The midnight deadline for preventing a government shutdown has passed, following a failed Senate vote to advance the House GOP’s stopgap measure.
There is a chance that some kind of measure could be reached during the weekend, as late night discussion and negotiation were underway up until the deadline. As it is a weekend, any deal made before next week will mean a minimal impact of the shutdown.
The shutdown will go into effect following a memo from the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney.
The midnight deadline for preventing a government shutdown has passed, following a failed Senate vote to advance the House GOP’s stopgap measure.
Shutdown politics are deeply exasperating. But they can also prove useful, as the melodrama reveals who the hacks are.
Yesterday afternoon, Nancy Pelosi said the following about funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program in the continuing resolution: “[The bill] is like giving you a bowl of doggy-doo, put a cherry on top and call it a chocolate sundae.” Obviously, Pelosi doesn’t object to anything in the continuing resolution; she objects to what’s not in it, which is a legislative fix for DACA. Her scatological metaphor stinks.
It’s hardly news that Pelosi was being dishonest. During shutdowns, politicians overplay their roles. It’s like watching the Duke and Dauphin from Huck Finn take a turn at serious drama: not art, but hard to expect anything better. Republicans made their fair share of slippery statements to justify shutting down the government in 2013, which Democrats are putting their own spin on. There is honor among professionals, even professional hacks.
But the biggest hack of all in this case is Jimmy Kimmel, the comedian-cum–public intellectual who last graced the polity with his insistence that the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill would have “kicked off” 30 million Americans from their insurance coverage. Hours after Pelosi’s press conference, Kimmel performed a sketch on his show called Barista Theater that was, essentially, a stolen bit. “Hello, I’d like a cappuccino, please,” Kimmel said to the barista. “Okay, great, that’s one cappuccino and one giant bag of horses***,” the barista replied. “But what if I just want the cappuccino?” Kimmel asked, and was met with this: “Whoa, buddy, you start making demands like that and I will shut down this entire coffee establishment.”
Leave aside that the sketch makes the same basic error as Pelosi’s, and leave aside that it’s the Democratic party that is threatening a shutdown. Kimmel’s political illiteracy (really, his writers’) should at this point be expected. His comedic hackery, however, is a new development. Not only is the joke dishonest and unfunny, it’s stolen — and in comedy, stealing bits is the worst kind of hackery there is. They’d be better off letting Pelosi tell her own jokes. She’s a professional, too.
Are Senate Democrats sure they want to step out further on that branch? A new CNN poll shows that Americans like the DACA program… but not enough to accept a government shutdown in order to keep the program:
Still, 56% overall say approving a budget agreement to avoid a shutdown is more important than continuing the DACA program, while just 34% choose DACA over a shutdown. Democrats break narrowly in favor of DACA — 49% say it’s more important vs. 42% who say avoiding a shutdown is the priority — while majorities of both Republicans (75%) and independents (57%) say avoiding a shutdown is more important.
The survey answers on “who do you blame?” aren’t that much more reassuring to Democrats: “Overall, about half of Americans say they would blame either Trump (21%) or his Republican counterparts in Congress (26%) should Congress fail to fund the government by the midnight Friday deadline. About a third, 31%, say they would hold the Democrats in Congress responsible, and another 10% say they’d blame all three groups.”
This is not a big political winner for Chuck Schumer and the Democrats, and this explains why Joe Manchin says he would vote to keep the government open and Claire McCaskill sounded unenthusiastic about a government shutdown. If people just get mad at “Washington,” that probably makes life slightly more difficult for all incumbents in November.
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Chuck Schumer is pushing for a days-long CR. Maybe he can get Trump to go along with it, but it doesn’t make much sense. It’s highly unlikely that Congress is going to arrive at a DACA deal and write a bill in a matter of days. If Trump doesn’t go for a very short-term CR, McConnell certainly isn’t going to sign on for it, and then the question is what’s Schumer’s next move?
