Political MoJo

Texas Governor Wants to Add 9 New Amendments to the Constitution

| Fri Jan. 8, 2016 3:46 PM EST

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has a plan to make America great again: Add nine new amendments to the Constitution. On Friday, fed up with Supreme Court rulings that have gone against conservatives as well as the regulatory actions of the Obama administration, the first-term Republican issued a 92-page report outlining his proposed tweaks to the founding document and calling for a national constitutional convention to make it happen.

The "Texas Plan" is as follows:

I. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.

II. Require Congress to balance its budget.

III. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from creating federal law.

IV. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from preempting state law.

V. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

VI. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.

VII. Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.

VIII. Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.

IX. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation.

Clearly, Abbott has been listening to way too much of the Hamilton soundtrack.



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Here's Gov. Paul LePage's Non-Apology for Comments About Drug Dealers "Impregnating" White Women

| Fri Jan. 8, 2016 11:31 AM EST

"You's don't like me and I don't like you."

That's how Gov. Paul LePage began his press conference on Friday to formally address the racially charged remarks he made this week about drug dealers with names like "D-Money" and "Smoothie" coming to "impregnate" young white girls in Maine.

LePage's opening line, which he cited as a quote from the film "Rocky," was aimed squarely at media and reporters in the room.

"I made one slip-up," he said. "I was going impromptu and my brain didn't catch up to my mouth."

"Instead of saying Maine women, I said white women," he added. "I'm not going to apologize to the Maine women for that because if you go to Maine, you will see we are 95 percent white."

LePage's seven-minute non-apology continued as he portrayed himself as a victim of blogging culture and the media. He specifically attacked MSNBC's Rachel Maddow for "going after" him for years and focusing only on the Republican governor's more unrefined and insensitive moments.

"I'm not perfect," he said. "If I was, I'd be a reporter."

The controversy comes at a particularly inopportune time for the embattled Republican governor. Democrats in the state are moving forward with a plan to try to impeach him over accusations that he threatened to block state funding for a charter school after it hired LePage's political adversary, House Speaker Mark Eves (D), to be its president last summer.

7 Myths About Gun Violence in America, Debunked

| Thu Jan. 7, 2016 7:18 PM EST

On live television Thursday evening, President Barack Obama will hold a town hall meeting about gun violence. He will take questions from participants who support tighter gun laws and from others who want fewer restrictions on guns. It's a prime-time moment for separating fact from fiction—so here's a shortlist, with the data to back it up. Review it, tack it to your wall, and feel free to share it with anyone who thinks the gun debate is just a matter of defending constitutional freedom:

No, keeping a gun in your home does not make your family safer.

No, there were not hundreds of mass shootings last year.

No, mental illness is not the main cause of mass shootings, and no, mass shooters do not "snap."

No, mass shooters do not deliberately target "gun-free zones."

No, ordinary citizens with guns do not stop mass shooters.

No, criminal shootings by black people are not the leading cause of gun deaths—suicides by white people are.

No, there are not "millions of defensive gun uses" by Americans.

Yes, mass shootings are occurring more often.

Yes, gun violence is a public health crisis, with profound costs for the whole country.

Maine Governor Warns That Drug Dealers Named "D-Money" Are Impregnating Young White Girls

| Thu Jan. 7, 2016 6:35 PM EST

Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage told a town hall audience on Wednesday that heroin use is resulting in white women being impregnated by out-of-state drug dealers with names like "D-Money."

LePage was asked by an attendee to explain what he was doing to curb the heroin epidemic in his state. "The traffickers—these aren't people that take drugs," he explained. (You can watch the exchange beginning at the 1:55:00 mark.) "These are guys with the names D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty—these types of guys—that come from Connecticut and New York; they come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue that we've got to deal with down the road."


State legislators may attempt to impeach the governor as early as next week, over charges that he threatened to block funding from a charter school if it hired a political rival.

Update: LePage says his comments have nothing to do with race:

Planned Parenthood Announces It's Backing Hillary Clinton for President

| Thu Jan. 7, 2016 5:00 PM EST

Planned Parenthood announced on Thursday that it will endorse Hillary Clinton for president—a choice that, while unsurprising, marks the first time the women's health organization has endorsed a candidate in a presidential primary. The group will make the formal endorsement this Sunday at a campaign event in New Hampshire.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards confirmed the news on Twitter:

Clinton followed up by expressing her support of the embattled women's health organization.

The New York Times reports the endorsement will open up $20 million from the advocacy wing of Planned Parenthood to help Clinton and Senate candidates around the country this election year.

The news comes the day after Congress voted to defund the organization for the eighth time over the past year. After a series of heavily edited videos claiming to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue were released in July, the organization has faced an onslaught of attacks and threats to pull millions of dollars in both federal and state funding.

