Law

How Badly Do Republicans Want Tax Reform? (Maybe Not That Badly)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. I f there's one major issue on which everyone in Washington seems to believe the White House and congressional Republicans might be able to agree to do something ambitious in the next two years, it's tax reform. A significant overhaul of the tax code hasn't happened in many years, and there are some areas of agreement between the two sides. Republicans supposedly want to show they can govern as the party in control of Congress, and President Barack Obama would like to obtain at least one significant legislative achievement in his second term. Big business, which has the ear of both parties, is eager for it. So is it going to happen? The answer depends, it would seem, on the tender emotions of Republicans, who are already complaining that tax reform might have to be scrapped if Obama is mean...

Election 2014: Surge or Theft?

How dark money and voter disenfranchisement combined in a toxic brew that resulted in the lowest voter turnout in more than 70 years, hampering whatever chance Democrats had to win.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) In this November 6, 2012 file photo, a voter holds their voting permit and ID card at the Washington Mill Elementary School near Mount Vernon, Virginia. Across the South, Republicans are working to take advantage of a new political landscape after a divided U.S. Supreme Court freed all or part of 15 states, many of them in the old Confederacy, from having to ask Washington's permission before changing election procedures in jurisdictions with histories of discrimination. L ast Tuesday’s election was, by any measure, a sweeping victory for the Republicans—their second consecutive midterm sweep since Barack Obama took office, by which they’ve now picked up a total 77 seats combined in the United States House of Representatives and the Senate. In the House they’ve not had a majority this size since Herbert Hoover occupied the White House—and they control more statehouses now than at any time in the nation’s history. But what does that mean—or more...

Republicans May Finally Get Their Wish to Watch the Affordable Care Act Destroyed

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
SEIU O n Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of King v. Burwell , perhaps the last gasp in the Republican attempt to use the courts to destroy the Affordable Care Act. The reaction to this news among liberals was, to put it mildly, shock and dismay. Simply put, the lawsuit is a joke, and the fact that any judge, let alone a justice of the Supreme Court (not to mention five of them) would do anything but laugh it out of court is a testament to just how shamelessly partisan Republican judges have become. At least four justices have to consent to hear a case, so it's possible that there will still be five votes to turn back this stink bomb of a case. That will probably depend on the good will of John Roberts, something I wouldn't exactly want to stake my life on. But lives are indeed at stake. There are a couple of optimistic scenarios for how this could all turn out, and I'll explain why I suspect they're wrong. But in case you haven't been following, this case rests on...

Watch Parties: Grim Pro-Choicers, Mouthy Teenagers, Sad Tarheels, Happy Potheads, Plus Poets, Pols and Mentors

We dispatched our staff, interns and a couple of friends to watch parties for midterm election results hosted by groups across the progressive coalition. Here's what they found.

(AP Photo/The Wilmington Star-News, Jason A. Frizzelle)
(AP Photo/The Wilmington Star-News, Jason A. Frizzelle) Campaign Manager Erin Rogers, second right, and Democratic party NC Senate District 9 candidate Elizabeth Redenbaugh, right, watch election results at Ted's Fun on the River in Wilmington, N.C. on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. In the Durham Bubble, N.C. Progressives Caught Off-Guard By Hagan's Defeat Tar Heel progressives may not have loved their senator, but they worked hard to re-elect her—and thought they would. BARRY YEOMAN Just before 10 p.m. on election night, Debby Dowlin climbed onto the long wooden table at 106 Main, a cocktail bar in Durham, North Carolina. An organizer with Credo SuperPAC —which ran field operations to defeat five Republican candidates for U.S. Senate—Dowlin had been working to prevent Thom Tillis, the state House Speaker, from unseating Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan. “We’re really hoping to clinch that,” she told the bar’s patrons. “We may have different feelings about Kay Hagan”—whose lackluster first...

Watch Party Dispatch: Marijuana Legalization Activists Celebrate in D.C.

For many, this is the first midterm election they’ve voted in. And Initiative 71, which went on to pass with nearly 70 percent of the vote, is the reason.

(Amanda Teuscher)
(Amanda Teuscher) Reggae musician Mateo Monk performs his song “Blessed Ganja Herb,” at an election-results watch party in Washington, D.C., on November 4, 2014. District voters passed Initiative 71, which legalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The party has just started, but the bar is already packed. “Sixty-one percent!” yells the DJ between songs, to a loud eruption of cheers and applause. Not all DJs will interrupt a party to update everyone on precinct returns. But then, this is Washington, D.C., where post-Election night hangovers are as infamous as New Year’s. And this is the watch party/victory celebration of Initiative 71—the ballot measure that would legalize marijuana possession in the District—and supporters are ready to party. Polls in the days leading up to the election showed the initiative passing by a two-to-one margin, so for those gathering in the vast lower-level bar of Meridian Pint in Columbia Heights, there is little reason to worry...

