Dem 48
image description
GOP 52
image description
New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  McCain: No
      •  Trump Seems to Be Running out of Tricks
      •  New Poll Shows Strange Sinking
      •  GOP Donors Are Furious at the Lack of Results
      •  Muslim Travel Ban v3.0 Is Coming Soon
      •  Russians Targeted 21 States in 2016
      •  Many White House Staffers Planning to Leave in January
      •  Sports and Politics Collide

McCain: No

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) personally killed the Cassidy-Graham-Heller-Johnson (CGHJ) health-care bill yesterday when he announced that he was not going to vote for it. He said that he couldn't vote for a bill that hadn't been debated in committee, wasn't open to amendments, and hasn't even been scored by the Congressional Budget Office to find out what it would cost and how many people would lose their health care. If one steps back a bit, the unusual thing is not that McCain was unwilling to buy a pig in a poke, but that 48 or 49 other Republican senators were happy to do so. With Sens. Rand Paul (KY) and Susan Collins (ME) virtually certain as "no" votes, the bill is dead for this year and probably forever. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who was leaning against it, is now spared making a decision unless she wants to make a point.

McCain's fundamental complaint had nothing to do with the Brookings Institution estimate released yesterday that 32 million people would lose health coverage after 2027. It was about the process. On each of the health-care bills that have come up this year, a tiny number of senators concocted the bill in secret and then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to ram it through as fast as possible without hearings or even input from other Republicans. What McCain wanted is the "regular order." What is that, exactly?

It's hard to give a definition to it, but the traditional way a bill becomes law (at least, according to third-grade social studies textbooks) is that the relevant Senate or House committee thinks up a proposed law. Then it holds hearings and listens to experts on the subject, both proponents and opponents. Next, the committee discusses the bill in a public session, with committee members free to offer amendments, which the committee then votes on. When a final version of the bill is ready, the committee votes on it. If it passes, it moves on to the full chamber where it is debated and amendments can be offered before a final up or down vote. None of this has happened on any of the bills that would repeal the ACA, and this lack of an open process is what McCain is lamenting. Maybe McCain should buy McConnell a copy of How a Bill Becomes a Law. It is suitable even for third graders and it is only $7.95. Or, if McCain can't afford eight bucks, he can send McConnell a link to "I'm Just a Bill" on YouTube. (V)

Trump Seems to Be Running out of Tricks

Pop quiz: Which of these things did Donald Trump do on Friday?

  1. Blast John McCain for failure to support the CGHJ health-care bill, calling him "Sad!"
  2. Claim that Russiagate is all a hoax
  3. Trade insults with Kim Jong-un
  4. Take to Twitter to brag about his polling numbers
  5. Attack the "fake news" media
  6. Insist that a wall is positively going to be built along the Mexican border

The answer, naturally, is "all of the above." And, of course, there is absolutely nothing on the list that isn't entirely predictable, since he's done each of these things (with only slight variations) countless times.

In his career as a reality television host, Trump learned lesson #1 of that genre very, very well: Keep it interesting. And he's done a heck of a job of that for the first 18 months or so of his political career. He has gotten a rise out of people by, say, attacking Black Lives Matter, and as that furor died, he has pivoted to Megyn Kelly, or Barack Obama's birth certificate, or putting Hillary Clinton in jail, or whatever new outrageousness he came up with that morning. It's not a surprise that Howard Stern describes Donald Trump as the best interviewee he's ever had, because Trump is really just a political shock jock.

Trump is still trying to keep things fresh (see below), but more and more he lapses into a list of "greatest hits." As the Washington Post's Aaron Blake observes, this is particularly evident from an examination of Trump's Twitter feed, where almost every tweet he sent out on Friday could have been copied and pasted from a month ago, or even a year ago. Trump is at serious risk of becoming boring, which to him is a horror of horrors—the same thing as being a loser. Meanwhile, when Karl Rove, Dick Cheney & Co. were using gay marriage to whip their base into a frenzy, they were clever enough to go to that well only around election time, so that these tactics did not lose their potency. Will Trump, in a desperate search for approval ratings now, lose the ability to get his base excited when he really needs them? Next week's election in Alabama may hint at an answer to that question. (Z)

New Poll Shows Strange Sinking

The Republican runoff in Alabama next Tuesday has become a proxy war between the GOP establishment (including Donald Trump) and grass roots conservatives (particularly Steve Bannon). A new poll from a Fox News affiliate shows the grassroots candidate, former Alabama Supreme Court judge Roy Moore at 54%, with Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), the establishment choice, at 46%. Donald Trump will be in Alabama this weekend to try to shore up Strange's numbers. It might also help if he would tell HUD Secretary Ben Carson to stop praising Moore.

