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Tierney Sneed

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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About a dozen senators from both parties met Monday evening to discuss the opportunity for a bipartisan approach to health care policy. The meeting was spearheaded by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), who have worked on an Obamacare replacement bill together.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was spotted heading into the meeting, and Collins estimated that another two or three other Democrats were present, though she would not reveal their identities. Among the Republicans seen heading out of the meeting were Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).

“I don’t know yet whether there is [a bipartisan path forward on health care],” Collins, who was joined by Cassidy, told reporters after the meeting. “But it would be useful to invite some people to sit and talk about ideas and talk about whether it would be possible to come up with a bipartisan bill.”

Collins said that there were about 10 or 11 total senators in the meeting, and handful more who had been invited and were interested in going, but who were unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.

Not much was said by members after the meeting about the policy details of what sort of bipartisan deal could be hatched on health care policy. Cassidy said his bill was discussed but that no one had necessarily had signed on and other options were worthy of consideration.

“This really was a meeting to look at all sorts of ideas,” Collins said.

The meeting comes after the House GOP passed an Obamacare repeal bill on party lines and as Senate Republicans are working on their own Obamacare repeal legislation that they plan to pass with GOP votes only. Cassidy and Collins were notably not included in the 13-member, leadership-ordained working group that has formed to work on the Senate’s repeal legislation. Collins said that leadership was aware of the bipartisan talks she was shepherding.

“What we’re trying to do is get away from the partisanship that has made it very difficult to come up with solutions,” Collins said. “We’re trying to get away from semantics, we’re trying to get away from people being locked into a party position.”

MANCHIN after leaving bipartisan health meeting tonite: “There is no Plan B.” Won’t work with GOP if they start at repeal

Democrats, meanwhile, have said they would be willing to come to the table to improve the Affordable Care Act, but will not be involved in efforts that centered on the law’s repeal.

The Republican election official who, multiple times, backed up President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election denied on Monday that the newly unveiled presidential “elections integrity” committee he is vice-chairing will seek to “prove” or “disprove” Trump’s bogus allegations.

“The commission is not set up to disprove or to prove President Trump’s claim, nor is it just looking at the 2016 election,” Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said on CNN’s “New Day” Monday morning. “We’re looking at all forms of election irregularities, voter fraud, voter registration fraud, voter intimidation, suppression, and looking at the vulnerabilities of the various elections we have in each of the 50 states.”

Kobach’s role on the commission, which was created with an executive order last week, is one of many reasons voter rights advocates are worried about the panel’s true motives. Kobach has been a fierce proponent of stricter voting laws, as well as anti-immigration measures. When Trump claimed without evidence that three million people voted illegally in the election, Kobach, unlike other GOP and Democratic state elections officials, did not push back on the claim.

On CNN Monday, Kobach said that commission would have two goals. Firstly, it would be seeking “what evidence there is of different forms of voter fraud across the country.”

Secondly, it could offer recommendations for states on administering elections, and possibly for federal legislation, though Kobach said he preferred for states to be in the “driver’s seat” when running their elections.

Kobach also said that the commission will also be looking at “claims that certain laws depress turnout,” while playing down the issue. He brought up, in defense of his state’s voter ID law, that voter participation after the ID requirement was implemented remained static between the 2010 and 2014, while it dipped in states elsewhere.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo pushed back by pointing out that those statistics did not break down turnout by race, as advocates say and studies have shown that minorities are more likely not to have the required ID.

“Frankly I think the government really doesn’t need to be asking people their race,” Kobach said. “We should look at voters neutrally.”

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it would not review a monumental appeals court decision knocking down North Carolina’s omnibus restrictive voter law. In announcing that the court was denying the petition, Chief Justice John Roberts reiterated the case’s procedural complications: the state’s new Democratic governor has tried to withdraw the appeal, prompting an attempt by the GOP legislature to intervene to defend the law.

“Given the blizzard of filings over who is and who is not authorized to seek review in this Court under North Carolina law, it is important to recall our frequent admonition that ‘[t]he denial of a writ of certiorari imports no expression of opinion upon the merits of the case,'” Roberts said, citing a 1923 Supreme Court case.

The North Carolina case marked the first official move by the Supreme Court relating to voting rights since Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s selection, took the bench. Last summer, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 2013 North Carolina law — which included a voter ID requirement and cutbacks to early voting — was racially discriminatory in its intent.

The case was then appealed to Supreme Court, but, upon his election, North Carolina’s new Gov. Roy Cooper (D), and Democratic attorney General Josh Stein sought to withdraw the appeal. In response, Republican leaders in the state house asked to intervene to continue defending the law. Both procedural questions, as well as the case on its merits, were up for review at the high court.

