrote.

Now of course, not all of the 44 districts where Latinos can theoretically play a decisive role are considered competitive today. Damore recently lamented that Democrats failed to recruit strong challengers across the board. Professional congressional handicappers Stu RothenbergCharlie Cook, and Larry Sabato suggest that around 19 of these districts remain in play, including 16 Republicans running for re-election and three other seats where the Republican incumbent won’t be on the ballot.

That may not seem like a lot for a body with 435 representatives. But Democrats only need to flip 17 seats to take over the House. While most observers see that as a bridge too far for Democrats this year, the political terrain in these Latino-strong districts may look different in the fall. Just as we head into the midterms’ final two-month sprint, Obama will likely have followed through on this week’s pledge to use executive orders to help keep immigrant families together in America.

Obama can’t fix the entire immigration system by fiat. He can’t unilaterally bestow citizenship on the undocumented. He can’t even ensure his executive orders will stay on the books once he vacates the Oval Office in 2017. There will still be a need for Congress to act. And immigration advocates may well turn all their fire on obstructionist House Republicans once Obama has shown he has done all he can without them.

Suddenly, the midterms might be all about immigration. Obama would be viewed by Latinos as the one guy trying to stick up for them, intransigent Republicans be damned. And that’s big trouble for the GOP.

Obviously, a Democratic takeover of the House would remain a long shot. This sort of thing almost never happens in a two-term president’s sixth year. And Democrats would effectively have to run the table, winning nearly all of the Latino-strong districts, and maybe picking off a few other Republicans facing tough races, while avoiding losses in the several competitive races involving Democratic incumbents. That would be neither easy nor likely. But it is possible.

Complicating matters for Democrats: Republicans representing increasingly influential Latino constituencies have been trying to keep the immigration monkey off their backs. Reps. Jeff Denham and David Valadao, Californians with particularly robust Latino constituencies, have gone as far as supporting Democratic legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for the undocumented. Others, like Nevada’s Rep. Joe Heck, support narrower legislation that would allow citizenship for undocumented children. And some, like freshman Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski, who barely won her seat in 2012, simply avoid taking firm positions. Democrats could have difficulty landing blows on such slippery targets.

But all of these Republicans share one big vulnerability: refusal to join Democrats in signing a “discharge petition” that would have forced a House floor vote on the Senate-approved comprehensive immigration bill. That gives Democratic challengers a hammer to bludgeon Republicans who attempt to obfuscate their role in obstructing reform. Democrats can make a clear and legitimate case to voters that reform can only happen if the GOP incumbent is tossed.

Furthermore, as The New Republic’s Sasha Issenberg reported earlier in the year, Democratic campaign operatives have been busy adapting their modern get-out-the-vote technologies and field operations to replicate their 2012 success and boost turnout among unlikely voters in 2014. Issenberg sums up the challenge: “While Latinos’ total presidential votes tripled from 1988 to 2012, their midterm participation has declined by about seven points.” That may be changing, and Democrats toiling in the House campaign trenches may now have the infrastructure necessary to really turn out the midterm vote.

Immigration will probably have less of an impact in Senate races. Every competitive 2014 Senate race, with the exception of Colorado, is in a state where the Latino eligible voter population is less than five percent. Of course, in any nail-biter race, even a constituency of three percent can play an outsized role. But with so many of these races occurring in red states, embattled Senate Democrats will likely want to avoid the potential for right-wing anti-immigrant backlash. That explains why the Senate Democrats’ “Fair Shot” 2014 agenda touts raising the minimum wage, promoting equal pay, investing in manufacturing jobs, and protecting Medicare — but nothing about immigration.

In other words, the House Democratic campaign strategy and the Senate Democratic campaign strategy may run along separate tracks, one driving immigration, the other pushing the economy. One strategy could work while the other flops. That creates the possibility, however unlikely, for something completely unprecedented: a midterm election where Democrats and Republicans trade control of each congressional branch.

Obama, Blaming Congress, Says He’ll Go It Alone on Immigration

 NBC News

President Barack Obama said Monday that he is moving ahead with executive actions to address immigration after a sweeping comprehensive reform bill languished in the House for more than a year.

“I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue and Congress chooses to do nothing,” he said. “And in this situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it’s bad for our economy, and it’s bad for our future.”

Obama said that he is sending additional resources to the border to stem a growing tide of undocumented immigrants into the county and that he has directed his team to recommend further executive actions to slow deportations by the end of the summer.

