Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Conservatives: Boston Means We Shouldn't Do Immigration Reform

Gage Skidmore/Flickr
As soon as it was revealed that the Boston Marathon bombing suspects were immigrants from Chechnya—who had migrated as children, following conflict in the region—a predictable crew of conservatives pounced on that fact to disparage comprehensive immigration reform. Here’s Ann Coulter : It’s too bad Suspect # 1 won’t be able to be legalized by Marco Rubio, now. And also, conservative radio host Bryan Fischer : I think we can safely say that Rubio’s amnesty plan is DOA. And should be. Time to tighten, not loosen, immigration policy. On the other end of things, Iowa senator—and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee—Chuck Grassley issued a statement pointing to the situation as example of how the United States needs to improve its immigration laws : In his opening statement, Grassley also argued the Boston terror case can help strengthen immigration reform since “it will help shed light on the weaknesses in our system … [and] how can we beef up security checks on people who...

Immigration Reform: This Time It's Different

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, leads a "Gang of 8" news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington to discuss the group's immigration-reform legislation. W ednesday's release of the Gang of Eight's 844-page immigration-reform bill has taken a backseat to the coverage of the Boston bombings, currently hurtling toward a tense denouement. Immigration-advocacy organizations pushed back their press calls, and the senators behind the bill cancelled their press conference altogether. But the bill represents a sea change in the way the United States handles immigration. With a wide path to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country and a major overhaul of the family- and employment-based immigration systems, it is a decisive shift away from the economic protectionism and anti-immigrant vitriol of the 2007-2008 immigration debate. "If you think of the 2007 bill as first- and second-generation thinking, this is...

Torture Report

Flickr/Shrieking Tree
As Americans grapple with the tragic bombings in Boston on Monday and the U.S. government works to track down those responsible, a new report on detainee treatment after 9/11 sheds important light on some of the measures adopted by the U.S. government in response to that attack. Issued by a panel convened by the Constitution Project , and chaired by two former members of Congress, Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democrat James R. Jones, the 577-page report looks at the broad range of policies and practices that were adopted by the U.S. to deal with detainees after the September 11 attacks. “Perhaps the most important or notable finding of this panel,” the report’s opening states , “is that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture.” The new report states that in addition to methods that qualify as torture, “American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved ‘cruel, inhuman, or degrading’ treatment. Both categories of...

The Second Explosion

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
AP Photo/Elise Amendola One of the blast sites on Boylston Street near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon I n the 21 st century, American malevolence comes in twos. Just as people couldn’t begin to grasp what was happening until a plane hit the second of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, the full impact of what took place Monday in Boston didn’t sink in until, 13 seconds after the first explosion, another immediately confirmed the true implications of this particular horror. Tellingly and understandably, the initial response by all of us was to wrestle with the word “terror,” because as much as any word “terror” has become the rorschach of our modern rhetoric, a characterization that transforms the dimensions of an event even as the facts remain the same, when instead we might call what happened merely a “crime.” Was the explosion that took place at the Atlanta Olympics in the summer of 1996 less an act of terror because it came not in twos but ones? For many, long after...

The Brothers Tsarnaev, Suspects in the Marathon Bombing

FBI
Late last night, a robbery at a convenience store in Cambridge, Massachusetts led to the shooting death of a police office on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Minutes later, an SUV was hijacked. The suspects drove that vehicle to Watertown in Boston, where they lobbed explosives and exchanged gun fire with police. As of early Friday morning, it was unclear if this was related to the Boston Marathon bombing. But soon, authorities released a photo of the suspect in the carjacking, noting the resemblance to one of the bombing suspects. By 7:30 this morning, a few facts had been confirmed. First, one of the suspects had been killed, an accomplice was in police custody, and the other suspect was still at large, the target of a manhunt by law enforcement. Second, the two are believed to be the suspects behind the marathon bombings. Finally, they have been identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, of Cambridge, and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was killed...

