A new ad going up today in Michigan from a group funded by the Democratic Governors Association features a diverse mix of Michiganders — young and old, white and black — talking about their preexisting conditions — like lymphoma, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. Then they warn that GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette might take away their protections. “Schuette would let insurance companies deny people coverage when they need it most,” a female narrator says in the spot, shared first with us.
Similar commercials have popped up across the map. In Ohio, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray launched an attack Wednesday against Mike DeWine. It features cancer patient Bob Jacobsen, a small-business owner from Columbus, saying he could die if he needs to pay $8,000 a month out of pocket for his own medications. He says he was “furious” when he found out DeWine, the state’s attorney general, challenged the constitutionality of the 2010 health law in court. “Mike DeWine is with the insurance companies,” Jacobsen says to the camera.
Neither Schuette nor DeWine are plaintiffs in the pending lawsuit led by Texas, where a federal judge heard oral arguments last week. Both say residents in their states should not be denied care because of preexisting conditions, but as attorney general each also previously fought in court to kill the Affordable Care Act, which would have gotten rid of such protections, and supported congressional efforts last year to repeal the law. Their challengers have also attacked them for not joining an effort by Democratic attorneys general to defend the law in the face of the latest legal challenge.
Stronger Wisconsin, another DGA-backed group, launched an ad against Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Wednesday for signing off on Attorney General Brad Schimel’s decision to join the 20-state lawsuit. A woman with breast cancer, identified as Mary from Madison, says she wants to see what her young daughter will do with her life. “If Scott Walker takes away the protections for preexisting conditions, I won’t be able to afford the treatments that are saving my life,” she says. “It’s a matter of life and death for me. Scott Walker just doesn’t seem to care about families like mine.”
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s challenger, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, is one of the plaintiffs in the Texas suit. In 2010, Manchin ran a commercial that featured him shooting a copy of the cap-and-trade bill. Last week, he released a similar ad that depicted him shooting a copy of Morrisey’s lawsuit instead. Manchin says he hasn’t changed, but the threat to the state has. “Now the threat is Patrick Morrisey’s lawsuit to take away health care from people with preexisting conditions,” Manchin says, holding his shotgun. “He’s just dead wrong.” Indeed, the Mountain State is one of the poorest and sickest states in the country with the highest percentage of people who have preexisting conditions.
The Democratic senators up for reelection in North Dakota and Indiana are also running ads on this topic. In fact, more than half of all Democratic commercials last month for federal races mentioned health care, according to the Wesleyan Media Project.
-- This is not some hypothetical. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor made no immediate ruling on the lawsuit following a four-hour hearing in a Fort Worth courtroom last Wednesday. The 20 GOP attorneys general argue that the entire ACA is unconstitutional and should be struck down because Congress repealed the individual mandate in last December’s tax bill. The requirement that people buy insurance or pay a tax penalty was the mechanism that Chief Justice John Roberts used to uphold the entire law in 2012. So now its legal foundation is gone.
The Trump administration supports this lawsuit, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions took the highly unusual step in June of ordering Justice Department lawyers not to defend an existing federal statute in court. The president’s spokespeople insist that he only wants to get rid of the mandates to buy coverage, not the protections for consumers. Interestingly, DOJ lawyers asked O’Connor not to issue an immediate injunction to suspend enforcement of the health law. They argued that this would cause chaos. Perhaps not coincidentally, this means chaos would be sowed only after the midterms.
An Urban Institute report recently estimated that around 17 million Americans could lose health coverage if the legal challenge succeeds. Federal data has also shown that almost half of all non-elderly Americans have a preexisting condition.
This case, Texas v. United States, may land before the Supreme Court. On the same day as the Texas hearing last week, Brett Kavanaugh pointedly declined to answer during his Senate confirmation hearing whether he’d uphold the requirement that insurance companies cover people with preexisting conditions. “I can't give assurances on a specific hypothetical,” said Kavanaugh, who dissented in 2011 when the D.C. Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the law.
-- Polling shows why Democrats are embracing this issue with such gusto. The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, which does gold-standard survey research on health care, found widespread public concern about the lawsuit in a national poll conducted at the end of August. A 75 percent majority of Americans say it is “very important” to guarantee coverage for people with preexisting conditions; 52 percent of the public are “very worried” that they or someone in their family will have to pay more for health insurance because of the lawsuit; and 41 percent are “very worried” they will lose their coverage if the Supreme Court overturns these protections.
-- Democrats said during the past four election cycles that Obamacare would be a real winning issue for their candidates. This time, they might finally be right. The Fix’s Philip Bump pointed Wednesday to these two proof-points:
The ACA has become more popular since Republicans tried to repeal the law last year, especially among independents.
-- The Michigan governor’s race captures the shifting political tide in miniature. In an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday, Schuette announced that he would not undo Michigan’s expansion of Medicaid if he gets elected. This is remarkable because he vigorously opposed expansion and ran attack ads before the GOP primary attacking Lt. Gov. Brian Calley for supporting it.
Schuette said he accepts that Healthy Michigan, as the program is known locally, is now the law of the land and that he wants to “reform” and “make it better,” rather than get rid of it. “It’s not going anywhere,” he said.
The attorney general reiterated his view that the ACA has been a “failure,” and he said he still wants to replace it — but he would make sure there are protections for people with preexisting conditions. He said any suggestion otherwise is “a scare tactic.”
Democratic nominee Gretchen Whitmer, a former party leader in the state Senate, has made Medicaid expansion a centerpiece of her campaign. Schuette’s new tack on the issue came just one day after the Detroit News and WDIV-TV released a poll showing him down 14 points, 50 percent to 36 percent.
-- Republican gubernatorial candidates really have struggled to thread the needle on Medicaid expansion all year. Exactly two months to the day before Scheutte shifted his tone, DeWine did so in Ohio. After spending more than $1 million attacking his opponent in the GOP primary for supporting expansion under John Kasich, DeWine said he wouldn’t move to take it back after all and, like Schuette, called for adding work requirements.
