Steve Benen: High court largely sidesteps affirmative action case in 7-1 ruling
One of the four biggest cases of the current Supreme Court term deals with the constitutionality of affirmative action in a case called Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. The ruling came down this morning, and in a 7-1 decision, the high court majority sent the case back to the lower court to be heard again.
NBC: Supreme Court raises bar for affirmative action in college admissions
The Supreme Court on Monday allowed affirmative action to survive in college admissions but imposed a tough legal standard, ruling that schools must prove there are “no workable race-neutral alternatives” to achieve diversity on campus.
While the ruling was not a sweeping pronouncement on the future of affirmative action, it amounts to a warning to colleges nationwide that the courts will treat race-conscious admissions policies with a high degree of skepticism.
Random Pic: President Obama talks with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew outside the Oval Office, May 1, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
11:45: The President meets with Secretary of the Treasury Lew
12:0: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney
2:0: The President meets with CEOs, business owners and entrepreneurs to discuss the importance of commonsense immigration reform
NYT: Within days, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a series of decisions that could transform three fundamental social institutions: marriage, education and voting.
The extraordinary run of blockbuster rulings due in the space of a single week will also reshape the meaning of legal equality and help define for decades to come one of the Constitution’s grandest commands: “the equal protection of the laws.”
If those words require only equal treatment from the government, the rulings are likely to be a mixed bag that will delight and disappoint liberals and conservatives in equal measure. Under that approach, same-sex couples who want to marry would be better off at the end of the term, while blacks and Hispanics could find it harder to get into college and to vote.
SCOTUS Blog: On Monday, June 24, we will begin live blogging at 9 a.m. ET.
Michael Tomasky: Today begins one of the biggest weeks in the Supreme Court’s recent history. Certainly the biggest since it decided on Obamacare almost exactly a year ago, and I would say even bigger, because while that was a huge deal in a news sense, these decisions will drill right into the muscle and bone of our competing constitutional theories in this country—whether the Constitution is a living document that permits judges to use it to reach conclusions about changing social morality (the liberal view), or whether it should do no such thing and judges should never think about “outcomes” (the conservative one). The decisions should certainly focus liberals’ minds on what a crucial role the Court plays in shaping our lives, and the fact that we have four justices, two on each side, age 75 or older is a reminder of how the next president may well shape the nature and size of the Court’s majority for at least a generation to come, maybe two.
Time: Republicans used their majority to cut short debate and give preliminary approval early Monday to some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country as time was running out on the Texas Legislature’s special session.
Many members of the conservative majority had flyers on their desks that read “Psalm 139:13-14,” which reads in part, “You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Democrats gained strength from more than 800 demonstrators who packed the hallways of the Capitol carrying signs reading, “Stop the War on Women” to oppose Senate Bill 5. The measure would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, require doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and limit abortions to surgical centers.
Steve Benen: Where in the world is Edward Snowden?” is proving to be a rather complicated question.
….. there was apparently some drama in Moscow’s airport this morning, when there was heavy security surrounding a flight to Havana. Journalists tracking Snowden’s whereabouts quickly bought tickets on the flight, only to discover once they were on board and the doors were shut that he would not be on the plane.
It is, incidentally, a 12-hour flight from Moscow to Havana, which those journalists are apparently taking for no reason. On the other hand, it’ll be a whole lot of frequent-flier miles for them.
….. All of this, by the way, is turning into quite an international media spectacle. The New York Times front-page report on Snowden’s whereabouts this morning featured reporting from ten journalists in five cities on two continents…. Who knew the Snowden story would become a full-employment initiative for reporters?
President Obama watches as Julia Pierson is sworn in as the first woman Director of the Secret Service by VP Biden in the Oval Office, March 27 (Photo: Pete Souza)
President Obama was interviewed by Univision and Telemundo today – the interviews are embargoed until 6:30PM EST
Steve Benen: After yesterday’s Supreme Court oral arguments on marriage rights and California’s Prop 8, court watchers and those on hand for the proceedings seemed reluctant to predict the outcome. It’s not just that speculation based solely on oral arguments is inherently risky, but also that real uncertainty hangs over the case.
That seems far less true 24 hours later. NBC’s Pete Williams told viewers this afternoon, “Again with the caveat, it’s always risky to predict, it does seem that there are at least five votes on the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.” Jeffrey Toobin added, “DOMA is in trouble.”