Ringside Seat: Limbaugh vs. Rubio

It's one thing to fight for something when you know the base of your party is behind you. You may not succeed, but you only have to face fire from one direction, and it's the one you're used to. But when your own core supporters are opposing you, things can get very complicated. That's what many Republicans are now facing as they try to pass immigration reform, the sine qua non of repairing their abysmal image among Latino voters. Republicans in both houses of Congress are working with Democrats to come up with a plan, but Republicans aren't sure they can get their own base to support it. As the misinformation begins to fly (don't ask about the mythical " MarcoPhone "), GOP members are trying desperately to convince conservatives that comprehensive immigration reform is a good idea. Today, Marco Rubio went on Rush Limbaugh's show to defend the proposal he and the other "Gang of Eight" members came up with, facing off against the right's most powerful media figure. "The Republican...

Obamacare's Delicious Ironies

We don't have health insurance, suckers! (Flickr/Elvert Barnes)
As the various "gangs" in the House and Senate were writing their immigration proposals, it became clear that to win the support of Republicans, the provisional legal status undocumented immigrants were going to get had to be punitive. No coddling those law-breakers; if they're going to get on a path to citizenship, it had better be an unpleasant path. It had to last for a long time—ten years, in the end. And there had to be a requirement that during that time, you couldn't get any federal benefits like food stamps or welfare. But this has produced a rather amusing irony. Republicans insist that one of the benefits those with provisional status must be barred from receiving is the subsidies that people of moderate incomes will get through Obamacare to buy insurance. As you'll recall, Republicans also believe that Obamacare's individual mandate is the most oppressive, liberty-destroying policy in the history of the republic; for instance, Wisconsin senator and Ayn Rand acoloyte Ron...

When Fear Threatens Freedom

AP Images
Throughout American history, whenever the United States has felt threatened, our response has been repression. In hindsight we come to realize that the nation was not made any safer from the loss of civil liberties. This is a crucial lesson to be remembered as the country deals with the terrible tragedy of Monday’s bombings in Boston. The impulse to take away constitutional rights to gain security must be resisted because, in reality, complying with the Constitution is not an impediment to safety. If history repeats itself, there are likely to be calls to make it easier for police to search people and their possessions without warrants or probable cause or even reasonable suspicion. Once more, there will be proposals to allow the authorities to detain individuals, even indefinitely, on suspicion of their supporting terrorism. There are sure to be calls to allow law enforcement to more easily intercept electronic communications, even of those conducted entirely within the United States...

Marco Rubio's Life Is about to Get Complicated

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Marco Rubio has had a pretty charmed political life. He rose quickly through the ranks in the Florida legislature, won a Senate seat without too much trouble at the tender age of 39, then suddenly found himself the " Republican savior " a mere two years after arriving in Washington. At a time when the GOP is desperate to appeal to Latinos, he's a young, smart, dynamic Latino who could be their presidential nominee in 2016. What could go wrong? Immigration reform, that's what. Many elite Republicans feel, and not without reason, that while supporting comprehensive reform might not win them the votes of Latinos, opposing it will pretty much guarantee that those votes will be lost to them. And Rubio almost has no choice but to be one of the leaders, if not the leader, of the party in that effort. He can't be the Great Latino Hope if he isn't. Trouble is, lots and lots of rank-and-file Republicans, particularly the kind who vote in presidential primaries, don't much like reform the way it...

The Senate Kills Background Checks, and Obama Gets Angry

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza "The President reacts as John Brennan briefs him on the details of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Yesterday, a Republican filibuster killed the Senate compromise on expanded background checks, which had support from 54 senators, including its authors, Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Skittish red-state Democrats like Montana’s Max Baucus, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, Alaska’s Mark Begich, and Arkansas’ Mark Pryor joined the opposition, voting to uphold the filibuster and defeat the proposal. Lawmakers are risk averse, and congressional cowardice is the norm, but this was a particularly shameful instance of doing the wrong thing. No one expects red-state Democrats to vote for new gun regulations, but there’s no reason to support a filibuster and prevent a vote. As for arguments against the bill itself? Manchin-Toomey was a modest package designed to keep guns away from...

