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Will the U.S. Supreme Court Reverse California Redistricting?

In 2010, California voters approved a new way of redrawing congressional districts as a way to combat partisan gerrymandering. The state took the power away from the Legislature and put it in the hands of a nonpartisan citizen commission. But California's system could be threatened by a case now pending at the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, the court heard arguments in a challenge to Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission, where Arizona legislative leaders argued that the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures exclusive control of congressional elections.

PBS NewsHour

Will Bernie Sanders’ gun rights record help Hillary Clinton?

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters at the Human Rights Campaign Breakfast
         in Washington, October 3, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTS2V3Q

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JUDY WOODRUFF: But first, Gwen gets the latest on the race for the White House. She recorded this conversation earlier today before leaving on assignment.

GWEN IFILL: From gun control, to the e-mail dispute that won’t go away, to a fresh leadership fight on Capitol Hill, congressional politics and presidential politics overlap this week.

So, we turn to Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR reporting tonight from New Hampshire for our weekly Monday night look at what’s happening behind the scenes.

Hillary Clinton today got on the gun control bandwagon very forcefully with her own plan. We want to hear a little about what she had to say.

And, Tamara, you were in the room. I want to hear how it went over.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate: We need to go back and, with all of our hearts, working not just in Washington, but from the grassroots up, demand that we have universal background checks. Forty percent of guns are sold gun shows, online sales. We need to close that loophole, so that when we have a universal background check…


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: … it will cover everybody. We have got to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, domestic abusers, people with serious mental health problems.

GWEN IFILL: Now, of course, this is a result to what happened in Oregon last week, the mass shooting at a community college, and the president’s very strong words about gun control and about how we had to do more than just talk about it.

Tamara, is that what she was doing as well?


And Hillary Clinton has actually spoken about gun control pretty forcefully in the last few months following other mass shootings, but this time she has put out a plan, she has several bullet points that she’s calling for, different items that she wants.

In the room, this was very different from many other Clinton town halls that I have been to. It was more emotional. The crowd was almost more into it, you could say, than many of her other town halls, many standing ovations, people really enthusiastic about what she’s saying and what she’s proposing.

In particular, there was one moment where Hillary Clinton, as she was finishing her remarks, asked a mother to come up on stage. This is a Sandy Hook mom whose son, her 6-year-old son was killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook.

And as Hillary Clinton talked about that mom’s experience, Hillary Clinton’s voice choked up a little bit, and it was a very emotional moment in the room.

GWEN IFILL: It’s interesting, because, as you know, Amy, we have had this conversation many times, and, in fact, the last time the president came out, he was accused of sounding as if he had just given up on being able to do anything. And we heard some of that from Jeb Bush as well. Is there anything different in this gun control argument this time?

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: I don’t think very much has changed at all.

And, in fact, I think this has become something that we see the two parties just going back into their predictable lanes, Democrats talking about more gun control, Republicans talking about how they have to defend the rights of gun owners. And this is coming at a time, also, of a very competitive primary fight very specifically on the Republican, but on the Democratic side as well, where both sides trying to speak to their base.

The Democratic base, this is an issue that’s very important to them, the idea of gun control. On the Republican side, they are more concerned with gun rights. And so you’re seeing both camps just lining up pretty predictably.

GWEN IFILL: OK. Let’s try something unusual.

You are in New England tonight, Tamara, where Bernie Sanders had a big rally in Boston this weekend. He got 20,000 people there, yet he doesn’t come down on the same side of the argument as Hillary Clinton does on guns. Does that hurt him at all with his base?

TAMARA KEITH: This is a fascinating thing.

Bernie Sanders is to the left of the Democratic field on absolutely everything, except for guns. And when it comes to guns, he’s more moderate. In the ’90s, he voted against the Brady Bill. In 2005, he voted for a bill that became law that shields gun manufacturers from lawsuits.

Hillary Clinton is trying to make a big issue out of this. One of her proposals is to repeal that law that Bernie Sanders voted for and she voted against. I think that Clinton and her supporters see this as an opportunity, and also Martin O’Malley, the Maryland governor, sees it, too, to show differences and, for once, show that Bernie Sanders is not the purest candidate on the left on at least one topic.

AMY WALTER: Yes, and it also speaks to the demographics of the issue of guns.

