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Monday News: Hearings on Stolen SCOTUS Seat About to Start; “Ryan stakes it all on Obamacare repeal”

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by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, March 20. As for the Supreme Court seat, just remember that Republicans refused to hold hearings, let alone vote, on President Obama’s highly qualified nominee, Merrick Garland, for almost a year! Ergo, this seat is stolen.

  • Robert Reich nails it:

    Hearings begin tomorrow on Trump’s nominee Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. If Democrats were smart, they wouldn’t focus on Gorsuch’s credentials or views. Instead, they’d focus on Trump, and remind America that:

    1. President Obama nominated an excellent justice, Merrick Garland, But Senate Republicans wouldn’t even consider Garland because, they said, Obama had no legitimate basis for making such a nomination because he was in the last year of office.
    2. Gorsuch has been nominated by a president whose legitimacy in nominating a Supreme Court justice is far more questionable than Obama’s.
    3. At least count, 4 different congressional committees are investigating whether Trump or his campaign aides conspired with Russian operatives to get him elected president. The FBI, CIA, and National Security Agency are also investigating. The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee says circumstantial evidence already links Trump aids to the Russian operatives.
    4. Trump’s legitimacy is also under question because he is taking money from foreign governments, in violation of the “emoluments clause” of the Constitution; he won’t release his tax returns, and several courts have already found him to be acting unconstitutionally in creating a religious test for entry into the United States.

    I don’t think Gorsuch should be considered for the Supreme Court until the cloud of illegitimacy hanging over the Trump presidency is removed.

    • Andy Schmookler

      Let me add one more thought to this idea of focusing on the issue of legitimacy, and how the Republicans have stolen this seat on the Court, and how the Republican arguments against confirming Garland apply far more against confirming Trump’s nominee. (An idea that is presented very well by Lithwick and West at http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/03/neil_gorsuch_s_supreme_court_confirmation_hearings_must_be_postponed.html.)

      I would propose that in the hearings, the Democrats ask Gorsuch directly something like this: “As you know, this seat became vacant more than a year ago. And as you know, then-President Obama nominated a welll-qualified judge — Merrick Garland — to fill that seat. But the Republicans here in the Senate argued that President Obama ought not be allowed to place ANY nominee on the Court because he only had a year left in his presidential term. Would you tell us, Mr. Gorsuch: What is your opinion of the constitutional soundness of the Republican refusal to allow President Obama to name anyone to fill the vacancy on the Court?”

  • Wow, check out FBI Director James Comey’s statement a few minutes ago:

    As you know, our practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations. Especially, those investigations that involve classified matters. But, in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so, as Justice Department policies recognize. This is one of those circumstances. I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counter-intelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.

    • True Blue

      The Republicans are trying to make the case for “leaking” while Democrats are trying to get to the heart of coordination, collusion, and danger from Russian interference.

  • From Rep. Donald McEachin’s office:

    McEachin on Proposed Reduced HBCU Funding in the President’s Budget

    WASHINGTON – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) released the following statement about the level of spending for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) proposed by President Trump in his budget:

    “When during the campaign, the president repeatedly asked the African American community what do we have to lose, clearly one answer was funding for the historically supportive and important institutions and colleges in our community. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have provided low-income and first generation college students and their families with a high-quality education for almost 200 years. Once again, the president has reneged on a promise and is not providing these historical institutions with the fiscal resources that they need to continue serving our communities.

    “Recently, when the president invited HBCU presidents to the White House for a meeting many hoped – including me – that would result in increased funding for our HBCU institutions. We now know that it resulted in a decrease masked as maintaining the level of spending. As the alumnus of an HBCU, Virginia Union University, and the representative of a congressional district that is home to two HBCUs I am alarmed by the message that was sent to these treasured institutions. These institutions have an important impact for many young people in my district and in Virginia.

