Democratic congressman Charlie Rangel's 2010 censure by the U.S. House was upheld Wednesday by a federal judge, who threw out Rangel's lawsuit seeking to overturn the House's action.
The judge essentially told Rangel to take it up with Congress.
"U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates ruled Wednesday that Rangel's demands implicate 'insurmountable separation-of-powers barriers' to the court's authority. Bates added that Rangel's quarrel is with the House, and it must stay there," the AP reports. "Rangel's suit claimed that staff and members of the House Ethics Committee that conducted the probe against him willfully suppressed evidence of misconduct in how the investigation was conducted."
The House voted 333-79 to censure Rangel three years ago on 11 ethics violations, ranging from violating the House gifts ban to improper use of influence and failure to disclose income.
Depite the rebuke, Rangel eked out a 2012 primary win and went on to overwhelmingly win reelection with 91% of the vote in a general election in this Harlem, NY, district that voted 95% for President Obama.
Sen. Mary Landrieu is up with her first ad, and it's about the health-care law. It stresses her work -- and sometimes tough talk to the president -- to fix the law to make sure Obama’s promise that people who like their insurance can keep it.
The ad, to air in key markets around the state, highlights the hurdle the law presents for Democratic incumbents running in red states.
Exit polls from the night Republican Chris Christie was overwhelmingly reelected as governor of New Jersey, showed that Democrat Hillary Clinton would beat Christie in the Garden State. But a poll out Wednesday from Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press shows Christie would narrowly edge the former Secretary of State 46%-43%.
More results like that would help boost Christie's electability argument ahead of a potential 2016 run. New Jersey hasn't gone Republican in a presidential year since 1988.
By the way, speaking of a possible 2016 run, the vast majority (69%) of New Jersey residents expect Christie to run for president and they're OK with it (67%), even if it means he resigns mid term (69%).
If Clinton doesn't run, Christie is even stronger in New Jersey against another potential Democratic opponent -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Christie beats Cuomo, 52%-33%.
First Read confirms that Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus is pushing ahead to make changes to the party's presidential primary calendar for 2016.
One proposal, first reported by CNN, is significantly punishing states that move up their nominating contests to (or before) the February window reserved for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina.
(In the 2012 cycle, Florida moved up its primary to Jan. 31, which forced Iowa and New Hampshire to move up theirs to early January.)
One idea under consideration is stripping rogue states to either nine delegates to the convention or one-third of its delegation -- which ever number is smaller.
Another RNC proposal is to hold the GOP's presidential convention in either late June or early July.
In 2012, the Republican Party held its convention in late August, which kept Mitt Romney from dipping into his general-election campaign funds earlier in the summer after coming close to exhausting his primary-election money. (A candidate cannot use general-election funds until he or she officially becomes the nominee.)
Votes on these proposed changes -- which first appeared in the RNC's post-election autopsy report -- would take place during either the RNC's winter or spring meetings, a party official tells NBC News.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday pledged a “relentless” push to continue improving the HealthCare.gov website and formally announced an inspector general review of the process that led to its botched rollout.
“The initial launch of HealthCare.gov was flawed, frustrating and unacceptable, and I believe strongly in accountability and our obligations as public servants to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” she said during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Now that the website is working more smoothly, I am determined that it’s the right time to begin a process of better understanding of the structural and managerial policies that led to the flawed launch so we can take action and avoid those problems in the future.”
Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius discuss the implementation of the Affordable Care Act Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
Sebelius said that she has asked the Inspector General of the Health and Human Services Department to investigate the development of the troubled site and the acquisition of the contractor charged with building it. She added that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will also be expanding employee training on contracting practices and creating a new permanent position of “Chief Risk Officer” to help mitigate risks in the agency’s major initiatives.
Sebelius acknowledged that the botched website had a “dampening” effect on Americans’ enthusiasm for the new health care law but that the administration is seeing “positive trends” as previously discouraged users try again to sign up for coverage.
“We are seeing very, very positive trends,” she said at the hearing. “We are seeing people re-engage.”
