Posts tagged with "Democrats"

Trump reneges on reopening federal health insurance exchanges during the COVID-19 crisis

April 2, 2020

Defying appeals from insurers and Democrats, the Trump Administration said on March 31 that it would not reopen Obamacare enrollment to allow uninsured Americans to buy health coverage during the coronavirus pandemic, Slate reports.

The decision comes after the White House told lawmakers and insurers it was considering a special enrollment period in addition to the usual November 1 through December 15 window for the federally run exchange that covers roughly two-thirds of U.S. states.

Eleven largely Democratic-leaning states, as well as Washington, D.C., have temporarily reopened their health insurance exchanges, CNN reports, in order to provide frontline workers with the chance to buy in during the coronavirus outbreak.

Democratic legislators had called on the White House to open the federally run exchanges for some 30 million Americans who remain uninsured and— after initial hesitation from the health insurance industry over the prospect of being hit with a deluge of coronavirus-related claims—“the main insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, endorsed the special enrollment period roughly two weeks ago while also urging lawmakers to expand premium subsidies to make coverage more affordable for middle-income people,” Politico reports.

“Given the risk posed by COVID-19, it is more important than ever for people to have health coverage,” the CEOs of America’s Health Insurance Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association wrote in a letter to Congress in mid-March.

The insurers told Politico they had expected the Trump White House to announce a special enrollment period last week after receiving private assurances from the administration that the exchanges would be reopened. The coronavirus has already put intense pressure on the job market, and with the economic toll of the pandemic expected to worsen over the coming weeks, millions of newly unemployed workers who previously had insurance through their employer will likely be in need of health insurance options.

Workers who lose their health insurance through their employer are eligible to buy a plan on a federal or state exchange for up to 60 days after becoming unemployed.

The Trump administration did not give any reason for refusing to reopen the health insurance marketplace during the pandemic, but President Donald Trump has publicly supported the GOP legal effort, this one led by Republican governors, to destroy the Affordable Care Act once and for all. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, which could put the ten-year-old law, and the 20 million Americans who get health coverage from it, in jeopardy.

Research contact: @Slate

Pelosi: Mail-in voting will protect free and fair elections—and American voters—amid coronavirus

April 1, 2020

The $2 trillion stimulus bill just passed by the U.S. Congress—and signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27—provides $400 million in election security grants, which are intended to help states to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” But just how that $400 million will be put to use to protect the American values of fair and free elections is now the subject of debate among Washington lawmakers, Politico reports.

On Tuesday, March 31, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that vote-by-mail capabilities should be scaled up ahead of 2020’s remaining elections—a move that would shield voters from the threats that in-person voting could pose amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“In terms of the elections, I think that we’ll probably be moving to vote by mail,” Pelosi told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” adding that congressional Democrats had pushed to allocate more funding in the recent $2 trillion relief package “to get those resources to the states to facilitate the reality of life: that we are going to have to have more vote by mail.”

More than a dozen states have postponed their presidential primaries, as the public health crisis sweeps the nation, however the pivot to mail voting has proved difficult for election officials to navigate in the run-up to general elections in November, Politico notes.

“The integrity of the election system is central to our democracy,” Pelosi said. “How anyone could oppose our enabling the states to have vote-by-mail raises so many other questions, but let’s just be hopeful and have public opinion weigh in on that.”

Almost immediately, it became clear that President Trump not only would balk at Pelosi’s idea, but would hinder any efforts to implement the vote-by-mail movement.

Indeed, Politico reported, Trump on Monday criticized Democrats’ push for expanded election provisions in the relief package, arguing that “the things they had in there were crazy” before the final text of the legislation was negotiated.

“They had things — levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” he told Fox & Friends.

Responding to Trump’s remarks on Tuesday, Pelosi said she felt “sad that the president doesn’t have confidence that his party cannot convince the American people about a path to go forward,” and lamented his belief that “vote by mail would deter any future elections. No, I don’t think that’s the case.”

Trump offered his own appraisal of the speaker’s interview later Tuesday morning, tweeting that he tuned into a “portion of low rated (very) Morning Psycho (Joe) this Morning in order to see what Nancy Pelosi had to say, & what moves she was planning to further hurt our Country.”

“Actually, other than her usual complaining that I’m a terrible person, she wasn’t bad,” the president wrote. “Still praying!”

