Commentary

Editorial: Tillis’ excuse on Supreme Court nominee is “hollow,” “phony”

In case you missed it, the Charlotte Observer joined a long and growing list of major newspapers around the country to editorialize in favor of a hearing and vote for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Here’s the Observer in a recent editorial:

“In Merrick Garland, President Obama has nominated an eminently qualified jurist for the nation’s highest court.

As the well-respected chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit – commonly called the nation’s second highest court – one could argue that Garland is the most qualified jurist Obama could have picked….

Now that Obama has indeed named Garland, the GOP’s self-constructed political box squeezes a bit tighter. Most Republicans are sticking to their no-hearings stonewall. Hatch, however, says he’d be open to considering Garland during the lame-duck congressional session, should Hillary Clinton win the White House in November.

That’s rich. So, the Senate would block Obama’s nomination because he’s a lame duck. But a lame-duck Senate would willingly take up the nomination if threatened with prospects of a younger, more liberal nominee from a President-Elect Clinton or perhaps even some unpredictable wildcard from a President-Elect Trump.

It all underscores the hollow, phony quality of GOP leaders’ protestations that their no-hearings stance is ‘about the principle, not the person,’ as our own Sen. Thom Tillis put it.

The real principle has nothing to do with Obama’s lame-duck status, of course. The real animating principle is the same one that has driven the GOP the past seven years: Obama is the enemy. Whatever he wants, block it – even if sensible compromises or the occasional well-qualified nominee gets trampled in the process.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary

The case for considering Supreme Court nominee Garland is overwhelming

It’s official now; the United States Senate is run by men and women (mostly men) with the temperament, credibility and honesty of spoiled children trying to manufacture reasons why they won’t play with a new kid in the neighborhood. Let’s hope the facts and quotes regarding new Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland (see just a few of them below) are so overwhelming that, eventually, even Mitch McConnell and company are forced to tuck their tails and retreat from their absurd obstructionism.

Key facts

  1. Chief Judge Merrick Garland has more federal judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in history. No one is more qualified to immediately serve on the Supreme Court.
  2. He is one of the best appellate judges in the country – a brilliant, meticulous jurist with a knack for building consensus. That has been true ever since his strong bipartisan confirmation in 1997 to the D.C. Circuit, where he has served as Chief Judge for over three years.
  3. This approach has earned him bipartisan praise throughout his career – he was confirmed with majority support from both parties; Senator Orrin Hatch described him as “a consensus nominee,” and Chief Justice Roberts explained “anytime Judge Garland disagrees, you know you’re in a difficult area.”
  4. Garland has distinguished himself as a jurist who plays it straight and decides every case based on what the law requires. In his own words: “The role of the court is to apply the law to the facts of the case before it—not to legislate, not to arrogate to itself the executive power, not to hand down advisory opinions on the issues of the day.”
  5. Garland has dedicated his life to public service, choosing to serve his country and take on some of the most difficult and significant anti-terrorism cases in our nation’s history.
  6. In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, Garland led the investigation and prosecution that ultimately brought Timothy McVeigh to justice – working with federal agents, rescue workers, local officials and others.
  7. Garland also kept in close touch with Oklahoma City victims and their families throughout the case, and for several years afterwards as well.
  8. Beyond the courtroom, Garland is a committed mentor. In addition to mentoring hundreds of law clerks throughout their careers and encouraging them to pursue public service, Garland has for almost twenty years, tutored second, third and fourth grade students in Northeast DC in reading and math.
  9. Garland is a dedicated family man. He and his wife of nearly 30 years, Lynn, have two daughters, Becky and Jessie. The family enjoys skiing, hiking and canoeing, and together they have visited many of America’s national parks.

Quotes from prominent figures

Sen. Hatch: “[Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man.” [NewsMax, 3/13/16] Read more

Commentary, News

Poll: Voters unhappy with Senate obstruction of Supreme Court nominee

Supreme courtIn case you missed it last week in all the electoral hubbub, Tom Jensen at Public Policy Polling has some powerful new numbers on the what even Lindsay Graham has described as the Senate’s unprecedented obstruction of a replacement nominee for Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here’s Jensen:

New Public Policy Polling surveys in Arizona, Iowa, Missouri, and North Carolina find that voter anger over their Republican Senators’ unwillingness to consider a replacement for Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court could help make those seats competitive for Democrats this fall.

Key findings from the surveys include:

-All these Senators start out with pretty mediocre approval ratings. John McCain’s approval is a 26/63 spread, Roy Blunt’s is 25/48, and Richard Burr’s is 28/44. Only Chuck Grassley within this group is on positive ground and his 47/44 spread is down considerably from what we usually find for him as he loses crossover support from Democrats because of his intransigence on the Supreme Court issue. Further making life difficult for this quartet is the incredibly damaged brand of Senate Republicans. Mitch McConnell is vastly unpopular in these four states, coming in at 11/63 in Iowa, 16/68 in Arizona, 16/69 in Missouri, and 19/65 in North Carolina. McConnell will be an albatross for all Senate Republicans seeking reelection this fall.

-Strong majorities of voters in each of these states want the Supreme Court vacancy to be filled this year. It’s a 56/40 spread in favor of filling the seat in Iowa, 56/41 in Arizona and Missouri, and 55/41 in North Carolina. What’s particularly important in the numbers is the strong support for filling the seat among independents- it’s 60/38 in Missouri, 59/37 in Arizona, 58/38 in Iowa, and 55/38 in North Carolina. Independent voters will be key to determining whether these incumbents sink or swim this fall, and they want the vacancy filled.

-What voters especially have a problem with is Senate Republicans saying they’re going to reject President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court no matter who it is.

Read more

Commentary, News

Another victory for equality: U.S. Supreme Court slaps down Alabama anti-gay adoption ruling

equality overtonAnother day, another encouraging decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of same sex marriage equality.