Sebelius faced aggressive questioning from Republicans critical of relatively modest enrollment data and of cancellations of existing plans that don’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s requirements.
“Far too many Americans who were happy and satisfied with their health care coverage on Jan. 1 of this year have had their worlds turned upside down as we approach Jan. 1 of 2014,” said House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan.
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, engage in a discussion about paying for health insurance on Healthcare.gov Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
During one heated exchange over the accuracy of the department's estimates of new enrollments, Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois told Sebelius that the back-and-forth with her was "like talking to the Republic of Korea or something."
Asked if she believes HHS should have delayed the October launch of the site, Sebelius said she would have done more beta testing and directed a “slower” rollout but that Americans needed time to explore options before benefits went into effect on Jan. 1.
“On balance, I am not sure what the right answer is,” she said.
The administration announced Wednesday that 365,000 individuals had purchased health insurance on the new state and federal exchanges in October and November. An additional 803,000 were determined to be eligible for Medicaid.
Individuals have until Dec. 23 to enroll in health coverage that would begin Jan. 1.
Public approval of the health care law has sagged since the botched rollout in October. In a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll out Wednesday, just 34 percent of respondents said they believe the law is a good idea, while 50 percent said it is a bad idea.
This story was originally published on Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:07 AM EST
The NBC/WSJ poll found that Pope Francis, Time’s Person of the Year, gets high favorability ratings overall (57%), but that liberals had higher positive feelings toward the pope than conservatives.
It also found that likely because of the ideological split, Francis’ 57% was lower than Pope John Paul II’s 64% back in 1998.
A look back at the crosstabs from 15 years ago confirms that. The Democratic coalition was essentially the same – with ratings in the 60s for John Paul II. But conservatives back then felt far more positively about John Paul II than about Francis today.
Conservatives view Francis 17 points less positively than John Paul II, the highest of the ideological groups. Republican presidential voters were 10 points less, Republicans seven points less.
Contrast that to liberals and Democratic presidential voters, who view Francis more positively than John Paul II by three and five points, respectively. (See table at right.)
Republican leaders defended a modest budget deal that would maintain government operations through 2015 amid conservative opposition that could scuttle the legislation in the House.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, lashed out at conservative advocacy groups that have encouraged GOP lawmakers to oppose a budget framework unveiled last night by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
"They're using our members and they're using the American people for their own goals," an animated Boehner told reporters at the Capitol. "This is ridiculous."
Republican House Speaker John Boehner delivers a message to advocacy groups opposing the bipartisan budget framework agreement that was reached this week.
Ryan and Murray, the top budget officials in their respective chambers, announced an agreement that would set baseline spending levels for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. The agreement calls for spending levels slightly above the cap established by the automatic spending cuts known as the "sequester" through a combination of reforms, cuts and new, non-tax revenue.
Conservative groups had been girding themselves against the deal before its details were finalized, mostly because the spending levels exceed sequester levels. The Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and Heritage Action -- each of them well-financed conservative advocacy groups that hold some sway over Republican primary voters -- have begun lobbying furiously against the modest government funding agreement.
"By having a budget agreement that does not raise taxes, that does reduce the deficit and produces some certainty and prevents government shutdowns -- we think is a good agreement," Ryan, the architect of the budget agreement, said after a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans.
Of the package's prospects for passage, the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee added: "We feel very good at where we are with our members."
Chuck Todd reports on the budget deal presented by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray.
The Republican leadership's struggle to manage its restive conservative flank is a familiar storyline to any observer of Congress over the past three years. Boehner's decision to side with conservatives and drive a hard bargain over government spending and the Affordable Care Act contributed in large part to the government shutdown in October that nearly threatened default on the national debt.
If conservatives balk at supporting the legislation, Boehner would need to turn to Democrats to help advance the package through the House. The speaker did just that in passing legislation to end the government shutdown earlier this year.
