- A leader in the fight to preserve the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is warning Republicans not to abandon the cause after reports suggest the GOP hopes the Supreme Court will help them out of an awkward position later this year.
The renewed concerns from social conservatives comes after a New York Times report suggesting Republican Party officials are thrilled the Supreme Court is taking up the issue this year, suggesting it will be a settled issue by the time 2016 rolls around. Republicans championed traditional marriage in 2004 and many observers believe George W. Bush owes his victory that year to millions of extra voters showing up to support traditional marriage amendments in key states such as Ohio.
Since then, the GOP has been increasingly less vocal, especially with millennial generation voters overwhelmingly supporting same-sex marriage.
According to the Times report, even governors who were once staunch defenders of traditional marriage, are waving the white flag.
After losing on the issue in a lower court, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie refused to fight for the existing traditional marriage law, calling it "a settled issue."
After federal appeals courts sided with same-sex marriage litigants in Wisconsin and Indiana and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals, the GOP governors of those states also said the fight was essentially over.
1cFor us, it 19s over in Wisconsin, 1d said Walker.
1cPeople are free to disagree with court decisions, but we are not free to disobey them," said Pence.
Most recently, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a likely 2016 contender, indicated his position has also changed over the past several years.
1cWe live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law, 1d the Times quoted Bush as saying.
Liberty Counsel Chairman Mathew Staver has defended traditional marriage in many states around the country. He has little regard for politicians who wilted on this issue once the poll numbers started to change.
"I think they're wrong. They're wrong historically, and they deserve no one's vote for being that kind of person who comes out and makes such a statement as a politician. Governor Scott Walker, Governor Pence, Governor Chris Christie, former Governor Jeb Bush, they're wrong," he said.
Republican Party operatives counter by saying many courts have already spoken, the Supreme Court will rule in June and GOP officials have little choice but to enforce those rulings and move on to other issues. Staver says great leaders in history have proved that approach to be wrong.
"Abraham Lincoln didn't say, 'Well, the Supreme Court spoke on Dred Scott. I'm personally opposed to slavery, but the courts have spoken so we're going to continue to impose slavery.' No, he opposed it. He advocated that this was wrong. Thomas Jefferson didn't say, 'I don't like the Libel and Sedition Act. It violates free speech. You can't protest the government under that. I think that's wrong, but we've got to uphold it.' No, what did he do? He completely advocated disobedience," said Staver.
He says the way prominent Republicans have shifted on the issue show them to be precisely the type of leaders Americans do not want in an even higher office.
"They need to have some guts. This is an issue that is not some side, tangential issue. This is a fundamental reshaping of our society. It is a clash with religious freedom of unprecedented proportion. And if they don't get it, they don't get my vote," said Staver.
GOP officials dispute that last point, saying the economy and national security are far more pressing issues than the fight over marriage and they believe primary and general election voters do not want to make this a key issue in the 2016 campaign. Staver thinks Americans are much more upset about the courts taking the power away from states to decide marriage laws than the national party or even polls might suggest.
"I think many primary voters are of that mindset. They want somebody who will speak truth, who will speak boldly. The people of this country don't want these mealy, weak-backed, weak-kneed politicians. I think they're frankly sick and tired of the courts deciding these major social issues for them when they know that the courts have no authority to do so," said Staver.
Staver says social conservatives would strongly prefer to advance their causes through the Republican Party, but he says the party may leave them no choice but to leave and support someone else.
"I think if the Republican Party or any party ultimately goes off the farm on same-sex marriage that that party is no longer worthy of support. I think it's time for another party. That hasn't happened with the Republican Party, but certainly it's happened with some of the Republican candidates. I think people just need to simply write in different candidates and vote for different candidates that have the backbone," said Staver.
He believes Republicans still have a chance to get this right. Social conservatives have been a critical part of the Republican coalition since the rise of Ronald Reagan in 1980. However, Staver says there are clear limits to that support.
"You can't compromise on life . If a candidate doesn't get that, they don't get your vote. And you can't compromise on the natural created order of marriage as a man and a woman. If they don't get those very basic, simple facts, how are you going to get them to figure out where they ought to balance the budget or what they're going to do if Iran gets a nuclear weapon," said Staver.
