Commentary Abortion

Women, Get Under the Bus! Marco Rubio to Sponsor 20-Week Abortion Ban in Senate

Adele M. Stan

In an apparent attempt to make amends with right-wing kingmakers for his support of immigration reform, the Senator is jumping into the "war on women."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has a problem, especially if he wants to run for president in 2016. That immigration bill that has his face all over it? Some of his friends on the right—the ones whose support propelled him into the U.S. Senate—are pretty peeved about it.

So, in an apparent move to make amends, he’s joined the latest battle in the “war on women” by agreeing, according to the Weekly Standard, to sponsor legislation that, like the House bill before it, would ban abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization. According to the Standard’s Fred Barnes, Rubio is expected to announce his sponsorship of the bill when Congress returns after the Independence Day recess.

Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants and a rising star in the GOP, won his Senate seat with the support of religious-right and Tea Party activists who sought to derail the candidacy of former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican who earned the ill will of the right for appearing on the same stage as President Barack Obama in 2009 to tout the financial stimulus dollars the president’s plan would send to the Sunshine State. That Crist literally hugged the president was a matter of great disgust to critical Tea Party commentators, who helped launch Rubio’s primary challenge to Crist’s Senate bid. (Crist actually wound up running as an independent when it became clear he couldn’t win the primary.)

As part of the so-called Gang of Eight—the group of senators who crafted the immigration reform bill that passed the Senate last week—Rubio is now getting a taste of what Crist faced four years ago, the very mention of his name eliciting boos at a recent Tea Party gathering on Capitol Hill last month.

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Then there was this tweet from Sarah Palin after the immigration bill passed the Senate:

Put another way, per Palin’s biblical worldview, Rubio = Judas.

In truth, both the Republican Party and its right flank are split on the matter of immigration reform. On day one of the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference, abortion was mentioned only obliquely by a roster of senators who graced the luncheon platform, but Rubio was warmly received after making the case for immigration reform. Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed is a savvy political strategist who knows that the GOP needs to broaden its base to include Latinos and Asians if it is to win national elections.

But others, including such right-wing poobahs as Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint and Leadership Institute President Morton Blackwell, who helped catapult Rubio into the Senate, are strongly opposed to any immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, which they refer to as “amnesty.” And during his Senate campaign, the National Review’s Jonathan Strong reminds us, Rubio called it that too. Strong writes that during a debate, Rubio said that an “earned path to citizenship is basically code for amnesty.”

Strong notes that Rubio failed, on immigration, to take the counsel of his housemates at the infamous C Street house owned by The Family (also known as The Fellowship), the secretive right-wing religious organization exposed by journalist Jeff Sharlet as a power-courting group that has supported dictators around the world. But Rubio clearly took a cue from one of them, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who earlier this year introduced his own version of the 20-week ban.

If there’s one point at which all factions of the right converge, it’s that women need to be knocked back into their place. Lately, 20-week abortion bans, based on model legislation crafted by the National Right to Life Committee, are all the rage, propelled in part by a January Gallup survey that shows public support for barring abortion in the second trimester, which, according to Gallup, 64 percent of those polled support.

Such support, though, is based on broadly drawn questions, and when when researchers ask specifically about a 20-week ban, other surveys, such as a recent National Journal poll, find support wanes. The National Journal poll found 48 percent support for such bans—already in effect in 12 states, and currently under consideration, with fierce debate, in Texas. But among Republicans, support for 20-week bans is much higher: 59 percent. And before he can ascend the stage of the 2016 Republican National Convention as its nominee, Rubio will have to win a Republican primary.

So, women, get under that bus!

h/t Mollie Reilly, Huffington Post

Commentary Law and Policy

Republicans Make History in Obstructing Merrick Garland for Supreme Court

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Merrick Garland is now officially the longest Supreme Court nominee to go without confirmation hearings or a vote in U.S. history.

