NYPD helicopter just parked in Prospect Park! Why? (Not a rescue; turned off engines.) V. weird. pic.twitter.com/jaXsf0EoyY
On Thursday, Wisconsin is set to begin the labor-intensive task of reviewing nearly three million ballots in a recount across all of the state’s 72 counties. Michigan is likely to follow suit starting on Friday. And in Pennsylvania, there are persisting legal challenges to the presidential results as well.
It is extremely unlikely that this attempt — spearheaded by Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate — will prompt any of these states to flip to Mrs. Clinton, as Mr. Trump leads by a combined margin of around 100,000 votes. Mrs. Clinton would need to be declared the winner in all three states to reverse the Electoral College outcome.
In addition to Ms. Stein’s concerns about vote tampering or hacking, Mr. Trump has levied a baseless claim that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal voters.
Nevertheless, the multistate endeavor is slated to begin Thursday. Despite the attention it will receive, it figures to be a far cry from the drama that gripped the nation during the Florida recount in 2000.
Here are some key questions, and answers, about how it might play out:
Why are the recounts such a long shot?
While Mr. Trump’s lead in each of the three states is narrow — he is ahead by 22,177 votes in Wisconsin, 70,638 in Pennsylvania and 10,704 in Michigan — the margins seem too large for Mrs. Clinton to overcome. A campaign lawyer for Mrs. Clinton, Marc Elias, noted that those gaps would exceed “the largest margin ever overcome in a recount.”
Experts believe it would require the discovery of widespread tampering or hacking of voting systems to move such a large number of votes, and there is no evidence that either has occurred.
What are the possible outcomes, and who decides?
It is possible the recounts will result in a change in the vote totals, but it is highly unlikely that enough votes will move to displace Mr. Trump. The states are operating under a tight schedule, as they need to certify their results several days before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 19. If the recounts reveal significant disparities, they could be contested in court.
How will the recount work in Wisconsin?
County clerks and canvass workers were set to be briefed on Wednesday about recount procedures, a detailed procedure that includes either a review of votes by hand or the retabulating of ballots.
The Stein campaign went to court to demand a full statewide hand recount, which was rejected, so local elections officials will be able to decide how to review votes. The updated tallies must be submitted to the state elections commission by Dec. 12, with certification the next day.
Is it the same in Michigan?
The process is similar in Michigan. Ms. Stein officially requested the recount on Wednesday, setting in motion the process to begin Friday. In Michigan, another candidate — such as Mr. Trump — could object to the recount by appealing to the Board of State Canvassers. Michigan Republicans have blasted the recount talk, given that there is no evidence of fraud or malfeasance.
Like Wisconsin, Michigan would have less than two weeks to certify the results of its recount.
Why does Pennsylvania seem to be lagging behind?
Ms. Stein is also seeking another look at ballots in Pennsylvania, which allows voters to petition their local precincts for recounts. But the Pennsylvania State Department has said many of the deadlines to file petitions have passed.
Who is paying for all of this?
Recounts are expensive because of the staffing needed, and the condensed time frame that will require work on nights and weekends. Ms. Stein’s campaign created a website to raise money for the cause. As of Wednesday afternoon, she had raised $6.6 million. Originally, the fund-raising goal to cover the costs in the three states was $7 million, but it was increased to $9.5 million after cost estimates in Wisconsin were $2.5 million above earlier projections.
Ms. Stein’s campaign paid the state of Michigan $973,250 on Wednesday, but Ruth Johnson, Michigan’s secretary of state, said taxpayers could end up footing up to $4 million in additional costs.
Ms. Stein has said the money raised for the recount is kept separate from her campaign accounts, and that any surplus funds would be used for “election integrity efforts and to promote voting system reform.”
Why is Ms. Stein the champion of the recount effort?
Ms. Stein finished a distant fourth in the popular vote on Nov. 8, but with her recount challenge she has taken on a more prominent role in the election’s aftermath. She says she is pushing for a more “transparent and accountable vote.”
