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House GOP Leader Blames Freedom Caucus For Midterm Defeat

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) blamed the far-right House Freedom Caucus for costing Republicans control of the chamber in a private call with his donors  specifically, he said, by forcing the GOP to include an end to pre-existing condition protections in their Affordable Care Act repeal bill:

“When we couldn’t pass the repeal of Obamacare the first way through, an amendment came because the Freedom Caucus wouldn’t vote for” the original House bill, McCarthy said. “That amendment put [the] preexisting condition campaign against us, and so even people who are running for the very first time got attacked on that. And that was the defining issue and the most important issue in the race.”

McCarthy’s account accurately describes the dynamics of passing the American Health Care Act, the Republican ACA alternative, in 2017: After an initial version of the bill was withdrawn due to opposition from both the Freedom Caucus and GOP moderates, Meadows and Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) crafted an amendment that would give states the ability to waive protections for people with preexisting conditions.

These comments effectively reiterate a key point that Republican leaders admitted on the day after the midterm election: their attempts to repeal Obamacare are dead and buried. The party recognizes how reviled this policy is with the public, and now the only thing left is to assign blame for having the thought in the first place.

The Freedom Caucus, which took a drubbing in 2018 with the loss of members including Reps. David Brat (R-VA), Rod Blum (R-IA), and Mark Sanford (R-SC), promptly hit back, with chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) calling McCarthy’s remarks “very troublesome” and an “us-versus-them mentality.”

In fairness, the Freedom Caucus can’t take all the blame for making health care repeal toxic. While health care was indeed the key issue that swung the election, the GOP’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) was broadly hated even before Republicans inserted the “MacArthur Amendment.”

Moreover, it is not exactly like the GOP leadership was in any way reluctant to help the Freedom Caucus undermine Obamacare’s signature provision. Then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) touted the MacArthur Amendment, saying it “strengthens” the repeal bill. McCarthy himself reportedly inspired GOP House members to vote for the bill by projecting an image of George Patton, and gleefully celebrated on the White House lawn with President Donald Trump and other Republicans after the House passed the measure.

That being said, it is certainly true that the Freedom Caucus has been a thorn in the GOP’s side for years, withholding votes from key bills in order to force more draconian spending cuts to discretionary spending. McCarthy has long had bad blood with them he had been next in line to replace former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) after his 2015 resignation, but the Freedom Caucus’ refusal to back him was what ultimately led to Ryan getting the job.

If there is one silver lining for the Republican Party leadership in losing the House, it is that the Freedom Caucus no longer has the power to hold anyone hostage. For the first time since their founding in 2015, they are facing a Democratic majority that neither needs nor wants their votes for anything. And if not the entire cause, the Freedom Caucus surely bears some of the credit for this state of affairs.

IMAGE: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Capitol Hill in Washington. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The Women Are Saving Our Country — So Be Thankful

For the last Thanksgiving or two, Americans could be excused for wondering why exactly they ought to be giving thanks, as they watched a cruel and ignorant man abuse the highest office to degrade our country. Since November 2016, Donald Trump has imperiled all of the great gifts that we inherited as a nation, and inflamed the most disturbing suspicions about his loyalty. Thankful is not what most of us feel when we ponder his presidency, today or any other day.

But this November, the smashing result of the midterm elections refreshed our hopes and renewed our democracy. So on Thanksgiving, I feel deeply obliged to express my gratitude to those who drove that victory.

The women.

From the very first day, women have led the political and cultural resistance to Trump’s presidency, seeing its nascent authoritarianism as a threat to their autonomy and freedom. Still furious over the undemocratic defeat of Hillary Clinton, they rose up in unprecedented millions to organize and lead the Women’s March on January 22, 2017, dwarfing the celebration of his inauguration and putting him and his regime on notice.

Echoed by massive demonstrations in cities and towns around the United States and the world, all the way to Antarctica, the march famously became the largest single day of protest in American history. And yet a jaded note could be heard in much of the response, in the mainstream media at least, as observers wondered aloud whether the marchers could sustain that day’s commitments in political action.

The answer to that question arrived, loudly and decisively, on November 6, 2018.

During the months between the march and the midterm, American women mounted an unprecedented political mobilization in their neighborhoods, under various organizational names and rubrics. Women with years of experience in politics and women who had never done politics at all; women of every ethnic and religious background; women who had supported Hillary and women who had supported Bernie; women who had done every sort of work and women who had lived and loved in every sort of family; in short, women of every kind stepped forward to defend essential values.

Hints of what that upsurge might eventually achieve could be glimpsed in a series of special elections that were electrified by the work of women activists and an outpouring of women voters — including the Georgia Congressional race in a deep red district that Jon Ossoff lost narrowly, and the Alabama Senate race that Doug Jones stunningly won.

But the most promising portent came when the women began to declare themselves as candidates for nearly every legislative and administrative office, in numbers never seen before in any cycle. As Think Progress noted:

A record 272 women ran as general election nominees for U.S. Congress or governor this year, with 124 elected thus far. An equally historic 219 people of color were nominated, with at least 115 elected. For the first time, Native American women and Muslim women will serve in Congress. Massachusetts and Connecticut elected their first Black women to Congress, and Texas its first Latinas. Women will represent Arizona and Tennessee in the Senate and serve as governors of Maine and South Dakota for the first time, as well.

Indeed, female candidates overall and women of color in particular outperformed the average. Their candidacies were critical in returning control of the House to the Democrats and staving off a much worse loss for their party in the Senate.

New stars were born in this election, from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York to Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan to Katie Porter in California, and many more. It is important to recognize not just the victorious but also the defeated whose brave efforts contributed so greatly to the blue wave. Their ranks include Stacy Abrams, the extraordinary Georgia gubernatorial nominee who displayed such grit and dignity in the face of an election rigged by her opponent, and Heidi Heitkamp, who cast a principled vote against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at great cost to her own electability. In a nationalized election, every viable candidate matters.

And then there is Nancy Pelosi, the once and future Speaker, who fought Trump and the Republicans on every issue, then led the Democrats back into the majority. Pragmatic and compassionate, sensitive and tough, she is a masterful tactician whose leadership is more valuable now than ever.

Yes, I’m thankful for the women who have stood up and defied expectations. They gave us the best day of the Trump presidency so far. And they may yet save our country.

IMAGE: Hundreds of thousands march down Pennsylvania Avenue during the Women’s March, January 22, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

Danziger: War Of Words

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

#EndorseThis: How Colbert Celebrated Democratic Victory

The Late Show went live on Election Night, allowing Stephen Colbert (and his trusty bandleader Jon Batiste) to celebrate the Democratic House victory in real time. He had a bottle of whiskey and a glass on hand in case things went badly wrong — and felt the need for a long gulp when Ted Cruz won.

But the mood was mostly upbeat as Stephen noted that House Democrats, with subpoena power, can now open investigations into the Trump administration. “And we’ll finally find out if Donald Trump has ever done anything unethical!”

And he has a pungent take on Trump’s boast that with him as president, a midterm election is no longer boring.

Just click. We’re beginning to wake up from this nightmare.