Congress

The Latest Target of 'Religious Freedom' Advocates: Reproductive Rights in the Nation's Capital

A House committee has voted to overturn a local D.C. law that prevents discrimination based on employees' reproductive choices.

(Photo from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah is the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which voted late Tuesday night to disapprove the District's Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act. H ere’s a riddle for all you students of the American political system: You are an elected representative, and you would like to curry favor in your home district among right-wing conservatives. One way to do this is to pass a local law sanctioning discrimination against LGBT citizens and women who choose to use birth control, under the guise of “religious freedom.” But you’ve recently discovered that such a law can backfire pretty spectacularly. Just look at poor Mike Pence, Republican governor of Indiana, regarded as presidential material not long ago. What other tactic, besides sanctioning religion-based discrimination, could you use? Well, if you’re a member of Congress, you’ve got the people of the District of Columbia to whom you can teach a thing or two; they’re not...

No Cost for Extremism

Why the GOP hasn't (yet) paid for its march to the right. 

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
According to the news media, 2014 was the year that the GOP “Establishment” finally pulled Republicans back from the right-wing brink. Pragmatism, it seemed, had finally triumphed over extremism in primary and general election contests that The New York Times called “proxy wars for the overall direction of the Republican Party.” There’s just one problem with this dominant narrative. It’s wrong. The GOP isn’t moving back to the center. The “proxy wars” of 2014 were mainly about tactics and packaging, not moderation. Consider three of the 2014 Senate victors—all touted as evidence of the GOP’s rediscovered maturity, and all backed in contested primaries by the Establishment’s heavy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

Obama's Trade Agreements Are a Gift to Corporations

Trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are about dismantling critical regulations on health, safety, labor, and the environment. 

(Photo by Alex Milan Tracy/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images)
(Photo by Alex Milan Tracy/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images) Protesters gathered outside the Smith Center to speak out against the fast-track of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Portland, Oregon, on January 31, 2014. This article originally appeared at The Boston Globe . L ate last week, legislation moved forward that would give President Obama authority to negotiate two contentious trade deals: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). But for the most part, these aren’t trade agreements at all. They’re a gift to corporations, here and in partner countries that view purely domestic regulations as restraints of trade. If these deals pass, the pharmaceutical industry could get new leverage to undermine regulations requiring the use of generic drugs. The tobacco industry has used similar “trade” provisions to challenge package label warnings. A provision in both deals, known as Investor State Dispute Settlement, would allow...

The Sensible, Risky Option

The Iran deal is a gamble, but the best one available. 

(AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)
(AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader) In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with a group of religious performers in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, April 9, 2015. "There are only bad options. It's about finding the best one." "You don't have a better bad idea than this?" "This is the best bad idea we have, sir." T hat snippet of dialogue is from the film Argo , set just after the Iranian revolution in 1979. It's the scene in which CIA Director Stansfield Turner is listening to the out-of-any-box scheme of two CIA men for smuggling six American diplomats out of Teh e ran. Turner is sensible. Since this is the best bad plan available, he approves it. Risky as it is, it even turns out to be a good plan. Thirty-six years later, the same script would be appropriate for calmly discussing the framework agreement with Iran on limiting its nuclear program. Calm, though, has been in...

How Schumer's Iran Gamble Threatens Democrats' Chances in 2016

If enough senators in the minority party follow the lead of their next likely leader, the minority may be where they stay.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images) Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, left, has pledged support to Republican Senator Bob Corker, right, for a bill designed to scuttle the Obama administration's agreement with Iran over the development of nuclear technology. Here, the two are pictured in the House chamber before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to a joint meeting of Congress, March 3, 2015. A week and a half ago, Chuck Schumer, currently third in the leadership of the minority party in the U.S. Senate, moved quickly to solidify his position as the next leader of Democrats, securing the support of his caucus. This week he endorsed Republican Senator Bob Corker’s bill, which, on paper, gives Congress the right to approve the nuclear agreement hammered out with Iran by the U.S. and its allies (collectively known as the P5+1). In reality, this bill is yet another carefully crafted attempt to thwart a negotiated end to this nuclear...

This Is No Time for Liberals to Give Up on Israel

Because of Netanyahu's bellicosity—and Republican support for it—it's now possible in Washington to argue about Israel. With so much at stake, liberals must.

