Josh Israel Archive

Donald Trump goes back to pretending to care about infrastructure

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

Weeks after yet again publicly shelving his long-delayed promise to repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, President Donald Trump claimed on Tuesday that action was just around the corner. His administration’s many stalled attempts to address the issue has become a national joke, as its promised “Infrastructure Week” became reminiscent of Groundhog Day.

Trump’s latest bluster came Tuesday morning as part of an effort to defend Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has drawn widespread bipartisan criticism for blocking election security legislation and virtually every other major bill since the start of the 116th Congress.

“Mitch McConnell loves our country,” Trump told reporters. “He’s done a great job. We are trying to pass an infrastructure bill. It’s being written up right now, for our highways, and our roadways.”

This news came as something of a surprise given that in May, Trump was adamant that he would not do anything on infrastructure because he was mad that Congress was fulfilling its constitutional duty to conduct oversight of his administration. After reaching a tentative agreement with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on the outlines of a $2 trillion infrastructure plan, anti-government activists in his own administration and congressional Republicans reportedly objected to the cost. Rather than stand up to his party, Trump called the Democratic leaders in for an ambush under the guise of a negotiation.

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Fueled by their donations, Mitch McConnell pushes special tax break for bourbon industry

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and fellow Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul announced a bill on Wednesday to provide special corporate tax advantages for liquor distillers.

A look at McConnell’s campaign finance history may offer a big clue as to why: hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from the alcoholic beverages sector.

The Advancing Growth in the Economy through Distilled Spirits Act would renew an expiring provision from President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut bill that allows for the deduction of interest expenses related to bourbon inventory when the expenses are paid, rather then when the bourbon is bottled and sold. In a joint press release, Paul said the bill would “preserve Kentucky’s signature Bourbon industry by boosting job creation and maintaining a level playing field between Bourbon and whiskey producers at home and their competitors abroad.”

But back in 2010, an examination by the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity calculated the largest individual donors to McConnell over his decades-long tenure in Congress. Of the top five largest career donors, three had ties to the Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corporation. Brown-Forman’s products include Jack Daniel’s whiskey and Old Forester bourbon.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2014 — the last time McConnell was up for re-election — he also received more in donations from the beer, wine, and liquor sector than any other senator. The total for that campaign alone: $144,950.

So far this year, McConnell has received $5,000 from Brown-Forman’s corporate PAC and $10,000 from the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America.

As majority leader, McConnell has spent most of the 116th Congress ensuring no lawmaking happens. He has boasted of being the “grim reaper” who blocks legislationfrom even coming to the floor and has so stanched the flow of bills that even his Republican colleagues have publicly complained. He has introduced little legislation, aside from housekeeping resolutions required to organize the Senate. So when the Kentucky Republican announces he will push for a bill, it is unusual.

While Paul is in just his second term in the Senate, he too has received tens of thousands in contributions from the alcohol industry.


Reposted from ThinkProgress

GOP congressman voted for tax cuts, now says America is too indebted to pay for appropriations bill

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) voted against a bill last week that would fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education for the next year.

His reasoning? He says the measure included “support of taxpayer-funded abortions” — which it does not — and that he does not believe the nation can afford that, after tax cuts he voted for massively expanded the budget deficit.

Smucker is a longtime opponent of abortion rights. In his bi-weekly newsletter — delivered Sunday and tweeted out on Monday — the second-term congressman explained his objection in a section called “In Defense of the Unborn.”

“Last week, the House Democrats offered a spending package (H.R. 2740) that will spend billions more than our current budget caps allow—including in support of taxpayer-funded abortions,” he wrote.

“Our nation is more than $20 trillion in debt, and longstanding policy has been to separate abortion from healthcare funding. The bill would overturn these provisions and would also undermine other critical protections for the lives of the unborn. I couldn’t support these provisions and opposed the bill.”

Smucker included a link to a floor speech from Friday in which he railed against the provisions.

While the bill, which cleared the House, would continue limited funding for fetal tissue research and would lift a gag order by President Donald Trump for family planning providers who mention abortion, it does not actually provide any funding for abortions.

