In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Two weeks after its introduction and following zero hearings, the House of Representatives passed an approximately $1.5 trillion dollar tax cut on Thursday. Most of the focus has been on the bill’s tax benefits for the wealthy and corporations, but some lawmakers are sounding the alarm that passage of the bill will also trigger an estimated $25 billion cut to Medicare.

With the Senate expected to take up its own bill after the Thanksgiving recess, Democrats struggling to mount an opposition to the bill see an opening in its controversial health care impacts—including the Medicare cuts, the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate, and the elimination of the medical expenses deduction in the House bill.

The Medicare cut—announced by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday—can only be waived by a majority of the House and a 60-vote supermajority of the Senate.

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The Alabama Republican Party is officially standing by their man.

The state party put out a statement defending Roy Moore on Thursday afternoon, attacking “the media and those from afar” for meddling in Alabama’s Senate election, and encouraging voters to back him in the Dec. 12 election.

That statement comes in spite of the growing list of women who have come forward to accuse him of inappropriate sexual acts, up to nine as of Thursday afternoon, and calls from national Republicans for Moore to drop out. The accusations include Moore asking multiple teen girls on dates, sexually assaulting one of them, having a sexual encounter with another when she was 14 years old to groping another woman without her permission.

“The ALGOP Steering Committee supports Judge Roy Moore as our nominee and trusts the voters as they make the ultimate decision in this crucial race,” Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan said in a statement. “Judge Moore has vehemently denied the allegations made against him. He deserves to be presumed innocent of the accusations unless proven otherwise. He will continue to take his case straight to the people of Alabama.”

As TPM reported Thursday morning, the state party decided in a Wednesday night meeting to stand by Moore rather than disqualify his nomination. But the statement defending Moore is a step further than some state Republicans expected — especially following heavy criticism from the national party and demands that Moore drops out from lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who opposed Moore in the primary.

Moore has steadfastly refused to drop out of the race, and has some close allies on the state party committee. While some others on the 21-person committee want him gone, many are afraid of Moore’s rabid base, as some are running for office in the state and face primaries.

“This is an effort by Mitch McConnell and his cronies to steal this election from the people of Alabama and they will not stand for it,” he said at a Thursday rally before refusing to answer reporters’ questions about whether he’d dated any teenage girls when he was in his 30s, or whether he’d inappropriately touched any of them.

According to Buzzfeed, his supporters aggressively yelled at reporters after the event for daring to ask Moore questions.

Here’s Latham’s full statement:

“The ALGOP Steering Committee supports Judge Roy Moore as our nominee and trusts the voters as they make the ultimate decision in this crucial race.” 

“Judge Moore has vehemently denied the allegations made against him. He deserves to be presumed innocent of the accusations unless proven otherwise. He will continue to take his case straight to the people of Alabama.”

“There is a sharp policy contrast between Judge Moore, a conservative Republican who supports President Trump, and the liberal Democrat who will fight and thwart the agenda of our president. We trust the Alabama voters in this election to have our beloved state and nation’s best interest at heart. 

“Alabamians will be the ultimate jury in this election- not the media or those from afar.”

“We are very grateful for the multitudes that have reached out to us with support and prayers. We ask God to guide us, politically and personally, with His mighty strength and wisdom. In turn, we also pray that justice and truth will prevail for all involved in this situation.”

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Senators in both parties called for a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) alleged sexual misconduct on Thursday, in the latest such scandal to roil Capitol Hill.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called the news “deeply disturbing,” adding that there should be an official investigation into “any allegations against any member.”

Gillibrand, who has led the crusade to require sexual harassment training for lawmakers and Capitol Hill staff and make it easier for victims to come forward, spoke moments after Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called for the Senate Ethics Committee to probe the allegations against Franken.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Franken’s home-state colleague, was even harsher in her statement.

“This should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden. I strongly condemn this behavior and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation. This is another example of why we need to change work environments and reporting practices across the nation, including in Congress,” she said in a statement.

That’s the same place Democratic leaders landed after a chaotic few hours.

“Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement after canceling a planned press conference. “I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.”

Franken himself released a statement apologizing for the actions, calling for an Ethics investigation, and promising to cooperate.

The allegations are the latest sexual misconduct claims to roil Capitol Hill, and come as Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s alleged improprieties with teenage women have thrown his race and the national GOP into chaos.

This time, it was Democrats who were scrambling to fake phone calls and avoid eye contact with reporters — though many were quick to criticize Franken’s alleged actions.

Senators in both parties initially refused to comment on the accusations from a news anchor that Franken groped and kissed her in 2006, claiming they had not yet read the news or ducked reporter questions as they raced to the Senate floor.

