Saturday, July 14, 2018

Republican mendacity

There are certain things we expect of Republicans in Congress: Dishonesty, pandering to its extremist base, hypocrisy, and bigotry, as well as other characteristics. But their mendacity is most fully utilised whenever they advance one of their radical agenda items and want to pretend it’s not only not radical, but that it’s gosh darn wholesome and good. This week Republicans in the US House proved all the worst things said about them are true.

On Wednesday (US time), the Ways and Means Committee of the US House of Representatives approved by a near party-line vote an amendment to an appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The amendment, if it is kept in the bill ultimately passed by Congress and signed by the current occupant of the White House, will be the first to include “license to discriminate” language. Naturally, that’s not how the Republicans are spinning it.

The amendment is intended to make it impossible for any state or local government to protect LGBT+ people from discrimination in adoption and fostering services by forbidding states and local governments from banning religious-based services that refuse to work with gay people. In several places around the country, this has happened, and it infuriates the far-right “Christians” who control the Republican Party.

This will result in a drop in available parents and caregivers as religious-based groups flat-out exclude otherwise qualified and suitable gay people or couples. Republicans and their allies in anti-LGBT+ hate groups have been trying to spin their move as being "good" for children, as if reducing the number of available parents will somehow magically mean more parents. Magic won’t cover up this mendacity, however, and fewer parents will inevitably mean more children waiting, and waiting longer, for adoption or foster care.

The main mechanism the bill provides for preventing state autonomy is this (full text is available as a PDF from the US House website):
The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall withhold from a State or local government 15 percent of the Federal funds the State or local government receives for a program that provides child welfare services under part B or part E of title IV of the Social Security Act if the State or local government violates subsection (a) when administering or disbursing funds under such program.
State and local governments are always short of cash, especially for social programmes that, if we’re honest, plenty of people don’t really care about. So a 15% cut would be massive. States, then, would have two options: Surrender to the “Christian” extremist Republicans, which would be contrary to their values. Or, they could defy the Republicans and take the 15% cut, and then either reduce services, cut funding from other programmes, or raise taxes, none of which would be politically popular. It’s a no-win situation for such state and local governments, exactly as Republicans planned it.

But wait, there's more!

The amendment encourages lawsuits against states, saying that religious providers blocked from discriminating “may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain all appropriate relief, including declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and compensatory damages, with respect to that violation,” and then adds, “A child welfare service provider that prevails in an action by establishing a violation of subsection (a) is entitled to recover reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.” The amendment also declares, that merely by accepting Federal funds, “a State waives its sovereign immunity for any claim or defense that is raised under this subsection.”

So, the financial costs for defying the religious extremists—both the funding cuts and the inevitable court judgements from lawsuits brought by the very litigious rightwing, would be enormous for state and local governments, and so, it would be financially impossible for state and local governments to defy the Republicans.

The reason this is so important is that this method will be THE template for how Republicans will force their extremist agenda onto everyone, especially if they win the November elections, and it will be repeated on any number of issues. For example, they will use the exact same method to prevent states from enforcing all other laws banning discrimination against LGBT+ people (because there is no federal law protecting the human rights of LGBT+ people, Congress can do that easily). No more wedding cakes or photos for dirty homos!

Once Roe v. Wade is overturned, this is the method Republicans will use to get states with legal abortion to both not pay for it with state funds, and also to require them to put onerous restrictions on access to all reproductive services, including contraception and even counselling, in order to structurally ban abortion services in states where it will still be legal. This is also how they’ll prevent Blue states from doing much of anything to protect workers, the poor, immigrants (even fully legal ones), etc., and the soon-to-be hard-right Supreme Court will back them up on everything.

It’s ironic that the very politicians who used to scream about “states rights” and states’ supposed powers under the Tenth Amendment (especially during the Obama Administration) are now working to prevent states from acting in ANY way that’s contrary to what Republicans command. The actual word for that is hypocrisy.

Still, it’s not too late to prevent a total takeover by radical religionists and fascists, but it will require massive votes for Democrats in November for one simple reason: Republicans, especially the fervent fans of the current occupant of the White House, absolutely WILL vote. This is the time to put the country first and vote ONLY for Democrats. Otherwise, “Republic of Gilead”, here we come!

And this is why the things we expect of Republicans in Congress are dishonesty, pandering to its extremist base, hypocrisy, and bigotry, as well as other less charming attributes. It’s because it’s all true—and preventable by voting for Democrats.

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