“Hyde Amendment” prohibitions also were included in the bill, which would make it harder for poor women and gender minorities to access abortions.

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Oops: Trump admitted he blew up the infrastructure deal, not Democrats

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

President Donald Trump blew up talks with congressional Democratic leaders on Wednesday, vowing that he would not do anything to address America’s crumbling infrastructure — an issue he has repeatedly cited as a chance for bipartisan cooperation — until Congress stopped doing oversight of his administration.

Trump met with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Wednesday morning, ostensibly to discuss a path forward on legislation to rebuild roads and bridges. Last month, the trio had agreed to the outlines of a $2 trillion infrastructure spending plan. But with congressional Republicans and his own advisers reportedly objecting to the cost, it quickly became apparent that Trump had little intention to actually reach an agreement at this meeting.

Minutes after the meeting, Trump appeared in the White House Rose Garden and announced that he was angry that his campaign’s Russian ties and his repeated attempts to obstruct investigations are still being scrutinized even after he (falsely) declared himself totally exonerated by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

He admitted at the podium he was the one to scuttle infrastructure talks before they even began.

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Republican congressman suggests GOP spent 8 years saving their health care plan for 2019

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OH), who chaired the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce until the 2018 blue wave cost his party its control of Congress, went on Fox News Tuesday to denounce Medicare for All and other proposals to create a single-payer system for health care. Asked about his party’s lack of an alternative, he suggested that they would have had one had they kept their majority.

Walden has been in Congress for just over 20 years. His party held the majority for 16 of them. Since 2011, they spent much of their time pushing to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, although most of their more than 50 attempts to kill the bill (in whole or part) were more focused on the “repeal” and less on the “replace.” In May of 2017, Walden voted for the wildly unpopular Trumpcare proposal, which would have taken health insurance away from an estimated 14 million people.

Walden said on Tuesday that the single-payer proposals were a “complete government takeover” of the health care system and would turn the United States into Venezuela.  Citing a single example of a Canadian woman who had a long wait for a cancer diagnosis under that country’s system, he predicted “If you think it’s fun to wait in line at DMV, you’ll gonna love [Sen.] Bernie Sanders’ [(I-VT)] wait times for Medicare for All.”

But pressed by Fox News to explain what his party’s solution was, Walden claimed that they would have tamed the nation’s growing health care costs had they only kept control of the House.

“I want to go after costs of health care,” he said. “If I had remained as chairman, if Republicans had stayed in the majority, that was our focus: to get drug costs down, find out why hospital costs are so high, look at every part of this medical industrial complex.”

Walden did not indicate why he, his committee, and his party did not do this during their time in the majority.

Fox News is very mad that a union endorsed Biden

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

The International Association of Fire Fighters, a labor union representing more than 300,000 firefighters and emergency medical service providers, endorsed Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign on Monday. Fox and Friends host Brian Kilmeade apparently found this very concerning.

In a Monday morning interview with the union’s general president, Harold Schaitberger, Kilmeade repeatedly demanded to know why the mandatory union dues for the “many of those firefighters” who actually support President Donald Trump would be used to elect a candidate they oppose.

Schaitberger explained that the group’s voluntary political action committee donations, not its union dues, would be used for political spending — but Kilmeade would not relent.

“Are you using their dues for Joe Biden?” Kilmeade asked of the union’s Trump supporters.

“Our role is to represent all of them in their profession,” Schaitberger began to respond.

“Right. Are you using their money to support Joe Biden?” Kilmeade pressed.

“We are using the money that those that choose to contribute to our political PAC, we use on their behalf in the political arena. Those that choose to make those contributions,” he replied.

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Trump’s tax cuts for Betsy DeVos and the very rich are being paid for by education cuts

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will testify before Congress on Wednesday about her priorities for the department just weeks after she proposed billions of dollars in cuts for education spending in fiscal year 2020.

DeVos has labeled the cuts “tough choices,” but new analysis from the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) shows DeVos’ personal savings from the 2017 GOP tax bill alone could have covered a significant chunk of them.

(ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed within CAPAF.)

