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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.

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Women’s and civil rights groups will gather this morning outside the federal court house in Raleigh to protest Senator Richard Burr’s 10-month-plus, one-man filibuster of federal court nominee Jennifer May-Parker. This is from the state NAACP:

JMP_Press Conference“Women’s groups associated with the Forward Together Moral Movement will hold a news conference this morning at 9:00 a.m. in front of the U.S. Federal Court House at 310 New Bern Avenue in Raleigh. Groups, including NC Women in the NAACP, Planned Parenthood of Central NC, North Carolina Women United, NC NOW, NC AdvaNCe and others, will call on Senator Richard Burr to do the right thing and allow Ms. Jennifer May-Parker’s nomination to move forward.

The United States District Court seat for the Eastern District of North Carolina has been vacant since 2005, burdening the system and hindering the rights of citizens. The eight year vacancy has been called a “judicial emergency” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Ms. May-Parker, who has yet to receive a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee due to Senator Burr’s refusal, has the potential to become the first African American and the first African American woman to serve as judge in the District.”

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Blue slipThere’s yet another reminder today of why more and more caring and thinking people have begun to agitate and advocate for a better, fairer and more diverse federal judiciary. As Nicole Flatow of Think Progress reports, the fallout from the Supreme Court’s most recent disastrous campaign finance decision in the McCutcheon case is already hitting the fan:

“’[T]oday’s reality is that the voices of “we the people” are too often drowned out by the few who have great resources,’ wrote U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty Thursday. But after many paragraphs spent lamenting the corruption inherent in limitless permissible contributions to political action committees, Crotty, a George W. Bush nominee, struck down parts of the New York law that limited them, conceding that he is bound to U.S. Supreme Court precedent, ‘no matter how misguided . . . [the Court] may think it to be.’ Read More

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North Carolina’s Senator Burr used to be a fan of NC’s Medicaid program.  In fact, he presented NC Medicaid with a national award for delivering great care and containing costs just last year.  Then came the Affordable Care Act and the decision NC has to make about expanding Medicaid coverage using federal dollars to low-income people.  Now Senator Burr thinks NC’s Medicaid program is just terrible – and he has a simple fix!  Just require people on Medicaid to have a primary care doctor and a medical home.  Whoops – Senator Burr, NC’s Medicaid program does that already and has for years assigned people on Medicaid to a primary care doc and printed the name and number on the back of each person’s Medicaid card.  I know the game in Washington DC is to just make up your own facts to fit your current argument, but please don’t try that back here at home.  Watch:

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Richard Burr 2US Senator Burr is the star witness at the NC General Assembly’s “bash the Affordable Care Act” here at UNC Greensboro today. Unfortunately Burr, described as “the foremost authority on health care in the Senate” by one of the legislators here, is making some pretty big mistakes in his testimony.  Amazingly, these mistakes just happen to contribute to his attack on the Affordable Care Act:

1.  Burr, in explaining his opposition to NC taking the federal money to expand the NC Medicaid program, suggests that NC Medicaid program doesn’t require beneficiaries to be assigned a primary care doctor.  He says if he could change the NC Medicaid program for the better he would require every beneficiary to be assigned to a primary care provider. Earth to Burr:  NC’s Medicaid program already does that.  From NC Medicaid’s website:

CCNC/CA is North Carolina’s Medicaid program. It provides you with a medical home and a primary care provider (PCP) who will coordinate your medical care.

As a CCNC/CA member, you are eligible for all the services that Medicaid covers. Being a member also has the following advantages:

You can choose a medical home with a primary doctor. A medical home can be chosen for each family member. Your local County Department of Social Services (DSS) office has a complete list of participating doctors. If you do not choose a medical home, you will be automatically assigned to one.

You can call your primary doctor day or night for medical advice. Check your Medicaid ID card for your doctor’s daytime and after-hours phone numbers.

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