Review Category : Politics

Democrats’ disputes simmer after special election losses

US Congress(WASHINGTON) — Democrats were left picking up the pieces after spending millions of dollars from the party’s war chest to back a young candidate in a traditionally red district outside Atlanta and pushing hard for their base of supporters from around the country to donate to him too.

The loss in the high-profile, costly race was only exacerbated by a second defeat Tuesday night in a race that flew mostly under the radar: Democrats also lost a special election in South Carolina.

Despite national fervor and grassroots activism that have sprung up on the left since President Trump took office, Republicans have swept all four special election races in 2017.

“I don’t like moral victories, I like victories,” Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who challenged House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in the House Democratic leadership elections last fall, told reporters Wednesday morning.

“There’s a level of depression,” he said of the mood among Democrats, adding that the national brand of the party is “toxic.”

On Capitol Hill, top party officials told their colleagues to stay motivated after a strong showing in a conservative district that once sent former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to Congress and re-elected former Rep. Tom Price by double digits in November.

In an internal memo distributed to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee staff obtained by ABC News, Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-New Mexico, argued that many Republicans won their districts by slimmer margins than in the Georgia-sixth last fall. With all the grassroots energy, he wrote, the party still had a chance to take back the House of Representatives next year.

“I think the hype before the election that we had to win this was wrong,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-New York. “If the [marginal swing from November] holds true in a year, we sweep the House.”

But for other Democrats critical of their party’s leaders, Tuesday’s losses resurfaced long-simmering frustrations with Pelosi’s leadership and the party’s message heading into the midterms.

Asked if Democrats can win in 2018 while GOP groups run attack ads featuring Pelosi, Ryan said “it’s going to make things a heck of a lot harder.”

Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., who supported Ryan’s leadership bid, tweeted Wednesday that Jon Ossoff had to spend time and money “defending against attacks on our party leadership” despite Trump’s unpopularity.

“Attacks aren’t fair or justified, but GOP keeps using this playbook because they see that it works. That’s a fact we can’t keep ignoring,” she wrote.

Joe Cunningham, a Democrat running for Congress in a bid to unseat Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., tweeted a promise not to vote for Pelosi for leadership if he wins his race — just hours after announcing his bid.

“Time to move forward and win again,” he wrote.

In a previously scheduled closed-door conference meeting Wednesday morning, Pelosi and Lujan kicked off the session by mentioning the race Tuesday night, and the need for the party to develop an economic message.

The comments, seven months after the 2016 election, left some scratching their heads.

“It’s June 21st,” one member in the meeting told reporters in disbelief.

Progressive Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a freshman who has expressed frustration with Pelosi and party’s platforms in the past, argued Tuesday night that the party has to rally behind a “concrete” and “bold” economic agenda.

“I think we do need a bolder economic platform that speaks to wage stagnation and the need for new jobs … and has new ideas that can capture people’s attention and imagination,” he told ABC News. He listed the possibility of a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that create jobs or a dramatic earned income tax credit expansion.

“As you know, we need 24 seats to retake the majority. Our DCCC polling team and outside pollsters went into dozens of districts in the last few months to learn: Is the momentum real? Is it building to the point that we can win 24 seats and take back the House? The answer is yes,” Lujan wrote. “In more than 24 districts and counting, generic Democrats are leading in the polls or have already made significant shifts from the last polls available in 2016.”

The memo talks about specific districts in Florida, New Jersey and Arizona where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says it has “tested the named head-to-head between Republican incumbents and specific Democrats, and the results are staggering. Many incumbents — who won with double digits last cycle — would be in the race of their careers.”

In a letter to House Democrats Wednesday, Pelosi praised the party’s slate of candidates for giving Republicans “a run for their money” in all the special elections in “deep red congressional districts”

“The House was in play before the Georgia race. The House remains in play now,” she wrote.

Pelosi said Democrats continue to fine-tune their economic message to voters, an effort led by Reps. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., David Ciciline, D-R.I., and Hakeem Jeffires, D-N.Y.

Pelosi and Lujan have been working on a economic messaging plan for months, updating members on the process since the election.

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Senate Republicans set to unveil ‘discussion draft’ of health care bill

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Seven weeks after the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act, Senate Republicans are set to unveil their version of the health care bill Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will reveal the legislative text at an all-members meeting at 9:30 a.m.

Democratic outrage

The bill’s release follows months of speculation and contentious debate. Ever the dominant issue, health care remains a critical focus for many, as worried Americans swarmed congressional town hall meetings in recent months to voice their outrage.

Some Republican representatives were willing to face their constituents head-on on the issues, while others shunned the events. Senate Democrats have criticized their Republican counterparts for working on the bill behind closed doors.

Democrats have voiced pessimism about the substance of the bill. On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he agreed with President Donald Trump, who reportedly called the House bill “mean.”

