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The Edge: Chief Justice to Congress: I Told You So

The Edge is National Journal's daily look at today in Washington -- and what's coming next. The email features analysis from NJ's top correspondents, the biggest stories of the day -- and always a few surprises. To subscribe, click here.

Chief Justice to Congress: I Told You So

 

Chief Justice John Roberts gave Congress the middle finger today, striking down a key section of the Voting Rights Act and telling lawmakers that they'll need to pass a new bill if they want the rest of the law enforced.

Roberts knows that ain't gonna happen—and he's just fine with that.

In his opinion striking down the formula that covers nine states, mostly in the South, the chief justice chides Congress countless times. Over and over again, he cites his own ruling in the 2009 voting-rights case, where he all but told Congress: Fix this or we're going to do it for you. "We expressed our broader concerns about the constitutionality of the Act. Congress could have updated the coverage formula at that time, but did not do so," Roberts wrote. "Its failure to act leaves us today with no choice." I told you so!

 

Now Congress—the screwed-up, can't-get-anything-done Congress—has this racially charged, politically sensitive mess dumped in its lap. Given how hard it's been to pass anything, it's hard to imagine Congress undoing the Court's action anytime soon. Read more

Matthew Cooper
mcooper@nationaljournal.com

TOP NEWS

OBAMA OUTLINES NEW PLAN TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE. President Obama today announced a wide-ranging plan to protect the nation from the effects of climate change and lead the international community on climate talks. Speaking to a crowd at Georgetown University, Obama urged immediate action to protect the young and future generations, saying "the decisions we make now will have a profound impact on the world you inherit." Obama's plan aims to launch "the first-ever regulations on carbon dioxide emitted by new and existing power plants" and "will boost renewable energy production on federal lands, increase efficiency standards, and prepare communities to deal with higher temperatures," the Associated Press reports. Read more

  • Harvard geochemist Daniel Schrag, an adviser to Obama on climate change, told The New York Times that despite political reluctance, "a war on coal is exactly what's needed." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tweeted that this is "tantamount to declaring a 'War on Jobs.'"

OBAMA WON'T APPROVE KEYSTONE UNLESS IT PASSES NEW TEST. President Obama told hundreds of climate change advocates on Tuesday that he will not approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline if it "significantly exacerbated the problem of carbon pollution," a move that's expected to excite environmental activists. The comments prompted cheers from the crowd and also represent a political shift, National Journal's Amy Harder reports. Read more

 

SCOTUS RULES KEY SECTION OF VOTING RIGHTS ACT UNCONSTITUTIONAL. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court today ruled unconstitutional Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which establishes standards used to assess which states need federal clearance to change election laws, The New York Times reports. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that although some states in 1965 had a "recent history of voting tests and low voter turnout," today "the nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were." Obama said in a statement that the ruling "upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent" and urged Congress to protect voting rights. Read more

  • The decision means Republicans could control the House for decades, Hotline's Reid Wilson writes.

RYAN: SENATE'S BORDER VOTE INCREASES CHANCES FOR IMMIGRATION LAW. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the Senate's move late Monday to advance an amendment doubling the number of border patrol agents and calling for new fencing along the Mexico border means the House is more likely to pass immigration reform, the Associated Press reports. Ryan told CBS's This Morning today that the House "will do its own legislation" and won't take up the Senate bill this week if it is passed, but added that the tighter border provisions—which left Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., enthused—"helps make this final passage even more likely." Read more

  • But not so fast. The Senate is going to pass comprehensive immigration reform soon, but the House doesn't really care, The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza writes. Read more

PUTIN: RUSSIA CAN'T AND WON'T EXTRADITE SNOWDEN. Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that fugitive former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden remains in the transit hall at a Moscow airport and has not crossed the Russian border, making him free to fly to any destination of his choosing, The Wall Street Journal reports. Responding to White House criticism leveled Monday against Russia, as well as China and Ecuador, Putin said Snowden's arrival in Moscow over the weekend was a surprise to Russian authorities, adding that "Snowden is a free man and the sooner he chooses his final destination, the better it will be for us and for him." Read more

Don't Miss Today's Top Stories

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The day's action in one quick read."

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I find them informative and appreciate the daily news updates and enjoy the humor as well."