Maybe he will push this all the way into a shutdown, although it’s a very risky gambit. Perhaps anything can be pinned on Trump and Republicans at this point, but it would objectively be Democrats forcing the shutdown, even if McConnell loses a couple of members of his caucus (Lindsey Graham is playing an especially destructive role).
Republicans would be in a much stronger position than in past shutdown fights, because this time they really don’t want a shutdown, and a Republican House, with the support of the Republican president, has passed a measure to keep the government open. It is the Democrats who want to force an extraneous measure, DACA, on the bill to keep the government operating. This should be a heavy lift for them. The advantage the Democrats have, of course, is a very sympathetic media and the wild card of Trump himself.
After his meeting at the White House to discuss the temporary funding bill to avert a government shutdown, Chuck Schumer told reporters that they “made some progress but we still have a good number of disagreements”.
While no deal is in place, this discussion means that one might still be made in the Senate before the midnight deadline. The House passed a funding bill last night, which if passed by the Senate would keep the government open until mid-February.
At the March for Life rally on the National Mall this afternoon, Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R., Wash.) told the story of her daughter Abigail to illustrate the value of every unborn life.
As she stood on the stage with her husband and children, Herrera Beutler said that several years ago, her unborn daughter had been diagnosed at 20 weeks’ gestation with a fatal deformity. The doctor told her and her husband Dan that their child had no kidneys and would miscarry or suffocate at birth because her lungs could not develop.
Their doctor told them, too, that, when women received this type of news, they would immediately head across the street to schedule an abortion procedure. “The sooner you start over, the better off you will be emotionally,” the doctor told them.
But Herrera Beutler and her husband did not choose to “start over” in that way. They chose, instead, to hope, and pray, and even work for a miracle. They found doctors willing to believe that their unborn daughter could be saved and who tried experimental medical procedures to save her life. And, as Herrera Beutler addressed the crowd, her daughter Abigail stood beside her, holding her hand, smiling, and waving.
“I was told there was no chance of survival, but they were wrong,” Herrera Beutler went on. “And they weren’t bad people. They just had never seen a baby with this condition survive. But that’s the point. What if they’re wrong about others, too? What if, together, we can break new ground and find new treatments that will benefit more than just our own families? What if every baby was given at least a shot to reach their true potential?”
Herrera Beutler continued:
Who would we be as a nation? What richness would we get to see? Instead of the equivalent of two generations missing because of that choice. Would we have already witnessed one of these individuals finding a cure for cancer or the key to eradicating extreme poverty? What if we had spent the last 45 years pouring that time and that money into finding cures in the womb for medical conditions like spina bifida or microcephaly or congenital heart defects? What if that money was used to end the baby’s disease, and not the baby’s life?
. . . Today, we have come together to say, ‘There’s hope for every expectant mother who has been given a devastating diagnosis, for every woman who feels fear, or anger, or anxiety because she doesn’t know how she can afford care for that child, for every woman that feels hopeless: Jesus loves you. And for every baby that has been given up on by the status quo: Jesus still does miracles.
We must recognize the unborn child as the miracle that he or she is, a person developing with extraordinary potential and purpose, who deserves a fighting chance to live and just maybe reach that extraordinary potential. I believe it’s the only way our society is ever truly going to reach ours.
The President has just invited Chuck Schumer to the White House for last-minute talks aimed at trying to avert a government shutdown.
Following the move by GOP leadership to send House members home for the weekend, the Senate will need to pass the temporary measure for stopgap spending by midnight if a shutdown is to be avoided.
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The House of Representatives has just voted to pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, by a vote of 241-183. Every Republican representative voted in favor of the bill, and all Democrats voted against it, with just six exceptions: Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, Dan Lipinski of Illinois, and Collin Peterson and Tim Walz, both of Minnesota.
