Gov. Pat McCrory rejected a call to convene a special legislative session to add more low-income residents to the state and federal health insurance program. His comments came in response to a news conference called Monday by expansion supporters who again pushed their reasons for allowing more low-income people to sign up for Medicaid. The GOP-controlled legislature voted this year to reject Medicaid expansion, which is an optional part of the Affordable Care Act. Those who want expansion, including two Democratic legislators, a doctor, a health policy analyst and an advocate with Protect Your Care, said at a news conference Monday that the benefits of expanding Medicaid are becoming clearer as time passes. Other states, including those with Republican governors, have chosen to expand Medicaid, they said. For three years, the federal government is paying 100 percent of the cost of people who enroll in an expansion. The federal government support would drop in phases after the first three years, down to 90 percent by 2020. About 1.5 million state residents are enrolled in Medicaid. The N.C. Institute of Medicine estimated that 500,000 more would sign up in an expansion.
Politics NC: Step one: Admitting the problem
In the closing stages of the election, Walter Dalton recruited several African Americans to produce one the most powerful videos in memory. Pat McCrory went berserk.We’d all benefit if he admitted they were right. The ad sent a harsh message, and appropriately so. Furthermore, every element has proven true. The McCrory administration chronically violates civil rights. But still the governor refuses to even consider their (our) complaints. Just last week, for instance, he categorically denied the voting law’s inequitable impact. That he said so to a white, conservative audience renders him that much more pig-headed. This is unfortunate. Despite how he worked hand-in-glove with bigots, I’m willing to believe McCrory is tolerant. Thus, if he thought seriously about race, he might well adjust his priorities. In that case, he’d spare us all from yet more damage. Of course, the question is whether he can think seriously, or at all.
Democratic lawmakers and several left-leaning groups say it’s time to reconsider the state’s decision not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Gov. Pat McCrory doesn’t think so. North Carolina is one of 22 states that refused to expand Medicaid. The expansion was to increase the number of low-income people covered under the health care law and help offset cuts to hospital subsidies. McCrory has said it would be foolish to expand the system that has been plagued by cost overruns, and he has pushed instead for reforming Medicaid. Legislative leaders also have questioned whether the federal government would live up to its promise to pick up the entire tab for the expansion for three years and 90 percent of the cost after that. Since lawmakers voted in February to block any Medicaid expansion, several Republican governors in other states have changed their minds and expanded the program in their states, including Rick Scott in Florida, Jan Brewer in Arizona and, most recently, John Kasich in Ohio. House Minority Leader Larry Hall said Monday that North Carolina lawmakers are experiencing some buyers’ remorse as they watch federal tax dollars flow into other states. Meanwhile, he said, rural hospitals are on the verge of closing because of lower Medicaid reimbursements, and as many as half a million uninsured people in North Carolina are finding out they’re too poor to qualify for federal subsidies for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Talk about political schizophrenia and stepping on your message. The GOP has been making efforts to engage black voters. Shaquille O’Neill just came out in favor of re-electing Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Last Monday, the Republican Party announced it had opened an African-American engagement office in North Carolina that would be “responsible for building strong and lasting relationships with black communities across North Carolina.” But last Wednesday, Mother Jones reported that Mississippi Republican Chris McDaniel—who is challenging incumbent U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R) and is backed by the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth—had “addressed a neo-Confederate conference and costume ball hosted by a group that promotes the work of present-day secessionists and contends the wrong side won the ‘war of southern independence.’” And, last Wednesday night, the GOP precinct chair from Buncombe County, North Carolina, Don Yelton, appeared on The Daily Show to talk about voter ID laws and voter suppression. The now-viral clip includes Yelton admitting to being called a bigot, referring to African-Americans as lazy, and saying, “one of my best friends is black.”
