fresh voices from the front lines of change







How Gorsuch Upends SCOTUS Votes

Little Scalia: How Neil Gorsuch divides Washington and the Supreme Court. NYM: "In late February 2018, like stagehands striking and rebuilding a set, the Supreme Court did it all over again. The case it heard was nearly identical, except the employee was named Mark Janus and his union was in Illinois. A free-market interest group that represented Janus just replaced the I STAND WITH REBECCA signs with I STAND WITH MARK signs and handed them to people outside the courthouse. This time, the conservatives would almost certainly get their win. Poised to break the tie was Justice Neil Gorsuch, sipping happily from a thermos on the stage-left end of the bench. Republicans were in heaven. 'Try funding the modern Democratic Party without union dues,' said GOP operative and anti-tax obsessive Grover Norquist, who was milling around the Court. 'Good luck.'"

Returning Citizens Demand Voting Rights

Former felons lead the voter restoration movement. Axios: "Formerly incarcerated people across the country are using their past connections with the criminal justice system to lead the national movement to restore voting rights for the disenfranchised. Laws stripping voting rights from people with past criminal convictions vary widely from state to state. Some revoke rights permanently and require a petition for restoration, while others restore the right after release. But an estimated six million formerly incarcerated people nationwide cannot vote — an amount experts say has the potential to change election outcomes in key states with strict felon-voting policies. Louisiana's governor is expected to sign a measure that Yancy, an organizer with the Voice of the Experienced (VOTE,) and others had lobbied for, that will allow those on probation or parole to vote, once they've been out of prison for five years. Former felons-turned reform advocates say voting restoration would ease transition into society and allow them to overcome the stigma of incarceration. 'This is a big reward. We've been fighting it in court,' said Yancy, who has been out of prison for for 15 years and whose parole ends in 2056."

NAFTA Talks Hurtle Towards Collapse

Tariff deadlines loom over NAFTA. Bloomberg: "Time is running out. The U.S. has exempted Canada and Mexico so far from tariffs on steel and aluminum, but tied that to Nafta talks. Those exemptions are set to expire Friday morning, at the end of what the White House has called a “final” extension. U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan has also suggested a Nafta deal is needed around then to pass the current Congress. Adding to pressure is a Mexican election on July 1 that could usher in populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as president, and the new threat of auto tariffs, which would hurt Canada and Mexico. The trio of Nafta ministers doesn’t look set to meet. Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, leading Nafta talks for his country, is in Paris on Tuesday and Wednesday for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development meetings. Lighthizer attended those meetings last year and is expected to this year, but hasn’t formally confirmed a trip. Nafta talks have lately focused largely on the automotive sector, though other key barriers remain, such as over U.S. demands for an automatic termination clause. Mexico is said to have offered a major concession on autos -- agreeing to require 20 percent of a car is built at high wages -- in exchange for the U.S. dropping other controversial provisions. The U.S. hasn’t publicly responded."

Trump Wants Tariffs On Auto Makers

Trump's Trade agenda runs into reality of geopolitics. Time: "Trump’s team, meanwhile, has hit an impasse with Canada and Mexico on negotiations over NAFTA. The president has sought to overhaul NAFTA as a way of returning automobile production to the U.S. and reduce America’s trade deficit with Mexico. But the talks are running into the complications of Mexican elections in July and the U.S. midterm elections in November along with a dispute over rules for car production. Seeking leverage, Trump’s administration launched an investigation into whether tariffs might be necessary on car imports, based on national security concerns. The potential penalties could affect Mexico, Canada, Japan and the European Union. The administration used a similar Commerce Department probe to impose tariffs in March on imported steel and aluminum. But auto manufacturers said they didn’t push for the auto investigation, and members of Congress questioned the validity of the probe. 'The Honda Accord is not a threat to our national security,' said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, hours after joining Trump for a bill signing at the White House. But he added that 'taxing it with trade tariffs is a threat to the economic security of millions of hard-working American families.'"

Private Care May Undermine VA Budget

Senate sends major overhaul of veterans health care to Trump. NYT: "Deep mistrust remains over the Trump administration’s mission to increase the use of private care. Many of the largest veterans groups, as well as Democrats and some moderate Republicans, fear that the White House’s push to unfetter veterans’ ability to choose their care is a backdoor effort to tip the scales in favor of private medicine and to starve the federal government’s second-largest department and its vast government-run health system. Liberals, including the Democratic Party’s top lawmaker on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and a former chairman of the Senate committee, warned that because the bill lacks a long-term funding source, the cost of the program — estimated to be roughly $50 billion over five years — could end up cannibalizing other pieces of the department’s budget. 'It provides nothing to fill the vacancies at the V.A. That is wrong,' said Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, who ran the committee in the aftermath of the wait-time scandal, when lawmakers first created the so-called Veterans Choice Program to relieve pressure on the system. 'My fear is that this bill will open the door to the draining, year after year, of much-needed resources from the V.A.'"

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