(Photo: EdoM via Wikimedia Commons)
T onight most American Jews will sit down with family and friends for the Passover Seder. Whether they tell the story of redemption from slavery according to the Hebrew traditional text, a radical rewriting, or not at all, they'll eventually get to a sumptuous holiday meal and to conversation, often including politics. Judging from the reaction of some of my close friends and respected colleagues to the Israeli election, one subject that liberal Jews—that is, most American Jews—won't want on the menu is Israel. The re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu has spoiled the taste beyond redemption. The manner of his victory—a lurch rightward, an unholy alliance with the GOP, a last-minute scare video about "droves" of Arab voters "advancing" on the polling places—has made talk of Israel even more bitter to the tongue. The tension in American Jewry between being liberal and being Zionist has been growing for years. But the election on March 17, 2015, may have been a breaking point. Believe me, I...

Did JPMorgan Try to Bribe Dem Power-Brokers? (Depends What Your Definition of 'Bribe' Is)

They've got a problem with Elizabeth Warren. And they want party leaders to do something about it.

iStockPhoto/© jgroup
D id one of the largest banks in the United States accidentally acknowledge an attempt to bribe members of Congress? A widely published Reuters story reported that four major U.S. banks have threatened to withhold expected campaign contributions from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee unless “Democrats, including [Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth] Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown ... soften their party's tone toward Wall Street.” But the article specifically notes: “JPMorgan representatives have met Democratic Party officials to emphasize the connection between its annual contribution and the need for a friendlier attitude toward the banks, a source familiar with JPMorgan's donations said. In past years, the bank has given its donation in one lump sum but this year has so far donated only a third of the amount, the source said.” A person familiar with JPMorgan's donations—who may or may not be a JPMorgan representative—told a Reuters reporter that JPM told party...

March Madness: How Title IX Just Totally Rocked Your Sunday

During Women's History Month, it's important to remember how recently female athletes were excluded from college basketball.

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome) South Carolina's Tiffany Mitchell (25) and Alaina Coates (41) react after defeating Florida State in a women's college basketball regional final game in the NCAA Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina, Sunday, March 29, 2015. A t two minutes to go, Tiffany Mitchell dribbles to the top of the court and passes to teammate Aleighsa Welch . Welch takes the ball through the middle for an inside layup. South Carolina is up on Florida State, 69-67. Then with a little more than a minute on the clock, Mitchell makes a three-pointer. South Carolina is leading 72-67. Taking on Florida State in this year’s March Madness competition, South Carolina is the first of the elite eight to make to the final four, with a final with a score of 80-74. Over the length of the entire game, South Carolina led for less than four minutes. Mitchell went into the final two minutes of the game with 14 points under her belt. Then she scored seven more. Seeing the sport played at such a high...

Legions of Women Workers in U.S. Still Lack Minimum Wage and Labor Protections

The legacy of slavery and prescribed gender roles continues to rob millions of their fair share.

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Billy Smith II In this Dec. 2014 photo, Eileen Merize, left, helps 93-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran Harold Utsler look through some of his paper work at her home in Katy, Texas near Houston. The Houston Chronicle reports Utsler is one of three veterans who live in Merize's home through the Medical Foster Program, which helps disabled elderly veterans live with "foster families" rather than in large nursing homes. I t’s Women’s History Month—what a nice idea to recognize that women actually make history and aren’t just along to make dinner for the history-makers! In 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared seven days in March to be National Women's History Week, and President Ronald Reagan followed suit. In 1987, Congress expanded the commemoration on the calendar, giving women a whole month. We have come so far. Putting sarcasm aside, it is true that the 20th century included concrete advances for women in America. Starting with the New Deal, women workers...

Trey Gowdy's Bad Benghazi Hand

He can’t bring himself to fold and toss his cards into the muck.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Why won't the chairman of the Benghazi Select Committee show his cards? E very poker player has experienced this moment. The hand is over. You show a winning hand and your opponent sits still. They grimace, while looking down at their cards hoping somehow they will change. Maybe they let out an annoyed sigh. All this whiny display accomplishes is wasting the time of every other player at the table. The dealer is frozen, unable deliver the pot to the winner until your opponent shows his cards or folds. As chairman of the Benghazi Select Committee, Trey Gowdy has become that poker player. Earlier this week the Democratic staff of the committee put out a press release comparing the time spent by the Gowdy committee— 10 months and 15 days— to that taken by other historic high-profile Congressional committees and commissions to complete their investigations: Hurricane Katrina Entity: Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response...

