As the 2014 Senate midterm elections were heating up, pundit predictions were all over the map, but on this much they agreed: Democratic seats in Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota were sure to go to Republicans, and Kentucky and Kansas, without question, would remain with the GOP.
Headed into the homestretch now, a bizarre series of events has upended that calculation. A corruption scandal and a third party candidate in South Dakota have thrown that race wide open, while Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) finds himself badly behind an independent challenger after the Democratic nominee dropped out.
Meanwhile, in Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) finds himself trailing in a recent survey and Republican Georgia candidate David Perdue, the former head of Dollar General, is under fire for declaring how proud he is of his record of outsourcing. HuffPost’s Pollster model still has McConnell and Perdue ahead.
But Kansas, South Dakota, Georgia, Kentucky — these are not the states Republicans were most worried about.
Seizing the opportunity in South Dakota, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is putting a million dollars into the race to succeed retiring Sen. Tim Johnson (D), despite comments from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggesting that the seat had already been lost.
Bloomberg Politics first reported Wednesday that the DSCC would commit money to television ads bashing the Republican nominee, former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds.
Recent polling has shown Rounds stuck in the mid-30s with both Democratic nominee Rick Weiland and former Republican Sen. Larry Pressler, who is now running as an independent, trailing just a few points behind. There is also one more independent in the race, Gordon Howie, who may also draw conservative votes away from Rounds.
Though Pressler has not said which party he would caucus with were he to be elected, he endorsed President Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012. The DSCC presumably hopes that the cash would damage Rounds enough that Weiland, or at least Pressler, would come out on top Nov. 4.
The latest development proves Weiland’s predictions right. The Democrat, who completed a tour of every one of the state’s 311 incorporated towns, told The Huffington Post in March that national Democrats would start to notice his strategy, despite Reid’s comment that Weiland “wasn’t my choice" and that Democrats would likely lose the seat.
"I think there’s a possibility that they’ll get engaged here," Weiland said. "I’m feeling that this race is just starting to get on the national radar screen. The national party has been pretty focused on some of the more vulnerable incumbents, some of the higher-profile open seats, but I hold out that at some point South Dakota will be on there. I’m absolutely convinced I need to continue doing what I’m doing, working as hard as I can, to get this race in a place where it is viewed as a competitive race."
Weiland senior adviser Steve Jarding told HuffPost Wednesday that the DSCC’s new involvement showed that Weiland’s campaign has picked up momentum.
"We’ve been hoping for a long time that’d we’d get attention, certainly from the committee, and so we think the race is where we hoped it would get," he said. "We want the spotlight on all the candidates. For a long time there wasn’t really a spotlight, it was kind of just ‘Mike Rounds is going to win,’ and now clearly there are folks who say it’s not automatic that he’s going to win. The Democrats might actually have a shot."
The DSCC’s cash infusion follows the lead of Mayday PAC, founded by Harvard professor Larry Lessig. The group committed $1 million to Weiland earlier this week, in an acknowledgement that the Democrat has made campaign finance reform a central tenet of his bid.
Who would’ve thought that SD-Sen may save the day for the Dems?
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-KY) is hitting Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) hard with a new ad taking aim at his overall character — when it comes to the basics like troop funding, the VA and the farm bill, Mitch McConnell has been MIA, they say.
First we learn Mitch McConnell skipped hundreds of committee meetings. Where was he?
He didn’t show up to vote on troop funding, the farm bill, and the VA … on days he found time for a lobbyist fundraiser and was on two TV shows.
Skipped a meeting on rural jobs but toasted the Chinese Vice President for “China’s great achievements.”
And the rest of the time, he created gridlock.
30 years is long enough.
This ad is a solid connect for the Grimes campaign. It lays out a very simple narrative that McConnell has not been focused on issues that matter to most people, on both sides of the aisle. On basic matters of character like funding our VA and troops, McConnell couldn’t be bothered to show up, sometimes because he was busy making a TV appearance or hang with lobbyists.
