From the December 8 edition of MSNBC's Disrupt with Karen Finney:
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Fox News host Neil Cavuto refused to listen to the facts about the nation's desperate need for more infrastructure spending, instead repeatedly shouting that prior funding must have been "stolen" because some infrastructure "still sucks."
This week Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is expected to introduce a bill raising the federal gas tax, which supports the Highway Trust Fund used to build transportation infrastructure, by $0.15 per gallon. On December 3, Blumenauer appeared on Fox's Your World with Neil Cavuto to explain his proposal. But rather than allowing a discussion on the reasoning behind the bill, Cavuto shouted over the congressman for more than nine minutes.
Over and over again, Cavuto demanded to know why additional revenue is needed for transit infrastructure, repeatedly interrupting Blumenauer to ask, "what's happened to all the money we've already allocated?" Cavuto indicated that additional spending would be wasteful, because, according to him, the nation's "infrastructure still sucks" despite present funds.
Cavuto even pushed the conspiracy theory that funds previously allocated for transit infrastructure were "stolen," as revenues from the gas tax would be. He shouted:
CAVUTO: Congressman, do you honestly believe -- working with the folks that you do -- that the money that you might get from this gas tax is going to be used exclusively and only for repairing roads and bridges and fixing our highways? Do you think that's really going to be the case? Does the history with the people you work with indicate that that will ever be the case? Really?
BLUMENAUER: Why do you say that? Where do you think it's gone? How did the --
CAVUTO: I don't know. Because our roads and bridges are for crap and this is after we've committed tens of millions of dollars each and every year through a variety of sources and they're still falling apart. So you're saying, maybe the difference - maybe the answer is more money, but the fact of the matter is, the money we've already spent we can't account for
BLUMENAUER: Where do you get that, you can't account for it? That's goofy --
CAVUTO: Can you account for $42 billion? Can you spell out for me, congressman, where that $42 billion has gone?
CAVUTO: If the goal was to fix roads and bridges and they're still -- accurately, to your point, falling apart -- methinks someone has stolen it, someone has taken it.
National Review Online Senior Editor Ramesh Ponnuru dedicated his Bloomberg View column to misleading about two unprecedented Supreme Court cases that could make it easier for for-profit, secular corporations to refuse to provide insurance coverage to its employees that includes comprehensive preventive care.
On November 26, the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, two cases that would allow some corporations to obtain exemptions from the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA already provides exemptions and accommodations for non-profit, religiously-affiliated organizations like churches and hospitals -- but the plaintiffs in Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are for-profit businesses that sell crafts and wood cabinets, respectively.
But that didn't stop NRO's Ponnuru from complaining that the contraception mandate runs afoul of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) because it imposes a "substantial burden" on Hobby Lobby and Conestoga. Ponnuru insisted that corporations are well within their rights to refuse to pay for coverage of preventive care such as contraception for their employees, but didn't seem to mind that allowing corporations to dictate the personal health choices of its employees could very well infringe on those employees' religious beliefs.
From Ponnuru's December 1 editorial:
From reading the New York Times, you might think that religious conservatives had started a culture war over whether company health-insurance plans should cover contraception. What's at issue in two cases the Supreme Court has just agreed to hear, the Times editorializes, is "the assertion by private businesses and their owners of an unprecedented right to impose the owners' religious views on workers who do not share them."
That way of looking at the issue will be persuasive if your memory does not extend back two years. Up until 2012, no federal law or regulation required employers to cover contraception (or drugs that may cause abortion, which one of the cases involves). If 2011 was marked by a widespread crisis of employers' imposing their views on contraception on employees, nobody talked about it.
What's actually new here is the Obama administration's 2012 regulation requiring almost all employers to cover contraception, sterilization and drugs that may cause abortion. It issued that regulation under authority given in the Obamacare legislation.
The regulation runs afoul of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a Clinton-era law. That act says that the government may impose a substantial burden on the exercise of religious belief only if it's the least restrictive way to advance a compelling governmental interest. The act further says that no later law should be read to trump this protection unless it explicitly says it's doing that. The Affordable Care Act has no such language.
