Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Supreme Court to Examine Need for Critical Part of Voting Rights Law
By John Gramlich
CQ Roll Call Staff
Nov. 9, 2012, 4:28 p.m.

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

The Supreme Court agreed today to step into the racially charged debate over whether a key section of a nearly 50-year-old federal voting law that Congress enacted to stop racial discrimination at the polls is still warranted.

The justices announced that they would take up a case brought by Shelby County, Ala., challenging Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The provision, the county argues, is unconstitutional because it requires select state and local governments in designated states, but not others, to submit proposed changes to their voting laws to the Justice Department for approval, or preclearance, before they can go into effect.

All or parts of 16 states — mainly in the South with a history of racial discrimination in elections — are currently subject to the provision. All others can and do enact voting changes without federal approval. Shelby County argues that the distinction is unfair because it is based on a decades-old formula that Congress devised to test whether states might be using discriminatory practices, but which no longer reflects reality in the states subject to oversight.

When Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act six years ago, it did so with broad bipartisan support as both Democrats and Republicans hailed the legislation as historic and effective in preventing discrimination at the polls.

The court’s decision to examine a central feature of the law is certain to have reverberations in Congress, particularly amid growing partisanship in the institution and in the states over the voting rights of minorities.

The court’s involvement also could force Congress to respond with legislation, depending on how the justices eventually rule. The court could, for example, strike down the current formula for determining which states are subject to federal oversight and leave it to Congress to come up with a new formula.

Specifically, the county argues, Congress overstepped its constitutional authority when it renewed the Voting Rights Act, including Section 5, for an additional 25 years in 2006. Congress did so without making any effort to determine whether the affected states still deserve to face the burden of Justice Department scrutiny of their voting laws, lawyers contend.

“Congress held not one hearing, proposed not one bill and amended not one law” despite growing evidence that those states may no longer deserve to be singled out, the lawyers for the county argue, asking the court to intervene because of congressional inaction.

While the court did not set a date for oral arguments in the case, Shelby County v. Holder, the challenge will be heard sometime after mid-January, with a decision likely before the justices adjourn in late June.

Wednesday Is Likely Decision Day for Minority Leader Pelosi
By Jonathan Strong
Roll Call Staff
Nov. 13, 2012, 6:01 p.m.

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Pelosi is expected to announce whether she will stay on as the top House Democrat Wednesday.

With only hours before Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is set to announce whether she will stay on as the top House Democrat, members are buzzing about the rarefied circle privy to her thinking.

Over the weekend, she called Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and Assistant Minority Leader James E. Clyburn of South Carolina. Hoyer was left with the impression that she was staying, although the call was not definitive, according to a source with knowledge of the call.

And the California Democrat has huddled with her top confidants, California Reps. George Miller and Anna G. Eshoo. Both were with her election night, and Miller was spotted leaving her office the day Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, delivered his fiscal cliff speech.

Pelosi has also spoken to Caucus Chairman John Larson of Connecticut, but she has not made calls beyond her innermost circle.

The lack of calls are the latest clue Democrats are devouring in the rumor-filled time since election day.

It’s not that Pelosi is in danger. “She doesn’t need to shore up her support,” said a former Democratic leadership aide, dismissing the importance of the issue.

But senior Democrats are wondering if such a tight lid on information is a sign of a leader who plans a return.

Flanked by nearly 40 newly elected Democratic members-to-be, Pelosi sidestepped questions about her future at a Tuesday press conference, showering praise on her campaign committee chairman and celebrating modest gains on election day.

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words,” Pelosi said, “but the picture you see before you is worth millions of votes.”

Pelosi promised to answer questions about whether she would stay on as minority leader at a press conference Wednesday at 10 a.m. “I’ll see you back here tomorrow at 10 o’clock, for those of you who are interested,” Pelosi said at the end of the event.

But the tenor of the press conference fit with Pelosi’s campaign to put a positive face on the election results, which some Democrats have interpreted as a sign she will stay.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel of New York — who Pelosi introduced as the “gold standard of a member of Congress” — added his own optimistic take on the election results. “It says something about our unexpected pickups that you all had to unexpectedly use your wide angle lenses,” Israel said. He was referring to cameras trying to capture the more than 40 people on the shallow stage.

