These United States

A wrap-up of news and worthy blog posts around the USA.

Senator Graham Angered Over Budget Cuts Affecting Charleston. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has vowed to bring the Senate to a standstill unless Congressional leaders agree to allocate $40,000 for a federal study on deepening the Port of Charleston. The funds were apparently cut in the budget deal averting a government shutdown. More from The Hill.

Tennessee Teacher Tenure Bill Signed into Law. Republican Governor Bill Haslam signed his teacher tenure bill into law Tuesday. The bill makes it harder for new teachers to win and keep tenure protections, lengthening the time it takes a teacher to qualify for tenure from three years to five. The story in the Chattanooga Free Press.

Say It Ain't So Joe. In Arizona, Maricopa County officials charged that the staff of controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio misspent $99.5 million in restricted jail funds over the last eight years. Budget officials said $84.7 million was misspent from the detention fund, while another $14.8 million in inmate-services funds were misspent. More from the Arizona Republic.

Barry Bonds Guilty of Obstruction. A jury in San Francisco today found former baseball player Barry Bonds guilty of obstruction of justice but deadlocked on three perjury counts. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston declared a mistrial on those counts and gave Federal prosecutors three weeks to decide whether the government would seek another trial. Bonds, the record holder for the most home runs in Major League history, faces up to two years in Federal prison. More from the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Right to Work" Legislation Vote Looms in New Hampshire Senate. A Senate committee yesterday in the Granite State recommended changing the law to prevent unions from charging nonmembers for a share of collective bargaining costs. The House passed right-to-work legislation in February. Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, has said he would veto it. House lawmakers voted 221-131 for the bill, so supporters would have to pick up votes to overturn a veto. More from the Concord Monitor.

State Budget Talks in Florida Break Down. Budget talks in the Sunshine State between the House and Senate broke down over a series of differences. Both Republican-dominated chambers agree on the need to cut nearly $4 billion in spending without raising taxes. But details are proving elusive, especially the costs of higher-education cuts and new requirements over public-employee pensions. The full story in the Miami Herald.

In Iowa, Terry Bransted Vetoes the Budget. GOP Governor Terry Branstad on Tuesday made good on his promise to veto one-year state budget bills when he rejected a bill approved by Iowa lawmakers that had appropriated nearly $351 million for state transportation programs solely for the coming state budget year that begins July 1. The Des Moines Register provides the full details on the budget impasse in Iowa.

Quick Hits

Here are some other items making the rounds today.

It's primary day in Kansas, Michigan, and Missouri. CNN has an overview.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continues to hold a narrow edge over the Tea Party extremist Sharron Angle in Nevada in the latest Reuters-Ipsos poll Among voters who said they are likely to vote, Reid held a 48-44 percent lead.

The Senate on Tuesday opened floor debate of on the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Five Republicans have already stated their intention to confirm while one Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, will not vote to confirm. The vote will likely be held Thursday or perhaps Friday before the Senate adjourns for its August recess. More from the New York Times.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged Tuesday that President Obama's presence in some districts would hurt Democratic candidates in the midterm elections. The Hill has more on Gibbs' remarks.

David Corn of Mother Jones profiles the outgoing GOP Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina who was ousted by the Tea Party backed candidate Trey Gowdy. In the article, Congressman Inglis Bob Inglis slams Republican demagoguery, bemoans anti-Semitic tea party conspiracy nonsense, decries Sarah Palin's ignorance, while he looks for a job.

Speaking of conservative extremism and purity tests in South Carolina, the Greenville County Republican Party voted 61 to 2 to rebuke Senator Lindsey Graham for not being conservative enough. The story from CNN.


Quick Hits

 Here are some other stories making news today.

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post writes that with today's vote by South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to confirm Elana Kagan as a Supreme Court Justice it all but assures that he will face a primary challenge come 2014 when he nexts faces the electorate. Cillizza also posits the names of some possible challengers including that of disgraced Governor Mark Sanford.

