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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Donnelly Backs Gorsuch
      •  Trump Says U.S. Can Handle North Korea Alone
      •  Kasich Is Acting Like a Candidate While Claiming He Is Not
      •  Rooting for Failure
      •  Why Can't Republicans Find Massive Voter Fraud?
      •  Far-Right Sharks Are Circling the White House
      •  How Much Does Trump's Security Cost?

Donnelly Backs Gorsuch

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), who is facing a very tough reelection campaign in 2018, has announced that he will vote for SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch. Donnelly is the third Senate Democrat to announce his support for Gorsuch. To break the expected Democratic filibuster, Republicans need to peel off five more Democrats. A whip list compiled by The Hill shows 3 Democrats/Independents who oppose a filibuster, 37 who support it, with 8 who are undecided or whose position is not 100% clear. Here is the list of senators in the latter group:

  • Michael Bennet (D-CO): Could vote for Gorsuch because they are both from Colorado.
  • Ben Cardin (D-MD): Thus far, his stated position has been "wait and see."
  • Chris Coons (D-DE): Has said, "I doubt he's going to get 60 votes."
  • Angus King (I-ME): Says he will do what is, "in the best interests of Maine and the nation."
  • Patrick Leahy (D-VT): After initial opposition, appears to be leaning toward filibustering.
  • Bob Menendez (D-NJ): Has said nothing about Gorsuch.
  • Mark Warner (D-VA): Says he's "disappointed" in Gorsuch; not sure about the filibuster.
  • Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): As ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, may be keeping silent for ethical reasons.

McConnell would have to get five of the eight, which nearly everyone on the Hill agrees would be a tall order. Only four (Cardin, Feinstein, King, and Menendez) are up for reelection in 2018, and none of the eight come from states that Donald Trump won. If fewer than 60 senators vote for cloture, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may decide to go nuclear and change the Senate rules to forbid filibustering Supreme Court appointments. Whether he can muster the 50 votes for changing the rules is not clear yet. Some Republicans fear that at some point in the future, the shoe may be on the other foot and they may need the filibuster. (V)

Trump Says U.S. Can Handle North Korea Alone

Yesterday, Donald Trump said: that if China is not willing to help the U.S. bring North Korea to heel, the U.S. will do it alone. The message was probably intended for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will meet with Trump at Mar-a-Lago later this week. Trump hopes that China will turn the screws on North Korea, but China is not likely to do the U.S. any favors without something in return. A promise not to impose a tariff on Chinese imports might be a nice gesture, but Trump is not likely to offer it, so trying to convince Xi that his help really isn't all that important might simply be a ploy to get him to help without getting much in return. Xi is not stupid, though. He knows very well that short of a nuclear attack on North Korea, Trump has very little leverage over them and he desperately needs China's help, specifically to cut off North Korea's oil supply. But it is Trump's negotiating style to belittle his adversaries and get them to beg for crumbs. It is doubtful that Xi will fall for this. After the meeting is over, we may have a better idea of what, if anything, was agreed to. (V)

Kasich Is Acting Like a Candidate While Claiming He Is Not

Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) will be term limited and out of office in January 2019. He has said he will not run for the White House again, but somehow or other he is doing all the things candidates do at this point in the election cycle. He wrote a book about his vision for the country and is going on a book tour. He will speak at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, the site of one of the 2016 Republican debates. He has criticized various aspects of the presidency of Donald Trump, such as the Muslim travel bans. Unlike Trump, he has defended journalism and journalists. He has appeared on television a number of times. These are all the things that candidates do, not people who are permanently retiring from politics. Will he challenge Trump in a primary in 2020? In politics, a week is a long time, and two years is forever. He will certainly want to wait until after the 2018 elections to make a decision. If Trump is popular then and the Republicans hold Congress, Kasich had better find a new project, but if the Republicans are bloodied, Kasich will be front and center saying: "I told you so" and may decide to formally challenge Trump. (V)

Rooting for Failure

Thirty or forty years ago, bipartisan compromises in Congress were common. Politicians talked to each other across the aisle. Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill got along famously and could do business together. Now, bipartisanship has gone the way of the Whigs. No Republican voted for the Affordable Care Act and no Democrat was going to vote for the American Health Care Act had it come to a vote. What happened?

