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Pennsylvania GOP leaders ask Supreme Court to block redrawn congressional map

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The Republican presiding officers of Pennsylvania’s House and Senate asked the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday to block a new congressional district map that is widely expected to boost Democratic prospects in the November midterm elections.

The emergency request filed by Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnetti says the state Supreme Court usurped legislative authority when it issued the new map on Monday, calling it an unprecedented decision.

Pamap2011

The congressional map drawn by the GOP-led legislature in 2011.

 (Supreme Court of Pennsylvania)

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court conspicuously seized the redistricting process and prevented any meaningful ability for the Legislature to enact a remedial map to ensure a court drawn map,” they wrote.

NewPAmap7201

The revised congressional map for 2018.

 (Supreme Court of Pennsylvania)

Last month, the Democratic-majority Supreme Court of Pennsylvania threw out a 2011 congressional district map that had been drafted by Republicans, saying it violated the state constitution’s guarantee of free and equal elections. On Monday, the court released new maps of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts.

Republicans had won 13 of 18 seats in three straight elections under the now-invalidated map, even though Pennsylvania’s statewide elections are often closely divided and registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans.

The challenge adds uncertainty as candidates are preparing to circulate nominating petitions to get their names on the May primary ballot.

A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, responding to the lawmakers’ filing, said Wolf was “focused on making sure the Department of State is fully complying with the court’s order by updating their systems and assisting candidates, county election officials and voters prepare for the primary election.”

Turzai told reporters earlier Wednesday that a separate action in federal court in Harrisburg is also possible.

Wednesday marked the third time in four months that Turzai and Scarnati have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put a halt to litigation over the 2011 map they took leading roles in producing.

In November, Justice Samuel Alito turned down a request for a stay of a federal lawsuit, a case that Turzai and Scarnati won in January.

On Feb. 5, Alito rejected a request from Turzai and Scarnati to halt a Jan. 22 order from the state Supreme Court that gave the Republican leaders two weeks to propose a map that would be supported by the Democratic governor and until last week to suggest a new map to the court.

The application filed Wednesday also was addressed to Alito.

Turzai and Scarnati argued that the state’s high court gave them scant time to propose their own map after throwing out the 2011 version, ensuring “that its desired plan to draft the new map would be successful.” As evidence of a “preordained plan,” they cited comments critical of gerrymandering made by Justice David Wecht during his 2015 campaign for the court.

“The court’s process was entirely closed,” they told Alito. “It did not allow the parties the opportunity to provide any comment to the proposed map, inquire on why certain subdivisions were split and whether it was to meet population equality, or further evaluate whether partisan intent played any role in the drafting.”

As a sign of the litigation’s potential impact on national politics, President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged Republicans to press their challenge of the map to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Your Original was correct! Don’t let the Dems take elections away from you so that they can raise taxes & waste money!” Trump tweeted.

The five Democrats on the state Supreme Court sided with Democratic voters who challenged the map, although one of the Democratic justices, Max Baer, has pointedly opposed the compressed timetable.

Congressional candidates have from Feb. 27 to March 20 to collect and submit enough signatures to get on the ballot, and the new district maps have candidates and would-be candidates scrambling to decide whether to jump in. Five incumbents are not seeking another term and a sixth has resigned, an unusually large number of openings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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'Brexit cost a lot of jobs!' Ken Livingstone slams Farage in big debate 'Still a remoaner'

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FORMER London Mayer Ken Livingston insisted Brexit “has cost jobs” as he squabbled with Nigel Farage over Brexit before demanding the British government invest in jobs for British people.

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In Ohio GOP race, local and national politics square off

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WASHINGTON — Is all politics now national?

Or is some of it still local when it comes to congressional races?

We’ll get an answer from today’s GOP special primary in Ohio’s 15th Congressional District to replace Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, who resigned his seat back in April to run Ohio’s chamber of commerce.

Donald Trump has definitely helped nationalize the contest by endorsing coal lobbyist Mike Carey, and a pro-Trump Super PAC is airing this ad for him: “This August 3rd, vote for the only Trump-endorsed, America-First conservative — Mike Carey for Congress.”

On the other hand, Stivers has endorsed his hand-picked successor, state Rep. Jeff LaRe, and the ex-congressman has been running this TV ad: “I’m proud to support Jeff LaRe for Congress. Jeff LaRe is a former law enforcement officer and a strong conservative leader who has fought to make our communities safer.”

So much attention on this Ohio-15 special has been on whether a Trump-backed candidate could lose another race — after last week’s defeat of the Trump-endorsed Susan Wright in Texas.

But is a more important issue here whether local politics can still trump national politics?

After all, the candidate who defeated Wright down in Texas — Jake Ellzey — was a state representative with endorsements from Rick Perry, Joe Barton and Dan Crenshaw.

Now today’s other Ohio special primary election — in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District between Nina Turner and Shontel Brown — is fully nationalized, with it being the latest battle in the Bernie-Dem Establishment War.

