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Ted Cruz, Mike Lee Introduce Bill to Stem Benefits to Same-Sex Spouses

Adele M. Stan

With virtually no chance of passage in the current Congress, the Cruz-Lee bill appears to be motivated by politics.

As the winter snows put a freeze on congressional action, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) took advantage of the lull on Thursday to introduce S. 2024, a bill that would empower the states to decide whether to extend the rights accorded to married couples in the federal justice system to legally married same-sex spouses.

In a statement announcing their so-called State Marriage Defense Act, the Tea Party-allied senators called the Supreme Court’s historic decision in United States v. Windsor, which effectively overturned the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), “improperly” decided and an infringement of the sovereignty of the states under the Tenth Amendment.

The move by Cruz and Lee appears to have been prompted by the February 8 announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would afford same-sex spouses the same rights and privileges that opposite-sex married couples enjoy when dealing with the federal justice system, regardless of whether the state in which the DOJ claims jurisdiction on a particular matter recognizes marriages between members of the same sex. These include a prohibition on requiring spouses to testify against one another, as well as spousal privileges between inmates in federal prisons.

“The Obama Administration should not be trying to force gay marriage on all 50 states,” Cruz said in a written statement. “We should respect the states, and the definition of marriage should be left to democratically elected legislatures, not dictated from Washington. This bill will safeguard the ability of states to preserve traditional marriage for its residents.”

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With virtually no chance of passage in the current Congress, the Cruz-Lee bill appears to be motivated by politics. Cruz is often cited as a potential candidate for the 2016 presidential race, and has a knack for drawing attention to himself, as he did when he convinced Tea Party-allied members of the House of Representatives to shut down down the federal government in October—a move that played badly with the general public, but won approval from the right-wing base that turns out in Republican presidential primaries.

Lee, on the other hand, suffered a drop in popularity since the government shutdown, after he joined Cruz’s filibuster-like marathon speech arguing for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act in exchange for the passage of the continuing resolution that was needed to keep the government open. But in Utah, where politics are dominated by the anti-LGBT Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the faith home of Mormons, Lee is likely eager to change the subject back to a topic that enjoys more popular support in his home state. A recent ruling by a federal judge that overturned Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage created an uproar when it was issued in December. It has since been stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both Lee and Cruz are inflexibly anti-choice. At the 2013 Values Voter Summit convened by FRC Action, the political arm of the Family Research Council, Cruz falsely claimed that, under Obamacare, Christian businesses would be faced to offer “abortifacients” to their employees.

In 2012, Lee led the charge against ratification of the United Nations Convention on Persons With Disabilities, in part because of a false claim that a section of the treaty that guaranteed equal access to reproductive health services by disabled people granted a universal right to abortion.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Doesn’t Want Tubman on the $20, Cruz Holds Up Anti-Slavery Bill

Ally Boguhn

Speaking at a town hall event on Thursday, Donald Trump said that while Harriet Tubman is “fantastic,” portraying her on the $20 bill was just “pure political correctness.”

Donald Trump couldn’t get behind putting iconic abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the front of the $20 bill this week, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is reportedly holding up an anti-slavery measure over abortion access.

Trump Upset Tubman Will Be On $20 Bill 

Trump wasn’t thrilled with news that Tubman would replace former President Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill.

Speaking at NBC’s TODAY town hall event on Thursday, Trump said that while Tubman is “fantastic,” portraying her on the $20 bill was just “pure political correctness.”

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“Andrew Jackson had a great history … [Jackson] had a history of tremendous success for the country,” Trump said when asked by host Matt Lauer to address the change. “Maybe we can come up with another denomination. Maybe we do the $2 bill, or we do another bill. I don’t like seeing it.”

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced Wednesday that Tubman would replace Jackson on the front of the $20 bill. An image of Jackson will remain on the back. 

Ben Carson, Trump’s former rival for the Republican nomination turned supporter, also thought it’d be best to put Tubman on the $2 bill. “I love Harriet Tubman,” Carson said Wednesday during an appearance on Fox Business Network’s Cavuto: Coast to Coast. “I love what she did, but we can find another way to honor her. Maybe a $2 bill.”

