A molecular-biologist-turned-Buddhist-monk says altruism is the answer to many of the world's most pressing challenges. Can concern for others help solve wealth inequality, climate change and world hunger?
In a rare show of bipartisanship, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill. It now moves to the House, where Republican leaders say they plan to take up their own measure. The Supreme Court delivered major victories to supporters of gay marriage and struck down the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Environmentalists reacted with some optimism to President Obama’s climate change plan. The Boston Marathon bombing suspect was charged with murder and using a weapon of mass destruction. And a Texas abortion bill failed to pass after a dramatic filibuster. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Michael Scherer White House correspondent for Time magazine.
- David Welna congressional correspondent for NPR.
- Ruth Marcus columnist and editorial writer at The Washington Post.
During a 13-hour filibuster this week, Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis (D) killed a bill that would have severely restricted abortion rights in the state. “She has turned herself into, if not a national figure, certainly a statewide figure,” Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus said.
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MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform, the far-reaching effects of major Supreme Court decisions, and President Obama announced a new plan to reduce greenhouse gases. Here for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup: Michael Scherer of Time magazine, Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post and David Welna of NPR.
MS. DIANE REHMDo join us, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And don't forget, we're live video streaming this hour of "The Diane Rehm Show" Friday News Roundup as well. Go to drshow.org. And good morning to all of you.
MR. DAVID WELNAGood morning, Diane.
MS. RUTH MARCUSGood morning, Diane.
MR. MICHAEL SCHERERGood morning.
REHMGood to see you. David Welna, talk about what this 1,200-page immigration bill actually does.
WELNAIt's really about the three different areas of concern related to immigration. One of them is about further securing the border with Mexico, stanching the flow of illegal immigration across the border and also keeping better track of people who've entered the country and overstayed their visas, so setting up some kind of electronic identification monitoring system for people coming and leaving the country.
WELNAAnother part has to do with, in effect, turning off the jobs magnet, beefing up the E-Verify system that will tell employers whether job applicants have legitimate papers, basically, to work including -- all of us will have to submit such identification if we want to apply for a job once this goes into effect. Another area is about changing the legal immigration quotas, shifting it from a family-based sort of reunification-oriented system and with the certain lottery for countries to being much more oriented towards vocational immigration, I guess you could call it.
WELNAHigh-skilled immigrants are -- they're going to practically double the number of high-skilled immigrants coming in. And they're also going to increase the number of guest workers in sort of low-skilled professions. And beyond that, there's the whole issue of 11 million people who are in the country now, illegally, what to do with them.
WELNAThis sets up a path for them to attain citizenship. It would take a very long time, 13 years at the shortest, to become citizens paying a series of fines along the way, learning English, having background checks. And that is probably the most controversial part of the bill.
REHMAnd, Ruth Marcus, this bill passed 68-to-32, big margin on the combined Democrat-Republican in the majority and Republicans in the minority. Now it faces huge hurdles in the House.
MARCUSAbsolutely correct. The stars are aligned for a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year. Politically, in terms of the -- I'm going to get -- you've looking -- Diane is looking surprised, for those of you who aren't watching it on video, because there's a big but coming at the end of this sentence. Business wants it. Labor has agreed to it. The usual frictions have -- and tensions have been resolved.
MARCUSThe Republican Party, as a whole, understands that it has an interest in not continuing to alienate a huge and growing percentage of the population and the electorate if it has any hopes of winning that White House ever again, and so -- hence this very large 68-vote victory. However, it is going to be extraordinarily eye of-the-needle difficult to get anything that resembles this comprehensive measure through the House of Representatives.
MARCUSAnd the best evidence of that came from the speaker of the House, John Boehner, who said he would not bring to the floor a bill that did not have -- or even the series of bills that did not have the support of a majority of the majority, that Hastert rule, nor would he bring, the speaker said, a conference report back to the floor that didn't have a majority of the majority. One could imagine getting through the eye of the needle, but it is a very difficult needle to thread.
REHMMichael Scherer, what the speaker wants to do is reverse priorities, put security at the top and the citizenship at second place, at least.
