House Benghazi Committee Wants $3.3 Million For Latest Investigation

House Benghazi Committee Wants $3.3 Million For Latest Investigation

House Republicans still consumed by uncovering a Benghazi scandal now plan to spend up to $3.3 million to investigate the 2012 attack, according to a document obtained by USA Today from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

According to the document, $2.2 million will go to the seven Republicans serving on the select committee, and just over $1 million will go to the five Democrats.

The investigation is the latest attempt to unearth the conspiracy that the GOP claims the Obama administration — specifically President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — orchestrated in the wake of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012. Over the past two years, Republicans have launched seven investigations to prove criminal wrongdoing on the administration’s part, but their efforts have been unsuccessful. The GOP’s failure to prove its claims has already cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Meanwhile, Democrats argue that Republicans are using the tragic event for their party’s own political gain.

House Republicans are now planning to spend more for their next investigation than many other key House committees receive in a year. The House Veterans Affairs Committee, which comprises 25 lawmakers and is investigating the widespread problems related to the Department of Veterans Affairs, was granted a budget of only $3 million. The House Ethics Committee, too, has a budget of only $3 million.

Also, as USA Today points out, because the Benghazi select committee was actually formed in May, its full-year budget would exceed $5 million, which is greater than the $4.4 million budget granted to the House Intelligence Committee.

Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who heads the select committee, argues that the budget is necessary because the Benghazi panel will require more resources — like greater staffing and travel means — than other committees. Those resources will, however, be used by Gowdy and Republicans to re-ask all the same questions that have already been answered in previous Benghazi probes. As the Huffington Post notes, the three questions essential to Gowdy’s investigation have already come up in previous Benghazi inquiries:

1. “Why was security lacking during the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.?”
2. “Why weren’t military units moving to support consulate personnel?”
3. “Why were references to ‘terrorist’ and ‘attacks’ edited out of the Obama administration’s talking points?”

Additionally, Gowdy has said he would like to know why the U.S. was still in Benghazi at the time of the attack, and exactly where the president was on the night of the attack; these, too, have already been asked and answered.

While Gowdy and the six other Republicans serving on the committee question the Obama administration’s role in Benghazi, they ignore that just a year before the Benghazi attack, Secretary Clinton warned that GOP-backed cuts to the U.S. State Department would be “detrimental to America’s national security.” Still, in June 2011, Republicans — two of whom, Reps. Jim Jordan (OH) and Martha Roby (AL), now serve on Gowdy’s panel — voted in favor of a bill that would have limited the use of funds to support NATO operations in Libya. That same month, House Republicans — including Gowdy and the five other GOP lawmakers on the committee — also blocked a bill that would have authorized the limited use of U.S. Armed Forces in Libya.

In 2012, Republicans proposed cuts to the Obama administration’s requested embassy security budget, and in 2013 — even in the midst of their Benghazi outcry — House Republicans again backed decreased funding for the State Department’s Worldwide Security Program.

Despite their refusal to support the cost of increasing U.S. security overseas, Republicans today have no problem spending additional millions to re-investigate the type of attack that such security could have prevented. If Gowdy and his fellow Republicans’ focus is truly on ensuring that an attack like the one that occurred in Benghazi never happens again, perhaps it would be more fiscally responsible to invest the millions of dollars currently going to the Benghazi committee somewhere that could actually help prepare for or even prevent future attacks.

Of course, this investment would force the House GOP to go silent on an issue it believes could stain Democrats ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, and Clinton before the 2016 presidential election. After all, those are the true objectives of this expensive, taxpayer-funded investigation.

Photo: House GOP via Flickr

Report: Restaurant CEOs Make 721 Times More Than Their Minimum-Wage Employees

Report: Restaurant CEOs Make 721 Times More Than Their Minimum-Wage Employees

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute highlights the widening earnings gap between minimum-wage workers and restaurant CEOs.

According to the EPI, a full-time employee making minimum wage will earn $15,080 — below the 2013 and 2014 federal poverty lines for a two-person household — over the course of a full year.

Compare that number to the average $10,872,390 that a top restaurant CEO earned in 2013. As the report explains, this means that a restaurant CEO, on average, earned 721 times more than the average minimum-wage worker.

Alarmingly, that 721-1 ratio is much higher than that of just eight years ago. Back in 2006, the ratio of restaurant CEO pay to the minimum wage was 609-1. That gap actually narrowed dramatically just two years later, when Congress passed the most recent minimum-wage hike; that left the ratio at approximately 250-1. After 2008, however, it continuously widened, and peaked between 2011 and 2012.

As demonstrated in the chart below, 2013’s 721-1 ratio is among the largest gaps of the last decade.

EPI Minimum Wage Restaurant CEO chart

One of the first steps towards narrowing the gap would be raising the minimum wage again. CEOs’ pay — which relies more heavily on other economic factors — may continue to rise, but a minimum-wage hike would drastically improve the lives of restaurant employees who often depend on federal safety net programs to provide for themselves and their families.

Many economists and lawmakers — most of whom lean left, such as President Barack Obama — continue to argue for a higher minimum wage to combat the negative economic and social implications of income inequality in the U.S.

Among opponents of a minimum-wage increase, however, is the National Restaurant Association, which represents the CEOs included in the EPI study.

According to the group, a federal minimum-wage hike would force restaurateurs to “limit hiring, increase prices, cut employee hours or implement a combination of all three to pay for the wage increase.” And as several states and even cities across the nation increase their minimum wages on their own — Seattle just passed legislation that will increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next seven years — franchise restaurants warn that the measures are detrimental to businesses and jobs.

But the U.S. Department of Labor calls those claims “myths,” pointing out that employers in California “are required to pay servers the full minimum wage ($9 per hour beginning July 1) – before tips,” and “even with a minimum wage boost coming this summer, the National Restaurant Association projects California restaurant sales will outpace the U.S. average in 2014.” Also, while “employers in San Francisco must pay tipped workers the full minimum wage of $10.74 per hour — before tips,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics still finds that the San Francisco restaurant industry has “experienced positive job growth over the past few years.”

A Congressional Budget Office report also finds that while 500,000 jobs may be lost, a federal wage increase could lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty.

Speaking on the wage hike passed in Seattle, McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson reluctantly gave the increase his stamp of approval.

