Sen. Murphy on Dem’s Georgia loss: Russia has been a distraction


“Democrats have to be hyperfocused on an economic contrast and I think this president is handing it to us,” Chris Murphy says. | Getty

Democrat Jon Ossoff’s loss Tuesday in Georgia’s special election to fill the Congressional seat left vacant by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price does not necessarily spell doom for the Democratic Party, Sen. Chris Murphy said Wednesday morning.

But Democrats running in the 2018 midterm elections would do well, Murphy said, to turn away from the “distraction” of the ongoing Russia investigations and campaign on an economic message.

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“Democrats have to be hyperfocused on an economic message that tells people that the Republican Party is all about economic growth for millionaires and billionaires and the Democratic Party is about economic growth for everybody,” Murphy (D-Conn.) told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday. “The fact that we have spent so much time talking about Russia, you know, has been a distraction from what should be the clear contrast between Democrats and the Trump agenda, which is on economics.”

Democrats were eager to score a major victory in Georgia’s sixth Congressional district, where President Donald Trump won last November by just a single percentage point even though Price’s victory was by more than 23 points. Instead, Republican Karen Handel emerged victorious, keeping the seat in GOP hands and dashing the hopes of Democrats looking to win a seat last held by a member of Trump’s cabinet.

But Tuesday’s race, along with other special elections that have been won by Republicans, does not necessarily portend a bad outlook for Democrats in 2018, Murphy said. He recalled Democrats winning special elections following former President Barack Obama’s 2008 victory, noting that it wasn’t until the 2010 Massachusetts special election to replace former Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, won by former GOP Sen. Scott Brown, that the tide began to turn in favor of Republicans.

Murphy predicted that Republicans “are going to do tremendous damage to themselves” if they continue to move forward with their plan to repeal and replace Obama care. Democrats have been “hyper-confused” over the past five years, he said, vacillating between talking about economic growth and economic fairness and failing to win the argument on the latter. But with Trump in the White House, their message should be clear.

“Democrats have to be hyperfocused on an economic contrast and I think this president is handing it to us,” Murphy said. “He is using this administration and presidency to enrich himself and his millionaire friends. We’ve got to be focused on an economic agenda for everybody else.”

Who is Karen Handel? Bio, facts and background

The winner of Georgia's 6th District has had a long career in local politics.

The winner of Georgia’s 6th District has had a long career in local politics. | Getty

The winner of Georgia’s 6th District has had a long career in local politics.

After unsuccessful bids to be governor and a U.S. senator, Karen Handel’s victory in Georgia’s 6th congressional district special election Tuesday keeps the longtime Republican seat in conservative hands.

Handel, a former businesswoman, cast herself during the race against Democrat Jon Ossoff as “a lifelong conservative who built her career on delivering results in both the public and private sectors.”

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Her previous positions in government include serving as Georgia’s secretary of state from 2007-2009 and as chair of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners from 2003-2006.

Handel’s tried to winnow down Georgia voter rolls as secretary of state, drawing allegations of voter suppression and a federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU.

She left that post early in 2009 to run for governor of Georgia. Though she gained endorsements from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and future GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Handel lost in the Republican primary by less than 3,000 votes to Nathan Deal, who is now finishing up his second term as governor.

Her next attempt at running for public office came in 2014, when she sought to replace to retired Sen. Saxby Chambliss but came in third in the primary. But she jumped into the race for the 6th District earlier this year when Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price vacated the seat to join Trump’s Cabinet. In April, Handel came in second in the all-party special primary, triggering Tuesday’s runoff against Ossoff.

During the campaign, which was the most expensive House race in history, Handel backed many of President Donald Trump’s policy positions, including building a wall on the southern border. She also touted the House proposal to repeal Obamacare, rolling back federal regulations and simplifying the tax code.

Perhaps most central to her conservative agenda was a staunch pro-life stance. Handel left a high-ranking position with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure charity in 2012 after the cancer-fighting organization decided to restore funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization she called “blatantly partisan.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence both campaigned for Handel in Georgia, and outside groups poured money into her election bid.

Still, though Handel supported most of Trump’s policies and held a private fundraiser with him in April, she did not go out of her way to mention the president on the campaign trail, in a bid for the district’s moderate voters. In 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney won the district by 23 percentage points, but it became much closer last year. In 2016, Trump won the district by just 1.5 points.

Negassi Tesfamichael

Britain’s path to hard Brexit revealed in queen’s speech

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales attend the State Opening Of Parliament in the House of Lords on June 21, 2017 in London, England | Carl Court/Getty Images

Legislative program provides a detailed breakdown of how the UK wants Brexit to work.

LONDON — A hard Brexit it is then.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for a clean break from the European Union, taking Britain out of both the single market and the customs union, was confirmed Wednesday in a queen’s speech containing eight separate pieces of Brexit legislation which clears the way for Britain’s eventual departure from the bloc in March 2019.

