In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Maine voters on Tuesday night reaffirmed that they want to overhaul their state’s elections and move to a ranked-choice system.

The move is likely to increase the national momentum behind ranked-choice voting (RCV), which in recent years has seen a surge of interest amid widespread concerns about election fairness.

By 55 to 44 percent, Mainers approved a ballot referendum that does away with winner-takes-all plurality-style voting in favor of a system that reformers believe gives voters more choice and a stronger voice in selecting candidates who will represent them. Maine will use this system in November’s federal elections.

Under RCV, voters rank all of the candidates in order of preference. The candidate who earns more than 50 percent of the vote wins. If no candidate hits that threshold in the first round, an instant-runoff situation kicks in in which the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated, and those votes are redistributed to the voter’s second choices.

According to the election reform group Fair Vote, which has led the fight for RCV, the system helps restore majority rule by ensuring that “candidates who are opposed by a majority of voters can never win.” Voters’ second-choice picks actually matter, making them feel like they have more of a say in how an election ends up.

Momentum for RCV in Maine grew after Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, was twice elected with under 50 percent of the vote, while more liberal candidates split the vote.

This system is already in effect in 11 U.S. cities including San Francisco and Minneapolis; Maine’s statewide Tuesday election was the first time it was used to select nominees for governor, the U.S. House and legislative offices.

The Pine Tree State passed ranked-choice voting by referendum in November 2016, but the decision got caught up in the state Supreme Court and legislature. It became mired in protracted partisan fights, with Democrats largely supporting the voting system and Republicans opposing it. The citizens’ petition passed this week stemmed from a bill passed by the legislature in October 2017 that called for the passage of a constitutional amendment by December 2021 or a permanent end to use of the system.

LePage was a particularly ardent opponent. Hours before voters went to the polls, he called the system “the most horrific thing in the world” and threatened not to certify the election results.

Democratic Sec. of State Matt Dunlap swiftly shut down LePage’s threats, saying that he, not the governor, is responsible for certifying the results.

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The Trump administration’s new attempt to have key pieces of the Affordable Care Act struck down in federal court — particularly the ban on insurance companies turning people away or charging them higher premiums based on a pre-existing condition — could have a serious and damaging domino effect throughout the health care sector. Insurance trade groups, health care experts and lawmakers say the fallout is likely to extend beyond the individual market, impacting many of the tens of millions of Americans who get their health insurance from an employer.

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In more than two decades of politics and in spite of one of the great sex scandals in political history, Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) had never lost an election — until Tuesday.

The congressman, former governor and one-time presidential aspirant was toppled by a little-known state lawmaker who slammed him for his repeated criticism of President Trump, the latest sign that the most dangerous thing to do in the modern GOP is dare to take on the president.

South Carolina state Rep. Katie Arrington (R) led Sanford by 51 percent to 47 percent with 99 percent of precincts reporting when the Associated Press officially called the race shortly after midnight EST Wednesday morning.

“Based on the numbers I see, I think I’ll end up losing this election,” Sanford told supporters Tuesday night, before the race was officially called.

The results come after Arrington repeatedly attacked Sanford for opposing Trump. The iconoclastic congressman, a fiscally conservative purist and member of the House Freedom Caucus, had mocked Trump for his lack of a grasp of the U.S. Constitution late in the GOP primary and demanded late in the presidential race that Trump release his tax returns. He was one of the few Republicans to keep criticizing Trump after he became president, though he’d toned that down significantly as his reelection fight loomed.

Those apostasies came back to haunt Sanford, even though Arrington was also a vocal Trump critic during the 2016 GOP primary.

Trump made a last-minute endorsement against Sanford on Tuesday, the first time he’s endorsed against a sitting House member. While that tweet likely didn’t do much by itself, as it came just three hours before polls closed and after many had already voted, it’s clear that the man who made it through “hiking the Appalachian Trail” had finally been undone because he took on his party’s president.

