Following up on Rachel's report last night, we don't yet know for certain whether Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) will veto the proposed right-to-discriminate bill, but by all appearances, a veto appears quite likely. Opposition to the measure, SB1062, has become overwhelming -- even Republican voters in the state are against it -- and the governor seems all too aware of the adverse consequences if she signs the measure into law.
But while we wait, perhaps the most surprising aspect of this fight is that other conservative state policymakers elsewhere are watching the divisive fiasco unfold and they're apparently thinking to themselves, "Let's bring that ugliness here!"
Arizona's legislature was the first to pass a right-to-discriminate bill, but it was hardly the first to consider one. Over the last couple of months, similar measures were debated in Kansas, South Dakota, and Tennessee, but in each case, the proposals were either defeated or delayed.
There are still some GOP state lawmakers, however, who are eager to bring the controversy, scorn, and threat of boycotts to their state, on purpose. Adam Serwer reported on the latest developments in Georgia.
Georgia is the latest state to consider legislation that could sanction discrimination in the name of religious freedom.
There are two versions of the Georgia bill -- a state House version, HB 1023, and a state Senate version, SB 377. Both would affirm the "right to act or refuse to act in a manner substantially motivated by a sincerely held religious tenet or belief whether or not the exercise is compulsory or a central part or requirement of the person's religious tenets or beliefs."
The bill, Adam added, is "moving rapidly through the Georgia legislature."
NC Gov. McCrory demands Duke's plans for its coal-ash ponds. (WRAL) Researchers use drones to assess the size of the Dan River coal-ash spill. (Winston-Salem Journal) Obamacare enrollment reaches 4 million. (Huffington Post) Alabama House committee passes "fetal heartbeat" abortion ban (i.e. no abortion after 6 weeks). (Anniston Star) West Virginia's House passes 20-week abortion ban after emotional debate. (Charleston Gazette)
There's something about elected members of Congress referring to themselves as "freedom fighters" that rankles. When these same members are U.S. Senate candidates, it's that much more alarming.
Georgia Republican congressman and Senate candidate Paul Broun has been trying to out-extreme his opponents on the issue of immigration reform, announcing in a debate this weekend that the only immigration law he wants is one "that makes English the official language of America." In an interview with Tea Party Express earlier this month, Broun made the same policy recommendation, claiming that comprehensive immigration reform would be "disastrous for Republicans" and "disastrous for anybody who is freedom-loving."
Later in the interview, Broun claimed that "both political parties today are domestic enemies to the Constitution" and that he is a "freedom-fighter" who is "fighting those people."
I think it's fair to say this falls outside the normal parameters of mainstream American rhetoric. For a federal lawmaker and U.S. Senate candidate -- who might actually win -- to see both major parties as "enemies" is pretty out there. For that matter, references to "freedom fighters" are usually limited to insurgencies in undemocratic countries.
And yet, Paul Broun isn't the only one who talks this way.
Senate Democrats hoped to bring a minimum-wage increase to the floor in December. Then in January. The latest plan was to try again next week, but now that's off, too.
The problem isn't a lack of will; it's a lack of votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.
Senate Democrats have again delayed debating a proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 hourly, postponing work on one of President Barack Obama's top priorities.
Democrats had hoped to debate the legislation before the Senate's mid-March recess. Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, the bill's author, said Tuesday they now expect to consider it after lawmakers return in late March.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Republican obstruction on nominations was slowing the chamber's work. But the delay also comes as Democrats seem not to have the 60 votes needed to overcome GOP efforts to scuttle the legislation.
There are currently 55 members of the Senate Democratic caucus. As of now, 54 of them support the minimum-wage increase (all except Arkansas' Mark Pryor). That means, in order for the Senate to be allowed to vote on a popular piece of legislation, it would take just six Republicans to end their party's obstructionism and let the chamber vote yea or nay.
This afternoon, we learned those six votes do not yet exist.
In the meantime, have you noticed the growing group of conservative policymakers who want to lower the minimum wage to zero?
It's been a few weeks since House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) effectively pulled the plug on immigration reform. When House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) unveiled his plans for the chamber's near future, immigration was noticeable in its absence.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce unveiled a joint letter from 636 American businesses this afternoon, urging Republican leaders to act on immigration, but there's no reason to believe the House GOP will budge an inch in response to appeals from anyone.
But to understand why reform is struggling, one must look past the rhetoric. House Republicans don't oppose immigration legislation because of "trust issues" with President Obama; they oppose immigration legislation because they're simply against the underlying idea.
While Speaker John A. Boehner says his conference "by and large" backs the immigration outline the leadership presented in January at the GOP retreat, a poll of every House Republican conducted by CQ Roll Call found only 19 who would confirm their support.
We surveyed Republican lawmakers' offices and combed through member statements to see if they supported the immigration principles, which include a pathway to legalization for illegal immigrants and a pathway to citizenship for children brought here illegally.
There are currently 232 Republicans currently serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. According to Roll Call's tally, only 19 -- just 8% of the total -- are prepared to say on the record that they support their own party's published principles on immigration reform.
In fairness, there are very likely some House Republicans who privately endorse the principles Boehner outlined on Jan. 31, but who are reluctant to state their position on the record.
But the fact remains that when the Speaker's office presented his conference's immigration priorities, he was once again playing the role of a leader with no followers.
The political trajectory of President Obama's deficit-reduction commission has been rather circuitous.
Congressional Republicans urged the White House to create the commission, but when Obama agreed, Republicans changed their mind and said they were against it. Once the panel began its work, its GOP members balked at the proposed compromise, then criticized the president for not fully embracing the measures they opposed.
We've apparently reached the bizarre point at which Republicans will attack those who oppose the Simpson-Bowles plan and attack those who support it.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) tried a political ju-jitsu on Thursday as it sought to turn former state CFO Alex Sink's attacks on David Jolly on Social Security against her. Sink, the Democratic candidate, takes on Republican Jolly and Libertarian Lucas Overby in a special congressional election for an open seat in Pinellas County on March 11.
On Thursday, the NRCC bashed Sink for saying she supported Simpson-Bowles. "Alex Sink supports a plan that raises the retirement age for Social Security recipients, raises Social Security taxes and cuts Medicare, all while making it harder for Pinellas seniors to keep their doctors that they know and love," said Katie Prill, a spokeswoman for the NRCC.
Andrew Kaczynski noted how bizarre it is for Republicans to bash Alex Sink "for supporting Simpson-Bowles, a deficit reduction plan Republicans most often attack President Obama for abandoning or ignoring."
The Obama administration announced some fairly important changes to military spending yesterday, which Rachel explained on the show last night. But an hour later, Fox News' Sean Hannity interviewed former Vice President Dick Cheney on the subject, and wouldn't you know it, Cheney isn't pleased.
The former V.P. and former Defense Secretary said the proposed Pentagon cuts are "absolutely dangerous," "radical," and "just devastating." He added, "I've obviously not been a strong supporter of Barack Obama, but this really is over the top. It does enormous long-term damage to our military."
According to the Nexis transcript, Cheney went on to say:
"I think it's a reflection of the basic fundamental belief of this president that -- he always wanted to cut the military. [...]
"I think the whole thing is not driven by any change in world circumstances, it's driven by budget considerations. He'd much rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops."
Cheney's strained relationship with the truth has been a problem for many years, but even by his standards, the former Vice President's harangue was detached from reality last night in some important ways.