“McDonald’s will be fine. We’ll manage through whatever the additional cost implications are,” Thompson said in May. If other restaurant CEOs could accept that, they too would “manage,” even if they had to pay their employees just a few dollars more.

Photo: The All-Nite Images via Flickr

Chart via Economic Policy Institute

GOP Forced To Walk Thin Line After Hobby Lobby Ruling

GOP Forced To Walk Thin Line After Hobby Lobby Ruling

The Supreme Court officially adjourned for the summer on Monday, but not before bestowing Republicans with a double-edged sword in the form of a major ruling.

The Court’s 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby struck down a key provision of the Affordable Care Act that had required employer-provided health care to include contraception coverage for women, even if the employer objected to birth control on the basis of religion. Republicans hailed the decision as a victory for religious freedom and the Republican National Committee released a statement thanking the Court for ruling “on the side of liberty.”

For the GOP, the Hobby Lobby decision does present some cause for celebration: The ruling calls attention to religious freedom — a cause touted by the right — and serves as ammunition for Republicans who claim that Obamacare is a flawed and oppressive law.

However, the Court’s ruling also serves as a reminder of just how cautiously the GOP must tread when speaking on any issue in a social and cultural context. In 2012, Republicans paid a heavy price for their increasingly militant and unpopular positions on social issues, and in 2014 they cannot afford to speak too loudly on social issues just months ahead of midterm elections.

As a Democracy Corps analysis pointed out in February, 2012, the public has long disagreed with Republicans on contraception and Planned Parenthood funding. According to the survey, voters “wonder why at a time of great economic distress, Republicans are consumed with denying birth control coverage for women.” With the Hobby Lobby ruling dominating the news, the GOP must again confront contraception and women’s access to health care services, among other social issues — ones on which women and young voters tend to side with Democrats.

Voters have not shifted towards the Republican point of view on the issue. Just one day before the Supreme Court released its Hobby Lobby decision, Reuters revealed the findings of a new Reuters/Ipsos poll: When asked “whether employers should be able to choose what forms of contraceptives their health plans provide based on their religious beliefs,” 53 percent of Americans disagreed — and only 35 percent agreed.

A Gallup poll released in May similarly found that a massive 89 percent of Americans — including 88 percent of Republicans — say that the use of birth control is morally acceptable.

Recognizing public support for contraception methods, the GOP must make sure that its praise for the Hobby Lobby ruling does not translate into anti-contraception or anti-women’s rights cheers. But early returns suggest that controlling politicians’ reactions to the decision might prove difficult.

On Monday, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) agreed with Andrew Wilkow, host of Sirius XM’s The Wilkow Majority, that women use contraception to protect themselves from “recreational behavior.” Meanwhile, Karl Rove made sure to remind America that the true issue concerns women’s access to birth control and abortion, telling Fox News’ America’s Newsroom that the “country is becoming more pro-life.”

“Should somebody be forced to violate their moral beliefs by having to pay for something they believe causes an abortion?” Rove asked.

Along with having to rein in the jolliest of the right, the GOP must also now fend off attacks from Democrats who say that Republicans’ response to the Court’s decision proves the GOP platform is anti-women. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has already attacked Republican Senate candidates who would support “radical, anti-woman measures that would go even further than today’s decision.” The DSCC specifically called out GOP Senate hopefuls “including Cory Gardner (CO), Joni Ernst (IA), Thom Tillis (NC), [and] Terri Lynn Land (MI)” for supporting policies that could “outlaw popular forms of birth control” — an attack that will surely be repeated throughout the remainder of the midterm campaigns.

Photo: Afagen via Flickr

McConnell Promises To Fight Abortions If GOP Wins Control Of Senate

McConnell Promises To Fight Abortions If GOP Wins Control Of Senate

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is hard at work on the Senate’s agenda — that is, of course, if Republicans take over in November.

As Cortney O’Brien reports at the conservative site Town Hall, McConnell used the last day of the National Right to Life Convention to vow that he and his fellow Republicans would pursue “pro-life” policies and measures if control of the Senate shifts right after the midterm elections.

“I’m proud of my record and defense of life. If I was Majority Leader, we’d already have had a vote on it [abortion limits] in the Senate. It’s long past time for us to join the ranks of most other civilized nations to protect children past 20 weeks in the womb,” the passionate McConnell said at the convention.

McConnell was specifically referencing a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill, written by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), immediately sparked criticism from the left and from women’s health advocates, who note that most abortions that occur after the 20-week period are related to health issues that threaten the mother or fetus — or both. Without any support from Democrats — and even lacking full support from the Senate GOP — the bill’s future appears grim.

Even if the bill miraculously garnered the support needed to pass the Senate and the House, President Barack Obama would surely veto it.

Still, McConnell — who points to his early planning as evidence that he would serve as a “better scheduler” than current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) — projects optimism about limiting access to abortions. “For six years, the president has been isolated from this growing movement … He will be forced to listen to the cause that’s brought us all here this morning … Senate Dems would be forced to take a stand,” the Kentucky senator said.

McConnell made the comments in Kentucky on Saturday, but the spiel probably would have lasted longer if he had spoken on Monday, when the Supreme Court announced its ruling in the Hobby Lobby case. The 5-4 decision struck down a key provision of the Affordable Care Act that required all employer-provided insurance to include contraception coverage, even if the employers have religious objections to contraception methods. Immediately after the announcement, the Republican National Committee praised the Court for ruling “on the side of liberty.”

The ruling — a narrow decision that does not actually prohibit the federal government from providing contraception coverage for women or from requiring that employer-provided health care provide other key areas of coverage, despite employers’ religious objections — may encourage Republicans to take a firmer stance on abortion.

After its great 2012 losses, the GOP has attempted to steer clear of social issues that have largely shaped its platform, but also alienated significant populations of the electorate, like women and minorities. However, growing tension between moderate Republicans and Tea Party Republicans has forced GOP politicians to reconsider their strategy. Still, the possibility exists that Republicans who remind voters of the GOP’s narrow and unchanging positions risk again driving moderate voters in the direction of the Democratic Party.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Marriage Equality: Coming To A State Near You

Marriage Equality: Coming To A State Near You

United States v. Windsor was a landmark decision. The U.S. Supreme Court’s momentous ruling, which found the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment, opened the door for states across the country to set out on their own in advancing marriage equality for all Americans.

