Republicans

Morning Plum: Republicans won’t have any contingency plan if Court guts subsidies for millions

The Washington Post – Plum Line

With the Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments this week in the lawsuit that could do severe damage to the Affordable Care Act, some Republican lawmakers are working hard to convey the impression that they have a contingency plan for the millions who will likely lose subsidies — and coverage — if the Court rules with the challengers. Senators Orrin Hatch, Lamar Alexander, and John Barrasso have published a Washington Post op ed with an oh-so-reassuring title: “We have a plan for fixing health care.”

The good Senators, amusingly, cast their “plan” as something that will protect people from “the administration’s” actions and from Obamacare itself, not from the consequences of the legal challenge or a Court decision siding with it. The plan vows to “provide financial assistance” for a “transitional period” to those who lose subsidies, while Republicans create a “bridge away from Obamacare.” Of course, anyone who watched last week’s chaos in the House knows Congressional Republicans are unlikely to coalesce around any “transitional” relief for those who lose subsidies (that would require spending federal money to cover people) or any permanent long-term alternative. This chatter appears transparently designed to make it easier for conservative Justices to side with the challengers.

Yet even if this game works on the Justices in the short term, any eventual failure to come through with any  contingency plan could saddle Republicans with a political problem, perhaps even among GOP voters.

A poll taken by Independent Women’s Voice — a group that favors repealing Obamacare in the name of individual liberty — found that in the nearly three dozen states on the federal exchange, 75 percent of respondents think it’s very (54) or somewhat (21) important to restore subsidies to those who lose them. In the dozen main presidential swing states, 75 percent of respondents say the same.

And guess what: Large majorities of Republican voters agree. A spokesperson for the group tells me that in both those groups of states taken together, 62 percent of Republican respondents say its very (31) or somewhat (31) important to restore the subsidies. Only 31 percent of Republicans in those states think doing this is unimportant.

This raises the possibility that a lot of Republican voters would be harmed by an anti-ACA decision, too. As Politico puts it today: “The people who would be affected by a Supreme Court decision against the Obama administration live disproportionately in GOP-governed states, and an Urban Institute study found that many people fall into a demographic crucial to the GOP base — white, Southern and employed.”

Now, none of this means Republicans will be more likely to step forward with a solution. As Avik Roy (who hopes the Court rules against the ACA) acknowledges, Republicans are so divided that uniting on any response is unlikely:

Republicans are being pulled in two directions. On the one hand, you have dozens of House members from highly ideological districts, for whom a primary challenge is a far bigger political risk than a general election. Many members of this group think that continuing Obamacare’s subsidies, in any form, is problematic.

On the other hand, there is a large group of Republican senators in blue and purple states up for reelection in 2016. These include Mark Kirk (Ill.), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), Pat Toomey (Penn.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), and Rob Portman (Ohio). These senators are much more aligned with Hatch, Alexander, and Barrasso.

Meanwhile, Republican state lawmakers, who could keep the subsidies flowing to their constituents by setting up state exchanges, are all over the place on what might come next, with some already ruling out such a fix. Indeed, in the end, it probably won’t matter that large majorities of Americans — or even large majorities of Republicans — support restoring the subsidies. On this, as on so many other things, GOP lawmakers will probably take their cues from the more conservative minority of Republicans, whatever the political or policy consequences.

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* WHY JUSTICES SHOULD WEIGH CONSEQUENCES OF ANTI-ACA RULING: Law professor Nicholas Bagley has a terrific piece explaining why the Supreme Court Justices should factor in the fact that siding with the challengers would take health care from millions: This eventuality shows the challengers are misreading the law.

It’s not irrelevant that a ruling in their favor would inflict such damage. To the contrary, that fact helps us correctly interpret the statute’s text. Indeed, it shows that the plaintiffs’ understanding of that text is wrong. As the Supreme Court has said time and again, no provision of a statute should be read in isolation. Laws must be read as a whole, with an eye to harmonizing their interdependent parts. That means the court is reluctant to read a stray passage here or there in a way that would destabilize an entire statutory scheme.

It’s also possible that the real-world implications of an anti-ACA ruling might have legal relevance because they bolster the states’ argument that siding with the challengers would impose unfair retroactive consequences on them without clear warning. Read the whole thing.

* LEGAL CHALLENGE TO THE ACA IS ‘PROVABLE FICTION’:Steven Brill has a must-read in which he documents his close reporting on the creation of the Affordable Care Act, and why that led him to the conclusion that the idea that Congress intended to deny subsidies to those on the federal exchange is nothing but “fiction” and a “fairytale”:

Congressional intent is a fact-based inquiry, not a matter of opinion. Given the unambiguous mountain of facts arrayed for the defense (and well-presented in the briefs submitted by the defense side), it is hard enough to see how the lawyers on the plaintiffs’ side could actually believe in their case…if a majority of supposedly objective justices decide to ignore the facts and buy their argument, they will have engaged in a breathtaking act of political activism.

