Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Mike Pence Makes History, Casts Deciding Vote for DeVos

By Cortney O'Brien

A whole night of speeches couldn't stop Betsy DeVos from becoming our next secretary of education. Democrats hoped to derail the nominee and her "radical views" with a 24-hour talkathon.
When it came time to vote, the Democrats got an assist from two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME), who voted against DeVos.
It came down to a 50-50 tie, but for the first time in history, our vice president cast the deciding vote for the cabinet nominee.
When Pence arrived on the Senate floor, he took the podium and voted in the affirmative.
"The ayes have it," he said.
With DeVos, we have an education secretary that will prioritize school choice. That fact terrifies liberals because, as The Federalist put it, "if they lose education they lose everything."
Analysis: DeVos Confirmation Represents Victory for Reformers, Blow to Teachers Unions
By Guy Benson
Despite furious lockstep opposition from Senate Democrats and two Republicans who are among the few in their party who receive campaign contributions from teachers' unions, Betsy DeVos was confirmed to be the next Secretary of Education.
Critics' objections to her nomination questioned her qualifications and suggested that she was hostile to public education, while others cited her family's wealth, and sought to assassinate her character. Instances of hypocrisy and eye-widening (answer is "C," in a 2003 writing) double standards were commonplace.
In spite of this pitched partisan battle -- which required Vice President Pence to break a 50-50 Senate deadlock; the first time in our nation's history this step was needed to conclude a cabinet confirmation fight.
DeVos' ultimate ideological crime is her consistent commitment to siding with students over powerful teachers' unions -- whose leaders have occasionally let slip where their priorities lie.
A critique of unions, by the way, is not tantamount to a criticism of teachers.
As a product of excellent public schools, I am forever grateful to the dedicated and talented professionals who provided me with a strong education.
But what DeVos recognizes is that millions of students are denied the opportunity to attend great, or even competent, public schools.
This is deeply unfair, and forcing low-income students to remain locked in chronically failing schools, due only to their zip codes, is immoral.
As such, DeVos has been a leading advocate for school choice, which empowers parents and students to break the cycle of underperformance. This compassionate and genuinely progressive idea enjoys bipartisan support, even if that reality was not reflected in today's vote.
Some of DeVos' harshest detractors warn that she'll "destroy" public education and that school choice rips crucial funding away from public schools.
On the latter point, throwing more taxpayer dollars at systemic problems is a predictable and tired non-solution. Per-pupil funding per student is not necessarily correlated with educational outcomes, as the California vs. Texas case study illustrates.
And if we are concerned about the allocation of resources, perhaps we'd be better served to focus on lessons from these breathtaking wastes of tax dollars on empirically failed federal experiments.
As for the melodramatic and vastly-overstated premise that an Education Secretary could singlehandedly crush the institution of public schools in America, aside from that not being true, this overblown fear at least underscores an important lesson on limiting the power of centralized government.
Too often, teachers' unions prioritize the desires of adults (including protecting disgraced or hopelessly lazy dues-paying members) over the needs of children.
The elevation of a woman who cares more about opportunities for children than bending to the political demands of powerful, deep-pocketed government-sector unions is a welcome development on its face.
Whether DeVos up for the job remains to be seen; but now she'll have her opportunity. I'll leave you with a salutary statement from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who has been a tireless advocate for education reform, as well as a 2013 tweet from the man who made this all possible:
“I congratulate Betsy DeVos on her confirmation as our nation’s next Secretary of Education. The President made an excellent choice to lead the Department of Education. Millions of families share Secretary DeVos’s vision for disrupting a failed status quo that has denied too many children access to a quality education. It’s time to upend the entrenched special interests that put adults above genuine reforms that will raise student achievement. I hope the senators who opposed Secretary DeVos’s nomination will now put aside the tired arguments of the unions and come together to prioritize the needs of students. Under Secretary DeVos’s leadership, I am confident the federal government will loosen its grip on our education system and return power to the states and parents where it rightfully belongs.”

Shut Down: Senate GOP Muzzles Elizabeth Warren After She Made Disparaging Remarks About Jeff Sessions