If you look — and this is Gallup who did this study. You look at the kinds of people who own guns in this country, they’re overwhelmingly white, many of them are Southern, they’re male. People who do not own guns or the lowest rate of gun ownership, minorities and single women.

If you want to understand the politics of the gun debate, who speaks to overwhelmingly white Southerners? Republicans. And for Bernie Sanders, he lives in an overwhelmingly white state, older state of Vermont. This is an issue that plays very differently in Vermont than it does in Brooklyn.

GWEN IFILL: Which we can expect Hillary Clinton to try to exploit.

But let’s talk about something else she has — not choosing to exploit. As we know, she’s been struggling with this e-mail controversy for some time. And, somehow, Republicans are helping her.

Kevin McCarthy, who is in line to be the speaker of the House, gave an interview on FOX in which he said this: “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she is untrustable. But no one would any of that had that happened.”

Well, today, in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton pushed back and said, ah, the horror of this, it’s pure politics and it proves the point I was making.

So, this was kind of an opportunity for her today, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH: Absolutely.

And she came out pretty angrily. This was on “The Today Show.” She was more angry than I think I have seen her about the Benghazi committee and about the controversy over the e-mails, really saying: Kevin McCarthy proves my point that Republicans are just trying to politicize this.

Now, many of Hillary Clinton supporters would agree with that assessment. Others are concerned about the e-mail issue and it gets wrapped up in the idea of trust.

GWEN IFILL: Well, the other problem, of course, is that just — this is — and Capitol Hill politics — this provided an opportunity for somewhat be to challenge Kevin McCarthy.

Jason Chaffetz, let’s listen to what he had to say today to some reporters.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), Utah: I think I bring a skill set that’s maybe a little bit more different, the communications side of it, making sure you have got a speaker who’s out there speaking and driving home the communications side of it. Internally, I think I have earned a reputation of being a fair, honest broker that can bring both sides or all sides of the political spectrum together. There is some internal strife and divide that needs to be bridged.

GWEN IFILL: Now, he was talking to Lisa Desjardins, our political director, in that interview. Clearly, he’s saying, I can communicate better than this other guy.


You notice that he said the word communication there. He said the word communication in a letter he wrote to his colleagues this weekend, talking a lot about, if you put me on national television, I won’t make these same kind of mistakes.

And, look, what that Benghazi gaffe revealed for the Republicans in the House is a divide that was always there and a concern that’s always been there that the new team coming in is going to have the same problems as the old team that’s going out. They cannot figure out how to bring the Republicans together and they can’t figure out a way for the Republicans to push a message that looks like it can bring in a broader group of voters.

And so now we have had a real fight for the speakership. This was supposed to be Kevin McCarthy’s. This was supposed to be very easy. And talking to folks on Capitol Hill today, there’s a sense that you know what? I don’t know if anybody can get to 218 votes right now, which is the vote to be the speaker.

GWEN IFILL: And, Tamara, of course, it’s really not so much about who might be speaker in the end. Even if Kevin McCarthy has more votes than Jason Chaffetz, you still have — the fight then begins for the number two jobs.

TAMARA KEITH: Yes, and that fight has actually been delayed a little bit until later in the month.

The sort of more conservative hard-line members of the Republican Caucus are sort of balking and saying, wait, you want all of these people that are basically allied with John Boehner? The whole point of this for them was to get rid of John Boehner and to get rid of the people who sort of represent his — he would call it a more practical viewpoint about what Republicans in Congress can get done.

GWEN IFILL: It all becomes parts of the same loop-de-loop.

Amy, Tamara, thank you both very much.

The post Will Bernie Sanders’ gun rights record help Hillary Clinton? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Why the Supreme Court may swing right on key issues this session

UNITED STATES - October 5: An Architect of the Capitol worker pours chemicals
         into a water fountain in front of the Supreme Court as it begins a new session in Washington, on Monday, October 5, 2015.
         (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

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JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s the first Monday in October, and that means the Supreme Court kicks off its new term. The court will deal with several political issues, among them, affirmative action, voting rights and labor unions.

For what to look for in the months ahead, we are joined, as always, by Marcia Coyle of “The National Law Journal.”

Welcome back to the program, Marcia.

MARCIA COYLE, The National Law Journal: Thanks, Judy. It’s good to be back.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it is developing into a pretty big term.

MARCIA COYLE: It is, and not only the cases that the court has already agreed to hear, but there are some big ones waiting in the wings that the justices are likely to add to this term’s docket.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, you were just telling me that there’s a lot of conversations, before we get into some of the specifics, that this — a lot of conversation about how this could turn out to be a more conservative term than the last one.