Is a marginal increase in access to contraception a compelling interest, and is levying steep fines on employers who refuse to provide it for religious reasons the least burdensome way to further it? It seems doubtful.
Ponnuru's characterization of these lawsuits as entirely mainstream is misleading. Although the Supreme Court held in Citizens United that corporations had the right to engage in political speech without undue government restrictions, for the Court to hold that a corporation is a "person" capable of religious belief or conscience would be a radical reimagining of both First Amendment and corporate law precedent. As David Gans of the Constitutional Accountability Center pointed out, "it is nonsensical to treat a business corporation as an actor imbued with the same rights of religious freedom as living persons. No decision of the Supreme Court has ever recognized such an absurd claim."
Fox News host Martha MacCallum hid the radical implications of a Supreme Court case which could allow for-profit corporations to use religion to discriminate against women and deny employees basic health care coverage, claiming the corporations were merely asking "for some tolerance of their religious belief."
On November 26, the Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments in two cases in which business owners -- Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties -- argue they should be exempt from an Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement which mandates that large, for-profit corporations must offer employees health plans that cover contraceptives at no additional cost.
On December 2, America's Newsroom co-host Martha MacCallum supported the corporations' arguments, claiming that allowing employers to pick and choose what to cover under their health plans based on their religious beliefs was simply an issue of "tolerance" and that the health care law was asking employers to "violate their conscience" by offering contraceptive care:
It seems to me, I mean all they're asking is for an exemption, and for some tolerance of their religious belief, so if a company is owned by someone who doesn't believe that that is ethical, that they should be able to offer a plan that is accepted under Obamacare but that is exempted, that exempts contraception.
I don't understand what the issue would be, with offering a separate version that that employer feels doesn't violate their conscience? How can you ask someone to violate their conscience in the plan that they choose to offer to their employees?
What MacCallum ignores is that religious organizations and certain religiously affiliated nonprofits are already provided exemptions from the contraception mandate. The question posed by these cases to the Supreme Court is whether or not these exemptions should be extended to for-profit, secular companies. If the court rules in favor of the corporations, it would be an unprecedented extension of religious freedom rights and could have radical legal implications, going against the basic tenets of corporate law.
It could also set a dangerous precedent, allowing employers to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against women, and potentially deny all Americans benefits for a wide range of basic medical needs.
Requiring businesses to provide health care plans that cover contraception at no additional cost "was put into place in order to eliminate gender inequality in healthcare," Gretchen Borchelt, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center, explained. As Micah Schwartzman and Nelson Tebbe noted in Slate, exempting for-profit corporations would reinstate that inequality, undermining a purpose of health care reform:
[E]xempting large, for-profit corporations from the contraception mandate would significantly burden female employees, along with all the wives and daughters covered by the policies of male employees. Thousands of women would lose all insurance coverage for contraception. That loss would be very real, and it would frustrate a central objective of Obamacare: namely to ensure that women have equal access to critical preventative care.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the corporations, it will not just put women's basic health care in jeopardy. As MSNBC's Irin Carmon and Slate's Dahlia Lithwick have pointed out, corporations could potentially be allowed to opt out of covering anything that is religiously contested, including things like vaccinations, psychiatric care, and AIDS medications. What if your employer is an Orthodox Jew who wants to refuse coverage for any medication that comes in a gelatin capsule? What if she is a Christian Scientist who doesn't believe in visiting doctors?
Requiring for-profit companies to offer health plans which cover birth control is not an attack on religious liberties. It ensures that everyone, regardless of their personal religious belief, has access to basic health coverage which they can then choose to use or ignore.
Fox News correspondent Shannon Bream misleadingly claimed that filling the vacancies on the second-most important court in the country was less pressing than filling seats in so-called "judicial emergency" jurisdictions, while ignoring how Senate Republicans have contributed to those emergencies.