Anti-Choice 'Personhood' Measures Fail in North Dakota and Colorado

But in Tennessee, an anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

(AP Photo/James MacPherson, File)
(AP Photo/James MacPherson, File) On November 4, 2014, North Dakotans voted down a fetal personhood measure. In this March 25, 2013, file photo Kris Kitko, left, leads chants of protest at an abortion-rights rally at the state Capitol in Bismarck. T he 2014 midterm elections proved to be a routing for Democrats; they lost the Senate, gave up seats in the House, and even deep-blue Maryland elected a Republican governor. But despite the Republican wave, there were ballot measures whose results Democrats could celebrate. Throughout the nation, liberal initiatives fared way better than the candidates who support them—including gun control, minimum wage hikes, marijuana legalization and abortion rights. For the third time Colorado citizens voted on a personhood amendment but, unfortunately for anti-choicers, persistence won’t do the trick. Amendment 67 in Colorado would have amended the state constitution to define “person” and “child” in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado...

GOP's Neo-Confederate Theocrat Wins Council Seat in One of Richest U.S. Counties

Voters were looking for something new when they elected Michael Peroutka to run as a Republican for a seat on Maryland's Anne Arundel County Council. What they got was something very old—like ante bellum kind of old.

(AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)
(AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli) Michael A. Peroutka, the one-time presidential candidate of the theocratic Constitution Party, in a debate between third-party presidential hopefuls at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, Wednesday, October 6, 2004. UPDATE, November 5, 2014 --The subject of this article, Michael Anthony Peroutka, running as a Republican, won a seat on the Anne Arundel County Council in the November 4 election, beating his opponent, by nearly 1,900 votes, according to the Baltimore Sun . The Baltimore Sun O n November 4, 2011, standing on a small stage with Bible verses splashed on the background behind him, Michael Peroutka told a small audience attending his lecture that “when you see and hear folks describe the earth as millions of years old, you know that they are either willfully anti-American, or they are ignorant of their own heritage and history. What I am saying is that the promotion of evolution is an act of disloyalty to America.” Three years later, on November 4...

Electing Judges Is Insane

This guy never had to run for reelection. Plus he brings his own gift bag. (Flickr/Nathan Rupert)
With a couple of minor exceptions, like a few local judgeships in Switzerland, the United States is the only country where judges are elected. Indeed, to the rest of the world, the idea of judges running for office—begging for money, airing attack ads against their opponents, thinking always about their next election even after they take the bench—is positively insane. And they're right. We've had elected judgeships for our entire history, but until the last few years, those elections were nothing like races for Congress or governorships. But those days are past—now not only are judges acting like politicians, outside groups (yes, including the Koch brothers) are pouring money into judicial races to produce courts more to their liking. And when you make judicial elections more partisan, you get more partisan judges, like one Judith French, a member of the Ohio Supreme Court who is running to retain her seat : At a Saturday event at which she introduced Republican Gov. John Kasich,...

U.S. Supreme Court Could Decide Nation Status of Jerusalem

United States policy on the disputed city is illogical—for pragmatic reasons. The Supreme Court shouldn't interfere.

(Photo by Omer Messinger/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images)
(Photo by Omer Messinger/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images) Israelis dance and wave national flags during the Jerusalem Day march on May 28, 2014, in a celebration marking the "unification" of Jerusalem after Israel took the city's east side from Jordan during the Six Days War in 1967. M y children were born in Jerusalem—to be precise, in West Jerusalem. As dual citizens, they each have an Israeli passport and an American one. In the Israeli documents, their birthplace is listed as Israel. On their U.S. passports, on the line for place of birth, "Jerusalem" appears instead of the name of a country. They applied for their passports at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem—which, unusually enough, is not under the auspices of an embassy but reports directly to Washington. The United States does not recognize Jerusalem as being a de jure part of any country. Occasionally, I get a chuckle out of the absurdity of this policy. But then, I think of the pride and wonder that my great-...

SCOTUS to Texas: Go Forth and Discriminate Against Your Citizens Starting Monday

Wikimedia Commons
The Supreme Court said Saturday that, for the first time, it is allowing a voting law to be used for an election even though a federal judge, after conducting a trial, found the law is racially discriminatory in both its intent and its impact, and is an unconstitutional poll tax. It is not only not a good look for the court, it is an abdication of the federal responsibility to protect every American voter from racially discriminatory voter suppression. These continuing voter restrictions are the worst attack on Americans’ voting rights since Reconstruction led to the Jim Crow era. We are in the middle of the storm that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg described in her Shelby County dissent. Studies show that recent restrictions on voting were more likely to be introduced and adopted in places that saw increased political participation from lower-income people and people of color. Voting in Texas starts Monday, and the new law only allows seven forms of acceptable identification, including...