What role, if any, is Mrs. Clinton playing?
The Clinton campaign has taken a more passive approach. It has said it would join in the recount pushed by Ms. Stein and pay for its lawyers to be present at recount sites, but it is not contributing money for the recounts.
When the Stein campaign sued for the hand recount in Wisconsin, lawyers for Mrs. Clinton intervened, seeking to join the suit. But her campaign has been largely quiet, aside from a campaign lawyer explaining in a post online that they would “participate” in a way to encourage fairness.
How is Mr. Trump involved?
A spokesman for Mr. Trump, Jason Miller, said this week that the campaign would “continue to do our due diligence and monitor the situation, but again, there’s no chance that anything changes after this fraudulent recount effort has concluded,” noting that Mrs. Clinton had conceded.
As for Mr. Trump himself, he has gone on Twitter to raise his own concerns about the vote, but has called the recount efforts a “scam” by the Green Party, and also chastised the Clinton campaign for joining. “Nothing will change,” he said.
On display, if not on the menu, was government à la Trump.
While Mr. Trump’s focus appeared to careen unpredictably from hour to hour, the larger pattern he followed was a familiar one. As a candidate, Mr. Trump operated largely on gut instinct, with publicity-seeking provocation as his chief tactic. Trusting few people outside a circle of intimates, Mr. Trump thrived in a daily cycle of controversy and cultivated an atmosphere of often-public drama and division within his campaign.
Much as he did during the campaign, Mr. Trump has kept the political world hanging on his every move, no matter how impetuous or trivial. He has aired his partial or fleeting thoughts, toying with the idea of making Rudolph W. Giuliani his secretary of state before appearing to lose interest. He has tolerated and even welcomed unsubtle combat over his selections, allowing a senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, to roundly attack Mr. Romney on television while he remains a top contender for the cabinet.
When Mr. Trump has incited controversy — with his flag-burning Twitter post, or an earlier allegation of mass voter fraud — Mr. Trump has declined to elaborate or justify his claims, and has left aides struggling to defend them, when they have tried at all.
Mr. Trump’s method, friends and allies say, matches the reputation he built first in New York and then on reality television — less as a traditional corporate executive, like Mr. Romney, than as an eager impresario who experimented freely, welcomed conflict and flopped repeatedly.
Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House who has advised Mr. Trump, said Mr. Trump’s transition process “very much resembles the way he operated in ‘The Apprentice,’” the NBC show in which Mr. Trump functioned as an imposing protagonist subjecting aspiring entrepreneurs to contests of business acumen.
Mr. Gingrich said Mr. Trump plainly relished personal contact with possible appointees and favored a free-form leadership style. Mr. Trump did not emerge, Mr. Gingrich said, from a “corporate, staffed background,” but from a more personality-driven, improvisational environment.
“In a lot of ways, what you’re seeing is the continuation of techniques and lessons he learned from doing what was, at one time, the No. 1 TV show,” Mr. Gingrich said.
For longtime critics of Mr. Trump, the spectacle of his transition has come as a kind of nightmarish vindication, seeming to confirm their warnings about what it would mean to have a reality television star in the nation’s most powerful office.
Mr. Trump’s rivals in the Republican primary campaign often criticized him as a showman and not a real executive. At a Washington dinner in 2011, President Obama ridiculed the notion that Mr. Trump could run for president, recounting an episode of “The Celebrity Apprentice” in which Mr. Trump fired the actor Gary Busey and joking, “These are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night.”
Jon Lovett, a former speechwriter for Mr. Obama who was an author of his speech belittling Mr. Trump, described a sense of horror at seeing the joke turn into reality.
“It is extremely chilling that Donald Trump views the spectacle of choosing cabinet appointments in a way that is similar to deciding whether or not to fire Lil Jon or Joan Rivers,” Mr. Lovett said, referring to contestants on the show.