The Justices, however, could simply conclude that the disputed phrase is not ambiguous enough to warrant Chevron deference to the IRS’ interpretation of the law, despite all the evidence of Congressional intent, not to mention the law’s overall structure and purpose.

* DEMOCRATS ANGRY ABOUT NETANYAHU SPEECH: Benjamin Netanyahu is set to address Congress tomorrow, and the New York Times reports that anger and unease are widespread among Congressional Democrats. The latest tally on who will skip the speech:

So far, 30 Democrats — four senators and 26 representatives — have said they will not attend the speech. Nearly half are African-Americans, who say they feel deeply that Mr. Netanyahu is disrespecting the president by challenging his foreign policy. But a half-dozen of those Democrats planning to stay away are Jewish, and represent 21 percent of Congress’s Jewish members.

Given the historic skittishness among Democrats about appearing even slightly out of sync with what Israel wants, that actually represents something new.

* PARTISAN DIVIDE ON VIEWS OF NETANYAHU: A new NBC News poll finds that  66 percent of Democrats say GOP leaders shouldn’t have invited Netanyahu to speak without notifying the president first, while only 28 percent of Republicans say the same. And only 12 percent of Democrats view Netanyahu favorably, versus 49 percent of Republicans. It bears repeating that when it comes to Israel and diplomacy with Iran, Congressional Democrats are well to the right of their base.

* SCOTT WALKER FLIP-FLOPS ON IMMIGRATION: After previously supporting legalization for the 11 million, Scott Walker tried to get right with conservatives on Fox News Sunday:

“I don’t believe in amnesty…my view has changed. I’m flat out saying it…we need to secure the border. We ultimately need to put in place a system that works. A legal immigration system that works.”

However, Walker also said that “there’s a way” to legalize the 11 million if border security is accomplished first. This puts Walker pretty much where Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have come down on the issue.

* TOP CONSERVATIVE: BOEHNER’S JOB IS SAFE: GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, flatly tells CNN that there won’t be any conservative coup to oust Speaker John Boehner: “That’s not gonna happen.”

Duly noted. So what is stopping Boehner from passing long term funding of the Department of Homeland Security with the help of a lot of Democrats? We were repeatedly told during past showdowns that Boehner couldn’t avert crises with Dem help, because he’d lose his Speakership, and each of those ended in the same way.

Republicans Appoint Scientifically Illiterate Ted Cruz To Oversee NASA

Addicting Info

As part of the spoils of their midterm victories, Republicans now get to remake many of the congressional oversight committees that hold power over federal agencies. As is typical for the party that has for decades been moving from the ideology of “limited government” to “no government at all,” when it came to who would oversee the nation’s science programs, the GOP wasted no time in appointing one of their own who not only doesn’t agree with most current scientific discoveries, but has actively tried to defund science research in the past.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a man who doesn’t believe climate change is real and who’s dad recently claimed evolution was a communist lie to “convince you that you came from a monkey” as a way to disprove God, will now oversee the subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, including NASA. We’re screwed.

After all, Cruz is the kind of Tea Party extremist that probably cried during the Apollo moon landings – not because of the amazing achievement, but because that was money that could have been spent giving tax breaks to job creators. He has expressed no interest in science, and his anti-government agenda makes an agency like NASA a natural enemy.

However, as much as it may seem like a bad Onion article, a scientifically-ignorant Cruz is a very intentional pick by the Republican Party. Cruz’s appointment to oversee NASA fits the general trend of subcommittee appointments being motivated primarily by people with an agenda, rather than people with the requisite knowledge or interest in the field. Like many politicians, Cruz was tapped for the job specifically because he is anti-science and Republicans reason that animosity will make him a tough nut to crack when NASA comes to him for money.

In fact, we’ve already caught a glimpse of just how little Cruz thinks of NASA. In 2013, Cruz tried to slash funding to the space agency by sneaking an amendment into a spending authorization bill. Thankfully, Democrats in the Senate told him to get lost and removed the amendment before it could be finalized. Now the other party holds the power and Cruz looks hungry.

This may be convenient for Republicans eager to prove an ideological point, but it may be disastrous for – ironically – America’s space and science competitiveness. For example, much of the research NASA has been conducting – from space and here on earth – has been focused on the devastating effects of climate change. Arguably, it’s the most important research of the 21st century, because those effects will have dire consequences for people and the planet in the decades to come. But the terrifying thing is this: Cruz doesn’t believe any of it.