Several of these votes McConnell missed were “mark ups”. A mark up is an important part of the legislative process, in which members amend and rewrite proposed bills. McConnell missed mark up votes on some pretty big issues, like the VA, homeland security and the farm bill and he missed votes on troop funding.
Some DC politicians operate under the idea that it’s their job to make TV appearances and hype up their party’s talking points rather than be an actual part of the legislative process. In the past few years, it’s almost become comical with Republicans appearing on TV to demand information that is being released in a hearing or committee meeting that they are missing in order to appear on TV and demand said info.
So it is with McConnell, who has been in DC for 30 years and managed to focus most of his energy on his own rise in power as a party leader and in latter years, obstructing every breath President Barack Obama takes. McConnell is the 10th richest senator, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and in 2012, his estimated worth was $22.8 million. While there’s nothing wrong with being wealthy, McConnell behaves legislatively like he has been negatively impacted by the entitlement.
The Republican Senate Minority Leader has voted against raising the minimum wage 17 times. He has filibustered recent attempts to raise the minimum wage and has vowed to continue blocking a raise for hard working Americans. He still hasn’t managed to come up with a jobs plan for Kentucky — but then, he has made it clear that he doesn’t think it’s his job to do so.
Mitch McConnell admitted in a leaked tape that the Koch Brothers are running the Republican Party, so of course their agenda isn’t to be around for the legislative process, let alone care about our veterans or the long term unemployed, women, children, the elderly… If your name isn’t Koch, you don’t count.
Grimes spokesperon Charly Norton charged in a statement that Mitch McConnell puts himself above Kentucky families, “After 30 years in Washington, Mitch McConnell clearly cares more about himself and his party than Kentucky families. McConnell has even confessed that his national party ‘takes precedence’ over issues important to Kentucky and he doesn’t have time to show up to work. The people of Kentucky deserve better than a Senator who can’t help save their jobs because he doesn’t show up to his own.”
The problem for Mitch McConnell in this very tight Kentucky Senate race is that while he has Koch money to buy endless misleading ads, it’s so easy to target him with his relentless failures for the people as a Senator. The Grimes campaign has managed to quickly sum up why Kentuckians should ditch Mitch.
A GOP Senate means Obama’s executive branch nominees could face major hurdles if McConnell or his members don’t like them. Some nominees may be nonstarters; others may be subject to negotiations with McConnell. You want that nominee? Give me this.
"That’s going to create a dilemma for Obama even on executive nominees," said Ornstein. “Even for people he’d like to see leave, he will probably have to convince them to stay because there won’t be much of an opportunity to replace them. … It’s always tough in the final two years of an administration.”
The stakes rise enormously if a Supreme Court seat were to be vacated in Obama’s final two years. A Republican majority would have a big incentive to run out the clock on any Obama nominee and wait until after the 2016 election to confirm the next justice.
"A Republican Senate would complicate President Obama’s ability to fill a Supreme Court vacancy should one occur, and likely hinder him in winning confirmation of his chosen appellate court nominees," said Judith Schaeffer, vice president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a progressive legal advocacy group.
Progressive legal advocates worry that a McConnell-led Senate would spell problems for Obama to confirm his picks for judges.
"While the progressive base is not as fervent over the courts and judicial nominations as is the conservative base, Majority Leader Harry Reid has demonstrated his understanding of the importance of these matters, and has used the last two years to help bring about a dramatic reduction in the number of vacancies," said Schaeffer. "Obviously, his power to continue in this direction would be drastically reduced if the Senate were to change hands."
h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM
BREAKING: The Shutdown Is Imminent Again: Republicans Threaten To Shut Down The Government If Obama Extends Relief To Immigrants
A growing number of Republicans are floating another government shutdown.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) floated the possibility of shutting down the government on Wednesday if President Obama issues an executive action granting deportation relief to more undocumented immigrants. King’s comments come just one day after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) suggested that Republicans in the Senate use “funding mechanisms to address this issue.”
