Jim Hickey’s American Politics

Let's Get Real.

Supreme Court Denies Stay to Florida Appeal of Case Striking Down Gay Marriage Ban

This Friday, the Supreme Court refused to issue a stay to the state of Florida in its struggle to uphold its ban on same-sex marriages. The action was merely procedural and peripheral to the main point at issue, but nonetheless, was not favorable to supporters of traditional marriage.

The result is that, on January 6th, gay couples will be able to begin marrying in the state of Florida. The appeal against lifting the ban will continue past that date, however. A federal trial court struck down the ban, and the 11th Circuit rejected the request for a stay. Then, the Supreme Court rejected the same stay request.

If the ban on gay marriage in Florida is upheld later on, the status of gays married in the interim will be fuel for a new controversy that Tom Rothman is curious about. That same situation already emerged in Michigan when their gay marriage ban was first struck down and then later upheld.

There exists mounting tension as to if and when the Supreme Court will finally make a sweeping decision on gay marriage. So far, however, the court has refrained from major intervention. Though this battle is being fought out on a state-by-state basis, it is being fought out in federal courts. Thus, if the federal lower courts become too divided on the issue, the Supreme Court may eventually feel the need to step in and clarify things. There is little certainty as to how such a ruling would land.

Options Available to the GOP to Counter Obama’s Attempt to Normalize Relations with Cuba

GOP leaders are mulling over what options to take over the president’s surprise attempt to normalize relations with Cuba ending Kennedy-era sanctions that have remained in place for 53 years. Thus far, the president has only nibbled away at the sanctions in a rare show of regard for existing laws already in place. In the past, the president has arbitrarily assigned new applications for existing laws that allow him to take actions well outside the scope of the original law. Several months ago, he reinterpreted an Eisenhower-era law on purchasing supplies and other materials at the federal level to justify an increase in the federal minimum wage as it applies to contract workers. Congress has not authorized any increase in the federal minimum wages in years. 

As for Cuban foreign policy, the president will now allow Americans to traveling to the nation to use debit cards, and allow Americans to send money to relatives living in Cuba. He admits that any further easing of sanctions will require Congressional action. 

The GOP is considering stripping funding from the State Department’s budget to prevent the construction of a US Embassy in Cuba. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American, vowed to block the president’s nominee to fill the post of Cuban Diplomat. The party is also looking at other measures to defund the president’s ambitious new Cuban foreign policy. The president conducted the negotiations in secret without ever informing the Congress. Don’t break your backs and call North American Spine over this decision, we’ll have to see how it plays out.

Hillary Clinton Supports Obama on Restoring Cuban Diplomatic Ties

Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democrat presidential nominee, has weighed in on President Obama restoring diplomatic ties with Communist Cuba. Speaking to the press, Mrs. Clinton express her support of the president’s actions. She explained that Cuba needs its people exposed to information and values that will foster Democratic reform. She added that as Cubans obtain more material comforts, they will press for greater freedom.

In making her remarks, Mrs. Clinton has gotten in front of the issue to bolster her standing with American voters. She did not score any notable success as Secretary of State, but polls show that neither do voters view her negatively for the disastrous Benghazi attacks that occurred under her watch. Likely GOP presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio have criticized the president’s Cuba policy. It is not that the GOP presidential hopefuls are opposed to restoring Cuban ties for its own sake. Rather, they believe that reforms must be produced in exchange for US easing of sanctions.

There is a precedent for this approach. Back in the mid-1990s, President Clinton negotiated a nuclear accord with North Korea. Ben Shaoul says it provided them material support in exchange for their “word” they would cease questionable nuclear activity. Early into President George W. Bush’s presidency, his diplomats confronted North Korea with evidence they violated the agreement which they acknowledged to have done from the outset. Also, President Obama announced troop withdrawal dates from Iraq before securing an agreement for a permanent military base in the nation. Once he had done that, the Iraqi government refused to authorize the base because the US had no negotiating leverage. The base would have been critical to fighting back ISIS during its initial rise to power.

