Republicans Open to Banning ‘Bump Stocks’ Used in Massacre

WASHINGTON — Top congressional Republicans, who have for decades resisted any legislative limits on guns, signaled on Wednesday that they would be open to banning the firearm accessory that the Las Vegas gunman used to transform his rifles to mimic automatic weapon fire.

For a generation, Republicans in Congress — often joined by conservative Democrats — have bottled up gun legislation, even as the carnage of mass shootings grew ever more gruesome and the weaponry ever more deadly. A decade ago, they blocked efforts to limit the size of magazines after the massacre at Virginia Tech. Five years later, Republican leaders thwarted bipartisan legislation to expand background checks of gun purchasers after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Last year, in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre, they blocked legislation to stop gun sales to buyers on terrorism watch lists.

But in this week’s massacre in Las Vegas, lawmakers in both parties may have found the part of the weapons trade that few could countenance: previously obscure gun conversion kits, called “bump stocks,” that turn semiautomatic weapons into weapons capable of firing in long, deadly bursts.

“I own a lot of guns, and as a hunter and sportsman, I think that’s our right as Americans, but I don’t understand the use of this bump stock,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said, adding, “It seems like it’s an obvious area we ought to explore and see if it’s something Congress needs to act on.”


Mr. Cornyn said the continuing legality of the conversion kits was “a legitimate question,” and told reporters he had asked Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary Committee chairman, to convene a hearing on that issue and any others that arise out of the Las Vegas investigation.

Other Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida, said they would be open to considering legislation on bump stocks.

“We certainly want to learn more details on what occurred in Las Vegas,” Mr. Rubio said, “and if there are vulnerabilities in federal law that we should be addressing to prevent such attacks in the future, we would always be open to that.”

In the House, Representative Carlos Curbelo, Republican of Florida, said he was drafting bipartisan legislation banning the conversion kits. Representative Mark Meadows, the head of the conservative Freedom Caucus, also said he would be open to considering a bill, while Representative Bill Flores, Republican of Texas, called for an outright ban.

“I think they should be banned,” Mr. Flores told the newspaper The Hill. “There’s no reason for a typical gun owner to own anything that converts a semiautomatic to something that behaves like an automatic.”

In an often deadlocked Washington, none of the pronouncements guaranteed action. The National Rifle Association, which has poured tens of millions of dollars into Republican campaign coffers, remained mum on the bump stock discussion and could stop it cold.

And Erich Pratt, executive director of another gun rights group, Gun Owners of America, vowed to block any legislation.

“We see this as an item that is certainly protected by the Second Amendment, and realistically, they are already on the market, so passing a law banning them isn’t going to stop bad guys like this creep in Las Vegas,” he said.

But Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat, tried to force the issue, introducing legislation, backed by about two dozen Democrats, that would ban bump stocks.
Ms. Feinstein cautioned that bipartisan support for such narrow legislation would hardly constitute a sea change. She tried to ban bump stocks in 2013, but that was part of broader legislation to renew the assault weapons ban, which went nowhere.

“I mean, if not this, what?” she asked. “It doesn’t take a weapon away. It just means you can’t convert it into something it’s not meant to be.”

At a hastily convened news conference, Ms. Feinstein said the Las Vegas massacre, which left 58 people dead and about 500 injured at a country music festival Sunday night, had hit home with her. Her daughter had planned to attend the concert but decided against going at the last minute.

Ms. Feinstein, who has spent years shepherding gun safety legislation — almost always unsuccessfully — said she introduced the measure on the advice of Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, who reasoned that by offering a narrowly tailored provision, she might get Republican support.

Bump stocks replace a rifle’s standard stock, which is the part held against the shoulder, freeing the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback that shooters feel when the weapon fires. The stock “bumps” back and forth between the shooter’s shoulder and trigger finger, causing the rifle to rapidly fire again and again, far faster than an unaided finger can pull a trigger.

In marketing the devices, two Texas companies, Bump Fire Systems and Slide Fire Solutions, were apparently concerned that they would not be legal. But in June 2010, after an inquiry from Slide Fire, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or A.T.F., sent a letter saying that the company’s bump stock product “is a firearm part and is not regulated as a firearm under the Gun Control Act or the National Firearms Act.”

The Las Vegas gunman fired down on concertgoers from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel. With his fixed firing positions and distance from his victims, he almost certainly was more lethal because of the conversion kits. But until the shooting, many lawmakers said, they had never heard of bump stocks.

The devices were introduced during the past decade by Bump Fire and Slide Fire, both based in Moran, Tex., near Abilene. Bump Fire’s website appeared to be down for much of Wednesday. The company wrote on its Facebook page on Tuesday that its servers had been overwhelmed by “high traffic volume.”

Multiple items on Slide Fire’s site on Wednesday featured the notice, “Due to extreme high demands, we are currently out of stock.”

Bump Fire sells stocks for an AK-47 and an AR-15 for $99.99 each. Slide Fire’s stocks are priced between $140 and $300. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

On, an auction site for firearms and shooting accessories, at least three dozen listings featuring bump stocks had attracted multiple bids.