This sort of muddled messaging on Medicaid has contributed to tension between the outgoing GOP governors and their party’s nominees to replace them in Michigan and Ohio, as well as Nevada and New Mexico.
Recognizing the perilous politics at the national level, 10 Republican senators also co-sponsored a bill last month to prohibit insurers from denying coverage based on preexisting conditions. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the most vulnerable GOP incumbent up for reelection, is one of the co-sponsors.
TWO OTHER BIG HEALTH-CARE STORIES DROPPED YESTERDAY:
1. “For the first time since 2010, America’s progress on health insurance stalls,” by Jeff Stein: “America's uninsured rate held essentially steady from 2016 to 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures published on Wednesday, the first year this decade that the nation did not make progress in reducing the ranks of those without health insurance. In 2016, 8.8 percent of the American population — or 28.1 million people — did not have health insurance. In 2017, the number of those without health care rose by about 400,000 people to 28.5 million while the rate of the uninsured did not change … From 2010 to 2016, the uninsured rate fell dramatically — nearly in half — as tens of millions of more people were signed up for health insurance under the [ACA].”
“Fourteen states saw increases in their uninsured populations in 2017, compared to just three states — New York, California, and Louisiana, which recently expanded Medicaid — that saw the number of uninsured fall. … ‘It may be statistically insignificant, but the uptick [in uninsured Americans] represents hundreds of thousands of real people,’ said Sara Rosenbaum, a health expert at George Washington University.
“The data do not reflect the Trump administration’s most significant changes to the American health care system, which primarily came into effect in 2018. The Trump administration has given states permission to impose new work requirements on their Medicaid enrollees, but none were implemented in 2017. [The individual mandate repeal also did not go into effect until this year.] Some health care experts blamed the Trump administration for eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s outreach budget.” (Colby Itkowitz goes deeper on the numbers in today’s Health 202.)
2. Speaking of work requirements: “Several thousand poor residents of Arkansas have been dropped from Medicaid because they failed to meet new requirements, the first Americans to lose the safety-net health insurance under rules compelling recipients to work or prepare for a job to keep their coverage,” Amy Goldstein reports. “Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced Wednesday that 4,353 people have become ineligible for Medicaid, out of an initial group of nearly 26,000 who became subject to the requirements this spring. ‘I don’t like that number,’ Hutchinson said of the residents who were removed. But, noting that 1,000 people in the overall program have found employment, he called the requirement ‘a proper balance of those values that we hold important,’ including work and personal responsibility.
“Under Arkansas Works, the state’s expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, able-bodied adults must go online every month and report their hours of work or other community engagement. They lose insurance if they fail to comply for three months in a row. The requirements began in June for the initial group, who are ages 30 to 49. August was their third month, so the number announced Wednesday represents the first beneficiaries to be dropped. They cannot reapply until next year.
“The concrete reality of more than 4,300 individuals losing insurance — diminishing their access to care — is alarming leaders at medical and mental health clinics and hospitals, as well as legal advocates for the poor. They say logistics of the work rules are ill-suited to the lives of many poor Arkansans, who may not have computer access to report their hours online or may not have even received — or understood — letters the state sent telling them how to stay on Medicaid. … Statewide, nearly a fourth of the population lives in areas in which Internet service is not available, according to figures from the Federal Communications Commission. Even when they have cellphones, many low-income people have plans in which they pay by the minute … In Lee County in the Mississippi Delta, where poverty is rampant, nearly three-quarters of the people lack online access.
“Federal health-care officials have approved work requirements in three more states and have received proposals from 11 others. Arkansas is the only place with rules in effect.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Hurricane Florence was downgraded from a Category 3 to 2, but the storm has expanded in size. Kristine Phillips, Sarah Kaplan, Mark Berman and Joel Achenbach report: “Forecasters warn that when it nears land, it could shift to low gear and then meander unpredictably along the coast, sucking energy from the warm ocean as it pounds coastal communities. … Its hurricane-force winds extend 70 miles from the center of the eye, and its cloud field is four times the size of Ohio. On Wednesday, a satellite detected an open-ocean wave generated by Florence that appeared to be at least 50 feet high. … The National Hurricane Center on Wednesday tweaked the projected track for Florence to show a turn to the southwest when the storm nears Cape Fear in extreme southeast North Carolina. … Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) declared an emergency in all of his state’s 159 counties, citing the revised forecast of the storm.”
-- The Carolinas will begin to see the potentially devastating effects of Florence starting today. Jason Samenow reports: “Starting along the coast, winds will accelerate, the rain will intensify and the angry, agitated ocean will surge ashore. Landfall is expected Friday in southeast North Carolina, which may bear the storm’s brunt. The storm’s surge, the rise in seawater above normally dry land at the coast, could rise a story high. On top of that, a disastrous amount of rain, 20 or maybe even as many as 40 inches will fall. Flooding from both the storm surge and rainfall could be ‘catastrophic,’ the National Hurricane Center warned.” “North Carolina, my message is clear,” Gov. Roy Cooper warned at a briefing yesterday. “Disaster is at the doorstep and is coming in.”
-- The Marine Corps general in charge of Camp Lejeune defended his decision not to issue mandatory evacuation orders for the North Carolina base. From Dan Lamothe: “[Brig. Gen. Julian D. Alford] argued in statements posted to the base’s Facebook page that the installation has buildings sturdy enough to weather the storm, along with ample supplies, equipment and a good indication of where flooding and storm surge are possible. ‘I give you my personal assurance we are going to take care of everyone on this base,’ Alford said. … The decision was made as commanders at several other military bases in the Carolinas ordered mandatory evacuations, and as the projected path of Florence shows it passing right near Camp Lejeune, on the coast about 45 miles northeast of Wilmington. Numerous parents and spouses took to social media to express outrage about the decision, saying that it could be dangerous and complicate hurricane preparation for Marines who have families in the area.”