Some high-profile conservatives have already stated their opposition to the legislation, though, including two contenders for the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 2016: Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
“We stand with Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Tom Coburn, Rand Paul, members of the Republican Study Committee and every other fiscal conservative who opposes the Ryan-Murray deal,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola in response. “After carefully reviewing the budget deal, on which we never commented until it was complete, we determined that it would increase the size of government. We support pro-growth proposals when they are considered by Congress. In our evaluation, this isn’t one of those.”
Liberals have also expressed their misgivings about the package because it lacks an extension of unemployment benefits. In remarks on the Senate floor praising the new budget framework, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., suggested he planned to bring up an unemployment benefits bill and minimum wage increase to the floor in January.
This story was originally published on Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:29 AM EST
A new robo poll from Gravis Marketing shows former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee leading the 2016 primary field in South Carolina. The field looks like this:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush 17%
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie 16%
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz 13%
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio 8%
former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum 3%
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker 2%
NBC has a policy of generally not reporting on robo polls based on NBC standards relating to methodology. But this poll is a reminder that Huckabee should not be overlooked. He came within a Fred Thompson of winning South Carolina in 2008. And he's getting visits from South Carolina pastors at an event Thursday in Arkansas, the same day he is ending his syndicated radio program.
And any day a GOP politician is getting headlines like this from The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., it's a good one for them: "Mike Huckabee leads poll of SC GOP voters for 2016." (H/T: NBC producer Terry Pickard.)
To that point, Sarah Huckabee, Huckabee's daughter and former campaign adviser, says her father is keeping his options open and considering another bid for president.
"He is definitely keeping the door open and has received a lot of support from people all over the country encouraging him to run," she told First Read in an email. "It is still early and he has certainly not made a decision, but he is considering another run. Polls like the one in SC show that voters are also giving him a strong look for the race and that is hard to ignore."
NBC/WSJ poll shows that Obama faces fork in the road… After his rough last two months, does his second term end up like Bush’s?... Or is it more like Reagan’s (after Iran-Contra) and Clinton’s (after Lewinsky)?... Poll finds that health care is driving the public’s perceptions of the president… Economic optimism returns to pre-shutdown levels… Measuring the toll the last two months have taken on the Democratic Party… Polling Time’s person of the year -- Pope Francis… A prediction: More Democrats will vote for the budget agreement than Republicans will… Health-care enrollment improves… And when a handshake becomes controversial.
*** Obama’s fork in the road: Our brand-new NBC/WSJ poll -- essentially similar to all the other national surveys released in the past 24 hours -- shows President Obama ending 2013 in tough shape two months after his administration’s botched health-care rollout. More Americans disapprove of his job performance than ever before (54%); half of the country says they’re either disappointed or dissatisfied with his presidency; and 54% believe he’s facing a long-term setback. But is it really a long-term setback, a la what George W. Bush experienced at this same time in his presidency? Or is it more of a short-term setback, a la what Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton faced during their second terms? NBC/WSJ co-pollster Bill McInturff (R) compares Obama’s declining numbers to what happened to Bush after Hurricane Katrina, explaining that Bush afterward experienced a similar drop in job approval, in his fav/unfav rating, and in key presidential attributes. NBC/WSJ co-pollster Fred Yang (D) counters, however, that Obama is facing only one chief hurdle right now (health care) -- like both Reagan (Iran-Contra) and Clinton (Monica Lewinsky) encountered during their second terms. By comparison, Yang adds, Bush faced multiple episodes that weighed down his presidency (Katrina, Iraq, 2008 financial collapse). “As health care goes, so goes the Obama presidency for next year,” Yang says. That same could be said of the rest of his second term…
*** Health care is driving the public’s perceptions of Obama: Indeed, our NBC/WSJ poll finds that Obama’s decline has been shaped almost exclusively by health care. Asked which one or two issues have been most important in shaping their views about the president, the top response was the health-care law (58%) -- followed by the economy (25%), the government shutdown (23%), and the situations in Syria and Iran (16%). Also in the poll, just 34% believe the health law is a good idea (down 3 points from late October), while 50% say it’s a bad idea (the highest percentage here since the poll began asking this question). And by a 51%-43% margin, respondents say they’re bothered more by the administration’s troubled (but improving) federal website and some Americans losing their health plans, rather than by the GOP’s continued efforts to undermine the law. But there are also two silver linings for the Obama administration. One, just 26% believe the law “should be totally eliminated,” which is virtually unchanged from our last poll. And two, 58% say the law hasn’t had much of an impact on them or their families, suggesting that all the bad news associated with the health-care rollout could be temporary. In fact, if you combine that 58% with the 12% who tell us the law has had a POSITIVE impact on their lives, that’s 70% who say the impact is either neutral or positive.