“If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear,” King said in remarks before the Westside Conservative Breakfast Club in Urbandale, Iowa, adding that “all bets are off” on passing a measure to keep the government running past October.
“I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution and how we might deal with that,” he added.
Congress will have just 10 working days to pass a continuing resolution after it returns from summer vacation on September 8. Several Republicans have already threatened to hold up the measure over renewal of the Export-Import Bank and the administration’s proposed environmental regulations, though no party leaders have yet endorsed using must-pass legislation to prevent the administration’s forthcoming immigration action.
Speaking to Breitbart, Rubio said he would be “interested to see what kinds of ideas my colleagues have about using funding mechanisms to address this issue.”
Earlier this month, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told a Politico reporter that Republicans would strong arm President Obama into adopting a host of Republican policy priorities, from repealing the Affordable Care Act to undoing environmental regulations, but did not specifically mention immigration.
In the House, Republicans approved a bill that would end the Obama administration’s Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which has allowed young immigrants to obtain work permits and remain in the country. The measure would also prohibit the president from extending the program to other undocumented people. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) did not say if he plans to attach the measure to the continuing resolution.
On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called King’s latest threat, “a real shame.” The government shutdown that ended last October took $24 billion out of the U.S. economy, according to a Standard & Poor’s estimate, and a loss of 120,000 new jobs by the White House’s estimate.
Source: Igor Volsky for ThinkProgress
In a letter to the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, the Kentucky Democratic Party is calling for an investigation into whether Mitch McConnell used official government resources to solicit contributions to his reelection campaign.
The letter reads in part:
Mitch McConnell is no stranger to unethical behavior. In 2013,CREW summed up McConnell’s ethical issues, “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is a five-term senator from Kentucky. His ethics issues stem from his possible use of Senate staff and resources to conduct opposition research for his campaign. He was included in CREW’s 2007, 2008, and 2009 reports on congressional corruption for unrelated matters.”
Kentucky Republicans launched their own complaint against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes with the FEC that accused her of renting her campaign bus from her father at a below market rate. If this is true, the bus would be an illegal campaign gift.
Selling access to the Senate Dining Room is felonious degree of corruption. The fact that Republicans can only answer this serious charge by talking about a bus demonstrates the severity of the potential offense. None of this will be settled before Election Day, but it is extremely doubtful that the Senate Ethic Committee will get involved before November.
The Kentucky Senate race has gotten very ugly. Mitch McConnell has been corrupt for decades, but he has become so safe in his incumbency that he confidently flaunts his crimes out in the open. Republicans call President Obama a dictator and a king. They talk about impeachment for fantasy offenses, but it is their own Senate leader who is abusing his office and public resources to stay in power.
Instead of measuring the drapes in the Majority Leader’s office, Sen. McConnell deserves to be fitted for an orange jumpsuit.
In the course of Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign, he has relied on two lines of attack: Trying to convince voters that Alison Lundergan Grimes is a black man from Kenya and accusing her of being a foot soldier in the so-called “war on coal.” But as it turns out:McConnell’s wife, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, sits on the board of directors of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has plunged $50 million into the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” initiative, an advocacy effort with the expressed goal of killing the coal industry.Oops. And there’s more:
In 2011, Bloomberg Philanthropies teamed up with the Sierra Club to target coal plants for closure in an effort to “end our nation’s reliance on dirty coal, plant-by-plant, community-by-community, and state-by-state,” according to Bloomberg Philanthropies’ website … The organization boasts that it has “prevented 150 coal plants from being built,” and has taken direct action against 16 plants in McConnell’s homestate of Kentucky, arguing that coal production is a health hazard and is harmful to the environment.Chao’s relationship with Bloomberg Philanthropies isn’t the only group she represents that has taken a stand against the coal industry. She also sits on the Board of Directors at Wells Fargo, which in 2013 announced that it would divest from surface mining of coal in Appalachia due to environmental concerns.In a recent ad, McConnell said:"I will be the leader of the forces that take on the war on coal. We’ve got to fight back in this war on coal. Damn right. We’re not going to sit there and take it, I can assure you that.”Yeah, Mitch isn’t going to just sit there and take it. But the McConnell family’s bank account is going to sit there and take in the hundreds of thousands of dollars that his favorite campaign surrogate is raking in for waging that “war on coal.”