When Guns Trample Speech, Do We Have a Democracy?

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) People protest on the campus of Utah State, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Logan, Utah. Utah's campus gun laws are in the spotlight after a feminist speaker canceled a speech at Utah State University once she learned the school would allow concealed firearms despite an anonymous threat against her. School officials in Logan were set to go ahead with the event with extra police after consulting with federal and state law enforcement who told them the threat was consistent with ones Anita Sarkeesian receives when she gives speeches elsewhere. D on’t look now, but I think the Second Amendment just stomped on the First. Last week, the New York Times reported on the death and rape threats to which Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist cultural critic, has been subjected to for challenging the stereotyped images of women in video games. A number of the malignant little dweebs upset by her criticism of the violent sexism that characterizes some games have waged what the Times...

A Wild Week for Voting Rights

J ust a month before the election, voting rights have been on a wild ride. The Supreme Court began its term by reinstating voting restrictions in Ohio and North Carolina after federal appeals courts put these laws on hold for unfairly burdening voting rights, particularly for people of color. But last night, the Court took action to stop Wisconsin’s voter ID requirement from going into effect only weeks before Election Day, and a federal court struck down Texas’s voter ID law after a trial on the merits, ruling for voters in both cases. So while voters in North Carolina and Ohio face more burdensome voter restrictions, voters in Wisconsin and Texas will not be disenfranchised by unconstitutional discriminatory photo ID requirements in November . Here’s what happened in each state. In the two states where voter disenfranchisement will continue, same-day voter registration was rolled back. Last week the Court stayed the 6 th Circuit order and allowed Ohio’s cuts to early voting to...

Should the Democrats Abandon Hope of Getting Relief from Voter Suppression In the Courts?

Flickr/Theresa Thompson
Yesterday there were two rulings on voting rights cases, both of which were decided in favor of the liberal side of the argument. But don't get too excited. I hate to be eternal pessimist on this issue, but neither case is likely to turn out the way liberals and Democrats want. In fact, we're almost at the point where — until the current makeup of the Supreme Court changes — liberals should keep themselves from ever thinking the courts are going to stop Republican efforts at voter suppression. I'll get to the consequences of that in a moment, but first let's look at the two cases yesterday. The first was in Texas, where a federal judge struck down the state's voter ID law. In refreshingly blunt language, the judge called the law an "unconstitutional poll tax," and said that the legislators who passed it "were motivated, at the very least in part, because of and not merely in spite of the voter ID law's detrimental effects on the African-American and Hispanic electorate." Which is...

Unpredictable Schedules Inflicted on Workers are Wrecking People's Lives

This nationwide trend goes virtually undetected when we take the economy’s temperature each month.

(iStockPhoto/4774344sean)
(iStockPhoto/4774344sean) Nurses are among the many workers who suffer from unpredictable schedules that often lead to working double shifts. T he unemployment drop in the September jobs report, to 5.9 percent, was welcome news. But as many have noted, wages remain flat and 7.1 million Americans worked part-time but wanted to work full-time. Furthermore, the monthly snapshot, which focuses on limited questions and simplified distinctions, altogether misses a key indicator of the job market’s health. Our recent book, Unequal Time , suggests that for the millions of Americans fortunate enough to be working, scheduling has become chronically unpredictable. Most discussions of employment fail to capture the widespread variability in work hours, or what some employers now like to call “flexibility.” While recent media reports have focused on the unwieldy lives of young people working at Starbucks and clothing stores—working with a day’s notice or splitting shifts—the issue is far more...

How Gay Marriage Could Cause the GOP Major Headaches In 2016

Every GOP candidate is going to have to take a position on the threat posed by this kid. (Flickr/Alan Light)
After yesterday's dramatic ruling from the Supreme Court effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in 11 more states (that now makes 30, plus DC), you would have thought conservatives would be expressing their outrage to anyone who would listen. But their reaction was remarkably muted. "None of the top House GOP leaders (Speaker John Boehner or Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy) issued statements. Ditto the RNC," reported NBC News . "And most strikingly, we didn't hear a peep about the Supreme Court's (non)-decision on the 2014 campaign trail, including in the red-state battlegrounds." The only one who issued a thundering denunciation was Ted Cruz. Even though the GOP's discomfort with this issue has been evident for a while, with the unofficial start of the 2016 presidential campaign just a month away (after the midterm elections are done), the issue of marriage equality is going to become positively excruciating for them. Many people saw the Court's denial of cert in the five cases they...

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