The New York Times report noted that Justice Kennedy “joined the four liberals in posing skeptical questions.”
Charles Pierce: Today, in the second half of the marriage equality twin-bill before the Supreme Court, the Defense Of Marriage Act gets its day in front of the be-robed ladies and gentlemen, and we might at last be putting the 1996 presidential campaign, and the influence of political Svengali Dick Morris, behind us. We may see the end of the era of triangulation. Yesterday, it became clear to most observers that the Court was fully prepared to punt on the case involving California’s Proposition 8, letting the issue devolve back to the states. That is not an option here. Either DOMA’s denial of over 1000 federal benefits and protections available to straight couples is constitutional or it is not. There are a number of reasons why it may not be, most of them involving such fundamental constitutional principles as equal protection of the laws, the full faith and credit clause, and the enumerated powers of the Congress. Politically, however, the law is both preposterous and obsolete.
McClatchy: President Obama will meet Thursday with mothers who want to see gun control efforts succeed, the White House says, amid questions of whether gun control legislation is lagging, some 100 days after the school shooting in Connecticut.
Obama will meet with law enforcement officials, victims of gun violence and other “stakeholders,” spokesman Josh Earnest said. The event comes as Obama’s gun violence prevention proposals have faced a series of roadblocks: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., last week announced that an assault weapons ban she championed won’t be included in the larger gun bill Democrats will introduce on the Senate floor next month.
Joe Deaser (The Hill): As a proud gun store owner, an avid outdoorsman, and a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, I know that recreational firearm use can be a safe, family-friendly activity that builds community and benefits everyone who takes part. But I also know that with our constitutional right to bear arms comes a responsibility to protect our loved ones and our neighbors from the devastating effects of gun violence.
In order to do just that, my fellow gun owners must come together to support perhaps the most logical and pragmatic gun safety measure currently under consideration in Washington: expanding the existing background check system to require criminal background checks for each and every gun sale.
Charles Pierce: Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota is rapidly moving to the top of the leader board for this year’s Al From Trophy, which the blog hands out annually to its least favorite putative Democrat. (The scramble for the cup has become frenzied since the retirement of perennial contenders Evan Bayh and Joe Lieberman, who were the Frazier and Ali of disreputable political sellouts.) Today, she pretty much told Michael Bloomberg to keep those (black) criminals in New York City in line before he spends all his (newyorkjew) money up in Jesusland to tell the people there what’s what about their shootin’ ‘arns.
…. according to the rookie senator, gun violence is not a national issue requiring national solutions, because that might inconvenience her in her increasingly ridiculous home state.
Sun-Times: First Lady Michelle Obama returns home to Chicago on April 10 to address youth violence in Chicago, marking her first local move to deal with reducing crime in her city.
According to the White House, Mrs. Obama will speak at a “Joint Luncheon Meeting: Working Together to Address Youth Violence in Chicago,” hosted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, which will include members of Chicago’s leading civic organizations: the Commercial Club, the Economic Club, the Executives’ Club, and World Business Chicago.
Steve Benen: It’s been about two weeks since Brian Beutler coined a helpful phrase: “sequestration NIMBYism.” Republicans love the sequester policy they hated as recently as last month, and think it’s terrific that these deep, mindless spending cuts have taken effect.
But they’re not at all pleased about sequestration cuts that hurt their own constituents…
Vice President Joe Biden participates in a post-game cheer with the University of Delaware’s Lady Blue Hens in their locker room after their 78-69 victory over the University of North Carolina in the 2nd round of the NCAA playoffs, at Bob Carper Arena in Newark
Perry Bacon: While polls differ on the exact level of black support for gay marriage, almost half of African-Americans in Maryland backed a provision allowing gay marriages there last fall, and opposition to gay marriage has dipped below 50 percent among blacks nationally, according to the Pew Research Center. And Obama’s statement made it easier for influential African-American organizations, such as the NAACP, also to voice their support for gay marriage, as well as professional athletes, even if some influential pastors in many black communities still opposed it.
Obama’s words also caused a profound shift among his fellow politicians. It had always been expected Obama would declare his support for gay marriage, but in 2013 or 2014, after he had won re-election by focusing on other issues. Instead, the president illustrated backing gay marriage was not politically risky, declaring his support for gay unions and then winning not just in liberal states like California and New York but in Ohio, Virginia, Florida and other places with sizable blocs of conservatives and religious voters who some thought would turn out in droves to defeat a candidate who supported gay marriage.