It would be difficult to overstate the extremity of Mr. Trump’s departure from recent presidential practice. His immediate predecessors prided themselves on orderly, fastidious deliberations: George W. Bush as the first president with a business degree, Mr. Obama as a candidate branded by aides as “no drama Obama.”
Even Republicans concede that it is not clear how Mr. Trump’s roller-coaster approach to the transition will carry over to governing. Mr. Gingrich predicted during the Republican primary contests that a Trump administration would function as a kind of daily adventure. “If Trump does end up winning, you will have no idea each morning what’s going to happen,” he said in a January interview, “because he will have no idea.”
But enacting sweeping changes or passing even modest legislation requires intensive, sustained attention from presidents and their teams, of a kind Mr. Trump has never dedicated to matters of policy.
Since the election, Mr. Trump has made only a few one-off announcements aimed at soothing controversy or bolstering his popularity, like the Carrier deal or his pledge to preserve elements of the Affordable Care Act. But he has not situated any of his pronouncements within a larger, cohesive agenda, or answered even basic questions about them, like whether the terms extended to Carrier should be made available to other companies.
Mr. Trump has appeared comparatively uninterested in a set of lower-profile appointments in which his close advisers, like Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, and Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff, have quietly installed Republican stalwarts.
On Tuesday, after Mr. Trump raged on Twitter about flag-burning, his transition team announced the selection of Elaine L. Chao, a former labor secretary, to lead the Department of Transportation, and Representative Tom Price of Georgia, a conservative hard-liner, as Mr. Trump’s choice for health secretary.
On Twitter, Mr. Trump made only one perfunctory mention each of Ms. Chao and Mr. Price, the man who would most likely be tasked with carrying out some of the president-elect’s most important campaign promises. By comparison, on Monday and Tuesday, Mr. Trump posted on Twitter twice about the Carrier deal and five times to criticize CNN for its coverage of him.
Michael O. Leavitt, a former governor of Utah who prepared Mr. Romney’s transition team before the 2012 election, said a presidential transition usually “takes on the personality of the principal.” Mr. Trump, he said, was taking an exceptionally public approach and showing far less regard than usual for the privacy of job candidates.
“This is Donald Trump doing it his way, and no one should expect any different,” Mr. Leavitt said. “That doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong — it’s just Trump.”
You know, I don’t know about you, but whenever I watch the Trump circus trying to stumble and fumble their way through the cabinet filling process, a musical soundtrack just automatically goes through my mind. What is it? The old Looney Tunes theme song, “The Merry-go-round broke down”. It just seems so appropriate somehow.
Apparently Mein Furor has tweeted out for us to not expect any more cabinet picks for the rest of this week. I guess this just proves that the Orange Julius still isn’t on quite the same communications page with his clean up man, Mike Pence. But that doesn’t mean that there still isn’t stuff going on behind the scenes.
The New York Times is reporting that there are more names under consideration that have leaked out, and Sweet Jeebus, the hits just keep on coming. What a couple of winners we’re talking about here! Both names should be familiar to you, but if you can find a way in your own mind to connect them with effective government service, please explain to me how.
First of all we have this little gem in the crown. Our own Caribou Barbie, the one and only Sarah Palin is under consideration for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. How is this possible in a fact based reality? This is a woman whose international creds for Vice President was the fact that she could see Russia from her porch. This proves that the world really is flat, because it couldn’t be done if the world was round. And granted, her son is a war zone veteran, possibly suffering from PTSD, she legitimately has some skin in this game. But I can’t help but wonder how she’ll react to a Congressional committee grilling after something goes wrong. After all, this is also a woman who copped a mope and quit her Governorship in a pique of anger after losing an election to get into reality TV.
The second pick is another carnival booth kewpie doll. They’re considering WWE mogul Linda McMahon to run the Small Business Administration. She fits the criteria, her net worth is somewhere in the vicinity of $850M. But really, the SBA?!? The WWF/WWE was never a small, fammily owned business, it was a multimedia platform for mass production and consumption from the start. The success was due entirely to the popularity, charisma and skills of the wrestlers, along with very savvy marketing strategies to make them household names. But Linda McMahon does pass the loyalty test, after all, she let Trump punch her hubby Vince McMahon’s lights out in a 2007 Wrestlemania event. You know, the one at the Trump casino that made him millions?
