As a popular bipartisan bill to stabilize Obamacare’s individual insurance market stalls in the Senate, far-right members of the House told reporters Tuesday that it would be dead on arrival if it ever made it to the lower chamber. Asked if they would consider supporting a far more conservative version of the bill, which halts enforcement of the individual and employer mandates, the lawmakers remained opposed, voicing hostility to any legislation that funds or stabilizes the Affordable Care Act.
“I see it playing out by not playing out,” Scott Perry (R-PA) quipped when asked about the prospects in the House of reinstating the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurance companies that President Trump cut off earlier this month.
“Right now it’s a non-starter,” added Freedom Caucus member Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA). “The Senate, first of all, failed to do any semblance of repeal. Then they failed to do a skinny bill. And now they want to do a bipartisan Democrat bill which doesn’t reform Obamacare in any appreciable way.”
Another top Republican senators is throwing his weight behind Alabama Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore, the controversial conservative candidate who beat out the state’s President Donald Trump-backed incumbent candidate in the primaries.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced his support for Moore on Tuesday in a statement, saying Moore has a “lifelong passion for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and he has the courage of his convictions.”
“This December, the people of Alabama have a clear choice. They can choose a liberal Democrat, who will stand with Chuck Schumer to raise taxes, weaken our military, open our border, and undermine our constitutional rights,” Cruz said in his statement, referencing Alabama Democratic candidate Doug Jones, who is fully embracing the party’s more liberal positions on abortion, immigration and climate change. “Or they can choose to elect Judge Roy Moore, a conservative who will proudly defend Alabama values.”
Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) are also reportedly headlining a campaign fundraising event for Moore in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 1, according to a party invitation obtained by Politico. Both Lee and Paul have already announced their support of Moore’s candidacy.
Cruz’s show of support isn’t particularly surprising. The Texas Republican is an outspoken conservative and Moore is about as right-wing as they come. Backed by the religious right, Moore was twice ousted from his seat as the chief justice on the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse and telling probate judges to not issue same-sex marriage licenses after it became law in 2015.
Last year, Moore said the legalization of same sex marriage was “worse” than the notorious 1857 Dred Scott case that denied citizenship to African Americans, a ruling credited with helping spark the Civil War.
Cruz is one of the only Republican senators up for re-election that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon vowed to not go after in his “war” against the GOP establishment. Bannon backed Moore during the Republican run-off primary election, despite his former boss’ endorsement of Moore’s rival Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL).
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) will introduce a bill to close gun background check loopholes on Wednesday, less than four weeks after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history in Las Vegas — even though he knows it has almost no chance to pass.
Murphy, a leading champion of gun law reform ever since the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in his old congressional district, told TPM in an interview that the new bill is a way to try to “strike fear” into Republican lawmakers opposing popular gun reforms and the National Rifle Association, even if chances of passing it are “slim.”
“I wish it didn’t feel like Groundhog Day — but one day it won’t,” he told TPM, arguing that the tide of public pressure was beginning to turn against the NRA. “Our movement is getting stronger and stronger. By introducing this bill we give Republicans a choice: They can sign on, they can introduce an alternative, or they can stand on the sidelines… and make this an issue in their 2018 reelection
“There’s no great social change movement in this country that didn’t have failures before it had success,” he said. “Putting this bill in the hopper and using it as a pressure point for the movement is part of what grows our strength.”
The bill, which would make background checks nearly universal on commercial gun sales, is almost identical to a section of the gun control bill Democrats introduced that went nowhere last year. And it’s a more restrictive version than the bill introduced by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) that failed by a wide margin back in 2013 — when Democrats had control of the Senate and the White House.
Murphy admitted this legislation wouldn’t have stopped Las Vegas — but said the point was to stop future gun crime, not try to react every time a large-scale shooting spree hits the U.S.
“The NRA wants the anti-gun violence movement to only focus on the policy change that would have addressed the last shooting of victims numbering over 20. You cannot build a political movement if you change the issue you care about every three months and the gun industry knows that. That’s why the gun industry said after Sandy Hook, background checks wouldn’t have stopped the Sandy Hook murders,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is pass legislation that is prospective. I can’t pass anything that would reverse time and stop Las Vegas.”
But Murphy is convinced that things are starting to turn in favor of gun control, citing polling that 90 percent of Americans want to expand background checks, that three out of the four major statewide gun control referendums passed last year, and that the movement won all three Senate races it focused on last fall, in Pennsylvania, Nevada and New Hampshire. He also pointed to the NRA’s recent openness to a change in the rules to ban “bump stocks” that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to turn guns into automatic weapons during his murder spree that left 58 people dead and 546 injured.
