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Meet the Press Blog: Latest news, analysis and data driving the political discussion

Smart political reporting and analysis, including data points, interesting national trends, short updates and more from the NBC News political unit.
Image: Illustration of photos depicting voters on line, voting booths, the Capitol, the White House and raised hands.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

Harris proposes her version of 'Medicare for All'

DETROIT — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., put forward a healthcare proposal on Monday ahead of the second Democratic presidential debate that would move every American into a 'Medicare-for-All' system within ten years, while allowing private insurers to offer competing plans, as well as supplemental insurance options — provided that the commercial plans meet the care standards of the government plan.

“This plan will reduce our country’s health care costs and lower Americans’ out-of-pocket costs, all while extending health insurance coverage to every American,” Harris wrote in a Medium post outlining her proposal. 

Harris’ plan would provide “all medically necessary services, including emergency room visits, doctor visits, vision, dental, hearing aids, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, and comprehensive reproductive health care services.”

Presently, Americans 65 years older and older are eligible for Medicare. Harris’ plan would immediately enroll newborns and uninsured Americans onto the government-run option while transitioning the rest of the population onto a Medicare plan — one either run by the government or a private insurer — within ten years of the passage of her proposed legislation.

Since launching her presidential bid in January, the Democratic presidential candidate has faced questions about the role that private insurance companies would play in her plan.

Harris’ plan would allow private insurance companies to offer “Medicare plans” that “adhere to strict Medicare requirements on costs and benefits.” It would also allow the companies to sell “supplemental insurance” to cover care, like cosmetic surgery, that her proposed Medicare plans would not cover.

“I think what she’s saying is if the private sector can add value, then power to them,” said Andy Slavitt, who served as acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the Obama Administration. “She’s leaving room for innovation, but she’s also saying there ought to be a pretty high bar.”

The package of services guaranteed to Americans under Harris’ plan, however, is more expansive than the current offerings under Medicare today.

In a statement sent to reporters by the Harris campaign, former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who worked with Harris’s campaign staff during the formation of the plan, said: “This plan builds on the progress we made in the Affordable Care Act and expands upon its promise of universal coverage through a sensible expansion of the popular Medicare system.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders has long backed a similar Medicare for All proposal, which Harris has co-sponsored in the U.S. Senate, but Harris said her plan would establish a 10-year phase-in period for individuals currently enrolled in other plans, like employer-based care, the exchanges built under the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, to “transition” to the new Medicare plans. Sanders has pressed for a four-year timetable. 

The senator, in her written post on Monday, also outlined her proposal for covering the cost of the expanded healthcare coverage. She said would not increase taxes on households that make less than $100,000 a year. Sanders, alternatively, has suggested a “4-percent income-based premium” on families of four making more than $29,000 a year would be included in his legislation.

Harris also proposed a tax on stock trades and called for an end to foreign tax shelters as part of her plan to pay for the proposal.

First Read Sunday: Rick Scott responds to Trump feud with Cummings

WASHINGTON — If It’s Sunday, the tweets are sparking outcry again.   

President Trump opened up yet another feud this weekend with a Democratic member of Congress when he attacked House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

The president called Cummings' Baltimore-area district "a disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess," and he criticized the Democrat for criticizing Homeland Security’s treatment of migrants on the southern border.

The context for Trump's attacks is key—Cummings’ committee has broad jurisdiction and is investigating a litany of issues including the administration’s handling of the crisis at the southern border and security clearances, as well as questions surrounding Trump’s business interests.

So those investigations might have something to do with Trump's decision to make things personal.

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott demurred when asked about the president's tone in an appearance on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning, saying, "you can ask him why he did the tweet."  But like Trump, Scott trained his fire on Cummings, arguing that the congressman did border patrol agents a disservice by criticizing their conduct.

“I didn't do the tweets, Chuck. I can't talk about why he did what he did. But I'm very disappointed in the people, like Congressman Cummings, who is attacking Border Patrol agents that are trying to do their job, when the Democrats won't give them the resources to do it," he said. 

"Congressman Cummings has sat there and attacked our Border Patrol agents, all right? This reminds me of what happened to soldiers coming back from Vietnam,” he said.

