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“A GOP Takeover? Not So Fast”: There’s Room For Democrats To Make Up Ground In The Battle For Senate Control

You’ve seen the ads and heard the robocalls. Yes, it’s election season, and everyone wants to know who will win. In the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republicans will likely hold onto their majority as there simply aren’t enough competitive House races to allow Democrats to gain enough seats. The real battle this election year is for control of the U.S. Senate. Democrats currently control the chamber with only a slim majority, making them vulnerable to defeat. Election watchers everywhere are already offering up predictions, but it’s still far too early to know which party will be victorious in November.

At this point in time, Republicans appear to have an edge in the Senate races and, indeed, many political observers are starting to forecast a Republican Senate majority in 2015. This week, Fox News released several polls showing Republican candidates are ahead in five key Senate races. There are some good reasons for the GOP advantage. Democrats have more Senate seats to defend than Republicans. Additionally, the president’s approval ratings are low, which is always a disadvantage to his party’s candidates. The fall season has also been full of potential government missteps regarding the threat of Ebola, controversy over the handling of the danger posed by the Islamic State group and scandal in the Secret Service. All of these have the potential to work against Democratic Senate contenders, but it’s too soon to count them out.

As the Washington Post points out this week, the GOP path to a Senate takeover is far from clear. Recent developments in key states such as South Dakota and Georgia have given Democrats reason to hope. Additionally, the Post points out, some Republican candidates have not performed as well as expected, taking some potential gains out of play. In the Fox News poll, none of the candidates are polling at over fifty percent, which means none of the candidates are close to a decisive victory and that the races are, in the words of the news organization, “still far from settled.” There’s room for Democratic candidates to make up ground

Election Day is still four weeks away, and in an election year that is an eternity. Anything could happen over the course of the next month to completely change the election-year landscape. Further, it doesn’t appear that voters have completely made up their minds yet. Although national trends seem to be favoring one party, as Democratic pollster Mark Mellman told the Washington Post, “Senate races are not just about national trends. The candidates and the local circumstances do matter.” There is also the possibility that, due to election laws, results in some states may be delayed for weeks or even months. If the control of the Senate comes down to one or two seats, these delays could create significant uncertainty. Who will win the race for control of the Senate? It’s still up for grabs.

 

By: Cary Gibson, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, October 10, 2014

October 13, 2014 Posted by | Midterm Elections, Senate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Women’s Equality Day”: The Vote — A Right Worth Fighting For

Today, August 26, marks Women’s Equality Day. It is also a little more than two months from the 2014 midterm elections. In my mind, these two things are inextricably linked.

Some of you may be asking, “What is Women’s Equality Day?” That’s a pretty easy question to answer. Every year since 1971, the President of the United States marks August 26 in commemoration of the day in 1920 that the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution — granting women equal voting rights — was certified into law.

Women fought long and hard for the right to vote. In 1848, the document produced by the Seneca Falls Convention was the first formal demand for women’s suffrage. During World War I, suffragists picketed the White House — possibly the first “cause” to do so. Many were arrested and participated in a hunger strike while in prison, leading to force feedings.

But not all women obtained access to the ballot box when the 19th amendment entered the law books. In the southern United States, Jim Crow laws kept most black women and men from voting. It wasn’t until passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 that the right to vote was extended to all adult citizens.

Sadly, the clock is turning back on voting rights. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court eviscerated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, relieving dozens of state and local jurisdictions from having to pre-clear changes in their voting laws with the U.S. Department of Justice. They have wasted no time erecting new barriers against voting. In state after state, GOP-dominated legislatures have enacted new rules aimed at suppressing the votes of specific types of people: younger voters, immigrant citizens, voters of color and unmarried women.

The specific voter suppression laws vary from state to state. The most restrictive states require voters to present a government issued photo ID (a driver’s license, a passport, military ID, etc.); currently, 34 states have voter ID laws, and 15 of those states require photo ID.

The voter-suppression crowd argues that requiring a photo ID for voting is not onerous. It’s just a driver’s license, and you have to have that to drive, or get on a plane, or buy alcohol. Besides, they say, we need photo IDs to prevent voter fraud.

Here’s why that’s all wrong: (1) Voter fraud is all but non-existent in the U.S., and photo ID doesn’t address the very few instances that have been found. (2) Just a reminder for anyone who wasn’t paying attention in middle school, voting is not like driving, buying alcohol or traveling by plane. Voting is a constitutional right and essential to the democratic process. (3) The notion that a photo ID is simply something everyone has presumes all eligible voters have the right paperwork (or the money to get the right paperwork, like a birth certificate), transportation to get to their local DMV, and the ability to take time off work to make the trip.

So, if there is no real voter fraud to worry about, what’s the real goal of voter suppression measures? Well, it turns out that the majority of voting-eligible people in the U.S. disagree with the right wing’s anti-woman, anti-social justice, anti-union agenda. Seven in ten Americans support Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. A majority support labor unions, raising the minimum wage, and equal pay for equal work. And 62-63 percent support comprehensive immigration reform with a clear path to citizenship.