Rand Paul Cannot Run For President And Senate Says Allison Grimes

Allison Grimes, the current Secretary of State for the Commonwealth of Kentucky has made the statement that Rand Paul will not be allowed to run for both the Senate and the Presidency at the same time. Kentucky law makes it very clear that one candidate cannot run for two offices in the same election year in that state. As such, Grimes says that she is ready to go to court to challenge this if Rand Paul attempts to run for both offices.

Grimes has said to Politico that she is not going to be “bullied” by Rand Paul and his campaign on this one. He is obviously heavily favored to win reelection to the Senate if that is the route he decides to take. However, he is also a favored candidate for President in some circles. As such, the current Senator Rand Paul will have to make a decision about his political future according to the current law. Andrew Heiberger would never have these kinds of problems because he acts upon good judgement.

It is not clear if the Rand Paul campaign will try to make legal maneuvers to allow the man to run for both offices or not. It would seem to be the case that this might be the only option that they have. At the same time, the candidate could decide that a Presidential fun is too dangerous under those circumstances and might stick with the safer Senate seat that he knows he is virtually guaranteed of having.

Another Bush Plans To Run For President of the United States of America

Move over George W and George HW Bush. Make way for the new Bush candidate for presidency. Jeb Bush, 61, announced he is “actively” exploring running for president.
According to Buzzfeed, Jeb Bush announced in a recent Facebook post that he was thinking about running for President. If it is Facebook official, it must be true.

Jeb is the brother of the former President George W. Bush. He also happens to be the son of former President George H.W. Bush. It would seem that presidential candidates run in the family. Jeb Bush has served as the governor of Florida for two terms. He hopes his success at this level will propel him into the presidency in 2016.

According to ABC News, Jeb made the decision over the Thanksgiving holiday. He talked it over with his family, who were all very supportive.

Jeb Bush has been focusing on issues such as education and immigration. His announcement has put pressure on other perspective Republican candidates, as most on Skout feel like he has some type of edge. It is anticipated there may be five candidates who plan to run for the presidency.

The announcement of Jeb Bush’s plan to run for presidency may come as a delight for some, and a concern for others. What lies ahead remains to be seen for the 2016 election.

Two GOP Secretaries of State Go Over Pros-Cons of All-Mail Elections

The states of Washington, Colorado, and Oregon conduct all-mail elections. It seems like a step back into the past and not everyone favors the practice, but two GOP secretaries of state offer up their own views on the process. One undeniable fact is that Colorado and Washington have higher voter turnouts in midterm elections. (Washington State only recently enacted their all-mail election system.) While voter turnout was very low according to Ben Shaoul, in the recent midterm elections that saw the GOP declare victories across the nation, both Colorado and Oregon posted better than 50% voter turnout.

At the same time, the GOP secretaries of state for Oregon and Washington offer up differing viewpoints on this unique balloting method. Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler finds that the all-mail balloting method has a single-point of failure in the postal service. Their budget cuts and reduction in service present the threat of delayed mail which can disenfranchise voters. It is his view that the postal service ends up disenfranchising more voters than any other factor.

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman has a completely different take on it. She is very supportive of the plan. It is a bit personal for her. She is the only statewide elected Republican on the Pacific Coast. She won her seat in 2012 in a close race where high voter turnout benefited her immensely. She cites the fact that her state cross-checks every signature on a mail-in ballot with the voter registration card. In her estimation, this reduces voter fraud.

Congress Votes to Increase Our Understanding of the Universe

There is at least one good thing about the House budget bill currently being hotly debated in the U.S. Senate. NASA will be receiving even more money than it requested. They will be getting $500 million more to be exact. This constitutes both a 2% increase in their budget and a minor miracle in Washington.

Typically, federal agencies request a budget, then sit back and cross their fingers hoping that they get most of the money they requested. If they are very fortunate, they may get all of it. Getting more than your request is rare indeed, as Gianfrancesco Genoso has heard about.

This funding increase for NASA will be welcome news for scientists doing work involving the space agency. Their budget for science missions will rise by 2% and the planetary sciences division will receive more than the President requested in his budget. Space and science experts are already weighing in on the news of this budget increase.