In a November 25 segment on Special Report with Bret Baier, Bream suggested that, because the D.C. Circuit is not classified as a "judicial emergency," there is no reason to quickly confirm President Obama's highly-qualified nominees to that bench, such as Georgetown Law Professor Cornelia "Nina" Pillard:
BREAM: Critics say there is no reason for the president to insist these nominees, including Pillard, be approved as quickly as possible. Across the country there are four federal appellate courts so lacking in judges that there are, quote, "judicial emergencies." And this court, the D.C. Circuit, it's not one of them.
But the body that determines these "judicial emergencies," the U.S. Judicial Conference, has recommended that the D.C. Circuit retain its 11-judge complement, a capacity the current GOP filibusters are preventing.
In response to Senate Democrats invoking the so-called "nuclear option," right-wing media advanced a number of myths not only about filibuster reform, but about the qualifications of President Obama's nominees who have languished in the confirmation process. What right-wing media have ignored is that Democrats used the "nuclear option" only after unprecedented GOP obstruction prevented Obama's judicial and executive nominees from receiving an up-or-down vote.
Absurd smears against a highly-qualified judicial nominee for her support of family planning, sex equality, and conservative attempts to dismantle gender stereotypes made the jump from right-wing blogs to the Fox News Channel.
On November 25, Fox News' Shannon Bream correctly reported that the former Connecticut attorney general, among a wide collection of bipartisan legal experts, supports the nomination of the eminently qualified Georgetown Law Professor Cornelia "Nina" Pillard to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit. Unfortunately, Bream proceeded to repeat right-wing media myths accusing Pillard of "radical feminis[m]" and hosted National Review Online contributor Carrie Severino to recycle the smears. From America's Newsroom, with co-host Martha MacCallum:
MACCULLUM: What are the critics saying that are opposed to her?
BREAM: Well they say she is way out of the mainstream and she deserves a lot of scrutiny. Here's a bit of what she has said when writing about abortion issue. Here's a quote from one of her articles: "Anti-abortion laws and other restraints on reproductive freedom not only enforce woman's incubation of unwanted pregnancies, but also prescribe a 'vision of the woman's role' as mother and caretaker of children in a way that is at odds with equal protection." Here's Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network.
SEVERINO: Nina Pillard is probably the most extreme judge that has been nominated for this court and possibly for any court in the country. She has a very radical track record as a law professor, really seems to view everything from a radical feminist perspective, down to thinking that abstinence education violates the Equal Protection Clause and feeling like women are being objectified as breeders in the country.
BREAM: She has used that word referring to women as breeders if they are forced to carry pregnancies that they don't want to have. But at this point it looks like there is no blocking her, it is likely she will take a seat on that very important court.
Since Pillard was nominated, she has been subjected to sexist, retrograde, and false accusations that her views on reproductive rights are not in the mainstream. In fact, they are based on decades-old constitutional law, including a decision written by arch-conservative former Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
For example, the quote that Bream yanked out of context from a 2007 academic article in which Pillard noted that "antiabortion laws and other restraints on reproductive freedom not only enforce women's incubation of unwanted pregnancies, but also prescribe a "vision of the woman's role" as mother and caretaker of children in a way that is at odds with equal protection[,]" is an explicit reference to the fact that justices on the Supreme Court have already incorporated equal protection principles into their reproductive rights precedent. Unmentioned by Bream, the quote was part of a discussion of the 1992 decision of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which reaffirmed the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade.
The notion that damaging gender stereotypes can be at the core of restrictions on reproductive rights is also based on long-standing constitutional precedent.
Right-wing media have seized on Senate Democrats' parliamentary change to eliminate filibusters for most presidential nominees to call for Republicans to block immigration reform or advance the notion that the change makes it less likely for Republicans to act on reform. In fact, Republicans repeatedly refused to act on immigration reform long before this change took place.
From the November 22 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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National Review Online, while claiming to support a change in Senate procedure in order to "overcome partisan obstruction," refused to acknowledge that it was hyper-partisan obstructionism that forced Senate Democrats to embrace the so-called "nuclear option."
On Thursday, Senate Democrats approved a rule change that will finally allow an up-or-down vote for President Obama's nominees, who have been the victims of unprecedented Republican obstructionism. NRO, like other right-wing media outlets, colorfully responded to the rule change, with John Fund calling Democrats "snake-oil salesmen."
