December 24, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that he was not ruling out testimony from new witnesses in Trump's impeachment trial, as a dispute over the rules delays preparations for the trial.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants witnesses who refused to appear during House impeachment hearings to testify in the Senate, The Associated Press reports. McConnell has declined, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has responded by delaying sending the Senate two articles of impeachment the House approved last week.

"We haven't ruled out witnesses," McConnell told Fox and Friends. "We've said let's handle this case just like we did with President Clinton."

Some witnesses testified in that trial, but Republicans have the votes to block anyone requested by Democrats. Harold Maass

July 20, 2017

President Trump's explanation of health insurance in a recent interview with The New York Times raised some questions about his basic understanding of how health insurance functions. Here's Trump on why "pre-existing conditions are a tough deal":

Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you're 21 years old, you start working and you're paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you're 70, you get a nice plan. Here's something where you walk up and say, "I want my insurance." [President Trump, via The New York Times]

The Washington Post took a whack at what Trump was trying to say:

Trump is arguing, it seems, that an insurance system is supposed to be based on people paying in over a lengthy period of time so that, when they need coverage, they've already helped offset the costs. He thinks of it, in other words, a bit like life insurance, or Social Security.

His point, it appears, is that a system where people suddenly have the need for new coverage or coverage that's expensive from the outset "was not supposed to be the way insurance works." That's not really true, of course; for someone born with a heart condition, for example, there was no halcyon period in their 20s when they could pay into the system without needing more back in coverage.

That's how health insurance differs from life insurance. Instead of one person paying against his own future needs, it's a pool of people paying in against their collective future needs. [The Washington Post]

This, coming from the man who claimed senators "couldn't believe" how much he knows about health care. Becca Stanek

March 21, 2017

Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch on Tuesday refused to comment on how he would rule on President Trump's immigration executive order, should he be confirmed and should the travel ban make it to the Supreme Court. During the second day of his Senate confirmation hearing, Gorsuch maintained it would be "grossly improper" for him to give any indication on how he would rule on any case — especially one that's "currently being litigated." A Maryland federal court and a Hawaii court have both imposed temporary restraining orders against Trump's ban, which temporarily prohibits people from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

Gorsuch dismissed a Republican congressman's suggestion that nominating Gorsuch would be "the best thing" Trump "could do for his Muslim ban." When the comment was recalled at the hearing, Gorsuch responded by noting "a lot of people say a lot of silly things." "He has no idea how I'd rule in that case," Gorsuch said of the congressman.

Watch the moment below. Becca Stanek

December 13, 2016

Before President-elect Donald Trump had even officially selected ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to serve as secretary of state, Republican senators were piping up with concerns, particularly about Tillerson's ties to Russia. Tillerson has built a career on making oil deals abroad and he has established a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin along the way, even winning the Russian Order of Friendship award in 2013. Now that Trump has officially tapped Tillerson for the role, the question is whether those dissenters would go so far as to block his nomination.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said prior to Trump's announcement that he would give Tillerson a "chance," but he seemed wary about putting his concerns entirely aside. "It's a matter of concern to me that he has such a close personal relationship with Vladimir Putin," McCain said of Tillerson. "And obviously they've done enormous deals together and that would color his approach to Vladimir Putin and the Russian threat."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was similarly skeptical. "I don't know the man much at all, but let's put it this way: If you received an award from the Kremlin, [an] Order of Friendship, then we're gonna have some talkin'," Graham said. "We'll have some questions. I don't want to prejudge the guy, but that's a bit unnerving."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) came the closest to suggesting he might block Tillerson's nomination. In a statement released Tuesday, just hours after Trump announced he'd chosen Tillerson, Rubio voiced "serious concerns" about Tillerson's nomination. "The next secretary of state must be someone who views the world with moral clarity, is free of potential conflicts of interest, has a clear sense of America's interests, and will be a forceful advocate for America's foreign policy goals to the president, within the administration, and on the world stage," Rubio said in the statement. However, he vowed to do his part to "ensure [Tillerson] receives a full and fair but also thorough hearing."

It would take the defections of only three GOP senators to block one of Trump's Cabinet nominations. Becca Stanek

November 30, 2016

House Democrats vote for their next leader today. And there's an outside chance they won't re-elect House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Though Politico reported that Pelosi, who has led the Democratic caucus since 2002, remains the "overwhelming favorite to win re-election," she certainly isn't sailing towards that outcome without resistance.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) has put up a formidable challenge to Pelosi, as many Democrats who once supported Pelosi have switched loyalties in search of a fresh start. "Change is necessary. And the only way we're going to survive is to get change; they're connected. We've never changed anything since I've been here," said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). Another representative told BuzzFeed News, "I think the anybody-but-Pelosi sentiment is stronger than she thinks it is."

Even if Pelosi wins, some change will likely be imminent. Already, Ryan's candidacy has spurred Pelosi to propose structural changes to the Democratic leadership and to appoint younger members. Pelosi will also have to grapple with whatever portion of her party votes against her.

But with Democrats preparing to face off against Donald Trump, Pelosi's adversarial experience with the last GOP president may actually be her saving grace. "She is steady, and experienced," said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). "She worked with Bush when she needed to, and effectively pushed against him when she needed to — I'm thinking specifically about the Iraq war and his desire to privatize Social Security." Becca Stanek

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