In addition to calling for police and criminal justice reforms, which his administration is expected to roll out over coming months, Obama also said that addressing the deeper problems that cause eruptions such as the one in Baltimore require more government spending on early education, college, and job training. Obama linked the problem to a lack of “massive investments in urban communities,” as he put it.
Criminal justice and police reform is one area where there is real potential for a left-right alliance between libertarian conservatives concerned about big, intrusive government and civil liberties progressives whose focus is more oriented towards racial disparities in sentencing and victimization at the hands of police. But there are limits to that alliance.
Libertarians such as Rand Paul — who is running for president — agree that sentencing disparities and the over-militarization of the police have a starkly racial dimension. And Senator Paul’s much-discussed claim that the “lack of fathers” contributed to the Baltimore violence is actually in keeping with his criticism of such sentencing disparities, i.e., the idea that it has taken too many fathers out of communities, as Philip Bump shows.
However, libertarians like Paul still tend to view these broader problems as symptomatic of irrevocably oppressive big government, as opposed to seeing federal power and spending as a potential remedy for racial injustice, urban poverty and violence. Meanwhile, all the 2016 GOP candidates are likely to rally behind visions similar to the GOP budgets, which include deep cuts to exactly the sort of spending Obama talked about yesterday. And with Obama likely to continue talking about these issues, the GOP hopefuls will have to stake out positions in opposition to his prescriptions and general posture. So it’ll be interesting to see how hard Clinton leans into the argument as Obama framed it yesterday.
* WILL AMBITIOUS GOP SENATORS KILL IRAN BILL? What to watch this week: Senators such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are introducing amendments to “toughen up” the Corker-Cardin bill creating a framework for a Congressional vote on an Iran deal, apparently to burnish foreign policy credentials for their presidential runs. Rubio’s would require Iran to acknowledge Israel’s “right to exist” as a condition for the deal continuing. Cruz wants to upend the bill’s delicate compromise on how the final Congressional vote on a deal would be structured.
If any of these were to pass, Obama would veto the Corker compromise, and enough Dems would drop off to deny it a veto-proof majority. The result of these Senators’ efforts would be to scuttle the framework allowing for Congressional oversight of an Iran deal that most Republicans support.
* HOW WILL McCONNELL FINESSE IRAN DEBATE? The Hill reports that Senate leader Mitch McConnell is likely to allow an open amendment process to play out on the Corker-Cardin Iran bill, which may mean the “poison pill” amendments offered by Rubio and Cruz will get a vote. Democrats are pressing McConnell to restrict votes on such amendments on the grounds that they could kill the previously negotiated bipartisan compromise that created the bill.
One possibility: Those who wanted the Corker-Cardin bill in hopes of making it harder for Obama to reach an Iran deal may end up not wanting a vote on the Israel amendment, since it could bring the whole bill down.
* NSA BULK SURVEILLANCE BECOMES ISSUE IN GOP PRIMARY: Politico reports that the leading GOP contenders are taking different positions on a new bill, sponsored by Senators in both parties, that would rein in NSA bulk surveillance. Marco Rubio wants to continue bulk surveillance as is; Ted Cruz supports the new bill limiting it; and Rand Paul says it doesn’t go far enough and wants to end bulk surveillance altogether.
I’ll have more on this soon enough, but for now, it’s looking like some form of this NSA reform will pass, and there is a real debate underway among GOP presidential hopefuls on it.
* ECONOMIC GROWTH SLOWS: Not good:
The U.S. economy slowed sharply at the start of the year as businesses slashed investment, exports tumbled and consumers showed signs of caution, marking a return to the uneven growth that has been a hallmark of the nearly six-year economic expansion. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, expanded at a 0.2% seasonally adjusted annual rate in the first quarter.
It’s a reminder that the economy could loom large in 2016, and not necessarily in a good way for Democrats.
* CHAOS REIGNS IN FLORIDA MEDICAID EXPANSION FIGHT: The budget talks in Florida have now collapsed amid the legislature’s failure to resolve their impasse over whether to opt into the Medicaid expansion. State Senate members want the Medicaid money, but state House members and Governor Rick Scott are digging in against it, even as they are demanding the Obama administration fork over a different source of federal funding that would go to health care for poor people.
The push for tax cuts, a top GOP priority, is now on ice. It’s unclear how this will be resolved, given the insistence on taking federal money on the condition that it not be part of Obamacare.
* POLL FINDS REPUBLICANS WOULD ATTEND GAY WEDDING: Yes, Reuters actually did poll this:
A majority of U.S. Republicans would attend the same-sex wedding of a loved one, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Wednesday, highlighting the political risks for Republican presidential candidates who stake out positions against gay marriage.
Okay, maybe that says something or other about the ways in which the culture is changing. But it doesn’t have much to do with the actual debates on the table over religious freedom laws and what the Constitution dictates about gay marriage.
* AND BEHOLD THE BERNIE-MENTUM!!!! Senator Bernard Sanders, a self-described socialist, will enter the Democratic presidential primary. He hopes to inherit Elizabeth Warren’s supporters, infrastructure, and energy:
Sanders may end up serving as the most prominent voice for the left wing of the party — particularly voters who are suspicious of Clinton and her ties to Wall Street. Sanders’s backers said they hope he can serve as a proxy for Warren’s disappointed drafters…Sanders said his message would be concentrated on the “collapse of the middle class” and “income and wealth inequality,” which he called a “huge issue from a moral sense and a political sense.”
Sanders will be first potential Clinton challenger to officially declare. Former Baltimore Governor Martin O’Malley is unofficially running, though his efforts have not dispelled any sense that it’s probably too late for anyone to gain real traction with party insiders.