And Just Exactly HOW Retroactive Would That Be?

govt01d.fwToday, the House voted on immigration. But it wasn’t on an effort to reform our broken system, or on the bipartisan bill the Senate passed more than 500 days ago.  Nope. Instead, House leaders held a vote t​hat would make our broken immigration system worse, not better. ​

Unproductive doesn’t begin to describe it. It’s all part of the Republican House’s pattern of payback politics — lawsuits,​ talks​ of impeachment​ and shutting down the government​, all because the President took common-sense action in the face of congressional gridlock ​to make our nation and families stronger.

The bill they voted on? That would be HR5759.  Roll Call Vote 550:

BILL TITLE: To establish a rule of construction clarifying the limitations on executive authority to provide certain forms of immigration relief

No provision of the Constitution, the Immigration and Nationality Act (of 1965), or other federal law shall be interpreted or applied to authorize the executive branch of the government to exempt, by executive order, regulation, or any other means, categories of persons unlawfully present in the United States from removal under the immigration laws.

Declares any action by the executive branch with the purpose of circumventing the objectives of this statute null and void and without legal effect.

Makes this Act EFFECTIVE RETROACTIVELY, applying to any such exemption made AT ANY TIME. (emphasis added)

The vote was 219-197 with 3 Democrats (Barrow, McIntyre and Peterson) voting FOR passage, and only 7 Republicans (Coffman, Denham, Diaz-Belart, Gohmert, Ros-Lehtinen, Stutzman and Valadio) voting against it. And yes of course, our illustrious representative from Nevada Congressional District 2, Mr. Mark Amodei was thrilled to cast his AYE vote as a “symbolic message” that, “that black guy in the oval office has no business doing what every President since ‘Ike’ has done via ‘executive action’.”

ImmigrationEOs

So, they want to retroactively nullify executive action of the President. Really? Did they bother to read the bill they just passed?  What are they nullifying? Actions just this President? Or, for curiosity’s sake, is their intent to nullify immigration-related actions taken by each and every President since 1956?  It does after all say, that it applies RETROACTIVELY, to ANY such exemption made at ANY time.

Talk about hypocrisy.  Apparently, if it’s intent is to apply ONLY to actions by President Obama, it’s okay for them to be ambiguous in bill that they themselves choose to pass, but how dare those heathenish Democrats pass a bill the Republicans claim is ambiguous as to healthcare subsidies! That just cannot be and they’ll make sure it can’t be, by wasting taxpayer money to take >50 votes to kill it, by suing the President for not implementing on a timely bases that same bill they’re trying to kill, and by goading their benefactor buddies into pursuing nullification of various provisions of that bill through all levels of the judiciary up to and including, the Supreme Corporate (oops, I mean Supreme Court).

The outright blatant hypocrisy of their ambiguous actions is immoral, unethical and UNchristian.

 

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A Tortured Twist on Ethics

Why isn’t the American Psychological Association pursuing ethics charges against psychologist John Leso for abuses he helped carry out at the Guantánamo prison?

— by Yosef Brody

Yosef_Brady

George Orwell wisely observed that our understanding of the past, and the meaning associated with it, directly influences the future. And as the unprecedented public feud between the CIA and Congress makes clear, there are still significant aspects of our recent history of state-sponsored torture that need examination before we put this national disgrace behind us.

Important questions remain unresolved about the U.S. torture program in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. And the four-year, $40 million Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture is unlikely to provide sufficient answers, even if it’s ever declassified and released.

APA Finds No Ethical Violations at Gitmo, a cartoon by Roy Eidelson

For example, what will be done about doctors who helped create U.S. torture programs and participated in their implementation? And is there any evidence that cruel, inhuman, and degrading practices continue under official policy, even to this day?

The question of whether American health professionals previously involved in military torture programs should be allowed to quietly and freely continue their careers came to a head recently when it was revealed that the American Psychological Association (APA)refused to pursue ethics charges against psychologist John Leso.

