News Sips 3/22: Gorsuch’s Marathon, Obamacare Repeal Sick, North Korea’s Blunder, and Maryland’s Shameful Immigration Debate

Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the March 22, 2017 edition:

 

Gorsuch’s Marathon Hearing

The confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court Justice is, outside of a national election, probably the biggest and most publicized job interviews anyone in the country could undertake. The hearing is about finesse and being able to retain composure while your words and actions are taken out of context, stretched, and twisted to make you look like a terrible person while your family looks on. Especially in the partisan climate leading up to, and since, the Presidential election last fall, all pretense of cordial relations between Democrats and the rule of law seems to have evaporated with the likes of Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Al Franken (D-MN) going out of their way to be, frankly, downright insulting to Judge Gorsuch during his confirmation.

As we’ve discussed numerous times before, Judge Gorsuch can take comfort in the knowledge that, regardless of the howling from the left (partially as payback for Republicans refusing to consider President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court and partially to appease the hardcore members of their constituencies), he will be confirmed to the Supreme Court. Nothing yesterday was brought to light that would tank his nomination, rather, he comported himself well and parried all of the attacks levelled against him. Most of the legal attacks from non-lawyers like Al Franken were almost like watching a comedy with Judge Gorsuch just hammering down the questions. He showed himself to be a loving father, a qualified judge, and a knowledgeable attorney.

The hearing continues this morning. It’s likely that Democrats will drag out the Judiciary Committee’s schedule on the nomination until the last possible minute and delay a vote until April 3rd (or thereabouts). After that, it will be up to Democrats whether they want to spend their political gunpowder on resisting Gorsuch, or whether it’s best to wait and unload on a future Trump Supreme Court pick. In order to defeat an inevitable filibuster, Republicans will need eight Democrats to join them. It’s still unclear whether they can achieve this. Regardless, if eight Democrats don’t decide to come along, Republicans have already indicated that they will follow past precedent and change the rules of the Senate and confirm Judge Gorsuch with a simple majority.

 

Obamacare Repeal Sick Already

The House plan to change the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is set for a vote on Thursday (for now). The bill is in the Rules Committee today as senior Republican House members rush to cobble together enough votes to prevent the measure from going down in flames on the House floor and, burning with it, a lot of political capital from the Speaker, Leadership, and even the President.

The President visited Capitol Hill yesterday to twist the arms of holdout Republicans. Given the current numbers, 216 votes will be needed to pass the House Obamacare change bill. There are 237 Republican members of the House. Maybe a Democrat or two would jump to help out the repeal effort, but that’s extremely unlikely. So, just doing the math, Republicans can lose 21 members and still get the bill passed. Already at least thirty have expressed opposition or are leaning strongly towards opposing. The bill’s handlers are cobbling in some provisions that are trying to sweeten the deal for holdouts, but the final whip count is still in doubt. There’s still a chance that the Speaker will pull the bill from the calendar rather than risk a very public defeat. Already, major conservative think tanks have keyvoted “no” on the measure (basically, this means that the vote gets factored into the member’s scorecard when election time—read primary election time for many—rolls around).

Even if the measure passes the House, there are enough GOP Senators who are in opposition that the measure as-passed will fail. However, the Senate can craft its own bill, push it through the body, then move to conference with the leadership of the House in order to bring out a bill that can make it through both chambers and to the President. This is the optimal outcome, but whether this is achievable remains in considerable doubt. Already, given the budgetary requirement that healthcare reform be undertaken before tax relief, the markets have been slipping after a rally buoyed by the possibility of getting real tax reductions passed.

 

North Korea’s Bellicose Blunders

A North Korean missile exploded moments after takeoff yesterday in the latest line of provocative actions taken by Pyongyang since the new Administration took power in Washington. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declined to take military action off of the table as a way to deal with the bellicose nature of North Korea, but stated that this is not the preferred option for any side. This comes as North Korea, in its typical way, has threatened to be a first-strike nuclear power.

