In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Senate Democrats appear to have scored a recruiting coup that increases their slim chances at retaking the chamber.

Popular former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) will run for Senate, according to two local newspapers, giving Democrats a heavy-hitting candidate for long-shot seat.

Bredesen, who served two terms and left office with strong approval ratings in 2010, gives Democrats a well-connected and well-liked candidate who likely has a singular ability to win in the Republican-heavy state.

Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-TN) decision to retire has created a slim opening for Democrats in the state. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is facing off against former Rep. Steven Fincher (R-TN) in the GOP primary.

National Democrats have courted Bredesen for months to run, seeing him as their best — and perhaps only — chance to win the seat in a state where President Trump won by 26 percentage points. And it sounds like they’ve got their man.

Senate Democrats are mostly on defense this year due to an unfavorable map with multiple red-state incumbents facing tough reelections. But putting Tennessee on the map gives them one narrow path back to the majority — especially if they can pull off an upset in Alabama’s special election next week.

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As Republicans in the House and Senate hash out their tax bill differences in a conference committee behind closed doors, with the goal of producing a final bill before the holiday break, conservative economists tell TPM that the policies likely to become law will wreak havoc on the country for many years to come. Though Republicans insisted repeatedly over the past few weeks that the $1.4 trillion in tax cuts, most of them geared toward wealthy individuals and corporations, would pay for themselves by stimulating economic growth, they presented no evidence to support their claims.

Instead, the economists and former government officials predicted, the bill will drive up the federal deficit, shrink and destabilize the health care market, exacerbate already historic income inequality, and pressure Congress to make deep cuts to the social safety net and government programs.

“I don’t see how this bill makes America great again,” said Bill Hoagland, a self-described “deficit hawk” Republican who worked for decades for the Senate Budget Committee and now serves as the senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center. “With the populist direction the country has gone in this year, it just doesn’t seem right to give big corporations a permanent tax cut and not individuals. And it’s an open question with those companies—will they translate that back into actual jobs and not into stock options and buybacks?” 

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Alabama Senate Democratic nominee Doug Jones came out swinging at Republican Roy Moore on Tuesday, drawing a sharp contrast between his career as a prosecutor and Moore, who faces allegations from multiple women of initiating sexual encounters when they were teenagers.

“I damn sure believe and have done my part to ensure that men who hurt little girls should go to jail — not to the U.S. Senate,” Jones said in a Tuesday campaign speech that took on a more combative tone than in the past.

Jones is best known for reopening a cold case and successfully prosecuting KKK members who bombed a black church in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963, killing four young girls.

Nine women have come forward to accuse Moore of inappropriate sexual actions, including one who was 16 when she says he violently sexually assaulted her and another who was 14 when she says he initiated a sexual encounter. Before those accusations, he was best known for getting thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court twice for failing to follow the rule of law — and for his hardline theocratic views that his interpretation of the Bible supersedes the Constitution and harsh anti-gay and anti-Muslim statements.

In spite of that, he’s climbed back into a virtual tie with Jones in recent public and private polls — and President Trump doubled down on his endorsement of Moore on Monday, possibly further boosting his campaign.

Jones’s pointed line wasn’t his only broadside against Moore during the speech.

He also warned a Moore win would “be bad for business in Alabama, bad for the economy, and bad for our country” — and attacked Moore for coauthoring a classroom curriculum that taught women shouldn’t run for public office.

“Roy Moore was already an embarrassment to this state before nine courageous women chose to share their deeply personal and disturbing encounters with him from a time when he was a thirty-something year old Assistant District Attorney and they were only teenagers, one as young as 14,” he said.

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The Republican National Committee isn’t exactly scrambling the jets for controversial Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore after all.

The committee has agreed to give just $50,000 to the Alabama Republican Party and will not send any staff in to help Moore in the final week of his campaign after a lengthy series of negotiations with Alabama Republicans, two RNC committee members tell TPM.

“The party is giving money only to the state party of Alabama at the request of the three national committee members of the state and the governor, and they’re giving them $50,000 — no staff, just $50,000,” one RNC committee member told TPM, saying those decisions came after “a lot” of negotiations with the Alabama members as well as within the committee.

In the extended negotiation both of Alabama’s Republican National Committee members, Alabama GOP Chair Terry Lathan and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) all lobbied the RNC to come back in to help Moore. The national party had previously pulled its support and ended a joint fundraising account after multiple women accused Moore of sexual misconduct last month. The RNC’s final commitment to come back in for Moore didn’t occur until President Trump decided to reaffirm his endorsement Monday.