According to her 2018 personal financial disclosures, DeVos’ income was somewhere between $46.8 million and $109 million, mostly stemming from LLCs, limited partnerships, and distributive shares. CAPAF’s analysis estimates the Trump tax cuts likely saved her $10 million or more in the last year alone.

Seth Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who focuses on federal tax and budget policy, said DeVos was “illustrative of the windfall that extremely wealthy business owners were handed in 2017.”

“Because her family’s company, Amway, is — as we found out from a letter they sent to Congress — structured as an S-corporation,” he explained, DeVos’ holdings were eligible for a special new deduction created in the tax bill. The tax changes Trump and Republicans implemented in 2017 actually reduced the top rate for these types of holdings from 39.6% to 29.6% taxation.

“They sold this new deduction as a small business tax cut, but the kinds of businesses that really benefit are Amway, the Trump Organization, and their owners,” Hanlon said.

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Fox News tells Americans to stop complaining about their shrunken tax refunds

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

As Americans begin to prepare their 2018 federal tax returns, many are facing the unpleasant surprise that their tax refunds will be smaller this year or that they may even owe money to the government. This comes despite — or perhaps because of — the tax bill passed by the Republican Congress in late 2017 and signed by President Donald Trump, which Trump falsely promised would give everyone a tax cut, but actually raised taxes on many middle class Americans.

On Wednesday, Fox & Friends attempted to spin the situation, blaming taxpayers who should have somehow known to have adjust their withholding a year ago and should have saved more.

Noting that the average tax refund has dropped 8.4 percent since last year, guest and Fox Business Network host Charles Payne claimed Americans should have used their “fatter paychecks” more wisely.

“Here’s the thing. For the most part, the IRS is telling everyone that they just simply did not make the proper adjustments on the withholding at the beginning of the year. So they have been making all of this money,” he said.

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Mulvaney says Trump may still force another shutdown despite adequate funding

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

President Donald Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that the administration “absolutely cannot” rule out another government shutdown — even though he also claimed that there is plenty of money already available for Trump to build his unpopular wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Bipartisan congressional negotiators are running out of time to reach an agreement on legislation to keep the government funded after the current three-week continuing resolution expires on February 15.

Trump ran for president in 2016 on a promise that he would build a wall along the entire southern border and that it would be funded entirely by Mexico. After Mexico refused, Trump has demanded $5.7 billion in U.S. taxpayer funding this year to begin construction on the project.

Earlier this year, he forced the longest partial government shutdown in the nation’s history in an unsuccessful attempt to get Congress to appropriate that money.  But Mulvaney said on Sunday that Trump can legally build the wall even if he does not get new appropriations.

On Fox News Sunday, Mulvaney vowed that Trump is going to build the wall, period. “We’ll take as much money as you can give us. And then we’ll go off and find the money someplace else — legally — in order to secure that southern barrier. But this is going to get built, with or without Congress.”

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House Republicans resort to wacky excuses to reject ending Trump’s shutdown

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

House Republicans are offering a series of strange justifications for refusing to join their Democratic colleagues in supporting legislation that would end President Trump’s government shutdown, which is about to set a record as the longest ever.

Democrats passed a series of bills this week to reopen parts of the federal government that are currently closed due to the partial shutdown, with only a few Republican votes joining in support of the legislation.

While Trump has vowed to veto these bills unless Congress gives him billions of taxpayer dollars for a border wall he promised would be funded entirely by Mexico, lawmakers could override a presidential veto if two-thirds of the House and Senate backed the bills.

Instead, House Republicans have offered a litany of excuses for their opposition to bills, which were crafted to match bipartisan Senate spending bills endorsed by the body last year. While some played on the notion that the House should never give the Senate what it wants, many noted that their pet pork projects were not adequately funded — and thus, they preferred to let government agencies including Treasury, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and Interior continue to be shuttered with no funding whatsoever.

The gripes shared during the House debate included:

Dead House members wouldn’t like the process.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) argued that even though the bills received overwhelming support from senators from both parties last year, they should be rejected because the House was not involved. “The other side wants to claim that these bills are bipartisan, but they are clearly not bicameral, and they have no input from the 435 House Members,” he said. “Some of the great House appropriators of our time on both sides of the aisle would probably be rolling over in their graves right now if they knew of such a move to take up Senate spending bills without any House input.”

