In a 5 to 4 decision released today, the Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s Affordable Care Act legislation, enacted by Congress in 2010 to address rising healthcare costs and reduce the number of Americans without health insurance.
People For the American Way President Michael Keegan released the following statement:
“Today’s decision is an important win for the American people. The Court recognized that our Constitution gives Congress the authority to address the challenges that face our nation—and that Congress acted appropriately by using its power to address the crisis in our health care system.
“What’s shocking about this decision is that it isn’t unanimous. By any reasonable standard, the constitutionality of Obamacare is not a close question. Ultra-conservative ideologues have been remarkably successful in pushing the Court far, far to the right and in using the Court to advance their political ideology. If the right-wing Justices on this Court want to write our laws, they should run for Congress; if they’d rather remain on the bench, they should do their own jobs, not someone else’s.
“Today’s close call will make the Supreme Court a major issue for progressives and independents. Mitt Romney’s decision to appoint Robert Bork as his chief advisor on judicial nominations makes it clear that he’s interested in stacking the Court with more of the kind of Justices who wanted to scrap protections for children and people with preexisting conditions. Voters will remember this decision when they go to the polls in November.”
Seems like Biden has an opinion on a Romney Supreme Court, as reported by CNN Political Ticker:
"Close your eyes and picture what the Supreme Court would look like four years from now under Romney," Biden said to groans from a crowd of supporters at a rally in Dubuque. "Tell me what you think would happen to women's rights in this country, civil rights."
Good to note that we’re not the only ones afraid of a Romney Court. Not worried yet? Check out RomneyCourt.com.
Here’s a quick recap of the Supreme Court’s decisions during the past week: Unions are now further disadvantaged and despite some important changes to the state’s immigration law, racial profiling remains a viable option for Arizona law enforcement.
On June 21, the Supreme Court issued its decision on Knox v. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000. The case dealt with a labor policy several states have, known as agency shops, in which employees are not required to become members of the union representing their place of employment, but must pay dues since they benefit from the work the union does. At the point in which all employees working at an establishment that has a union presence are receiving higher wages, more vacation days, and overall better working conditions, it is only fair that all employees pay union dues and not free-ride off of just the union members who pay.
However, in the case of public sector unions, the Supreme Court held a generation ago that non-members have the right to opt out of having their dues used for political activity by the union, effectively weakening the union’s ability to operate on its members’ behalf. In Knox, the Court criticized the balance struck in 1986 and ruled that when the union has a mid-year special assessment or dues increase, it cannot collect any money at all from non-union members unless they affirmatively opt-in (rather than opt-out). This ruling addressed an issue that wasn’t raised by the parties and that the union never had a chance to address, furthering the Right Wing’s goal to hamper a union’s ability to collect dues and make it harder for unions to have a voice in a post-Citizens United political environment. To add insult to injury, Justice Alito let his ideological leanings shine through when he essentially claimed right-to-work laws are good policy.
After the Knox v. SEIU decision, the court released its ruling on the highly contentious 2010 Arizona anti-immigration law, known as S.B. 1070. In a 5-3 decision, the court struck down the majority of the southwestern state’s draconian immigration policy. The court ruled that much of the state’s law unconstitutionally affected areas of law preempted by the federal government, acknowledging the impracticality of each state having its own immigration policy. Oppressive anti-immigrant provisions were struck down, such as one criminalizing the failure to carry proof of citizenship at all times, and a provision making it illegal under state law for an undocumented immigrant to apply for or hold a job. The decision also recognized that merely being eligible for removal is not in itself criminal, and thus the suspicion of being eligible for removal is not sufficient cause for arrest.
Although the majority of S.B. 1070 was overturned by the Supreme Court this week, one component remains, at least for the moment. Officers can still check the immigration status of anyone stopped or arrested if they had “reasonable suspicion” that the individual may be undocumented. This keeps the door wide open for racial profiling. Arresting an individual is not the same as being convicted for a crime. Latinos and other minority groups can be stopped for a crime as simple as jaywalking and “appear” suspicious enough to warrant an immigration background check. By leaving this portion of the law, the US Supreme Court has, for the time being, allowed the potential profiling of thousands of Arizona residents, regardless of whether they are immigrants or US citizens, but has left open the ability to challenge the manner in which this provision is put into practice.