Merrick Garland, President Obama’s selection to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, now has the dubious distinction of being the longest U.S. Supreme Court nominee ever to go without a vote to confirm or reject his appointment, thanks to Senate Republicans’ refusal to do their jobs.

I can’t say it any differently. This has been an utter, total failure by grown men, and a few women, in the Senate to do the kind of thing they’re supposed to in exchange for getting paid by the rest of us. And after nearly a decade of unprecedented—and I mean unprecedentedobstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees writ large, there’s no flowery language that can capture how our federal courts’ slow burn on the the Republicans’ watch has now caught full fire with the fight over Garland’s nomination.

Instead what we have are dry, hard facts. A century ago, Justice Louis Brandeis was forced to wait 125 days before his confirmation to become the first Jewish justice on the Court. Justice Scalia died on February 13 of this year. President Obama nominated Garland on March 16. Wednesday marked 126 days of zero Senate action on that nomination.

And since Congress is now on recess, that won’t be changing anytime soon.

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It’s not just that the Senate hasn’t held a vote. They have held no hearings. Several senators have refused to meet with Garland. They have taken. No. Action. Not a bit. And here’s the kicker: None of us should be surprised.

President Obama had no sooner walked off the Rose Garden lawn after announcing Garland’s nomination in March than Senate Republicans announced their plan to sit on it until after the presidential election. Eight months away. In November.

Senate Republicans’ objection isn’t to Garland himself. He’s a moderate who has generally received bipartisan praise and support throughout his career and should, on any other day, sail through the confirmation process. As compared with both of President Obama’s other appointments, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, Garland is practically a gift to Senate Republicans in all his moderate-aging-white-guy-ness. I mean, who would have thought that of all the nominees Republicans were going to double-down their obstruction efforts on, it would be Justice Dad?

Instead, their objection is to the fact that the democratic process should guarantee they lose control of the Supreme Court. Unless, of course, they can stop that process.

Conservatives have spent decades investing in the federal courts as a partisan tool. They did so by building an infrastructure of sympathetic conservative federal judges through appointments when in executive power, and by blocking liberal attempts to do the same when in the political minority. It’s an investment that has largely paid off. Federal circuit appeals courts like the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Tenth issue reliably conservative opinions regularly, thanks to aggressive appointments by conservatives during the Reagan and Bush years.

Meanwhile, thanks to conservative obstruction under Democratic administrations—most egregiously under President Obama—71 district court seats currently sit vacant. Twenty-four of those seats are in jurisdictions considered by the courts themselves to be judicial emergencies: places where the caseload is so great or the seat has remained vacant for so long the court is at risk of no longer functioning.

It’s easy to see why conservatives would want to keep their grip on the federal judiciary given the kinds of issues before it: These are the courts that hear immigration and detention cases, challenges to abortion restrictions, employment discrimination cases, as well as challenges to voting rights restrictions. Just to name a few. But as long as there are no judges, the people being directly affected are left in limbo as their cases drag on and on and on.

Our federal courts of appeals are no better. Nine federal appellate seats sit vacant, five in jurisdictions deemed judicial emergencies.

These vacancies have nominees. Senate Republicans just refuse to confirm them.

And no, the other side doesn’t do this. Federal judgeships have always been political. But never have the Democrats used the judiciary as a blatantly partisan extension of their elected members.

The refusal to vote on Garland’s nomination is the most visible example of the conservatives’ drive to maintain control over the federal courts, but it’s hardly their most blatant display of sheer partisanship. I’m guessing that is yet to come when, should they lose the presidential election, Senate Republicans face the choice of quickly confirming Garland or continuing their stand-off indefinitely. And given what we’ve seen of the election cycle so far, do we really think Senate Republicans are going to suddenly grow up and do their jobs? I hate to say it, folks, but Merrick Garland isn’t getting confirmed anytime soon.

