In today's On the News segment: The Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced a so-called comprehensive immigration plan; yesterday, the US House of Representatives voted to provide support for veterans; Obama won't let the GOP fast-track the Keystone XL pipeline; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. The Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced a so-called comprehensive immigration plan. And, as usual, Democrats conceded to Republican demands in the name of compromise. Over the last five days, the Judiciary Committee members considered over 200 proposed amendments to the plan, and approved several of the most egregious changes to the legislation. According to one amendment, 100 percent of the Mexican border must be under surveillance, and 90 percent of illegal border crossings must be prevented, before undocumented immigrants can even apply for U.S. Citizenship. And, immigrants will also have to spend 10 years in a provisional status, pay thousands in fines, and meet stringent work requirements. An amendment submitted by Senator Orrin Hatch, and approved by the Committee, will allow tech companies to utilize thousands of new H1B Visas, and remove the requirement that companies must try to find American workers to fill the jobs. Other provisions include authorizing the use of drones along the border, increasing the number of Customs agents, and deploying the National Guard to build a fence along our Southern border. Yet, despite Republicans getting their way on all those provisions, and more, Senator Patrick Leahy was forced to withdraw his amendment, which would have recognized same-sex couples for the purposes of immigration. So, the GOP got their unattainable benchmarks, their militarization of our border, and a new supply of cheap labor, and Democrats had to give up on LGBT equality. It's no wonder that three Republicans in the Judiciary Committee crossed the isle to support this plan, or that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to allow a vote on it. Democrats should not abandon their principles, just to get Republicans to negotiate – especially when the GOP's idea of negotiating is getting everything that they want. This is not compromise, it's hostage taking. The plan will be debated by the full Senate next month, so we still have a chance to stop some of these awful provisions. Call your Senators and tell them to remove the immigration benchmarks, stand up for American workers, and stop the militarization of our border.
In screwed news... Recently, Colorado has taken huge steps forward by legalizing same-sex marriage, decriminalizing marijuana, and expanding the right to vote. But, when it comes to capital punishment, that state has taken a giant step backwards. In March, Colorado almost became the 19th state to abolish the death penalty, but vocal opposition from Governor John Hickenlooper stopped that legislation in its tracks. And, there appears to be some major problems with the way that death penalty sentences are handed out in that state. According to the Think Progress Blog, only 4.3 percent of Colorado residents are African American, yet that minority group makes up 100 percent of that state's death row. A group of NAACP leaders sent a letter to Gov. Hickenlooper, writing, "it appears that race, geography and youth largely determines who gets the death penalty in Colorado." So, not only is Colorado still using the brutal practice of execution, but it appears they are applying the sentence in a discriminatory way. This must be stopped. On so many issues recently, Colorado has embraced progress. It's time they do the same when it comes to capital punishment.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to provide support for veterans. The legislation was sponsored by New Hampshire Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, and it will improve job opportunities for veterans, and make air travel easier for wounded and disabled soldiers. This bill is meant to address the high rate of unemployed veterans, which averaged over 20% in 2012, and to force airlines to make travel easier for those who have sacrificed to serve our country. This is a good start to addressing the numerous problems returning soldiers face today, but we have a long way to go. Our veterans still face an unacceptable back-log in disability benefits, and a list of other issues, but thankfully the problems are finally getting some attention. Great work Congresswoman, now, let's all start working on other ways to help the men and women who have served our country.
President Obama won't let the GOP fast-track the Keystone XL pipeline. Today, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives will vote on legislation to bypass President Obama, and approve construction of the tar sands project. The bill would also block the EPA from regulating the toxic sludge, or having any control over Keystone's activities in the U.S. However, in an Administration letter yesterday, the President pledged to veto the legislation if it makes it to his desk, saying that bill "circumvents longstanding and proven processes." Currently, the State Department and the Administration are reviewing the potential environmental impacts of the pipeline, and will soon make a decision on whether to approve construction. But, apparently President Obama is not moving fast enough to satisfy Republicans. If it was up to the GOP, the pipeline would already be pumping toxic sludge through our communities. Thankfully, President Obama is blocking Republican efforts to fast-track the tar sands pipeline, but he needs to go even further. The President should halt the construction for good. Call the White House today and thank the President for standing up to the GOP...and, tell him to reject the Keystone pipeline once and for all.
And finally... A Utah woman is teaching her stepdaughter a lesson about school bullying. After receiving a note from the school that the girl was relentlessly teasing a classmate over her clothing, the woman, known only as Ally, spoke to her stepdaughter about bullying. But, the girl, Kaylee, didn't seem to care about the pain she'd inflicted on her classmate. So, Ally got inventive. She went to her local thrift store, spent $50 dollars on ill-fitting, out-dated clothing, and made Kaylee to wear them to school as a punishment. The fourth-grader may think she has the world's most evil stepmother, but she'll probably think twice before bullying someone again. Teaching kids this valuable lesson is important, but there's no rule that says you can't have a little fun while doing it.
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, May 22, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.