-- The Trump administration appears to have diverted nearly $10 million in funding away from FEMA disaster preparedness toward ICE's deportation efforts this year. Isaac Stanley-Becker reports: “The reallocation of public money is documented in a ‘Transfer and Reprogramming’ notification prepared this fiscal year by the Department of Homeland Security, the parent department of ICE . . . It was made public by Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon . . . [The document] shows that DHS requested that about $9.8 million going toward FEMA efforts such as ‘Preparedness and Protection’ and ‘Response and Recovery’ be funneled instead into ICE coffers, specifically underwriting ‘Detention Beds’ and the agency’s ‘Transportation and Removal Program.’”
-- Trump accused Democrats (without any evidence) of exaggerating the death toll from Hurricane Maria to score political points:
-- Six people, including the gunman, are dead after a man went on a shooting rampage in Bakersfield, Calif. The LA Times’s Alene Tchekmedyian reports: “The violence began about 5:20 p.m., when the man showed up to a trucking business with his wife and confronted another man, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood told reporters. The husband shot and killed his wife and the man. When a third man showed up, the gunman chased him to the nearby Bear Mountain Sports shop and fatally shot him. The gunman, who was not identified, then went to a home nearby and shot and killed two more people. Youngblood said the gunman then carjacked a woman who had a child in her vehicle. Both victims were able to escape as the gunman drove to Edison Highway, where he was spotted by a deputy. The man pulled into a lot and when the deputy approached, the man shot himself in the chest.” “Six people lost their lives in a very short amount of time,” Sheriff Youngblood said at a news conference. “This is the new normal.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Pope Francis has ordered an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va. The pope has already accepted Bransfield’s resignation. Pope Francis has also summoned senior bishops to the Vatican early next year for a first-of-its-kind meeting to discuss how to prevent sexual misconduct in the clergy and protect children from abuse. (William Branigin)
- The longtime executive producer of “60 Minutes,” Jeff Fager, has been ousted from the network, “effective immediately.” CBS's announcement comes amid allegations that he sexually harassed employees and tolerated an “abusive” and toxic culture. The network relieved CBS chief executive Les Moonves on Sunday. (CBS News)
- Median household income rose above $61,000 for the first time last year, which means half of American households brought in more than this and the rest brought in less. This is the highest level ever, but Census Bureau officials cautioned that the inflation-adjusted figure is not statistically different from previous highs reached in 2007 and 1999, right before the last two recessions. (Heather Long and Jeff Stein)
- People who were born the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks are now old enough to enlist in the war in Afghanistan — a stunning statistic that highlights just how long the U.S. has been fighting in a battle that was first waged in response to the attacks. (Alex Horton)
- Breitbart released a roughly hour-long recording of top Google executives expressing dismay about the results of the 2016 election. Some conservatives see it as vindication of their allegations that the search engine is politically biased. (Tony Romm and Cat Zakrzewski)
- Apple unveiled its largest and most expensive iPhone lineup to date. The largest of the three new phones, the iPhone Xs Max, has a starting price of $1,099 — which executives hope will help offset stalled smartphone sales growth. (Hayley Tsukayama and Geoffrey A. Fowler)
Planned Parenthood named Baltimore health commissioner and emergency room doctor Leana Wen as its new president, making her the first physician to lead the organization in more than 50 years. She will replace Cecile Richards. (New York Times)
The European Parliament voted to initiate sanctions proceedings against Hungary — an extraordinary and symbolic vote that comes as Prime Minister Viktor Orban continues to backslide on democracy. The measure could ultimately strip Hungary of its E.U. voting rights, though few expect it to prompt any significant changes from the increasingly defiant Orban. (Michael Birnbaum and Griff Witte)
South Korea said that a group of 12 college students attempted to dodge its mandatory military service by gaining massive amounts of weight. Officials said the students, who were studying classical music in Seoul, traded tips on how to beef up ahead of their fitness tests — with at least one putting on 60 pounds. (Siobhán O'Grady)
Archaeologists have discovered the world’s oldest cave drawing in South Africa. The abstract pattern is estimated to be 73,000 years old — and bears an uncanny resemblance to a hashtag. (Ben Guarino)
Michelle Obama’s upcoming book tour will take her to major arena venues across the country. The tour, which will stretch from Nov. 13 to Dec. 17, will allow the former first lady to promote her new memoir, “Becoming.” (Emily Heil)
The Seattle Storm claimed its third WNBA title in franchise history after sweeping the Washington Mystics. The Mystics ended their first appearance in the WNBA finals with a 98-82 loss to the Storm. (Ava Wallace)
ONE YEAR AFTER MARIA:
-- A new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that nearly one year after Hurricane Maria, many Puerto Ricans are still struggling with basic necessities. The survey found that a full 83 percent of residents said they have suffered either major property damage, long-term loss of electricity, employment setbacks or worsening health problems. Among the sobering statistics:
- 93 percent of residents said their roads and highways remain dangerous and, in some areas, impassible.
- 50 percent said their households lacked an adequate supply of drinking water, and 53 percent remain concerned about the quality of the water in their homes.
- More than 40 percent said their power was not restored until January or later. Outages are still common on the island, with more than 3 in 4 saying they lost power for at least one hour in the previous month.
- “Since Maria hit, 24 percent say their households borrowed money from friends or relatives to make ends meet, 26 percent had problems paying for food, 17 percent fell behind in paying their rent or mortgage[.]”
Puerto Ricans also feel neglected by the U.S. government — and, largely, Trump himself. Eighty percent of residents expressed a negative view toward the president's response to the catastrophic storm: “A 55 percent majority believes rebuilding Puerto Rico is not a priority for the U.S. government, and roughly 6 in 10 say the federal response to Maria was worse because of the island’s lack of statehood.”
-- Why The Post conducted this survey: “Political leaders have both defended and criticized federal and local recovery efforts, and polls of Americans outside of Puerto Rico were conducted gauging what they thought about the recovery,” Scott Clement and Emily Guskin write. “But absent from the conversation was a representative picture of how Puerto Rican residents saw the recovery.” (Read the methodology here.)