Unlike many of his conservative colleagues, Cruz doesn’t just believe climate change isn’t man-made, he doesn’t think it’s happening at all. In an interview with CNN last year, he was certain that he was right:

“The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming. Contrary to all the theories that they are expounding, there should have been warming over the last 15 years. It hasn’t happened,” said Cruz. “You know, back in the ’70sI remember the ’70s, we were told there was global cooling. And everyone was told global cooling was a really big problem. And then that faded.”

It’s a favorite conservative talking point, but it’s false. The world is definitely warming, and there are reams of data to support that conclusion. Cruz recalls the 1970s, but lets see if he can remember as far back as last year – also known as the hottest year ever recorded.

Cruz’s power over NASA comes at a crucial time in the agency’s history. Apart from the terrestrial-based science its researchers have been conducting, NASA has several major space projects cooking, including a proposed manned mission to Mars by 2030. With Cruz holding the purse strings, the funding for such ambitious projects now has to be called into question. For those of us who long to see the exploration of space put back on the national agenda, there is nothing good about an anti-science Tea Partier getting to decide whether or not that’s important enough to spend money on.

 

White House: GOP Keeping Scalise ‘Says A Lot About Who They Are’

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I wholeheartedly agree…

TPM LiveWire

The White House said on Monday that it’s up to Republicans to decide whether to keep House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) in the leadership team, but argued that their decision “says a lot about who they are.”

“There’s no arguing that who Republicans decide to elevate into a leadership position says a lot about what the conference’s priorities and values are,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “Mr. Scalise reportedly described himself as David Duke without the baggage. So it’ll be up to Republicans to decide what that says about their conference.”

Earnest declined to call on House Republicans to remove Scalise from his position as the No. 3 leader in the conference, after the congressman admitted last week that he spoke to a white supremacist group in 2002. Other House Republican leaders, including Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), are standing by Scalise, while acknowledging that he made a mistake.

“It is the responsibility of members of the House Republican conference to choose their leaders,” Earnest said. “Who they choose to serve in their leadership says a lot about who they are, what their values are and what the priorities of the conference should be.”

H/t: DB

House Republicans Sue To Raise Health Care Costs For Poor Americans

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) | CREDIT: AP PHOTO/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

I’m concerned about the Bulls**t  factor that politicians have served to it’s constituents since the beginning of this Republic.

House Speaker Boehner seems especially adept at this factor even better than most.  When will Americans wake up and see they’re being duped over and over again.  I favor no one party in this assessment.  They are all the same when it comes to the Bulls**t factor.

Think Progress

House Republicans filed a long-awaited lawsuit against the Obama administration on Friday, arguing that the president has inappropriately acted without congressional authority to implement parts of the health care reform law. If it’s successful, the lawsuit could increase out-of-pocket costs for millions of vulnerable Americans who already struggle to afford health services — even though the GOP has repeatedly accused the law of making coverage too expensive.

According to the legal challenge, the White House shouldn’t have acted unilaterally to delay the employer mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act. But it also takes issue with a different provision of the law: subsidies known as cost-sharing reductions, which cap the amount that insurers are allowed to charge people for co-pays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

Over the next ten years, the ACA will give an estimated $175 billion in subsidies to insurance companies to keep health costs lower for Americans earning between 100 and 250 percent of the federal poverty line. House Republicans are arguing that money was illegally appropriated without getting approval from Congress.

If insurers no longer receive subsidies from the government to offset the cost of capping out-of-pocket costs, however, the New York Times reports that “the companies might be forced to raise costs elsewhere.” That could directly affect out-of-pocket expenses among a population that already worries about being able to afford insurance.

GOP lawmakers are setting their sets on repealing this particular consumer protection despite the fact that they’ve have previously had a lot of complaints about the health lawraising out-of-pocket costs, arguing Obamacare threatens to make coverage too unaffordable for average Americans.

In advance of the law’s first enrollment period, Republicans were quick to criticize the other expenses accompanying new Obamacare plans aside from the monthly premiums, saying the deductibles were much too high. At the time, the Senate Republican Communications Center circulated a roundup of consumers complaining about their deductibles.

In April, House Speaker John Boeher (R-OH) complained that Obamacare has caused his co-pays and deductibles to triple, and said he’s been getting letters from his constituents having similar issues. In the lead up to the recent midterm elections, Republicans in close races relied on the messaging that the health law was driving up co-pays and deductibles. Candidates like incoming Sen. Jodi Ernst (IA) argued that the Obama administration was hiding the “true cost” of out-of-pocket expenses from enrollees.

“The House has an obligation to stand up for the Constitution, and that is exactly why we are pursuing this course of action,” Boehner said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed. But if he gets his way, the House GOP might also end up fueling its own complaints about the law.

