Repeal and Replace This

Last night I ventured into Laura Ingraham’s No Spin Zone. Confined to the house by inclement weather, I chose to contribute indirectly to Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal’s News Corp. dividends and directly to Bill O’Reilly’s Olympian ego. In the race to the bottom that is cable news, Laura Ingraham’s monotonous Reaganite pabulum trumps msnbc, which is unwatchable, as well as that other thing which barely warrants mentioning.

I witnessed a truly interesting exchange between the aforementioned Ms. Ingraham and Rep. Eric Cantor, who gets to be majority leader after the bloodbath of November. The broad issue was ObamaCare but the main focus was what Ingraham perceived to be Eric Cantor’s squishiness on Republican plans to “repeal and replace” the unpopular reform law.

LAURA INGRAHAM, GUEST HOST: …You've now got to correct the record because Politico is reporting that Eric Cantor, if he's the House majority leader come -- come November, that you're going to push for a more modest approach to Obamacare, meaning defund it, not repeal it. Did Politico get it wrong?

REP. ERIC CANTOR: Laura, I'll tell you one thing: As you and I have known each other for several years and as many of my constituents are, I'm a big fan of yours. So I got several calls from constituents over the last day or so saying, "What's Laura Ingraham talking about that Eric Cantor is not for a repeal of Obamacare?" Of course I'm for a repeal of Obamacare.

As you know, Laura, I'm the Republican whip in the House, and the duty of the Republican whip was to marshal as many votes as we could against Obamacare to make sure it didn't become law. And in the end, we didn't have one Republican vote that voted for it. Unfortunately, the bill passed. So we are faced with a situation where, hopefully, this November, a conservative majority will regain position in the House. And we're going to do everything we can to repeal the bill, to delay the bill, to defund the bill, to do all of the above. I mean, these things go hand in hand, Laura.

Whenever I wade into the land of Rupert Murdoch and Glenn Beck, I’m always careful to have plenty of aspirin and a barf bag on deck. The latter very nearly came into use after watching Mr. Cantor kiss the ring of hot reactionary blonde Laura Ingraham like the dickless establishmentarian he is. But however nauseating the display may have been, there are important insights to be gleaned here.

Rather than reaping a fortuitous repeat of 1994, conservatives are exactly where progressives were in ’06. In many respects ObamaCare is to them what the war in Iraq was to us. The mainstream public’s rather late aversion to the intractable chaos and bloodshed of the Iraq adventure vindicated grassroots progressives. It was a swift reversal of fortune that came right on time after the nightmarish re-election of President Bush. Unsatisfied with handing Democrats a decent majority in the House and a slim one in the Senate, the American people marched ahead and put a charismatic “change agent” in the White House two years thereafter. And yet the war(s) go on.

There's more...

Nelson will not vote for Elena Kagan

Senator Ben Nelson, who gets his jollies pretending to be a Democrat, just announced that he will NOT vote for Elena Kagan. Apparently he believes that only judges should be nominated to the Supreme Court, never mind that over a third of past justices have not been judges, including the first four Chief Justices: John Jay, John Rutledge, Oliver Ellsworth, and John Marshall. Too antiquated, you say? Then how about modern Chief Justices Earl Warren or WILLIAM REHNQUIST?

At least Nelson says he won't filibuster. His statement over at First Read:

“As a member of the bipartisan ‘Gang of 14,’ I will follow our agreement that judicial nominees should be filibustered only under extraordinary circumstances. If a cloture vote is held on the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court, I am prepared to vote for cloture and oppose a filibuster because, in my view, this nominee deserves an up or down vote in the Senate.

“However, I have heard concerns from Nebraskans regarding Ms. Kagan, and her lack of a judicial record makes it difficult for me to discount the concerns raised by Nebraskans, or to reach a level of comfort that these concerns are unfounded. Therefore, I will not vote to confirm Ms. Kagan’s nomination.”

Ben Nelson will do anything to appear "independent," even if it means forever flushing logic, truth, and dare I say integrity down the toilet. He is the worst lawmaker in the United States Senate. He is harmful to America and harmful to the citizens of Nebraska. Just yesterday I sent him a letter that used the word "Pbbbbbbbbtttttthhhhhhhh" in response to his announcement that he will do whatever it takes to bring down Nebraska agriculture and vote against climate legislation. Remember also that although he did vote for the final product, Nelson filibustered the first attempt to pass cloture on financial reform, and that he is the reason it took so long to pass an extension of unemployment benefits. Forget the word progressive, and forget the phrase Blue Dog - this man is not even a Democrat.

And of course he would announce this on a Friday afternoon, just as everyone is checking out for the weekend. Cowardly slime ball.

Let's end this post on a related but lighter note: Republican Judd Gregg did announce that he will vote for Kagan. At least that's nice. Thank you, Senator Gregg, along with Senators Graham, Lugar, Collins, and Snowe, for putting country ahead of party, unlike so many of your colleagues.

Department of Justice vs. Arizona

From the Restore Fairness blog.

