On Friday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed a strict Medicaid work requirement passed by the state’s GOP-controlled legislature. Under the new law, Michigan will join the dozen states who are actively seeking or have already received a waiver from the Trump administration to implement the new rules — which are expected to drop hundreds of thousands of people from the Medicaid rolls.
Michigan’s bill was significantly rewritten after the first version came under fire for having a significant racially disparate impact. Under the original proposal, people living in counties with unemployment rates above 8.5 percent would have been exempt from the work requirement. Those counties were overwhelmingly white, rural, and Republican. Low-income residents of color in Detroit and Flint, where the joblessness and poverty are extremely high, would not have received an exemption, because the wealthier suburbs surrounding those cities pulled the overall county unemployment rate below the threshold.
The blowback to that plan prompted Michigan lawmakers to make revisions, including the elimination of any exemptions for people in places where it is difficult to find a job.
“They can avoid the disparate impact by leveling up or leveling down, and they chose to level down,” Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan who specializes in health policy, told TPM. “They could have chosen to extend the same solicitude they had for people in rural areas with high unemployment to people in cities with high unemployment, but did not do so. I think it speaks to how punitive this law will be for many people. You’re telling people to find work where there is no work to be had.”
The revised law requires adult Medicaid enrollees who do not have a disability to work at least 20 hours per week in order to maintain their insurance. If they cannot find a job, they can complete community service to fulfill the requirement, but only for three months each year.
More than half a million people in Michigan would be subject to the new requirements, and as many as 54,000 people could lose their coverage as a result.
And if the Trump administration were to deny Michigan’s request for a waiver to implement the work requirement, or if a court were to strike them down as illegal under the Medicaid statute, the state is threatening to roll back their Medicaid expansion.
Could Trump-fueled infighting cost New York City Republicans their only seat in Congress?
That’s the question looming over Tuesday’s bloody, hard-fought GOP primary race between incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY) and his predecessor, convicted felon and former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY).
Grimm held the NY-11 district seat until 2015, when he was imprisoned for federal tax fraud. Donovan sailed in with a special election victory to save face for the party. Now Grimm wants the seat back.
Donovan, the former Staten Island district attorney, is the establishment pick, scoring endorsements from most of the Empire State’s GOP old guard, the National Republican Congressional Committee, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), and, most critically, President Trump. But Grimm remains popular in the heavily ethnic white, GOP-leaning district that takes in all of Staten Island and a stretch of south Brooklyn. And in spite of Trump’s endorsement of Donovan, Grimm has campaigned hard as the true Trumpian candidate.
Thanks to Grimm’s surprisingly strong standing with a chunk of the district’s Republicans, the state’s arcane election laws and the race’s uncertain Trump factor, Grimm has a good shot at pulling the whole thing off. But New York Republicans fear that his significant baggage could imperil their hold on a seat that Donovan should be able to win in the fall.
“If Dan Donovan wins the primary, he keeps his job,” New York GOP strategist Susan del Percio told TPM.
“If Grimm wins, it’ll be a tough fight and yes, the Republicans can lose that seat,” del Percio, who worked for Grimm in his 2010 primary campaign and never worked with Donovan, continued. “You have a vulnerable, deeply flawed candidate who is a convicted felon. That’s something you can raise a lot of money against and really go after to increase turnout this election cycle.”
Another New York Republican consultant, who asked to remain anonymous because of his ties to both GOP candidates, said Democratic frontrunner Max Rose “has a chance” in the general, especially because Trump’s endorsement for Donovan came so late in the race.
“If Donovan loses, it signals Trump can’t boost support for the only Republican in his entire home city of New York” the consultant said.
After all, the conservative firebrand was best remembered for two events: his on-camera threat to break a NY1 reporter in half “like a boy,” and his 2014 felony criminal trial for fraud, tax evasion and perjury.
Donovan’s camp shrugged the challenge off, pointing to Grimm’s less-than-hard-right voting record in Congress and criminal record. They set about securing mainstream endorsements and raising funds.