“The 50k is going to AL GOP,” another RNC committee member texted TPM, while confirming that Ivey and the trio of Alabama’s RNC committee members had lobbied RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel and the national party to support Moore. “No RNC staff going to AL.”

That sum is a pittance in the realm of modern campaign funding, especially coming just a week before the election. The RNC’s decision not to send staffers also means it won’t help Moore in the biggest way it could, with a huge push to boost turnout for him using field staff. Those moves suggest that the RNC is doing the bare minimum to help Moore that it can get away with in light of Trump’s re-endorsement while attempting to keep its local members happy.

Moore has been outspent by Jones by a 10-to-1 margin, and a late infusion of cash and staff could help him close the gap and hang on to win in deep-red Alabama.

The RNC seems to be taking a much different approach than the president. Trump called Moore Monday morning to declare he’s still in Moore’s corner in spite of allegations from nine women that Moore acted inappropriately, including one who said he sexually assaulted her when she was 16 years old and another who said he initiated a sexual encounter when she was just 14. While the White House has said Trump won’t head to Alabama for Moore before the election, he will campaign just over the state line in Pensacola, Florida, on Friday night in a town whose media market covers much of the southern third of Alabama. Trump allies including Steve Bannon are heading to the state to stump for Moore in the race’s closing days as well.

Moore has crept back into the race since Thanksgiving after the allegations knocked him flat, according to public and private polls, and those involved in the race believe both he and Democrat Doug Jones have a real chance to win.

Moore’s candidacy has torn the GOP apart, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walking back an earlier demand that Moore drop out of the race over the weekend and other Republicans lamenting Trump’s decision to come back in for Moore. Win or lose, he’s almost certain to create headaches for party leaders.

Spokesmen for the Republican National Committee did not respond to requests for comment, while Lathan told TPM in a text message that she “will not comment on the amount of funds” but planned to release a statement soon about the RNC’s recommitment to the race.

In that statement, Lathan said Romney McDaniel had contacted her and “confirmed that the RNC is transferring funds to the Alabama Republican Party for the Roy Moore campaign.”

“We are grateful for the RNC’s partnership with the ALGOP in this race. We are also thankful for President Trump’s recent show of support in highlighting the major policy differences between the left-wing Democrat, Doug Jones, and the constitutional conservative, Republican Roy Moore,” she continued.

Another Alabama Republican close to the negotiations disputed the $50,000 figure, arguing it was still in flux and predicting their spending might end up being more than that.

“I consider it more development and investigation than negotiation,” that source said about the party’s offer, sardonically describing the RNC’s “exodus” from Alabama after Moore’s scandal broke amounted to just three staffers.

That source also downplayed the RNC’s ability to help bolster Moore’s limited field operations in the final week.

“I’m not asking for staffers, it’s too late in the game,” said the source, who said the RNC had reached out to the Alabama state party about possibly helping and that Alabama Republican National Committeeman Paul Reynolds had called them back after Trump called Moore Monday morning to push them to make good on previous commitments for help.

It remains to be seen whether the committee will end up doing more for Moore than this minimal support. But for now, it doesn’t appear the cavalry is riding to Alabama.

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President Trump is riding to Roy Moore’s rescue in Alabama one week from election day.

Trump called Moore on Monday to heartily re-endorse him, a move that’s likely to help boost Moore as he seeks to survive multiple accusations of sexual misconduct that have put his Senate campaign in jeopardy in deep-red Alabama.

The Republican National Committee decided to follow suit after Trump’s call, TPM confirmed Monday night, after the committee had earlier suspended its support of Moore. Though it’s as yet unclear what exactly they’ll do for Moore, last-minute aid to help bolster his weak fundraising, limited TV ads and limited field operation could make a crucial difference.

Those steps, and a Friday Trump campaign rally just over the state line in Florida, could make the difference in a close election in a state where the president remains popular — and where boosting turnout is all that matters.

“The president’s approval rating goes off the paper it’s so high. When the president says ‘this is why I need a Republican from Alabama,’ that matters,” Perry Hooper, Trump’s Alabama state chairman, told TPM on Monday. “That message will resonate strongly in Alabama.”

According to Moore’s campaign, Trump called Moore a “fighter” and closed the phone call from Air Force One by declaring “Go get ’em, Roy!” The White House confirmed that Trump called Moore and reaffirmed his endorsement.