But also pay attention to Ohio-15 to see if local politics and local endorsements still matter.

Looking at the ad spending in Ohio

Today’s high-profile special primary elections have made for busy airwaves outside of Cleveland and Columbus.

In the Dems’ 11th District contest, Turner and Brown (plus their outside backers) have gone virtually punch-for-punch in the ad war. Turner has spent $2.3 million on TV, radio and digital advertising through Tuesday, per AdImpact, with her aligned Democratic Action PAC adding another $250,000. That’s matched by the Brown campaign’s $1.3 million on ads, plus an additional $1.1 million chipped in by the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC.

Things are even more crowded among the Republicans in the 15th District contest. The top spenders are businessman Tom Hwang, a self-funder running as an outsider, and the Protect Freedom PAC, which is backing Ron Hood, the state representative backed by Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul. Both have spent just over $480,000 on advertisements.

Former Rep. Steve Stivers, who has endorsed Jeff LaRe, has actually spent more on ads than any other candidate besides Hwang, with $344,000. Then the Trump-aligned Make America Great Again PAC has spent $305,000 in support of the candidate Trump has endorsed, lobbyist Mike Carey, with Carey’s campaign spending another $265,000. State Sen. Bob Peterson has spent $265,000, the anti-Carey Conservative Outsider PAC has spent another $241,000, LaRe’s campaign has spent $180,000, and former Columbus NAACP President Ruth Edmonds has spent $107,000.

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Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

35: The average number of new, daily pediatric Covid-19 hospitalizations over the last week in Florida.

11 hours: How long New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced questions for from the state’s Attorney General’s office during a harassment probe.

110 million: The amount of Covid vaccines the U.S. government has shipped to 65 other countries, per the Wall Street Journal.

35,202,585: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 168,435 more than yesterday morning.)

617,258: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News.

346,924,345: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 467,676 since yesterday morning.)

49.7 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

60.6 percent: The share of all American adults at least 18 years of age who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

70 percent: The share of all American adults at least 18 years of age who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, per the CDC, a mark which President Biden had hoped America would hit by the July 4 holiday.

Talking policy with Benjy: Inflated fears of inflation?

A $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure deal. A $3.5 trillion budget plan. And Republicans are confident they have their top counterargument already lined up: It will all raise prices.

Inflation, after all, is up significantly in 2021. The Fed believes it’s mostly temporary, caused by pandemic-specific disruptions like a computer chip shortage that’s sending car prices soaring. So far, the markets mostly agree with them, but critics argue the economy is overheating from too much stimulus spending.

But there are several important factors that could mitigate inflation risk from the $4 trillion in proposed new spending, NBC’s Benjy Sarlin reports.

First of all, it’s going to be spent much more slowly than the Covid relief bills, over a period of 10 years rather than as immediate relief. Second, unlike Covid spending, Democrats plan to offset the cost by raising taxes on businesses and wealthy individuals. Third, spending on items like better roads, cheaper power and easier commutes could make the economy more productive and thus better able to handle increased demand.

“If the bill is fully paid for, then to a first approximation it would have no impact on inflation,” Jason Furman, a top economic adviser in the Obama administration, told NBC News. “Moreover, if it expanded supply (through infrastructure, more parents working because of childcare, etc.) it might put some downward pressure on inflation.”

Furman is more worried than many of his peers about rising prices, but says little of that has to do with the spending plans, which he calls a “red herring” in the inflation debate that could be checked with higher interest rates if needed

Inflation hawks worry the spending offsets won’t materialize and that the boost to productivity won’t be enough to justify the total spending. The bipartisan infrastructure plan relies on some shaky budget math and the Democratic plan might make its numbers work by funding some features, like the child tax credit, for shorter lengths with the expectation they’ll be extended. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates this would boost the cost from $3.5 trillion to over $5 trillion, which may or may not be offset.

“There is a high probability that there won’t be enough taxes collected,” Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Loyola Marymount University, said. “Historically, every president has promised to pay for tax cuts or spending increases, but that never happened.”

The biggest fear is that if inflation goes on too long, people will begin to expect more inflation, creating a kind of self-perpetuating cycle in which businesses raise prices and workers keep bargaining for higher wages in order to get ahead of it.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

It’s been two years since the massacre in El Paso.

Some public health experts are questioning the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s analysis that led to new masking guidelines.

The GOP chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors rejected a new subpoena, calling the GOP-led “election audit” an ‘adventure in never-never land.’

The National Labor Relations Board has determined that Amazon violated labor law after workers at its Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse tried to join a union, according to the union.

The Associated Press reports that unaccompanied minors stopped at the U.S-Mexico border by immigration officials hit an all-time high in July.

Axios reports that President Biden and his chief of staff don’t believe pressuring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire would be productive.

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EU power grab: Chilling analysis show how bloc dominates lives of its citizens

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THE European Union is now a “powerful beast” which dominates all aspects of the lives of the 400 million people who live within its member states, a sobering new analysis has shown.

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