The very short Mayorkas impeachment trial, explained

“Republicans argued that he did not properly enforce immigration laws, citing, in one case, the decision to release migrants after they arrived at the southern border. In fact, that’s an established practice followed by multiple administrations, in part because the US does not have sufficient space to detain people as they await immigration hearings.
Republicans also said that Mayorkas had made false statements to Congress because he testified that the border was “secure,” and that he blocked oversight by failing to respond to subpoenas and offer sufficient access to his office.

Mayorkas has pushed back against the charges, noting that his approach may differ from that of Republicans, but he’s been committed to immigration enforcement and has worked to comply with Congress’s oversight of the agency by providing testimony and documents.

Many Constitutional law experts also said Republicans had not shown that the charges reached a legal bar for impeachment, and that they instead seemed to be founded on policy disagreements. “If allegations like this were sufficient to justify impeachment, the separation of powers would be permanently destabilized,” wrote top scholars, including Harvard’s Laurence Tribe and Berkeley’s Erwin Chemerinsky, in a January letter.

The first phase of the Senate trial on Wednesday took place because the upper chamber needed to fulfill its constitutional duty. Following a House impeachment, the Senate’s job is to hear the charges and determine whether the person should be convicted. If an official is convicted — which requires a two-third majority vote — they would then be removed from their position. The Senate also has the option to dismiss, or table, the impeachment articles if a simple majority votes to do so.

Ultimately, that’s what happened on both articles against Mayorkas, though it wasn’t without some drama. During the process, Republicans were able to force additional votes on “points of order,” or procedural motions regarding how the impeachment should move forward. They used this platform to slam Democrats repeatedly for not holding a full trial like those seen during the impeachment proceedings of former Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton and to try to delay the trial to a later date. The GOP points of order all largely failed on party lines.”

https://www.vox.com/politics/24133356/mayorkas-impeachment-trial-senate-dismissed

Why Johnson is stuck with threats to end his speakership

“Speaker Mike Johnson will likely escape Marjorie Taylor Greene’s first attempt to fire him. The threat of an ouster vote will still haunt him all year long.
Despite near-universal consensus in the House that allowing any one member to force a snap vote on booting a speaker is a recipe for chaos, lawmakers in both parties are increasingly acknowledging that they have almost no chance of changing that rule before January.

It’s not for a lack of interest — in fact, the idea was brought up in GOP meetings as recently as this week. But Johnson is boxed in from both sides. He can’t change the rules with only Republican votes because of the rebels on his right flank, who insisted that former Speaker Kevin McCarthy empower them by allowing a single lawmaker to force a vote of no confidence.

And Democrats, while they’re ready to save him from Greene’s (R-Ga.) first ejection attempt next week, are clear that their mercy won’t necessarily be permanent if the Georgia firebrand, or someone else, tries again. They also have little political incentive to give Johnson more permanent protection, unless he opens up broader negotiations about potential power sharing in the House. That price is too steep for the speaker to pay.”

https://www.politico.com/news/2024/05/03/why-johnson-is-stuck-with-threats-to-end-his-speakership-00155792

Opinion | Why Christians — and Republicans — Should Reconsider the Premise that ‘Life Begins at Conception’

“The belief that abortion is murder is founded on the premise that life begins at conception. That premise drove my evangelical politics as a zealous young convert, and it continues to motivate millions of Americans when they go to vote in local, state and national elections. It is also the foundation of the recent ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court that classifies frozen embryos created during IVF as human persons.
Chief Justice Tom Parker’s opinion in the case, which draws on the Bible, Christian manifestos, theologians such as St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and the Reformer John Calvin, is an openly theological document. Parker argues that since life starts at conception, humans, especially lawmakers and judges, are called to implement policies and make decisions that will protect the sanctity of human life, whether in utero or outside it.

So it’s easy to think that the premise that life begins at conception is a timeless theological component of Christian belief. But it’s not.

The idea that life begins at conception is neither a unanimous belief in the history of Christianity, nor a classic American Protestant doctrine. When Parker writes about protecting the sanctity of life from the moment of conception, he is not carrying on a longstanding Protestant theological tradition by basing his decision on stalwarts of American evangelicalism like Cotton Mather or John Wesley or Jonathan Edwards. Those Protestant forefathers were more likely to believe that abortion, while inadvisable, was not murder until the “quickening” of the child — when the mother feels it move — somewhere near 18 weeks of the pregnancy.

Instead, Parker is repeating a political mantra concocted by Republican operatives in the late 20th century in a successful effort to create a conservative Catholic-Protestant voting bloc capable of taking over the GOP — and implementing their religious-political vision throughout the country.

In fact, within the lifetimes of many of today’s evangelical Christian believers, their churches either supported abortion rights or were neutral on it. In the 1960s and 1970s, Southern Baptists and other historically conservative Protestant denominations held that abortion was not only permissible, but also should be left to individual choice. In 1968, a group of evangelical leaders from a variety of denominations wrote in a document titled “A Protestant Affirmation on the Control of Human Reproduction” that they could not agree whether or not abortion is sinful outright, but they could agree “about the necessity of it and permissibility for it under certain circumstances.” They even argued that “the preservation of fetal life … may have to be abandoned to maintain full and secure family life.””

“The famed evangelical theologian Norman Geisler put it in the clearest terms in the 1971 and 1975 versions of his work Christian Ethics: “The embryo is not fully human — it is an undeveloped person.”

