Andrew Sullivan

  • October 2, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    House Speaker John Boehner remains obstinate – the president and Senate must agree to delay or greatly hobble the Affordable Care Act or the government shutdown continues. The New York Times’ Editorial Board correctly dubs it “John Boehner’s Shutdown.”

    Others have rightly taken note that Boehner and a faction of House Republicans are also waging an assault on the Constitution and democracy.

    A portion of Andrew Sullivan’s extensive examination of the matter:

    How does one party that has lost two presidential elections and a Supreme Court case – as well as two Senate elections – think it has the right to shut down the entire government and destroy the full faith and credit of the United States Treasury to get its way on universal healthcare now? I see no quid pro quo even. Just pure blackmail, resting on understandable and predictable public concern whenever a major reform is enacted. But what has to be resisted is any idea that this is government or politics as usual. It is an attack on the governance and the constitutional order of the United States.

    Geoffrey R. Stone, a distinguished law professor at the University of Chicago, has also weighed in, blasting the House Republicans' outlandish attack on “democratic governance.”

    In piece for The Huffington Post, Stone says there is only one side to blame here. As Sullivan and many others have pointed out, Republicans’ efforts to kill Obamacare in the courts, in Congress and in a presidential election were futile. Regardless of what mainstream pundits say, this is not a system broken or perverted by both parties and the president. This is all about Republicans who refuse to play by democratic processes.

    Stone doesn’t mince words, calling the House Republicans’ behavior “nothing less than a perverse and unconscionable betrayal of our democracy.”

    Stone explains, “House Republicans who do not have the votes to repeal Obamacare through the processes of democracy threatened to close the federal government, to throw hundreds of thousands of innocent government employees out of work, and to damage the nation’s economy unless the Senate and the President acceded to their demands. By threatening to wreak havoc with the national interest and inflicting serious harm on hard-working, loyal public employees, they are attempting to coerce rather than to persuade the government into doing what they want. The House Republicans, in short, are holding the nation itself hostage to their demands. This is not democratic governance. This is extortion, plain and simple. In any other circumstances, this would be criminal conduct.”

  • December 13, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    With Republicans seemingly hell-bent on tossing the country over the so-called fiscal cliff, showing no signs of agreeing to tax hikes on the nation’s superrich, and continuing their strategy of obstructionism polling shows that a majority of Americans support filibuster reform.

    Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) embraced obstructionism during President Obama’s first term, saying his party’s top priority was to ensure Obama did not serve a second one. McConnell, however, is still set on obstructionism and not surprisingly arguing that the Constitution forbids the Senate from altering its procedures by majority vote.

    A bipartisan group of law professors – including former Reagan solicitor general Charles Fried and a former conservative federal judge Michael W. McConnell – in a Dec. 12 letter to senators says McConnell is wrong. (The letter can be read here – thanks to the Brennan Center For Justice).

    “When a newly-elected Congress convenes,” the letter states, “the newly-constituted Senate, like the newly-elected House, can invoke its constitutional rulemaking authority to make changes to the Standing Rules. At that time, a majority of the new Senate can choose to reject or amend an existing rule.”

  • December 12, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    If the Obama administration decides to move aggressively to scuttle efforts in Colorado and Washington State to take a different – many would say progressive – approach to the war on marijuana it won’t be because the administration had no alternative. Indeed plenty of academics, pundits and federal lawmakers are hoping the administration will support, not hinder, the experimentations in those two progressive Western states and are airing plenty of ways the administration could respond.

    University of Denver law school professor Sam Kamin detailed some of the possibilities the government could take with respect to the marijuana legalization initiatives that passed with strong support in Colorado and Washington. One of the possibilities Kamin highlighted was a bill recently introduced by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) “allowing states to essentially opt of the CSA [Controlled Substances Act outlaws marijuana and is administrated by the Drug Enforcement Agency] enforcement by passing laws that conflict with the federal prohibition ….”

    Rep. DeGette in a press statement announcing the legislation said several of her colleagues were concerned “about the federal government’s ability to override these voter-approved initiatives ….”