In the short time since Arizona passed SB 1070 into law, it has become one of the strongest and most controversial symbols of our nation’s debate on immigration. SB 1070 requires the police to stop anyone that has a “reasonable suspicion” of being undocumented but once enacted, it is believed that may well lead to unconstitutional racial profiling and a breakdown of trust between police and the communities they protect. But SB 1070 is also emblematic of the frustration that many have with our broken immigration system, a sign that states have decided to take immigration into their own hands as Congress remains in a deadlock over immigration reform. The latest catalyst for this debate -  a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice brought against the state of Arizona and SB1070 on July 6th, 2010.

Analysis over the implications of the lawsuit are rife in the media. Many are looking at the lawsuit and its potential for setting a new precedent with regards to the tussle between the federal government and state laws around immigration. Previous precedent shows a tendency for federal courts to side with the federal government on cases when states and cities pass laws that conflict with federal immigration law. An article in the Wall Street Journal traces this precedent back to laws in the 1880s aimed at limiting Chinese immigration. While the dispute could go either way, some analysts hold that that the federal court could only block sections of the law, while allowing some others to be enforced.

By bringing a lawsuit against the state of Arizona, the Obama administration (via the Justice Department) has taken a strong stand against the law. But an article in the Washington Post discusses further implications of this stand. The article quotes the Democratic strategist who spoke about the implications of the lawsuit for the Democrat party -

There is probably some short term pain politically given how popular the law is…But considering the demographic changes the country is undergoing, long term, there is a lot of upside in advocating for Latinos and comprehensive immigration reform.

While the Obama administration is advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, the Democrat party has continued to play safe so as not to alienate the large electoral base that supports the Arizona law and other enforcement heavy approaches to immigration. On the other hand, many Republicans, who support the law and an enforcement heavy approach, continue to emphasize a secure border-then reform approach, a rhetoric that leads to little progress on the issue. Republicans such as Senator John McCain, who previously argued for comprehensive reform, have abandoned their support of an immigration overhaul in the face of resentment and anger from within the party as well as from anti-immigrant groups such as the Tea Party Movement.

In the midst of all these actions are ordinary people suffering disruptions to their everyday lives on account of an immigration system that remains unjust and broken.

Photo courtesy of americasvoiceonline.org

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Weekly Pulse: Where are the Anti-Choicers at the Kagan Hearings?

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

As Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan begins her second week of confirmation hearings, Mother Jones’ Stephanie Mencimer wonders why the anti-abortion protesters have been uncharacteristically subdued this time around. Normally, they live for these hearings. For hardcore anti-choice activists, a Supreme Court confirmation is like Christmas, Mardi Gras, and the World Cup all rolled into one.

Mencimer suspects that the antis were caught off guard by a revelation about Kagan’s role in shaping a proposed partial birth abortion ban. Documents show that as a White House policy adviser Kagan worked with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to craft the organization’s position on the whether partial birth abortion is ever medically necessary.

ACOG and “partial birth abortion”

ACOG originally wrote that its experts “could identify no circumstances under which this procedure . . . would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.” In short, ACOG dodged the question. As far as a health exemption is concerned, the is whether this procedure is ever the best option, not the only option.

The right is accusing Kagan of distorting science for political reasons. In fact, Kagan didn’t distort the science at all. Like any good law professor, she suggested that ACOG restate the same idea in language that was more germane to the question at hand. It seems unlikely that the ACOG revelation will have a significant effect on Kagan’s confirmation prospects.

ACOG told Kagan that the procedure is almost never medically necessary. The key words here are “almost never,” which imply that the procedure is sometimes necessary. Documents show that Kagan urged ACOG to clarify its position.

She suggested the following language, which ACOG incorporated into its position statement: “[the procedure] may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman.” This episode is a sore point for anti-choicers because the courts have deferred to ACOG’s opinions on questions of medical necessity.

According to Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly, the Republicans are still trying to derail Kagan’s nomination by painting her as evasive. It’s already a cliche to point out that Supreme Court confirmation hearings are a charade in which the nominee’s job is to reveal as little as possible about her judicial philosophy.

Republicans are unlikely to summon much public outrage against Kagan for playing by the rules. The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Kagan next Tuesday, and the leadership wants a full vote before Aug 6.

Ending the CPC bait-and-switch

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has re-introduced a bill to stop false advertising by so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), as Noelle Williams reports for Ms. Magazine’s blog. CPCs are anti-abortion propaganda outlets (“ministries”) that try to pass themselves off as storefront women’s health clinics. Some CPCs advertise in the abortion services section of the phone book alongside real providers. They’ve even been known to set up shop across the street from a real clinic.

The phony “clinics” lure women with promises of free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and referrals for abortion and contraception services—but that’s just a prelude to a hard sell against abortion. A Congressional investigation found that CPCs routinely give false information about the dangers of abortion. Maloney’s bill would end the bait-and-switch. The Stop Deceptive Advertising Women’s Services Act (SDAW) would crack down CPCs that falsely advertise that they provide abortion services or referrals.

Contraceptives covered under health reform?