Mythbusting The Punditry Class’ Election Postmortems

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stock graphic

TPM Cafe – Opinion

Republicans won a tsunami victory that portends a big win in 2016

Uh, no, probably not. The GOP victory slightly overperformed (if at all) what you’d expect from a combination of several factors: a “sixth-year” election with a Democrat in the White House, a pro-Republican midterm turnout pattern, a wildly pro-Republican landscape for members of Congress (especially senators), and a strongly “wrong track” public opinion profile reinforced by negative perceptions of the economy.

The composition of the electorate was an awful lot like 2010: 75 percent white (77 percent white in 2010, 72 percent in 2012); 37 percent 60 and over (32 percent in 2010, 25 percent in 2012); 12 percent 30 and under (12 percent in 2010, 19 percent in 2012). The party splits in various demographics also strongly resembled 2010; the better Republican numbers in pro-Democratic groups (viz. 36 percent among Latinos in 2014, 38 percent in 2010, 27 percent in 2012) reinforces the impression that more conservative voters turned out across the board. (Since nobody really thinks Republicans surged from 26 percent to 50 percent among Asian-Americans since 2012, it’s likely one or both numbers for that group are skewed).

So we’ve now seen three consecutive “swings” in turnout patterns and results that reinforce the “two electorates” hypothesis suggesting a structural Republican advantage in midterms and a Democratic advantage in presidential elections. Since the close alignment of the two parties with the segments of the electorate most likely (Republican with their older white voter base) and least likely (Democrats with their younger and minority voter base) to participate in midterms emerged in 2008, nobody’s “broken serve” yet. It could happen in 2016, of course, but nothing that occurred last Tuesday appears to make that more or less likely than it was on Monday.

Part of the illusion of a last-minute “tsunami,” of course, was created by a systematic overestimation of the Democratic vote by polls, amounting to 4 percent according to Nate Silverand 5 percent according to Sam Wang. In 2010 it was Republicans who benefited from a polling misfire.

The Democratic GOTV operation was a failure

It’s true the DSCC’s Bannock Street Project did not reshape the midterm electorate and produce victories, and national turnout was at the lowest rate since 1942. But turnout was up from 2010 levels in most states with competitive Senate races (as a percentage of 2010 vote): by 12.9 percent in Louisiana; 9.9 percent in Arkansas; 6.8 percent in New Hampshire; 6.6 percent in Alaska; 4.7 percent in Colorado; 4.2 percent in Kentucky; 3.8 percent in North Carolina; 2.6 percent in Kansas; and 1.4 percent in Arkansas. Georgia was the biggest disappointment, with 13 percent fewer votes cast in 2014 as compared to 2010, perhaps indicating that allegations of voter registration applications being buried by the Secretary of State’s office ought to get a second look.

A “but for” test would seem to indicate that overall Bannock Street kept turnout patterns from being even worse than they might have been. But to the extent it was an experiment, it needs tweaking, and it may simply be that not voting in midterms (particularly for young people) is too entrenched a habit to be significantly changed by any GOTV program. Republicans claims that Democratic GOTV efforts were canceled out by their own more impressive measures should also be examined, along with the suspicion that both parties’ early voting programs didn’t really add that many new voters.

Democrats should finally write off the south

The defeats of Kay Hagan, Mark Pryor and Michelle Nunn, along with the projected defeat of Mary Landrieu in a December runoff and the near-death-experience of Mark Warner have fed perennial talk that Democrats are wasting their time in the former Confederate States.

It may be true that Democrats will henceforth struggle in midterms in much (though not necessarily all) of the region, and that the decline in ticket-splitting means outperforming national tickets among white voters is becoming a thing of the past. But in presidential years, there’s no reason Virginia (carried twice by Obama), North Carolina (once), Georgia (where the nonwhite percentage of the population is creeping ever upward) and of course such essentially non-southern states as Florida (carried twice by Obama) cannot remain competitive for the foreseeable future. The trend lines are actually positive, with the realignment towards Republicans of southern white voters reaching its point of diminishing returns.

I’d argue what’s really obsolete is the get-as-far-to-the-right-as-possible Blue Dog model for southern Democratic success, epitomized by Rep. John Barrow (D-GA), who finally lost this year. Absent some strong, specifically partisan anti-Republican trend in a particular year, southern white conservative voters see no reason to vote Democratic any more, and each year their return becomes more unlikely. But ascending elements of the southern electorate, including transplants and knowledge workers, continue to be a ripe target for Democrats.

‘Populism’ is the cure-all/won’t work for Democrats

Nothing was more ubiquitous in Democratic campaigns this year than support for such “populist” economic themes as a higher minimum wage, which polled well nearly everywhere and sometimes split Republicans. But even in states where voters approved minimum wage ballot initiatives, Democratic statewide candidates did not benefit, leading some observers to  “populist” appeals to reduce inequality might be less effective than a pro-growth message while others countered that a sharper populist message was needed when the Democratic Party holds the While House and is deemed responsible for the economy.