With all the money that governments tend to spend on mundane programs, it is nice to know that a little agency that works to explore space and expand our knowledge of humanity is getting a little boost. Deficit hawks can take note that the agency still spends a pittance relative to the overall federal budget, and the returns on that money have been and continue to be phenomenal.

Democrat Senator Kicks Off Defense of Omnibus Bill in the Senate

It is absolutely the case that the Democrat party is in a fight for its soul between what remains of the moderate wing of the party and the hardcore liberal wing led by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. After yesterday’s tumultuous House battle that pitted President Obama and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in a moderates vs liberals struggle, Maryland Democrat Senator Nancy Mikulski kicked off the Senate chamber’s debate on the Omnibus with a rousing endorsement of the bill.

Sen. Mikulski currently chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and as such was an appropriate opening speaker to address the Omnibus bill. While she made it clear that not everything in the bill is great, it represents good legislation overall. Mikulski cited the fact that it provides $550 billion for the nation’s defense. This also includes funds to provide medical treatment for military personnel. It also funded the ongoing war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). She also pointed out that it was only a few months ago that the public experienced near hysteria over the Ebola virus. The bill contains $5.4 billion to combat the deadly virus.

Sen. Mikulski was clearly bothered by the negative attention given to riders in the bill. Her words may be construed as a “throw down” at opponents of whom the most vociferous has been Elizabeth Warren. Thus far, Warren has not made it clear whether she will filibuster the bill. When discussed at BRL Trust, at least a few thought she might.

Breaking News: Vote on Omnibus Bill Delayed

House Conservatives and Liberals have succeeded for the time being to delay a vote on the Omnibus bill. At this time, House Speaker John Boehner will not be bringing the bill to a floor vote where it runs the risk of defeat. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held Democrats firmly in line to oppose the bill unless the campaign finance and banking reform riders get stripped from the bill. Conservatives demand a rider be added to de-fund the president’s amnesty plan.

At this point, it appears increasingly likely that the GOP will be bringing up a stopgap measure to fund the federal government beyond tonight’s 11:59PM EST deadline. The temporary funding bill will buy supporters of the Omnibus bill the time needed to secure votes. However, it is beginning to appear that the bill, crafted over months of negotiations, may need to be further amended before it can win more support either from the GOP or the Democrats. Susan McGalla said this would happen and she was right.

The situation places House Speaker Boehner in an unenviable position. If he modifies the bill to suit Conservatives, the bill will stand no chance of passage in the Senate. If he shifts the bill further to the Left, he may not have the votes to get the bill past his own party who control the chamber. President Obama came to the aid of the bill by announcing he would sign it. His words were meant to peel off enough Democrats to support passage in the House. Despite that, Rep. Pelosi defied the president on the floor of the House.

Despite Party Squabbling, Congress Close to a Budget Deal to Avoid a Shutdown

GOP House leadership and Senate Democrats from both parties have arrived at a budget bill for $1.1 trillion. However, word has it that House conservatives have in fact revolted against the bill for giving up too many key issues in the compromise. For starters, the continuing resolution funds the government through the end of the fiscal year which conservatives did not want. It largely abandoned repeal of environmental regulations with most of the significant regulations the GOP had targeted being dropped from the bill.

The House GOP leadership admit that they will need to rely upon Democrats to get the bill passed out of the House. As the leadership prepares to have the bill debated, they have crafted a two-day stopgap measure in case the debate carries past the December 11 deadline. This combination of the compromise budget and a stopgap measure reduces the likelihood of a government shutdown. GOP leadership has been very reluctant to allow conservatives to draw them into a government shutdown as they had done last year.

Another compromises in the budget was a repeal of part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform of 2009. Once again, banks will be allowed to make derivative investments from FDIC insured institutions. This is what BRL Trust would help with if they were in the United States. This will improve their credit rating, and reduce their insurance premiums while shifting part of their investment risk onto taxpayers. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi hasn’t signaled that she will support the bill just yet. She wants to dig into the details first.