Tag Archives: supreme court

2016 Recap

30 Dec

2016 has been a strange and disappointing year.  Donald Trump was elected president.  Senate Republicans blocked President Obama from appointing someone to the Supreme Court.  We lost many great people including John Glenn, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Muhammad Ali, among many others.  I wish I could be more optimistic for what lies ahead next year.

We have a president-elect who hasn’t changed much since he was elected.  Many presidents surround themselves with the best and brightest.  Donald Trump is surrounding himself with incompetent people and ideologues.  I think Trump will run into some opposition with some of his picks to help run the government.

I am however optimistic that we may finally be able to get an infrastructure bill passed.  The Democrats are willing to work with Trump on some issues and I hope they do.  I do however want the Democrats to fight Trump like hell on any of his extreme policy ideas.  Trump has said that he wants to tear up the Iran Deal and the Paris Climate Change deal.  That will not be as easy as he thinks.  Both deals are multi-national agreements.  The Paris Climate Change deal will expire in November 2020… at the end of Trumps first (and hopefully only) term.

The Republicans have an easier senate election map in 2018, but that doesn’t guarantee anything.  The president’s party usually loses seats in midterm elections.  (Recent exceptions being 1998 and 2002.)  It will also be interesting to see how Speaker Ryan and incoming Senate Minority leader Schumer will work with the president-elect.  House Speaker Paul Ryan will have to deal with the Tea Party wing, moderate wing, and the Trump supporters in his party.  Senator Schumer will lead the opposition as well as prepare his members for 2018.

Donald Trump will get a rude awakening next year, as with his supporters.  Governing is not as easy as Trump made it sound during the campaign.  Congress is very good at blocking legislation.  The presidents who have been able to get things done legislatively have either been insiders or have friends in congress.  Trump is no insider and he only has a small handful of supporters in congress.  I think Trump supporters will give him a lot of leeway, but they will turn on him if he doesn’t deliver on something.

Running the government is not like running a business.  Governor Rauner of Illinois hasn’t been able to pass his agenda through the Illinois legislature and he is a former businessman.  Trump will not be able to get everything he wants done.  If he tries to push congress around he won’t be able to get much done.  President-elect Trump has already faced several challenges in picking a cabinet.  If he is having this much trouble picking people to be in his administration, he will have a tough time running his administration.

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Supreme Court’s Historic Decisions

30 Jun

In the past week the Supreme Court has made landmark decisions.  They decided cases involving Gay Marriage, the Fair Housing Act, Affordable Care Act, and redistricting among other cases.  There have long been disagreements with decisions the court has made from both sides.  I have been disappointed with several decisions the court has made but I would never deny that they have a place in our democracy.

The Supreme Court had little power up until the case Marbury vs. Madison in 1803.  There are few that remember who the first Supreme Court Justice was, but there are many who can name the person who made it as powerful as it is today.  Justice John Marshall was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by President Thomas Jefferson.  It is thought that one of the reasons Jefferson appointed John Marshal was to get him out of the way by giving him a weak job.  If that was Jefferson’s plan it backfired because Justice Marshall made the court as powerful as it is today.

William Marbury was appointed Justice of Peace by outgoing President John Adams. * Marbury was one of the appointees who was not confirmed by congress.  The new Secretary of State James Madison refused to appoint Marbury to the position he was promised.  Marbury sued, trying to force the new Administration to appoint him.  Chief Justice John Marshal ruled that although the new administration was wrong not to appoint Marbury a position he was promised, the Supreme Court could not force the new administration to appoint him.  This case created legal precedent for Judicial Review.

In recent years, in particular, the Supreme Court has been used as a political punching bag.  The term judicial activist has been thrown out to describe a decision that someone disagrees with.  I don’t agree with everything the court has done but I don’t deny that it is an important part of our government.  The Supreme Court has made many important decisions on Civil Rights, rights for accused, and redistricting rules to name a few.