Grimm, meanwhile, hit the campaign trail hard, turning out for parades, knocking on doors and snapping photos with white-haired grandmothers. He brought Trump allies including Michael Caputo and Anthony Scaramucci into the fold, and gave frequent press interviews casting himself as the strongest champion of the #MAGA agenda.
“Donovan I think was overconfident for a long, long time,” Gerry O’Brien, a 40-year veteran of New York GOP politics who left the party during the 2016 election, told TPM.
O’Brien said the Donovan campaign made a “strategic blunder” by telegraphing their central attack on Grimm’s voting record months before the election, when “regular voters were paying less than zero attention.”
All the strategists TPM spoke to voiced similar concerns: Donovan was a lackluster retail campaigner while Grimm excelled at it; Donovan squandered his financial advantage on dull direct mail buys; Donovan didn’t take Grimm seriously until late in the race.
The national GOP has been worried about the race for some time. The NRCC added Donovan to their “Primary Patriots” program, providing additional fundraising and organizing assistance. While the NY1 poll was still being conducted, the president came out with a two-tweet endorsement for the incumbent warning what might happen if Grimm wins the nomination.
“Remember Alabama,” Trump implored, citing the disastrous campaign of far-right Senate candidate Roy Moore, who lost to Democrat Doug Jones following allegations that Moore once groped multiple teenage girls.
The Grimm campaign claims Trump was hoodwinked into supporting Donovan, noting that his first tweet claimed the congressman supported the tax cut bill that Donovan actually voted against.
“Donovan has abandoned a district that voted overwhelmingly for Trump,” Ryan Girdusky, a strategist providing support to Grimm’s primary campaign, told TPM. “Michael Grimm will be their advocate in Congress.”
Grimm has made his own mistakes. One notable misstep involved New York’s arcane election rules, which allow candidates to file signatures with the Board of Elections to appear on multiple party ballot lines. A Grimm campaign operative messed with the signatures Donovan’s team submitted, trying to keep him off the Reform Party ballot.
But he was caught, and the BOE not only kept Donovan on the Reform Party line but referred the incident to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
There were other allegations of dirty tricks. Donovan accused Grimm of filing an ethics complaint against him, claiming that Donovan helped his partner’s son secure preferential treatment after a 2015 heroin arrest. (Grimm denies making the complaint, while Donovan denies intervening).
At a primary debate last week, Grimm charged that Donovan even sought to secure a presidential pardon on his behalf in order to keep him out of the primary race. Donovan acknowledged discussing the prospect of a pardon while riding on Air Force One with Trump last summer, but said he only did so as a favor to a longtime friend in Staten Island politics who’s now backing Grimm, former Rep. Guy Molinari (R-NY).
Donovan’s team counters that this is just another bogus accusation made by a campaign thrown into disarray by Trump’s endorsement, which upended the dynamics of the race.
“Grimm’s entire campaign was built around President Trump, who urged voters not to vote for him and said literally no one is better to represent him than Donovan,” Donovan spokeswoman Jessica Proud scoffed on a call with TPM.
With the primary just days away, Grimm is continuing to make Donovan’s electability argument for him.
Grimm caught flak in the conservative New York Post this week for downplaying an audio recording of distraught immigrant children separated from their parents by the Trump administration. Grimm told reporters, “You’re going to hear the same exact things as a mother leaves to go to work and has to leave her child at day care.”
The GOP strategist who requested anonymity said Grimm was “basically writing a Democratic campaign ad” with his comments.”
Rose, the leading Democratic candidate and a decorated U.S. Army veteran, has pulled in hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and scored endorsements from the likes of the DCCC, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and the Service Employees International Union.
Kevin Elkins, Rose’s campaign manager, told TPM they’re “feeling pretty confident” about the race regardless of their opponent, but said they’d prefer to face off against Grimm because they would relish defeating him “once and for all.”