The editorial in today's New York Times gets to the heart of the matter as to why much of the GOP is so adamant to take a stand against Elana Kagan.


Yet dozens of Senate Republicans are ready to vote against her, and many are citing her interpretation of the commerce clause of the Constitution, the one that says Congress has the power to regulate commerce among the states. At her confirmation hearings, Ms. Kagan refused to take the Republican bait and agree to suggest limits on that clause’s meaning. This infuriated the conservatives on the Senate Judiciary Committee because it has been that clause, more than any other, that has been at the heart of the expansion of government power since the New Deal.


Joseph Paduda of Managed Care Matters has a short brilliant piece on the hypocrisy of the GOP in a post entitled Demagogues, Deficits and Healthcare.

Uber wingnut Michele Bachmann of Minnesota will hold her first meeting of the Tea Party Caucus tomorrow. Politico has the details on who is in and who is sitting this one out. Indiana's Mike Pence is in but apparently Eric Cantor of Virginia has opted not to join.

America's recent past may have been Mayberry RFD but perhaps our future is like that of Maywood, Califronia. The story in the New York Times.


Kagan Clears the Judiciary Committee on a Near Party Line Vote

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina voted in favor of the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, making him the only GOP member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to back President Obama’s pick for the nation's highest court. The panel, made up of 12 Democrats and seven Republicans, approved Kagan’s nomination by a near party line vote of 13-6. Every Democrat on the panel supported her, while every Republican other than Graham opposed her. The nomination now heads to the full Senate. A vote is expected before the Senate adjourns for its traditional August recess.

The highlight of the day was Senator Graham's speech who chastised members on both sides of the aisle for their approach to judicial confirmations. In Senator Graham's view, Kagan "met a time-honored standard for judicial nominees: whether they are qualified and of good character." His own philosophical bent was of less importance because he recognized that the President had won the election in 2008. "The Constitution, in my view, puts a requirement on me not to replace my judgment for his,” noted Senator Graham.

More from the New York Times:

In a lengthy speech supporting her, Mr. Graham sparked debate about the Senate’s approach to judicial confirmations, taking colleagues — including President Obama when he was a senator — to task for basing their votes on philosophy rather than a nominee’s qualifications and character.

Mr. Graham said that Ms. Kagan was not someone he would have chosen, “but the person who did choose — President Obama — I think chose wisely.”

In a statement issued soon afterward, Mr. Obama called the vote “a bipartisan affirmation of her strong performance during her confirmation hearings” and thanked the committee for “giving her a thorough, timely and respectful hearing.”

If Ms. Kagan, 50, is confirmed by the full Senate, as expected, she would be the fourth woman to serve on the high court, and the only member of the current court not to reach it from a position on the federal appellate bench. A vote is expected before the August recess, so that Ms. Kagan can be seated before the court’s next term begins in early October.

Democrats on the committee, all of whom voted for Ms. Kagan, were largely laudatory, with one notable exception: Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. He said he was supporting Ms. Kagan, but with “grave concerns” because she had failed to “answer questions which I think ought to have been answered.”

In his three-decade career, Mr. Specter, a former Republican who once ran the Judiciary committee as its chairman, has voted on every justice now serving on the court. The committee hearing on Tuesday was something of a swan song for him — he was defeated in a Democratic primary and will be retiring at the end of the year — and he used the occasion to remind colleagues of Ms. Kagan’s critique of past confirmation hearings as a “vapid and hollow charade.” He said she had failed to live up to her own standard.

“She chastised nominees by name and castigated this committee,” Mr. Specter said, but “when she came before this committee, it was a repeat performance.”

Still, Mr. Specter said, his ultimate judgment rested on two of Ms. Kagan’s answers during her hearing: her expression of admiration for former Justice Thurgood Marshall, the civil rights giant, for whom she clerked, and her support for televising the court’s proceedings, a cause Mr. Specter has advocated for years.

