Democrats Sit In on Gun Control Amendments
So! As you have perhaps learned by now, many Democrats have joined together in a sit-in on the floor of the House to try to force agreement on an amendment that would prohibit people on a government terrorist watch list from buying guns. The situation, as NYT put it, “led to pandemonium,” especially in the hands of relatively new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
The standoff, which began with a Democratic sit-in on the House floor just before noon on Wednesday, did not end until about 3 a.m. Thursday when Mr. Ryan — barreling over Democrats’ objections — took the rare and provocative step of calling a vote on a major appropriations bill in the wee hours and without any debate. He then adjourned the House, with no legislative votes scheduled until July 5.
You can see a rough timeline of the whole situation here; some highlights are when Ryan ordered the cameras in the House shut off to try to deflect attention from the sit-in, when Elizabeth Warren arrived with Dunkin’ Donuts, and when Bernie Sanders appears to have arrived at exactly 4:20 pm. The evening featured chanting, singing, and Periscoping. Also, in the course of looking for that I found the last time this move was pulled, in 1995. From the NYT in 1995:
“In the House, where members had been promised that they could leave by 2 P.M., solid Democratic opposition to adjournment embarrassed Republicans into staying. The final vote was 361 to 32…. After the House vote, Republicans did not resume business but called an indefinite recess; later, they said it would last until Monday. Democrats stayed, shouting, ‘Work, work, work,’ then held a two-hour rally, although Republicans turned the television cameras off and ordered the House restaurant to close.”
Some things change, some things stay the same.
All jokes aside, however, and aside from the logistics of the sit-in there’s a lot to be discussed as far as the actual legislation itself. The bill itself only limits gun ownership for people on the government’s “terrorist watch list,” the contents of which are secret and inaccessible to the public. Also secret is how and why people are added to or removed from the list. As most security measures that ostensibly prevent terrorism in the US do, terrorist and no-fly lists appear to disproportionately target Arab-Americans and Muslims. As Gawker puts it:
The no-fly list is a civil rights disaster by every conceivable standard. It is secret, it disproportionately affects Arab-Americans, it is error-prone, there is no due process or effective recourse for people placed on the list, and it constantly and relentlessly expands. As of 2014, the government had a master watchlist of 680,000 people, forty percent of whom had “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” This is both an absurdly large number of people to arbitrarily target in gun control legislation, and far, far too few to have any meaningful effect on actual gun ownership, let alone gun violence.
Discourse around this is very emotionally charged, with people feeling relief at seeing any action at all around gun control legislation, people who fear that if this legislation does pass it will provide a basis for surveilling and targeting Black and brown people and Muslims, and people who feel both.
So what’s the outlook, then, on this legislation actually becoming law after this sit-in? The House is on a break right now until later in July, so nothing is happening on it right now. According to Reuters, “Representative Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, told Reuters that lawmakers would now go back to their home districts to try to build support for legislation,” and Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who led the sit-in, said “We must keep the faith and we must come back here … more determined than ever before.”
The SCOTUS released many rulings today on important cases! Here’s a brief rundown. (There will also be a major SCOTUS ruling announced Monday on abortion-related case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt!)
+ In the case of Fisher vs. University of Texas at Austin, the case in which Abigail Fisher sued UT claiming that she, a white woman, was only denied admission to UT because of affirmative action. The SCOTUS voted 4-3 that UT’s affirmative action policy is constitutional and can continue to run (it was a seven-person vote, I believe, because Elena Kagan recused herself).
+ SCOTUS had a split vote, 4-4, on a case regarding DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)/DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans), which has the end result of leaving the original ruling against a proposed that the case was appealing in place. This means that Obama’s proposed plan, which would have shielded up to five million undocumented people from deportation, is blocked from moving forward. There will likely be another attempt at pushing it through and/or an appeals process, but for the time being, millions of people are left vulnerable.
+ The SCOTUS was also split on a ruling in the Dollar General case, which concerned whether the tribal courts of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians had the right to prosecute the sexual assault of a teen Choctaw boy. The split vote means that the tribal court ruling will be upheld, and the tribal courts will be able to retain their jurisdiction over crimes that occur on tribal land.
Order in the Court
There were also several important rulings today that didn’t happen in the SCOTUS.