Carson said that Jackson “was a tremendous president.”

“I mean, Andrew Jackson was the last president who actually balanced the federal budget, where we had no national debt,” he told Cavuto.

Cruz Reportedly Holding up Anti-Slavery Bill Because of Abortion

Cruz is reportedly holding up a bipartisan bill to help end slavery over concerns that it could help fund abortion care.

The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act (EMSI), sponsored by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), would “help eliminate slavery and human trafficking around the globe,” according to a press release announcing the bill.

The legislation would establish the End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation, a nonprofit organization to fund grants outside of the United States. Though it would be funded in part by the federal government, 80 percent of the $1.5 billion the organization would hope to have would come from the private sector and foreign governments.

Though it’s “Senate tradition to decline to say who has put such a hold on a bill,” TIME reports that “research suggests that it’s Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Ted Cruz of Texas, who is currently running for the GOP presidential nomination. The bill’s supporters say the Senators are holding the bill over a concern that some of the anti-slavery money might be used to pay for abortions.”

A Cruz spokesperson told the publication that while the senator supports the goals of the legislation, “he has some concerns with the EMSI bill, specifically whether it does enough to ensure that the foundation created by the bill would not be able to fund organizations that provide or support abortions.”

The Helms Amendment already ensures that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.”

What Else We’re Reading

Anti-choice groups are gearing up for a showdown with Trump.

Cruz doubled down on his support of bathroom discrimination laws after Trump told NBC: “There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go. They use the bathroom they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble.”

The Boston Globe has a long read explaining how Trump’s time in the pageant business “foreshadows a reputation for sexism and misogyny that sticks with him nearly 25 years later, in his presidential bid, in which coarse descriptions of women and perceived sexist comments have left him with extraordinarily high unfavorable ratings among women.”

Cruz refused to meet with a delegation of Muslims on Muslim Advocacy Day.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign says that Clinton would be open to picking a woman as her running mate should she win the nomination. “We’ll start with a broad list [of potential vice presidential candidates] and then begin to narrow it,” Clinton spokesperson John Podesta told the Boston Globe. “But there is no question that there will be women on that list.”

CNN reports that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has reserved nearly $40 million worth of airtime in states with key Senate races, including Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, Colorado, and Nevada, in hopes of retaking the Senate majority.

The Huffington Post reports that Google Trends show that “Ted Cruz’s supporters share his weird fixation with soup.” Supporters of candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are more likely to run a Google search for “Vegan Passover recipes” or a recipe for guacamole, while Clinton’s supporters searched for recipes for meat pies and quinoa.

Ohio Republicans are sponsoring a bill that could jeopardize emergency voting extensions in the state. According to ThinkProgress:

If legislation sponsored by Republican State Senator Bill Seitz is approved, anyone petitioning a judge to extend voting hours would have to put up a cash bond to cover the cost, which could range in the tens of thousands of dollars. If a court later finds that the polls should not have remained open, the voter would forfeit all the money. Only those who are so poor they can be certified as indigent would be exempted.

CORRECTION: The headline of this article has been updated to clarify Sen. Ted Cruz’s reported actions on the anti-slavery bill.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Cruz Likens His Supreme Court Pick to ‘Lord of the Rings’ Character

Ally Boguhn

This week on the campaign trail, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz spoke about whom they would nominate for the vacant Supreme Court seat, and Trump saw his favorability plummet among women.

This week on the campaign trail, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz spoke about whom they would nominate for the vacant Supreme Court seat, and Trump saw his favorability plummet among women.

Cruz, Trump Discuss Their Supreme Court Nominations

Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Donald Trump were hard at work dreaming up possibilities for a Supreme Court nominee should the Senate obstruct Obama’s pick for the vacancy.

Appearing at a rally over the weekend for Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) bid for re-election, Cruz commented that Lee “would look good” on the Supreme Court. Cruz compared Lee to Gollum, a character from Lord of the Rings, claiming that “For Mike, the Constitution is ‘my precious,'” according to the Salt Lake Tribune. 

