A weekly outreach to our friends and colleagues in Canada SPECIAL HOLIDAY EDITION
With our friends in Canada celebrating Canada Day this Sunday, followed by our Independence Day celebrations next Wednesday, Team Wilkins and your Carolina-Canada Connection will be taking some time off next month.
July will find David and Susan Wilkins in Calgary for the Stampede (July 4-8) and Team Wilkins in sunny Saskatoon (July 15-19) for the annual Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER) conference hosted by Premier Brad Wall. All of us are looking forward to catching up with our old Canadian friends and making new ones. (Editor's note: especially when we're not facing snow and ice!)
Count on us to get you right back up-to-speed on all-things U.S. politics and policy and why they matter to you in your next edition of Carolina-Canada Connection in a few weeks.
In the meantime, here is our take on what has been an historic week in Washington, D.C. And until we meet again, on behalf of David Wilkins and the entire team, here's wishing you and yours a safe, relaxing and festive Canada Day.
May God continue to bless Canada and the United States of America!
Team Wilkins' city slickers Tom Sullivan and Justin Meyers celebrate the upcoming Calgary Stampede with our friends at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Weekly Washington Wrap
What a week in Washington – one filled with more than the usual high-stakes drama – mostly because of two landmark rulings by the United States Supreme Court.
Immigration on ICE
The Supremes Saga kicked-off Monday morning with its ruling on Arizona's immigration law. Perhaps Monday's ruling can be best summarized by that old cliché, "the sure sign of a good compromise is that neither side is completely happy." That seems to tell the story as supporters and detractors alike claimed victory and downplayed defeat.
Arizona won what most consider the most contentious provision of the law – the section that requires state and local enforcement officials to verify with federal authorities the immigration status of people they lawfully stop when they suspect they are in the country illegally.
The court found that this authority is both authorized by federal law and is foundational in a state's inherent law enforcement function.
The Obama Administration vigorously fought the Arizona law and can take solace in that three other provisions of the law were struck down.
Pouring even more controversy on top of the already highly-divisive issue, almost immediately following the court's ruling, Obama's Director of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, issued a memo telling federal agents not to take action (regarding illegal immigration status) unless dealing with criminals who have recently arrived or pose a threat to national security.
A contingent of Arizona lawmakers took issue with the memo in a letter to ICE Chief John Morton, claiming what DHS considers "discretion" in choosing which illegal immigrants to potentially deport is tantamount to a refusal to enforce the law.
So while the Supremes have removed the immigration issue from their plates, the political stew has only begun to simmer. Look for both sides to try and capitalize on this issue heading into what most pundits and pols believe will be a breathtakingly close presidential election this fall.
A Healthy Tax
Arizona's immigration law ruling, as important as it is, served merely to whet the appetites of Capitol Hill chroniclers who were waiting for the whole enchilada – that being the Supremes' decision on President Obama's health care law.
That wait ended yesterday morning when the U.S. Supreme Court served up a 5-4 split decision upholding Obamacare – including the disliked and debated federal mandate provision. The justices found that while a mandate would be unconstitutional, a tax is not. So as long as Obamacare is considered a tax, it gets the high court's stamp of Constitutional approval.
What makes the ruling even more interesting is that President Obama has so vigorously defended his bill against critics' charges that the mandate is, in fact, a tax increase. Check out this exchange between the president and ABC's George Stephanopoulos in September, 2009:
Stephanopoulos: But your critics say it is a tax increase.
Obama: My critics say everything is a tax increase. My critics say that I’m taking over every sector of the economy. You know that. Look, we can have a legitimate debate about whether or not we’re going to have an individual mandate or not, but…
Stephanopoulos: But you reject that it’s a tax increase?
Obama: I absolutely reject that notion.
Meanwhile, a new Rasmussen poll released just after the Supremes' announcement yesterday shows that the meter has not budged on many American's disfavor of the health care bill. According to Rasmussen, "a week after President Obama’s health care law was passed, 54% of voters nationwide wanted to see the law repealed. Now, as the Supreme Court is set to issue a ruling on the law’s constitutionality, the numbers are unchanged: 54% want to see the law repealed."
