Washington Extra – The bench’s backstories
|As the Supreme Court justices convene Wednesday to hear arguments in the case Arizona v United States, will their thoughts drift to Italy, Ireland, Poland and Puerto Rico?
The challenge to Arizona’s tough immigration law may have the justices thinking about their own families’ origins and journeys to America. As Reuters reports today, nearly all of them, like their countrymen, descend from people who came looking for a better life (the notable exception is Justice Clarence Thomas whose great-grandmother was a slave).
Their ancestral stories may not tell us how they feel about illegal immigration or whether they will rule in favor of Arizona. But they are clearly a point of pride in their biographies and were often cited in nomination hearings.
Take Justice Samuel Alito, who referred to the experience of his own father, brought to the United States from Italy as an infant. It “is typical of a lot of Americans both back in his day and today. And it is a story, as far as I can see it, about the opportunities that our country offers, and also about the need for fairness and about hard work and perseverance and the power of a small good deed.”
Here are our top stories from Washington…
U.S. eyes options to restart Afghan peace talks – President Obama’s administration, seeking to revive stalled Afghan peace talks, may alter plans to transfer Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison after its initial proposal fell afoul of political opponents at home and the insurgents themselves. For more of this exclusive story by Missy Ryan, read here.
SEC probes movie studios over dealings in China – Regulators are investigating major movie studios’ dealings with China as the entertainment companies try to get a greater foothold in one of the fastest-growing movie markets in the world. For more of this exclusive story by Aruna Viswanatha, read here.
Mad cow disease found in California; USDA says no human threat – The USDA confirmed a California dairy cow had mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the fourth such U.S. case since it was first found here in 2003, but said no parts of the animal entered the nation’s food supply. John Clifford, the USDA’s chief veterinary officer, said there was “no cause for alarm” from the animal, which was found at a rendering plant that processes diseased or sick animals into non-edible products for use in things like soap or glue. For more of this story by Roberta Rampton, read here.
State attorneys general: New Republican power – In the ornate Chinese Ballroom of Washington’s Mayflower Hotel, nine Republican state attorneys general gathered last month at a long, white-cloth covered table for an unusual news conference. One by one, as TV news cameras rolled, they catalogued their many lawsuits against President Barack Obama’s administration. When it came to Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s turn, he said, “We have eight lawsuits.” One of those, defending Arizona’s new law requiring police officers to check the papers of anyone they suspect is in the U.S. illegally, will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday. For more of this analysis by Joan Biskupic, read here.
How the Supreme Court justices came to America – On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will close out the 2011-2012 term with another controversial case: Arizona v. United States, which challenges Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigrants. The case will be heard by nine justices, each of whom has his or her own immigration story. There is geographic reach — from the British Isles to Russia to Puerto Rico — and also generational, with some members of the bench tracing their roots to pre-Revolutionary times. For more on this story, read here.
Senate Democrats plan immigration backup bill – Democrats in the Senate are preparing a backup plan to thwart sweeping immigration laws in Arizona and other states if the nation’s top court supports the hotly debated measures. For more of this story by Susan Heavey, read here.
Obama stresses own struggles paying student loans – Describing his own struggle to pay off college debt and taking another dig at his likely White House rival’s wealth, President Obama sought to expand his advantage with young voters with a call to make education more affordable. “I didn’t just read about this. I didn’t just get some talking points about this. I didn’t just get a policy briefing on this. Michelle and I, we’ve been in your shoes,” he told students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For more of this story by Jeff Mason, read here.
Gingrich to reassess bid for U.S. Republican nomination – Tuesday could be the final stop of Newt Gingrich’s wild ride of a presidential campaign. The Republican candidate told NBC News he would reassess his candidacy depending on his finish in Delaware, one of five northeastern states holding presidential primaries Tuesday, and the state where Gingrich has campaigned most heavily. For more of this story by Sam Jacobs, read here.
Obama calls misbehaving Secret Service agents “knuckleheads” – President Barack Obama on Tuesday blamed a Colombia prostitution scandal engulfing the U.S. Secret Service on the misconduct of a “couple of knuckleheads” and insisted that the vast majority of agents perform their work admirably. For more of this story by Jeff Mason, read here.
Senate Democrats close ranks to fight Keystone – Senate Democrats closed ranks to block quick approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline as they begin negotiations with House of Representatives Republicans on a compromise job-creating transportation construction bill. For more of this story by David Lawder, read here.
Senate heads toward renewal of domestic abuse law – Senate Republicans, accused by Democrats of waging “a war on women,” are expected to yield to election-year pressure as early as this week and help renew a landmark law to combat domestic violence. Many Senate Republicans complain that the White House-backed bill would excessively expand the 1994 Violence Against Women Act by providing protection to gays, immigrants and Native Americans. For more of this story by Thomas Ferraro, read here.
MF Global judge OKs payout; Freeh says no bonuses – A federal judge authorized the trustee liquidating MF Global’s brokerage unit to distribute as much as $685 million to customers whose accounts had been frozen when the futures brokerage went bankrupt. The payout authorized by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn in Manhattan is on top of the more than $4 billion that the trustee James Giddens has already distributed, according to the trustee’s spokesman Kent Jarrell. For more of this story by Dave Clarke, Alexandra Alper and Jonathan Stempel, read here.
Kimmel to “feast on stupid comments” at White House dinner – Late-night TV comedian Jimmy Kimmel admits he is anxious about headlining his first White House Correspondents Dinner this coming Saturday, and his self-confessed lack of insight into Washington doesn’t help calm his nerves. The star of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” told Reuters his interest in politics is roughly equal to his interest in sports — and in reality TV star Kim Kardashian. For more of this story by Mary Milliken, read here.
North Korea’s nuclear test ready “soon” – North Korea has almost completed preparations for a third nuclear test, a senior source with close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters, which will draw further international condemnation following a failed rocket launch if it goes ahead. For more of this exclusive story, read here.