According to official and authoritative documents, Dr. Leso developed and helped carry out “enhanced interrogation” techniques at Guantánamo Bay in 2002. Importantly, the APA hasn’t disputed Leso’s role in the interrogation of detainee Mohammed al-Qahtani, an interrogation that included being hooded, leashed, and treated like a dog; sleep deprivation; sexual humiliation; prolonged exposure to cold; forced nudity; and sustained isolation.

In a subsequent investigation, Susan Crawford, a judge appointed by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, characterized this treatment of al-Qahtani as “life-threatening” and meeting the legal definition of “torture.”

Over almost seven years, the APA — whose leadership has nurtured strong connections with the military and intelligence establishment — never brought the case to its full Ethics Committee for review and resolution. In defending this decision a few weeks ago, the APA board released a statement explaining that a handful of top people with classified military access had determined that there was nothing unethical about Dr. Leso’s actions and that the case should be immediately closed.

What exactly is the interest of the leaders of the world’s largest professional association of psychologists in blocking investigation into torture? And should psychologists who participated in torture have this dark chapter of their careers wiped clean without censure?

Ethical imperatives to “do no harm” and sanctions for psychologists who break the rules — from sleeping with patients to insurance fraud to not informing research subjects of their rights — exist not only to protect the public but also to provide clear guidance to professionals faced with moral dilemmas. Yet when considering ethical complaints, the APA apparently takes involvement in torture less seriously than these other transgressions.

If such ethical parameters are effectively nullified, what kind of future might we expect?

Here’s an equally important question: Has U.S. torture really ended? While the Obama administration made an early display of banning some of the worst techniques that had been given the official seal of approval under Bush and Cheney, such as waterboarding, the Pentagon continues to engage in cruel, inhuman, and degrading practices.

As the lawsuit brought this month by Guantánamo prisoner Emad Abdullah Hassan in federal court makes clear, the force-feeding of hunger strikers there is continuing despite a military blackout since December on the number of inmates engaged in that protest. Human rights and medical organizations have widely denounced this brutal practice.

Before U.S. psychologists and other Americans tell ourselves it’s time to put our history of torture behind us, we should take a hard look in the mirror.

What does it mean for our society to allow health professionals who have been involved with torture to subsequently practice with impunity? Like all civilized societies, we must reckon with past and present truths — if we want to be in control of our future.

Yosef Brody is a clinical psychologist and president-elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility PsySR.org.  The cartoon by Roy Eidelson, APA Finds No Ethical Violations at Gitmo, a former PsySR president, is used by permission. Distributed via OtherWords.org

The War on Terror Has Not Made Us Safer

Congress shouldn’t have passed the measure that gives the president wide military powers to pursue al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the first place and 12 years later a repeal is long overdue.

— by Phyllis Bennis

Phyllis Bennis

Two days after the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, I was sitting in front of my institute’s office around the corner from the White House. We had just been evacuated again. The police patrolling the streets didn’t have a clue what was going on. So we sat on the curb with red pens, marking up the draft of what would become Congress’s gift to President George W. Bush: Authorization for the Use of Military Force. It should never have been passed in the first place.

WBUR/Flickr

We put a lot of red marks in that draft. The text abandoned any campaign to bring to justice the perpetrators of this massive crime against humanity in favor of permanent war unlimited by time, borders, targets or victims. The next day Congress passed it almost unanimously – only the brave Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Calif., voted no.

Read the rest on the US News & World Report Debate Club website, then vote on which writer makes the strongest case for repealing the the Authorization for Use of Military Force (or not).


Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Her books include "Before & After: US Foreign Policy and the War on Terrorism."  Photo Credit to: WBUR/Flickr

Everything You Need To Know About The ‘Nuclear Option’ And Harry Reid’s Plan To Fix The Senate

By Ian Millhiser

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took the first step to invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” a Senate procedure that will allow a majority of the Senate to effectively change its rules to limit widespread obstructionism by the minority. As the trigger for this reform involves seven executive branch nominees being held up by Senate Republican filibusters, the likely consequence of this round of rules reform will be to eliminate the minority’s ability to filibuster nominees to non-judicial jobs. Here’s what you need to know about the showdown in the Senate that will occur next week:

What Is The “Nuclear Option?”