The last time a similar bill was considered in Congress — the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, which President George W. Bush signed in 2002 — it passed both chambers by a voice vote. The fact that nearly every House Democrat voted against a similar bill this year (and one that contains actual enforcement mechanisms to protect these children, rather than simply define them legally as “persons”) shows how radically pro-abortion their party has become over the last 15 years.
This bill contains criminal penalties to punish abortion providers who fail to give medical attention and care to these infants. It mandates that any child born alive after a failed abortion be transported to a hospital instead of remaining in the care of the abortionist. It requires that health-care practitioners and hospital employees report violations of the law, and it institutes penalties for the intentional killing of a born-alive child, including fines and up to five years imprisonment. The bill would also grant the woman on whom the abortion is performed civil cause of action and protection from prosecution if her child is not cared for after birth.
4. Ashley McGuire on protecting pregnancy-resource centers
5. Dr. Grazie Christie: “Pregnant? Scared? We can help.”
9. The Verizon Center in D.C. this morning, scene of a youth Mass and rally:
10. A powerful message last night:
The forces we battle are not just the ones we can see …. so we turn to Jesus to fight the power of darkness …. we are fools if we dismiss the power of Satan…. (citing Pope Francis) we shall overcome.— @CardinalDolan #VigilMassforLife #MarchForLife #LoveSavesLives pic.twitter.com/JLrlEIlk9P— Kathryn Jean Lopez (@kathrynlopez) January 18, 2018
My friends at the University of Mary in North Dakota upon learning after Mass some of them would be going to the Rose Garden this morning:
.@umary students learning they’ve been invited to the White House this morning for the presidential Rose Garden remarks. Their excitement has to do with gratitude for the power of the office respecting their witness. May it be so. #MarchforLife #WhyWeMarch #LoveSavesLives pic.twitter.com/CcbhCE6P9d— Kathryn Jean Lopez (@kathrynlopez) January 19, 2018
I might add — and I’ll write more come the weekend — as I said when Paul Ryan announced he would be speaking, it is a good thing for the weight of these offices — of the Speaker and president — acknowledge the gravity of abortion and the witness of the March for Life. So I’m grateful when Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush or Donald J. Trump send words of support to the March for Life. Then by phone call. Now by satellite. This movement isn’t about a politician. It’s about human rights and it’s about the renewed hope the witness of these young people on the Mall today give witness to — and the shot in the arm they give so many of us who could be tempted to despair now and again. Please do not deprive yourself of catching their faces of joy and love. (Watch here, Twitter at #MarchforLife or #LoveSavesLives or #WhyWeMarch, or EWTN on TV, to name a few.)
“So many women, the pain of their abortion, does feel inconsolable,” says @kathrynlopez. “This isn’t about winning a debate. It’s about opening doors and meeting people with love because there’s so much pain out there.”— Medill on the Hill (@medillonthehill) January 18, 2018
Now I’ve got to get back to the March for Life! See you along the way? See some of the faces and messages at @KathrynLopez
The House voted 230-197 last night for a stopgap measure to avoid a shutdown, in a vote that included six Democrats’ support and 11 Republicans’ opposition.
Following the vote, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced this morning that GOP leadership will send House members home for the weekend. This means that, if there is no last minute deal by the Senate, a shutdown is guaranteed.
“Senator Schumer needs to decide if he wants a shutdown,” McCarthy told Politico.
Rather than focus obsessively on the frivolous Gang of Six bill in the Senate, news coverage needs to pay more attention to the “Secure America’s Future Act” by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, the only DACA proposal out there worth the attention of conservatives. As part of negotiations yesterday to get the stopgap funding bill passed, the Freedom Caucus got a commitment from Speaker Paul Ryan to bring it up for a vote.
The bill includes the measures the White House has insisted be in any immigration bill, plus some more: It abolishes the extended-family chain migration categories and the visa lottery, authorizes wall funding and extra border agents, cracks down on sanctuary cities and asylum abuse, and mandates E-Verify.