That included Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), another leader on sexual assault issues,  who would only say she’d “have a statement” soon.

She later issued a statement blasting Franken’s behavior.

“I have every reason to believe Ms. Tweeden’s account,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) told reporters Thursday. “Women should be able to feel safe and free in their workplace, and if there are such allegations they should come forward.”

Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) echoed Gillibrand’s comment that the allegations are “disturbing,” but like most lawmakers said he hadn’t had time to fully digest the news.

The news of the accusations against Franken comes as Capitol Hill—like the entertainment and tech industries—has started to grapple more publicly with its long legacy of sexual harassment and abuse and demand perpetrators be held accountable. Earlier this week, the Senate passed a resolution requiring all members and their staff to undergo sexual harassment training, and women lawmakers have introduced further legislation that would make it easier for staffers to report harassment.

As he sped from the Senate floor into his office on Thursday, GOP Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was asked if he’s surprised that there are now allegations against a sitting senator.

“Not entirely,” he quipped before closing the door.

Others, like Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), were hesitant to criticize Franken, who repeatedly said “I’m glad he apologized immediately” and refused to answer if an investigation was merited.

Baldwin’s staff later sent along a more extensive clarifying statement.

“This kind of behavior isn’t ok whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat and I support an Ethics Committee investigation,” Baldwin said in an a statement emailed from her press team.

Others clamped a phone to their ear to avoid reporter questions.

Even the usually chatty Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) rushed by reporters in a wheelchair, barking at his staff that they needed to be ready to respond to “events as they develop,” and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) told TPM he hadn’t heard enough to weigh in yet.

But no one in either party defended Franken.

“Sexual harassment and groping are never okay. They are never funny,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told TPM. “Senator Franken should have to address the claims made in the article.”

Corrected on 11/16: A previous version of this story misidentified a Democratic senator who refused to discuss Franken.

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Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), accused on Thursday of forcibly kissing and groping a woman on a USO tour in 2006 before he was in office, has made the prevention of sexual assault and violence against women one of his signature issues as a lawmaker.

Franken on Thursday said he “certainly” did not remember the incident “in the same way” as Leeann Tweeden, who accused Franken of kissing her over her protestations and later groping her in a photograph. Franken offered his “sincerest apologies.”

The senator’s curt statement stood in contrast to his previous extensive championing of legislation to support survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

In 2009, Franken introduced a provision to the next year’s defense appropriations bill that banned federal funding for “defense contractors who forced employees to mandatory binding arbitration in the case of rape, assault, wrongful imprisonment, harassment, and discrimination.”

In a statement at the time, Franken championed the amendment’s passage as “a great victory for victims of assault and discrimination who deserve their rightful day in court.”

The senator said the provision was inspired by the story of an employee for a defense contractor in Iraq, Jamie Leigh Jones, who alleged she was raped by coworkers.

“I will continue to stand up for folks like Jamie Leigh and everyone who needs a voice in Washington,” he said.

In 2011, Franken joined other Democratic senators to introduce the Arbitration Fairness Act (he reintroduced the bill in 2015) to “eliminate forced arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, and civil rights cases.” Such clauses often apply to employees alleging workplace harassment.

Franken gave an emotional speech on the Senate floor in 2012 about the Violence Against Women Act, during which he cited the work Sheila Wellstone, the late wife of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN), did with survivors of domestic violence.

“The VAWA reauthorization bill is another step toward a more just society as Sheila described it,” Franken said. “And I look forward to it becoming law.”

In 2016, after former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against the network’s then-president Roger Ailes and alleged she was fired after rejecting his advances, Franken and a number of other Democratic lawmakers allied with Carlson to reintroduce the arbitration legislation in 2017.

Amid the flood of allegations against Harvey Weinstein, whom dozens of women have accused of sexual harassment, assault or rape, Franken in October praised the accusers who have come forward as “incredibly brave.”

“It takes a lot of courage to come forward, and we owe them our thanks,” Franken wrote in a Facebook post. “And as we hear more and more about Mr. Weinstein, it’s important to remember that while his behavior was appalling, it’s far too common.”

Also in October, Franken pushed a bill to establish federal funding to train first responders and members of law enforcement in interviewing possible survivors.

Franken sponsored the legislation after a former intern raped a 19-year-old university student, Abby Honold, who reached out to Franken’s office to discuss the subject.

The senator has also tweeted, often and authoritatively, about the importance of supporting survivors.

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Less than an hour after news broke that a woman had accused Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) of sexual misconduct toward her in 2006, before he ran for federal office, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called for an official investigation into the allegations.

“As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter,” McConnell said. “I hope the Democratic Leader will join me on this. Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable—in the workplace or anywhere else.”