As the Republican establishment has attempted to clear the field for Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), who will run to hold onto his seat in a special election later this year, a hardline House conservative, Rep. Mo Brooks, has announced he will run for the seat, adding to the already crowded field.

Brooks announced on the local, Huntsville area radio station WVNN Sunday that he was running, Politico reported. He will then get his campaign going in four events throughout the state Monday.

The campaign is for the seat original vacated by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) when President Trump nominated him for attorney general. Strange, a former Alabama attorney general, was appointed to the seat temporarily by then Gov. Robert Bentley (R). (Bentley has since stepped down while pleading guilty for the charges of misuse of campaign funds, allegedly resulting from affair with an aide).

The primary election for the seat has been scheduled for August 15, with a run-off December 12.

According to an earlier Politico report, outside consulting firms had been warned by the national GOP’s Senate campaign against helping Republicans seeking to challenge Strange.

Brooks is a member of the House Freedom Caucus and was first elected to the House in 2010.

In addition to Brooks, Strange so far will be facing off with State Rep. Ed Henry (R), the controversial former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, businessman Dom Gentile, and Christian Coalition of Alabama President Randy Brinson as well as a Democrat, former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones.

House Speaker Paul Ryan hasn’t let go of his cherished idea of privatizing Medicare and in an interview with a local Wisconsin radio station Friday, suggested that a blueprint for overhauling Medicare would advance in the Budget Committee again this year.

“The question is, can we get everyone else to agree” Ryan said on the Vicki McKenna Show. 

“And that’s just an ongoing conversation we’re having.”

Earlier in the interview Ryan said overhauling Social Security and Medicare — two programs President Trump vowed not to touch on the campaign trail — has “long” been his “plan.”

“That’s a discussion we’re having ongoing with the administration,” he said, later adding, “I do really believe we need to do Medicare reform.”

Ryan has released various versions of his so-called “Path to Prosperity” budget blueprint that have included a privatization of Medicare. The general idea he has promoted is turning Medicare into a so-called “premium support” system — i.e. a voucher system — in which seniors would get a set amount of money to shop around for private health care plans. Earlier versions of his proposal would have lead to a phase-out of Medicare altogether. Some experts have argued that even the most recent iteration of his blueprint, which ostensibly leaves some form of traditional Medicare available, would eventually lead to its phase-out as well.

Trump, while running for President, promised time and time again not to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, arguing, “It’s not fair to the people that have been paying in for years and now all of the sudden they want to be cut.” Trump already appears poised to violate his promise to preserve Medicaid with his support of a GOP Obamacare repeal bill that would slash $880 billion in federal funding for the program over 10 years, according to the CBO.

It’s not just Ryan that’s trying to make Medicare privatization happen. Trump’s Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, a former  House member with a reputation as a budget hawk, said last month that it was his “guess is the House will do either that or something similar to that.”

“Let them pass that and let’s talk about it,”Mulvaney said, when asked about Trump’s pledges not to touch Medicare.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) previewed some of the methods President Trump’s sketchy “Elections Integrity” commission will use to study alleged voter fraud, which numerous independent studies have found to be exceedingly rare.

Kobach, who is serving as vice chair of the committee, suggested that the commission will use federal data on green card holders to compare to states’ voter rolls in order to “see how many people are known aliens residing in the United States and also on the voter rolls.”

“The federal government has a database of every known alien who has a green card or a temporary visa. States have in the past asked, ‘Can we please run our voting rolls against that data base and see if any of those aliens are on our voting rolls?'” Kobach said on Tucker Carlson’s show Thursday evening. “The federal government has always said, ‘no.’ Well, now we are going to be able to run that database against one or two states.”

Kobach said that such a study has “never been done before.”

Elections administration experts warned that such an approach would not prove that non-citizens were illegally voting in large numbers, as President Trump has claimed occurred in the 2016 election.

Nate Persily, who served as a senior research director for President Obama’s Presidential Commission on Election Administration, told TPM via email that, because many outside groups do voter registration drives, “you will find a good number of non-citizens, ex-felons, dead people, and other ineligible voters who are registered.”

“Just because ineligible people are registered does not mean they voted,” Persily said, adding:

[Y]ou will also find that some of those ineligible voters on the rolls will then be marked off as having voted in the election.  But a large share, if not a majority, of those who end up being marked as having voted — once you investigate those claims as so many state election officials have — will be discovered as having been erroneously checked off by the poll workers because they meant to check off the name that appears above that of the ineligible voter on the voter list or the poll worker mishears the voter’s name.

“Now having said all of that — yes, out of the 136 million people who voted in the last election, there will be hundreds of ineligible voters who voted illegally,” Persily said.