Israel said the results improved upon the results of the 2008 elections.

Pete Sessions [R-Texas] said that they would pick up 16 seats, these Democrats defeated 16 Republican incumbents. And that’s, by the way, better than the 14 that we defeated back in 2008, which was a watershed election,” Israel said. That year, Democrats increased the size of their majority from 235 members to 257 members.

Pelosi and Israel both touted the diversity of the caucus, as they have in the past.

“Together the diversity of our caucus celebrates the strength of our nation. This caucus is a picture of America,” Pelosi said.

However, both upped their praise of its place from the most diverse in U.S. history to the most diverse in the “history of civilization.”

“The Republican caucus, if you look at it, looks like a rerun of the show ‘Mad Men.’ Our caucus looks like America,” Israel said.

After outstanding races are called, Democrats will pick up seven or eight net seats, a modest gain compared to earlier expectations of taking back control of the House that Pelosi set with her slogan, “Drive for 25.”

Pelosi conceded, “We may not have the majority, we may not have the gavel, but we have unity,” and said House Democrats were ready to work with President Barack Obama.

The California Democrat offered effusive praise of Israel.

“When I asked him to take this responsibility to serve our country and our colleagues, I said to all of you that he is the gold standard of a member of Congress,” Pelosi said. “He knows the policy. He cares about the American people. And that drives him to do the politics, to increase our numbers, to pass legislation that takes us forward, to improve the lives of the American people.”

Congress Cartoons

Senator elect Warren © Dave Granlund,,  Massachusetts,Senate,senator,scott brown,wins,winner,elected senator,2012,truck,pickup,pick-up; Elizabeth Warren;MA,woman,women,female,gender,outcome; voters

The Headless Horsewoman © Steve Sack,The Minneapolis Star Tribune,bachmann,election,gays,muslim,reelection,vaccine,political-halloween 

Allen West takes five

Allen West takes five 

Bachmann's new record

Bachmann's new record

Shades of white

Shades of white

The GOP's blind spot 

The GOP's blind spot 

Headed for disaster

Headed for disaster 

Telling women how it is

Telling women how it is 

The GOP's uterus raid

The GOP's uterus raid

Grand Old Pig 

Grand Old Pig

A Bad prognosis

A Bad prognosis 


A Week After Election, West Still Not Conceding
By Joshua Miller
Roll Call Staff
Nov. 13, 2012, 12:31 a.m.

Tom Williams/CQ Roll CallWest trailed Democratic businessman Patrick Murphy by 1,907 votes, The Associated Press said Monday. West’s campaign alleges improprieties in the counting of ballots in St. Lucie County. Murphy declared victory and will attend freshman orientation.

Florida Republican Rep. Allen B. West, the leading firebrand of the freshman class of 2010, won’t go quietly, if he goes at all.

With all the current ballots counted in his close race with Democratic businessman Patrick Murphy, he trailed by 1,907 votes on Monday, according to The Associated Press.

That put him outside the range of an automatic recount.

The AP has not called the race, and West is not conceding. His campaign alleges improprieties in the counting of ballots in St. Lucie County, where the supervisor of elections is a Democrat.

The West campaign said county officials had said they would recount all the early votes but subsequently counted only some of them.

“We are after the truth of what votes were cast by voters in St. Lucie County,” the campaign said in a statement Sunday, “and the conduct of the canvassing board today casts doubt on their reported numbers.”

Murphy has declared victory and will attend freshman orientation on Capitol Hill, which begins today.

Friday is the final deadline for counties to receive overseas ballots. On Nov. 18, 12 days after the election, state law requires each county to submit its official numbers to the secretary of state.

There are three counties in the newly configured 18th District, and each has its own independently elected, partisan supervisor of elections.

“It gets more complicated when you’re dealing with three elected officials,” said Daniel Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Florida and an expert on Sunshine State election law. “And not all counties operate on the same [voter registration software] system,” he said, noting that that could add complexity as the race unfolds.

After Nov. 18, Democrats expect Murphy to be officially certified as the winner by the Florida secretary of state’s office.

