News Politics

Romney/Ryan 2012: Now Will The Media Really Look at the Ryan Plan?

Robin Marty

We have a vice presidential nominee.  Now the real campaigning begins.

In a bid to staunch the tide of bad press from this week’s “accidental” defense of Obamacare to subtle race-baiting, the Romney campaign has offered the media something new to focus on: his running mate.

Despite speculation he would try to reach a more diverse audience by choosing Florida Senator Marco Rubio or New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, Romney’s advisers have reached deep into the white male politician pool to grab Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. The new ticket, one of the most perfectly coiffed teams in presidential history, is a crazy juxtaposition of social safety net approaches. Massachusetts “Romneycare” was the precursor of “Obamacare” and when passed represented the greatest expansion of health care benefits since Medicaid and Medicare, whereas the Ryan budget plan would end both Medicaid and Medicare as we know it.

The announcement, coming early on Saturday morning, is a sign that the Romney camp is desperate to reverse falling polls and criticism of a campaign that is floundering as it approaches the national convention at the end of the month. It also shows the growing power of the Sunday morning talk show circuit–what other reason would there be for a Saturday morning announcement than to give media bookers a chance to revamp their weekend plans and grab guests ready to talk about the launch of the Romney/Ryan ticket.

Will the media ploy work? A bounce this week, and a bounce from the conventions could be just what Romney needs to turn his campaign around. Then again, the media scrutiny could also have the opposite: a budget that guts programs for the poor to provide bigger tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans isn’t usually that popular with the majority of voters, who will lose far more than they could ever hope to gain.

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Analysis Politics

Donald Trump and Mike Pence: The Anti-Immigrant Ticket

Tina Vasquez

“My greatest fear is that this ticket doesn’t seem to realize immigrants are actually an incredible resource that fuels our country," Wendy Feliz of the American Immigration Council told Rewire.

On Friday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, giving legitimacy to concerns a Trump presidency would be anti-choice and decimate LGBTQ rights. As Rewire reported last week, Pence has voted against nondiscrimination efforts, signed a so-called religious freedom bill, opposed marriage equality, and attemptednumerous times—to defund Planned Parenthood, something Trump has promised to do if elected president.

But the two Republicans also have something else in common: They are brazenly anti-immigrant.

Despite a misleading article from the Daily Beast asserting that Pence has had a “love affair with immigration reform” and has “spent his political career decrying anti-immigrant rhetoric,” the governor’s record on immigration tells a different story.

Let’s take a look at Trump’s “xenophobic” and “racist” campaign thus far, and how closely Pence’s voting aligns with that position.

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Donald Trump

For months it seemed, Donald Trump’s talking points in the media rarely drifted away from anti-immigrant rhetoric. During his kickoff speech, he referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “killers” and in the months since, has promised to build a 2,000-mile-long wall along the United States-Mexico border to keep “illegals” out, a wall the billionaire has promised that Mexico will pay for.

Despite being called “racist” by members of his own party, Trump’s immigration plan is largely consistent with what many Republicans have called for: a larger border wall, increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, requiring all U.S. companies to use E-Verify to check the immigration status of employees, increasing the use of detention for those who are undocumented and currently residing in the United States, and ending “birthright citizenship,” which would mean the U.S.-born children of undocumented parents would be denied citizenship.

Again, Trump’s proposed immigration policies align with the Republican Party’s, but it is the way that he routinely spreads false, damaging information about undocumented immigrants that is worrisome. Trump has repeatedly said that economically, undocumented immigrants are “killing us by “taking our jobs, taking our manufacturing jobs, taking our money.” 

Market Watch, a publication focusing on financial news, reported that this falsehood is something that a bulk of Trump supporters believe; two-thirds of Trump supporters surveyed in the primaries said they feel immigration is a burden on our country “because ‘they take our jobs, housing and health care.'” This, despite research that says deporting the 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently call the United States home would result in a “massive economic hit” for Trump’s home state of New York, which receives $793 million in tax revenue from undocumented immigrants. A recent report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy also found that at the state and local level, undocumented immigrants nationwide collectively pay an estimated $11.6 billion each year in taxes.

Trump has also been accused by Muslim Americans and members of the media of engaging in “reckless, dangerous Islamophobia” at every opportunity, using terrorist attacks to call for a ban on all Muslim immigration, while also using terrorism in a self-aggrandizing manner. In a statement released after the Pulse nightclub shooting, Trump said, “I said this was going to happen.”

