Three GOP senators help save the day for nation’s healthcare

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 28: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) leaves the the Senate chamber at the U.S. Capitol after voting on the GOP ‘Skinny Repeal’ health care bill on July 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. Three Senate Republicans voted no to block a stripped-down, or ‘Skinny Repeal,’ version of Obamacare reform. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

 

Early Friday morning, in the well of the U.S. Senate, President Donald Trump and his band of playground bullies finally met their match: Two women and a real man.

The trio, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona, all Republicans, joined a unified Democratic opposition to kill the so-called “skinny repeal” of Obamacare, 51-48.

For now and perhaps for good, in one of the most dramatic votes witnessed in recent years, the seven-year push by the GOP to repeal and replace or simply repeal the Affordable Care Act has collapsed.

The failed effort paves the way for something incredible to happen that Americans have been clamoring for in their government: A bipartisan approach to fixing the nation’s healthcare system. As we said in previous editorials, Obamacare needs to be shored up, stabilizing insurance markets that have in some places abandoned consumers or left them with few insurers to choose from. Premiums for middle- or upper-income earners also need to be curbed.

The GOP’s skinny repeal, orchestrated in secret by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was anything but skinny: As it was laid out, it would have caused chaos in the health insurance markets and premiums to soar, mostly by eliminating the mandate for Americans to buy or get health insurance, but also by wiping out the medical device tax.

Without mandates and penalties to back them up, many people, and particularly younger and healthier Americans, likely would forego health insurance or buy scaled down insurance. Such a system defies the basic principles of insurance that spreads risk among all – young, old and healthy and sick – to keep premiums and costs manageable.

In all, 16 million additional people would be without health insurance by 2026, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO also estimated that premiums in the individual market would increase by 20 percent compared to current law in all years between 2018 and 2026.

Without a true fix, the GOP led by Trump had to resort to masquerade plans that were dressed up to look like something they weren’t. Desperate to keep promises made over seven years, including by Trump on the campaign trail, they threw anything out. But in the end, nothing stuck to the Senate wall.

All of the proposals Republicans forwarded would have resulted in tens of millions of Americans losing coverage with the working poor, disabled, and folks with preexisting conditions and middle-aged — who are too young for Medicare and too rich for Medicaid — bearing the loss. That should have been unacceptable to McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

But they rolled over for Trump and his minions who took to Twitter with intimidating tweets to Collins and Murkowski, challenges to duels (I wish I were making that up) and threats of holding up federal aid or economic initiatives to Alaska to punish Murkowski for her steadfast opposition to GOP plans.

The ladies demonstrated the kind of leadership the nation needs – and has longed for — to deal with complex issues, particularly in fixing the nation’s healthcare system. Their leadership was a huge contrast with Trump’s governance by intimidation, browbeating and humiliation.

Vice President Mike Pence, who evermore takes on the presence of a sycophant for Trump, showed up in the Senate on Friday to break the tie. But his vote was unnecessary. Collins and Murkowski cast their votes as voting began at 1:24 a.m. McCain in high drama kept his vote under wraps from the public until 1:29 a.m., when he walked on the Senate floor, approached the Senate clerk and gave a thumbs down.

Following his vote, McCain told reporters that he thought voting no “was the right thing to do.”

Explaining his vote, the ailing McCain, who will face a tough road ahead as he is treated for brain cancer, signaled that healthcare reform should be done through bipartisan efforts. He is correct.

“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict party-line basis without a single Republican vote.”

“We should not make the mistakes of the past.”

No one knows for sure where things go from here. Unfortunately, the GOP healthcare replacements, bad as they are, seem to rise from the grave like Lazarus.

But for a moment, the nation witnessed a splendid act with two women and a real man standing for what is right against powerful playground bullies. The three put country over politics.

That is what courage and strength look like.

The trouble with Trump’s bragging

*** BESTPIX *** *** BESTPIX *** President Trump Leads a Cabinet Meeting *** BESTPIX ***
President Donald Trump attends a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House June 12. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

Some of the worst advice I ever got came from my father.

Sure, he meant well when he told me not to brag; that my deeds and accomplishments would speak for me. But then I got older and I realized much to my surprise and dismay that my peers were strutting around like roosters on steroids. In classrooms, on job applications and resumes, networking, you name it. And this was before Facebook, a time-sucking invention created for taking navel-gazing and self-promotion to extremes.