Zack Cernok, a Pennsylvania gun owner, was one of those trying to buy a Bump Fire bump stock.

“I don’t even have the gun for it, but I want the stock just to have it down the line,” he said. “I just like the idea of them and want to see how it feels and if it’s worth it — for $100, it’s almost not a bad investment to buy it, try it out and sell it if I don’t like it.”


Republicans Won’t Rule Out Tax Hikes for Some in the Middle Class

WASHINGTON — President Trump and Republican leaders have positioned their sweeping tax rewrite as a way to cut taxes on the middle class. But some top officials are now saying the plan may not benefit everyone in that income group.

The acknowledgment could complicate the administration’s ability to sell the tax plan, which is already facing questions from Republicans and Democrats over the cost and effect of the ambitious rewrite.

Those questions have gotten more pronounced after an analysis last week by the Tax Policy Center, which found that the plan could cost $2.4 trillion over the next decade, with the biggest benefits flowing to businesses and the wealthiest Americans. The analysis found that nearly 30 percent of those in the middle class could see their taxes increase as a result of changes to the deductions and exemptions many middle-class Americans rely on to lower their tax bills.

The breakdown is based on the framework released by the “Big Six” group of Republican lawmakers and administration officials, which did not include many details that could change the distributional impact, including an increase to the child tax credit and the potential for a higher tax rate on the richest Americans. Yet top officials acknowledged this weekend that a tax cut for everyone in the middle class may not be achievable.

“You can’t make guarantees because every single person’s taxes are different,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in comments to ABC News on Sunday. “People take advantage of different things, so we can’t make that guarantee. But we can say that’s our objective and that’s what we’re working to, and we want to protect the middle class.”

The comments are a break from the 2016 presidential campaign, when Mr. Trump’s advisers promised he would instruct Congress to write a bill that did not increase taxes for any low- or middle-income taxpayers. Stephen Miller, who advised Mr. Trump during the campaign and is now his chief policy adviser, said that “in sending our proposal to the tax-writing committees, we will include instructions to ensure all low- and middle-income households are protected.”

Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said on Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that while the “purpose of this is to get a middle-class tax cut,” it is impossible to ensure that every middle-class American would see their tax bill go down.

The framework proposes to double the standard deduction for individual taxpayers and increase the child tax credit by an undetermined amount. It would eliminate some personal exemptions and several deductions, including those for state and local taxes and for out-of-pocket medical costs.

The elimination of the state and local tax deduction could adversely affect those in the upper middle class, who tend to make heavy use of the tax break. More than a third of the taxpayers who earn $150,000 to $300,000 could see their taxes go up next year, the Tax Policy Center report stated. The average tax bill for all income groups would decline by $1,600, or 2.1 percent, in 2018, the report said.

A tax plan that does not offer a cut for everyone in the middle class could hurt its chances as Republicans try to pass a bill largely along party lines.

On Monday, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, tweeted a critique of the new analysis.

Republicans have signaled that they will try to push any tax bill through the Senate reconciliation process, which would make it immune to a Democratic filibuster. That means Republicans can afford only two Senate defections from their ranks if they hope to pass a bill.

Mr. Paul was one of a handful of Republican senators whose public opposition doomed a health care bill that party leaders attempted to pass via reconciliation in September.

“We know that the rich guys are going to be fine,” said Aparna Mathur, a resident scholar in economic policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “The real question is what happens at the bottom.”

Without specifying more details, such as the income thresholds for each tax bracket, Republicans cannot rule out tax increases on, for example, a middle-class family of four that incurs high medical costs not covered by insurance. Economists say such a family could end up paying more if the value of the new tax rates and expanded standard deduction falls short of the value of tax breaks the family enjoyed previously.

Party leaders say they are taking steps to protect middle-class families from tax increases.

On Monday, Representative Kevin Brady, Republican of Texas and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, laced into the Tax Policy Center projections, calling them a “work of fiction that Stephen King would have been proud of.” Mr. Brady said that it was impossible to assess the tax plan without details on what income levels would fall into the new tax brackets or the size of the yet to be determined child tax credit.

“They’re just guessing, and guessing poorly,” Mr. Brady said.

But Mr. Brady would not definitively guarantee that no middle-class taxpayers would see their tax bills increase from the final tax legislation.

“I will guarantee that we are going to work hard to lower taxes on every American, increase their paychecks and dramatically simplify the code for them,” he said.

Pressed as to whether some may still face higher tax bills, Mr. Brady added, “I guarantee we are going to improve the lives of every American by driving down taxes and increasing paychecks.”

Most Americans reject conservative policy positions. So why do Republicans control the government?

Of all the myths the Republicans have perpetrated, and there are a lot of them, perhaps none is more powerful or insidious than the foundational one that this is an overwhelmingly conservative country and that progressives are outliers in it, along with its pernicious corollary that conservatives are “real” Americans while liberals (and the minorities who support liberal policies) are somehow counterfeits.

