It’s all crazy news on Tuesday’s Three Martini Lunch! Join Jim and Greg as they catalogue the irrelevant and expensive Democratic Party wish list that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted to promote while holding up vital coronavirus relief for families and businesses and how Pelosi wrongly assumed the media would cover for her. They also roll their eyes as multiple media outlets try to blame President Trump for the death of one man and the illness of the man’s wife after they consumed fish tank cleaner because it contained chloroquine. And they react to Liberty University welcoming students and faculty back to campus while the rest of Virginia and the nation increasingly shut down.
Grab a stool and have some martinis with us! Today, Jim and Greg applaud the powerful and peaceful protest for second amendment rights in Richmond and wonder if Gov. Northam’s fears of chaos were way overblown to try to portray responsible gun owners as extremists. They also get a kick out of Hillary Clinton attacking Bernie Sanders and marvel that this may be one of those rare instances where she appears to be telling the truth. And they roll their eyes as Washington becomes transfixed on a debate over the rules for the Senate impeachment trial.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America cover Amy McGrath’s campaign to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky and hope that Democrats spend a lot of money on a candidate who has very little chance of winning. They also discuss the controversy brewing over Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta’s involvement in the plea deal with billionaire and alleged child sex trafficker and pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. And they debate Senator Joe Manchin’s threat to remove federal funding for the 2026 World Cup unless the members of the women’s national team are paid as much as the men.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America oppose pretty much every big government plan being pushed by Bernie Sanders but they welcome his honesty that big tax hikes will be required to pay for his agenda. They also cringe as Department of Energy tarnishes a wonderful program to become a more prominent supplier of natural gas to other nations by referring to the gas as “molecules of freedom.” And Jim and Greg discuss Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s promise to confirm a Supreme Court nominee if a vacancy opens up in 2020.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America conclude the Three Martini Lunch Award season by announcing their choices for person of the year and turncoat of the year. They also make their fearless predictions for 2019.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America embark on the second half of their six-episode saga known as the 2018 Three Martini Lunch Awards. Today, Jim and Greg offer up their selections for the best political idea, worst political idea, and boldest political tactics for 2018.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America applaud columnist Ruth Margolis for blasting liberals who demand that parents must immerse kids of all ages in politics and the social justice movement. They also wince at the evidence Republicans may have lost congressional seats in states like California and New Jersey because they limited how much residents could use their state and local tax bill to reduce their federal tax payments. And they react to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to appoint defeated Senate candidate Martha McSally to the state’s other Senate seat if Jon Kyl steps down before 2020.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump are publicly exchanging barbs about what is reasonable to expect the Congress to accomplish, and longtime conservative activist Richard Viguerie says the the frustration is ure to boil over into the 2018 primary season.
The back-and-forth started on Monday, when Sen. McConnell told a Rotary Club audience that the GOP Congress is getting hammered by its base for accomplishing little because Trump has set aggressive expectations.
“Part of the reason I think that the storyline is that we haven’t done much is because, in part, the president and others have set these early timelines about things need to be done by a certain point,” said McConnell.
“Our new president, of course, has not been in this line of work before, and I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the Democratic process,” he added.
Wednesday afternoon, Trump pushed back via Twitter.
“Senator Mitch McConnell said I had “excessive expectations,” but I don’t think so. After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?,” tweeted Trump.
Some in the Washington media circle characterize the dispute as signs of a Republican civil war or at least dysfunction. Viguerie slightly disagrees.
“There’s probably not a lot of love lost between President Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell. But the reality is they have to get along,” said Viguerie.
But Viguerie is quick to point out that the sharp divisions that emerged within the GOP in 2016 are still there. He says GOP base voters will hold Republicans responsible for not repealing Obamacare after passing bills to do so in the Obama years, and he says Americans won’t care much about the specifics of why it didn’t happen.
He further asserts that even after seven years of vowing repeal, the GOP was still caught flat-footed in 2017 when the opportunity to do it came about.
