The same-sex marriage equality battle in New York is taking place in Albany, the state capitol, and in New York City, home to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. As of this moment, Senators are conferencing in Albany for the third morning in a row in the marriage equality bill. Rumor has it Cuomo may hold them past their session end date of Monday if other business is not finished, like rent regulations.
The Albany Times-Union just reported that, “as well as the ongoing same sex marriage, rent-regulation/tax cap debate, senators will also likely talk about the unresolved question of how to handle the defunct OTB [Off Track Betting] system in New York City.
“Also undone are the health exchanges which under President Obamaâ€™s health care legislation are supposed to be set up this year, with the failure to do so resulting in a potential loss of federal funds.”
NY Mayor Bloomberg has taken a leadership role all of a sudden — demanding of the Republican-majority Senate “to take a vote” –Â and to understand why, you have to understand a few things about New York politics.
First, a long-time history of corruption still hangs over Albany.
Long-time readers know all too well the fact that last year, now-former State Senator Pedro Espada wasÂ sued by then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, now Governor Cuomo, for allegedly diverting $14 million to himself, his campaign, friends, and family, from Espadaâ€™s Bronx clinic, after years of allegations and investigations into Espadaâ€™s campaign finance activity, including his repeated refusal to file campaign finance records.
Espada’s partner in crime, at least in Senate politics, former State Senator Hiram Monserrate, last year became one of the very few New York State Senators ever to be expelled. Monserrate was convicted for criminal domestic abuse, which involved slashing with a broken glass his girlfriend’s face, dragging her by the hair — on video tape — through his lobby, then driving her around town to different hospitals to find one in which he, as a State Senator, would not be recognized.
And then we have Senator Carl Kruger, the man long-rumored to be gay, who was outed by the federal Department of Justice after being indicted in a million-dollar federal bribery scandal — with his boyfriend. Senator Kruger has always voted against marriage equality, but we’re pleased to report that, now he’s been outed, and since he is still a Senator, despite his indictment, he will vote for the bill. Perhaps he and his boyfriend, if convicted, can get married and share a cell in Otisville.
So, now that you know a little about the past, it should come as now surprise that rent control has emerged as a major football in the New York marriage equality battle. Seems rent control regulations mysteriously expired this week — it’s not like there was a specific date and no one in Albany owns a calendar — so now the focus is on arm wrestling over the rent-regulation/tax cap bill.
Of course, Mayor Bloomberg, being the mayor of eight million citizens, has a lot to say about rent regulations. So Bloomberg has been in Albany lobbying and conferencing with the Republican majority in the Senate.
The other football in the marriage equality “game” is the one publicity-hound Senator Greg Ball has been tossing around: so-called religious exemptions. It’s not enough that religious organizations, like the Catholic Church are exempt from having to marry same-sex couples, and that religious, “benevolent” organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus — one of the most anti-gay organizations around — are exempt under the bill, but Senator Ball is demanding that caterers, hotels, and florists — essentially anyone who might have anything at all to do with a wedding, should be exempt from (God Forbid!) having to do business with “the gays.”
Pretty soon David’s Bridal Shops, The Men’s Warehouse, and CVS’s film developing kiosk will also be included as exempt from having to do business with us, along with AT&T (brides and grooms make phone calls, right?) and Amazon.com.
Of course, the religious organizations state-wide are taking this opportunity to get their ransom lists demands in.
“Should the bill pass without adequate protection, it will have potentially far-reaching consequences for our ministries, both in terms of contracts to provide services and potentially to challenges to not-for-profit status,” said Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the state Catholic Conference, the policy and lobbying arm of Roman Catholic bishops in New York,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Religious leaders and some legal scholars are urging the state to include a specific provision for individuals or businesses, like florists or caterers, that refuse to offer services to gay couples. Other states with gay marriage don’t grant such protections, which gay-rights advocates say would open the door to outright discrimination.
“No one is going to lose out because of this. There’s another florist down the block,” said Mordechai Biser, the general counsel of Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish advocacy group. “We’re not talking about a situation in the South when blacks couldn’t eat at a lunch counter.”
But this, evidently, means we’re making progress. Not long ago, anti-gay bigots were loath to compare the African-America battle for civil rights with the LGBT battle for civil rights.
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Republicans Kill Bill to Protect IVF After Claiming They Fully Support It
After the Alabama Supreme Court ruled two weeks ago that frozen embryos are “children,” causing several medical facilities to pause their in-vitro fertilization services, Republicans rushed to get ahead of the growing national outrage.