Obama did not tout himself as the civil rights candidate in either of his two presidential runs. But if gay marriage becomes commonplace throughout America by the end of his second term, something that seems entirely possible right now, that could become an important part of his legacy as president.
Jamelle Bouie: Indeed, it’s tempting to argue—as Chris Cillizza does—that national outrage notwithstanding, the Sandy Hook massacre has done little to change the political landscape on gun control.
This, to me, is the wrong way to think of the issue. The shift from a political climate that could tolerate gun control to one that couldn’t took more than a decade. Even with the tragedies at Newtown, Aurora, and other places across the country, it’s unreasonable to expect the pendulum to swing back at a more rapid pace. What’s key about Sandy Hook isn’t that it yields new legislation, it’s that it inspires new activism around gun control, and provides energy for the long effort to build a political coalition unafraid of the cultural politics that surround guns.
Sandy Hook—helped along by a new Democratic majority of urbanites and nonwhites—has changed the politics of gun control. It will just take awhile for us to see the effects.
How To Prove Obama LOWERED The Deficit In Four Easy And Indisputable Steps
Addicting Info: The GOP, Fox News and AM Hate Radio regularly complain that Obama has raised the deficit. This is a lie. A very VERY big lie. It’s such a big lie and so easy to prove as a big lie that the fact 90% of the country thinks it’s true is one the greatest failures of the “liberal” media since they couldn’t be bothered to vet the Iraq War. The problem is that conservatives don’t want to know, independents can’t be bothered to look and liberals should be deeply ashamed for not knowing.
But worry not! It’s very VERY easy to clear up this misperception (and piss off conservatives to boot!) in just 4 simple steps.
How Getting Rid Of The Defense Of Marriage Act Will Boost The Economy
ThinkProgress: The Supreme Court will today hear oral arguments in the case against the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that denies equal federal benefits to couples who are legally married under state law and also burdens families and the federal government.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that DOMA increases the deficit by roughly $1 billion a year, and while that amount is small, striking it down would save far more than ending subsidies to NPR or some of the other “deficit reduction” ideas Republicans have pursued in the past.
Today in egg on face derp news from Chris Cillizza. He’s shocked that people still really really really like President Obama. :roll:
People (still) really like President Obama
Chris Cillizza: Nearly six in ten Americans have a favorable impression of President Obama in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, numbers that suggest that even as the chief executive engages in a series of thorny policy fights his personal appeal remains strongly intact.
Fifty-seven percent of people view Obama favorably in the new Post-ABC survey while 41 percent regard him unfavorably. Those numbers are remarkably similar to the 60 percent favorable/37 percent unfavorable ratings for Obama in Post-ABC polling conducted in late January — just weeks after the president had been inaugurated for a second term.
Bloomberg: Sales of new U.S. houses in February capped the best back-to-back months in more than four years, spurred by near record-low borrowing costs and improving job prospects.
…. The increase in demand is contributing to growth as it ripples through the economy, boosting home-improvement retailers, appliance and furniture makers and builders….
“Housing is going to have a strong year this year and it’s going to have a strong year next year,” said Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight …. “Housing is one of the key factors that’s going to get the economy back on track.”
Join VoteVets.org and tell your Senators that you support universal background checks – here
Thank you LadyHawke
A bit late with this:
You couldn’t make it up…..
Mediaite: Vocally “anti-Sharia law” GOP lawmakers in Tennessee had their fears quelled this week when they were assured that a mop sink in one state Capitol building was not secretly installed for use as a Muslim foot-washing station.
WH: Yesterday, President Obama signed proclamations establishing five new national monuments that celebrate our nation’s rich history and natural heritage. The monuments, located in Delaware, Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio and Washington, help tell the story of significant people and extraordinary events in American history, and also help protect natural resources and supporting economic growth in local communities through tourism and outdoor recreation.
“These sites honor the pioneering heroes, spectacular landscapes and rich history that have shaped our extraordinary country,” President Obama said. “By designating these national monuments today, we will ensure they will continue to inspire and be enjoyed by generations of Americans to come.”
VP Biden quite pleased about President Obama signing a bill designating the First State Monument, in Delaware, a National Monument, during a bill signing ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House on March 25
MoooOOOOoooorning (again) everyone, thanks again to Symmetry for the post below.
