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“Coverage Like A Hospital Gown”: Mitch McConnell Shouldn’t Assume For A Moment That Rand Paul Has His Back

Greg Sargent notes today that three highly influential “constitutional conservatives” in the Senate, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Ron Johnson, have gone out of their way to pass up opportunities to endorse Mitch McConnell in his 2014 primary against the previously almost unknown Matt Bevins. So, too, are the Club For Growth and the Senate Conservative Fund. All these individuals and organizations are obviously hoping to use the implicit threat of backing Bevins–and thus “nationalizing” the Kentucky race and making McConnell the new Dick Lugar or Bob Bennett and Bevins the new Richard Mourdock or Mike Lee–to influence McConnell’s behavior as Minority Leader in the Senate. The minute any of them endorse McConnell, this leverage is gone.

Meanwhile, Rand Paul has endorsed his senior colleague, even though McConnell tried to kill off his political career in 2010. But it hasn’t been enough to take McConnell off the table as a target for exactly the sort of insurgency Paul himself represented when he took on McConnell’s little buddy Tray Grayson.

So other than ensuring that Paul wouldn’t join the Matt Bevins bandwagon, what good is Rand’s endorsement actually going to do for McConnell going into 2014? Will his Paul’s Kentucky supporters pay attention to his position on the race? Or will they assume it was just a collegial gesture, and view what out-of-state “constitutional conservatives” say as the indication of what he’d really do if he could do what he wanted?

I dunno, but if I were ol’ Mitch, I wouldn’t for a moment assume Rand Paul had my back. The “coverage” may be like a hospital gown, where it’s flapping in the breeze even as people passing you in the hallways laugh at your exposed posterior.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 2, 2013

August 4, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Shunning People Away”: Kansas Secretary Of State Kris Kobach’s Bold New Plan To Keep People From Voting

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has become a national figure by advising other states on how to implement anti-immigrant and voter suppression measures, has come up with a new creative way to make it harder for Kansans to vote: barring those who register to vote with a federal form from casting ballots in state elections.

Back in June, the Supreme Court struck down an Arizona elections law that required those registering to vote to show proof of citizenship beyond what is required by federal voter registration forms. In Kansas, Kobach has been struggling to deal with the implementation of a similar proof-of-citizenship law, which has left the voting status of at least 12,000 Kansans in limbo.

These voters, many of whom registered with the federal “motor voter” form at the DMV, were supposed to have their citizenship information automatically updated, a process that was delayed by a computer glitch. Kobach then suggested that these 12,000 voters be forced to cast provisional ballots – a suggestion that the state elections board rejected.

Now, the Lawrence Journal-World reports, Kobach has a new idea to deal with the problem that he created. The paper reports that Kobach is considering a plan to circumvent the Supreme Court’s decision in the Arizona case by creating two classes of voters. Under this plan, those who register with a federal form would be allowed to vote only in federal elections until they produced the state-required citizenship documents. Those who meet the state registration requirements would then be allowed to vote in state-level elections.

In Kansas, a new state law requires proof of citizenship to register to vote.

Kobach, a Republican who pushed for that law, said he is considering a proposed rule change that would allow those who use the federal form to register to vote to be allowed to vote in federal elections, such as presidential and congressional contests. The federal voter registration form does not require proof of citizenship documents, but includes a signed sworn statement that the individual is a U.S. citizen.

But those people would not be allowed to vote in state elections, such as contests for governor, other statewide offices and the Legislature.

Those who register to vote by providing proof of citizenship will be able to vote in both federal and state elections under the proposal.

Voting rights advocates in the state are understandably skeptical:

Dolores Furtado, president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas, said she would strongly oppose such a plan.

“It won’t work,” Furtado said. “When we can’t handle registrations, the process of applications and processing registrations, how are we going to separate ballots?” she said. “This is creating a problem. Whenever we make things complex, people shun away.”

When the elections board rejected his provisional ballots plan, Kobach was taken aback, saying that those who register to vote with the motor voter form aren’t likely to vote anyway, so disenfranchising 12,000 of them wasn’t “a major problem.” That seems to be his justification for the two classes of voter plan as well.  According to the World-Journal, “Kobach said few Kansans register to vote using the federal form, so it shouldn’t affect too many voters.”


By: Miranda Blue, Right Wing Watch, August 2, 2013

August 4, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“And Then There Were 40”: The Madness Of The GOP Is The Central Issue Of Our Time

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters yesterday that President Obama and congressional Democrats are “in denial.”