SCHERERYeah. He's dealing with a very fractured caucus that he has not been able to wrangle much at all over the last couple of years, and for a number of them, the path to citizenship is the biggest bone of contention. You know, we haven't seen the sort of grassroots outrage we had in 2007, the last time people were discussing a path to citizenship for those who are undocumented. But among many parts of the country, the base of the Republican Party, this is still a big concern.
SCHERERAnd there have been proposals to put forward sort of a second tier-type citizenship, that people would be able to stay in the country legally where they will be able to work in the country, wouldn't be able to vote and wouldn't the full right of being a U.S. citizen. For Democrats and for the pro-immigration side of this, that's a non-starter. And you could see a scenario in which that ends up being the sticking point at the end of the day that blocks this from happening.
REHMThe question becomes: How many jobs would be available for immigrants trying to come in?
SCHERERWell, yeah. And when you talk about immigrants, you're talking about several different groups of people. You're talking about those people who are already here. Many of them are working. They're not working legally, but they have jobs. Under this program, they would have to continue to have jobs if they want to work towards a part to citizenship. You're talking about high-skilled immigrants who presumably wouldn't have a very hard time finding jobs. I mean, there's a huge demand, for instance, in Silicon Valley for computer programmers and groups of people like that.
SCHERERThe companies are saying we could hire these people tomorrow. We just can't get the visas. And then you have this other debate about basically agricultural workers, guest workers, low-skilled jobs, and that's an area in which the labor community has really been pushing back against creating pathways to allow people to come to the country to pick tomatoes or, you know, work in factories on a temporary basis because they see it as a way of really undermining wages for Americans who are here.
REHMBut at the same time, as Ruth pointed out, David, you've got a Republican Party knowing full well it got so little of the Hispanic vote that that's what the concentration is and perhaps what lead so many Republicans, 14 of them, to join Democrats on this Senate vote.
WELNAWell, and I think it was significant that these were senators who joined them, Republican senators, who represent entire states. When you look at the House, these Republican representatives come from Districts that mostly have very few, relatively speaking, Latino voters in them. It does not behoove them individually to come out and back a very controversial immigration bill.
WELNATheir number one job in their minds is to keep their jobs, and a lot of them fear that they would be facing primary challenges next year if they were to get behind something like a path to citizenship. So while it behooves them to do something on immigration for their party, it behooves them even more to protect themselves. And I think that's what Boehner is discovering with this caucus. They don't want to go where the Senate Republicans have gone.
REHMSo he said he was going to talk to the folks back home, Ruth.
MARCUSRight. Well, you have to feel bad for the speaker in the sense he really has the worst job in Washington. He has this absolutely unruly caucus, and he's been just unable to wrangle them, as Michael said, for years now. One of the things that -- as somebody who really believes that we ought to have some comprehensive immigration reform -- that I found most disappointing this week was that the speaker, in shepherding this unruly caucus, felt the need to really box himself in.
MARCUSIn other words, he didn't leave his options very open by being so explicit about the majority of the majority. He doesn't leave himself a lot of wiggle room to climb back down from there, and that's where I see the difficulty ahead.
WELNANow, he made this clarification that he would only allow legislation that has the support of the majority of the majority after some of his backbencher members publicly said that he would lose his job if he brought the Senate bill to the floor. And the next day, he was out there saying, oh, no, I'm going to only bring what my fellow Republicans want here.
WELNASo he's under a lot of pressure to fall in line with what you could say is kind of a Tea Party line on immigration basically, that we want to secure the border, but we do not want to let this 11 million people who are now in the country become voting citizens.
REHMAnd we want to keep our jobs.
WELNAThat too. I mean, I think that argument -- you hear a lot from senators such as Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Charles Grassley of Iowa. They represent states that have large constituencies of people who are very suspicious of outsiders coming in and taking away jobs, and at the same time, they haven't been people who have necessarily stood up for American workers when it comes to things such as raising the minimum wage. But they are the ones who raise the hue and cry in the Senate Debate about how more immigrants means fewer jobs for Americans.