That came just after Trump touted Moore’s campaign for the first time since nine women came forward to accuse Moore of acting inappropriately towards them — including one who said Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was just 14 years old and another who said he sexually assaulted her when she was 16.

Democrats admit Trump’s gambit could work in a close race, convincing reluctant Republicans loyal to Trump but worried about Moore’s temperament and past actions to turn out and vote on Dec. 12. The more aggressively Trump backs Moore, the more he could help.

Public and private polls show a tight race, and the biggest question on all sides remains who will turn out in an oddly timed election where Moore and Jones are the only candidates on the ballot. While Trump’s popularity has sagged nationally, he remains well-liked in Alabama, where he sports some of his highest approval numbers of any state, and is beloved by the most of the state’s GOP base. Moore has bounced back in the polls since Thanksgiving, pulling even with or ahead of Jones in recent surveys after trailing him in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, though strategists in both parties admit they have little idea who is likely to turn out next Tuesday.

And while Jones is outspending Moore 10-to-1 on advertising and has a much larger and more professionalized field operation, a bit of a push from Trump narrows Jones’ narrow path to victory even further in a state no Democratic candidate has won in the past decade.

“What Trump can do is help join the barrage of people cruelly attacking these accusers and normalize an accused pedophile because Trump has been very successful at attacking his own accusers,” one national Democrat monitoring the race told TPM. “If you’re a Trump supporter looking for an out [to vote for Moore], this gives you one.”

The White House has said the president won’t campaign in-state for Moore. But he’s doing the next-best thing, with a Friday campaign stop in Pensacola, Florida  — a site that’s just 15 miles from the Alabama border in a town whose media market covers roughly a quarter of the state. When TPM asked Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) who Trump was targeting with the rally, he didn’t mince words: “Alabama.”

Trump’s campaign has been making robocalls featuring Lara Trump advertising the event all over the state of Alabama, according to sources, and it’d be unlike Trump to avoid any mention of Moore during the event.

“Trump’s still got a good following down there,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said Monday on Capitol Hill.

Trump’s endorsement may help win the battle for the seat, but many in the GOP worry a Senator Moore could do further damage to the party’s image that has already been hurt by Trump.

“It’ll be difficult enough for Republicans without us being the party of Roy Moore,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a frequent Trump critic, told TPM Monday night.

Trump’s allies have already been rallying to Moore’s side.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon will appear with Moore on Tuesday night, rejoining a man he backed during a hard-fought primary against Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), who had the backing of most of the GOP establishment and reluctant support from Trump. The grassroots group Bikers for Trump also rallied for Moore on Sunday.

Other Republicans who’d previously shunned Moore have softened their criticisms in recent days. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who’d called on Moore to drop out of the race in the wake of the allegations, said it should be up to “the voters of Alabama to decide” whether or not to elect him on Sunday.

Trump’s re-endorsement comes after weeks off GOP lobbying on the race, with top Trump advisers and allies including Bannon and Kellyanne Conway pushing for him to stand by Moore while others including McConnell fought hard for him to cut Moore loose. Trump decided the accusations against Moore mirrored those from 17 women who accused Trump of sexual harassment during last year’s campaign, sources told TPM.

“I talked to Jared Kushner, I talked to Eric Trump and Eric’s wife [Lara], [White House Deputy Chief of Staff] Rick Dearborn and others who work in the West Wing … they just know they need another Republican vote and they can’t afford to lose another Republican vote,” Hooper told TPM.

Trump’s campaign and the White House declined to discuss any further steps Trump might take for Moore.

Jones’ campaign believes that Trump can only make so much of an impact, pointing out that Moore beat his favored candidate in the primary and arguing that Alabama voters have made up their mind on Moore.

“This is an Alabama race. It doesn’t seem to matter what outside folks say, even if it’s the president it doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of impact. Roy Moore’s a pretty known quantity, people know why they’re worried about him or why they’re not,” Jones adviser Joe Trippi told TPM.

But Trippi conceded that the race is all about turnout rather than converting swing voters at this point — an area where Trump might have a big impact.

“This isn’t about changing anyone’s mind. I don’t believe that’s what they’re trying to do,” he said. “It’s about can they get people out to vote.”

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Two months ago, amid a stalemate over how to fund health coverage for 9 million children and l0w-income pregnant women, Congress allowed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to lapse. As the end of the year approaches, states are starting to panic. A few have already begun sending out notices to families informing them that their children’s insurance may not be available next year. Several have requested, and received, millions in stopgap emergency funding from the federal government—though that too will run out some time early next year. Some have dipped into their own reserves to make sure no child is thrown out of the program.