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

Windsor quickly became the catalyst for 20 additional marriage equality cases around the country, all of which have resulted in victories for proponents of gay rights.

Today, same-sex couples are able to marry legally in 19 states; 10 of those states legalized same-sex marriage in either 2013 or 2014, demonstrating just how quickly the movement is advancing. It took a decade for the previous nine to recognize marriage equality.

In an additional 11 states, courts have struck down bans on same-sex marriage, but appeals are pending.

Bans still exist in 20 states — an overwhelming number that proves only that the fight for marriage equality is far from over. All 20 bans are currently being challenged in court, however.

The last unchallenged same-sex marriage ban existed in North Dakota, but on June 6, Minneapolis-based civil rights attorney Joshua Newville — who previously challenged South Dakota’s ban — challenged it as unconstitutional.

This means that the fight for marriage equality has now reached every single U.S. state.

While the issue is just beginning to gain traction in states like the Dakotas, same-sex marriage already seems headed for victory in other states.

Wisconsin residents may witness the next win, despite the inevitable bumps ahead: Earlier this month, a federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s 2006 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, but the decision is on hold pending an appeal.

Considering that since Windsor, not a single challenged ban on same-sex nuptials has survived in a federal court, the most recent rulings on hold in six other states — Idaho, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan and Virginia — will most likely stand once appeals make it to the top court.

Photo: Susan Melkisethian via Flickr

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New Poll Is Bad News For Obama, But Not The End Of His Presidency

New Poll Is Bad News For Obama, But Not The End Of His Presidency

With a new NBC News/Wall Street Journalpoll revealing unfavorable approval ratings for President Barack Obama, some are apparently ready to declare the death of his presidency.

“I mean, essentially the public is saying your presidency is over,” NBC’s Chuck Todd said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, just hours after the poll was released on Wednesday.

The poll that Todd described as a “disaster for the president” is certainly not good news for the White House: Only 41 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing, and a 54 percent majority say they are not confident that the president “is able to lead the country and get the job done.” Additionally, 42 percent believe the administration’s performance has worsened over the past year; only 15 percent say it has improved.

As the WSJ notes, the latest numbers arrive in the midst of “foreign crises and domestic economic unease” that many seem to blame on President Obama, or at least attribute to his lack of leadership. Only 37 percent approve of Obama’s handling of foreign policy; 30 percent approve of the deal to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban; and 41 percent approve of the state of the economy.

However, Todd and others who say the poll is evidence that the president is finished are ignoring its other notable findings. The poll reveals increased — and overwhelming — public support for Obama-backed policies on issues related to climate change, education, and immigration. And despite GOP-launched attacks on the president’s handling of the VA scandal, only 14 percent blame the problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs on the Obama administration.

Additionally, Democrats in November’s elections are not completely doomed by the poll’s findings. Democrats still lead Republicans on the generic congressional ballot, 45 to 43 percent, and respondents say they plan to vote for the Democratic candidate in their congressional district over the Republican candidate by a 35 percent to 30 percent margin. Additionally, a 41 percent plurality say their vote in November won’t be a signal to President Obama (34 percent say their vote will be a signal of opposition to the president, while 24 percent say it will be a signal of support). These numbers won’t give Democrats much of a tangible advantage, given how favorable the electoral map is for Republicans, but they do run counter to the narrative that the president will be an anchor on Democratic hopes in the midterms.

Obama’s low approval ratings in the NBC News/WSJ poll are not even the lowest of his presidency. In December, a Quinnipiac University poll found that only 38 percent of Americans approved of the president’s job performance — his lowest number yet, but also evidence that he has bounced back from worse. And there’s one last silver lining for the president: Other polls have found his approval rating to be higher. According to the Huffington Post’s average, Obama’s approval sits at 45 percent.

Todd’s comments on the poll can be seen below:

AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski

Video via MSNBC

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New Poll Finds Majority Of Americans Back President On Climate Change

New Poll Finds Majority Of Americans Back President On Climate Change

A new NBC/Wall Street Journalpoll released Wednesday is receiving widespread attention for showing a decline in President Obama’s approval rating, but another major result is flying under the radar: Americans overwhelmingly want to see action on climate change.

According to the poll, a whopping 61 percent of Americans say that either “immediate action” or “some action” must be taken on climate change. Just 13 percent feel no action should be taken. Another 24 percent think that additional research is necessary before acting.

The poll also shows that an overwhelming 67 percent “strongly” or “somewhat support” the EPA’s recently-announced regulations that would limit carbon emissions from existing power plants — 29 percent oppose it, and 19 percent strongly oppose it.

Many congressional Republicans have spoken out against the proposal, warning of its dire consequences for the U.S. economy. However, only 39 percent of Americans believe that federal regulations like the EPA proposal would result in job losses and force energy prices to rise. A 53 percent majority say the opposite, and also think that regulations are necessary for cleaner air and fewer natural disasters.

The increased support for climate change proposals demonstrates more than just widespread belief in climate change and the need to act to slow it; the numbers prove that Americans side with Democrats and the White House over Republicans on a subject that is gaining more traction under the Obama administration.

Considering that Republicans have already solidified their position on climate change, Democrats could use the issue to appeal to concerned voters. In fact, the NBC/WSJ poll finds that — as opposed to 2009, when only 48 percent of those surveyed were in favor of climate change proposals even if that meant higher utility bills — a greater 57 percent now support federal regulations that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even if they have to pay more as a result. Only 39 percent say differently. If Democrats shift the discussion from climate change and the economy to climate change and health implications, they could turn the issue into one of their best weapons ahead of the elections.

Still, despite the poll’s findings — which are derived from surveying 1,000 adults across the nation — this will not be an easy task for all Democrats. Red-state candidates — especially in states like Louisiana and Kentucky, where the energy industry plays a major role in the economy — may still be quite vulnerable to attacks on the issue.

The poll was conducted June 11 through June 15 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.

AFP Photo/Patrik Stollarz

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Meet The New Campaign To Pressure Both Parties On Women’s Economic Concerns

Meet The New Campaign To Pressure Both Parties On Women’s Economic Concerns

Tuesday marks the launch of Make It Work, a three-year, non-profit campaign that hopes to call attention to women’s economic security — or, one may argue, insecurity.