In a new TV ad, Mitch McConnell’s wife speaks directly to the camera and proclaims the Senate Republican leader’s support for laws to protect women from domestic abuse. “Have you ever noticed how some liberals feel entitled to speak on behalf of all women? As if every woman agrees with Barack Obama. Alison Lundergan Grimes’ gender-based attacks are desperate and false. Mitch McConnell cosponsored the original Violence Against Women Act – he’s always supported its purpose. Mitch voted for even stronger protections than Obama’s agenda will allow,” says Elaine Chao.
The ad oversimplifies McConnell’s complicated history with VAWA, one in which he has voted against final passage and reauthorization of the act, as TPM reported last year during a less high-profile dustup in the Kentucky Senate race.
Chao’s assertion that McConnell cosponsored the original VAWA is accurate — he did so in 1991. But when the act came up for a vote in 1993, McConnell was no longer a cosponsor, and hevoted against the final legislation.
In 2005, the legislation was reauthorized by a voice vote in the Senate. Then in 2012, McConnellvoted against a Senate-approved bipartisan version of VAWA which stalled in the House. In 2013, a similar bill to renew and expand VAWA passed the Senate with 78 votes; McConnell was one of 22 senators to vote against it. That version was eventually taken up and passed by the Republican-controlled House and signed into law.
That’s the basis for which Grimes’ recent attack ad claims McConnell voted “two times against the Violence Against Women Act.”
Chao asserts that McConnell has “always supported [VAWA’s] purpose” and “voted for even stronger protections.”
The latter claim is debatable. In 2012, McConnell supported a scaled-back VAWA alternativepushed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). It largely renewed the expiring programs but omitted protections for LGBT women, Native Americans and undocumented immigrants who suffered from domestic abuse. At the time, Republicans hardly sought to argue that their bill included “stronger protections” for women — they instead said the tribal jurisdiction provisions in the bipartisan VAWA proposal were unconstitutional.
The Grimes campaign blasted the new ad in a statement on Tuesday. “Simply saying, ‘I’m married to a woman’ doesn’t speak loud enough. Your actions and record over 30 years in Washington indicate where and how you will stand up for women,” said Grimes spokeswoman Charly Norton.
The new McConnell ad is an attempt to defend against relentless attacks by Grimes, the U.S. Senate nominee from Kentucky, portraying the longtime incumbent as anti-woman. A large part of the Grimes assault involves the Violence Against Women Act, a federal law to fund programs to combat domestic abuse. It isn’t the first time the McConnell campaign has been defensive over VAWA.
"Alison, supporting the Obama agenda isn’t pro-woman," Chao says in the ad. "It’s anti-Kentucky."
The Kentucky Senate race is neck and neck. McConnell is ahead by just 1 percentage point, according to the TPM PollTracker average.
Source: Sahil Kapur for Talking Points Memo
At the Fancy Farm picnic, Democratic Senate candidate Alison Grimes lit up Mitch McConnell, and ripped the heart of out his campaign with a blistering speech that made Sen. McConnell’s remarks look stale and out of date.
Video of the speeches:
Grimes began by calling the Fancy Farms Picnic Mitch McConnell’s retirement party. She immediately took a shot a McConnell for calling her an empty dress. She brought up McConnell’s Duke ad gaffe. She accused McConnell of forgetting about Kentucky. She said, “Thirty-five is my age, but it is also Mitch McConnell’s approval rating.” She said, “If Mitch McConnell were a TV show he would be Mad Men.” She said that thanks to McConnell, D.C. stands for doesn’t care. Grimes slammed McConnell for opposing the minimum wage. She adopted the doesn’t care call and refrain with the crowd.
