Beto O’Rourke Will Run Against Ted Cruz in Texas 2018 Senate Race

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) will announce on Friday plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. From the Houston Chronicle:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat and ex-punk rocker who pulled a stunning upset to win his House seat six years ago, plans to declare his candidacy on Friday for the Senate seat held by Ted Cruz, according to Democratic sources in Texas.

O’Rourke’s fledgling campaign has scheduled an announcement on Friday in El Paso, his hometown. He has traveled heavily in Texas over the last three months making contacts, barely concealing his political plans.

“I’m very moved to do it,” O’Rourke, 44, said in an interview earlier this month, adding that he had reached the “emotional decision” about his candidacy.

Campaign aides declined to confirm that he will enter the 2018 Senate race.

The article also points out that Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) is still thinking about whether or not to get in this race, though the article notes that Castro has climbed the ladder in the Democratic House caucus farther and faster than O’Rourke, implying that Castro would have more to lose if his Senate run fell short. Most of the Texas Democrats I’ve spoken to in the past several weeks and months mentioned Castro as a probable candidate for 2018 and possibly their best (albeit longshot) chance at unseating Ted Cruz.

Millions of Americans Could Lose Health Insurance Under Republican Health Care Proposal

Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration had 24 million reasons to be unhappy on Monday: that’s the number of Americans who would lose their health insurance under the Republican-crafted American Health Care Act by 2026, according to a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.  The major findings of the CBO estimate:

  • The AHCA would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion from 2017-2026.
  • The biggest savings would come from reductions in Medicaid and the elimination of subsidies provided by the Affordable Care Act.
  • The biggest costs would come from repealing changes to the Internal Revenue Code caused by the ACA.
  • In 2018, there would be 14 million more uninsured people than under the current ACA law.
  • This figure will continue to increase by 21 million in 2020 and 24 million in 2026.
  • By 2026, an estimated 52 million people would be without health insurance, compared to 28 million people for current projections under the ACA.
  • The reduction in insurance coverage between 2018-2026 would be in large part from states discontinuing the Medicaid expansion program offered under the ACA.
  • In 2018 and 2019, average premiums for single policyholders would be 15-20 percent higher than under the current law. Average premiums would start to decrease in 2020.
  • By 2026, average premiums for single policy holders would be 10 percent lower than under the current law.
  • However, the savings on premiums (or lack thereof) vary by age:
    • For a 21-year-old: 20-25 percent less
    • For a 40-year-old: 8-10 percent less
    • For a 64-year-old: 20-25 percent higher
  • Medicaid spending would decrease by $880 billion from 2017-2026.
  • By 2026, Medicaid spending would be 25 percent less than what the CBO estimates currently under the ACA.

Republicans – who had previously cited CBO estimates as evidence to attack the ACA – had been preemptively attacking or trying to question the credibility of the agency in the days leading up to the estimate’s release. Gary Cohn, director of the White House National Economic Council, told Fox News, “We will see what the score is, in fact in the past, the CBO score has really been meaningless.” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told reporters, “We disagree strenuously,” with the CBO’s findings.

Not all Republicans were optimistic about the proposed law, even before the CBO estimate was released. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) warned House Republicans that they would be risking their majority if they voted for the AHCA, and told them, “Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote.”

Opposition to the bill is not limited to Democrats. A variety of organizations ranging from the left, right and center have all publicly come out against the AHCA. They include the AARP, the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, the Club for Growth, Moveon.org, and the Center for American Progress.

Democrats attacked the AHCA almost immediately after its unveiling last week, because it finally gave them a concrete Republican policy proposal to target after nearly seven years of a vague and undefined “repeal and replace” pledge Republicans offered as an alternative to the ACA.  The CBO estimate will provide them with quantifiable data for campaign ads and talking points to target Republicans running for election or reelection in the 2017 and 2018 cycles.

In a statement, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said, “Donald Trump’s ‘insurance for everybody’ pledge was a big fat lie.”

“The CBO, which is headed by a Republican-appointed director, just made it clear that Trump’s health care plan will cause up to 24 million Americans to lose their health insurance. At the same time, the plan slashes Medicaid, drives up the cost of care for older Americans, and defunds life-saving services provided by Planned Parenthood. The only winners here are Trump, and the corporations and rich people who get to pocket new tax breaks.”

“Of course, instead of admitting that the bill would leave millions without health insurance, Republicans are desperately trying to discredit the CBO with more ‘alternative facts.’ The American people are smarter than that.”

Tyler Law, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, issued a statement saying, “Every single House Republican owns this catastrophic bill and should be prepared for backlash at the ballot box, particularly given the anticipated loss of coverage for 14 million people as early as next year.”

UPDATE: Politico viewed a White House assessment of the AHCA which estimated 26 million Americans would lose their health insurance by 2026 – two million more than the CBO estimate. The explanation for the document from White House Communications Director Michael Dubke was, “This is OMB trying to project what CBO’s score will be using CBO’s methodology.”

John Kerry Signs Deal For His Memoir

This was announced today in Publisher’s Weekly:

Former Secretary of State John Kerry will publish a memoir with Simon & Schuster. Jonathan Karp, president and publisher of the Simon & Schuster imprint, and Bob Bender, v-p and executive editor, who will edit the book, acquired world publishing rights in all formats from Robert B. Barnett of Williams & Connolly. No publication date has yet been set. The book will also be published by Simon & Schuster’s international companies in Australia, Canada, India, and the United Kingdom, and in audiobook by Simon & Schuster Audio.