Make It Work is specifically focused on the economic inequality experienced by women, which the organizers believe is too often ignored or forgotten in broader discussions of income and wealth inequality.

Vivien Labaton, co-director of the campaign, explained to TheNational Memo that as more women graduate college — at increasingly higher rates than their male counterparts — and take on the role of breadwinner in the home, the gender wealth gap may be easily overlooked. Make It Work seeks to remedy this by seizing upon the opportunity that the 2014 midterm elections and 2016 presidential election present for women: a chance for them to use their “highly coveted votes” as a means of ensuring that candidates answer for the economic concerns that plague women’s lives and threaten their economic security.

Considering that women account for approximately two-thirds of all minimum-wage workers in the United States, candidates from either party could suffer by ignoring the reality that wealth inequality and gender pay gaps disproportionately impact women. Through online ads and on-the-ground organizing tactics in three soon-to-be announced targeted states, Make It Work will push the message that any candidate who addresses these issues deserves women’s support during election season.

The campaign is avoiding overt partisanship, but Democrats presently stand to gain more from the movement than their Republican opponents. Because the issues at hand require remedies that exist only through policy reform and legislative action, and Make It Work’s strategy relies heavily on the influence of women’s votes in political elections, an absolute divorce from party politics seems impossible.

Women’s votes could determine whether Democrats retain control over the Senate in 2015. Women now make up 53 percent of the electorate, and in the 2012 presidential election, 55 percent voted for President Barack Obama. The 2012 presidential election also saw an increase in unmarried female voters, to 25 percent of the electorate; nearly tw0-thirds of them voted for Obama. Democrats will need to keep those numbers high to compete in competitive midterm races.

Both parties recognize the weight of women’s votes — but they have considerably different approaches as they attempt to appeal to women. Facing the accusation that they have waged a war on women, Republicans have backed away from specific women’s issues and focused more on merely disputing the claim that said war exists — or at least that they are waging it.

The dialogue among elected Democrats goes deeper. In an effort to mobilize voters of both genders, Democrats have focused on income inequality and introduced legislative initiatives — like a minimum-wage hike — to tackle this challenge. Democrats — including the president — have also assumed the role of outspoken defenders of women’s economic rights, explicitly tying wealth and income inequality to gender discrimination and the gender pay gap. With legislative proposals like the Paycheck Fairness Act — a bill that would, among other things, allow women to fight for fair and equal pay — Democrats are confronting women’s issues far more directly than Republicans. Whether this earns them Make It Work’s support remains to be seen.

Even if it does, Democratic candidates — especially those in red states — will face an uphill battle. The issues most important to most Americans — and, specifically, women — are those that influence and shape the Democratic Party’s platform, and yet these positions are often distracted from and distorted.

Wealth inequality and women’s economic security can define the next few months or even the next years, but only if men and women force candidates to answer to the unequal economic realities of so many Americans in order to win an election.

As Labaton puts it, this is not a “persuasion challenge,” but rather an “activation challenge.”

Yet she remains hopeful. “We know the potential is huge,” she says.

Photo: Sarahstierch via Flickr

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Alarming Report Sheds Light On Concentrated Poverty Among U.S. Students

Alarming Report Sheds Light On Concentrated Poverty Among U.S. Students

A new report released Tuesday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reveals an alarming trend of concentrated poverty in schools across the nation.

Using data collected through U.S. schools’ community eligibility program — a school lunch and breakfast initiative that provides students free meals if they attend schools in high-poverty areas — CBPP finds that over 3,000 school districts meet the requirements necessary for eligibility in the program. To put it more simply: Over 3,000 school districts encompass areas of concentrated high poverty.

Most disturbing is that over 28,000 schools throughout the nation meet these requirements, too. As CBPP’s Robert Greenstein reports, at least 60 percent of students in more than 8,000 of those qualifying schools are labeled as “Identified Students,” or low-income students that receive help through federal safety-net programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), or “are considered at risk of hunger,” possibly because they are homeless or poverty-ridden.

CBPP -- School Poverty


As demonstrated in the chart above, in another 6,000 schools across 44 states, 50 to 60 percent of students are Identified Students.

As Greenstein notes, “this means that in more than 14,000 schools” — over “1 in 10 schools nationwide” — a “majority of the students receive SNAP or are homeless, migrant, or otherwise vulnerable.”

Unfortunately, the numbers get worse: For every 10 Identified Students, the CBPP finds that six additional students come from families that qualify for either reduced-price or free school meals, which suggests that they, too, are economically vulnerable.

The data also serve to reinforce the significance of community eligibility programs. Considering that “nearly 16 million American children live in households that struggle against hunger,” offering free breakfast and lunch in over 28,000 U.S. schools is especially important and has much deeper implications for students. Research has long shown that students who face food insecurity are less likely to succeed in school, because they tend to miss more days, not focus in class, and struggle with behavioral and academic difficulties. While the community eligibility program is certainly not a remedy for widespread poverty, it is a positive treatment for a particular population affected by this already existing economic instability; the community eligibility program can help students who often fall through the cracks because of economic insecurity and deprivation.

Photo: USDAGov via Flickr

Chart via Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

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Ken Cuccinelli Named New President Of Senate Conservatives Fund

Ken Cuccinelli Named New President Of Senate Conservatives Fund

As Tea Partiers rejoice over Dave Brat’s shocking primary victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), another conservative Virginia politician who was not as lucky in last year’s elections is getting a chance to advance the movement.

Former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli — who lost to Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the commonwealth’s 2013 gubernatorial race — will be the next president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a right-wing political action committee founded by former senator Jim DeMint (R-SC).

Cuccinelli says he is prepared “to take on Republican incumbents who’ve lost their way” as president of the SCF, a group that has spent millions assisting Tea Party-aligned candidates in primary races against establishment or moderate Republicans.

“I’m honored to serve as the next president of the Senate Conservatives Fund. I’ve always had tremendous respect for this organization and applaud its members for working to elect principled conservatives,” Cuccinelli said in a statement on the SCF website. “SCF has given our nation’s grassroots a powerful voice and I’m excited to join them in the fight. I look forward to working with the hundreds of thousands of SCF supporters across the nation to help change Washington.”