Zack Ford at Think Progress reports on the latest development:

The U.S. Supreme Court has once again weighed in on the legality of same-sex relationships. On Monday, the Court issued a summary decision reversing the Alabama Supreme Court, which had refused to recognize a same-sex couple’s legal adoption from another state.

In many ways, the decision was a matter of housekeeping, addressing a conflict from the inconsistent marriage and adoption laws that preceded last summer’s Obergefell decision. The case of E.L. v. V.L. (their names were kept anonymous) was about two women who had raised three children together and then separated. To ensure the legal protection of their family despite Alabama’s ban on same-sex adoption, the couple rented a house in Georgia, where they legally secured adoption rights.

After separating, E.L., who was the biological mother, sought to block V.L. from visitation from their children. Last September (months after Obergefell), the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in E.L.’s favor, declaring that because Alabama would not have recognized Georgia’s adoption ruling back in 2007 when it was granted, it was “void.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision corrected this Monday. Citing the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” of the Constitution, which requires states to respect the records and proceedings from other states. The Court ruled that under this provision, Alabama had an obligation to recognize the decision made by a Georgia state court. Because Georgia law gave that court “subject-matter jurisdiction to hear and decide the adoption petition at issue,” then the legitimacy of that ruling is not open to debate. “It follows that the Alabama Supreme Court erred in refusing to grant that judgment full faith and credit.”

What is perhaps most remarkable about Monday’s decision is how unremarkable it is. It was a per curiam decision, which means it was unsigned, and no justice noted a dissent. Furthermore, it did not actually rely on Obergefell at all and did not address the merits of same-sex adoption. It closed the case by treating E.L. and V.L. like any other couple, regardless of their sexual orientation.

The ruling follows Friday’s childish decision from the Alabama Supreme Court conceding to marriage equality. Expounding at length about how the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell majority were “tyrants” and promising not to start a civil war over the issue, the Court admitted that marriage equality is as much the law of the land in Alabama as in the rest of the United States.

Commentary, News

This week’s Top 5 on N.C. Policy Watch

Abortion TRAP1. U.S. Supreme Court steps into the abortion TRAP

For the first time in nearly a decade, the U.S. Supreme Court steps back into the battle over abortion rights today, hearing argument in a Texas case that threatens the core principles underlying a woman’s right to choose as first set down in Roe v. Wade.
The question for the justices in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is just how far a state can go in regulating abortion before it unduly burdens a woman’s constitutionally protected rights.

More than 80 groups of scholars, advocates, physicians and others sharply divided on the issue have filed friend-of-the court briefs with the court, and many will likely also be gathered outside the court this morning as well in protest — testaments to the interest in the outcome.
Here’s a look at what’s at stake.  [Continue Reading…]

Great Tax Shift2. New sales taxes highlight NC’s “worst of all worlds” fiscal policy

Here’s one thing you can say for the conservative elected leaders running North Carolina state government these days: they don’t lack for audacity. Whereas some politicians might hesitate or display at least a small measure of hesitancy or sheepishness about implementing tax changes that dramatically shift the responsibility for funding our public structures and services away from the rich and onto the backs of the poor and middle class, North Carolina’s leaders are in “full steam ahead” mode.

In an era in which the one-percenters are already rapidly leaving the rest of society further and further in their rear view mirrors, Governor McCrory and the leaders of the General Assembly have enacted policies to, in effect, turbocharge their Ferraris, Mercedes and Teslas. [Continue Reading…]

School dropouts3. Limited resources, poverty, academic problems drive NC’s higher dropout rate

For the better part of a decade, North Carolina’s dropout rate has been on the decline. But this week, in the midst of ongoing bickering between public education activists and budget leaders in the N.C. General Assembly over shortfalls in state funding in recent years, state school officials will present data that marks North Carolina’s first increase in the dropout rate in eight years.

The report, bundled along with a massive presentation that includes suspension and other disciplinary data for the N.C. State Board of Education, marks a nearly 8 percent increase in the state’s dropout count, totaling 11,190 dropouts, in the 2014-2015 academic year. And the state’s dropout rate, which factors in enrollment growth in school systems, was up almost 5 percent during the year. [Continue Reading…]

Bonds-ConnectNC4. Connecting bonds and jobs in North Carolina

The folks running the Connect NC bond campaign have to be getting a little nervous these days, now less than two weeks away from voters deciding if the state should borrow $2 billion for much-needed higher education and infrastructure projects.

There haven’t been a lot of polls released publicly about the bond. One done by the conservative Civitas Institute a few weeks ago found that a significant majority of Democrats supported the bond and a plurality of Republicans said they were for it, though by a relatively close margin with a high percentage of GOP voters undecided.

The Tea Party wing of the Republican world is mounting a spirited campaign against borrowing the money and in this bizarre and unpredictable Donald Trump election year, anything is possible given the high turnout expected March 15th in the Republican presidential primary. [Continue Reading…]

Sexual violence5. The truth about sexual violence and the new Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance

As a long-time advocate for victims of sexual violence, I am always grateful for an opportunity to talk about how we, as a society, can prevent this kind of horrific and criminal behavior. That said, I am also frequently angered and frustrated by many of the conversations that do take place. A classic example is the current debate in North Carolina surrounding Charlotte’s new non-discrimination ordinance.

This ordinance, which provides new protections from discrimination for the LGBTQ community, is long overdue. In 2016 America, we cannot pay mere lip service to our belief in equality and fairness for all.

Sadly, the main sticking point in the debate over this new law is the same contentious provision that sank a similar proposal when it was introduced last March, and one that has been used whenever opponents of gender equality feel threatened — the use and safety of public restrooms. [Continue Reading…]