"This week was a jarring reminder of what’s at stake in 2016," Clinton said in a statement on Thursday. "For the first time ever, the United States House and Senate passed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal the Affordable Care Act."

"We need a president who has what it takes to stop Republicans from defunding Planned Parenthood and taking away a woman's right to basic health care," she added. "If I'm elected, I will be that president."

Let's Knock It Off With the Ted Cruz Birther Stuff

| Thu Jan. 7, 2016 1:37 PM EST

Over the last few days, Republican front-runner Donald Trump has suggested that Sen. Ted Cruz should ask a court for a written declaration that the Canadian-born Texan is eligible to be president. That's to be expected—Trump rose to prominence among conservatives by questioning the eligibility of the sitting president. On Wednesday, Sen. John McCain, one of the Republican Party's elder statesmen, told a talk radio host that he wasn't sure if Cruz was eligible to be president. That's less expected but still easily explained—McCain hates Cruz with the fire of a thousand suns.

And now House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has joined the fray. "I do think there's a difference between John McCain being born into a family serving our country in Panama than someone being born in another country, but again this is a constitutional issue that will be decided or not," she told reporters on Thursday.


This is absurd. Cruz is eligible to be president because his mother was an American citizen. And as National Review explains, it's not even an especially unusual situation:

[T]here is nothing new in this principle that presidential eligibility is derived from parental citizenship. John McCain, the GOP's 2008 candidate, was born in the Panama Canal Zone at a time when there were questions about its sovereign status. Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee in 1964, was born in Arizona before it became a state, and George Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the same party's nomination in 1968, was born in Mexico. In each instance, the candidate was a natural born citizen by virtue of parentage, so his eligibility was not open to credible dispute.

It shouldn't be a hard question for Pelosi or McCain to answer unambiguously—we've spent roughly eight years rehashing the constitutional requirements for the office over and over again (in part because of Trump and the kinds of people who support him). The fact that McCain and Pelosi both—for perfectly legitimate reasons—can't stand Cruz is just not an appropriate justification for Trumpian nativism.

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Congress Just Voted to Defund Planned Parenthood for an Eighth Time

| Thu Jan. 7, 2016 5:18 AM EST
House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) departs the chamber on January 6 after voting to defund Planned Parenthood.

On Wednesday afternoon, the House voted to approve a bill that would pull about $450 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood. The bill—passed by the Senate late in 2015—will now head to President Obama's desk. This will mark the first time a bill defunding Planned Parenthood has made it to the president's desk in more than 40 years. This is the eighth time Congress has voted to defund Planned Parenthood in the last year.

Wednesday's vote reflected the deep partisan divide on these issues: All but three Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and all but one Democrat voted against it. Federal law already prohibits using Medicaid or other federal funds for almost all abortions, so this bill would prevent patients from using their Medicaid coverage at Planned Parenthood for other healthcare services—like cervical cancer screenings, tests for sexually transmitted diseases, or contraceptive services.

Obama has already vowed to veto any legislation that would defund Planned Parenthood, but congressional Republicans are encouraged by the symbolism of sending this bill to the White House. They're also already planning a veto override vote for later in January. To successfully override a presidential veto, both the Senate and the House would need a two-thirds majority.

The Texas Trooper Who Pulled Over Sandra Bland Was Just Indicted

| Wed Jan. 6, 2016 6:41 PM EST

On Wednesday, nearly five months after Sandra Bland was found dead in a jail cell in Waller County, Texas, a grand jury has charged the state trooper who initially arrested the 28-year-old black woman with perjury.

Trooper Brian Encinia pulled over Bland in Prairie View on July 20, citing an improper lane change. Dash cam footage later released by county officials showed that the encounter quickly escalated after Encinia ordered Bland out of her car. In the video, Encinia can be heard saying, "I'm going to drag you out of here," as he reached into Bland's vehicle. He then pulled out what appeared to be a Taser, yelling, "I will light you up!" Encinia eventually forced Bland to the ground as she protested the arrest. Encinia arrested Bland for "assault on a public servant" and booked her into the Waller County jail, where she was found dead three days later.

The video raised questions about how a woman who was on her way to start a new job wound up dying in custody. An autopsy determined that Bland died of "suicide by hanging," but Bland's family countered that suicide seemed "unfathomable" and asked the US Department of Justice to investigate the incident. County officials said Bland had asked to use the phone about an hour before she was found hanging in her cell. Bland's family said they had been trying to help her post bail.

Encinia's class A misdemeanor perjury charge, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, relates to a statement he made in the incident report following Bland's arrest. It comes a few weeks after the Waller County grand jury concluded that no felony had been committed in Bland's death by the county sheriff or jail staff.