“Just three weeks ago the gun lobby since the first time I’ve been in Congress suggested a willingness to change gun laws,” he told TPM. “The ground is shifting but you need legislation like this to rally people to the side of those who wants change and against those who don’t want change.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) escalated his criticisms of President Donald Trump on Tuesday morning in a series of interviews with major news networks, calling on the President to back off of tax reform and relations with North Korea and predicting that he will be remembered for the “debasement” of the United States.
Corker, who’s been blunt with his thoughts about the President ever since announcing he wouldn’t run for re-election next year, made the comments over the course of several hours. He appeared on NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America, and CBS’ “This Morning” for planned interviews, but made some of his most stunning comments in a hallway interview with CNN later in the morning.
Below are the highlights:
He said Trump will be remembered for ‘debasement’ of the U.S.
Asked if the President is a good role model for young people in the country, Corker emphatically said Trump is not—and predicted that he will be most remembered for debasing the country.
“I think at the end of the day when his term is over, I think the debasement of our nation is what he’ll be remembered most for, and that’s regretful. It affects young people,” Corker told CNN. “I mean, we have young people who for the first time are watching a president, stating, you know, absolute nontruths nonstop. Personalizing things in the way that he does. It’s very sad for our nation.”
He thinks Trump won’t “rise to the occasion as President”
The Tennessee senator told several networks that it’s beginning to look like Trump will not change his behavior in office.
“I guess like all Americans I would have hoped that he would rise to the occasion and bring out the best in our nation,” he told CBS. “Hopefully what presidents do is to try to bring the country together, unify around common goals and not to debase our country, if you will, and that has not happened. And I’m beginning to believe it’s not going to happen.”
“I don’t really hold out a lot of hope, but I hope somehow a little bit different course of action can be taken,” Corker added later on CNN.
He also told CNN that Trump is “not going to rise to the occasion as president.”
He won’t be voting for Trump in 2020
Corker said definitively that he would not back Trump’s re-election in 2020.
When asked if he regrets backing Trump in 2016, Corker told CNN, “Let’s just put it this way, I would not do that again.” Asked if he would back Trump in 2020, Corker replied, “No way. No way.”
“I think that he’s proven himself unable to rise to the occasion, and I think many of us, me included, have tried to, you know—I’ve intervened, I’ve had a private dinner and have been with him on multiple occasions to try and create some kind of aspirational approach, if you will, to the way that he conducts himself,” he said. “I don’t think that that’s possible.”
He thinks Trump doesn’t have any “desire to be competent”
Corker believes Trump is simply unwilling to be a competent leader.
“I expressed concerns a few weeks ago about his leadership, and just his stability and the lack of desire to be competent on issues and understand, and, you know, nothing has changed,” he told CNN.
He thinks Trump tries to “purposely divide” the country
The senator said on CBS that Trump has acted as a divider rather than a unifier, particularly in the wake of violence at the fatal white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“It appears to be the governing model of this White House to purposefully divide,” Corker told CBS. “An individual in that particular position has tremendous power to set the tone for our country, and unfortunately, it’s being set in a way that I think is not bringing out the best in the citizens that we all treasure here in our country.”
He believes Trump is “untruthful”—and world leaders know it
While discussing generally how Trump constantly tells what he chose to label “untruths,” Corker noted that world leaders have picked up on Trump’s habit of playing fast and loose with the facts.
“Unfortunately, I think world leaders are very aware that much of what he says is untrue,” he told CNN. “Certainly people here are because these things are provably untrue, I mean, they are factually incorrect and people know the difference. So I don’t know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard, and debases our country in a way that he does, but he does.”
Trump’s “kneecapping” Tillerson could lead to war, he said
Corker lamented on ABC that Trump has undermined Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, warning that Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric could lead the U.S. into a war.
“When you look at the fact that we’ve got this issue in North Korea and the President continues to kneecap his diplomatic representative, the secretary of state, and really move him away from successful diplomatic negotiations with China, which is key to this, you’re taking us on a path to combat,” Corker said.
“I would just like him to leave it to the professionals for a while and see if we can do something that’s constructive for our country, the region, and the world,” he added later.
“I would just like for [Pres. Trump] to leave it to the professionals for a while.” – Senator Bob Corker on President and North Korea pic.twitter.com/qQiC2NwjIX
Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore said late last year that the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage was “even worse” than the notorious 1857 Dred Scott ruling that upheld slavery.
Moore, a hard-right former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, has twice been removed from office for refusing to follow the rule of law — the second time for ordering probate judges in his state to disobey the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling legalizing gay marriage. Last November he said that decision was even worse than one that scholars widely consider the worst Supreme Court decision in U.S. history.