-- Trump’s full-throated defense of his administration’s response to Maria highlights his habit of “[elevating] a widely perceived failure or mistake and [defending] it as a great triumph while attacking his critics,” Josh Dawsey writes. “His detractors say it is shameless and sometimes comical gaslighting; supporters say he is just a master marketer who uses hyperbole and always shows strength. ‘You just never give an inch or admit any mistake in public,’ said Sam Nunberg, a former aide describing Trump’s mind-set. … Sometimes, [Trump] is trying to preempt criticism that he knows is likely to revive itself, like before this week’s hurricane. And he tells senior aides that his supporters will believe his version of events. It leads to awkward encounters and surreal situations for those around him.”
-- In that vein: A new report from The Post’s Fact Checker team this morning finds that Trump has told more than 5,000 false or misleading claims since taking office. From Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly: “On Sept. 7, [Trump] woke up in Billings, Montana, flew to Fargo, N.D., visited Sioux Falls and eventually returned to Washington. He spoke to reporters on Air Force One, held a pair of fundraisers and was interviewed by three local reporters. In that single day, he publicly made 125 false or misleading statements — in a period of time that totaled only about 120 minutes. It was a new single-day high. … [Trump has averaged] 8.3 claims a day, but in the past nine days — since our last update — the president has averaged 32 claims a day.”
-- Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo fended off a primary challenge from her left. Sean Sullivan and David Weigel report: “Raimondo defeated Matt Brown, topping the former secretary of state who ran on a platform styled after that of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and who said that voters had a chance to replace the political establishment. The governor advanced to a rematch against Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who defeated state House Minority Leader Patricia L. Morgan and state legislator Giovanni Feroce in the Republican primary. … The Democratic race was one of several contests pitting established incumbents against liberal challengers hoping to reshape the party’s identity. While Democrats dominate the state and hold supermajorities in its legislature, socially conservative Democrats hold the balance of power.”
-- Polls have opened in New York, bringing an end to a long and bitter Democratic gubernatorial primary. The New York Times’s Jesse McKinley reports: “Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his untested challenger, Cynthia Nixon, staggered toward Thursday’s finish line, with each side emptying its arsenal of attack lines amid a fusillade of bad press for the governor. … Ms. Nixon has trailed in every public opinion poll since her candidacy was announced, with the latest survey showing Mr. Cuomo with a whopping 41-point lead. But in recent days, the governor’s mojo has been battered by questions centered on his campaign’s involvement in a piece of campaign material that falsely accused Ms. Nixon of anti-Semitism.”
-- An 11th-hour controversy: The false mailer that linked Nixon to anti-Semitism was drafted and approved by top advisers to Cuomo. The New York Post’s Nolan Hicks, Carl Campanile and Anna Sanders report: “Cuomo has adamantly denied he had anything to do with the smear. But sources said one of his longtime confidants was deeply involved. ‘[Former top aide Larry] Schwartz was very involved with the mailer and signed off on it,’ a Democratic source said, describing the aide as a ‘henchman’ and ‘enforcer.’ The source added: ‘It obviously blew up.’ The Cuomo campaign released a statement largely confirming The Post’s reporting. ‘Larry Schwartz who serves on our campaign in a volunteer capacity was reviewing mail pieces in an ad hoc fashion, but he only saw the positive section of the mailer and never saw the negative section,’ said Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith. ‘Had he seen it, it would have never gone out.’ … The Cuomo campaign named a longtime staffer, David Lobl, as the actual author of the mailer. However, Democratic sources [said] that Lobl was tasked with digging into allegations that Nixon was anti-Semitic, but ultimately disproved them. Lobl is the ‘fall guy,’ said a source. ‘The real story is the campaign did this.’”
-- “Raw tensions over race, gender and personal identity are shaping battleground contests from Upstate New York to the Deep South, reflecting the marked schism in the country during the Trump era and the increasingly stark demographic divide between the two political parties,” Sean Sullivan and Aaron Blake write. “With just one primary day left, on Thursday, Democrats have set or essentially matched records for the number of female, black and LGBT nominees ... Republicans’ diversity statistics have either remained static or declined in each category, leading to a heavily white, male slate of nominees. Republicans are aggressively trying to cast Democratic candidates as scary, threatening figures with unfamiliar values. … Democrats are increasingly calling out the GOP, saying these are sexist, racist attacks that remind them of the divisive tactics that [Trump] used as a candidate and has reprised as president. Even some Republicans are troubled by the tone.”
-- A new NPR-Marist poll shows Democrats have a 12-point advantage on the generic ballot. “The Washington Post's average of recent generic-ballot results, including the NPR-Marist poll, has the Democrats up 10 points — enough to retake control of the House,” Philip Bump notes.
-- “Republicans Are Favorites In The Senate, But Democrats Have Two Paths To An Upset,” by FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver: “Many of the individual race forecasts in the FiveThirtyEight Senate model, which launched on Wednesday, look pretty optimistic for Democrats. … But despite that, the model has Democrats as reasonably clear underdogs to take control of the Senate. Even though it’s more optimistic than the consensus about Democrats’ chances in several individual races — and even though the model is generated by the same program that gives Democrats around a 5 in 6 chance of winning the House — it nevertheless says Republicans have somewhere between a 2 in 3 and 7 in 10 chance to hold the Senate, depending on which version of our model you look at.”
-- The League of Conservation Voters plans to spend a record-breaking $60 million helping Democrats win congressional and state legislative seats. Dino Grandoni reports: “Other environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, also say they plan to invest even more money during this campaign cycle than they did [in 2016]. Trump’s victory in 2016, along with his administration’s subsequent attempts to roll back numerous environmental rules, have fueled a fundraising surge that environmental groups hope will help them put a check on the president by electing Democratic majorities in Congress.”