What did you mean by that?

MARCIA COYLE: Well, so much of a term’s character depends on the nature of the cases that the justices take, but it also depends on if those cases are controversial and the court is likely to split ideologically, Justice Kennedy is in the middle. He’s the swing vote. And he tends to vote conservative more than he does to the left on certain issues.

And those certain issues are on the docket, as you mentioned, affirmative action, voting, First Amendment, unions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s tackle a few of those, and let’s start with affirmative action. This is Fisher vs. the University of Texas.


The University of Texas uses race as one of something like 17 different factors in its admissions policies. Its goal is to achieve broader diversity. This is the second time this case has come to the courts. But, several terms ago, the court sent it back to the lower courts because it believed that the lower courts hadn’t applied strict scrutiny, that is, that it hadn’t found — it hadn’t first looked at whether race-neutral alternatives were used by the university before using race.

Went back to the lower court. The lower court once again said, this program passes constitutional muster. Comes back up to the Supreme Court. And, apparently, there are four justices, because you only need the votes of four, who still want to look at the use of race to achieve diversity in higher education.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, as you say, the second time before the court.

Another Texas case, Marcia, this one on political redistricting, one person, one vote.


And it’s hard to believe that the principle of one person, one vote is now before the Supreme Court in a very basic way. How should you count people in order to get to one person, one vote in legislative districts?

The state of Texas, in fact, just about every single state counts total population in order to get to that. But the challengers in this case say, no, you really should count voting population, eligible voters. And the reason it has politically high stakes is if you go with voting population, that tends to benefit rural areas, where people do vote more and they tend — trend to vote Republican.

If you do it on total population, which includes not only voters, but non-citizens, they tend to trend Democratic in voting.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re going to capture a bigger group, including…

MARCIA COYLE: Right. Exactly.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And it raises probably some questions about…


MARCIA COYLE: Favored cities, yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, another case that we know is coming up has to do with public sector labor unions and individuals who are not paying members, dues-paying members of these unions, but who may receive benefits.

MARCIA COYLE: Well, back in 1977, the Supreme Court decided a case in which it had to strike a balance between the First Amendment rights of non-union members, as well as unions’ rights. When they engage in collective bargaining, the benefits of collective bargaining also go to the non-union members in the public sector.

And the unions look at that as free-riding. And so the Supreme Court says the First Amendment rights of non-union members really aren’t hindered if they contribute to the cost of collective bargaining, but they don’t have to pay for the unions’ non-collective bargaining activities, like political lobbying, speech, things like that.

But in the case before the Supreme Court, the court is being asked to overrule that 1977 decision and eliminate the fees that non-union members pay to unions. So, the stakes are very high for public sector unions, which remain the largest unions in the country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the other thing, Marcia, as you have told us, there are a couple of cases that are, in your words, in the wings, potentially really controversial cases.


Yes, there are two petitions pending, two cases pending right now involving abortion clinics and restrictions on how those clinics operate. This goes to the sort of art of the abortion right. How do you determine what is an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion? Do these restrictions or regulations, are they an undue burden and, thus, unconstitutional?

And in the second group of cases, there are seven right now and there probably will be more, come from religious nonprofits who are objecting to how the government accommodate their objections to contraceptive health insurance.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s enough to keep you very, very busy this term.

MARCIA COYLE: Potentially a very big term, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Marcia Coyle, thank you. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

MARCIA COYLE: My pleasure.

The post Why the Supreme Court may swing right on key issues this session appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Agreement on Trans Pacific trade deal reached

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with the leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership  countries. Negotiators said they
         reached a deal on the TPP on Monday. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with the leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries. Negotiators said they reached a deal on the TPP on Monday. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is heralding an agreement on an ambitious Pacific Rim trade pact that he says “reflects America’s values” and gives U.S. workers a fair shot at success.

Obama’s statement comes shortly after the U.S. and 11 other nations finalized a deal that cuts trade barriers, sets labor and environmental standards and protects multinational corporations’ intellectual property.

The president says the agreement levels the playing field for U.S. farmers, ranchers and manufacturers. He says it strengthens U.S. with a vital region, while keeping countries such as China from writing “the rules of the global economy.”