“In 1857 the United States Supreme Court did rule that black people were property. Of course that contradicted the Constitution, and it took a civil war to overturn it. But this ruling in Obergefell is even worse in a sense because it forces not only people to recognize marriage other than the institution ordained of God and recognized by nearly every state in the union, it says that you now must do away with the definition of marriage and make it between two persons of the same gender or leading on, as one of the dissenting justices said, to polygamy, to multi-partner marriages,” Moore said in a podcast interview last November, shortly after he was suspended without pay from the court.
“We’ve got to go back and recognize that what they did in Obergefell was not only to take and create a right that does not exist under the Constitution but then to mandate that that right compels Christians to give up their religious freedom and liberty,” he continued.
In Dred Scott the court denied citizenship to African Americans and found the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, triggering a backlash that helped lead to the Civil War.
Moore’s comments were made in an interview with Here I Stand, a podcast run by the religious conservative Christian Emergency League, and shared with TPM by the Democratic group American Bridge.
Moore wasn’t the only one on the religious right who compared Obergefell to Dred Scott. It became a talking point from Christian conservatives like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum two years ago. But Moore clearly went a step further by saying the decision was worse, not just listing it as another decision from the court he thought was terrible.
Moore’s remark isn’t the only time he’s waded into murky racial waters in his political and judicial career. As TPM has reported, Moore successfully led the charge against removing segregationist language from the Alabama state constitution, his biggest backer is a neo-Confederate who wants the South to secede again, and Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law hosted the neo-Confederate, pro-secession League of the South’s annual “Secession Day” events in 2009 and 2010, though Moore’s staff claim he didn’t know about the events.
He’s also continued to question whether President Obama was born in the U.S., and his campaign has recently shared racially charged memes during this Senate run.
“The Dred Scott decision ranks as the worst Supreme Court decision in American history and it’s appalling that Moore doesn’t understand that, though sadly not surprising considering his history of embracing white supremacists and pro-Confederate groups,” American Bridge spokesperson Allison Teixeira Sulier told TPM. “Roy Moore is not fit to serve in any capacity, and his hateful views are un-American.”
Moore’s campaign declined to respond to requests for comment or clarification about his remarks.
In spite of his controversies, Moore remains the favorite against former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones ahead of the Dec. 12 election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old Senate seat. He hass held a lead in the mid- to high-single digits in most public and private polling of the race.
The bipartisan bill to stabilize the individual health insurance market, restore subsidies to insurers to cover low-income patients, restore funding for enrollment outreach, and give states more regulatory flexibility would pass the Senate with a filibuster-proof supermajority—if GOP leadership allows a vote.
But while at least 60 senators are lined up ready to cast their votes in favor of the bill, which was hammered out over months of delicate bipartisan negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is refusing to allow a vote until President Trump gives the bill his blessing.
In this face of this blockade, the Senate’s Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took to floor Monday afternoon to plead with the President.
“Let me make a direct appeal,” he said. “Mr. President, come out and support the Alexander-Murray bill. You’ve called it ‘a very good solution’ already. Announce you’ll support it, and it will pass through the Senate soon after.”
Former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) has jumped into the race to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), setting up a likely race to the right against Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) that could benefit Democrats.
“We’re going to get in this race, and we’re going to get in it to win it, and go up there and try to get something done,” Fincher told The Tennesseean. “Let’s stand up with the president on his policies.”
The race has the potential to get nasty — and potentially give Democrats an opening in a solidly Republican state, especially if former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) decides to run, which he’s considering. Attorney and Iraq War veteran James Mackler is Democrats’ current front-runner for the nomination.
In his opening interview as a candidate, Fincher hit Blackburn for helping push through a bill that hamstrung the Drug Enforcement Agency’s ability to crack down on bad actor pharmaceutical companies in a state where the opioid crisis has been especially severe.
“This is an issue that shows Tennesseans want someone to stand up against special interests,” he said. “We’re losing lives. Our jails, little towns and communities are broken. People, they go to Washington, and have stayed up there too long and are out of touch with what’s really happening all over this great state.”
Fincher, a gospel singer and seventh-generation farmer, was a political neophyte when he won his House seat in the 2010 GOP wave. He served three terms before retiring from the House at the end of last term.
It’s unclear whether Fincher will be able to raise the money to compete against the deep-pocketed Blackburn, who already has locked in an endorsement from former White House chief adviser Steve Bannon. But the race has a chance to become a hard-fought one — a result that could crack the door for Democrats.