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Not just Hill interns: Public office pays so little, it’s the realm of the rich and retired

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

When Arnie Arnesen was elected to the New Hampshire state House of Representatives in 1984, she was 31 years old and pregnant. “I couldn’t afford infant daycare,” she remembers, “so I showed up and breastfed on the floor of the House.”

Her district was well northwest of the state capitol, so the combination of the commute and her legislative duties kept her more than a little busy: “How do you have a job where you’re traveling down to Concord — an hour and a half each way, three days a week — and think you could have a life? I took it as an opportunity even though it was a financial liability.”

For her hard work, Arnesen received a $100 salary from the state’s treasury — per year.

The state’s lawmakers have never gotten a pay raise. Since 1889, the New Hampshire constitution has set the salary for its state legislators at $200 per two-year term (about $5,500 in today’s money). “When they put the $200 in the constitution,” Arnesen said, “that was half the average wage of a New Hampshire worker. It reflected a reasonable salary, but that’s never changed. And the question is why not? They don’t want young people [or] diversity.” The result, she says, is that over her four terms in the House and in the decades since, the state legislature has been almost exclusively “made up of the rich, the retired, and the remunerated — because they don’t need the cash.”

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House Democrats have a plan to actually drain the swamp. Senate Republicans are going to hate it.

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

House Democrats gained at least 40 seats in the November 2018 midterm elections, in part based on their promise to fight the culture of corruption that festered under the GOP’s control. As they usher in the 116th Congress on Thursday, the new House Majority plans to hit the ground running with two packages to actually drain the swamp and take on the for-profit Trumpadministration. But with Republicans still controlling the Senate, one of those packages is likely going to run into the massive anti-reform roadblock that is Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

As promised, incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her new majority plan to kick off the new Congress with a major sweeping anti-corruption bill — designated as H.R. 1 — and a series of House rule changes (H. Res. 6) that will address weaknesses in the House’s own operating policies.

Alex Tausanovitch, associate director of the democracy and government reform team at the Center for American Progress, called the rules changes a “down-payment on their efforts to fight corruption” that “shows they’re serious about taking on this culture of corruption we’ve seen proliferate in the past few years.” [ThinkProgress is an editorially independent project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund].

Those changes include a prohibition on members of Congress — like indicted New York Rep. Chris Collins (R) — serving on corporate boards, mandatory annual ethics training for all members, an expanded ban on sexual relationships between members and staffers, a new ombudsman for whistleblowers, and a formal ban on non-disclosure agreements (which have been used to conceal sexual harassment).

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These companies claimed the GOP tax bill would ‘boost jobs.’ Now they’re laying off employees.

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

In the lead-up to the enactment of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, Donald Trump’s massive tax cut that mostly benefited rich people and big corporations, a coalition of powerful business interests formed with one major priority in mind: slashing the corporate tax rate. The Reforming America’s Taxes Equitably (RATE) Coalition comprised dozens of companies and trade groups that all insisted lowering corporate taxes would mean more jobs.

A ThinkProgress review found that about half of RATE Coalition’s members have made layoffs since the law’s enactment. In other words, not only did the expensive tax cut not bring more jobs, it couldn’t even forestall significant job losses.

In 2017, the RATE Coalition’s website identified 32 companies and trade groups who had come together around the singular mission to “reform the tax code, making it fairer and simpler and improving the prospects of growth and jobs in the U.S. economy by reducing the corporate income tax rate to make it more competitive with our nation’s major trading partners.” Together, they constituted a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization (first launched in 2011) and promised that a corporate tax rate reduction would “boost job creation and economic growth.”

Their membership list was a who’s who of Big Business: Aetna Inc., AT&T, Altria Client Services, Association of American Railroads, Boeing, Brown-Forman, Capital One, Cox Enterprises, CVS Caremark, Edison Electric Institute, FedEx, Ford, General Dynamics, Home Depot, Intel, Kimberly-Clark, Liberty Media, Lockheed Martin, Macy’s, National Retail Federation, Nike, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Reynolds American, S&P Global, Southern Company, Synchrony Financial, T-Mobile, UPS, Verizon, Viacom, and Walmart.