MARCUSAnd, you know, they made that argument, but if you look at, for example, the Congressional Budget Office analysis, it seems fairly clear from a wide array of economists affiliated with one party and also non-partisan that immigration reform, insuring a flow both of low-skilled and high-skilled workers to the United States is very, very good for the economy in the long run. And in particular, the impact, the real -- we've been punishing ourselves by not allowing these high-tech workers into the United States, and we're just having a brain drain out.
REHMRuth Marcus, columnist, editorial writer at The Washington Post, David Welna of NPR, Michael Scherer, he's White House correspondent for Time magazine. When we come back, we'll look at some of the key themes in the Supreme Court's rulings.
REHMAnd welcome back to the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup. We've had a week of landmark rulings from the Supreme Court. Thought it was interesting that Richard Kahlenberg of The Century Foundation said, "The Supreme Court's recent rulings make it harder to justify using racial preferences in college admissions and striking down DOMA have a consistent theme. The court has a low a tolerance for discrimination either against gay Americans or in favor of minority college applicants." Ruth Marcus.
MARCUSThere's a kind of big exception to that, which has to do with the Voting Rights Act.
MARCUSSo in order for -- Richard Kahlenberg is a very, very smart guy, and he's had some really interesting things to say about affirmative action and the use of class as a way of doing affirmative action and higher education as opposed to race. But I'm not sure that one can -- I spent a lot time on this over the last few days trying to find the consistency in the court's ruling, and I just don't think it's actually possible. You can find themes, but there -- but these outcomes cannot -- the majority cannot all be deemed consistent here.
REHMMichael Scherer, do same-sex marriage rulings change the political landscape?
SCHERERAbsolutely. These were pretty momentous rulings. You know the first ruling got rid of the federal law which banned recognizing same-sex marriages. And so now, you know, if you're American in a same-sex partnership and your partner is not from the U.S., you're going to have access eventually, once these rules work their way through, to them getting citizenship, you know, benefits. Federal benefits will now be able to go to same-sex partners.
SCHERERAnd it also, I think, really clearly puts this issue back to the states, which was another theme, I think, of the ruling. It's not a universal theme, but you saw on the voting rights rulings and the same-sex marriage rulings that the justices are quite content to have -- to empower the states to deal with these issues themselves. Interestingly about the DOMA ruling, you know, it said basically that the federal law against recognizing same-sex marriage was a sort of discrimination.
SCHERERBut it then didn't take the next step to say that states that have similar laws are also discriminating, and therefore, those laws are unconstitutional. So we're now in a situation in which the states will again be given the chance to deal with this. There is clear division nationwide. I think polls are moving in one direction. And I think we're going to have a pretty long transition process whereby the country figures out how to come to terms with this ruling.
REHMI thought it was interesting to hear President Obama say that a same-sex couple ought to have the same rights in a state that does allow same-sex marriage as in one that doesn't. Ruth.
MARCUSYes. And that is a terrific aspiration on his part. It's not going to be the reality. At least for some time, we're going to be in a patchwork nation when it comes to same-sex couples, and it's going to take a lot of legal sorting out to figure out. If I am married in -- I'm a same-sex couple and I'm married in D.C., but I work in Virginia, what happens to me with -- when my spouse is injured in Virginia or something?
REHMHe better not go to a hospital in Virginia.
MARCUSRight. It's going to be very complicated. The president and the federal government can have an impact in terms making decisions about federal -- most federal regulations and statutes and having them -- having you be recognized as having -- being controlled for the place you were married as opposed to necessarily the place you reside. But other than that, it is going to be a state-by-state process.
MARCUSI wanted to say quickly that you asked about how the Supreme Court decision is going to affect politics. I wanted to say that it works both ways. The politics of gay marriage, the increasing acceptance of gay marriage, I think, had an impact on the justices and the five justices' willingness to strike down DOMA. And that, in turn, is going to have an impact on other states. It is coming, but slowly on a national basis.
WELNAI have a colleague who is gay, and he lives in Virginia with his husband. And he was saying to me, well, look, you know, we want to file our joint tax return next year. Federal law will recognize us as a legitimately married couple.