Sanford’s loss makes him the latest Republican to be forced from office for his lack of fealty to Trump. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Bob Corker (R-TN) are also heading for the exits largely because GOP base voters abandoned them after their criticisms of the president, and Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) was just forced into a primary runoff last week because she refused to back him in 2016. On the flip side, Trump acolytes continue to win primaries — including Corey Stewart, an anti-immigration hardliner and Confederate monuments defender who won his primary to face Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) Tuesday night.

Sanford recognized his primary danger and fought hard to beat back his challenger, spending heavily on TV ads highlighting the areas where he agreed with Trump. But the famously frugal congressman only matched her roughly $400,000 on campaign spending, and ends his time in office with roughly $1.5 million in his campaign coffers that could have been put to use to save himself.

This isn’t Sanford’s first political setback.

He had been a rising star in the GOP in 2009 with an eye on the White House when his aides told reporters he was missing because he was hiking the Appalachian Trail — only for him to get caught instead returning from Argentina, where he had been visiting his mistress.

That scandal forced him to resign from office and ended his presidential aspirations. But he made a miraculous comeback in 2013, winning an open House seat anchored in his hometown of Charleston even after the national GOP abandoned him in that race after his ex-wife accused him of repeatedly trespassing at her home.

Sanford had faced primary challenges since, but seemed relatively secure in his seat. But after overcoming all his other problems, he couldn’t survive Trump.

Sanford’s seat is the second-least Republican in the state — Trump won it by 13 points — and Democrats see an outside chance at competing there this fall. They nominated engineer and attorney Joe Cunningham for the race on Tuesday.

This post was updated at 12:15 a.m. EST.

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The House will vote next week on a pair of competing bills to address the plight of undocumented immigrants brought here as children, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) office announced late Tuesday night, quelling a rebellion from moderate members who had almost but not quite forced his hand on the issue.

The GOP will bring a pair of bills to the floor. The first, authored by conservative House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), is likely to fail due to bipartisan opposition. The second will ostensibly be agreed to in ongoing negotiations between moderate and conservative members, who had yet to reach a deal as of a Tuesday night deadline set by moderates for a bill.

It’s unclear if they’ll be able to strike a compromise in time, though moderates’ failure to force the issue by securing 218 votes on a discharge petition means they may be forced to cave to conservatives’ numerous demands to get any bill done.

“Members across the Republican Conference have negotiated directly and in good faith with each other for several weeks, and as a result, the House will consider two bills next week that will avert the discharge petition and resolve the border security and immigration issues. The full Conference will discuss tomorrow morning and we’ll have more to share at that point,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement.

The announcement came just as moderates’ major leverage appeared to be vanishing. Dozens of Republicans had joined the entire Democratic caucus to sign a discharge petition that would have forced a number of bills to the floor including one that would have offered a full pathway to citizenship for DREAMers. They’d promised for weeks that they had enough support to get it to a majority, but appeared like they would stall out just two members short of the 218 needed on Tuesday night, the deadline for getting the discharge petition signed if they wanted to force a vote by the end of June.

Any later would have further endangered the already-uphill battle, which is still a long way from becoming law as the Senate and President Trump will both have to accept it — far from a sure thing. And their failure to produce 218 votes was a setback that undercut their efforts to guarantee a fix to protect DREAMers will pass the House this summer.

As it stands now, the moderate faction led by Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Will Hurd (R-TX) will continue to negotiate on the details of a bill with the conservative House Freedom Caucus, though it’s unclear if they can agree on a final deal.

As members left a Tuesday evening meeting in Ryan’s office, they said they were close to an agreement and had legislative language, but hadn’t finalized anything yet. The outstanding issues had to do with conservatives’ demands for curtailing the current U.S. asylum system — something moderates are open to — and a push to require all businesses with more than 50 employees to verify that all of their employees could legally work in the U.S.

Curbelo celebrated the news — while continuing to push the discharge petition.

“Today’s commitment by House Republican Leadership to bring immigration reform legislation to the floor next week is a major development,” he said in a statement. “While the legislation to be revealed in the coming days is based on the productive negotiations hosted by House leaders over the last several weeks, it is vital our colleagues remain committed to the discharge petition. While we believe all parties have negotiated in good faith, until and unless we confirm the proposed legislation fully addresses the interests and concerns that unite us we must and will keep up the pressure.”