Yeah, denial’s just awful, isn’t it?

Capping a legislative work period more noted for what it failed to pass than for what it completed, the House voted for the 40th time on Friday to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care reform law before heading home for a five week recess.

The GOP-controlled House voted to approve a measure to prevent the IRS from enforcing “Obamacare” in a 232-185 vote.

The legislation faces virtually no chance of advancing in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.

How many House Republicans voted for repeal? All of them who were on the Hill this morning.

If we include the Senate, the total number of votes held by congressional Republicans to repeal all or part of the federal health care law is 68.

We’re talking about a group of folks who are very slow learners.

At this point, what more can be said about such ridiculous congressional antics? Perhaps just this: with each one of these repeal votes, Republicans reinforce the impression that they’re not a serious governing party. On the contrary, they’re becoming rather pathetic.

Paul Krugman noted in passing last night, “[N]either you nor I should forget that the madness of the GOP is the central issue of our time.” This wasn’t in response to health care, but it might as well have been.

Whether GOP leaders are reluctant to do unglamorous work or not, Congress has an enormous amount of work it should be doing right now. This is especially true in the House, where lawmakers are supposed to be passing appropriations bills, working on the farm bill, negotiating on a budget, and if we’re really lucky, avoiding a debt-ceiling crisis in the fall.

Indeed, in the not-too-distant past, this was one of the more productive weeks of the year on Capitol Hill — before a four-week break, lawmakers traditionally scrambled to meet deadlines and get some work done so they’d have something to boast about during the August recess.

But that was before Republicans decided governing was for saps. Why get real work done when there are talking points to repeat, partisan stunts to execute, and “message votes” to push?

GOP lawmakers have already wasted months championing culture-war bills they know can’t pass and obsessing over discredited “scandals,” so there’s something oddly fitting about voting 40 times to take away Americans health care benefits, not because they expect their legislation to pass, but because vanity exercises like these make Republicans feel warm and fuzzy.

It’s as if Americans elected children to control half of the legislative branch of government.

Indeed, it’s been interesting of late to see President Obama give a series of speeches on the economy, and in nearly all of them, he takes time to mock congressional Republicans for these votes. Every time, the audience laughs — because in a way, this really is funny.

When lawmakers make fools of themselves, I suppose Americans should laugh at them.

It’s a shame Republicans aren’t in on the joke.

Update: Americans United for Change released a new video this afternoon, driving home exactly what the House GOP voted for (all 40 times).


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 2, 2013

August 4, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The New GOP Confederacy”: The US Civil War Is Playing Out Again

Nearly 150 years after the end of the US civil war, the South and the federal government are poised for a rematch over the voting rights of black Americans, and ultimately over the fundamental rights of all Americans. Once again, the former Confederate states are determined to defend their traditions and way of life, while the Union forces in the North – the federal government – are positioning themselves to defend justice and equality.

But this time, in an ironic twist, two black men – President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder – are leading the charge.

In the 1860s, the fight between the North and the South was about slavery and the right of the Confederate states to maintain a dreaded institution that kept people of African descent in bondage. Unprecedented carnage resulted.

A century later – in light of the 1954 US supreme court decision in Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, which ended racial segregation in public schools – the South struggled to maintain a Jim Crow system that kept black people legally and politically impotent, all in the name of states’ rights.

Two hallmarks of the civil rights movement are the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, the legislative victories were achieved only through the blood of civil rights workers, both black and white, who were beaten, sprayed with fire hoses, shot, firebombed, bitten by police dogs and lynched.

The purpose of the Voting Rights Act was to apply a nationwide ban against discriminatory election practices such as literacy tests. The existing anti-discrimination laws, Congress concluded, were insufficient to overcome the Southern states’ resistance to the Fifteenth Amendment.

In June 2013, the nation’s high court cut the voting law at its knees in Shelby County v Holder when it eviscerated the key component of the act – the section 4 preclearance requirement – which determined which states must receive approval from a federal court or the Justice Department before making changes to their voting procedures. The act applied to nine states – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia – and various other localities and counties across the country.

In the second decade of the 21st century, the latest battle centers around southern states with a history of voting rights violations, and currently exhibit the most anti-black, racist sentiment. These states want to employ restrictive and racially discriminatory voter suppression methods such as voter ID. This time, the Republican party has replaced the Dixiecrats as the party of white supremacy and the old Confederacy, of racial discrimination and voter suppression. And Holder has decided to make an example of Texas, firing the first shot at the Lone Star state.

