U.S. Politics

Nervous GOP senators rooting for Ryan to fail

AP-paul-ryan-01-as-170308_31x13_1600Photo by Joan Walsh


A growing number of GOP senators are hoping the House fails to pass its bill to repeal and replace ­ObamaCare so they won’t be blamed for killing it in the upper chamber.

Support for the House legislation has “disintegrated” in the Senate, according one Republican senator who requested anonymity to discuss internal conference politics.

It will require substantial revisions to win the support of moderate Republicans in the upper chamber — something that will likely make it unacceptable to conservatives.

Given what looks like an unbridgeable divide in the Senate GOP conference, some are saying that it would be better if the bill dies in the House.

“I’ve heard that maybe the best thing is that this doesn’t get out of the House so we’re not the ones who ditch it,” said a Republican senator who has publicly voiced concern about the bill but requested anonymity. “Right now this is disintegrating in the Senate, with everyone off on their own about what they don’t like about the bill.”

The lawmaker said that voting for the House measure could come back to haunt Republicans again and again, just as votes for ­ObamaCare in 2009 and 2010 came back to hurt Democrats in the 2010, 2014 and 2016 elections.

“It’s tough to vote for policy that hurts people,” the senator added.

An analysis released by the Congressional Budget Office Monday found that the House plan, known as the American Health Care Act, would increase the number of uninsured by 24 million compared to current law over a decade.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who is emerging as a leading voice in the Senate healthcare debate, called the projection “eye-popping” and “awful.”

Several of his colleagues have had similar reactions, though they are holding back on slamming the House bill out of courtesy to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and their own leadership.

Another Republican senator who requested anonymity to discuss the House bill candidly said, “There are no good options.”

The lawmaker acknowledged that not fulfilling the party’s campaign promise to repeal and replace ­ObamaCare would be politically painful in the short-term but worried that voting for bad policy could have negative reverberations for the GOP over the next decade.

“The best thing may be to kill it early so it doesn’t come over here,” the GOP senator said.

“One option may be for it to fail and for ­ObamaCare to continue to implode so that it drives us,” the senator added.

If premiums continue to rise and health insurance companies continue to drop out of the federal and state exchanges, there could be less political blowback from repealing ­ObamaCare, the legislator reasoned.

A third Republican senator said, “I think it’s better if it does not come out of the House in its current form.”

The lawmaker said if House GOP leaders manage to pass it, the measure should undergo a major renovation in the Senate by going through hearings and markups in the Finance and Health committees.

Ryan is determined to pass the House bill and told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview on Wednesday that senators are free to amend the legislation as they see fit. But it remains to be seen if Ryan can get the votes. According to a whip count by The Hill, at least 15 House Republicans are leaning no or are staunchly opposed to it. Dozens are declining to say where they stand. If all members vote and all Democrats reject the legislation, Ryan can only afford 21 defections.

Ryan declined to say whether he could pass the bill if it came to the floor this week.

“It’s going through the legislative process. That legislative process has not been finalized,” he told Tapper. “That’s, no offense, that’s kind of a goofy question or faulty premise, because this goes through four committees. We’ve gone through two so far.”

Earlier this month, Ryan guaranteed that the legislation would pass the House.

David Brooks, a center-right columnist for The New York Times, warned last week that the House healthcare bill, if enacted, “will probably lead to immense pain and disruption.”

“That will discredit market-based social reform, cost the Republicans their congressional majorities and end what’s left of the Reagan-era party,” he predicted.

While not persuasive among conservatives, this doomsday scenario is alarming to Republicans from swing states.

Senate Republican leaders are trying to shore up their crumbling ranks by warning them the political fallout will be worse if their party fails to deliver on its campaign promises over the past several elections to repeal  ­ObamaCare.

“I couldn’t disagree more,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) when told some of his colleagues hope the bill will die in the House.

“How do you explain not keeping the promise we made in the last three elections to repeal ­ObamaCare?” he said.

“We think we know a better way to deliver healthcare through free-market competition and more choices that lower costs,” he said. “If you believe that, you believe this is going to work. If you don’t believe that, it’s a different situation.”

A senior GOP aide said Republicans have no excuse for not repealing the controversial law because “we own government” and noted that President Trump made repeal a core promise of his 2016 campaign.