The move was prompted after House Speaker John Boehner formally told the president last week that the House will not move on immigration legislation, a White House official said.

The president has been under intense pressure from immigration advocates to bypass Congress and address the high rate of deportations of undocumented immigrants. Last year, the Senate passed a sweeping immigration bill that would have offered a path to citizenship for many who are in the country illegally, but the GOP-led House refused to vote on the measure, saying that Obama could not be trusted to enforce the legislation’s border security rules.

GOP denies going mum on Obamacare

Zipped lips emoticon

attribution: Dreamstime/Yayayoyo

Daily Kos

What happens when eight million people sign up for private insurance under Obamacare and millions more get coverage under the law’s Medicaid expansion? This:

House Republicans have no scheduled votes or hearings on ObamaCare, signaling a shift in the party’s strategy as the White House rides a wave of good news on the law.

Not a single House committee has announced plans to attack the healthcare law in the coming weeks, and only one panel of jurisdiction commented to The Hill despite repeated inquiries.

GOP campaign committees also declined to say whether they will launch any new efforts on the law.

But according to Senate Republicans, the notion that Republicans are running from their attacks on Obamacare is a load of bunk:

“There is absolutely zero evidence that any Republican is talking about ObamaCare less,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Brook Hougesen in a statement.

Oh yeah? Well, then what do you call this?

Chart showing Fox turns attention to Benghazi as Obamacare's success grew.

Chart showing Fox turns attention to Benghazi as Obamacare’s success grew.

attribution: Daily Kos

I mean, I guess you could argue that the only reason that Republicans are talking about Benghazi and not Obamacare is that Benghazi is the biggest scandal in American history—butonly if you’re delusional. If you’re grounded in reality, the real reason couldn’t be more obvious: Even the GOP understands that repealing health care coverage for millions of Americans is a terrible campaign message, and Benghazi is a shiny object with which to distract their gullible base.

Carney: GOPers Admit Benghazi About ‘Trying to Raise Money and Motivate Their Base’

Mediaite

During an appearance on MSNBC on Friday, NBC News reporter Kristen Welker grilled White House Press Sec. Jay Carney about how the White House views the establishment of a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack. Carney said that the investigation is unnecessary and even Republicans have confessed that the effort is not aimed at uncovering the truth but to increase campaign donations and excite the GOP base.

“House Republicans, in what is a blatantly political and partisan effort, voted to start another investigation into this matter,” Carney began, “presumably because the six previous investigations by Congress, by Republicans, were somehow not adequate.”

“It’s unfortunate that House Republicans continue to pursue this in a highly partisan manner,” he added. “And, in fact, they themselves have acknowledged how political it is and how oriented it is toward trying to raise money and motivate their base for a midterm election.”

Watch the clip below via MSNBC:

 

This Was The Week The GOP’s Anti-Obamacare Circus Came Crashing Down

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AP Photo | J. Scott Applewhite

TPMDC

Both incidents marked seismic shifts from the days of HealthCare.gov’s disastrous launch, when Republicans readily grilled Sebelius and other officials over the law, taking as many shots as they could while Obamacare’s future was uncertain.

The first Senate confirmation hearing Thursday for Sylvia Mathews Burwell, tapped to succeed Sebelius, would have seemed a natural opportunity for the Republican members to flex their opposition to the law. And while many of the usual talking points made appearances — canceled health plans, lost jobs and HealthCare.gov’s miserable launch — the tone itself was strikingly cordial.

Only ranking member Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) actually interrupted Burwell in an effort to pin her down on an answer to a question about the administration’s “keep your health plan” fix, while Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) made a guest appearance to introduce and endorse her to the committee.

“Regardless of my objections to the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services needs competent leadership,” McCain said.

A few GOP members, like Sens. Johnny Isakson (GA) and Richard Burr (NC), ignored Obamacare altogether. Isakson focused his questioning on a port project that he wants approved, while Burr inquired about public health preparedness. Burr then gave Burwell his full-throated support.

“I support her nomination and I will vote for it. She doesn’t come with a single experience that would make her a good secretary. She comes with a portfolio of experience,” Burr said. “I look forward to her confirmation being quick.”

That notably tame Senate hearing followed a House hearing the day earlier during which House Republicans became visibly agitated when the insurance executives they called to testify refused to deliver the bad news that they were hunting for.