Real Americans, the wind-chapped toilers so often invoked by politicians in a phony froth, lost real money from the real pain inflicted on their livelihoods by the extortionists in Congress this month. How much money? At least $24 billion was the estimate given by Standard & Poor’s. Small business was hit particularly hard. And it’s a rolling pain, affecting consumer confidence, that will be felt through a holiday buying season that can make or break many retailers. “I am a small businessman in a big ocean with big bills,” said Captain Keith Colburn, an Alaska crab fisherman, in Senate testimony during the shutdown. “I need to go fishing.” But the skipper, who is featured in the reality TV show “Deadliest Catch,” said he was being held back by “a bunch of knuckleheads” who prevented marine regulators from doing their jobs. So, who pays? For years, Republicans have been trumpeting the idea that when a government action hurts a private business, the government should compensate for the loss. This principle is based on a broad reading of the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment; it’s usually summoned as leverage against environmental regulation. But in the case of the federal shutdown, of course, the economic hit on millions of Americans didn’t come from government — it came from one political faction in the House of Representatives. You could sue the Tea Party, but what is that? A bunch of costumed zealots on Fox are not responsible for anything that comes out of their mouths and lands in the porous mind of someone like Representative Ted Yoho of Florida.
Did Rand Paul plagiarize his speech from Wikipedia? It sure seems that way, asRachel Maddow pointed out on Monday. In a speech given in support of Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, Paul referenced the 90s science fiction movie Gattaca. The Kentucky senator used the plot of Gattaca–a dystopian world in which eugenics is widely practiced– to attack pro-choice advocates. Even more bizarre than his choice of metaphor are the similarities between Paul’s speech and the Wikipedia page for Gattaca. As Maddow points out, Paul said: "In the movie Gattaca, in the not-too-distant future, eugenics is common and DNA plays a primary role in determining your social class."
Politico: Harry Reid sets up Mel Watt vote
Senate Democrats and the White House are pressing for a vote this week on the nomination of Mel Watt to be the regulator of taxpayer owned mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — in a bid to overcome Republican opposition that has left the pick in limbo for months. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took the procedural step necessary to hold a vote later this week, possibly Wednesday, to end debate on the nomination. Democrats will need 60 votes for Watt to clear this hurdle.
The reason next year is so make-or-break for Senate Republicans is because in 2016, when all of the seats they won in 2010 come up—they netted a six-seat net gain that year—there will be 24 GOP seats up, compared with only 10 for Democrats, leading to some serious Republican overexposure. Seven of the 24 GOP senators up are hailing from states that Obama carried in 2012. After having had plentiful Democratic targets in 2012 and 2014, it will be Republicans in 2016 who will have the most incumbents in the crosshairs.
All of this is to say that Republicans really have to do well in the Senate elections in 2014, largely because they will have few opportunities for gains in 2016, a year in which they will be playing defense, not offense. This means that Republicans cannot nominate some of the more exotic candidates that they nominated in Delaware and Nevada in 2010, or weak candidates with weak campaigns as they did that year in Colorado. Comparable candidates to Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock, the 2012 Missouri and Indiana candidates whose nominations effectively meant that the GOP seized defeat from the jaws of victory in multiple states, should be avoided. So, the 2014 Senate elections really are important.
Democrat Terry McAuliffe has opened a double-digit lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli II in the race for Virginia governor, in a new poll capturing increasing dissatisfaction among voters with Cuccinelli’s party and his conservative views. According to a new Washington Post/Abt SRBI poll, McAuliffe tops Cuccinelli 51 percent to 39 percent among likely voters in the Nov. 5 election. McAuliffe led by eight percentage points in a poll taken last month. Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who has capitalized on voter unrest with the two major-party candidates, is at 8 percent, according to the new poll. The margin between the two major-party candidates is driven by a huge gender gap. Among men, the two candidates are running even, with Cuccinelli at 45 percent and McAuliffe at 44 percent. But among women, Cuccinelli trails by 24 points — 58 percent to 34 percent.
For political reporters — including yours truly — there’s always the danger of overstating the significance of off-year and special elections, as well as their impact on future races. After all, things can always change, particularly given how quickly the political news cycle moves. (Remember that debate over Syria? How about the government shutdown?) That said, there’s a reason why political observers should pay close attention to next week’s gubernatorial contest in Virginia, and it has little to do with the two flawed candidates running (Democrat Terry McAuliffe, Republican Ken Cuccinelli) or the noteworthy politicos stumping for them (Bill Clinton, Rand Paul). The reason why Virginia matters is that, politically, no other state better reflects the center of American politics than the Old Dominion. In the last two presidential contests, the state’s popular vote (Obama 53%-46% in ’08; Obama 51%-47% in ’12) exactly matched the national popular vote. In 2009, Republican Bob McDonnell’s victorious gubernatorial campaign (seizing on the federal health-care and cap-and-trade legislation) served as the precursor to the kind of campaigns Republicans would run in the 2010 midterms. And Virginia, demographically, looks like the country at large — whites near 70% of the population, African Americans in the double digits, Latinos at 8%, Asian Americans at 6%. It also has a fairly even mixture of urban, suburban, and rural areas.