The reality is, if enough voters actually turn out for this November’s elections, we could elect candidates who support our issues and turn our country around. Does anyone doubt that the folks trying to suppress our votes are hearing footsteps?

I’ve always been proud of NOW’s position as the grassroots arm of the women’s movement. Our activists and members throughout the country are already doing the hard work on the ground — knocking on doors, making calls, educating and mobilizing voters — to get the word out about how high the stakes are this year. Want to get in on the action? Join me and take NOW’s pledge to vote on November 4th.

The right to vote is precious. Our feminist foremothers were beaten, arrested, went on hunger strikes and endured force-feeding for that right. Our sisters and brothers in the civil rights movement were beaten, jailed and murdered for registering Black voters. This year, let’s honor our proud history by voting in such large numbers that even the most dishonest, most cowardly suppression efforts can’t stop us!

 

By: Terry O’Neil, President, National Organization for Women; The Huffington Post Blog, August 26, 2014

August 26, 2014 Posted by | Voter Suppression, Voting Rights, War On Women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Boehner’s Lawsuit Really Means”: The One Thing Republicans Hate More Than A Democratic President, Is This President Himself

Thank you John Boehner. The nation truly appreciates you and your fellow House Republicans altruistically devoting your last moments in Congress, before a much-deserved 5 1/2 week vacation (hey, you try doing nothing for a whole year…it’s exhausting!) to protecting healthcare. Despite obsessively voting fifty times and spending $70+ million of taxpayer money to repeal the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, you’re on a mission to ensure that Americans receive every single benefit the insurance law intended. Bravo!

That’s right. Republicans have sued the President of the United States. That’s a pretty serious action. Must’ve been over something so egregious… something so detrimental to America’s health and welfare… something that, if unchecked, could literally bring down our great nation. Guess again.

The lawsuit is over Obama’s use of an executive order to delay for one-year the employer mandate provision of ACA, which requires business owners to provide health care for its employees. Forget Immigration, minimum wage or extended unemployment insurance. There’s no time to waste on these pesky little issues when one aspect of Obamacare is at risk! Because no one wants to force businesses to provide health insurance to employees more than House Republicans, right?

Oh, those executive orders! Republicans hate them, especially when it’s a Democrat who signs them. But for anyone keeping score, Obama’s signed 183, far less than any president in modern history, especially Republicans. George W. Bush signed 291 of them. Bill Clinton 364. Ronald Reagan 381. And George H. W. Bush 166 (in four years). So why all the Republican concern about the Constitution all of a sudden? It’s because the only one thing Republicans hate more than a Democratic president’s use of executive orders is this president himself. No president has been more disrespected, or been the object of more vengeful scheming, than Obama.

To be sure, for Republicans, the lawsuit is not only baseless but meaningless. It will have no material impact on Obama’s presidency, and its cost to taxpayers will ultimately seem small compared to the cost to the party come election day. But the real gain is to be had by Democrats, whose base is more energized than ever heading into November’s critical midterms, while being handed on a silver platter a delicious boon to fundraising. They’ve raised millions since the suit’s been filed… at a rate of about $1-million per day.

 

By: Andy Ostroy, The Huffington Post Blog, August 4, 2014

 

 

August 5, 2014 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why The Border Crisis Is A Myth”: Another Justification To Play To Anti-Immigrant Voters In The Fall Elections

To hear the national news media tell the story, you would think my city, El Paso, and others along the Texas-Mexico border were being overrun by children — tens of thousands of them, some with their mothers, arriving from Central America in recent months, exploiting an immigration loophole to avoid deportation and putting a fatal strain on border state resources.

There’s no denying the impact of this latest immigration wave or the need for more resources. But there’s no crisis. Local communities like mine have done an amazing job of assisting these migrants.

Rather, the myth of a “crisis” is being used by politicians to justify ever-tighter restrictions on immigration, play to anti-immigrant voters in the fall elections and ignore the reasons so many children are coming here in the first place.

In the last month, about 2,500 refugees have been brought to El Paso after crossing the border elsewhere. The community quickly came together to support the women and children and Annunciation House, the organization coordinating the effort.

Contrary to the heated pronouncements, this is nothing we haven’t seen before. Groups of refugees arrive by plane and are processed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. When they are released, Annunciation House takes them to a shelter where they get a shower, a place to sleep, meals and even health care — all provided by volunteers and private donations.

The families of the refugees also help, often paying for travel costs and taking them into their homes. The refugees then move on, to Florida, Georgia, New York or elsewhere.

While the numbers of refugees arriving in El Paso are a fraction of the number arriving in McAllen, in southern Texas, the chain of events is generally the same. Like El Paso, South Texas is not the permanent destination for these refugees. And the response from McAllen’s citizens has been generous, too.