"If they can't get the basic kindergarten kind of fundamental, foundation values, then how can they get anything else? They're not deserving of our time and certainly not of our votes," he said.
- As Democrats try to figure out what went wrong in the 2014 midterm elections, the Capitol Steps eavesdrop on President Obama, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi brainstorming for 2016. Our guest is Capitol Steps Co-Founder Elaina Newport.
- One of the strongest pro-life voices in the House of Representatives says Republicans will soon pass a bill banning most abortions before 20 weeks of pregnancy and he says the legislation passed Thursday to ban taxpayer funding of abortion is also a major step forward for those committed to protecting the unborn.
Thursday marks 42 years since the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that declared abortion a constitutional right. House Republicans were initially planning to pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans almost all abortions before the unborn child reaches the 20-week stage.
Those plans were scrapped by Republican leaders after Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-North Carolina) and Jackie Walorski (R-Indiana) withdrew as co-sponsors of the bill. Their main concern was that an exception for rape victims required law enforcement documentation of a rape complaint around the time of conception. Ellmers also worried the vote could tuen off young women from the GOP in the opening weeks of the new Congress. Enough GOP members were getting wobbly on the issue that leaders decided to pull the resolution from the floor after debate had started.
However, pro-life stalwart Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) believes the bill will come back for consideration.
"There was some pushback, but pushback that I think will lead to another day where we get another bill that will bring unity. I am certain that the bill will be up very soon," said Smith.
Smith says he was stunned at how Democrats found ways to defend dismembering unborn children more than halfway through their development in the womb.
"It was such a revelation to see how the abortion rights side can't some to grips with the fact that dismemberment abortions cause hideous pain. A child hurts as her or her arms and legs, and ultimately they are decapitated by the abortionist. They just paper over that. They just say it's not true, even though the evidence is overwhelming that the child feels pain at least at the 20-week point and probably even before," said Smith.
"There's a culture of denial in the abortion movement that we're trying to expose because these little children deserve better than being so mistreated," said Smith, who is appalled that pro-choice advocates believe discovering disabilities in an unborn child makes ending that life acceptable.
"How dare we suggest that you kill a baby painfully, or any other way, because he or she has Down Syndrome or some other anomaly that they're coping with. That is cruelty of the highest order," said Smith.
On Thursday, the House did overwhelmingly approve legislation to ban taxpayer funding of abortion.
"That is huge. We're talking about Obamacare, where U.S. taxpayers are now subsidizing over a thousand insurance plans to pay for abortion on demand. This would end that. It would also make permanent the different restrictions we have like the Hyde Amendment, that have to be renewed every single year. It also provides more transparency because the Obama White House has no transparency whatsoever," said Smith.
Smith says despite endless assurances to the contrary during the Obamacare debate, taxpayers are now funding more abortions now than at any other time in U.S. history. And he says there is a simple explanation for that. Obama "lied" during his health care speech to a Joint Session of Congress in September 2009.
"I was six feet away from the podium when he gave that speech. It is absolutely untrue," said Smith. "Obamacare has a lot of lies to it, a lot of things that were said that turned out to be unbelievably untrue. When it comes to abortion funding, this is the biggest and most massive funding of abortion in America's history."
Smith says he is amazed that Democrats won't acknowledge those facts either.
"It's almost like being in an Orwellian theater sometimes when you hear some of the members speak.. There were people standing on the floor today saying that there's no federal funding for abortion in Obamacare. Yet the Government Accountability Office (GAO)... said 1,036 Obamacare insurance plans pay for abortion on demand.," said Smith.
But the taxpayer subsidizing of abortion does not stop there. Upon taking office in 2009, President Obama reversed Bush administration policy by allocating funds to organizations providing abortions like Planned Parenthood in developing nations. Obama is also pumping money into the United Nations Population Fund, which partners with groups enforcing China's one-child policy through forced abortions and sterilization.
"This government, not under Reagan, not under Bush, not under the second Bush, but under Clinton and now President Obama lavishly funds this organization that has extolled the one child per couple policy, defends it, whitewashes it and on the ground is actually a part of it," said Smith.