-- House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that, should Democrats retake the House majority this fall, they will quickly vote on a “sweeping” government reform package, including campaign finance measures, new ethics provisions and changes to the voting process. (Mike DeBonis)
-- The Senate passed a bipartisan spending package, marking a major step forward in avoiding a government shutdown. Erica Werner reports: “The vote was 92 to 5. The legislation is expected to pass the House on Thursday and then go to [Trump], who is expected to sign it. The measure would mark the first batch of spending bills for 2019 to be signed into law, and comes with time running out for Congress to finalize all the must-pass bills before government funding expires Sept. 30. … The legislation approved Wednesday comprised three of the 12 annual spending bills Congress must approve each year to keep the government funded. The three bills cover funding for military construction and veterans affairs; energy and water development; and the legislative branch. … The appropriations bills passed Wednesday are usually the three easiest to get agreement on. Lawmakers have already decided to delay the trickiest issues — including the homeland security bill that contains funding for Trump’s border wall — until after the November elections.”
-- Fearing repercussions for the midterms, congressional Republicans are urging Trump to reverse his opposition to a pay hike for federal employees. Lisa Rein, Erica Werner and Josh Dawsey report: “Some GOP lawmakers fear denying even a small pay increase to the 2.1 million civil servants across the country could be politically damaging in House districts the GOP is defending this fall, particularly those with heavy concentrations of federal workers that provide support to military bases. … House and Senate negotiators are working to finalize a budget bill that will determine the salaries of federal workers. Unless Congress passes and the president signs a bill that includes a raise by the end of the year, federal pay rates will remain flat.”
-- The Senate confirmed a new IRS commissioner. From Jeff Stein: “Charles Rettig, a California tax attorney, was chosen for the post by [Trump] in February for a term that runs until 2022. He was confirmed in a 64-to-33 vote. … Rettig’s position as commissioner comes at a pivotal moment for the agency. The IRS budget has been cut steadily in recent years, with staff levels falling by more than 16 percent in five years, largely due to the refusal of Republicans in Congress to fund it under [Obama]. … Rettig will also probably face questions about Trump’s tax returns … ”
-- A school safety commission established by Trump in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., massacre is expected to oppose new age limits on purchasing firearms, according to a draft report. Laura Meckler reports: “The commission concluded there is no evidence that age restrictions reduce the likelihood of school shootings and instead will recommend that states increase safety training for gun owners. The findings are expected to be included in a report to be released before the end of the year by the Federal Commission on School Safety … The commission is headed by [Betsy DeVos], though the section about gun restrictions was handled by the Justice Department. The Trump panel was controversial from the start because it excluded most proposals for expanded gun restrictions. Rather, the commission’s mandate centered on areas such as mental health, youth consumption of violent entertainment and media coverage of mass shootings.”
-- A majority of U.S. companies say Trump’s tariffs on Chinese imports have hurt their businesses, according to a new survey. From Danielle Paquette: “A survey from AmCham China and AmCham Shanghai found that nearly two-thirds of more than 430 U.S. firms in China say the duties Trump placed on billions of dollars of Chinese imports this summer have hurt their businesses. Nearly half of respondents — who work in retail, food and manufacturing — say production costs have climbed, and 42 percent said they’ve noticed a decreased demand for their goods. Just 6 percent, meanwhile, said they would consider moving factories to U.S. soil.”
-- FDA chief Scott Gottlieb announced a massive effort to curb the use of e-cigarettes among minors, calling the use of vapes and other devices an “epidemic” and threatening to ban manufacturers from distributing e-cigarette liquids. (Laurie McGinley)
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- The number of migrant families arrested along the U.S. border spiked by 38 percent in August. Nick Miroff reports: “Border Patrol agents apprehended nearly 13,000 members of ‘family units’ last month, the latest data shows, the highest August total ever recorded. The increase followed [Trump’s] decision to back off the provision of his ‘zero tolerance’ crackdown that separated children from parents in an attempt to deter illegal migration. Migration numbers typically rebound in August after a summer lull. Overall, the number of foreigners apprehended or deemed ‘inadmissible’ at border crossings rose to 46,560 in August, up from 40,011 in July.”
-- Meanwhile, the number of detained migrant children in the United States has skyrocketed to its highest level ever. The New York Times’s Caitlin Dickerson reports: “Population levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children have quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer, … reaching a total of 12,800 this month. There were 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017. The huge increases, which have placed the federal shelter system near capacity, are due not to an influx of children entering the country, but a reduction in the number being released to live with families and other sponsors, the [HHS data] suggests. … The big difference, said those familiar with the shelter system, is that red tape and fear brought on by stricter immigration enforcement have discouraged relatives and family friends from coming forward to sponsor children.”
-- Up to 1,000 asylum seekers who were impacted by the administration’s family-separation policy could get a second chance to present their claims. Fred Barbash and Allyson Chiu report: “The settlement between the government and plaintiffs in the lawsuits represents a major victory for the asylum seekers, children and adults alike. It gives them another chance to apply for asylum before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which will adjudicate the application.”
-- The Trump administration has proposed paying Mexico to help fund more deportations of Central Americans who often pass through the country before attempting to reach the United States. The New York Times’s Gardiner Harris and Julie Hirschfeld Davis report: “In a recent notice sent to Congress, the administration said it intended to take $20 million in foreign assistance funds and use it to help Mexico pay plane and bus fare to deport as many as 17,000 people who are in that country illegally. … Any unauthorized immigrant in Mexico who is a known or suspected terrorist will also be deported under the program, according to the notification, although such people are few in number. … The plan, which has been debated internally for months, is part of a broader push by the Trump administration to redirect billions in foreign assistance to other priorities.”