Steve Benen: It will be a historic day at the Supreme Court this morning, as part of a historic week. Today, the justices will consider the constitutionality of California’s ban on same-sex marriage, a law generally known as Proposition 8, followed by related arguments tomorrow challenging the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act. Let’s briefly review what to expect today.
At issue is a case called Hollingsworth v. Perry, brought forward by legal heavyweights — David Boies and former Solicitor General Ted Olson, who faced against one another in Bush v. Gore — challenging California’s ban, approved in 2008. They were successful at both the federal district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, though as Adam Liptak explained, the latter court issued a narrower ruling: the jurists concluded that “voters were not entitled to withdraw a constitutional right once it had been established by the State Supreme Court.”
The reasoning appeared calculated to appeal to Justice Anthony Kennedy, and if upheld, it would not automatically invalidate other bans on marriage equality in other states. More on him later.
Alaska Sen. Mark Begich Says “Same Sex Couples Should Be Able To Marry”
BuzzFeed: “I believe that same sex couples should be able to marry and should have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other married couple,” the Alaskan senator said in what appears to be his first direct statement on the subject.
“Government should keep out of individuals’ personal lives—if someone wants to marry someone they love, they should be able to. Alaskans are fed up with government intrusion into our private lives, our daily business, and in the way we manage our resources and economy,” he continued.
Starbucks CEO Doubles Down on Gay-Marriage Support, Telling Shareholder to Sell Stake if He Doesn’t Like Views
Time: “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much,” Schultz said, to applause from the audience.
SCOTUSBlog: At 10 a.m. we expect one or more opinions in argued cases. There will be no live blog this morning, but we will post on opinions promptly.
Following opinions, the Justices will hear oral argument in Hollingsworth v. Perry, a challenge to the constitutionality of California’s ban on same-sex marriage. Lyle has written on the issues and briefs in the case here, here, here, and here. Amy’s preview “In Plain English” is here. A Q&A on the basics of the same-sex marriage cases from Greg Stohr of Bloomberg is here.
USA Today: Rain, snow, and heavy winds have forced a change in President Obama’s schedule for Wednesday: No Alabama football. The Crimson Tide, prepared to celebrate their third national championship in four years with another White House ceremony, canceled their flight from Tuscaloosa on Tuesday because of bad weather. Instead, Obama will have a string of private meetings while riding out the storm today.
Reuters: Private employers added 198,000 jobs in February, the biggest increase in a year and another sign of improvement in the labor market, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday.
Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP National Employment Report would show a gain of 170,000 jobs. January’s private payrolls were revised up to an increase of 215,000 from the previously reported 192,000.
TPM: President Obama will hold a signing ceremony Thursday for the Violence Against Women Act, which recently passed Congress. He and Vice President Joe Biden, the original author of VAWA in 1994, will make remarks.
They’ll be joined, according to the White House, “by women’s organizations, law enforcement officials, tribal leaders, survivors, advocates and members of Congress.”
Jonathan Chait: Michael J. Boskin – former George W. Bush economic adviser, Hoover Institute fellow, and staunch advocate of conservative anti-tax doctrine – appears today, as is his wont, in The Wall Street Journal op-ed pages to warn that the Democratic president’s economic policies will lead us to misery.
If you are an investor, Boskin’s doomsaying is a sure sign of a coming bull market. Four years ago, Boskin penned a Journal op-ed whose thesis was captured in the headline, “Obama’s Radicalism Is Killing The Dow.” That was the signal for the Dow to go on a tear, doubling over the next four years…..
One might suppose that Boskin has simply suffered a single unfortunate coincidence. In fact, his career is a mighty testament to the power of enduring, invincible wrongness…..
NYT: With Republican leaders in Congress forswearing budget negotiations over new revenues, President Obama has begun reaching around them to Republican lawmakers with a history of willingness to cut bipartisan deals.
Mr. Obama has invited about a dozen Republican senators out to dinner on Wednesday night, after speaking with several of them by phone in recent days, according to people familiar with the invitation. And next week, according to those people and others who did not want to be identified, he will make a rare foray to Capitol Hill to meet separately with the Republican and Democratic caucuses in both the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House.
Washington Post: Some of the gun lobby’s strongest allies are breaking with the National Rifle Association to support proposals that would expand background checks for private firearm sales.