State law allows West to file an election contest in circuit court after that certification. There, he would have a high bar for success.

“If it doesn’t go to recount and he files a suit, the legal path is very narrow,” Smith said.

According to state statutes, West would have to prove that the election result was changed because of “[m]isconduct, fraud, or corruption” on the part of an election official; that an official was bribed to change the result; that votes that should have been counted were not; that a candidate was ineligible; or that votes that were counted should not have been.

Other legal challenges could also be filed before any results are certified.

West’s campaign used the ongoing controversy as a fundraising tool.

“Don’t Let Liberals Steal This Election,” was the subject line of an email blasted out to supporters from West campaign manager Tim Edson on Sunday.

Murphy has also raised funds off the post-Election Day twists and turns.

Democrats are confident that the contest will remain in their favor.

“It’s over,” said Brannon Jordan, spokeswoman for the state Democratic party. “Allen West just hasn’t gotten the message yet.”

House Speaker Discusses Economy and Congressional Agenda

Friday, November 9, 2012

House Speaker John Boehner Friday said a report by the Congressional Budget Office proves that ending the Bush-era tax cuts would hurt the economy. In his second news conference since the election, Speaker Boehner said he hoped that 2013 would be the year for tax code and entitlement reforms. On immigration, he said “the President has to lead” and that it is “time to get the job done.”

He reiterated that he had spoken with the President and that they both know that averting the "fiscal cliff" is crucial to the health of America's economy. He said repeatedly that this is the President's "opportunity to lead."

Speaker Boehner said that he still hoped to lower tax rates and "clean up the tax code" by making it simpler and eliminating special interest loopholes and deductions.

At Wednesday's briefing, the Speaker expressed a willingness to make a deal with President Obama on reducing the nation’s debt and avoiding automatic budget cuts and tax increases known as the “fiscal cliff.” He also said that Republicans will consider a deal that includes higher taxes “under the right conditions.” This includes tax reform and closing loopholes.

Updated: Friday at 2:13pm (ET)

Best White House Petitions

By Neda Semnani Posted at 5:39 p.m. on Nov. 13

The White House “We the People” page has gotten a lot of attention for a spate of secession petitions, wherein a majority of the United States of America has demanded to be left alone and be just a group of states America used to know.

Of all the states petitioning for independence, a big congratulation goes to Texas as the only one that has gotten well more than the necessary 25,000 online signatures to actually have its petition considered by the White House. The petition boasted more than 80,071 signatures, as of Tuesday at 4:20 EST (heh).

The secession petitions have given rise to others, transforming the “We the People” page from a place where citizens can lobby their president and a site where a dying 8-year-old girl could at least try to get the president to come see her into something more akin to Mad magazine.

Stay classy, America. Here are your best petitions yet:


Make Duncan Trussell the Emperor Of Planet Earth

“We petition the Obama administration to construct an iron throne made of meteorites and incinerated pope penises upon which the new emperor of planet earth Duncan Trussell can reign supreme.

“Attached to the throne should be a surgical straw connected to an endless quantity of fresh fetal stem cells upon which our Lord may suckle as the people of the world petition him for mercy or offer him their children and livestock.”

Peacefully grant the city of Austin to withdraw from the state of Texas and remain part of the United States

“Austin Texas continues to suffer difficulties stemming from the lack of civil, religious, and political freedoms imposed upon the city by less liberally minded Texans. It is entirely feasible for Austin to operate as its own state, within the United States, in the event that Texas is successful in the current bid to secede. It is important for Austin to remain in the union as to do so would protect it’s citizens’ standard of living and re-secure their rights and liberties in accordance with the original ideas and beliefs of our founding fathers.

“We would also like to annex Dublin Texas, Lockhart Texas, & Shiner Texas.”

Peacefully Grant the State of Herp-a-Derp to Withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW Government

“As the founding fathers of the United States of America made clear in the Declaration of Independence in 1776:

“‘When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one neighbor to secretly let his dog crap on the lawn of another, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.’

“Therefore, herp-a-derp-derp, but please keep sending my Social Security check. I earned that, yo.”