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The GOP strategy to make the midterm elections about bigotry pretty much failed

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

After President Donald Trump won in 2016 on a platform of nativism, xenophobia, racism, and a false promise that Mexico would fund a giant wall along the U.S.’s southern border, he and his party apparently believed that appeals to bigotry and division were the way to win elections. But while the White House, GOP party committees, allied outside groups, and midterm candidates employed an array of dog-whistle and plainly racist attacks against Democratic candidates, it did not have the desired results in last week’s 2018 midterms.

There were certainly instances in which racist candidates and divisive tactics were successful. Former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) appears to havfe eked out a very narrow win against a black Democrat whom he compared to a monkey. Indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) won after smearing his Christian opponent, a Latino-Arab American, of secretly being a “radical Muslim” and a “security risk.” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) was victorious in a close race against an opponent he tied to a convicted cop-killer with race-baiting ads. Though it was much closer than his previous wins, white supremacist Rep. Steve King (R-IA) held onto his House seat.

But on a larger scale, the attacks mostly flopped.

Xenophobic attacks against Tom O’Halleran (AZ-1)

Republican challenger Wendy Rogers challenged first-term Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) over his opposition to Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. Her ad called Honduran refugees “invaders” and warned that if O’Halleran and Democrats won, the borders would be “opened” and “our America” would be “gone forever.” Voters didn’t buy it, and they re-elected him easily.

Anti-Asian attacks against Andy Kim (NJ-3)

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) lost to Democrat Andy Kim, a national security expert whose parents immigrated from South Korea. The New Jersey GOP sent a racist mailer to voters in the district using images of a fish market juxtaposed next to Kim’s name written in a font similar to Chinese take-out restaurants, and a prominent GOP super PAC ad accused Kim of being “not one of us.” In a debate, MacArthur refused to denounce the attacks and suggested Kim was falsely crying racism to get sympathy.

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What you can do to protect your right to vote in hard times

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

Marc Solomon is a long-time political strategist who literally wrote the book on the campaign to bring marriage equality to America. So when he moved to New Jersey, registering to vote was an important priority for him. The state’s arcane law requires handwritten voter registration applications, and the registrar’s office in his county incorrectly read his last name as “Soloman.” Trouble ensued.

When he attempted to obtain a vote-by-mail ballot, his request was rejected because the registrar could not match his Social Security number with his (incorrectly spelled) name. While this administrative error was likely inadvertent and may be rectifiable before Election Day — unlike many of the obstacles American citizens can face in their effort to exercise their right to vote — Solomon is hardly alone in finding his participation in Election 2018 may take some extra effort.

And while the battle to make sure that no citizen is disenfranchised will play out now and in the future at the ballot box, in the courts, and in legislatures, Common Cause National Campaigns and Digital Director Jesse Littlewood told ThinkProgress, that there are several steps everyone can take to make sure their vote counts in the November 6 elections.

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After blowing up the deficit with tax cuts, these Republicans want credit for fiscal responsibility

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

“The federal fiscal burden threatens the security, liberty, and independence of our nation,” the 2016 Republican party platform warned. To get off “the path to
bankrupting the next generation,” they vowed to “fight for Congress to adopt, and for the states to ratify, a Balanced Budget Amendment.”

Now that the GOP controls Congress and the White House, however, the party has apparently abandoned these principles. Rather than move toward a balanced budget, the GOP majority and President Trump instead have massively increased the budget deficit they once decried, thanks in large part to the tax bill they passed. And yet that has not stopped Republicans from audaciously running on a balanced budget again in 2018.

A ThinkProgress review of House Republicans running for re-election in districts deemed competitive by the Cook Political Report found 18 of them explicitly call for a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget on their current campaign re-election websites, yet also voted for massive Trump tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. The plan is predicted cost the government more than $1 trillion in revenue, massively increasing the current budget deficit.

Thirteen of those lawmakers also voted for the 2018 omnibus spending bill, which cost another $1.3 trillion. Combined, these helped swell the annual federal budget deficit (which was $584 billion in Fiscal Year 2016) to an estimated $1 trillion starting next year.

