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GOP 52
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  • Strongly Dem (182)
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270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
New polls: (None)
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: FL IA MI OH PA WI

CBO: AHCA Will Leave 23 Million People without Health Insurance

The Congressional Budget Office has now scored The AHCA bill passed by the House. There is good news and bad news for the GOP in the CBO report. The good news is that not as many people will lose insurance as the 24 million that would have done so in the previous bill. The bad news is that it is still 23 million people. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) clearly anticipated something like this when he made the decision to ram the bill through the House without waiting for the CBO score.

The CBO projected that the new bill would save the government $119 billion over 10 years, less than the $150 billion the original bill would have saved. A major problem with scoring the new bill is that it allows states to opt out of the ACA's essential health benefits, but the CBO doesn't know how many states would do that. It estimates that about one-sixth of the population would be affected. In the affected states, insurance companies could also price people with pre-existing conditions out of the market.

Now it is the Senate's turn. It was not planning to vote on the House bill even before the CBO score and will certainly not vote on it now. Early yesterday, before the CBO score came out, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said: "I don't know how we get to 50 at the moment." The CBO score doesn't make that any easier. McConnell said that he doesn't plan to ask the Democrats to help because the distance between what he wants and what the Democrats want is too great. With only 52 Republicans in the Senate, McConnell can't afford to lose more than two votes, and he is clearly afraid that he is going to lose more than two, thus scuttling the bill. If no bill can pass the Senate, that would essentially end the Republicans' 7-year dream of repealing the Affordable Care Act. (V)

What Not to Do the Night Before an Election

Today, the good people of Montana will head to the polls to pick a replacement for Ryan Zinke, who vacated his seat to become Secretary of the Interior. It's been a spirited race, with wealthy Republican entrepreneur Greg Gianforte doing battle against folksy, homegrown Democrat Rob Quist. Though Donald Trump won the state (and, thus, its only congressional district) by 20 points, polls have given Gianforte a much narrower lead, in the realm of 6-7 points. While that's a tad close for comfort, it's probably big enough that the Republican could have cruised to the finish line and been fairly well assured of victory.

That, however, is not how Gianforte decided to play his hand. Appearing at, quite literally, his very last campaign event before Election Day, the Republican was asked a question about the AHCA by The Guardian (UK) reporter Ben Jacobs. Gianforte is apparently weary of this issue, and did not care for Jacobs' question. So, he determined that the best way to handle it was to assault the reporter, slamming him to the ground, punching him several times, breaking his glasses, and commanding him to, "Get the hell out of here."

Gianforte's campaign quickly issued a statement, blaming the whole thing on "aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist." Nobody's buying it, however. Other journalists who witnessed the incident—including several from Fox News—said that Jacobs' question was appropriate, asked respectfully, and that he never made any sort of physically threatening movement or gesture. Audio of the encounter also backs up Jacobs' version. The police seem to believe him too, since they have already charged the Republican candidate with assault.

It's hard to imagine a dumber mistake on the eve an election, especially if Billy Bush is not available for a ribald locker room conversation. Already, Montana's largest newspaper, the Billings Gazette, has withdrawn its endorsement of the candidate:

We previously supported Gianforte because he said he was ready to listen, to compromise, to take the tough questions. Everything he said was obliterated by his surprising actions that were recorded and witnessed Wednesday. We simply cannot trust him. Because trust—not agreement—is essential in the role of representative, we cannot stand by him.

The Gazette's editorial board also observed that previous "jokes" that Gianforte made about beating up reporters must now be viewed in a new, and troubling, light.