The moderates’ rebellion succeeded in reigniting the debate around the issue, reviving it when it appeared to be dead. But they fell short of the 218 signatures needed to take control of the fight. Now, even if they and conservatives can agree to a bill that can pass the House in the coming weeks, it remains unlikely it can become law before the fall elections — or before the courts rule on whether Trump was within his legal rights to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the move that triggered this crisis in the first place.

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Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) has been one of President Trump’s most regular GOP critics. Now Trump is returning the favor with a last-minute endorsement of his primary rival, which brings up Sanford’s infamous affair.

While en route back from the summit with North Korea in Singapore, Trump took to Twitter to endorse South Carolina state Rep. Katie Arrington (R) in Tuesday’s primary against Sanford, before saying he’d be “better off in Argentina,” a snide reference to Sanford’s affair with an Argentinian woman that drove him from the governor’s office after his staff falsely claimed he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Sanford returned to politics by winning his House seat in 2013 even after national Republicans abandoned him for misleading them about his messy personal life.

But while Sanford’s personal peccadillos have left a segment of his district’s GOP voters strongly distasteful of him, it wasn’t until Trump that he had a real political problem.

Sanford was one of the most vocal critics of the president throughout the 2016 campaign, stridently questioning his grasp of the Constitution late in the GOP primaries and demanding that he release his tax returns long after Trump secured the nomination, and has since been a thorn in the side of Trump once he made it to the White House.

With Trump fealty the most potent political issue in GOP primaries this year, Sanford has been forced to spend heavily on TV ads touting his alignment with Trump on some key policies, while looking to paper over his many disagreements with the president.

It’s unlikely Trump’s last-minute tweet will make the difference since there are just a few hours until polls close in South Carolina. But if Sanford loses — a real possibility — it’ll be because of his criticisms of the president. And in the unlikely scenario that neither candidate reaches 50 percent (a kooky Bernie Sanders supporter and perennial Democratic candidate is also on the GOP ballot so it’s possible in a very close race), Trump’s endorsement could have a much larger impact.

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The coalition of GOP immigration moderates demanding a fix to help undocumented immigrants brought here as children remain in the country legally is just three votes short of forcing the issue.

As the effort faces its biggest test on Tuesday, the only thing more surprising than the open revolt from dozens of House Republicans against their own leadership might be how many Republicans facing tough reelection fights haven’t joined them.

More than half of the House Republicans the nonpartisan Cook Political Report says are the most vulnerable incumbents in Congress haven’t joined the bipartisan effort to help force a vote on some version of the DREAM Act by signing a discharge petition that would force a vote on the House floor. That’s nine of the 17 members in Cook’s tossup category.

Some are bigger surprises than others.

The one member in the tossup category who could be seriously damaged by his allegiance to leadership is Rep. John Culberson (R-TX). The longtime congressman is facing his first tough election fight in years, and sits in a majority-minority district that is nearly one-third Hispanic and 10 percent Asian.

Many of the other members who haven’t signed on make more sense. Some are from whiter, more rural and populist districts where helping DACA recipients isn’t as popular, like Reps. Rod Blum (R-IA), Mike Bost (R-IL), and Claudia Tenney (R-NY). Others are from more upscale, relatively white suburbs where they might be on the opposite side of the majority of their district but it’s not a top issue for many voters, like Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL), Keith Rothfus (R-PA), Jason Lewis (R-MN) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA).

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has long been an immigration hardliner — and while Rohrabacher’s suburban Orange County district is diversifying it remains one of the whitest in Southern California (and one where the white voters are the most hardline anti-immigrant).

And some, like Rohrabacher, are just that doctrinaire conservative in their views or that serious about their allegiance to the party. Lewis, Tenney and Bost are all outspoken hardliners whose views are the bigger reason they’re in for tough races than the makeup of their districts, and many of the others on the list haven’t exactly made a habit of bucking House GOP leaders in the past.

