The New Normal

By: Juven Jacob

The nation woke up today to a continuation of Senator Ted Cruz holding the floor of the senate in a faux filibuster. There was no legislation he was holding up. There was no vote he was preventing from happening, unlike what a filibuster is meant to do. In fact, Cruz negotiated the terms of the "speech" with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Cruz, the junior senator from Texas, just put on the biggest publicity stunt of his career for his future aspirations to be President. He turned the United States Senate into a theatrical show reading "Green Eggs and Ham" and citing references to White Castle Burger, the WWE and of course bringing up Nazi Germany and comparing fellow Senators to Nazis for not wanting to shut down the government. Ironically, I don't think Senator Cruz understand the moral of "Green Eggs and Ham," which is basically don't knock it 'till you try it. So someone should explain to Cruz that the Affordable Care Act has yet to be implemented.  

Sadly, all of this brings me to the point of all of these theatrics. Washington, D.C. seems to be in a permanent state of dysfunction. In other words, the damn thing is broke. And for the foreseeable future. Not even a national presidential election turned the tide and forced both sides to some kind of compromise. For a brief moment, we saw the GOP tiptoe towards the middle and seem to want to compromise after the shock of the election but that "rebranding" and "renewal" is officially over.  So what will the rest of the President's term look like? Most likely the economy will teeter on a painfully slow recovery, grasping for air as the sequestration cuts deal it blow after blow. The so called "Grand Bargain" on tax reform and entitlements is all but defeated along with immigration and any meaningful jobs recovery or infrastructure bill. The government will continue to function from continuing resolution to continuing resolution, which will likely bring demands from the tea party that will keep the economy and the American people on the brink of a shutdown or a government default. We have become the nation of governing by crisis. One can only hope that the next election brings about significant enough change to push both parties to the bargaining table. The economy and the American people cannot continue to live under the threat of a shutdown or a default because adults in Congress can't seem to get along and do what they were sent to do — govern.

 

Democracy Under Attack

By: Juven Jacob

In what is undoubtably the harshest voter suppression bill in the entire country, the North Carolina Republican dominated legislature just passed a sweeping bill in the latest Republican war on voting rights. Exercising our right to vote is arguably the most important civic duty we have as citizens of a democracy —  I would say almost sacred. We have waged war within our own borders to maintain a nation united as one.  We have waged wars overseas to protect our democracy from foreign threats. Hundreds of thousands of men and women have given the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms and the all fundamental right to vote.

Demonstrators line up to enter the North Carolina State Legislative Building on Monday, June 10, 2013.
(AP Photo/The News & Observer, Travis Long)

The bill formally named House Bill 589 takes a devastating blow to North Carolina's current voting laws. Here are some of the most egregious attempts to roll back democracy: 

  • It implements a strict voter ID law. College IDs will no longer be a valid form of identification although they have been used for decades. North Carolina has a robust system of colleges, including North Carolina Central University and for a vast amount of students, their college ID is the only form of identification they have. County or municipal goverment IDs and public employee IDs will also no longer be a valid form of identification. It is estimated this will disenfranchise 318,000 North Carolina voters.

  • It cuts back early voting by an entire week from 17 days to only 10 days. This is especially important since in 2012 a majority (62%) of North Carolina voters utilized the early voting process.  It forbids early voting on Sunday, which is predominately a day when black churches bus voters to vote dubbed "souls to the polls." 

  • Eliminates same day registration. In 2012 more than 155,000 people took part in same day registration and voted but that option will no longer be available. You see it makes it too easy for you to register same day and vote. These last minute voters tend to vote democratic.

  • Counties will no longer be able to extend voting hours if the lines are long or other extraordinary circumstances. In the past, it is customary for counties to extend by an hour to accommodate long lines or particular circumstances, i.e. a machine goes out. We all saw the massive lines in Florida during the 2012 election, partly due by the cut back in early voting. And as mentioned above, early voting is cut down considerably. Long lines or a machine goes down -- doesn't matter — you will be turned away.  

