From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
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And I'm Melissa Block.
Next month, the Supreme Court will take up a highly anticipated challenge to California's Prop 8, the ban on gay marriage. Today, a group of prominent Republicans weighed in with a legal brief opposing the ban. That puts them at odds with their party's position. But as NPR's Don Gonyea reports, it puts them in line with public opinion.
With automatic spending cuts totaling $85 billion scheduled to start Friday, Congressional leaders and President Obama continued maneuvering to avoid the political fallout. Melissa Block talks to Tamara Keith about the state of play and has details from a poll that suggests that Americans want to cut the deficit, but only in the abstract.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
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And I'm Audie Cornish. Tick-tock goes the sequester clock. Three more days until automatic across-the-board spending cuts kick in. And today, President Obama was once again on the road trying to build public pressure on Congress to delay or replace the cuts. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson begins our coverage.
You are Barack Obama and you find yourself hacking away in the weeds of sequestration — and some frustration. What's going on?
After all, you won a second term as President of the United States. You withstood the hooks and slices of a nasty campaign. Your approval rating is on the rise. Over President's Day weekend you played golf with Tiger Woods. For an American politician, it probably doesn't get any better than this.
President Obama has for weeks warned congressional Republicans and the American public of the dangers facing the nation from the sequester budget cuts.
Failing to reach a deal between the White House and Congress by Friday could lead to some young children being dropped from Head Start, the FBI furloughing agents and fewer food inspectors, according to the president.
If the cuts unleash these and other harms, like longer lines at airports, Congress and voters won't be able to say they weren't warned.
And now we turn to a political stalemate that seems to be turning into a crisis. We've been talking about the across-the-board cuts to the federal budget that seem more and more likely to go into effect this Friday because Congress and the White House have not agreed on a deficit reduction plan. It's being called sequestration.
Edward Blum isn't a lawyer, and he doesn't play one on TV.
But he has been the driving force behind two race-related cases before the U.S. Supreme Court this term, including one that justices will hear Wednesday that seeks to roll back a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The other, Fisher v. University of Texas, which challenges the use of race and ethnicity in public college and university admissions policies, was heard by the court in October and awaits its decision.
As Friday's deadline approaches, we're pointing to stories that should help everyone get ready for "the sequester" — the $85 billion worth of across-the-board cuts in federal spending that would begin to kick in that day if lawmakers don't strike some sort of deal before then. (We won't call them "must-reads" because we'd never want to tell anyone that they "must" read anything about this subject. Let's refer to them as "should-reads.")
Military communities are keeping a wary eye on the sequester debate in Washington, D.C. In Maine, employees of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard have already been dealing with budget cuts. Now they could face furlough days as well. The smaller payroll could send shock waves through the local economy.
Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 7:44 am
The country has been debating gun regulations for months. Later this week, a Senate committee will start work on various proposals, including a background check on every gun sale and a ban on assault weapons.
But this debate over guns goes beyond disagreements about policy. Advocates on both sides quite literally disagree on the terms of the discussion — as in, the words they use to describe it.
Ask "gun control advocates" to describe what this debate is about, and they'll say "control" really isn't the word they prefer.
The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on Tuesday in a case that could throw a monkey wrench into the widespread use of DNA testing — a case that pits modern technology against notions of personal privacy.
Twenty-eight states and the federal government have enacted laws that provide for automatic DNA collection from people at the time of their arrest. The question is whether it is unconstitutional to do that without a warrant, for the sole purpose of checking the DNA against a national DNA crime scene database.
Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 5:23 pm
To understand what's happening with federal judge vacancies, consider this: The Senate voted Monday night to approve the nomination of Robert Bacharach to sit on the federal appeals court based in Denver.
Bacharach had won support from both Republican senators in his home state, and his nomination was approved unanimously. But he still waited more than 260 days for that vote.
The Supreme Court says it won't hear a case that would have let candidates solicit money from corporations. By doing so, the court is reaffirming one strict ban on corporate political money, three years ago after easing other limits in its controversial Citizens United ruling.
Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 8:55 am
Barring a last-minute deal that at the moment seems unlikely, months of brinkmanship are set to culminate on Friday.
The sequester — $85 billion worth of across-the-board cuts in federal spending — will begin to kick in, with potentially serious economic consequences, including federal furloughs and the slashing of programs.
Here are three stories we've plucked from the ether that should give a good picture of what's going on as we approach sequester D-Day:
Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 10:10 am
Once, the special election to succeed the disgraced Jesse Jackson Jr. in Illinois' 2nd District seemed impossible to handicap, especially with some two dozen or so candidates on the ballot. Thus, it became not so much a horse race discussion as a conversation dominated by concerns about race and guns. Now, according to many observers, many of the questions have given way to the sense that Tuesday's winner will be Robin Kelly, a former state representative. (We officially must wait for the general election, on April 9.)
Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 8:01 am
With less than a week before the across-the-board-spending cuts go into effect, Republicans and Democrats are sounding off about the sequestration.
"There's easy ways [sic] to cut this money that the American people will never feel," Rep. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said on Fox News Sunday. "What you hear is an outrage because nobody wants to cut spending ... and it will be somewhat painful, but not cutting spending is going to be disastrous for our country."
Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin speaks with NPR National Political correspondent Mara Liasson about the week in politics, including the looming spending cuts facing Congress and the administration's urging of the Supreme Court to strike down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 7:24 am
To those who closely follow the voter ID wars, Hans von Spakovsky is a household name, one of the nation's leading crusaders against voter fraud, and also one of its more controversial. Days before the 2012 election, The New Yorker profiled him as "the man who has stoked fear about imposters at the poll."
One of the most important events in the national gun violence debate will take place Tuesday — in the snows of Chicago, a thousand miles from Newtown, Conn., or Washington, D.C.
That's where Democratic voters will choose their nominee to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. Because the district is so heavily Democratic, the winner will almost certainly be sworn in at the Capitol following the April general election.
Originally published on Sat February 23, 2013 1:03 pm
The liberal watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy says Fix the Debt — a key unit in philanthropist Pete Peterson's corps of organizations to battle the national debt — is a pro-business effort masquerading as a grassroots movement.
In a conference call with reporters Friday, CMD director Lisa Graves called Fix the Debt "an Astroturf supergroup that is exceedingly well funded." The term "Astroturf" refers to groups that appear to be citizen-organized but actually have their roots at consultants' offices inside the Capital Beltway.
The former South Carolina governor made national headlines four years ago when he tearfully resigned as head of the Republican Governors Association because of an extramarital affair. He's now staging a political comeback, however, and is the frontrunner in a special election for his old House seat. Weekend Edition guest host Don Gonyea speaks to political blogger Brad Warthen about Sanford's prospects.
It seems Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has done his best in recent weeks to get as much ink as possible, talking about things that play well with the conservatives in his home state of South Carolina, like Benghazi and gun rights.
Graham also held up the nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary to get more answers about what happened in Benghazi, even as he admitted Hagel had nothing to do with it. But his opposition might have more to do with home state politics than the nomination itself.
The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments next week in a case that tests the constitutionality of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the law considered the most effective civil rights statute in American history. At issue is whether a key provision of the statute has outlived its usefulness.
In Sumter, S.C., home of Shaw Air Force Base and the 20th Fighter Wing, cars sport bumper stickers that say, "Jet noise is the sound of freedom."
Throughout the day, F-16s on training runs blast from a runway on base, disappearing into the foggy sky. But if automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts slated for March 1 go into effect, there will be a lot less of that sound.
"To cut to that level, we just could not pay for the amount of flying hours that we currently have," says Capt. Ann Blodzinski, the base's chief of public affairs.
President Obama's plan to jump-start the economy starts with increasing the minimum wage and avoiding sequestration. Host Michel Martin talks about those challenges and others, like rising gas prices and expanding waist lines. She's joined by NPR's senior business editor Marilyn Geewax and Wall Street Journal economics reporter Sudeep Reddy.