When several Republican-run state governments decided to go after President Obama's immigration policy, they were selective in where to file the case. The goal was simple: find the most reflexively anti-immigration ideologue they could find.
The judge-shopping scheme worked like a charm when U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, the Republicans' "dream judge," got the case and made it painfully obvious that he was eager to undermine the White House. The outcome was a foregone conclusion; it was a matter of "when," not "if."
And so, late last night, Hanen blocked the Obama administration's policy, preventing federal officials from implementing "any and all aspects" of the president's executive actions protecting millions of immigrants from deportation.
The preliminary injunction applies to the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent residents, better known as DAPA, and expansions to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, both of which Obama announced in November. The policy, part of which was set to go into effect on Wednesday, would grant work permits and defer deportation of undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. citizens who've been living in the U.S. since 2010.
The timing is important. As Ian Millhiser explained the decision "came less than two days before the federal government is scheduled to start accepting applications from immigrants seeking to benefit from the new policy," which in turn "raises a cloud of uncertainty over the millions of immigrants expecting to seek relief under the policy."
Rachel Maddow discusses how the Supreme Court wields breathtaking power on a myriad of issues, and how judicial appointments are some of the most important decisions that presidents make during their time in office. watch
* The latest from Cairo: "The Egyptian military said on Monday that it had carried out airstrikes in Libya in retaliation for the beheading of more than a dozen Egyptian Christians by a branch of the Islamic State extremist group there."
* Copenhagen: "Danish police said they killed a man early Sunday who they think was responsible for killing two people and injuring five in shootings at a freedom of speech event and a synagogue in Copenhagen. The attacks came one month after a deadly terror spree in Paris which left 20 people dead -- including three gunmen."
* Related news: "Danish officials have charged two people with helping the gunman believed to be responsible for killing two and injuring five in attacks at a freedom of speech event and at a synagogue in Copenhagen over the weekend, police said on Monday."
* A serious derailment: "A train carrying crude oil derailed in Fayette County in the [West Virginia] community of Adena Village near Mount Carbon and Deep Water. Adena Village and part of Boomer were evacuated because of the fire."
* What a mess: "A meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Greece's debt crisis broke up in acrimony Monday evening, further dimming hopes of a speedy resolution to problems that could result in the new Greek government's soon running out of money."
There's a certain irony underpinning the anti-healthcare case pending at the Supreme Court: as oral arguments in King v. Burwell draw closer, optimism among those hoping to see the lawsuit succeed is going up, even as the credibility of the case itself goes down.
But given all of the latest developments, that's really just the start. Congressional Republicans have quietly let the Supreme Court know that the justices can gut the ACA system with impunity because far-right lawmakers will step in with legislative fixes to ensure families don't suffer. Last week, however, GOP members of Congress reversed course, accidentally telling the truth.
When asked on Friday at a meeting with reporters, House Ways & Means Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), a key figure overseeing U.S. health policy, said there was no desire among Republicans to tweak the law to defuse the case.
"No," Ryan said.... "The idea is not to make Obamacare work better," he said, adding that the goal would be to give states more freedom "to get out of Obamacare."
Let's not rush past this too quickly. If Republican justices start the fire, we now know with certainty that Republican lawmakers are content, if not eager, to simply watch the system burn. All the chatter from the GOP about the party acting quickly if consumer subsidies vanish was meaningless.
Indeed, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who's fiddled with a woeful, far-right alternative to the Affordable Care Act, recently conceded that his party wouldn't coalesce around an official GOP plan until, at the earliest, 2017. That many families would suffer in the interim apparently wouldn't affect the timetable. Other Republican senators have offered similar assessments.
Mississippi's public education system has struggled of late with reforms pushed by Gov. Phil Bryant (R), and at the end of the school year, more than 28% of the state's third graders will likely have to repeat the grade. Some school districts are scrambling to hire more educators in the hopes of giving the kids a boost, but by all accounts, it's an uphill battle.
It's against this backdrop that one Republican state lawmaker offered a unique take on investments in education.
A Mississippi state lawmaker is now admitting he opposed putting more money into elementary schools because he came from a town where "all the blacks are getting food stamps and what I call 'welfare crazy checks.' They don't work."
In an interview with The Clarion-Ledger, Republican state Rep. Gene Alday says he doesn't see the value in increasing funding to improve elementary school reading scores. Alday implied that increasing education funding for children in black families would be an exercise in futility.
According to the Clarion-Ledger piece, Alday, a former mayor of a small Mississippi town and a former police chief, added, "I don't see any schools hurting."
As for his views on race, Alday went on to share an anecdote about his trip to a local emergency room. The local newspaper quoted him saying, "I liked to died. I laid in there for hours because they (blacks) were in there being treated for gunshots."
This appears to have caused a bit of a stir in the Magnolia State.
More than two years have passed since conservative Supreme Court justices undermined the Voting Rights Act, effectively telling members of Congress to overhaul the law in order to save it. A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a proposed fix, the "Voting Rights Amendment Act," but far-right House Republicans refused to consider the conservative compromise.