It also would essentially codify DACA for its current beneficiaries, rather than open a whole new can of worms for 2 or 3 million “DACA-eligible” people, as all other proposals would do.
Some conservative House members who support the bill fear voter blowback for supporting amnesty. And, of course, the DACA provisions would be an amnesty, or at least an upgrade from DACAs’ current amnesty-lite to amnesty-premium (though it doesn’t provide green cards, only work permits).
This fear isn’t idle. Some member offices and D.C.-based restrictionist groups have gotten irate calls, some of them generated by a one-man web site posing as a Hill player. There are always going to be some people who will oppose any amnesty, however small, even if it came paired with literally every item on the restrictionist wish list.
But my sense is that a GOP House member’s vote for the Goodlatte bill would yield far more support from his or her base than opposition. Letting the DACAs stay legally is popular, even with conservatives – not only did they come here as minors, but they’re the ones who actually came forward and signed up for the program. Yes, DACA is illegal, but that’s on Obama – these people just took him up on his offer.
More concretely, Numbers USA, the nation’s leading grassroots immigration-reduction organization, has endorsed the bill. When the group that stopped George W. Bush’s amnesty onslaught and has more Facebook followers than the NRA gives you cover to vote for a bill that includes some amnesty provisions, you’d seem to be covered.
This isn’t to say the bill is perfect. Joining the amnesty on the negative side of the ledger is an expansion of the agricultural guestworker program to cover dairies and meatpacking, and a reallocation of some (but not all) of the reductions in green cards from cutting chain migration and the lottery to the existing skilled immigration categories (though without the streamlining of that system that the Raise Act calls for).
But that’s what compromise is about. The farmworker program expansion, for instance, is the price of getting the agricultural interests to drop their opposition to E-Verify. (The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also supports mandatory E-Verify.)
The lazy media labeling of this as a “hardliner bill” is as silly as it is predictable – it’s a compromise measure that nonetheless yields important advantages for immigration hawks. The gains from passage are so far-reaching – especially ending chain migration and mandating E-Verify – that they’re worth amnesty for a small and unique sliver of the illegal population.
On balance, the Goodlatte bill would be a huge step toward an immigration policy in the national interest.
From the last Morning Jolt of the week:
Preparing for the #SchumerShutdown
I’m not a fan of government shutdowns, as a matter of principle — we paid for this government, we ought to be getting its services — or as a political strategy, because it never works out well for Republicans.
Part of this is that most of the media portrays these fights as a simple morality tale between good and reasonable Democrats and mean and miserly Republicans who want to keep kids on field trips locked out of the Smithsonian museums. But another key factor is that I suspect most Americans don’t want to be bothered with the details of government funding fights and blame everyone in Washington with a “pox on both your houses” attitude.
But I’ll concede two factors might make this shutdown a little different from the ones in 1995, 1996 and 2013.
For starters, with a Republican president controlling the executive branch, there will be a lot less “shutdown theater” where government employees who are allegedly essential spend a lot of time and effort blocking the public from open air sites. The Department of the Interior already announced they’ll keep sites as open as possible.
“We fully expect the government to remain open, however in the event of a shutdown, national parks and other public lands will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures,” Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a statement. “Visitors who come to our nation’s capital will find war memorials and open air parks open to the public. Nationally, many of our national parks, refuges and other public lands will still allow limited access wherever possible.”
Second, the Democrats are really counting on the “Republicans control Washington” perception to shield them from the fact that House and Senate Republicans voted to keep the government open.
It requires 60 votes and/or no filibuster by the Democrats to pass a spending bill. As Leon Wolf wrote, “Republicans have already used reconciliation in order to pass the tax reform bill, and under Senate rules, reconciliation can be used only once per fiscal year. Therefore, Democrats in the Senate can filibuster any funding bill they dislike.”