The hypocrites include:

  1. Rep. French Hill (AR-2). Hill voted for both the tax cuts for the rich and the omnibus spenidng bill. Still, he complains on his campaign site that “Washington spending is out of control and bankrupting our country,” and boasts, “While in Congress, I have co-sponsored two versions of balanced budget amendments to the U.S. Constitution to bring our spending in line. We must take the necessary steps to ensure that all taxpayer dollars are being used wisely, and we can no longer kick the can down the road on mandatory spending. Our children and grandchildren depend on us to solve our debt problem and give them a brighter future.”
  2. Rep. David Schweikert (AZ-6). Schweikert voted for the tax cuts for the rich. Yet he warns that “Our national debt is out of control,” and says, “Throughout his term, David has also sponsored real reforms like a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that would mandate that Congress balance the budget each year.”
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Trumpcare breaks every promise Trump made about health care

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

On the campaign trail, one of Donald Trump’s most oft-repeated promises was that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and replace it with “something terrific.” This mythical, magical, secret plan was largely left to the imagination of voters, but he did make a few claims about what it would include.

Trump promised that his replacement would be “a lot less expensive” for consumers and for the government. “You know who makes the money with Obamacare? I don’t know if you know. The insurance companies,” he explained.

On 60 Minutes in September of 2015, Trump vowed that everyone would be covered if he won. “I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

Pressed for specifics, he explained that “people are going to be able to go out and negotiate great plans with lots of different competition with lots of competitors with great companies and they can have their doctors, they can have plans, they can have everything.”

Trump reiterated his pledge that every American would get coverage at a February 2016 MSNBC town hall. “We’re going to take care of them. We’re going to take care of them. We have to take care of them. Now, that’s not single payer. That’s not anything. That’s just human decency.”

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McConnell finally admits ending ‘war on coal’ might not bring back jobs

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

In 2013, then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the Senate floor to excoriate the Obama administration’s environmental policy and its impact of coal jobs in eastern Kentucky.

Noting a recent listening session in Pikeville, Kentucky, McConnell sought “to put a human face on the suffering that is being felt in Appalachia due in large part to this administration’s war on coal.” He displayed a photo depicting two of “over 5,000 Kentuckians who have lost their jobs in the war on coal, two of the casualties from the president’s war on coal.” The longtime EPA critic drew a direct line between the agency’s emissions standards and the loss of jobs for his constituents.


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What Trump Promised America, Specifically

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

In his first speech as president-elect, Donald Trump pledged to “be president for all Americans” and to work with supporters and critics alike to “unify our great country.” Now that it is apparent that — likely without a plurality of the votes — the nation has selected him to lead the country, it will now be up to him to deliver on his promises to “make America great again.”

With GOP majorities in both houses of Congress for at least the next two years and what will likely be a friendly Supreme Court, Americans will now see what happens trying things his way.

Here is what the Trump administration must now deliver to keep his promises:

Bringing back jobs.

Trump’s acceptance speech promised “millions of new jobs.” He later put a number on this: as many as 25 million jobs over the next 10 years and better than 4 percent GDP growth. To do this, he proposed renegotiating or canceling trade deals, tax cuts, deregulation, and reducing our spending on defense of our allies. He said that he alone can fix the system rigged against American workers. He said his plan would be the most pro-growth policy “perhaps in the history of our country.” Americans should expect Trump to “fix the system so it works for all Americans” and spark massive job growth.

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Ted Cruz Vows To Make ‘Grave Mistake’ And Back Trump

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) thinks a Donald Trump presidency would be “a grave mistake.” But, he reaffirmed Sunday, he would support him as the GOP presidential nominee anyway.

On CNN’s State of the Union host Jake Tapper asked Cruz on Sunday about recent denunciations of Trump by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and other conservatives.

Cruz joined in on the attacks, blasting Trump for his historical support of Planned Parenthood and late-term abortion rights, his promise to “stay neutral between Israel and the Palestinians,” and his “longtime support of expanding Obamacare into Bernie Sanders-style socialized medicine, putting the government in charge of your health care, putting government bureaucrats into a position to ration your care, especially that of seniors.”

