111th congress

By The Third Time, It's a Trend

For anyone seeking to understand how the Religious Right plans to operate under the relatively young Obama Administration, let us offer a few telling examples.  

For weeks, if not months, they have been hyperventilating over the fact that Democrats in Congress are intent on re-introducing the Fairness Doctrine in order to "silence conservative and Christian broadcasters" and eliminate their ”freedom to share the Gospel.” Of course, as we noted yesterday, there was no desire or effort to actually bring it back and even President Obama has stated that he "does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated."  But will not stop the Right from carping about it?  Not likely:

While this is encouraging, I want you to know that we will remain vigilant and continue to work to oppose the return of the Fairness Doctrine.

Here's another example:  for weeks the Right has been breathlessly proclaiming that the stimulus legislation was "anti-religious" and part of an effort to "intimidate the free speech of traditional, freedom-loving Americans." Of course, that wasn't true either but that didn't stop them from repeating it every opportunity they had. 

In case the pattern hasn't become clear yet, we can now add the fear-mongering over FOCA to the growing list:

The U.S. Catholic Church's crusade against the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) has all the hallmarks of a well-oiled lobbying campaign. A national postcard campaign is flooding the White House and congressional offices with messages opposing FOCA, and the Catholic bishops have made defeating the abortion rights legislation a top priority. In the most recent effort to stop the bill, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia sent a letter to every member of Congress imploring them to "please oppose FOCA."

There is only one hitch. Congress isn't about to pass the Freedom of Choice Act because no such bill has been introduced.

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In the midst of all this activity, the fact that there was no Freedom of Choice Act before the 111th Congress went largely unnoticed and unmentioned.

A Freedom of Choice Act was first introduced in the 108th and 110th Congresses (from '03 to '05 and '07 to '09, respectively), by Rep. Jerold Nadler, a New York Democrat. It was developed at a time when the future of Roe was in doubt because it was unclear if George W. Bush would have the opportunity to appoint another justice to the Supreme Court. But FOCA had a hard time gaining traction — even under Democratic control of Congress, the bill was not only never voted on but never made it out of committee. And now abortion rights advocates are breathing easier with Obama in the White House — so much so that when a coalition of 63 organizations sent the Administration its top 15 priorities for reproductive rights and health, FOCA did not even make the list.

Congressional Democrats have also been less than enthusiastic about the proposal. A spokesman for Nadler says that while he expects the legislation will be reintroduced, "it won't be anytime soon." Even if FOCA is reintroduced in the current Congress, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has indicated she has no intention of bringing it up for a vote. And even if she did, there are not enough votes in Congress to pass the bill.

President Obama has only been in office for a few weeks, but that doesn't mean it is too early to predict that the Religious Right's plan of attack during his administration looks like it will rely heavily on stirring up "controversies" by (a) opposing legislation that does not exist and (b) misrepresenting legislation that does.

Looking Ahead to 2010, Vitter Seals Off Right Flank

The Times-Picayune reports that Sen. David Vitter opened the first day of the 111th Congress by unleashing a flurry of bills designed to endear himself to the Religious Right, on whom he is counting for support when he runs for re-election next year:

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has unleashed an onslaught of legislation, filing 34 bills and resolutions, on the first day of the 111th Congress that convened Tuesday.

Beyond making plain his intention to seek re-election in 2010, Vitter's opening-day volley also amounts to a political manifesto, staking unambiguous claim to issues dear to Christian conservatives -- abortion, public prayer, stem cell research, home schooling, drugs, the death penalty, illegal immigration and protecting the American flag -- with a thoroughness that leaves little room for any challenge on those issues from the right.

It'll be interesting to see how right-wing leaders respond this obvious attempt to woo them, considering that Vitter was linked to a prostitution ring back in 2007.  Knowing them, they have never been much for holding one of their ally's obvious hypocrisy against them when it comes to making political calculations and will probably rally to his defense as he seeks to maintain his seat in the Senate during the next election.

Sen. Brownback Retiring

CNN reports that Sen. Sam Brownback intends to retire from the Senate at the end of his current term so that he can run for governor of Kansas:

Sen. Sam Brownback will announce Thursday he is retiring from the Senate when his term ends in 2010, allowing the Kansas Republican to explore a run for governor.

He will be the second GOP senator this year to publicly state he is leaving at the close of the 111th Congress.

Brownback, who unsuccessfully sought the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, will not reveal his future political plans during the three news conferences planned for Thursday in Kansas. But a source close to Brownback said he will file gubernatorial paperwork in January.

Under Kansas law, by waiting until next month Brownback will not have to disclose how much money he has raised until early January 2010. Brownback, a prominent figure in conservative circles, is expected to tap into a national fundraising base established during his years in the Senate as well as his failed presidential bid.

Brownback's presidential campaign barely even got off the ground and he dropped out soon after the Iowa caucuses, though he did manage to fill his fledgling campaign team with a variety of ultra-right-wing activists like Frank Pavone and Tom Monaghan, many of whom will undoubtedly rally to his cause when he officially makes the announcement.

Dueling Over DOMA

A few weeks ago, we here at People For unveiled our Dump DOMA campaign, asking those who care about equality to contact Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and urge them to pass legislation repealing the Defense of Marriage Act:

It’s time to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). At this moment of change and progress, it’s time to undo a serious mistake made by Congress 12 years ago. The federal government has no business discriminating against loving families by selectively withholding the 1,300 or so legal protections that only legal civil marriage affords.

It’s time for Congress to show leadership on this issue and send President-elect Obama legislation repealing DOMA which he has said he would sign.

Now, via On Top Magazine, we see that the Alliance for Marriage has unveiled their own Protect DOMA website to press for just the opposite:

The Alliance for Marriage Foundation, the group who drafted the Marriage Protection Amendment (MPA) in Congress, has begun a national campaign to protect the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the upcoming 111th Congress.

The diverse coalition has also unveiled www.ProtectDOMA.org a new online resource to protect DOMA – and the marriage laws of every state where voters have spoken on the issue of marriage – from attack at the federal level.

“The repeal of DOMA is the legislative Holy Grail for activists who want to impose their radical social agenda upon America through the courts,” said Rev. Sam Rodriguez, Jr., an AFM Advisory Board Member and President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC).

“As demonstrated in California, over 70% of the African-American community rejects the utterly false argument that gay activists have a ‘civil right’ to redefine marriage for our entire society,” said Niger Innis, an AFM Advisory Board Member and National Spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality.

The AIM initiative announced that it is going to be especially focused on mobilizing Latinos:

The Alliance for Marriage Foundation will work to continue to expand our education and mobilization efforts – especially within the Latino community – so that both marriage and freedom of conscience will remain protected in our nation.

The prize in this historic struggle is nothing less than the future of our children and grandchildren.

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Groups on the Left generally take Latino votes for granted. But the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life is the latest research foundation to document that this dynamic does not apply with respect to marriage and the family. On the contrary, support for marriage and family within the Latino community runs deep. This support is expressed when Latinos are given an opportunity to vote on the issue of marriage itself.

U.S. Census data shows that Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnic group, representing the largest minority in the country. According to data from 2005, there are approximately 42 million Latinos in the United States, which represents approximately 1 in every 8 residents. In fact, a majority of children entering high school, workers entering the workforce and newly-eligible voters will be Latino by 2020.

In the years ahead, the ProtectDOMA.org will continue to build a broad movement – with a positive message that has mainstream appeal --- in order to deliver the margin of victory in the struggle to protect marriage for the sake of our children and grandchildren. At the same time, we will also continue to develop leaders who can give winsome expression to the timeless values that are essential to the well-being of our nation.

Maybe now would be a good time to add your signature to our Dump DOMA petition.