+ A federal judge has struck down restrictions on protests at the Republican National Convention, which would have “certain items, including large backpacks, tape and string, and [limited] where within the 3.5 square mile zone demonstrators can speak and hold a parade.”
+ Baltimore’s Officer Caesar Goodson, the driver of the van that Freddie Gray died in and the only one of the officers involved with his death to be charged with murder, was found not guilty on all counts in a verdict released today.
+ A federal court has ruled that a Virginia school district must allow a trans teen boy to use the boy’s restroom.
+ One of the largest school districts in North Carolina has announced that students can use the facilities appropriate to their “self-declared identities”, in defiance of Pat McCrory’s anti-trans bathroom policies. McCrory’s camp is not pleased, calling it “”purposely breaking state law” and a move “that changes the basic expectations of privacy for students.” In point of fact it’s not clear whether the policy actually does contradict state law, given that the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against HB2 earlier this year.
Law & Order
+ Dennis Hastert, serial child abuser and former Speaker of the House, has surrendered himself to “serve 15 months in a federal prison hospital in Minnesota.” The Chicago Tribune predicts that “the sentence is expected to be about 12½ months with credits for good behavior.”
+ You may have read previously about Patrick Fox/Richard Riess, a Canadian man who dedicated his life to harassing and defaming his ex-wife over the internet, and boasted he couldn’t be stopped because he was in Canada and his ex-wife was in Arizona, meaning that law enforcement agencies wouldn’t believe he was a credible threat. Now he’s been arrested after crossing the US border. He was deported back to Canada, but his ex-wife says she worries he’ll try to come into the country again. She would like to file a defamation suit against him but cannot afford a lawyer. Here’s her fundraiser.
+ Toronto’s police chief agreed this week to apologize for raids on gay bathhouses in Toronto in 1981.
On 5 February 1981, 286 men were arrested on charges of prostitution and indecency when uniformed and plainclothes police officers stormed four of the largest gay bathhouses in the city. It remains one of the largest mass arrests in Canadian history, but the raids are now better remembered as the country’s equivalent to the Stonewall riots. “Gay people realized that they had to band together, they had to get political, and they had to stand up for their rights,” said Ron Rosenes, who was 33 when he was arrested at the Romans II bathhouse that night.
+ On Tuesday, 18-year-old Genele Laird was arrested at Madison, WI’s East Towne Mall; her arrest included officers kneeing her, punching, tasing, and putting a hood over her head, as they claim she was resisting arrest. Many in the Madison community are protesting her treatment and demanding her release from police custody.
“Here is a 120-pound kid, 18 years old,” said Caliph Muab’El, executive director of Breaking Barriers Mentoring Inc. “She was thrown to the ground, bag put over her head, punched, kicked and Tased … If that isn’t excessive force, I don’t know what is.”
+ Bernie Sanders has told C-SPAN “that he will likely not be the Democratic nominee for president.”
+ At Gawker, Ashley Feinberg considers the possibility of Trump quitting the race, and the ways that could potentially happen.
+ A federal lawsuit filed this week “accuses Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump of repeatedly raping a 13-year-old girl more than 20 years ago” at parties hosted by Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy investor and convicted sex offender. The victim says that at the time of the assault, she was told her family would be “physically harmed if not killed” if she told anyone. Gothamist reports that “The constant media spotlight on Trump, taxing her emotionally and mentally since last summer, apparently pushed her to come forward.”
+ On Tuesday in this column we noted that Trump has been spending campaign funds on his own companies, and now someone explores what I’ve been wondering since then: is that legal? The former chief ethics lawyer for George W. Bush says kind of, but Trump “has to walk a fine line when it comes to how much he’s charging himself.” If there’s one thing Trump is good at, it’s restraint, judiciousness and walking fine lines!
+ Missouri has an openly gay Miss Missouri, Erin O’Flaherty, for the first time.
+ Several different sites are circulating the demonstrably fake story that a Syrian refugee raped a chlid in Idaho. The story, which is, again, not true, was reportedly made up by “a small group of people in Twin Falls County whose life goal is to eliminate refugees.”
+ A group of pro-choice activists have used drones to deliver abortion pills to Northern Ireland, where abortion is illegal except when the mother’s life is at risk.