These dangerous assertions that all U.S.-based Muslims are secretly harboring terrorists or that undocumented immigrants are killing “thousands of peoplea narrative he continued to push at the Republican National Convention by having the families of three Americans killed by undocumented people speak—can be deadly and inspire hatred and violence. This was made all the more clearer when in August 2015 two white brothers cited Trump when they urinated on and beat a homeless Latino man. According to Huffington Post, the men “alegedly [sic] told police they targeted the man because of his ethnicity and added, ‘Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.’” Trump’s response? He said that his supporters are simply “passionate” people who want America “to be great again.”

Mike Pence

Wendy Feliz, a spokesperson with the American Immigration Council, succinctly summarized Pence’s immigration approach to Rewire, saying on Monday that he “basically falls into a camp of being more restrictive on immigration, someone who looks for more punitive ways to punish immigrants, rather than looking for the positive ways our country can benefit from immigrants.”

After Trump’s announcement that Pence would be his running mate, Immigration Impact, a project of the American Immigration Council, outlined what voters should know about Pence’s immigration record:

Pence’s record shows he used his time in Congress and as the Governor of Indiana to pursue extreme and punitive immigration policies earning him a 100 percent approval rating by the anti-immigration group, Federation for American Immigration Reform.

In 2004 when Pence was a senator, he voted for the “Undocumented Alien Emergency Medical Assistance Amendments.” The bill failed, but it would have required hospitals to gather and report information on undocumented patients before hospitals could be reimbursed for treating them. Even worse, the bill wouldn’t have required hospitals to provide care to undocumented patients if they could be deported to their country of origin without a “significant chance” of their condition getting worse.

Though it’s true that in 2006 Pence championed comprehensive immigration reform, as the Daily Beast reported, the reform came with two caveats: a tightening of border security and undocumented immigrants would have to “self-deport” and come back as guest workers. While calling for undocumented immigrants to self-deport may seem like the more egregious demand, it’s important to contextualize Pence’s call for an increase in border security.

This tactic of calling for more Border Patrol agents is commonly used by politicians to pacify those opposed to any form of immigration reform. President Obama, who has utilized more border security than any other president, announced deferred action for the undocumented in June 2012, while also promising to increase border security. But in 2006 when Pence was calling for an increase in border security, the border enforcement policy known as “Operation Gatekeeper” was still in full swing. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Operation Gatekeeper “concentrated border agents and resources along populated areas, intentionally forcing undocumented immigrants to extreme environments and natural barriers that the government anticipated would increase the likelihood of injury and death.” Pence called for more of this, although the undocumented population expanded significantly even when border enforcement resources escalated. The long-term results, the ACLU reported, were that migrants’ reliance on smugglers to transport them increased and migrant deaths multiplied.

There are more direct ways Pence has illustrated a xenophobic agenda, including co-sponsoring a congressional bill that would have made English the official language of the United States and as governor, blocking Syrian refugees en route to Indiana, saying he would not accept any more Syrian refugees out of fear they were “terrorists.” The governor also added Indiana to the Texas lawsuit challenging expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). And he praised the inaction by the Supreme Court last month to expand DACA and DAPA, which leaves millions of undocumented immigrants living in fear of deportation.

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, “when a child who is not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian is apprehended by immigration authorities, the child is transferred to the care and custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Federal law requires that ORR feed, shelter, and provide medical care for unaccompanied children until it is able to release them to safe settings with sponsors (usually family members), while they await immigration proceedings.”

The ORR added that these sponsors “live in many states,” including Indiana, which received 245 unaccompanied minors between January and July 2014. Pence was reportedly unaware that unaccompanied minors were being placed in his state by the federal government, something he said he was made aware of by media reports. These are asylum seeking children, often girls under the age of 10, escaping violence in their countries of origin who arrive at the United States-Mexico border without an adult. Many, including advocacy organizations and the Obama administration, have contended that the circumstances surrounding unaccompanied minors is not simply an immigration issue, but a humanitarian crisis. Not Pence. In a letter to President Obama, the Indiana governor wrote:

While we feel deep compassion for these children, our country must secure its borders and provide for a legal and orderly immigration process …. Failure to expedite the return of unaccompanied children thwarts the rule of law and will only continue to send a distorted message that illegally crossing into America is without consequence.

