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“The GOP Won’t Stop Suppressing Our Votes”: Access To The Ballot Has Become A Feverishly Partisan Issue

For me, voting rights aren’t a partisan matter. They are a fundamental right that all adult citizens should enjoy without restriction. I don’t even think there should be such a thing as “getting out the vote” because I think all citizens should be required to participate, even if it is just to express their lack of endorsement for any candidates, initiatives, or referendums. People should get themselves to the polls and political parties should focus exclusively on winning over their support. That’s how I feel, but I recognize that access to the ballot has become a feverishly partisan issue. And, I wonder if restricting ballot access was actually successful enough in these midterms that it changed the outcome of some elections. Perhaps in North Carolina?

Voters in fourteen states faced new voting restrictions at the polls for first time in 2014—in the first election in nearly fifty years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. The number of voters impacted by the new restrictions exceeded the margin of victory in close races for senate and governor in North Carolina, Kansas, Virginia and Florida, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

In the North Carolina senate race, Republican Thom Tillis, who as speaker of the North Carolina General Assembly oversaw the state’s new voting law, defeated Democrat Kay Hagan by 50,000 votes. Nearly five times as many voters in 2010 used the voting reforms eliminated by the North Carolina GOP—200,000 voted during the now-eliminated first week of early voting, 20,000 used same-day registration and 7,000 cast out-of-precinct ballots.

The intention in placing these new roadblocks to voting was to change the outcome of elections. Only the worst dupe in the world thinks that the intent was to increase the integrity of the count. Even if these restrictions didn’t change any actual outcomes, the perception that they did in Republican circles assures that they will keep at it since they think it’s a winning strategy.

And it probably is.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, November 9, 2014

November 10, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Voter Suppression, Voting Rights | , , , , | Leave a comment

“McConnell, Boehner”: Sorry Voters, You Just Put Crazy People In Charge Of Congress

For as long as John Boehner has been Speaker of the House, his majority has been defined by its intransigence. This isn’t spin cooked up by Boehner’s liberal critics or by Democrats on the other side of the aisle. Boehner himself has at times seemed to revel in the barking madness of his hardline members.

That’s not to say Boehner enjoys this aspect of his job. It’s generally been a problem for him. But his willingness to grapple publicly with the difficulties he faces isn’t just self-effacing charm. It’s also cunning. To make progress, it follows, his members must be placated. How can he be expected to corral his herd of beasts if Democrats refuse to appease them?

It’s what has allowed him to say things like, “[t]he votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit,” when the opposite is clearly true.

But that was before. Starting in January, Republicans will control Congress completely. Obviously this doesn’t obligate them to advance any particular, or constructive agenda. The last six years have demonstrated that there’s more political upside for Republicans in gridlock than in cooperation with Democrats. But now that they’re calling all of the shots, you might think Boehner, along with incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, would stop talking about their own members as irrational animals that can’t easily be controlled.

Nope!

Per Bloomberg: “McConnell said Obama’s plans to take executive action on immigration, if Congress doesn’t act, would amount to ‘waving a red flag in front of a bull.’”

It’s hard to fault GOP leaders for playing expectations games, if expectations games allow them to escape accountability for the actions and agency of their members. But that really shouldn’t be an effective tactic anymore. Republicans and Democrats are coequals now. President Obama will do some stuff that Congressional Republicans won’t like, and vice versa. But the fact that Boehner and McConnell announced that they would “renew our commitment to repeal Obamacare” doesn’t give Obama an excuse to write off Congress, or act recklessly, or even to duck negotiations over specific reforms to the Affordable Care Act.

The administration would endure endless derision if Obama or his top aides said Obama wouldn’t cooperate with Republicans because their latest Obamacare repeal vote had “poisoned the well.” When congressional Republicans used the same language prior to the election, you could at least chalk it up to the fact that the Democrats controlled more of the agenda than they did, and that they weren’t pleased with the terms. But that’s not true anymore. If Republicans decide not to tee up immigration legislation, it’s because they don’t want to pass immigration legislation.