THE SUPREME COURT:
-- Brett Kavanaugh issued a more detailed explanation for how he accrued tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt by purchasing baseball tickets. From Seung Min Kim: “[T]he issue arose in written follow-up questions submitted by members of the committee, and Kavanaugh submitted his answers in writing late Wednesday. … In explaining the debt to members of the committee, Kavanaugh noted that he is a ‘huge sports fan’ and said that he bought four season tickets annually from the Nationals’ arrival in Washington in 2005 until 2017. He also bought playoff packages in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017. He split the tickets with a ‘group of old friends’ through a ‘ticket draft’ at his home, Kavanaugh said. ‘Everyone in the group paid me for their tickets based on the cost of the tickets, to the dollar,’ Kavanaugh said … Multiple Democrats pressed Kavanaugh on his finances. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who has already declared his opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination, posed questions involving gambling, and Kavanaugh wrote in his responses that he has never reported a gambling loss to the [IRS] or accrued gambling debt.”
Kavanaugh also addressed why he walked away from Parkland father Fred Guttenberg after Guttenberg tried to shake the judge’s hand: “Video showed Kavanaugh turning away from the man, who approached him at a break in the hearing. Kavanaugh said he did not recognize Guttenberg’s name and assumed he was one of the protesters who had interrupted the hearings. ‘It had been a chaotic morning with a large number of protesters in the hearing room,’ Kavanaugh wrote. ‘As the break began, the room remained noisy and crowded. When I turned and did not recognize the man, I assumed he was a protester. In a split second, my security detail intervened and ushered me out of the hearing room.’”
-- Newly released emails show Kavanaugh was closely involved with the nomination of controversial circuit court nominee Charles Pickering. Politico’s Burgess Everett reports: “In 2006, [Kavanaugh] told a Senate committee that he wasn’t ‘primarily’ involved in shepherding [the nomination] when Kavanaugh worked in the George W. Bush White House. But emails released Wednesday show that Kavanaugh conducted meetings with Republican senators and was closely engaged in Pickering's nomination. Democrats are now arguing that Kavanaugh was not forthright under oath during his confirmation hearings to be a circuit court judge more than a decade ago, and are zeroing in on his work on behalf of Pickering. The Mississippi judge faced questions at the time about his record on civil rights and was blocked by the Senate after Bush nominated him.”
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN AND WOMEN:
-- Former EPA chief Scott Pruitt faced mounting financial pressure during his time at the agency, according to newly released financial disclosure forms. Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Josh Dawsey report: “Pruitt, who made $189,600 a year as EPA administrator before he resigned in July, rang up between $115,000 and $300,000 in legal fees . . . Those figures don’t include legal bills incurred this year, when the bulk of the allegations about his spending and management habits emerged. But his financial fortunes may be about to change. Pruitt, a lawyer by trade, is in talks with billionaire coal executive Joseph W. Craft III, a longtime friend, about working for him in a ‘personal’ capacity. Craft is president and chief executive of Alliance Resource Partners, based in Tulsa. … Pruitt, who is barred under an executive order from engaging in ‘lobbying activities’ related to the EPA for five years, championed several policies that directly affect Craft’s company. Those policies include relaxing federal limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and easing requirements for storing toxic waste generated by coal plants. Craft … had an unusual degree of access to Pruitt [at the EPA, and met with him] more than half a dozen times.”
-- The head of FEMA is facing an investigation by the DHS inspector general over his possible misuse of government vehicles. Politico’s Daniel Lippman and Eliana Johnson report: “The IG is investigating whether [FEMA Administrator Brock] Long misused government resources and personnel on trips back home to Hickory, N.C., on the weekends, said [two officials]. The IG’s interest was drawn after one of the vehicles — a black Suburban — was involved in an accident, according to one of the officials. Long’s routine absences from the office due to frequent six-hour drives between North Carolina and Washington also drew [Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s] attention, this person said. … At a meeting in late August, Nielsen confronted Long about his travel, though people familiar with the meeting gave conflicting accounts about whether she took the step of asking him to step down over the issue. One of the officials said Nielsen asked Long to consider resigning, though he declined to do so and remains in his role.”
-- Republican senators fear they will be unable to confirm a replacement for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, even if Trump waits until after the midterms to potentially fire him. Politico’s Burgess Everett and Eliana Johnson report: “[T]hey suspect that perhaps only a sitting senator could win confirmation as Sessions’ successor — that is, someone they could trust not to interfere with [Mueller’s] investigation. But no one from their ranks seems to want the job. … [Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)] said it’s not going to be him, despite private belief among his colleagues he’s eyeing the job. … With few obvious potential applicants for a job that seems to come with built-in clashes with the president, some senators even suggest Trump might have to nominate a Democrat to have any hope of getting a new attorney general confirmed.”
-- In the early 1980s, Trump asked an architect who was designing the Trump Tower to remove Braille from the building’s residential elevators — saying that blind people “would not live there.” John Wagner and David Fahrenthold report: “[According to Barbara Res, a former Trump Organization executive], an architect came to Trump’s office to show him designs for the interiors of residential elevator cabs in Trump Tower, which also hosts businesses. He noticed dots next to the buttons and asked what they were, she said. ‘Braille,’ the architect replied . . . Trump then told the architect to ‘get rid of it,’ and the architect resisted, saying doing so would be against the law, she said. ‘Get rid of the (expletive) Braille. No blind people are going to live in Trump Tower. Just do it,’ Trump told the architect, according to Res’s account.”
-- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s latest government ethics filing shows he made at least $27 million last year. Steven Mufson reports: “Ross was paid $6.1 million for giving up his accumulated stock incentive plan with Invesco Group when he was named to the Cabinet, and the firm separately paid him a $970,530 bonus … The commerce secretary, who has estimated his net worth to be at least $800 million, also listed 21 previously unreported sales and purchases in 2017 of substantial amounts of municipal bonds.”
-- Stormy Daniels said she will disclose new details about her alleged affair with Trump in her new memoir, which is slated for release in October. Elise Viebeck reports: “Daniels appeared on ABC’s ‘The View’ to discuss the book and the latest developments in her lawsuits against the president. ‘Stormy Daniels: Full Disclosure’ is due Oct. 2. Daniels said the book will highlight her history, experiences and interests outside the Trump maelstrom. But asked how much she had yet to disclose about their alleged affair, she said: ‘There’s a lot in the book.’ ‘Are you going to give details of that night in the hotel?’ asked program co-host Joy Behar, referring to the night in summer 2006 when Daniels says the affair began. ‘Yes,’ Daniels said. ‘You are,’ Behar said. ‘Yes,’ Daniels said. ‘It will be full disclosure.’”
