• Baucus Comes Out in Favor of Single-Payer Healthcare
• Mueller Wants to Talk to Six Top Trump Staffers
• Former DHS Secretary Sues DHS
• Trump-Schumer-Pelosi Plan Is Now the Law of the Land
• Trump's Relationship with Congressional Republicans Goes from Bad to Worse
• Trump Can't Decide How Strong the U.S. Military Is
• Another Friday, Another White House Departure
Hurricanes and budget deals have dominated the news for many days, but according to Chris Cillizza, the most important political development of the week is the announcement that Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) will not run for reelection. Earlier this year, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) also said she will call it quits once she finishes this term. Why is this important? Because these are moderate Republicans from swing districts that no longer feel they belong in the Republican Party. In Dent's announcement, he wrote:
As a member of the governing wing of the Republican Party, I've worked to instill stability, certainty and predictability in Washington. I've fought to fulfill the basic functions of government, like keeping the lights on and preventing default.
Regrettably, that has not been easy given the disruptive outside influences that profit from increased polarization and ideological rigidity that leads to dysfunction, disorder and chaos.
Outside influences? Profit? Did Steve Bannon just bag a couple of RINOs? They are an endangered species, you know. Dent and Reichert are the 13th and 14th House Republicans to announce they are not running for reelection in 2018. More are sure to come. Typically, the number of House retirements is about 23, but this year it might be more because moderate Republicans like these don't want to spend the rest of their lives in pointless battles with the Freedom Caucus. Also, many of them likely suspect a 2018 re-election campaign will be the fight of their life, and don't have the stomach for it.
The danger for the GOP is that these three retirements are going to start a stampede of moderate Republicans leaving the House—most of them in swing districts that Democrats have a good shot at winning. There are 23 Republicans in districts that Hillary Clinton won (such as Reichert's). If even half of them decide enough is enough, it will make the Democrats' job of flipping the House that much easier. They need a net gain of 24 seats to take control. Since WW II, when a president's approval is below 50%—and Donald Trump's is below 40%—the president's party has sustained an average loss of 36 seats in the House. If the Democrats can pick up two-thirds of those 36 seats, they will have the power to impeach (but not necessarily convict) Trump.
Election pundit Nathan Gonzales has taken note of Reichert and Dent's retirement plans as well as other changes in the political landscape of late and changed his ratings on 15 House races, moving 14 in the direction of more Democratic and 1 in the direction of more Republican. He sees 48 seats potentially in play at the moment, twice as big as it was 2 years ago. He doesn't see the Democrats taking over the House the way it stands now, but points out if more Republicans in competitive districts retire, that could change. (V)
On Friday, former senator Max Baucus held a public forum on health care, and then sat for an interview with NBC News. During both, he expressed his support for a single-payer health care system, declaring to NBC News that, "I just think the time has come."
At the moment, Baucus holds no public office, having ended his Senate career in 2014, and then his career as ambassador to China in January of this year. So, why does his opinion matter? Well, because he led the effort in the U.S. Senate to create, and secure passage of, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Back then, in 2009, he was asked about single-payer and said, "No. Not in a million years." So, in just eight years—or, just 999,992 years short of a million—he's done a complete 180.
And Baucus is not the only one. His Democratic colleague from Montana, Jon Tester, has also given cautious support to the idea, despite the fact that he faces a re-election bid in a red state next year. In fact, a majority of House Democrats, and a number of their fellows in the Senate—including Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-CA)—have signed on as cosponsors to the "Medicare for all" bill written by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). This would not happen if the politicians did not feel their voters were ready to support such a plan. Presumably, they have taken note of recent polls, like the one from Quinnipiac that says that a (slim) majority of Americans now favor single-payer.
None of this is to say that an American single-payer system is imminent; there are still enormous logistical and political obstacles to be overcome. After all, a majority of people favored repealing Obamacare, right until Congress began trying to figure out the specifics of what that actually means. Still, the pieces are falling into place for the Democrats to make a serious go at it. And if single-payer becomes the law of the land, it will mark one of the most remarkable and swift transformations of public opinion in U.S. history, comparable—as Baucus himself pointed out on Friday—to the sea change in attitudes about gay equality. (Z)
Special counsel Robert Mueller wants to interview six current and former White House staffers. The six are Hope Hicks, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Don McGahn, James Burnham, and Josh Raffel. All six are or were part of Trump's inner circle and were involved with crafting responses to various Russia-related incidents.