Rubio Slams Obama on Guns—But He Once Backed "Reasonable Restrictions" on Firearms

| Wed Jan. 6, 2016 2:43 PM EST

On Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) slammed President Barack Obama's new executive actions aimed at enhancing gun safety—but the GOP candidate was attacking an approach to guns that he once supported as a candidate in Florida, when he endorsed "reasonable restrictions" on firearms.

After Obama announced the series of new gun-control steps, Rubio exclaimed, "Barack Obama is obsessed with undermining the Second Amendment…Now this executive order is just one more way to make it harder for law-abiding people to buy weapons or to be able to protect their families." And in a campaign ad, Rubio went further in assailing the president: "His plan after the attack in San Bernardino: take away our guns."

Obama's new measures would not take away guns; the most prominent executive action is aimed at limiting the number of gun sales that occur without background checks by requiring more gun sellers to register as dealers and vet their customers. And background checks is a policy that Rubio has supported in the past.

When Rubio first ran for the Florida state House in 2000, he told the Miami Herald that he supported "reasonable restrictions" on guns, including background checks and waiting periods for gun purchases. Ten years later, this comment was used against Rubio during his Senate primary campaign against then-Republican Charlie Crist. The Crist camp, pointing to Rubio's 2010 statement, accused him of supporting gun limits. Rubio's spokesman dismissed the significance of Rubio's earlier statement, saying, "It's basically a restatement of his support for the current law."

During his eight years in the Florida legislature, Rubio backed much of the National Rifle Association's agenda. He co-sponsored the state's Stand Your Ground law, which became the subject of a nationwide debate following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. And, as a senator, Rubio recently received an A rating from the NRA. But Rubio has a few times wavered from the NRA's hardline. In the Florida legislature, he drew the organization's ire when he took a tepid approach to supporting a bill allowing Floridians to bring firearms to work if they leave them in their cars. (He ultimately voted for the measure). And after the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012, he flirted with supporting measures to prevent convicted felons and the mentally ill from obtaining firearms—actions the NRA opposed. He voted against the background-check bill that ultimately came to the Senate floor the following spring.

As a presidential candidate, Rubio has positioned himself as an ardent champion of gun rights and does not talk about the need to preserve or enhance "reasonable restrictions" on guns. His campaign website states that "[n]ew gun laws will do nothing to deter criminals from obtaining firearms." Asked whether he still supports "reasonable restrictions," Rubio's campaign did not respond.

The Supreme Court Just Got Deluged With Arguments Against Texas' Stupid Anti-Abortion Law

| Tue Jan. 5, 2016 5:33 PM EST

On Tuesday, a wide-ranging group of organizations and individuals asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Texas anti-abortion law that threatens to close the majority of clinics in the state. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for the case in March and make a decision this summer.

The groups, which included medical professionals, legal experts, economists, religious organizations, the Obama administration, and more than 160 members of Congress, filed 45 briefs explaining their opposition to HB 2, the sweeping 2013 anti-abortion law that has been caught up in legal battles ever since it was passed. More than half of the state's 41 clinics have closed as a result of the law. If the Supreme Court does not overturn HB 2, the number of clinics in the state could drop to just 10.

"For many women in Texas, [HB 2] would create a legal regime in which a real choice about whether to carry a pregnancy to full term 'exists in theory but not in fact," argued attorneys at the Department of Justice in a brief, adding that the restrictions imposed by the law "do not serve—in fact, they disserve—the government's interest in protecting women's health."

Both abortion rights opponents and advocates say the case will affect existing restrictions on abortion across the country and will also determine to what extent states can restrict abortion. The case, Whole Women's Health v. Cole focuses on two aspects of HB 2: one that requires abortion facilities to meet hospital-like architectural standards, and another requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges with a nearby hospital.

"There is incontrovertible evidence that imposing these unjustified burdens on abortion providers is impeding women's access to quality, evidence-based medicine," wrote a number of the leading physician's organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in their brief. "HB 2 has delayed, and in some cases blocked, women's access to legal abortion. Both outcomes jeopardize women's health."

The 45 briefs filed on Tuesday were an unprecedented demonstration of opposition to anti-abortion laws, according to Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

"Never before has such a diverse array of organizations and leaders from the fields of medicine, government, law, business, and religion stepped forward to condemn abortion restrictions at the US Supreme Court," Northup told reporters. "These briefs present a thorough record of the undeniable damage Texas' sham law has and will continue to cause, and an indisputable legal argument for why it must be struck down. This deceptive law is an affront to science-based medicine, an insult to women's dignity, and reflects a total disregard for the rule of law and the rights of millions."