Anyway, President Trump obviously never got advice from my father.

On Monday, with cameras rolling, Trump preened before his Cabinet and crowed about his record in office, pronouncing that he had achieved, as he put it, tremendous success.

“I will say that never has there been a president — with few exceptions; in the case of FDR, he had a major Depression to handle — who’s passed more legislation, who’s done more things than what we’ve done, between the executive orders and the job-killing regulations that have been terminated,” Trump said. “Many bills; I guess over 34 bills that Congress signed. A Supreme Court justice who’s going to be a great one.”

The trouble with bragging – never mind that it can betray a bit of insecurity — is that it invites scrutiny. On your performance review at your workplace, for example, you might write, “I’ve achieved tremendous success this year.” Your supervisor might wish to reply, “In what universe?”

In Trump’s case, journalists took on the task of examining the facts. The Associated Press, for example, knocked down the president’s claims with blunt and swift precision, the way a guillotine would slice through a watermelon.

The AP said: “(Trump) has little to show for his first five months in office, in concrete ways, other than the confirmation of a justice.”

The news organization’s fact check went on to note that Presidents Obama and George W. Bush accomplished more in their early months. In his first month, Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus package into law, and by this point in his administration, Bush had signed a major tax cut. Trump’s promised tax overhaul has yet to even reach Congress. Courts have ruled his travel ban doesn’t pass legal muster. And his promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is stalled in a Republican-dominated Congress.

The AP went on to say:

“Trump has achieved no major legislation. The bills he is counting up are little more than housekeeping measures — things like naming a courthouse and a VA health care center, appointing board of regents members, reauthorizing previous legislation. He has indeed been vigorous in signing executive orders, but in the main they have far less consequence than legislation requiring congressional passage.”

The AP fact-checked other Trump claims, including that his recent trip overseas resulted in deals for more than $350 billion in economic investment in the U.S. that will create thousands of jobs in this country. According to the AP, agreements on those deals in large part haven’t been signed yet and could be eliminated, and the president’s claim about new jobs relies on 20- to 30-year projections.

The president, of course, is famous for crying “fake news” when the news is unflattering or when the facts don’t suit his purposes, and he did so again the following day, tweeting: “The Fake News Media has never been so wrong or so dirty. Purposely incorrect stories and phony sources to meet their agenda of hate. Sad!”

Was he reacting to the AP’s fact check? Trump didn’t specify what he was angry about this time, but it’s a safe bet that he galvanized his supporters once more with those two words: fake news.

My father’s advice about never bragging sprang from his wish that I stay humble and stay hungry. It is some of the worst advice I ever got and it is some of the best advice I ever got. (Here’s to you, Papo. Happy Father’s Day.)

The president never heard my father’s lesson about humility. No, clearly he ascribes to the old saying, “If you done it, it ain’t bragging.” (By the way, isn’t that exactly what bragging is?)

But what is it when you brag and you haven’t done it?

A Trump immigration curveball? More like whiplash

FILE- In this March 3, 2015 photo, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers escort an arrestee in an apartment building, in the Bronx borough of New York, during a series of early-morning raids. New York City leaders are trying to strike a balance between purging dangerous criminals and protecting some of its roughly 500,000 undocumented immigrants. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
In this March 3, 2015 photo, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers escort an arrestee in an apartment building, in the Bronx borough of New York, during a series of early-morning raids. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

When the stunning news broke late Tuesday that President Trump said he is open to an immigration overhaul allowing millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the country legally, one news organization called the president’s abrupt shift on immigration “a curveball.”

Curveball? More like whiplash maybe.

After all, what else are we to make of such a sudden reversal from the president’s hard-line crackdown on illegal immigration during his first weeks in office? Take, for example, last month’s sweeping Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in Austin and across the country. And just last week, the administration unveiled new deportation rules allowing federal agents to go after anyone living in the country illegally, even if they haven’t committed serious crimes — a stark contrast to the Obama administration’s policies that placed a priority on deporting criminals.

RELATED EDITORIAL: Toughened Enforcement policies overlook immigrant contributions

“The time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides,” the president reportedly told TV news anchors at a White House meeting over lunch Tuesday.

Did this herald a new softer tone on immigration? Remember, this is the same Donald Trump whose rock concert-like campaign rallies reverberated with supporters’ chants of “build the wall!” on the U.S.-Mexico border. And Trump’s run for office began with a pledge to deport the nation’s estimated 11.1 million immigrants, something even those in his own party have described as unrealistic and bordering on fantasy.