The congressman says the simple truth both at home and abroad, taxpayers are funding countless abortions through Obama administration policies.
"We're enabling abortion and Obama is the abortion president," he said.
- Forty-two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Americans have the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy, a decision that launched one of the most intense political and social debates in our nation 19s history. As activists on both sides observe the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the high court may be poised to intervene again on an issue of immense social significance and intense debate: the definition of marriage.
Following a 2013 Supreme Court decision stating that the federal government could not withhold spousal benefits from same-sex partners in states where gay marriage was legal, a myriad of challenges were filed against state laws limiting the definition of marriage to the union of one man and one woman. The vast majority of federal judges at the district and appellate levels sided with the plaintiffs and struck down traditional marriage laws and state constitutional amendments.
Last fall, the Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from those seeking to defend traditional marriage laws. However, in November, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed lower court rulings and upheld traditional marriage standards in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. On Jan. 16, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of that ruling.
Liberty Counsel Chairman Mathew Staver says the court has a very important choice to make.
1cWill the court ultimately say, 18Yes, these states that affirm the definition of marriage, that 19s fine. Those can continue on? 1d We don 19t know. On the other hand, if they ultimately somehow invented a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, it could be the Roe v. Wade for same-sex marriage and that would have a devastating impact, 1d said Staver, who says the Sixth Circuit had good reasons for upholding traditional marriage laws.
1cNumber one, it said the Supreme Court back in the 1970s issued the Baker v. Nelson decision, in which the Supreme Court then dismissed the case for lack of a federal question because there 19s no constitutional right to same-sex marriage. They also said that even the Supreme Court 19s decision in 2013 regarding the Federal Defense of Marriage Act said that states have the right to be able to define marriage so the federal government should not interfere, 1d said Staver.
Staver says the court had little choice but to take up the issue now that conflicting appellate court rulings are on the record. Nonetheless, he 19s apprehensive about how this case will turn out because of what he considers the court 19s lousy approach to the marriage debate in the past.
1cThe Supreme Court has made a mess out of something very simple. It 19s very simple because there 19s no constitutional right, never has been and can never construed to be, a right to same-sex marriage in the Constitution. They should have said that a long time ago and we would have been done with this issue, 1d said Staver.
Even in decisions Staver considers wrongheaded, he says the court has set precedent on the side of traditional advocates. He says the Windsor case from 2013 is a prime example.
1cIn that case they said multiple times that it is the prerogative of the state to define marriage. I believe marriage predates the states and it 19s only an affirmation of what is. But they said it was a states 19 rights issue and the federal government should not interfere, 1d he said.
Staver expects the defense of traditional marriage laws to center on that states 19 rights argument. He also anticipates lawyers pointing to the court 19s earlier rejection of marriage as a federal issue in Baker v. Nelson and the harm done by concluding children are not disadvantaged by not having both a mom and a dad.
If the Supreme Court does uphold traditional marriage laws, Staver says we can expect a flurry of legal and political activity in states where same-sex marriage has been instituted through the courts.
1cI think what would happen is a firestorm in these other states that have overread the 2013 decision as saying there is a constitutional right to a same-sex marriage. If the Supreme Court later this year says no there 19s not and states have a right to affirm marriage as one man and one woman, that means these other decisions went too far and went beyond what the Supreme Court had said, 1d noted Staver.
1cTherefore, there will be efforts to set aside those decisions, and/or there will be efforts to re-pass marriage amendments in those states. So the battle will continue and heat up big time, 1d he said.
Conventional wisdom suggests traditional marriage advocates have an uphill fight at the Supreme Court. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan are likely to back same-sex marriage and Justice Anthony Kennedy has consistently sided with the liberals on the issue.
Staver admits it will be a tough fight, but he believes it should be made easier by Justices Ginsburg and Kagan removing themselves from this case.
1cThey should be recused. Why? Because while they had the cases of same-sex marriage pending before the court last fall 26Ginsburg and Kagan presided over same-sex marriages. They should be recused. They have actually injected themselves into the very issue that was then before the court and now before the court, 1d said Staver, who is not holding his breath waiting for the two justices to recuse themselves.