Over a special two-year parliamentary session until summer 2019, covering the period of Britain’s negotiated departure from the EU, the prime minister will aim to pass bills repatriating powers over both trade and customs, ending freedom of movement and ensuring Britain can strike its own free trade deals outside the EU.

The government will also seek to pass legislation on agriculture and fisheries — both of which will be overseen by the new Environment Secretary Michael Gove, one of the leading Brexiteers — and push ahead with a “Repeal Bill,” which downloads EU law onto the U.K. statute book, ensuring there isn’t a regulatory cliff edge when Britain leaves.

The ambition, set out in a speech written by the government but delivered by Queen Elizabeth, provides official confirmation that the U.K. intends to stick to the prime minister’s vision of Brexit, as set out in her Lancaster House speech in January, despite the Conservative Party’s failure to win an overall majority in the general election earlier this month.

Should the government win majority support for its program in a vote expected next week it will also introduce a “nuclear safeguards bill” and an “international sanctions bill.”

The program, which has to be passed in just two years without a majority government to enforce it, is the most detailed breakdown of how Brexit will be enacted in practice.

Several pledges in the Conservative manifesto were omitted from the queen’s speech, in particular the expansion of grammar schools and a free vote on bringing back fox hunting, both of which proved controversial during the election campaign. Social care plans, which would have seen assets worth over £100,000 used to pay for social care after people die and were credited as one of the key reasons May lost her majority, were replaced with a promise to “bring forward proposals for consultation.”

Here are the eight Brexit bills:

1. Repeal Bill

Perhaps more accurately described as the great copy-and-paste bill.

The bill aims to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act which is the basis of Britain’s membership of the EU, but it also seeks to convert all existing EU law into British law, ensuring “a smooth and orderly transition.”

Controversially, the bill creates “temporary powers” for parliament to amend EU law without a vote under so-called Henry VIII powers which critics insist is a government power grab. Downing Street insists it is necessary to tweak the wording of legislation to make it suitable for U.K. domestic law and will not be used to alter the meaning.

2. Customs Bill

Whether Britain remains temporarily in the customs union after Brexit remains a contentious issue in government.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is on record with his support for an extended “implementation period” before leaving the customs union entirely.

According to a briefing note published alongside the queen’s speech Wednesday, however, the government will “ensure the U.K. has a standalone U.K. customs regime on exit.”

This will give the government flexibility, the document says, to “accommodate” future trade agreements with the EU and other countries.

It will also give the government power to make changes to VAT and excise regimes.

The bill does not rule out a compromise transition arrangement but it sets the course for an eventual hard Brexit.

3. Trade Bill

This is the clearest evidence yet that the prime minister still intends to withdraw the U.K. from the single market and customs union.

“The Bill will put in place the essential and necessary legislative framework to allow the U.K. to operate its own independent trade policy upon exit from the European Union.”

This is simply not possible within the customs union.

4. Immigration Bill

New legislation will be introduced to “control the number of people coming here from Europe.”

It will allow for the repeal of EU law on immigration, “primarily free movement,” which otherwise would become part of U.K. law under the repeal bill.

While there is almost no detail on the nature of the new immigration regime the government hopes to establish after Brexit, the queen’s speech states that it will “make the migration of EU nationals and their family members subject to relevant U.K. law once the U.K. has left the EU.”

This statement of intent effectively means EU nationals will no longer have the automatic right to live and work in the U.K. under EU law — any right to move to Britain will be subject to the U.K. immigration rules set in Westminster.

The wording does not rule out a liberal immigration regime being introduced — such as a visa waiver area covering all of the EU, meaning any EU citizen could move to the U.K. with a job offer. But it does end the concept of freedom of movement, guaranteed by EU law and enforced by the European Court of Justice.

5. Fisheries Bill

Like the immigration bill, the purpose of the bill is radical but leaves plenty of scope for flexibility when it comes to how any new regime will actually work.

In short, the bill withdraws Britain from the Common Fisheries Policy. According to a government briefing document published alongside the queen’s speech, it will “enable the U.K. to exercise responsibility for access to fisheries and management of its waters.” It will also allow the government to set U.K. fishing quotas separate from the EU.

How much access the U.K. agrees to give EU fishing fleets remains open for negotiation and compromise.

The fisheries bill — alongside all the Brexit legislation — will apply U.K-wide and is seen in government as an important tool in winning support in Scotland.

6. Agriculture Bill

Almost no detail is given on the future shape of U.K. agricultural policy. However, the briefing note accompanying the queen’s speech promises that the government will “provide stability” to British farmers currently in receipt of EU subsidies while also aiming to make the sector “more competitive, productive and profitable.”

7. Nuclear Safeguards Bill

This bill confirms Britain will leave Euratom when it departs the European Union.