Despite his 2013 loss and ties to the corrupt Bob McDonnell administration, Cuccinelli remains a well-admired politician in conservatives circles. Cuccinelli used the months following his failed campaign helping to represent Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) NSA-related lawsuit against the Obama administration. Aside from making news with the lawsuit, which even the National Review deemed “frivolous” — and which also grew controversial when Cuccinelli was accused of having stolen the case filing from another attorney — the former attorney general has, for the most part, stayed out of the headlines.

Matt Hoskins, executive director of the SCF, calls Cuccinelli a “principled fighter who is respected by the grassroots and is passionate about electing the next generation of conservative leaders.”

The SCF’s current congressional leaders include well-known conservative senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Mike Lee (R-UT).

As president of the SCF, Cuccinelli will throw his support behind Tea Party-backed senatorial candidates Chris McDaniel (R-MS) and Joni Ernst (R-IA).

In a video up on the SCF website, Cuccinelli told supporters that “standing up to the Washington establishment isn’t easy, but it’s the right thing to do,” which means “continuing to stand up to the status quo” and “continuing to support conservative candidates” — as long as they stand to the right of the conservatives already in Congress, of course.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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Report: ‘Less Than 1 Percent’ Of Massachusetts Residents Are Now Uninsured

Report: ‘Less Than 1 Percent’ Of Massachusetts Residents Are Now Uninsured

As a number of Republican leaders across the nation continue to demonstrate their opposition to the Affordable Care Act by refusing to expand Medicaid in their states, one state in particular has seen tremendous progress by fully buying into the health care law.

A new report from Massachusetts’ Center for Health Information and Analysis reveals that between December 2013 and March 2014, “as key provisions” of Obamacare were implemented, the state-run Commonwealth Care’s public programs — first established under the state’s 2006 health care reform commonly known as “Romneycare” — and the “largest commercial payers” gained over 250,000 new members. As WBUR’s CommonHealth blog points out, “If that number holds, the percentage of Massachusetts residents who do not have coverage has dropped to less than 1 percent.”

The increased enrollments — reported just a month after a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that Romneycare was linked to decreased rates in mortality in the state — may be partially attributed to the Obama administration’s national campaign in the weeks following the ACA’s launch. Although much of the attention that Obamacare received in those weeks was negative, the reform nonetheless dominated politics and called Americans’ attention to health care, likely resulting in new enrollments in Massachusetts’ health insurance market.

Additionally, as CommonHealth notes, under Obamacare, a greater number of Massachusetts residents are newly eligible for free or subsidized coverage. Others — primarily low-income residents unable to pay the premiums under their employers’ plans, but prohibited from enrolling in state-subsidized insurance because their employers provided access to private health insurance — were now able to enroll in the state’s public programs or receive subsidized insurance, because the ACA struck down the restriction that had previously not allowed them to do so.

As of the end of March 2014, a total of 5.75 million residents were enrolled in either Massachusetts’ commercial health care insurance programs or the public program. This number excludes residents enrolled in Medicare or other federal programs, which means that the total number of insured residents is even higher.

Despite the good news, some in the state fear that the numbers will not hold up.

Lora Pellegrini, president of Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, tells CommonHealth that a majority of the new enrollees are not yet locked into a permanent plan, but rather a temporary coverage plan. This is because the state is still trying to figure out if these people qualify for free or subsidized care — an obstacle that first arose from the failure of Massachusetts’ Health Connector website, which is now being replaced by the federal site. When transitioning into a permanent plan, some of these new enrollees will learn that they do not qualify for free or even subsidized care. So how many will be willing to pay a premium without any help?

“The real challenge is going to be to move these folks from the temporary coverage into the permanent coverage where they belong, and then see if we’re able to retain these numbers,” Pellegrini says.

CHIA director Aron Boros agrees, and cautions that though the “numbers are a sign that we are moving in the right direction … there is still a lot of uncertainty about what they will ultimately mean to the total level of health insurance coverage” in the state.

Even so, the numbers are big news for Massachusetts and may just mark the first state in the U.S. able to boast a nearly zero percent rate of uninsured residents. Gail Wilensky, a senior fellow at Project Hope and former health care advisor to President George H.W. Bush, tells CommonHealth that if the “numbers are actually correct – that’s a big if – this is good.”

Screenshot via Massachusetts Health Connector

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6 GOP Candidates Who Have No Idea What They Want To Do About Health Care



Although many conservatives are becoming desperate to distance themselves – and their party – from the “repeal or replace” war they have waged on the Affordable Care Act, several Republican candidates running in 2014 have proven unwilling or unable to cut the cord.

With Election Day just months away, many GOP candidates now find themselves on the defensive, as hopes of repealing the law slowly die, and they struggle to introduce their own “replace” plans.

Read on to learn which six Republicans cannot actually explain what “replacing” Obamacare would entail, but are nonetheless vowing to do so.

AFP Photo/Karen Bleier

Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is a longtime foe of Obamacare, which he described in the past as a “reform that denies, delays or rations health care.”

As an alternative, McConnell says, “What I would have done instead is first of all tear down the walls, the 50 separate silos in which health insurance is controlled, and pit all the health insurance companies against each other in a national competitive market. Competition almost always works to keep prices down and quality up.”

As TheWashington Post points out, this simple idea already has holes: Namely, the hundreds of thousands of Kentucky residents who cannot afford to buy health insurance, and depend on Medicaid. Approximately 300,000 Kentuckians have obtained coverage through the state’s Medicaid expansion, and an additional 300,000 residents are not yet covered.

To deal with this issue, McConnell suggests allowing Kentucky to keep expanded Medicaid up to 133 percent of cost if it is what residents want. Of course, the senator did not elaborate on how Kentucky would pay for that expansion without the Affordable Care Act (the bill would run approximately $584 million per year). He also did not acknowledge that his “replacement” model is more of a pick-and-choose repeal effort.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Tom Cotton

Tom Cotton

A staunch opponent of Obamacare, freshman U.S. representative Tom Cotton (R-AR) maintains that he wants “every Arkansan” and “every American” to have “quality, affordable access to health care.”