You know, this is a joke in extremely bad taste. These picks would be funny if it weren’t for the fact that there are too many “little people” out there that can be irreparably damaged by their stupidity and incompetence. We owe our cherished veteran heroes better treatment than that of a petulant woman-child with an aversion to actual work and a room temperature IQ. And considering the fact that small businesses are the single largest driving force in our economy, we owe them more expertise than that of a woman whose entire empire is based on a fantasy entertainment reality. But don’t hold your breath that they’ll actually get it.
Thanks as always for reading, you are ALL the wind beneath my wings!
Attention on Pelosi
WASHINGTON Two senior U.S. senators said on Wednesday they want to amend a law allowing lawsuits against Saudi Arabia over the Sept. 11 attacks to narrow the scope of possible lawsuits.
Lindsey Graham and John McCain, two of the Republican party’s congressional foreign policy leaders, said they would introduce an amendment to the law so that a government could be sued only if it “knowingly” engages with a terrorist organization.
“All we’re saying to any ally of the United States (is), you can’t be sued in the United States for an act of terrorism unless you knowingly were involved, and the same applies to us in your country,” Graham said in a Senate speech.
In September, the Senate and House of Representatives overwhelmingly rejected President Barack Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, known as JASTA, making it U.S. law.
However, lawmakers said almost as soon as they did so that they wanted the scope of the legislation narrowed to ease concerns about its potential effect on Americans abroad, which was one reason Obama vetoed the measure.
The law grants an exception to the legal principle of sovereign immunity in cases of terrorism on U.S. soil, clearing the way for lawsuits seeking damages from the Saudi government. Riyadh denies longstanding suspicions that it backed the hijackers who attacked the United States in 2001.
However, it was not immediately clear whether Graham and McCain’s proposal would go anywhere. A group of Sept. 11 families, who lobbied intensely for the bill and have strong support in Congress, immediately objected to their suggestion because it would weaken the law.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
Voting rights advocates are furious at President-elect Donald Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and concerned that his administration will more vigorously adopt measures that will make it harder for some groups of people to vote.
Some state and local election officials in recent years have cited the potential for voter fraud as the reason for enacting strict voter-ID laws, requiring additional verification for people who want to register to vote and conducting mass purges of voter rolls. Trump’s promotion of the widely debunked notion of rampant voter fraud and the presence in his inner circle of political leaders who supported stricter voting laws send a troubling signal, say advocates who have spent the past several years fighting what they say are efforts to disenfranchise minorities and young, elderly and low-income voters.
“They don’t want us to participate in this democracy,” said Cristóbal J. Alex, president of the Latino Victory Project. “We are gearing up for what will be the biggest fight of our lifetime.”
In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 8 election, Trump often claimed that the election would be “rigged” and urged his supporters to monitor polling places in “certain areas.” Trump was elected president by racking up the most electoral votes, but Democrat Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote has continued to grow. That prompted the president-elect to fire off a series of tweets on Sunday pushing a baseless allegation that Clinton won the popular vote because of “millions of people who voted illegally.” He specifically cited, without providing evidence, irregularities that he said took place in California, New Hampshire and Ohio.
Referring to that most recent comment, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), who during his Democratic presidential campaign often accused Republicans of engaging in voter suppression, said, “When you’ve got this delusional, crazy tweet from the president-elect, you are sending a signal to the entire administration that their goal is to go forward and suppress the vote.”
Trump’s transition office did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. Trump spokesman Jason Miller declined to say at a Monday news briefing whether the president-elect’s Justice Department would ask state or federal law enforcement to investigate allegations of illegal voting but said there is “concern that so many have voted who were not legally supposed to.”