Any hope that the Supreme Court would reconsider the disastrous Citizens United decision was dashed this morning, when the Court in a 5-4 decision summarily reversed a Montana Supreme Court decision on campaign finance without even hearing oral arguments. Rather than acknowledge the obvious damage done to our democracy in the 2½ years since Citizens United was decided, the five arch-conservatives solidified the distorted electoral playing field they created that lets the powerful few overwhelm the rest of America in deciding our elections.
Citizens United struck down federal restrictions on corporate independent expenditures to support or defeat a candidate based on two premises: (1) the First Amendment gives corporations the same First Amendment right as people to make independent expenditures to influence elections; and (2) independent expenditures do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. But late last year, the Montana Supreme Court upheld that state’s restrictions on corporate independent expenditures, citing its unique history of political corruption and the many factors that distinguish state and local races from the federal races at issue in Citizens United.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court quickly granted a request to stay that decision as likely at odds with Citizens United, two Justices pointed out the opportunity the Montana case raised to re-examine Citizens United’s faulty factual assumptions:
Montana's experience, and experience elsewhere since [Citizens United] make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations "do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." A petition for certiorari will give the Court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates' allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway.
Today, due to Citizens United and its progeny, political candidates’ top staffers go off to form purportedly independent “super PACs” to accept the multi-million dollar checks that the formal campaign cannot legally accept. Karl Rove and his allies are planning to raise $1 billion, much of it anonymously given, to impose Republican control over all levers of the federal government. Organizations like the Chamber of Commerce funnel millions upon millions of dollars from corporate coffers to buy up the airwaves, refusing to disclose to the American people who is paying for the political advertising they are bombarded with.
Even when wealthy donors hide their identity from the American people, they make themselves known to the candidates who benefit from their largesse. No one doubts their influence over the officials who they put into office – and who they could turn their millions of dollars against if crossed.
No one who has seen the transformation in our democracy in the past 29 months could possibly believe that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” This basic factual assumption underlying Citizens United has been shown to be incorrect.
As Justice Breyer said in his dissent from the Court’s decision:
“[M]ontana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in Citizens United casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so.”
The Montana case was the Court’s chance to right a terrible wrong and take our country off a dangerously anti-democratic path. History will remember this as a great opportunity lost to the American people.
The U.S. Supreme Court this morning refused to reconsider its flawed Citizens United decision and summarily reversed a Montana Supreme Court decision by a 5-4 majority. The ruling struck down the state’s century-old Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibited corporate spending in elections. The Montana court had defended the constitutionality of its longstanding law, citing the state’s unique history of political corruption, the many factors that distinguish state and local races from the federal races, and the overwhelming power of corporate election spending to corrupt or create the appearance of corruption.
“In the two years since the Citizens United decision, the damage our democracy has suffered has been obvious,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “The decision has profoundly distorted our electoral system and handed unprecedented power to corporate interests. The Court’s insistence that unlimited corporate spending doesn’t create the appearance of corruption flies in the face of common sense, the opinion of the American people and the facts. Aside from the five people who wrote the original decision two years ago, it’s difficult to find anyone who thinks that candidates can benefit from million dollar checks written to their SuperPACs without the ‘appearance of corruption.’ When faced with facts that clearly disprove a central premise of Citizens United, it’s unfortunate that the Supreme Court chose to double down on its error.
“Today’s decision affirms the need to reverse Citizens United by amending the Constitution. I’m proud of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have joined our movement to do just that.”
Americans overwhelmingly support constitutional remedies to overturn Citizens United. Under the banner of United For the People, more than 100 organizations, over 250 states and localities, and nearly 1700 public officials have officially endorsed amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United.