Hicks and Raffel were involved in discussions about how to respond to the news that Donald Trump Jr. met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya last year. The initial story was that the meeting was about Russian adoptions, which was completely false. Mueller might see that as obstruction of justice. White House Counsel McGahn and his deputy Burnham were briefed on Jan. 26 by then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates that Michael Flynn could be compromised by the Russians and was lying to the FBI about his contacts with them. McGahn and Burnham could shed light on whether Flynn broke the law by lying to the FBI and tell who else was involved. The courts have already ruled that there is no attorney-client privilege between the White House counsel and the president, so they can't escape that way. Spicer and Priebus are no doubt party to lots of information Mueller is interested in. (V)
It doesn't happen every day that a former cabinet secretary sues the department he or she formerly ran, but these aren't ordinary times. Janet Napolitano, who ran DHS during the Obama administration and who is now president of the University of California, filed a lawsuit yesterday challenging Donald Trump's plans to end DACA in 6 months. The UC lawsuit is the first one by a university. Napolitano said that about 4,000 of the system's 240,000 students are undocumented, and she wants to protect them. UC allows dreamers to pay in-state tuition and also offers them legal services. In addition to UC's lawsuit, the state of California is planning its own lawsuit shortly, according to state attorney general Xavier Becerra. (V)
On Wednesday, Donald Trump and the Democratic leaders in the Senate and House, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), made a deal on the debt ceiling and aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey. On Thursday, the Senate passed it. On Friday the House passed it (with 90 Republicans and 0 Democrats voting no). Considering how fast Congress normally works, this is the legislative equivalent of a tortoise running a 100-yard dash in 50 milliseconds. Friday night, Trump signed the bill into law.
Of course, when you come right down to it, what the bill does is kick the can down the road. It doesn't raise the debt ceiling to a value to get the country through the next budget year. It just defers the real problem for 3 months. Still, for a Congress that can't do anything except name the odd post office, it is something. (V)
Congressional Republicans are very angry about the Trump-Schumer-Pelosi plan, and many of them feel that Trump sold his party up the river. In an attempt to smooth things over on Friday before the House voted, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and budget director Mick Mulvaney were dispatched to make nice with the GOP members. Mnuchin did not satisfactorily address their concerns (to be fair, that may have been an impossible task), and he aggravated them by asking them to "vote for it for me." Far from soothing tensions, this served to inflame them, as the Republicans present in the meeting found his words inappropriate and patronizing. It does not help things that many of them look at him, aware of his past statements and political donations, and suspect he's a Democrat in sheep's clothing.
In short then, Mnuchin and Mulvaney largely just poured gasoline on the fire. That meant that it was time for the President to step up. And, as any good conflict resolution specialist will tell you, the very best way to calm angry people down is to jump on Twitter and insult them before your 30 million or so followers. So, that is what Trump did:
Republicans, sorry, but I've been hearing about Repeal & Replace for 7 years, didn't happen! Even worse, the Senate Filibuster Rule will....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 8, 2017
...never allow the Republicans to pass even great legislation. 8 Dems control - will rarely get 60 (vs. 51) votes. It is a Repub Death Wish!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 8, 2017
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are undoubtedly beside themselves.
However, just because the Republican in the White House and the Republicans on Capitol Hill can't play nice does not mean that we have entered into a new era in which Trump + Democrats = WINS! First of all, there aren't enough Democrats in Congress right now to pass things by themselves. Second, the Democrats aren't going to help with most of Trump's campaign promises, from Mexican walls to tax cuts for the rich to Muslim bans to privatizing infrastructure. Third, Democratic members know that if they climb in bed with the President, their voters will flay them alive. Fourth, and finally, Trump is loyal to nobody but himself, and simply does not make long-term alliances with anybody. He'll be back to slamming Pelosi, Schumer, et al. on Twitter sometime in the next week or two. If anything, what's actually happening is that Trump is well on his way to becoming a president without a party, a fate usually reserved for mediocre vice presidents who were chosen to "balance" a ticket, and then ended up in the big chair when the boss died—Andrew Johnson, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Chester Arthur, etc. (Z)
Speaking of Donald Trump's campaign verbiage, when he was running for office last year he was happy to tell anyone and everyone how much Barack Obama had weakened the U.S. military. Candidate Trump described America's armed forces as "depleted," "gutted," and "a disaster" on a regular basis in speeches, at debates, and during rallies.
Now, however, things seem to have turned around. Trump does not want to negotiate with North Korea, and he doesn't want to actually invade them, which means that he's pretty much left with posturing. And so, he is telling anyone and everyone who will listen about how strong the U.S. armed forces are on a regular basis. On Friday, for example, he declared that, "Our military has never been stronger."