-- Bob Woodward’s new book on the Trump White House has already sold more than 750,000 copies. Ron Charles reports: “Pre-order sales were the largest for any title in [Simon & Schuster’s] history. The publisher has ordered a ninth printing, bringing the number of hardcover copies to more than 1,150,000. Barnes & Noble announced that ‘Fear’ is the fastest-selling adult title since Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’ was released in 2015. Advance sales outstripped supply at Amazon.com. … Politics and Prose had 500 copies on hand, 300 of which were already claimed as preorders. Co-owner Bradley Graham said the store sold another 60 copies Tuesday morning. This being Washington, some buyers bought multiple copies. ‘The largest bulk purchases went to foreign embassies,’ Graham said. ‘One embassy paid for 13. Another bought four.’”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Paul Manafort has been engaged in “off-and-on” plea negotiations with Robert Mueller’s team since his conviction in Alexandria, Va., last month, raising the possibility that he will agree to a deal before the start of his second federal trial in D.C. Devlin Barrett and Tom Hamburger report: “People familiar with the plea talks said Manafort has been unwilling so far to cooperate with Mueller by providing any new information or testimony in the ongoing [Russia investigation] … A guilty plea without such cooperation is a much less attractive proposal for Mueller’s team, but legal analysts say both sides still have plenty to gain from a plea deal, even without cooperation. By pleading, Manafort would [duck the cost of paying his legal team, where] the tab for such a trial could be $1 million or more.”
“Manafort’s behavior has led some law enforcement officials to suspect he is secretly counting on a pardon from [Trump]. Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor … said the possibility of a pardon is the best explanation for Manafort’s decisions. ‘If it wasn’t for the possibility of a pardon, it would be insane for him not to cut a deal at this point,’ said Cotter. ‘He’s already guaranteed to go to prison for years, he’s got little reasonable chance of winning in D.C., it’s incredibly expensive, and there’s no benefit to him (in going to trial). And he’s in the enviable position that, even after a conviction, if he’s willing to tell the truth, the government is still interested in talking to him. That’s pretty rare.’”
-- Rudy Giuliani said Trump and his legal team are unconcerned about the prospect of Manafort cutting a deal with Mueller. “We can see a reason why he might want to do that. What’s the need for another trial?” Giuliani said. “They’ve got enough to put him in jail. His lawyer is going to argue they shouldn’t. … From our perspective we want him to do the right thing for himself. … There’s no fear that Paul Manafort would cooperate against the president because there’s nothing to cooperate about and we long ago evaluated him as an honorable man.” (Politico)
-- Investigators are examining a series of banking transactions between some of the participants in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that were flagged as suspicious by financial institutions. BuzzFeed News’s Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold report: “Investigators are focused on two bursts of [transactions]: one a short time after the meeting and another immediately after the November 2016 presidential election. The first set came just 11 days after the June 9 meeting, when an offshore company controlled by [Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov] wired more than $19.5 million to his account at a bank in New York.
“The second flurry began shortly after Trump was elected. The Agalarov family started sending what would amount to $1.2 million from their bank in Russia to an account in New Jersey controlled by the billionaire’s son, pop singer Emin Agalarov, and two of his friends."
-- Trump issued an order authorizing new sanctions against countries or individuals who interfere in future U.S. elections, but lawmakers seized upon the effort as insufficient. Anne Gearan and Felicia Sonmez reports: “The order would allow Trump to sanction foreigners who interfere in the midterm elections to be held in less than two months. It covers overt efforts to meddle in election infrastructure, such as vote counts, as well as ‘propaganda’ and other attempts to influence voting from abroad, [Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats] told reporters. The harshest sanctions outlined in the order would be up to the president’s discretion . . . [T]he order appears to be an effort to stave off bipartisan legislation that would mandate tough federal action.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) formally came out against Brett Kavanaugh's nomination:
A Time reporter highlighted one particular sentence from King's statement:
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) confronted the threat of an ethics complaint:
A (departing) Republican senator stood up for Jeff Sessions:
A House Democrat slammed the Trump administration's spending priorities:
Trump's 2020 campaign manager called for hearings into Google's alleged political bias after Breitbart released a recording showing executives' dismayed reaction to the 2016 election:
The president's son added this:
New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon requested the DNC's aid:
The director of U-Va.'s Center for Politics noted a few specific polling statistics that work in the Democrats' favor:
The group No Labels, which has sharply criticized politicians on the far right and far left, contributed to these Republicans' reelection bids:
A Post reporter shared the invitation to the fundraiser Trump attended at his D.C. hotel last night, in which it cost $100,000 to attend a “roundtable” discussion:
A Republican congressional candidate in North Carolina used Hurricane Florence to his political advantage:
Some on Twitter criticized the president's son for anti-Semitism after he made this comment about Bob Woodward's new book:
A New York Times editor responded to the comment:
From the D.C. bureau chief for Mother Jones:
A conservative CNN host called on Fox to denounce the comment:
A Weekly Standard editor created a poll based off the comment:
And another Post reporter provided updates on Florence just before the storm hit:
-- “20 years ago, the Starr Report got a president impeached. Ken Starr wants to remind you why,” by Dan Zak: “He’s a man who still talks and looks and acts as if he’s wearing a black robe. If life had gone another way — if George H.W. Bush hadn’t bumped David Souter higher on his list, if the Clintons hadn’t invested in riverfront property — Kenneth Winston Starr might now be rounding out his third decade on the Supreme Court, and his impact on America would be orderly, gilt-framed, suitable for the mantel, instead of how some people see it: a stain on a couch cushion that’s been sheepishly flipped over. … Now Starr has laid out the defining saga of his life in a book. Its diligence and rectitude will surprise no one. He wants to remind us that he, the seeker of truth, is not to blame.”