“I suspect the number one reason is they didn’t think they’d be in the White House. I think most of the Republicans from Washington felt that Hillary would win the election and, truth be told, a high percentage of them probably preferred Hillary Clinton to President Trump,” said Viguerie.
As a result, he suggests many Republicans are actively guarding the status quo.
“Quite frankly, they’re terrified that he may really follow through on his promise to drain the swamp and pour salt over it so that nothing will ever grow there again,” said Viguerie.
“President Trump and candidate Trump campaigned strongly against the Washington establishment. He called for draining of the swamp. If anybody could be considered the mayor of the swamp, it would be Sen. Mitch McConnell,” said Viguerie.
And Viguerie says the fissures exposed during the 2016 GOP primary season will emerge again soon.
“This is a battle that is going to be taken into the 2018 primaries, where lots of Republicans are going to run against Sen. McConnell and the Washington establishment. This is probably just the first few, early shots of a big battle between the establishment and the president,” said Viguerie.
He says that friction could imperil some important pieces of legislation throughout the rest of this Congress but that it would be wrong to declare this a do-nothing Congress. Viguerie says judicial confirmations alone, from the Supreme Court to the appellate and district benches, will make a huge impact on America’s future.
And he says Republicans and conservatives can breathe easier over one other key factor.
“There will be many bad things that won’t happen because Hillary is not president,” said Viguerie.
A funny thing just happened on the way to this 2018 showdown, however. While pro-Trump Republicans Roy Moore and Mo Brooks are challenging appointed GOP Sen. Luther Strange in this month’s Alabama primary in the race to fill the term of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Strange just won Trump’s enthusiastic endorsement.
“Senator Luther Strange has done a great job representing the people of the Great State of Alabama. He has my complete and total endorsement!” tweeted Trump on Tuesday.
Viguerie says grassroots conservatives should not read too much into that.
“He does need to have Mitch McConnell’s support and that of the Senate Republican leaders. To go against an incumbent senator, even though he was appointed, would probably be a bridge too far,” said Viguerie.
But he says those special circumstances should not dampen expectations for a fierce intraparty fight in 2018. Republican are defending just eight of the 33 races on the ballot, but Viguerie says there will be spirited fights to determine the nominations in many of those states.
“This unrest at the grassroots that Trump so successfully connected with and tied into in this last presidential election is just building steam. We have a disruption that’s going on in American politics and I think we haven’t seen anything yet,” said Viguerie.
And Viguerie says that means tensions will only rise among the GOP factions over the next year.
“Not at all. I think whatever unrest, distrust, disconnection between the grassroots Republican voters and their leaders is going to do nothing but grow. The failure of the Republicans to repeal Obamacare just adds gasoline to that fire,” said Viguerie.
Sen. John McCain is getting most of the blame from the right and praise from the left for his vote to scuttle Senate legislation to repeal parts of Obamacare, but another GOP member is coming under fire for reneging on her vow to repeal the law and offering a weak explanation for her reversal.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, campaigned twice on ditching Obamacare and even voted for the straight repeal in 2015, when the bill was vetoed by President Obama.
This year, Murkowski opposed the motion to proceed on the health care debate and then consistently rejected a wide variety of GOP amendments, including the “skinny repeal,” which McCain famously opposed. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was the other no vote. Of the three, only Collins opposed the 2015 repeal as well.
After seven years of railing against Obamacare, why did Murkowski end up as a deciding vote to save it?
“Number one, she’s a big government leftist. Anything that grows government, grows federal control, she’s for,” said Joe Miller, who ran against Murkowski in 2010 and 2016.
In 2010, Miller defeated Murkowski in the Republican primary, only to see Murkowski launch and narrowly win a write-in campaign in the general election. In 2016, Miller was a late addition to the Libertarian ticket and came in second to Murkowski by a wider margin, while still outpacing the Democrat in the race and a well-funded independent candidate.
Murkowski’s approach to the recent Obamacare repeal votes is especially galling to Miller, given the prominence of the issue in their 2010 campaign.