By Matt Vespa

With the final confirmation vote of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to become our next attorney general imminent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren took to the floor to deliver her remarks. It was another tirade of course. MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, who says she’s a fan of her, says that the angry liberal act is getting tiresome.
“I’ve got to tell ya — I love her, but I’m getting tired of this act. I mean, she’s just got to stop,” said Brzezinski on the November 29, 2016 broadcast of Morning Joe.
The vote of Sessions attorney general nomination is coming later this evening.
Warren took to the floor last night, but wasn’t able to finish her speech, which included a letter from Coretta Scott King, because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell felt the Massachusetts liberal had violated Rule 19 of the Senate. A rule that states how senators are not permitted to “directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”
In her speech, Warren read past statements about Sessions’ failed 1986 federal judgeship nomination that was derailed over allegations of racist remarks while he served as a U.S. Attorney in Alabama.
At the time, Sessions, who liberals view as the spawn of Satan, worked to desegregate schools, took on his state’s Ku Klux Klan chapter, and even, prosecuted a Klan leader for the murder of a black teenager, Michael McDonald. He pushed for the death penalty as well.
It paved way for a $7 million civil judgment against the KKK in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by McDonald’s family, breaking the white supremacist group’s Alabama chapter.
The Weekly Standard’s Mark Hemingway wrote about this when President Trump formally nominated Sessions.
Yet, that fell on deaf ears with Warren, as did the late Sen. Arlen Specter’s (D-PA) regret about voting to reject Sessions’ 1986 nomination (via Politico c.2009):
Sen. Arlen Specter said Tuesday he regrets his vote against Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) two decades ago that helped kill his nomination to the federal bench.
Now Sessions and Specter both serve on the Judiciary Committee and have never spoken about the vote that prevented Sessions from winning a lifetime seat in the federal judiciary.
Following his first lunch meeting with Senate Democrats on Tuesday, Specter told reporters that out of the 10,000 votes he has cast, he can now recall one that he regrets.
“I don’t expect everybody to agree with all my votes, and I don’t agree with all my votes, either, at this point ... and I was asked the other day what vote I regretted, and I couldn’t’ think of one that I wanted to publicly state, but I’m prepared to do that now in response to your question,” Specter said. “My vote against candidate Sessions for the federal court was a mistake.”
Asked why, Specter said, "because I have since found that Sen. Sessions is egalitarian."
Warren decided to quote the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s (D-MA) 1986 statement of opposition to Sessions, “He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.”

That remark earned Warren her first warning by presiding officer Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT).
When Warren accused Sessions of using his power as U.S. Attorney to disenfranchise blacks from voting, McConnell shut her down.
And in a party line vote, effectively stopped her from speaking further on the Senate floor for the remaining hours (30 in total) that are left concerning the Sessions nomination (via WaPo) [emphasis mine]:
Senate Republicans passed a party-line rebuke Tuesday night of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for a speech opposing attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, striking down her words for impugning the Alabama senator’s character.
In setting up the votes to rebuke Warren, McConnell specifically cited portions of a letter that King, the widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to Sessions’s 1986 nomination to be a federal judge.
“Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens,” King wrote, referencing controversial prosecutions at the time that Sessions served as the U.S. attorney for Alabama. Earlier, Warren read from the 1986 statement of Kennedy, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee who led the opposition then against Sessions, including the Massachusetts Democrat’s concluding line: “He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.”
The Senate voted, 49 to 43, strictly on party lines, to uphold the ruling that Warren violated Rule 19 of the Senate that says senators are not allowed to “directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” Pursuant to that rule, Warren was ordered to sit down and forbidden from speaking during the remainder of the debate on the nomination of Sessions.
“I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate,” Warren said after McConnell’s motion.
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), a freshman who was presiding over the Senate at the time, issued a warning to Warren at that point, singling out Kennedy’s “disgrace” comment, and 25 minutes later McConnell came to the floor and set in motion the battle, citing the comments in the King letter as crossing the line.
Warren’s speech ended with a simple admonition from Daines: “The senator will take her seat.”
Of course, that didn’t stop her. Warren took to Twitter to voice her outrage and read the King letter outside of the Senate.
CNN reported that McConnell and the Senate GOP’s move to muzzle Warren backfired. Not really.
Sessions will be confirmed as our next attorney general later tonight. The haranguing Warren did will certainly get some liberals in their respective bubbles fired up, but that’s it.
It won’t resonate beyond the typical urban-based and insufferably condescending progressive voter, which means it will do nothing to help Democratic efforts to rebuild and retake Congress.
In a recent poll, just 44 percent of voters in Massachusetts think Warren should be re-elected, 46 percent think someone else should be given a chance.
That’s not the best foundation for a re-elect bid. One could hope that by 2019, Warren will not be re-elected to a second term.
Trump Slams Courts By Reading Federal Law on Illegal Aliens

By Katie Pavlich

Speaking to a conference crowd of local law enforcement officers and leaders in Washington Wednesday, President Trump slammed the courts for what he perceives as lawyering of straight forward immigration law the White House is using to justify his recent travel ban.
Standing at the lectern, Trump read aloud title eight, chapter 12 of U.S. Code which states:
"Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on entry of aliens any restrictions may deem to be appropriate."
"This isn't just me, this is for Obama, for Ronald Reagan, for the president," Trump said. "It was done for the security of our nation, the security of our citizens."
The President said he listened to oral arguments surrounding legal challenges to his executive order Tuesday evening in the 9th District Court of Appeals.
A ruling from three federal judges who listened to arguments and heavily challenged attorneys on both side of the case is expected Wednesday or Thursday.
"When you read something so perfectly written, it's so clear to anybody," Trump said. "Courts seem to be so political and it would be so great for our court system to read a statement and do what's right."
"Right now, we are at risk because of what happened," Trump continued. "We're doing our job."