It is a brilliant bit of propaganda. The only problem is that it isn’t factually true, at least for those who still believe in facts. While there are more self-described conservatives than liberals, in large part, I think, because of the conservatives’ success at conflating their brand with Americanism itself, the gap has been narrowing. And in any case, party identification is just about evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. What is more important: Most Americans reject conservative policy positions. Again and again, on issue after issue, the majority of Americans seem to tilt to the left: on immigration, including Trump’s border wall; on Obamacare repeal; on leaving the Paris climate accord; and on gay marriage.

So why then do conservatives control all three branches of government? More to the point, why do they control Congress and the presidency when Democrats got more votes? You might conclude that America is being held hostage by a minority group of conservative zealots. And you would be right.

There is an old saw that politics is about numbers, and in a true democracy that would be the case. But ours is not a true democracy. Even after addressing the fact that nearly 90 million eligible voters do not vote, our system weights some votes more than others, and these weighted votes almost always work to the Republicans’ advantage, giving some 35 percent to 40 percent of the electorate a disproportionate share of power.

Here’s how it works:

1. Rural votes are worth more than urban votes.

For the first few months of his presidency, Donald Trump delighted in showing guests an electoral map of the country in which huge splotches from the South through the Midwest and into the far West were red, indicating Trump’s support. He was right, of course. Those were areas that voted for Trump. Except that those splotches were sparsely populated. The dark blue dots in urban America were the densely populated Democratic areas — areas with more votes.

In most nations, geographical advantages don’t mean much. In our system, however, geography plays an outsized role. It’s not how many votes; it’s where they are cast.

A lot of this, as we all know, is the result of gerrymandering — a point that New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg made in her debut op-ed about the “tyranny of the minority.” If you want some sense of how badly gerrymandering hurts Democrats, consider this: In 2012, 224 congressional districts voted for Romney, 221 for Obama, though Obama easily won the overall popular vote by nearly 4 percent. This Republican reward has been referred to as a “seat bonus” — the degree to which Republicans get more seats than their popular vote would warrant. According to the Brookings Institution, Republicans received just under 50 percent of the congressional vote, but wound up with 55 percent of the seats. They also got bonuses in the 2012, 2014 and 2016 congressional elections — again, 5 percent more House seats in the last election than their overall vote count would have entitled them to.

But the worst gerrymandering isn’t just politics and it isn’t just in the House; it is constitutional and it is in the Senate, where of course, seats are apportioned by state. Since rural and sparsely populated states are far more likely to vote Republican, and since all states, regardless of population, get the same two Senate seats, the GOP gets a much larger bonus in the Senate than in the House. In the South, for instance, with a population of 103 million, Republicans are essentially awarded 22 seats automatically. (The only Democratic senators in the old Confederate states are Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia and Bill Nelson of Florida.) Meanwhile, four large Democratic states — California, New York, Illinois and Massachusetts, with an aggregate population of 80 million — get eight seats. This is minority rule, plain and simple.

I am not even going to get into the Electoral College, which operates on the absurd principle that it is not how many runs you score, but how many innings you win.

2. White votes are worth more than minority votes.

White voters are deeply advantaged not only because they still constitute a majority of the electorate, but also because (a) they can be gerrymandered into white-controlled districts while diluting minorities; and (b) because white majorities often work to increase their power at minorities’ expense. We see the latter most dramatically in voter suppression laws. A Washington Post study showed that these laws, designed expressly to reduce minority participation, have a tremendous impact:

By instituting strict voter-ID laws, states can alter the electorate and shift outcomes toward those on the right. Where these laws are enacted, the influence of Democrats and liberals wanes and the power of Republicans grows. Unsurprisingly, these strict ID laws are passed almost exclusively by Republican legislatures.”

The Post found that the laws widen the white advantage over blacks in turnout from 2.5 percent to 11.6 percent.

3. Rich and middle-class votes are worth more than poor votes.

Poor people, who are likely to vote Democratic, vote in far fewer numbers than the middle class and wealthy, who are likely to vote Republican. Only 47 percent of those earning under $20,000 a year voted in the 2012 election, while those earning $100,000 or more had an 80 percent turnout. (Meanwhile, only a quarter of the poor voted in the last midterm.) You can blame the voters themselves for apathy (Republicans would), and in a Cal Tech/MIT study of the 2008 election, some of these non-voters blamed their lack of participation on the choice of candidates presented to them. If anyone is entitled to be disenchanted with the political process, they are. But many others blamed practical obstacles that the system either imposes or does nothing to remedy: registration problems, transportation, illness, long lines, voter intimidation.

In short, the poor are often actively discouraged from voting.

Since 38 percent of American workers made less than $20,000 in 2014, this is a substantial chunk of voters lost — again, presumably Democratic voters, which is also to say that while we rightfully complain about economic inequality, we should also be complaining about electoral inequality that rises from economic inequality.

4. Old voters are worth more than young voters.

As with minority voters and poor voters, young voters, who skew Democratic, are less likely to vote than older voters, who skew Republican, thus reducing younger voters’ power. According to a Pew survey, the so-called Greatest Generation had 70 percent turnout in the last election, baby boomers 69 percent, Gen Xers 63 percent and millennials only 49 percent. (And this is not a function of youth; earlier generations had higher voting rates at similar ages.) Again, all sorts of reasons can be adduced, and according to one study, millennials, 55 percent of whom identified themselves as Democrats or Dem-leaning independents, are no less politically involved than their predecessors; they are just less electorally involved, preferring other forms of political engagement. While they cast 25 percent of the votes in the 2016 election, millennials make up just under a third of the voting-age population, which means their votes were worth less than those of the other cohorts.