Research contact: @politico

MIA: President Trump departs for NATO meeting before first House Judiciary impeachment hearing

December 4, 2019

President Donald Trump will not be in the room—or even in the country—when the impeachment hearings continue this week, the White House communicated to the House Judiciary Committee in a December 2 letter.

He will be attending the NATO Summit, December 2-4 in Britain—and he has lambasted House Democrats for continuing the legal process without him, although he has so far refused to cooperate in every way possible.

As he and the first lady left the White House on December 3, the president commented, “This is one of the most important journeys that we make as President. And for them (Democrats) to be doing this and saying this and putting an impeachment on the table, which is a hoax to start off with,” Trump told a press gaggle before boarding Marine One aircraft.

“The Democrats, the radical-left Democrats, the do-nothing Democrats, decided when I’m going to NATO—this was set up a year ago—that when I’m going to NATO, that was the exact time,” he said.

According to a report by Politico, “The decision indicates that President Donald Trump has listened to his allies and some congressional Republicans who argued that a White House presence at the hearing would validate a process they have harangued as illegitimate and partisan.”

It also means that Trump will need to lean heavily on his closest GOP allies on the panel —including Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, John Ratcliffe of Texas and Matt Gaetz of Florida —to mount an impeachment defense during the Judiciary panel’s first hearing on Wednesday featuring legal scholars.

“Under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing,” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in the letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), adding that “an invitation to an academic discussion with law professors does not begin to provide the president with any semblance of a fair process.”

He added, “It is too late to cure the profound procedural deficiencies that have tainted this entire inquiry …. We cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named and while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the president a fair process through additional hearings.”

Nadler had asked Trump to indicate by Sunday whether he or a White House attorney would attend Wednesday’s hearing, an offer that Democrats said was an attempt to afford due process to Trump as he faces a likely impeachment vote before the end of the month.

Nadler also has asked Trump to reveal by the end of the week whether he intends to participate in any aspect of the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings, which are expected to continue into the following week, Politico said. Notably, Cipollone left open the possibility that the White House would participate in future hearings.

Research contact: @politico

Bolton resisted Ukraine pressure campaign, calling Giuliani ‘a hand grenade’

October 15, 2019

The effort to squeeze Ukraine for political help provoked a head-on battle inside the White House last summer, The New York Times reports.

Indeed, the under-the-radar strong-arm tactics being used by President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, as well as administration officials, so alarmed John Bolton—who was at that time the national security adviser—that he told aide Fiona Hill to alert White House lawyers, House investigators learned on October 14.

Specifically, the Times notes, Bolton got into a tense exchange on July 10 with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who was working with Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, to press Ukraine to provide dirt on Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son Hunter, according to three people who heard the testimony.

The aide, Fiona Hill, testified on Monday that Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Sondland, Giuliani, and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, according to the sources to the Times.

“I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition.

It was not the first time Bolton expressed grave concerns to Hill about the campaign being run by Giuliani, the news outlet said. “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,” Hill quoted Bolton as saying during an earlier conversation.

According to the Times, “The testimony revealed in a powerful way just how divisive … Giuliani’s efforts to extract damaging information about Democrats from Ukraine on President Trump’s behalf were within the White House. … Hill, the senior director for European and Russian affairs, testified that … Giuliani and his allies circumvented the usual national security process to run their own foreign policy efforts, leaving the president’s official advisers aware of the rogue operation yet powerless to stop it.”

At one point, she confronted Sondland, who had inserted himself into dealings with Ukraine even though it was not part of his official portfolio, according to the Times’ sources

Hill was the first former White House official to testify in the House impeachment inquiry. While she left her post shortly before the now-infamous July 25 telephone call in which Trump pressed Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democrats, she helped House investigators understand the early months of the pressure campaign.

Research contact: @nytimes

House Democrats file suit in federal court for President Trump’s tax returns

July 3, 2019

It has been nearly two months since Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), evaded Democrats’ request for President Trump’s tax returns—facetiously saying that the financial information could not be released in light of “serious issues” about whether their demand was proper.

A May subpoena from the panel also was treated as inconsequential.

As of July 2, Neal said he had no choice but to file suit in federal court in order to compel the Internal Revenue Service to turn over the records.

“In refusing to comply with the statute, Defendants have mounted an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of Treasury, the IRS, and the tax laws on behalf of the American people,” the lawsuit (Case No. 1:19-cv-1974)—filed against the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service, Steven T. Mnuchin, and IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia— says.

Neal is seeking the President’s tax returns using an arcane IRS provision known as 6103, which allows the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to request and obtain an individual’s tax information for a legitimate legislative purpose.