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  • Putin may face a serious temptation to keep Snowden around for a while, National Journal's Michael Hirsh writes. Because as much as Putin likes to crack down on dissidents, he also appears to enjoy "continuing to stick his thumb in [America's] eye," as McCain told CNN today. Read more

SENATE CONFIRMS PRITZKER AT COMMERCE. The Senate voted 97-1 Tuesday to confirm Chicago business executive Penny Pritzker, President Obama's nominee to serve as Commerce secretary. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., cast the lone vote in opposition. Pritzker's confirmation was widely expected. Read more

WHITE HOUSE NOW COURTING HOLLYWOOD CELEBS TO PROMOTE HEALTH CARE LAW. The White House is looking to use celebrity and professional-athlete firepower to help promote the Affordable Care Act during the next six months, The Hill reports. The administration has indicated it wants to educate the public about the law's federal benefits leading up to Oct. 1, when open enrollment begins in new insurance marketplaces. Who are the potential stars? John Legend and Eva Longoria are among the A-listers represented by a political adviser in talks with the Obama administration, and both the NFL and NBA have reportedly been contacted by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Read more

ISSA CONTINUES BENGHAZI PROBE WITH 4 STATE DEPARTMENT SUBPOENAS. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., subpoenaed four State Department officials today as part of ongoing Republican queries into the administration's response to an attack on a diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last Sept. 11. Issa didn't mince words in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, writing that "I am concerned that waiting weeks or months while the Department prepares witnesses to be interviewed creates the risk that their testimony will have been rehearsed or coached." Read more

SENATE SPECIAL ELECTION IN THE BAY STATE. Voters head to the polls in Massachusetts today in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., faces businessman and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez in a race that "has struggled to capture the public's attention," The Boston Globe reports. Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin on Monday projected a record-low turnout of approximately 37 percent. Markey, who has led Gomez in polling through the campaign, is expected to win the seat in the heavily Democratic state. Read more

TOMORROW

SCOTUS TO ANNOUNCE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE RULINGS WEDNESDAY. Chief Justice John Roberts announced today that the Supreme Court will hand down its remaining decisions on Wednesday. Those still on the docket include Hollingsworth v. Perry, which deals with California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage, and United States v. Windsor, which addresses the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

OBAMA OFF TO AFRICA. On Wednesday morning, President Obama and the First Family will depart for their trip to Africa. They will visit Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania and will return to the U.S. July 2. PBS's News Hour has an explainer on why he's making the trip, and why he's not visiting Kenya, his father's birthplace. Read more

HOUSE CONSERVATIVES TO DISCUSS KEY ISSUES. Conversations with Conservatives will hold a discussion on the most important issues of the day, including the Farm Bill, immigration reform, the National Security Agency and the Supreme Court's decisions regarding the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 at 11:30 a.m. in 2226 Rayburn. Participants include Reps. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.; Raul Labrador, R-Idaho; Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; Justin Amash, R-Mich.; Tom McClintock, R-Calif.; Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.; and Steve Stockman, R-Texas.

QUOTABLE

"I'd prefer not to deal with this issue at all—it's like shearing a pig—too much squeaking, too little wool." -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the Edward Snowden situation (The Wall Street Journal)

BEDTIME READING

DO FEMALE AG WORKERS FACE UPHILL SLOG IN HARASSMENT LAWSUITS? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has received more than 1,100 sexual harassment complaints in the past 15 years from workers in agriculture-related companies, the Center for Investigative Reporting's Bernice Yeung and Grace Rubenstein report as part of a yearlong collaborative project. But there have only been 41 federal lawsuits since 1998, two of which have made it to a jury trial. Anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of farmworkers are in the country illegally, with some advocates saying the women of this group make "the perfect victims," Yeung and Grace narrate, with the "combination of financial desperation and tenuous immigration status" making them less likely to report potential crimes. Read more

TODAY'S LIST

THE GIFTS THAT KEEP ON GIVING. Items that Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr. bought for Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell during a trip to New York City: an Oscar de la Renta suede jacket (with a minimum cost of $10,000), a Louis Vuitton purse, two pairs of designer shoes, and a dress. Investigators are currently looking into the relationship between the two families. Read more

REALITY CHECK

PASSING THE HAT. The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza live-tweeted a freshman Democrat's fundraising calls, overheard while sitting in a public place. Sample: "I certainly understand that. I know. It's crazy. [long pause] You are not alone. I'll tell you what I'll do, you tell me when to call you." Read it here

 

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Don't Miss Today's Top Stories

Excellent!"

Rick, Executive Director for Policy

Concise coverage of everything I wish I had hours to read about."

Chuck, Graduate Student

The day's action in one quick read."

Stacy, Director of Communications

I find them informative and appreciate the daily news updates and enjoy the humor as well."

Richard, VP of Government Affairs

Chock full of usable information on today's issues. "

Michael, Executive Director

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