Eight Senate Democrats helped seal the fate for President Barack Obama’s controversial nominee to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The Senate voted Wednesday not to appoint Debo Adegbile with a final tally of 47-52, reports the Washington Post.
Opposition was expected from Republicans based on Adegbile’s participation in an appeal on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal in 2009. Abu-Jamal became internationally known after his conviction for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. Adegbile’s work with the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund helped overturn the subsequent death sentence handed down in that case.
The polarizing nature of that case seems to have given some Democrats cold feet in moving ahead with Adegbile’s confirmation. The Obama administration, sensing the vote was going to be close, made sure that Vice President Biden was on hand to cast a tie-breaking vote had it been needed. With eight senators leaving the president’s side, though, it was not. The move infuriated Obama, who issued an angry statement following the vote.
"The Senate’s failure to confirm Debo Adegbile to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice is a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant,” the president wrote.
While Obama may have thought that Adegbile was a qualified candidate for the job, many Democrats felt the nomination was tone-deaf going into hotly contested midterm elections later in the year. A senior aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to the Washington Post, said several senators’ offices were “very angry” that the White House chose to move ahead with the potentially divisive nomination.
"It's a vote you didn't have to take. It's a 30-second ad that writes itself,” the aide said, speculating as to how the vote could be used against senators in upcoming races.
Most senators who cast the votes against Adegbile have not issued comments on their decision, but Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., did.
"There is no question that Mr. Adegbile has had a significant and broad career as a leading civil rights advocate, and would be an asset to the Justice Department, but at a time when the Civil Rights Division urgently needs better relations with the law enforcement community, I was troubled by the idea of voting for an Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights who would face such visceral opposition from law enforcement on his first day on the job,” he said in a Business Insider story.
Coons said it was the hardest vote he has had to cast since joining the Senate.
President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats plan to make raising the minimum wage a key issue in the 2014 midterm elections, claiming it will help many low-income families. However, a report released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that doing so may lead to job losses throughout the economy, according to a story in USA Today.
The president’s initial push was to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9, but he has since joined with Senate Democrats who want to raise it to $10.10. Such a hike could cost 500,000 jobs, says the CBO.
“The increase in the minimum wage would have two principal effects on low-wage workers,” the report is quoted as saying in the Washington Post. “The large majority would have higher wages and family income, but a much smaller group would be jobless and have much lower family income.”
An increase to $10.10 would affect about 16.5 million workers and pull some 900,000 families above the poverty line, says the report. The CBO points out that the numbers on job losses in the report are estimates and that the actual number could be “very slight” or as high as one million.
Republicans, zeroing in on the high numbers, sought to take away a top issue from the Democrats.
“Today’s CBO report shows that raising the minimum wage could destroy as many as one million jobs, a devastating blow to the very people that need help most,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement.
The report put the Obama administration on the defensive. Chief economist at the White House, Jason Furman, downplayed the seemingly more dire conclusions of the report. In a conference call with reporters he said, “estimates do not reflect the overall consensus view of economists, who have said the minimum wage would have little or no impact on employment.”
While a minimum wage increase may likely pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, it is unlikely to get through the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.
Going into the November midterms, Democrats have already decided it is an important, and likely safe, issue. A recent poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC showed there is support for such an increase among two-thirds of voters. But Democrats may need to tread lightly following the CBO report, as an increasing number of voters become concerned about jobs. A Gallup poll this month said nearly 25 percent of voters mentioned unemployment. That number is up from 16 percent a month ago, said the Washington Post.
In a report released Wednesday, data showed that more than 1 million people signed up for private health insurance in January. This raises the number of total enrollees in the insurance exchanges to 3.3 million. The surge in enrollment is good news for the Obama administration’s goal of 7 million enrollments by the end of March.
The exchanges were opened in October as part of the Affordable Care Act, commonly dubbed “Obamacare.”
