Author Archive: JRB

Will the NJ GOP Attack Chairman Martinez for Amnesty and Social Security for Illegal Aliens?

Today, U.S. Senator Mel Martinez was named the new general chairman of the Republican National Committee. Like Senator Menendez, Senator Martinez is a Cuban-American.

And also like Senator Menendez, Senator Martinez voted to table this amendment:

S.Amdt. 3985  to S. 2611 (Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006)
To reduce document fraud, prevent identity theft, and preserve the integrity of the Social Security system, by ensuring that persons who receive an adjustment of status under this bill are not able to receive Social Security benefits as a result of unlawful activity.

If you’ve already forgotten, this vote spawned numerous attacks on Senator Menendez. My home received two mailers, funded by the NJ Republican State Committee, entirely devoted to that vote. And who can forget the ads?

So the question is, ‘Will the NJ GOP attack Chairman Martinez for giving Amnesty and Social Security benefits to illegal aliens?’

A list of the other GOP Senators who voted to table the amendment after the jump.

Transgender Equality Gains Unanimous Approval in Sen Judiciary Committee

Today the NJ Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the Transgender Equality Bill, sending it before the Assembly Judiciary Committee and to be followed by the full legislature.

If successful, the bill will add a citizen’s “gender identity or expression” as a basis for protection under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

Among the six votes in favor was Tom Kean Jr. There was one abstention by Republican Joe Kyrillos of Monmouth.

Some facts about Transgender Equality after the jump.

Today, For Marriage Equality

Yesterday, I posted about the great opportunity that we have to enact marriage equality now. But we must keep in mind that we are short on time, and we have a bunch of nervous legislators who would rather change the subject than educate the public on the real, discriminatory nature of civil unions.

I, too, want to change the subject as our state has many pressing issues — but only after we have ensured equality for our family, friends, and neighbors.

That is why I’m going to take a few minutes this morning to write a short letter to the editor of my local newspaper in an effort to raise the level of debate in my town. People may want equality, but they might not understand the differences between civil unions and marriage.

I want to change that. And I hope you do too.

That’s why I’m asking that you write a letter of your own about the differences between civil unions and marriage equality. Explain, as GSE suggests, “how labels less than marriage fail to protect same-sex couples. Hospitals, employers and other institutions have told same-sex couples with domestic partnership and civil union recognition: “We don’t care what the law says.  You’re not married and we’re not giving you the rights under the law.” Lt. Laurel Hester is just one of many examples in New Jersey.”

Because as more and more discussions take place, the more New Jerseyans will understand that civil unions are not equality. They’ll understand why some members of the state legislature and U.S. Congress are stepping up for marriage. And they’ll soon understand why this is such an important issue to so many people they know.

Marriage equality has a great ally in the compassion of our neighbors. But they need to know. And you can do something about it.

House Leadership Races & NJ

On Thursday, the House Democrats will caucus to select leadership. While Pelosi is a shoo-in for Speaker, the battle for Leader is heating up. It’s between current minority whip, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Rep. Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania. Today, Pelosi came out in support of Murtha. How will New Jersey’s members vote? Help us keep tab in the comments.


For Hoyer: Frank Pallone (NJ-6), Albio Sires (NJ-13)
For Murtha: Bill Pascrell (NJ-8)

People-Powered Marriage Equality

Do you believe in human dignity? That government should be a force for good? And do you want to do something about it?

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you do. Part of the reason I’m a Democrat is because I believe in the value of every human being and that by working together, we can make each others’ lives better.

For the past year or longer, you all worked so hard on keeping Senator Menendez and sowing House campaigns whose benefits we will certainly reap one day. Your efforts are truly admired, and we all look forward to the exchange of ideas and tactics in the months to come, as we gear up for the next races. This same re-tooling is happening all across the country and will emerge with stronger, more experienced supporters on our side.

But we here in New Jersey have been given an unique opportunity today, not two years from now. We have the chance to raise the level of human dignity for our family, friends, neighbors, and in some cases, ourselves.

Here we have the opportunity to extend marriage equality to families that are considered lesser based on their sexuality. They are discriminated against not because of what they do, but because of who they are. I think that’s wrong. How about you?

While it is easy to fall into post-election lethargy (I’m just pulling myself out now), the legislature was given just 180 days to decide: does the state want marriage equality or does it want discriminatory civil unions — a lot like the laws we have today that many choose not to enforce. (Don’t believe me? Ask Lt. Hester).

Right now, the polls would have us believe that marriage equality will fail, and that civil unions are somehow preferable. I believe that most of the people who prefer the word ‘civil unions’ to marriage want equality but do not understand the grave differences. I believe that by pronouncing those differences — by educating the public — we can do a great deal to promote equality.

Some of our leaders disgree. They do not believe themselves capable of making the case for equality and would rather settle for lesser, discriminatory civil unions.

Others are trying to make a difference. If you haven’t read about Assemblyman Reed Gusciora’s bill proposing a “Civil Marriage and Religious Protection Act,” please do so. And if you’re not signed up with Garden State Equality, take a few moments to do that now — you are a very valuable asset.

Together, we can promote dignity and equality. But we have to work hard and we have to start today. What do you say?

More to come . . .

Quote of the Day

Posted by Matt Stoller at MyDD:

I don’t think Menendez is corrupt, but I really don’t know.  And I agree with TPMMuckraker that there is a corruption problem in the Democratic caucus, though it’s much smaller and more petty than the Republican machine.  It’s something we have to and will work through.  But there are a lot of structural incentives for a strongly partisan Republican Attorney General to continue using innuendo that he is.  I mean nothing says higher office like ‘the heroic US Attorney investigating embattled and powerful Senator’.  And creating a lot of smoke and mirrors through rumor and innuendo would be a good way to take a newish Senator and make him ’embattled’.

Bush: ‘Rumsfeld Forever.’ Kean Jr: ‘Oh Well.’

This week, President Bush told reporters he’s “pleased with the progress” in Iraq and that he expects Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney to remain until 2009. He then added, “Both men are doing fantastic jobs and I strongly support them.”

This, after Rumsfeld has offered his resignation two known times.

And what did Kean Jr’s camp have to say about this?

A spokesman for Tom Kean, a Republican Senate candidate in New Jersey, told The Times: “Obviously we’re incredibly disappointed in that decision. We feel Iraq is on the verge of chaos and a new Secretary of Defense is needed if we are to change the direction and implement tactical changes.”

That’s the response: their feelings are a bit hurt, but oh well — what can you do, right? Because when Bush puts his foot down, by golly, Tom Kean Jr is going to listen.

Yet another reason why Tom Kean Jr won’t stand up for New Jersey.

Effective Coalition Politics In NJ

In 1967, Arthur Schlesinger reflected on the state of liberalism and observed,

[T]he issues of the New Deal were fundamentally those of quantitative liberalism. The New Deal program tackled the elemental needs of the American people — a job, a suit of clothing, three meals a day, a roof over one’s head, and a measure of security for old age. Because the New Deal secured the basis of life for so many, contemporary liberalism has been able to move on to qualitative tasks — to measures, in other words, designed to improve the quality of life in an industrial society. These are the issues of civil rights, of civil liberties, of education, of urban planning, of the state of the arts and the beauty of the environment. And in addition, foreign policy, which until the end of the thirties was a subordinate and marginal consideration.

Schlesinger incorrectly argued the political issues of the day were “no longer social and economic as much as they [were] cultural and moral,” and overlooked the economic concerns that existed in 1967 and persist still today. Attitudes like Schlesinger’s were adopted by some who, in the words of Michael Kazin, favored “gesture over organizing and controversy over strategy.” And while the working class elements of the Democratic coalition still desired economic advancement — a desire that paralleled others’ hunger for social change — they came to resent their treatment from other factions of the party.

But others recognized the need for both social and economic advacement and rather than try to transition from one to the other, they tried to bridge the two. They possessed the ability, as Robert Kennedy once called it, “to tap the unrest in the country” and “touch the uneasiness” from sections of society that shared some interests but were generally opposed to each other. People like Kennedy spoke directly to the divided sides and worked to build consensus while not compromising principle.

This is the most important aspect of coalition politics: reaching out to those who disagree and making a case in terms they can relate to.

Garden State Equality has shown that they understand the notion of coalition politics. They have been talking about same-sex partners’ concerns about health care and pensions — showing many skeptical straight couples that they have a lot in common. In the face of hesitant politicians, they’re discussing full marriage equality in terms of dignity — a basic human desire and the reason this country has labor unions.

If Garden State Equality and other advocates continue down the path of coalition politics, pretty soon the newspapers will be warning state legislators about the hazards of not passing marriage equality, instead of the other way around. These examples of coalition building will become even more valuable in the coming months, as the elections pass and attention turns to creating a sweeping mandate for full equality.

Senator, Cut This Ad

Taking my own suggestion from the other day, and on account of what was said today, here, clocking in at 30 seconds.

Hi, I’m Senator Bob Menendez. On Wednesday, when asked about Iraq, President Bush told reporters, quote, “I’m pleased with the progress we’re making,” and insisted Donald Rumsfeld will remain in office until 2009, no matter what. Unlike my opponent, I’m not pleased with the situation in Iraq. I’m not pleased that this very hour, we will spend 11 million dollars on a course that is increasingly violent and unstable. I approve this message because I want change and if you feel as I do, I’m asking for your support this Tuesday.

Social Security Privatization & Seeds of Doubt

The Republicans are going all over New Jersey telling people that the Democrats want to give Social Security benefits to illegal aliens. The Republican State Committee is sending out mailers, the RNC is putting up commercials, and Kean Jr is using this talking point to avoid giving his own plan — on immigration or Social Security.

This is a hollow campaign tactic the Republicans are using around the country. Who else voted for the Senate ammendment? Republicans McCain, Hagel, Stevens, Lugar, Martinez, Graham, Specter, Chafee, and Voinovich. So what’s this all about?

It’s a part of a larger Republican strategy to privatize Social Security.

President Bush has announced his intentions, but he has some very hardened opinions to overcome. Americans don’t trust him to fix Social Security. They think his party is ill-intentioned. So what do they do?

They plant the seeds of doubt early. They will ask, “You trust the Democrats on Social Security?! You know their plan is to give Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants? Don’t you remember it from the campaign?”

And that’s how they get their foot in the door.