+ North Carolina’s voting laws are back in court to determine the legality of voter ID laws.
+ Paul Ryan says he’s got a new proposal that would replace the ACA, but in actuality it’s not very new or very good.
His document, which is a 37-page white paper rather than a piece of legislation, is still thin on details. It doesn’t include information about exactly how many people would be covered, exactly how much the proposal would cost, or exactly how much assistance Americans would receive in the form of tax credits to help them buy insurance. Instead, the paper cobbles together a collection of well-worn GOP proposals — like establishing high-risk pools for Americans with pre-existing conditions, allowing Americans to buy insurance across state lines, offering insurance to people with pre-existing conditions only if they’ve maintained continuous coverage, block granting the Medicaid program, and expanding Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) — that Republicans have been floating for the past two presidential election cycles. Though these ideas often make up the heart of Obamacare replacement plans, they haven’t been enough for Republicans to coalesce around actual legislation.
+ Pennsylvania state rep Charlie Dent had the bright idea to just package LGBT anti-discrimination legislation and RFRA together as a twofer — what could go wrong?
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) told BuzzFeed Tuesday that he plans to introduce a bill next month that would ban some forms of discrimination against LGBT people, but with exemptions to allow some discrimination by religious groups. He believes such a bill would actually have a chance of advancing because it would be sponsored by a Republican and because its “religious liberty protections should also give Republicans more comfort.” He seemed to suggest he was interested in allowing religious organizations to make hiring decisions based on their faith, like how Catholic organizations can only hire Catholics. “I’d be hesitant to expand that to the private sector,” he said, though he did not clarify exactly how we was contemplating classifying organizations. “That is something we would have to work out.”
(This is not a good idea for a bill, and will not get very far, I don’t think.)
+ In yet more data that affirms the Affordable Care Act has helped people get healthcare, “78 percent of new Medicaid participants reported they wouldn’t be able to get regular care without the expansion of the program,” and that rates of unmet healthcare for low-income people have dropped.
+ Today, the UK is voting on whether to leave the European Union or remain in it. ThinkProgress has a “procrastinator’s guide” if you need to catch up.
+ There’s a private lawsuit being filed against a private water company and engineering company for the (ongoing!) water crisis in Flint, MI — but some are worried it will help Michigan state officials and politicians escape responsibility for the urgent health crisis.
+ A report on the rising levels of violence against environmental defenders, especially indigenous people organizing to protect their land and rights.
+ For many people, it’s extremely expensive to exit the workforce to care for a family member.
+ An interview with BLM co-founder Alicia Garza on voting, disruptive black power, “all lives matter” and more.
Why is disruptive black power important?
It creates room to challenge the status quo, and to demonstrate our ability to stop bad things from happening. How disruptive black power is important is when it is directed strategically — disrupting institutions and corporations that prey upon our people is a great way to immediately stop harm, while also creating a political stage to win hearts and minds. Every successful social movement in this country’s history has used disruption as a strategy to fight for social change. Whether it was the Boston Tea Party to the sit-ins at lunch counters throughout the South, no change has been won without disruptive action.
+ A new report exploring climate litigation, filing lawsuits against corporations for their role in climate change.
+ Surprise! (Not a surprise.) State court judges are overwhelmingly white and male.
+ George W.’s daughter Barbara Bush is into Planned Parenthood, “enthusiastic supporter” of Cecile Richards.
“They are enthusiastic supporters of each other’s work,” Philip Galanes wrote, noting that the two women share a “great commonality: women’s and global health.” The Bush daughter runs an organization with her sister called Global Health Corps that supports young leaders in health care across the world. She told the Times that her organization and Planned Parenthood are both encouraging young people to create “social change.”
+ On how Orlando is being used to further anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic sentiment globally and in the US.
“The freedom that gay people should have — to kiss each other, to marry, to have children — is exactly what Islam is fighting against,” said [Geert Wilders, leader of the Netherlands’ far-right Party for Freedom], who is rare among anti-immigration politicians in Europe in also supporting gay rights. “They know exactly what it means to have Islam imported to your society.” Wilders, who said he would attend the Republican National Convention in the U.S. this summer, was encouraged that Donald Trump was making a similar pitch.