The Supreme Court invalidated most provisions of Arizona’s draconian anti-immigration law, known as S.B. 1070, including Section 6 which granted state police greater authority than federal officers to make warrantless arrests of anyone they suspected of being undocumented. The decision upholds, however, the clearly discriminatory Section 2b – the “show me your papers” provision – which allows police to demand proof of immigration status from individuals they stop, detain or arrest. The Court did not rule on challenges to that provision which question its discriminatory effects. It will likely hear additional challenges on those grounds at a later time.
“Today’s decision is a partial but important victory against S.B. 1070,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way, “and yet another reminder of how important it is that Congress move quickly to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The Court’s decision to uphold, for now, one of the most oppressive provisions of S.B. 1070 makes it painfully obvious how damaging the Republican obstruction on comprehensive immigration reform has been. No one should be forced to prove their right to be in this country simply because of the way they look, dress, or speak. These are not the American values we treasure, and we will continue to fight against these provisions in the courts, the Congress, and the halls of state legislatures.
“It’s deeply concerning that Section 2b is still in effect—especially given the reckless and dangerous rhetoric of Governor Brewer and Sheriff Arpaio. Today’s decision is important, but it is certainly not the end of this fight.
“The President recently took a courageous step to help young people – brought to the United States through no fault of their own – stay in this country and continue to contribute to their communities. Republicans in Congress should follow this example and suspend their obstruction of meaningful comprehensive reform to address the immigration crisis. Continuing to shirk that responsibility encourages dangerous state laws that threaten our civil liberties and harms hardworking individuals who have worked hard to live up to American ideals.”
At this week’s “Take Back the American Dream” conference, Representative Keith Ellison, Missoula City Councilman Jason Weiner, Rev. Barry Hargrove, and Maryland State Senator and Constitutional Law Professor Jamie Raskin joined PFAW’s Marge Baker for a panel discussion entitled “Overturning Citizens United: A Movement Mandate,” to discuss the growing grassroots momentum at the local, state and federal levels for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s flawed 2010 decision.
The standing-room only audience heard about a groundbreaking statewide ballot initiative in Montana calling for overturning the Citizens United decision by amending the Constitution, as well the pending Supreme Court decision on whether to hear the Montana State Supreme Court case giving the high court the opportunity to reconsider its decision. Panelists discussed the underlying need for amending the Constitution as the only effective way to reverse the harm caused by the Supreme Court in Citizens United. As put by Jamie Raskin, who is also a PFAW Senior Fellow, “For the sake of ‘We the People’ and our democracy, all corporate money is foreign money.”
The panel examined how this fight has galvanized the progressive movement as a whole, from jumpstarting voter registration drives to increasing general interest in politics and civic engagement.
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell announced Wednesday that he will block the confirmations of federal circuit court nominees from now until after the November elections, citing what he claims is a Senate tradition sometimes called the “Thurmond Rule.” Ten percent of federal judgeships are vacant, creating caseload backlogs so large that 30 of those seats are considered “judicial emergencies.”
“Senate Republicans have once again put politics ahead of the needs of the American people,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “Blocking the president’s well-qualified nominees seriously hampers the ability of the federal courts to serve Americans who seek justice in a court of law.
“Acting on the president’s nominations is the Senate’s responsibility to the American people. Unfortunately, politics is the GOP’s top priority, and it’s clear that Senator McConnell would prefer to keep the judiciary dangerously understaffed in hopes of someday filling those seats with a Republican president’s nominees. Because obstruction has been their strategy since losing the White House, most of the nominees caught in their trap would ordinarily have been confirmed long ago. Thanks to the GOP’s decision to shirk its responsibility by playing games, the backlog of nominees continues to grow and the American people are denied a fully functioning justice system.
“The President’s nominees awaiting confirmation are well qualified and will serve fairly and impartially. Almost all received strong bipartisan support from the Senate Judiciary Committee. There is absolutely no legitimate reason to block these confirmations, and the GOP should be ashamed to cite an indefensible tradition to justify this act.”
President Obama yesterday named two nominees for the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, Caitlin Halligan and Sri Srinivasan. People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan issued the following statement:
“We applaud President Obama for renominating Catilin Halligan to the D.C. Circuit, the nation's second highest court. Halligan has unimpeachable qualifications and is clearly qualified for a lifetime seat on this court. In the midst of a pervasive vacancy crisis on the federal bench, it is galling that Halligan’s confirmation was blocked by the relentless partisanship of Senate Republicans last year. She would bring an impressive resume to the court, and her nomination should be taken up and approved by the Judiciary Committee, which is already well acquainted with her record, as soon as possible.