McConnell has disagreed, saying, “It’s going to have a profound, positive improvement over the status quo. The status quo is simply unsustainable.”

But when ABC News’ Mary Bruce asked McConnell if Americans have a right to see the negotiations process, he did not provide an answer.

What does the bill look like?

The bill is expected to dramatically roll back the expansion of Medicaid, and also establish a system of tax credits to help consumers buy insurance.

However, the details have not been publicized. Although the bill unveiled Thursday will be a wholly Republican-crafted piece of legislation, not all Republicans are on board. Republican leaders want a vote next week, but with health care for millions on the line, some Republican members are asking: What’s the hurry?

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., explained: “The public needs time to digest it, I need time to digest it, we need to gather genuine input from our constituencies — that’s going to take longer than a week.”

This means the Senate bill released Thursday could be very different from the one eventually voted on. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., appearing on ABC News’ Powerhouse Politics podcast, noted that when crafting the Affordable Care Act, Republicans had a chance to offer changes.

“In the Health Committee, I think 160 Republican amendments were accepted into the bill,” Franken said. “It was debated for 25 straight days before it was voted on. It was scored well in advance. This is a sham.”

Going forward

Once the bill is unveiled, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which provides nonpartisan, quantitative analysis to Congress, will evaluate it. Republican leaders expect the new CBO score to come on Monday, but are hopeful it could come as soon as Friday.

The CBO estimates that the version of the American Health Care Act passed by the House would leave 24 million more Americans uninsured by 2026, as compared to estimates under the current law, the Affordable Care Act. The legislation is also estimated to potentially reduce federal deficits by $337 billion from 2017 to 2026.

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Trump basks in GOP special election wins at Iowa rally

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday night held a campaign-style rally in Iowa, at which he congratulated the Republican winners of Tuesday’s special elections in South Carolina and Georgia. He also sent his well wishes to Rep. Steve Scalise, who was injured in last week’s shooting in Alexandria, Virginia.

“It is great to be back in the incredible, beautiful state of Iowa,” Trump told the crowd at U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids. “It’s always terrific to be able to leave that Washington swamp and spend time with the truly hard working people we call American Patriots, truly amazing people.”

He then congratulated Karen Handel, who won the Georgia special election, and Ralph Norman, who won the South Carolina special election.

“I also want to extend our congratulations to Karen Handel of Georgia,” the president said. “And we can’t forget Ralph Norman in South Carolina. He called me and I called him. He said, ‘you know what? I felt like the forgotten man.’ But he won beautifully. A lot of people didn’t show up because they thought he would win … Karen is going to be really incredible.”

Trump added that Handel will target “tax cuts, reducing crime, securing that Second Amendment, and that looks like it’s in great shape with Judge Gorsuch.”

According to the Georgia Secretary of State, Handel beat Democrat Jon Ossoff by a 52.13 percent-47.87 percent margin. That translated to 132,459 votes for Handel, and 121,635 votes for Ossoff. And in South Carolina, Republican Ralph Norman won Tuesday’s special election in that state’s 5th Congressional District, defeating Democrat Archie Parnell with 51 percent of the vote. Parnell had roughly 48 percent of the vote.

At the rally, the president said of Scalise, “I would like to take this moment to send out thoughts to our courageous friend Steve Scalise and everyone recovering from the assault.”

He continued, “so to Steve we say, he was a great guy … we’re praying for you, we’re pulling for you. You have our full support …and our gratitude tonight goes out as well to the Capitol Police.

Prior to his rally, Trump visited Kirkwood Community College to get briefed on agricultural technology being developed there. Among the machines he saw was a “combine simulator” — a virtual way to practice using a combine.

Following his visit to the college, Trump told reporters he had “just learned more about farming than I ever thought I’d learn.”

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Ex-DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson defends Obama handling of Russian meddling

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson defended the Obama administration’s decision to delay publicly commenting on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Wednesday.

“We have to carefully consider whether declassifying the information compromises sources and methods,” Johnson said under grilling in a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, adding, “There was an ongoing election. Many would criticize us for perhaps taking sides in the election. So that had to be carefully considered.”

An intelligence report released in January concluded that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election” and acted “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. pressed Johnson on why the administration waited to publicly comment on the Russian efforts if the interference first took place during the summer of 2016. The first public statement on the meddling efforts was not made until October.

“One of the candidates, as you recall, was predicting that the election was going to be rigged in some way,” Johnson continued, referring to Donald Trump’s campaign claims. “So we were concerned that by making the statement we might in and of itself be challenging the integrity of the election process itself.”

Johnson further explained that the October release of behind-the-scenes video from Access Hollywood, in which Trump was recorded making derogatory sexual comments about women, distracted from the eventual statement on the interference.

