Achilles' Hill: GOP Takes Hit on Amnesty
They may be in the same party, but Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are on different pages when it comes to immigration strategy. The plan had been to use Homeland Security’s funding – which runs out in two days – to back the White House into a corner on its decision to ignore the law and wave five million illegal immigrants into the country.
Neither party really wants to deal with the optics of DHS shutting down, but they also know that (apart from the media’s narrative), it would really have no meaningful effect on American security – not when 85% of the Department’s employees would still be working as “essential” personnel. But unlike his House counterpart, Sen. McConnell is apparently too antsy about the public’s perception of a DHS slowdown to hold his ground.
In a surprise move, he’s decided to strike out on his own and split the House bill in two: with one proposal that would fund Homeland Security through September and another that would block the President’s amnesty plan. The idea brought groans to House conservatives, who view it as surrender. Without the leverage of the DHS bill, there’s very little hope the Left will reconsider.
And even if McConnell does manage to snag some Democrats in a vote on the illegal immigration bill, it won’t be enough to override a presidential veto. Boehner, on the other hand, hasn’t given an inch. In the pressure cooker of the House, where conservatives and moderates tug on both sides of the Speaker, the Ohio leader knows that if he gives in to McConnell’s plan, he’ll be right back where he started: in a weakened position with his own members. With the courts already on his side, the Speaker shows no signs of buckling – sending yet another signal that he heard the message voters sent in November.
Although the results aren’t (and can’t be) immediate, this new House is already distinguishing itself from the last Congress, where leaders weren’t nearly this emboldened on America’s priorities. Problems that members might have been tempted to let slide last year are being tackled head-on. Take D.C. marijuana, for example. Congress has always had legislative oversight in the District (much to the city’s displeasure), but it takes a lot of prodding to get members to exercise it.
That hasn’t been a problem lately – with two GOP members jumping into the District pot debate. In a strongly worded letter to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Reps. Jason Chaffetz (Utah) and Mark Meadows (N.C.), said there would be a price to pay if the city moved forward with its plan to legalize marijuana. If D.C. officials are “under any illusion that this would be legal,” Chaffetz warned, “they’re wrong. And there are very severe consequences for violating this provision. You can go to prison for this. We’re not playing a little game here.”
Despite the fact that Congress blocked the measure in its December spending bill – and despite the fact that the law has to pass a 30-day congressional review – the Mayor insists the law will take effect Thursday. Not if this pair has anything to do with it! “If you decide to move forward tomorrow with the legalization of marijuana in the District, you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law,” they cautioned.
And drugs aren’t the only area conservatives are drawing the line. In the back and forth over the No Child Left Behind reauthorization, the GOP has another goal: leaving Common Core behind. As part of the mixed bag known as the Student Success Act (an update of the signature George W. Bush law), conservatives are including a few key provisions – one of which would stop the Secretary of Education from using No Child Left Behind as a bargaining chip to get states to adopt Common Core. Right now, the Obama administration has coerced states to accept Common Core by granting them waivers from the stringent NCLB requirements.
It probably sounds strange that states would trade standards for standards, but that’s how unpopular portions of the Bush law have been. H.R. 5 would bar the DOE from greasing the wheels for more Common Core by making those exemptions illegal. Although the bill is far from perfect, members are working to include a few amendments that would threaten a school’s funding if it distributes “emergency contraception” pills like Plan B to students or refers them for abortions. As part of the base bill, members also made sure to put in a plug for abstinence education. Under the House’s language, federal funds can’t be used for school sex-ed that promotes contraception – without also talking about the benefits of abstinence. All of this and more will be considered this week in committee meetings. If you want to weigh in on DHS, D.C. pot, or education, contact your senators and congressman!
Facebook Leads to Attack on Teacher’s Faith Book
At a Union Township high school, you can teach free speech – you just can’t exercise it. New Jersey’s Jenye Knox found that out the hard way. Four years ago, the tenured teacher was fed up with the school’s constant flood of political correctness, including a hallway billboard celebrating Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Month. Frustrated by the liberal message, the special education teacher posted a message of her own on Facebook.
“Why parade your unnatural immoral behaviors before the rest of us?” she wrote. “I do not have to tolerate anything others wish to do. I do have to love and speak and do what’s right!” When people started commenting on the post, the African-American ordained minister spelled out her biblical beliefs on the subject. They were her own personal comments on her own personal time – but the school didn’t care. Administrators suspended Knox for three months without pay for “conduct unbecoming” – the stress of which was so great that Jenye ultimately resigned.
Angry over the way she’d been treated, Knox sued the district for violating her religious and free speech rights. Now, after a two-year legal battle against the school, Knox is finally getting a chance at vindication. U.S. District Court Judge Kevin McNulty ruled that Knox deserves a federal jury trial, where she can fight for the reinstatement, back pay, and monetary compensation she’s seeking.
“I understand a teacher is an agent of the state but she’s also an individual,” Knox’s attorney said. “This is what the country was founded on. It’s not like she was a teacher standing up in the middle of class and saying, ‘I believe in 'this, this, and this.’”
But unfortunately, the club of educators persecuted for their beliefs keeps growing. Florida’s Teacher of the Year Jerry Buell was in an almost identical situation and won his job back in court. Professor Mike Adams converted to Christianity at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and the university denied his promotion because of it (a decision that, seven years and several appeals later, the courts reversed).
FRC’s own Teresa Wagner, who worked for us in the late 1990s, was turned down for a job at the University of Iowa Law School because of her conservative views. The 8th Circuit later ruled in her favor, proving that none of these schools’ politically-motivated decisions can withstand scrutiny. When men and women of faith fight for their beliefs, they can win. So when the time of testing comes, take heart in the words of the Apostle Paul and STAND!
The SPLC’s Uncivil War
It’s almost the end of Black History Month – and the SPLC has a funny way of observing it. The so-called “civil rights” group has spent the last few weeks attacking one of the most prominent African-Americans in the country, Dr. Ben Carson, for holding beliefs that a majority of the nation (our latest poll shows) share.
[Wednesday], a group of black pastors stood with Dr. Carson in calling out the Southern Poverty Law Center as the real extremist in a special news conference at the National Press Club. FRC’s Bishop E.W. Jackson led the show of support, which also featured Martin Brown of STAND, Captain Steve Lambert of the Virginia State Police, Dr. Leon Threatt of Christian Faith Assembly, and Melvin Adams of Renewnation.
“I want to remind everybody that we call Islamic terrorists ‘extremists,’” Bishop Jackson told the reporters assembled. “And to call a man extremist simply because he expressed a biblical view of marriage is really beyond the pale.” Together, these leaders made it clear that the SPLC doesn’t speak for them. “… The Southern Poverty Law Center’s name is derived from a group of people who are supposed to be concerned about poverty and about helping minority people. To me,” Bishop Jackson pointed out, “it is ultimately ironic that a man like Ben Carson, who grew up poor, taught by a welfare mother who couldn’t even read, but instilled values in her son such that he became academically outstanding. [He] went on to become one of the renowned surgeons, not just in America, but in the world…”
“That’s supposed to be the American dream.” And to say, Bishop Jackson went on, “that we don’t care how many children you save, we don’t care how much of a pioneer you’ve been in the field of medicine, we don’t care what background you came from, all we know is that because you don’t agree with us, we are going to attack you. And what that says to me is, that the Southern Poverty Law Center needs to drop poverty from their name, because they’re no longer about helping poor people. They’re now about being ideological police.”
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.