Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Last Call

It looks like the House GOP has figured out that actively legislating discrimination about which women deserve protections under the Violence Against Women Act is not only unrelentingly awful, but political hemlock as well.

House Republican leaders signaled Tuesday night that they are ready to let their VAWA bill die and clear the way for a broader, bipartisan Senate bill. The Senate legislation includes new protections missing from the House bill for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), Native American and immigrant victims of domestic violence.
Here’s the House GOP plan procedurally, based on House Rules Committee actions Tuesday night: The House is expected to hold two VAWA votes on Thursday. The first will be to strip out the language of the Senate VAWA bill and replace it with the House GOP language. Since that isn’t expected to pass, lawmakers will then vote on the Senate VAWA bill itself. A GOP source involved in negotiations conceded that there is greater support for the Senate bill, and that the Senate version is likely the one to pass. That means VAWA could land on President Barack Obama’s desk by the end of this week — the version sought by the White House and Democrats.

Pretty much total surrender here on the issue as House Republicans have the approval ratings of somewhere between ebola in a nursery school and National Chewing On Tinfoil Month.

That House Republican leaders are allowing the Senate bill to get a floor vote is significant because they refused to let that happen in the last Congress, even though lawmakers in both parties believed it would pass. The move also signals that GOP leaders are ready to stop fighting over an issue that has damaged them politically. Congress failed to reauthorize VAWA in 2011 due in large part to House Republican resistance to the new protections in the Senate bill, and Democrats clobbered them over it throughout the 2012 election season.

People forget in what was supposed to be a big year for the GOP in 2012, not only did they lose Senate seats, but House seats as well.   Letting VAWA die for a year now looks like a fatal mistake for the GOP, one they’re now scrambling to correct after badmouthing the Senate version as recently as last week.  What’s behind the change in heart?  Perhaps correctly assuming he would personally shoulder the blame should the bill die, Eric Cantor has now relented.

It’s not a victory yet for the good guys, but things look a lot better than just last Friday, when the house version was passed.  Suddenly, this same House version doesn’t have the votes to survive the reconciliation process with the Senate bill. 

Funny how that works.

Re-Birther Of The Uncool, Part Eleventy Squared

Oh racist Republican jackass birthers, don’t ever stop reminding the American people just which party is full of bigots and crackpots whose awful views aren’t just tolerated but are openly welcomed.  Via Taegan Goddard:

Michigan state Sen. Tom Casperson (R) told a radio show he’s not sure where Obama was born, according to Deadline Detroit.
Said Casperson: “I don’t know because it seems like that issue was dropped immediately as far as the major media went. My gut tells me if it had been a different president, say George W. Bush, they’d have been digging into like there was no tomorrow and trying to get to the bottom of, which they never really tried to get to the bottom of.”

That’s because there’s nothing to get to the bottom of, you moron.  The President was born in Hawaii, period.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is a racist clown, point blank.  Stop it.  It’s the guy’s second term already.  If you’re still questioning his birthplace at this point after five years, there’s really nothing left but good ol’ racism to explain it.  End of line.

Ain’t nobody got time for this, as they say.

Why We Still Need Section 5

SCOTUS will hear arguments today in the case of Shelby County, Alabama versus the Voting Rights Act.  Section 5, which determines which counties and states (all with decades-long histories of discrimination against minority voters) are subject to Justice Department "pre-clearance" before changes in voting laws can take place.  Shelby County argues those laws are no longer necessary in 2013, and that holding Shelby County to Section 5 violates the Tenth Amendment.  As Sahil Kapur reports at TPM, the goal here is the end of the Voting Rights Act, and the end of voting equality in southern red states.

The lead plaintiff, Shelby County of Alabama, argues that although Section 5 was justified at the time to correct the evils of racism, it now lacks constitutional basis because the regions it singles out have experienced a dramatic rise in minority voter participation and because outright discriminatory laws like literacy tests are outlawed.

“Section 5 exacts a heavy, unprecedented federalism cost,” Shelby County wrote in its brief, “by forbidding the implementation of all voting changes in jurisdictions identified by Section 4(b) until federal officials are satisfied that the changes do not undermine minority voting rights.” Without more evidence that those parts of the country continue to systematically disenfranchise minority voters, “Section 5’s federalism cost is too great,” it said.

Congress begs to differ. In 2006, a Republican-led Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act, including Section 5, after it determined that “vestiges of discrimination in voting continue to exist as demonstrated by second generation barriers constructed to prevent minority voters from fully participating in the electoral process.”

Defenders of the law argue that Section 5 remains an essential tool to proactively combat voter disenfranchisement. They point to various instances in recent years where the Justice Department has denied preclearance for voting changes to covered regions, and will contend that efforts at voter discrimination are more routine in those areas than in the rest of the country. They also note that Congress, not the courts, is tasked with enforcing the 15th Amendment.

Section 5 has been validated four times by the Supreme Court, in 1966, 1973, 1980 and 1999, noting that the 15th Amendment authorizes Congress to enforce the ban on discriminatory voting laws. But the ideological makeup of today’s Court means another victory will be a tough slog for defenders, as five justices have sympathized with the notion that Section 5 is unfair.

“Things have changed in the South,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in 2009.

And yet voter discrimination exists today, where a new class of more subtle Jim Crow laws put minority voters at a distinct disadvantage.  Let's not forget that just eight months ago, federal judges unanimously found that Texas Republicans blatantly violated Section 5 laws when the state's redistricting plan openly discriminated against Latino voters, and that in fact the plan was based on taking political power away from Latino voters.  Without Section 5 in place, that plan would have gone through.

A redistricting plan signed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) intentionally discriminated against Hispanic voters, a three-judge panel unanimously ruled Tuesday. The judges found that seats belonging to white incumbent members of Congress were protected under the plan while districts belonging to incumbent minorities were targeted for changes.

The court was “persuaded by the totality of the evidence that the plan was enacted with discriminatory intent,” according to the ruling. There was “sufficient evidence to conclude that the Congressional Plan was motivated, at least in part, by discriminatory intent,” the court found.

The three judges said they were overwhelmed with the amount of evidence showing the congressional redistricting plan was intentionally discriminatory, writing in a footnote that parties “have provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space, or need, to address here.”

No, Chief Justice Roberts.  Things are not different in the South.  Not at all.


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