The former secretary outlined a timeline of steps he took to alert election officials of a threat, saying that state-level officials were notified in August and that public statements were made that month, as well as in September, and twice in October.

“This was an ongoing effort to inform the public about everything we were in a position then to tell the public,” said Johnson.

Johnson portrayed the situation as one in which there was bound to be contention, given the two-sided nature of U.S. politics.

After testifying, Johnson urged members of Congress not to lose sight of the more important issue.

“During my time as secretary of Homeland Security, I testified 26 times. It’s no longer part of the job description,” he said. “But when I was invited, I came here because I thought it was important.”

“The big issue, and let’s not lose sight of it, the big issue is the cyber intrusions on our democracy last year and how to prevent that from happening in the future for the sake of our democracy,” Johnson added. “And that’s the overriding, overarching issue and I hope that people in Congress and in government don’t lose sight of that picture.”

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Bloomberg says America should ‘get behind Trump’ because ‘the public has spoken’

Xinhua/Wang Ying via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said America should “get behind” President Trump because “the public has spoken – whether you like the results or not” during an appearance on ABC’s The View.

Bloomberg said that opposing a president just because they are aligned with the opposing party is the wrong approach. He referenced a 2010 interview with the National Journal in which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

“That’s my country, that’s my kids and grandkids,” Bloomberg said of his reaction to McConnell’s statements. “You have to make it work! We have an election. Whoever wins, you got to get behind.”

“He’s our president and we need this country to be run well. I didn’t vote for him,” Bloomberg added. “Let’s just all hope that Donald Trump is a good president of the United States.”

The businessman and philanthropist also said Americans should direct their energy toward changing the outcome of the next election rather than fighting with the current administration.

Bloomberg said people in other countries “try to tear down the government and have a revolution” when their candidate doesn’t win, but Americans should be more strategic.

“We should sit back and say, four years from now, how do I get my woman or man elected? And that’s very different,” he said.

But Bloomberg said people should still fight back against policies they don’t agree with.

“You can protest. You can elect other officials, write letters, make phone calls,” Bloomberg explained. “But in the end, the public has spoken — whether you like the results or not.”

Bloomberg joked that Trump also had “a little help from the Russians” in the 2016 election.

As for whether the results of Tuesday’s special election in Georgia have serious implications for the future of the Democratic Party, Bloomberg warned people not to read too much into it.

But he said “one thing” the congressional race won by Republican Karen Handel did show was that “all the money in the world can’t buy an election.”

“The public is a lot smarter than people give them credit for,” Bloomberg said.

In the end, he said it was Trump’s “Make America Great Again” message that resonated with voters.

“I don’t know what the ‘again’ means,” Bloomberg added. “[Because] we’re better today than we have ever been. Still, that’s the key.”

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Scalise upgraded to ‘fair condition,’ beginning rehabilitation

US Congress(WASHINGTON) — The condition of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise has been upgraded to fair, a week after he was shot while participating in a practice with members of the Republican congressional baseball team.

Scalise, R-La., has made incremental progress since being shot in the left hip last Wednesday; his condition was previously upgraded from “critical” to “serious” on Saturday.

“Congressman Steve Scalise continues to make good progress,” said MedStar Washington Hospital Center in a statement. “He is now listed in fair condition and is beginning an extended period of healing and rehabilitation.”

Three others were shot in addition to Scalise. The shooting was allegedly carried out by James T. Hodgkinson, who was later killed by police.

Upon Scalise’s arrival at the hospital last week, “he was in critical condition with an imminent risk of death,” said Dr. Jack Sava, the director of trauma at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center, at a press conference Friday.

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Trump traveling to Iowa for campaign-style rally

The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Trump will head to Iowa Wednesday for the first time since being sworn into office for a series of official events followed by a campaign-style rally.

Trump’s last trip to Iowa was in January as part of his “thank you” tour after the election in which he won Iowa with over 51 percent of the state’s vote.

Upon his arrival in Cedar Rapids, Trump, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross will appear at Kirkwood Community College. There they will tour the largest two-year agriculture program in the country, and Trump will give remarks. The event is part of the administration’s “tech week.”

The president will then hold a “Make America Great Again” rally at Cedar Rapids’ U.S. Cellular Center. This is Trump’s first rally since late April, when he held a similar program in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The rally was originally planned for June 1 but was postponed because of an “unforeseen change” in the president’s schedule.

Past rallies have led to conflict between Trump supporters and protesters; in March, eight protesters were arrested during a rally in Omaha, Nebraska.

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Handel to make Georgia history as its first GOP congresswoman

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(ATLANTA) — Republican Karen Handel, who won a special congressional election in Georgia on Tuesday to replace the vacated seat of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, will make history as the state’s first GOP congresswoman.