Kerry was represented by Bob Barnett, the same Washington uber-lawyer who has negotiated book deals for the Obamas, George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Sarah Palin, and many other national political figures. In addition to his tenure as Obama’s Secretary of State, I assume the book will also cover his 2004 presidential run and his Senate career.

Democratic Senator Accuses Attorney General of Perjury

Minnesota Senator Al Franken said he thinks Attorney General Jeff Sessions committed perjury when he failed to disclose his meetings with the Russian ambassador during his confirmation hearing. The written defense of Sessions’s testimony submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee did not convince Franken.

“It’s hard to come to any other conclusion than he just perjured himself,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. It was Franken who asked the key question during the confirmation hearing whose response put Sessions in the center of a media and political firestorm. The controversy forced Sessions to recuse himself from any Department of Justice investigation into Russia’s hacking during the 2016 election, coming amidst numerous calls from Democrats for him to resign.

Some context here: Al Franken – who previously was a Saturday Night Live cast member, as well as a liberal pundit and talk radio host – has kept pretty quiet in terms of partisan rhetoric since he was elected to the Senate. Franken and Sessions were both members of that elite political club that which, despite sharp political differences, tends to place an emphasis on decorum among its members.

In other words, accusing Sessions of perjury is not a charge that Franken makes lightly. I’m old enough to remember the controversy surrounding John Ashcroft’s nomination as attorney general. The controversy over Sessions even before the Russia controversy erupted makes Ashcroft look tame by comparison. 

Tim Ryan Won’t Run for Ohio Governor in 2018

After months of flirting with the idea, Rep. Tim Ryan told Ohio Democrats he would not be entering the race to succeed term-limited Governor John Kasich:

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Tim Ryan, whose national profile has risen in recent months, announced Tuesday that he will not be a candidate for Ohio governor in 2018.

The eight-term congressman wrestled with a run for months, weighing the risk of jumping into a potentially crowded and unpredictable primary against sticking with a safe House seat.

“Constituents in my district are at the forefront of an economic transformation that has hollowed out our nation’s middle class,” Ryan said in a statement emailed after word about his decision first trickled out to cleveland.com. “As I’ve considered how best to address these challenges, the more I’ve appreciated how much they are national issues that require national solutions.

“That is why, while I have been truly humbled by the encouragement I’ve received to run for Governor of Ohio, I believe the best way to serve my community, my state and my country is to remain in the United States Congress.

Ryan’s decision was made easier by the plum committee assignments he maintained despite his unsuccessful bid to unseat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last fall. In his Tuesday statement, he asserted that spots on the Appropriations Committee and Defense Subcommittee will help him “fight back against wrong-headed policies and champion the kinds of solutions that would have a real impact for American families.”

With Ryan’s decision to not enter the race, the Democratic field is wide open. According to cleveland.com’s Henry Gomez, the potential field of candidates includes:

  • Ohio Senate minority leader Joe Schiavoni
  • Former Rep. Betty Sutton
  • Former Rep. Connie Pillich
  • Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley
  • Former Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams
  • Former Sen. Nina Turner
  • Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich
  • CFPB Director Richard Cordray

While the race for an open governor’s mansion in Columbus is ongoing, at the same time Sen. Sherrod Brown will be running for reelection in the same cycle. Depending on the political climate in 18 months from now, that could be a boost for Democrats up and down the Ohio ballot.

Howard Dean Calls Top Senate Democrat’s Endorsement “the Kiss of Death”

ATLANTA — Former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean took a swipe at Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer while addressing a room full of DNC members earlier today.

“I think Chuck Schumer’s endorsement is the kiss of death,” Dean said at a lunch organized by South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is running to be the next chairman of the organization.  Dean has endorsed Buttigieg.

The context for the comment was an argument that Dean – then the DNC chairman – and Schumer – then the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee – had approximately a decade ago over use of party funds. According to Dean, Schumer wanted more money from the DNC for his committee, a decision Dean opposed by investing the money in state and local parties. During Dean and Schumer’s tenures as chairs of their respective committees, Democrats took control of both chambers of Congress in 2006, and expanded their congressional majorities and won the White House in 2008.

The subtext to Dean’s comment – implicit or not – is the fact that Schumer was one of the earliest and most prominent Democrats to endorse Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) in the DNC race when it began in late 2016.  Ellison was considered one of the frontrunners in the race along with former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez for the past several weeks, but Perez has apparently seized the momentum in the final stretch of the race after unveiling a series of endorsements from voting members of the DNC in support of his candidacy over the past 48 hours.  According to Politico, Schumer sent out a letter to DNC members yesterday reaffirming his support for Ellison and defending him on Israel.

Virginia Poll Results

Quinnipiac University released the results of a new Virginia poll.  Here are the highlights:

  • For the 2018 Senate race, Democrat Tim Kaine leads hypothetical matchups against two Republican women: Laura Ingraham (56-36) and Carly Fiorina (57-36).
  • President Trump has a 38-56 job approval rating in Virginia.
    • Republicans approve 81-11
    • Democrats disapprove 95-3
    • Independents disapprove 57-37
    • Whites approve 46-48
    • Non-whites disapprove 76-20
  • President Trump’s travel ban has a 55-42 percent disapproval rating. (Keep in mind Virginia attorney general Mark Harring has challenged it in court)
  • Virginia voters think Judge Neil Gorsuch should be confirmed to the Supreme Court by a 49-31 margin.
  • Virginia voters think home-schooled students should be able to play on public school sports teams, by an overwhelming 71-23 margin.