Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sen. David Vitter's attack on the 14th amendment has killed irony dead

Every so often, conservative hatred of birthright citizenship erupts like a festering herpes sore on the face of American political discourse. Five years ago, it was Arizona nutjob Russell Pearce, the father of the notorious SB1070 immigration bill, who proposed legislation that would deny birthright citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants born in the United States. That bill, of course, went nowhere--in no small part because it's a clear violation of the 14th amendment, as interpreted by 117 years of Supreme Court jurisprudence.

No matter, though--during this week's debate on amendments to a human trafficking bill, Sen. David Vitter has made it his priority to push for an amendment that would refuse citizenship to children in the United States because of so-called birth tourism--all purely in the guise of reducing human trafficking, of course:
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), citing stories about abuse in “birth tourism” industries, tried to introduce an amendment on Tuesday that would have violated the 14th Amendment by prohibiting children of parents who aren’t already citizens or lawful permanent residents to automatically become U.S. citizens.
Vitter used the same arguments about Native American tribes and the "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" phrase that Pearce latched onto so incorrectly. But Sen. Vitter specifically hammered on the practice of birth tourism by Chinese families as a pretext for attacking the 14th amendment. This is not without a small dose of irony: it was the Supreme Court case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark that established the practice of birthright citizenship in the first place. That case? whether or not a child born to unnaturalized Chinese parents in the United States would be allowed to claim United States citizenship.

Here's the main thing, though: If Republicans want to go after birthright citizenship, there's a way to do it: propose a constitutional amendment and let's debate it. The 14th amendment is part of our Constitution; the Wong Kim Ark case established jus soli citizenship as the unquestioned law of the land 117 years ago. Overturning that requires a constitutional amendment, not some stupid state legislation in Arizona or an amendment to a Senate bill on human trafficking. That sort of crap if just about scoring cheap political points to please the nativist base at home. If you want to debate whether or not birthright citizenship is the right method for the United States, do it the honest way.

Russ Feingold, once and future Senator (D-WI)

Blogging from mobile so this could be a bit awkward--but PPP has a poll showing former Senator Russ Feingold with a decisive lead over the man who beat him in the 2010 Republican wave year, Ron Johnson: http://bit.ly/1AjBFnx

It's normally a bad sign for an incumbent when you're polling below 50 percent. It's an even worse sign when your opponent is polling at 50 percent. All in all though, it just goes to show that we have two different electorates in this country. The electorate that will send Feingold back to the Senate and deliver its Electoral College votes to Hillary Clinton isn't the same one that voted in Scott Walker. And if all such statewide elections had presidential turnout, Scott Walker would be a trivia footnote instead of the current Republican front runner.

Lindsey wins!

Following up on my post from earlier in the month about Lindsey Horvath: SHE WON! I'm sad that John Heilman didn't win as well, but he has a chance to retake a seat on the council in a special election on June 2nd.

It's a special pleasure to see good friends win elections.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Local LA politics edition: Lindsey Horvath for West Hollywood City Council

I'm taking a break from national stuff and King v. Burwell this week. I'm back in the Los Angeles area for tomorrow's municipal elections--and especially to help my dear friend Lindsey Horvath, who's running for West Hollywood City Council.

I can't say enough about Lindsey. She has been my best friend and ally in local politics for basically the past five years. She's smart, loyal, and fiercely dedicated to progressive causes. I'm not sure how she has time to do all the political and nonprofit activism she's done, and you shouldn't be surprised if there's a campaign for Congresswoman or Senator Horvath somewhere down the line. But all politics is local, and so much good stuff can start with campaigns just like this one.

Fortunately, I'm not the only one who feels this way about Linz. She has also been endorsed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, the Democratic Party, three current councilmembers, three statewide elected officials, and a ridiculous number of local community leaders. She's the real thing. So if you are a voter in the City of West Hollywood, or if you know a voter in the City of West Hollywood, tell them to vote tomorrow. Not just for West Hollywood, but because great political careers often start with small electorates.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Do King v. Burwell supporters want to destroy the healthcare system or not? Hard to tell.