The twin dramas of the government shutdown and botched rollout of Obamacare have snapped a sleepy 2014 election season out of its slumber, sharpening the battle lines for each party and setting the stage for a consequential midterm that few expected even two months ago. The spring and summer months were filled with charges and countercharges about the Internal Revenue Service, wiretapping, Syria and immigration. Politicians recycled old attack lines and operatives confidently predicted control of Congress would remain status quo after next November. No more. The parties’ competing political narratives — the dangers of a tea party-controlled party versus the perils of President Barack Obama’s far-reaching health care law — have been thrown into sharp relief the past several weeks. Now each party has something tangible to point to — that touch voters’ lives in concrete ways — to argue that the other should be booted from office.
A who’s who of A-list Hollywood stars — including Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Jerry Seinfeld, Ben Stiller and Ben Affleck — is rallying to defeat Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) by writing checks to his Democratic opponent for Senate in 2014. Names more often seen in lights than Federal Election Commission (FEC) documents peppered Alison Lundergan Grimes’s third-quarter fundraising filings — evidence the Senate minority leader has become Hollywood’s top Republican target this cycle. According to an analysis of FEC documents by The Hill, at least 66 Hollywood donors — including producers, agents, lawyers and celebrities — contributed more than $250,000 to Lundergan Grimes’s campaign from July through September. Actors Danny DeVito, Jack Black, Jon Hamm, Nicolas Cage, Seinfeld and DiCaprio all gave the maximum $5,200 to Kentucky’s secretary of State, a rising star in the Bluegrass State considered by Democrats to be the party’s best hope for a Senate pickup next year.
Former New Hanover County school board member Elizabeth Redenbaugh is considering a run for Republican Thom Goolsby’s state Senate seat next year. Redenbaugh, who was elected to the school board in 2008 as a Republican and lost her 2012 re-election bid as a Democrat, said she had been considering running for another local office since the 2012 school board race ended. But over the past several months, Redenbaugh said, she has received almost weekly requests from people asking her to run against Goolsby. Redenbaugh would run for the Senate seat as a Democrat. Local attorney Deb Butler, former state Sen. Julia Boseman and Young Democrats eastern regional director Andrew Barnhill have also said they are considering entering the race.
WECT: Elizabeth Redenbaugh among Democrats considering senate bid
Former New Hanover County School Board Member Elizabeth Redenbaugh, who switched from the Republican to Democratic party in 2011, said she’s considering a run for state senate next year. "I want to see education remain strong in North Carolina," she said. "Right now, it is under attack by our General Assembly, by our Republican-led General Assembly. And I want to get up there, potentially, and make a stand." "I think it’s interesting that she’s considering this race, and I think she would represent us well if she’s the candidate," said Richard Poole, chair of the New Hanover County Democratic Party. Redenbaugh received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2011 for her strong opposition to a school redistricting plan that she said would result in socioeconomic and racial segregation. She remained outspoken after losing her seat on the school board last November. At a rally for public education held this summer on the steps of the federal courthouse in Wilmington, she urged demonstrators to contact their legislators, saying the General Assembly put the state on a race to the bottom. If Redenbaugh enters the senate race, she will have at least one challenger for the district nine Democratic primary in May, as Julia Boseman, who previously served in the senate, announced earlier this month that she wants to challenge Republican incumbent Thom Goolsby for her old seat in Raleigh.
Fayetteville Observer: Fayetteville mayoral debate set for tonight at Fayetteville State
Mayoral candidates Val Applewhite and Nat Robertson will participate in a forum tonight on the campus of Fayetteville State University.The 7 p.m. forum is in Seabrook Auditorium and is open to the public. The Epsilon Zeta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. at FSU is sponsoring the forum. Chancellor James Anderson will moderate. Applewhite, a City Council member since 2007, was the top vote-getter in the October primary. Robertson, a councilman for four terms between 1989 and 2001, placed second in the primary. Early voting ends Saturday, and Election Day is Nov. 5.