“Most Alaskans that have political contact remember what she did in 2010. She actually called me out and said I was a liar about her position on Obamacare because we had a YouTube clip of her waffling statements on Obamacare. We said, ‘Look this gal isn’t really for full repeal,'” said Miller.
“So she doubled down and said, ‘Yes, I am for full repeal.’ Of course, what did she do when push came to shove? She actually voted not to repeal even on the skinny act,” added Miller.
Murkowski voted for repeal less than two years ago, so has something changed or was that earlier vote purely political?
“When the vote actually counts, you know how she’s going to vote. She knew at that point, of course, that Obama was going to veto it. So there was no cost to what we would call her principles – those of expanding government. That was entirely a consequence, in our assessment, of knowing where the outcome of that vote was going,” said Miller.
Murkowski added more confusion to her shifting position on Obamacare by refusing to explain why she did it. After the early morning vote, Murkowski dodged efforts by The Daily Caller to get some answers.
“I am really very tired, and so you’re asking for a very thoughtful response. I actually appreciate your question, but rather than respond to each and every individual request from all of these cameras around me, I’m going to take a pass,” said Murkowski.
After laughing heartily at Murkowski’s comments, Miller said he was not surprised.
“That is so typical Lisa Murkowski. That’s what she does. I mean what do you you do when you’re confronted with a lie?. You evade. You don’t answer the question, and that’s what she’s done there,” said Miller.
“She knows who she is. She’s not motivated by any principle of good government. She motivated by principles that at least constitutional conservatives and libertarian-oriented people are against,” said Miller.
Miller believes the vast majority of right-leaning voters in Alaska want a full repeal of Obamacare and he suspects they won’t forget what Murkowski did.
“I think it’s woken up a segment of Alaska. Hopefully, they’ll remember it in five years but we’ll wait and see,” said Miller.
“If this continues to incur cost to the average American as it already has in increased health care costs, increased premiums, and loss of benefits, then of course the memory is still going to be there,” said Miller.
But while Miller is perfectly happy to point out his frustrations with Murkowski, he says the problem is bigger than one senator or even the three GOP members who killed health care reform for the short term.
“I think it’s wrong to just focus entirely on Murkowski, although that’s kind of my area of expertise since I ran against her. It’s really the system of government in D.C.” said Miller.
Miller minces no words when it comes to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, whom he blames in part for the results in 2010 and for the failure of the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or ACA.
“I saw what he did to me in 2010. Mitch McConnell is the reason that the United States has Lisa Murkowski. He and his colleagues stirred up [the write-in campaign] with Lisa Murkowski to defeat us,” said Miller.
“I think Mitch McConnell likes the ACA. I think it’s all a scam when he says he is against it. If you think he didn’t count the votes before that vote, then you really don’t know Mitch McConnell,” said Miller.
“This is an ingrained problem with people out there that call themselves conservative Republicans, or Republicans, and they have absolutely no principles that are connected with the party platform, and they’re scamming the voters,” said Miller.
Miller says a successful repeal of Obamacare would put the GOP in dominant political position. Instead, he says the party is in huge trouble.
“The Republican Party needs to get it’s head screwed on straight. Leadership is where it starts. Right now there is none. I think if we had done the right thing on ACA, there’s a real chance that it could have grown in the future. I don’t see that now,” said Miller.
In addition to the changes Miller wants to see at the national level, he is also intent on ripping control of the Alaska GOP from big government Republicans like Murkowski.
“I think she can be defeated. It’s going to take a real grassroots effort in Alaska to clean up a lot of stuff in this state. The establishment has controlled the state for a number of decades. Every once in a while we’ll see a brief glimpse of sunshine. We has Gov. (Sarah) Palin for a couple of years. But for the most part, that’s not happened. It’s time for a change and maybe this is what’s going to do it,” said Miller.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says it may not be possible to unite 50 Republicans on any health care overhaul and that the only action may be a collaboration with Democrats to adjust certain parts of the system, an evaluation that a leading House conservative finds unacceptable.
