Boxed in on border bill
If it wasn’t apparent a week ago, it certainly is now: The chances are slim that Congress passes anything to deal with humanitarian crisis on the border of unaccompanied minors coming into the United States. For starters, President Obama is clearly boxed in. Republicans are demanding that he get his party to back changes to a 2008 law granting additional rights to Central American minors -- as a part of any deal for emergency funding. “Frankly, it is difficult to see how we can make progress on this issue without strong, public support from the White House for much-needed reforms, including changes to the 2008 law,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a letter to the White House. What’s problematic for the White House is that they’ve been on the RECORD in support of changing the ’08 law, but key Democrats aren’t going along. And the White House now seems muted now on the issue. In an election year, the White House has been reluctant to take on its own party. On the other side, it’s not apparent that Boehner would have the votes to pass any border-relief with only Republican support; after all, we can imagine quite a few Republicans who would oppose any border relief. So Congress is stuck. Again. It’s “yet another example of how both parties in Congress aren’t shy about defying the president — or failing to address issues of national importance,” Politico says.
Risks for both sides
There are big risks to both Republicans and Democrats if Congress ultimately does nothing, Politico adds. “The border crisis will continue to rage with Congress out of town in the middle of an election season, and the stalemate would provide fresh evidence that Washington’s current configuration is ill-equipped to legislate. For the GOP, it puts the politically tough issue of immigration back on its radar when it had hoped it would fade. And Hill Democrats are under pressure to not crack on key protections for migrant children — often pitting them against the White House.”
McCain on Congress’ inability to pass VA legislation
“It’s embarrassing”: Speaking of Washington’s inability to legislation and do even the bare minimum, the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein quotes Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) frustrations in passing bipartisan legislation to reform the VA hospitals. (Remember when all of Washington was outraged on this issue?) “While the Senate quickly passed the Sanders-McCain bill with bipartisan support, efforts to reform the VA have stalled during the past few days. And with little more than a week remaining before Congress leaves for August recess, there seems little confidence for a quick resolution. ‘It is unconscionable,’ McCain told The Huffington Post in a brief interview in the Senate halls on Wednesday. ‘It is embarrassing. Embarrassing is a better word.’” More McCain: “‘These are shameful chapters,’ said McCain. ‘Probably the most shameful would be if we fail to act on the VA. For us to let our veterans down, it is unacceptable is the mildest word I can think of.’” Folks, it’s truly remarkable that Congress can’t respond even to basic “we’re all outraged” type of problems. Both the VA and the border issues fall into this category. If Washington can’t come to a basic agreement on dealing with either issue even on a temporary basis, what can it do?
Talking “economic patriotism”
Speaking on the West Coast today, President Obama is going to have a populist message, the White House says. “In his remarks in LA, the president will again call for our nation to rally around an economic patriotism. That means that rather than protecting wasteful tax loopholes for a few at the top, we should be investing in things like education and job training that grow the economy for everybody – the kinds of programs at work at LA Technical College today,” a White House official says. “Today, the president will specifically highlight the need to close one of the most unfair tax loopholes that allows companies to avoid paying taxes here at home, and will call on Congress to close it immediately.” Obama speaks at 4:25 pm ET.
Don’t quote me on that: Plagiarism scandal rocks MT SEN race
The New York Times reported Wednesday that appointed Sen. John Walsh (D-MT) appears to have heavily borrowed from others' written work -- without attribution -- on his 2007 thesis at the United States War College. Walsh, of course, is currently running against Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) in a closely watched Senate contest this year. The Times writes: "Most strikingly, each of the six recommendations Mr. Walsh laid out at the conclusion of his 14-page paper … is taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document on the same topic." When the Times asked Walsh if he plagiarized the thesis, he responded, “I don’t believe I did, no.” More: "On Wednesday, a campaign aide for Mr. Walsh did not contest the plagiarism but suggested that it be viewed in the context of the senator’s long career. She said Mr. Walsh was going through a difficult period at the time he wrote the paper, noting that one of the members of his unit from Iraq had committed suicide in 2007, weeks before it was due." A campaign official added to Politico that Walsh was experiencing PTSD back then. “At the time, Sen. Walsh was prescribed medication used to treat PTSD. This does not excuse the mistake, but provides important context for the circumstances which the senator was working in.”