REHMOn federal taxes.
WELNAHowever, Virginia law is that you have to file the same kind of return for both state and federal taxes. And because Virginia doesn't recognize them as being officially married, you know, you're going to get situations like that where you could find people who would actually have standing to say, look, I am being harmed economically...
WELNA...by the fact the federal government does not extend its recognition to people who are legally married who happen to be in states that don't recognize them.
REHMI was under the impression that one would file as a couple federally but could not file as a couple on state taxes. You were saying that Virginia law dominates.
WELNAIt says that you have to file in the same status for both. It's the same extent of return in effect.
MARCUSAnd here you have a lawsuit in the making...
MARCUS...and you have the fundamental question that the court did not get to and properly did not get to in either the DOMA case or the California Proposition 8 case, which is not simply whether a state that chooses to recognize same-sex marriage must have its assessment of marriage respected, but whether states that do not institute same-sex marriage are compelled by the Constitution.
MARCUSAs Justice Scalia says, it's the inevitable implication of the court's ruling that this is a matter of individual dignity and respect and freedom and liberty whether states that don't have same-sex marriage will be constitutionally compelled to recognize it in the end.
REHMAnd what about the gutting of affirmative action, Michael Scherer?
SCHEREROf voting rights or affirmative action?
REHMOf voting rights, sorry.
SCHERERYeah. So in the voting rights case, essentially what the justices did was to say that the pre-clearance mechanisms for, I think it's nine, mostly Southern states that are now in place under the Voting Rights Act, which was re-authorized in the 1990s, essentially, what this does is it says that if the states want to put a new -- in place new rules restricting voting, they have to go to the Justice Department first and ask permission, and the Justice Department can say yes or no.
SCHERERThe justices say that the qualifications identifying those nine states as the ones that have to do this were out of date and that Congress has to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new set of qualifications to identify those states that have a voting rights problem. The upshot of that, however, is that in the near term and probably the long term, there won't be this sort of pre-clearance because there's just not any sort of clear unity in Congress about how to define these states.
SCHERERSo what has been in place since the 1960s, one of the most successful and effective civil rights laws in American history, is basically now not going to be operative for probably quite a while.
REHMAnd in the meantime, you have states like Texas putting in even more restricted effects.
WELNAYes. I mean, not just Texas. A lot of states that have been subject to this Section 4 and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act have sort of pent-up piles of changes in election laws that they have not been enacting because they know that they probably would not pass muster at the Justice Department. Already this week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has moved to go ahead with things such as voter identification requirements that they were not able to get away with before.
WELNASo, you know, while the Justice Department has turned down more than 700 changes in laws over the last decade in states that it does its pre-clearance with, it's hard to tell how many more measures were out there that these states didn't even try that now they can go ahead and do. And while you have Section 2 of that law still in effect, which does allow the Justice Department to go after them if it finds that what they're doing is unconstitutional, you're talking about legal action that could take a long time.
WELNAAnd in the meantime -- and that can only happen after an election has taken place because somebody has to show that he or she was harmed by this rule. So it really is sort of allowing possibly just a tidal wave of changes in election laws in these places that have been held back by this Section 4 and Section 5.
REHMAll right. Let's turn now to the president's climate change plan, Michael Scherer. He announced a new plan on Tuesday to cut greenhouse gases.
SCHERERYeah. This was a long-expected plan. It was actually interesting in that -- in the -- in his re-election campaign how he didn't really talk much about an issue that everybody knew was going to be a priority for him in his second term, which was dealing with greenhouse gases in a way that he wasn't able to in the first term. And basically what he said, the biggest pieces of what he said was that he wants the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions like they regulate other dangerous emissions.
SCHERERThis is something that the courts have said the EPA can do. The EPA just hasn't gone through the rule-making yet. It's a very controversial measure because what it's going to do in practice is put very large costs on the coal industry now because a lot of these carbon emissions are basically coal-fired power plants that right now can release as much carbon dioxide as they want. And that actually has interesting political implications because coal and the issue of greenhouse gases isn't a cleanly partisan issue.