News Politics

#SitInForThe49 Protesters Demand Gun Safety, Equality, and End to Community Violence (Updated)

Tina Vasquez

Protesters are demanding action from Sen. Marco Rubio and “all elected officials who have contributed to the discrimination and violence” that plagues communities of color, according to a press release.

UPDATE, July 12, 9:42 a.m.: After spending nearly ten hours at Sen. Marco Rubio’s Orlando office, ten sit-in participants were arrested, according to local news reports. Monivette Cordeiro of Orlando Weekly reported that those arrested were released from police custody as of Tuesday morning.

UNITE HERE, a national labor organization committed to LGBTQ rights, launched a sit-in on Monday at Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s Orlando, Florida office.

The 49-hour sit-in in the atrium of his office building seeks to honor the 49 predominantly Latino victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting and demand action from Rubio and “all elected officials who have contributed to the discrimination and violence” that plagues communities of color, according to a UNITE HERE press release.

In the month since the deadly mass shooting “opportunist political leaders” have done nothing to help the communities most affected by the attack, UNITE HERE said in the press release. The “No Fly No Buy” legislation, pushed by Democrats that would bar gun sales to people on a government terrorist watch list, only “employs racial profiling and fails to address the most urgent needs of marginalized communities,” it added.

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On behalf of the inaction of politicians to address issues affecting queer and trans communities of color, those participating in the #SitInForThe49 have a list of demands related to gun safety, equality, and community violence. At the top of the list is a call for lawmakers to reject financial contributions from the National Rifle Association and implement universal background checks. Protesters also want lawmakers to enact legislation making it a crime to “knowingly import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon or large capacity ammunition-feeding device.”

The victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, almost all of whom were queer people of color and many of whom were immigrants and undocumented, already suffered from discrimination because of their identities, poverty wages, and an unjust immigration system, according to UNITE HERE. That is why protesters are demanding “not only an end to hateful rhetoric and policies that perpetuate racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, and xenophobia, but the passage of a fully-inclusive national LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination law and comprehensive immigration reform,” UNITE HERE explained in the press release.

Lastly, those participating in the sit-in are calling for lawmakers to end police brutality and develop “a transparent database of law enforcement activities, repeal mandatory-minimums for non-violent drug offenses, and institute after-school programs, living wage jobs, and accessible higher education to cultivate brighter futures” for community members.

Rubio, who has received endorsements from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and conservative leaders opposed to LGBTQ rights, cited the Pulse nightclub shooting as the reason he was re-entering the run for re-election to the Senate, months after stating he would not run.

“Sen. Rubio claims he is ‘deeply impacted’ by last month’s Pulse Nightclub Shooting, yet he continues to terrorize Orlando’s LGBTQ+ communities of color by adhering to a platform of so-called ‘conservative values‘ which discriminates, dehumanizes, and denies access to the American dream,” said UNITE HERE.

Responding to the news of the sit-in, Sen. Rubio’s office said in a statement to Rewire: “Senator Rubio respects the views of others on these difficult issues, and he welcomes the continued input he is receiving from people across the political spectrum.”

Michelle Suarez, one of the protesters participating in the sit-in told Rewire that as an immigrant and a Latina, she felt it was important to join the sit-in because a bulk of those killed in the nightclub shooting were Latino and she wants to stand with her community. Seeing people become politicized has been a bright spot, she said, and she’s hopeful that things will “one day change” for the communities most impacted by the shooting, but the activist told Rewire she is disappointed in politicians whose politics disenfranchise communities of color.

“Marco Rubio has said he’s for the Latino community and when the shooting happened, he made a statement saying he was impacted, but the reality is that his voting record and the money he receives from the NRA and his platform of so-called ‘conservative values’ is what continues discrimination against our communities,” Suarez said.

“If politicians won’t do anything for us, we need people to start organizing and strategizing for reform. We can not tolerate the racism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, or xenophobia. We hope this sit-in unites people and inspires them to organize.”