That’s different than some of the Republicans who support the discharge petition. Two of the ringleaders in the effort, Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Jeff Denham (R-CA), who hail from heavily Hispanic districts, though others, like Reps. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Erik Paulsen (R-MN), come from the same kind of more upscale suburban districts as some of the holdouts.

The Republicans who are in slightly better political shape heading into this fall’s elections are significantly less likely to support the discharge petition. Just two (!) of the 21 Republicans Cook’s Dave Wasserman puts in the “lean Republican” category — that is, those who need to watch their backs but have the edge right now heading into the general election — have signed the petition. Those two are Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), the third GOP leader of the discharge petition push, and Mia Love (R-UT), who represents a heavily Mormon district where immigration reform has much more backing from Republicans than most places (it’s supported by the Mormon church). Love also is the daughter of Haitian immigrants.

There are a few more Republicans in this category who could be hurt by their refusal to join the discharge petition: Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA), whose district is about one fifth Hispanic and one fifth Asian American, and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), a member of House GOP leadership whose district is more than one quarter Hispanic.

Here’s the full list of Republicans in tossup races who haven’t joined the discharge petition:










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This story was updated at 12:45 p.m. EST.

It’s do-or-die time for the House Republicans who have rebelled against their leadership to demand protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

A group of GOP lawmakers, led by a trio of swing-district Republicans facing tough reelection battles, are just three signatures away from being able to force a vote on the House floor on a bill that would give the group dubbed “DREAMers” a path to citizenship by joining with Democratic lawmakers. They’ve guaranteed they have those signatures, and have held off on pushing through the so-called discharge petition to allow time to negotiate with Republican leaders and GOP hardliners over a compromise bill.

But their deadline has arrived: If the group wants to force a vote by June 25, likely the last possible time for serious legislation this year, they must produce those final three signatures on Tuesday. In other words, it’s put up or shut up time.

Today is really the deal-breaker,” one source close to the moderate faction told TPM Tuesday.

House GOP leaders have worked aggressively to short-circuit their efforts, however, cajoling wavering members not yet on the bill and working them hard with possible offers. According to Politico, that’s swayed at least one member thought to be a likely future signee, retiring Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), away from joining his more moderate colleagues on the discharge petition.

The signers of the petition clearly see today as a make-or-break. But the people they’re counting on to get the negotiations across the finish line may not — and more could be picked off by GOP leaders with other promises and pleas for more time to hammer out a deal, in effect killing the efforts.

The group of mostly moderate and retiring members has moved its deadline demands before. But if they can’t get things done today, the effort is likely all but dead this summer, as Congress has limited floor time to get things done this year, and even if they manage to pass something they’d need the even-slower Senate to sign on and President Trump to agree, something he’s said he’s not on board with.

There are signs that things may slip further, an outcome that could all but doom the efforts. A source with the moderates familiar with the negotiations said a late afternoon meeting in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) office between the different factions would likely determine whether or not the remaining possible signees are fed up enough with a lack of progress to join the bill — or whether they decide to give leaders more time, a move that would further endanger the group’s efforts to force a vote to help the young undocumented immigrants.

“The signers are still possible today and if not this might get pushed until the July 23 discharge date,” said the source close to the moderates. “It’s still fifty-fifty… It’s going to depend on the outcome of the meeting today.”

If that happens, it’s even less realistic that this effort could prove fruitful — it would give the House just days to get things done before their August recess, and make it unlikely the Senate will act, as they’ve already got a packed August calendar that many senators hope will be shortened so they can return home.

That means this effort may be as much of a show vote to help vulnerable Republicans ahead of a brutal 2018 election than a real push to protect DREAMers.

The group is being led by three swing-district Republicans with moderate views on immigration who usually get along well with party leadership: Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Will Hurd (R-TX). And plenty of other Republicans facing tough election fights who usually fall in line behind GOP leaders are on board as well.

Just one Democrat is a hold-out at this point, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), but he’s said he’d join the petition if Republicans can find two more votes. Another potential target is Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) hasn’t ruled out joining the petition. But with Ross gone it’s unclear who the final Republicans to push things across the finish line might be.