1cIt 19s very clear that they should. The statute says that they should, but if they don 19t who 19s going to force them? There 19s no one above the Supreme Court to force a recusal. They are the final word in that respect, 1d said Staver.
If Ginsburg and Kagan stay on this case and end up being the difference in legalizing same-sex marriage coast to coast, Staver says our justice system will be severely compromised.
1cThey could choose not to recuse, but if they do , they will certainly undermine the confidence of the people in the court. What may be on trial is not marriage but the validity and the legitimacy and the trustworthiness, or lack thereof, of this Supreme Court, 1d said Staver.
- Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-North Carolina) says President Obama continued to project weakness in his State of the Union address Tuesday night and he asserts Obama's characterization of our fight against terrorism and a nuclear Iran is not backed up by the facts.
In his speech Obama claimed the shadow of crisis has passed when it comes to the threat posed by radical Islam. In one of the most striking statements, Obama said the U.S. has halted progress in Iran's nuclear program.
Pittenger says Iran is doing just fine because the nuclear program has not stopped, more money is pouring in after the easing of sanctions and Iran is only too happy to string the west along by suggesting the prospect of some breakthrough agreement that will probably never come.
"Now we're on our second extension (of nuclear talks with Iran) for another seven months. We've unfrozen billions of dollars of more assets for them. We already provided eight billion dollars of economic aid. This is a terrorist state that has funded terrorism for the past thirty-plus years," said Pittenger.
Obama also stated his administration is leading a successful coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Pittenger says that appraisal clearly fails the smell test.
"Syria is the staging ground for Al Qaeda and ISIS throughout the world. There are over 90 countries represented in Syria today, over 3,000 western passports. It would be the most naive statement to say that we are winning the war in Syria," said Pittenger.
He says ISIS is still freely exporting oil to finance it's bloody assault on the region and has recruited anywhere from 60,000-80,000 foreign fighters while the United States is planning to train about 5,000 Syrian rebels.
"We are very much challenged by the commitment, the assertiveness, the aggression, and frankly the technical capabilities of ISIS and what has taken place in Syria," said Pittenger.
On Tuesday, Obama also hailed the end of combat operations in Afghanistan and said after once having 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are now 15,000 remaining in Afghanistan and that number is expected to decline even further.
Pittenger says Obama should think long and hard about forecasting stability in Afghanistan by pursuing the same strategy he employed in leaving Iraq.
"He did the same thing in Iraq, didn't he? We didn't have a force to retain there. As a result, we did not have the intelligence capabilities. We didn't have the support to get to the Iraqi army. It dismantled. We didn't have support to give to the Kurds to strengthen them. All of that dissolved. It created anarchy and chaos and the destruction that happened as a result of it. If he fully intends to withdraw out of Afghanistan, we're going to see the same type of collapse there," he said.
For the congressman, who also blasted Obama for seeking to normalize relations with Cuba, Obama is sending exactly the wrong message to our enemies. Pittenger says it's a pattern that began in 2009, when Obama decided to abandon our missile defense commitments in Poland and the Czech Republic and he believes it has only gotten worse.
"We've taken our armed forces down to the lowest level since before World War II. He's sent every signal out to our adversaries that we are not going to stand strong. That has made them more assertive and more provocative," said Pittenger.
When it comes to the fight against radical Islamic terrorists, Pittenger believes Obama shows a particular weakness.
"He more or less gives a blind eye to the assertiveness and the focus of the Islamic terrorists. I reminds me of what occurred with (former British Prime Minister) Neville Chamberlain prior to World War II. He never understood what Hitler was all about," said Pittenger.
Beyond Obama's refusal to identify our enemy is the uncertainty he leaves with allies in the Middle East. Pittenger has taken multiple trips to the region to meet with leaders there. He our friends in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and elsewhere have no idea what Obama believes or what to expect from him.
"They don't know where this president stands. They don't know, when he makes a commitment, if he's going to be there tomorrow. I heard that time and again, so that's why you have someone like the emir in Qatar playing both sides," said Pittenger.