They shouldn’t be able to lay that decision at Obama’s feet, on the grounds that they’re too unruly to be controlled. And if they are, then consider the implications of placing a party that’s been commandeered by such waspish politicians in charge of votes on issues like ISIS, Ebola, or the debt limit.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, November 7, 2014

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Congress, John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Cardinal Reality Facing The Justices”: The Supreme Court Is Now A Death Panel

Back in March 2011, when the biggest threats facing Obamacare were the Supreme Court and the 2012 elections, I argued that the demise of the Affordable Care Act would put people’s lives in immediate danger.

At the time, the law had relatively few beneficiariespeople under 26 covered by their parents’ health plans, a small population of people with pre-existing medical conditions. But some of them had already used their new coverage to finance the kinds of life-saving treatments that would leave them in need of chronic care for the rest of their lives. Take away the health law, and most of these organ transplant recipients and other patients would have become unable to afford their medications, and some of them would die.

Since then, millions of people have gained coverage under the law, and that group of chronic care patients has grown much larger. But despite the fact that the Court upheld the law, and President Obama won reelection, the ACA isn’t out of danger.

On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that will determine whether the federal government can continue to subsidize private ACA coverage in states that didn’t set up their own insurance exchanges.

That case is King v. Burwell, but the issue at stake has come to be defined by a comparable case called Halbig v. Burwell.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the challengers in King, but the Supreme Court agreed to grant cert to those challengers anyhow, despite the absence of a Circuit Court split. If the five conservative Supreme Court justices are so inclined, they can void ACA subsidies for millions of beneficiaries, and cripple the insurance markets in about three dozen states.

Some of those beneficiaries will be the kinds of transplant recipients and other patients I wrote about three and a half years ago. Except today there are many more of them. Several of these patients explained the risk to their lives in an amicus brief, urging a different circuit court to reject the challenge to the subsidies, and thus to the viability of the insurance markets their lives depend on.

“Without insurance, Jennifer [Causor’s] treatments would be completely unaffordable. Her transplant cost nearly $280,000. She takes three anti-rejection drugs, one of which has a sticker price of $2,400 per month…. Should she become uninsured, Jennifer would face bankruptcy and even death.”

You can read the whole brief below. Conservatives are brimming with excitement over the Court’s decision to hear the challenge. Should the five conservatives rule that the text of the law doesn’t provide for federal subsidies in states that didn’t set up their own exchanges, they’ll place the onus on Congress or state governments to address the consequences for constituents who lose their benefits. The contested text could be fixed with a comically simple technical corrections bill, which Democrats would happily support. If Republicans were to sit on their hands, or use the ensuing chaos as leverage to extract unrelated concessions, it will cost people their lives. That is a cardinal reality facing justices, and the people soliciting their conservative activism.

There’s an ironic post-script to this article. The Supreme Court is likely to resolve this case with a 5-4 decision, one way or another. Either a single conservative will side with the Court’s four liberals as in 2012, and leave the law unscathed, or the five conservatives will align to void the subsidies.

Under the circumstances, supporters of the law might be nervous about the potential loss of a liberal justice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health and advanced age make many liberals very uneasy, especially now that Obama’s ability to fill Supreme Court vacancies has come into doubt. But for the purposes of King, this issue is immaterial.

If Ginsburg’s seat were to become vacant, then the fate of the law would remain in the hands of a conservative swing justice. A 4-4 split effectively upholds the lower court’s rulingand since the Fourth Circuit upheld the subsidies, the subsidies would stand. If the Fourth Circuit had ruled the other way, her health would be much more material.

When I mentioned this admittedly morbid but nevertheless important curiosity on Twitter, a large number of dimwitted (or in some cases persistently dishonest) conservatives flooded my mentions column in outrage. Most of them missed the meaning altogether, and accused me of wishing death upon a conservative Supreme Court justice. But even the ones who didn’t managed to contain their enthusiasm over the possibility of millions of people losing insurance for a moment, to reprimand me for being so cavalier about people’s lives.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, November 7, 2014

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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