The same can’t be said of our politicians. What we are hearing from Austin and Washington is an almost Pavlovian response to immigration concerns. My governor, Rick Perry, a Republican, announced this week that he was sending 1,000 National Guard soldiers, at a cost of $12 million a month, to bolster the border.

And despite President Obama’s efforts to work with Central American leaders to address the root causes of the migration, his recently announced request for $3.7 billion, supposedly to deal with these new migrants, contains yet more border security measures: Almost $40 million would go to drone surveillance, and nearly 30 percent of it is for transportation and detention.

In Texas, state legislators and the Department of Public Safety are planning to spend an additional $30 million over six months to create a “surge” of state law enforcement resources, an expenditure that some in our state’s Capitol would like to see made permanent.

The costs are significant. Every day we detain an undocumented child immigrant, it costs Immigration and Customs Enforcement — i.e., the taxpayer — $259 per person, significantly more than we spend to educate a child in a middle-class school district.

The irony is that this cash-intensive strategy comes from leaders who consistently underfund health care, transportation and education. And they ignore the crucial fact that children crossing our borders aren’t trying to sneak around law enforcement: They are running to law enforcement.

What is most alarming, however, is the attempt to erode rights and protections created by intelligent, humane legislation.

The debate is centered on the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, a law signed by President George W. Bush to provide legal and humanitarian protections to unaccompanied migrant children from countries other than Mexico or Canada. The act passed with bipartisan support, yet the “crisis” is now being cited by some of the same legislators who supported the law as a reason to repeal or change it.

This effort to take away rights that were granted when there was significantly less anti-immigrant fervor isn’t just shortsighted and expensive, it’s un-American. We can debate the wisdom of providing greater protection to Central American children than to Mexican children, but there can be no doubt that giving safe haven to a child facing violence in a country that cannot protect its most vulnerable citizens is what a civilized country, with the resources we possess, should do.

Our border communities understand this. I hope the rest of the country, including our leaders in Austin and Washington, can follow our lead.

 

By: Veronica Escobar, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, July 25, 2014

July 28, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Humanitarian Crisis, Immigration, Refugees | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Riding The Tea Party’s Wrecking Ball”: How Many More Scandals Can The GOP Invent Before It Finishes Suing Obama?

Serious lawsuits start with some specific legal grievance – a claim that someone was injured by a defective product, say, or that a search was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment – and proceed from there. US House speaker John Boehner wants to sue the President of the United States – for no particular reason other than his alleged lawlessness – and fill in the details later.

The lawsuit, which a House committee will take up rather seriously on Wednesday, is a frivolous stunt that not only has no chance of succeeding but isn’t even intended to succeed. The belated choice of targets does provide a useful illustration of Republican priorities, though: most notably, registering more outrage at the Affordable Care Act and further attempting to legitimize various fake scandals wafting up from the conservative fever swamp.

Some of the GOP attacks on the Obama administration have had real substantive effects. This suit, however, is analogous to the endless House votes to repeal Obamacare – an impotent symbolic gesture by Republicans frustrated they were unable to deny access to health coverage to tens of millions of American citizens.

By speaking first in general terms about Obama’s alleged failure to “faithfully execute the laws” in favor of usurping the will of Congress, plus the president’s failure to do enough bombing of random foreign countries, Boehner allowed the Tea Party’s insatiable skree machine to fill in its own gibberish legalese. Why focus on one potential impeachable offense when the examples can be nearly infinite? Benghazi! Fast and Furious! Executive orders!

Now that Boehner has actually announced the basis for the lawsuit – and will spend the next two weeks getting it to the floor for another meaningless Obamacare vote – it turns out to be a narrow and almost certainly irrelevant one. The suit will focus on a claim that Obama acted illegally when the administration decided to effectively delay implementation of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act, by declining to penalize employers who didn’t comply in 2014.

In fairness, the argument isn’t unreasonable on its own terms, but to bring a legal challenge in federal court, a plaintiff must have “standing” – Boehner and Co must show that the House of Representatives has been directly injured or otherwise directly affected. Under existing precedents, that’s nearly impossible.

And even if the federal courts were to grant standing, for a lawsuit to proceed, there has to be an ongoing controversy. Since the employer mandate will almost certainly not be delayed another year, the issue is likely to be moot before the lawsuit gets very far, which will result in its getting thrown out. The American taxpayers will have funded a no-hope legal challenge because House Republicans needed to keep their base’s 24/7 scandal-invention machine going – not because there was an actual controversy.

It’s not clear what kind of bill the coming weeks might produce. Conservative legal experts will be happy to give testimony, some of which will be reflected in the final resolution. But the details are fundamentally irrelevant. The federal courts will almost certainly deny that they have jurisdiction, Boehner will have sent politically expedient signals to his base, and the successful implementation of Obamacare will proceed exactly as it would have – as if nobody had ever sued the President of the United States at all. As for the defective product that is the Republican-controlled House, well, the only remedy for the injuries they’ve inflicted is at the ballot box in November.

 

By: Scott Lemieux, The Guardian, July 15, 2014

 

July 16, 2014 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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