Of course, you can blame them too for not voting, but Republicans make a point of making it more difficult for them to vote through many of the same mechanisms that affect minorities. To cite one egregious case, North Carolina Republicans petitioned the Supreme Court to reinstate the repeal of a law that allowed 16 and 17 year-olds to pre-register to vote, after the circuit court had ruled the repeal discriminated against those voters.

5. Single-issue voters are worth more than more general interest voters.

Here again, power is less a matter of numbers than of noise. Single-issue voters, by definition, largely care for and vote according to one issue: guns, abortion, immigration, racism — you name it. They are loud, they are organized, they are typically well-financed and they can be easily wooed through political capitulation, all of which means that they have vastly more influence than their numbers would suggest. They are also largely Republican, since Democrats seem to take a more catholic approach to issues.

Take gun rights. Anywhere between 70 percent and 92 percent of Americans favor background checks prior to gun purchases, which is about the highest degree of agreement you will find on any issue in this country. Still, there will never be any serious gun control in this country. Never. Why? Because the GOP panders to gun owners and lobbyists.

When you consider that only 30 percent of Americans own a gun and that 3 percent of Americans own half of all the guns, you see how a tiny fraction wrests the debate from the American majority and basically disenfranchises those Americans on this issue.

6. Republican primary voters are worth more than other voters.

Anyone reading this knows that the only reason Republicans are now considering an Obamacare repeal that will effectively end the health care system as we know it, despite near-unanimous opposition outside the Republican Party, is that the opposition is outside the Republican Party. Yes, Republicans are hell-bent on hurting people they regard as inferior and unworthy —namely, the poor who can’t afford health insurance. But they are even more hell-bent on winning re-election, which means they have to appease the right-wing extremists who now constitute the bulk of their party and the vast majority of their primary voters. These people are dead-enders. They want blood, and they are the most powerful voters in the country.

What numbers are we talking about here? In contested 2014 midterm primaries, 9.5 percent of registered eligible voters cast ballots on the Republican side — less than 10 percent! (To top it off, total participation in the election was only 36 percent.) In real terms, since the tea party and “alt-right” virtually control the Republican primary process, it gives this tiny sliver of the electorate inordinate influence. (Let me be more honest: It gives them control.) Which means this: essentially a right-wing cult determines Republican candidates, who, once nominated, enjoy an advantage in House and Senate races. Now you know why Republican legislators are so terrified of behaving responsibly. Their base demands irresponsibility, and they will be “primaried” if they don’t deliver.

7. Finally, big surprise!, an oligarch’s vote is worth that of tens of millions of ordinary voters.

Several reporters have weighed in that one of the major reasons the GOP persists with its inane health care repeal plan — again, the public be damned — is that big donors have threatened to withhold their money if the Senate doesn’t proceed. The GOP, needless to say, has a near-monopoly on oligarchs. Enough said.

Put all of this together and you get a country that is held hostage to an extremist minority cult without any hope of the majority being ransomed. And it isn’t likely to end because the electoral injustice is self-perpetuating, discouraging Democratic voters from exercising their franchise since they know the odds are heavily stacked against them and because the minority isn’t about to give up its power. So you don’t have to wonder why Republicans get away with their lunacy even when the country stands in opposition, or why they hold more seats in Congress than they would be entitled to by votes. They get away with it because the system truly is rigged against minorities, the poor, the young and the progressive — and for the white, the well-off, the old and the reactionary.

Republicans vow to ‘press on’ with health care bill in CNN debate


Monday’s 90-minute debate was moderated by Jake Tapper and Dana BashSens. Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy participated

(CNN)Two Republican senators leading the reeling, last ditch bid to replace Obamacare vowed to fight on Monday, even after another GOP defection dealt the potential killer blow to their bill.