As Elkins pointed out, the peculiarities of New York’s ballot system means “this could go thirty different ways.”
Candidates are permitted to remain on multiple party lines even after losing a major-party primary. So either Grimm or Donovan could lose the Republican primary and stay on the November ballot on a minority-party line, peeling votes away from their rival.
O’Brien, the former GOP strategist, predicted Tuesday’s results will be closer than polls have shown, citing Trump’s support and Donovan’s last-minute assault of TV advertising.
“Whether that’s enough, I don’t know,” he said. “The Republican Party has jumped off the cliff in a very enthusiastic display of suicide over the last year or two. It would not be uncharacteristic for them to have gone all in on this and still throw another congressional seat away.”
House Republican leaders decided to delay a vote on their immigration bill in the face of near-certain defeat, kicking the can down the road one more day as the chamber failed to pass a more conservative alternative to the bill Thursday afternoon.
The conservative bill, authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), mustered just 193 votes. All Democrats and dozens of Republicans rejected it because of its onerous limits on allowing undocumented immigrants brought here as children to stay in the country.
The other, slightly less conservative version appears destined to a similar fate, with dozens of hardline conservatives and a handful of GOP moderates saying they’ll vote against the bill, thus promising its failure. But House GOP leaders moved to forestall that result, scuttling a planned Thursday afternoon vote as they cast about for another path forward.
That’s easier said than done. Republicans have failed to coalesce around immigration reform for more than a decade, and haven’t been able to agree on a solution even on broadly popular concepts like the one these bills were aimed at addressing — giving the undocumented immigrants brought here as children legal standing after President Trump’s move to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The two different bills also sought to handle another Trump-manufactured crisis: The forced separation of migrant families at the border.
The GOP’s failure to address the issue stems partly from Trump’s erratic and bellicose behavior on immigration, as well as his unpredictable and inconsistent support of congressional Republicans’ attempts to clean up the mess he made. It’s also been stymied by conservative Freedom Caucus members’ refusal to compromise and support legislation, even on a so-called compromise bill that they were intimately involved in crafting that closely tracks with Trump’s own demands on immigration policy. House moderates have also failed to get the votes needed to join Democrats to force a clean vote on the DREAM Act.
Rather than admit defeat, House GOP leaders bought themselves one more day on Thursday. But they have no plans to change the current bill. Instead, they take the afternoon to have a meeting on the new slapdash bill they tossed together this week and discuss its contents with members. Yet it’s still unlikely that Friday’s results will be any prettier for House GOP leaders — or the swing-district members who desperately wanted to solve the issue ahead of what’s shaping up to be a rough midterm election for the GOP.
Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), the chairman of the conservative but less doctrinaire Republican Study Committee and one of the bill’s negotiators, said the delay was so Republicans could have a meeting “to walk through some of the two or three sticking points” on the bill. Walker said Republicans are also holding out hope that Trump will “continue to, or even add to his voice on support” of the bill despite the President’s lukewarm and inconsistent support of the compromise legislation.
But conservative hardliners made it clear that delay and more talk won’t get them to budge.
“It’s amnesty. It doesn’t protect the American worker. Chain migration is still in it,” Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) groused after the Goodlatte bill failed.
Much of that internal House GOP failure has been driven by the normal incalcitrance from Davidson and other members of the Freedom Caucus, the right-wing tail that wags the dog of House Republicans, as well as more moderate Republicans’ failure to force the issue with GOP leadership.
The House plans to vote on two immigration bills on Thursday. One conservative bill that would give President Trump almost all he has asked for on border security and changes to visas while offering an more onerous process for undocumented immigrants brought here as children to stay in the country legally. The other, a compromise bill that was still a moving target just hours before the vote itself, would offer much of what Trump wants as well as a more permanent fix for the DREAMers.
The conservatives made it clear Thursday morning that they weren’t thrilled with the compromise legislation, both due to the chaotic process and the actual content of the bill.
Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) had a blow-up on the House floor with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) Wednesday afternoon. And he made it clear that he still was far from pleased with the legislation as it stands late Thursday morning.
“I fully anticipate that the [immigration compromise] bill still needs work in order to get to 218,” Meadows said Thursday. “I don’t know that there’s time to work it out before a vote today.”
Meadows also slammed the rushed and sloppy process. The House GOP bill had to be amended last-minute because its original language gave Trump five times the planned $25 billion for his wall.
“There were enough technical drafting errors yesterday that gave me great pause, and some of those drafting errors were substantial,” he griped. “You don’t pass a major piece of legislation with there being errors in it, and so I don’t know there’s enough time between now and this afternoon.”
But House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), whose committee had to fix the draft legislation, dismissed the change as “two words that needed to be changed,” while suggesting anyone claiming that was the reason they opposed the bill wasn’t being honest.
And Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), another Freedom Caucus leader, was blunt that he and others weren’t happy they didn’t get their way on everything.
“The reason it’s going to fail is not enough members are willing to do what we said, plain and simple,” he said.
Even as conservatives made it clear the bill wasn’t going to get the support from the right that’s needed, some of the more centrist members also began to peel off, further dooming the bills.
“I have long advocated for securing our nation’s borders and providing a permanent legislative fix for DACA recipients, but this proposal does not accomplish either goal,” Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), a leader of the pro-immigration Republicans, said in a statement.
The GOP members abandoning ship from both sides of the conference show that this last-gasp effort to provide help for DREAMers including those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is all but done.
“We’re running out of time. This is probably the last chance,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), a pro-immigration Republican, conceded to TPM.
“No man, c’mon! You’ve got to keep working at it,” Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), a Freedom Caucus member, interjected.
But Diaz-Balart wasn’t optimistic, calling the possibility of failure “a huge blow to both border security and the DREAMers.”
And the finger-pointing had begun even before the vote. A number of Republicans including Trump sought to blame Democrats for refusing to back their legislation (even though Republicans have been completely unwilling to embrace bipartisan legislation). But some were honest about whose fault this was: Trump’s and the conservatives’.
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), a retiring Freedom Caucus member and immigration expert, made it clear that Trump has not been helpful in the process, saying his attacks against Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) during his Tuesday meeting that was supposed to be a rally for the immigration bills had done the opposite, calling it “unfortunate.”
“The president needs to understand that that may have actually lost him votes at this meeting,” he said. “The reason he was there was to emphasize he had our backs and I think a different message was sent that day.”
And moderate Rep. Pete King (R-NY) took a whack at his more conservative colleagues.
“The Freedom Caucus, it seems to me, got 80 to 90 percent of what they what. That should be enough. This is probably one of the most consensus-type bill on such a controversial issue within our party. Because of them, the only way we could get a bill to pass is to reach out to Democrats and make the bill more liberal. It’s hard to see what their agenda is,” King groused. “It’s their way or the highway, I guess.”
President Trump dumped cold water all over House Republicans’ flickering efforts to pass a major immigration bill on Thursday, undercutting their already-unsteady push with just hours to go before scheduled votes with a tweet.
“What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills when you need 9 votes by Democrats in the Senate, and the Dems are only looking to Obstruct,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning, complaining about the Senate’s filibuster while further destabilizing House Republicans’ increasingly desperate attempts to pass a comprehensive immigration bill later that day.
What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills when you need 9 votes by Democrats in the Senate, and the Dems are only looking to Obstruct (which they feel is good for them in the Mid-Terms). Republicans must get rid of the stupid Filibuster Rule-it is killing you!
The tweet is the latest sign of Trump’s ambivalence towards a pair of competing House GOP bills that would hand him much of what he’s asked for on immigration: money for his border wall and more restrictions on visas for immigrants entering the country in exchange for protections for undocumented immigrants brought here as children.
And it’s his latest move to undercut the tense House negotiations, which have already been thoroughly upended by the Trump administration’s move to separate migrant families at the border (one Trump partially walked back with an executive order on Wednesday after saying that wasn’t within his power). Trump also didn’t give the ringing endorsement House leaders had hoped for on the bills during a meeting with House members on Tuesday, instead delivering a rambling stem-winder that confused many in the room.
The House immigration fight is as much about politics as policy. Moderate House Republicans in more diverse and suburban districts facing tough reelection fights are desperate to protect DREAMers who are facing the loss of their legal status after Trump’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
That group came up just short in its push to partner with House Democrats to get a majority of members on a discharge petition, a mechanism to force a House vote over the objections of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). After they failed they settled on a compromise bill with hardline conservatives that made many concessions to the right-wingers.
But that group of Freedom Caucus hardliners have continued to balk over the compromise bill, and both it and their preferred version were already looking like they were going to go down in defeat on Thursday. The slapdash efforts on a compromise hit peak tension Wednesday evening, with Freedom Caucus head and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) getting into a heated argument on the House floor with Ryan over the bill. And in their rush to get the bill done, House Republicans are having to clean up some bone-headed errors — including a Rules Committee vote to fix language that would have accidentally increased the money for Trump’s border wall by a factor of five.
The House votes are still scheduled for Thursday afternoon, though they could get pushed back. But the president’s tweet makes their chances look even more doubtful.
After a months-long fight, an anti-gerrymandering initiative has officially been approved for the November ballot.
The Michigan Board of Canvassers voted 3-0 Wednesday to approve the proposal by Voters Not Politicians, a citizens group. The effort grew out of a Facebook post by local activist Katie Fahey, who urged voters frustrated by sweeping Republican victories in the 2016 election to come together to “take on gerrymandering.” The all-volunteer ballot initiative ended up securing over 425,000 signatures in 110 days.
“We look forward to being on the ballot in November, and giving voters a chance to change our current system, where politicians and lobbyists operate behind closed doors to draw district lines for partisan gain,” Fahey said in a statement on the Board of Canvassers vote. “Our polling and our volunteer signature collection and canvassing results show Michigan voters support our plan for a transparent, non-partisan, Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.”
A final decision on the legality of the proposed initiative is still pending in state Supreme Court. A group called Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution (CPMC), which is backed by the state Chamber of Commerce, sued to block the initiative in May, claiming it made so many changes to the state constitution that it should require a constitutional convention.
The initiative proposes taking map-drawing control for both congressional and state legislative districts away from lawmakers. A citizens’ commission made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and five independents randomly chosen by the secretary of state would assume control of the process.
The commission would be required to follow “accepted measures of partisan fairness” and other guidelines.
On June 7, the state court of appeals ruled 3-0 that CPMC’s complaint was “without merit” and that the proposal had a “single purpose”: ending partisan gerrymandering in the state. CPMC appealed to the state Supreme Court, which has yet to release a final ruling.
“We fully expect the Supreme Court will concur with the Court of Appeals that the pro-gerrymandering campaign to keep the Voters Not Politicians proposal off the ballot is without merit,” Fahey said in her statement.
Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) pushed back hard on the idea that keeping border-crossing children in chain-link cages was inhumane, defending the practice in two local radio shows on Wednesday.
Cramer, who’s running against Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in a top-tier Senate race, called the facilities “humane” during a Wednesday appearance on KTGO, a local radio station that broadcasts in the Bakken Oil Fields.
“By the way, chain link fences are around playgrounds all over America, all over North Dakota. And chain link fences allow line-of-sight visual connectivity with children and families,” he said as he discussed reversing President Trump’s policy to let families stay together at the border. “You know, there’s nothing inhumane about a chain link fence. If it is, then every ballpark in America is inhumane.”
Cramer then went on to say he supported changing the law to allow families to stay together when they enter the country illegally, and supported House Republicans’ dueling pieces of immigration legislation that are expected to receive a vote this week that would address this issue.