Pittenger says the lessons America learned from the end of the Cold War and from the Obama years ought to be crystal clear.
"The world is safe when America is strong. When Ronald Reagan was president, he never fired a shot and the (Berlin) Wall came down because we stood strong. We haven;'t stood strong," he said.
The congressman says national security priorities for the Republican-controlled Congress include stronger border security and collaborative efforts with our allies to improve intelligence on our enemies and cut off their sources of funding.
- Police around the country are using more and more technologies to monitor us in our homes, often without probable cause, and privacy advocates warn Americans are on the verge of losing all privacy from their local governments.
The latest flash point in this debate came in Tuesday's edition of USA Today. That story detailed a fairly new type of radar that allows police to closely monitor activity in any home they wish to investigate.
"They're called doppler radar devices. What they do is they can see in the home. If you're a breathing, living human being, they can actually get the outline of your body and know where you're at," said Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead, who is also author of "A Government of Wolves" The Emerging American Police State."
This type of radar has been used by law enforcement since 2012. According to USA Today, the existence of this technology came to light after a federal appeals court in Denver blasted law enforcement for using the technology without a warrant.
Whitehead says obtaining a warrant before using the radar on a private residence gives it constitutional clearance, but any police using it without going through the appropriate legal channels are guilty of infringing on the privacy rights of citizens.
"Before the government does surveillance, they have to have probable cause, which means some evidence of illegality. With these types of devices, they can drive by your home now and just see if you're at home. If they want to come in under various laws now that allow them to do this, they can come into your home while you're gone, knowing you're not there and download all the information off your computer or other electronic devices," said Whitehead.
According to Whitehead, this radar is just the tip of the iceberg. He says some police departments have laser guns that can detect the presence of alcohol in cars, allowing officers to call ahead and have a colleague pull over someone who may never have been drinking. Another tool becoming more common is a stingray device dispensed to local police through the Department of Homeland Security.
"They drive by your home. [The device] is inside the car, but it acts as a fake cell phone tower. It actually can download whatever you're doing on your laptop or your cell phone," said Whitehead.
He says another concern are mobile body scanners invading our privacy.
"It fits inside a van. They drive by your house and they can see the outline of you. It's like when you fly at airports and you have to go through those scanning machines. They can see the outline of your body in your home. you don't even know it," said Whitehead, who alleges the scanners are being used unconstitutionally in many cases.
"They're not getting warrants. They've been using them secretly. They're handed out by the federal government, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security," he said. "As long as there's a warrant issued, you fit within the Constitution. The problem we're seeing now is they're using them secretly."
In addition to emerging methods of conducting surveillance from the ground, Whitehead says governments can keep tabs on you from the air.
"A number of these devices are attached to drones. Drones now legally fly over the United States. They can fly over your home and actually scan you inside your home. You don't even know it," said Whitehead.
"Do we have any privacy in our homes now?" he asked. "I would say probably not."
In addition to the daunting task of pushing back against government infringement of our privacy rights at all levels of government, Whitehead admits the first problem is the sheer number of Americans unconcerned about invasive surveillance.
"Most people aren't concerned, but as I've seen in former countries that have turned the wrong way in history, when the government does a lot of things people are comfortable [until] hey start focusing on someone who speaks out," said Whitehead. "
For example, if you go to a local city council meeting and you oppose the government, you can get in a lot of trouble. They'll have all kinds of information, including your electronic banking. They know how much money you spend, where you spend , where you spend it, what books you read. Eventually this stuff does come home. History teaches us that," he said.
When it comes to fighting back on the policy front, Whitehead is pushing lawmakers at all levels to pass an electronic privacy bill of rights. He says one of the core tenets of that should be for citizens to see exactly what their government knows about them.
"Number one, it should be available to the public. If they're shooting images of me, I should be able to go see it somewhere or tap into it on the internet. Number two, it shouldn't be used against you in a court of law because it does violate the Constitution," said Whitehead.
So where can citizens begin to fight back? Whitehead urges people to start as close to home as possible.