So now that the health care law has moved out of the Supreme Court back to the court of public opinion, you can bet both the Obama and Romney camps will wage a healthy debate on the issue (just like the immigration ruling) heading into the November election.
Holder on the Hot Seat
As the judicial branch of the U.S. government was causing a stir with its findings, the legislative branch was busy at work trying to make the executive branch responsible for the botched "gunwalking" operation dubbed "Fast and Furious".
President Obama's attorney general and America's top law enforcement officer, Eric Holder, was found in contempt of Congress yesterday by the GOP-led House for failing to comply with subpoena requests to provide more documents regarding the Justice Department’s failed Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation. While more than 100 Democratic lawmakers "ceremoniously" walked off the floor as a show of support for Holder, 17 Democrats did vote with the 238 Republicans on the contempt charge. And by a vote of 258 to 95, the House also voted to hold Holder in civil contempt, 258 to 95.
The sting operation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) was intended to trace the straw purchasers of weapons being taken to Mexico so the cross-border smuggling network could be brought down. More than 2,000 firearms were “walked” across the border and consequently, the ATF lost track of more than half of those weapons. Several of the guns were not recovered until U.S. border agent Brian Terry was gunned down by illegal immigrants in 2010, just north of the Mexican border. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been investigating Fast and Furious for 16-months, reviewing government documents and trying to discover why ATF lost track of the firearms.
And the bad news for Holder doesn't end in the House. The Senate is also calling on him to get to the bottom of serious national security leaks allegedly coming from the Obama Administration.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and other Republican senators including South Carolina's Lindsey Graham renewed their call this week for an independent counsel to investigate the recent national security leaks – secrets handed over to the New York Times for publication.
31 GOP senators signed a letter circulated by Graham urging Holder to make the appointment. If Holder fails to appoint a special investigator, the senators say Congress may have to investigate the leaks itself. (Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has also been vocal in calling for investigations into the leaks but has stopped short of joining calls for independent counsel).
In the letter to Holder, senators say the attorney general's decision to appoint two U.S. attorneys to investigate the apparent national security leaks doesn’t go far enough.
Pipeline Punted (Again)
Hopes for quick approval of the Keystone XL pipeline were dashed at the hands of compromising legislators as conferees working to bridge differences between House and Senate versions of the transportation bill came to an agreement shortly after midnight on Wednesday. Republicans compromised on pushing for immediate approval of the Keystone XL pipeline while Democrats ceded to Republican demands that environmental reviews of highway projects be streamlined and on language that would prevent EPA from labeling coal ash as hazardous. The deal will likely pass before Saturday’s deadline and extends transportation funding through 2014.
They Said What?
"It's constitutional. Bitches," Tweet from Patrick Gaspard who is the executive director of the Democratic National Committee.
(The Supreme Court's decision to uphold health care overhaul) "is a victory for people all over the country…and will make their lives more secure," President Barack Obama on his health care bill yesterday afternoon.
“Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the majority in favor of the president's health care bill.
"What the Court did today was say that Obamacare does not violate the Constitution. What they did not do was say that Obamacare is good law or that it's good policy," presumptive GOP nominee for president, Mitt Romney, responding yesterday from the rotunda at 101 Constitution Ave (which just happens to be the home of our Nelson Mullins D.C. office.)
"In passing health reform, we made history for our nation and progress for the American people. We completed the unfinished business of our society and strengthened the character of our country," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
"ObamaCare has failed to keep the president’s basic promise of allowing those who like their health care to keep it, while increasing costs and reducing access to quality care for patients," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in announcing the House will vote on repealing Obamacare on July 11.
If you are interested in the possibility of having Ambassador Wilkins speak at an event, please contact Christy Cox at Christy.Cox@nelsonmullins.com or call 803.255.9470.
The articles published in this newsletter are intended only to provide general information on the subjects covered. The contents should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers should consult with legal counsel to obtain specific legal advice based on particular situations.