Last night, Brendan Buck, counselor to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, laid out what is blocking a continuing resolution to keep the government open: “While it is a *very* smart take to point out Rs have a majority in the House and Senate, it is also purposefully obtuse to ignore that in the Senate a minority can filibuster and block any legislation… I stress that Democrats are asking for something entirely unrelated. Because, to be clear, Democrats have no underlying objection to the CR or CHIP. They are, quite openly, voting ‘no’ in an attempt to force action on something else. We are not jamming anything on Democrats they don’t support. We’re just saying keep the government open and fund children’s health insurance while we continue to work out a deal on DACA.”
This is where Democrats’ habitual rhetoric works against their position.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein, yesterday: “Shutting down the government is a very serious thing. People die, accidents happen. You don’t know. Necessary functions can cease.” Never mind that government shutdowns are structured so that necessary functions don’t cease; I’d love for her to elaborate on how government shutdowns kill people and how they make accidents happen.
But let’s assume for a moment that she’s right. If government shutdowns do kill people, why on earth wouldn’t Senate Democrats vote to pass the continuing resolution? Just how many Americans are they willing to kill to keep the DACA program as it is?
(As Remy would put it… PEOPLE WILL DIE!)
By the way, did you notice that Feinstein is… either starting to have memory lapses or otherwise sudden inexplicable shifts in position?
January 10, from CNN’s Manu Raju: “Feinstein says she’s sorry to Grassley for not giving him a heads up about the release of the Fusion GPS transcript. “I meant to tell him, and I didn’t have a chance to tell him, and that concerns me,” she told us. “I just got pressured, and I didn’t do it.”
January 11, from BuzzFeed’s Emma Loop: “Just asked Feinstein about her comment yesterday about being “pressured” to release the Simpson transcript. “I made no statement to that effect,” she said. Me: but there are recordings of you saying you felt pressured. “I don’t believe there are. I don’t believe I said that.”
“I said in December that I wouldn’t vote for [the spending bill] without the Dream Act, and I won’t do so now,” she said in the statement.
But hours later, Feinstein told CNN in an interview that she had not made her mind up about whether to vote for the measure, saying: “Shutting down the government is a very serious thing. People die, accidents happen. You don’t know. Necessary functions can cease.” She didn’t seem aware of her office’s earlier statement.
“I don’t know if we did today,” Feinstein said, looking toward an aide when asked about the news release.
“I don’t know how I would vote right now on a CR [continuing resolution], OK?” she added, ending the interview.
Is Senator Feinstein feeling okay?
If Cooties Were Real, What Disease Would They Be?
Weird Beauty Hacks of Yesteryear.
Adults Trying To Recreate Childhood Photos.
ICYMI, Wednesday’s links are here, and include how to build an igloo, what Alexa and OK Google are doing with your family’s personal information, Ben Franklin’s birthday, and a set of 1906 photos illustrating women’s self-defense moves.
I agree wholeheartedly with my colleague Jonah Goldberg. Social conservatives (especially Christian conservatives) should unequivocally condemn Donald Trump’s now almost-certain affair with a porn star. They should speak with the exact same level of conviction and apply the same standards that they’d apply to a Democrat caught in the same sleazy circumstances. After all, Republican adultery is every bit as repugnant as Democratic adultery.
Jonah has identified some of the reasons why Christians have been silent — namely that both Trump and his core supporters see any criticism as betrayal. When the president is thin-skinned and lacks core convictions, there are Christians who are concerned that criticism will cause Trump to dump their issues. Want good judges? Stay silent. Want to see agencies like HHS protect rights of conscience? Don’t raise a ruckus about hookups. Keep your head down and get the best policies you can.
There’s no doubt that Jonah’s correct. In fact, I’ve spoken to Christians who are close to the administration who’ve expressed exactly this sentiment. But I think the problem goes even deeper. I can think of at least three other reasons for conservative Christian silence.