Although the term “nuclear opinion” was embraced by its opponents in an effort to cast aspersions it — its supporters have at times preferred to call it the “constitutional option” or the “Byrd option” — this maneuver is deeply rooted in the Senate’s history. As an article published by the conservative Federalist Society explained in 2004, the basic mechanism was devised by Republicans in 1890 to defeat a Democratic filibuster of a bill permitting military intervention in southern states that prevented African-Americans from voting.

Under this 1890 plan, Sen. Nelson Aldrich (R-RI) proposed introducing a motion asserting that “[w]hen any bill, resolution, or other question shall have been under consideration for a considerable time, it shall be in order for any Senator to demand that debate thereon be closed.” Aldrich then envisioned a series of steps where the presiding officer of the Senate would reject the process proposed by his motion, and a simple majority of the Senate would reverse the presiding officer’s decision. Aldrich, however, never executed this plan because Democrats eventually caved and allowed a vote on the bill out of concerns that Aldrich would succeed.

More recently, in 1977, Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd (D-WV) successfully used a similar process to prevent senators from forcing debate on amendments introduced purely for the purpose of delay. Under this maneuver, Byrd asked Vice President Walter Mondale, who was then presiding over the Senate, to rule that he was required to “take the initiative” to rule such dilatory amendments out of order. When Mondale sustained Byrd’s request, supporters of more delay appealed that decision, and Byrd led the Senate to table this appeal by a majority vote. Thus, Byrd effectively eliminated a mechanism allowing a minority of senators to prevent a vote on a matter the majority supports, just as Reid seeks to do now.

Indeed, in a memo provided to ThinkProgress, Sen. Jeff Merkley’s (D-OR) office identifies 17 additional times since Byrd originally executed this maneuver in 1977 when the Senate has changed its procedures by a majority vote. The most recent example occurred on October 6, 2011, when the Senate voted 51-48 that senators could not use “motions to suspend the rules in order to consider non-germane amendments post cloture” in order to delay a vote.

Wasn’t There A Big Fight Over This During The Bush Administration?

Yes. President George W. Bush nominated a number of unusually ideological judges to the federal appellate bench. As a Texas Supreme Court justice, for example, Judge Priscilla Owen took thousands of dollars worth of campaign donations from Enron, and then wrote an opinion reducing Enron’s taxes by $15 million. As Alabama’s Attorney General, Judge William Pryor defended handcuffing prisoners to a hitching post in the hot sun, and then making them remain there for up to seven hours with barely any water and no bathroom breaks. Judge Janice Rogers Brown compared liberalism to “slavery” and court decisions upholding the New Deal to a “socialist revolution.” Since joining the federal bench, she wrote an opinion suggesting that all labor, business or Wall Street regulation is constitutionally suspect. Democrats filibustered these nominees, and a handful of others.

Many Republicans who are now playing a key role in defending the filibuster labeled Democratic filibusters unconstitutional in 2005. Future Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused Democrats of wanting “to reinterpret the Constitution to require a supermajority for confirmation.” Future Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) labeled Democrats’ actions an “unconstitutional use of the filibuster.” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who has since voted to filibuster several Obama nominees, declared that “I would never filibuster any President’s judicial nominee, period.”

The Democrats’ filibusters did not last very long, however, in the so-called Gang of 14 agreement, seven Democrats agreed to a near total surrender to Republican demands — agreeing to permit Owen, Pryor and Brown to be confirmed to federal appeals courts. As an added bonus for Republicans, this agreement left the filibuster intact, thus allowing them to turn it against President Obama.

But Wait, Didn’t Democrats Oppose The Nuclear Option In 2005?