Now, after passing a tax bill in the wee hours of Saturday morning that economists say will blow at least a $1 trillion hole in the federal deficit, Congress still has no plan on the table to restore funding for CHIP—which would cost the government about 1 percent of what they plan pay for tax cuts.

While the short-term continuing resolution up for a vote this week includes some emergency shortfall funding for states on the cusp of exhausting their CHIP reserves, a deal on a five-year reauthorization is nowhere to be seen.

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President Trump called Alabama Senate candidate and accused child molester Roy Moore to double down on his previous endorsement on Monday morning.

“The President had a positive call with Judge Roy Moore during which they discussed the state of the Alabama Senate race and the President endorsed Judge Moore’s campaign,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said in a statement.

That came after Moore’s wife Kayla posted on Facebook that Trump called Moore to offer his “full support.” Moore’s campaign followed up with a statement that Trump had ended the call with by saying “Go get ’em, Roy!”

Trump’s support could help galvanize the GOP base for Moore in a tough Senate race — and the more he does for Moore ahead of the Dec. 12 election, the better Moore’s chances of surviving accusations from nine women of sexual misconduct.

The call occurred not long after Trump endorsed Moore by name in an early Monday morning tweet, the first time the President has explicitly backed Moore’s campaign since nine women came forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct.

Trump came out to slam Democrat Doug Jones and indicate he still backed Moore’s campaign shortly before Thanksgiving, after nearly two weeks of silence on Moore as other top Republicans pulled their support.

The White House has said Trump won’t travel to Alabama to help Moore — but he’ll be holding a Friday night political rally in Pensacola, Fla., just over the border, whose media market covers much of southern Alabama. Trump’s team hasn’t ruled out other help like robocalls that could help galvanize the GOP base in the state and help Moore in the race’s final days.

Moore was quick to tout the re-endorsement (Trump had backed Moore immediately after he won the GOP primary).

“I am honored to receive the support and endorsement of President Donald Trump. President Trump knows that the future of his conservative agenda in Congress hinges on this election,”Moore said in a statement. “We had a good conversation over the phone today and are working together towards conservative victory on December 12.”

Recent public and private polls show a close race between Moore and Jones in the heavily Republican state.

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After initially backing away from Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, President Donald Trump on Monday morning urged Alabama voters to support Moore, arguing that Republicans need his vote in the Senate.

Moore thanked Trump for his support Monday morning.

When the accusations that Moore made sexual advances toward teenage girls when he was in his 30s first surfaced, the White House and top Republicans distanced themselves from Moore. Though Trump never condemned Moore publicly, the President was silent as women came forward with accusations about Moore. The White House also called for Moore to step aside if the allegations were true.

However, as Election Day in Alabama nears, Trump has signaled that he still supports Moore. At the end of November, Trump told reporters that Republicans “don’t need a liberal Democrat in that seat” and noted that Moore has denied the accusations. About a week later, he followed up with tweets noting that he did not support Moore in the primary but arguing that the Democratic candidate in the race was not a good choice.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has also softened his tone on Moore recently. When the sexual misconduct claims against Moore first surfaced, McConnell called for Moore to drop out of the race. However, on Sunday, McConnell said that Alabama voters should decide who to sent to the Senate.

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In the wee hours of Saturday, after working for hours to rewrite major sections of the bill behind closed doors, the GOP-controlled Senate voted 51 to 49 to pass a bill overhauling the American tax code, exploding the deficit and gutting a key piece of the Affordable Care Act. The Senate passage advances the bill to a conference with the House, where its differences with a version passed before Thanksgiving must be hammered out.

Senators told TPM on Friday that a combination of late night wrangling, horse-trading, and promises for future votes secured the support of enough senators to get the bill across the finish line.

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Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) confirmed in a statement Friday morning that he plans to vote for the GOP tax bill despite his concerns it will blow a $1 trillion hole in the federal deficit. He said his yes vote was secured by a promise from Senate leadership and the White House to include him in negotiations around a permanent fix for DACA recipients—the hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people whose protections were stripped away by the Trump administration earlier this year.

“Getting protections for those kids is what I hope comes out of it,” he told reporters Friday. “Obviously they can’t commit to do that. But they committed to move forward with me and work with me on it.”

Flake said he was given no promise as to when a DACA deal would be made, saying: “I would like to get it done before the end of the year. You shouldn’t make those kids wait with that kind of uncertainty.”

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