On Monday, 19 states are expected to tell a federal court that theTrump administration decision to cut off billions in subsidies to health insurance companies is “illegal and arbitrary”—violating both the text of the Affordable Care Act and the Constitution’s “take care” clause—and that it threatens the health coverage of millions of Americans.
The states, in a case spearheaded by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (pictured above), seek a temporary restraining order blocking the President’s decision and forcing the administration to make the October payment to insurers while the case goes forward. As efforts in Congress to appropriate the payments are stalling in the face of opposition from House Republicans and the White House, the lawsuit may be the only hope for restoring the funding this year.
At least 17 female members of the Congressional Black Caucus are demanding that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly apologize for making inaccurate statements about Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) after she stood up for the family of a fallen soldier who felt “disrespected” by President Trump.
“General Kelly’s comments are reprehensible. Congresswoman Wilson’s integrity and credibility should not be challenged or undermined by such blatant lies. We, the women of the Congressional Black Caucus, proudly stand with Congresswoman Wilson and demand that General Kelly apologize to her without delay and take responsibility for his reckless and false statements,” the members wrote in a statement released Sunday.
The demand comes after Wilson told reporters about what Trump said to a grieving widow of one of the soldiers who was killed in Niger earlier this month. According to Wilson — and now even the widow, who has since spoken out — Trump told Myeshia Johnson on Tuesday that her husband “knew what he was signing up for.”
Kelly, who himself became a Gold Star family member after his son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, spoke to reporters Thursday and defended the President. Kelly said he counseled Trump on how to address families of the fallen.
“He needs to apologize. First of all, he was in error, he did not tell the truth. He knows now that he did not tell the truth, even if he thought he had told it, so he owes her an apology,” Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) said on CNN Monday. “Talking about a member of Congress who has done great work, she serves her constituents. She has served at the local level, at the state level and now she’s in Congress, and she’s doing a tremendous job. For him to try to demean her character and her integrity in this way is absolutely unacceptable.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) took her frustrations with Kelly one step further, saying the entire White House and administration should issue an apology for Trump’s “wacky insults.”
“General Kelly is a Gold Star member and he has the right to speak about his loss and he did eloquently and I’m sure he brought many to tears, but then he had to defend his boss,” she said on CNN. “His boss is President Trump, who has continued to throw wacky insults, and as an African American woman, I’m not going to stand for it, period.”
Jackson Lee said the continued insults from Trump and Kelly “puts everyone in the barrel,” referencing Kelly’s remarks when he called Wilson an “empty barrel.”
“Congresswoman Wilson deserves an apology, the President owes her an apology. The military owes the United States Congress, the House of Representatives, a full classified briefing on the actions of the Africa command in that region. We can’t go any longer without knowing what’s going on,” she said.
The White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment on whether Kelly intends to apologize. At a press briefing last week, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that it would be “highly inappropriate” to “get into a debate with a four-star Marine general” after reporters asked about the video that contradicts Kelly’s comments.
Doug Jones is doing something rather surprising in his underdog Senate campaign to defeat former Judge Roy Moore (R) in Alabama: Running like an actual Democrat.
Jones’ core message and paid advertising are all about unity, working across the aisle and pocketbook issues. But he’s proclaimed liberal positions in a way that’s almost unheard of for Democrats running statewide in the Deep South, especially with the conservative Democrats who used to win in Alabama. It’s also a marked contrast to how Jon Ossoff finished his campaign in a hotly contested House race in Georgia, carefully emphasizing centrism and cutting government waste. Jones’ approach is even less cautious than that of Virginia gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam (D), who took heat from the base for saying he’d “work with Trump” on occasion (though both Ossoff and Northam took mostly liberal positions).
A former U.S. attorney, Jones is avowedly pro-choice, even in the third trimester of pregnancy. He says climate change is real because he “believe[s] in science” and thinks President Trump shouldn’t have pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords. He wants to fix Obamacare, not dismantle it. He supports the DREAM Act, and wants undocumented immigrants brought here as children to stay in the U.S. He already campaigned with former Vice President Joe Biden, and has the endorsement of a number of national liberal groups like MoveOn.org that wouldn’t get within a mile of most southern white Democrats.
Those stances would be the kiss of death in deep-red Alabama under normal circumstances. But an off-year special election between Thanksgiving and Christmas means whoever can turn out their base best may win, and Jones badly needs the state’s African Americans and few liberals to come out in droves — without alienating the right-leaning voters he needs as part of his coalition.
National Republicans say Jones’ views already have blown his slim path to victory.
“Unless Alabama is the new California it’s going to be very difficult for him to win,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-CO) told TPM.
Some local Republicans agree.