For more on the president's feud with Cummings, and for more news and analysis from "Meet the Press," be sure to sign up for the daily First Read newsletter here

Booker: Biden attacks are 'ridiculous'

CARTER LAKE, Iowa — NBC News correspondent Garrett Haake spoke with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., about his criticisms of former Vice President Joe Biden and support for Booker in the African American community. Booker said it will be important for the Democratic nominee to have an “authentic connection” with African American voters. Watch: 

New Buttigieg plan aims to expand and strengthen unions

DES MOINES, Iowa — Mayor Pete Buttigieg unveiled his latest presidential campaign policy proposal Friday, an economic plan focused on strengthening and expanding unions and workers' rights.

“Our economy is changing, and too many Americans are working full time, some working two or even three jobs, and still finding it impossible to make ends meet,” Buttigieg said.

The plan calls for an expansion of unionization to include gig economy workers, fast food employees, and contract laborers. In addition to cracking down on employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors, in an effort to avoid paying overtime or being held to the standard of civil rights protections required by law. 

In addition, Buttigieg hopes to strengthen collective bargaining rights in places where unions already exist. His plan would allow unionized workers from different companies, but in the same line of work, the option to bargain all together. The plan would also give domestic and home health care workers the ability to bargain across employers and expand protections for farm workers. 

The 13-page plan hopes to tackle the gender wage gap through greater pay transparency, banning employers from using an employee’s salary history to determine wages, and passing anti-harassment and gender nondiscrimination laws. 

Buttigieg’s proposal would give preference in government contract bids to companies that are unionized and offer good pay and benefits to all of their workers. 

“Let’s make sure that in this coming era, the tide continues to rise — and truly lifts all boats,” Buttigieg said. 

The plan also calls for a $15 minimum wage and ensuring paid sick leave and family leave for all Americans, which much of the democratic field supports.  The campaign said Buttigieg would implement these policies through both administrative action and legislation.

The mayor will unveil the policy at a town hall in Ankeny, Iowa later today.

Castro releases first plan for indigenous communities

DES MOINES, Iowa — Ahead of a visit to the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama, Iowa Friday, former HUD Sec. Julián Castro released his “People First Indigenous Communities Policy,” the first comprehensive plan among 2020 Democratic candidates specifically focusing on the relationship between tribal nations and the federal government. 

This plan intersects with his established positions on housing grants, veteran homelessness, healthcare, investment in education, and his plan for a 21st Century Marshall Plan.  

“We cannot erase the history of how our nation has treated Indigenous peoples,” Castro said in a tweet Thursday, “But we can respect their sovereignty, honor our treaty commitments & make progress to ensure that all native communities thrive.”

Castro seeks to strengthen tribal sovereignty by establishing a White House Council on Indigenous Community Affairs to ensure representation in Washington D.C. The plan also will protect Native Americans’ equal access to all forms of voting and will combat efforts to “disenfranchise" those communities. 

Castro’s plan prioritizes the “crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women” and human trafficking of native women by creating a task force of tribal leaders, public health officials and law enforcement. According to Dept. of Justice data, some reservations’ murder rates of Native American women are ten times higher than the national average. The plan also proposes to end tribal veteran homelessness by 2025 and to invest an additional $2.5billion over ten years to fund the various Native American housing block grant programs. 

It also calls for the end of leasing of federal lands for fossil fuel exploration and extraction in order to protect sacred tribal lands, in addition to supporting the STOP Act, to prosecute the illegal export of tribal cultural heritage and organize the return of these items from foreign countries. 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s newly released “Moonshot” climate change plan includes a short section on indigenous communities, promising to direct federal agencies to seek and obtain approval from tribal governments before traversing or disrupting tribal lands. 

Tom Steyer: I’ll declare a national emergency to tackle climate change

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, the newest entry into the 2020 contest, released an environmental plan on Thursday that includes a promise to declare a “national emergency” over climate change immediately upon taking office.

“We’ve got to stop talking about this, we have to turn the page to action and we should do it Day One by calling it a state of emergency,” Steyer told NBC News in an interview.

“That’s where we are. That’s where the people of America have got to go together.”  

He is the first candidate to follow President Trump’s own invocation of emergency powers to finance a border wall with a direct pledge to take similar steps to confront climate change.  

According to Steyer, he would “give Congress 100 days to pass a Green New Deal” before using executive authority impose new energy efficiency standards on  and redirect federal funding to climate projects. 

Steyer’s broader proposal sets a goal of net-zero emissions associated with climate change by 2045.

Planks of the plan include a $2 trillion investment in clean energy infrastructure, hiring 1 million workers into a new civil service program dedicated to combating climate change, and tripling funding for scientific research.

