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On Politics: Iowa 2.0? – The New York Times

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Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.

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  • It’s starting to dawn on everyone that, after the relative breeze of the New Hampshire primary, we have more caucuses coming up. Early voting in Nevada begins this weekend, the caucuses are on Feb. 22, and plenty of uncertainty still surrounds them. Democratic insiders are waiting with bated breath to see if the state can avoid a meltdown like the one that occurred in Iowa.

  • On Thursday, officials in Nevada announced that they would provide caucus precinct chairs with iPads, and would use a calculator and the Google Forms application to tabulate the results. If that doesn’t inspire confidence, well, keep your breath bated. (More on the Nevada caucus situation is below, from a reporter on the ground there.)

  • Joe Biden is looking for some good news — any good news at all — after failing to make the top three in the Iowa and New Hampshire contests. But he won’t be getting any from Nevada’s powerful culinary workers’ union, which announced on Thursday that it wouldn’t endorse a candidate in this month’s caucuses. The union wants to keep private health insurance as an option, and was therefore seen as being more likely to endorse Biden than to back Bernie Sanders, his most formidable rival in Nevada, who supports a “Medicare for all”-type health care system.

  • The union’s secretary-treasurer, Geoconda Argüello-Kline, said, “We’re going to endorse our goals, what we’re doing — that’s what we’re going to endorse.”

  • The lack of an endorsement could be a boon for Sanders, the only candidate to have matched Biden’s support in Nevada polls. And that data is probably underestimating Sanders’s support: The most recent polls we have of Nevada are over a month old, and were taken before Biden’s candidacy began to falter.

  • Michael Bloomberg has spent over $350 million on TV spots since November, putting him way ahead of any Democratic rival in terms of ad spending — but apparently, that’s not all. In a display of just how “with it” the 78-year-old media mogul is, Bloomberg has also paid some of the biggest meme makers on the internet to put his sponsored content on their Instagram accounts. Voters can haz Bloomberg?

  • President Trump’s campaign is off and rolling — and that means high-dollar fund-raisers. He will be the guest of honor on Saturday at the billionaire Nelson Peltz’s Palm Beach estate, located just a few miles from Mar-a-Lago, the president’s resort. Tickets to the Saturday event will cost a whopping $580,600 per couple, making it the priciest fund-raiser since Trump took office, The Washington Post reports.


A young attendee got a better view at a town hall event for Elizabeth Warren in Arlington, Va., on Thursday evening.


On Monday, Justice Department prosecutors recommended that a judge sentence Roger Stone — a longtime Trump ally — to seven to nine years in prison for his role in obstructing an investigation into the president.

Hours later, Trump tweeted his displeasure, calling it a “miscarriage of justice.” The next day, Attorney General William Barr ordered his team to lower its sentencing request.

The president then went on Twitter again, praising Barr’s decision. But all four of the lawyers prosecuting the case withdrew from it, and a public outcry followed. Many of the president’s detractors worried that after his acquittal on impeachment charges, it would be impossible to prevent him from meddling in cases that concerned his own alleged misconduct.

But on Thursday, Barr offered a rare rebuke to Trump during an interview with ABC News. “I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me,” he said.

Those comments represent some of the strongest pushback that Trump has received from a member of his cabinet during his administration. But they also might have been basically obligatory: Barr wasn’t exaggerating when he said his job was becoming impossible.

As our reporter Katie Benner notes, “Speaking up could have put Mr. Barr at risk of losing the backing of the president, but remaining silent would have permitted Mr. Trump to continue attacking law enforcement and all but invited open revolt among the some 115,000 employees of the Justice Department.”

Still, critics of the attorney general saw his comments mainly as a way to deflect responsibility for his role in carrying out the president’s political wishes.


Less than two weeks after the impeachment trial came to a close, Congress is back to business as usual. But as usual, that does not mean any laws are on their way to being passed.

The Senate on Thursday passed — if you can believe it — a piece of bipartisan legislation. The bill would require Trump to gain congressional authorization before he can take any further military action against Iran, in a rare assertion of Congress’s war-making powers.

It was passed largely on the strength of Democratic votes, but eight Republicans crossed the aisle to support it. Still, Trump is widely expected to veto the bill — which would force the Senate to muster a two-thirds majority to override him.

In the House, Democrats on Thursday passed a measure that would extend the deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment — a constitutional amendment that Congress first approved in 1972, but that did not win the support of enough states to become adopted.

The amendment still faces opposition from many Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. And even Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberal Supreme Court justice who has long supported the E.R.A., said this week that she thought the amendment should be scrapped in favor of a new version.

“I’d like it to start over,” she said at a Georgetown University Law Center event on Monday. “There’s too much controversy about latecomers.”


By

Will Nevada’s caucuses devolve into an Iowa 2.0? That’s the big question as all eyes turn west for the Feb. 22 nominating contest. State Democratic officials are scrambling to assure everyone the process will unfold just fine. For months, Nevada planned to use the same app that helped cause the meltdown in Iowa, but officials scrapped that plan in favor of a new one that will rely on iPads and Google forms.