Republican North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis

  • Eliminates a young adults pre-registeration drive that allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register so they are set-up to vote at 18. And it repeals a state directive that high schools conduct voter registration drives in order to boost turnout among young voters. Young voters tend to vote democratic.

  • It prohibits paid voter registration drives which tend to register poor and minority voters. These same types of voters also happen to vote democratic.

  • Out of precinct voting is prohibited.  Voters must vote in their precinct, rather than casting a ballot in any nearby ward or election district. In this same instance, it is customary for a voter to be allowed to cast a provisional ballot if they show up at the wrong precinct but provisional ballot voting is also prohibited; you will be denied the right to vote.

The audacity of the Republican legislature to call this the "Voter Protection" bill. Rather than protect the vote it dismantles North Carolina's existing voting laws which were put in place through the years on a bipartisan bases. It is notable that this bill initially came to the senate only as a voter ID bill. The very first bullet point above was the only thing proposed. Freed from the restraints of section 5 of the voting rights act after the conservatives on the Supreme Court struck it down, the Republicans brought the bill back and added a slew of other provisions. Section 5 of the voting rights act forced pre-clearance changes to voting laws by states with a history of voter suppression.

Voter fraud is often the argument you hear from the Republicans wanting to pass strict voter ID bills but rampant voter fraud is a myth. In 2012 alone, 7 million ballots were cast in the general and two primary elections. The North Carolina Board of Elections cited 121 alleged voter fraud cases to be reviewed. This means that out of 7 million ballots casted, voter fraud accounted for a dismal .00174% of the ballots. In the 2010 election cycle, 3.79 million ballots were cast and 28 of those were cited for alleged voter fraud by the North Carolina Board of Elections. This means out of 3.79 million ballots casted, voter fraud accounted for .000738 of the ballots. To use voter fraud to advance any bill restricting the access to vote is a disgraceful lie.

You see when we walk into that voting booth, it doesn't matter if you're black or white, rich or poor, gay or straight, a believer or non-believer, male or female, conservative or liberal; that precious all sacred vote counts the same. That is the beauty of a democracy. We don't need a revolution, our revolution takes place at the ballot box. We all have the power to change the direction of our country by voting. And that is exactly the reason why we must perpetually err on the side of caution and always advance the right to vote.

As House Bill 589 was voted on and the votes were read, Democratic lawmakers stood with their heads bowed — every single one of them voting against it.

A shameful new low for the Republican Party. 

Click here to read House Bill 589

 

"House of Nerds" Spoof aka "House of Cards"

One of the highlights of this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner was the House of Cards spoof that opened the evening, which brought the popular fictional D.C. to real life D.C., including: John McCain, Steny Hoyer, Valerie Jarrett, Politico's Mike Allen, White House Spokesman Jay Carney and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Democratic Whip, Steny Hoyer Follows Me on Twitter!

Democratic Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, Steny Hoyer, is second in the Democratic Leadership only to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He would be the equivalent of Kevin Spacey on the show "House of Cards."

Democratic Whip, Steny Hoyer

A House On the Brink

By: Juven Jacob

The current session of congress, officially known as the 113th Congress, is on track to be one of the most unproductive congresses in American history. Only 15 bills so far have been enacted law. But that is the right wing agenda.  

Ever since the 2010 mid-term elections, it has been the mission of the GOP House to put the frail economy in peril and blame the devastation on the Democrats. A defeat of the President they despise and of the Democrats in the Senate to begin to reverse the progress that the President and Democrats had put in place. But the mission failed. The President won re-election by a landslide and the Democrats actually gained seats in the Senate. The house remained in GOP hands largely in part due to redistricting. The GOP secured the seats of its members by safely drawing out Republican districts. It isn't widely known that house Democrats garnered about 1.5 million more votes than house Republicans but thanks to redistricting, the GOP retained control.

There should be little surprise to the dysfunction in Congress, especially the house. The gerrymandering of the districts have so safely guarded the members of the house that they do not have to be accountable to neither the country as a whole or their party leaders. Instead of worrying about a formidable general election opponent, they must worry about a more conservative or liberal primary opponent of their own party. This is especially true for the GOP. In other words, they must out conservative the conservative. Instead of finding the middle ground, it has caused the parties to run in polar opposition directions. This is where compromise becomes a dirty word. If you work with the other party, you will be called out, threatened with a primary opponent and targeted for defeat.