*** Economic optimism returns to pre-shutdown levels: But the best news in the poll if you’re Obama, the Democratic Party, or an incumbent Republican or Democratic governor? Attitudes about the economy have returned to where they were before the government shutdown. In the poll, 29% say the economy will improve within the next year, which is up 12 points since early October (when the shutdown began) and up 6 points since late October (after it ended). And returning to our point above, it was a better economy that helped both Reagan and Clinton during their second-term troubles. That’s maybe the best political lens through which to view yesterday’s budget agreement: Economic certainty and ending the threat of another shut down -- even if it’s just for two years -- is probably going to help the economy. So that’s the good news for Democrats. The bad news? Despite the rebound in optimism, the Republican Party now holds a 10-point advantage on which party does a better job on the economy, which is its highest edge on the issue since 1994-1995.
*** The toll the last two months have taken on Democrats: Here’s another way to look at the toll the health-care rollout has taken on Obama and the Democratic Party. Immediately after the government shutdown, the president’s job-approval rating was at 47%; now it’s 43%. Immediately after the shutdown, Democrats held an 8-point edge on the generic ballot (47%-39%); now Republicans have a 2-point advantage (44%-42%). And immediately after the government shutdown, the Dem Party’s fav/unfav was 39%-40%; now it’s 36%-44%. Yet despite that decline for Democrats, the GOP’s own numbers remain worse. The party’s fav/unfav is 26%-51%, almost unchanged from where it was right after the shutdown (24%-53%). In addition, Democrats hold a 28-point advantage over the GOP when asked which party does a better job showing compassion and concern to people. And Dems have a 12-point edge on which party is more willing to work with the opposition party to pass needed legislation. Oh, and then there’s this: A majority of Americans -- 51% -- view the 113th Congress was “one of the worst” Congresses ever. That’s the highest percentage answer that way in a question dating back to 1990 (!!!).So that bipartisan budget agreement couldn’t have come at a better time for Congress.
*** Polling Pope Francis: Now given that Pope Francis is Time magazine’s person of the year, don’t miss these numbers from our NBC/WSJ poll: His fav/unfav rating is a stellar 57%-5%, but there’s an ideological split. Francis gets a 64% positive rating from liberals, 64% from Democrats, and 69% from Obama voters. On the other hand, conservatives give him a lower 45% favorable rating, Republicans are 50%, and Tea Party supporters 48%. And 9% of Tea Party supporters view him negatively, the most of any of the six groups. But the most important aspect to the new Pope is how he is improving the perception of the Catholic Church overall: 41% (including 58% of Catholics) say the new Pope and his recent statements and actions have made them MORE FAVORABLE toward the Catholic church, just 3% say it’s made them more negative. Talk about a brand improvement.
*** More Democrats will vote for the budget agreement than Republicans: Given the conservative reaction last night to the budget deal agreement between Sen. Patty Murray (D) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R), here’s a prediction: You’re going to see more Democrats vote for it than Republicans. Think about that for a second: More Democrats will vote for Paul Ryan’s compromise than Republicans. But no one can celebrate this budget deal. It’s the bare minimum -- it avoids a shutdown for the next two years. Then again, in this day and age, that’s progress.