So, will this be enough to scuttle Gianforte's chances at victory? That is very hard to say. If he survives, it will be because Montana allows voting by mail, and 250,000 ballots had already been submitted by the time he went on his rampage. There is simply no way to know how many people will cast ballots in person on Wednesday. If the interest in this seat, given the national implications, leads to presidential-election-level turnout, it would mean that another 250,000 people are yet to vote. That would probably be fatal for Gianforte. If only 100,000 people trek to the polls on Wednesday, by contrast, his chances would be much better. Too bad for him it doesn't snow in Montana in May—the forecast today is cloudy and mid-60s temperatures, which is very good voting weather. (Z)

Republicans Fear Nine Months of Failure

In public, Republicans are optimistic about passing important parts of their agenda before the end of September. In private, however, they see the situation as grim, with little hope of passing anything before September. No Republican that Axios has spoken to expects healthcare reform to pass before September, and most were very skeptical about changes to the tax code as well.

With the summer rapidly approaching, the Republican leadership is afraid that members are going to have a terrible time explaining to their constituents why even with complete control of the government they weren't able to accomplish anything. And many Republicans expect the next five months to be even worse than the first four, what with the Russia scandal expanding in all directions and sucking up all the media's attention. (V)

Majority of Americans Think Trump Is Abusing the Powers of His Office

A new Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday shows that 54% of Americans think that Donald Trump is abusing the powers of the presidency. A similar number, 55%, think the Trump fired former FBI director in order to disrupt the investigation of possible collusion between his campaign and Russia. An even larger majority (66%) supports the appointment of a special counsel to examine the matter.

The poll also asked people what they think about Trump's characteristics, with these results (Yes/No).

  • Does he have good leadership skills? (40%/57%)
  • Does he care about average Americans? (42%/56%)
  • Is he level headed? (31%/65%)
  • Is he a strong person? (64%/33%)
  • Is he intelligent? (57%/40%)
  • Does he share your values? (36%/62%)

All in all, it is an extremely negative assessment—especially for a president in his "honeymoon" period. It is only going to be downhill from here.

Note to Joe Lieberman: Check out the answers to question 33 of this survey. After all, Quinnipiac University is located in your home state of Connecticut, so you can trust it. The question asks: "How important is it to you that President Trump nominate a new FBI Director that has no political agenda?" The results were 69% for very important and 18% somewhat important. If you get the job—which seems increasingly unlikely—try to forget any vendettas you may have stored up. (V)

House Will Join Senate with Flynn Subpoenas

Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) of the Senate Intelligence Committee politely asked former NSA Michael Flynn to turn over documents related to his contacts with Russia. Flynn equally politely refused, invoking the Fifth Amendment as his reason. Burr responded to that by issuing subpoenas for the documents, including documents from Flynn's businesses, which probably don't have Fifth Amendment rights.

Now the House Intelligence Committee plans to join the Senate in issuing more subpoenas. But Flynn is not the only target of the House subpoenas. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House committee, said his committee "may be sending out subpoenas in tranches." That doesn't sound like he means one or two of them. (V)

Sessions Could Be in Hot Water

Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III seems to have a wee problem with the concept of "full disclosure." When he was being examined by the Senate during his confirmation hearings, Sessions was asked, "Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?" The AG answered, "No," reasoning that his meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak were not of interest, and were not the sort of thing the committee was asking about when inquiring about meeting anyone connected with any part of the Russian government. Now, we learn that on the paperwork Sessions filed for his security clearance, he similarly determined that when asked to list "any contact" he or his family had with a "foreign government" or its "representatives" over the past seven years, the meetings with Kislyak were not worthy of mention. The AG's explanation is that he simply had too many meetings with foreign dignitaries to list them all, and that an unnamed person at the FBI told him not to bother.

Those who deal with this kind of paperwork on a regular basis aren't buying this explanation. Of course, a Jeff Sessions-led Justice Department is not going to do anything to punish Jeff Sessions. Whatever kind of fortitude Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein has, it likely doesn't extend that far. The problem for Sessions is that this whole Russia mess is spiraling out of the White House's control, and the sharks are circling. He's likely to be hauled before both the Senate and House committees that are investigating the matter, and asked to account for himself. Special counsel Robert Mueller will likely have a few choice questions as well, at some point. Whatever the outcome may be, all of this certainly does not help to dispel the notion that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia and then tried to cover up its bad behavior. (Z)

British Officially Skeeved With Trump Administration

Yesterday, we noted that the Trump administration had let slip details about the Manchester terrorist attacks before they were authorized to do so, potentially compromising the Britons' ability to apprehend members of the bomber's network. Early reports suggested that the British government was maybe not too thrilled about this. Now, 24 hours later, we know for certain that they are bloody well cheesed off.

