Chad’s Morning Brief: After Scandals Trust Shifts to GOP, Immigration Legislation Clears Panel, & More
Here is your Morning Brief for the morning of May 22, 2013. Give me your feedback below and tune in to The Chad Hasty Show for these and many more topics from 8:30 to 11am.
1. Trust (link)
Is the American public turning on President Obama and the Democrats? Maybe. A new poll out shows that the public trusts the GOP more now on ethics and corruption issues. The scandals in Washington might be having a deeper effect than some had initially thought.
The Democratic Party's edge over the GOP on who the public trusts more on ethics and corruption issues has flipped in the wake of the IRS and Benghazi scandals, according to Rasmussen Reports.
Not only do voters trust Republicans more now, they have their highest level of confidence in the GOP and the lowest level in Democrats in seven months.
While the Democrats had an eight-point "trust advantage" over Republicans a month ago, Rasmussen's latest poll said that edge has disappeared and now the GOP has a two-point advantage.
"With growing questions about Benghazi and actions taken by the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department, Democrats' noticeable edge over Republicans in voter trust in the area of government ethics and corruption has disappeared," said Rasmussen.
It's not a huge lead in trust for Republicans, but it's a starting point. How long will the trust remain for the GOP? Let's just say I'm not ready to declare the rise of the GOP anytime soon.
2. Immigration (link)
Legislation that would allow illegal immigrants a path to citizenship cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday by a 13-5 vote.
Far-reaching legislation that grants a chance at citizenship to millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a solid bipartisan vote Tuesday night after supporters somberly sidestepped a controversy over the rights of gay spouses.
The 13-5 vote cleared the way for an epic showdown on the Senate floor on legislation that is one of President Barack Obama's top domestic priorities — yet also gives the Republican Party a chance to recast itself as more appealing to minorities.
The action sparked rejoicing from immigration activists who crowded into a Senate committee room to witness the proceedings. "Yes, we can! Si, se puede" they shouted, reprising the campaign cry from Obama's first run for the White House in 2008.
In addition to creating a pathway to citizenship for 11.5 million immigrants, the legislation creates a new program for low-skilled foreign labor and would permit highly skilled workers into the country at far higher levels than is currently the case.
At the same time, it requires the government to take costly new steps to guard against future illegal immigration.
In a statement, Obama said the measure is "largely consistent with the principles of common-sense reform I have proposed and meets the challenge of fixing our broken immigration system."
There was suspense to the end of the committee's deliberations, when Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who serves as chairman, sparked a debate over his proposal to give same-sex and heterosexual spouses equal rights under immigration law.
"I don't want to be the senator who asks people to choose between the love of their life and the love of their country," he said, adding he wanted to hear from others on the committee.
In response, he heard a chorus of pleas from the bill's supporters, seconding private appeals from the White House, not to force a vote that they warned would lead to the collapse of Republican support and the bill's demise.
"I believe in my heart of hearts that what you're doing is the right and just thing," said one, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. "But I believe this is the wrong moment, that this is the wrong bill."
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who has played a central role in advancing the legislation, said he would have voted against the proposal if Leahy had pressed the case — a defection that would have caused it to fail on a tie.
In the hours leading to a final vote, the panel also agreed to a last-minute compromise covering an increase in the visa program for high-tech workers, a deal that brought Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah over to the ranks of supporters.
Under the compromise, the number of highly skilled workers admitted to the country would rise from 65,000 annually to 110,000, with the possibility of a further increase to 180,000, depending in part on unemployment levels.
Firms where foreign labor accounts for at least 15 percent of the skilled work force would be subjected to tighter conditions than companies less dependent on H-IB visa holders.
The compromise was negotiated by Hatch, whose state is home to a growing high tech industry, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. It is designed to balance the interests of industry, which relies increasingly on skilled foreign labor, and organized labor, which represents American workers.
AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka attacked the deal sharply as "anti-worker," although he also made clear organized labor would continue to support the overall legislation.
Robert Hoffman, senior vice president for government affairs at the Information Technology Industry Council, welcomed the deal. "We obviously want to keep moving the bill forward and building support for the legislation, and this agreement allows us to do so," he said.
The issue of same-sex spouses hovered in the background from the start, and as the committee neared the end of its work, officials said Leahy had been informed that both the White House and Senate Democrats hoped he would not risk the destruction of months of painstaking work by putting the issue to a vote.
"There have been 300 amendments. Why shouldn't we have one more?" he told reporters at one point, hours before called the committee into session for a final time to debate the legislation.
A few hours later, Republicans and Democrats both answered his question bluntly.
"This would fracture the coalition. I could not support the bill," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who was a member of the bipartisan so-called Gang of Eight that drafted the core elements of the bill.
Republicans and Democrats alike also noted that the Supreme Court may soon issue a ruling that renders the controversy moot.
In a statement issued after Leahy's action, Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said his group was "extremely disappointed that our allies did not put their anti-LGBT colleagues on the spot and force a vote on the measure that remains popular with the American people."
The issue is certain to re-emerge when the full Senate debates the legislation, although it is doubtful that sponsors can command the 60 votes that will be needed to make it part of the legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he will bring the legislation to the Senate floor early next month for a debate that some aides predict could consume a month or more, with an outcome that is impossible to predict.
The fate of immigration legislation in the House is even less clear, although it is due to receive a hearing in the Judiciary Committee there on Wednesday.
Despite the concern that bipartisan support for the legislation was fragile, there was no doubting the command over committee proceedings that Senate backers held.
In a final reminder, an attempt by Sen. Ted Cruz., R-Texas, to delete the pathway to citizenship failed on a 13-5 vote.
In defeat, he and others said they, too, wanted to overhaul immigration law, but not the way that drafters of the legislation had done.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, recalled that he had voted to give "amnesty" to those in the country illegally in 1986, the last time Congress passed major immigration legislation. He said that bill, like the current one, promised to crack down on illegal immigration, but said it had failed to do so.
"No one disputes that this bill is legalization first, enforcement later. And, that's just unacceptable to me and to the American people," he said shortly before the vote.
This legislation may pass the Senate, but as of right now I don't see it getting through the House.
3. Bill Lets Police Take Guns From Those in Mental Crisis (link)
If Governor Perry signs off on it, police would have authority to take firearms away from people who are in a mental crisis.
Senate Bill 1189, by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place, would allow police to confiscate guns from people who are experiencing a mental health crisis if they determine the person is a danger to themselves or others. The change is one of many suggested in a report last year by Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit advocacy organization, that called on lawmakers to replace the existing mental health code with one that reflects modern mental health needs.
The current mental health code was last fully revised in 1985. Lawmakers did not attempt a wholesale revision of the code this year, but they did add a significant amount of new funding — about $259 million — for mental health services in the 2014-15 budget and have proposed some modifications to address public safety concerns.
In an interview earlier this year, Lt. Michael Lee of the Houston Police Department said the law should spell out what authority officers have in situations where someone is experiencing a mental health crisis and there are weapons in close proximity.
"It should direct police officers what to do with firearms," he said, adding that law enforcement also needed direction about what to do with weapons once they take them. "Now that we put it in our property rooms, what do we do with that weapon? How do we get it back to that person in a safe manner?"
SB 1189 specifically authorizes police to take weapons and sets up a procedure for returning them to the owner safely. It allows police to investigate whether the person was court ordered to receive inpatient psychiatric treatment, in which case federal law would prohibit them from possessing a firearm.
With final approval in the House in a 145-1 vote, the measure goes to Perry, who can sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.
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