Kyle Kondik at Sabato's Crystal Ball has a plausible explanation. Prior to 1980, the Democrats had held majorities in the House and Senate for nearly the entire time during the previous five decades. They also held the White House most of that time. The Republicans had no realistic expectation of capturing either chamber and certainly no illusions that they would ever win all the marbles, so their best strategy was to work with the Democrats and try to make legislation they actually hated somewhat less bad.

That changed in 1980 when Ronald Reagan won the White House and the Republicans took over the Senate. For the first time in the memory of any living Republican, controlling the whole government was a realistic possibility. To fire up supporters, it made sense for Republicans to fight the Democrats everywhere they could, rather than work with them. Since then, both chambers of Congress and the White House have changed hands multiple times, so both parties now see opposing the other one to get their own supporters riled up as the best strategy from a political point of view, public policy be damned.

Historically, the president's party loses seats in the House and Senate in the midterm elections and when the president is very unpopular, the losses are especially bad. So it is clearly in the Democrats' interest to avoid working with Donald Trump on anything and to blame him for everything. In essence they are rooting for the Republicans (and the country) to fail, just as the Republicans did during the Obama administration. A stock market crash and a deep recession in 2017 or 2018 would be manna from heaven for the Democrats. It's a sad state of affairs, but the truth: No matter which party occupies the White House, all the politicians from the other party are quietly, but fervently, rooting for the country to fail. It's just that it is bad politics to say that out loud. (V)

Why Can't Republicans Find Massive Voter Fraud?

In 2000, then-senator John Ashcroft lost his reelection bid to a dead man, Mel Carnahan, who had been killed in a plane crash three weeks earlier. Ashcroft never got over this. When George W. Bush nominated Ashcroft to become attorney general, detecting and prosecuting voter fraud became his passion. He instructed all 93 U.S. attorneys to make voting fraud their top priority. Six years later, they had indicted 119 people and convicted 86 of them, out of several hundred million votes that had been cast in the intervening years. Further, most of the fraud was in two states, Kentucky and West Virginia, and it was mostly about keeping local politicians in office. All in all, Ashcroft tried very hard to find large numbers of people to convict of voter fraud and he found only this handful of cases. The clear conclusion is that there is no massive voter fraud, just a couple of pockets of it in poor counties in Appalachia.

Here we go again. Donald Trump has claimed that 3 million illegal votes were cast but has failed to present even a shred of evidence to back up his claim. He did assign Vice President Mike Pence the job of finding all the fraud, but most likely Pence won't be able to find any more than Ashcroft did, despite years of trying. Nevertheless, despite any evidence that more than a handful of cases exist nationwide, Pence is likely to recommend that states adopt strict voter ID laws, knowing full well that these primarily affect minorities and poor people, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic. (V)

Far-Right Sharks Are Circling the White House

Katie Walsh was, until last week, deputy chief of staff in the White House. She was also a frequent target of Breitbart and other right-wing media; they accused her of being a Reince Priebus loyalist (true) and a fifth columnist who was selling Donald Trump out to the New York Times (probably not true). Walsh was re-assigned last week, leaving the White House and taking up a position with a Trump-affiliated SuperPAC.

Although Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, and Preibus all sang Walsh's praises as she exited stage right, this has not stopped the right-wing media from concluding that (1) She was actually fired, and (2) They were responsible. Consequently, they are now eagerly deciding on who their next target(s) will be, from the list of White House "traitors" that they have identified. Priebus is already being targeted with both barrels; White House senior aide Sean Cairncross is likely to feel the wrath soon, as well. In any case, it's another example of how the GOP is responding to its newfound power by tearing itself apart. (Z)

How Much Does Trump's Security Cost?

Presidential security is not cheap, and the more often the president leaves the White House, the more expensive it gets. Even by the standards of the modern, jet-setting presidency, however, Donald Trump is really racking up the bills. First, because the First Lady lives in New York and not the White House. Second, because the President heads to Mar-a-Lago almost every weekend. Third, because he's got several jet-setting kids who also demand protection.

