Taking (Executive) Action: GOP’s Leadership Failure Leave Immigration Up To Obama

In a press conference following the midterm elections, President Obama reaffirmed his intention to use executive action to begin tackling our nation’s immigration problem. New media reports shed light on private negotiations on immigration reform between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner that began soon after the 2012 election. Speaker Boehner was likely feeling the pressure after a Republican National Committee-commissioned “autopsy report” of their electoral losses declared their party “must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform” in order to win future elections.

As the year-long negotiations progressed, Speaker Boehner needed political cover to maneuver within his party, prompting President Obama to continue to compromise in pursuit of House support for the already-passed bipartisan Senate immigration bill:

  1. No public criticism of Republicans members on immigration policy
  2. No trips in 2013 to battleground states with large Hispanic populations
  3. Back piecemeal reforms rather than one big bill overhauling immigration policy
  4. Defer executive action until after the summer

After what seemed to be a good faith effort by both sides, Speaker Boehner, yet again, just couldn’t deliver the votes, particularly from the extreme Tea Party members of his caucus. To further impede the process, the Republicans apparently reversed course on the necessity of immigration reforms after their recent electoral gains. When Speaker Boehner and future Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released outlines of their upcoming legislative agendas, immigration reform wasn’t included. Similarly, even Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, backed away from the idea of compromise.

Read more after the jump.

Republicans Still Unwilling To Protect Voting Rights and LGBT Equality One Year After Supreme Court Rulings

One year after major Supreme Court decisions on the Voting Rights Act and the Defense of Marriage Act, conservative leaders are still denying equal rights for all Americans by failing to address the issues raised by these cases.

After the Supreme Court struck down a critical provision of the Voting Rights Act, or VRA, there has been little appetite among conservatives in Congress to fix the sections of the law that have been almost universally considered the most successful part of the landmark civil rights legislation. The VRA enjoyed bipartisan support when it was reauthorized in 2006; House Speaker John Boehner said at the time that the law had been “an effective tool in protecting a right that is fundamental to our democracy.” However, in the face of extreme opposition from the Tea Party, conservatives have either questioned the need for a legislative fix or ignored the issue entirely.

Sadly, the inaction on this issue – which has led to the passage of voter suppression laws in several states – is almost certainly politically motivated. As Paul Weyrich, founder of the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council, bluntly stated in 1980, “our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” In fact, analysis has shown that election fraud, particularly the in-person voter impersonation that supposedly prompted tougher voter ID laws, is virtually non-existent. In addition, the voters who are disproportionately affected by voter ID laws – the poor, students, Africans Americans and Hispanics – all tend to vote for Democrats.

Read more after the jump.

Senate Finance Committee Republicans To Continue Cruz’s Crusade

On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee is holding a hearing on the October launch of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges. While the committee’s Republicans are expected to keep up their extreme, Ted Cruz-led attacks calling for the wholesale repeal of Obamacare, it’s worth remembering that a number of them sang a different tune during the problematic implementation of Medicare Part D in 2006.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), for example, now the Finance Committee’s ranking member, said of Medicare Part D in 2006 that “any program of that size and magnitude will have problems initially!” Hatch also commended a CMS administrator for doing a good job with “this very, very difficult to implement bill that we saddled you with.” And fellow Finance Committee member Mike Crapo (R-ID) argued in 2006 that glitches shouldn’t outweigh the benefits of positive public policy, saying of Medicare Part D that “we should not let these problems overshadow the fact that every day there are folks who are paying far less for their medications than they were before.”

But the similarities between the rollout problems facing the Affordable Care Act and Medicare Part D are unlikely to buy Obamacare any leeway from a Republican Party that has been bent on destroying health care reform from the outset. Like their counterparts in the House, who have voted nearly 50 times to repeal or defund the health care reform law, Senate Republicans have introduced dozens of bills designed to chip away at the law and repeatedly tried to use political tactics to undermine its viability. Yet the GOP’s blind devotion to sabotaging the health care law at any opportunity ignores the millions of Americans who would suffer if the legislation were repealed, including those with pre-existing conditions and seniors who fall into the prescription drug “donut hole.”