Grimes slammed McConnell and said that McConnell doesn’t care about women, students, jobs, coal miners. She pledged that bringing jobs to the Commonwealth would be her number one priority. She said, “One of us represents the establishment. One of us represents Kentucky.” Grimes hammered home the issue of jobs. Her point was, “Gridlock has consequences.”
She called out McConnell directly for not wanting to appear with her or debate her. She said, “Senator, you can run from your failed record, and I intend to hold you accountable.”
Sen. McConnell followed Grimes and said, “This is the place where Republicans tell it like it is.” McConnell immediately began by bashing President Obama for not going down to visit the border. McConnell kept running against the Obama. His whole campaign can be summed up with him saying, “By any standard, Barack Obama has been a disaster for the country.” McConnell went on to compare Grimes to Obama, and claimed that Grimes is inexperienced like Obama and like Obama when she gets in trouble calls Bill Clinton.
McConnell said, “Kentucky is under attack from Barack Obama’s administration, and we need to fight back.” McConnell droned on with his standard Obama and liberal media bashing. McConnell brought up the bitter conservatives clinging to their guns and religion stuff.
Like Mitch McConnell, this speech was old and tired. There was little difference between McConnell’s 2013 Fancy Farm speech and his 2014 speech. Alison Grimes tore into McConnell because she knew that this might be her last chance to share the stage with him.
McConnell is dodging Grimes. He has been refusing to appear with her, and debate her. Alison Grimes has the energy and hunger that is clearly missing in Old Man Mitch. McConnell remembers how it looked when John McCain shared the stage with then candidate Obama in 2008. McConnell looks, sounds, and acts stale. A debate with Grimes would be a disaster for him.
After Alison Grimes finished with Mitch McConnell today, all that was left were the tattered Republican talking points from decades past. Mitch McConnell is on the ropes, and his dubious performance today makes one wonder if any amount of ad spending will be able to save him.
Could the federal government shut down again this fall? Th idea sounds absurd on its face, especially one month before an election, and one year after Republicans took a drubbing in the polls for forcing a shutdown over Obamacare. But it could happen. Congress is currently on course for a battle to keep the federal government funded when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. Even though the two parties agreed to a discretionary spending level of $1.014 trillion for fiscal year 2015, the appropriations process has screeched to a halt over extraneous policy issues and procedural disputes. And so a stopgap measure appears inevitable.
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Thursday the House will consider a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown once Congress returns from summer recess on September 8. The funding measure will probably expire in mid-November, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a deputy majority whip, told TPM.
Once Congress returns from the August recess, it’ll have a mere 10 working days to agree to a bill before the government partially shuts down. And there are two contentious issues in particular that are roped in with the CR debate.
The first is reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which supports billions of dollars in U.S. exports and thousands of American jobs through loan guarantees and other products. Its charter expires on Oct. 1, and many House conservatives, including incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), are enthusiastic about shutting the bank down, bashing it as an emblem of corporate welfare and crony capitalism. Senate Democratic leaders recognize that and may force the issue by attaching renewal of the bank to their CR.
"Well, the thing we’d like to do is pass a long-term approval of the Export-Import Bank but we certainly don’t want to let it expire. We’re weighing all options," New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, told TPM when asked if leadership will attach Ex-Im to the CR.
Passing such a bill through the Senate shouldn’t be a problem. Democrats broadly support Ex-Im renewal and a significant number of Senate Republicans do, too. “I think we do need to have an Export-Import Bank because we do need to be global competitively,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said. “We don’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot.”
The question, in that case, becomes whether House Republican leaders back down and accept such a bill. That would anger conservatives who are campaigning to shut the bank down and cost Republicans some support within their own ranks.
"I think it should be a clean CR," Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) told TPM. "I may end up opposing a CR if it has [Ex-Im] attached to it. Because I oppose the reauthorization."