There are other only-in-Nevada quirks, too. In case of a tie at a caucus site, delegates will be decided by which campaign chooses the highest card from a deck.

So just where does the party get the money to pay for all these iPads? Well, donations, of course. And caucusgoers will be asked for a suggested $20 donation, according to a script being given to precinct leaders. But even though caucusgoers could choose not to put any cash in the envelope, a couple of precinct leaders told me that the mere fact they would be asking made them uncomfortable.

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Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

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Budget hawks frustrated by 2020 politics in entitlement reform fight | TheHill – The Hill

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Budget watchers are growing increasingly frustrated about the politicization of tackling cost-saving measures in entitlement programs, particularly Medicare.

The growing divide between Democrats and Republicans was on full display this past week, when President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press MORE’s budget proposal for fiscal 2021 called for roughly $2 trillion in cuts to entitlement programs. Anti-poverty advocates said many of those provisions would hurt the poor and deny people health coverage.

Democrats seized on the proposal, characterizing it as Trump slashing Medicare benefits, even though the president largely hewed to his State of the Union promise to leave Medicare untouched. He instead proposed some $500 billion worth of measures that would reduce costs to providers without eating into benefits.

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Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMalaysia says it will choose 5G partners based on own standards, not US recommendations Pelosi warns allies against using Huawei Budget hawks frustrated by 2020 politics in entitlement reform fight MORE (D-Calif.) called the White House spending request a “heartless budget.”

“If you’re sitting at home at your kitchen table and you’re a senior or there is a senior in your family on Medicare, you’re getting cut,” she said.

But experts say the Medicare proposals should be relatively uncontroversial, leaving budget watchers wondering if reforms to any of the nation’s largest deficit drivers is politically possible, or if the issue has simply become a non-starter in Washington.

“There is literally nothing that would cut benefits from Medicare recipients,” said Marc Goldwein, the head of policy for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a fiscal watchdog group. “The policies would actually help them because they’d reduce the amount they’d pay in premiums and out-of-pocket costs.”

Some of the major Medicare proposals, he noted, have a history of bipartisan support and were even included in former President Obama’s budget requests. Democratic presidential candidate Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegJoe Biden lost his fastball — can he get it back before South Carolina? Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes Bloomberg hits Sanders supporters in new ad MORE includes three of the policies in his health care proposal, and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJoe Biden lost his fastball — can he get it back before South Carolina? Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes Budget hawks frustrated by 2020 politics in entitlement reform fight MORE (D-Mass.), who is also running for president, includes two of them in hers.

Among them is a proposal requiring that the site of a procedure — a doctor’s office or a hospital — doesn’t affect the cost.

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Another would affect the level of payments Medicare pays to providers for what’s called post-acute care, such as physical therapy or rehab.

Both aim to reduce payments to the providers but don’t directly scale back benefits or cut off access for recipients.

But it is possible for such cost-cutting measures to ultimately affect benefits, according to Juliette Cubanski, an associate director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Medicare Program.

“When it comes to Medicare, I don’t think it makes sense to hold up this budget as something that Medicare beneficiaries need to lose any sleep over,” she said. “But if you cut provider payments and they scale back on benefits, there could be a spillover effect there, or a connection between the two.”

House Budget Committee Chairman John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthBudget hawks frustrated by 2020 politics in entitlement reform fight On The Money: Deficit spikes 25 percent through January | Mnuchin declines to say why Trump pulled Treasury nominee who oversaw Roger Stone case | Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts MORE (D-Ky.) argued that absent any broader reforms, such changes could have repercussions for rural hospitals.

But the exact implications aren’t clear, says Goldwein, who said studies of similar cost-cutting measures in the past have found minor changes in benefits.

Those policies are in contrast to the various restrictions Trump proposed for Medicaid, food stamps, welfare and housing assistance, which would deny some beneficiaries access and in some cases scale back the level of benefits.

For those concerned about reducing the deficit, conflating cost-saving measures with cutting benefits muddies the waters, analysts say.

“I think it’s very frustrating to lump them together, because people have a point on Medicaid. But when it comes to Social Security and Medicare, they’re Obama-era policies to increase program integrity and reduce costs,” Goldwein said.

Since Trump took office, the deficit has increased by roughly two-thirds and is expected to reach $1 trillion. Democrats blame the $1.9 trillion GOP tax law from 2017 and a Republican effort to boost defense spending. Republicans, meanwhile, point to the higher domestic spending favored by Democrats.

But analysts argue that an aging population is stretching spending from mandatory programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which are major drivers of the debt.

Russ Vought, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said the problem stemmed from politicians using a program’s cost as shorthand for its value.

“Washington, D.C., far too often wants to just say what’s the dollar amount and makes that the sacrosanct value for how you’re doing with regard to your commitment,” he said at a House Budget Committee hearing this past week. He also insisted that the Trump budget would leave programs such as Medicaid untouched.