SCHERERIt really is a regional and geographic issue. You have Democrats like Joe Manchin from West Virginia saying that the president's speech was another example of the war on coal. And so you're going to have a lot, I think, of noise over this over the next several months because you're weighing two different things: on the one hand, the environmental impacts of carbon, on the other hand, the economic impacts, which are really regional and provincial, of regulating carbon.
REHMAnd, Ruth, throw in the Keystone pipeline. You have a huge question in the making.
MARCUSCorrect. There's been a lot of pressure on the president from both sides on Keystone pipeline. I personally think, as he has said, that the -- all the attention to the Keystone pipeline from both sides is somewhat overblown. But I think in terms of the -- its impact one way or another on creating jobs or destroying the environment as we know it. But I think that the climate speech as a whole and his announcement is the sleeper story of the week.
MARCUSI think when we look back in history, that will turn out to be one -- could turn out to be one of the most significant things that happened in this very eventful week because the president's -- unlike immigration, which requires him to go through Congress, the president has the authority, and possibly the time -- 'cause the clock incredibly is ticking on his second term -- to get through the Environmental Protection Agency, not just regulations on new power plants, but the big news of what he did was to regulate existing power plants.
MARCUSThat could be a huge impact on climate, a huge impact on the economy, from the point of view of critics, and something that he can actually get done.
REHMAnd, David, the word he used that everybody focused on on the Keystone pipeline, he said he would not approve the Keystone pipeline if it significantly...
REHM…worsened climate change. Now, State Department has already had its own say on this, but how do you see it going?
WELNAWell, the State Department has already said that they don't think this would have that significant of an impact. So while he says that he's setting up a condition for going ahead with this, this condition has already been deemed met by his own State Department. So, in effect, he was green lighting this, I think. Environmental groups tend to disagree with that, but I -- you look at the reception in Congress. A lot of people who are for the pipeline were encouraged by the president's announcement.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I think his comments were ambiguous enough to give him wiggle room on this. What do you think, Ruth?
MARCUSI think they were -- you probably would err on the side of seeing it as a green light, in other words, if you had to guess one way or another because he's made it so clear that he does not see this as the make-or-break issue that environmentalists do. And I think having such a significant announcement on climate change as a whole lessens the pressure on him from the environmental community to over -- to block the pipeline, and he can give his critics a little bit of a gift as -- even as he does the broader regulation in approving the pipeline.
MARCUSSo I guess that's the way I'd guess it would go.
SCHERERThe White House has been really frustrated for months now about the extent to which people see the Keystone pipeline as a greenhouse gas issue, and they've been trying to push back, in comments to the press and briefings and things like that, on that point. And I think really what the effect of that line in the president's speech was is it's sort of a PR victory.
SCHERERHe's saying to the country, look, this isn't going to be a greenhouse gas issue. This oil -- the State Department's reasoning is that oil in Canada is going to be developed one way or another. It's going to come out of the ground one way or the other. And the question is whether we put it in a pipeline or that we put it on trucks and trains. And the argument...
REHMOr you keep it in Canada and you simply go out.
SCHERERThrough another -- through a different direction, yes.
SCHERERThat's right. But the State Department analysis of this has been that that oil is coming out of the ground anyway so that the greenhouse gas released by the burning of the oil is not in question on -- when you talk about whether or not you're going to build this pipeline.
REHMAll right. And, David, I want to ask you about these IRS documents released on Monday showing that IRS officials screened many, many liberal organizations as well as conservative. Is there an equivalency here? What's the situation?
WELNAWell, we don't know because of privacy concerns. We don't have the IRS releasing the universe of applicants for this 501 (c)(4) status. So it's hard to tell. We do know that there were about 300 groups that were flagged, and of them, only about 70 had apparent ties to the Tea Party. So we already knew that, you know, maybe 230 of these groups had other purposes. And now it comes out that a bunch of them were tied to progressive organizations or had progressive causes.