Confirmation comes courtesy of British Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who said the Trump administration's conduct had been "irritating," while warning that it "shouldn't happen again." Reportedly, Prime Minister Theresa May was also aggravated, especially since she had recently expressed support for Team Trump, and declared her confidence in the intelligence-sharing operation between the U.S. and the U.K. Between this incident and the Israeli leak, that's two strikes in a single week, arguably involving two of America's closest allies. If the administration learns how to zip its collective lips, then this will probably blow over. But another misstep in the next few weeks, and Trump & Co's reputation may be sealed. (Z)

Trump Not Tracking Profits from Foreign Governments

The Constitution's Emoluments Clause forbids the president from receiving any gift from a foreign government. The courts have never ruled on what this actually means, but some experts say that the profit made when a foreign official stays at a Trump hotel would constitute a gift. Earlier this year, Donald Trump said that he would donate all profits from stays of foreign officials to the U.S. Treasury. Whether this would be enough to satisfy the courts remains untested, and probably will remain untested, as the Trump Organization apparently doesn't plan to comply with Trump's promise.

In response to a request from the House Oversight and Reform Committee about how the profits will be calculated, the Trump Organization sent the committee the pamphlet it had sent to its property managers telling them how to comply. The pamphlet said that actually asking guests if they were working for a foreign government would "impede upon personal privacy and diminish the guest experience of our brand." Only if a guest voluntarily announces that he is working for a foreign government will the profit be calculated. The pamphlet goes on to state that when organizations that might be state owned, such as banks, airlines, and energy businesses, use Trump facilities, they should not be counted because it cannot be easily determined who owns them.

By taking this position, Trump is probably setting himself up for one or more lawsuits. The argument that, "I don't know if I have received any gifts from foreign governments" may not persuade the courts. Trump is known to be something of a tightwad and that could come back to bite him in this case. The amount of profit from foreign government guests at his hotels probably isn't very large, and taking the position "when in doubt, donate the profit to the Treasury" might convince the courts that he is doing his level best to comply under complicated circumstances. But that is not the road he is taking. (V)

Harris Is Raking in the Bucks

Newly-minted senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) is unquestionably a rising star in the Democratic Party. She's got an excellent "tough on crime" resume, but also progressive bona fides. As a person of mixed ancestry (part Asian, part black), she can connect with minority voters in a way that Hillary Clinton, for example, did not. She's also very charismatic, and has taken a leading role in battling Donald Trump. For all these reasons, she's seen as a future presidential candidate, possibly in 2024, and maybe even as soon as 2020.

Over the past several months, it has become clear that it's not just the DNC or the pundits who think this way, either. It's also the Democratic grassroots, who have been donating frequently to Harris, despite the fact that she's not currently scheduled to run for office again for six years (when her senate term is up). Thanks in part to a shrewdly-executed digital ad campaign, she's collected over $1 million in contributions, mostly in increments of $20 or less. Since she's not currently running for anything, she can spread that around to other Democrats, thus building a network of support within the party. Meanwhile, the list of names and e-mail addresses she's collecting is pure gold—she can go back to those folks for another $20 or $40, just as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) did, without running up against contribution limits. Indeed, she's setting herself up to follow in his footsteps, except in a way that might allow her to unite the Clinton (insider) and Sanders (outsider) factions of the party. In fact, her "chance of being elected president in 2020" odds on betting site PaddyPower have improved more than any other candidate in the last three months, from 100-to-1 to 20-to-1. That puts her just behind Sen. Cory Booker's (D-NJ) 16-to-1 odds and Joe Biden's 18-to-1, and has her even with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Sanders himself. The upshot is, she's someone to keep an eye on over the next few years. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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