You need to know this. On Thursday, the Senate voted to begin debate on gun-control. The vote marked the first time gun legislation will be argued in the upper chamber since the 1990's. The final vote to begin debate was 68 to 31, with 16 Republicans crossing the isle to allow arguments to proceed. There were some surprising names in the list of “yea” votes, like Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia. All three senators have an “A” or “A+” rating from the NRA. Just the fact that a debate has been allowed is historic, after years of Republicans blocking any and all discussion on gun control, the vote is far from a guarantee that new legislation will make it to the President's desk. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “the hard work starts now.” Senators fighting to enact commonsense gun laws still have to overcome a vote to end debate, and face a vote on the actual proposed legislation. Families of the victims of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting have been pushing lawmakers all week to allow a vote on gun-control, and their efforts were monumental in getting many republicans to stand with democrats in Thursday's vote. There is still a long way to go before commonsense gun legislation becomes law, but it appears that the 20 children of Newtown, the others that died with them, and the more than 3,000 victims of gun violence since may all finally get the vote they deserve.
In screwed news... We're barely out of the first quarter of 2013, and already state lawmakers around our country have proposed nearly 700 provisions limiting a woman's reproductive health. According to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of those proposals relate directly to a woman's right to have an abortion, and the other half restrict sex education, the availability of medication, and other reproductive-related services. The report lists ten states in which legislators have introduced proposals that would virtually ban abortion, including eight states that have proposed so-called “personhood” amendments. The Republican war on women is not just a democratic talking point....here we have nearly 700 new examples of the Right attempting to restrict a woman's right to choose. Apparently, Republicans didn't learn anything from the last election. If only they had spent half as much time and tax payer money on jobs bills, who knows how much better our country could be doing today.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Once again, Senator Elizabeth Warren is bringing the fight to federal regulators on behalf of everyday Americans. In a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Thursday, Senator Warren tore into regulators for protecting the banksters who illegally foreclosed on homeowners. The Massachusetts Senator pressed officials on how they came to the decision to abandon their case-by-case review of foreclosure fraud, and move to a $9.3 billion dollar settlement. Because of their decision, Americans who lost their homes in 2009 and 2010 received less than $1,000 each as part of that settlement. Warren questioned regulators about how often banks broke the law, only to learn they didn't know, or wouldn't admit it. In disbelief, Warren asked, “You're saying that you did not have an estimate in mind of how many banks had broken the law and how many home owners were the victims of illegal activities?” Her effort won't undo the damage caused by banksters, but thankfully Elizabeth Warren if finally exposing them – and their complicit buddies in the regulatory agencies – for their crimes.
For decades, Republicans have stacked the court system with their right-wing buddies. But why spend time and effort putting someone on the bench, when you can simply eliminate the position? That's exactly what Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is now trying to do. On Wednesday, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Sri Srinivasan to the D.C. Circuit court, Senator Grassley introduced legislation to reduce the number of judges on that bench from 11 seats to eight. Grassley's argument is that the D.C. Circuit is the least busy court in our nation, so they shouldn't need as many judges to handle the caseload. As The Think Progress Blog points out, the D.C. Circuit does have a smaller caseload, but it's responsible for deciding many major regulatory and national security cases. As Republicans have refused to confirm any of President Obama's nominees, one of the most powerful courts in our nation currently has four vacant seats. This is a typical Republican tactic. Regardless of whether it's an election or a court battle, if you can't win on the issues, just cheat.
And finally… A Washington State beer company is offering a $1 million dollar reward for the safe capture of Bigfoot. Olympia Beer's website reads, “We have been sharing the same back yard for over a century, and we believe it's time to do what has never been done.” The company says that only registered participants are eligible for the high-dollar reward, but they must hand over Sasquatch alive and unharmed. Olympia says only sugar and sweets may be used to lure him in. We can only imagine what some participants will do to cash in. No word yet on whether the Corona Beer comapny will follow suit, and offer a hefty sum for the safe capture of the Chupacabra.