If Moore wins, it will be a huge victory for Bannon and a massive defeat for Mitch McConnell, who has poured millions of dollars into the race on Strange's behalf. If that happens, Bannon is going to primary a number of vulnerable Republicans next year, forcing the RNC to waste money on primary challenges that they would rather spend defeating vulnerable Democrats in the general election. (V)

GOP Donors Are Furious at the Lack of Results

Republican donors are not going to be sending John McCain any "Get well" cards after he announced his opposition to the CGHJ bill and thus killed it. At a closed door session of the Senate Republican caucus last week, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Cory Gardner (CO), who is charged with getting Republicans elected to the Senate in 2018, had this to say to his colleagues: "Donors are furious. We haven't kept our promise." According to Gardner, both the big megadonors and the grass roots donors are refusing to donate another penny to a party that has the majority but can't get any laws passed. Gardner said that fund-raising was drying up.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who has been deeply involved in health care for years, told reporters that he could count 10 reasons why CGHJ should not even reach the Senate floor, but said it had to pass anyway to fulfill a longstanding campaign promise. When a respected senior senator says that the Senate must pass a bill that isn't even worthy of making it onto the Senate floor, is it surprising that Americans are cynical about politics? (V)

Muslim Travel Ban v3.0 Is Coming Soon

Muslim Travel Ban v1.0 was withdrawn, and v2.0 is set to expire Sunday. The White House has no intention of letting this go, and so they will announce v3.0 sometime this weekend, or early next week. Specifics are thin thus far, but the plan is apparently to develop a more nuanced set of criteria than "people from Qatar are out, people from Saudi Arabia are welcome." This may make v3.0 less susceptible to legal challenges, depending on exactly what the scheme is. On the other hand, the courts all know about v1.0 and v2.0, so they will have some idea as to the purpose of v3.0, regardless of how carefully crafted it is. Thus, the Trump administration isn't home free yet. (Z)

Russians Targeted 21 States in 2016

The Dept. of Homeland Security notified 21 states yesterday that they were targeted by the Russians in 2016. These include Wisconsin, one of the states in which Donald Trump pulled a very narrow upset over Hillary Clinton. The Russian attacks did not change vote totals (which would be very difficult to do). Instead, they were attacks on voter registration systems. If the Russians were able to remove voters from the rolls in heavily Democratic precincts, that would be almost as good as changing actual vote totals. DHS said that some, but not all, of the attacks successfully breached the target systems and got in. DHS did not report (and may not know) what the hackers did once inside. It did not name all of the states whose systems were breached. (V)

Many White House Staffers Planning to Leave in January

According to insiders, many White House staffers are circulating their resumes with plans to leave the administration in January. Staffers from the National Economic Council and the communications shop are already talking to headhunters. The reason they aren't leaving immediately is that staying at a high-profile government job for less than a year looks like you made a mistake.

People want to leave for a myriad of reasons, according to the recruiters. Russiagate is growing, morale is low, and the churn at the top has left some staffers without a patron in an environment characterized by backbiting. In particular, people brought on by the now-departed Steve Bannon or Reince Priebus feel isolated and threatened now. Since January, 23 White House staffers have resigned or been fired. One adviser said: "There is no joy in Trumpworld now."

Staffers wanting to leave is one side of the coin. What about the other: Does anyone want them? In general, companies like to hire people who have worked in the White House, to get an idea of what is really going on there and what the president is actually planning to do. However, companies that have had a strained relationship with this administration—which includes most of the tech sector, for example—are not looking to gobble them up. For these companies, time working for Trump counts against them, rather than for them.

We already have something of a test case in the form of one Sean Spicer. For the last two weeks, he has been on a "redemption" tour of talk shows, awards ceremonies, and other events. He's also got Bob Barnett, one of the best headhunters in the business, working for him. And yet, as Politico's Jack Shafer points out, Spicer is being treated like a pariah. Media outlets don't want him, because of his low Q score. Lobbying organizations don't want him because of his legal exposure. The GOP establishment doesn't want him because he's too much a Trump man, the Trump machine doesn't want him because he's too establishment. There's still time for him to salvage a career, of course, though it's not looking promising thus far. Undoubtedly, all those folks who are polishing their resumes will be tracking his progress with great interest. (V & Z)

Sports and Politics Collide

As noted above, Donald Trump is casting about looking for new and different ways to rile up his base. After all, every week he has to deliver a new episode of "The Apprentice", he has to be President. He knows that a lot of his supporters are football fans (one of the most blue-collar sports), and that just about everyone who supports him and likes football is angry about the protests lodged by former 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick and by other NFL players, who have been kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality. And the base isn't just angry, it's foaming-at-the-mouth angry, as a review of the comments section of any Kaepernick story on any football-related site makes clear.