The proposed legislation aims to give the U.K. Office for Nuclear Regulation the safeguarding powers to meet international standards.

8. International Sanctions Bill

The purpose of the bill is to “enable the U.K. to continue to impose, update and lift sanctions” after Brexit.

The effect of this will be to “return decision-making powers” over non-United Nations sanctions to Westminster which are currently administered by Brussels.

After Handel win, Trump tells Dems to join GOP on healthcare, tax cuts, security

"Obstruction doesn't work!” President Donald Trump tweets.

“Obstruction doesn’t work!” President Donald Trump tweets. | Getty

The day after Republican Karen Handel won the heated Georgia special election, President Donald Trump offered some advice to Democrats, recommending that they work to cut deals with Republicans on some of his top policy goals and suggesting that such a maneuver would ultimately be to their benefit.

“Democrats would do much better as a party if they got together with Republicans on healthcare, tax cuts, security. Obstruction doesn’t work!” the president wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning.

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While Democrats have expressed some interest in working with the president on a package of infrastructure legislation, one of his campaign promises, they have been unwilling thus far to join Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, Trump’s top policy priority. The president seems similarly unlikely to receive Democratic help in passing a tax reform package, another top goal for Trump.

But while the president could certainly benefit from Democratic votes to pass some of his preferred legislation, he does not need them. Republicans are the majority party in both houses of Congress and can pass some legislation, including a repeal-and-replace bill expected to be unveiled Thursday, through the Senate with a simple majority that will not require a single Democratic vote.

Even with their majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans have struggled at times to find consensus even within their own caucus. The House version of legislation to undo Obamacare, the highest-profile piece of legislation to date of Trump’s presidency, failed on its first attempt to garner enough GOP support to pass, unable to strike a balance between the arch-conservative and moderate wings of the party.

A later version of the bill did manage to strike that compromise, but only barely, clearing the House by just two votes.

Handel bested Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff Tuesday night to win in Georgia’s special election.

Congressional Black Caucus expected to decline Trump meeting

Rep. Cedric Richmond is pictured.

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond, center, and other lawmakers speak to members of the media after a meeting with President Donald Trump in the White House on March 22. | AP Photo

The Congressional Black Caucus is expected to reject an invitation to meet with President Donald Trump, according to four sources close to the group.

The Trump administration, sources said, has done nothing to advance the CBC’s priorities since the group’s executive board first met with Trump in March. And members are worried the request for a caucus-wide meeting would amount to little more than a photo op that the president could use to bolster his standing among African-Americans.

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“No one wants to be a co-star on the reality show,” said one senior Democratic aide.

Lawmakers in the 49-member group each received an invitation last week from Omarosa Manigault, the-reality-TV-star-turned-White-House-aide who has pitched herself as an unofficial liaison to the CBC.

“As requested by the president, we would like to schedule a follow-up meeting with the entire membership of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss issues pertinent to your members,” Manigault wrote in the invitation, obtained by POLITICO.

But multiple CBC members said they were put off that she signed the invitation as “the Honorable Omarosa Manigault,” saying she hasn’t earned that title nor has she helped raise the profile of CBC issues within the White House as promised.

CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) isn’t expected to make an official announcement until after the group discusses the invitation during its weekly meeting Wednesday. Kamara Jones, a spokeswoman for the CBC, declined to comment on the record.

But sources close to the group say they have been told the caucus-wide meeting with the president is “off the table.”

There are both logistical and political hurdles to the entire caucus meeting with Trump.

With nearly 50 members, assembling even most of the caucus for a meeting would be difficult. “How do you get 30-plus members into a room having a meeting and make it meaningful?” said one source familiar with the caucus’ deliberations.

But members of the caucus are also worried about the optics of a meeting. During their meeting with Trump in March, members of the leadership tried to avoid taking a picture with Trump for fear it would be used to make it look like they had thrown their support behind the president.

If the majority of the caucus were to go to the White House, the pressure to huddle with Trump in the Oval Office for a group photo could be tougher to avoid. “The entire caucus goes down there, it’s sort of harder to control,” the source familiar with the situation said.

Aside from the optics, Trump has done little, if anything, to address any of the policies important to the caucus, members say.

CBC sources said caucus members were miffed that the Trump budget proposal didn’t include additional funding for historically black colleges and universities after the president made a big show of meeting with leaders from those schools in the Oval Office in February.

Trump further angered the CBC when he issued a statement accompanying the stopgap funding bill in early May questioning the constitutionality of federal funding for historically black colleges and universities.

“For a president who pledged to reach out to African-Americans and other minorities, this statement is stunningly careless and divisive,” Richmond and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a joint statement at the time.

Sources say the president also hasn’t made any efforts to advance CBC priorities on criminal justice reform or voting rights, two issues that are also critically important to the group, and the White House hasn’t even responded to policy requests from members since the March meeting.