Noting that like Cruz has suggested Trump presidency would be “a grave mistake,” host Jake Tapper asked if he would still support his rival should he win the nomination.

“I will support the Republican nominee. Period. The end,” Cruz replied.

Watch the video:

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As Ben Carson’s Campaign Tanked, Top Advisors Reaped Millions

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

As Ben Carson’s Campaign Tanked, Top Advisors Reaped Millions

On October 1, 2015, as the fourth quarter of the year began, Ben Carson was a serious GOP presidential contender. With a national average of more than 16 percent in the Republican nomination contest polling, he was just seven points behind frontrunner Donald Trump and more than 4 points ahead of third place candidate Carly Fiorina.

Though his campaign raised more than $22 million over the final three months of 2015 — the most of any Republican hopeful — he ended the year a seemingly spent force. As of January 1, 2016, he had fallen to fourth place nationally and dropped to just 8.8 percent support. As of Sunday, his national support was just 7.6 percent, according to Real Clear Politics’ poll average.

But while Carson declined in the polls, a small group saw its fortunes on the rise: his campaign advisors and consultants. Already under fire for a campaign spending model that bore the marking of a direct mail scam, Carson’s newly disclosed fourth quarter spending shows huge payments to companies controlled by his current and former advisors.

The campaign spent more than $27 million over that period. $4.7 million of that went to Eleventy Marketing Group, mostly for its “digital media/web service.” The Akron, Ohio-based company president, Ken Dawson, is also the Carson campaign’s chief marketing officer. According to the company’s website, “Ken Dawson has played a pivotal role” in the Carson campaign’s “unprecedented efforts to click with supporters” via Facebook. Eleventy’s other clients include TMA Direct.

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Kentucky Is Obamacare’s Undeniable Success Story. This Man Is Trying To Burn It All Down.

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

Though it has been largely ignored by national media and pollsters, Kentucky’s November gubernatorial election could mean striking changes for the Bluegrass State. The nation’s most unlikely Obamacare success story — a state system that has provided more than 500,000 Kentuckians with affordable health insurance — might well be ransacked by a Tea Party candidate named Matt Bevin.

From the earliest days, Kentucky’s efforts to implement Obamacare have earned national acclaim. As the troubled roll out of the national health care exchange website was ruthlessly mocked by late night television, Fortune praised “one health exchange success story“: Kentucky’s new state-level marketplace.

Unlike most southern states, Kentucky opted to both set up its own state exchange (the Kentcuky Health Benefit Exchange, commonly known as “Kynect”) and to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. These efforts, ordered by Gov. Steve Beshear (D) and overseen by Governing magazine’s 2014 Public Official of the Year Carrie Banahan, helped get 521,000 Kentuckians insurance coverage in the first year alone. According to a Gallup poll, by the first half of 2015, Kentucky’s uninsured rate had fallen from 20.4 percent in 2013 to just 9 percent, the second largest drop of any state. Governing fêted Kentucky as “one of the few states that got everything right.”

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Paul Ryan Went On Fox News To Defend Amtrak Safety Funding. It Didn’t Go Well.

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

At least seven people died and 200 were injured in Tuesday’s Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia — even though technology exists that could have prevented the tragedy. A day after his Republican colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee voted along party lines to cut about one-fifth of Amtrak’s budget, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) incorrectly claimed that Congress had already funded implementing the safety system it mandated in 2008.

Positive Train Control (PTC) would allow railroads to use GPS to stop or slow trains in cases of driver emergencies, switches left in the wrong position, hijacking, natural disasters, or other human error. Seven years ago, Congress enacted the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which required the nation’s busiest railroad operators to have these technologies fully in place by December 2015. Though Amtrak’s president has called PTC “the most important rail safety advancement of our time,” the chronically cash-strapped Amtrak has struggled to put in place its Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES) PTC technology system on the timetable it planned and the section of track where Tuesday’s accident occurred lacks it. The train was reportedly traveling at more than 100 miles per hour in a 50 MPH zone. Robert Sumwalt, the National Transportation Safety Board official leading the investigation into Tuesday’s crash, made clear on Wednesday, “Based on what we know right now, we feel that had such a system been installed on this section of track, this accident would not have occurred.”