However, when asked to actually specify an alternative to Obamacare that would ensure this, Cotton did the usual GOP dance. “Once we repeal Obamacare, Arkansas, like every state, will address its own needs, hopefully with a Medicaid system that has been returned to them and lets them address their needs for the entire state,” he answered.

Cotton also refused to take a stance on Arkansas’ “private option” plan — which uses Medicaid funds to purchase health insurance for low-income residents – calling it a “state-based issue.” Meanwhile, he failed to acknowledge that the private option — which has allowed 100,000 Arkansas residents to obtain coverage, and is expected to help an additional 100,000 do the same — exists only if Obamacare does, too.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Scott Brown

Scott Brown 427x321

New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown  — who, as a Massachusetts state senator, helped pass the “Romneycare” law on which the Affordable Care Act is largely based — despises Obamacare and wants it fully repealed. According to Brown, the Affordable Care Act is the “biggest issue in New Hampshire,” which is now asking for federal approval to implement its own private option alternative to Medicaid expansion that would use Obamacare funds to provide 50,000 poor residents with private health insurance. He is shy about elaborating on an alternative plan, however.

“I’m not going to get into any particulars,” he told reporters in May. “I know you want the details on a plan, but I think I’ve made a general concept as to what has been done.”

Oddly, the only thing Brown has made clear is that if he could fully repeal Obamacare, he would still want to ensure that beneficiaries get “grandfathered in,” so they do not lose coverage. Brown has still not explained how that could work.

Photo: Talk Radio News Service via Flickr

Terri Lynn Land

Terri Lynn Land

“The fact remains that Obamacare is driving up costs, causing people to lose their doctors and their plans, and it’s cutting Medicare,” Republican Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land (MI) said in a press call marking the four-year anniversary of the president’s signing of the Affordable Care Act in March.

Still, Land — who supports a full repeal of the law — has not introduced an alternative to the reform. Nor has she taken a stance on Michigan’s Medicaid expansion, through which 270,000 low-income people — half of the 477,000 uninsured and eligible residents — have already gained coverage. Land only says that she “applauds” Michigan governor Rick Snyder – who is opting to expand Medicaid in the state — for “doing what he believes is best for Michigan families, while complying with mandates from Congress brought down in Obamacare.”

Photo: Terri Land via YouTube

Shelley Moore Capito

Shelley Moore Capito

Representative Shelley Moore Capito’s (R-WV) senatorial campaign wants very little to do with the Affordable Care Act, which she acknowledges will be probably not be repealed despite her own wishes.

Yet, she still finds the law flawed and argues that “there are changes that need to be made,” and “we’ve got to reform it and make it work for children, families, and businesses.”

However, Capito has not elaborated on these “changes” or “reforms.” She also ignores the fact that West Virginia’s rate of Medicaid enrollments is second in the United States since it expanded the program under the Affordable Care Act, and she refuses to answer whether or not the state should continue with the expansion.

Photo: House GOP via YouTube

Thom Tillis

Thom Tillis

North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, the Republican candidate for Senate in North Carolina — where the fight for Medicaid expansion continues — wants a full repeal of Obamacare, but does not have his own replacement plan.

When asked if he agrees with Senator Richard Burr’s (R-NC) alternative plan — which does not involve a full repeal of the ACA — Tillis answered that the “outline” is worthy of consideration, but refused to give a firm answer.

Tillis’ own vision is similarly vague and again turns into just old Obamacare-bashing rhetoric. “I think there’s a lot of things we can do if we focus on a systematic approach to eliminating the bad,” he said in February. “Let’s focus on the [safety] net problem versus a policy that’s creating as many problems as it fixes in terms of health care, and then it’s also creating the most devastating problem of a deficit and debt that we can’t afford.”

Photo: AndrewMurray4DA via Flickr

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Chart: Wage Inequality Has Dramatically Increased Over Past Three Decades

Chart: Wage Inequality Has Dramatically Increased Over Past Three Decades

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute, released Tuesday, highlights the increasingly prevalent and disparate effects of wage inequality. With a focus on same-gender wage gaps, the report demonstrates that income inequality affects all Americans, and reminds us that the implications and scope of the widening wage gap are not limited only to the poorest citizens.

The EPI notes that “since the late 1980s . . . the top has pulled away from everyone else.” As the nation’s wealthiest continued to make more money at the turn of the century, the wages of middle- and lower-class Americans remained relatively stagnant — effectively resulting in a decrease when adjusted to meet higher inflation rates — or increased at a rate slower than that by which the wages of the upper class grew.

According to the EPI, in 1979, the wages of those in the top 95th percentile were 2.2 times higher than the wages of the “typical worker,” or those considered “middle-wage earners,” at the 50th percentile. This “95/50 gap” applied to both men and women.

Over time, however, the disparity has widened.

As shown in the chart below, by 1999, men in the 95th percentile were making 2.7 times more than men in the 50th percentile. The same gap existed among women. Ten years later, in 2009, the wage gap among men had dramatically widened: The top earners were making 3.1 times more than middle-wage earners. The wage gap among women also grew wider, but not as dramatically. The top female earners made 2.8 times more than their middle-wage counterparts.

By 2013, the typical 95th percentile man’s wage was 3.3 times higher than the typical 50th percentile man’s. The same year, the typical 95th percentile woman’s wage was three times higher than the average 50th percentile woman’s wage.

The EPI’s most obvious finding is that inequality is increasing at a quicker pace among male earners than it is among female earners. But other concerns arise from the data. If men and women are disproportionately impacted by income inequality, can one assume that income inequality facilitates more general, societal inequality? Is it possible that the slower rate of income inequality experienced by women is a result of female earners making less than their male counterparts? The notion is alarming because it would prove a direct correlation between the gender pay gap, income inequality and the other forms of inequality that result directly from income inequality.

Today, the data at least prove one thing: The wage gap is widening, and both men and women are feeling it — including those who are in a better position than the nation’s lowest-wage earners.

“The enormous increase in inequality among both men and women over the last 35 years is a testament to the fact that skewed wage growth has become a core economic challenge of our time,” writes economist Heidi Shierholz in the EPI report.

High-wage inequality is, as Shierholz states, the “key wedge between a successful economy … and an unsuccessful economy,” and it is also one of the greatest threats to America’s middle class.

