Another Pennsylvania Republican House member resigns

Rep. Patrick Meehan, who earlier announced that he would not seek reelection amid accusations of sexual harassment, now says he'll resign effective today. 

"With the knowledge I would not be standing for another term, I have decided that stepping down now is in the interest of the constituents I have been honored to serve," the Pennsylvania Republican said in a statement. "I have stayed to fight for important priorities like fully funding our troops, increasing support for medical research and preserving promising clean energy solutions. And now that work is accomplished."

Meehan also announced that he will pay $39,000 to the U.S. Treasury to reimburse the costs of the sexual harassment settlement.

"I will pay $39,000.00 to the U.S. Treasury to reimburse for the severance payment that was made from my office account," he said. "That payment will be made within 30 days of my resignation from the House of Representatives. I did not want to leave with any question of violating the trust of taxpayers."

That's in contrast to Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold, who resigned over harassment allegations but appears to have not yet repaid the cost of the settlement. 

Meehan's resignation follows fellow Pennsylvania Republican Charlie Dent's announcement that he will leave Congress in May.  

The decision of whether a special election to replace both men will be held before November rests with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Wolf said after Dent's resignation that he would make a decision on the timing of a special election after Dent formally leaves Congress next month.

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Tlaib: Impeachment debate shouldn't be about 2020 election

WASHINGTON — Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., one of the most outspoken proponents of impeaching President Trump, argued Sunday that the impeachment debate shouldn't hinge on electoral implications because it's about holding Trump accountable. 

During an interview on "Meet the Press," Tlaib argued that congressional oversight of Trump "isn't working" because the White House has been stonewalling congressional probes. 

"This is not about the 2020 election, it’s about doing what's right now for our country," she said. 

"For me, to fight back against Big Pharma, for many of my colleagues that came there to pass really important reforms that are needed, we can't do it when the president of the United States continues to lie to the American people, continues to not follow through on subpoenas and give us the information that we need."

Also appearing on "Meet the Press," Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., a member of Democratic leadership, downplayed the internal party debate over impeachment. 

He said Sunday that Democrats are in "fact-gathering mode" and that the party "can sing and dance at the same time, just like Beyoncé."

"The only way to proceed is to make sure that politics don't dictate a decision to impeach or politics don't dictate a decision not to impeach," Jeffries said. 

“We need to follow the facts, we need to apply the law."

Vaughn Hillyard
Shaquille Brewster

Why Democratic presidential candidates love the Republican tax bill

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The 2017 Republican rewrite of the nation’s tax laws has found an unlikely constituency who just can’t stop talking about it: The 2020 Democratic candidates for president.

While tax plan itself cut hasn’t proven to be broadly popular with most Americans, it is among Democratic contenders. The $1.5 trillion dollar cost of the cuts represents an amount that, if the cuts were rolled back, could pay for plenty.

Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., offered a new public education plan that he suggested would be funded by rolling back the “Trump tax cut” that he criticizes at nearly every event.

“We say to the top one percent, and large profitable corporations, that under a Sanders administration, you no longer are going to get huge tax breaks,” Sanders said during a campaign swing last week. “In fact you’re going to start paying your fair share of taxes.”

Sanders and his campaign have used similar language in explaining their funding ideas for student debt forgiveness, a federal jobs guarantee and his plan to “rebuild rural America.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has proposed funding two of her key policy proposals by repealing the tax law. The first initiative would inject $315 billion in federal funding into increasing in teacher pay over the next ten years, specifically by making alterations to the estate tax, the exemption for which was doubled in the 2017 rewrite.

Harris has also often touted her intent to sign legislation as president that would provide families making less than $100,000 a year a tax credit of up to $500 a month.

"When people ask me, 'How are you going to pay for it?' I tell you: I’m going to repeal that Trump trillion-dollar tax cut that benefited the top one percent and the biggest corporations in our country," Harris said in Detroit in early May.