Only a few hours after that meeting with the TV anchors, however, the president didn’t even mention in his first joint address to Congress that he might be receptive to an immigration overhaul giving legal status to millions of unauthorized immigrants.

In fact, Trump doubled down on aggressive enforcement, reiterating his campaign promise to begin building a border wall. “A great, great wall,” he called it.

And the president fell back on the familiar refrain of highlighting the crimes of undocumented immigrants, announcing that he has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to work with victims of crimes committed by immigrants who are in the country illegally.

After the speech to Congress, news analysts pounced on the chance to speculate why the president had not brought up his remarks earlier in the day about immigration. One said the president obviously had been reined in by his inner circle, who advised him that now is not the time.

But if not now, when? If the president couldn’t talk about immigration reform to a cheering audience dominated by those of his own party, then when? Certainly not at one of his rallies in places across the country, which Trump continues to hold even after his election, and where his legions of supporters continue their full-throated chant, “Build the Wall!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

President Trump: Don’t let people of color down

Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Melania Trump looks on during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Melania Trump looks on during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Today is a somber, anxious day for people of color in America.

On this day, as we witness the swearing in of Donald J. Trump as POTUS No. 45, we are conflicted.

As Americans, we respect the Oval Office, its traditions and a democratic process that determines our Commander-in-Chief. But as brown people with a not so distant history of subjugation and discrimination, we are worried that our country is moonwalking into a less friendly era.

Yes, I know that many whites, and especially white Democrats, are crazy with anger and sad to the point of tears. But they have an advantage in their skin color that never will make them vulnerable to the bigotry – and dangerous practices, such as racial profiling – to which people of color are susceptible. They luckily never will feel the sting of the N-word or humiliation from having a hijab snatched from their heads in public.

As we look ahead to a Trump administration, many African Americans and Latinos are fearing that the clock will be turned back on civil rights, deportations of undocumented hard-working families will swell and public schools, the great leveler for all people no matter their race, sexual preference or place of birth, will be kicked to the curb.

We’re woke, knowing any one of those things could return us to a condition in which prejudice is practiced with impunity. But collectively, such measures could do greater damage, hindering progress of our children for generations.

I hope not. And thankfully, Trump’s speech provided some glimmers of hope for those of us looking for something – anything – to hold on to in this new president. Here are Trump’s words I found hopeful:

“At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction — that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves. . .”

“When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”

“It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget — that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.”

I have to tell you that those last words truly touched me as the daughter of a World War II veteran, Grover C. Phillips, now deceased, who was wounded by shrapnel in France during the war. The scar was over Dad’s heart.

I know I don’t speak for every person of color; Polling shows that 18 percent to 29 percent of Latinos voted for Trump, so the vast majority of Latinos voted for Hillary Clinton.

Can you blame them when he kicked off his campaign last year with a speech in which he said, “When Mexico sends it people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Among African American voters, 8 percent voted for Trump. And I don’t have to tell you how Malcolm X would refer to that small group of voters, so I won’t go there.

But I will share some personal experiences of family members and friends:

My mom, Esther Phillips, who turned 87 in August, cried as she watched the inauguration, asking “Are we going backwards? What will Trump do to help young African Americans get their education and jobs?”

My niece, who is attending graduate school at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., did not attend the inauguration but is going to the Women’s March on Saturday because she is concerned that sexism and male privilege are on the rise.

My colleague, Gissela SantaCruz, told me of her nine-year-old son who woke up shaking, crying and nose running, at the thought of President Obama leaving office and Trump taking over. SantaCruz told me her son fears being treated differently in a world he believes now will focus on his ethnicity over all else.

Her 22-year-old son called her at the office, seeking comfort on Obama’s last full day as president, asking if they might meet for dinner and drinks as he was feeling anxious and down about the future.

Few, aside from U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, are openly questioning Trump’s legitimacy. To be clear, Trump won the election. Period. But his victory had as much to do with Clinton’s liabilities and sense of entitlement — as well as the tone deafness of the Democratic National Committee — as with Trump’s appeal to a nation hungry for a new face. That much is evident in the fact that Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million.