WELNAAnd, you know, that story is starting to water down a bit the claim that this was a singling out of the Tea Party. Nonetheless, we have House Republicans still going after this. They're calling in Lois Lerner today to try to get her to talk about this. She took the Fifth the last time they called her in. She was the person who was in charge of this section of the IRS. So they're not giving up on it, but it does seem to be losing steam.
SCHERERThe revelation this week was that Dan Werfel, who's been put in charge of the IRS by Obama, released a spreadsheet that said the word progressive was on the selection criteria list. What wasn't clear -- and I think what's still important -- is that the inspector general has said that all groups called Tea Party or patriot were flagged, whereas not all groups with the...
SCHERER...progressive were flagged. So it still seems like there was an imbalance here in how they were dealing with it.
REHMAll right. Short break and right back.
REHMAnd it's time to take your calls, first to St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, Elliot.
ELLIOTGood morning. Can you hear me?
ELLIOTOK. First, thanks for taking my call. I love your show, and I'm glad that you're still going strong, Diane.
ELLIOTIn regards to the House not taking up the immigration bill, could they be looking in part at the overturning of the key sections of the Voting Rights Act and basically letting the system that, hey, if we don't have this and, you know, the states and the localities can push these restrictive voting measures, and they can somehow maintain their hold on power?
REHMConnecting the immigration issue to voting rights. David.
WELNAWell, I think that there is a connection between the resistance to the immigration law among Republicans and their enthusiasm for the court's ruling this week. In both cases, I think there's a lot of demographic anxiety in the South where you see even states such as Texas where demographically, those who are inclined to vote Democratic are growing in numbers.
WELNAAnd, you know, legalizing and giving a path to citizenship to 11 million more of these people, a lot of Republicans think it would not help their party at all. And with the Voting Rights Act, also they think that these laws have sort of tied the hands of state officials from, you know, making -- getting the kinds of outcomes that they want at the polls.
REHMAll right. Let me follow that with an email from Patricia, who says, "I read yesterday in a column by Jon Chait that something called a discharge petition could get immigration to the House without Boehner's help. Could you talk about this option?" Michael.
SCHERERSure. So the discharge petition is basically a way of getting a bill to the floor of the House around the leadership. And what it requires is a majority of members of the House to sign a piece of paper saying, we want to vote on this bill. And the leaders, Speaker Boehner, Eric Cantor, other leaders in the Republican Party wouldn't have to sign, and then there would be a vote on the floor.
SCHERERAnd you could see a scenario in which almost all Democrats and 50 -- 20, 25 Republicans signed something like that. I think it's a possibility that it could happen. But what you're then saying is that you -- that Speaker Boehner would have 20 or 25 Republicans basically bolt from his party, enrage the rest of the Republican Party. And you would have a real conflict in the House. But it is one of several scenarios for actually getting this to the floor.
REHMAll right. I want to move on to what was happening in Texas, while all of this was going on in Washington. You had Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis capturing the attention of the country with her. How many hour of filibuster?
MARCUSThirteen hour -- 12 hours.
REHMThirteen hours, something like that. Describe what happened, Ruth.
MARCUSWell, this was the end of the session and Texas had -- the legislature was looking at yet another one of these abortion restriction laws that is on its face unconstitutional. This is not a partisan or ideological statement. Given the state of the Supreme Court law, it does not stand up to what the court had said in Roe and the cases afterwards. It would, among other things, make abortion illegal after 20 weeks, not after viability into all cases.
MARCUSAnd it would have imposed stringent rules on abortion clinics such that, I think, Texas would have been down to just a few abortion clinics from the relatively small number it already has. And this is similar to laws that are proposed or, in some cases, on the books in a number of states. There's just been a relatively little-noticed groundswell of state-level abortion restrictions being passed in the hopes, perhaps, that the Supreme Court will once again reconsider its abortion rulings. So senator...
REHMAnd the opponents tried to stop her, saying that somebody was helping her.
MARCUSSo she was mounting this filibuster. And Texas apparently has some very strict rules on what counts as an acceptable filibuster. You can't take any break. You can't bring in reinforcements. You can't touch the desk. You can't veer off topic in even the slightest possible way. For example, she brought up Planned Parenthood, and that was ruled...
MARCUS…problematic. Or she brought up sonogram laws, and that was ruled off-topic. But as her filibuster was being ruled out of line, there was kind of a revolt from in and outside the chamber, so the vote did not -- on this measure, which was going to pass, did not happen in time for the midnight deadline. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said he wants to call the legislator back into session to get it passed.
REHMAnd to add insult to injury, the Texas governor then went on to make some really patronizing remarks about Wendy Davis.
WELNARight. He said that she was the child of a single mother. She herself bore a child as a teenager as a single mother, and he said, you know, it would do her well to think about the value of every life. The suggestion seemed to be that, you know, she was somebody who maybe shouldn't have been around in the first place.
MARCUSOr wouldn't have been around in the first place if the abortions had been permitted. And she actually, I thought, took that on very well. Her response was, having been in that position herself, being pregnant as a teenager, deciding whether to continue with the pregnancy, that what she wanted to do was to make sure that the choice she had, which was to – she continued her pregnancy -- was available to anybody to decide yes or no.
REHMAnd now there is concern that her own position will be redistricted out.
MARCUSYes. How magnificently ironic story convergence this is. One of the impacts of the Supreme Court's ruling on the Voting Rights Act, there were some redistricting and gerrymandering going on in Texas, and apparently, her seat is potentially an issue. But I have to say she has turned herself into, if not a national figure, certainly a statewide figure. And I personally would like to get a pair of those pink sneakers.
REHMOh, I bet there are a lot of people who would. Let's go to Jackson, Mich. Good morning, Scott.
SCOTTI'd like to talk about the idea of designating a guardian for health care if you're an unmarried couple. Obviously, the gay rights people have scored a big victory with the Supreme Court rulings. But they often cite the situation where people have a life partner, and you don't even really have to be gay. You know, if you're unmarried heterosexual couple where one or the other, you know, ends up in a hospital, and they see, oh, you know, they wouldn't even let me in there.
SCOTTWell, it's a very simple thing legally to designate someone as your guardian for health care to make health care decisions for you if you're incapacitated. Ironically, it might even be the case that -- of a married couple where they might don't want their spouse to be the one to make those medical decisions. So it's a simple form document, and there are some requirement that has to be notarized and things like that.
REHMAll right, Scott. Thanks for calling. Ruth.
MARCUSSo I think the point that Scott makes is that there are ways even in situations where your state does not recognize same-sex marriage to get around the limitations. But here is the deal, the point of marriage for straight couples or gay couples is marriage. And, yes, there may be separate impossibly even equal scenarios that you could set up, but same-sex couples want the symbolic and actual recognition of marriage. And so the mere fact that they could find a way to protect their health autonomy and their partner's ability to get into a hospital room is not really the question and issue.
SCHERERYou know, one of the interesting things in Justice Kennedy's opinion was he mentioned something that really hadn't come up in a lot of these discussions before that, by saying that same-sex couples can't be married the same way that different sex couples can be, you're actually hurting the children of those same-sex couples by telling them that their parents aren't equal or the same sort of loving family that a heterosexual couple would be.
SCHERERAnd I think what the court did in this decision was broaden it really beyond those specific legal rights that are covered by domestic partnership and lots of states to say no. Marriage is really a thing that is symbolic and meaningful in ways that are beyond just whether you can go to the hospital or whether you can file joint taxes and things like that.
REHMAll right. To Fort Myers, Fla. Good morning, Richard.
RICHARDGood morning. My question, statement, whatever, is regarding the enforcement of the E-Verify law. I mean, they're talking like they're going to really clamp down and limit the border crossings, and they're going to control the employability of illegals. And all of this amounts to nothing if they don't fund it.
WELNAWell, it is funded. But I think that the dispute right now or the unresolved controversy about the E-Verify expansion and it would expand -- right now, there are 400,000 in some workplaces that use it. We have about 7 million workplaces in the country that would be subject to E-Verify should this bill become law.
