The Incredible Shrinking Presidency

Posted: Jun 28, 2013 10:40 AM

The President is on a goodwill trip to Africa, while back here in our nation's capital it was one of the most important weeks in the history of the Republic.

On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court announced its ruling on a case involving the Voting Rights Act -- the part of the act that required nine states to get Justice Department permission to make any changes to voting practices.

That sanction was the result of decades of mistreatment of minority voters at the hands of the White majorities, so Congress decided they couldn't be trusted to run their own elections.

Writing for the 5-4 majority, Chief Justice John Roberts didn't forbid any Federal interference in state voting laws but said, as quoted by the New York Times:

"Our country has changed. While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions."

So look for Democrats in the House and Senate to introduce new legislation with an eye toward requiring the same "pre-clearance" that was required before this ruling.

Liberals are fuming, but Barack Obama is missing from the discussion.

The next day, the very same Supreme Court struck down the "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) which limited Federal spousal benefits to a marriage between a man and a woman.

In that case, as we read in the Washington Post,

"The court declared that gay couples married in states where it is legal must receive the same federal health, tax, Social Security and other benefits that heterosexual couples receive."

The Court did not directly rule on the other gay marriage case -- whether the ban on gay marriage in California (Proposition 8) was constitutional.

The Court decided that the group that had sued to uphold Prop. 8 didn't have the "standing" to bring such a case and let the lower court ruling that permitting same-sex marriages in California stand.

Thus gay couples - within a couple of weeks - will have the right to marry in California. And they can receive the same federal benefits as any other married couple.

Tea Party Republicans and their allies on the religious right were quick to declare the end of civilization as we know it. They were busily preparing language to propose a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Now it's conservatives who are angry, and Barack Obama is still missing from the discussion.

The third piece of history this week was the vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday approving the Senate's version of immigration reform by a vote of 62-38. That was not quite the 70 votes supporters had hoped for, but it was well over the simple majority needed for final passage.

The immigration bill was hashed out by what has become known as the "Gang of Eight" and, with the addition of a last minute amendment to significantly strengthen border security by two additional Senators, made passage a foregone conclusion.

House Republicans led by Speaker John Boehner immediately said the Senate version was "dead on arrival."

Conservatives were angry again, and Barack Obama was absent from yet another key discussion.

In other developments, the Inspector General of the Treasury Department -- under which the Internal Revenue Service operates -- wrote a letter indicating that earlier claims of the IRS targeting groups with the word "progressive" (or some variant) in their names at the same rate as they were focusing on conservative groups was nonsense.

He wrote, according to the Huffington Post, that:

"His investigators found that of 298 applicants for tax-exempt status that the IRS flagged for possible political involvement between 2010 and 2012, six had "progress" or "progressive" in their names."

That is about 2 percent.

Liberal pundits were embarrassed at being misled by the Obama administration, conservatives were outraged by the Administration's cheap attempt to deflect the IRS story, and Barack Obama was once again missing from an important discussion.