In any event, The Donald knows how to score a few cheap brownie points when they are there for the taking. He's waded into this situation before, but on Friday he dove into the deep end of the pool, asking an Alabama audience, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He's fired. He's fired!'" The crowd, of course, was quite pleased with this. Because there's no more meaningful way to honor a country whose Constitution calls for freedom of speech than through compulsory displays of patriotism.

Who knows how much of the stuff that Donald Trump comes up with is because he doesn't know what he's talking about, and how much is because he doesn't care about facts? He certainly hasn't had much luck with football in his career; the NFL wouldn't let him in the club, and his only other foray into pro ball ended with him getting sued and the league folding. So it is possible that he doesn't actually know that pro football players have contracts and a union, and that they cannot be fired like a line cook at McDonalds or a contestant on "The Apprentice." Not to mention that talent is scarce, and the fans of—say, the Carolina Panthers—would not be thrilled to be deprived of the services of quarterback and former MVP Cam Newton just because he took a knee during the anthem.

Meanwhile, this wasn't the only sports-related story involving Trump on Friday. The NBA has a different fan base and a different sensibility when it comes to politics. And sometime this weekend, the members of the league's most recent championship team, the Golden State Warriors, will vote as a team as to whether or not they will express interest in the traditional visit to the White House. Inasmuch as three of the team's four biggest stars have already said they will vote against the visit, the outcome of this weekend's meeting is pretty much already known, which is why the administration hasn't actually extended an invitation. This is a clear snub of Trump—the same team was more than happy to visit Barack Obama two years ago—so it will be interesting to see if he brings attention to it. (Z)

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep22 Insurance Industry Strongly Opposes Health-Care Bill
Sep22 Republicans Making Progress on Tax Cuts
Sep22 Trump's Bodyguard Knew about Felix Sater
Sep22 Facebook Will Give Russian Ads to Congress
Sep22 Judge Wants DACA Cases to Move Quickly
Sep22 The Swamp Is Thriving
Sep22 Trump Not So Great With Geography
Sep22 Alabama Senate Candidates Debate
Sep21 Many States Will Lose Federal Funds under the Latest Health-Care Bill
Sep21 Obama Unhappy About Newest Obamacare Replacement
Sep21 RNC Is Paying Trump's Lawyers
Sep21 Trump Is Rising in the Polls
Sep21 Manafort May Have Offered Private Briefings to Russian Oligarch
Sep21 North Korea Responds to Trump's Address
Sep21 Melania Trump Debuts at U.N.
Sep21 Bharara Talks About His Firing
Sep20 Trump Threatens to Totally Destroy North Korea
Sep20 Senate Cancels Private Interview with Trump's Lawyer
Sep20 Ryan Is Opposed to Fixing the ACA
Sep20 Kobach Is Using a Personal Email Account
Sep20 Senate Confirms Trump's Pick for Solicitor General
Sep20 Trump Slams the Emmys
Sep19 Murray and Alexander Are the Key Players in the Obamacare Repeal Bill
Sep19 Manafort Is in Deep Trouble
Sep19 What Is Mueller Really Up to?
Sep19 Trump Wants Military Parade on Fourth of July
Sep19 Clinton Won't Rule Out Challenging the Legitimacy of Trump's Victory
Sep19 Democrats Fear that Relitigating the Primary Will Hurt Them in 2020
Sep19 Did Moore Have a "Macaca" Moment?
Sep19 Menendez Trial Proceeding at a Snail's Pace
Sep18 Trump Voters Want Him to Tell U.N.: America Comes First
Sep18 A New Travel Ban Is Likely Coming
Sep18 So Much for Trump's Twitter Discipline
Sep18 Trump's Lawyers Aren't Getting Along
Sep18 The Customer Base of Trump's Businesses Is Changing
Sep18 Trump's Immigration Policies Could Wreak Havoc in Idaho
Sep18 Rex Tillerson: The Loneliest Ranger
Sep18 Emmys Have a Strong Anti-Trump Flavor
Sep17 Trump's Decisions Not Exactly Etched in Stone
Sep17 Trump Won't Get Most of His Budget Cuts
Sep17 Pence Loses His Press Secretary
Sep17 It's Definitely Trump vs. Bannon in Alabama
Sep17 Don't Tell the President Which Washington Rally Had the Higher Attendance
Sep17 Trump Associates on Their Own When it Comes to Legal Costs
Sep17 California Declares Itself a "Sanctuary State"
Sep16 Trump: Build the Wall Later
Sep16 Trump is Successfully Killing Obamacare
Sep16 Republicans Still Pushing Their Hail Mary on Health Care
Sep16 Hatch: Tax Reform Is harder than Health Care
Sep16 Trump Lashes Out at ESPN