Yet, Trump has also said on a number of occasions that Republicans could choose to do nothing and watch ­ObamaCare collapse in 2017. Trump, who has endorsed but not fully embraced the House bill, has indicated he wants to sign a repeal-and-replace bill.

During a Wednesday appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) advised Trump that he should let ­ObamaCare falter if he can’t strike a better deal.

Later in the day, Graham told radio host Hugh Hewitt, “If you don’t believe it’s better than ­ObamaCare over the long haul, if you think you’re going to own it for the rest of your life, President Trump, it will be called TrumpCare — don’t buy it.”

Internal talk about delaying the repeal of ­ObamaCare indefinitely has some members of the Senate Republican Conference bristling.

“Now is the time for action,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told a gathering of activists outside the Capitol Wednesday.

“Failure is not an option. If Republicans take this opportunity and blow it, we will rightly be considered a laughingstock,” he warned.

Repealing the law appeared to be a goal that unified the party when the Republican-controlled Senate and House passed legislation that would have gutted the law in 2015. The stakes were lower then because President Obama was widely expected to veto it, and did.

Consensus has disappeared now that Republicans in Congress know that whatever they pass will be signed into law by Trump.

Behind closed doors, moderates are telling their colleagues that the political calculations have changed.

“The debate at my lunch today was over people who want more subsidies, more government subsidies for health insurance,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told The Hill in an interview Wednesday.

“It’s disappointing, but they claim they weren’t really voting last time, they were pretending to vote last time,” he added.

Paul also wants the House bill to fail, but his motivation is different from that of centrist GOP senators.

He wants to scrap the American Health Care Act and replace it with legislation stripped of subsidies that promotes greater competition in the marketplace by equalizing treatment of healthcare insurance between individual- and employer-purchased plans.

“Though I want to believe the glass is half full, I am tempted, very tempted, to smash a glass half full of ­ObamaCare Lite — smash that glass to smithereens!” he wrote in an op-ed published Wednesday on Breitbart.

Another Senate conservative and former House member, Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), last week called on his “friends in the House” to “pause, start over.”

Should the House approve its bill, Cotton said, Republicans could lose their majority in the lower chamber.

“Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote,” he told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos.

House Republicans, however, are vowing to pass the legislation next week. They want to get the political hot potato off their plate as soon as possible.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that a large contingent of House Republicans want to pass a bill, even if it is likely to die in the Senate, because they don’t want to get blamed by conservative constituents for failing to pass an ­ObamaCare repeal bill endorsed by Trump.

U.S. Politics

GOP rep: Trump may exceed Obama on ‘violating our rights’


GOP rep: Trump may exceed Obama on ‘violating our rights’

© Greg Nash


Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) says he has concerns about President-elect Donald Trump’s respect for the Constitution.

“President Trump has made clear that he supports a very strong surveillance state,” he said Thursday in Grand Rapids, Mich., according to MLIve.com. “And he may even go beyond what President Obama did in terms of violating our rights.”

“I’ll be supportive when I think he’s right and I’ll be critical when I think he’s wrong,” Amash added of Trump. “I’ve been a critic of the Obama administration. There were many times when the Obama administration didn’t follow the Constitution, and I took them to task. I will do the same with the Trump administration.”

Amash also said he wouldn’t shy away from breaking with fellow Republicans over Trump’s policies, citing government spending as one potential division.

“I will take positions that sometimes the political establishment – my own party – won’t like,” he said. “I will take positions that sometimes the Trump administration won’t like. And sometimes I will take positions that the Democrats won’t like. My job is to be fair.”

“We need to make sure we are keeping our debt under control,” Amash added. “Whenever you have one party controlling all of government, you tend to have less of a check on spending.”

Trump will enter the White House next month with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate behind him.

Many rank-and-file Republicans have rallied around the president-elect after their party’s often bruising presidential primary.

Amash initially endorsed GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and then Ted Cruz(Texas) before Trump earned the Republican presidential nomination.

The Michigan lawmaker has been a vocal critic of Trump, and refused to back either him or Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton before Election Day.


U.S. Politics

Trump: Cruz, Kasich shouldn’t speak at convention without endorsement

(Getty Images)


Donald Trump won’t invite former rivals Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio to speak at the Republican National Convention without endorsements from both, he told The New York Times. 

“If there’s no endorsement, then I would not invite them to speak,” Trump said.Trump’s comments come as his campaign and the Republican National Committee work to ensure next month’s convention goes as smoothly as possible.

There have been rumblings that displeased delegates will stage a revolt to try to oust the presumptive Republican nominee, but RNC leaders are threatening to withhold speaking slots and warning that attempting to undermine Trump violates party rules, The Times reported.

Trump told the Times his opponents will fail in derailing his nomination.

“You mean to tell me we’re going to get the largest vote in his history of the Republican primaries and now the same people that either didn’t run or get beaten in a landslide are going to try and back-end?” Trump said.

“My supporters are tremendously loyal to me. They would not stand for it.”

Under party rules, Trump cannot deny Cruz a speaking opportunity. Because Cruz won a majority of delegates in at least eight states, he will likely have his name entered into nomination, guaranteeing him a speaking spot.

At a rally earlier this month, Trump said he would rather have athletes speak at the convention instead of politicians, seeming to take issue with speeches that don’t center on the nominee.

“What I’m thinking about doing for the convention is rather [than] these politicians, you know — they’re gonna get up and speak and speak and speak,” Trump said at a rally in Richmond, Va. “You remember last time with [Mitt] Romney, all these politicians got up and they kept speaking and they didn’t mention Romney’s name. They spoke — one guy spoke for like 45 minutes. He never mentioned Romney’s name.”

“Well we’re going to do it a little differently, if it’s OK.”


By Jessie Hellmann

U.S. Politics

Ted Cruz Blames Fox News For Donald Trump’s Rise


Cruz called out the network’s executives for turning it “into the Donald Trump network, 24/7.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Thursday suggested Fox News had a role to play in facilitating presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s success and warned that it “will bear that responsibility going forward.”

The former presidential candidate was asked on a conservative radio show in Houston whether he felt he was treated unfairly by Fox News, after he slammed the network’s executives earlier this month for turning it “into the Donald Trump network, 24/7.”


“Well, listen, there’s time for recriminations. Everyone who was responsible for the rise of Donald Trump, they will bear that responsibility going forward,” he said.

“But there were more than a few players who played a disproportionate role in that rise,” he added, refusing to pin the blame solely on the cable news network.

Before he dropped out of the GOP presidential race last week, clearing the way for Trump to become the presumptive nominee, the Texas senator suggested that executives at Fox News gave Trump wall-to-wall coverage to support his candidacy.

“There is a broader dynamic at work, which is network executives have made a decision to get behind Donald Trump. Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes at Fox News have turned Fox News into the Donald Trump network, 24/7,” Cruz said at a press conference on the eve of the Indiana primary.

“Media executives are trying to convince Hoosiers, trying to convince Americans the race is decided. You have no choice. You are stuck between Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, either one of which is a horrific choice for this country.”

Fox News, as well as other cable news networks, have faced criticism for giving Trump a disproportionate amount of airtime and for leaving his controversial and inconsistent policy proposals unchallenged.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during his interview with Bill O’Reilly on the Fox news talk show “The O’Reilly Factor,” Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, in New York | AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Cruz returned to the Senate this week, and unlike some of his colleagues, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has yet to back Trump.

His comments on Thursday suggest he is still not ready to back his party’s presumptive nominee, which could make it difficult for Trump to pick up Cruz’s supporters and for the party to unify ahead of the general election.

When asked to evaluate his own campaign, Cruz praised the evangelicals and conservatives who supported him and made no indication that he plans to endorse Trump soon.

“My one regret is that we came up short. I’m very sorry to have disappointed so many grassroots conservatives who just poured their hearts into this, and I wish the outcome had been different,” he said. “But I have incredible optimism in the future of this country … The conservative movement is strong and thriving.”

Marina Fang

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.


U.S. Politics

Cruz floats restarting campaign if he wins Nebraska primary

From The Smoke-filled Room


Ted Cruz floated the possibility of restarting his presidential campaign if he wins Nebraska’s GOP primary on Tuesday and avoided saying whether he supports Donald Trump‘s bid for president.
Cruz, who suspended his White House run last week, said he does not expect to win Nebraska’s primary but is leaving the door open.
“We launched this campaign intending to win. The reason we suspended our campaign was that with the Indiana loss, I felt there was no path to victory,” he said Tuesday on conservative host Glenn Beck’s radio program.
“If that changes, we will certainly respond accordingly.”
Cruz demurred on supporting Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, because the Republican National Convention and general election are still months away.
“This is a choice every voter is going to have to make. I would note, it’s not a choice we as voters have to make today,” Cruz said when asked about supporting Trump.
He also brushed aside the prospects of a convention fight or third-party presidential bid.
Cruz and allies told supporters Monday night call that they would not try to block Trump’s nomination but instead focus on influencing the party’s platform and rules, according to Politico.
Cruz joins a number of prominent Republicans who have said they are not yet supporting Trump for president.

Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and former GOP presidential nominees Mitt Romney and John McCain have all decided not to attend the party’s convention in July, an apparent rebuke of Trump.

And House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said last week he was not ready to endorse Trump, adding he needed assurances that Trump would champion conservative ideas.

Cruz dropped out of the presidential race last week after losing big in Indiana’s primary. John Kasich dropped out a day later, clearing the way for Trump to become the presumptive nominee.

Cruz had hoped a win in Indiana could give him momentum into Tuesday’s Nebraska contest, but Trump emerged from the Hoosier State as the only candidate with a viable path forward.

U.S. Politics

Search is on for a third-party candidate to take down Trump

Getty Images


Conservative activists who want a third-party alternative to Donald Trump and Hillary Clintonface one big obstacle: finding the right candidate.

Former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) would be a unifying figure for conservatives, but his health is in question after a battle with cancer.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who helped kick off the push for a third-party pro-Constitution candidate in February, has taken himself out of the running, citing obligations to his family.

“The answer is no. Senator Sasse has been clear when asked this before: he has three little kids and the only callings he wants — raising them and serving Nebraskans,” said his spokesman James Wegmann.

The names of Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) and former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) had both been mentioned, but they removed themselves from consideration by announcing they will support Trump.

Two other potential candidates — Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who is expected to win the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president later this year — are non-starters with the conservatives who are involved in discussions about a third-party candidate.

Erick Erickson, the conservative writer and radio host who has organized conference calls about a Trump alternative, said the movement wants a new face, which is not Romney.

“His name has been floated by three separate groups and all of them came to the conclusion that a new face was needed,” he said.

But Erickson added, “I do think it’s possible” for conservatives to rally behind someone.

“Given the antipathy for Trump and Hillary [Clinton], you could put together a compelling ticket that would unite conservatives and the more establishment Republicans and probably pick up some independents along the way,” he said.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) rocked Republican circles on Thursday afternoon when he announced he will not back Trump, at least for now, giving conservatives valuable time to field another option.

Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who both ran against for president, said this week there’s no chance they will vote for Trump, adding to the growing chorus of holdouts within the party establishment.

Romney allies interviewed by The Hill said they are frustrated by the choices before them, but aren’t pushing for him to enter the race.

They believe a third-party or independent bid would be a near impossible for anyone to pull off, and don’t want to see Romney drained of all his political capital over a doomed effort in which he might be blamed for handing the election over to Clinton.

“I don’t want to see him get in unless there was a chance he could win,” one former Romney adviser said. “There’s enormous dissatisfaction with both major party candidates, but it’s too steep a climb. Is there an opening? Sure. Is it realistic? I don’t think so.”

Other conservatives say Johnson, an early advocate of legalizing marijuana who told The Daily Caller he consumed cannabis within the last several weeks, “is a bridge too far to cross.”

Many establishment Republicans and conservatives view Johnson as a fringe figure.

“He might be an outlet for some protest votes, but if your concern with Donald Trump is that he’s not presidential enough, I’m not sure why Gary Johnson would be your guy,” said Ryan Williams, a veteran of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign.

“I don’t think Gary Johnson was discussed more than three seconds,” said Deborah DeMoss Fonseca, a spokeswoman for the conservatives looking for a Trump alternative.

“The question is, ‘What are our options?’ and that is what is still being discussed and that takes hours and hours and hours,” DeMoss Fonseca added. “We’re working with different groups of people that have different expertise.”

Organizers of the third-party, conservative push estimate it will cost at least $250 million to fund a candidate, and possibly tens or hundreds of millions of dollars more.

The other challenge is navigating the complex rules for getting a presidential candidate on the ballot in all 50 states.

The fundraising and ballot requirements are two major reasons why former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has presidential ambitions and billions of dollars in personal wealth, thought he needed to make a decision about running for the White House by the end of March. He ultimately passed on it.

Conservatives involved in the search for a Trump alternative describe their discussions as decentralized, with various groups holding conference calls and conducting fact-finding missions.

In addition to Erickson and DeMoss Fonseca, other participants include Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, Bill Wichterman, a former aide for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) who is well-connected among social conservatives, and Bob Fischer, a South Dakota businessman and longtime activist.

They hope that Paul Singer, the billionaire hedge fund manager who helped bankroll the “Never Trump” campaign before Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) dropped out of the presidential race, can be enticed to back a third-party option in the fall. Calls and e-mails to Singer’s office were not returned.

Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists who have funded other conservative causes, are viewed as another potential source of the money. But it will take some cajoling to get them on board.

James Davis, a spokesman for Freedom Partners, the umbrella political group funded by the Kochs, told The Hill that it’s not considering supporting a third-party candidate.

David Koch ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party’s ticket in 1980, which received only 1 percent of the vote.

“There’s a lot of activity between us and a lot of phone calls and emails about who to contact. We’re still reaching out to financial people as well as to people to see if there’s a widespread for a third candidate,” said DeMoss Fonseca. “Six months ago all of us would have said, ‘That’s silly, that’s ridiculous.’

“We want to do something that’s effective and credible,” she added. “For the first time in our lifetimes there are a lot of people and a lot of big Republicans are saying, ‘We can do this but is it too late? Is there still a pathway?’ ”

But other Republican voices in the Never Trump movement are beginning to doubt the viability of a third candidate.

Operatives from the two leading anti-Trump super-PACs did not participate in the recent conference calls.

Katie Packer, a former senior adviser to Mitt Romney who runs the main anti-Trump group, Our Principles PAC, said her group is turning its focus from the presidential race to protecting GOP majorities in the House and the Senate.

“Looking at the data, we’re very worried about incumbent Republicans getting caught up in a flood,” she said. “The first thing we’re looking at is what can be done for down-ballot Republicans. We don’t have any plans to actively oppose Trump in the general election … but we continue to believe he’s terrible for the party, the country, and especially down-ballot Republicans, so we’re looking for opportunities to help them.”

An operative for the Never Trump PAC, a smaller group that has so far focused primarily on digital ad buys, told The Hill they’re also not engaging in the effort to recruit an alternative, but said they might get on board if the right candidate materializes.

By Alexander Bolton and Jonathan Easley

U.S. Politics

Ten public policy issues that divide Trump and Ryan

By Scott Wong and Mike Lillis | The Hill



House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) stirred a political firestorm on Thursday when he refused to endorse Donald Trump, the all-but-certain GOP presidential nominee.

It was, perhaps, not such a surprise.

While Ryan and Trump may belong to the same party, they don’t agree on much when it comes to the Grand Old Party’s guiding policy agenda.

From immigration and trade to Medicare and taxes, Trump and Ryan have been on opposite sides of many of the highest-profile issues underlying the year’s campaign debate.

And Ryan, who took over the Speaker’s gavel last year with designs of uniting his sharply divided party, said he’s simply not convinced the Manhattan billionaire possesses the conservative bona fides needed to lead the GOP into the future.

“Of course you’re going to have policy disagreements. You always have policy disagreements,” Ryan said in an interview with CNN this week. “But are we putting out policies based upon the principles that all conservative and all Republicans share? You know, limited government, the Constitution, the right role for the executive?

“Those are the things that we all believe in, and we want to make sure our standard-bearer bears those standards, that our standard-bearer champions those.”

Amid the tension, the two plan to huddle on Capitol Hill on Thursday. But it’s unlikely they’ll see eye to eye.

“I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda,” Trump said in response to the Speaker’s take-down.

Here’s The Hill’s look at 10 policy issues where Trump and Ryan are butting heads.

1. Ban on Muslims

In the wake of the terrorist attack that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., Trump last December called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S. — an extreme measure that sparked worry among many party elders.

The very next morning, Ryan, just six weeks on the job as Speaker, rebuked Trump for the first time in the campaign cycle. Trump’s Muslim ban, Ryan said, was discriminatory and violated the freedom of religion, not to mention other aspects of the Constitution.

“This is not conservatism,” the Speaker said, standing in Republican National Committee headquarters. “What was proposed … is not what this party stands for and more importantly it’s not what this country stands for.”

This week, after solidifying his spot as the party’s presumptive nominee with a win in Indiana, Trump doubled down on his Muslim ban pledge, effectively ignoring Ryan’s warning.

“I don’t care if it hurts me,” he said Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.

A day later, Ryan fired back by withholding his endorsement.

2. Raising taxes on the wealthy

When it comes to the issue of taxes, Trump has been all over the map. But he recently told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie he absolutely supports raising taxes on the wealthy.

“I do. I do — including myself. I do,” Trump replied, giving heartburn to many traditional anti-tax Republicans including Ryan.

A former chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, Ryan has been championing major tax reform that would cut taxes — not raise them — for families and corporations across the board.

“The last thing our country needs are tax increases,” reads the tax issues page on Ryan’s website.

3. Trade issues

Ryan and Trump are worlds apart on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a colossal deal Obama negotiated with 11 Pacific-rim nations that could affect as much as 40 percent of the global economy.

Ryan is a big supporter of an agreement, having helped write the “fast-track” bill to ease eventual passage of the TPP, then ushering fast-track through the House last year.

Ryan also penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) – Trump’s main rival who dropped out after Tuesday’s Indiana primary — calling the TPP a “historic” opportunity to help American businesses. On Thursday, he released a statement hailing the merits of expanding international trade.

“It is especially good for our small businesses, which need new markets for their products,” Ryan said. “If we don’t step up and seize these opportunities, our competitors will.”

Trump has a decidedly different view, and his fierce opposition to expanded trade has helped boost his appeal among independents and conservative Democrats, particularly in Rust-Belt states.

He refers to the TPP as “ObamaTrade,” and he’s vowing to kill it because he says it will only exacerbate America’s trade deficit with China.

“The TPP is horrible deal. It is a deal that is going to lead to nothing but trouble,” he said during aNovember debate. “It’s a deal that was designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone.”

4. Easing restrictions with Cuba

Once a Cuba hard-liner, Trump said last fall that Obama’s monumental decision to re-establish diplomatic and economic ties with the communist island-nation of Cuba was “fine.”

“Fifty years is enough — the concept of opening with Cuba is fine,” Trump said in an interview withThe Daily Caller, breaking with nearly all of his GOP presidential rivals. “I think we should have made a stronger deal.”

Ryan, too, has flipped-flopped on Cuba policy. Early in his political career, he had backed ending the trade embargo with Cuba. But as Speaker, Ryan has been a vocal critic of Obama’s move, calling Cuba “a regime that provides safe harbor to terrorists and fugitives.”

As the president made his historic trip to Cuba in March, Ryan ripped Obama, saying “he effectively gets nothing in return, and he legitimizes a tyrannical dictatorship” led by the Castro brothers.

5. Planned Parenthood

Ryan has been at the front of the Republicans’ long-running effort to deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood, and Trump says he would do the same.

But Trump, who previously supported broad abortion rights, has also gone out of his way to trumpet the importance of the group in offering other healthcare services — “cervical cancer, breast cancer,” he said at a debate in February — while warning that countless women would lose vital care if Planned Parenthood were to fold.

“You can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood that are helped greatly,” Trump said.

That’s a rare message from a Republican, and one you won’t likely hear from the Speaker. Indeed, he’s backing the Republicans’ special panel investigating charges that Planned Parenthood profited illegally from the sale of fetal tissue.

“We are moving on Planned Parenthood on multiple fronts,” he vowed in November.

6. Immigration

Trump set a fierce tone for his immigration agenda on Day One, using his inaugural campaign speech to characterize Mexican immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists.”

He hasn’t backed down since, vowing to deport all of the 11 million immigrants estimated to be living in the country illegally, while sealing the border with an enormous wall — at the expense of Mexico — to be designed within his first 100 days in office.

“We have a lot of really bad dudes in this country from outside. They go, if I get elected,” he said during a September debate on CNN.

Ryan has different ideas. The Speaker was groomed by Republican immigration reformers — including the late-Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) — and has a long history of backing bills granting some illegal immigrants legal status, which harder-line conservatives deem “amnesty.”

Ryan supported the Republicans’ push to move an immigration package in 2014, including legalization allowances, and was leading bipartisan negotiations with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) in search of a compromise later that year — talks that fell apart with the defeat of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

“I’m a person who believes that for the undocumented, we have to come up with a solution that doesn’t involve mass deportation, that involves people the opportunity to get right with the law, to come in and earn a legal status while we fix the rest of legal immigration,” Ryan said last week at Georgetown University.

The issue is a tough one for GOP leaders like Ryan, caught straddling a line between efforts to appease a conservative base that favors tough enforcement, while hoping not to alienate Hispanic voters that could be vital in a number of battleground states.

7. Minimum wage

In November, Trump said the current $7.25-an-hour minimum wage is too high and was slowing job growth.

But part of Trump’s pivot to the general election has included softening his opposition to raising the minimum wage.

“I’m looking at that. I’m very different from most Republicans,” Trump said this week on CNN when asked about a Democratic push to hike the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“You have to have something you can live on,” he said, adding that he’s more focused on getting people better paying jobs.

By contrast, Ryan and most Republicans have been consistently opposed to any sort of minimum wage increase. A day after President Obama appeared in Milwaukee in 2014 and called for hiking the minimum, Ryan countered in a speech that such a move would result in a half million job losses.

Low-wage jobs provide critical training for young people, giving them an entry point into the workforce, Ryan said, according to The Milwaukee Business Journal. The Speaker famously flipped burgers at McDonald’s when he was younger.

8. Eminent domain

On the question of how much power the government has to commandeer private property for public gain, Ryan and Trump couldn’t be further apart.

Ryan has a long record opposing such expropriations, and he cosponsored legislation fighting a 2005 Supreme Court decision that empowered officials in New London, Conn., to seize private land — and sell it to a private corporation — in the name of economic development.

“When someone works years to secure a home or establish a successful family store or restaurant, only to be forced by the government to give it up so a corporation can redevelop the land, that’s wrong,” Ryan said at the time. “I took an oath to defend the Constitution, and this means protecting citizens’ right to own private property and prevent government from abusing its power.”

Trump disagrees. The billionaire real estate mogul has used eminent domain to his business advantage, arguing that it’s a “wonderful” tool for moving big projects — public and private — that might otherwise be “blocked by a hold-out” property owner.

“If you have a road or highway, you gotta do it,” he told Fox News in October. “If you have a factory where you have thousands of jobs, and you need eminent domain, it’s called economic development.”

9. Social Security

Ryan built his wonky reputation as chairman of the House Budget Committee, where his annual budget bills featured efforts to reduce deficit spending with steep cuts to the big entitlement programs.

His early “Roadmap for America” plans, for instance, proposed to raise Social Security’s eligibility age, shift retirement funds into private individual accounts and lower benefits for high-income seniors.

And as the vice presidential candidate alongside Mitt Romney in 2012, he offered a similar plan.

“If we don’t shore up Social Security, when we run out of the IOUs, when the program goes bankrupt, a 25 percent across-the-board benefit cut kicks in on current seniors in the middle of their retirement,” Ryan said in 2012 when he was the GOP’s vice presidential candidate. “We’re going to stop that from happening.”

Trump rejects any plan to cut entitlement benefits, going so far as to blame Romney’s loss on his decision to pick as running mate the man best known for his austere budgets.

“I said, ‘You got to be kidding,'” Trump said on the campaign trail in February. “He [Ryan] represented cutting entitlements, etcetera, etcetera. The only one that’s not going to cut is me.”

10. Medicare drug negotiations

A major health policy difference between Ryan and Trump pertains to Medicare’s prescription drug programs.

Under current law, Medicare is barred from negotiating directly with drug companies to get lower prices. Trump thinks that’s a mistake, arguing that the government could reap hundreds of billions of dollars in savings by purchasing drugs in bulk directly through the companies — a position long-held by liberal Democrats.

“We don’t do it. Why? Because of the drug companies,” Trump said on the campaign trail in January.

Most Republicans oppose such a move, arguing that it grants too much power to the federal government while encroaching on free markets. Medicare’s drug programs are doing just fine, they say, as a result of private competition.

Ryan is in that camp, joining most Republicans in voting against a drug negotiation bill in 2007.

The Hill
U.S. Politics

Trump’s latest conspiracy theory is a doozy, even for Trump

Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, interact at the conclusion of the CNN republican presidential debate at The Venetian Las Vegas on Dec. 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nev. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty

Note:  The formatting for this article simply won’t cooperate.  I apologize for the inconvenience. (ks)


By any fair metric, Donald Trump is well positioned to win the Republicans’ presidential nomination, and is already starting to shift his focus to the general election. But to think that the GOP frontrunner is finished complaining about his intra-party rival is to make a mistake.
Take this morning, for example, when Trump, repeating a story he saw in a tabloid, alleged that Ted Cruz’s father was seen paling around with Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963. Politico reported this morning:
“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being – you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said Tuesday during a phone interview with Fox News. “What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it.”
“I mean, what was he doing – what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting?” Trump continued. “It’s horrible.”
In keeping with his m.o., Trump’s odd broadside against his rival’s father comes on the heels of Rafael Cruz, a prominent surrogate for his son’s campaign, telling conservatives that a Trump presidency could lead to “the destruction of America.”
Evidently, Trump heard this and decided to respond with a JFK assassination conspiracy theory.
For what it’s worth, there’s no real reason to actually believe the conspiracy theory, but in the mind of Donald Trump, there’s little relationship between evidence and wild-eyed theories that he’s inclined to embrace and disseminate with great enthusiasm.
Remember this New York Times report from two months ago?
Mr. Trump, unlike most presidential candidates, does not shrink from addressing, and in some ways legitimizing, the wildest of hypotheticals. He has declared on a presidential debate stage that he knew a 2-year-old who immediately developed autism from a vaccination. He has appeared on the radio show of the noted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has suggested that the government played a role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. He has said on Twitter that President Obama might have attended Justice Scalia’s funeral had it been held at a mosque, feeding into the pervasive rumor that the Christian president is actually a Muslim. And he shared with a rally crowd a dramatic story of a United States general executing Muslim insurgents with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood, which has been dismissed as an Internet rumor.
Part hair-salon gossip, part purveyor of forwarded conspiracy emails, Mr. Trump has exploited the news cycles of an Internet era in which rumors explode like fireworks and often take a long time to burn out. Mr. Trump’s willingness to touch on what passes for fact on fringe websites puts him in a unique class for a national major party front-runner.
Which is an exceedingly polite way of saying leading candidates for the nation’s highest office usually aren’t quite this ridiculous.
The aforementioned examples are really just a sampling. Trump has also lent credence to the theory that Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered; we don’t yet know who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks; and the “birther” garbage about President Obama, by some measures Trump’s personal favorite.
The broader question that’s tougher to answer: is Trump doing well in the Republican race despite his ludicrous conspiracy theories or because of them?
U.S. Politics

Just About Everyone is Uneasy Over This Video of Cruz and Fiorina Holding Hands


If you’ve been on Twitter today, you’ve probably seen the following super-awkward video of Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina trying to grasp hands in some sort of victorious motion:

Maybe you’ve seen it as a gif:

It is honestly everywhere and the puns are abundant.

The jokes just keep coming.


U.S. Politics

Mike Pence’s Endorsement: ‘Yeah Whatever Ted Cruz’

Mike Pence's Endorsement: 'Yeah Whatever Ted Cruz'

Credit: Gage Skidmore


Did we need further evidence that the Republican Party is on its way to a pathetic loss?

Indiana Governor Mike Pence, whose Republican Primary is next Tuesday, has been avoiding all GOP candidates visiting his state. It was unclear until today whether he would make any endorsement whatsoever.

I guess the statewide whispers that he was being a flabby douche for not making an endorsement forced him to make this lukewarm announcement. CNN:

“I’m not against anybody, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the Republican primary,” Pence said in an interview with WIBC’s Greg Garrison. He praised Cruz’s “knowledge of the Constitution” and his willingness to “take on the leadership” of his own party.

Still, Pence is far from joining other Cruz endorsers like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the stop-Trump movement.

“Let me be very clear on this race: Whoever wins the Republican nation for president of the United States, I’m going to work my heart out to get elected this fall,” Pence said.

Shorter Mike Pence: My gay-obsessed Christianist base won’t let me endorse you, but please don’t hit me, Mr. Trump.

By Frances Langum