This is a dilemma for Democrats that goes back at least to the Clinton years, and will be partly ameliorated by the imminent departure from office of President Obama, making it easier for his successor as Democratic nominee to make 2016 a “two futures” choice of economic policies rather than a referendum on a status quo still suffering from the mistakes of the Bush administration. I’d personally argue that what Democrats most need isn’t “less” or “more” populism, but a more comprehensive economic message that explains how income equality is critical to growth and offers not just one but various ways to boost paychecks. Princeton professor Alan Blinder has made a pretty good start.

Meanwhile, a separate argument is that some Democrats spent too much time on “culture war” issues or talking about a “war on women.” I’d just note that the single biggest difference between the 2010 and 2014 votes were that Democrats won women last week by four points and lost them by a point in 2010. Something went right.

Fundamentals explain everything

I obviously agree such “fundamentals” as turnout patterns and midterm dynamics and the “presidential referendum” factor and demographics explain most of what happened last Tuesday. But sometimes candidates and campaigns trump everything. It’s very unlikely that Joni Ernst would have won comfortably had Bruce Braley not been filmed telling out-of-state trial lawyers he was their vehicle for keeping Chuck Grassley, “an Iowa farmer,” away from the Judiciary Committee gavel. Maryland’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown ran a sluggish and overconfident campaign, just like Maryland LG Kathleen Kennedy Townsend did eight years ago when she was upset by a Republican. And Mark Udall lost in 2014 while Michael Bennet won in 2010 largely because Cory Gardner was a helluva better candidate than Ken Buck. At the margins of every election, anything can and does happen.

Ed Kilgore is the principal blogger for Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog, Managing Editor of The Democratic Strategist, and a Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Earlier he worked for three governors and a U.S. Senator. He can be followed on Twitter at@ed_kilgore.

H/t: Don B.

Meet your new craziest Republicans

Jody Hice wearing camo, holding rifle

Daily Kos

Tuesday’s elections brought both a rout of Democrats and a new standard for just who can be a national Republican these days. That’s not good, but let’s have a quick look at the new House and Senate conservatives most likely to rise to (unintended) prominence in the next two years. It’s time for Meet Your New Craziest Republicans.

Glenn Grothman, WI-06: Any list has to start with new Wisconsin Representative Glenn Grothman. Grothman is a finely tuned gaffe machine, if by “gaffe” we mean “saying the things Republicans are not supposed to say out loud.” He is a fervent believer in stopping The Gay Agenda, which he believes exists in our nation’s classrooms, but it’s the full scope of Grothman’s bizarre statements that have led us to predict that he will quickly rise to challenge Texas Republican Louie Gohmert for the title of America’s Dumbest Congressman. Does he have the stuff? We’ll soon know.

 

Jody Hice, GA-10: Another beneficiary of a hard-right conservative district, Georgia’s Jody Hice can’t be considered a gaffe machine. He’s just plain mean. A tea party Republican right out of central casting, Hice is a preacher, a conservative radio host, a gun-toter, and the district’s replacement for Paul “Evolution and embryology and the big bang theory are lies from the pit of Hell” Broun. Hice’s most recent hit has been the assertion that Muslim-Americans are not protected by the First Amendment because Islam is not a true religion; he also is frothingly anti-gay and is for women entering politics only if it is “within the authority of her husband.” Look for Hice to be a loudmouth Steve King type; not dumb, but meaner than a bag of rattlesnakes and a whole lot louder.

 

Mark Walker, NC-06: An also-ran compared to the more reliably soon-to-be-infamous Grothman and Rice, Mark Walker will nonetheless make a solid addition to the members of Congress that you will shudder to think have actual power. His highlight reel is topped by the time he proposed “we go laser or blitz” Mexico in order to teach them a lesson about immigrants crossing our southern border. He’s yet another tea partier that sallied into Congress while Republicans were proudly proclaiming they had tamped down on all that nonsense this time around. He also says he’d vote to impeach Obama.

 

Honorable Mention: Mia Love, UT-04: A female black Republican, Love has been a party darling groomed for success. She’ll go to Congress this year to prove that she’s got what it takes to move on to even higher office. She sports the endorsement of ultra-right anti-abortion extremists, but her unimpressive win even amidst an otherwise-solid Republican wave may have given her GOP poster child status a bit of a hit. Like Bobby Jindal, she’s an ambitious state Republican who will either make a big splash in the party or look very silly trying.

 

Joni Ernst, IA-Sen: When it comes to the Senate, all connoisseurs of train wrecks in the making are expecting great things from the Sarah Palinesque Joni Ernst. A far-right conspiracy theorist who coasted through the election on reporter fluff pieces and stories of pig castration, Ernst will join—and perhaps top—the Senate contingent of Republican believers in all things conspiratorial and insane. Think Michele Bachmann, but in the Senate. Think yourcrazy grandpa and his forwarded chain letters, but in the Senate. Think that person who accosts you at lunch one day with their theories of how Agenda 21 will be allowing cows to vote and forcing humans into tent cities—but in the actual Senate. Think Ted Cruz, but—well, think Ted Cruz. Ernst’s campaign showed two and only two settings, either ducking the presslike a hunted submarine or engaging in word salads that rival the best Palinisms. We expect great things from her.