Hard to figure out what might have changed in the last 12 months or so. After all, Trump hasn't passed a budget yet, so it's not like the Pentagon has gotten more money from The Donald. He hasn't significantly reorganized or re-deployed any part of the defense establishment. No new weapons or tactics have been developed. The only thing he's really done is threaten to ban transgender soldiers (without actually having done so, at least not yet). If that threat is all it takes to dramatically strengthen one's army, then somewhere George Washington is kicking himself for having needlessly wasted so much time on fighting the British. Alternatively, perhaps Trump doesn't really know what he's talking about, and whatever pronouncements he makes on the subject should be taken with enough grains of salt to fill a sand trap at Mar-a-Lago. After all, he's not a "details" guy, and largely doesn't pay attention to the information he's given. Further, something like "military strength" or "military readiness" is a complicated issue, and a proper assessment of that issue cannot be accomplished in 140 characters. Or 280, even. (Z)
Yesterday was Friday, which generally means that another person is going to be fired from "The Apprentice"—er, the White House. Although economic adviser Gary Cohn, AG Jeff Sessions, NSA Herbert McMaster, and Chief of Staff John Kelly have all been rumored to be perilously close to the chopping block, it wasn't any of the stars that was sent packing this week. Instead, it was Steve Bannon acolyte Andy Surabian.
The departure of yet another Bannonite from the administration means that the battle lines between the White House and Breitbart are getting clearer and clearer. And Surabian isn't just going to be a bystander in that war; he's going back to work for Bannon, serving as a sort of chief of staff for the former White House strategic adviser. Or, "assistant bomb thrower," if that is preferable. Between his battles with Congress, and his increasing alienation from Breitbart, Trump is running out of friends in high places. At least he still has Fox News, though. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep08 Conservatives Don't Care about the Coverage, Hate the Deal
Sep08 Hillary Clinton Wants to Continue the 2016 Democratic Primary
Sep08 Steve Bannon Behaving like Steve Bannon
Sep08 Cohn on Thin Ice
Sep08 Donald Trump Jr. Interviewed by Senate Staffers
Sep08 Mueller Leaving No Stone Unturned
Sep07 Trump Takes Democrats' First Offer on Debt Limit
Sep07 Members of Both Parties Want to Know More about Trump Tower Moscow
Sep07 Red-State Democrats Now Support DACA
Sep07 Fifteen States Sue Trump on DACA
Sep07 Gerrymandering Case Gets Some Unlikely Support
Sep07 Irma Visits Donald
Sep07 Menendez's Trial Began Yesterday
Sep07 Protests, By the Numbers
Sep06 Trump Tells Sessions to End DACA in 6 Months
Sep06 Trump Shoots the Hostages
Sep06 Republicans Have Good Reason to Fear 2018
Sep06 Franken Won't Turn in His Blue Slip
Sep06 Trump Kompromat, Pence Obstruction?
Sep06 Manafort Trying to Keep His Testimony Secret
Sep05 Situation in Korea Is Already Escalating
Sep05 If Trump Ends DACA, at Least Two States Will Sue Him
Sep05 Lots of People Will Be Angry if DACA Is Killed
Sep05 For Trump, the Rubber is About to Meet the Road
Sep05 Breitbart Is Putting Trump In a Quandary
Sep05 Harvey and the Debt Limit
Sep05 Clarke Expected to Take a Job in Trump Administration
Sep04 Trump Notes North Korea's Nuclear Test and Attacks South Korea
Sep04 Trump Likely to Announce End of DACA This Week
Sep04 Trump Is Playing Only to His Base
Sep04 Is Donald Trump...Suicidal?
Sep04 Democrats Have a 10-Point Lead on the Generic House Ballot
Sep04 Trump Nominations Could Mean Two More Special Elections
Sep04 States Struggle to Fix Voting Security
Sep04 Elizabeth Warren is Religious
Sep04 Do the Democrats Need a Kennedy to Save Them?
Sep03 Justice Dept.: Trump Tower Wasn't Wiretapped
Sep03 Trump Wants to Kill Trade Deal with South Korea
Sep03 How John Kelly Has Changed the White House
Sep03 Trump Does Better in Hurricane Harvey Visit v2.0
Sep03 Texas Republicans Have No Answers When it Comes to Hurricane Harvey
Sep03 Killing DACA Could Become a Big Headache for Trump
Sep03 Does John Bel Edwards Have the Special Sauce?
Sep02 Russians May Have Hacked Voter Registration Lists
Sep02 Mueller Has the Original Comey Firing Letter
Sep02 Mick the Knife Gets to Work
Sep02 Trump Concedes: No Wall, For Now
Sep02 Ryan, Hatch Urge Caution with DACA
Sep02 Time For Obamacare Repeal Runs Short