If you’re looking for a signs of an emerging schism between the establishment and tea party within the GOP, look no further than the mounting crop of primary challengers to Republican Senate incumbents. In 2010 and 2012, tea party activists picked their most vulnerable targets, like Lugar, Hatch and Bennett. Now they’re going after the entire establishment.
— With state senator Chris McDaniel‘s campaign against Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, half of the 12 Republican senators up for reelection now face threats from the right. A seventh, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, is worried enough about a primary that he voted against the government-funding compromise.
— While most of the upstarts are clear underdogs, McDaniel is the closest to actually winning a Senate seat. The state legislator’s well-orchestrated entrance was designed as much to put pressure on Cochran to retire. The Senate Conservatives Fund and Club for Growth each blasted endorsements out within minutes of his announcement. One conservative operative involved in the race called him “the Jim DeMint of the Mississippi state legislature” and expects him to be more formidable than any of the other conservative Senate challengers.
— McDaniel and his allies read the political tea leaves in Mississippi effectively. Cochran only raised $53,000 in the third quarter, a telltale sign the longtime appropriator is heading to the exits. If Cochran does step down, McDaniel would become an early frontrunner as the conservative candidate, with national fundraising assets behind him. Mississippi, after all, is a deeply Republican state with a very conservative primary electorate.
It’s striking that the Club for Growth, which traditionally focuses on the House, has now endorsed more candidates for the Senate (2) this cycle. The Senate Conservatives Fund is now officially opposing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, backing his tea party challenger Matt Bevin. With House Republicans already marching in line with the base, outside groups are working to reshape the Senate more to their liking.
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In a statement Friday, Sen. John McCain wrote, "I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will effect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. Without a full CBO score, which won't be available by the end of the month, we won't have reliable answers to any of those questions." His "no" vote makes it much less likely Republicans will repeal and replace Obamacare by Sept. 30.
As anticipated, the Department of Education today withdrew the controversial Obama-era "Dear Colleague" letter on campus sexual assault, replacing it with new interim guidance. Most notably, the new guidance permits colleges to use a “clear and convincing” standard of evidence, rather than the preponderance of evidence standard that the 2011 letter seemed to mandate. "The new guidance also states that colleges may facilitate informal resolutions, including mediation, if all parties agree to participate in that process."
"The Trump administration will unveil more tailored restrictions on travelers from certain countries as a replacement to the controversial travel ban, according to a senior administration official. The new restrictions will vary by country. They could include a ban on travel to the United States, or new restrictions on obtaining a visa for citizens of particular countries." They are expected to be unveiled by Sunday.
In a live-streamed address from Silicon Valley, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a nine-point plan that the tech giant is rolling out over coming months to respond to "efforts by nation-states and private actors to use the social media platform to influence U.S. elections." Most importantly, the company will force all advertisers to disclose what ads they're running to all audiences. “When someone buys political ads on TV or other media, they’re required by law to disclose who paid for them,” Zuckerberg said. “But you still don’t know if you’re seeing the same messages as everyone else. So we’re going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency. Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser’s page and see the ads they’re currently running to any audience on Facebook.”
As "part of a broader Trump administration order for anti-leaks training at all executive branch agencies," Environmental Protection Agency employees "are attending mandatory training sessions this week to reinforce their compliance with laws and rules against leaking classified or sensitive government information ... Relatively few EPA employees deal with classified files, but the new training also reinforces requirements to keep 'Controlled Unclassified Information' from unauthorized disclosure."