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Terri Schiavo’s Husband Speaks Out On Jeb Bush’s Presidential Bid

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

In his announcement Tuesday that he would explore a 2016 presidential bid, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) promised to focus on “ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.” But he made no mention of his most controversial act during his two terms in office: his attempts to take custody of Terri Schiavo and overrule her husband Michael’s decision to remove her feeding tube, fifteen years after cardiac arrest had left her in a vegetative state.

ThinkProgress spoke with Michael Schiavo and the attorney who represented him in the matter, George Felos, about Bush’s presidential candidacy. Both expressed concern that Bush’s record was one of government interference and opposing individual liberty.

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Congressional Candidate Makes Exact Same Disastrous Error As Mitt Romney

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

Congressional Candidate Makes Exact Same Disastrous Error As Mitt Romney

In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign was seriously damaged when Mother Jones posted a bootlegged video of him at a fundraiser telling donors that the 47 percent of the nation that pays no federal income tax would vote for President Obama because they are “dependent upon government.” Though Romney lost Nevada by more than 6 points on Election Day, one of his endorsers has resurrected the controversial strategy.

In a video posted Tuesday by the Nevada Democrat Party, Assemblyman Cresent Hardy (R), who is the GOP nominee against first-term Rep. Steven Horsford (D) in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, endorsed Romney’s comments and said the problem is actually worse today. Asked about the concern that we are “not that far from the tipping point, where the private sector is gonna be able to support the federal sector,” Hardy responded, “Can I say that without getting in trouble like President… err, Governor Romney? The 47 percent is true. It’s bigger now.”

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Georgia State Senator Complains That Voting Is Too Convenient For Black People

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

Georgia State Senator Complains That Voting Is Too Convenient For Black People

One of Georgia’s largest counties announced last week that it will allow early voting on a Sunday in late October and will open an early voting location in a shopping mall popular among local African-Americans. Concerned that this will lead to higher African-American voter turnout and hurt his party’s dominance, one state lawmaker is speaking out and vowing to stop this easy voting for minority voters.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Tuesday that Georgia state Senator Fran Millar (R) penned an angry response to DeKalb County’s announcement that early voting will be available on Sunday, October 26, and that an early-voting location will be opened at The Gallery at South DeKalb Mall. Millar represents part of the county and is Senior Deputy Whip for the Georgia Senate Republicans.

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McConnell Promises Billionaire Donors He Won’t Waste Time On ‘Gosh Darn’ Minimum Wage Increases

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

McConnell Promises Billionaire Donors He Won’t Waste Time On ‘Gosh Darn’ Minimum Wage Increases

At a Koch Brothers-hosted secret strategy conference of right-wing millionaire and billionaire political activists in June, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised that if his party wins control of the United States Senate this November, the Senate will not waste time on things like increasing the minimum wage for people making only about $15,000 annually. Instead, audio of his remarks obtained by The Nation reveals, his Senate will focus on repealing Wall Street reforms, environmental protections, and affordable healthcare.

McConnell spoke at an annual event hosted by oil billionaires Charles and David Koch at the St. Regis Monarch Bay resort in Dana Point, CA. The conference, titled “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society,” reportedly attracted hundreds of the nation’s wealthiest individuals and aimed to raise $500 million toward making McConnell the Senate majority leader next year and another $500 million to defeat a potential Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

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Can A SuperPAC Really End All SuperPACs?

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

With the November midterm elections still more than two months away, outside groups have already spent more than $155 million to influence federal elections. But while most of that money has gone toward electing candidates based on their party affiliation or ideology, a few groups have been spending with a very different goal: changing the way elections are funded.

A 2012 poll found nearly 7 in 10 Americans would prefer that super PACs — political committees that can raise and spend unlimited sums of money for or against federal candidates — were banned entirely. But with a Supreme Court majority that believes political spending is protected free speech and a Republican Party largely united against even the most limited reforms, big money continues to exert out-sized influence in Washington, DC.

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