Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Mess Of Carolina Barbecue

That's the funny thing about red state Republicans telling the federal government to go screw itself and making legislation that enshrines unconstitutional discrimination into state law.  The federal government might be inclined to actually do something about it, as North Carolina is about to find out the hard way.

The Obama administration is considering whether North Carolina’s new law on gay and transgender rights makes the state ineligible for billions of dollars in federal aid for schools, highways and housing, officials said Friday.

Cutting off any federal money — or even simply threatening to do so — would put major new pressure on North Carolina to repeal the law, which eliminated local protections for gay and transgender people and restricted which bathrooms transgender people can use. A loss of federal money could send the state into a budget crisis and jeopardize services that are central to daily life.

Although experts said such a drastic step was unlikely, at least immediately, the administration’s review puts North Carolina on notice that the new law could have financial consequences. Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina had assured residents that the law would not jeopardize federal money for education.

But the law also represents a test for the Obama administration, which has declared that the fight for gay and transgender rights is a continuation of the civil rights era. The North Carolina dispute forces the administration to decide how aggressively to fight on that principle.

The North Carolina law created a mandatory statewide anti-discrimination policy, but it did not include specific protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The law prohibits transgender people from using public bathrooms that do not match the sexes on their birth certificates.

Anthony Foxx, the secretary of transportation, first raised the prospect of a review of federal funding in public remarks on Tuesday in North Carolina. The Department of Transportation provides roughly $1 billion a year to North Carolina. The New York Times then asked other federal agencies whether they were conducting similar reviews.

Billions in dollars of federal funding losses I'm sure will make NC GOP lawmakers very, very popular heading into November.  The Tarheel State painted a big ol' target on the place and dared Obama to do something about it.

Allow the White House to take you up on that, boys.

Flipping The Script On SCOTUS, Con't

Meanwhile, President Obama's strategy of getting Republicans stuck in "damned if you do, damned if you don't" territory is working wonderfully. Simon Maloy details the atrocities:

The trick to making blanket obstructionism work as a political tool is to make it a team effort. The Republicans in Congress understand this well – their strategy for the Obama administration from day one was to oppose everything and enforce unanimity among their members. They understood that any Republican defections would feed political ammunition to the Democrats and the White House, who would claim bipartisan backing for their initiatives and paint the Republicans in opposition as unreasonable. For a while, that strategy worked: the president’s biggest legislative items were passed without any Republican backing, and Republicans ran hard against those laws to make gains in Congress. The key to it all was putting up a united front.

That’s what Senate Republicans tried to accomplish when news broke that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had passed away. Their immediate reaction was to clamp down hard: no hearings, no meetings, not even a mote of consideration for any nominee President Obama would put forward. They came up with a number of reasons justifying this position, but they’re all bullshit – the real reason is that they’re holding out hope that a Republican president will restore the court’s conservative majority next year. But the key to making this obstructionist strategy have at least some political viability was unanimity of opposition.

Well, say goodbye to that plan. The wall of obstruction put up by GOP leaders is showing a number of cracks as Senate Republicans – from blue and red states alike – defy their leadership and actually show minimum levels of professional courtesy to President Obama’s nominee, judge Merrick Garland. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois (who happens to be facing a tough reelection fight) has already met with Garland and is actively pushing his colleagues to hold hearings and “man up and cast a vote.” Garland has more meetings lined up with Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas. According to NBC News, one-quarter of Republican senators have expressed openness to at least meeting with Obama’s nominee.

None of this means that Garland is any closer to actually having hearings or receiving a vote, but the fact that so many Republicans are deviating from the official line is bad news for the GOP politically. Republican leaders have invested a good deal of time building up a case for why Garland’s nomination doesn’t even merit cursory attention, and it’s being ripped down by their own colleagues. Orrin Hatch insists that Republicans are doing their jobs by blocking Garland, while Jerry Moran says they’re actually abdicating their responsibilities. Chuck Grassley insists Republicans are standing on principle by pushing hearings off until after the election, while Mark Kirk says they’re actually being cowards. The obstructionist plan was never popular to begin with, and internal fractures like these make it supremely difficult to convince anyone that Republicans are on the right side of this issue.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have successfully gotten Garland’s foot in the door, so now they have an opening to push things even further: If meetings are okay, why not hearings? And every Republican senator Garland meets with is another opportunity for the White House to pit Republicans against one another. The Senate GOP leadership wanted nothing more than to make this nomination process a referendum on Obama, but now they have to explain why their own colleagues are wrong for meeting with Garland.

It's easy to demonize President Obama, they've had nearly a decade to do it.  But Garland?  No, it's backfiring completely, and eventually it'll all fall down.
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