Within 24 hours of the high court decision, five states – Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia – decided to move forward with their voter ID laws. They required preclearance under section 4, which no longer exists. Moreover, Holder and a federal court had already blocked the South Carolina and Texas voter ID laws because they violated the Voting Rights Act.

Florida has resumed its purge of Hispanic voters following the supreme court decision, and after a federal court lifted a ban on removing potential non-US citizens from the rolls. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is about to sign into law the nation’s most restrictive voter suppression measure, though, he admits he has not read the provision prohibiting 16- and 17-year-olds from pre-registering to vote. The law also eliminates same-day registration, cuts early voting by a week and requires government-issued ID to vote. According to the North Carolina secretary of state, voter ID laws are having a disproportionate impact on Democratic voters and voters of color.

SB 14, the Texas voter ID law considered the most severe in the US at present, requires Texans to prove their citizenship and state residency in order to vote, using a passport, military ID or birth certificate if they lack a driver’s license, concealed handgun license or photo ID. In 2012, a federal court struck down the Texas law on the grounds that:

The implicit costs of obtaining SB 14-qualifying ID will fall most heavily on the poor and that a disproportionately high percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in Texas live in poverty. … We therefore conclude that SB 14 is likely to lead to ‘retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise.’

Yet, in light of the Shelby County decision, the Supreme Court discarded the lower court’s Texas voter ID ruling, and threw out a ruling that found Texas’ state redistricting maps were “enacted with discriminatory purpose” and diluted the Latino vote. Although Latinos made up nearly 40% of the Texas population in the 2010 census and accounted for 65% of the growth in the state population, Texas Republicans essentially pretended Texas is a white state. The GOP kept Latinos and black voters out of the redistricting process, added only one minority district, and manipulated an electoral map “that would look Hispanic, but perform for Anglos”.

In addition, the court found that 603,892 to 795,955 Latino voters in Texas lacked voter identification – as Texas Republicans had intended. Student IDs are not adequate identification at the polls, but gun permits are acceptable, reflected a preference for Republican constituents.

Holder announced he would ask a federal court to force the state to continue to receive permission to make changes to its voting laws. The Justice Department has requested that a federal court impose an additional 10 years of preclearance.

Governor Rick Perry said in a statement:

This end run around the supreme court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process.

Greg Abbott, the Texas state attorney general, accused Holder of “sowing racial divide” and tweeted “I’ll fight #Obama’s effort to control our elections & I’ll fight against cheating at ballot box.” Conservative proponents of voter ID measures invoke the specter of voter fraud and the need to protect the integrity of elections as justifications for the legislation. However, voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and about as infrequent as death by lightning strikes, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Rather, white southern Republicans enact voter ID laws because they do not want Democratic constituencies to vote, particularly people of color. Rather than embrace the changing demographics in the US and adopt platforms to address the needs and concerns of voters of color, Republicans have chosen to eschew these voters and wage an assault on civil rights, immigration and policies of diversity and inclusion. This is the endgame for the Republican Southern Strategy of race card politics. The GOP was able to win elections on the margins by appealing to the racial insecurities of disaffected working class whites. In the process, southern whites fled the Democratic party, and the GOP became the party of the white South. Now, this marginalized base of angry white voters is all that is left of the Republican strategy and of the GOP as well, so Republicans must remove the segments of the electorate that will not vote for them.

Last year, President Bill Clinton said:

Do you really want to live in a country where one party is so desperate to win the White House that they go around trying to make it harder for people to vote if they’re people of color, poor people or first generation immigrants? … This is not complicated – America is becoming more diverse and younger and more vibrant. We’re younger than Europe, we’re younger than Japan and in 20 years, we’ll be younger than China.

In the South, dramatic Latino population growth has the potential to realign politics. The Obama administration’s decision to attack the war on voting rights, starting with Texas, is a wise move that will energize his diverse coalition of supporters. The Lone Star state – a red state, yet a majority-minority state – represents the future of the US. More than 55% of Texans are minorities, and only 30% of children under 5 in Texas are non-Hispanic whites. Demographic realities will one day betray GOP racial gerrymandering tactics, inevitably making way for a blue state.

Meanwhile, July marked the 150th anniversary of the Second Battle of Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The Union army – led by black troops from the 54th Massachusetts regiment – failed to retake the fort, and the Confederate army won the battle.