3 Trends Driving Liberal American Jews Away From Israel

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
(AP Photo/Cliff Owen) Stage hands prepare the stage for the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., Monday, March 2, 2015. I n the wake of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's election victory last week—and the sordid campaigning that made it possible—liberal American Jews may be feeling, more than they ever have before, pained by, conflicted about, and even estranged from Israel. There are certainly consequences for policy, as U.S. policy toward Israel could become a much more partisan issue than it is now. But more than that, there's a crisis of the spirit emerging. It's fed by three trends, all of which serve to alienate liberal American Jews from Israel, all of which were highlighted by this election, and all of which look inexorable. The first, of course, is the hopelessness of the Palestinian situation. When, just before the election, Netanyahu abandoned his stated support for an ultimate two-state solution, it didn't surprise...

Reckoning With the New Auto Recall Bill

(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
(AP Photo/LM Otero, File) In this May 13, 2014 file photo, an auto worker inspects finished SUVs coming off the assembly line at the General Motors auto plant in Arlington, Texas. As General Motors tackles a safety crisis, a look at its numbers from June show just how intent the company is on keeping new-car sales on the rise during a record spate of safety recalls. S ome 46 million vehicles nationwide—nearly one in five on the road today—have a recalled, but unrepaired, safety issue. That’s because drivers, along with auto dealers and rental companies, have no legal obligation to fix safety recalls—a gaping regulatory loophole that puts millions at risk. For years lawmakers have more or less ignored the issue, until earlier this month, when Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey introduced the Repairing Every Car to Avoid Lost Lives (RECALL) Act . The bill would require car owners to comply with all pending safety recalls in order to reregister their vehicles with...

The Dance of Liberals and Radicals

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo) U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, right, talks with civil rights leaders in his White House office in Washington, D.C., January 18, 1964. The movement leaders, from left, are, Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); James Farmer, national director of the Committee on Racial Equality; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Whitney Young, executive director of the Urban League. This essay originally appeared at The Huffington Post . M arch 15 was the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson's best speech, his "We Shall Overcome" address applying the final round of pressure on Congress to enact the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Much of the speech invoked the bravery, dignity and historical rightness of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his fellow movement activists. All of which puts me in mind of the complex relationship between liberals and radicals. History shows that liberals...

At National Gathering, Firefighters Not Impressed By Potential GOP Candidates

Ted Cruz elicited more grumbles than laughs with jokes about Hillary Clinton and the IRS. The rest of the Republican presidential field didn't fare much better.

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks at the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum in Washington, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. I t only took one observation for former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, appearing before 700 members of the International Association of Fire Fighters union on Tuesday to eclipse the five Republicans who spoke before him. “There are two very important things that you did not hear from any of today’s Republican speakers,” O’Malley said to the firefighters who were in attendance for the IAFF’s Presidential Forum. “One is a commitment to collective bargaining, and the second is a commitment to increasing funding for public safety.” His comments prompted whistles and a standing ovation, an enthusiastic response from an audience that had remained largely unmoved by the conservative speakers. The GOP’s half-hearted attempt to embrace labor but avoid divisive economic issues at the...

Are You Ready for War With Iran? Here's How It Could Happen

If 2016 lands a Republican in the White House, with a Republican Congress behind him, the war will be all but begun.

(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
I t's been a while, so you may have forgotten just what a great time it was for the national security hawks widely known as neoconservatives back in 2002 and 2003. With the memory of September 11 still fresh and Republicans controlling the White House and Congress, there was little to stand in the way of the dream of remaking the map of the Middle East, the region that had so vexed us for so long. Democrats sure weren't going to—most of them were only too eager to show that they weren't lily-livered pacifists, so they provided barely any impediment at all to a new war. Sure, when it came to justifying an invasion of Iraq, the hawks had to exaggerate a little here, twist the facts a little there, spin out ridiculous scenarios everywhere. But it would all be worth it once victory was won. Saddam Hussein would fall, we'd quickly set up a new government, and democracy would spread through the region as a glorious new age dawned, brought forth by the beneficent power of American arms. Then...

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