Democrats, for their part, said they welcomed reforms but needed proof that they worked before slashing budgets.

“I have to be a little bit miffed, I guess is the best word, because you talk about savings and waste and fraud, and that you’re going to be doing different types of approaches, but has the administration offered any legislation in any of these areas?” Yarmuth asked Vought at the hearing. “The administration has not offered legislation to deal with health care.”

Indeed, Goldwein noted, some $750 billion of savings in the president’s budget would come from an unspecified health plan that has yet to be unveiled.

Election year politics is in many ways playing a role in the debate, with experts noting that it’s easier to tout more benefits and lower taxes than the alternative.

“It’s very difficult to talk about cutting Social Security or Medicare benefits. At the same time, there aren’t a lot of people who want to say we need to increase taxes or revenues to pay for these programs,” Cubanski said. “We’re not having a conversation about, ‘How much are we willing to pay for these programs?’ and ‘How much should we pay moving forward?’”

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Women in Politics: Theresa May Recounts 'Sticky Tape' Moment – The New York Times

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Former British Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday that early on in her political career, she vowed never to think that being a woman held her back.

“Don’t think that you don’t get something because you’re a woman,” she told an audience of mostly women at the Global Women’s Forum Dubai.

Still, there were times when being a woman head of state was — well, sticky.

May recounted one such moment. She was on a British Air Force flight, heading to a dinner and having to change into evening attire. There were no changing facilities on board but the staff told her not to worry.

“They took up me into the cockpit, there with two pilots, and I’m thinking ‘really?’,” she said.

“A chap comes along with sticky tape and a sheet, and he stuck it up behind the pilots and says: ‘There you go, you can change behind that’,” she said, to laughter and applause from the audience.

May, who became the second female British prime minister in 2016, after Margaret Thatcher, was speaking on stage with the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United Nations, Lana Nusseibeh.

Nusseibeh shared her own “embarrassing” anecdote, saying that once while trying to keep up with the UAE’s foreign minister on the streets of New York, she got her heel stuck in a gutter and it broke off. She did her best to keep up.

“Men, frankly, don’t run in heels,” Nusseibeh said.

May also spoke about a type of boys-club culture that existed when she first entered the House of Commons as a member of parliament in the late 1990s, with “a huge emphasis on the men sort-of drinking together and getting together into groups.”

“Some of the women felt they had to join that, and I didn’t,” May said. “I wanted to do it the way I wanted to do it. So, I did it my way. I was myself and, hey, I was prime minister.”

May stepped down as Conservative leader last year, leaving behind a legacy as a prime minister who for three years faced the difficult process of trying to get Britain out of the European Union with stubborn determination.

She told the audience that she hopes to be looked upon by young girls as an inspirational leader committed to public service. She also urged women in leadership positions to actively support other women and encourage them to share their experiences.

“The men network. They network a lot. They will use contacts in order to help them through in their careers, and we don’t do enough of that and we should be doing that as women,” May said.

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Women in politics: Theresa May recounts 'sticky tape' moment – CityNews Vancouver

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Former British Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday that early on in her political career, she vowed never to think that being a woman held her back.

“Don’t think that you don’t get something because you’re a woman,” she told an audience of mostly women at the Global Women’s Forum Dubai.

Still, there were times when being a woman head of state was — well, sticky.

May recounted one such moment. She was on a British Air Force flight, heading to a dinner and having to change into evening attire. There were no changing facilities on board but the staff told her not to worry.

“They took up me into the cockpit, there with two pilots, and I’m thinking ‘really?’,” she said.

“A chap comes along with sticky tape and a sheet, and he stuck it up behind the pilots and says: ‘There you go, you can change behind that’,” she said, to laughter and applause from the audience.

May, who became the second female British prime minister in 2016, after Margaret Thatcher, was speaking on stage with the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United Nations, Lana Nusseibeh.

Nusseibeh shared her own “embarrassing” anecdote, saying that once while trying to keep up with the UAE’s foreign minister on the streets of New York, she got her heel stuck in a gutter and it broke off. She did her best to keep up.

“Men, frankly, don’t run in heels,” Nusseibeh said.

May also spoke about a type of boys-club culture that existed when she first entered the House of Commons as a member of parliament in the late 1990s, with “a huge emphasis on the men sort-of drinking together and getting together into groups.”

“Some of the women felt they had to join that, and I didn’t,” May said. “I wanted to do it the way I wanted to do it. So, I did it my way. I was myself and, hey, I was prime minister.”

May stepped down as Conservative leader last year, leaving behind a legacy as a prime minister who for three years faced the difficult process of trying to get Britain out of the European Union with stubborn determination.

She told the audience that she hopes to be looked upon by young girls as an inspirational leader committed to public service. She also urged women in leadership positions to actively support other women and encourage them to share their experiences.

“The men network. They network a lot. They will use contacts in order to help them through in their careers, and we don’t do enough of that and we should be doing that as women,” May said.

Aya Batrawy, The Associated Press

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