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By Benjy Sarlin

WASHINGTON — Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., announced Wednesday that she would vote against her own party’s rules for the incoming House over restrictions on deficit spending, pushing long-simmering Democratic divisions into public view.

At issue is the House leadership’s plan to include “PAYGO,” short for pay-as-you-go, a rule Democrats have adopted in the past that requires them to offset any increase in the deficit by cutting spending or raising revenue elsewhere.

“PAYGO isn’t only bad economics … it’s also a dark political maneuver designed to hamstring progress on healthcare + other leg.,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Wednesday. “We shouldn’t hinder ourselves from the start.”

She joined Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., who came out against the rules package while warning that PAYGO “unilaterally disarms the incoming Democratic majority’s ability to govern.”

The issue has also emerged as a stand-in for a larger divide between the party’s progressive wing and more centrist Democrats — including the next House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who supports the spending rule — over the role fiscal responsibility should play in their agenda.

“At a time when climate change threatens our planet, when our infrastructure is crumbling, when 30 million people have no health insurance, when millions of Americans are struggling with outrageous levels of student debt, I am concerned that the concept of PAYGO will make it harder for Congress to address the many crises facing our working families,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement on Wednesday.

Potential 2020 contenders, including Sanders, are currently proposing tens of trillions of dollars in new spending on progressive priorities. Given that Republicans passed a $1.9 trillion tax cut and boosted spending under Trump, substantially increasing the deficit, some Democrats argue they shouldn’t let deficit concerns get in the way when they retake power. There’s also growing interest among activists in economic theories that put less stock in fears of a rising debt.

The rule is not ironclad and has been waived in the past. Pelosi’s spokesman, Drew Hammill, noted on Twitter that Congress is already governed by a stricter version of PAYGO that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010. That legislation forces cuts to programs unless Congress overrides them, which they’ve done under President Donald Trump.

“It reinforces the notion that if you vote for Democrats, the first thing they’re going to do is prioritize budget outcomes over human ones,” Stephanie Kelton, an economist and former adviser to Sanders, who has criticized the PAYGO rule, told NBC News.

While many in the party have rallied around pricier proposals under Trump, the midterms also featured a slew of Democrats who ran successful campaigns in swing seats attacking Republicans for spilling too much red ink. Their priorities could come into tension as Democrats take on more power.

“Such new House Democrats are likely to find it much harder to vote for major policy advances that progressives strongly support if those measures would add significantly to deficits and debt,” Robert Greenstein, president of the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote in an article defending the PAYGO rules.

Activism against PAYGO has been driven by the party’s left flank, but Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who led a largely centrist coalition against Pelosi’s speakership, also announced his opposition Wednesday.

“Critical investments in education, infrastructure, and health care should not be held hostage to budgetary constraints that Republicans have never respected anyhow,” he said in a statement. “We all believe we need to ultimately bring our budget into balance, but these investments are too important right now to pass up and will yield significant returns for the U.S. Treasury.”

His spokesman Michael Zetts told NBC News that Ryan is undecided on the overall rules package.

Pelosi earned a key endorsement ahead of the rules vote, however, from Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Mark Pocan, D-Wisc. In a joint statement, they said they had been “concerned about PAYGO for months,” but were satisfied with commitments from House Democratic leaders not to let it get in the way of progressive legislation.

“With the assurances that PAYGO can be waived, we do plan to vote for the House rules package and proceed with legislation to fix the statute,” they said.



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EU reacts after anti-Brexit campaigners march through London – 'VERY TELLING IMAGES'

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THE European Commission has described the images of a reported one million people marching through the streets of London against Brexit as “very telling” as the UK continues to stumble over its withdrawal from the European Union.

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As Dems grapple with Omar fallout, GOP plugs more measures on anti-Semitism

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By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — As Democrats grapple with divisions over the best way to address rising anti-Semitism in the U.S., congressional Republicans have been pushing for a more aggressive approach — and angling for political dividends.

A fresh effort came from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who planned to introduce a measure Tuesday afternoon that would directly condemn “all forms of anti-Semitism,” a GOP aide told NBC News Monday, following the recent controversial remarks made by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., about Jewish lawmakers.

The resolution, obtained by NBC, alludes to the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust and states that “anti-Semitism has for hundreds of years included attacks on the loyalty of Jews, including the fabrication and circulation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion by the secret police of Russia.”

Critics have accused Omar of deploying the “dual loyalty” charge Jews have grappled with for centuries.

GOP leaders are planning to hold a floor vote on Cruz’s proposal, according to The New York Times. An aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to confirm the plan.

The latest Republican push comes shortly after the tumultuous week House Democrats spent earlier this month split over how to respond to Omar’s comments, the latest in a series of remarks from the freshman lawmaker to spark similar controversy.

Initially, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., aimed for a simple resolution condemning anti-Semitism without addressing Omar directly. But that strategy ignited pushback from some progressive members of the Democratic caucus, who pressed leadership for a measure that encompassed hatred against a number of minority groups. The House ultimately passed the resolution in a 407-23 vote.

At the time, Republicans criticized Democrats for the approach, arguing that a resolution lumped anti-Semitism in with other forms of hatred would deliver a weaker message.

Cruz’s measure was the most recent in a string of proposals from GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate this session geared to fighting anti-Semitism.

