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News

North Carolina’s two U.S. Senators have introduced an amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline bill intended to fast-track the exploration and drilling for natural gas and oil along the Atlantic coast.

Senator Thom Tillis took to the Senate floor Thursday to explain the provision that he says will create thousands of jobs over the next two decades. Click below to hear Tillis’ remarks as carried by C-SPAN:

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Late in the day, Governor Pat McCrory issued a statement praising the forward progress on offshore energy exploration:

“I’d like to thank Senators Burr and Tillis for taking a step in the right direction to help get North Carolina into the energy business. Responsibly exploring oil and gas reserves off our coast has the potential to make North Carolina a leader in energy, move America closer to energy independence, and create jobs.”

McCrory chairs the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition.

Commentary

Thom TillisWell, this is off to a good start. Senator-elect Thom Tillis is already staking  out a less-than-courageous profile in his new job by essentially parroting the absurd remarks of his new colleague Richard Burr on the CIA torture report and attempting to make it a partisan issue — even though people of both major parties clearly bear responsibility for the atrocities.

Tillis gets a small measure of credit for admitting the torture — what he calls “those practices” — was wrong, but then he makes the illogical assertion that releasing the information will hurt American “credibility.”

Uh, excuse us Senator-elect. but here’s what will enhance American credibility going forward: telling the truth and not torturing people. As this morning’s editorial in the Wilmington Star News correctly notes:

“We pride ourselves on our sense of morality, justice and humanity, and should feel shame that the inhumane tactics described in the report were sanctioned on our behalf.

Moreover, they didn’t work. The report, which was gleaned from more than 6 million pages of information, found that in most cases subjecting enemy combatants to brutality produced no useful information.

That is hardly a revelation. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who spent 51/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has repeatedly denounced torture and other harsh tactics as cruel and ineffective. His observations have been backed up by experienced military interrogators who said that many captives will make up stories or offer bad information just to stop the physical or mental pain….

We cannot profess to be of superior moral fiber if we embrace the same disregard for human life and dignity that compels us to label terrorists as evil.”

Unlike Richard Burr, North Carolina’s new senator has six years to worry about re-election. You’d think he could take a break from partisan demagoguery for at least the first few months of his time in D.C.

Commentary
Senator Richard Burr

Senator Richard Burr

In case you missed it, it’s worth noting that Senator Richard Burr uttered some eminently reasonable words yesterday when pressed for a comment on the judge who struck down North Carolina’s  unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage, U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn of the state Western District. Burr, of course, voted for Cogburn’s confirmation which was unanimously approved.

You can watch the WNCN.com video by clicking here, but here is a transcript:

“We try to put the most qualified individuals on the bench. I have no questions that Max Cogburn met that qualification threshold for me. And…uh…I think it’s once again proof that you can’t…uh..envision every decision that a judge is gonna’ make and that’s why putting folks that have the right experience on the bench is absolutely crucial.”

Dan Forest

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

In other words, those spewing absurd and incendiary comments like North Carolina’s Lieutentant Governor (who called Cogburn’s simple and rational decision applying the precedents dictated by the courts above him “the judicial fiat of one unelected man”) would do well to clam up and take a civics lesson.

Now, if Burr would just apply his own words by: a) halting his ridiculous and completely unexplained, one-man blockade of President Obama’s appointment of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to serve as the first African-American judge in the history of North Carolina’s Eastern District and b) condemning Forest for his ridiculous and inflammatory pandering, we might just get somewhere.

Commentary

Richard Burr 2Those looking for some good news from the nation’ capital — any good news — got a small dose over the weekend in this story in the New York Times about the Obama administration’s progress in restoring a measure of balance to the federal judiciary. As the Times reported, after five years and an important rule change to limit the use of the filibuster in the Senate, the federal courts are, today, somewhat less completely under the thumb of the corporate and ideological right.

The shift, one of the most significant but unheralded accomplishments of the Obama era, is likely to have ramifications for how the courts decide the legality of some of the president’s most controversial actions on health care, immigration and clean air. Since today’s Congress has been a graveyard for legislative accomplishment, these judicial confirmations are likely to be among its most enduring acts.

One ongoing and absurd exception to this progress, however, is Senator Richard Burr’s shameful and unexplained blockade of federal District Court nominee Jennifer May-Parker, which is now going on 15 months old. Given the progress that the U.S. Senate has made in this realm by dispensing with filibuster on such matters, let’s hope Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont soon takes the next logical step by doing away with the obsolete and egregiously-abused “blue slip” rule that is enabling Burr’s petulant, one-man Jess Helms impersonation.

Read the entire Times article by clicking here.