Last week, to his credit, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) formally unveiled the same bill to be considered in the new Congress, though proponents seem to realize they face long odds. In theory, the pieces are in place for success -- the VRA's 50th anniversary is coming up, and the Republican majority, which used to support the law, could use some good p.r. on civil rights -- but most of the GOP just won't budge.
Just weeks ahead of the 50th anniversary of the violent clashes in Selma that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, lawmakers introduced a bill to restore that law's power to protect voters against discrimination. Alabama's newly sworn in Secretary of State John Merrill told ThinkProgress at a DC conference on Wednesday that he believes the new law should not cover his state, saying it's time to "forgive people" for past voter suppression and "move on."
Civil rights groups and some lawmakers are already sharing concerns that Alabama -- whose racially motivated redistricting case led to the gutting of the law in the first place -- is not covered by the new version of the Voting Rights Act. But Merrill said he agrees with the authors of the bill that his state should not fall under the updated coverage formula.
Alabama's Secretary of State specifically told ThinkProgress, "I say, at some point in time, you've got to forgive people. If they've shown they are responsible and doing things the right way and have an extended period of success, then to me that ought to indicate that the strength is there, the desire is there, and you've got to move on."
The problem with the sentiment, no matter how sincere, is all of the recent evidence pointing in the opposite direction.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* In Iowa, a new NBC/Marist poll shows a very competitive race for the Republican presidential nomination, with former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 17, former Gov. Jeb Bush at 16%, and Gov. Scott Walker at 15%. No other candidate reaches double digits.
* In New Hampshire, the same NBC/Marist poll shows a four-way contest in the GOP presidential primary, with Bush at 18%, Walker at 15%. Sen. Rand Paul at 14%, and Gov. Chris Christie fourth with 13%.
* In South Carolina, the same poll showed home-state Sen. Lindsey Graham leading in the presidential primary with 17%, followed by Bush at 15%, Walker at 12%, and Huckabee and Ben Carson tied for fourth with 10% each.
* On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enjoys one-sided support in all three early nominating states in the NBC/Marist poll.
* Digging through the NBC/Marist poll, an interesting Senate tidbit jumped out: if New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) challenges Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) next year, the Democrat would stand a pretty good chance -- she leads by four, 48% to 44%, in a hypothetical match-up.
* In honor of Valentine's Day, Rand Paul created a fake Pinterest page to mock Hillary Clinton. The senator apparently thought Benghazi jokes would be funny in this context.
Republicans are not, strictly speaking, a party obsessed with cutting taxes. The caricature is rooted in fact, but it's incomplete -- Republicans are actually a party committed to cutting taxes on the wealthy.
This has been an underappreciated aspect of the GOP vision for several years. Indeed, it was part of Mitt Romney's "47 percent" problem a few years ago -- the Republican presidential hopeful complained, among other things, about the millions of families who "pay no income tax." A wide variety of GOP officeholders, candidates, and pundits have made related complains about the poor not having "skin in the game" because their tax burdens simply aren't significant enough.
It's against this backdrop that Shaila Dewan reported the other day that some Republican-led states are "considering tax changes that in many cases would have the effect of cutting taxes on the rich and raising them on the poor."
Conservatives are known for hating taxes but particularly hate income taxes, which they say have a greater dampening effect on growth. Of the 10 or so Republican governors who have proposed tax increases, nearly all have called for increases in consumption taxes, which hit the poor and middle class harder than the rich.
Favorite targets for the new taxes include gas, e-cigarettes, and goods and services in general.... At the same time, some of those governors -- most notably Mr. LePage, Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina and John R. Kasich of Ohio -- have proposed significant cuts to their state income tax. They say that tax policies that encourage business growth provide more jobs and economic benefits for everyone.
As an economic matter, this GOP approach is discredited nonsense. As a political matter, I'm not sure how Republican politicians are going to be able to sell, "We want to ask less of the wealthy and more from the poor."
At a right-wing forum last week, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said he feels "duty bound" to authorize the use of force against Islamic State targets, but he's conflicted. The far-right lawmaker argued, out loud, that he fears President Obama may be "working collaboratively with what I would say is the enemy of freedom and individual freedom and liberty and Western civilization and modernity."
It sounded an awful lot like the Republican congressman was accusing the war-time Commander in Chief of being some kind of traitor.
The Pennsylvania lawmaker added that he wasn't sure how he could vote to give the president the "power to take action" when he knows in his heart "he won't." On the contrary, Perry said. Obama might use his power "to further their cause."
A day later, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) argued, "I don't believe that the president really wants to prosecute a war that would truly destroy ISIL, I don't think he has any intention of doing that it."
Yesterday, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee lent credence to these bonkers perspectives.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on Sunday that he doubted the administration's "commitment to dealing" with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). [...]
Corker said, "I think there is a lot of skepticism about the administration's commitment to dealing with ISIS or Daesh or ISIL or whatever you want to call them."
It's become increasingly difficult to understand which reality congressional Republicans have been living in the last several months.
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