It also includes a $50 billion fund to help transition workers tied to the fossil fuel industry to new jobs, which Steyer said would be distributed in consultation with affected communities.   “We want to make sure we explicitly take those workers’ interests into account,” he said.   

A leading Democratic donor, Steyer has invested millions in climate activism over the years through groups like NextGen America, which he founded. 

Booker and Biden lower the temperature of spat at National Urban League

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., kept recent tensions between them low at the National Urban League conference, with both candidates stressing to the audience their individual commitments to the black community instead of attacking each other’s records on civil rights.

Still, Booker, who was the first candidate to criticize Biden’s criminal justice plan earlier this week, suggested throughout his remarks that the African American should base their support for a candidate on their career long commitment to civil rights and their chances to beat President Donald Trump.

“It is easy to call Donald Trump a racist now — you get no great badge of courage for that. The question is what were you doing to address structural inequality and institutional racism throughout your life?” he said.

Booker then added it was “a problem” that when people ask about electability “they’re not asking about the African-American voters who make up the most reliable constituency of the Democratic Party.”

The New Jersey senator never uttered Biden’s name during his speech Thursday, but his comments came after Booker questioned whether Biden is the appropriate leader for the black community because he was the “architect of mass incarceration” for passing the 1994 crime bill. Biden responded to that attack yesterday stating simply that “Cory knows better.”

Following Booker’s electability remark, Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager and communications director for Biden’s campaign, tweeted that the campaign “couldn’t agree more” with his point. She then pointed to the almost 40 percentage point difference between Booker and Biden in a new CBS poll where 44 percent of African Americans said they would vote for Biden over 4 percent who support Booker.

Biden avoided even making suggestions about his opponents position on the issue while speaking at the conference, but he did stress that he would do everything possible to win over African American voters saying, “I promise I’ll work hard for your support. And if I get elected, I’m with you.”

Many of Biden's opponents have lodged complaints against Biden's assumption that he will easily win the African American community. 

Biden leads Dem primary field in South Carolina by 27 points

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden has a wide lead in Monmouth University's new South Carolina Democratic primary poll, with just two other candidates registering double-digit support. 

Biden's 39 percent puts him in a league of his own, while his next closest competitors are stuck in a logjam far behind him. 

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has support from 12 percent of the likely primary voters, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at 10 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., at 9 percent. 

South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is at 5 percent in the poll, followed by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and billionaire Tom Steyer, who both sit at 2 percent. 

The rest of the field hit 1 percent or lower. 

Biden continues to draw his support from black voters, which typically make up a majority of the South Carolina primary electorate. More than half (51 percent) of black voters say Biden is their first choice. 

Monmouth is one of the pollsters that the Democratic National Committee is using to decide who makes its debate stage in September. But the poll had little effect on the field, outside putting Steyer closer to qualifying for the debate. 

Candidates have to hit both a 130,000 unique donor threshold as well as finish with 2 percent or above in four qualifying polls. Six candidates both have hit the poll threshold and say they've hit that unique donor threshold. With this poll, Steyer has hit the 2 percent mark in two polls. 

Gillibrand unveils 'moonshot' plan to combat climate change

CHICAGO — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., unveiled a $10 trillion comprehensive climate change plan Thursday, that she says will "save our planet." 

“We must aggressively combat climate change not because it is easy, but because it is hard," Gillibrand said evoking the words of former President John F. Kennedy in a statement announcing her climate "moonshot."

"Our race for a green economy will be a measure of our excellence, innovation, and entrepreneurialism as a nation, and I know we’re up for the challenge,” she continued. 

Her six point plan includes many elements of the Green New Deal, a resolution outlined by freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, now embraced by much of the 2020 Democratic primary field.  

The six points, each containing specific goals, initiatives and commitments are:

  1. Get to net-zero carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and phase out fossil fuels.
  2. Put a price on carbon and hold polluters accountable.
  3. Build a green jobs economy.
  4. Prioritize rural advancement, frontline communities, and marginalized voices.
  5. Lead a 21st-century clean energy international “space race.”
  6. Protect clean air, clean water, and public lands.

Climate change has been a top issue area for the Democratic party base, reflected by the priority several of the candidates have placed on detailing large-scale plans to combat the issue. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is making climate change the central issue of his candidacy, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke's first policy proposal was a $5 trillion climate plan and former Vice President Joe Biden's plan, announced in early June, totaled $1.7 trillion.

In a nod to workers potentially displaced by a shift to a green energy economy, Gillibrand promises to "establish a 'green jobs recovery fund' to help affected communities build new opportunities." 