In the four days since Pence was named Trump’s running mate, he’s also taken a much harsher stance on Muslim immigration. Back in December when Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” Pence tweeted that banning Muslims from entering the United States was “offensive and unconstitutional.” However, on Friday when Pence was officially named Trump’s VP pick, he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity, “I am very supportive of Donald Trump’s call to temporarily suspend immigration from countries where terrorist influence and impact represents a threat to the United States.”

Wendy Feliz of the American Immigration Council told Rewire that while Pence’s rhetoric may not be as inflammatory as Trump’s, it’s important to look at his record in relation to Trump’s to get a better understanding of what the Republican ticket intends to focus on moving into a possible presidency. Immigration, she said, is one of the most pressing issues of our time and has become a primary focus of the election.

“In a few days, we’ll have a better sense of the particular policies the Republican ticket will be pursuing on immigration. It all appears to point to more of the same, which is punitive, the punishing of immigrants,” Feliz said. “My greatest fear is that this ticket doesn’t seem to realize immigrants are actually an incredible resource that fuels our country. I don’t think Trump and Pence is a ticket that values that. An administration that doesn’t value immigrants, that doesn’t value what’s fueled our country for the past several hundred years, hurts all of us. Not just immigrants themselves, but every single American.”

News Law and Policy

Battle Over LGBTQ Rights Throws House Floor Into Disarray—Again

Christine Grimaldi

Two anti-LGBTQ amendments that made it into the same energy and water appropriations bill did not appease conservatives. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) charged that the amendments constituted support for North Carolina’s discriminatory, anti-transgender "bathroom bill."

A partisan battle over LGBTQ rights tanked a routine energy and water appropriations bill Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The 305-112 vote reflected frustration on both sides of the aisle about how the federal government treats LGBTQ people while their rights are increasingly under attack by state-level Republicans, including a fresh lawsuit filed against the Obama administration over its recent guidance on transgender rights.

House lawmakers appeared to have reached a truce late Wednesday on an amendment to nullify language undoing President Obama’s LGBTQ anti-discrimination measures for federal contractors found in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (HR 4909).

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, attempted last week to counter the NDAA provision as an amendment to a House appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017 military construction and veterans affairs. Democrats led chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” after GOP leaders undermined passage of the amendment, holding open the vote and convincing seven Republicans to switch their “aye” votes to “noe.”

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Democrats at the time accused House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) of subverting regular order to appease anti-LGBTQ members of their party.

In a reversal, the House on Wednesday adopted Maloney’s amendment to the fiscal year 2017 energy and water appropriations bill (HR 5055) on a bipartisan 223-195 vote. Forty-three Republicans voted in favor of the amendment after Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) added language amounting to a religious exemption for federal contractors.

The amendment would have applied “except as required by the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and Article I of the Constitution.”

Maloney initially hailed the vote on the amendment. “After House Republican Leadership broke their own rules to rig a vote and stack the deck for discrimination—tonight proved that equality will always win,” he said in a statement.

Despite the concession, a number of conservatives informed GOP leadership Thursday morning that they would not vote for the overall legislation, citing objections to the Maloney amendment, Politico reported. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), an increasingly vocal advocate for transgender rights, voted to pass the appropriations bill. Ros-Lehtinen’s son publicly came out as transgender this month.

Two anti-LGBTQ amendments that made it into the same energy and water appropriations bill did not appease conservatives. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) charged that the amendments constituted support for North Carolina’s discriminatory HB 2 law forcing transgender people to use the bathroom that aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth, rather than their gender identity. Pelosi said that the amendments would further encourage the nationwide spread of anti-LGBTQ bigotry.

Reps. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) and Bradley Byrne (R-AL) authored the amendments. Pittenger characterized his amendment as an attempt to “block President Obama’s bullying of North Carolina,” and Byrne, to “protect religious freedom.”

Maloney joined all but six Democrats in voting down the energy and water spending. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s (D-MD) office told Rewire that the final vote was doomed from the start.

“Democrats already opposed this bill because of poison-pill riders; the anti-LGBT amendments only solidified that vote,” a Hoyer spokesperson said via email. “But let’s be clear, Republicans can’t blame their bill going down on us—it was their own members that took it down because it banned discrimination.”

Each party tried to foist the blame for the failed appropriations vote on the other.

Ryan during his weekly press conference lambasted Democrats for voting down the appropriations bill after they got the Maloney amendment. “What we learned today is that the Democrats were not looking to advance an issue but to sabotage the appropriations process,” he said.

In a statement to Rewire, a Pelosi spokesperson reiterated Hoyer’s assessment that the appropriations bill could not overcome “the Republicans’ insistence in inserting controversial riders.”