The second issue is the battle over President Barack Obama’s recently proposed rules on coal-fired power plants to combat climate change. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who faces a tough reelection fight in his coal-heavy state, has aggressively fought to attach his amendment blocking the rule to appropriations legislation — an idea Senate Republicansstrongly support — and has vowed to continue offering it on all government funding measures.
The problem is Senate Republicans would arguably feel most of the pain of a government shutdown in the Nov. 4 elections, jeopardizing their chance to win the majority. So it’s unclear they’ll push the issue. With Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) promising that the amendment won’t fly in the Senate, McConnell faces a choice: filibuster government funding legislation or surrender his best opportunity to reverse the climate change rules.
McConnell will want to avoid doing anything that damages his odds of becoming majority leader in January. But his fighting words make it hard to back off.
"Everyone knows the administration’s war on coal jobs is little more than an elitist crusade that threatens to undermine Kentucky’s traditionally low utility rates, splinter our manufacturing base, and ship well-paying jobs overseas," McConnell said Thursday on the Senate floor, promising he’ll "keep fighting" for his amendment.
Portman said he’s hopeful that because both sides have agreed on how much the government should spend, “I think we can avoid a government shutdown.”
Cole, a Boehner ally, also expressed hope Congress can avert a shutdown.
"I think so," the congressman told TPM, although he added that it’s not a certainty. "Could you stumble into a bad situation? It’s always possible. But I think people are working hard to avoid that sort of thing."
Here are three issues where McConnell’s campaign has obscured his stance.
1. Ryan budget? What Ryan budget?
McConnell has been an aggressive supporter of the controversial budget blueprints by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to slash taxes and privatize Medicare — he voted for them when they came up in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
Recently Grimes attacked him in an ad claiming the 2011 version of Ryan’s budget would raise a retiree’s Medicare costs by $6,000. In response McConnell’s campaign backed away from his previous alliance with Ryan’s budget, telling FactCheck.org, “There is no way to speculate if [McConnell] would have voted for final passage without having debated amendments.” His campaign made a similar comment to a WFPL reporter.
To be sure, Grimes’ attack was embellished — the $6,000 figure applied only to the 2011 Ryan budget, not the updated versions, and would impact those 55 and under at time of passage. But McConnell’s campaign didn’t argue that, nor did it respond to TPM’s requests to explain what he’d want to change in the budget.
Instead he distanced himself from a proposal that is an article of faith in the GOP, which he strongly supported and united nearly every GOP senator behind.
2. Obamacare is unconnected to … Obamacare
It is a cruel irony that McConnell, Obamacare’s most formidable enemy, hails from a state where it is working considerably well. In May, faced with the fact that some 413,000 Kentuckians are benefiting from Obamacare via its popular state exchange Kynect, McConnell told home state reporters the two were “unconnected” when asked if he wanted to dismantle Kynect.
His campaign spokeswoman explained his position: “If Obamacare is repealed, Kentucky should decide for itself whether to keep Kynect or set up a different marketplace,” said Allison Moore.
The stance is unconnected to Obamacare realities. Kynect is inoperable without the health care law which provides the subsidies, consumer protections and coverage mandates from which Kentuckians are benefit. Without Obamacare, Kynect is hollow. McConnell’s comments would make more sense if he had an alternate plan to reconstruct Kynect in a world without Obamacare. But doesn’t appear to have one. When TPM put that question to McConnell he responded, “Yeah, we’ve already addressed that issue, and I don’t have anything to add.”
3. Violence Against Women Act? I’m all for it!
Women voters are ordinarily a sore spot for McConnell, but more so this year as Grimes makes an aggressive pitch for them. Last August, McConnell held an event in Kentucky called “Women For Team Mitch” and distributed packets to reporters which, among other things, featured a constituent touting his ostensible support for the Violence Against Women Act, an anti-domestic-abuse law that Congress had renewed just months earlier.
The problem: McConnell has consistently voted against the act. Although he did cosponsor VAWA legislation in 1991, which his campaign testimonial touted, the packet neglected to mention that McConnell voted against passage of the bill when it originally came up in 1993. He also voted against reauthorizing it in 2012 and 2013, the only two times that Congress has held recorded votes to renew it.
McConnell’s campaign wouldn’t comment on the matter. During the VAWA debates in 2012 and 2013 he supported a scaled-back version which excluded protections for LGBT victims, Native Americans and undocumented immigrants. A bipartisan version which included those protections eventually became law.
Mitch McConnell: say one thing, do another. Let’s send him packing in November at the ballot box by replacing him with Alison Lundergan Grimes.
H/T: Sahil Kapur at TPM
Richard Martinez’s son Christopher was among the six college students murdered this weekend in Isla Vista, California. It’s impossible to fathom the grief that Martinez must be experiencing right now, and the simple fact that he is upright and mobile is an act of tremendous courage. Which is precisely what makes everything else that he has done in the days since he lost his son all the more astounding.
From his first public statement — a blistering and emotional indictment of “craven” politicians who refuse to act on even moderate gun reform — to the tribute to Christopher he delivered Tuesday before a crowd of thousands, Martinez has been willing to show his raw and devastating grief to the world. He has made himself the gnarled and anguished face of our broken system — the lives that it takes and the lives that it ruins. His vulnerability and righteous, focused anger is unlike anything we’ve seen in response to a mass shooting.
And it should scare the shit out of the National Rifle Association, the gun lobby and the cowardly politicians who use these deadly weapons as literal and figurative political props.
It isn’t just the force of Martinez’s emotions or political conviction that make him powerful. He is currently shouldering the unimaginable grief of being yet another parent who has lost yet another child in yet another mass shooting. He has seen this happen before, he knows the political script that’s already playing out. He has listened as gun apologists — time and again — urge the nation not to “politicize” a national tragedy out of respect for the families, and then watched them turn on these same families in order to protect our deadly — and immensely profitable — culture of guns. And he’s using it. All of it.
Days after 26 people were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut, Wayne LaPierre denounced gun reform advocates for “exploit[ing] the tragedy for political gain.” Months later, Sarah Palin echoed the sentiment. ”Leaders are in it for themselves, not for the American people,” she told a crowd that summer, before effectively declaring how proud she was that her son Trig would grow up in a country where men like Elliot Rodger and Adam Lanza can buy guns and hoard ammunition without authorities batting an eyelash.
Martinez may be the single most powerful force we have against this kind of slithering political cowardice. He’s already familiar with the political dirty tricks and knows where the conversation will eventually turn — that the pro-gun crowd is going to come out hard against him, just as they have turned on other parents and survivors. “Right now, there hasn’t been much blowback from the other side,” Martinez noted during a Tuesday interview with MSNBC. “But I anticipate that once my grieving period is over, the gloves will come off. I don’t think it’s going to be easy. They are going to try to do to me the same thing that they’ve done to all of these people. But I have a message for them: My son is dead. There is nothing you could do to me that is worse than that.”
I can’t imagine a more direct rebuttal to the LaPierres and the Palins in this country. To the ridiculous rifle-holding Mitch McConnells and every other ludicrous coward currently walking the halls of Congress and state legislatures across the country. These are the people who — as Martinez has made explicit — are responsible for these terribly predictable and preventable tragedies. Because they have the power to implement sensible reform, but instead stand by and do nothing while more people die every single day.
Martinez also knows that while it’s the public’s job to hold our leadership’s feet to the fire, he’s not the one responsible for having all the answers. “Where’s the leadership on this? We elect these people and we give them power, and it’s just outrageous,” he said during the same interview. “My son just died a few days ago, and you expect me to have the answers to these questions? There are people out there who have the answers. Why isn’t our leadership rounding these people up?”
But Martinez’s grasp of the issue puts most of our elected officials to shame. “When you asked me about solutions, here’s what I’ve learned,” he explained. “This is a complicated issue, but there’s a certain commonality between these events. Typically, all of these incidents involved […] mental health issues, gun violence and violence against women. These three problems are almost always combined.”
Like other parents whose lives have been upturned by gun violence — women like Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, and Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin — Martinez recognizes and is naming the pattern of violence in the most public way imaginable. But while Congress has so far been wildly successful at shutting down gun reform efforts, parents like Martinez, McBath and Fulton — who are electrifying the national conversation and building solidarity among other families forever changed by rampant access to deadly weapons — may be impossible for them to ignore. They are the most powerful messengers we could ask for.
Martinez is brave, destroyed, weeping, loud, furious and unpredictable in his grief. He is channeling all of that with a singular focus: Change. Or as he said that first day, introducing himself to the world as the grieving but determined father of Christopher Michaels-Martinez: “Not one more.”
“For me to live with this and honor his memory, I will continue to go anywhere and talk to anybody for as long as they want and are willing to listen to me about this problem. I’m not going to shut up,” he said Tuesday. He really seems to mean it.
Sen. Mitch McConnell has some explaining to do.
What in the world did he mean last week when he told reporters that repeal of the Affordable Care Act — “root and branch,” as he has demanded many times — is “unconnected” to the future of Kynect, Kentucky’s health insurance exchange?
Asked specifically if Kynect should be dismantled, McConnell said: “I think that’s unconnected to my comments about the overall question.”
Nothing could be more connected — or should be more important to Kentucky’s senior senator — than the fates of the more than 400,000 Kentuckians who are getting health insurance, many for the first time, and the federal Affordable Care Act, which is making that possible.
Repeal the federal law, which McConnell calls “Obamacare,” and the state exchange would collapse.
Kynect could not survive without the ACA’s insurance reforms, including no longer allowing insurance companies to cancel policies when people get sick or deny them coverage because of pre-existing conditions, as well as the provision ending lifetime limits on benefit payments. (Kentucky tried to enact such reforms in the 1990s and found out we were too small a market to do it alone.)
Kentucky’s exchange also could not survive without the federal funding and tax credits that are helping 300,000 previously uninsured Kentuckians gain access to regular preventive medicine, including colonoscopies, mammograms and birth control without co-pays.
As a result of a law that McConnell wants to repeal, one in 10 of his constituents no longer have to worry that an illness or injury will drive them into personal bankruptcy or a premature grave.
Repealing the federal law would also end the Medicaid expansion that is enabling Kentucky to expand desperately needed drug treatment and mental health services.
Kynect is the Affordable Care Act is Obamacare — even if Kentuckians are confused about which is which.
And, really, it’s no wonder that polls show many Kentuckians don’t know that Kynect is a direct product of President Barack Obama’s landmark law. How can average people be expected to understand if the Senate’s Republican leader still hasn’t figured it out, or at least is pretending there’s no connection?
We asked the McConnell campaign for a clarification and were sent the usual talking points and a statement saying, “If Obamacare is repealed, Kentucky should decide for itself whether to keep Kynect or set up a different marketplace,” a suggestion that is unconnected to reality.
Kentuckians are waiting to learn if their five-term senator understands — or cares — how much is at stake.
"Recently, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) attacked his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, for out-of-state fundraisers. A spokeswoman for his campaign stated, “‘It’s] no surprise that Obama’s liberal Hollywood friends are supporting Alison Lundergan Grimes’ campaign against Mitch McConnell. They’re obviously not concerned about Kentucky’s representation.’ In other words, they’re mad at her for fundraising out of state…or so they’d like you to believe.
The reality of the situation is that McConnell’s own fundraising has been mostly out of state. In fact, New York Daily News reports that a whopping eighty percent of the $20 million he’s raised this cycle has come from out of state. And although he hasn’t made any of his own trips to Hollywood for fundraising, he made six trips to Manhattan for at least eight different fundraisers, collecting money from fiscally conservative Wall Streeters and business executives. So it’s fine if you raise money from out of state, in McConnell’s book, but only if it’s Wall Street cash.”