Among those concerned about the Trump administration’s approach is Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters, who said last week in a statement on the group’s website, “This election was rigged.” But she was referring to what she and other advocates describe as “voter suppression.”
In an interview this week, Carson cited Ohio, where, in violation of federal law, officials dropped 400,000 voters from the rolls because they had not cast ballots in recent elections. The league sued, and a federal court ordered the voters reinstated a few weeks before the election. Carson said league members scrambled to call as many voters as they could.
The league also sued to block the states of Kansas, Alabama and Georgia from requiring people to show proof of citizenship to register to vote. “We’re not going to sit here and accept . . . that we can just willy-nilly restrict the right of eligible citizens to vote,” she said.
Many of the laws that advocates have fought were put in place after the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision striking down a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of discrimination against minority voters to seek the Justice Department’s approval before making changes in voting laws and procedures. A law in North Carolina that required voters to show a specific type of ID, cut out a week of early voting and called for other restrictions was struck down by a federal court in July, which described it as “the most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow.”
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the group’s Election Protection coalition was contacted by 117,000 voters and would-be voters who had problems during the election cycle. “We did not receive any complaints of voter fraud, but we received plenty of complaints of elections officials requiring identification where there was no such requirement in place, of polling machines malfunctioning, of individuals brandishing weapons at polling sites, of students being told they were not eligible to vote,” she said.
“To suggest that vote fraud is rampant across our country invites states to put in place laws making voting more difficult, and that is incredibly anti-democratic,” she said.
Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, said the Trump administration could change the voting landscape in a few ways. They include not filing lawsuits against states in which voter suppression is alleged, pressing for more aggressive purges of voter rolls or trying to push legislation through Congress, Weiser said.
The president-elect’s statements and some appointments and Cabinet nominations that he has made have been of particular concern to groups that fear that a Trump administration could move to suppress voting among black, Hispanic, elderly, young and rural voters. They are worried about Trump’s nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to be attorney general and his appointment of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an anti-illegal-immigration hard-liner, to his transition team. Kobach also has pushed rules — which were challenged in court — that would require proof of citizenship for those seeking to register to vote. And they fear that a Trump appointee to the Supreme Court could undermine voting rights.
Representatives for Sessions and Kobach declined to answer questions or did not respond to emails from The Washington Post.
Sessions’s nomination to the federal bench was rejected in 1986 in part because of a voting rights case he handled while U.S. attorney in Alabama. Sessions’s office alleged then that three black civil rights activists in Perry County, Ala., had tampered with absentee ballots. The activists argued that they changed the ballots with the consent of elderly and illiterate voters and that they were being targeted to suppress the black vote.
Kobach is one of the nation’s foremost advocates for adding more requirements for people to vote or register to vote. He is considered a possible candidate for a Trump Cabinet post.
“Given the troubling rhetoric and records of the president-elect and his nominee for attorney general, I am deeply concerned that the Trump administration will use totally unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud of this nature to make it more difficult for citizens to vote,” said Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), who participated in the 1963 voter registration drive known as Freedom Day in Selma, Ala.
But Francis De Luca, president of the Civitas Institute, has filed a federal lawsuit in North Carolina asking that ballots cast by people who used same-day registration not be counted until those people can be verified as eligible voters.
De Luca waved off Trump’s comments about voter fraud as “over the top,” but he said he does think that there is “a lot more voter fraud than is reported.” He said voter fraud on a scale sufficient to affect a presidential election is unlikely but cited a few instances in North Carolina in which local elections turned on a handful of votes.
He said he supports strict voter-ID laws and other measures that protect the electoral process. “You have to show ID to get a drink in a bar,” he said. “Underage drinking is illegal, and it’s illegal to cast a ballot in someone else’s name.”
However, even some Republicans are pushing back against Trump’s claim that the election was not conducted fairly. Thomas D. Rath, a Republican who has been active in New Hampshire politics and elections for decades and served as the state’s attorney general, vigorously rejects Trump’s contention that the results in New Hampshire were fraudulent.