I’ve spent time with Lewis, a man of deep moral conviction. And I don’t blame the civil rights lion for boycotting the election. Lewis still carries the physical scars of having his scull cracked by Alabama state troopers for standing up for voting rights. Clearly Trump’s support of voter ID laws and other restrictive voting practices are hard to swallow given the country’s history of denying African Americans the vote.

And it doesn’t help that Trump seems to define outreach to African Americans in terms of photo ops or meetings with black entertainers and athletes, such as Steve Harvey, Kanye West, Jim Brown and Ray Lewis. If that is his comfort level for African Americans, we’re in trouble.

If Trump is interested in improving inner cities and helping African American youth succeed, as he said in his inaugural address, then he should start meeting with the mayors, council members, congress men and women and others elected by black communities.

Mr. President, you said today that “I will never, ever let you down.”

I hope that promise extends to all Americans.

 

 

 

Who made the list of Texans and Latinos at the DNC and RNC?

Texans, Latinos, and yes, Latino Texans. They were every bit present during the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Their numbers may not have been large, but they made strong appearances, leaving memorable remarks.

The Los Angeles Times, which broke down the list of scheduled convention orators for us, found that the DNC had nearly twice as many and more diverse speakers than the RNC. Not surprising.

DNC had 133 speakers of which 43 percent were women and 44 percent were nonwhite, according to the LA Times. Meanwhile, the RNC had a total of 71 speakers, of which 35 percent were women and 20 percent were nonwhite.

So how many were Texan? Latino? And Texan Latino?

LA Times said six Latinos spoke at the RNC and I found more than 20 took the stage at the DNC. From Austinite Robert Rodriguez (in video above) to Ted Cruz, Latino Texans made for some of the most unforgettable appearances at both conventions.

And while the Los Angeles Times did not have a count of speakers from the Lone Star State, at least five spoke at the DNC and three at the RNC.

There’s no surprise to find the lists lopsided in Latino and minority representation. One need only look to the party platforms to see why. The parties differ on everything from health insurance coverage to college education with most Latinos favoring the Democratic positions. But perhaps the most stark difference is on immigration in which Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump calls for the deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants and the building of a wall stretching nearly the length of the southern border between Mexico. Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ candidate, calls for comprehensive immigration reform.

So, who exactly showed up at the conventions? Here’s a list — and links to some of the speeches:

AT THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION:

From Texas to the DNC:

  • U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (Houston) | Speech
  • Actress Eva Longoria (Corpus Christi) | Speech
  • Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (Austin / San Antonio) | Speech
  • U.S. Representative Joaquín Castro (San Antonio) | Speech
  • Sheriff Lupe Valdez (Dallas) | Speech

Latino representation at the DNC:

  • U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona
  • U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego of Arizona
  • Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti of California
  • Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, California
  • State Senate President Kevin de León of California
  • U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra of California
  • U.S. Representatives Linda and Loretta Sánchez of California
  • State House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran of Colorado
  • U.S. Representative Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois
  • State Senator Ruben Kihuen of Nevada
  • U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico
  • U.S. Representative Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico
  • Hillary for America Latino Vote Director Lorella Praeli
  • Civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, civil rights leader
  • National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia
  • Disability rights advocate Anastasia Somoza from New York
  • Immigration advocates mother and daughter Karla and Francisca Ortiz
  • DREAMer activist Astrid Silva
  • Jose Arraigada, speaking about the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting
  • Singer Demi Lovato
  • Actress America Ferrara
  • Musician Sheila E.

AT THE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION:

From Texas to the RNC:

  • Former Governor of Texas Rick Perry (Austin) | Speech
  • U.S. Representative Michael McCaul (Austin) | Speech
  • U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (Houston) | Speech

Latino representation at the RNC:

  • U.S. Senator Marco Rubio from Florida
  • Kentucky state senator Ralph Alvarado Jr.
  • Libre Initiative spokesperson Rachel Campos-Duffy

 

 

Texas GOP agitation over transgender restrooms is a trip back in time

Dan Patrick
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks during the opening of the Texas Republican Convention Thursday, May 12, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

At the time critics called the president’s executive order “revolutionary and politically reckless.” National polls showed that his “civil rights” program was wildly unpopular. State leaders in southern states railed against his executive overreach. They insisted that following the executive order would make Americans fundamentally unsafe.

The year was 1948. The president was Harry S. Truman. His order began the slow and painful process of systematically desegregating the nation’s military and is credited with helping to break down racial segregation in all facets of American life.