Rep. Gregory Steube, R-Fla., introduced a measure this month that would directly disapprove of “the anti-Semitic comments made by Representative Omar.” In January, Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., who is Jewish, introduced a resolution with a group of other Republicans that would “reject anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred in the United States and the world” that specifically mentioned Omar.

Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, unveiled a resolution earlier this year that, in addition to condemning anti-Semitism, called on federal law enforcement to investigate all credible reports of hate crimes, incidents and threats against the Jewish community.

Meanwhile, the White House has used Omar’s comments as a cudgel to attack House Democrats, with Vice President Mike Pence slamming Democrats over the remarks in a speech at the American Israel Political Action Committee’s annual policy meeting on Monday.

“Anti-Semitism has no place in the Congress of the United States, and any member who slanders those who support the historic alliance between the United States and Israel with such rhetoric should not have a seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” Pence said of her spot on the panel.

“The [Democratic] party that has been the home of so many American Jews for so long today can no longer muster the votes to unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism,” he added.

President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly blasted Democrats for their reaction to Omar’s remarks and suggested that Jewish voters would soon flock to Republican candidates, recently tweeted a comment from a Fox News guest warning of political consequences for the opposing party over the issue.

“Jewish people are leaving the Democratic Party. We saw a lot of anti Israel policies start under the Obama Administration, and it got worsts & worse. There is anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party. They don’t care about Israel or the Jewish people.” Elizabeth Pipko, Jexodus,” Trump tweeted.

According to the American Jewish Population Project at Brandeis University, 54 percent of American Jews identify as Democrats and 14 percent identify as Republicans. Thirty-two percent said that they don’t identify with either party. A 2018 survey conducted by the Jewish advocacy organization AJC found that 51 percent of American Jews consider themselves Democrats and 16 percent consider themselves Republicans.

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Latino group launches “Run, Joaquín, Run” to get other Castro twin on the ballot

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By Suzanne Gamboa

AUSTIN — Texas Democrats are waiting for the news from U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro on whether they’ll have another competitive Senate race this year.

There is anticipation that he’ll soon announce whether he’ll take on longtime incumbent Sen. John Cornyn, the state’s senior senator, and with that anticipation is the question whether changed demographics and a Latino Democrat on the ballot will help break the Republican dominance of Texas’ statewide elected offices.

While the wait is on for the expected word that Castro is running, Latino Victory Fund has launched a “Run Joaquín, Run”campaign to push along his decision and build support among Latino voters.

The digital campaign was created to generate grassroots interest among Latinos in a potential Castro candidacy.

“There is no doubt that Sen. Cornyn is vulnerable and we are ready to build a grassroots army to recruit and support Joaquin Castro to run and win in 2020,” Melissa Mark Viverito, Latino Victory Fund interim president, said in a statement last week.

The fund backs Latino Democratic candidates.

Castro has been dropping suggestions that he may be ready to do run, as has his twin brother, 2020 presidential candidate Julián Castro.

A week ago, Castro sent a tweet to Cornyn with biting criticism for the senator. He asserted that Cornyn failed to call him back when he asked for him to support his bill.

The tweet was in response to comments by Cornyn to a San Antonio media outlet that had asked him about a possible challenge from Castro. Cornyn had said he didn’t know Castro very well.

Castro was elected to the U.S. House in 2012, moving from Texas’ Legislature to Congress while Barack Obama was still in the White House. But Republicans’ were in charge and Democrats could move forward little legislation as the minority party, a reality that frustrated Castro.

With Democrats newly in charge of the U.S. House Castro’s profile has risen. He heads the growing Congressional Hispanic Chamber as its chairman this year.

He has made himself better known recently by sponsoring the resolution to terminate the national emergency declared by President Donald Trump to bypass Congress and get the funding needed to build a wall on the southern border.

The House approved its resolution and the Senate approved a similar one but the measure is expected to be vetoed by Trump.

Several Republicans in the Senate joined Democrats in voting to end Trump’s emergency declaration.

But Cornyn and Texas’ other senator Ted Cruz, who narrowly defeated Democrat Beto O’Rourke in 2018 to keep his Senate seat, were not among them.

Cornyn already has close to $6 million for his campaign. His campaign solicitations had been focused on O’Rourke. They warned against a “Beto Texas” and asked for contributions to a Stop Beto Fund.

Event though O’Rourke is now a declared 2020 Democratic candidate for president, Cornyn’s solicitations continue to use him for fundraising, urging contributors to “Stand With Trump” and against an O’Rourke candidate who has said he thinks he can win Texas.

Cornyn already has made key hires: John Jackson, who led Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign last year, is campaign manager and former Texas Republican Party chairman Steve Munisteri as a campaign adviser.

In Texas, about a third or to about 40 percent of Latinos who vote cast their ballot for Republicans, depending on the race. About 48 percent of Latinos who voted in Texas’ 2014 election backed Cornyn, according to exit polling, according to Cornyn’s campaign.

But in 2018, there were big increases in Latino turnout in heavily Latino counties, according to Latino Decisions, a firm that has done polling for Democrats. The increases are considered part of the reason the state saw Democrats win state and congressional seats and places on appeals courts.

Although he had almost 40 times as much money as his gubernatorial opponent Lupe Valdez, Abbott won 42 percent of the Latino vote – about what he has in past years, while 53 percent of Latinos in Texas voted for Valdez, according to Pew Research Center.

Still, Cornyn has been elected to three terms – which are six years for U.S. senators. Democrats are counting on his support for Trump to also help keep him from a fourth term.



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