Why Walsh is going to have a hard time surviving this
Yes, politicians can survive plagiarism scandals -- see Vice President Biden and Rand Paul (so far). And Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) survived his own A1 New York Times hit. But you don’t do it in the midst of a campaign you’re already losing, especially in a red state. By the way, we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Perhaps the biggest events that triggered the GOP’s real chances of winning back the Senate were when 1) Max Baucus announced he wasn’t seeking re-election, and when 2) Brian Schweitzer didn’t run (and turned out not to be the recruit Democrats thought he looked to be on paper). If Montana weren’t in play -- and now looking like a slam-dunk pickup opportunity -- the GOP’s math would be more difficult.
All tied up in Wisconsin
Meanwhile, it’s still all tied up in Wisconsin’s gubernatorial race. According to a new Marquette University Law School poll, Gov. Scott Walker (R) gets the support of 46% of registered voters, while Mary Burke (D) gets 45%. Among likely voters, the numbers are flipped: 47% for Burke, 46% for Walker. Folks, Walker so far has always won in Wisconsin -- whether it was his initial 2010 victory or his recall win two years later. But this is going to be his biggest challenge. And this time, he’s got his presidential prospects on the line.
Hillary looks very strong in Florida
Speaking of polls and 2016, here is why Hillary Clinton -- on paper -- would be formidable in a general election if she runs for president in 2016: She dominates in Florida, even against the state’s two potential presidential candidates and even when Obama’s approval rating is in the low 40s. Per a new Quinnipiac survey, Clinton beats Jeb Bush by seven points in Florida (49%-42%); she tops Rubio by 12 (53%-39%); she’s ahead of Rand Paul by 16 (53%-37%); and she leads Chris Christie by 21 points (54%-33%). Of course, there are all of the usual caveats: It’s very early, it’s just one poll, and our recent NBC/Marist polls showed closer races in Iowa and New Hampshire. But if Hillary Clinton wins Florida and its 29 electoral votes-- even over the home-state Republicans -- then it’s hard to see how she doesn’t get to 270 electoral votes. The electoral-college math for the GOP these days looks more like an unsolvable equation rather than simple math.
Ryan call for ideas to reforming the social safety net
Paul Ryan is out with a USA Today op-ed on reducing poverty. “I’d start a pilot program, which I'd call the Opportunity Grant. It would consolidate up to 11 federal programs into one stream of funding to participating states. The idea would be to let states try different ways of providing aid and then to test the results — in short, more flexibility in exchange for more accountability.” Per NBC’s Luke Russert and Frank Thorp, Ryan will speak further on these ideas tomorrow at 9:00 am ET at the American Enterprise Institute.
Rubio: There is “intolerance” for those who oppose same-sex marriage
Meanwhile, here’s NBC’s Andrew Rafferty on Marco Rubio’s speech at Catholic University yesterday. “Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said Wednesday there is a growing intolerance for supporters of traditional marriage and defended states' rights to define marriage between one man and one woman. ‘Today there is a growing intolerance on this issue, intolerance for those who continue to support traditional marriage,’ Rubio said in a speech at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. “If support for traditional marriage is bigotry, then Barack Obama was a bigot until just before the 2012 election,” he added, referencing the president’s May 2012 announcement in support of same-sex marriage.
Another botched execution
Lastly, another death-penalty execution was botched. This time it was in Arizona. NBC News: “An Arizona execution took nearly two hours on Wednesday, and witnesses said the inmate gasped and snorted for well over an hour after the lethal injection. The execution of double-murderer Joseph Wood — which Arizona carried out with a two-drug combination it had never before tried — is certain to fan the debate over how U.S. states carry out the death penalty. ‘I've never witnessed an execution that took that long,’ Wood's federal public defender, Dale Baich, told NBC News. ‘The state of Arizona today conducted a failed experiment… It was horrible to watch.’” An NBC poll from back in May found 59% favoring the death penalty, but that was down from the 60s and 70s from two decades ago.
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