But ultimately, two years later, the Union army won the war.


By: David A. Love, The Guardian, August 2, 2013

August 4, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, GOP | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Kill The Law, Kill The Patient”: The Most Insane Conservative Anti-Obamacare Gambit Ever

In a last-ditch effort to stop Obamacare, Tea Party groups are trying to sabotage the healthcare law in a way that could leave young people without coverage and increase insurance premiums for everyone else. It assumes that the end of “repealing Obamacare” justifies the means of potentially years of worse health.

The gambit, as explained by Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post, is to convince young people to eschew the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges and the subsidies they offer in order to destabilize the insurance risk pools. And now the leader of the effort is talking to Salon about the idea.

First, some background. The “plan,” such as it is, works like this: Young people tend to be healthier and thus cheaper to insure, so they essentially subsidize the cost of older and sick people. If enough young people don’t sign up, and the pool is mostly older and sick people, costs will skyrocket. A price “death spiral” is health policy experts’ biggest fear with the law, but it’s exactly what the conservative groups want to artificially induce, thus dooming the law.

To that end, conservatives are trying to rally young people to skip the healthcare exchange and pay the fine for violating the individual mandate to have health insurance. They’re making their case with GIFs, Op-Eds and a campaign to burn Obamacare draft cards (which don’t actually exist, but can be downloaded from FreedomWorks’ website for later incineration). Americans for Prosperity is even considering setting up kiosks at Universal Fighting Championship matches and college football games to tell people not to enroll.

But, if this gambit is successful, wouldn’t that lead to millions of young people living without health insurance, and older and sick people paying higher health insurance premiums? And since Obama will never repeal his signature law, we’re talking about at least three years of intentionally inflicted misery, all for a shot at repealing Obamacare sometime in the future and replacing it with something that doesn’t even exist yet. What about the human toll?

We asked Dean Clancy, the vice president of FreedomWorks who is spearheading the effort. “Yes, we would like to hasten the collapse of the exchanges, but the purpose is not to drive up anybody’s insurance. The purpose is to get this law defunded or delayed so we can get to a patient-centered system,” Clancy said in a telephone conversation Thursday evening. “Without young people, Obamacare can’t work.”

Regardless of intention, wouldn’t it have the effect of driving up premiums? “I would not say it will drive up premiums for older Americans, I would say it will allow premiums to rise,” he said. “It would allow premiums to rise faster than they otherwise would if everybody bought the overpriced coverage, including the younger, healthier people.”

And what about young people who currently lack insurance – 90 percent of whom will qualify for subsidies in the Obamacare exchanges — what should they do? “You can get coverage outside the exchanges,” Clancy said, pointing to catastrophic care plans, healthcare savings accounts, or even Medicaid.

Even without the subsidies, which are only available through the exchanges, Clancy said, it would still be cheaper for young people to pay the fine and go their own way. “We encourage people to go for a health savings account with a high deductible policy, and to pay cash for repeat medical expenses. It’s a great way to save money and helps the system be more efficient,” he said. Plus, there’s always free-riding: “And they have to take you when you get sick, that’ll be in the law now.”

What if you get in a car accident or something and don’t have time to sign up for insurance? A pause as he consulted with the communications director, who was also on the call. “In that case, you may incur some costs,” Clancy acknowledged. “You may have to deal with, as people do today who don’t have funds available, paying it back in installments, or uncompensated care, or you can sign up for Medicaid.” In other words, you’re on your own. Most uninsured people can’t afford medical bills.

“Just to be clear, we’re telling people: ‘Do what you think is best for you,’” he added. “But understand that if Obamacare continues, you’re going to have to pay more and more to get less and less.”

For Judy Feder, a prominent health policy expert at Georgetown who supports the health reform law, this approach is “crazy.” “It’s not even killing the patient to save the patient — it would stick with killing the patient. They just want to kill the law, which doesn’t save anybody,” she said.

It’s hard to overstate how nihilistic this plan is. If the scheme succeeds — which it will not, since more than enough young people are saying they’ll purchase insurance through the exchange — not only would some people lack good health coverage they’d otherwise be entitled to, but costs would be higher on everyone else. “It is as outrageous as you say it is,” Feder confirmed.

This is basically the “Cloward–Piven strategy” Glenn Beck always rants about, but 1) applied to healthcare instead of the economy, and 2) real.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, August 2, 2013

August 4, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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