In the months prior to issuing his famous orders, known as Executive Orders 9980 and 9981, Truman made a special address to Congress:

“…We must protect our civil rights so that by providing all our people with the maximum enjoyment of personal freedom and personal opportunity we shall be a stronger nation — stronger in our leadership, stronger in our moral position, stronger in the deeper satisfactions of a united citizenry.”

Last Friday’s temper-tantrum by Texas state leaders over President Obama’s instructions to schools about accommodating  transgender students is strikingly reminiscent to the outcry generated in response to the federal government’s march to equality during the Civil Rights Era.

Friday’s federal directive specified that under the Title IX federal civil rights law, schools must treat a student — using proper pronouns and names, for example — consistent with the student’s gender identity. Schools cannot require transgender students to produce a medical diagnosis or a birtGreg Abbotth certificate or other identification document, nor force them to use bathrooms inconsistent with that identity.

Gov. Greg Abbott has indicated that he is interested in introducing a law similar to the one in North Carolina that requires transgender people to use public bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates. He told thousands at the GOP convention last week:

“Obama is turning bathrooms into courtroom issues,” Abbott told thousands of delegates at Dallas’ convention center. “I want you to know, I am working with the governor of North Carolina, and we are going to fight back.”

Cries of “blackmail” and labeling the President a “bully” is the best the likes of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton could muster. They  say they would rather do without federal funding — which pays for books, lunches for the state’s poorest children, early childhood education, special education services, tuition-assistance and educational programming for at-risk groups.

Never mind that it is Patrick who chose to meddle in the decisions of the Fort Worth School District, whose superintendent acted to clarify rules that have been part of the district’s policy since 2012. 

Never mind that Patrick’s concern about the “vivid vigor that every 15-year-old boy has” is tantamount to the “boys will be boys” defense for sexual assault of all kinds.

And never mind that sexual assault is not about sexual attraction, it is about power over the victim regardless of gender.

Conservatives would like to draw an imaginary line between the guiding principals of the Civil Rights Era and the extension of rights to the LBGT community. It cannot be done. This country does not discriminate based on inherent traits. And the fact that the country is now agitating for rules that have been in place for years is proof that this is about political gamesmanship, not protecting or education our children.

Truman was not the last president to leverage what authority he had outside of Congress to urge the states to clean up their record on civil rights. Much has been comparing Obama’s performance to Truman’s legacy. This latest chapter on civil rights, will only add to the case.

VIDEO: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick discusses transgender restrooms.

 

Support by Texas county judges for DAPA, DACA should be echoed

USE THIS PHOTO AS LEDE ON A1 WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 18: Pro-immigration protesters rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, March 18, 2016 in Washington, DC. Next month the high court will hear arguments in U.S. v Texas, a case that will decide whether to grant deferred action status to certain undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2010 and have children who are American citizens. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Pro-immigration protesters rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, March 18, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

On Monday, as President Barack Obama approaches the end of his second term, Supreme Court justices heard another round of  United States v. Texas, a case that began after Obama issued executive orders in 2014 that would allow millions of undocumented workers to avoid deportation.

The president’s efforts would provide a modicum of immigration reform by protecting from deportation as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants.  Local government and business leaders across the country support the questioned immigration programs — Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which targets the nearly 4.3 million undocumented parents of citizens and lawful residents, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an initiative aimed at non-citizens who came to the country as children. Among those who back the programs are county judges from Austin, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio, who recently released a joint statement of support.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court isn’t where this matter will and should be settled.

Immigration policy is the responsibility of  Congress, even if it refuses to accept that responsibility. Then, there’s the matter, as was pointed out by the Editorial Board earlier this week, of a court ruling acting only as a temporary band-aid.

“A decision in June would arrive a few weeks before Republicans and Democrats hold their nominating conventions in mid- and late July. A 4-4 tie — a possibility after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February — would let stand the lower court rulings and would block Obama’s programs from taking effect.

Even a favorable ruling may not matter much, not with Obama’s time in office winding down. His policy will live or die with the next president.”

It’s an absolute shame. While our nation’s leaders squabble over legal and technical points, millions of families who have made this country home will continue to be threatened of being separated by deportation.

The ideal scenario would be to have the Obama Administration work with Congress for progressive reform that benefits the millions of immigrants who are already positively contributing to this country. That, unfortunately, is not likely to happen anytime soon.