WELNABut the way that people are screened under the law as it stands now is simply by biographical information, their Social Security Number, their date of birth, their full name. Sen. Rob Portman, Republican from Ohio, had an amendment that would introduce biometric screening where you would have photo recognition of the job applicant that would be more of a secure system than just the biographical data.
WELNAThat amendment was not voted on in the end. He refused to make it part of a larger amendment that was passed earlier in the sweep because he said he wanted a Senate debate about that. That's something that could come up later if there is a conference committee between the House and Senate. But right now, there are lot of skeptics about how well the system is going to work.
REHMYeah, yeah. OK. To San Antonio, Texas. Hi, Robert.
ROBERTHi, Diane. How are you doing this morning?
ROBERTThanks for having me on.
ROBERTI'd like to kind of pick up on biometrics proposed there and this amendment that was proposed by senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hogan of North Dakota. This amendment to this "comprehensive immigration bill" will essentially add 700 additional miles to the border wall, more drones, towers, cameras, sensors, et cetera.
ROBERTAnd we see it down here in Texas as being essentially a militarization of our border with Mexico and the building of essentially an iron curtain down here with our neighbors to the South who we have very close relations with, both family wise and business cultural interaction. And it seems to be that the Democrats have bent over backwards to try to bring Republicans on board. And as a Chicano Latino American here in San Antonio, it almost feels like just an attempt to have some type of bipartisan support to gain Latino votes in future elections.
REHMAll right, sir.
WELNAWell, I think this amendment, you could call it good politics, bad policy possibly because even people who backed the amendment said this is overkill. This is adding -- it's doubling the number of border patrol agents. It wouldn't double the amount of fencing. Right now, we have about 350 miles of fencing. It would complete that to 700 miles, but this is all done really to secure about a dozen Republican votes rather than because there were real policy reasons to do this.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's an email from Harlan in Alabama, "Please, what incentive any of the undocumented immigrants will have to become citizens with all the effort and fines involved? Will there be penalties if they do not?" Michael Scherer.
SCHERERWell, right now if you're an undocumented person living in America, you really are a disadvantage in a whole host of ways. And I think there's a huge incentive, just generally, to being able to, for instance, leave the country if you want to go visit your family in another country, to feel comfortable dealing with the police in a number of areas of the country where police will refer to you to INS right now, same with hospitals. Other rights, the ability to vote.
SCHERERI mean, I think there are lot of rights of citizenship that people who are undocumented don't have access to and don't really feel a part of the country. I don't think there is much concern that there would be incentive here -- the fines and back taxes and things like that. Most undocumented people in the U.S. right now do pay taxes. And so the back taxes wouldn't be that onerous. I think that most onerous part of this is the 13-year wait.
SCHERERAnd there's requirements over that 13-year period where, you know, you can't get caught committing a crime, you have to stay employed in a number of cases. That will be the burden, but I don't think there'll be much of a problem in terms of motivation.
REHMAll right. And finally to Raleigh, N.C. Good morning, William.
WILLIAMHi. Thanks for taking my call.
WILLIAMI was listening to the discussion of the Texas abortion bill filibuster. Your guests seem to concentrate more on the political theater rather than the substance of the bill, which I understand has to do with new science that shows the human fetus feels pain earlier than previously thought. The political theater is interesting, but could you please address that science?
MARCUSWell, I'm just going to address what the Supreme Court has said, which is that the state can only put reasonable burdens on the right to abortion until the point of viability. And nobody believes that the point of viability is at 20 weeks.
REHMOK. And finally, Democrat Ed Markey won the special election for John Kerry's Senate seat. Does this mean anything for the Senate?
SCHERERIt means that Scott Brown was sort of a one-off. A few years ago in another especial election, a Republican was able to win in Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy's old seat. Everybody was shocked by these huge implications for health care reform at the time. But it -- Republicans weren't able to repeat it even though they had a pretty strong candidate. And I think a very Democratic state remains very Democratic.
REHMMichael Scherer of Time magazine, Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post, David Welna of NPR, thank you all.
REHMHave a great weekend.
REHMThanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Susan Casey Nabors, Rebecca Kaufman, Lisa Dunn and Danielle Knight. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington, D.C. This is NPR.
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