 

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A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday morning introduced a bill aimed at ensuring the proper criminal record information makes it to the background check system used to approve gun purchases.

“For years agencies and states haven’t complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement. “Just one record that’s not properly reported can lead to tragedy, as the country saw last week in Sutherland Springs, Texas. This bill aims to help fix what’s become a nationwide, systemic problem so we can better prevent criminals and domestic abusers from obtaining firearms.”

The legislation follows the deadly shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, earlier in November. The Air Force failed to report past criminal conduct by the alleged gunman as was required.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), one of the most vocal gun control advocates in Congress, and Cornyn led the effort to craft the bill. Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) have also signed onto the bill.

Despite the bipartisan support for the legislation, the bill likely faces an uphill battle in Congress, since many Republicans oppose any changes to gun laws. After the deadly Las Vegas shooting in October, some Republican senators expressed support for a ban on bump stocks, but that effort has since fizzled out.

The legislation, titled the Fix NICS Act, would require the head of each federal agency to certify twice a year that they have submitted the proper records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and would mandate that each agency develop an implementation plan for ensuring that all records are submitted. If the agency fails to certify which records it has submitted to NICS or fails to follow its implementation plan, political appointees in that agency will not be eligible to receive bonus pay.

The bill also allows the attorney general to use funds for NICS to provide assistance to agencies as they submit records and establishes a program run by the attorney general focused on making sure domestic violence information is reported to the NICS system.

Murphy acknowledged that he would like to see more gun control legislation passed in Congress, but he said that this bill is an important step.

“It’s no secret that I believe much more needs to be done. But this bill will make sure that thousands of dangerous people are prevented from buying guns. It represents the strongest update to the background checks system in a decade, and provides the foundation for more compromise in the future,” he said in a statement.

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The Alabama Republican Party decided not to disqualify Roy Moore’s Senate candidacy at a Wednesday night meeting, likely ending the GOP’s best hope to get rid of Moore before the Dec. 12 election.

After hours of tense deliberation, the 21 members of the state party’s steering committee decided not to do anything for the time being — rejecting arguments from some who wanted to pull their support from Moore as well as Moore loyalists who wanted the party to issue a public statement defending him.

That do-nothing approach means the party is still behind Moore — and has no plans to un-endorse him, the only way they could make almost certain Moore won’t become Alabama’s next senator. If they had disqualified him, under Alabama law, he’d still be on the ballot but any votes for him wouldn’t count.

That (non)decision, confirmed by TPM, comes after Alabama Republican Party Chairwoman Terry Lathan warned earlier this week that any Republicans pledging to oppose Moore or back a write-in could be thrown out of the party and denied ballot access — a major threat to the quarter of the steering committee’s members, who are running for local office next year.

It never looked likely that the group would move to ditch Moore — crossing his rabid in-state supporters could be political suicide for many on the committee, and hurt their careers. But its members’ cautious approach forecloses on the best chance for the party to rid itself of Moore, who has adamantly refused to drop out even as the list of women who accuse him of unwanted groping, sexual overtures when they were teenagers and sexual assault grew to nine people Wednesday night.

That decision comes as national Republicans led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) grow increasingly desperate in their quest to find a way out of the no-win situation, where Moore either loses and costs them a must-have Senate seat or wins and comes to Washington a toxic figure that will further damage the party brand ahead of 2018 and give McConnell regular headaches.

McConnell’s team is assessing the legal feasibility of convincing appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) to quit the race now in order to let Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) call a new special election at a later date.

But that plan seems like an even longer shot than previously discussed plans to push a write-in candidate. Strange told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday that he won’t resign and plans to finish his term. And even if McConnell could convince Strange to do otherwise, Ivey has repeatedly said she will not move the Dec. 12 election — and has also said if Strange does resign she’d just appoint a caretaker to the seat until the December election’s winner can be sworn in.

“The election date is set for Dec. 12. Were he to resign I would simply appoint somebody to fill the remaining time until we have the election on Dec. 12,” Ivey told AL.com.

And even if Ivey and Strange change their minds and go along, experts say the move may not even be constitutional.

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An already chaotic, confusing open enrollment period, run by an administration openly hostile to the Affordable Care Act, just got worse.

As health care consumers across the country find themselves with half as much time to enroll, and with far fewer resources for information and assistance, many people across the country are also receiving renewal notices from their insurers showing wildly inaccurate estimates of how much they will have to pay in premiums.

Government officials and health care experts fear many consumers will not do the research necessary to learn that they qualify for far lower premiums than these letters suggest—depressing overall enrollment and weakening Obamacare’s already vulnerable individual market.

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In a bizarre Wednesday press event, Roy Moore’s embattled campaign demanded the high school yearbook of the woman who has accused him of violently sexually assaulting her.