"Local citizens can get together and create oversight boards and force their local city councils to rein in all this equipment. The police should tell you if they have it and how they're using it. They should do quarterly reports," said Whitehead.
"That's going to take average American citizen getting down to their local city council meeting. You can do it, but you're going to have to get organized. If you want a free future for your children and your grandchildren, then you better get involved in your local governments and rein this stuff in," he said.
Whitehead says much more material on emerging law enforcement surveillance tactics can be found at rutherford.org.
- The former executive director for the Greater Los Angeles chapter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference believes Dr. King would be greatly distressed at the ongoing racial division in the United States and says those presenting themselves as today's black leaders cannot hold a candle to King and are merely 'huffing the fumes of a bygone era.'
"I think he'd be greatly disappointed in what he saw taking place over the last several months, possibly going back as far as the Trayvon Martin shooting," said Joe Hicks, a former liberal who no aligns with the conservative Project 21 black leadership network. He is also vice president of Community Advocates, Inc., a think tank based in Los Angeles.
The months leading up to Monday's observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day witnessed some of the most intense racial division in a generation as a result of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island. Grand juries in both places decided not to indict the officers connected to those cases. Protests, some of them destructive, broke out in Ferguson. New York City was rocked in December by the murders of two NYPD officers by a man who claimed the killings were retaliation for the deaths of black men in confrontation with white officers.
Hicks says Dr. King would not have been impressed with the protests in either place.
"I've had people ask me, 'Is this the rebirth of the new civil rights movement?' I hope not because when you have people marching through the streets of New York chanting things like, 'What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want them? Now,' Dr. King would have been appalled by that," said Hicks.
He places some of the blame for escalating tensions at the feet of today's black leaders. Hicks says King associates like Jesse Jackson, Rev. Joseph Lowery and Rep. John Lewis are taking on less public roles. That leaves the stage to figures like Rev. Al Sharpton. While he cannot be certain what King would say about today's black leaders, Hicks is confident the Nobel Peace Prize winner would not be impressed.
"Knowing how he viewed things and the honor with which he approached the things he was doing, I think he'd be a bit appalled by some the antics of somebody like Al Sharpton for instance, as well as some other folks that now claim the mantle. These people like Sharpton and others today are standing in the shadows of giants like King and huffing the fumes of a bygone era. I think he'd be a bit saddened by what he sees today," said Hicks.
According to Hicks, one major difference between King's goals and those pursued by Sharpton and others is that King championed a concrete, meaningful agenda.
"Dr. King was about some very real kinds of things: getting the ability of black Americans to vote, allowing people to access public accommodations, getting rid of discrimination in employment and on and on, a list of actual real things that were getting in the way of black Americans participating fully in this society," said Hicks.
What beliefs and values of King would serve the nation well in the midst of our current division? Hicks says King's most famous words would be a good starting point in which the civil rights leader implored Americans to judge one another by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. He says today's politics has it exactly backwards.
"That's something else I think he's be disappointed in is that we have this sort of racial identity politics that we see being played out in many of these current protests. That wasn't what Dr. King was all about. He wanted us to move past racialism and look at each other based on who we were as individuals, not so much judging people by what their skin color might indicate to others," said Hicks.
In the 47 years since King's assassination, Democrats and Republicans have both liberally quoted King to bolster their position on various political issues. Democrats claim they are carrying on the King legacy and reference the liberal path charted by other civil rights figures. Republicans point out that King was a Republican and frequently cite his comments on abortion, homosexuality and the inherent worth of the individual as evidence to the contrary. Hicks says King was probably drifting left in his later days, including his opposition to the Vietnam War, but he believes all sides need to stop co-opting King for today's political battles.
"People like Jackson, and to some extent John Lewis, are extremely liberal in their politics. Would King have followed that road? I don't know. It's possible he might have, but again that's speculation. A lot has changed and shifted in the culture, particularly black culture and black activism. It's taken some interesting kinds of roads. I'm not sure King would have been on board for all of that, but we don't know where he ultimately would have gone politically or ideologically," said Hicks.
