In today's On the News segment: This week, 131 prominent Republicans and 60 major corporations submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in favor of gay marriage to the Supreme Court; Arkansas lawmakers passed legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and then immediately backed a separate measure which would prevent abortion after just 12 weeks; the Violence Against Women Act will soon head to President Obama; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. After two failed attempts on Thursday to prevent the sequester, Congress gave up on their efforts to stop the austerity measures, and headed out of town for the weekend. One day before the deadline, two rival bills to prevent the $85 billion in spending cuts failed to get the 60 votes needed to end debate and proceed to an up-or-down vote. The Republicans only got 38 votes on their bill, which would have forced President Obama to manage the spending cuts. The Democratic bill, which would have replaced the sequester with $55 billion in spending cuts and $55 billion in new revenues, received 51 votes. Unfortunately, the Progressive Causus's Balancing Act approach wasn't even considered, despite a recent Business Insider poll that showed bipartisan voter support for the plan. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said there won't be an agreement without additional tax revenues, and he believes the Republicans want the Sequester to happen. He said, "we cannot solve the problems of this country with cuts, cuts, cuts. We've cut $2.6 trillion. We need to do more, but we're going to do it in a balanced approach." But Republicans refuse to accept any plan that includes new revenues. So for now, our country must brace for drastic cuts, which will wreak havoc on our economy. Democrats will attempt to undo the sequester during the budget debate coming at the end of this month, but by then many of the Republican austerity measures will have already begun. If Republicans don't back down on tax increases, there's little chance a replacement plan will be accepted. Now it's up to us to let Congress know that we won't stand by while Republicans use our economy to play political blame games against the President. Call Congress today and tell them to stop these insane austerity measures now!
In screwed news... Arkansas's Democratic Governor Mike Beebe tried to block a sweeping abortion ban in his state, but the Republican-led State Senate managed to override his veto. On Thursday, Arkansas lawmakers passed legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and then immediately backed a separate measure which would prevent abortion after just 12 weeks. Governor Beebe vetoed the so-called "fetal pain bill", saying he believed the law violates Roe v. Wade. He hasn't said yet if he will try to veto the more extreme anti-abortion measure, but he told reporters that "it's on even shakier legal ground than the 20-week ban." Arkansas joins seven other states with similar 20-week restrictions, and may soon have one of the most extreme anti-abortion laws in our nation. The Arkansas ACLU's executive director, Rita Sklar, said, "We are going to do everything within our power to protect the health and reproductive decision-making abilities of women." Obviously Republicans didn't learn anything from the last election. They're not just moving forward with their war on women, they're pushing full-steam-ahead.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Just this week, 131 prominent Republicans and 60 major corporations submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in favor of gay marriage to the Supreme Court. And, the Obama Administration made history yesterday with it's own amicus brief in favor of LGBT equality. President Obama is the first president in U.S. history to push the high court to expand marriage rights to people of all sexual orientations. Two major LGBT equal rights cases will come before the Supreme Court later this month – California's Prop 8 case and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. If they're overturned, the Supreme Court rulings could pave the way for the recognition of same-sex marriages in every state in our nation. The new brief from the Administration says LGBT families "establish homes and lives together, support each other financially, share the joys and burdens of raising children, and provide care through illness and comfort at the moment of death." Marriage equality advocates, like Chad Griffin of The Human Rights Campaign, praised the President's legal position, saying, "President Obama and the solicitor general have taken another historic step forward consistent with the great civil rights battles of our nation's history." Let's hope the Supreme Court takes the next step towards equality, and overturns Prop 8 and DOMA.
After almost one year of delay, the House passed the Violence Against Women Act yesterday by a vote of 286 to 138. The bill, which received support from 199 Democrats and 87 Republicans in the House, was held up by GOP House members who opposed additional protections for Native American, LGBT, and undocumented victims of domestic abuse. All of yesterday's 138 "No" votes were Republicans. The bill will soon head to President Obama, who said, "Renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk." The re-authorization of this historic law is a big victory against the Republican war on women, but the on-going attack on reproductive rights shows we have a long fight ahead!
And finally... Zookeepers in Scotland want to get their pandas in the mood for love. It's difficult to get pandas to reproduce in captivity, as females are only fertile for about two days each year, so employees at Edinburgh Zoo turned on romantic music to set the mood. Tian Tian, the zoo's female panda, will soon enter her fertile phase, so her caretakers have switched off her normal radio station, and switched on an easy listening station to help set the mood. The station they selected was so excited to be part of the process, they started to take song requests from the zoo staff. What song did zookeepers pick for their special lady? Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On." A spokeswoman for the Edinburgh Zoo said it's impossible to know what panda's are thinking, but the music appears to sooth their male panda Yang Guang. Not sure what song zookeepers will pick next, but "You Sexy Thing" by Hot Chocolate is a top suggestion among panda-fans.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, March 1, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.