Some argue that the numbers are inflated. Insurance analysts argue that many newcomers to the exchanges may have enrolled but have not yet paid premiums into the system and should not be counted.
“The numbers are not as high as 3.3 million -- it’s lower,” one senior insurance industry source told Fox News. “Those numbers are inflated. The question is how much.”
Inflated or not, many question why the new numbers are not being touted by the president as a huge success.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama’s only public appearance was to sign an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal workers. There was no mention of the seemingly positive healthcare report.
The reason, some say, is that the negative impact of the infamously botched rollout of the healthcare exchanges and the website HealthCare.gov will hurt Democratic incumbents in Congress during the 2014 midterm elections. Therefore, Democrats are distancing themselves from any mention of the Affordable Care Act and the Obama administration is seeking to provide them cover by keeping quiet on the issue as well.
“Really, it’s more ammo for the primary opponents in the Democratic Party,” Republican Party strategist Ford O’Connell said.
Democratic incumbents may still face stout opposition from Republicans in hotly contested states. In Florida, Rep. Joe Garcia, Democrat, is running not as a proponent of the Affordable Care Act but as a legislator willing to fight the insurance companies to fix it. His campaign is being helped partially by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s Political Action Committee. Such a move signals that many key Democrats are circling the wagons, preparing for a fight in 2014.
The controversial legislation has been Obama’s centerpiece domestic legislation, but it has struggled to gain popularity. The law is blamed for costing Democrats the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010, and support for it is still below 50 percent in most polls.
Former Arkansas govenor and current Fox News host Mike Huckabee attacked Democrats for supporting birth control for women (via Obamacare) during a speech today at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Washington D.C.
According to The Washington Post, Huckabee claimed that Democrats want to "insult women" by providing them preventive health care such as contraception (video below).
"If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it," said Huckabee. "Let's take that discussion all across America."
The GOP audience then wildly applauded.
"I haven't seen that report, but whoever said it sounds offensive to me and to women," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in response, reports TalkingPointsMemo.com.
Huckabee made a similar statement on his Fox News TV show over the weekend, notes Slate.com.
"For Democrats to reduce women to beggars for cheap government funded birth control is demeaning to the women that I know who are far more complicated than their libido and the management of their reproductive system," stated Huckabee.
In response to Huckabee's statement today, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund said in a statement:
The problem isn’t what Mike Huckabee says – it’s what he and too many other politicians believe. These politicians need a basic anatomy and sex ed course. Birth control is basic, preventive health care for women. It helps women plan their pregnancies and manage their lives, and many women use it for a variety of other medical reasons, including treatment of endometriosis that can lead to infertility. The fact that Mike Huckabee doesn’t understand what birth control does is a perfect illustration of why decisions about birth control should be left to a woman and her doctor, without interference from politicians.
If all goes according to state lawmakers’ plans in South Carolina, public school teachers will soon be filling a moment of silence with a prayer to begin each school day. Should the legislature pass, students who don’t wish to participate in the prayer would be allowed to simply leave the classroom.
The bill, H. 3526, was introduced in February of 2013, but is currently held up in the House Committee on Judiciary. The Supreme Court has noted that as a case of government endorsing religion, the bill violates the Constitution’s First Amendment.
Lawmakers have responded by saying that they are willing to compromise on whether the teachers lead the prayer.
As Democratic Representative Wendell Gilliard, one of the bill’s sponsors, said, “If they want to do away with teachers conducting the prayer, that would be fine with us.”
The teacher would merely conduct the moment of silence, and students would be free to pray to whomever they please.
“The essential part of the bill, the important part, is putting prayer back in school," Gilliard continued.
The overwhelming majority of the bill’s sponsors in the House of Representatives are Democrats. Joining Wendell Gilliard are fellow Democrats Robert Williams, Joseph Jefferson, Carl Anderson, Bill Clyburn, Lonnie Hosey, and Robert Ridgeway III. Amongst its Republican House of Representative supporters are Liston Barfield, Heather Ammons Crawford, and Don Wells.