Deport Everyone Who Signed a Petition to Withdraw Their State From the United States Of America

“Deport Everyone That Signed A Petition To Withdraw Their State From The United States Of America.”


Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, talks about the elections and the unfinished business of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012. The first post-election test of wills could start next week when Congress returns from its election recess to deal with unfinished business — including a looming "fiscal cliff" of $400 billion in higher taxes and $100 billion in automatic cuts in military and domestic spending to take effect in January if Congress doesn't head them off. Economists warn that the combination could plunge the nation back into a recession. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker John Boehner insisted on Friday that any deal with President Barack Obama to avert the so-called fiscal cliff must include lower tax rates, eliminating special interest loopholes and reining in government-benefit programs.

"2013 should be the year we begin to solve our debt through tax reform and entitlement reform," Boehner said.

Boehner and Obama have taken the initial steps in high-stakes negotiations over how to deal with expiring Bush-era tax cuts and automatic spending cuts to defense and domestic programs that economists warn could plunge the nation into another recession.

Boehner, Obama and Senate leaders face a Jan. 2 deadline to reach an agreement or at least come up with a framework to deal with the issue early next year.

Boehner expressed a degree of optimism about resolving the issues and ensuring that his sometimes reluctant GOP rank and file will back any deal.

"When the president and I have come to an agreement, there's been no problem getting it passed in the House," Boehner said.

The speaker declined to discuss specifics on deficit targets or what tax loopholes to eliminate though he cited both corporate and individual.

"I don't want to box myself in. I don't want to box anyone else in," he said.

Boehner indicated that increasing the nation's borrowing authority, which was a divisive issue in August 2011 talks, should be part of any talks in the coming weeks on avoiding the fiscal cliff. The government has said the nation won't reach the debt limit until the spring.

"It's an issue that's going to have to be addressed, sooner rather than later," he said.

Boehner said he had a brief, cordial conversation with Obama earlier in the week and reiterated that the president needs to lead on the negotiations.

Democrats have resisted including entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security in any deficit-cutting deal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said earlier this week they were unwilling to make changes in Social Security.

Boehner insisted that the programs need to be on the table.

"It's not like there is money in Social Security and Medicare" trust fund, Boehner said. "This has to be dealt with."

The Ohio Republican, reflecting the sentiment of his caucus, said increasing the maximum 35 percent tax rate on high-income earners cannot be part of the deal. Boehner did signal that he was open to eliminating loopholes.

"The problem with raising tax rates on wealthy Americans is that more than half of them are small business owners," Boehner said. "Raising tax rates will slow down our ability to create the jobs that everyone says they want."

The Republican leader acknowledged that his party faces several roadblocks after Obama won a second term and the GOP lost seats in both the House and the Senate.

"It's clear that as a political party we've got some work to do," he said.

Republicans fared poorly with Hispanic voters. The fastest growing minority group went heavily for Democrats, backing Obama by more than 70 percent. Boehner signaled a willingness to tackle immigration legislation next year.

"What I'm talking about is a common sense, step-by-step approach, would secure our borders, allow us to enforce the laws, and fix a broken immigration system," he said. "But again on an issue this big, the president has to lead."

Newsmakers with Grover Norquist

Saturday, November 10, 2012

This week on Newsmakers, Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform and the man behind the “taxpayer protection pledge” – which 279 members of Congress signed – discusses the fiscal cliff and how Congress should address the debt and taxes and revenue in the lameduck session.

After the election this week, Grover Norquist wrote in National Review Online that President Obama got a smaller percentage of votes than in 2008, and he said the “Republican House was reelected after not just touching but fondling the ‘third rail of American politics.’”
The modern Republican party, Mr. Norquist wrote Wednesday, “is the party of the Ryan Plan: No tax hikes.”

Our guest reporters are Politico Senior Tax Reporter Steven Sloan and The Hill Reporter Russell Berman.