Photo: Brad_crooks via Flickr
Chart via Economic Policy Institute
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In Defense Of Koch Brothers, Tea Party Group Files Ethics Complaint Against ‘Mean-Spirited’ Harry Reid

In Defense Of Koch Brothers, Tea Party Group Files Ethics Complaint Against ‘Mean-Spirited’ Harry Reid

The Tea Party Patriots have had enough of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) crusade against billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. On Monday, the right-wing group filed a formal ethics complaint against Senator Reid, in which they called the Democrat’s campaign against the Kochs an “abuse of power.”

“It’s been generations since a member of the Senate has abused the power of his office to attack private citizens the way Harry Reid has sought to vilify Charles and David Koch,” said Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin.

As The Hill reports, the Tea Party Patriots claim in their complaint that Reid “misused Senate staff or resources to engage in partisan campaign activity in violation of federal laws and Senate rules.”

The group also accuses Reid of using his “mean-spirited” attacks as a means of “unlawfully and unethically targeting private citizens.”

The complaint comes after months of Reid’s very public criticism of the Koch brothers. Reid has openly called the right-wing businessmen “un-American,” and accused them of “rigging the system” and “trying to buy the country” by “dumping unseemly amounts of money” into politics.

Tea Party Patriots are not the first to slam Reid for his attacks; many critics have noted the senator’s more favorable views of other wealthy donors — like Republican billionaire Sheldon Adelson and Democratic businessmen George Soros and Tom Steyer — who have poured millions into politics. Reid has argued that a donor like Adelson is “not in this for the money,” unlike the Koch brothers, whom he believes use their money to ensure policies that benefit their business interests.

But the Tea Party Patriots are equally inconsistent in their own views. The sudden concern for “targeted private citizens” is a change of pace for the group that has launched its own attacks against “private citizen” Karl Rove, another wealthy Republican donor with a long history of spending in politics.

In fact, the original purpose of the Tea Party Patriots involved attacks on others: Tea Party Patriots was founded to advance the larger Tea Party movement’s battle against “establishment” GOP candidates in elections.

Reid is taking the Tea Party Patriots’ concerns as seriously as the Tea Party Patriots take ethics: not too seriously, to say the least.

“We are shocked — shocked! — that a publicity-seeking, extremist Tea Party group which has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Koch brothers’ secret bank would attempt a frivolous publicity stunt to distract from the Kochs’ efforts to rig the system for billionaires like themselves,” Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid, responded, in a reference to the Tea Party Patriots’ connection to the Koch-backed Freedom Partners. “The shadowy, billionaire Koch brothers are pulling out all the stops to get Senator Reid to stop shining a light on their efforts to buy our democracy, but he will not be silenced.”

AFP Photo/Alex Wong

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Koch Brothers’ Dark Money Targets Detroit Bankruptcy Deal

Koch Brothers’ Dark Money Targets Detroit Bankruptcy Deal

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) — the right-wing 501(c)(4) “dark money” group backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch — has singled out its latest target: Detroit, Michigan.

Specifically, the group is mobilizing opposition to the proposed settlement reached in the Detroit municipal bankruptcy case. The settlement, which is the only promising compromise after months of negotiation, now faces the wrath of the same group responsible for millions of dollars of anti-Obamacare propaganda. AFP now vows to spend millions on advertisements against the deal, and to pen threatening letters to lawmakers who vote in favor of the series of bills, which would limit the cuts that threatened over 300,000 workers’ pensions, and prevent the selling of artwork belonging to the city’s museum.

According to CNN, Michigan director of AFP Scott Hagerstrom claims the opposition stems from the deal’s resemblance to a “bailout” rather than an actual settlement.

“Detroit has behaved like this for 30 years. Politicians there won’t change their behavior if they keep getting bailouts from the hardworking taxpayers of Michigan,” Hagerstrom says, referencing Detroit’s long and well-known history of corrupt — and, as those on the right often note, primarily Democratic — rule.

Despite AFP’s opposition, state Republicans are leaning toward advancing the bills.

Republican governor Rick Snyder maintains the deal is a “settlement,” not a “bailout,” stressing: “I want to be very, very clear about that.”

Still, AFP has no plans of backing down, arguing that the “grand bargain” is unfair to the state’s residents, that its reliance on public money to achieve its goals is “very toxic…especially to out-state and Republican, conservative-leaning individuals.”

On AFP’s new website for the effort, the group assumes a “divide and conquer” approach, demanding Michigan voters “tell Lansing politicians that Detroit has gotten enough of our tax dollars.”

Because conservatives are still somewhat hesitant about the settlement, there’s a good chance that AFP could block the bills’ passage in the coming weeks.

Representative Robert VerHeulen (R) admits that he and many on the right worry that the legislation could set a negative precedent for future cities facing economic troubles, but concedes that it must still be considered. Even Snyder acknowledges the high costs, but tells AFP that “it would be more positive to get this behind us.”

The state’s Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger has also introduced a condition for the deal’s passage requiring that city workers’ unions agree to pour cash into the settlement.

Support for the deal from many of Michigan’s most powerful labor unions and retiree groups also complicates the situation, because AFP cites them as a major source of the bankruptcy in the first place, and therefore an illegitimate player in the negotiations.

With the bargain’s future already fogged by partisan fears in Michigan’s legislature — Democrats are wary of Snyder’s use of executive powers as a means of controlling Detroit’s finances — AFP has added further hurdles to the passage of the only serious legislation capable of helping and protecting Detroit’s families, workers, and even culture.

AFP’s alternatives are provisions already rejected by Michigan’s legislature: selling Detroit’s art and other assets, and ditching traditional pension plans in favor of 401(k)-type plans — even if it means risking hundreds of lawsuits against the embattled city. Though Republicans and Democrats voice different concerns over the proposed deal, members of both parties tend to agree on one thing: The AFP-backed measures are out of the question.

Photo: Ifmuth via Flickr

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Report: ‘Claims That Premiums Will Skyrocket Are Unwarranted’

Report: ‘Claims That Premiums Will Skyrocket Are Unwarranted’

Although Republicans and even some insurers anticipate rising health care premiums in the coming year, an Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation joint report released Tuesday could ease those fears.