Congress will have 90 days to review the agreement before voting on it. Obama says he looks forward to working with lawmakers from both parties as they consider the pact.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has longed maintained that the trade agreement is a “bad deal.” Joining critics is Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders who said on Twitter that he was “disappointed” in the pact, adding that the decision will “hurt consumers and cost American jobs.”

As for Hillary Clinton, she did support the trade talks when she was secretary of state. Now, as a Democratic presidential candidate, Clinton seems to have rolled back her support on the deal.

The post Agreement on Trans Pacific trade deal reached appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Obama announces new marine sanctuaries, a first in 15 years

Aerial view of Mallows Bay in Maryland, one of the two new designated marine sanctuaries announced by President Barack
         Obama via a video message Monday during the second annual Our Ocean conference in Chile. Photo by Don Shomette via NOAA

Aerial view of Mallows Bay in Maryland, one of the two new designated marine sanctuaries announced by President Barack Obama via a video message Monday during the second annual Our Ocean conference in Chile. Photo by Don Shomette via NOAA

VALPARAISO, Chile — President Barack Obama declared new marine sanctuaries in Lake Michigan and the tidal waters of Maryland on Monday, while Chile blocked off more than 200,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean near the world-famous Easter Island from commercial fishing and oil and gas exploration.

The announcements came as top officials, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, attended an international conference on marine protection in the Chilean port city of Valparaiso. Several nations also outlined plans for tracing seafood imports to combat overfishing and stemming increased pollution in the ocean.

The new protected waters in the United States are the first to be designated as such in 15 years, the White House said in a statement.

The 875-square mile area of Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan extends from Port Washington to Two Rivers, containing a collection of 39 known shipwrecks. Fifteen are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Mallows Bay-Potomac River in Maryland encompasses a 14-square mile area of the tidal Potomac River next to Charles County. Nearly 200 vessels, some dating to the Revolutionary War, are found in the largely undeveloped area that provides habitat for endangered species of wildlife and fish.

The actions are the latest in a series of environmental steps by Obama, who last year set aside some 400,000 square miles of the central Pacific Ocean from commercial fishing, deep sea mining and other forms of resource extraction. The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument is now the largest marine reserve in the world.

In a videotaped message to conference participants, Obama recalled his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia and said he always maintained “a special love for the ocean.”

Video by The White House

“Our economies, our livelihoods and our food all depend on our oceans,” he said, “and yet we know that our actions are changing them. Greenhouse gas emissions are making our seas warmer and more acidic. Marine pollution harms fish and wildlife, affecting the entire food chain. Illegal fishing depletes the world’s fisheries.”

Obama said he would seek to protect more American waters in the coming months.

Chile made its own ambitious declaration, cordoning off a vast expanse of the South Pacific Ocean.

President Michelle Bachelet said the new marine park would protect the ancestral species of Rapa Nui, the name used by the native Polynesians of Easter Island, which is celebrated for its hundreds of human statues carved out of volcanic rock. She was joined by representatives of the island, who clapped their hands and sang after the announcement was made.

Bachelet called it the third-largest protected marine zone worldwide.

Britain, Gabon, Kiribati, New Zealand and Palau have taken steps as well to protect sections of the sea in recent months.

The “Our Ocean” conference also targeted marine pollution resulting from discarded plastics and increasing levels of ocean acidification, which damages coral reefs and shellfish populations. Such concerns are shared by the U.S., which imports 90 percent of the fish it consumes, and Chile, whose coastline of almost 2,500 miles is vital to the economy.

To address overfishing, the Obama administration announced a global initiative, “Sea Scout,” to identify unregulated and unreported activity, and help prosecute illegal fishing organizations. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is expanding a program for detecting boats that use lights to attract fishery catch at night and will implement it in Indonesia, the Philippines and three other countries next year.

The “traceability” initiative is supposed to start for the most commonly exported fish species such as tuna, cod, shrimp and crab in September 2016. It would apply to all fish a year later and is designed to provide a full accounting of where exporters are getting their catch and whether they are operating in a sustainable manner. Anyone who wants to export fish to the United States would have to adhere to the conditions. The program needs final approval from the U.S. Senate and several additional countries before entering into force.

“There is literally too much money chasing too much fish,” Kerry told the conference. A third of the world’s fish stocks are over-exploited, he said, calling overfishing a $10 billion-a-year industry.

The post Obama announces new marine sanctuaries, a first in 15 years appeared first on PBS NewsHour.