Updated: Sunday at 12:43pm (ET)

President Obama Delivers His Weekly Address

Saturday, November 10, 2012
President Obama delivers his weekly address, focusing this week on the middle class tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year.
On Friday at the White House, he delivered a statement asking Congress to act quickly on the middle class tax cuts that both parties agree on and wait to address other issues, such as a tax cut for the highest earners.
Updated: Saturday at 9:48am (ET)

Speaker Boehner Delivers the Weekly Republican Address

Saturday, November 10, 2012

House Speaker John Boehner delivers this week's Republican address, focusing on his plan to grow the economy, create jobs and avoid the fiscal cliff.

Updated: Saturday at 9:49am (ET)

Pres. Obama Announces Plans to Address Economy and "Fiscal Cliff"

Friday, November 9, 2012

President Obama announced Friday that he has invited Congressional leaders to meet with him next week to address the state of the economy, taxes and the so called "fiscal cliff.' If Congress cannot come to an agreement by the end of the fiscal year, automatic tax increases and spending cuts will take place.

He has also invited business leaders and experts, he said. He reiterated campaign pledges to create jobs by building infrastructure, and to address the debt by cutting spending. He also emphasized that he would push congress to eliminate tax cuts for the highest earners, and that a combination of spending cuts and more revenue would be the only way to reduce the deficit.

President Obama said he refuses to accept any approach that isn't balanced. "I'm not going to ask students and seniors and the middle class to pay down the entire deficit," while higher earners get tax cuts, he said.

The President said he will ask Congress to pass a bill that will continue the tax cuts for the middle class, which he says will eliminate much of the uncertainty in the nation. After that point, he said, he and Congressional leaders can work on a compromise for the remaining tax cuts.

Updated: Friday at 1:41pm (ET)

Obama skips Philippines–again
By Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:29 am | Monday, November 12th, 2012

Fresh on the heels of the reelection of US President Barack Obama, the White House announced that he would visit Burma (Myanmar) as his first foreign policy initiative at the start of a three-leg tour of Southeast Asia that covers Thailand and Cambodia on Nov. 17-20.

The itinerary excluded the Philippines, a longtime strategic security ally of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region.

The exclusion ruffled sensitive nationalist feelings in Manila, as officials anxiously waited for signals from the second Obama administration on what is in store for the Philippines in the reordering of US foreign policy priorities following the election.

The question that immediately emerged was: Why Burma, Thailand and Cambodia? These countries in Southeast Asia are the least threatened by the aggressive pursuit by China of its hegemonic claim of disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), which are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

The Philippines, Vietnam and Japan (in East Asia) had been in the center of rising tensions from these contending claims before the elections.

Filipinos were quick to recall that during Obama’s first Southeast Asian tour early in his first term, his itinerary bypassed the Philippines.

As if to rub salt in the wound, White House officials revealed that Obama returned the calls of a long list of global leaders, including those of Israel and Egypt, who contacted him to congratulate him on his reelection.

The US president spoke to the leaders of Germany, France, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Canada, India, Turkey, Brazil, Colombia and Nato’s secretary general.

No call from Obama

Malacañang said it had not received calls from the Obama White House, but it emphasized that President Aquino did not call President Obama and instead sent a congratulatory message by mail through the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Aquino on Wednesday wrote that he “looked forward to a deeper cooperation” with the United States in Obama’s second term.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters that Mr. Aquino did not call Obama because the latter “was probably getting too many phone calls.” Lacierda added, “I think the letter is sufficient.”

According to BBC news, Obama’s Burma stop is part of the trip built around the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia, which leaders from China, Japan and Russia will also attend.

Obama will meet Burma’s President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney said President Obama intended to “speak to civil society to encourage Burma’s ongoing democratic transition.”

Normalizing ties

The government of Burma has been implementing economic, political and other reforms, a process that the Obama administration has sought to encourage, according to BBC.

The trip “reflects the importance that the US has placed in normalizing relations with Burma. The process has moved forward relatively swiftly … and it represents an opportunity for the United States to have a greater stake in the region and so at least counter the dominant influence of China,” BBC said.

A Burmese government spokesperson said the “support and encouragement of the US president … will strengthen the commitment of President Thein Sein’s reform process to move forward without backtracking.”

Reforms have been taking place in Burma since elections in November 2010 saw military rule replaced with a military-backed nominally civilian government, BBC said. Since then, many political prisoners have been freed and censorship relaxed.

The opposition party led by Suu Kyi, who was released from house arrest after the elections, has rejoined the political process after boycotting the 2010 elections. It now has a small presence in parliament after the April by-elections.

Shedding light on the shifting foreign policy priorities of the second Obama administration, The New York Times, in an analysis, wrote that “for reasons of history and political reality, a reelected Mr. Obama is likely to devote more time to foreign affairs. From Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton, presidents have tended to make their bid for statesman status in their second terms. The prospect of continuing gridlock—with the Republicans still controlling the House—gives Mr. Obama all the more reason to favor diplomacy over domestic legislation.”

New maritime power

Along the same vein, the Asian Wall Street Journal (AWSJ) wrote that Obama’s reelection would provide him with little time to celebrate in the face of an array of global problems that include challenges posed by Iran’s nuclear program and widening political instability in the Middle East.

Behind these front-burner problems, AWSJ said, Obama in his second term, “likely will have to redefine US policies toward China, in light of its growing economic might and military power.

The president is expected to face renewed challenge from Beijing over continued arms sales to Taiwan … And many Asian officials fear that the dispute between Japan and China over an atoll in the East China Sea could escalate further, forcing Washington—Tokyo’s treaty ally—to a larger role.”

The AWSJ said: “The Obama administration over the past year has been touting its intention to tilt Washington’s strategic focus from the Middle East and toward Asia, due to the region’s economic growth and China’s increasing power.”

The Philippines’ anxieties over China’s policies on the territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea rose as the Chinese Communist Party began its leadership change at its party congress that followed the US elections.

Agence France-Presse reported from Beijing that the speech of outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao at the party congress referring to the territorial disputes in the South China Sea has raised concerns among Asian countries that have supported the Obama administration’s policy to “pivot” to the region as it disentangles from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Addressing the opening of the Communist Party’s 18th National Congress, Hu indicated that China would continue its disputed claims to maritime territories.

He said, “We should enhance our capacity for exploiting maritime resources, resolutely safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests and build China into a maritime power.” 

Dismantling agrarian reform
By Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer
1:41 am | Monday, November 5th, 2012

The issue that President Aquino would rather forget reared its head during the long holidays devoted to remembering the dead—the slow processing of the redistribution of land in Hacienda Luisita, owned by the President’s family, to its farmworkers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), the flagship social reform legislation handed down by his mother, the late President Cory Aquino. 

The issue came to a head, after a long respite from the news pages, when the Inquirer published a story on Nov. 2, reporting a bill that had been introduced in the House of Representatives proposing to extend CARP by five years from its expiration in 2014 and that the measure would strengthen some of some of its provisions.

House Bill No. 6614, which was filed by Cagayan Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and his brother, Rep. Maximo Rodriguez of Abante Mindanao, casts doubt on the commitment of the Aquino administration to implement the social reforms of Republic Act No. 9700, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (Carper).

Total madness

The effect of the extension would be to keep in the hands of the owners landed estates for a longer period and delay their distribution to farmworkers deemed as beneficiaries of the agrarian reform program.

Farmers’ groups, mainly the Kilusang Magbubukid Pilipinas (KMP), denounced the proposed extension as “total madness,” saying that the land reform program remained the “milking cow” of landlords.

They recalled that on June 14, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told a press briefing that between now and June 2014, “all agricultural lands shall be covered and distributed to qualified beneficiaries.”

Unrest over the slow pace of transferring ownership of landed estates to tillers mounted amid the continuing high approval and trust ratings of Mr. Aquino in public opinion polls.

The President is currently enjoying praises for his initiatives in concluding a framework agreement for peace in Mindanao with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on the Bangsamoro homeland.

But the reaction of Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes to the proposal stoked unrest in the agrarian sector, especially in Hacienda Luisita.

He said that extending the acquisition and distribution of agricultural land until 2019 (after the term of the President expires in 2016) would be “one of the options” he would present to the President before the start of the next regular session of Congress.

“If you have a law extending the program,” he said, “that’s not bad.”

De los Reyes added that between now and 2014, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) aims to cover more than 900,000 hectares of land. This includes 300,000 ha of landholdings below 10 ha and 600,000 above 10 ha.