Sources: The Raw Story, Huffington Post
Photo Source: http://enriquesantos.com
11What You Drink Relates to How You Vote, According to National Media Research Planning and Placement
The most interesting thing about an infographic which breaks down voters by brand of alcohol published by National Media Research, Planning, & Placement, or NMRP&P, seems to be the revelation that those who follow politics don’t really want to face reality sober.
NMRP&P is a Republican media and marketing company, and they discovered that partisan voters not only prefer the same candidates, but also the same brands of booze.
For example, whiskey drinkers abound across the political spectrum, but moderate Democrats tend to drink Jameson while Republicans prefer Wild Turkey.
Comedic hacks have a wealth of material about unlikely voters missing Election Day because of hangovers from Jägermeister and Patron.
Both Bacardi and Captain Morgan are the two most politically neutral drinks on the chart.
Thanks to this research, we now know that when Congress reeked of booze on the eve of the government shutdown the stink of Ketel One, Beefeater, and Peppermint Schnapps was most likely wafting off of Republicans and the Democrats stewed in Champagne, Tanqueray, and whatever Smoking Loon might be.
Yet the fact remains that the heaviest bubbles orbit near the political middle, which indicates that business of compromise can drive you to drink.
Also, it appears that the most powerful dealmakers in Washington most likely score their wins over mojitos.
One glimmer of hope can be found in how this story has been covered.
The comments on both sites were not derisive or mean-spirited, but mostly just affirmed what the chart said.
Ironically, mixing politics and liquor—at least in this case—made the conversation more civil and friendlier.
(larger versions of the chart below)
As Opposing Views pointed out last week, many of the programs deemed “nonessential” during the government shutdown included ones meant to help the poorest citizens.
Now that both Democrats and Republicans are moving forward to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the budget, millions of Americans who depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are rightfully worried about their access to the benefits they’ve come to depend on.
Back in September, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill “that slashes billions of dollars from the food stamp program,” according to The New York Times. The measure “eliminates loopholes, ensures work requirements, and puts us on a fiscally responsible path,” according to Indiana Republican Representative Marlin Stutzman.
While House Speaker John Boehner claimed the bill made “getting Americans back to work a priority,” James McGovern of Massachusetts call the bill “one of the most heartless I have ever seen.”
According to NBC News, “[the] program is now serving more than 23 million households, or nearly 48 million people,” and that how much benefits will be reduced varies on the specifics of an individual’s situation. A “family of four with no other changes in circumstances will receive $36 less per month, according the USDA.”
Yet, in the Congressional discussions to come, there is certainly bound to be even more cuts desired. Including the cuts from this law, the SNAP program is poised to cost $700 billion over the next 10 years. Although, even though that figure is less than the 2012 Department of Defense budget (by somewhere between $7.5 billion to around $17 billion), deficit hawks want to see SNAP’s costs cut even more.
The first round of cuts are set to happen in November, ironically right before Thanksgiving and the holiday season.
11New Polls Suggest Democrats May Be Able To Regain Majority In 2014 House Of Representatives Elections
Several surveys conducted during the course of the government shutdown indicated that American citizens were unhappy with their representatives in Congress for recklessly halting government operations in order to serve ideological arguments.
Stats released by CNN and others indicated that Americans were more upset with the Republicans in the House, albeit by a small margin.
Still, optimists on the left-leaning side of the debate believe that these polls are an indication that the Democratic Party can regain majority control of the House of Representatives in the 2014 elections.
Jim Williams, a representative from the survey-conducting grorganization Public Policy Polling posits that support for Democratic candidates has increased in GOP-led districts as a result of the government shutdown.
“A new round of post-shutdown polling shows that Democrats not only have an opportunity to take back the House of Representatives next year, but that they could win a sizable majority if voter anger over the shutdown carries into 2014,” a memorandum written by Williams reads.