Her plan includes a commitment to "ensure wage and benefit replacements are guaranteed for displaced workers, and make it easier for workers who are near the end of their career to find paths to retirement." 

The Gillibrand campaign says her proposals would be partially funded by a combination of a climate mitigation excise tax, carbon tax and ending fossil fuel subsidies.  

Democrats don’t see momentum for impeachment right now

WASHINGTON — Robert Mueller’s testimony is unlikely to reverse House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reluctance to launch immediate  impeachment proceedings against President Trump, instead lending momentum towards calls for more congressional investigations, Democratic lawmakers and top aides told NBC News.

“He was clear about the things that counted, that he did not exonerate the president, that there were multiple instances of obstruction of justice” Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Penn., told NBC News. "We absolutely have to” call in more witnesses, she said.

“I think it’s a very important first day,” Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Penn, said. “Some people are saying this is the last day. This is the beginning.”

Senior Democratic Intelligence Committee officials who briefed reporters after their hearing said Mueller’s articulation of national security risks that can come from foreign contacts, among other issues, "raises a lot more questions” to pursue. 

In a press conference after the hearings, Pelosi was asked by NBC News whether her views had changed on impeachment. "My position has always been whatever decision we made in that regard would have to be done with our strongest possible hand, and we still have some outstanding matters in the courts," she said. "It's about the Congress, the Constitution, and the courts. And we are fighting the president in the courts."

Pelosi told Democrats in a closed-door meeting Wednesday evening that the president has engaged in wrongdoing.

Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., said that Pelosi told members that they can come out for impeachment if that’s what they thought was right based on the testimony. “She was more clear today about” telling members to support impeachment if they want than she has been in the last, Demings said. 

Still, Democrats close to the speaker cautioned that the proceedings are unlikely to change her go-slow approach. 

Robert Raben, an assistant attorney general under Bill Clinton who is close to Pelosi’s office and has been advising House and Senate Judiciary members, said “if someone was hoping that this would be the surge toward a tipping point, that wasn’t the case.”

“The ground did not shift (on impeachment),” Raben told NBC. “Pelosi’s strategy of investigate, legislate and litigate will remain intact,” he said.  

Three Democratic aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the hearings won't cause Pelosi to reverse course.

“The question is how many (Democratic) members come out for it and what’s the threshold that makes it uncomfortable and unsustainable for her” to resist impeachment. Prior to the hearings, there were 88 Democrats who’ve publicly called for an impeachment inquiry. 

“If we get into triple digits and 45-50% it might be harder for her” to resist, the aide said.

Alex Moe contributed

Booker and Biden spar over criminal justice

WASHINGTON — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and former Vice President Joe Biden took aim at each other's records on criminal justice in what could be a preview of next week's presidential debate stage. 

Booker has spent the past few days criticizing Biden's support for the 1994 crime bill decried by many progressive criminal justice reform activists for being too harsh on issues like mandatory sentencing.

Biden pushed back Wednesday, pointing to  a federal investigation into the Newark Police Department that found that officers "engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional stops, searches, arrests, use of excessive force and theft."

The discussion heated up on Tuesday after Biden released his new criminal justice plan, which includes policies like pushing states to eliminate mandatory minimums for non-violent crimes and reducing criminal penalties for drug crimes. 

In response, Booker called Biden the "proud architect of a failed system."

Booker expanded on that criticism on Wednesday during a Detroit NAACP forum that included 10 presidential candidates, including Biden. There, he argued that "we've seen devastating impact of legislation" like the crime bill" to "destroy communities, that has turned and put mass incarceration on steroids," Booker said. 

During his remarks Wednesday, Biden defended his involvement with the 1994 crime bill, arguing it was "overwhelmingly supported" in his community. But he said there should be a shift from "incarceration to rehabilitation" to address the "systemic problem of too many African Americans in jail."

Pressed on Booker's claim, Biden pointed to the Justice Department investigation into the Newark Police Department which found a "pattern or practice of constitutional violations," as well as "policing that results in disproportionate stops and arrests of Newark’s black residents." Booker was the mayor of Newark for a portion of that time.

"If he wants to go back and talk about records, I am happy to do that. But I'd rather talk about the future," Biden added.

Booker addressed that investigation Sunday on CNN.

"Most folks who know New Jersey know I inherited a police department that had decades of challenges with accountability, challenges along racial lines," he said. 

"And we actually stepped up to deal with the problem, not only working with the DOJ, but working with the ACLU to put forward what was a national standard-setting level of accountability.