First, an enormous number of Christians — especially Christians in politics — suffer from a lack of faith. I’ve written about this before, but it’s remarkable how many Christians seem to believe that the church itself is in danger if they don’t form alliances of convenience with men like Donald Trump or Roy Moore. They view the Left as presenting an existential threat to Christian faith, and for now — in the absence of better options — Christians have no choice but to cling to Trump. I hear this sentiment all the time.
Second, Trump has done a remarkable job at convincing conservative Christians that his enemies are always much worse. First, he was the lesser evil compared to Hillary Clinton. Now, he’s the lesser evil compared to his enemies in the media and on the radical Left. In reality, for now the alternative to Donald Trump is an evangelical Christian — Mike Pence. No one should seek to remove a president absent just constitutional cause, but conservative Christians shouldn’t act as Trump’s defense lawyers. They should stand aside, examine the evidence, and come to the appropriate conclusions without regard to CNN or MSNBC’s hopes or fears.
Third, we can’t forget human nature. People don’t really like to be on the side of the “lesser evil” or of any kind of evil at all. They like to see themselves as righteous and moral. So they’ll find ways to rationalize their support for Trump. Many of the Christians I know do this in part by simply disbelieving the worst of allegations — regardless of the evidence. Poll after poll demonstrates that Republicans are less likely to believe the sexual assault allegations against Trump than they are to believe similar allegations against Democrats. It’s far easier to embrace Trump if you don’t believe the claims.
Make no mistake, there is a high cost for moral compromise. At a moment when the fruits of the sexual revolution are proving to be bitter indeed, this is exactly the time for the Christian moral witness. Too bad it’s been so profoundly diluted.
Three cuts I’ve gotten from the box knife’s blade,
and needlessly I wonder — will they heal?
as we remove debris for those who stayed.
My last guess in the word game is “unreal,”
for this is not the way my thinking goes,
and these are not the ruins of my nation,
with certainty — this rubble from the blows
of wind, these sheetrock walls, this insulation
so sodden still, the flood soaks through my shoes.
Again, I stanch these cuts’ re-welling blood.
My new, shamanic name should be “She-Whose-
I’m punching through, I’m kicking at the plaster.
My crewmen pity me, and interfere –
our common hope, to mitigate disaster.
No tear they’ll see, no outcry will they hear.
These walls of heavy paper we must gut
and haul away, with dust mask on, and glove
to insulate our fingers as they cut
a horizontal channel just above
my chest height, for removal — some are stained
by nursery murals, adding to the anguish
that not one wall evaded and remained.
Their hues, already muted, further languish.
Like skeletons of steel, the studs are shown
while kneeling women, wielding power drills,
evacuate the screws. Each sterling bone,
as we look out beneath our ball caps’ bills,
gleams glamorously. Flecks of silver glitter
cover me, from some child’s plaything burst
when Harvey made his landfall, drunk and bitter.
I think the guardian cherubim of glamour
must have a sense of humor, so to dress
me now in tinsel, gaudy and yet tender.
My demolition team persists to hammer
and hustle through the hallways, through the mess.
The angels sprinkle them, as well, with splendor.
— This poem appears in the Feb. 5 print edition of NR.
The release today of the Producer’s Guild of America Nominations seems intended to send a clear signal in the wake of the Harvalanche of sex scandals. Of the 11 nominees for the PGA’s top honor, the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, seven feature a top-billed woman, two more are about minorities and another is about two gay guys. To put it another way, only one of the 11 nominees is about (presumably) straight white men.
To say the least, it does not appear that that film, Dunkirk, is likely to sweep the Oscars this year. It would certainly be wise of its director, Christopher Nolan, who has never received an Oscar nomination for Best Director, to find a way to reframe that film as somehow marching to the beat of Hollywood’s current fixations. Good luck with that. Another film about Britain in World War II, Darkest Hour, wasn’t nominated.