According to a report by Politico, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow had a terse response to the suit.

“We will respond to this latest effort at presidential harassment in court,” he said.

And that may be sooner than he thinks: While the fight over Trump’s taxes could be lengthy, with the administration likely to try to drag out the proceedings beyond next year’s elections, Politico said that “some see signs the courts are trying to move quickly on the oversight challenges.”

“They’re not unaware the administration is throwing up roadblocks at every conceivable opportunity and I think they understand that the system itself is under stress,” Kerry Kircher, who was the House’s general counsel from 2011 to 2016 and deputy counsel from 1996 to 2010, told the political news outlet, adding, “The judiciary is aware of the need for some expedition here, and that we can’t go through the usual processes where it takes a couple years for these cases to work themselves out.”

Neal asked the court for a speedy decision, reminding it that sessions of Congress only run two years.

“If this Court does not redress Defendants’ noncompliance quickly, the Committee will be unable to fulfill its essential role of overseeing the Executive Branch or to carry out its constitutional obligation to legislate,” the suit says.

Research contact: @politico

‘Who’s gonna pay for the wall?’

December 13, 2018

The answer to the question above? Apparently, not Mexico—which was what President Donald Trump repeatedly promised during the 2016 campaign. And probably not Congress either.

During a surreal meeting in the Oval Office on December 11, The New York Times reports, President Donald Trump engaged in an argument in front of reporters with two Democratic leaders, Representative Nancy Pelosi (12th District, California) and Senator Chuck Schumer (New York), over the his own threats to shut down the government unless he gets $5 billion to build a border wall.

During what the news outlet characterized as “an extraordinary public airing of hostilities that underscored a new, more confrontational dynamic in Washington,” the president vowed to block full funding for the government if Democrats refused to allocate money for the wall on the southwestern border, saying he was “proud to shut down the government for border security.”

He repeatedly told Pelosi that he “only need[ed] ten Democratic votes in the House” to pass the funding for the wall. In turn, she replied that he didn’t have the votes—and would not have them in the future.

According to the Times report, the two Democratic leaders took issue with the president’s position and his false assertions about the wall—which he claimed was already under construction—in front of a phalanx of news cameras, imploring him repeatedly to continue the tense conversation without reporters present.

However, the news outlet said, “Trump insisted on a conspicuous clash that undercut Republican congressional leaders and his own staff working to avoid a shutdown at all costs, or at least to ensure that Democrats would shoulder the blame for such a result.”

“If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government — this country needs border security,” Mr. Trump declared as the diatribe unfolded, and Schumer reminded the president repeatedly that he had called several times for a shutdown, appearing to goad him into taking responsibility.

 “You want to know something?” an infuriated Trump  finally said. “I’ll tell you what: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.”

“I will take the mantle,” Mr. Trump went on. “I will be the one to shut it down — I’m not going to blame you for it.”

Ultimately, the discussion again raised doubts about whether Trump and the Congress could reach agreement by a December 21 deadline to keep much of the government open, appearing to harden diametrically opposed positions on the wall.

Research contact: @nytimes

In effort to intimidate voters, Trump and Sessions warn of fraud at polls

November 7, 2018

On the day before the midterm elections, November 5, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued strong warnings about the threat of voter fraud —echoing what the Washington Post characterized as “the president’s baseless claims that massive voter fraud marred his 2016 election and prompting accusations that his administration is trying to intimidate voters.

In a tweet early Monday, Trump said that law enforcement has been “strongly notified” to watch for “ILLEGAL VOTING.” He promised that anyone caught voting improperly would be subjected to “Maximum Criminal Penalties.”

Sessions, in a statement laying out the Justice Department’s plans to monitor ballot access on Election Day, said “fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated. Fraud also corrupts the integrity of the ballot.

In remarks to reporters on his way to a campaign rally in Cleveland, Trump also falsely claimed that voter fraud is commonplace, the Washington Post said.

“Just take a look,” he said. “All you have to do is go around, take a look at what’s happened over the years, and you’ll see. There are a lot of people—a lot of people—my opinion, and based on proof—that try and get in illegally and actually vote illegally. So we just want to let them know that there will be prosecutions at the highest level.”

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States, the Post reported, noting that the president had formed a commission to study the issue shortly after he took office that was disbanded without finding evidence of fraud after states refused to turn over voter data.