It was easy to see coming. At least one industry source had already dismissed the Republican report that served as the basis for the meeting as “incredibly rigged,” and the testimony prepared by the hearing’s witnesses thoroughly debunked the GOP’s findings.

So committee members at the hearing went fishing for other bad headlines instead — perhaps the prospect of significant premium increases in 2015. “I can’t say for certain,” one of the witnesses said of next year’s rates. “I don’t have the exact numbers yet,” another offered.

Things got so bad that, at one point, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) effectively chastised industry executives for not producing any information on the 2015 rates, which Republicans have warned could skyrocket.

“You have done no internal analysis on what the trend line is for these premiums? None?” Blackburn said, clearly exasperated. “It is baffling that we could have some of our nation’s largest insurers, and you all don’t have any internal analysis of what these rates are going to be.”

It was that kind of week for the GOP.

House GOP Basically Admits Its Obamacare Survey Was Bogus

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TPM DC

“After discussions with many of you, the Committee believes that gathering data through May 20, 2014 should accurately capture the number of individuals who have completed their enrollments through (HealthCare.gov) by paying their premium,” the email, sent by a committee staffer, said. It was accompanied by a formal letter from committee leadership.

The implication, of course, is that the committee’s previous survey, which gathered data only through April 15, did not provide an accurate picture.

That was the criticism levied by many against the committee’s initial report.

While the committee had already announced that it planned to collect more information, the email sent Thursday helps explain why: It appears insurers, like TPM’s source, had noted the problem with the GOP’s methodology.

Anonymous GOP staffers expressed the same sentiment when they were asked about the criticisms of their survey by The Daily Beast. When given an opportunity to rebut the critique that it was “rigged,” they didn’t, the Daily Beast reported.

BIG TROUBLE…

 

The Huffington Post

Democrats Have A Shot At Taking Back The House As Republican Popularity Continues To Drop: Poll

A new survey of 25 GOP-held districts shows dwindling favorability for Republican members of the House in the wake of the recent government shutdown.

The survey, conducted by liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling and funded by MoveOn.org, is the third in a series of polls that indicate Democrats have a shot at taking back the House of Representatives in the 2014 election cycle.

The results of the latest survey show that incumbent Republicans in 15 of the 25 districts polled trail generic Democratic candidates. When combined with the results of the previous surveys, the polls show that generic Democratic candidates lead in 37 of 61 GOP-held districts.

When voters were informed their Republican candidate supported the government shutdown, 11 more districts flipped and one race became a tie.

Democrats in the House only need to see a net increase of 17 seats in order to take back the majority. This poll indicates that Democrats could see an increase of as many as 49 seats.

Public Policy Polling indicated several caveats to the results. The surveys were conducted during a high-profile budget crisis debate, a year before the elections will take place. And incumbent Republican candidates were compared to “generic Democrats,” who may not represent the actual candidates each district will see.

“Democrats must recruit strong candidates and run effective campaigns in individual districts if they are to capitalize on the vulnerability revealed by these surveys,” Public Policy Polling’s Jim Williams said of the caveat, “and they must maintain a significant national advantage over Republicans.”

Recent polls conducted by the Pew Research Center and NBC/Wall Street Journal are consistent with the survey’s claim that the Republican party took a hit from the fiscal crisis. Pew found that more Americans blamed Republicans for the shutdown, and NBC/Wall Street Journal found that the Republican party was “badly damaged” by it.

Jon Stewart Blasts GOP Over Shutdown: When The Giants Lost, They Didn’t Shut Down The NFL

The Huffington Post

Jon Stewart opened Monday’s “Daily Show” by addressing the government shutdown, and placed the blame squarely on the House Republicans for going to great lengths in their one-sided fight against Obamacare, which he mockingly called “The End of America as We Know It for Reasons No One is Able to Clearly Explain.”

“You’re just throwing words together!” he exclaimed in response to a montage of Republicans rattling off their love of the Constitution to show their hatred of Obamacare, and then blasting Obama for failing to compromise. “It’s a f**king law!” he said, pointing out that all three branches of government had thus far upheld the law.

He then compared the Republicans to a losing football team. “Did you see the Giants game on Sunday?” he asked. “They lost 31-7. Do you know what the Giants didn’t say after that game? ‘If you don’t give us 25 more points by midnight on Monday, we will shut down the f**king NFL.'”

But he really drove the point home by invoking one small business owner with a message to the House Republicans about their current situation: