The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Why There Won’t Be A Gun Bill on the House or Senate Floor Anytime Soon

Reporting by Chad Pergram

It’s now more than two weeks since the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. And despite a lot of chatter on Capitol Hill, it will be at least four weeks - if not much longer - before Congress considers ANY gun legislation. That’s because the Senate leadership can’t forge an agreement on bringing up ANY bill next week. The Senate’s now adjourned for the week and plans to tackle a host of confirmation starting Monday.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) objected Monday to bringing up the background checks bill. Some Democrats and many Republicans want to do more than just background checks…but no one is completely sure if they can EVER reach a deal and call up any bill.

Of course, both houses of Congress have gone down this road before. Think Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Newtown, Charleston, San Bernardino, Orlando….

Lawmakers of both parties have professed that things were “different” after each of those episodes.

And yet….

The question is just how seismic was the attack at Parkland? Did the tectonic political plates REALLY shift to the point that the Senate can start debate on a bill? Or are each of these events simply fissures? While they may SEEM like major events, the political “Big One” hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps there truly hasn’t been a political San Andreas fault yet forcing change – even though each mass shooting has seemed that way to some lawmakers.

A number of Senate Republicans tell Fox that their conference is divided on what to do..if anything at all. Fox is told there is one wing of Republicans which just wants to do “something” because they are afraid they will get torched politically. Another group of Republicans frets about getting on the wrong side of the NRA and conservatives. Consider Senate GOP primaries coming up. It would be easy for some Republicans to vote for a gun plan which, heretofore, flies in the face of conventional GOP orthodoxy on firearms, and then face a beat-down in their primary. Consider how GOP Senate hopeful Danny Tarkanian could deploy this issue against Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) or Chris McDaniel against Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS).

Some Republicans are privately apoplectic about some of the things the President said about guns at the Wednesday White House meeting.

“It did more harm than good,” said one Republican Congressional source. “If (President) Obama would have said what (President) Trump said about guns, there would be riots in the streets.”

The point being, right-wing activists warned for years that Obama/Pelosi/Schumer/Hillary Clinton were coming to “get” people’s guns. The sale of firearms and ammo skyrocketed. And then, at the White House meeting, President Trump DID say he would “get” some people’s guns under given circumstances.

The President’s statement on this topic alone is freaking out Congressional Republicans.

“We’re in a really bad place on this,” said one Republican senator who asked that they not be identified. “We can’t do anything.”

There is also risk for Democrats.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today introduced a three-point plan on guns. One component of Schumer’s scheme includes a debate on assault weapons. But this path is perilous. A number of vulnerable Senate Democrats face competitive races this year in swing states or in territory where President Trump is popular. Taking a tough vote on guns could put those Democrats in a tough spot.

“He’s stupid,” said one such Democratic senator with a challenging race this fall when asked about Schumer’s gambit.

So, what is the fallback?

Don’t forget that President Trump says he wants a bunch of proposals in a solitary gargantuan, comprehensive bill.

That rarely works in Washington.

Enter the “Goldilocks” factor. Getting the bill “not too hot, not too cold, but just right.”

Legislation is all about “sweeteners” and “poison pills.” Add precisely the right sweeteners and something may pass. Add the wrong ingredient, and you have a poison pill which siphons votes from the legislation.

There is talk that perhaps the House and Senate can just tackle enhanced background checks. Well, the House attached the enhanced background checks provision as a “sweetener” to a gun measure last year. The base bill would permit reciprocity for concealed carry permits across state lines – a priority of the NRA. The House approved the package and sent it to the Senate.

Concealed carry reciprocity across state lines won’t command 60 yeas in the Senate. So, the natural inclination would be to strip out that provision. Does the bill then automatically get 60 yeas? Unclear. Why? Democrats may demand the Senate do MORE on guns than just background checks.

Let’s say the Senate does approve a scaled down background checks measure, sans concealed carry reciprocity, and, zaps the measure back to the House to sync up. The Freedom Caucus and other conservatives would likely bolt and vote no because leaders extracted concealed carry reciprocity. Under conventional circumstances, Democrats could make up the difference created by the Republican defectors and vote yes for background checks. However, there’s a problem. Democrats COULD oppose the measure in the House because they would demand the House do MORE on guns than just background checks. They may struggle to get to 218 yeas.

So, despite all the sturm and drang about guns here on Capitol Hill, this debate is really going nowhere anytime soon unless something radical changes soon.

New information into FBI surveillance of Trump presidential campaign

Reporting by Catherine Herridge

In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, obtained late today by Fox News, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says the surveillance warrant for Trump campaign aide Carter Page appears to be a clear of violation of FBI rules for submitting evidence to the FISA court, and may also violate criminal statutes.

Citing the FBI’s strict set of internal rules and procedures,  the letter reads in part --

"The accuracy of information contained within FISA applications is of utmost importance....Only documented and verified information may be used to support FBI applications to the (FISA) court."

The letter questions how the unverified Trump dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, meets that standard for the original application in October 2016, and at least, three subsequent renewals. 

The justice department has until March 8th to explain whether the rules have changed.  

The house panel's Republican chairman went further, and told the Attorney General, that the use of false or unverified information to secure a surveillance warrant could also be a violations of multiple criminal statues, including conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and contempt of court. 

According to the committee's Republican staff memo released last month, current and former Justice Department officials confirmed unverified information from the dossier was an essential part of the FISA application.

The Cultural Tug-of-War in Academia

Reporting by Casey Clarke

Colleges in America often have a penchant for liberal values. Many professors and administrators hold liberal ideologies, causing many on the right to cry foul for fear of indoctrination.

Universities are at the helm of the modern left movement. San Diego State University offers a class titled “Trump: Impeachment, Removal, or Conviction,” with the purpose of educating students on how to remove Donald Trump as the 45th President.  At a Catholic University in Ohio, students are warned that the words “husband” and “wife” may be offensive because they are not “gender neutral.” At UC Berkeley, security costs skyrocketed to $600,000 for conservative Ben Shapiro to speak; 9 dissidents were arrested on the scene and larger demonstrations transpired.  

Findings from a 2016 study confirmed longstanding beliefs that Democrat educators outpace Republicans; per voting records, Democrat professors outnumber Republicans 11 1/2 to 1. In 2017, Pew found that 58% of Republican students viewed college as adverse.

To combat a shortage of conservative thought in higher education, Arizona lawmakers are testing an original move. The legislature is taking the reins from universities, molding education programs with money from the state’s budget to reflect a more diverse array of conservative philosophies.  The University of Arizona’s Department of Political Economy and Moral Science and School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership will pilot a curriculum that centers on Western thought, free-markets, and original text.

Ideologues on either side have applied a modern lens to history thereby obscuring it with interpretation. The underlying purpose of this new academic program in Arizona is to disentangle history from ideological spin or revision.

Proponents of this new education program have stood a degree of criticism, especially from those on the left. Liberal professors have charged the legislature with endorsing a whitewashed, “ethnocentric” version of history that greatly reduces minority interpretation. Democrats at the university and within the government are also charging the GOP with misusing funds for this program.

The Arizona State Legislature is currently winning a cultural tug-of-war within academia. In the same vein, state legislatures across the nation are engaging in this cultural discussion. GOP state politicians across the nation are battling campuses for repressing conservative speakers and infringing on the First Amendment. A slew of governments introduced “campus free speech” bills to address this. 

This war amid ideologues has left students in a crosswind. Polarization has effectively permeated all aspects of life, including education. Universities must grapple with keeping the First Amendment in-tact, while also catering diversity of thought within academia.

Buttons battle: Justices grow frustrated over polling place attire case

Reporting by Bill Mears

Buttons, buttons who controls the buttons?

That was the issue before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, in a touchy First Amendment case over a state law banning "political" garments or insignia at the polling place.

It was a messy hour of oral arguments, as nearly every justice expressed frustration at lawyers from both sides, who were unable to articulate a workable standard to help the court decide when personal expression crosses the line into possible voter disruption or intimidation.

A Minnesota voter sued after being told to remove a "Please I.D. Me" button and Tea Party t-shirt at his polling place.

He says such "passive, non-disruptive" expression should be allowed, while the state argues the restrictions are a "reasonable, viewpoint-neutral" means to ensure polling integrity and reduce voter coercion.

 "If, in fact, we are trying to have a place where a person has reflective thought for a moment after the hurly-burly of the campaign, this problem will inevitably arise," said Justice Stephen Breyer, suggesting state restrictions would be appropriate.