 

Honorable Mention: Tom Cotton, AR-Sen: He won’t be a Joni Ernst, primarily because Ernst has squirreled away too much crazy for anyone but Ted Cruz himself to challenge, but Tom Cotton will prove a reliable Craven Liar Republican in the tradition of our finest intentionally insincere leaders. Why the Craven Liar title, as opposed to challenging in either the Sweet Jesus this guy is dumb or the Mean Bastard categories? Because Cotton’s campaign showed alevel of straight-up bullshit and pandering that had previously been seen only in satire bits about what Republicans might think, as when he supposed that ISIS and Mexican drug cartels would be teaming up to attack us across our border, a conservative wetyerpants claim seemingly handcrafted in the belief that Tom Cotton supporters were among the dumbest people on the planet. Unfortunately for Arkansas Republicans, he had them pegged. Cotton was also the most notable user of ISIS-produced terrorism films in his own ads, a move both meant to invoke terror in Americans so they would vote his way and one that likely earned the gratitude of the terrorist group for boosting publicity of their snuff films as they had intended. Perhaps we’ll call him the ISIS senator, as it’s a good bet ISIS already does.

 

On the Republican crazy beat, those are the top faces to watch. They’ll all be appearing very, very often on the satire shows, and probably more than a few times on the Sunday shows (but I repeat myself). We’ll also have the usual Steve Kings and Louie Gohmerts and, always, Ted Cruz, but if you’re looking for the next national leader who will either make a total fool of his or herself, make a fool out of his or her whole state, or accidentally shoot someone in the face during a hunting trip, here are the names that should feature on your new bingo cards.

10 things you need to know today: November 6, 2014

The midterms were...

The midterms were… (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Week

Republicans lay out their legislative agenda, Obama assesses the damage, and more

1. Republicans lay out their legislative agenda
A day after retaking the Senate and adding to their majority in the House, the GOP leadership is letting Americans in on their plan for the next two years. Chief among their priorities is balancing the budget, approving the Keystone XL pipeline, and revising or repealing the Affordable Care Act. Republican lawmakers are also expected to use their new-found control of the Senate to work towards large-scale revisions to the tax code. [The New York Times]

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2. Obama assesses the midterms
President Obama on Wednesday assessed his party’s resounding defeat in the midterm elections, saying the clear message from voters was that Washington needs to scrap the dysfunction and finally “get stuff done.” Obama said he would work with Republicans on issues where there is broad bipartisan agreement, and take executive action when he is compelled to act alone. “Congress will pass some bills I cannot sign,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll take some actions Congress won’t like.” [Time]

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3. Judge overturns Missouri’s same-sex marriage ban
St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison struck down Missouri’s ban on gay marriage. In June, St. Louis officials handed out four marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of the state’s 10-year-old constitutional amendment that prohibits gay marriage. The move was designed to set up a show down in the courts over the ban in the hopes of overturning it. Missouri’s attorney general, Chris Koster, announced that he would not appeal the ruling because he wanted Missouri’s future to “be one of inclusion, not exclusion.” [CBS]

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4. Russia snubs 2016 nuclear arms summit
Russian officials have decided to skip a 2016 nuclear security summit being held in Chicago, according to the U.S. State Department. Russia will instead attend a symposium hosted by the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency. The move comes at a time when the relationship between Washington and Moscow has been severely strained thanks to the crisis in Ukraine. In March, both Russia and the United State attended the last nuclear summit, which took place in The Hague. [Reuters]

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5. Deadly attack in Jerusalem fuels tension
Two people were killed in Jerusalem when a driver rammed into a line of commuters waiting for a train. The authorities killed the assailant but not before he got out of his car and assaulted a group of bystanders with a metal bar. The attack was the latest deadly incident in a city that has seen mounting tension over the past few months. [Time]

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6. Kerry pushes for deal with Iranians over their nuclear program
Secretary of State John Kerry said that he is hoping to finalize a deal with Iran over its nuclear capacity before a Nov. 24 deadline for negotiations. “I want to get this done,” said Kerry, who added that Iran has a right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. The U.S. and five other countries have been in talks with Iran for months to convince the rogue nation to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions. [The Washington Post]

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7. Spanish nurse who contracted Ebola is released from hospital
Teresa Romero Ramos, the first person to contract Ebola outside of West Africa, left the hospital after a month of treatment. The Spanish nurse was still weak, but called her recovery a “miracle” from God. Doctors said Ramos is no longer contagious and that they learned several lessons about treating Ebola patients from her case. [CNN]