The DAR hopes to issue notices of coverage for landholdings above 10 ha by December this year and for landholdings below 10 ha, by July 2013.

The slow pace of the distribution of land has opened the Aquino administration to criticism of its commitment and political will to implement social reform in the sector where rural poverty is widespread.

Undersecretary Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson, made the muddle worse by telling reporters that Malacañang could not make a comment until it saw a copy of the bill filed by the Rodriguez brothers.

In filing the bill, its authors pointed out that the agrarian reform program had been behind schedule 25 years after it was launched by President Cory Aquino.

According to the bill, the DAR is far from meeting its 2012 target of of processing 180,000 ha of land. It has processed only about 32,000 ha. The DAR plans to acquire 17,524 ha of land under leasehold agreements this year but latest figures show it has processed only 7,724 ha.

This record prompted the peasant organization KMP to say the CARP was the “longest running and most expensive agrarian reform program in the world.”

The group cited government records showing that from 1972 to June 2005, the total approved Land Bank of the Philippines compensation to 83,203 landowners for 1.3 million hectares has reached P41.6 billion in cash and bonds, or an average of P500,463 per landlord.

On Nov. 2., Rappler reported online that the DAR said it would accomplish its target land distribution despite the bill seeking the extension of the agrarian reform program up to 2019.

Rappler said DAR would press on issuance of notices of coverage commencing “the compulsory acquisition of private agricultural lands coverable under the CARP.”

Nearly 1 million hectares of country’s agricultural estates remain to be partitioned to workers before the CARP ends in June 2014.

Litmus test

Last week, the DAR announced that it had hammered out a list of provisional beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita, nearly a year after the Supreme Court unanimously decided to distribute the estate among its workers. The land distribution in the hacienda is considered the litmus test of the administration’s commitment to agrarian reform, which makes a mockery of his self-righteous slogan, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”

The agrarian reform program is caught in the trap of bureaucratic timidity and lack of budgetary support. For example, an Inquirer report of June 6, 2012, said that Malacañang had announced that the President would make his “best effort to implement fully the agrarian reform program before he steps down in 2016.”

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad issued the statement before a big rally of farmers at Malacañnang at the end of a 10-day march from various points of Mindanao and Negros Occidental to seek a firm commitment from the President that he would distribute the remaining 900,000 hectares of prime agricultural lands before the program’s end in 2014.

But the records do not show Mr. Aquino delivering on the pledge. The Carper law provides for a P150-billion outlay. Under the Aquino administration, the program remains underfunded.

This year, Abad cut down a proposed P30-billion budget to P18 billion and removed another P4.9 billion in technical support and credits.

According to an Inquirer report, quoting sources inside the DAR, the department itself was in the process of being dismantled, its functions to be farmed out to various department

More Reads On Phillippines

Grenell: Who won the 'war on women'? It's not so easy to call

quot;In the end, the great irony of this
Photo credit: Donna Grethen / Tribune Media Services | "In the end, the great irony of this election cycle may be that the Republican Party's loss also strikes a blow to the women they oppose," writes Alexis Grenell.
The much-talked about 2012 "war on women" arrived at the ballot box on Tuesday, but it's not so easy to call a winner. While candidates who expressed extremist views on rape were defeated, and women's numbers in the Senate grew to an all-time high of 20, the continued polarization of theRepublican Party may in fact hurt the political prospects of a women's policy agenda from a long-term view.
In 2008 John McCain attempted to make inroads into the female base of the Democratic Party -- some members of whom were still smarting from Sen. Barack Obama's primary victory over Sen.Hillary Clinton -- by nominating a far-right running mate who happened to have a pair of ovaries.
The apparent thinking was that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would somehow woo Hillary supporters into an estrogen-induced coma. But Republicans proceeded to lose the women's vote by more than 13 percentage points that year. As it turned out, having a woman on the ticket is not enough to offset an agenda with anti-woman elements.