Moore campaign chairman Bill Armistead and attorney Phillip Jauregui accused Moore’s latest accuser of lying about his sexually assaulting her when she was 16 — and want to get their hands on the yearbook the woman showed at her press conference that included a flirty note allegedly written by Moore.

“We demand that you immediately release the yearbook to a neutral custodian… so that our expert can look at it,” Jauregui said.

But neither he or Armistead offered any proof that any of the five women accusing Moore of inappropriate sexual interactions when they were teenagers — including one who says she was 14 ears old when Moore undressed her — were lying.

Both refused to take questions from reporters, and neither offered a shred of evidence that either was lying.

The hastily arranged press event occurred just as the Alabama Republican Party steering committee was about to begin a meeting to determine whether it would pull Moore’s endorsement and disqualify his candidacy, back his campaign, or do nothing and let the situation play out. It was held outside state party headquarters, where the party was holding the meeting, though many members planned to call in.

He also claimed that Moore had been the judge who presided over the woman’s divorce in the late 1990s, a claim that he said contradicted her claim that she’d never seen him since he assaulted her. The lawyer didn’t offer any specific evidence that Moore and the accuser had contact during the divorce case, however.

“Judge Moore has been falsely accused of something he did not do 40 years ago,” Armistead said. “We cannot just stand by idly and let false charges go without some answering.”

It’s unclear what Moore’s campaign hoped to accomplish with the abbreviated press event — not a press conference, which involves questions and answers with the media.

 

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The only group of people with the power to force nominee Roy Moore from the Alabama Senate race is heading into a crucial meeting Wednesday afternoon with no guidance from President Trump on what to do.

The Alabama Republican Party steering committee, the only organization that could revoke Moore’s endorsement and disqualify any votes for him, meets at 4 p.m. Alabama time, 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

The meeting is the first time its 21 members will discuss whether to disqualify Moore as a candidate and possibly back a write-in campaign, publicly stand by him, or — the most likely option — do nothing and hope the problem goes away on its own.

While many members had hoped for an indication from the president on whether they should force Moore out, Trump didn’t address the issue in his first media appearance on U.S. soil since four women came forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers last Thursday — including one who said they had a sexual encounter when she was just 14 years old. A fifth woman has since come forward to say that Moore violently tried to force a relationship.

The president took no questions from reporters at the White House as he gave an extended statement on his recently completed Asia trip.

If Trump had decided to follow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and many other Republicans to call on Moore to drop out or lose the party’s support, the members of the committee who want Moore gone would have had much more political cover to push for his removal. Now, there may not be the energy to cut Moore loose.

“I’m not sure people have the courage to throw Moore off,” one senior Alabama Republican who has talked to multiple committee members told TPM Wednesday afternoon. “If they don’t do anything my assumption is they won’t meet again.”

The meeting comes as the pressure mounts from all corners of the national party for Moore to quit the race – something he’s defiantly refused to do.

On Tuesday night, Fox News host Sean Hannity gave Moore a 24-hour ultimatum to give “a satisfactory explanation for your inconsistencies” or drop out of the race — a major reversal after defending him on-air for days after the accusations dropped. That comes after both the Republican National Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled their support.

But in Alabama, most in the GOP establishment seem very wary of pulling Moore’s support and enraging his supporters.

“I’d be real surprised if the president comes out one way or the other. He loves Alabama, Alabama loves him. Roy Moore won the election fair and square,” Perry Hooper, Trump’s Alabama campaign chairman, told TPM shortly before Trump spoke. “I think they keep everything as is, and if that’s the case that means they’re supporting the nominee. They don’t have to have any statement, they can just say he’s the nominee, period.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), who told TPM Tuesday that he wanted the state party to yank its endorsement of Moore, said Wednesday that he’d “vote Republican — but I’ll probably write in a good candidate,” and wouldn’t vote for Moore.

But he was skeptical how much impact President Trump’s comments might have.

“He’d have to consider would it make any difference this late? Because if he weighed in, could we get another candidate? The problem is, could you substitute anybody, see?” he said.

Ahead of the meeting, Moore allies in the state sought to put added pressure on the state party to come out in favor of Moore, with two local organizations issuing statements of support for their candidate. Both local organizations, the Shelby County Republicans and the Fifth District Republicans, are run by people close to Moore’s two most vocal backers on the state steering committee.

Moore remains stubbornly defiant, attacking McConnell, the media and his female accusers.

And to add extra pressure to the state GOP, Moore’s campaign announced that it’ll be holding a press conference with Moore’s attorney in front of the Alabama Republican Party headquarters, where the meeting will take place, at the same time the meeting begins.

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