Sen. Cory Booker’s, D-N.J., campaign likewise says he would repeal the changes in the estate tax to fund his “baby bonds” plan to give children seed savings accounts at birth – an effort to mitigate the wealth gap.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke also regularly refer to repealing portions of the tax cuts as a way to pay for different priorities.

“Let's roll back the worst of those Trump tax cuts,” O’Rourke told a Des Moines audience earlier this month. “The corporate rate just went from 35 down to 21. Even if we took it only up to 25 or 26%, we would generate hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 10 years that we can invest in people and communities.”

Warren campaign releases record of her legal work

WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren's campaign Wednesday night released a summary of the cases she worked on during her tenure as a Harvard University professor to the public on Wednesday night. 

Most of the cases were bankruptcy-related, with Warren serving as either a counsel, a consultant, an expert witness, a mediator or an author of an amicus brief to a court deciding on the case. 

During Warren's 2012 Senate race, Republican Scott Brown used some of these cases to paint her as a friend of the conglomerates and corporations she now rails against. Her campaign at the time released a partial accounting of her legal work.

In this latest, fuller release of her legal work, Warren’s campaign describes these as examples of Warren trying to help the little guy, even in instances where she took the part of larger companies. Most of these are bankruptcy-related.

Read the release from Warren's campaign here for the summaries. Here are a few of the most interesting cases in the list. 

  • LTV Steel v. Shalala (1995): Warren helped write a petition in this case, advocating on behalf of the conglomerate as it fought against a Congressional requirement forcing it to pay millions into a fund for retired miners’ healthcare. Brown criticized Warren for her involvement in this case during the campaign. The Boston Globe reported that, at the time, Warren's camp argued she worked on the case because it had significant implications for future employees to receive compensation from companies that went bankrupt. 
  • Travelers v. Bailey (2009): Warren worked for Travelers Insurance, which was ordered to pay out a $500 million settlement for future and current asbestos poisoning victims. The result, according to a Boston Globe report from the time, was the preservation of a piece of bankruptcy law that gave victims of corporate malfeasance a better chance of getting compensated, even if the company responsible went bankrupt. But after Warren left the case, future litigation freed Travelers of having to pay that $500 million settlement and gave it immunity in future suits. 
  • Dow Corning Corp (1995): In another case litigated during the Brown race, Warren consulted for Dow Chemical, the parent company of a subsidiary that was sued for making faulty breast implants. Brown attacked her for taking the side of big business. A Globe story from 2012 said that Warren "suggested during a press conference that she had advised the company in setting up a trust" and framed her as being brought on board ultimately to work through that process."

Hoyer says White House stonewalling makes House Democrats 'more inclined' to support impeachment

WASHINGTON — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., on Wednesday said that President Trump's repeated refusals to cooperate with congressional investigations makes Democratic House members "more inclined" to support impeachment. 

During an interview on MSNBC's "MTP Daily," Hoyer said there's still support within the House Democratic caucus for the leadership's more cautious path that prioritizes investigations over declaring official impeachment proceedings. But he acknowledged the growing pressure within his caucus amid the clash between House Democrats and the White House. 

"Let me tell you what is not a bluff: We're going to continue to do our duty. We are going to continue to have oversight hearings, we are going to continue to ask for documentation and the testimony of witnesses we believe are relevant," Hoyer said. 

"Every time the president refuses to cooperate, contrary, in my view, to the Constitution of the United States, the members become more frustrated and more inclined" to support impeachment, he added. 

Watch the full interview below. 

GOP special election win brings new congressman to town

WASHINGTON — Republican Fred Keller cruised to victory in Tuesday's special election for Pennsylvania's Twelfth Congressional district, crowning him the newest member of the 116th Congress.

Keller had been heavily favored in the deep-red seat vacated by former GOP Rep. Tom Marino's sudden resignation this past January. Keller defeated Democrat Marc Friedenberg by a margin of 68 percent to 32 percent. 