Since then, it's been all downhill.
In 2012, Republicans continued to lose the women's vote by fatal margins -- even in reliably red states -- by making terrifying comments about rape. Republicans lost last week because female voters of all stripes confirmed what liberals have long asserted: that social conservatism encapsulates, among other things, an antiquated view about gender equality.
In Indiana, which Gov. Mitt Romney won easily, the Republican nominee for Senate, Richard Mourdock, said that a pregnancy caused by a rape is what "God intended." Well, women clearly did not intend to let Mourdock get away with that, helping to hand the election to Democrat Joe Donnelly. According to exit polls, Donnelly received 53 percent of the women's vote, compared with Mourdock's 41. The real rub is that exit polling found that the moderate, pro-life, 30-year incumbent, Sen. Richard Lugar -- whom Mourdock ousted in the primary -- would've easily beat Donnelly.
Todd Akin's infamous comments about "legitimate rape" secured Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill's re-election. The Democrat, once viewed as vulnerable, won with 58 percent of the women's vote, compared with Akin's 36, and she received a whopping 67 percent of votes from moderates.
And in Virginia, where Gov. Bob McConnell tried to mandate transvaginal ultrasounds as a condition of a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy legally, Democrat Tim Kaine campaigned heavily against the unpopular bill and won a Senate seat against George Allen with 56 percent of the women's vote.
The list goes on, with Democrats defeating down-ticket Republican candidates like Wisconsin Assemb. Roger Rivard, who said, in commenting about a controversial sexual assault case, his father once told him that "some girls rape easy."
Throughout the campaign, Republicans tried to spin the "war on women" -- which, in addition to out-of-touch comments about rape, played out over such issues as insurance coverage for birth control and access to abortion -- by claiming that women cared most about the economy and wouldn't mistake rhetoric for policy. They were right. Women -- who voted for Obama 55 percent, to 44 percent for Romney -- seemed to understand that Romney's policies were in opposition to their interests, economic and otherwise. Romney wanted to gut the Affordable Care Act, defund Planned Parenthood, give tax breaks to the wealthy, and said he would be a pro-life president who would follow President George W. Bush's lead in Supreme Court appointments.
When you consider that women make up two-thirds of minimum wage earners, low-cost health care and reproductive self-determination are inextricable from concerns about the economy. And no woman, whether low- or high-income, could be so foolish as to confuse "binders full of women" for an actual anti-discrimination policy.
There was a moment at the second presidential debate at Hofstra University that epitomized the partisan divide on gender. In explaining why he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, President Barack Obama said that pay equity is an economic issue: "Women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family. This is not just a women's issue. This is a family issue. This is a middle-class issue."
Obama recognized women's success as an indication of the overall success of the economy. In weak contrast, Romney's solution to workplace discrimination was to suggest that employers would "be so anxious to get good workers" that they would even "be anxious to hire women."
Tanya Melich, author of "The Republican War Against Women," is not at all surprised. After a lifetime of membership, Melich quit the party in 2000 and is an independent, although she identifies as a Democrat. "The Republicans have been moving toward this extreme for years," she said. The extremism of the party has also had a devastating impact internally, with centrists like Maine's Sen. Olympia Snowe choosing not to seek re-election after three decades in office. As a moderate, pro-choice, pro-gay rights Republican, she no longer has a place in the national party. Explaining her retirement in a Washington Post op-ed, Snowe wrote, "I see a critical need to engender public support for the political center, for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us."
Similarly, long-serving Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a pro-choice moderate Republican from Texas, also chose not to seek re-election.
Next term, Senate Republicans will have just four women in their conference, with one new member from Nebraska. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats added four women to their ranks, from states as politically diverse as Wisconsin, North Dakota, Massachusetts and Hawaii, bringing their total to 16.
While the rise of extremism in the Republican Party may help get Democrats elected, it's not necessarily good for a women's policy agenda. With no alternative to the Democrats, women risk being perceived as safe votes for that party. A moderate Republican Party is actually better for women's interests -- it forces both parties to develop policies that keep them competitive for female voters.
The women's movement in America will suffer as centrists continue to lose primaries or resign from office. In the end, the great irony of this election cycle may be that the Republican Party's loss also strikes a blow to the woman-friendly policies they oppose.
Alexis Grenell is a Democratic political communications strategist.