“Sri Srinivasan was also nominated by President Obama. While we are glad to have a nominee for this important circuit, we have questions, based on Srinivasan’s record, about the extent of his commitment to civil liberties, legal protections for workers and the rights of individual Americans. An expeditious hearing by the Judiciary Committee is the best way for senators – and the American people – to learn more about the nominee and we urge the prompt scheduling of those hearings to consider his positions.
“There is also a third vacancy on this extremely important court and we urge the president to act expeditiously to nominate an individual for this seat with the credentials, professional background and demonstrated record of commitment to ensuring that the rights and interests of all Americans are adequately protected.”
The Senate today defeated a filibuster of the nomination of Andrew Hurwitz of Arizona to sit on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a 60-31 cloture vote. Once he is confirmed, Hurwitz, currently a justice on the Arizona Supreme Court, will fill one of 90 vacancies and 31 officially-designated judicial emergencies nationwide. He will serve on the Ninth Circuit, the busiest federal appeals court in the country. Despite the support of both of his Republican home-state senators and bipartisan approval in the Judiciary Committee, Republicans stalled Hurwitz's nomination on the Senate floor for over three months.
“Andrew Hurwitz, whose experience includes nine years on the Arizona Supreme Court, is clearly qualified to sit on the Ninth Circuit,” said Marge Baker of People For the American Way. “President Obama nominated a highly qualified jurist who garnered bipartisan support. Senators McCain and Kyl recognized his qualifications and supported his nomination to the Ninth Circuit, and he was approved by the Judiciary Committee with unanimous Democratic and significant Republican support. Yet for the Republican leadership who have blocked ongoing Democratic efforts to schedule a vote, that wasn't enough to earn Justice Hurwitz a timely vote from the Senate, even for a vacancy that's so urgent it's been labeled a ‘judicial emergency.’ Filibusters used to be reserved for only the most controversial of nominees. Today, Senate Republicans seem eager to block the workings of Congress and the courts at every opportunity.”
Last week, American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer urged the government to stop the use of military facilities for same-sex commitment and marriage ceremonies after a military chaplain at Fort Polk, a training base in Louisiana, performed a commitment ceremony at a chapel between a female service member and her civilian partner. Following Fischer’s tirade, Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) appeared on the AFA radio show Today’s Issues with AFA president Tim Wildmon and Family Research Council head Tony Perkins to denounce the ceremony. In a statement, the congressman decried the ceremony as part of a “liberal social experiment” and urged Congress to approve “legislation that prevents military facilities from being used for same-sex marriages or marriage-like ceremonies.”
Fleming told Wildmon and Perkins that the commitment ceremony and the ensuing attention it received, which was primarily coming from conservative detractors, was a distraction that undermined the “oath to protect our nation.” He said that the chaplain and the couple acted in a “rogue state” and tried to “push their own personal agenda using U.S. military facilities.” Later, Fleming said that the occasion was part of a larger attempt to “create a normative acceptance of something that really is not part of our customs or culture”:
Instead of training our young men and women to be ready for battle, they’re having to deal with this stuff, and I think that that is first and foremost the wrong venue to have any type of protest or mock ceremonies. I don’t think that—you know, my responsibility as a member of Congress is first speak to it that we protect our nation with a common defense, that’s a Constitutional requirement for me, and certainly those members who’ve sworn an oath to protect our nation and put their lives on the line. And yet we have this couple and this chaplain who went off on their own, in kind of a rogue state to do something, to push their own personal agenda using U.S. military facilities, so that is my first objection to this.
You know the second part of this is, this is really propagating an agenda, is to try to normalize or create a normative acceptance of something that really is not part of our customs or culture, for the most part certainly, if you understand that most states do have some sort of ban on same-sex marriage, very few actually accept it, again this is using military facilities to create a normative behavior.