Figuring out exactly how much all of this costs is not easy. For example, some sources peg the cost of each Mar-a-Lago trip at $3.5 million; others say it's less than $2 million. Similarly, the price for protecting Melania Trump in New York city has been tabbed as high as $1 million a day and as low as $200,000. A further complication is that we cannot know how the first nine weeks of the Trump presidency speak to what is going to happen going forward. Melania says she will move to Washington once the school year is over (believable), Donald says he will stop traveling to Mar-a-Lago in the summer months (less believable). Depending on which assumptions and which figures are used, however, we end up with a ballpark figure as low as $150 million for four years, or as high as $1 billion. That's over and above the normal costs of paying for the U.S. Secret Service. And even if we go with the low number, it's more than enough to pay for an array of agencies and programs that Trump has targeted for elimination in the name of budget austerity. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr02 Republicans Are Split on Tax Reform
Apr02 Uniqlo Threatens Trump
Apr02 Chinese Acquisition of U.S. Financial Company Raises Questions
Apr02 Poll: Americans Want an Independent Commission to Investigate Russia Ties
Apr02 Trump Blasts Chuck Todd
Apr02 Mark Cuban: Trump Isn't Smart Enough to Have Colluded with the Russians
Apr02 Fox Stands With O'Reilly
Apr02 The Kushner Chronicles, Volume III
Apr02 Russians Celebrate April Fools' Day
Apr01 Top Cabinet Officials Openly Disagree with Trump on Russia
Apr01 How Trump Could Get a Big Win Easily and Tear the Democrats Apart
Apr01 McCaskill Will Oppose Gorsuch
Apr01 Trump's Motto: Screw Them 10x Harder
Apr01 Top Government Officials Release Income and Net Worth
Apr01 Cornyn Might Be OK with a Temporary Tax Cut
Apr01 Democrats Will Try to Knock off Cruz
Apr01 Can A Sanders-Style Democrat Be Elected to the House in Montana?
Apr01 Travel Ban Is Operating Smoothly
Apr01 Former Kushner Employee: He's Not the Man for the Job
Mar31 Republicans Are at Each Others' Throats
Mar31 Trump to Issue Two Executive Orders on Trade Today
Mar31 Flynn Has "Story to Tell," Wants Immunity
Mar31 Heitkamp and Manchin Will Vote for Gorsuch
Mar31 North Carolina Repeals "Bathroom Law"
Mar31 Pence Worked Yesterday
Mar31 Pence Won't Dine With Women Who Aren't His Wife
Mar31 Jared Kushner's Friends Are Cutting Him Loose
Mar31 Some Trump Voters Already Have Buyer's Remorse
Mar30 Travel Ban Suspended Indefinitely
Mar30 Can Trump Make a Deal with the Democrats on Infrastructure?
Mar30 NRA Is Running Ads Against Democratic Senators
Mar30 Privacy Vote Not Going over Well
Mar30 Majority of Americans Believe Traditional Media Outlets Publish Fake News
Mar30 Large Majority of Republicans Think Trump Was Wiretapped
Mar30 How Long Can Spicer Last?
Mar29 Trump Signs Executive Order to Repeal Much of Obama's Work on Climate Change
Mar29 Border Wall Funding Will Be Put on Hold
Mar29 Nelson Will Filibuster Gorsuch
Mar29 "Trump Bump" Turning into "Trump Slump"
Mar29 Manafort May Have Laundered Money in New York Real Estate
Mar29 Congress Wipes Out Internet Privacy
Mar29 Perez Cleans House at DNC
Mar29 Cohn: Clinton Did Not Lose Due to Poor Turnout
Mar29 Trump Won't Throw Out First Pitch of MLB Season
Mar28 Republicans May Be Forced to Scrap Tax Reform and Just Cut Rates
Mar28 Trump Wants to Do Tax Reform and Infrastructure at the Same Time
Mar28 Executive Order on Environment Coming Today
Mar28 Sessions Will Withhold Grants from Sanctuary Cities
Mar28 Trump Requests $1 Billion for Wall
Mar28 Republicans Have an Easy Way to Kill the Affordable Care Act