“He’s taking a seat that could be in play and putting it firmly in the Republican camp. If he’d just shut up on abortion and take some more moderate stances I think he’d be in a position to win,” said Alabama GOP strategist Chris Brown.
Other Alabama strategists on both sides of the aisle aren’t sure whether Jones’s refusal to moderate his positions, even as he emphasizes bipartisanship in his ads, will help or hurt his uphill campaign.
“If you were to make a list of litmus test issues for progressives, Doug Jones checks them all,” Richard Allen Smith, an Alabama native who’s worked on a number of Democratic races in the state, told TPM. “It’s helpful in this race because of the timing of the election and the nature of the opponent. It’s going to be entirely about turnout, whoever turns out their base in this low-turnout race is going to win.”
“You’ve got to motivate your base in a special election and that’s what he’s doing,” said one Republican strategist in Alabama.
The race to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old Senate seat is an unusual one in many ways. Moore, a hardline social conservative who has twice been thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court for violating the rule of law and refusing to enforce higher court rulings, is detested by many in the state, including a number of moderate Republicans — the only reason this is a real race in the first place. He’s fresh off a divisive primary where President Trump endorsed the man he defeated, Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL).
Jones, on the other hand, has an impressive biography. He’s best known in the state for successfully prosecuting Ku Klux Klansmen who bombed a black church in Birmingham and killed four girls, decades after other prosecutors had failed. And the Dec. 12 election means the race will almost definitely have low turnout, making exciting the base all the more important.
But it’s still Alabama, a state Trump won by almost a two-to-one margin and where he has his third-highest job approval rating of any state, comfortably above 55 percent, according to Morning Consult polls.
The few public and private polls out there largely have found Moore with a lead in the mid- to high-single digits, hovering at or right below 50 percent.
The most controversial of Jones’s stances in the state—and the one that strategists in both parties say may have been a major error—was his unabashed support of legal abortion in a place where no one could remember a single pro-choice candidate who’d ever won a statewide election.
“I am a firm believer that a woman should have the freedom to choose what happens to her own body and I’m going to stand up for that and I’m going to make sure that continues to happen,” Jones said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” the day after Moore won the Republican primary.
“Once a baby is born I’m going to be there for that child, that’s where I become a right-to-lifer,” he continued.
“I wouldn’t have done that if I were Doug,” one senior Alabama Democratic strategist told TPM. “Alabama is a very conservative state. If the focus becomes the nationalized issues that probably hurts Doug.”
“I’ve seen a lot of candidates lose because they’re labeled [pro-choice] in this state whether it’s true or not,” said former Alabama Democratic Party Executive Director Jim Spearman, who described Jones as an old friend.
Those comments have already made their way onto the airwaves. The Great America Alliance, an outside group that supports Moore and is aligned with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, is out with TV and digital ads slamming Jones for being pro-choice “even in the most extreme circumstances, including gruesome late-term and partial-birth abortions.”
Nevertheless, many credit Jones for running an authentic, strong campaign. They say while the abortion comments will likely hurt him, it would have been worse to try to focus-group his way to a victory.
“You may run some people off, granted, who are one-issue voters. But I think it shows integrity. He’s standing there ‘saying ‘this is who I am, this is how I’ve lived my life,'” said Spearman. “Overall I think the people of Alabama want to see somebody who has that integrity and they can be proud of in Washington.”
It’s clear Jones’s campaign doesn’t want to emphasize some of his more liberal views, instead focusing on how divisive Moore is.
“He’s running on kitchen table issues. If you look at the ads we have up it’s jobs, healthcare, and education,” said Jones adviser Joe Trippi. “We view this as an election of division and controversy versus unity and working together, listening to people and knowing there are good people on both sides of the issues and it’s time someone started to actually try to work across both sides rather than send another divisive extremist to Washington. We have plenty of them.”
In Jones’ own ads, he says he’ll “work across party lines” and “can workwith Republicans better than Roy Moore can workwithanyone.”
And it seems Jones’ comments weren’t politically calculated — for better or worse.
“I’ve known him for a very long time, and I wouldn’t expect Doug would be trying to fuzz up his positions on any issue. That’s just not who he is, he’s going to tell you what he thinks. I don’t know if that’s a particular political calculation,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who has known Jones for two decades, told TPM. “He’ll be more likely to win if they think ‘hey, this is an authentic guy, this is the Doug Jones we’ve always known.'”
Only time will tell whether Jones’ showing his true colors will help or hurt him in this race.
“We’ll have to see how these issues are framed as things go on. Roy Moore should win that race based on recent history — but you have to win them on the battlefield,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told TPM.
This story has been updated to more accurately represent Ossoff and Northam’s positions.