Many Republicans insisted that although they oppose abortion and support the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, they did not think it would have effects this far-reaching. And they insisted, repeatedly, on-camera, they absolutely support in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
“Once you pass a law or accept the view that life begins at conception, IVF & some forms of birth control are at risk, along with abortion. It was never ‘just’ about abortion & women pay the price for all of it,” wrote professor of law and MSNBC legal contributor Joyce Vance on February 23. Three days later she added, “It’s pretty simple. If life begins at conception, IVF is off the table. If you make an exception for IVF then we’re just having a conversation about who you’re willing to make exceptions for.”
Republicans insisted they were willing to make an exception for IVF.
For years, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who has given birth to two children with the help of IVF, has tried to pass legislation to protect IVF.
Republicans each time have killed the bills.
Her latest attempt was Wednesday.
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) on Wednesday spoke against the bill.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith blocks an attempt by Sen. Tammy Duckworth to enshrine access to IVF in federal law on Wednesday by saying it would legalize the creation of human cloning and “human-animal chimeras”
1) The bill does no such thing.
2) It’s not pronounced that way pic.twitter.com/0CbDd1LXGw
— Marcus Baram (@mbaram) February 29, 2024
Sen. Duckworth stamped out Hyde-Smith’s claims, saying, “She said at one point the bill would allow for chimeras — human-animal hybrids — it does nothing of the sort. All the bill says if you want to seek reproductive technology you can …”
Sen. Hyde-Smith then killed the bill by formally objecting to Duckworth’s bill on Wednesday, which the Illinois Democrat tried to pass via unanimous consent.
It was the second time in two years Sen. Hyde-Smith has killed that bill.
“They’re hanging this on Hyde-Smith. But the entire senate gop has now united to block a federal law to keep ivf legal,” observed Talking Points Memo publisher Josh Marshall. “They’re all coming out saying that frozen embryos are equal to living children.”
Also on Wednesday, the lone House Republican supporting legislation to protect IVF withdrew her sponsorship of that bill.
Rep. Anna Luna (R-FL), the only Republican in either chamber of Congress cosponsoring legislation to codify protections for IVF access nationwide, just withdrew her cosponsorship of the bill: pic.twitter.com/DaBAykcsri
— Aaron Fritschner (@Fritschner) February 29, 2024
The Biden campaign on Thursday blasted Republicans for claiming to support IVF then killing the bill that would have protected it.
NBC: Democrats, led by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, tried to expand IVF protections at the federal level, but Senate Republicans blocked the bill pic.twitter.com/ssq4fEQlKt
— Biden-Harris HQ (@BidenHQ) February 29, 2024
Watch the videos above or at this link.
‘Injustice’: Experts Condemn Supreme Court’s ‘Fundamentally Corrupt’ Trump Decision
Legal and political experts were stunned by the Supreme Court announcing Wednesday it will take up Donald Trump’s claim of presidential immunity, despite there being no contradiction in the lower courts. Compounding experts’ surprise and concern over granting certiorari was the length of time it took to announce the decision, and that they will not hear arguments until April 22.
“The Supreme Court heard and decided Bush v. Gore in THREE DAYS. THAT was expediting a case of national importance,” noted Tristan Snell, the former New York State prosecutor who led the successful investigation and $25 million prosecution of Donald Trump’s Trump University. “The Supreme Court apparently now thinks expediting means THREE MONTHS. Clearest evidence yet that SCOTUS is corrupt and broken.”
Professor of law and MSNBC legal analyst Andrew Weissmann, the former FBI General Counsel who served at DOJ for decades, asked: “Why on god’s green earth did the S Ct [Supreme Court] not take the case earlier when the Special Counsel sought review directly from the District Court? They have really played into Trump’s hands.”
He adds: “The Supreme Court is going straight for the capillaries: an issue the DC criminal case does not raise, namely the outer bounds of a presidential immunity doctrine.”
Weissman Thursday morning noted that the Supreme Court’s actions essentially make Trump “de facto immune.”
“By granting the stay, [SCOTUS] is essentially saying that [Trump] is de facto immune…And I think it ends up being that they’ve given a win to Trump here, and I think they’re gonna give a win to Trump in the Colorado case as well.”
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) February 29, 2024
Foreign policy, national security, and political affairs analyst and author David Rothkopf replied, “I think you have answered your own question. The only reason to handle this the way they did is to, at best, play Trump’s delay game and, at worst, set the stage for one of the most indefensible, corrupt decisions (or outcomes) in US history.”
“Those who did not understand the urgency of stopping the threat posed by Trump, MAGA and the dark money right, those who did not actively hold them accountable with every available institutional tool, may have been the undoing of American democracy…no matter their intentions,” he noted.
