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ELECTION 2016: Can Democrats Regain Control Of The U.S. Senate?

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Here Are The Races To Watch

This year’s election contests aren’t just going to be a big day for the presidential race; there are numerous state and local officers up for election.

Because we know just how important — perhaps even more so — these down-ballot races can be, The New Civil Rights Movement is breaking down the other races and what initiatives LGBTQ people should be paying attention to as they head to the ballot box on Tuesday.

In Part 1, we looked at the states electing new governors. Now we turn to the U.S. Senate.

There are 34 Senate seats up for election this year, and Democrats need to pick up five seats in order to flip the Senate back to their control. (There are curently 24 Republican seats and 10 Democratic seats up for grabs.) Gaining control of the Senate is a particularly big deal this year because the Senate is responsible for confirming Supreme Court and other judges in addition to other nominees for other federal offices. Here are some of the most notable races we’re paying attention to this year:

Illinois: Republican Mark Kirk is one of the few GOP senators to publicly support LGBTQ rights, which originally earned him an endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign, even though his Democratic Opponent, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, has a far better record as an LGBTQ ally. Last week, though, Kirk made a racist comment about his oppenent during a debate and HRC (and many other groups) revoked their endorsement and switched it to Duckworth. Representative Duckworth has been outspoken for years on LGBTQ rights.

Florida: Republican Marco Rubio is trying desperately to hold onto his seat after his failed presidential bid. He’s being challenged by Democrat Patrick Murphy but he’s maintained a slight lead across the state. Murphy could be helped by a large turnout for Hillary Clinton and lots of campaigning from President Obama, but, as has been the case for years now, what will actually happen in Florida is anyone’s guess. It should surprise no one that Senator Rubio is no friend to the LGBTQ community.

North Carolina: Incumbent Senator Richard Burr, a Republican, is facing off with Democractic challenger Deborah Ross, the state ACLU executive director. Burr has gone on record saying that HB2 was “too broad” but also denied its economic impact. But, Senator Burr has a penchant for speaking out of turn and joked last week about shooting Hillary Clinton and vowed that if Clinton became president and he was in office, he’d do everything in his power to ensure that no Supreme Court nominee would be confirmed at all. During her entire term. Simply put: You are the worst, Burr.

Ohio: Republican Senator Rob Portman made news a few years ago when he decided to be a good father and embrace his gay son — and fight for his rights.  But over the past few years, he’s remembered that he’s an establishment Republican and has fought against women’s rights and more. He’s also on the list of politicians who endorsed and then un-endorsed Donald Trump. That move — rescinding his endorsement — has certainly helped him out in the polls against Democratic challenger Ted Strickland. 

New Hampshire: Governor Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, is trying for a new office, challenging Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte, you might remember, has been all over the map on her reactions to and support of Donald Trump. At one point, she called him a “role model.” She said she made a mistake soon after — but she would still vote for him. Now she’s doing her best to link Trump and Bill Clinton, who isn’t currently running for any office and says she won’t vote for Trump. Even with all of that back and forth, the race is still neck-and-neck.

Arizona: The man responsible for unleashing Sarah Palin onto the world (and, by some theories, paving the way for Donald Trump’s absurdist campaign), Republican John McCain, is fighting to hold onto his Senate seat in the face of a challenge from Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick. The race isn’t nearly as competitive as some of the others, but for many it’s a bit of a surprise that the war hero has had this much difficulty getting re-elected, including against a Trump-supporting primary challenger. 

Indiana: Congressman Todd Young, a Republican, and former Senator Evan Bayh, a Democrat, are going head-to-head. Bayh, who also served as governor, had been up substaintially, but that lead has dwindled in recent weeks as his opponent painted him as a Washington insider and part of the establishment. 

Missouri: Democrat Jason Kander might be best known for his campaign ad depicting him assembling an AR-15 assault rifle blindfolded in only 30 seconds while advocating for background checks on gun purchasers. He’s also a military veteran and polling higher than just about anyone expected against Republican incumbent Roy Blunt.

Utah: While the Senate race in Utah is far from competitive, it’s worth noting that the Democratic nominee is Misty Snow, the first transgender nominee to run for US Senate. She’s centered her campaign around traditional Democratic policies like raising the minimum wage, criminal justice reform, and has modeled much of her platform off of Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Her opponent, Republican incumbent Mike Lee, has an almost 20-point lead, but as Snow told the Salt Lake Tribune, “A lot of people have told me whether I win or lose, I’m already making a difference just by running.”

Kentucky: Openly gay Lexington Mayor Jim Gray is taking on incumbent Republican Rand Paul in hopes of ending over a decade of Republican control. However, the recent polling has him down anywhere from 12 to 16 points. 

There are many other races going on — and plenty could end up being very important, too. Check out all of the races here.

Coming up: A look at local races and certain ballot initiatives across the country.

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Republicans Kill Bill to Protect IVF After Claiming They Fully Support It

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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.

RELATED: Nikki Haley: Frozen Embryos Are ‘Babies’

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. 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.”

READ MORE: Democrats Discredit GOP Claims on IVF as Republicans Try to Regain Ground After Fallout

Also on Wednesday, the lone House Republican supporting legislation to protect IVF withdrew her sponsorship of that bill.

The Biden campaign on Thursday blasted Republicans for claiming to support IVF then killing the bill that would have protected it.

Watch the videos above or at this link.

 

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‘Injustice’: Experts Condemn Supreme Court’s ‘Fundamentally Corrupt’ Trump Decision

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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.”

READ MORE: Trump Swore Under Oath He Had $400 Million in Cash – Now He’s Telling a Court a Different Story

Weissman Thursday morning noted that the Supreme Court’s actions essentially make Trump “de facto immune.”

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.”

READ MORE: Comer Announces Public Hearing After Hunter Biden Closed Door Testimony

He also pointed to this monologue from MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, calling it “correct.”

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.

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.

Watch the videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘How Extremism Is Normalized’: Schlapp Furious as Critics Slam CPAC Over Report of Nazis

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Comer Announces Public Hearing After Hunter Biden Closed Door Testimony

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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.

READ MORE: Court Denies Trump Request to Pause $454M Bond Requirement Amid His Cash Liquidity Claim

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.

READ MORE: Trump Swore Under Oath He Had $400 Million in Cash – Now He’s Telling a Court a Different Story

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