Hollywood is notoriously run by old white guys. As of 2012, the group that votes on the Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), which is a selective, invitation-only club that grants lifetime membership, was 94 percent white and 77 percent male. Only 14 percent of the group was below age 50. In response to criticism, AMPAS has been frantically practicing affirmative action, inviting every film professional in sight who isn’t white or male, even if the new invitees’ credentials in the motion picture business often look sparse compared to members of previous generations who were led to believe an invitation to join was a mark of having reached the pinnacle of the motion picture business. (Recently welcomed members Daphne Zuniga and America Ferrera are not exactly big names at the movies). After a few years of this AMPAS was still 76 percent male and 91 percent white, as of 2016.
As I noted in my Golden Globes piece, the strategy of the old white guys in Hollywood this year is to change the subject from rampant sexual abuse to diversity. The message is: If we nominate lots of women and minorities, will you shut up about all of the sexual abuse? It’s a slightly subtler version of Harvey Weinstein’s famous call to put his own misdeeds behind him and change the subject to Trump and the NRA.
Now on to the choices. The PGA nominees for its equivalent of Best Picture are:
The Big Sick
Call Me by Your Name
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This slate isn’t surprising and there will be a lot of overlap between this list and the Oscar list of Best Picture nominees (which I don’t think will include I, Tonya, Wonder Woman, or Molly’s Game). The Shape of Water is a terrible movie, but it tickles so many liberal pleasure centers that it’s obvious Oscar bait. The Big Sick, which is about a Pakistani immigrant, and Get Out, a satiric horror movie about race, have their merits but seem obviously to benefit from the focus on diversity. Wonder Woman was on my top ten list as well, but is it better than another summer blockbuster, War for the Planet of the Apes? I don’t think so. Is I, Tonya, deserving? No. Still, I’m glad to see my favorite film of the year, Lady Bird, and the underrated Molly’s Game on the list, and if Call Me By Your Name and The Post aren’t great movies, they are certainly Oscar-y movies, so I don’t really quibble with either choice. Though I didn’t much like Three Billboards, it at least feels relevant.
I am sometimes asked how religious people could vote for a man with the personal history of Donald Trump. Consider this Smith on the Election, but I always answer that I think it was an act of self defense.
The Obama Administration had been very hostile to the free exercise of religion–even to the point of trying to force nuns to participate in contraception coverage–and Hillary Clinton threatened to be even worse. As the old saying goes, any port in a storm.
And now, Trump is proving that at least as far as the free exercise of religion goes, his administration is a friend to people of faith. The Department of Health and Human Services has announced the creation of a new office to protect medical professionals of faith who object to participating in acts such as abortion, assisted suicide, and sex change surgeries. From the HHS Press release:
Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is pleased to announce the formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR)…
The creation of the new division will provide HHS with the focus it needs to more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom, the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights.
The law hasn’t changed. But the enforcement emphasis has, which can be just as significant.
This is good news. Significant challenges to religious freedom in the medical context are mounting. Indeed, as I have written, there is a burgeoning campaign to eventually drive people with pro-life religious beliefs out of medicine.
In 2007, Washington-state issued a regulation requiring all pharmacists to carry all FDA-approved drugs, which a federal trial judge found was pushed by Planned Parenthood and framed to legally coerce a particular pharmacy chain owned by a religious family to dispense an abortifacient contraceptive in violation of their faith beliefs. Despite this targeting, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the regulation because it applied to all pharmacies equally.
Meanwhile, the ACLU has sued Catholic hospitals for following Catholic moral teaching by refusing to sterilizations or sex change surgeries.
This new HHS office won’t necessarily protect medical professionals from such state regulatory or private legal actions. But it does communicate a strong message to medical employers that they will could face the wrath of government if they try and coerce their religious employees to act in contravention of their faith.
We now live in a society in which people of good will possess radically divergent moral beliefs, including about the morality of services or procedures in the medical context. If we are going to keep from bursting apart, we will need comity and tolerance. The new HHS office is a positive step toward that end.
The one and only.