It's always a shame when good legislation dies for no reason, but some setbacks are more disappointing than others. In late 2012, for example, proponents of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities thought they had enough votes for ratification. They were wrong.
Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), a champion of the measure, made a rare appearance in the chamber just before the vote, sitting in a wheelchair just off the floor so that members would have to see him as they entered. Dole hoped to send a message to senators: do the right thing.
It didn't work. Some Senate Republicans who knew right-wing conspiracy theories about the treaty were wrong nevertheless voted to kill it, betraying Dole because they feared the GOP's far-right base. John Kerry, before his departure from the Senate, said at the time it one of the saddest days of his career.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday approved a United Nations treaty to protect people with disabilities from discrimination.
The committee approved the treaty on a 12-6 vote. All Democrats approved along with Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and John Barrasso (Wyo.). [...]
"When we lead, the world follows, and only the United States can show the way in raising worldwide accessibility to the American standard," committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement after the vote.
Part of the frustration with this debate is that opponents are playing such a weak hand -- but may win anyway.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) generated quite a few headlines in his interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep this week, but not necessarily for the right reasons.
The story that got tongues wagging inside the Beltway was hard to miss: the conservative senator dismissed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presidential future, arguing the nation is at a "generational, transformational crossroads," and Clinton is "a 20th century candidate."
Maybe it's just me, but hearing a far-right lawmaker who opposes marriage equality, supports limits on contraception access, opposes reproductive rights, balks at ENDA, and fails to believe in climate science turn around and present himself as a forward-thinking leader for the future is a bit much. As Barbara Morrill joked, Rubio's "the guy for a generational, transformational change. Assuming you're talking about a transformation back to the 19th century."
But just as interesting were the senator's comments about comprehensive immigration reform, which Rubio co-sponsored in the Senate, which passed a bill fairly easily last year.
"I've been through this now, I was involved in the effort. I warned during that effort that I didn't think it did enough on this first element, the [border] security front. I was proven, unfortunately, right by the fact that it didn't move in the House."
As the senator probably knows, this assessment doesn't line up especially well with what's actually transpired.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) caused a bit of a stir this week, announcing plans to dispatch as many as 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S./Mexico border, apparently to address the recent humanitarian crisis. The Republican governor (and likely presidential candidate) has struggled to explain exactly what these troops would do, but Perry seems quite excited about "Operation Strong Safety."
The governor, however, has not necessarily impressed those whom Perry assumed would be allies.
Leaders along the Texas border with Mexico slammed Gov. Rick Perry's move Monday to send 1,000 National Guard troops to South Texas, saying overwhelmed counties need law enforcement and charitable aid, not militarization. [...]
Sheriffs and others along the border said they had not been consulted. They questioned the wisdom of sending military personnel who are not authorized to stop anyone.
The quotes from local law enforcement to the Dallas Morning News were quite striking. Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said, "At this time, a lot of people do things for political reasons. I don't know that it helps." Specifically in reference to National Guard troops, Lucio added, "I don't know what good they can do."
The closer one looks at the D.C. Circuit's ruling yesterday on ACA subsidies, the harder it is to defend. Two conservative jurists not only want to destroy the health care system over an out-of-context drafting error, they also based their reasoning on a farcical foundation. Scott Lemieux explained that the far-right judges effectively said Congress consciously decided to give states veto power over the law's implementation.
Why would the ACA's architects do that? They wouldn't -- and they didn't. The argument is a sham, which is why so many are so confident that yesterday's truly absurd decision simply cannot stand. Ezra Klein called the argument "plainly ridiculous."
But while the legal process plays out, there's a political angle worth watching. After the Halbig v. Burwell decision came down, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement that the ruling proves that the Affordable Care Act is "completely unworkable" and "cannot be fixed."
As it happens, it's funny that Boehner would use those particular words.
I rather doubt that Boehner actually believes his own rhetoric on this. Indeed, the talking points are pretty silly -- a system that was working well is "unworkable" because of a lawsuit intended to sabotage the American health care system? Please.
But it's the notion that the ACA "cannot be fixed" that's especially important. The Republican Speaker may have been thrilled by yesterday's news that millions may lose access to medical care, but whether he realizes it or not, if Halbig continues to go his way, this mess may very well land with a thud on Boehner's desk -- and the Speaker will be ill-equipped to respond.
Going into yesterday's Senate primary runoff in Georgia, polls suggested Rep. Jack Kingston (R) was fairly well positioned to win his party's nomination. As Benjy Sarlin reports, that's not quite how the race turned out.
Businessman David Perdue will be the Republican nominee for Senate in Georgia after narrowly defeating Congressman Jack Kingston in a runoff on Tuesday.
With 100% of precincts reporting, Perdue held a lead of less than 2% of the vote.
Perdue, already labeled "Mitt Romney Lite," will face Michelle Nunn in the fall in the race to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R). And though Georgia may be a "red" state, and 2014 is supposed to be a great year for Republicans, Democrats believe they have a realistic shot at picking up this Senate seat -- optimism bolstered by polls showing a very competitive race.
The basic contours of the general election have already taken shape: Perdue will present himself as a political outsider with a fresh perspective; Democrats will point to Perdue as a gaffe-prone Romney clone with a history of laying off American workers through outsourcing.
Just as important, though, were the congressional primary runoffs. With U.S. Reps. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), and Kingston leaving Capitol Hill after failed Senate bids, Georgia's delegation is due for an upgrade, right?
Rachel Maddow points out how the collapse of the Soviet Union and fewer communist nations globally has left Russia with a smaller network of friendly nations and more vulnerable to the scorn of Europe. watch
Nina Khrushcheva, professor of international affairs at New School University, talks with Rachel Maddow about Russia's increasing isolation in the world community and patience running out for Russia to end its support of Ukraine rebels. watch
DuVergne Gaines, National Clinic Access Project Director at the Feminist Majority Foundation, talks with Rachel Maddow about anti-choice demonstrations in New Orleans, emboldened by the recent Supreme Court "buffer zone" ruling. watch
Nina Khrushcheva, professor of international affairs at New School University and the author of "The Lost Khrushchev: A journey into the Gulag of the Russian Mind." She is also the granddaughter of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
duVergne Gaines, National Clinic Access Project Director at the Feminist Majority Foundation
A fixture of many modern campaigns is a phenomenon known as "tracking" -- candidates for major offices are trailed publicly by someone from the opposing side, recording every speech, exchange, and off-hand remark throughout the campaign. As George Allen can attest, sometimes the footage recorded by these trackers can make the difference between winning and losing.
But candidates and their campaign teams realize these trackers are omnipresent, at least in public, and try to adjust accordingly. It's all out in the open. What happens, though, when a party wants to start recording private events, too? And what if that party doesn't want its targets to know they're being filmed?
That requires a spying operation.
Last week, the Detroit News published a striking report on the Michigan Republican Party's repeated efforts to record Democratic gatherings with a spy camera mounted to eyeglasses. State GOP officials made no effort to deny their efforts, conceding that the party sent Republican operatives to record Democratic events surreptitiously. Darren Littell, communications director of the Michigan Republican Party, described the spying as "a newer approach" to acquiring information.
What hasn't been previously reported is the scope of the Michigan Republican Party's spying operation.
As it turns out, some of the state GOP's operatives not only failed to record damaging information for later use; they also proved to be fairly clumsy in the spy business itself. The Rachel Maddow Show obtained an exclusive look at footage recorded by Republican staffers and interns, one of whom accidentally left their handiwork behind at a Democratic event on a minidisc.