Voting rights advocates denounced Trump’s remarks as a blatant attempt to intimidate voters on the eve of Election Day—and part of a pattern among Republicans, they said, to curtail voting access with strict rules that disproportionately affect voters of color who tend to vote Democratic.

“I find this kind of conduct incredibly anti-patriotic,” Kristen Clarke, who leads the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a voting rights group that has successfully challenged several new voting restrictions across the country this year, told the Post. “At a time when we need our White House and Justice Department speaking out against the relentless campaign of voter suppression in this election cycle, it defies reason.”

Research contact: amy.gardner@washpost.com

Democrats hold narrow edge in battleground states

October 9, 2018

Following a standoff on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh that only widened the fissure between America’s two major political parties, likely voters who live in 69 battleground House districts nationwide narrowly prefer Democratic candidates, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School survey. That’s bad news for Republicans, given that the overwhelming percentage of these districts currently are in GOP hands, the Washington Post reported on October 8.

The survey of 3,407 registered voters—including 2,672 likely voters—by the Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University found that, 50% of voters in these districts favor Democrats and 46% prefer Republicans. By way of comparison, in 2016 the same districts favored Republican candidates over Democrats by 15 percentage points—56% to 41 %.

With just a month to go before the mid-term elections and with early voting set to begin in many states, the new poll highlights the challenge for Republicans as they seek to maintain their House majority at a time when President Trump’s approval rating remains below 50%.

Women are driving Democratic support in the battleground districts, the Post reported—favoring the party’s candidates by 54% to 40%. Men in these districts favor Republicans by 51% to 46%. That gender difference continues a pattern that has been seen throughout the year in other polls and in special elections.

Democrats need to pick up a net of 23 seats to gain control of the House in November, which means they must win fewer than half of the battleground districts included in the new survey. The fact that, overall, voters in these districts are relatively evenly divided in territory that has been favorable for Republican House candidates in the past underscores why many GOP strategists are pessimistic about their prospects for holding the House.

The survey also highlights the growing split between white voters with college educations and those without a college degree—something that is especially acute among women, the Post noted. This educational divide has been growing since Trump was elected.

White voters overall, regardless of educational level, are divided almost evenly in the battleground districts, with 49% saying they support the Republican and 47 % saying they favor the Democrat. Among nonwhites, Democrats hold a big advantage—64% to 29%. In these battleground districts, nonwhites make up a smaller portion of the population than they do nationally.

Looked at on the basis of educational achievement, 55% of white college graduates say they favor the Democratic candidate in their district, compared with 42%t who say they back the GOP nominee. Among whites without college degrees, the numbers are almost the opposite, with 53% backing the Republican candidate and 42% supporting the Democrat.

The poll also asked respondents to rate eight issues—from “extremely important” to “very important” to “somewhat important” to “not so important.” The issue that drew the most “extremely important” rating, at 64%, was the Supreme Court and judicial nominations, the issue that dominated the news during the time the survey was conducted. Second in the “extremely important” ranking was President Trump himself, at 60%.

A 57% majority rated healthcare as extremely important, with 55% rating the economy as extremely important and 52% saying the same for immigration.

When pushed as to the single most important issue influencing their vote, a different order of significance emerged. In that case, Trump led the list, with 26% saying he was the most important of all the issues or factors, followed by the economy at 19% and the Supreme Court and other judicial nominations at 16%, the news outlet reported.

Research contact: @sfcpoll ‏

Dems draw up an emergency plan to protect Mueller

August 24, 2018

Following a week during which the Russia investigation raised the level of rage and resistance at the White House, Congressional Democrats have drafted a wide-ranging contingency plan, should Special Counsel Robert Mueller be fired—or should President Donald Trump take other steps to quash the inquiry, such as firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or pardoning key witnesses, NBC News reported on August 22.

It would start within minutes of Special Counsel Robert Mueller being axed—a cascade of activity emanating through the halls of Congress and over television airwaves, as well as citizen protests being prepped from the Virgin Islands to Alaska, the news outlet said.

Of top concern within the first 24 hours after such a move would be preventing Mueller’s documents from being destroyed and his team disbanded, according to the network’s interviews with nearly a dozen lawmakers, congressional aides, Democratic operatives, and attorneys involved in the planning.

Almost immediately, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer would consult with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while Democrats would demand a floor vote on a bill retroactively protecting Mueller and protecting his materials.