Denham told TPM last Thursday that this Tuesday was the drop-dead date that they’d wait for legislative text before defying GOP leaders and delivering 218 signatures, though the groups could keep negotiating afterwards. Because of arcane House rules, if they don’t get it done today the earliest they’d be able to force a House vote in the future would be the end of July, likely too late to get anything of substance passed through both houses of Congress (if it isn’t too late already).

But after some happy noise about a possible compromise that day, it became clear to both sides that they were further away from a deal than they’d initially thought.

Denham spokeswoman Jessica McFaul told TPM Monday afternoon that the group was “still working toward 218 signatures on the discharge [petition] while trying to work with Leadership and the Freedom Caucus on a compromise bill.”

If they don’t reach an agreement on Tuesday — and the day passes without 218 signatures on the discharge petition — the group’s efforts to force the issue in time for an actual legislative solution are as good as dead.

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Two big spending super PACs have plunked down huge sums on TV ad reservations, they announced Monday morning, giving the latest signal about where top strategists see the most important House and Senate races this cycle.

The larger ad reservation came from the Senate Majority PAC, Senate Democrats’ main super PAC, which plunked down $80 million for ads across nine Senate battleground states. But the more telling information came from the Congressional Leadership Fund, House Republicans’ main super PAC, which added $15 million in ad reservations to a big earlier investment, bringing its total reservations for the cycle to $60 million.

The CLF’s new reservations are telling for where the committee sees highly vulnerable seats — and perhaps where it sees some that are past saving.

The committee has reserved $2 million to protect retiring Rep. Ed Royce’s (R-CA) Democratic-leaning seat, as well as $2.1 million for Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and $1 million for Rep. John Faso (R-NY). The money for Royce’s seat comes after his former staffer, former California Assemblywoman Young Kim (R), won her primary there last week, and shows the committee isn’t ready to give up on the expensive district.

Notably, the CLF didn’t make any reservations to protect retiring Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) Democratic-leaning seat, a sign the committee may be walking away from it. They also haven’t reserved any ads for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) in a race where it’s still not clear which Democrat will emerge to face him as votes are still being counted, though they could obviously come in later if it appears the stronger Democrat emerges in that race.

The committee also beefed up earlier ad buys for Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Andy Barr (R-KY), Mike Bost (R-IL), Bruce Poliquin (R-ME), Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and in a Minnesota ad buy that could go for a number of districts.

“This additional media reservation, along with our House-focused national field program, will help CLF accomplish our mission of protecting the House Republican majority this fall,” CLF head Corry Bliss said in a statement.

The Senate Democratic ad reservations contain few surprises. The $80 million from the Senate Majority PAC will be divided up across six states where Democrats are on defense — Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia — and three where they’re aiming to pick up seats in Arizona, Nevada, and Tennessee. A SMP spokesman refused to say exactly how that money will be divvied up, but promised each state would get at least $1 million.

“We look forward to building off our existing momentum with smart, tactical planning to ensure victory in November,” SMP President JB Poersch said in a statement.

That list leaves off two races Republicans have hoped would be competitive — reelection battles for Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) — as well as Texas, where Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) is taking on Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in an uphill fight, and Mississippi, where recently appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) is facing hardline conservative Chris McDaniel and former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy (D) in a race Democrats think could become competitive if Espy faces McDaniel in the post-November runoff.

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Republicans were already worried that the nation’s health care woes could sink them in 2018. Now they feel like the Trump administration just tossed them an anvil.

The Department of Justice’s announcement Thursday night that it will take aim at Obamacare’s most popular provisions — a ban on insurance companies discriminating against people based on pre-existing conditions, and limits on how much insurers can hike premiums for older Americans — will be ammunition Democrats can use this November.

The long-shot lawsuit from 20 conservative states, now endorsed by the DOJ, argues that because Republicans repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate penalty as part of their tax overhaul, the mandate itself can no longer be considered a tax  the basis on which the Supreme Court upheld it in 2012. And, the DOJ added, since the ACA’s rules on pre-existing conditions are “closely intertwined” with the mandate, they too must be struck down.

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