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8. Tesla beats third quarter expectations
Tesla, the manufacturer behind the all-electric Model S car, reported a modest, third-quarter profit of $3 million. The company delivered a record-setting 7,785 sedans, which boosted its sales to $932 million. Analysts had expected the company to report lower revenues. [Forbes]

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9. Van Gogh painting sells for $61.8 million
Vincent van Gogh’s “Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies” fetched $61.8 million at auction — almost $12 million more than its estimated value. The painting, which van Gogh created at his doctor’s house just a few months before his death, was purchased by a private collector from Asia. The still life was one of the few canvases van Gogh was able to sell before he passed away in 1890. [BBC]

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10. Public outcry prompts Starbucks to bring back Eggnog Latte
Starbucks is bringing back its seasonal — and apparently very popular — Eggnog Latte after an outpouring on social media. The company had decided to take it off the menu to streamline its offerings but decided that was the wrong move. “We made a mistake,” says spokeswoman Linda Mills. “We are very sorry.” [USA Today]

Rand Paul Proposes Unusual Strategy On Voter ID To Help Republicans Court Black People

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) | CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JOSE LUIS MAGANA

Think Progress

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said on Sunday that he supported voter ID laws — but didn’t think Republicans should make the issue part of their campaign platform because it alienates black voters.

“I’m not really opposed to [voter ID laws]. I am opposed to it as a campaign theme,” Paul told CBS’ Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer. “Republicans, if you want to get African American votes, they think that this is suppression somehow and it’s a terrible thing.”

But contrary to Paul’s analysis, African-Americans are right to think voter ID laws mainly affect their communities. Laws mandating voters to show government identification disproportionately affect people of color and the poor, while reducing voter turnout. Those laws also carry racial tensions and reinforce stereotypes: A recent study showed that white Americans were more likely to support voter ID laws if they were shown pictures of African-Americans voting.

Republican-run states in particular have been lobbying for voting restrictions like reduced early voting times and voter ID laws, citing that such measures reduce voter fraud. But studies have shown that voter fraud is a non-issue: Voter fraud occurs at aninfinitesimal rate, with only 13 credible in-person cases logged between 2000 and 2010.

Paul went on to say that restoring voting rights for ex-convicts should be given more attention than ID laws. “I want more people to vote, not less,” he explained. “The number one impediment to voting in our country right now, it’s having a previous conviction. That’s where the real voting problem is.”

But voter ID laws actually cause fewer people to vote. The Government Accountability Office reported that such laws suppress voter turnout. Kansas and Tennessee, which have tightened their voter ID laws, had a decreased voter turnout especially among black voters, according to the GAO report.

Paul expressed having “mixed feelings” about the matter, but emphasized that Republicans harping on voter ID laws on the campaign trail pushes needed votes away instead of steering them toward the polls. “The Republican Party brand sucks and so people don’t want to be a Republican and for 80 years, African-Americans have had nothing to do with Republicans,” Paul said during a campaign stop in Detroit last week.

On Sunday, he reaffirmed that stance, saying “Republicans have to get beyond this perception that they don’t want African-Americans to vote. I don’t think it’s true. I’m not saying it’s true. But by being for all of these things, it reinforces a stereotype that we need to break down.”

They Hope You Won’t Wake Up

The Huffington Post

Here’s the bottom line. The Tea Party Republicans and their Big Business and Wall Street allies plan to grab what they want while ordinary people sleep through this election.

They want ordinary Americans to stay home on Election Day.

To them, high voter turnout is like daylight to a burglar — or for that matter to a vampire. It stops them cold.

The corporate CEO’s and Wall Street bankers together with Tea Party extremists control the Republican Party. They see this traditionally low-turnout mid-term election as the perfect opportunity to take over the United States Senate, Governors’ mansions and State Houses with politicians who represent their interests.

They don’t want Senators from Iowa, Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Alaska, South Dakota or Michigan. They want Senators from the Koch Brothers and their corporate and Wall Street allies — Senators who actually represent them and will do whatever they are told.

They want to know that when the chips are down they can count on government officials to continue rigging the economic game so they can continue to siphon off all of the economic growth for wealthiest one percent of the population.

That’s why, at the beginning of this cycle, the Koch Brothers’ network vowed to invest $300 million to smear Democratic candidates for office. That’s why Wall Street has redirected most of its giving to the GOP. And that’s why Republicans have spent the last two years passing laws to suppress voter turnout — especially among African Americans and Hispanic voters.

In order to continue taking our money, they need to take our votes. Where they can, they’ve passed “voter ID” laws that disenfranchise hundred of thousands — and impose what amounts to a poll tax — allegedly to stop the non-existent problem of voter identity fraud. Where they can, they’ve curtailed early voting periods and access to mail ballots.