“This election was as fair and honest as anywhere you will find in the country,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a partisan question. I think the idea of doing elections and getting them right is really very important.”
Nationwide, there is skepticism that the nation’s elections are fair. In September, 46 percent of registered voters said voter fraud happens very often or somewhat often, according to a Washington Post/ABCNews poll. Nearly 7 in 10 Trump supporters said voter fraud happens often, compared with 28 percent of Clinton backers.
After the election, 99 percent of Trump supporters surveyed said they accept Trump as the legitimate winner — but they had many reservations before the election. In the week before, just 69 percent of Trump supporters surveyed said they were prepared to accept the legitimacy of the results.
Scott Clement and Michelle Ye Hee Lee contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said 117,000 voters and would-be voters contacted the Election Protection coalition about problems on Election Day. That total provided by Kristen Clarke was for the full election cycle.
– Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Nov. 30 said senators and congressmen should “buckle up” for President-elect Donald Trump’s legislative agenda. Pence and Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus were meeting with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan. ()
The Supreme Court’s liberal justices grilled a lawyer for the Obama administration Wednesday about whether the federal government has the right to indefinitely detain immigrants who are facing deportation.
The eight-member court struggled with how to resolve the issue, which has taken on increased importance because of President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to step up the already active deportation record of the Obama administration.
In particular, the court was considering whether immigrants facing deportation are entitled to bond hearings and possible release while fighting deportation if they have been held more than six months. That deadline was set by one of the appeals courts that has considered the issue. The kind of immigrants covered by this case include a wide range of people, from longtime legal residents to those who were detained upon first arriving in the country.
Acting Solicitor General Ian Heath Gershengorn told the justices that the range of immigrants covered is reason enough to reject the “one-size-fits-all” six-month detention limit imposed by U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco. Such a deadline is not in the federal statute, which says the government “shall detain” immigrants facing deportation.
The Supreme Court has ruled in the past that undocumented immigrants are entitled to some form of due process when challenging their detention but also that brief detentions were allowed. Courts have interpreted that guidance in varying ways, with the appeals courts in San Francisco and New York requiring more procedural safeguards for those who would be held for months or even years.
The court’s liberals were skeptical of Gershengorn’s arguments in favor of the leeway Congress provided, and several questioned whether the Constitution allowed it.
“We are in an upended world when we think 14 months or 19 months is a reasonable time to detain a person,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer worried about someone who had served a criminal term, say for four years, and then faced a similar wait in detention while fighting deportation.
“Your punishment’s over, but you’ve got four more years here of punishment while we try to get to stage two, which is called the removal order,” Breyer said. “That’s what’s bothering me.”
But Gershengorn said the delay is often at the request of the immigrant facing deportation, who is trying to build a case for why he should remain in the country.
The representative of the immigrants at issue in the case is Alejandro Rodriguez, a lawful permanent resident who came to the United States as an infant. He was working as a dental assistant when the Department of Homeland Security began removal proceedings against him in response to a conviction for drug possession and an earlier conviction for joy riding.
Rodriguez was detained for three years before he was allowed to challenge his confinement. ACLU lawyer Ahilan T. Arulanantham said there were hundreds or thousands in similar situations.
“We’re just talking about the need for an inquiry, that is, the need for a hearing that is individualized rather than a categorical presumption that someone is a danger and flight risk,” Arulanantham said.
But Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the federal statute does not support the request. “I’ll tell you, on the language of the statute, I think you have a pretty tough . . . argument,” Alito said.
When the lawyer said he had a constitutional argument as well, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy reminded him that the lower court had not ruled on the constitutionality of the federal law. “We do not have the constitutional issue before us,” Kennedy said.
Justice Elena Kagan said she did not think that kept the court from rendering a decision.
“It seems to me that it’s quite obvious what the court below thinks as to the constitutional question,” said Kagan, or else it would not have ordered the six-month reviews.
Then the court should have struck down the statute instead of rewriting it, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. responded. “We can’t just write a different statute because we think it would be more administrable,” he said.