As UNC-system schools continue to make tough decisions in a difficult financial climate, Elizabeth City State University is considering discontinuing its history program — a move that could be virtually unprecedented for a public university. Earlier this fall, system General Administration staff directed the 16 system universities to recommend low-productivity degree programs for discontinuation by November. ECSU, a historically black school with an enrollment of about 2,400 students, received a nearly 10 percent cut to its state funding this year. Ten programs at the school fit the system’s criteria for low productivity. ECSU administrators determined that three of them — middle grades education, special education and a master of science in biology — are central to the university’s mission and will not be considered for elimination. Seven programs — history, political science, physics, geology, studio art, marine environmental science and industrial technology — are still in limbo. If the seven are discontinued, some coursework in each area will still be offered at ECSU, said Ali Khan, provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs, in a statement.
The Appalachian State University faculty senate passed a resolution last week to encourage faculty to be flexible with class attendance on election days — an option UNCmay consider for the 2014 elections. ASU’s on-campus voting site was moved in September from the student union to an on-campus nightclub, a location some have argued is less convenient to students and faculty. Andy Koch, faculty senate chairman,said the resolution has the power to increase student voter turnout at not only ASU, but also at other North Carolina schools. “There is a general understanding that the legislature has made it more difficult for people, especially students to vote,” Koch said. “We wanted to make a statement to everyone (with this resolution) that giving students the opportunity to vote is of the utmost importance to a democracy.” UNC’s on-campus voting site has been at Rams Head Dining Hall since spring 2012 — but the Orange County Board of Elections is looking for a new on-campus voting site after its curbside voting system was deemed inadequate by board members. Jan Boxill, chairwoman of UNC’s faculty, said she is interested in how the passing of this resolution at ASU could potentially affect UNC, especially if there is no longer an early voting site on UNC’s campus.
Political Wire: Judge Blocks Parts of Texas Abortion Law
A federal judge barred Texas from enforcing two key provisions of abortion restrictions that were to take effect Tuesday, the Austin American Statesman reports. "The two measures passed in July amid a marathon Democratic filibuster and massive protests at the state Capitol. Aside from provisions on abortion-inducing drugs and admitting privileges, the law also only allows abortions in surgical centers and bans the procedure after 20 weeks."
The opinion opens with the observation that “Today there is no issue that divides the people of this country more than abortion. It is the most divisive issue to face this country since slavery. When compared with the intensity, emotion, and depth of feeling expressed with regard to abortion, the recent arguments on affordable healthcare, increasing the debt ceiling, and closing the government retreat to near oblivion.” Judge Yeakel goes on to make the following conclusions: “(1) the act’s admitting-privileges provision is without a rational basis and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus, and (2) the act’s provisions that place restrictions on medication abortions do not place such an obstacle, except when a physician finds such an abortion necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.” As a result, dozens of clinics that were set to be shuttered in Texas will stay open.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act could come up for a vote in the Senate as early as next week, according to the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). ENDA would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. When the Senate convened Monday afternoon, Reid formally announced his plans to bring up the legislation during the current work period, which ends the week before Thanksgiving. Reid has long been a supporter of ENDA, cosponsoring it as early as 1997. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) introduced the bill in the Senate on April 25, and it currently has 54 cosponsors. Every single Democratic senator has signed on, with the exception of Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). "I thank Majority Leader Reid for committing to bring ENDA to the floor this work period," Merkley said in a statement to The Huffington Post. "Americans understand that it’s time to make sure our LGBT friends and family are treated fairly and have the same opportunities. Now it’s time for our laws to catch up. People should be judged at work on their ability to do the job, period.”
Here’s the mistake made by President Obama and the Democrats that nobody is talking about: They have been too fearful of confronting our country’s three-year obsession with the wrong problem. And here is the tea party’s greatest victory: It has made the wrong problem the center of policymaking. The wrong problem is the deficit. The right problem is sluggish growth and persistent unemployment. The paradox is that the deficit would be less challenging today if we had been less preoccupied with it since the 2010 elections. The deep cuts in government spending since then have slowed the very growth we need to make our way toward fiscal balance. But relief may be on the way. More from political exhaustion than any change of heart, we may be about to take halting steps toward dealing with the issues we should have been grappling with in the first place.
Micah Beasley, Press Secretary
North Carolina Democratic Party
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