Each year, the federal holiday in King's honor gives Americans the chance to reflect upon King's ideals and his impact on the United States. But Hicks says our culture makes it tough to drive home the values of Dr. King year-round, since his legacy is so frequently commercialized.
"Everybody tries to get a piece of this man and King is not unique in that. American culture has a way of rendering people as innocuous in some kinds of ways. How do you prevent that from happening? It's hard to do because that's what pop culture does," said Hicks.
"We see the movie Selma that just came out that distorts history. I think King would have been a little unhappy with how events were treated by a movie put out by Hollywood, attempting to characterize him and the movement," he said.
- Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) says President Obama's loyalty to liberal special interests could doom Republican efforts to fund the Department of Homeland Security while blocking funding for Obama's unilateral action to confer legal status on at least five million people in the nation illegally.
However, Flores says Obama is already taking additional actions to undermine the rule of law and American families before Congress even finishes it defunding efforts.
"I don't hold out much hope for the president. He puts the interests of others ahead of the interests of families," said Flores.
Congress did agree to fund the process to confer legal status on those millions of illegal aliens through the end of February as part of the "cromnibus" vote in December that postponed the long-term debate over Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations while funding the rest of government through September. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved legislation funding DHS through September but stripping out money to enforce Obama's November memorandum.
However, the House legislation will need 60 votes to clear the U.S. Senate and that appears very unlikely. Even if the votes do materialize, an Obama veto would make an override impossible. Republican leaders vow to push hard to pass the House bill but admit they're not sure what to do if it fails.
But even if Republicans were to defy the odds and stop the funding, Flores says Obama is already tapping into other money to accomplish his goals.
"He's taking the fees from people who are trying to go through the legal immigration process properly. He's using those fees to pay for the cost of trying to allow the folks that are here illegally to jump to the head of the line," said Flores.
Obama is not only treating legal immigrants worse than illegal ones, but Flores reminds American workers that the soon-to-be legalized immigrants will also have a major advantage when competing for jobs.
"He's created this perverse incentive for American employers to hire illegals under this new program, over hiring Americans. The employers don't have to provide Obamacare. There's certain other benefits they don't have to provide. So you have a $3,000 advantage if you're an employer to hire somebody here illegally than to hire legal American workers," said Flores.
Flores says this is just the latest punch in the gut to hard working Americans.
"He's put American workers at the back of the line, and this is after they're already hurting under the Obama economic policies," he said.
While the odds of victory seem slim in stopping Obama's agenda, Flores says Republicans will continue to fight.
"Those of us in the House of Representatives who believe in the rule of law are going to side with the strong majority of Americans that thinks that the president's action was improper and unlawful. So we are going to fight to stop this presidential action," said Flores, pointing to constitutional clarity on how laws get changed in the United States.
"Article I of the Constitution says that Congress has the right to make all laws. It doesn't say anything about the president having any right to break the laws. It also doesn't say the president has the right to make the law if Congress fails to act," said Flores. "If Congress addresses immigration reform, then that's solely for us to do. If we elect not to address immigration reform, the president really doesn't have any options. He has to live with that."
Flores is also focused on a debate brewing among House Republicans. He chairs the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a coalition of House conservatives that is the largest caucus on Capitol Hill. More than a dozen Republicans contend the RSC is becoming insufficiently conservative and are planning to form a new group designed to push GOP leaders to the right.
The congressman dismisses allegations that the RSC is too moderate or too timid in lobbying leadership.
"It is the largest, most conservative, most effective caucus in Congress. There are at least 150 members of Congress, which make up about two-thirds of the House Republicans, that want to be part of that because it has the greatest ability to influence legislation and to push our leadership toward conservative principles," he said.
As for the possible defections by some conservatives, Flores says he has no problem with the formation of other conservative groups that will advocate for conservative ideas.
"There's room for other groups as well. So to the extent that other members of the RSC would like to form another group to be part of so that they can talk about their ideas, I'm fine with that. I think it's complementary and most of those folks that are doing that are remaining as members of the RSC. So there's not really a split in the RSC. There are just a smaller number of people that want to go form a group so that they can share their ideas among themselves. We applaud that move and think that it's perfectly appropriate," said Flores.