Acknowledging the historic moment while giving her victory speech in Georgia on Tuesday, she said: “Tonight reminds me, anything is possible.”

In her speech, Handel discussed what she felt she owed the voters, including “the obligation of being the first Republican woman elected to Congress from the great state of Georgia.”

Handel will be the only woman in the current 16-member Georgia congressional delegation, and the seventh woman ever sent to Congress from the state.

The last woman elected to the Senate or House of Representatives from Georgia was Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who served from 2005-2007.

While women account for just over half of the American population, they make up less one-fifth of Congress, according to the Center for American Women in Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University.

With the addition of Handel, there will be 105 women representatives in Congress, accounting for 19.6 percent of overall members, according to the center’s data. Of those 105, 21 women are senators and 84 including Handel are representatives.

The organization congratulated Handel via Twitter after the win, but noted that there was still “more work to do.”

Despite the large imbalance between men and women, Congress has the highest number of women representatives in history.

The Democratic Party retains a comparative edge in the number of its members who are women, with 78 in Congress. Conversely, there will now be 27 Republican women in Congress.

Two states, Mississippi and Vermont, have never sent a woman to Congress, according to CAWP’s numbers.

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Republicans react to Handel’s ‘great’ Georgia win

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff on Tuesday in Georgia’s special election for its sixth congressional seat, making history as the first GOP Congresswoman to ever be elected in the state.

Fellow Republicans were quick to comment on the result, congratulating Handel for winning what became the most expensive House race in history.

House Speaker Paul Ryan:

“Congratulations to Karen Handel on a hard-earned and well-deserved victory. Democrats from coast to coast threw everything they had at this race, and Karen would not be defeated,” a statement from Ryan’s office read. “The people of Georgia’s 6th Congressional District are the big winners tonight because they have elected a representative who is going to tirelessly fight for them and their interests.”

Vice President Mike Pence:

Congrats Karen Handel! Great campaign & great victory! With @realDonaldTrump in the White House & you in Congress, we will #MAGA! 🇺🇸 https://t.co/bytT6YFb1x

— Mike Pence (@mike_pence) June 21, 2017

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal:

Congratulations to my friend @karenhandel on a race well run. She’s a solid conservative who will be a steadfast voice for GA in DC. #gapol

— Governor Nathan Deal (@GovernorDeal) June 21, 2017

Eric Trump:

Once again, we are reminded that excessive money can’t make up for bad candidates. Congratulations Karen on a great victory. https://t.co/u0LnNl4yaI

— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) June 21, 2017

Rep. Robert Aderholt:

Congratulations to Karen Handel for winning the Georgia special election. I look forward to working with her in Congress.

— Rep. Robert Aderholt (@Robert_Aderholt) June 21, 2017

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant:

Republicans win big tonight in congressional elections. TRUMP STRONG.

— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) June 21, 2017

Sen. Orrin Hatch:

Congratulations to Ralph Norman and Karen Handel on big wins tonight. #SC05 #GA06

— Orrin Hatch (@OrrinHatch) June 21, 2017

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Trump on Handel’s win: ‘Fantastic job, we are all very proud of you!’

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump was quick to react to Karen Handel’s win in Tuesday’s special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, writing a series of tweets after it appeared she was slated to beat Democrat Jon Ossoff.

“Things are looking great for Karen H!” tweeted Trump at 10:21 p.m.

The president then proceeded to give Fox News a shout-out for a congratulatory headline.

“Thank you @FoxNews ‘Huge win for President Trump and GOP in Georgia Congressional Special Election,” Trump wrote.

The commander-in-chief then posted a third tweet, writing “Congratulations to Karen Handel on her big win in Georgia 6th. Fantastic job, we are all very proud of you!”

Trump kicked off Tuesday tweeting his support for Handel — whom he described as a “hard worker” — while slamming Ossoff as a candidate who would raise taxes and be weak on crime.

“Democrat Jon Ossoff, who wants to raise your taxes to the highest level and is weak on crime and security, doesn’t even live in district,” Trump tweeted at 5:49 a.m.

Thirteen minutes later, he followed up with a tweet supporting Handel.

“KAREN HANDEL FOR CONGRESS,” he wrote. “She will fight for lower taxes, great healthcare strong security-a hard worker who will never give up! VOTE TODAY.”

And in a nod to the special election in South Carolina — in which Republican Ralph Norman won — Trump tweeted, “Well, the Special Elections are over and those that want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN are 5 and O! All the Fake News, all the money spent = 0.”

And on Monday, in a nod to the special elections in Georgia and South Carolina, Trump urged residents in those states to vote for the Republican candidate.

“Big day tomorrow in Georgia and South Carolina,” he wrote. “ObamaCare is dead. Dems want to raise taxes big! They can only obstruct, no ideas. Vote ‘R.'”

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