On Thursday, McConnell told a town hall-style event in Kentucky that political realities inside the Senate Republican Conference make it very difficult to find consensus.
“I’m in the position of a guy with a Rubik’s cube, trying to twist the dial in such a way to get at least 50 members of my conference who can agree to a version of repealing and replacing” said McConnell, according to NBC News. “That is a very timely subject that I’m grappling with as we speak.”
“If Republicans are not able to agree among themselves, the crisis will still be there and we’ll have to figure out the way forward at that point,” added McConnell, who later said that could mean working with Democrats to provide options for Americans in the individual insurance marketplace but have no plans available where they live.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who is also a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, says Republicans had an obvious path to avoiding this political mess.
“Sometimes we forget what our responsibilities are in Congress. Some are pretty basic. Do what you told the voters you were going to do. We were very clear over the last six years when we told the American people we were going to repeal Obamacare. That’s what we should have done. That’s what the Freedom Caucus proposed,” said Jordan.
Jordan wanted the same approach in the House but didn’t get it.
“I actually introduced that clean repeal, the same bill we voted on [in 2015] that we put on President’s Obama’s desk, we thought we should put it on President Trump’s desk and have a two-year phaseout where we had time to do the replacement. Unfortunately, that’s not the path that was chosen by our leadership,” said Jordan.
While congressional leaders insist Senate rules limit what legislation can pass with a simple majority of votes, Jordan says the passage of the 2015 repeal proves otherwise. On December 3, 2015, the Senate approved the Obamacare repeal by a vote of 52-47.
All current Republican senators who were in office then voted for the repeal, with the lone exception of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
As many as 14 Republicans have expressed opposition or reservations about the Senate bill, which McConnell pulled off the Senate schedule late last month. Some insist Congress must make good on vows to repeal and replace Obamacare and make sure that any legislation drives down the cost of premiums.
But moderates who are opposed to the measure are upset that there is not a greater role for government, as they demand more generous Medicaid expansion, Planned Parenthood funding, billions for opioid addition treatment or other priorities.
Despite the individual issues raised, Jordan says there’s a more discouraging fact behind the GOP’s inability to move this effort more smoothly.
“When you boil it all down, read Byron York’s column a few months back, where he said that the reason that Republicans aren’t doing a full repeal is because some Republicans don’t want to repeal Obamacare.
Jordan suggests that fact can be seen in how some GOP members are worried about limiting Medicaid expansion just 18 months after backing a much more conservative approach.
“That bill said Medicaid expansion goes away after two years. You don’t add to it. You don’t phase it out. It’s done. It’s a two-year wind down and the expansion part is no longer the law. That’s what we passed a year ago. Now we can’t do it, so that’s the frustrating thing for all of us,” said Jordan.
But all hope is not lost. Jordan says the Senate could be salvaged from a conservative perspective if lawmakers there embrace an amendment from Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah.
“The Cruz Amendment creates what we call freedom of choice or a consumer choice option, which would say as long as an insurance company provides one plan in each category that meets with all the Obamacare regulations, they could then also offer any other plan that consumers and patients also want,” said Jordan.
“That would be moving us back toward a market that would bring down premiums for so many families and just makes good common sense to me. If that amendment goes in, I think the bill is good and you would see conservatives support it on the House side. Let’s see if that amendment gets in the Senate bill,” said Jordan.
While some Republicans in Washington bemoan the complexity of the issue and the legislative process, Jordan says the business owners and families in his district see things very clearly.
“Traveling in our district, we hear from employers all the time. Even this morning they said, ‘Here’s what’s happened to our health care costs. These aren’t even people who are in the small group or the individual market. They’re in the large group market. They’re costs are going up too.
“They want changes. They know what Obamacare has done. They want changes there, they want changes in the tax code. They want us to do what we said. They want us to secure the border,” said Jordan.
“Let’s get after doing what we told them we were going to do. After all, that’s what our job is. We better get doing that and the sooner the better,” said Jordan.