Nel's New Day

October 21, 2013

Good News after the Shutdown

Recent news seems to be better than usual. We’re probably in a honeymoon period after the government re-opened and a few of the GOP members of Congress seem mildly chastened, but I’ll just enjoy what we have today.

Gov. Chris Christie has decided to stop fighting marriage equality in New Jersey. A judge ruled that same-sex couples could marry in that state this month—beginning yesterday, in fact—but Christie appealed the decision, asking for a stay of ceremonies until after the appeal. The judge turned him down, and the governor’s office submitted a formal withdrawal of the appeal to the state Supreme Court this morning. New Jersey is the 14th state to legalize marriage equality.

In my state of Oregon, the attorney general has ruled that the all government agencies in the state must recognize all legal out-of-state marriages, whether performed in other states or other countries. A campaign is still collecting signatures to put marriage equality on the ballot in 2014 by removing the ban from the state constitution. Over 100,000 signatures of the necessary 116,284 have already been gathered. Meanwhile two couples are suing the state to legalize marriage equality. Suits are popping up in several other states that discriminate against gay and lesbian marriage.

Opinion about the GOP has not faired well with the aftermath of the government shutdown. A new survey from Pew Research shows that unfavorable views of the Tea Party have doubled in the past three years from 25 percent in 2010, when the extremists took over the House of Representatives, to 49 percent last week. Only 30 percent of the people have a favorable view of the group that shut down the government for 16 days.

Tea Party

A majority of Americans also think that the GOP control of the House is bad for the country, and even more want House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) replaced. The 54 percent who oppose the GOP rule is up over 25 percent from the 43 percent in December 2012, the last fiscal standoff. Another 63 percent want Boehner replaced.

An NBC/WSJ shows that 24 percent of people approve of the GOP, a record low. Gallup, usually more positive than other surveys, found only 28 percent approval of the GOP. Congress has a 12 percent approval rating with 86 percent of the respondents disapproving, according to the CNN/ORC International poll. President Obama’s ratings haven’t changed since last June, and 44 percent are more confident that he can handle problems facing the U.S., compared to the 31 percent who think that the GOP can. Another 21 percent expressed no confidence in both that the president and the GOP.

For a month the Internet has been reporting the possibility of Democrats taking back the House. I have serious doubts because of the heavy gerrymandering done in the majority of the GOP-controlled states, but this idea keeps popping up. A new survey of 25 GOP-held districts shows dwindling favorability for Republican members of the House in the wake of the recent government shutdown, indicating excellent chances for a Democratic candidate.

In ten of these districts, the incumbent Republican is trailing a generic Democrat. Adding this survey to previous ones, generic candidates lead in 27 of 61 GOP-held districts. When voters were informed their Republican candidate supported the government shutdown, 11 more districts flipped, and one race became a tie. The Dems would have to add 18 seats to the existing 200 in order to achieve control of the House. Unfortunately, voters have very bad memories, but bad behavior in January and February with the possibility of another shutdown might renew a negative impression of the GOP legislators.

Negative press may be the reason that Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR), who came in with fellow Tea Partiers less than three years ago, has announced that he will not seek re-election. As usual, he used the family responsibilities. Griffin is a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, and a nonpartisan report rates his district as “safe Republican.” Griffin was Karl Rove’s protege of Karl Rove and appointed as an interim U.S. attorney in Little Rock in 2006 after a scandal in which several U.S. attorneys were fired by the administration. He was never confirmed by the Senate and later resigned the position.

Another interesting race is for Kentucky senator. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is being attacked by the Tea Party on one side and Democratic candidate Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes on the other. She has run a tough campaign thus far with her infamous description of Congress: “The GOP has come to stand for gridlock, obstruction and partisanship. If doctors told Senator McConnell he had a kidney stone, he’d refuse to pass it.”

McConnell tried to pick up some points during the government shutdown by negotiating with Harry Reid and then announcing that this can never happen again. The final continuing appropriations resolution also provided his state with a $3 billion earmark. Yet Grimes’ one-point lead doubled during the shutdown to 45-43 as 60 percent of the people in the state opposed the government closures. The Affordable Care Act, which McConnell vehemently opposes, has been very successful in Kentucky.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is still looking good in the Tea Party despite his determination to eliminate the Affordable Care Act at all costs. Time, a publication popular with conservatives, announced that he “potentially violated ethics rules by failing to publicly disclose his financial relationship with a Caribbean-based holding company during the 2012 campaign.” When he was caught in 2013, he reported the financial relationship by amending his mandatory financial disclosure documents but is now being forced to submit a second amended disclosure after an inquiry by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics.

When good news comes out of the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s usually because they have refused to hear a case. Last week justices said they wouldn’t review a decision that upheld the Maryland gun law requiring residents to demonstrate a “good and substantial reason” to get a permit to carry a handgun outside their own home or business. The state is one of six “may issue” states mandating this reason. Maryland law does not recognize a vague threat or general fear as an adequate reason for obtaining a permit. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law.

Maryland residents can carry a gun at their home or business or while hunting with no permit. The new Maryland law that went into effect at the beginning of October will most likely be the subject of court cases. One of the nation’s tightest gun laws, it bans 45 types of assault weapons, though people who owned the weapons before the new law was passed are allowed to keep them. People must also submit fingerprints to get a license to buy a handgun. That law is also being challenged in court.

Another court case that SCOTUS turned down comes from Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a candidate for governor, and his obsession with outlawing sodomy and oral sex. Ignoring the fact that SCOTUS struck down anti-sodomy laws ten years ago, Virginia kept the law on the books, and Cuccinelli wanted to use it to prosecute cases involving minors. Last July, Cuccinelli unveiled a website for the law and said that he planned to put it back on the books. He also blocked the Virginia legislature from changing the law to conform to the SCOTUS ruling.

The law, however, clearly includes all people, including adults, who engage in oral or anal sex, and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals deemed it unconstitutional.

Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign isn’t very successful either, partly because of his close relationship to Ted Cruz. Last week’s poll shows the GOP candidate down seven points to Terry McAuliffe. A recent ad gives evidence of Cuccinelli’s role in shutting down the government. Virginia was the state most hurt by the federal shutdown. Another of Cuccinelli’s problems is the restrictive laws regarding women’s reproductive rights in the state that has frequently brought out protesters.

As Scarlet O’Hara said in Gone with the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.” But for today, this news is good.

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