The case is Jennings v. Rodriguez.
WASHINGTON — Republicans are talking about messing with Medicare again, and Democrats couldn’t be more enthusiastic.
After an election that has thrown them back on their heels, they are grasping at the politics of Medicare as a path to potential revival in 2018.
“We say to our Republicans that want to privatize Medicare, go try it, make our day,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the incoming Democratic leader, mustering his best Clint Eastwood/Ronald Reagan impersonation.
Since 1995 — when the newly installed speaker, Newt Gingrich, famously proposed $270 billion in cuts to Medicare and declared the program would “wither on the vine” because of the appeal of Republican-crafted free-market options — Democrats have seen the exceedingly popular but financially strained program as a winning wedge issue.
They aren’t the only ones; Republicans have some telling experience of their own.
During the 2010 midterm elections, what vaulted Republicans to control of the House was one of their most potent attacks on the new health care law: that the new federal coverage would undermine Medicare. The demand by a South Carolinian at a town hall-style meeting that Congress should “keep your government hands off my Medicare” was one of the most famous, if unintentionally humorous, comments of the summer of angry debate.
Medicare has clearly paid out political benefits to both sides.
Now Democrats intend to capitalize on it again, beginning with their approach to the nomination of Representative Tom Price, Republican of Georgia, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
Mr. Price is not only a leading proponent of repealing the Obama-era health care law, but he has embraced Republican efforts to move future Medicare users into private insurance programs and raise the eligibility age. He told reporters shortly after the Nov. 8 election that he anticipated Republicans would embark on a substantial Medicare overhaul within the first six to eight months of Donald J. Trump’s presidency.
Senate Democrats intend to press Mr. Price on this subject during his confirmation hearings. They see a wide opening for political gain, given the 57 million older Americans who rely on Medicare — including many white Midwesterners with financial worries who voted for Mr. Trump.
“Good luck to selling that to the voters in Indiana and Ohio that were Democrats and voted for Trump this time,” Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, said about a Medicare revamp. “They’re going to be fleeing quickly, right?”
A Medicare fight is also a potential political lifeline for Democrats in red states who could be in very tough contests in 2018. Ten Senate Democrats face re-election in states carried by Mr. Trump. One of them, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, has already made it clear that he will brook no overhaul of Medicare and that he intends to vote against Mr. Price’s nomination to the health care agency.
“The nomination of Tom Price would put us on a direct path to end Medicare as we know it, which would raise health care costs and break a fundamental promise to seniors,” Mr. Donnelly said in a statement after Mr. Price’s nomination was announced this week.
Democrats also noted that Mr. Trump did not campaign on the idea of tinkering with Medicare or its companion entitlement program, Social Security. In fact, his statements about those two cornerstones of American retirement security were that he would not cut them. That difference raises the prospect of a clash with congressional Republicans — particularly House Republicans led by Speaker Paul D. Ryan — who have long pushed for Medicare changes and championed them in House budgets.
Republicans say that significant changes are needed to keep the program financially viable and make it more efficient, stressing that any changes would not impact those who are currently enrolled. They also say that voters are tired of Democratic “Medi-scare” tactics and can see through them (though Republicans employ them as well.)
Still, as Democrats’ warnings of an assault on Medicare have intensified, Republicans have grown quieter about their plans for the program in 2017, brushing off questions about their intentions.
“I’m not going to speculate on what the agenda may be on a variety of different issues next year,” Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, said on Tuesday.
At the same time, Mr. McConnell was adamant that Republicans would begin the year by initiating “a process to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
But the new law and Medicare have multiple links, and it will be hard to deal with the Affordable Care Act without adjusting Medicare as well. In an interview with Fox News in early November, Mr. Ryan made that clear.
“Medicare has got some serious problems because of Obamacare,” he said. “So those things are part of our plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
As they move forward with their health care realignment, the question for Republicans will be whether they are willing to fundamentally alter Medicare. If they are, Democrats will be waiting with enthusiasm.