“We are going to press on. It’s OK to vote. It’s OK to fall short, if you do, for an idea that you believe in,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash at town hall debate in Washington.
But Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders blasted the Republican approach, which must pass by an end-of-the-month deadline or go down to defeat as a “disaster,” and pushed for short-term fixes to Obamacare and his own long-term plan for a universal health care system.
The debate, also involving Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Graham’s partner in the health care drive, Bill Cassidy, came at a dramatic moment in the party’s latest effort to follow through on a promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, made at successive elections over the last seven years.
Hours before the debate, a third Republican Senator, Susan Collins of Maine, said she could not support the bill, warning it did not do enough to protect people with pre-existing conditions and cut Medicaid too sharply.
Collins was the third Republican to go on the record as opposing the bill. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose two Republican votes to pass the legislation.
Both Republicans on stage argued that their plan would return money to the states in block grants to bring health care choices closer to patients and said that Obamacare had failed.
“Everybody on this stage thinks the current system is broken,” Cassidy said.
But the two GOP lawmakers did not offer any new initiatives to try to reverse the ebbing of support for the bill, the fate of which could be decided when Republicans meet in the Senate in Washington to discuss next steps on Tuesday.
The Democrats warned that the Republican bill would throw millions of people off health insurance rolls and would leave patients with pre-existing conditions that are guaranteed coverage under Obamacare high and dry.
Klobuchar said that the GOP plan “passes the buck to the states but doesn’t give them the bucks to cover people,” and urged her colleagues across the aisle to join in fixing the Affordable Care Act.
During the debate, President Donald Trump weighed in, taking a shot at Sen. John McCain who has come out against the Graham-Cassidy bill, with the President tweeting a video of the many times that the Arizona lawmaker had vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“A few of the many clips of John McCain talking about Repealing & Replacing O’Care. My oh my has he changed-complete turn from years of talk!” Trump wrote.
In a moving moment, Graham rose to defend his friend, his eyes brimming with tears as he did so, reflecting the former Vietnam War hero’s recent diagnosis of brain cancer.
“John McCain can do whatever damn he wants to! He has earned that right,” Graham said, while Sanders said he couldn’t understand how Trump could attack McCain “one of the most decent people in the US Senate.”
In criticizing Republicans’ plans for health care, in a largely good humored debate, Sanders said that he knew that “nobody up here wants to see anybody die.”
“You tell me what happens when somebody who has cancer, somebody who has a serious heart condition, somebody who has a life-threatening disease suddenly loses the health insurance that they have,” he said.
Audience members at the debate raised questions about the positions of both sides, sometimes offering emotional testimony about their own conditions and experience.
Matt DeCample, from Arkansas, a Stage 4 cancer patient, asked Sanders why he and Republicans could not meet in the middle to create health care solutions that work without retreating to political extremes. The Vermont senator replied that he didn’t think his proposal was extreme.
Kevin Potter, from Ohio, whose young daughter is battling leukemia, asked Cassidy if he could guarantee that his family would not have to pay exorbitant premiums for her pre-existing condition.
Cassidy responded by citing a premium for a couple in his state of Louisiana that had reached $39,000 under the current system, and said the Republican plan would lower costs for everybody, by returning funds and power to the states.
His colleague meanwhile fumed that Obamacare had resulted in a bonanza for insurance company stocks while narrowing options for patients.
“What I am not going to do is continue the same old crap and tell you everything is fine,” Graham said, before warning that there were a “bunch” of people in his state of South Carolina who may as well not have insurance because the cost of premiums was so prohibitive.
Klobuchar has not yet endorsed the Sanders approach for a universal, single payer health care plan and rejected Cassidy’s claim that the debate highlighted a choice between a government system and one that is geared towards patients.
“It’s not just between one or the other. There is a middle ground here of things we can do to fix it,” she said, calling for an effort to tackle rising drugs prices.
“And there’s a lot of people, Democrats and Republicans, that want to make these changes and help the states.”
The debate also highlighted the dilemma facing McConnell. The moment is approaching when he must make the fateful choice on whether to schedule a vote on a bill that could fail and deal another humiliating defeat to Republicans. But if he shelves the legislation, he risks a backlash from GOP voters who were repeatedly promised that Obamacare will be repealed. Republicans only have until the end of the month to pass the bill using a budgetary device that only requires a simple majority of votes in the Senate.
McConnell’s task of rounding up the final votes is complicated by the bill’s deep unpopularity. A new CBS News poll Monday found the measure has only a 20% approval rating, and that only 46% of Republicans support it.
One of the key policy points Democrats highlighted is the issue of insurance for patients with pre-existing conditions, which was guaranteed under Obamacare.
The Graham-Cassidy measure does maintain a requirement that insurers provide coverage to everyone, regardless of medical history. States however would be allowed to change the rules so those with pre-existing conditions could face much higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs. States could also allow insurers to offer less comprehensive plans that don’t cover all treatments.
Cassidy and Graham countered Monday by suggesting that their bill is the only alternative to a Democratic push to build a single payer, government-run health care system. A plan along those lines was released by Sanders earlier this month, and garnered support from several potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Klobuchar, of Minnesota, has not yet expressed support for the plan.
The Democrats argued that the Republicans are seeking to take health care away from millions of Americans, but there will be no definitive answer to the question, since the Congressional Budget Office will not have time to make a full analysis of the measure before a vote would need to take place.
Just hours before the debate, the CBO released only a partial score of the GOP’s plan, saying the Graham-Cassidy bill would reduce the budget deficit by at least $133 billion but millions of people would lose comprehensive health insurance.

Health Bill Appears Dead as Pivotal G.O.P. Senator Declares Opposition

WASHINGTON — Senator Susan Collins of Maine said on Monday that she would oppose the latest plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, leaving Republican leaders clearly short of the votes they need for passage.

Ms. Collins, a Republican, announced her opposition in a written statement, delivering a significant and possibly fatal blow to the party’s seven-year quest to dismantle the health law.

“Health care is a deeply personal, complex issue that affects every single one of us and one-sixth of the American economy. Sweeping reforms to our health care system and to Medicaid can’t be done well in a compressed time frame, especially when the actual bill is a moving target,” Ms. Collins said in the statement.