“Let’s not beat around the bush, decision by the Supreme Court to hear the Trump immunity case is outrageous and, at its heart, fundamentally corrupt,” Rothkopf also wrote. “The Appeals Court decision was bullet proof and there is no case Trump has any sort of immunity. The decision not to hear it until late April makes further significant trial delays likely. They are deliberately delaying the trial without any reasonable legal reason to do so. This is a political decision and, in my estimation, an ugly one.”
“If a special counsel had been appointed early in 2021,” Rothkopf also wrote, “if Trump obstruction of justice had be prosecuted, if Trump had not been granted special treatment on his theft of classified documents, if the classified documents case had been brought in DC as it should have been, Trump might very well be in jail now.”
He also pointed to this monologue from MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, calling it “correct.”
.@chrislhayes: The SCOTUS order “was a clear unmistakable sign from the MAGA majority of the Trump-created court that they are with him. That they are going to use their power to make sure that he does not face trial in an election year for attempting to end American democracy.” pic.twitter.com/fgrrP0tEw0
— All In with Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) February 29, 2024
University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University Laurence Tribe blasted “the SCOTUS decision to slow-walk Trump’s outrageous immunity claim — the claim everyone knows would be rejected 9-0 by any self-respecting court.”
Noting the Supreme Court could have taken up the case back in December, Tribe told CNN, “There’s nothing new under the sun” in this case. “It doesn’t make any sense to stretch this out this way.”
“We can be sure that they want to use this case to settle a whole broad range of issues, contrary to their supposed practice of deciding no more than you must decide. In fact, the Chief Justice once famously said, if we don’t have to decide something, that means we have to avoid deciding it. He’s obviously violated that mandate here and the struggle within the court results in injustice for the nation.”
Tribe also slammed the Court for choosing to announce it will decide “the broadest possible question.” He suggests they could stretch it out even more, by taking the case, hearing it, then sending it back to the lower courts again.
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) February 29, 2024
Daily Beast columnist and “recovering attorney” Wajahat Ali observed: “A thoroughly corrupt Supreme Court with right-wing justices bought out by conservative billionaires and beholden to Christian nationalism should not be expected to side with justice, the rule of law, or democracy. Elections matter.”
CNN Senior Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic on Wednesday said, The fact that they delayed this order … suggests that they certainly did not embrace the urgency that Special Counsel Jack Smith tried to impose upon them, way back in December.”
“Former President Trump’s effort to run the clock has a partner in the Supreme Court at this point,” she notes.
“Former President Trump’s effort to run the clock has a partner in the Supreme Court at this point.” pic.twitter.com/bjgbTxA1RP
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) February 28, 2024
Watch the videos above or at this link.
Comer Announces Public Hearing After Hunter Biden Closed Door Testimony
House Oversight Committee Chairman Jim Comer announced he will hold a public hearing with Hunter Biden after the president’s son testified behind closed doors for most of Wednesday.
“I think this was a great deposition for us, it proved several bits of our evidence, that we’ve been conducting throughout this investigation, but there are also some contradictory statements that I think need further review,” Comer told reporters Wednesday afternoon.
“So this impeachment inquiry will now go to the next phase, which will be a public hearing. And that’s something that I think everyone in the media has been asking a lot of questions about. Something that I know that Mr. Biden and his attorney both demanded, just as I said, when we said we were going to do the deposition first, we will have a public hearing next.”
It’s unclear what other witnesses Chairman Comer and Chairman Jordan will present.
Comer claimed that parts of Hunter Biden’s testimony contradicted some of their previous witness’ testimony, although he refused to elaborate.
Hunter Biden stated in the opening remarks he released publicly Wednesday morning that Chairman Comer and Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan had built their “entire partisan house of cards on lies told by the likes of Gal Luft, Tony Bobulinski, Alexander Smirnov, and Jason Galanis.”
“Luft, who is a fugitive, has been indicted for his lies and other crimes; Smirnov, who has made you dupes in carrying out a Russian disinformation campaign waged against my father, has been indicted for his lies; Bobulinski, who has been exposed for the many false statements he has made, and Galanis, who is serving 14 years in prison for fraud.”
Politico described Hunter Biden’s opening statement as “blistering.”
“I am here today,” the President’s son began, “to provide the Committees with the one uncontestable fact that should end the false premise of this inquiry: I did not involve my father in my business. Not while I was a practicing lawyer, not in my investments or transactions domestic or international, not as a board member, and not as an artist. Never.”
Watch Comer below or at this link.
Comer announces another impeachment public hearing pic.twitter.com/UjlWAs8zbb
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 28, 2024
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