What’s needed is aside from political courage from Congress is unwavering support and pressure from leaders across the country; much like the support several county judges expressed in a joint statement earlier this week.

The following is the statement:

Austin, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio Say “Yes” to DAPA and DACA

As the County Judges of Bexar, Dallas, El Paso and Travis Counties, we represent 6.5 million Texans.  The County Judge is the highest elected county official in Texas, and we are responsible for the health, public safety, economic development, and vitality of our respective counties.  We speak with one voice when we all say that the President’s immigration executive action,Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), will benefit our counties’ public safety, economic growth, and humanitarian interests.   A court order has so far blocked DAPA and DACA from being implemented, but on Monday, April 18, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the case.

DAPA would provide the parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents with a temporary respite from deportation and permission to work.  Expanded DACA would allow immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to also live and work temporarily in the U.S.  These policies would allow long-term, law-abiding residents to step out of the shadows, live their lives, and contribute to their communities without fear of being separated from their U.S. citizen family members.

Our counties prosper when immigrant residents are integrated into urban life.  Studies estimate that state and local revenues in Texas would increase by $59 million per year with DAPA and expanded DACA. Other research estimates that family income would see a 10% raise when one parent receives DAPA.  Our experience demonstrates that community safety is enhanced when residents are not afraid to seek help from police. DAPA and DACA would empower our residents to cooperate with law enforcement.  DAPA and DACA would also promote stable families and prevent the social, economic, and psychological harm U.S. citizen children face when their parents are deported.

Of course these programs are controversial, but we believe it’s in the best interest of our communities for DAPA and expanded DACA to be implemented until Congress chooses to act.  We hope the Supreme Court will weigh these concerns carefully as it analyzes the President’s immigration action.

Judge Nelson Wolff, Bexar County
Judge Clay Jenkins, Dallas County
Judge Veronica Escobar, El Paso County
Judge Sarah Eckhardt, Travis County

 

Your Supreme Court Monday: Texas, Obama and immigration

Abbott DAPA
Gov. Greg Abbott, in his waning days as Texas attorney general, sued the Obama administration in November 2014 to block its effort to shield some 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in the case Monday morning. (JAY JANNER / 2014 AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in United States v. Texas, the immigration case that began in November 2014 when President Barack Obama protected from deportation as many as 5 million immigrants in the country illegally, including the undocumented parents of American citizens or permanent residents. Then-Gov.-elect Greg Abbott, in his waning days as Texas attorney general, sued the federal government to keep Obama’s policy from taking effect.

Twenty-five states joined Texas in opposing the president, and over the next several months, a U.S. district judge in Brownsville and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans blocked Obama’s policy from taking effect. So the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to weigh in, and in January the court agreed to do so.

I have written about United States v. Texas previously on this blog. Here’s a quick review of the questions to be argued today before the Supreme Court.

Standing: Before the court’s justices can consider any larger, constitutional question they must answer whether Texas and the other 25 states have “standing” to sue the federal government. Simply disliking a federal program does not give states the right to challenge it in court. Direct harm must be suffered to seek legal relief. Texas argues that costs associated with issuing driver’s licenses to a group of undocumented immigrants granted temporary legal status would directly harm it.

Conservatives usually view standing restrictively. The case could end here but no one expects that to happen.

Procedural:  Another question involves whether the Obama administration failed to follow the Administrative Procedures Act by not giving the public sufficient notice of its immigration change along with the opportunity to comment on it. This technical, procedural detail is frequently overlooked in most discussions of the case, but it offers the justices a path toward a narrow decision.

Executive authority: The big question in United States v. Texas is whether the president’s actions violate the Constitution’s requirement that he “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

Only Congress can make law, but the president has “prosecutorial discretion” when it comes to enforcing the laws — a view the Supreme Court and lower federal courts historically have supported. The immigrants in question in U.S. v. Texas remain undocumented and subject to deportation; in simple terms, the Obama administration wants to defer action against them to focus on immigrants who pose a threat. Texas accepts that the administration has discretion. The state argues, however, that the administration should practice its discretion case by case rather than by issuing a sweeping executive order.

Four years ago, in Arizona v. United States, the Supreme Court essentially confirmed the argument the Obama administration is making in today’s Texas case. “A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials. Federal officials, as an initial matter, must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the 5-3 majority. “Discretion in the enforcement of immigration law embraces immediate human concerns. Unauthorized workers trying to support their families, for example, likely pose less danger than alien smugglers or aliens who commit a serious crime.”