Typically, voters, when registering, have to sign a legal affidavit confirming their citizenship and that meet the other standards, such as residency and age. Experts say that even with the few cases that have found purposeful deception in registering, there is a bigger risk — in erecting barriers such as documentary proof-of-citizenship requirements — of making more eligible people unable to register to vote than cases of fraudulent voting.

When Kobach’s own office provided a list of non-citizens improperly registered in Kansas, as part of the litigation around his proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirement, it was revealed that out of the 18 cases highlighted, only in one instance did the non-citizen actually vote.

Daniel P. Tokaji, an election law professor at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, pointed out that it’s “very easy to generate false positives – i.e., identify people who appear to be identical to a green-card holder, but really isn’t.”

“Also, even if it were reliably confirmed that someone who is not a citizen is on a registration list, that isn’t the same as voting fraud,” he told TPM in an email. “We don’t know how they get there and, even if they improperly registered themselves, it doesn’t mean they illegally voted.”

Even before Kobach floated this is as a potential technique the committee would use, voting rights advocates predicted that there would be focus on the voter rolls to suggest that fraudulent voting is a widespread problem and advocate for a proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirement or purges of the rolls.

“We already know that our voter rolls have mistakes on them,” Myrna Perez, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, told TPM Thursday. “There are ways in which we can clean them up that don’t surprise voters and don’t take eligible people off the roles.”

Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price was optimistic that a Senate Obamacare repeal bill would be coming soon, telling Hugh Hewitt on Friday that he believed the “Senate will produce a bill this summer,” with a vote before the August recess.

“We’re assisting and providing technical assistance, and responding to and trying to answer any questions that any of the United States senators may have who are interested in moving forward in a positive and productive way,” Price said on Hewitt’s radio show, according to the transcript. 

GOP senators have resisted putting a timeline on their effort and have insisted they will bring up a bill whenever they have settled on a plan that 51 of their members can support.

“This process will not be quick or simple or easy, but it must be done,” Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last week.

 

 

 

Before President Trump had even signed an executive order creating his long awaited “Elections Integrity” Commission, prominent civil rights groups and voting advocates were calling it a “sham,” a “distraction” and “a thinly veiled voter suppression task force.”

For them, the tells were the Republicans he had picked to lead it, the coded language in the order itself, and the President’s own unsubstantiated and reckless claims that “millions” had voted illegally in the 2016 election.

Read More →

The White House released the executive order President Trump signed Thursday creating a “commission on election integrity” — the long awaited voter fraud investigation Trump promised after claiming baselessly that “millions” voted illegally in the 2016 election.

Voting rights advocates have already slammed the committee –which is being vice chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — for being a “sham.”

Read the text of the executive order below:

Read More →

One of the Democrats slated to be on President Trump’s so-called “elections integrity” commission is already warning that he will “speak up” if it becomes a “Trojan horse” for infringing on the right to vote.

If they take nothing and conflate it into something, I think being part of the commission is a good place to be in order to correct that record,” Maine’s Secretary of State Matt Dunlap told TPM in a phone interview Thursday.

Dunlap confirmed reports that he was likely to serve on the commission and said he is just finishing up the paperwork.

I’ve been asked to be a part of it and my inclination is to do it,” Dunlap said.

But he takes a very different view of the prevalence of voter fraud than that of President Trump, who has claimed without evidence that three to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 election.

“I think it’s largely a bunch of ghost stories,” Dunlap said of claims of widespread fraudulent voting, adding the he has seen “very few” issues in the six terms he has served as Maine’s top elections official.

He said only twice has he forwarded to the attorney general cases of potential double voting, and that ultimately prosecutors declined to bring charges because, upon investigation, the two people had moved and been confused about the registration paperwork they had been given.

“How many millions have been cast and we had those two cases that the attorney general didn’t feel were worthy of prosecution,” he said.

Trump’s signing of the executive order creating the commission—which will identify voting policies that “enhance” or “undermine” the “American people’s confidence” in elections, according to the order—has prompted concerns among voting rights advocates that the group will issue a report that will be used as cover to push restrictive laws.

Dunlap said he hasn’t received many details on what the commission will be doing.

“I don’t know if they’re going to be making recommendations to Congress or doing an investigation of some kind,” Dunlap said. “I’m not clear what our charge is going to be.”

The commission is being led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leader in the push for has pushed for more restrictive voting regulations, like a proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirement, which has been blocked by courts.

“What we have seen, repeated around the country, is that strict voter ID laws, registration deadlines, all the document requirements, just winds up discouraging people form participating in the process—and not just the people you are trying to guard against,” Dunlap said.

He said that politically, he and Kobach “probably could not be farther apart,” but that he is a nice guy on a personal level.

“You can disagree without being disagreeable,” Dunlap said. “So my instinct is to see where this takes us and if this turns out to be a Trojan Horse, I have the opportunity to walk away then.”

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