“Today, we find out that there is now a fourth version of the Graham-Cassidy proposal, which is as deeply flawed as the previous iterations,” she said. “The fact that a new version of this bill was released the very week we are supposed to vote compounds the problem.”

She added: “This is simply not the way that we should be approaching an important and complex issue that must be handled thoughtfully and fairly for all Americans.”

The announcement came three days after Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said that he could not “in good conscience” support the latest repeal proposal, written by Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. The senators released a revised version of their bill on Monday morning, hoping to win over holdout Republicans in part by shifting more funds to states like Maine and Alaska.

Mr. McCain, who killed the last repeal effort in July with a dramatic middle-of-the-night vote, faulted Republicans for trying to pass sweeping health care legislation without the participation of Democrats or fulsome public deliberations about the undertaking.

Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, had previously said he would oppose the Graham-Cassidy bill on the grounds that it did not go far enough in repealing the health law. A spokesman for Mr. Paul said on Monday that the senator’s position had not changed.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said on Sunday that he had not yet been won over and was seeking changes to the repeal plan. An aide to Mr. Cruz said on Monday that his position remained the same.

Adding urgency to the matter, Republicans have until Sept. 30 to make use of special budget rules under which they can pass a repeal bill with only a simple majority, rather than needing Democratic votes. Even with those expedited procedures, Republicans can afford to lose only two of their 52 members, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the resulting tie.

On Monday, President Trump expressed frustration that Republicans had talked for years about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act but had failed to deliver now that a Republican was in the White House.

Mr. Trump singled out Mr. McCain for his decisive vote in July, and he seemed resigned to defeat this week.

“We’re going to lose two or three votes, and that’s the end of that,” the president said on the “Rick & Bubba Show,” a radio program.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Monday that the Graham-Cassidy bill would reduce the number of people with health insurance “by millions,” compared with the numbers expected to have coverage under current law.

“Enrollment in Medicaid would be substantially lower because of large reductions in federal funding for that program.” the budget office said. In addition, it said, the number of people buying insurance on their own would be lower because of reductions in federal subsidies for such coverage.

Moreover, “funding would shift away from states that expanded eligibility for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act,” the budget office said, “and toward states that did not.” Thirty-one states — including New York, California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania — and the District of Columbia have expanded eligibility.

GOP senator calls on China, 20 other countries to cut ties with North Korea

A Republican senator is calling on 21 countries, including China, to cut off diplomatic and economic ties with North Korea as Pyongyang continues to push forward on its nuclear and missile programs.

“I write to respectfully urge your government to immediately cease all official diplomatic and economic relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), including immediately closing all of your diplomatic facilities in the DPRK,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) wrote in a letter Monday.

“Now is the time to diplomatically and economically isolate this regime, until it fully and irreversibly commits to peaceful denuclearization. Maintaining official diplomatic relations with a regime that continues to defy international law and threaten nations across the globe only serves to reward nefarious behavior.”

Gardner sent the letter to Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the United States. He also plans to send it to ambassadors from Brazil, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Sweden and Vietnam, according to a press release.

The letter comes after North Korea’s most recent missile test last week, which was the second to fly over Japanese territory. On Friday, North Korea fired what U.S. officials said was an intermediate range ballistic missile.

The missile is said to have flown about 2,300 miles and reached a maximum altitude of 480 miles. That trajectory puts the U.S. territory of Guam, 2,100 miles from North Korea, squarely in Pyongyang’s range.

Last week’s missile test followed North Korea’s Sept. 3 nuclear test. The test was the country’s most powerful to date, and U.S. officials are not disputing Pyongyang’s claim it was a hydrogen bomb.

In his letter, Gardner also called on the countries to expel North Korea from the United Nations.

“Article 6 of the United Nations Charter states: ‘A member of the United Nations which has persistently violated the principles contained in the present charter may be expelled from the organization by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.’ There is no nation on Earth that deserves this dishonor more than the DPRK,” wrote Gardner, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific and International Cybersecurity Policy.

The U.N. Security Council last week passed its toughest sanctions yet on North Korea. The sanctions banned North Korean textile exports and capped its imports of crude oil.

Still, they were watered down in order to get the support of Russia and China, which have veto power in the council. The Trump administration originally pushed the Security Council to ban all oil imports and freeze international assets of the North Korean government and its leader, Kim Jong Un.

The U.N. General Assembly kicks off its annual meeting in New York this week, where North Korea is expected to be a major topic.



President Donald Trump spent the past week further angering many Republicans, a trend that could not only hinder his hopes of accomplishing his legislative agenda but may endanger his very future in the White House. Republicans, after all, could be seen as the main barrier between him and a fate he surely wants to avoid: impeachment.

Related: Trump impeachment could be demanded by powerful Congressional Black Caucus after meeting next week

While talk of impeaching Trump over various alleged offenses has been floated since before he even took office, the issue has thus far been a purely theoretical one, what with Republicans controlling both the House and Senate. But what if GOP members were to decide that they’d be better off without the unpredictable president?