Wednesday’s hearing follows several similarly themed events held in recent weeks by other Senate and House committees, at which Republicans berated witnesses from CMS and HHS and used the opportunity to attack Obamacare as a whole. With the Finance Committee’s Ted Cruz-led Senate Republicans likely to pile on, it’s clear that the GOP’s real interest is partisan grandstanding, not fixing the glitches in the law.

Read more after the jump.

Barriers To Reform: The Anti-Immigration Policies And Extremist Money Blocking Progress In The Senate

As immigration reform moves forward in the Senate, the success of any legislation will depend on the cooperation of conservative lawmakers with troubling histories on the issue. However, it is not only their past policy positions and quotes that are disturbing. These key conservative senators also share a history of campaign contributors who also fund extremist anti-immigrant organizations, including those labeled as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Each of the Republican senators in the immigration “gang of eight” have supported extreme positions and aligned themselves with anti-immigrant forces. Beyond the “gang,” leading conservatives such as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sens. John Cornyn, Chuck Grassley, David Vitter, and Ted Cruz will figure prominently into the fate of immigration reform despite having similarly concerning records.

Read more after the jump.

American Crossroads: “Four Years”

American Crossroads accuses Senate candidate Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) of “voting for Barack Obama’s agenda,” pointing to the health care reform law and a 2009 budget vote. Contrary to the ad’s claims, however, the Affordable Care Act doesn’t “cut” Medicare, and while the budget Donnelly supported letting Bush tax cuts expire for top earners, few of those in the top brackets are actual small businesses.

Read more after the jump.

Americans for Tax Reform: “Tax Raising Politician (OH-06)”

Americans for Tax Reform targets former Ohio congressman Charlie Wilson’s (D) support for ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which the group claims will hurt small businesses and kill jobs. However, conservatives rely on a dubious definition of “small business,” and allowing the top tax bracket to return to its pre-Bush level would not affect many actual employers. In addition, ATR’s charge that phasing out the tax breaks would cause job losses is based on a flawed study that assumes the revenue will not go toward deficit reduction, which is exactly what Wilson and other Democrats have proposed.

Read more after the jump.

Crossroads GPS: “Roadblock”

Crossroads GPS presents Heidi Heitkamp as an obstacle to Mitt Romney’s agenda in an ad called “Roadblock,” stressing that “every single vote” on the repeal of health care reform and the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy will be crucial. The ad is highly dishonest about each of those policies, falsely claiming that ending Bush’s upper-income tax breaks means taxing small businesses, and accusing Heitkamp of “cutting Medicare spending” even though her opponent voted twice for the same Medicare savings.

Read more after the jump.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “A Serious Threat To Jobs”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s argument against Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin (D) distorts her record on health care, energy, and tax policy. The insurance-industry-funded Chamber attacks Baldwin for supporting a health care bill that included a public option, ignoring consistent popular support for the proposal. Baldwin’s opposition to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy does not amount to raising taxes on small businesses (a claim the Chamber supports by citing a biased report on a flawed study commissioned by the Chamber itself). And, finally, Baldwin opposed Republican energy legislation that would have stymied efforts to make offshore drilling safer.

Read more after the jump.

Congressional Leadership Fund: “Trick Or Treat”

The Congressional Leadership Fund wants New York voters to believe Rep. Kathy Hochul’s (D) support for ending the Bush tax cuts were really votes “to raise taxes on small businesses,” but that isn’t true. In reality, allowing the Bush tax cuts on top earners to expire would reduce deficits without harming the economy or affecting many actual employers. The ad also accuses Hochul of “personally profiting from companies that outsource and do business with China,” citing a biased website to support the misleading claim.

Read more after the jump.

Now Or Never PAC: “Knock Down The Door”

Now or Never PAC attacks Arizona Senate candidate Richard Carmona for supporting the “Obamacare takeover,” which the group describes as a “$716 billion cut to Medicare,” and for allegedly opposing tax cuts for small businesses. In reality, the Affordable Care Act relies on the private sector to increase insurance coverage and reduces future spending on Medicare without cutting benefits. Moreover, Carmona supports extending tax relief for the middle class while phasing out tax breaks for top income earners, which would affect few actual small businesses.

Read more after the jump.