The Republicans have made some stupid comments after the court ruled to uphold the Affordable Care Act and expand gay marriage in all 50 states. I think that the reactions from the GOP over last week’s Supreme Court decisions are absurd.  Some have suggested that we defund or simply ignore the Supreme Court.  Obviously that can not be done. The makeup of the Supreme Court changes only when one of the current members resigns or dies. At that time, the President nominates someone to take that place and the senate must approve or disapprove of the nomination. The new nominee is then sworn in and takes a seat on the court. Decisions made by the court are made by all nine of the members. Their ruling becomes the law of the land until it is challenged by a lawsuit.  The Court has reversed itself on several decisions over the years in this manner.

The court’s decision had been building for some time.  (They allow gay marriage in states that already had it.)  Progress for gay rights have been slow over the years.  Ten years ago things were completely different.  One state recognized same-sex marriage, and almost every state that held a referendum voted to ban gay marriage.  I worked to fight the 2006 amendment to ban gay marriage in Wisconsin.  While the Democrats gained control of the state senate and congress, the amendment still passed.  I didn’t think that things would change so quickly in less than 10 years.

The other Supreme Court decision that made headlines this week was that they again upheld the Affordable Care Act, specifically the subsidies.  This was important because of how many people already have health care through the subsidies.  I was surprised by the decision because the court in recent years has voted mostly among party lines (when they were appointed.)  With this decision it means that it is unlikely that the Supreme Court will strike down the law if another case comes to them in the future.  I hope that this settles the matter of the Health Care Law once and for all.

* David F. Forte, Marbury’s Travail: Federalist Politics and William Marbury’s Appointment as Justice of the Peace, Catholic University Law Review, p. 402 Vol 45:349

My Take on Gay Marriage

28 Mar

One topic has dominated media and social media lately – gay marriage.  The recent discussion started when U.S. Senator from Ohio (and Republican) Rob Portman came out in favor of gay marriage because of his son.  I say recent because this isn’t a new topic by any means.  We have been talking about gay marriage for years.  I as well as most people my age, have supported the right for same-sex couples to marry since I became active in politics.

I’m not surprised that the tide is turning in favor of marriage equality.  I have always thought that one day a majority of people would favor same-sex marriage.  In college I was surprised to learn that even some of my most conservative friends supported the right for same-sex couples to marry.  Towards the end of my college career, I learned that the issue of gay rights was no longer an issue of liberal vs. conservative, but rather that of young vs. old.  That is why the tide is turning.   Conservative columnist George Will pointed out what is happening when he said, “Quite Literally, the opposition to Gay Marriage is dying…”  The electorate is quickly changing.   Two things that seemed impossible just a couple of years ago, support for immigration reform and gay marriage are now within reach.

The only thing that has surprised me recently about the change in attitude of gay marriage is how quickly things have changed.  If someone told me last year that a Republican senator would come out in favor of gay marriage I would have been stunned.  After Senator Portman’s announcement, there has been an increase in U.S. Senators joining Senator Portman.  The senators who recently announced their support for same-sex marriage are Kay Hagan (NC), Jon Tester (MT), Mark Begich (AK), Claire McCaskill (MO), Mark Warner (VA), Jay Rockefeller (WV), Chris Coons (DE), as well as senators who were already on the record supporting gay marriage.  I think it is monumental that we have seen so many public officials come out in favor of gay marriage in such a short time.

The Supreme Court is currently hearing two cases that will have a dramatic effect on gay marriage around the country.  The challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California Prop 8 will be decided soon.  Regardless of the outcome, the nation is moving towards the right direction.  Public support for gay marriage is rising and is higher now than it was for Civil Rights in the 1950’s.  One of many reasons that I bring that up is that I believe that gay marriage is a civil rights issue.  The widow of Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, voiced her support for gay marriage.  She saw it as a civil rights issue.

There are several arguments against gay marriage but it all boils down to one argument and that is religious objections, which has no standing on the law of our country.  Our constitution forbids making religious beliefs law of the land.  We were founded on freedom of religion, not the idea that everyone has to follow the majority religion.  It is for these reasons and many others that gay marriage should be legal in our country.