A decision in U.S. v. Texas is expected to arrive in June, a few weeks before Republicans and Democrats hold their nominating conventions in mid- and late July. A 4-4 tie would let stand the lower court rulings and would block Obama’s programs from taking effect.

Even if the Supreme Court rules in Obama’s favor, his administration will have less than seven months to implement its policy before the next president assumes office. So Obama’s policy lives or dies not only with the court, but also with the next president.

 

 

 

Republicans are politically correct, too

When they’re not crying “political correctness” to divert legitimate criticism from themselves, Republicans use the phrase to portray Democrats and liberals as thought police out to squash free speech and the truth. Yet Republicans practice their own brand of political correctness, which keeps them just as firmly bound to their own party line.

A recent op-ed by the Hoover Institution’s Victor Davis Hanson, headlined “The politicization of the English language,” illustrates my point. Hanson begins by writing about the deletion of French President Francois Hollande’s use of the phrase “Islamist terrorism” from the official White House video of his meeting with President Barack Obama last week in Washington (see above). The deletion prompted several conservative publications to charge the White House with censoring Hollande.

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French President Francois Hollande, speaking during a March 31 meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington. (Dennis Brack / Getty Images)

The White House blamed the deletion on “a technical issue,” and the phrase was restored on an updated video. And it must be noted that the phrase was never omitted from the official White House transcript of the Obama-Hollande meeting.

I’m not here to defend the Obama administration, however. The deletion is indefensible if it was intentional. If it was a mere technical glitch, it was one that should have been noted and fixed immediately. I understand why Obama and members of his administration avoid saying “Islamic terrorism” or “radical Islamic terrorism” — they don’t want to grant legitimacy to terrorists who see themselves as defenders of Islam, nor do they want to promote the idea that the West is at war with all Muslims — but I don’t agree with their stubborn refusal to ever utter the phrase.

At the same time, Republicans such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have turned the phrase into a linguistic contortion of their own, to borrow wording from Hanson’s op-ed. They’re not primarily interested in speaking clearly about the nature of Islamic terrorism, but in using a political cudgel against Obama to advance their own ideological agenda.

We should denounce euphemisms that disguise, distort or soften political realities. In his own commentaries, however, Hanson has used such Republican euphemisms as “death tax” for “estate tax,” “enhanced interrogation” for “torture” and “Democrat” as an adjective rather than the grammatically correct “Democratic.” Obama, liberals and Democrats are fair targets for linguistic criticism, but one cannot condemn them as Orwellian while ignoring how one’s own side of the political divide also twists language to its benefit. In fact, from “activist judges” to “right to work” to “religious liberty” — their latest cause de la guerre culturelle — Republicans are the undisputed champs when it comes to grand abstractions, dog whistles and obfuscations of the language.

It’s also one thing to argue against political doublespeak. It’s another to be deliberately, willingly wrong.

“Obama has said the greatest threat to future generations is ‘climate change,’ a term that metamorphosed from ‘global warming’,” Hanson continues as he cites other examples of “politicized euphemisms to reinvent reality.” “The now anachronistic term ‘global warming’ used to describe a planet that was supposedly heating up rather quickly. But it did not account for the unpleasant fact that there has been negligible global temperature change since 1998.

“Rather than modifying the phrase to ‘suspected global warming’ or ‘episodic global warming,’ the new term ‘climate change’ was invented to replace it. That way, new realities could emerge. Changes of all sorts — historic snows, record cold, California drought, El Nino storms — could all be lumped together, supposedly caused by man-made carbon emissions.”

You can go here or here or here for articles debunking the myth that global warming stopped in 1998.

As for the phrase “climate change,” it has been around for decades in one form or another. Just consider, for an obvious example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international organization created — in 1988 — to study the effects of global warming. Or read the 1965 report prepared for President Lyndon Johnson that warned of “climactic changes” from the burning of fossil fuels. Or scan the titles of scientific papers published in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s that explore the effects of atmospheric carbon from the burning of fossil fuels on global temperatures and note how often “climate,” “climactic change” or “climactic variations” appear in their titles. What you won’t see in any of these early climate-change papers is the phrase “global warming,” which was first used in 1975 and entered the public environmental conversation only in the 1980s.