"It does reach quite a bit beyond what I think a reasonable observer would think is necessary," countered Chief Justice John Roberts. "Do you really think if someone has a shirt with the tiniest little logo or inscription here, that's going to have any effect on decorum?"

Seeking an acceptable constitutional standard, the justices offered a timely set of heated hypotheticals to explore the legal boundaries, including apparel or accessory that might mention the:

--#MeToo movement against sexual harassment

--Parkland Strong, a response to last week's Florida mass school shooting; or alternately a National Rifle Association hat, in the debate over gun rights

--Competing Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter coalitions

--A rainbow t-shirt with no written message supporting gay rights

--"Make America Great Again," a Trump presidential campaign slogan   

All states have laws prohibiting direct campaigning, solicitation, or advocacy signs inside or near the polling station. The Supreme Court in 1992 upheld a Tennessee law prohibiting campaign materials within 100 feet of a polling place.

 About 11 states and the District of Columbia go farther, banning anyone wearing "political badges, political buttons, or other political insignia to be worn at or about the polling place" on election day.

Voting monitors and judges-- some government workers, others volunteers chosen from local political parties-- would ostensibly enforce the policy and settle any disputes.

Andrew Cilek, a local political activist in Minneapolis who brought the suit, was told twice in 2010 to remove his Tea Party-related apparel. When he returned a third time with his lawyer, Cilek was given a ballot but his name was recorded for possible prosecution, which can include a $300 fine.

The libertarian Cato Institute and the ACLU are among the outside groups that back him.

In the one-hour courtroom arguments, David Breemer, the attorney opposing the ban, said polling places were not "pristine retreats from the real world," and that "there's not a right to vote free of being bothered at all."

That brought some bench concern.

"A T-shirt, you say, is passive," Justice Neil Gorsuch told the lawyer. "What if it were instead a sign on my head, you know, flashing lights? Is that active or is that passive [speech]? How are we supposed to police the line you're suggesting?"

"Why should there be speech inside the election booth at all," added Justice Anthony Kennedy, his voice rising. "You're there to vote."

Roberts could be the deciding or "swing vote." He asked tough questions of both sides. On one hand, he defended the Minnesota law, saying organized voters-- "a big employer, the union, teachers, whatever, say we're all going to show up and we're all going to have these buttons on." Roberts suggested "It's subtle psychological pressure" on other voters.

But then Roberts worried about individualized, discretionary, and binding decisions made on the spot about what is acceptable to wear.

"How do you know if a mistake has been made?" he wondered. "You know, if someone makes a judgment and it's challenged, how do you know a mistake's been made?"

Daniel Rogan, the attorney for the state received some pushback when he conceded a rainbow t-shirt would be permitted under Minnesota law, but not an NRA t-shirt.

Justice Samuel Alito bristled when told most voters in violation would be told to hide or change their offending apparel.

"The person can wear a bathrobe or some kind of coverup to go in and vote. You think that's not kind of humiliating?" he said. "Or the person can be listed as a bad Minnesotan?"

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in the Minnesota case, the voter who sued was displaying what she said some considered a "highly charged political message," since the "Please I.D. Me" button referred to pending legislation that would require voters to show an official picture identification establishing residency.

The balancing test for the high court is a tricky one. Any limitations on speech content would have to have a "compelling government interest." But "reasonable" restrictions on speech on government property are allowed if they are viewpoint- neutral.

The case is Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky (16-1435).

New satellite photos show Iran establishing another base in Syria

Reporting by Jennifer Griffin and Lucas Tomlinson

Iran has built another permanent military base outside Syria’s capital city complete with hangers used to store missiles capable of hitting all of Israel, according to Western intelligence sources. 

Exclusive satellite images from ImageSat International obtained by Fox News shows what is believed to be the new Iranian base, eight miles northwest of Damascus, operated by the Quds Force -- the special operations arm of Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).  The photos show two new white hangars, each roughly 30 yd x 20 yds used to store the short and medium range missiles.

On Capitol Hill Tuesday, the top U.S. military commander for American forces in the Middle East said Iran was “increasing” the number and “quality” of its ballistic missiles it was deploying to the region when asked by Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. about reports Iran had moved more missiles into Syria during a House Armed Services Committee.

Gen. Joseph L. Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, said Iran has "enhanced" its funding to proxy forces in Middle East since the landmark nuclear agreement in July 2015 deal including sending missiles, fighters and other arms to Yemen and Syria.

But when asked by Cheney what the U.S. military’s role against Iran in Syria should be, Votel replied, “countering Iran is not one of the coalition’s missions in Syria.”  The focus of the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Syria remains the destruction of ISIS and preventing the terror group from rising up again, Votel said.

Votel said in the past five years Iran had successfully created a proxy network in Yemen similar to what it took them 20 years to create in Lebanon with Hezbollah.

A base similar to the one revealed in these new satellite photos was built last year south of Damascus, before being destroyed in December by Israeli surface-to-surface missiles. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tehran a month prior to the strike against building any military bases in Syria.  “Israel will not let that happen,” he said.

Votel’s remarks to Congress comes amidst criticism from the White House of Russia and Iran’s continued support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the regime’s ferocious bombing campaign in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus where 400,000 civilians remain trapped.

“Syria is terrorizing hundreds of thousands of civilians with airstrikes, artillery, rockets and a looming ground attack. The regime's use of chlorine gas is - as a weapon - only intensifies this,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders Monday. 

Votel told lawmakers Russia is standing in the way of any lasting ceasefire in Syria. 500 civilians have been killed in Eastern Ghouta in the past few days, the same area where the regime used sarin gas in 2015.

"Moscow is playing the role of arsonist and firefighter - fueling the conflict in Syria between the Syrian Regime, YPG, and Turkey, then claiming to serve as an arbiter to resolve the dispute," said Votel using an acronym for the Kurdish-led Syrian fighters supported by the United States.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that 200 page United Nations report outlining how North Korea has been skirting sanctions and sending components to Syria for chemical weapons, comes as the White House accused Syria of employing chlorine gas.

It’s not the first time North Korea has been accused of supporting Syria’s weapons of mass destruction.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said he tried unsuccessfully in 2007 to persuade then-President George W. Bush to bomb a nuclear reactor in northeast Syria at Al Kibar built with help of North Korea, casting the lone vote inside the president’s national security team.

On September 5, 2007, eight Israeli fighter jets destroyed the nuclear reactor at Al Kibar, “which was the right answer,” said Cheney.

 

Justices rule detained immigrants do not get automatic bond hearings

Reporting by Bill Mears

A sharply divided Supreme Court concluded certain immigrants or asylum seekers do not have an automatic right to periodic custody or bail hearings.

The 5-3 decision comes at a time when the Trump administration seeks to crack down on those seeking permanent entry into the country.

At issue is whether aliens requesting admission to the U-S who are subject to mandatory federal detention must be afforded court status hearings, with the possibility of release into the country, if the detention lasts more than six months. That could include lawful permanent residents charged with a crime; those detained at the border seeking entry who might lack valid documentation; or those claiming fear of persecution if they return to their home country.

The key plaintiff was Alejandro Rodriguez, held for more than three years without any bond hearing. The Mexican national was convicted of misdemeanor drug possession and joyriding, but fought deportation. He was eventually allowed to stay in the U-S after his release from custody.

With the help of the ACLU, he sued, claiming his constitutional rights were violated.

  In the majority ruling, Justice Samuel Alito said the government's authority was clear.

"Detention during those proceedings gives immigration officials time to determine an alien’s status without running the risk of the alien’s either absconding or engaging in criminal activity before a final decision can be made."

Alito also accused the three dissenting justices of ignoring the relevant law. "How does the dissent attempt to evade the clear meaning of 'detain'? It resorts to the legal equivalent of a sleight-of-hand trick."

Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch supported the judgment.        

But Justice Stephen Breyer said the fact these are immigrants in custody does not diminish their right to a hearing.

"The bail questions before us are technical but at heart they are simple," Breyer said, in an unusual oral dissent read from the bench. "We need only recall the words of the Declaration of Independence, in particular its insistence that all men and women have 'certain unalienable Rights,' and that among them is the right to 'Liberty."'

Breyer was backed by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Elena Kagan had recused from the case back in November, citing an unspecified conflict.

The court avoided resolving other issues raised by the plaintiffs, throwing the case back to the lower courts to decide if the immigration law being challenged is constitutional.