It’s not Protestants, but Catholics in the United States who, as a religious community, have opposed abortion forcefully going back to the 19th century, and it is in Catholicism that we find the view that life begins at conception. Starting with an 1869 document called Apostolicae Sedis, Pope Pius IX declared the penalty of excommunication for abortions at any stage of pregnancy.

Yet, prior to 1869, there were varying approaches to abortion and the understanding of when life begins even within the Catholic Church. (And to this day there are many Catholics who, in disagreement with their Church, advocate for reproductive choice.) There are certainly church documents and early church theologians who argued that abortion is infanticide because life begins when the embryo is conceived. However, there were also forceful and influential voices that argued fetuses did not become persons until they were “ensouled,” or when God gave the developing fetus its soul, and therefore its life. This was the view of St. Augustine, the most important theological source in early and medieval Western Christendom. In his commentary on Exodus, Augustine argues that “abortion of an unformed fetus is not murder, because the fetus is not yet ensouled, that is, not yet a human being, and that abortion of an unformed fetus is therefore a less serious offense than abortion of a formed and ensouled fetus.”

More examples abound. There are Irish “saints” who performed abortions in circumstances of rape and fornication, and who considered it, in some cases, a less serious offense than oral sex. And then there is Thomas Aquinas, the most influential Catholic voice of the medieval period, a thinker whose work continues to shape Catholic theology today. According to scholar David Albert Jones, Aquinas believed that “the body was formed gradually through the power transmitted by the male seed but the spiritual soul was directly created by God when the body was ready to receive it. Thus the embryo was believed to live at first the life of a plant, then the life of a simple animal, and only after all its organs, including the brain, had been formed, was it given, by the direct and creative act of God, an immortal spiritual soul.”

Conservative Catholic and Protestant theologians will argue either that contrary to these passages, other works by Augustine and Aquinas reveal a belief that life begins at conception, or that these theological giants were simply wrong on this issue. But this is the point exactly: There is a widespread and nuanced theological debate about the beginning of life in the history of Christianity. The idea that life begins at conception is far from a universally agreed upon matter of historical Christian doctrine. When viewed in the long history of the Christian tradition, it is actually a minority opinion.”

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2024/03/21/life-conception-christian-theology-00147804

The Surprising Takeaway From My Survey on How Trump Got a Grip on the GOP Grassroots

“Last February, the county chairs were less supportive of Trump than Republican primary voters as a whole. Yet as time went on, and Trump consolidated support among rank-and-file voters, the chairs fell in line. It’s a reflection of the state of the GOP that has existed since 2016 when Trump first snatched the nomination away from the establishment and took over the Republican Party.
In the pre-Trump era, GOP leaders clearly played more of a role in steering the direction of the party. The 2012 campaign is instructive: Many different candidates were briefly the favorites of rank-and-file Republican voters, from Rick Perry to Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum. But throughout the cycle, party elites’ money and endorsements stayed focused on Mitt Romney, and that’s who got the nomination. This year’s ongoing survey of county chairs illustrates how Republican elites are now more responsive to the grassroots rather than the other way around — either because they lack the interest or the ability to do anything else.”

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2024/03/04/trump-republicans-chairs-survey-00143360

House Republicans had a bad day

“It was the last vote for Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., the conservative hard-liner who was all but banished from the party after he insisted that its leaders stop spreading lies about the 2020 election and accept that former President Donald Trump lost. He resigned from Congress on Friday, leaving his seat empty for now.

Buck voted “no” on the spending bill, and said he’d have voted “hell no” if possible. But despite his unassailable fiscal conservative credentials, he lost his stature on the right for insisting his party reject the stolen-election claims, reflecting a new litmus test.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/house-republicans-had-bad-day-012737762.html

‘Zero Illegal Crossings’ Is an Unattainable Goal for the Border

“The U.S. government, for all the money and agents it’s thrown at the border over the past several decades, has never been able to practically “shut down the border” or achieve zero illegal crossings (all the legal issues with those proposals aside).
Between the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003 and January 2021, the U.S. has spent $333 billion to fund the agencies tasked with immigration enforcement, according to the American Immigration Council, a pro-immigration nonprofit. The budgets for those agencies have been rising for years.

But more enforcement money hasn’t necessarily led to lower illegal crossings. As budgets have gone up, apprehensions of people who crossed the border between authorized ports of entry have gone up, down, and remained static. In other words, they don’t cleanly align: Though Customs and Border Protection reported 2.05 million apprehensions in FY 2023, it reported somewhat close to that number—over 1.5 million—in FY 2000. Annual apprehensions hovered below 500,000 from FY 2010 through FY 2018.”

“The U.S.-Mexico border stretches nearly 2,000 miles, much of it treacherous. No matter the funding and no matter the enforcement mandate, there’s no way that agents could stop every illegal crosser traversing the deserts, mountains, and waters that make up the border region. That’s proven impossible along much smaller and more surveilled borders, such as the boundaries of East Germany and North Korea.”

https://reason.com/2024/02/02/zero-illegal-crossings-is-an-unattainable-goal-for-the-border/

Ukraine & the Future of War

“The fact that the House of Representatives has not had a vote on aid to Ukraine is the most successful military operation of this war. Nothing compares to the fact that the United States is not voting on giving Ukraine $60 billion of aid, which has passed the Senate and has the president’s approval…That is now shaping the battlefield more than anything else.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MUmtxeTyy8