In Georgia, the Republican Secretary of State has gone so far as to refuse to process 40,000 new voter registrations.

The smaller the turnout, the better for the plutocrats who want to continue to have unfettered access to virtually all of the economic growth generated by the American economy — just as they have for the last 30 years.

The fact is that over the last three decades our Gross Domestic Product per person has gone up by 80 percent. That means we all should be 80 percent better off than 30 years ago. But instead, wages have stagnated for most Americans because the rules of the game have allowed the CEO’s and Wall Street speculators to take all of that growth in income for themselves. They want to keep it that way.

But that requires that ordinary people stay away from the polls, because when most Americans vote, the electorate represents the whole population of the United States. And the fact is that most Americans support a progressive program that would change all of that.

Bottom line: they want to steal your family’s security while you sleep through the election.

There’s only one problem with this strategy: you don’t have to go along. Ordinary Americans can stop them by going to the polls.

It’s really up to us.

If you don’t have an ID, get one.

If they don’t have enough voting machines, camp there. Stand in line as long as it takes.

In 2012, thousands of people stood in line for hours – even after Barack Obama was declared the winner for President – because they were unwilling to allow the Republicans to steal their votes. If necessary, join them and do the same.

Don’t let them steal your vote.

Of course, in many places they can’t try these kind of overt voter intimidation tactics. Instead, they try to lull ordinary people to sleep by trying to convince us that the elections don’t matter anyway.

Tea Party extremists masquerade as moderates. Politicians who owe everything to rich plutocrats parade around in old cars and workshirts to look like they understand the “common man.”

They come out with mushy position papers on issues that are overwhelmingly popular — like raising the minimum wage. But they never mention that if you elect enough Republicans for them to control the House or Senate, the leadership in those bodies will simply refuse to call a minimum wage bill for a vote — just like John Boehner did this year.

Want to pass immigration reform? Then get out and vote against Republicans, who blocked an up or down vote in the House on comprehensive immigration reform — a bill that would have passed the House if the Republican leadership had simply called the bill to the floor.

Want to restore long-term unemployment compensation benefits? A bill passed the Senate that would have been signed by the president, but the House Republican leadership refused to call it for a vote.

Want to cut the cost of student loans? The Republican leadership in the House refused to take up the very popular measure sponsored in the Senate by Elizabeth Warren. If Mitch McConnell becomes Senate Majority Leader, the Senate won’t call it for a vote either.

Want to stop cuts in Social Security and Medicare? The House Republicans passed a budget that would end the Medicare guarantee and replace it with vouchers for private insurance that would raise out-of-pocket costs for retirees by thousands of dollars.

Want tax policies that shift the burden from ordinary working people to the one percent that has received all of the benefits of our growing economy? It won’t come from Republicans — ever.

In fact, elections matter enormously to the economic well-being of every American. And no one’s vote counts more than yours — unless you don’t vote. Because if you don’t vote, everyone’s vote counts more than yours. In political terms, if you don’t vote, you don’t count. And we know that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

If nothing else will convince you to vote, think about this. If millions of ordinary middle and working class Americans sit this election out and let the Koch Brothers of the world have their way, can’t you just imagine how they will yuck it up over drinks in their exclusive private clubs, or onboard their private jets?

They have no respect for working people — or the value of hard work. Many of them disdain ordinary working people. To them, it will just confirm their view that ordinary people can be sold a bill of goods if they just spend enough money and repeat enough lies.

In the end we will prove them dead wrong. The moral arc of the universe does in fact bend toward justice. But don’t give them the satisfaction — even for a few fleeting months at the end of 2014 — to think that their money can buy our democracy and there is nothing we are willing to do about it.

Landrieu Stands By Comments On Race And The South: ‘This Is The Truth’

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Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) | AP Photo / Melinda Deslatt

This is yet another case of Republicans not wanting anyone to air their dirty laundry in public…

TPM LiveWire

Landrieu had told NBC News that one of the reason President Barack Obama struggles politically in the South, along with his energy policies, is the issue of race.

She held firm in a statement later on Friday, saying that “[e]veryone knows this is the truth.”

“The main reason the President has struggled here is because his energy policies are not in line with the people of Louisiana. We are a pro-drilling, pro-oil, gas state. The offshore moratorium was extremely unpopular and, in my opinion, wholly unwarranted. It made a lot of people angry and put many businesses at risk. In addition, the south has not always been the friendliest or easiest place for African Americans to advance, and it’s been a difficult place for women to be recognized as the leaders we are,” the senator said. “Everyone knows this is the truth, and I will continue to speak the truth even as some would twist my words seeking political advantage.”

Landrieu is facing a strong reelection challenge from Republican Bill Cassidy.