Thanks to health care reform, insurers may soon be offering contraceptives at no extra cost. However, as Monica Potts notes at TAPPED, the women’s groups clamoring for free birth control are facing an uphill battle against the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and other conservative groups. The USCCB is trotting out the old line that contraceptives aren’t preventative health care because fertility is not a disease. Potts notes the age old irony that groups so fiercely opposed to abortion are still fighting birth control.

UN addresses gender equity

In international news, the United Nations announced the launch of a new umbrella agency to promote women’s rights and gender equity. Vanessa Valenti of Feministing explains that the UN is actually merging four existing women’s rights bodies into a single organization. Valenti is concerned that local concerns will get lost in a new monolithic bureaucracy. However, she notes that the groups in the merger seem very happy about the prospect of joining forces.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Pulse: Kagan Hearings: Gags, God, Guns, and Gays

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings kicked off on Monday. Her nomination has been met by glum resignation on the left and indifference on the right, as Adam Serwer notes in the American Prospect.  Kagan is hoping to replace the Supreme Court’s most prominent liberal, Justice John Paul Stevens, who stepped down earlier this week. Progressives are counting on Kagan to shore up the pro-choice faction on the court.

Kagan has never been a judge and she hasn’t published very many academic law opinions. As a result, the confirmation process is leaning heavily on her counsels to President Bill Clinton as a White House adviser, her clerkship with legendary liberal Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and her stint as Dean of Harvard Law School.

Kagan on choice

RH Reality Check has video of a key exchange in Kagan’s confirmation hearing yesterday, in which Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) pressed Kagan on her views about life and health exemptions for the mother within abortion bans.

“Do you believe the constitution requires that the health of the mother be protected in any statute restricting access to abortion?” Feinstein asked Kagan.

“Senator Feinstein, I do think that the continuing holding of Roe and Doe v. Bolton is that women’s life and women’s health have to be protected in abortion regulation,” Kagan replied.

That’s a good start, but it’s hardly the ringing endorsement of choice that progressives would have hoped. Kagan went on to talk the special case of “partial birth abortion bans,” which she encouraged Bill Clinton to support while he was president. “Partial birth abortion” isn’t even a medical term. It’s a marketing term coined by anti-choicers in their bid to chip away at Roe v. Wade. For pro-choicers, it’s disappointing to see Kagan uncritically buying into that frame.

Title X and the Gag Order

Jodi Jacobson discusses Kagan’s record on choice issues in greater detail at RH Reality Check. She notes that the Center for Reproductive Rights reviewed Kagan’s record and raised many questions about her views on abortion. On the bright side, CRR believes that Kagan would have struck down the Title X gag rule. Title X was established in 1970 to provide public funding for reproductive health care, including birth control.

In 1988, the Secretary of Health and Human Services imposed a so-called “gag rule” that prevented doctors from talking about abortion and required them to refer patients to services for the welfare of “the unborn.” Kagan argued in a 1992 law review article that the gag order violated the First Amendment because the government was trying to silence one point of view while promoting another.

However, in a memo for Justice Thurgood Marshall, Kagan said it was “ludicrous” that a lower court found that the Eighth Amendment guarantees elective abortions for women in prison. Kagan disagreed with the lower court’s finding that elective abortions are “serious medical needs.”

Obamacare all over again

A Supreme Court confirmation hearing is like Shark Week on the Learning Channel. Chum’s up!

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) criticized Kagan for rejecting the fringe legal theory of  “tentherism,” a position that opponents of health care reform have used to argue that Obamacare is unconstitutional. As Ian Millhiser observes in AlterNet, it’s ironic that Sessions also criticized Kagan as an incipient “activist judge.” Embracing “tentherism” would be nothing if not judicial activism. It’s extremely unlikely that any tenther-based challenge would make it to the Supreme Court.

Outside the Senate chamber, anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera is demanding to know whether Dean Kagan schemed to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, reports Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones.

Some Republican senators questioned Kagan about her decision to bar military recruiters from school-sponsored recruiting events at Yale Law School over Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. On the outside, a  Yale grad and Republican activist named Flagg Youngblood has taken to the talkshow circuit to complain about how he had to attend ROTC drills at another school. It’s not clear why any of this is Kagan’s problem, seeing as she was Dean of Harvard and took a much weaker stance on military recruiting.

That’s not cooling Youngblood’s apocalyptic anti-Kagan rhetoric, though, Adam Weinstein reports in Mother Jones. “In the last 18 months, the president and his plotting comrades have dragged the United States to the edge of Constitutional oblivion.  America’s in the eleventh hour, and Elena Obama must be stopped from pushing us over the cliff,” Youngblood recently proclaimed.

Part of the plan

Meanwhile in Nevada, Republican Senate hopeful Sharron Angle is in hot water for asserting that women who get pregnant through rape must be forced to give birth because these pregnancies are all part of God’s plan. Good catch by Vanessa Valenti of Feministing.

“You know, I’m a Christian, and I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives and that he can intercede in all kinds of situations and we need to have a little faith in many things,” Angle said in an interview with a conservative broadcaster in January.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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