The GOP tag line should be: No legislation is good legislation – the nation be damned.
— Juven Jacob

Which brings us to where we are today. Initially you heard the calls from moderate Republicans to adapt to change, to scale back the rhetoric, to work with the President and his party, to modernize and to be more inclusive. But just as time killed any hope of passing gun reform legislation after the initial shock of Sandy Hook, the same effect is taking over the GOP. The shock of the 2012 election is fading and time is killing any hopes of bipartisanship.

Speaker Boehner has no control over the house he rules. The far right threatens at every turn to remove him as speaker if he dares to defy their wishes. They balk at any cooperation with the White House and gasp at any spending measures from the Government; or at least they pretend to care at the moment. The speaker has broken the so called "Hassert Rule" a number of times just to get legislation passed. The "Hassert Rule" is a GOP created non-binding rule that requires the Speaker to only bring legislation to the floor if it has the majority support of the majority party. In other words, only if a majority of the GOP support the bill will it be brought up for a vote. Legislation like the Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill and the Violence Against Women Act only passed the house because Speaker Boehner was willing to break the hassert rule and allow Democrats to join with enough Republicans to pass the legislation. If the speaker had held to the rule both bills would have died.

Speaker John Boehner

But the speaker has used up his political capital. When pressed by reporters on whether he will break the hassert rule to pass immigration reform he steadfastly asserts that a majority of the GOP would have to support the legislation for it to be brought for a vote. That means that the Senate approved immigration reform bill will die a painful slow death in the house. If the speaker were to allow a vote on the bill it would undoubtedly pass with just a handful of Republicans joining Democrats in voting for the bill. But what is good for the country would be bad for the speaker and for the GOP. If he allowed a vote without a majority of the GOP, it would guarantee his demise. 

Just three weeks ago, in an embarrassing show of leadership, the usually popular farm bill went down in flames after the conservative base of the GOP refused to pass it with the supplemental nutrition assistance food stamp program. And just yesterday the GOP decided for the first time in more than 40 years to strip the assistance program from the farm bill and only pass the farm subsidies to farmers. They told millions of starving Americans, including Children, you are not important enough.

The most glaring and obvious admission from the GOP was the fact that they truly don't care about deficit reduction as long as the spending is done on special interest rather than starving Americans.

Democratic Senator Wendy Davis Continues Filibuster on Anti-Choice Bill

Austin, TX, June 25, 2013 - The line for entrance to the senate gallery wrapped around the rotunda late Thursday evening to catch a glimpse of Democratic Senator Wendy Davis delivering her historic filibuster to stop an anti-choice bill.

The legislation being pushed by the Republican controlled legislature would be one of the most far reaching bills in the nation outlawing abortions after 20 weeks with no exception for rape or incest and shutting down 80 percent of the state's reproductive clinics.

The filibuster began approximately at 11:18 CT Tuesday morning and would continue until midnight assuming Davis can endure the strict Texas filibuster rules.  Davis is not allowed to sit or lean on anything for support. She will not be allowed to break for the restroom, to eat, or drink water.

The legislation was brought up during the regular session but failed.  Governor Rick Perry called a special session to address the redistricting map. Although special sessions are rare and called by the Governor to address a crisis or problem; the Republican controlled legislature decided to bring back the controversial bill for a vote since the party in power has more control to waive rules on blocking bills. Davis called the legislation in the special session a "raw abuse of power."

After the 2012 election, the GOP issued a self assessment in which its own findings revealed voters felt the party was "out of touch" and "narrow-minded."  Several top Republican law makers called for the party to modernize.  From the looks of it, the calls have fallen on deaf ears as the party continues to push divisive legislation which is out of step even with conservative Texas voters.

“I’m rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans who have been ignored,” Davis said. “These voices have been silenced by a governor who made blind partisanship and person political ambition the official business of our great state,” she said.

By: Juven Jacob