-- New York Times, “Threats and Deception: Why CBS’s Board Turned Against Leslie Moonves,” by James B. Stewart: “On a Monday in late July, CBS’s board of directors convened a conference call to determine the fate of its chairman and chief executive, Leslie Moonves, who had been publicly accused of sexual harassment and assault. … But the network’s longstanding hitmaker had been lobbying directors, arguing that the allegations were false or hyped. And his support ran deep. … What these directors didn’t learn until nearly two weeks later, according to a CBS director and people close to the board, is that one of Mr. Moonves’s accusers was threatening to go public with her claims. Instead of reporting the situation, Mr. Moonves was in the process of trying to find the woman a job at CBS in order to gain her continued silence. When the board learned about this, even Mr. Moonves’s staunchest backers were stunned. Their belief in his credibility was shattered given his previous denials of anything untoward, these people said. In the end, it was the evidence that Mr. Moonves had misled his board — even more than the allegations of abuse from multiple women — that doomed him.”
-- Hollywood Reporter, “'Designing Women' Creator Goes Public With Les Moonves War: Not All Harassment Is Sexual,” by Linda Bloodworth Thomason: “This is not the article you might be expecting about Les Moonves. It’s not going to be wise or inspiring. It’s going to be petty and punishing. … I was never sexually harassed or attacked by Les Moonves. My encounters were much more subtle, engendering a different kind of destruction. In 1992, I was given the largest writing and producing contract in the history of CBS. … It was, to say the least, exhilarating. Little did I know that it would soon all be over.”
-- Politico, “Even Ivanka's liberal New York haters like her on Instagram,” by Annie Karni: “[D]espite a pervasive sense that [Ivanka Trump] has burned her bridges to New York society by joining her father’s administration as a senior official, Instagram offers some evidence that she might be able to go home again. … [T]hose ‘likes’ from Democrats have become a point of fascination among those in her old Manhattan social set. ‘There is a cocktail party game where everyone opens Ivanka’s pictures to see who in their contact list liked a photo,’ said one major New York socialite. ‘It’s always a surprise.’”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Ontario reverts to an outdated sex-ed curriculum as the Canadian province shifts to the right,” from Amanda Coletta: “In elementary schools across Ontario this week … many teachers had back-to-school jitters themselves thanks to a recent announcement from the new provincial government. In July, the center-right government of Premier Doug Ford said it was scrapping the sex-education curriculum updated in 2015 and replacing it with a version from 1998, when same-sex marriage was not yet legal in Canada and social media and cyberbullying were unknown to most parents. It also set up what critics are calling a ‘snitch line’ that allows parents to anonymously report teachers for not teaching the old version. The decision … was the latest in a series of changes made since [Ford] was sworn in … Like many of those decisions, the sex-education switch has left officials scrambling, spawned a barrage of legal challenges and provoked public backlash.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Hillary Clinton repeats anti-Kavanaugh talking point debunked by fact checkers,” from Fox News: “Hillary Clinton on Wednesday repeated a Democratic talking point about Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s use of the phrase ‘abortion-inducing drugs’ -- a claim that has been repeatedly debunked by fact-checkers. ‘I want to be sure we're all clear about something that Brett Kavanaugh said in his confirmation hearings last week,’ she tweeted. ‘He referred to birth-control pills as ‘abortion-inducing drugs.’ That set off a lot of alarm bells for me, and it should for you, too.’ … [Fact-checkers] were scathing in their analysis of the Democratic talking point. ‘Did Brett Kavanaugh call birth control abortion-inducing drugs? No’ read the headline of Politifact’s fact check -- which rated [a similar statement from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)] ‘False.’ The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler said that ‘it’s pretty clear from the context that he was quoting the views of the plaintiffs rather than offering a personal view.’”
Trump has no events on his public schedule today.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I think I could beat Trump . . . because I'm as tough as he is, I'm smarter than he is … He could punch me all he wants, it wouldn't work with me. I'd fight right back.” — JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who later issued a statement clarifying that he is not, in fact, weighing a presidential bid. (CNBC)
-- Trump reacted to Dimon’s quote this morning:
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It will be another very humid day in D.C. with temperatures lingering in the 80s. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Look out for some patchy fog in the early morning as humidity levels remain high (dew points low-to-mid 70s). Clouds will remain in abundance through the day. Isolated showers/thunderstorms are likely to hold off until later in the afternoon. Most areas see highs reach the lower 80s with winds from the northeast of only 5-10 mph.”
-- Hurricane Florence is not expected to have much of an effect on the Washington region through the weekend. From Jason Samenow: “We do not expect significant rain, more than showers, or strong winds through Sunday, because the storm is tracking so far south of us. But next week, the storm may return north and deliver an uncertain amount of rain between Monday and Wednesday.”
-- The Nationals beat the Phillies 5-1, completing their sweep of the second-place team. (Jesse Dougherty)
-- Thousands of Washington-area students attended a free showing of “Hamilton” at the Kennedy Center. From Perry Stein: “Tickets to the rap-heavy musical — when they can be found at all — can cost hundreds of dollars, or more. Most of the students who were at the show attend a traditional public or charter school in the District and come from low-income families. … But before they saw ‘Hamilton,’ the students had to deliver their own performances, inspired by American history, at the Kennedy Center.”
-- One person died in a shooting at a Maryland funeral. Another person shot at Mount Zion Cemetery in Lansdowne was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Police offered no information about the gunman or a potential motive. (Lynh Bui)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke appeared on Stephen Colbert's show:
Trevor Noah expressed skepticism that Trump is prepared for Hurricane Florence:
A military plane flew through Hurricane Florence to measure its intensity:
Tom Malinowski, a Democratic congressional candidate in New Jersey, released a new ad that opens with the late John McCain praising the former Obama appointee's advocacy work against torture:
And one legal expert dissected the Trump legal team's claims that the president testifying under oath for Bob Mueller would constitute a “perjury trap”: