GOP’s midterm peril: What if they win on killing Obamacare?

MISHAWAKA, Ind. — Republican candidates are trying to have it both ways on Obamacare.

On one hand, Republicans are still campaigning against the law, arguing a strong election result will allow them one more shot at repealing the Affordable Care Act with GOP majorities in both chambers. And many high-profile Senate GOP candidates support a lawsuit that would scuttle Obamacare if successful in the nation’s courts, a case that will be heard by a federal judge in September.

Yet at the same time Republicans are still touting the law’s most popular provisions, arguing that after it is struck down they will be able to preserve protections for pre-existing conditions by passing a new bill. GOP challengers in four of the most competitive Senate races support the lawsuit.

“Sure, anything that’s going to actually get rid of it, yes,” said Indiana GOP Senate nominee Mike Braun of the GOP lawsuit to Continue reading “GOP’s midterm peril: What if they win on killing Obamacare?”

Dems threaten to sue over release of Kavanaugh documents

Senate Democrats are willing to take their fight over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s paper trail all the way to court.

On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said his caucus is preparing to sue the National Archives if it is unable to meet the party’s Freedom of Information Act request for hundreds of thousands of pages of Kavanaugh documents that have not yet been disclosed publicly. If the Archives has not met Democrats’ request in 20 days, Schumer and his members say they will go to court.

“We’d much rather follow the bipartisan process … now Republican obstruction requires an extraordinary response,” Schumer told reporters. “We stand ready to sue the National Archives for Judge Kavanaugh’s full records if necessary.”

The minority leader also said he would meet with Kavanaugh next week, breaking a long standoff between Schumer and the White House over the documents. Continue reading “Dems threaten to sue over release of Kavanaugh documents”

Some Republicans uneasy with Trump cutting off Brennan

Some Republican senators are panning President Donald Trump’s move to yank former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, warning about the precedent it will set for national security.

Even as much of the GOP either backs the president or professes ignorance of Trump’s decision to revoke Brennan’s clearance and threaten future action against other critics, Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Susan Collins of Maine said they disagreed with the move. Collins, a member of the Intelligence Committee, criticized Brennan as “far too political” but said that unless he disclosed classified information she didn’t “see the grounds" for revoking his security clearance.

“It’s unwise. Because generally, recently retired intelligence officials have a lot to contribute to the analysis that is being done,” Collins told reporters.

“Without having some kind of tangible reasons for doing so, which there may be that I’m not aware of, I don’t like it at all. Continue reading “Some Republicans uneasy with Trump cutting off Brennan”

‘Sleepin’ Joe’ hears alarm bells in Indiana Senate brawl

INDIANAPOLIS — Most of the red-state Democratic senators have larger-than-life personalities and storied political lineages that have allowed them to succeed despite their party label, from a blunt-talking Montana farmer to a cunning former prosecutor from Missouri.

Then there’s Joe Donnelly.

Privately referred to by some colleagues as the “accidental senator” because of his good fortune in drawing a deeply flawed GOP opponent in 2012, the first-term Indiana senator’s presence is often barely noticed in the Capitol. His heads-down style distinguishes him among a quintet of centrist Democrats scrapping to survive this fall.

Donnelly rarely gives news conferences and stays away from cable news. For years, he assiduously avoided reporters who blanket the Capitol hallways. Now, the burly 62-year-old is running for reelection like a city council candidate, highlighting small-bore accomplishments and projecting an agreeable demeanor that contrasts sharply with what comes out of the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue Continue reading “‘Sleepin’ Joe’ hears alarm bells in Indiana Senate brawl”

GOP asks for Trump’s help in contentious Arizona Senate primary

National Republicans are asking President Donald Trump to intervene in the Arizona Senate primary amid rising fears that the GOP will nominate an unelectable candidate and cede the seat to Democrats in November.

During a recent phone call, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) asked the president to endorse GOP Rep. Martha McSally, widely viewed as the establishment favorite in the Aug. 28 primary, according to two senior Republicans familiar with the conversation.

Trump, according to one of the Republicans, was non-committal and did not say yes or no to the request.

McSally is facing former state Sen. Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, both of whom are running as conservative insurgents. Polls have consistently shown McSally leading in the primary, but Republicans fear that if Ward or Arpaio win the nomination it would effectively hand a victory to the expected Democratic nominee, Rep. Continue reading “GOP asks for Trump’s help in contentious Arizona Senate primary”

GOP chairman calls on Trump administration to explain tariff exclusions

Sen. Ron Johnson is demanding that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross explain the administration’s thinking on how companies can be excluded from the administration’s tariffs, claiming that his state’s businesses find it "arbitrary" and it has cost just one Wisconsin business millions of dollars.

In a letter to Ross obtained by POLITICO, Johnson (R-Wis.) said businesses in his state are complaining about the hurdles for applying for an exclusion from the steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the administration on U.S. allies. And the Homeland Security chairman said the increased tariffs are hurting Wisconsin companies.

"The Department’s denial of the exclusion request has resulted in [one] Wisconsin business incurring an additional $2.6 million tariff cost that can not be used to expand production or to pay salaries of new employees," Johnson said in the letter, citing an internal committee correspondence. "Across the country, many businesses share the same Continue reading “GOP chairman calls on Trump administration to explain tariff exclusions”

Key red-state Democrat sides with Trump on wall funding

INDIANAPOLIS — One of the most vulnerable Democratic senators said he supports giving President Donald Trump billions of dollars for his border wall — a sharp break from the rest of the party planning to spurn Trump’s wall in spending negotiations this fall.

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who is facing a new round of ads criticizing his position on immigration this week, said that Trump should get much more than the $1.6 billion the Senate Appropriations Committee has been preparing to send him. Trump has repeatedly threatened to shut the government down either before or after the election without a significant infusion of money to fulfill his signature campaign promise, often telling lawmakers he wants $5 billion in the September spending bill.

The moderate Democrat says he does “not want under any circumstances” a shutdown. So he said Congress should “absolutely” provide the president with a larger amount Continue reading “Key red-state Democrat sides with Trump on wall funding”

McCaskill sets Kavanaugh meeting, with other Dems to follow

A fourth vulnerable red-state Democratic senator set a date on Friday to meet with Brett Kavanaugh — and more liberal colleagues are poised to follow in the coming days.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) plans to sit down with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee on Aug. 21, her office said. Kavanaugh already has met with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and is set to visit with Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) on Aug. 15.

But Democratic caucus leaders and liberals who had been holding off on meeting with Kavanaugh amid an ongoing dispute over releasing records on his background are also now gearing up to end the freeze.

A senior Senate Democratic aide said that Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), ranking Judiciary Committee Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, and others in the caucus "will begin meeting with Judge Kavanaugh Continue reading “McCaskill sets Kavanaugh meeting, with other Dems to follow”

GOP plans to blow past new Kavanaugh confirmation obstacle

Senate Republicans are pressing ahead on confirming Brett Kavanaugh before the midterm elections even after National Archives said Thursday that it can’t meet the GOP’s request for records until the end of October, days before the midterm elections.

The Archives made its timing announcement in a letter to Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, who appeared alongside four fellow Republicans on his committee earlier Thursday to tout the thoroughness of their nascent review of the nominee’s record. The Archives’ general counsel told Grassley that "we will not be able to complete our review of all of the records" by mid-August, as the Iowan requested late Friday.

Review of emails that Kavanaugh sent while serving in George W. Bush’s White House counsel’s office and text documents, totaling an estimated 300,000 pages, can be finished by Aug. 20, but the release of a projected 600,000 pages in further records cannot be finished until "the Continue reading “GOP plans to blow past new Kavanaugh confirmation obstacle”

Senate approves release of documents regarding alleged Russian agent

The Senate on Wednesday approved the release of internal Intelligence Committee documents to the Justice Department regarding alleged Russian agent Mariia Butina.

The Senate Intelligence Committee interviewed Butina as part of its lengthy investigation into Russian influence on U.S. elections in 2016. In a joint statement, the committee’s leaders said they planned to turn over records of those interviews to the federal government.

"In response to requests from the Department of Justice and counsel for Maria Butina, we have sought authorization from the Senate to release to both parties the transcript of Ms. Butina’s testimony before the committee," said Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.). and ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.). "The committee intends to provide the transcript, provided both parties agree to include it under the auspices of a protective order, which we understand is currently under discussion."

Butina, whose first name has been rendered as Continue reading “Senate approves release of documents regarding alleged Russian agent”

Not The Onion: Congress set to pass bills

Don’t look now, but Congress is actually getting something done — in the midst of election season, no less.

Rather than another bout of budget brinkmanship or a host of votes designed to make Democrats look bad, Senate and House GOP leaders are planning a pre-election agenda to persuade voters to keep Republicans in control of both chambers. Specifically, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) are aiming to rack up bipartisan wins on government spending, defense and farm legislation.

“The more efficient the Congress when it’s in your hands, the better odds you have of keeping it,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “All of this helps the narrative that we’re producing.”

The linchpin of the plan is to pass a slate of spending bills — avoiding a massive catch-all package that President Donald Trump might reject, triggering a government Continue reading “Not The Onion: Congress set to pass bills”

McConnell to Trump: I too like the wall

Mitch McConnell wants Donald Trump to know this: He’s got the president’s back on funding the border wall, even if it might have to wait until after the election.

As Trump said Tuesday that he doesn’t “care what the political ramifications are” of forcing a government shutdown over border wall funding, the Senate majority leader continued to try and impress upon Trump that Senate Republicans are willing to fight for the border wall. But he made clear that the Senate is going to continue its work on less controversial spending bills in the hopes of passing as many of the 12 annual funding bills as possible before the Sept. 30 deadline.

“I support what the president is trying to do on the wall. Most of my members do as well,” McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters. “We’re going to continue to discuss it with him and hope that this process can Continue reading “McConnell to Trump: I too like the wall”

McConnell to Trump: I too like the wall

Mitch McConnell wants Donald Trump to know this: He’s got the president’s back on funding the border wall, even if it might have to wait until after the election.

As Trump said Tuesday that he doesn’t “care what the political ramifications are” of forcing a government shutdown over border wall funding, the Senate majority leader continued to try and impress upon Trump that Senate Republicans are willing to fight for the border wall. But he made clear that the Senate is going to continue its work on less controversial spending bills in the hopes of passing as many of the 12 annual funding bills as possible before the Sept. 30 deadline.

“I support what the president is trying to do on the wall. Most of my members do as well,” McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters. “We’re going to continue to discuss it with him and hope that this process can Continue reading “McConnell to Trump: I too like the wall”

‘Excruciating’: GOP desperately fights to pad Senate majority

As one of a few centrist Republicans in what is effectively a 50-49 Senate, Sen. Lisa Murkowski has enormous sway over the congressional agenda. Sometimes she wishes she had a little less of it.

Murkowski is looking ahead to November for help. Because of a very favorable election map, Republicans could conceivably pick up Senate seats even if Democrats take the House. And a gain of even a seat or two would change the entire complexion of the Senate.

With even a slightly larger GOP majority, no longer could Murkowski or her independent-minded brethren like Susan Collins of Maine or Rand Paul of Kentucky effectively dictate which nominees or majority-vote legislation make it through the chamber.

Gone, too, would be the constant headaches for Republican leaders sweating an absence, wavering senator or Vice President Mike Pence’s availability to break a tie. Republicans might even have another shot at repealing Obamacare Continue reading “‘Excruciating’: GOP desperately fights to pad Senate majority”

GOP leaders yawn at Trump’s shutdown threats

President Donald Trump keeps threatening a government shutdown over his border wall. And Republican leaders keep ignoring his warnings.

The congressional GOP is intent on sending Trump a series of government spending bills over the next two months that would fund the vast majority of the federal government. And despite the president’s statement on Monday that he would have “no problem doing a shutdown,” Republicans seem sure that he’s not talking about a funding lapse right before the midterm elections.

“I’m optimistic we can avoid a government shutdown,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), twice, when asked about Trump’s latest remarks on Monday, which followed several presidential tweets hitting Democrats for being lax on border security and demanding the country "keep building, but much faster, THE WALL!"

McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) believe that Trump has bought into their plan to leave the border Continue reading “GOP leaders yawn at Trump’s shutdown threats”

Trump tariffs tear Republicans apart

Senate Republicans eager to take a harder line against President Donald Trump’s escalating trade war are running smack into an unlikely obstacle: their House GOP colleagues.

With Trump threatening $500 billion in additional tariffs on China and new levies on foreign cars, Senate Republicans are increasingly focused on writing legislation to tie his hands. And it’s not just usual Trump critics like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker: Trump ally Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch is working on a bill limiting the president from imposing new national security tariffs.

But across the Capitol, Speaker Paul Ryan and GOP leaders have all but rejected that approach. House Republicans, who rarely push back on the president, say it’s more productive to try to convince Trump privately or through letters or committee hearings than to force his hand legislatively. The president responds better to carrots than sticks, they say — and, privately, many of Continue reading “Trump tariffs tear Republicans apart”

McConnell, Ryan pitch Trump on plan to avoid shutdown

GOP leaders think they have a plan to avoid a government shutdown right before the November elections.

Meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan presented a government spending strategy intended to minimize the threat of a politically debilitating government funding lapse over border wall funding. And Trump seemed receptive, according to lawmakers and aides briefed on the meeting.

The Senate majority leader and House speaker laid out to Trump that they will prioritize less controversial bills before this fall’s Sept. 30 funding deadline. McConnell (R-Ky.) and Ryan (R-Wis.) hope to fund the majority of the government through the appropriations bill process by the end of September, and leave a brutal fight over border wall funding until later in the year.

Trump made clear to the GOP leaders that he still wants a $5 billion down Continue reading “McConnell, Ryan pitch Trump on plan to avoid shutdown”

The one Republican who could pay dearly for backing Kavanaugh

Democrats are determined to make exactly one Republican senator pay in November for supporting President Donald Trump’s new Supreme Court nominee: Nevada Sen. Dean Heller.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement last month jolted the battle for the Senate, and it is likely to be a central issue this fall as Republicans defend their 51-49 majority. Democrats are overwhelmingly on defense: Their vulnerable incumbents are under withering pressure from conservatives to back Brett Kavanaugh or be painted as obstructionists in pro-Trump states.

But the one exception is Heller, the sole Republican senator defending a seat in a state that Hillary Clinton won. After failing to mobilize voters effectively around the GOP blockade of Merrick Garland two years ago, Democrats are determined to take advantage of their one chance to make a Republican pay for the party’s Supreme Court machinations.

Beating Heller is central to Democratic hopes of taking back the Senate in Continue reading “The one Republican who could pay dearly for backing Kavanaugh”

‘Like a Soviet-type economy’: GOP free traders unload on Trump

President Donald Trump’s bailout for the ag industry is driving his many Republican trade critics to exasperation.

Pro-free trade Republicans were already furious with Trump’s escalation of tariffs against U.S. allies and China — a multi-front trade war they say is hurting U.S. farmers and manufacturers. But the administration’s response Tuesday — sending $12 billion to farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs to ease the pain — is the precise anathema of conservative, free-trade orthodoxy, they said.

“This is becoming more and more like a Soviet-type of economy here: Commissars deciding who’s going to be granted waivers, commissars in the administration figuring out how they’re going to sprinkle around benefits,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). “I’m very exasperated. This is serious.”

“Taxpayers are going to be asked to initial checks to farmers in lieu of having a trade policy that actually opens and expands more markets. There Continue reading “‘Like a Soviet-type economy’: GOP free traders unload on Trump”

Putin drives wedge between Trump and GOP

Congressional Republicans want nothing to do with Vladimir Putin — and some hope President Donald Trump yanks his invitation for the Russian president to visit Washington this fall.

“I’m not sure that’s such a great idea at this point,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said in a Monday interview. “Putin has proven to be a very hostile actor with respect to the United States, and so I would prefer that he be kept at an arm’s length until his behavior improves.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) sounded a similar note on Monday: “I’m just expressing my preference that it be put on the back burner," he said.

Toomey and Cornyn said out loud what most in the GOP are thinking. But many Republicans otherwise eager to spurn Putin, particularly after Trump’s cozy meeting with the Russian leader in Helsinki last week, aren’t ready to cross their party’s leader Continue reading “Putin drives wedge between Trump and GOP”