The comments came before Trump announced he’d reverse his recently implemented strategy of separating children and parents at the border with an executive order, reversing his previously held false position that only Congress could act to stop it.
Cramer doubled down on his comments when asked about them later in the day on WDAY, another local radio station, calling the focus on the cages “hoopla.”
“I think [chain] linked fences is irrelevant to the crying of children. My commentary is on the chain-link fence,” he said when asked about the comments and whether he’d heard the audio of children wailing after being separated from their parents. “There’s all this hoopla, because I think there are people on the left that clearly want the country to fail at this. And they would like the chain-link fence, they called it ‘dog cages.’ Well, chain-link fences have been used to protect children from predators on playgrounds, baseball diamonds, all sorts of sports courts and what-not. To me it’s not the chain-link fence, that’s not the issue. That’s a ruse by some on the left to try to create an image that’s far worse in description than it is in reality,” he said.
“The actual value of the chain-link fence is you could see through it, that’s the value of the chain link. If they put up a sheet rock wall between the children and the workers, the people there to protect them, to me that would be far worse,” Cramer continued. “The chain link fence, let’s not use that as some sort of a weapon. There’s a broader conversation about the separation of families in general, but as I’ve said before, that happens throughout the country many times. Kris [his wife] and I have been foster parents. We know all about the separation of children from their parents who do the illegal things, it happens in every city of the country every day.”
Senate Republicans initially had opposed having Cramer, a close ally of Trump’s, as their candidate for Senate precisely because of his penchant for controversial comments. After failing to find a better alternative they circled back to him. Cramer initially said he wouldn’t run, but changed his mind after Trump pushed him to jump into the race.
Cramer has since stirred up some controversies, including comments that Trump wasn’t campaigning as hard against Heitkamp as some other vulnerable Senate Democrats because “she’s a woman,” and sought and received an endorsement from a virulently anti-gay group that compares transgender people to pedophiles.
This is the latest instance of a remark that may generate some backlash.
After weeks of insisting that only Congress could change the administration’s policy of separating migrant children and their parents, President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday afternoon that would allow the government to detain families together as they await their immigration hearings. The administration will not, however, cease its policy of bringing criminal charges against immigrants who commit the civil violation of crossing the border unauthorized.
“We are keeping a very powerful border. And it continues to be a zero tolerance,” Trump said. “We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.”
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is planning to spend $80 million in the upcoming midterm elections, with most of it aimed at helping Democrats seize control of the House, a massive investment that could reshape the House battlefield this fall.
That type of investment from Bloomberg, a political independent who has long supported candidates of both parties, could put Democrats in a position to have spending parity with Republicans for the first time since the advent of super PACs nearly a decade ago.
That money, which a Bloomberg adviser confirmed to TPM, will help them compete with huge funds from GOP billionaires like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson, who has pledged $30 million to bolster House Republicans.
Bloomberg has gotten increasingly involved in national campaigns in recent years, but has backed candidates in both parties who agree with him on gun control, helping reelect Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) in 2016. He endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016.
And while Bloomberg said he plans to support some GOP gubernatorial candidates, this massive investment is as partisan as he’s been since he left the GOP more than a decade ago — driven by what he sees is an “absolutely feckless” attitude towards Trump from House GOP leadership.
“Republicans in Congress have had almost two years to prove they could govern responsibly. They failed. As we approach the 2018 midterms, it’s critical that we elect people who will lead in ways that this Congress won’t – both by seeking to legislate in a bipartisan way, and by upholding the checks and balances that the Founding Fathers set up to safeguard ethics, prevent the abuse of power, and preserve the rule of law,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “And so this fall, I’m going to support Democrats in their efforts to win control of the House.”
Bloomberg plans to mostly target suburban House races where his vocal gun rights support and New York City links won’t backfire on the candidates he’s supporting — the type of expensive districts in major media markets that House Democrats have been outspent in recent cycles.
Democrats have at least a 50-50 shot at retaking the House, according to strategists in both parties. This major investment could further bolster their prospects.