In both the Senate and House, rank-and-file Democrats would contact a list of sympathetic Republicans who have signaled privately that they’d be willing to act, should Trump pull the trigger, NBC said.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about how exactly and who and when and where,” Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat who sits on the Judiciary Committee, told NBC News. “There have been several moments when it seemed imminent.”

And in cities across the country, rallies would be hastily scheduled for 5 p.m., if Mueller is fired before 2 p.m. on any given day. If he’s fired in the late afternoon or evening, the protests would be set for noon the following day.

The Democratic group MoveOn.org has been organizing 933 such rallies, NBC reported, with locations picked out and sponsors enlisted to handle logistics. The list includes rallies in big cities like Los Angeles, along with protests in more remote areas, such as the federal buildings in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Hilo, Hawaii.

Any success in protecting Mueller would depend heavily on a sudden change of heart by Republicans and their leaders, who have largely defended Trump and, to date, have clapped back, refusing to allow a full Senate vote on legislation to protect the investigation.

Still, Democrats are hoping that a Mueller firing would be considered so egregious that even Trump’s fellow Republicans would be pushed past a tipping point.

To speed up the response, congressional aides said language has been drafted for letters that House Democratic leaders would send to committee chairmen demanding hearings; to inspectors general demanding investigations; and to White House Counsel Don McGahn and the Justice Department demanding information about their communications before the firing.

Different Democrats have laid out different red lines for what actions by Trump would trigger a full-blown crisis response, NBC detailed. In December, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Trump would be breaching a red line if he removed Mueller from his job, pardoned key witnesses or shut down the investigation. MoveOn has added replacing Rosenstein or repealing the special counsel regulations to the list, but notes that firing Sessions—who remains recused from the Russia probe—would “be one step short of the break glass moment.”

The most likely legislative vehicle for trying to protect Mueller after the fact would be a compromise bill co-sponsored by Senators Chris Coons and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), along with GOP Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. That bill would put in statute that the special counsel could challenge his firing in U.S. District Court, and would require his “personnel, documents and materials” to be preserved in the meantime.

The bill specifically states that it’s retroactive — meaning that it could be passed after Mueller was fired and still protect him.

A poll of registered voters released by Fox News on August 23 shows approval of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is at 59%, up 11 points from July.What’s more, 40% expect the probe will find President Donald Trump committed criminal or impeachable offenses.

Research contact: @foxnewspoll 

Schumer: ‘Mainfestly unfair’ not to share Kavanaugh documents with entire Senate

August 22, 2018

Senate Minority Leader Charles (Chuck) Schumer (D-New York) said on August 20 that he is demanding that documents from SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh‘s White House tenure under President George W. Bush as Staff Secretary that currently are marked “committee confidential” should be shared with the entire Senate.

“I will … be submitting a request to the chairman and the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee for access for all senators to all of the Kavanaugh documents in the possession of the committee,” Schumer said, according to a report by The Hill on Monday.

He added that “withholding documents from the Senate and the American people under the bogus label of committee confidential is a dark development for the Senate.”

As the legal team for former President George W. Bush hands over documents on Kavanaugh’s work at the White House to the Judiciary Committee, the paperwork is initially marked “committee confidential.” The documents are then reviewed to determine which can be released publicly, The Hill said.

Democrats estimate that roughly 33% of the documents handed over by the Bush legal team to Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are still marked “committee confidential”—preventing them being released publicly.

“It’s outrageous. Now, Chairman Grassley is usually a fair-minded man. …But when it comes to this area, Chairman Grassley’s actions are manifestly unfair, not typical of his character. I understand the pressure he is under, but that doesn’t forgive the result,” Schumer added.

In a strictly partisan move, Republicans have dismissed the attacks, arguing that Democrats have focused on Kavanaugh’s paperwork because they’ve struggled to find a policy issue that could sink his nomination.

Grassley called out Schumer in a tweet saying any senator was able to stop by the Judiciary Committee to review the documents.

A spokesperson for Grassley also called accepting documents as “committee confidential” an “old hat.”

“Now, as in the past, the committee has agreed to accept material at least initially on a committee confidential basis in order to facilitate timely access and review. Doing so ensures that members of the committee have access to records that presidents may otherwise privilege. This procedure is old hat and the Democrats know it,” the spokesperson added.

According to a CNN poll released on August 16, only 37% of Americans say they’d like to see the Senate vote in favor of his confirmation. Kavanaugh’s support is the lowest in polling dating back to Robert Bork’s nomination by President Ronald Reagan in 1987.

Research contact: @jennagiesta