The Fed’s Foreclosure-Relief Fail

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File
AP Photo/Don Ryan L ike far too many Americans, Debbie Marler of South Point, Ohio has her own foreclosure horror story. It involves one house, seven fraudulent mortgage assignments, three foreclosures, as many states, and five years. It ruined her career prospects, threatened her retirement security, and turned her life into what she calls “a living nightmare.” This week, Debbie walked to her mailbox and found what the federal government considers appropriate compensation for this odyssey of suffering at the hands of JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank. A check for $800. “I was speechless, just a complete shock,” Debbie said. “That doesn’t even pay for the damn U-Haul from when I moved out of the house in the first place.” The money is a product of the Independent Foreclosure Reviews, part of an enforcement action against 14 banks for crimes committed in the foreclosure process. The IFRs, shepherded by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Reserve...

Ringside Seat: Filibuster: 1; Background Checks: 0

This afternoon, the Manchin-Toomey amendment—a proposal to expand background checks to gun purchases that occur at gun shows and online—failed to be adopted, despite the fact that a majority of senators favored it. That's because today's vote wasn't a vote on the bill, it was a vote to have a vote on the bill. It was a vote to end a filibuster. The people who voted "no" were saying that they were so violently opposed to this modest expansion of background checks that they refused to even allow the Senate to vote on the bill. The overwhelming majority of the filibuster supporters were Republicans, but a few Democrats joined them as well. Remember these names: Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Max Baucus (MT), Mark Begich (AK), and Mark Pryor (AR). Even this compromise bill, worked out by two senators with "A" ratings from the NRA, was just too radical for those 41 Republican and four Democratic senators to live with. And even if it had been adopted, it would have faced an even harder time in the...

It Isn't Just Boston

Sunset at Fenway. (Flickr/slack12)
We've heard many inspiring and heartwarming stories from Boston about how people acted in the aftermath of Tuesday's bombing—rushing to aid the injured, opening up their homes to strangers, being kinder and more considerate than they would have been a week ago, in ways small and large. Many people elsewhere have expressed solidarity with the city of Boston, and I think that's great. But amidst it all there are some strange expressions about how all that admirable response is somehow uniquely Bostonian. I'm not trying to condemn anyone, but it's something we always seem to fall into when there's a shocking and tragic event like this one. It certainly happened after September 11, when stories of heroism and generosity were so often followed with the sentiment that "Nowhere else in the world" would people have acted in such praiseworthy ways, as though had a similar tragedy happened in Tokyo or Copenhagen or Johannesburg, people would have just left each other to die on the sidewalk. I'm...

Presidential "Leadership" Doesn't Work

Intel Photos / Flickr
Intel Photos / Flickr One other thing about the death of background checks in the Senate. It’s further proof that the Beltway theory of presidential power—Obama needs to show “leadership” to move things forward—is wrong. Here’s what President Obama did in the service of passing new gun laws: He gave a widely-heralded speech after the Newtown shooting, demanding action from Congress. He held an event in January, announcing his new gun control proposals, with parents and children from Newtown in attendance. He followed up at the State of the Union, demanding that Congress put new gun laws to a full vote of the Senate. He held an event in early April, again demanding action on gun laws from the Senate. And just a few days ago , the mother of a Newtown victim gave Obama’s weekly address. None of this had any effect on the Republican senators who filibustered the Manchin-Toomey compromise, nor did it affect the red-state Democrats who feared political attacks for backing new gun laws. It...

The Filibuster Strikes Again!

Google
Earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brokered a “gentlemen’s agreement” on the filibuster with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Democrats wouldn’t try to seriously reform the filibuster if Republicans would limit use of the procedure on “motions to proceed” to legislation or nominations. The problem with this agreement is that there was never a political incentive for McConnell to keep his part of the deal. As we saw during President Obama’s first term, Republicans can filibuster legislation without consequence—the public is indifferent to the details of congressional procedure. And so, as soon as it became inconvenient, McConnell ditched the agreement. First with the filibuster of Caitlin Halligan’s nomination to the DC circuit court, and now, with the Manchin-Toomey compromise on gun control : The Senate plans to vote on nine proposed changes to a gun control bill Wednesday, with a centerpiece proposal on background checks appearing headed for defeat. The chief...

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