It’s important to remember a few things. First, North Korea is between three-and-five years from an intercontinental weapon that could strike the mainland of the United States (if their current speed of development holds). This assessment comes from charting the manner of rocket engine tests that the North has undertaken. There has also been no public demonstration of a nuclear-tipped missile being successfully tested. We are aware that North Korea possesses the type of missile that would allow for this fusion, but, merely possessing the hardware and making it work are two different things.

While most concerning to the people of the United States (particularly to the West Coast) is the development of a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States, the much-more-likely scenario (if North Korea isn’t merely rattling its sabers for the purposes of securing a better negotiating position with the West) is a North Korean strike on South Korea or Japan. While it’s almost universally acknowledged that a first-strike by North Korea would be suicide for the regime, its demise would take hundreds of thousands (if not millions) with it. Despite the fact that the United States and South Korea could move quickly to take out artillery and missile positions of North Korea in the occasion that the war went hot, the initial strike from the North, which would, undoubtedly, focus on a heavy bombardment of Seoul and the potential use of nuclear weapons, would cause tremendous loss-of-life. The question remains whether diplomacy can adequately address the problems in this case or whether the President, in consultation with his team and our allies, will take action to eliminate the missile and nuclear capabilities of the reclusive North Korean regime.

 

Maryland’s Shameful Immigration Debate

An absolutely tragic attack on an innocent girl by illegal immigrants in a suburb of Washington DC has shone a spotlight onto the shameful state of the immigration debate in the State of Maryland. Contemporaneously with the rape of a high school girl in Montgomery County, a “sanctuary county” that has decided to defy Federal law in favor of persons who have broken immigration laws and reside in the United States illegally, the House of Delegates voted to advance legislation that would make Maryland a “sanctuary state.” Thankfully, Maryland’s Governor, Larry Hogan, has vowed to veto this legislation and President Trump has vowed that any jurisdiction that refuses to cooperate with Federal immigration law will be subject to losing Federal funding.

There is, no doubt, a human cost to the immigration debate swirling around the country. However, no one is helped by the constant, over-the-top, Chicken-Little rhetoric. While compassionate people can disagree about outcomes, the attacks committed by illegals, and the drain on resources that criminal aliens put on already-razor-thin budgets is not a type of “diversity” that should be celebrated. Certainly people who have come to the country looking for work, legally or illegally, are, for the most part, trying to better themselves and the conditions of their families. However, the United States is a nation of laws with borders and rules. There’s a national discussion going on over where (or whether) to draw the line on who we are willing to tolerate and the level of that toleration.

Let’s be crystal clear: criminals in the country illegally should be deported. The fact that the House of Delegates, Montgomery County, and misguided “Social Justice Warriors” in other areas of the State feel compelled to defend criminals is mind-boggling. Moreover, the fact that elected leaders would risk Federal assistance for the most vulnerable, and for people who have come to the country legally, is a dereliction, or total misunderstanding, of the office that they hold.

Stirring up fear and controversy helps no one but the politicians who so easily fall into the “reductio ad Hitlerum” argument (playing the Nazi card). Not only is this insinuating that, wrongly, that law enforcement is somehow committing atrocities, but it so warps the discussion that there’s no room for logic. All common sense has fled from the discussion as the screeching from the left reaches a fevered pitch.

However, let’s have cooler heads prevail. If you’ve listened to what the President has laid out, as well as, to some degree, the policies of the previous Administration, the focus on deportations of criminal aliens and the strengthening of the border to prevent repeat offenders from coming back into the nation is something almost everyone should be able to get behind. Panic and fearmongering might get good ratings, but you can only protest so long. At a point, there needs to be some government. The General Assembly should take a step back from its political agenda and work to find ways to compromise on important issues without resorting to “the sky is falling.” Let’s all work together so that the horrors experienced by a girl in a Montgomery County school are never repeated in our State.

 

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Of course, there are more things going on in the world, but these should be enough to get your day started.

 

Matt McDaniel

Attorney and Political Commentator

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