*** Health-care enrollment improves: As NBC/WSJ co-pollster Fred Yang (D) said above, “As health care goes, so goes the Obama presidency for next year.” And as far as enrollment goes, things are getting BETTER for the administration, but they still have a WAYS TO GO. Per NBC’s Ali Weinberg, the administration has announced that 364,682 Americans have selected marketplace plans in the first two months of open enrollment (October and November). Of that number, 137,204 applied for plans on the federal exchange, and 227,478 on state-based exchanges. Per the math by NBC’s Sarah Blackwill, this means that there were 110,410 enrollments in the federal exchange in November -- up from 26,794 in October. And there were 148,087 enrollments in state-based exchanges in November -- up from 79,391 in October. Also, these are the numbers BEFORE that Dec. 1 date by which the administration said the federal website would be better-functioning for a vast majority of Americans.
*** When a handshake becomes controversial: Lastly, it’s a reflection of our current state of politics -- and the current state of our political media -- that President Obama shaking the hand of Cuba’s Raul Castro at yesterday’s Nelson Mandela memorial became a controversy. But here’s probably the best way to view it: Would you greet (or shake hands with) an estranged family member at a memorial service for a loved one? Or do you go out of your way to snub that person? In other words, is that day about you and your conflict? Or about that loved one who’s being memorialized lying in a casket?
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*** Wednesday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), member of the bipartisan budget conference committee, joins Chuck to discuss the budget deal. Democratic pollster Fred Yang and Republican pollster Bill McInturff join Chuck to discuss the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Also, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Rothenberg Political Report’s Nathan Gonzales will discuss the GOP’s Senate primary problems.
*** Wednesday’s “MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts” line-up: MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts interviews NBC’s Kasie Hunt, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Fmr. Obama campaign National Press Secy. Ben Labolt and Fmr. Huckabee Campaign Manager Chip Saltsman on the budget deal, HHS Secy. Kathleen Sebelius back on the hot seat and the new NBC News/WSJ poll. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein will break down winners and losers in the budget deal and talk about whether the ACA is on the mend. MSNBC.com’s Dafna Linzer will discuss the new “Too Young To Die” series on MSNBC.com. And today’s Agenda Panel includes: MSNBC.com’s Irin Carmon, MSNBC Contributor James Peterson and Special Correspondent for The Daily Beast Michael Tomasky.
*** Wednesday’s “NOW with Alex Wagner” line-up: Alex Wagner’s guests include Buzzfeed’s John Stanton, Mother Jones’ David Corn, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker, former RNC Chair Michael Steele, and Time magazine’s Michael Scherer.
*** Wednesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews NBC’s Chuck Todd, former Obama White Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, USA Today’s Susan Page, Time’s Nancy Gibbs, and NBC’s Ron Allen.
*** Wednesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: MSNBC’s Tamron Hall interviews Rep. Tim Ryan, the Chicago Sun Times Lynn Sweet, Sirius XM's Michael Smerconish, Morehouse College NAACP President Stephen Green, and Time Magazines Bobby Ghosh.
USA Today: “The fate of President Obama's second term is emerging as a battle between improving news about the economy and souring views of his signature health care law. A year-end USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll chronicles what a drag the Affordable Care Act has become on Obama's reputation, helping to drive down his standing as a trustworthy leader and one who can get things done to the lowest levels of his presidency. Disapproval of the health care law hits a new high.”
The sign-language interpreter at the Nelson Mandela memorial was apparently a fake.
A CBS poll finds views of the health law improved 8 points in the past month – to 39/50 up from 31/61.
The Hill: “Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has asked the department’s inspector general to investigate the development of HealthCare.gov.”
AP: “Newly declassified documents show Tuesday that former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed secret information to ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ scriptwriter Mark Boal when Panetta gave a speech at CIA headquarters marking the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Panetta said through a spokesman that he didn't know Boal was in the room.”
National Journal: “John Kerry came to Congress on Tuesday touting a new nuclear accord with Iran and asking members for their support. He didn’t get it. In the Obama administration’s first big public foray on Capitol Hill since the interim deal with Iran was announced last month, the secretary of State was met with skepticism from members of both parties who worried that the deal was too lenient to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon.”