Tuesday, 1 Dec 2020

Hints on Obamacare’s Future

As Trump hangs on, his conservative allies mostly stick by his side — except for Rupert Murdoch. It’s Wednesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Where things stand

The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in the Trump administration’s latest effort to strike down the Affordable Care Act, but from their questions, it appears that most of the law may be safe.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh both indicated that they favored upholding the bulk of the law, even as they appeared to endorse the administration’s argument that the act’s individual mandate was unconstitutional.

“It does seem fairly clear that the proper remedy would be to sever the mandate provision and leave the rest of the act in place — the provisions regarding pre-existing conditions and the rest,” Kavanaugh said.

If the law were to be struck down, about 21.1 million people in the country would become uninsured, a nearly 70 percent increase, according to the Urban Institute.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris appeared together in Wilmington, Del., after the court heard arguments, seizing the moment to press their case on an issue that was central for many Democratic voters this election.

Referring to his work as vice president to help pass the A.C.A. in 2010, and to his family’s own experiences with health setbacks, Biden blasted the Trump administration for trying to strike down a law that Republicans in Congress have failed numerous times to repeal.

“This effort to bypass the will of the American people, the verdict of the courts in the past, the judgments of Congress, in my view is simply cruel — and needlessly divisive,” he said.

As President Trump continues to deny his loss in last week’s election, it’s increasingly feeling as if his administration is living in an alternate reality.

In his first public statements on the matter since Election Day, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, acted oblivious to the election’s legitimate results. “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Pompeo said.

And the White House is continuing to work toward a budget proposal for next year that would be presented to Congress in February, weeks after Biden is expected to take office, according to a spokeswoman for the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Meanwhile, Trump is restaffing a number of leadership roles in national security and intelligence. In addition to firing Mark Esper, the defense secretary, this week, he has removed the heads of three other agencies while appointing loyalists to run key positions at the National Security Agency and the Pentagon.

The directors of the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. are both at risk of being dismissed, according to senior officials.

This has all created a headache for senior lawyers at two major firms representing the president in his crusade to challenge the election’s outcome. They have begun raising internal concerns, worrying out loud that they may be complicit in an effort to undermine democracy. Up to this point, though, the firms’ leaders have generally looked past their worries about working with Trump.

And a similar reluctance to challenge the president runs through the Republican caucus on Capitol Hill, where all but four G.O.P. senators have refused to accept the election results.

Vice President Mike Pence met with Republican senators yesterday at a luncheon, explaining the administration’s legal approach and affirming that the president would continue to fight the result.

Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, didn’t exactly sound thrilled as he spoke to reporters after the luncheon. But like most of the rest of his Republican colleagues — held in thrall by the president’s power over his millions of supporters, and fearful of incurring his wrath — McConnell vowed to soldier on. “We’re going to get through this period and we’ll swear in the winner,” he said, “just like we have every four years.”

According to a range of state officials across the country, both Democrats and Republicans, this election was an almost unmitigated success.

Our reporters Nick Corasaniti, Reid J. Epstein and Jim Rutenberg called officials in all 50 states, and what they found was consensus: There was no meaningful evidence that voter fraud or other improprieties had played any role in the election’s outcome.

“There’s a great human capacity for inventing things that aren’t true about elections,” said Frank LaRose, Ohio’s secretary of state and a Republican. “The conspiracy theories and rumors and all those things run rampant. For some reason, elections breed that type of mythology.”

Here’s one result Republicans probably don’t want to contest: Thom Tillis, the G.O.P. senator from North Carolina, effectively secured a second term in office after his Democratic challenger, Cal Cunningham, conceded yesterday. (The race still hasn’t been officially called, but Tillis is leading by nearly 100,000 votes.)

Tillis had been seen as one of the most endangered incumbents in the Senate, with Cunningham, a 47-year-old former state senator, running ahead of him in most polls. Those surveys didn’t show much drop in Cunningham’s support even after it emerged that he had sent romantic texts over the summer to a woman who is not his wife. But like many polls this cycle, they were proved wrong.

Tillis’s victory guarantees the Republicans at least 49 seats in the Senate, with one race still uncalled (but favoring the G.O.P. candidate) in Alaska, and two more heading to runoffs in Georgia. By all likelihood, those runoff elections, set for January, will determine which party controls the chamber.

Progressive groups want to make sure a Biden presidency doesn’t forget about the left-leaning supporters who helped put him in the White House — even if most of them didn’t vote for him in the primary.

Justice Democrats and the Sunrise Movement, two leading organizations of young activists, went public this morning with a list of recommendations to Biden calling on him to name progressive figures to top government posts. Elizabeth Warren, they wrote, should be named Treasury secretary, and Bernie Sanders should become labor secretary. (Here’s an extensive rundown of who’s being considered for top posts under Biden.)

Progressive groups coalesced around Biden’s candidacy this year in a way that they had not in 2016, when Hillary Clinton was on the ballot. But in the days since the election, the rift that has increasingly defined Democratic politics in recent years — between a moderate, corporate-backed party establishment and a youthful, government-interventionist left wing — has surfaced again, making it clear that Biden’s knack for consensus-building will be needed in more than just his overtures to Republicans.

Photo of the day

Biden putting on a mask after delivering remarks on the Affordable Care Act in Wilmington, Del.

As Trump fights the election result, has Murdoch moved on?

In his efforts to paint the election as illegitimate, Trump may have thought he could count on Rupert Murdoch. After all, more than arguably any other force in American politics, Murdoch’s media empire served to seed the ground for Trump’s brand of reality-denying, screen-savvy political domination — and then defended his narratives once he reached the Oval Office.

But in the past week, as our media correspondent Michael M. Grynbaum reports, Murdoch’s publications — from Fox News to The New York Post to The Wall Street Journal — have broadly refused to take the bait as the president pushes a series of vague, nonspecific arguments about election fraud and mismanagement.

Fox has refused, despite the Trump campaign’s calls to Murdoch himself in England, to retract its call of Arizona for Biden. The Post emblazoned its front page on Sunday with the words “IT’S JOE TIME,” accompanied by an image of Biden posing and beaming. And The Journal’s editorial page has been gently urging Trump to gracefully accept defeat.

Not all of Fox’s anchors are ready to move on. Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity have criticized some of their colleagues on-air for pushing back against the Trump team’s falsehoods. But the Murdoch empire appears more or less prepared to confront a new day, with Biden in the White House.

As one longtime Murdoch lieutenant told Michael, “They don’t tend to back losers.”

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