But wait! There is an Orwellian aspect to the phrase “climate change.” It’s just not the one many conservatives allege.

In a confidential party memo in 2002, Frank Luntz, Republican minister of language manipulation, urged conservatives and their fossil fuel allies to use the “less frightening” term “climate change” rather than the more catastrophic-sounding “global warming” to sow doubt and confusion about the growing scientific consensus on the issue. Sure enough, by 2003, “climate change” had become the George W. Bush administration’s phrase of choice. Ironically, Luntz’s memo accelerated into common usage something that was already happening — the interchangeability of “climate change” and “global warming.”

Censorship and the control of language are essential to Big Brother’s tyranny in George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” But before anyone hyperventilates about one’s political opponents politicizing the language — “We are now 32 years beyond 1984, but we are at last living Orwell’s nightmare,” Hanson writes in his op-ed — one should take a look at their own group’s doublethink.

‘An exemplary judge’ for the Supreme Court, not that Republicans care

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Judge Merrick Garland speaks at the White House on Wednesday after being introduced by President Barack Obama as his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

As President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, visited Democratic Sens. Harry Reid and Patrick Leahy on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stuck to his position that he would not be holding “a perfunctory meeting” with the appeals court judge. A handful of more mannerly Senate Republicans have said they are open to meeting Garland.

No meetings. No hearing. No vote. Let the people have their say in November. The Republican position on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee was expressed in a flurry of statements released Wednesday after Obama introduced Garland:

“Texans and the American people deserve to have a say in the selection of the next lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement released by his office. “The only way to empower the American people and ensure they have a voice is for the next president to make the nomination to fill this vacancy.”

Though members of the U.S. House have no constitutional role in the confirmation of Supreme Court justices, Republican U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin released his own statement, saying,Sen. Cornyn and the Republican leadership in the Senate are correct in their decision to not confirm President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court. The precedent has been set for decades, and was continued by Vice President Biden when he was in the Senate, that the Senate should not confirm a Supreme Court nomination in an election year. The American people should have a voice in the direction of the court. They will have the opportunity to be heard at the ballot box in November.”

Obama is not technically a lame duck, which is how Republicans have framed their argument that the seat on the Supreme Court unexpectedly left vacant by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Feb. 13 should be filled only after November’s presidential election. Yes, a lame duck is an elected official whose time in office is nearing its end, but traditionally, an elected official becomes a lame duck only after voters elect his successor.

If this debate were happening eight months from now, in mid-November — or maybe even in July or August after each party has selected its presidential nominee — I would agree with the Republicans’ argument that we should let the next president choose Scalia’s successor. But government is meant to act on what voters have done, not on what they might do. Obama is president for another 308 days and the election is 236 days away. There is plenty of time to hold a confirmation hearing and a vote on Garland’s nomination.

Vice President Joe Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995. In a June 1992 Senate speech, he said the Judiciary Committee should “seriously consider not scheduling confirmation hearings” for a Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.

Some context to Biden’s remarks, and context matters because it explains Biden’s speech: There was no vacancy on the Supreme Court that Biden was addressing; he was speaking hypothetically in the wake of the contentious Clarence Thomas hearings (which Biden had badly mishandled, I must add); the first of the presidential nominating conventions was only a month away; and should “seriously consider” is not the same as “won’t consider.” By no means was Biden announcing any “rule” that senators shouldn’t consider Supreme Court nominations in a presidential election year.

In choosing Garland, Obama has offered Republicans someone who should be, by any reasonable measure, a consensus nominee. Garland is 63, the oldest Supreme Court nominee in 45 years, so his stay on the court might not equal the generational stay of a nominee a decade or more younger. He is a former federal prosecutor with a reputation as a law-and-order centrist. Thirty-two Republicans voted in 1997 to confirm Garland’s appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a court over which he currently presides. He is a judge whom Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah once said could be confirmed to the Supreme Court “virtually unanimously.”

There is no apparent reason to reject Garland, whom Obama on Wednesday called “a serious man and an exemplary judge.” He deserves a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee and a confirmation vote. And if the Republicans want to reject his nomination, that’s their constitutional right. But not acting on his nomination violates the spirit of the Constitution.

Politically, having cultivated a sense of betrayal in their constituents for decades, Republicans have locked themselves into an obstructionist corner — out of which they probably will crawl if Hillary Clinton wins the White House in November. Because they know there is no good reason to reject Garland.