Pennsylvania GOP’s last chance to keep gerrymandered map goes up in smoke

Addy Baird

Addy Baird Think Progress

The United States Supreme Court declined to hear a request from Republican legislators in Pennsylvania who wanted the court to block a new congressional map in the state. It’s the second time the high court has rejected the case, and there were no noted dissents.

The decision means that Pennsylvania’s upcoming May primaries in the state’s new districts will go forward without delay, and the new map is likely a boon for Democrats come general elections this fall. The deadline to qualify to run for the redrawn seats is Tuesday.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court struck down the state’s congressional map earlier this year, determining that the map, drawn in 2011, violated the state’s constitution. The map was one of the most egregious examples of gerrymandering — a strategy of drawing districts in outlandish ways in an effort to elect more members of one party — in the county’s history, as Marc Stier, the director of Pennsylvania’s Budget and Policy Center, put it in an interview with ThinkProgress last week.

The map was ultimately redrawn by a nonpartisan expert, creating four swing districts, eight that favor Republicans, and six that favor Democrats. This is a sea-change from years past, when Republicans have typically won 13 out of 18 House seats despite getting only about 50 percent of total statewide votes.

Republican legislators in the state have fought to block the new map since January, arguing that the legislature should have been the one to redraw the map.

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court conspicuously seized the redistricting process and prevented any meaningful ability for the legislature to enact a remedial map to ensure a court-drawn map,” state House Speaker Michael C. Turzai (R) and Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph B. Scarnati III said.

But federal courts have historically steered clear of issues of state constitutions, and the Supreme Court’s decision makes final the redrawn map.

President Donald Trump, of course, has weighed in on the issue, tweeting his support for the Republican cause last month.

“Your Original was correct!” he said. “Don’t let Dems take elections away from you so that they can raise taxes & waste money!”

The decision finalizing Pennsylvania’s new map comes less than a week after Democrat Conor Lamb won a special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th district, which Trump won by 20 points in 2016.

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Reposted from Think Progress

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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A Friendly Reminder

A Friendly Reminder