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Lee’s work opposing abortion during his time in Congress earned him a 100 percent rating from the anti-choice National Right to Life Committee. The Republican senator has supported several measures attempting to limit access to or outright ban abortion, including a 2013 bill to investigate all abortion clinics and extend “personhood” rights beginning at the moment of fertilization, which could outlaw many forms of birth control in addition to abortion.

Lee’s 2010 campaign website included a section noting his opposition to legal abortion and Roe v. Wade:

The Constitution says nothing that can plausibly be read to suggest—as the Supreme Court concluded in Roe v. Wade—that States are essentially powerless to protect unborn human life. This power to protect the most vulnerable members of society needs to be returned to the States.

Donald Trump also signaled he was mulling over potential picks for the Court’s vacancy, promising during a Monday press conference in Washington, D.C., to release a list of seven to ten potential picks. If elected, Trump vowed to choose nominees exclusively from the list, which he said will be created by the “Heritage Foundation and others.”

But as ThinkProgress reported, the Heritage Foundation “is an odd place for a presidential candidate to seek advice on any topic” given its history of discriminatory politics:

Heritage is a think tank known for its stridently conservative views and its unorthodox approach to mathematics. They oppose marriage equality, defend discrimination against LGBT Americans, and they have a surprisingly long history of reversing their own stances on health policy when doing so is useful to opponents of Obamacare. Their former chief “economist” is an ex-newspaper columnist and anti-tax activist with no doctorate in economics.

In 2013, Heritage released a widely criticized report claiming that immigration reform would cost an eye-popping $6.3 trillion. One of the co-authors of that report resigned four days later after news broke that “his graduate dissertation on immigration was premised on the idea that Latinos were less intelligent than whites.”

The Heritage Foundation is vehemently anti-choice, a position that could inform its picks for the Court. The organization’s “Solutions 2016” policy recommendations include calls to expand bans on using federal funding for abortion, redirect funding for reproductive health away from Planned Parenthood to community health centers, and codify protections for “medical personnel who decline to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” Its website also details the organization’s opposition to Roe v. Wade, dismissing the decision as “judicial activism.”

Poll: 74 Percent of Women Registered to Vote Hold Unfavorable Views of Trump

A CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday found that Donald Trump is viewed unfavorably by 74 percent of registered women voters and 81 percent of people of color.

The poll, which asked registered voters whether they “have a favorable or unfavorable opinion” of presidential candidates, shows potentially major hurdles for the Republican front-runner moving into the general election. Comparably, 50 percent of women and 36 percent of “non-white” people polled said they had an “unfavorable” view of Hillary Clinton.

Polling from the Washington Post similarly found that Trump’s favorability among women has been steadily decliningjeopardizing the Republican Party’s already tumultuous relationship with women. “Trump’s favorability numbers have decreased 10 points among women nationwide since November, to 23 percent, while his unfavorable number among women has jumped to 75 percent from 64 percent, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll taken this month,” reported the Post.

What Else We’re Reading

Franklin Foer explained for Slate that “there’s one ideology that [Trump] does hold with sincerity and practices with unwavering fervor: misogyny.”

The Washington Post’s Karen Attiah wrote about the sexism she experienced from Donald Trump after asking him a policy question during his sit-down with the paper’s editorial board.

ThinkProgress’ Aaron Rupar explains how the Republican presidential race has turned into a “sexist competition over whose wife is hotter.”

Voters in Arizona had to wait in line as long as five hours to cast a ballot in their state’s Tuesday primary thanks to a Supreme Court decision that “gutted” the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and “an ill-conceived decision” to cut polling locations in order to save money. As the Nation reported, “Phoenix’s Maricopa County, the largest in the state, reduced the number of polling places by 70 percent from 2012 to 2016, from 200 to just 60—one polling place per every 21,000 voters”a change that “would very likely have been blocked” had the VRA’s protections remained intact.

Bernie Sanders applauded Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s request for a Department of Justice investigation into voting delays in Maricopa County.

Dark money groups in Wisconsin are outspending candidates on ads for the Wisconsin Supreme Court race. When voters head to the polls for the April 5 judicial elections, “they won’t know who funded most of the ad spending around this race,” said the Sunlight Foundation’s Libby Watson.