The report analyzed 2014 premiums for policies on the Affordable Care Act exchanges in Washington, D.C. and seven states: New York, Maryland, Alabama, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, and Oregon. The study’s most notable finding is a correlation, arguably a direct one, between a state’s local health care market and insurance premium rates for the people of that state. A more diverse local health care market often times involves “nongroup” market insurers: Blue Cross plans and startup insurers, among others. The significance of these nongroup markets is found in their influence on the entire health care marketplace. As the report notes, “subsidies in the individual nongroup market are tied to the second lowest cost silver plan,” which then means that “individuals buying a more expensive silver plan or a gold or platinum plan would have to pay additional amounts.” This provides insurers — particularly those outside the nongroup market — greater incentive to “price aggressively to gain market share.” As a result, competing premium rates assigned to an assortment of health plans comprise the marketplace.

If “2014 premiums were moderate and below original expectations” as a result of diverse health care exchanges — established through the ACA — then 2015 rates should be similar, considering that most of the current insurers included in the exchanges plan on staying, and other new insurers will join in the coming year.

“How these scenarios will play out is hard to know, but claims that premiums will skyrocket are unwarranted based on 2014 experience and the evolving conditions for 2015 suggest otherwise as well,” the study says.

Another factor that supports the study’s findings is the inevitable increase in enrollments in the year to come. Competition among insurers participating in the market will be further fueled by greater numbers of Americans obtaining coverage through the exchanges. This also explains why “urban areas” as defined in the report, which boast higher numbers of enrolled Americans, tend to have a more diverse exchange, resulting in lower premiums.

Premiums in urban areas also tend to remain lower than those found in “rural areas,” which often face “difficulty in negotiating with the limited supply of physicians and hospitals” nearby.

Ultimately, diversity plays at least some sort of a role in determining whether or not rates will increase or decrease over time. Even the report concedes that “there may be real reasons to believe that premiums will increase substantially” — but only before adding that such an event would occur “particularly in less competitive states.” As Obamacare experiences increased participation from new and old health insurers and increased enrollments, “there are even stronger reasons to believe that premium increases will be moderate.”

For now, the rates of premiums for insurance plans nationwide make it almost impossible to deny that President Barack Obama’s health care reform has had a substantially positive effect on the cost of health insurance. The news reflects a similarly positive report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Committee that had originally projected Obamacare would cost $41 billion in 2014 alone; the report says that Obamacare coverage provisions are expected to cost $5 billion less in 2014 and $164 billion less in the next 10 years, in no small part due to reduced premium rates.

In spite of new data, hysteria over impending increased premium rates will certainly continue. But those who point to the Affordable Care Act as the source of the problem ignore the law’s capacity to shape the health insurance marketplace and foster competition beneficial to Americans.

AFP Photo/Joe Raedle

Five Tea Party Favorites Headed For Defeat In GOP Primaries

Five Tea Party Favorites Headed For Defeat In GOP Primaries

Republican Party

The 2014 midterm elections are kicking into high gear, with GOP primaries throughout the nation being watched closely as “establishment” Republicans and Democrats alike anticipate the defeat of several Tea Party candidates.

Just four years ago, the Tea Party emerged as a powerful and, for some, fresh force in the Republican Party. Today, however, ultraconservatives are struggling to maintain their foothold against party leaders. As a result, the GOP’s ongoing civil war has been exposed, as the far-right faction battles “establishment” Republicans for control of the party.

The political impact of this infighting is especially transparent ahead of the midterm elections: The Republican Party is increasingly more conservative as even its more moderate members recognize the threat posed by their Tea Party challengers.

But even as Tea Partiers enjoy their influence on the GOP platform, establishment Republicans seem likely to run up the score in primaries across the nation.

Read on to learn which Tea Party candidates are headed for defeat in 2014.

Photo: Steve Rhodes via Flickr

Matt Bevin

Matt Bevin

In Kentucky, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is more of a threat to Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election hopes than his primary challenger, Matt Bevin.

Ahead of Tuesday’s primary, incumbent McConnell enjoys support from 55 percent of his state’s likely Republican voters, according to the most recent Bluegrass Poll. Bevin holds only 35 percent of likely voters’ support.

Photo: BevinForSenate via YouTube

Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith

U.S. Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID) is seeking a ninth House term and his once-hyped Tea Party challenger, Bryan Smith, seems unlikely to stop him.

Backed by other prominent Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner (OH) and former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Simpson’s widely anticipated victory over Smith, a local attorney, could mark one of the greatest establishment victories over the far right as it takes back control over the state previously labeled as “ground zero” for the GOP’s civil war.

Photo: Bryan SmithID2 via YouTube

Milton Wolf

Milton Wolf


Tea Partier Milton Wolf did the impossible when he launched a campaign to the right of conservative senator Pat Roberts of Kansas. In an effort to completely remove his rival from the race, Wolf then unsuccessfully challenged Roberts’ Kansas residency.

And with Roberts still on the ballot for the August primary, Wolf’s campaign is expected to be equally unsuccessful. According to a February poll, Roberts leads Wolf 49 to 23 percent.

Photo: Milton Wolf via YouTube

Paul Broun

Paul Broun

In Georgia, five Republicans are battling it out to succeed retiring senator Saxby Chambliss (R). Among them, U.S. Representative Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue – both of whom have embraced the GOP establishment while maintaining ultra-conservative positions on an array of issues — seem like the top two contenders for the nomination.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun has launched harsh Tea Party-themed attacks on both candidates. Broun may be doing the Tea Party’s dirty work, but just two months before the primary, he is hardly a threat to win the race. According to the most recent polling data collected by Morris News Service/Fox5, Broun enjoys only 10 percent support from likely voters — leaving him in last place among the five candidates.

Photo via Paul Broun

Tim Donnelly

Tim Donnelly

Prominent Republicans are uniting in their fight to ensure that Tea Party favorite Assemblyman Tim Donnelly goes nowhere in California’s gubernatorial race.

Donnelly is up against Bush administration official Neel Kashkari in the June primary. Even though Donnelly has enjoyed a solid lead over Kashkari for months, the GOP is fighting back hard against his campaign. Even if Donnelly wins the primary, he hardly stands a chance against incumbent Jerry Brown for California’s governorship.

Photo: Ernie Tyler via Flickr

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