Over at Roll Call's Wonk Wire, Taegan Goddard lays out the fundamental problem that Republicans face in trying to convince Chief Justice Roberts to join with the presumed four SCOTUS justices who want to destroy the Affordable Care Act through King v. Burwell:
“One conservative source close to the case recently explained that the Republican discussions about contingency plans were largely aimed at the chief justice. The source, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, described it as an attempt to ‘make the world safe for Roberts to overturn’ the subsidies and to ‘not let our guys look like they’re going crazy and letting the world spin into chaos.'”
“That’s easier said than done. Scratch beneath the surface and the GOP effort to devise an alternative is a mess.”
So, Republicans are trying to convince Roberts that siding with them won't destroy the health care system, even as the King lawyers are trying to convince Roberts that the federal government intended to compel states by threatening to destroy their health care system. This is the Republican difficulty: they want to take away people's health care, while not being seen as taking away people's health care. And it won't work.

The hypocrisy of the King v. Burwell plaintiffs

Brian Beutler's incisive writing at TNR gave me the idea to document the hypocrisy of the intellectual leaders of the King v. Burwell case, and I wrote that up for Daily Kos this Sunday. In case you missed it because there was a little thing called the Oscars happening that night, the tl;dr version is:

Before the IRS wrote the rule confirming that subsidies would be available on the federally-facilitated exchange, the conservative lawyers now behind King were building a case that forcing states to develop an exchange in order for their residents to receive subsidies violated the Dole text for constitutional federal compulsion. But now, these same lawyers are arguing that the authors of the Affordable Care Act intended this exact sort of compulsion. Of course, a century of SCOTUS jurisprudence says that courts can't rule in favor of a statutory interpretation that raises constitutional questions--which means that now, the lawyers are taking the exact opposite approach and saying that the compulsion that they initially thought was illegal actually happens all the time.

In short, the conservative ideologues behind King have no actual integrity, and are perfectly willing to flip their argument a full 180 if they feel it's a faster path to destroying the Affordable Care Act.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

HCA's King v. Burwell brief notes dramatic success of ACA for women

Last week, I wrote about the amicus brief in the King v. Burwell case that was filed by Hospital Corporation of America, the nation's largest private-sector provider of medical care. The brief concludes that the arguments of the plaintiffs, who are attempting to strip federal exchange Obamacare subsidies from some 7 million people, defies logic. So far, so good.

A detail of the brief, however, elaborates on a specific policy success of the Affordable Care Act's federal exchange: demonstrable improvements in access to health care for women. As the original brief explains, one of the main goals of passing health care reform was to improve access to care for women. To support the claim that denying subsidies on the federal exchange would defeat the entire purpose of the law, HCA compiled data for its facilities operating in states served by federal exchanges, and noted just how much women with federal exchange insurance are benefiting compared to their uninsured counterparts. The data HCA presents is remarkable: for instance, 77 percent of the oncology care given to patients with federal exchange insurance goes to women. 65 percent of HCA's patients insured on the federal exchange are women, vs. 53 percent of insured patients--suggesting that uninsured women are forgoing care at a higher rate than male counterparts. And women with federal exchange insurance are three times more likely to get recommended breast ultrasounds than uninsured patients. So why does this matter? As Emily Crockett at RH Reality Check says:
The brief draws special attention to the health benefits for women insured through the exchanges because Congress also paid special attention to women’s health issues in the Affordable Care Act—like covering women’s health services as “essential benefits,” or banning the practice of charging women more for health insurance. The Supreme Court case determining the fate of Obamacare hinges on what Congress intended when it wrote the law. If Congress intended to benefit women’s health, HCA argues, it can’t possibly have wanted millions of women to go without the essential care they can only afford thanks to the federal exchange subsidies.
When arguing about whose interpretation of a law is correct, context and Congressional intent matters. The statistics HCA brings to the table prove just how successful Obamacare has been at achieving the intent of improving health care for women. CATO's Michael Cannon, by contrast, would apparently prefer to see poor women die slowly from cancer than allow them to afford insurance.