In today's On the News segment: Chicago voters said "no" to the NRA in a special primary election yesterday; as Obama dedicated a new statue honoring civil rights icon Rosa Parks in Washington, the fight for civil rights continues; Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was blatantly dishonest about the cost of Obama's health care plan; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Today in our nation's capital, President Obama dedicated a new statue honoring civil rights icon Rosa Parks, who along with other leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., led the fight to ensure African Americans in our nation were ensured the right to vote. Meanwhile, across the street protesters gathered in front of the US Supreme Court an attorney for Shelby County, Alabama tried to make the case that racial bias is a thing of the past. Section 5 of The Voting Rights Act requires Alabama, and other discriminatory states and counties, to get Justice Department approval before making any changes to their voting laws. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been upheld numerous times, and even expanded under Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. This challenge to the Voting Rights Act is just one of many Republican attempts to undermine our democratic process. And, after the discriminatory ID laws and long lines we saw at the polls in the most recent election, it's clear that we need more protection of our voting rights – not less. We shouldn't remove this requirement in states covered under the law, we should expand it to every state in our nation. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said a half century ago, "we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." We can help make his dream a reality, by eliminating the Republican's power to manipulate our elections. And that means expanding the Voting Rights Act to all 50 states, and putting into law a national right to vote. Let's take control of our democratic process, and remind our leaders that they work for us.
In screwed news... Your elected officials are lying to you. In a Budget Committee Hearing yesterday, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was blatantly dishonest about the cost of Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act is projected to reduce the deficit by billions over 10 years, but Sen. Sessions says a new GAO report shows the healthcare law will actually increase long-term debt by $6.2 trillion. That's the claim he made yesterday, saying, "The results of this report confirm everything critics and Republicans have been saying about the health care bill." How'd his so-called cost report determine this huge cost increase, when all other government assessments show otherwise? Well, he just told the GAO to take all cost containment provisions out of the calculations. So Jeff Session's special report removes the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the excise tax on high-cost plans, and reductions in Medicare payments to providers, to compile what he calls a "realistic set of assumptions." Right. The only thing real about Senator Jeff Session's new report is that it's really, really dishonest.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Chicago voters said "no" to the NRA, and "yes" to Robin Kelly. In a special primary election yesterday, Robin Kelly clinched her party's nomination for Representative Jesse Jackson Jr's House seat. It was the first Congressional race since the Newtown massacre, and it was the first time voters rejected the NRA. Ms. Kelly ran against Debbie Halvorson, a former House member, who has an "A" rating from the NRA, and has previously opposed an assault weapons ban. Thanks to a $2 million ad campaign from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's super PAC, Ms. Halvorson had to defend her pro-gun positions in one of our nation's most crime-ridden cities. This is a major victory for gun control advocates, and a warning to future candidates that refuse to stand up to the NRA. Given Illinois Second Congressional District's political make up, it's likely Robin Kelly will win the general election on April 9. Soon, we'll have one more Congressperson who's willing to stand up to the gun lobby, and fight for commonsense gun control in our nation.
On Tuesday, the Senate finally voted to confirm Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. After a nearly two week delay, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid chastised Republicans for their political games, saying, "Politically motivated delays send a terrible signal to allies around the world, that they send a terrible signal to tens of thousands of Americans serving in Afghanistan...For the sake of national security, it's time to set aside this partisanship." And after Republicans made history by filibustering a cabinet appointee, eighteen GOP Senators stood with Democrats to allow an up-or-down vote. The final tally was 58 to 41. Chuck Hagel will take the reins from Leon Panetta, In the face of looming defense cuts in the sequester, he must also focus on the draw-down in Afghanistan, the civil war in Syria, and the on-going threat of global terrorists. Next up for confirmation is Obama's nominee for C.I.A. Director, John Brennan. We'll have to wait and see if the Republicans in the Senate will continue their political games, or if they'll confirm Brennan and get to work on our nation's other pressing issues.
And finally... A Florida man was shot and wounded over the weekend, but police say the shooter will walk away without charges. No, it's not another Stand Your Ground case, unless the law applies to shooters that stand on four legs. This gun-toting vigilante was the victim's dog. Gregory Dale Lanier told police that he and his dog were riding in his truck, when the dog kicked a loaded gun, causing it to go off, shooting him in the leg. With a straight face, Police Commander Steve Carr actually said they didn't arrest the dog because an investigation was still pending. You can't make this stuff up. No official NRA statement yet, but we expect Wayne LaPierre will soon tell us that the only way to stop a bad dog with a gun, is a good dog with a gun.
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, February 27, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.