The committee’s Republicans cited a number of reasons for voting against Ms. Kagan: her lack of judicial experience; her decision, while dean of Harvard Law School, to briefly bar military recruiters from the use of law school facilities; her work as an aide to former President Bill Clinton on matters relating to gun rights and abortion policy.

Senator Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican, complained of Ms. Kagan’s “strong commitment to far left ideological beliefs,” while Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the senior Republican on the panel, accused Ms. Kagan of giving testimony that was “at best inaccurate and at worst intellectually dishonest” on the recruitment issue.

But it was Mr. Graham who provided the most intriguing moment of the day, with his provocative argument in favor of Ms. Kagan.

“No one spent more time trying to beat President Obama than I did, except maybe Senator McCain,” Mr. Graham said Tuesday, referring to the 2008 presidential election and Senator John McCain of Arizona, Mr. Obama’s Republican rival. “I missed my own election — I voted absentee. But I understood: we lost, President Obama won. The Constitution, in my view, puts a requirement on me not to replace my judgment for his.”

Mr. Graham said there were “100 reasons” he could vote against Ms. Kagan if he based his vote on her philosophy, which is at odds with his. But he said she met a time-honored standard for judicial nominees: whether they are qualified and of good character.

Mr. Obama himself adopted a different standard: As a senator, he said it was permissible to vote against a nominee based on judicial philosophy, not just qualifications. Mr. Graham said that that approach was undermining the process of confirming judicial nominees, by making it more partisan.

“Something’s changing when it comes to the advice and consent clause,” he said. “Senator Obama was part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second ranking Democrat in the Senate, said Mr. Graham’s remarks had made him rethink is own approach to judicial nominations — including the decision by Democrats several years ago to prevent Miguel Estrada, a prominent conservative lawyer, from getting a hearing before the committee when President George W. Bush nominated Mr. Estrada to a federal appeals court.

Cue the charges of high treason from Erick Erickson in three, two, . . .

Senator Graham Pulls Support for Energy Bill

Apparently, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina can't walk and chew gum at the same time legislatively speaking. On Saturday, Senator Graham said that he would withdraw from the bipartisan effort to move a energy bill forward because of concerns that the Democrats would try to push forward with a debate on immigration reform, rather than the energy bill.

The story in the New York Times:

Mr. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said in a sharply worded letter on Saturday that he would no longer participate in negotiations on the energy bill, throwing its already cloudy prospects deeper into doubt. He had been working for months with Senators John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, on the a legislation, which they were scheduled to announce with considerable fanfare on Monday morning. That announcement has been indefinitely postponed.

In his letter to his two colleagues, Mr. Graham said that he was troubled by reports that the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and the White House were planning to take up an immigration measure before the energy bill. Mr. Graham has worked with Democrats in the past on immigration matters and was expected to be an important bridge to Republicans on that issue, as well as on energy.

Mr. Graham said that any Senate debate on the highly charged subject of illegal immigration would make it impossible to deal with the difficult issues involved in national energy and global warming policy.

He said in his letter that energy must come first and that Democrats appeared to be rushing to take up immigration because of rising anti-immigrant sentiment, including a harsh new measure signed into law in Arizona on Friday.

“Moving forward on immigration — in this hurried, panicked manner — is nothing more than a cynical political ploy,” Mr. Graham said. “I know from my own personal experience the tremendous amounts of time, energy and effort that must be devoted to this issue to make even limited progress.”

I have to admit that I fail to understand Senator Graham's argument on this. Instead of throwing what amounts to a temper tantrum, Senator Graham would serve the nation well if he continued to show the leadership he has shown in trying to forge a consensus on a pressing issue of global importance. This bill is important not just because our economy must reoriented its energy production away from fossil fuels but in fact life as we know it on the planet depends on curbing our carbon footprint. While I share Senator Graham's view that this bill is priority one that shouldn't preclude the Senate from moving forward on multiple legislative priorities. If we can only tackle one issue at a time, our government is indeed dysfunctional.


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