From NRO's November 21 editorial:
The Democrats here are helping themselves to ill-gotten gains. Using the filibuster and other stalling techniques, they kept judicial vacancies open by closing them to Bush nominees.
The filibuster is not sacred writ, and we are on record supporting procedural changes to overcome partisan obstruction. The more serious concern here is that the Democrats are attempting to pack the courts, especially the D.C. Circuit court, with a rogue's gallery of far-left nominees. That is worrisome in and of itself, but there is a deeper agenda: Much of what President Obama has done in office is of questionable legality and constitutionality. The president no doubt has in mind the sage advice of Roy Cohn: "Don't tell me what the law is. Tell me who the judge is." He is attempting to insulate his agenda from legal challenge by installing friendly activists throughout the federal judiciary. That is precisely what he means when he boasts, "We are remaking the courts." Republicans are in fact obstructing those appointments; unlike the nomination of John Roberts et al., these appointments deserve to be obstructed.
The filibuster is a minor issue; the major issue is that President Obama is engaged in a court-packing scheme to protect his dubious agenda, and Harry Reid's Senate is conspiring with him to do so. The voters missed their chance to forestall these shenanigans in 2012. They made the wrong decision then, and have a chance to make partial amends in 2014, when they will be deciding not only what sort of Senate they wish to have, but what sort of courts, and what sort of country.
Fund joined the chorus in a separate post, minimizing GOP obstructionism and advancing the myth that new judges are not needed on the D.C. Circuit because the court's caseload is "provably so light." Fund went on to imply Senate Democrats were hypocrites because they spoke out against the use of the nuclear option by the GOP to push through President Bush's ultra-conservative jurists back in 2005.
Network nightly news broadcasts have served as a conduit for House Republicans to attack Obama administration initiatives through committee hearings -- all part of the GOP's "aggressive campaign," according to a recent New York Times report, to hold committee hearings and rely on media to cover the hearings' chosen narrative.
Washington Post political blogger Jennifer Rubin is, like most pundits sympathetic to the Republican cause, upset over the move by Democrats to change Senate rules so that judicial and executive branch nominees will no longer have to face down a filibuster in order to get a confirmation vote. "It's a bad way to run the country," Rubin writes. But at the same time she is wistful for what might have been had the filibuster been done away with long ago, and what the nation might have discovered about... Benghazi?
If only. . .
The president cared as much about Iran's nuclear option as he does the Senate's.
The nuclear option was in place for superbly qualified Republican-nominated judges like Miguel Estrada whom the Democrats filibustered.
The nuclear option had prevented Sen. Barack Obama from blocking the confirmation of John Bolton as United Nations Ambassador in 2005.
The nuclear option had removed fear of a filibuster and allowed Susan Rice to get nominated as secretary of state so then she could have been questioned about Benghazi.
This is a perplexing hypothetical. At the time Susan Rice's name was being thrown around as a potential nominee for Secretary of State, there were few people in the media who opposed the idea more than Jennifer Rubin. "From my perspective, it makes no sense to have a three-ring confirmation hearing and lose over a subpar nominee such as Rice," Rubin wrote on December 4, 2012. When Rice asked that her name be withdrawn from consideration for the position, Rubin wrote: "To be frank, she should never have been floated as a possible nominee."
The Wall Street Journal's editorial board attacked Democrats for passing a filibuster rule change as "radicals" who "view the minority as an inconvenience to be rolled," though the Journal supported the same change in 2005, when it pushed Republicans not to "let a willful minority deny the President's nominees a vote."
On November 22, the Journal editorial board attacked the rule change -- which allows the Senate to confirm judicial nominees with a simple majority vote -- as "Rules For Radicals," and claimed that the Democrats' vote was prodded through by "younger liberals in a hurry" who "view the minority as an inconvenience to be rolled." The Journal falsely claimed that the Senate rule change was "bloody-minded" behavior which would allow Democrats "to pack the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals," but found a "silver lining" in the prospect of Republicans using the change for their benefit in the future:
The silver lining is that the end of the nominee filibuster will work for conservatives too. The next time they hold the Senate and White House, Republicans should employ the same weapon. Democrats are pretending that they are only breaking the filibuster for lower-court nominees, not for the Supreme Court. They can dream on.