Here's a bit of background about the newest congressman:

  • Keller is a state representative who has served since his election in 2010.
  • Before he joined the legislature, he worked as the plant operations manager at a Conestoga Wood Specialties plant.
  • Keller will become one of two members of Congress who did not attend college.
  • Keller was endorsed by President Trump, the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the House Freedom Caucus' PAC after party officials nominated him for the seat.
Leigh Ann Caldwell

Booker is latest to call for repeal of Hyde Amendment

WASHINGTON — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is unveiling his plans to protect and expand reproductive rights on Wednesday, making him the latest Democratic presidential candidate vowing to protect abortion access as conservatives in states across the country are working to roll it back. 

Booker said he would back federal legislation to codify Roe v. Wade, create a White House Office of Reproductive Freedom, appoint judges who support abortion access and repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits government health care funding for abortions. He’d also implement executive actions on “day one” ensure reproductive choice. 

Like most of the Democratic field, Booker has been focusing on the abortion debate on the campaign trail in recent days since Alabama voter to outlaw all abortion in the state and other states passing other stringent restrictions.

“A coordinated attack requires a coordinated response. That’s why on day one of my presidency, I will immediately and decisively take executive action to respond to these relentless efforts to erode Americans’ rights to control their own bodies,” Booker said in a statement unveiling the plan. 

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have also released reproductive rights plans. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke has as well, which he outlined during a CNN town hall Tuesday night. Along with Booker, Gillibrand and O’Rourke would also get rid of the Hyde Amendment, push legislation to protect abortion rights and use the executive office to undo abortion and contraception access restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump. 

Shaquille Brewster

Gillibrand releases 'Family Bill of Rights' plan

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., released a comprehensive “Family Bill of Rights” plan Wednesday that includes a package of proposals focused on easing the financial and medical barriers to parenthood.

The plan — a mix of existing legislative proposals and less-detailed declarations — contains well-established Democratic priorities like federal support for universal Pre-K programs, national paid family leave and an increase in child care tax credits. However, it goes further by targeting maternal and infant mortality in rural areas, requiring insurance companies to cover the costs of fertility treatments and offering refundable tax credits for adoptions.

"My new proposal, the Family Bill of Rights, will make all families stronger — regardless of who you are or what your zip code is — with a fundamental set of rights that levels the playing field starting at birth,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “I believe it will transform American families and their ability to achieve the American Dream."

Gillibrand has made family and women’s issues a core element of her campaign, telling CNN she intends to be “the candidate of the women’s vote." Last week, she traveled to Georgia to highlight her opposition to restrictive abortion laws sweeping the country. One of the proposals she touts the most on the trail is her national paid family leave bill, introduced in February.

The “Family Bill of Rights” includes five “fundamental rights ensured to all of America’s children and parents” that she commits to enacting within her first 100 days if elected president:

  1. Right to a safe and healthy pregnancy.
  2. Right to give birth or adopt a child, regardless of income, sexual orientation, religion or gender identity.
  3. Right to a safe and affordable nursery.
  4. Right to personally care for your loved ones with paid leave, including care for your child in its infancy.
  5. Right to affordable child care and universal pre-K, to ensure early education is available before kindergarten

Each principle proposes a policy solution ranging from a new program to refundable tax credits.

Her campaign says the entire plan “can be paid for with her financial transaction tax, which would raise over $777 billion in the next decade.”

Bill de Blasio's 2020 campaign makes initial hires

WASHINGTON -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is fleshing out the 2020 presidential campaign he launched last week with an initial group of advisers and staff shared with NBC News. 

Jon Paul Lupo, who has held senior posts in de Blasio’s City Hall, will serve as Senior Adviser and run day-to-day operations. 

Steve Jarding, a longtime Harvard Kennedy School lecturer and Democratic communications adviser who has worked overseas, will also hold the title Senior Adviser.