In behind-the-scenes talks with congressional staff members and others, gunmakers, dealers and other Second Amendment advocates have offered support for more instant criminal background checks, buoying the hopes of gun-control supporters, including President Obama, who has put a top priority on extending criminal checks to private sales.
USA Today: President Obama’s trip to Israel this month is just about set except for one big thing: A new Israeli government. Israel’s Channel 10 is reporting that Obama’s trip may be pushed back if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unable to form a new coalition government by March 16.
TPM: A number of Republican senators Tuesday either didn’t know or wouldn’t say if they consider the Voting Rights Act to be constitutional, even though many of them voted to reauthorize it in 2006 and the Supreme Court is currently considering whether to invalidate a key section of it.
As they entered and exited weekly party luncheons Tuesday afternoon …. Every one of them dodged the questions, some more artfully than others.
“Uh,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, before a long, awkward pause, “I haven’t even thought about it.” He laughed and said, “I’ll leave that to the courts….”
A year ago: President Barack Obama and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick listen as students from Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury, Mass., perform Dr. Marin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Feb. 28, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
The President has no public appearances scheduled
12:0 EST: First Lady Michelle Obama will return to her hometown of Chicago to make a major announcement about bringing physical activity back to schools. She will be joined by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, NIKE President & CEO Mark Parker, Dominique Dawes, Gabby Douglas, Allyson Felix, Bob Harper, Bo Jackson, Colin Kaepernick, Sarah Reinertsen, Paul Rodriguez, Serena Williams, a surprise musical guest and thousands of Chicago area teachers and students (Details here)
12:30 EST: Press briefing by Jay Carney
3:25 EST: First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Springfield, Missouri to see changes Walmart has made as part of the company’s commitment to Let’s Move! to open or expand up to 300 stores in communities with limited access to healthy, affordable food. (Details here)
Bloomberg: Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, showing companies were looking beyond looming government spending cuts and maintaining staffing.
Jobless claims decreased by 22,000 to 344,000 in the week ended Feb. 23, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast of 44 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 360,000 applications. The number of people collecting unemployment insurance dropped to the lowest level since June 2008.
Dana Milbank: For a quarter-century, Antonin Scalia has been the reigning bully of the Supreme Court, but finally a couple of justices are willing to face him down.
As it happens, the two manning up to take on Nino the Terrible are women: the court’s newest members, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
The acerbic Scalia, the court’s longest-serving justice, got his latest comeuppance Wednesday morning, as he tried to make the absurd argument that Congress’s renewal of the Voting Rights Act in 2006 by votes of 98 to 0 in the Senate and 390 to 33 in the House did not mean that Congress actually supported the act. Scalia, assuming powers of clairvoyance, argued that the lawmakers were secretly afraid to vote against this “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”
Kagan wasn’t about to let him get away with that….
Washington Post: Seeking to avoid a protracted and politically damaging fight over reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Republican leaders are prepared to allow the House to vote Thursday on a version of the bill favored by Democrats, an unusual move that acknowledges GOP divisions on the touchy issue.
The House will vote first on a Republican version of the bill, which authorizes funding for programs to aid prosecution of domestic violence and sexual assault cases and assist victims.
But with Democrats unified in opposition and Republicans divided, the GOP’s alternative appears likely to fail.
Steve Benen: Given how contentious the process was surrounding Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s confirmation process, it was easy to forget that Jack Lew’s Treasury Secretary nomination was advancing at roughly the same time – and Senate Republicans don’t like him, either….
But with his detractors unable to generate any meaningful controversies, and with Hagel drawing the most fire, Lew managed to earn confirmation late yesterday without much trouble.
…. Consider it this way: President Obama nominated a qualified official to a key cabinet post; the nominee had already been subjected to Senate confirmation processes before – five times – and had never received an opposition vote; and the nominee’s detractors couldn’t find anything especially wrong with him. But when it was time for a vote, 25 of the Senate’s 45 Republicans opposed the nomination anyway.
Michigan Chronicle: … On Wednesday, the statue of civil rights icon Rosa Parks was unveiled at the U.S. Capitol ….. The audience included many of Parks’ surviving relatives, most of whom currently live in Detroit.
One moment that stole the show was an adorable photo snapped of President Obama with one of the legendary leader’s youngest family members. It shows 3-year-old Terrell Anderson Jr. in the arms of our nation’s leader as he curiously touches his hair.