Thus far, many Republicans have swallowed private distaste for the president while putting forward a largely unified public front, fueled by the unexpected, golden opportunity that comes with controlling both chambers of Congress as well as the White House. But cracks have increasingly been emerging in the uncomfortable alliance.

Following the president’s recriminations in the wake of the Senate Republicans’ dramatic failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, some members of the GOP began to openly criticize Trump for the first time after his reaction to the deadly violence at last month’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Still, Trump has continued to needle them. On Wednesday, he stunned Republicans when he opted to side with Democratic leaders in negotiations to increase the debt ceiling. The move reportedly left Republicans “shocked,” “livid” and “fuming.” Some, like Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, were openly critical of the deal and the new alliance; others, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, showed their true feelings with their tone and body language, if not exactly their words.

But Trump has shown no signs of making any concessions to his party. On Friday, he tweeted that GOP lawmakers had only themselves to blame for his dalliance with Democrats.

“Republicans, sorry, but I’ve been hearing about Repeal & Replace for 7 years, didn’t happen!” he wrote. “Even worse, the Senate Filibuster Rule will never allow the Republicans to pass even great legislation. 8 Dems control – will rarely get 60 (vs. 51) votes. It is a Repub Death Wish!”

It may be a highly risky strategy. Allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia have prompted five ongoing investigations, and some experts have said that there is already enough evidence to at least start an obstruction of justice investigation into Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

So far, Republicans in the House and the Senate have helped shield their president from the probes. But it has long been an open secret that many Republicans would prefer having a President Mike Pence than a President Trump, something that would become a reality were the president to be impeached.

Mike Pence, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Chuck SchumerClockwise from top left: Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other congressional leaders in the Oval Office, on September 6. Trump has continued to alienate members of his own party.ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

Axios reported in June that the Republicans’ favoring of Pence over Trump imperiled the current president, who would be unable to count on the same backing from his own party as Bill Clinton did when his impeachment was quashed, thanks to not-guilty votes from every Democratic member of the Senate.

With the chance in front of them to get a president who would be far more supportive of their agenda and cause far less consternation, would Republicans be nearly so supportive? Possibly not, even considering the risk of angering Trump’s powerful, if shrinking, base.

As it is, such a scenario is some way off. Even among Democrats, calls for impeachment are far from widespread, although the influential Congressional Black Caucus will discuss the issue at a meeting next week.

Still, considering his repeated refusals to take sage legal advice and stop making public statements that could be used against him in any impeachment case, together with his recent actions toward his own party, the president continues to do himself no favors.

‘Why Should I Resign?’: Florida GOP Official (White Idiot) Refuses to Quit After Being Outed for Claw-Hammer Attack on Teen

A member of the Broward County GOP is refusing to step down after horrified fellow Republicans discovered he pleaded down to misdemeanor charges of attacking a high school classmate with a claw hammer over a decade ago.

According to the Miami-Herald, Rupert Tarsey was outed over the Labor Day weekend to GOP Chairman Bob Sutton for an assault at the Los Angeles Harvard-Westlake School. Tarsey attacked classmate Elizabeth Barcay, hitting her over the head at least 40 times with a claw hammer.

Police records state that Tarsey invited Barcay — the daughter of a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon — to go with him to a Jamba Juice where he  allegedly pulled the claw hammer from his backpack and began hitting her with it before choking her and dumping her out of the car.

Following the assault, Tarsey’s parents had him admitted for psychiatric evaluation, with the then-teen claiming he was protecting himself from the young woman.

At the time Tarsey went by the name Rupert Ditsworth before changing his last name to his mother’s maiden name after this attempted murder charge was pleaded down to a misdemeanor.

Moving to Florida, Tarsey became involved in local politics — and threw his support behind now-President Donald Trump — before being elected to the Broward County broad as secretary.

Tarsey has refused calls for him to step down, calling complaints about his history “party politics.”

“Why should I resign,” he stated in an interview at his $2 million beachfront home. “I did nothing wrong and I was elected. ”

According to Tarsey — a real estate investor — he wasn’t trying to hide his violent past when he changed his name, simply saying, “I’m estranged from my dad.”

Broward GOP Chairman Sutton pleaded innocent about knowing about Tarsey’s history of violence, saying: “We were blindsided. He’s a member of the Knights of Columbus for Christ’s sake. And he came highly recommended by the former chair.”

‘We had no idea what his background is,” Sutton continued. “We want him out but he is refusing to resign. He deceived us. It looks like he even used a reputation management firm to make sure we wouldn’t find out who he is.”

Deal with Trump, GOP retirements have Democrats riding higher

WASHINGTON (AP) — Relegated for months to playing defense, congressional Democrats are rising again. They’ve been revitalized by the deal their leaders cut with US President Donald Trump this week and by a trickle of GOP retirements that have boosted their hopes of capturing House control next year.

It’s unlikely the startling agreement between Trump and top Democrats on increasing the federal debt limit, which surprised and undermined Republicans, augurs an era of broad bipartisan cooperation. Trump has shown no clear governing philosophy, can abruptly shift views and still favors policies Democrats abhor like erasing the Obama health care law. Many Democrats find it hard to even contemplate working with him.