The poll, which was sponsored by the liberal-leaning MoveOn.org, claims that “Incumbent Republicans trail generic Democrats in 15 of the 25 districts” surveyed most recently, and 37 of 61 districts overall. In order to regain a majority in the House, Democrats need to net only 17 seats over the Republicans.
Since these polls were conducted by liberal groups during a time of political turmoil, they are unlikely to serve as any accurate prediction of next year’s election cycle. Still, the numbers demonstrate a growing unhappiness with the current representatives in Congress.
Non-liberal publications such as The Wall Street Journal had also released separate polls that indicated the Republican Party lost some support because of the government shutdown. The Wall Street Journal and NBC claimed that the Republican Party was “badly damaged” in its public perception following the shutdown and its ideological arguments over the Affordable Care Act, the Huffington Post reports.
Although these new statistics may seem promising for Democratic leaders and voters, opinions towards government representatives are likely to shift greatly in the year leading up to the next round of Congressional elections.
Of the hundreds of secession attempts in United States history, very few have come to fruition. But the slim odds of victory are not stopping five conservative counties in western Maryland from trying to remove themselves from the rest of the state.
Reuters interviewed Scott Strzelczyk, creator of the secession movement, after a speech he gave to recruit the We the People Tea Party Group of Carroll County into his scheme. He said, "We think we have irreconcilable differences, and we just want an amicable divorce.”
The counties involved are heavily Republican, but are governed by a largely Democratic legislature as well as Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley.
Strzelczyk started the movement back in July with a Facebook page called the Western Maryland Initiative. Since then, the effort has gained momentum, partially due to media attention. National Public Radio and the Washington Post have both covered the movement.
Strzelczyk has said that he knows he’s up against nearly insurmountable odds, but he has no plans to quit. On the contrary, he is forming a nonprofit group, heading policy committees and campaigning to politicians.
“This is about popular support,” he said. “Ultimately, if the people of these five western counties do not support this effort, we’re not going to force them to leave.”
If the counties do rustle up enough support to secede, they will likely face an uphill struggle to make it on their own. The counties are rural, and depend on funding from the state — which generally comes from larger cities that bring in more revenue. Without Maryland’s help, the counties would need to fend for themselves financially, which would undoubtedly sting.
And the trade off? If they secede, the counties would no longer be subject to Maryland’s tax and gun laws.
Following two winning recall elections in September of Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron, the state of Colorado is initiating another recall this time for Sen. Evie Hudak, a Democrat from Arvada and Westminister, after a failed attempt six months ago.
The reason for a recall is because Hudak supported gun control during the most recent legislative session.
“The approval of a recall petition will not change my focus on the 2014 legislative session, during which I will advocate for women and seniors, and for the best education we can provide our children – just as I have always done,” Hudak said in a statement Friday night about the re-energized recall effort in opposition to her.
Recall organizers in Senate District 19 were given approval by the secretary of state on Friday to start collecting signatures for the ballot. The “Recall Hudak Too” need 18,962 valid signatures to trigger another recall election this month. They have 60 days to do so.
“She has infringed upon our constitutional right to keep and bear arms. She has voted to make all citizens less safe and to drive hundreds of jobs from Colorado,” a spokesman for the group, Mike McAlpine, wrote in an email regarding the petition.
Hudak’s district of Arvada in northwest metro Denver is separated into Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters, reflecting her colleague Morse’s district. A candidate from a minor party was on the ballot when Hudak won the seat in 2012 by 580 votes.
"It appears a small group is seeking to undo the will of voters, who re-elected me to the Senate last November. Unable to defeat me then, they are now attempting a political power grab using a low-voter-turnout, no-mail-ballot recall election strategy," Hudak said in a statement, regarding a ruling made by the Denver District Court judge on a constitutional issue that invalidated mail ballots in the recall in September.