    “In Colorado,” DeGette said, “we’ve witnessed the aggressive policies of the federal government in their treatment of legal medicinal marijuana providers. My constituents have spoken and I don’t want the federal government denying money to Colorado or taking punitive steps that would undermine the will of our citizens.”

    In a piece for Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson writes that while the federal government “cannot force” Colorado and Washington “to impose criminal sanctions on pot possession,” the federal government “has great power” to block the states’ abilities to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana. (In an editorial, the magazine’s publisher Jann S. Wenner hopes the president won’t tap that power and urges an end to the war on weed calling it a “sham, a folly, a colossal waste of money and human potential.”)

  • November 7, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The Dish headline called it the “single biggest night for gay rights in electoral history.” And it’s hard to mess with that assessment. Voters in Maryland, Maine, Washington and Minnesota voted in favor of marriage equality.

    But beyond those ballot measure victories, Andrew Sullivan reports that gay men and lesbians made up five percent of the electorate, the vast majority of them supporting Obama, “the first president to support marriage equality, and who mentioned gays by name for the first time in the history of victory speeches.”

    Then of course, there was the election of Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate, the first openly gay person to serve in that chamber.

    But Sullivan’s post provides plenty of detail of the efforts to defeat the equality measures, including the funding and work of the National Organization for Marriage, a religious right outfit that strives to scuttle marriage equality by employing tired tactics of demonization. NOM says its mission is “to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it.” Sullivan highlights a piece from Adam Serwer reporting that NOM “believed that putting forth black and Latino spokespeople, they could discredit the idea of same-sex marriage as a civil rights cause and drive a wedge between two typically Democratic constituencies…".

    In Maryland Serwer concluded NOM’s strategy appeared rather wobbly.

    Indeed, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Coalition, said part of the success in Maryland involved creating partnerships with other civil liberties groups, such as the NAACP, clergy and businesses, The Washington Post reported.

  • April 26, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    In 1994 federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle banded together to advance legislation aimed at tackling the prevalence of domestic and sexual violence. It was and remains a noble goal. Indeed it represented one of the more communitarian pieces of legislation of the time. The nation it seemed, even if fleeting, to be concerned about bettering the quality of lives of some of the nation’s most vulnerable, as opposed to catering solely to the nation’s wealthiest and most powerful.

    Today reauthorization of the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), as noted on this blog, is mired in mindless obstructionism. The reauthorization measure was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February, and finally passed the Senate today on a 68-31 vote. But House Republicans are itching to keep obstructionism alive, promising their own reauthorization measure.

    Though the Justice Department has reported a decline in domestic violence, a 2011 National Census of Domestic Violence Services revealed that more than 67,000 victims of domestic violence received federal help in a single day.

    Moreover since enactment of the VAWA it has become apparent that services need to be extended, such as free legal services to victims, authority for Native American officials to respond to abuse of Indian women by those not covered by Indian jurisdiction, more help to undocumented people who are victims of domestic violence, and to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender victims of domestic violence.  

    It is this effort to help more people that spurred opposition. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) complained about the reauthorization measure’s additional services. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said the bill’s efforts to expand the reach of domestic violence programs were meant to “invite opposition.”

    Right-wing lobbying groups have also ramped up opposition to reauthorization. The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins said the VAWA reauthorization bill “does real violence to the budget and individual freedom.

    Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a Tea Party favorite, took to the Senate floor to declare that he was not voting against helping victims of domestic violence. He said he was voting against “big government and inefficient spending ….”

    Sen. Patrick Leahy, who introduced the reauthorization measure with Michael Crapo (R-Idaho), lauded today’s Senate vote, and said he hoped the House “will soon consider this legislation ….”

    But The Associated Press reported recently that a group of Republicans in the House is working to create a different reauthorization bill. It would likely strip the Senate’s efforts to help undocumented immigrants, Native Americans, and gays, lesbians and transgenders.

    During the Senate’s drawn-out effort to reauthorize the VAWA, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told The New York Times that the Republican opposition “is part of a larger effort, candidly, to cut back on the rights and services to women. We’ve seen it go from discussions on Roe v. Wade, to partial birth abortion, to contraception, to preventive services from women. This seems to be one more thing.”