The Journal seems to have forgotten the fact that it supported a similar push for filibuster reform in 2005. A May 2005 editorial urged Republicans not to "let a willful minority deny the President's nominees a vote on the Senate floor" (emphasis added):
This will not be the world's greatest deliberative body's greatest moment, and the only thing we know for sure about what will happen next is that the reputation of the Senate will suffer. It's a shame it has come to this. But at this point it would be worse if Republicans let a willful minority deny the President's nominees a vote on the Senate floor.
This is at its core a political fight, and elections ought to mean something. Republicans have gained Senate seats in two consecutive elections in which judicial nominations were among the most important issues, including against the Senate Minority Leader. The one Democrat from a red state who won last year, Ken Salazar of Colorado, did so by promising to oppose judicial filibusters; he now seems to have changed his mind after sipping the Beltway's partisan punch.
Perhaps the coming showdown will lead to more political bitterness, but we doubt Democrats will be able to follow through on their pledge to shut down the Senate; the public wants other things done. And who knows? If Democrats can't succeed any longer in legislating through the courts, maybe they'll even return to trying to win power the old-fashioned way, through elections.
A January 2005 Journal editorial also said that a move to change the Senate rules would "restore the Founders' intent when they gave the Senate the responsibility of confirming or rejecting a President's judicial picks. The Constitution requires a simple majority vote and says nothing about a super-majority of 60 being needed to stop a filibuster." The paper added: "Whether it's nuked or not, the judicial filibuster deserves to be defeated."
The Journal's current opposition to the rule change further hides the fact that President Obama's nominees have faced a significantly more hostile political environment than any previous administration. While Democrats under President Bush blocked a handful of nominees whom they considered ideologically extreme, Republicans have engaged in an unprecedented effort to obstruct the confirmations of virtually all Obama nominees, including some positions for which they say they will accept no nominee at all. In fact, almost half of all filibusters of presidential nominees in the history of the United States have occurred during Obama's presidency:
Source: Senate Democrats
The language in this post has been updated for clarity.
From the November 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Rush Limbaugh spent a substantial portion of his radio show ranting about the Senate Democrats' decision to invoke the so-called "nuclear option," which would allow President Obama's judicial and executive nominees to finally be confirmed through a simple majority vote, a practice that had ground to a halt because of the GOP's mass filibusters.
On his November 21 show, Limbaugh inaccurately stated that President Obama could now increase the number of seats on the D.C. Circuit, and accused Democrats of seeking "total statist authoritarianism":
Obama's going to get every judge he wants. He's going to get -- if they want to add seats to a court -- if they want to add five new liberal seats to the D.C. Circuit, for example, they can do it, there's no stopping them, because the Republicans don't have the votes.
Democrats abruptly changed the Senate's balance of power by reducing from 60 to 51 the number of votes needed to end procedural roadblocks known as filibusters against all presidential nominees. Folks, this is part and parcel of why the Democrats are so hell-bent on winning the House in 2014. This -- winning the House would give them total authoritarian non-challengeable control over the US government. Quite literally there would be no way to stop them. None whatsoever.
When the minority is Republicans, they don't even exist. And they're not due any respect, constitutional or otherwise. Constitutional or human. And so basically what this means, with a president like Obama, is there's no stopping -- he can nominate anybody for anything in the judiciary ... cabinet, whatever. There's no way he can be stopped.
Democrats have made it plain they're not interested in democracy. And that really is what this means. Not interested in democracy at all. Total statist authoritarianism. And frankly, I'm being kind with that terminology.
Rush went on to say that if Democrats wanted to "nominate avowed Communists to be judges, there's no stopping them now ... If Obama wants to nominate [Syrian President] Bashar Assad to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, there's no stopping him. ... How about they want to make Bill Ayers a judge, or Jeremiah Wright?"