As will Jim Crounse, a Democratic direct mail consultant and de Blasio friend who has worked for Barack Obama among others.

New York Democratic fundraiser Mike Giaccio, who previously worked for New York gubernatorial candidates, will serve as Director of Finance.

And Olivia Lapeyrolerie, who worked as a spokesperson in the de Blasio administration, will serve as traveling press secretary. The firm Freedomland Media will head up video production.

Trump echoes familiar language in endorsing Pennsylvania House candidate

WASHINGTON—President Trump called on voters to turn out for Pennsylvania Republican Fred Keller in Tuesday's special election, calling the candidate “strong on Crime, Second Amendment, Military, Vets, and Healthcare.”

Keller is running to replace former Rep. Tom Marino, who resigned suddenly just weeks into the 2019 term, and is expected to carry the heavily-Republican district. 

If the language of Trump's endorsement sounds familiar, it’s because the President has used some form of that construction – strong on crime, second amendment, military, vets and healthcare – 64 times, going back to October 2017 to endorse over 40 candidates. This applies to a variety of candidates – from Congressional to gubernatorial.

He’s used the phrase “total endorsement” 26 times, “complete endorsement” 6 times and “strong endorsement” 3 times.

It’s notable that the President has not changed the issues or personalized the tweets for different candidates – only a few, like Ted Cruz who got an added “Beto is a Flake!”, had a unique spin in their endorsement tweet.

Some examples of Republican candidates who received a nod with that similar "Strong on Crime, Second Amendment, Military, Vets, and Healthcare" rhetoric include—North Carolina's Dan Bishop, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, Pennsylvania's John Chrin, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Nevada's Danny Tarkanian, then-Arizona Rep. Martha McSally, Ohio's Troy Balderson, now-Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and dozens more. 

—Ben Kamisar contributed 

Kentucky Democrats head to vote in contentious gubernatorial primary

WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democrats are heading to the polls Tuesday to crown a victor in a hard-fought gubernatorial primary with serious implications for November.

Public polling pegs Attorney General Andy Beshear the frontrunner over state Auditor Adam Edelen and state Rep. Rocky Adkins for the nomination. But Edelen and his allies have spent furiously in the hopes of defeating Beshear, the son of the state's last Democratic governor. 

Edelen's campaign has spent $2.1 million during the primary, dwarfing Beshear's $1.3 million and Adkins' $900,000, spending data from Advertising Analytics shows. And the pro-Edelen Kentuckians for a Better Future has dropped another $1 million into the race. 

The ad wars have gotten chippy, with Beshear and Edelen at the center of the fight. 

The pro-Edelen Kentuckians for a Better Future has spent more than a half-million dollars on an ad attacking Beshear for donors that supported his attorney general bid, attempting to link him to the opioid epidemic through those donations, and needling Beshear over a former aide's conviction for bribery.

The group also aired a spot that highlighted Beshear's work defending the Boy Scouts from abuse claims, but that was pulled off the air after just two days after Edelen's spokesman told the Lexington Herald-Leader it should be taken down. 

Edelen has amplified some of those attacks in one of his closing argument spots, and focused its resources on a spot where the candidate introduces viewers to his folksy farmer father to contrast his family with Beshear's famous father. 

Beshear's ads have partly tried to look past the primary with attacks on Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's record on health care. But he's taken to the airwaves to push back against the attacks, calling them "shameful and false" and criticizing the negative campaigning

Atkins has largely stayed out of the brawl, particularly on the airwaves, and has leaned on his legislative experience.

Both Beshear and Edelen received big endorsements in the race's final days — the former from the pro-abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America and the latter from The Courier-Journal, one of the state's premiere papers. 

The general election will be one of the most interesting of the 2019 cycle.  

Despite the Republican lean in the state (President Trump won by almost 30 percentage points in 2016), two of the last four governors were Democrats who were reelected to serve a second term. 

Even though he's outperformed polls before, polling shows Bevin is one of the more unpopular governors in America.