The ACLU said all but about ten-percent of the immigrant claims are settled within six months, and that about 34,000 immigrants on average are being detained at any one time in the U.S.

"The Trump administration is trying to expand immigration detention to record-breaking levels as part of its crackdown on immigrant communities," said ACLU attorney Ahilan Arulanantham, who argued the Supreme Court case. "We have shown through this case that when immigrants get a fair hearing, judges often release them based on their individual circumstances."

The Justice Department had no immediate reaction to the high court ruling.

Both the Trump and Obama administrations had taken the same position on the bond hearing question.

The case is Jennings v. Rodriguez (15-1204).

A Disappearing Faction: The Pro-Life Democrat

Reporting by Casey Clarke

The far left has effectively captured the Democratic Party and this begs the question—how will Democrats fare in the Midterms and 2020 with this posture? With the Democrats in need of reclaiming seats in the House to secure a majority, social issues such as abortion have become a litmus test.  Being a pro-life Democrat is no longer tolerable according to leftist leaders. What used to be a matter of preference and faith, is now mandated across party lines. 

You are either a pro-choice, Democrat or a Republican, there is a binary choice. To no surprise, Bernie Sanders— a self-avowed Democratic socialist—endorses abortion as a litmus test; DNC Chair Tom Perez has reiterated similar talking points. To the Huffington Post Perez said, “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable.”

Some opinion mongers and other analysts see this as unwise. Isolating a faction of people to appease a radical fringe may come with political costs. What may not seem controversial in California may offend rural Democratic voters in the Rust Belt.  Single-issue voters may even be forced to “jump ship” to align with their religion or personal preference. This is the central dilemma Democrats must grapple with sooner rather than later.  Some would argue that a reason President Trump won over Hillary Clinton was a direct repudiation of the Democratic Party capitulating to far left radicals.

Evidence of this is vast. Vice News, a progressive news organization, recently published an article stating “Where have all the pro-abortion Democrats gone?” The article lamented the fact that there are zero pro-life Democrats competing in over 91 districts this year. Comparing this to 2009 is a stark juxtaposition when 64 Democrats opposed Obamacare because abortion was not restricted.

Even more recently, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has refused to endorse Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski of Chicago, in part, because of abortion. This controversial move stands in contrast to the words of the DCCC chair Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.). In July of 2017, Rep. Luján repudiated claims that abortion would be a litmus test in 2018. Rep. Lipinski, a seven-term Congressman, stands as a testament that not all Democrats are in favor of the Democrats changing priorities. Lipinski is a member of the “Blue Dogs,” a centrist Democrat group fighting the shifting tides of Democrats to the left.

For now, it seems the interests of “identity politics” are ripe. The likes of Tom Steyer, Keith Ellison, and Elizabeth Warren have effectively won the intra-party war. In an era of Trump, this left movement is hardly astonishing. With Democrats on the offensive this year, however, there is renewed interest in making a fresher message that attracts broad strata of people instead dividing and isolating. 

Supreme Court hears arguments over union fees, possible deciding vote Gorsuch silent

Reporting by Bill Mears

A justice's silence added some drama Monday to whether a powerful public-sector labor union will prevail at the Supreme Court, in a hotly contested business and political issue.

At issue is whether states can compel government workers-- whether they are in a union or not-- to pay so-called "agency fees" to support collective bargaining and other workplace activities.

An Illinois state employee sued, saying he was being asked to support what he said was the union's political message, with which he disagrees.

The high court appeared divided, with newest member Justice Neil Gorsuch seen as the "swing" or deciding vote. But he had no comments or questions from the bench during nearly 70 minutes of oral arguments.

His colleagues were not as shy.

"If I were in a regulated industry, and I read the Court's opinion siding with" government workers that oppose the union, said Justice Stephen Breyer, "I would wonder if it didn't apply to me. Not all workers are lawyers. And all they've seen is that this Court has suddenly cut legs, at least one, out of the financing of a system that... some people think it brought labor peace."

But Justice Anthony Kennedy said repeatedly that separating politics from the union's collective bargaining mission was impossible.

"We're talking here about compelled justification and compelled subsidization of a private party that expresses political views constantly." He told the union's lawyer, "It seems to me your argument doesn't have much weight."

 Mark Janus has worked for years as an Illinois state employee, and pays about $550 annually to the powerful public-sector union known as AFSCME.

While not a member of the union, he is required under state law to hand over a weekly portion of his paycheck - which he says is a violation of his constitutional rights.

"The fundamental issue is my right to choice," said Janus outside the court, after attending the arguments. "I had to pay the fee, nobody asked me, I wasn't given the opportunity to say yes, which is also, ultimately, the ability to say no... That's what whole case is about."

Labor leaders oppose so-called "free riding" by workers like Janus, and say they have a legal duty to advocate for all employees:

"It definitely hurts the ability of unions to discharge all of their responsibilities, from administering contacts, to negotiating terms, to handling grievance procedures," said David Frederick, an attorney representing AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. "It's an economic fact, if you have less money, and you have people that are free riding, then it's harder for you to do your job."

The high court is being asked to overturn its four-decade old ruling allowing so-called "fair share" fees for public employees.

While the current case applies only to them, the repercussions could affect unions nationwide.

Union membership nationwide is less than 11-percent of the American workforce, but about a third of government employees are members.

The Supreme Court had deadlocked when the issue was revisited two years ago, just after Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly.

Gorsuch, the replacement named by President Trump, faced strong labor union opposition at his confirmation hearings last spring, but told senators his record backing workers was strong.

While Gorsuch seeks to keep court-watchers guessing, Trump's Justice Department has been clear on its position - announcing in December it was reversing course from the previous administration and supporting Janus.

Such legal turnarounds are rare, but the union fees case is one of three this Supreme Court term where the Trump Justice Department is taking a new interpretation.

That prompted Justice Sotomayor to add rhetorically, "How many times this term already have you flipped positions from prior administrations?"

Frederick said some unions might respond to loss of power and money by becoming more "militant" in their relations with management, "in search of short-term gains that they can bring back to their members and say stick with us."

But Chief Justice John Roberts said just the opposite might occur.

 "The argument on the other side, of course, is that the need to attract voluntary payments will make the unions more efficient, more effective, more attractive to a broader group of their employees. What's wrong with that?"

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wondered the extent a ruling against the public sector unions could then be applied to bar fees on free speech grounds for a range of shared resources, such as student activity fees and bar association dues. And the big question big labor worries most about.

"What about the private sector, agency fees compelled by state law in the private sector?" Ginsburg asked.

About 28 states have so-called "right-to-work laws" that prohibit or limit union security agreements between companies and workers' unions.

States that do allow "fair share" fees say they go to a variety of activities that benefit all workers, whether are in the union or not. That includes collective bargaining for wage and benefit increases, grievance procedures, and workplace safety.

Employees who do not join a union also do not have to pay for a union's "political" activities, but both sides of the issue are at odds over when that would occur.

Court watchers say the legal and political stakes in the Janus case could well determine the future of the union movement.

"I think people who are in public sector unions are very concerned about their viability going forward. Certainly opponents of unions see this case as something that they hope will substantially diminish the power of labor," said Elizabeth Wydra, president of The Constitutional Accountability Center. "But make no mistake, this case is a very serious potential blow to the union movement."

The case also revealed a split within Illinois state politics. The state's Republican governor Bruce Rauner and the Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan are opposite sides of the case. While conservative groups backing Janus have said some of Rauner's public comments predicting victory against the unions were inappropriate and unhelpful to their side.

The governor did not file a supporting brief in favor of Janus, but Madigan's office did argue its case on behalf of the state, in front of the justices Monday.

The case is Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 and Madigan (16-1466). A ruling is expected by late June.

 

 

 

West Coast in Crisis

Reporting by Casey Clarke, FOX News Channel

The West coast is suffering from a homelessness issue of epic proportions. In Los Angeles alone, homelessness grew 26% from 2016 to 2017. Encampments are on the rise and poverty runs rampant with little solutions short of big government and big spending. Advocates have proposed everything from tiny house communities to basic universal income—a desire of some progressives to give constituents a set income regardless of their ability to work. Meanwhile, constituents are accusing West Coast politicians of having misguided priorities and issuing bad policies.

In L.A. County, the “big government” option has been exhausted—taxpayer dollars have been rolled out with little effect. And yet, they are still underfunded. Due to miscalculation, the $73 million that was funneled to address homelessness was only a third of the amount needed, experts say. In Orange County, there are homeless camps accommodating 500 people at a time. The situation is so dire the government is handing out motel vouchers. 

Making the optics worse, California politician Nancy Pelosi, who ranks among the richest members of Congress and often lectures about the perils of economic disparities, is calling $1,000 bonuses “crumbs,” and the GOP tax bill “unpatriotic.”  Many top Democrats have distanced themselves from Pelosi’s “crumbs” comment,  calling them “out of touch."

Another California politician, Senator Kamala Harris is under fire amid a worsening homeless problem. Last week, she endorsed illegals getting financial aid in a tweet; she also lamented the decline in applicants this year, blaming President Trump. Republican pundits such as Ben Shapiro have called out Harris for prioritizing illegals over citizens, especially with a backdrop of sheer poverty affecting her constituents. On Fox & Friends, Shapiro said “Obviously most of the homeless people in California are not illegal immigrants, but those people obviously could use resources that the state is not providing…But it shows once again that for Democrats, there's an actual look to make illegal immigration more prominent.”

However, this is hardly a controversial idea in a sanctuary state. Governor Jerry Brown's own budget includes an extra $15 million to help undocumented individuals evade deportation. California roughly spends $23 billion on illegals on a yearly basis.  To welcome immigrants is an American narrative, but financing them has costs that may prove burdensome at a time when homelessness is so dire. 

A discussion needs to take place on both sides of the aisle. Both parties must choose where their priorities lie. For now, the West Coast is still in need of solutions and politicians that deliver beyond talking points. Political discord and grandstanding have yet to deliver solutions to the homeless problem, putting many at risk.  

 

The Grand Old Trump Party

Reporting by Casey Clarke, Fox News Channel

Partisans use President Trump’s approval ratings as evidence of his political clumsiness; some ideologues go further, exploiting his unpopularity to discredit legislative victories. In spite of partisan spin, the facts remain: Trump has yet to maintain a job approval rating beyond 50%. Whether attributed to controversy, scandal or his sometimes vulgar tone, Trump faces scrutiny from within his administration as an outsider; polls and surveys are a numeric expression of this.

Just this week, the so-called “failing” New York Times stated Trump has officially dethroned James Buchanan as the “worst president of all time” according to a group of political scientists.  Opposite Trump, Barrack Obama sits high atop the list with a rating of 8. Other notables include Bill Clinton who is number 13, and George W. Bush, number 30.                                                                                                                        

In the echo chamber that is mainstream media, there is little discussion concerning Trump’s approval ratings amid his base of emphatic supporters. The same day the New York Times dubbed Trump “the worst president of all time,” the New York Magazine toted a much different headline: “Trump Now Trails Only Reagan among Recent Presidents in GOP Esteem.” This surprisingly positive headline refers to a University of Virginia/Ipsos President’s Day poll that ranks presidents 1-10.  Parts of its findings are predictable, mainly that Trump ranks among the least popular of all modern presidents. Self-identified conservatives view him undeniably positive, yet his likeability seems to plateau beyond that. He is loved and he is admonished, as most politicians are.  According to this poll, Trump’s popularity amid Republicans is greater than the Bushes, Ford, and Eisenhower; he is second only to Ronald Reagan, and many have drawn similarities between the two.

Despite all the grief that Trump’s dislike is immeasurable, there is the material evidence that the Grand Old Party is officially the “Grand Old Trump Party.” Trump's popularity amid self-identified Republicans (usually between 85%-90%) has made him the face of mainstream despite his populist underbelly. Trump’s successful conquest of the GOP is also evident by his job approval that outshines Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. The “anti-swamp” outsider is officially the leader of the political machine. Whether due to tax reform victories or other economic feats, Donald J. Trump and the GOP are inextricably linked. This idea contradicts far-fetched theories that an alt-Right Bannon wing or moderate wing will unseat Trump come 2020.

A more ominous reading of this poll speaks to the longevity of the GOP with Trump at the helm. Despite his tides rallying the party, Trump is still largely unpopular amid Democrats and Independents. Any gains he has in terms of approval typically come from within the party, not outside.  To have a fighting chance for the GOP to remain in the majority in this hyper-partisan era, Trump must convey to those outside of his base that he is worthy. Amid all uncertainties in this tumultuous political culture, it is certain that Trump can proudly tout his rise from a punchline to the leader of a major national party. 

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