    “I call on this Administration to allocate more funding for HBCUs instead of providing taxpayer dollars for a racially charged border wall. The budget states that it protects support for HBCUs and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), while suggesting a decrease in spending, cancelling $3.9 billion for Pell Grants funding, and reducing Federal Work-Study funding. I look forward to my upcoming conversations with HBCUs during the Congressional Black Caucus College Tour. I will ask them directly about their needs at the federal level to best serve our students. I believe that these nationwide conversations between CBC Members and HBCU leaders will be an important information source so that funding can be appropriately allocated. Our HBCUs should be empowered to meet the needs of this underserved population. Once again, this budget does not make America great again.”

  • Governor McAuliffe Vetoes Bill Allowing Unrestricted Furnishing of Lethal Weapons to Minors

    Governor Terry McAuliffe today vetoed Senate Bill 865, which would provide minors with easy and unrestricted access to lethal weapons. The Governor’s full statement is below:

    March 20, 2017

    Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto Senate Bill 865, which would provide an exemption to the prohibition against furnishing specified types of knives to minors. Under the bill, such a transfer would be permissible if between family members or “for the purpose of engaging in a sporting event or activity.” The term “sporting event or activity” is undefined.

    Encouraging minors to possess weapons that can be used to maim, injure, or cause death is contrary to the welfare of our youth and Commonwealth. Senate Bill 865 also would pose difficulties for law enforcement, in that there would be no way for a law enforcement officer to determine whether a minor met the criteria of the bill’s exceptions and thus was lawfully in possession of such a weapon.

    Accordingly, I veto this bill.

    Sincerely,

    Terence R. McAuliffe

  • Corey Stewart proud of being endorsed by a group even MORE extreme (if that’s possible) than the NRA!

    I’m proud to announce that the Virginia Citizens Defense League’s political action committee has endorsed me for governor!

    It’s an honor to have the support of VCDL-PAC. They represent thousands of pro-gun Virginians and have led the way in the fight to protect Virginians right to keep and bear arms. This is one of the most coveted endorsements in Virginia politics.

  • Robert Reich:

    In testimony this morning before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the FBI is investigating Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, including possible links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

    And Comey shot down Trump’s explosive claim that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower in the run-up to the presidential election. Comey said the FBI had “no information” to support Trump’s claim.”

    Rep. Jackie Speier, who sits on the committee, told MSNBC “This is as big if not bigger than Watergate,” and the committee has “circumstantial evidence of an entire web that Putin put in place ensnaring many of the people who now have very respected positions within the U.S. cabinet.”

    I want to caution Democrats in the House and Senate to avoid making this appear to be a partisan inquiry. We are dealing with possibly the most direct attack on American democracy in history. If Trump was involved, he must be impeached. But an impeachment can occur only if both parties are convinced it is warranted.

  • Governor McAuliffe Vetoes Bill Legalizing the Carrying of Concealed Switchblade Knives

    Governor Terry McAuliffe today vetoed Senate Bill 1347, which would legalize the carrying of concealed switchblade knives and legalize switchblade-related transactions. The Governor’s full statement is below:

    March 20, 2017

    Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto Senate Bill 1347, which legalizes the carrying of a concealed switchblade knife when it is carried for the purpose of engaging in a lawful profession or lawful recreational activity the performance of which is aided by the knife. This bill also legalizes the sale, bartering, giving or furnishing of switchblade knives.

    Virginia Code does not define “lawful profession” or “recreational activity.” This modification will create a burden on law enforcement to determine whether a person is engaged in a lawful profession or recreational activity. The enforcement of this law would be challenging at best. For that reason, the Virginia Sheriffs Association has requested this veto.

    There is no compelling need to add to the list of weapons that can be lawfully concealed from public view and easily traded. Legalizing the concealed carry of switchblade knives would needlessly endanger the lives of Virginians. Furthermore, the laws of the United States prohibit the manufacture, transportation or distribution of switchblade knives.

    Accordingly, I veto this bill.
    Sincerely,

    Terence R. McAuliffe