For now, however, Trump’s agreement with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to extend the government’s borrowing authority and keep agencies open for three months gives the Democrats plenty of clout. When Congress revisits those must-pass issues in December, Trump and GOP leaders will need Democratic votes, opening the door to possible Republican concessions on protecting young immigrants from deportation, bolstering President Barack Obama’s health care statute and other issues.

The House sent Trump the legislation Friday — which he quickly signed — with the three-month extension plus $15 billion in aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey. In the 316-90 result, all 90 “no” votes came from the chamber’s 240 Republicans, underscoring the likelihood Trump will need Democrats in December.

“It gives us a possibility for passing the Dream Act on that bill,” Pelosi told reporters Friday. That’s a Democratic measure that would chisel legal safeguards into law for about 800,000 immigrants brought to the US as children and now here illegally.

GOP congressional leaders wanted the borrowing increase to last beyond the 2018 elections, which would have stolen that opportunity from Democrats.

Also feeding the Democrats’ swagger are retirement announcements by Republicans in Democratic-leaning or swing House districts. Departing Republicans include Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Washington’s Dave Reichert and Florida’s Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
“They have a president working against them,” said Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, who leads the House Democratic campaign organization. Citing Trump’s frequent clashes with GOP congressional leaders, Lujan said, “I think that has the Trump base very concerned with them.”Democrats must gain 24 seats in November 2018 to win House control, a steep climb. But 23 Republicans represent districts that Democrat Hillary Clinton won in last year’s presidential election, including Reichert and Ros-Lehtinen. Democrats are further heartened by numerous candidates emerging in districts around the country, and a history of congressional gains by the party that doesn’t hold the White House.

Pelosi said Trump’s standing in public opinion polls in the next few months will be key to Democratic hopes next year because that is when office-holders and challengers make decisions on running. The president has been registering below 40 percent approval, which is dismal.

On the legislative side, some moderate Republicans are encouraging future compromises between Trump and Democrats. Rep. Peter King of New York said the president asked him at a White House meeting Thursday how the bipartisan outreach was going.Additional GOP lawmakers are considering retirement, and those numbers may grow if the Republican drive to cut taxes hits roadblocks in Congress, said three party consultants. The operatives, who spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal private conversations, described a high level of anxiety within the GOP, fed by a frustration over the party’s scant legislative accomplishments.

“I said, ‘You and Chuck. The two of you in the room,’” said King, referring to Schumer. “‘We can make some good deals.’”

But for conservatives, Trump’s pact with Democrats and others like it are nightmarish. They offer support for early GOP worries that a politically agnostic Trump’s only goal would be to claim credit for middle-of-the-road deals, squandering Republican control of the White House and Congress.

That mood was highlighted at a closed-door House Republican meeting Friday, when top administration officials seeking votes for the debt-spending-disaster bill got catcalls in response.

Conservatives said they were repulsed by combing aid for storm victims with the idea of authorizing more borrowing, which they instinctively oppose. In the past, they’ve supported borrowing legislation if it has included provisions curbing federal spending.

Packaging disaster funds into a bill boosting borrowing without spending constraints is a “mess,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., adding that with the GOP controlling Washington, “I thought it would be a lot more fun than it is.”

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he believed Trump’s deal with Democrats was “a one-time thing.” He said it was driven by the need to rush recovery money to Texas and Louisiana coupled with Trump’s desire to clear the autumn for tackling the GOP goal of tax cuts.

But Meadows said Democrats could correctly claim a victory: “It’s the first time that I can recall that we’re increasing the debt ceiling without something conservative being attached to it.”

The prospect of cutting deals with Trump was proving a dilemma for some Democrats.

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., applauded an apparent “swerve toward pragmatism.” But he said Trump’s “morally repugnant” actions like defending neo-Nazis who fueled a riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, was a “barrier between what would otherwise be some real bridge building.”

‘Send prayers’: Texas Republican (White Idiots) turns down donated blankets, beds, manpower from Canada

Those who have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana are only beginning to see the way the flood waters have destroyed their homes. Many families tried to ride it out, only to be rescued when the rising waters forced them onto their roof. Thousands escaped with only their lives and the clothes on their backs, losing everything they own.

But according to Secretary of State Rolando Pablos (R-TX), they don’t need any help. As Patheos reported, they just need a little more Jesus.

Quebec’s Minister of International Relations Christine St-Pierre called Pablos to express her sorrow and condolences on behalf of the people of the Canadian province. She also offered equipment and manpower.

Pablos turned it down. Instead he asked for “prayers from the people of Quebec,” the minister relayed.

Understandably, the neighbor to the north was shocked.

“It was a conversation about how devastating the situation is and we want to express our support to the people of Texas,” she told CBC News in an interview.

This isn’t the first time the Canadians have stepped up with substantial donations. After Hurricane Katrina, they also sent the donation of blankets, beds, pillows, hygienic products as well as electricians to help restore power. Louisiana was more than grateful to accept. Texas was a no. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, by contrast, graciously accepted a generous offer from Mexico for assistance.

“He was very touched by the fact we called him,” she noted.

Anyone seeking to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey can donate through one of these charities.