They did, but circumstances have changed quite a bit since then. Democrats filibustered nominees like Owen, Pryor and Brown because they viewed them as uniquely offensive nominees justifying the use of unusual tactics. Republicans under Obama, by contrast, say that there are some jobs that they will confirm no one to, no matter who President Obama nominates. Many Democrats who still believe that the filibuster can exist if it is only used, in the words of the Gang of 14 agreement, in “extraordinary circumstances,” now see that filibusters are being used in extraordinarily ordinary circumstances. They believe this is a bridge too far.

If Republicans succeed in maintaining the filibuster, moreover, it will cripple much of the government’s ability to function and lead to severe consequences for many American workers and consumers. By refusing to confirm anyone to the National Labor Relations Board, Republicans will likely shut down nearly all of federal labor law. Without the NLRB,

there will be no one to enforce workers’ rights to join a union without intimidation from their employer. No one to enforce workers’ rights to join together to oppose abusive work conditions. And no one to make an employer actually bargain with a union. Without an NLRB to enforce the law, it may be possible for an employer to round up all of their pro-union workers, fire them, and then replace them with anti-union scabs who will immediately call a vote to decertify the union.

Similarly, a Republican filibuster of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordary will likely shut down that agency’s new authority to regulate Wall Street. Anticipated filibusters of three nominees to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will enable Republicans to strike numerous rules promulgated by the Obama Administration to protect workers, consumers and the environment. The filibuster is no longer being used to block unusually offensive nominees, it’s being used to hobble America’s ability to govern itself.

Beyond these specific examples, there can be no doubt that filibusters spiked significantly since McConnell took over at the Senate’s Republican leader. A common mechanism used to measure the frequency of filibusters is to count the number of “cloture motions” filed in a particular Congress — cloture motions are the mechanism used to attempt to break a filibuster. The number of such motions spiked massively the minute McConnell became Minority Leader:

Indeed, nearly 3 in 10 of all cloture motions filed in the history of the Senate were filed during McConnell’s reign as Minority Leader.

With respect to filibusters of executive branch nominees, the issue likely to be addressed next week, the data shows a similar spike in McConnell-led filibusters once President Obama took office:

Why Is This Happening Now?

In the past three years, Democrats twice agreed to minor rules changes that did little to quell McConnell’s tactics. This time, however, they appear likely to pursue meaningful reform. This shift is likely due to a pair of court decisions by Republican judges that created a looming crisis Senate Democrats can no longer ignore.

The reason why the NLRB is in danger of going dark, stripping away much of American labor law in the process, are two decisions joined by five Republican judges that effectively strip away President Obama’s power to fill these seats via a recess appointment. And, while there is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will uphold these decisions, the fact remains that there are five Republicans on the Supreme Court and only four Democrats.

If the NLRB goes dark, unscrupulous employers could do significant and irreversible damage to workers and the unions they rely upon to protect their livelihoods. Even if the Senate were eventually able to fill the open seats on the NLRB, the labor movement may never recover from the blow such employers could deal in the absence of an NLRB capable of enforcing federal law. Thus, the irony of the five Republican judges’ decisions stripping away much of the government’s ability to function is that it could ultimately have the opposite effect. Because Democrats no longer have the option to delay filibuster reform without risking permanent harms, robust reform is more likely today than it has ever been. And that will lead to a far more functional government than the one we have under Mitch McConnell’s preferred regime.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Three Ways The Supreme Court Gutted Voting Rights Today

Rural Nevada Democratic Caucus

— By Ian Millhiser on Jun 25, 2013 at 10:19 am

Earlier today, the Supreme Court declared Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional. Section 4 is the formula which determines which jurisdictions are subject to “preclearance” under the law, meaning that new voting laws in those jurisdictions must be reviewed by the Justice Department or a federal court before they can take effect. Although today’s opinion ostensibly would permit Congress to revive the preclearance regime by enacting a new formula that complies with today’s decision, that would require a functioning Congress — so the likely impact of today’s decision is that many areas that were unable to enact voter suppression laws under the Voting Rights Act will now be able to put those laws into effect.


— by Josh Israel and Aviva Shen on Jun 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling

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