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Commentary

Week In Politics: Hobby Lobby, Jobs Numbers And Immigration Protests

Originally published on Sun July 6, 2014 5:27 pm

Regular political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Ramesh Ponnuru of The National Review, discuss the Supreme Court's decision on contraception, June jobs numbers and immigration protests in the California city of Murrieta.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel. And we begin this hour looking back on a week that witnessed some dramatic political events. On Monday in front of the Supreme Court, lawyer Lori Windham celebrated the court's ruling on behalf of her client Hobby Lobby.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LORI WINDHAM: Today's decision is a landmark decision for religious freedom.

SIEGEL: It was a decision on contraceptives. Gynecologist Jeanne Conroy was one of many leading physicians who opposed it.

JEANNE CONROY: This clearly puts an employer in the exam room with me in my patient and that's untenable.

SIEGEL: Also this week, a crisis along the Mexican border heated up. Unaccompanied minors from Central America are over whelming the the immigration system. The new arrivals found support from people like Caitlin Sanderson of the Esperanza Project.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CAITLIN SANDERSON: What do we want to do, we want to send all these kids back to a region that has the highest murder rate in the world?

SIEGEL: And they met with vehement resistance from residents of Murrieta, California people like Robin Vitstin.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBIN VITSIN: I feel like my government has become human traffickers. Who's financing it, the taxpayer.

SIEGEL: All this and a record week on Wall Street should keep our Friday commentators busy. Here are E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and The Brookings Institution. Welcome back.

E.J. DIONNE: Thank you, happy fourth.

SIEGEL: And sitting in for David Brooks, Ramesh Ponnuru of The National Review and Bloomberg View. Hi ya, how you doing?

RAMESH PONNURU: Just great, thank you.

SIEGEL: Gentlemen let's start with the Supreme Court which first in the Hobby Lobby case and then in a case involving Wheaton College chose the religious convictions of the employer, or the college, over women's coverage for contraception which is mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Who's got the people on their side on this one, E.J.?

DIONNE: Well, contraception is rather popular as far as I can tell. I don't see a lot of families of 12 out there anymore. And there are some numbers that show that 99 percent of women have used contraception at some point or other. So I think politically this is probably an opening for Democrats in the fall. There are a couple of disturbing things to me about this case and I'm generally more sympathetic to religious liberty arguments and some liberals are. One is the way in which the court in the Hobby Lobby case continued its campaign to transform the meaning of corporate law. Individuals use a corporate form, as Justice Ginsburg said in her dissent, to escape personal responsibility for their entity's obligation but then all of the sudden they can exercise rights of individuals. And she said, and I quote, "One might ask why the separation should hold only when it serves the interests of those who control the corporation". And then you have the second point which is right after the court said that Pres. Obama's compromise for religious nonprofits was pretty good. Justice Alito said quote, "It achieves all of the government ends while providing greater respect for religious liberty," then turned around yesterday and said well, actually that accommodation isn't good enough for Wheaton College. So I think there's going to be a lot of controversy next week.

SIEGEL: Ramesh, what you think about this?

PONNURU: Well, one of the interesting and underreported aspects of this decision is the split among the four dissenters where Justice Ginsburg, in the dissent she wrote, joined entirely by Justice Sotomayor, makes this point about corporate rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But Justice Breyer and Kagan refused to sign on to that part of the opinion. So there does appear to be a 7 to 2 majority on the Supreme Court for extending the protections of this law to businesses. As for the political fallout, I think the very platitude and availability of contraception everywhere sort of undercuts the political kiss the Democrats want to make because a lot of people are going to say why do we have to force people who don't want to provide this to do so since contraception is so widely available.

DIONNE: I just want to say on the 7 to 2 business he is right, Ramesh is, about a certain split on the part of the opinion but they were dissenters and it's worth noting that Justin Kagan joined justice Sotomayor - three women dissenting...

SIEGEL: On the Wheaton College.

DIONNE: ...On the Wheaton College case sending dissenting very angrily Justice Sotomayor noting this inconsistency that I referred to earlier said those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word, not today. So I think there's more unity there than their suggestion.

PONNURU: Although, I'd say that's sort of an alleged inconsistency. Ginsberg - look, the majority decision in Hobby lobby said we're not pronouncing on the legal legitimacy of that accommodation. The Ginsberg dissent complains that the majority isn't doing that. We then have a stay yesterday in which again the court isn't a making a decision about the legal legitimacy of it and it specifically suggesting that as the government says the administration itself says no contraception is going to be denied anybody under this because it has to be provided regardless of Wheaton signs this form or not.

SIEGEL: OK. Another important item I want to hear from both of you on. What do you read in this spike of boarder crossings by minors from Central America and what you make of the U.S. response of it? Ramesh, you first.

PONNURU: Well, it has, of course, been the roiling immigration debate which was already at a pretty high temperature. And I think that it seems like a vindication for a lot of the people who've been skeptical of comprehensive immigration reform because they are arguing the danger of this has always been that if you have any kind of legalization that's going to act as a magnet for people. And even the limited legalization of the administration for minors seems to have acted as a magnet for more illegal immigration even though the particular kids are not apparently eligible for this.

SIEGEL: What about that E.J.? Has the administration walked into a case of incredibly unintended consequences?

DIONNE: It's not clear to me that the notion of a magnet is at the heart of this. I think at the heart of this is some real terrible violence in Central America, a lot of smugglers making a lot of promises to people about getting kids in. And there are a lot of issues of family unification here. And I think everybody on this is going to seek vindication because you can argue just as easily that we ought to be dealing with comprehension immigration reform right now because we do have a real problem and if we just keep kicking a broad solution down the road we're going to have more problems. And it was really striking, Pres. Obama had a real change in mood this week I thought - inspired by the Republican saying they're going to sue him. And he's been basically say go ahead and sue me and he's really running against the Republicans on immigration and a whole other series of issues saying I want to act, they don't want to act and now they want to stop me from acting. And I think you're seeing a theme of the campaign in the fall coming out this week.

SIEGEL: E.J. Dionnne and Ramesh Ponnuru. I guess next week we'll talk about 6.1 percent unemployment 17,000 Dow Jones

DIONNE: Happy days are here again.

SIEGEL: Thank you.

DIONNE: Thank you.

PONNURU: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.