Snowden, Climate, Immigration Top a Busy Week

White House on a summer evening (Photo/WWR)
By
Paul Brandus
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No surprise: The Russian government won't help the U.S. detain accused National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, who is said to be in Moscow, after leaving Hong Kong Sunday. A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin says "It is not a question for us. We don't know what his plans are and we were unaware he was coming here." 

The White House issued a statement early Monday reminding the Kremlin that the U.S. has returned "numerous high level criminals back to Russia at the request of the Russian government," before adding "We expect the Russian govt to look at all options available to expel Mr Snowden back to the U.S." 

The U.S. threw the book at Snowden Friday, charging him under the 1917 Espionage Act with "stealing government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information" and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person." The last two charges could get Snowden up to a decade in prison each if he was ever convicted.

Supreme Court

It's the final week of the Supreme Court's term. They're expected to issue rulings on several high profile cases, notably gay marriage, affirmative action and the Voting Rights act. "In the court's modern history, I don't think there has ever been one week with so much at stake," says Tom Goldstein, a Supreme Court lawyer, whose Scotusblog website tracks the court. A quick look at what's at stake: 

  • Gay marriage: One case involves is a challenge to California's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The other concerns the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that currently prevents legally married gay couples from receiving a range of tax, health and pension benefits. 
  • Affirmative action: A white woman denied admission to the University of Texas is challenging the school's use of race as a factor in admissions; a  broad ruling could have national implications. 
  • Voting rights: The court is being asked to end the nearly 50-year-old requirement for some state and local governments (mostly in the South) and with a history of discrimination in voting, to get the advance approval of any changes in the way they hold elections. The challenge comes from a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama.  

Immigration

The Senate is pushing ahead with immigration reform. One member of the so-called "Gang of Eight" - South Carolina's Lindsey Graham told Fox Sunday that "We're very, very close to 70 votes." A GOP amendment to spend $40 billion beefing up border security over a decade "gets us over the top," he predicts.

But House passage of immigration reform is far from certain. Border security isn't the issue there - it's citizenship for millions of Hispanics that Republicans are fretting over.  Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) says he won't move any bill that lacks the support of a majority of the GOP conference, no matter now popular it is in the Senate. 

President Acts on Climate Change 

President Obama will unveil on Tuesday a plan to fight climate change. It's expected to include limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, which most scientists say is a principal contributor to global warming.  

Obama knows that any major climate legislation bill can't get through Congress, so look for him to bypass lawmakers by using executive powers. This in turn will likely draw legal challenges from opponents. 

 


 

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