Hollow the Leader: Biden's Empty Year Takes Its Toll

Hollow the Leader: Biden's Empty Year Takes Its Toll

January 14, 2022

If you thought your week was bad, Joe Biden's was worse. The president, who is bleeding support with every empty produce aisle, has had his share of awful days. Still, his PR team probably wouldn't have chosen to spend his one-year anniversary in office next Thursday spinning a trifecta of defeats. In a matter of hours, Biden witnessed the end of the private employer vaccine mandate at the Supreme Court -- followed, that same afternoon, by a death blow to two of the Left's signature priorities: the crusade to end the Senate filibuster and his raging attempt to takeover U.S. elections.

After 12 months of self-inflicted wounds, it was the embarrassing cap to an already dismal first year. With his agenda in tatters and public confidence at new lows, the path forward is anything but clear. "He's just not up to the job of being president," Jim Geraghty argues. Others, like David Brooks, say it's time to sideline the extremist voices and find some middle ground. "Today is the day for Biden to begin revamping his presidency in a more centrist direction. There's no path forward for a leftist agenda."

And yet, even the president himself seems in denial on that fact, telling reporters when the election bill went down in flames that "As long as I'm in the White House, as long as I'm engaged at all, I'm going to be fighting... Like every other major civil rights bill that came along, if we miss the first time, we can come back and try it a second time."

But for Democrats, there may not be a second time. In poll after poll, Biden's party is staring down numbers that would take a Lazarus-like miracle to bounce back from. Only four percent of Americans -- four -- think the economy has recovered under Biden. Seventy percent believe his policies are making the situation worse, and 66 percent said they doubted whether the president was even "a leader you could trust" -- including more than a third of his own party!

Two Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) probably identify with that concern more than anyone after watching the president turn his back on everything he stood for in their chamber. This was a man, in 2005, who fought to the death to protect the legislative filibuster. "Republicans may own the field right now," the younger Biden warned, "but you won't own it forever. And I pray God when the Democrats take back control, we don't make the kind of naked power grab you are doing."

"We have termed this the filibuster flip-flop in the United States Senate," Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) chuckled when she saw the clip. "We've seen this with President Joe Biden. We've seen this with the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, where just a handful of years ago, he was saying that elimination of the filibuster would spell doomsday for democracy. And obviously, their tune has changed, and we've called them to the carpet on this." But at the end of the day, she shook her head, "it's all about self-preservation for them." It's all about a flailing party guaranteeing permanent, total control.

Fortunately, two Democratic senators had the foresight to see the devastation that a filibuster-free Senate would have on the rest of America. In a powerful speech on the floor, Sinema cut through her party's melodramatic talking points and got to the heart of the matter: Lowering the 60-vote threshold is the lazy way out of legislating for either party. This whole conversation, she chided, "is a poor substitute for what I believe could have been and should have been a thoughtful public debate at any time over the past year." Killing a rule that forces senators to compromise and work together doesn't solve "the disease of division," she argued. "Today marks the longest time in history that the Senate has been equally divided. The House of Representatives is nearly equally divided as well... Our mandate, it seems evident to me, [is to] work together and get stuff done for America."

It was the final nail in the coffin to the Democrats' election takeover hopes. With the filibuster in place and the narrowest possible majority, there's no way for Biden's party to ram through their unpopular legislation -- for now. "I do believe we're in a safe situation," Ernst agreed, "but that could change. For now the filibuster is safe."

That's a relief to experts like J. Christian Adams, who saw the founders' dream on the verge of complete extinction. "The Senate was designed to slow down legislation..." he explained on "Washington Watch." "Otherwise, Washington would be even more out of control than it is." It's a check and balance that requires consensus and equilibrium. And we tinker with it at great risk. Even the American people seem to have come around to that fact, rallying around the filibuster with an even bigger majority since June.

For Joe Biden, the task of stopping his spiraling presidency just became a whole lot harder. Staring down crises he can't solve, voters he can't convince, and a party he can't satiate, the next three years must seem like a long and exhausting prospect. With few other prospects, maybe the president could return to the one thing voters asked of him. Americans "didn't give President Biden a mandate for much," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pointed out, but they did give him a job he's thus far ignored: uniting a hurt and divided country. Maybe now is the time to take that call seriously.

Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

At Christian Colleges, a Degree of Intolerance from DOE

January 14, 2022

Inflation is off the charts, Russia's on the verge of a Ukrainian war, shoppers can't find a bagged salad to save their lives, and what is Joe Biden's focus? Transgenderism. While the country fights to stay above water in the COVID surge, worker shortage, price hikes, and every other crisis this administration has made worse, the Department of Education has decided to take the fight over gender identity to Christian colleges. If this is their attempt to change the conversation, it's a pathetic one.

Secretary Miguel Cardona must be a glutton for punishment, because fresh off of the news that he was responsible for the "parents-as-domestic-terrorists" letter scandal, he's directing his attack dogs at the Office of Civil Rights to investigate Lincoln Christian University in Illinois for not indulging the fantasy of one of its male students who wanted to be treated as a girl on campus. Kalie Hargrove, the young man in question, claims the university "discriminated against [him]" by associating him with his actual biological sex.

Hargrove, who's no longer at LCU, complained to the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP), who is systematically targeting Christian institutions who uphold biblical sexuality. Now, the extremists at REAP have apparently convinced the DOE to act, writing, "In August 2021, the University discriminated against Kalie Hargrove (Student A) on the basis of sex (gender identity) by directing her either to withdraw from classes or face discipline because she publicly identified as transgender."

Of course, under Title IX protections, any school that receives federal funds has to adhere to the far-Left's definitions of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." The exception -- the one REAP is desperate to undermine -- is for religious institutions like LCU. But the DOE is apparently image-conscious, worried more what people will think if it doesn't uphold the Left's standard of wokeness than the First Amendment. In the lawsuit, REAP has damning words for the department, accusing it of turning a blind eye "to the abuses that thousands of LGBTQ+ students [have] endured at taxpayer-funded religious colleges and universities."

Interestingly enough, back in June, Cardona's agency seemed willing to defend the exemption, even as it promised "a comprehensive review of its regulations implementing [the law]." REAP was apparently unsatisfied with that and demanded an investigation. Even so, they aren't optimistic. "We are glad to see the Office for Civil Rights take this important step in protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ students at taxpayer-funded religious colleges," REAP founder and director, Paul Southwick, said in a statement. "However, we fear that the religious exemption to Title IX will likely result in the dismissal of Kalie's complaint."

Even if they aren't successful, REAP's inroads at DOE sound an important alarm. This is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to religious freedom. Because the real goal here isn't just agreeing to call a boy a girl. It's about driving all Bible-believing Christians, Christian education, and Christian institutions into some sort of spiritual ghetto -- far away from the public square. This push to undermine the religious tenants of these institutions may be part of the Left's response to the growing enrollment at Christian colleges and universities while secular institutions are seeing significant declines. It's also driven by the idea that religion is something we should keep to ourselves. And eventually, as we've seen in oppressive regimes throughout history, even that won't be enough.

As FRC's Meg Kilgannon, a DOE official in the Trump administration warned, "The reality of sex is under attack by the fiction of gender. At the same time, respect for religious convictions and legal protections for believers are being undermined LGBTQ activists. Religious colleges and universities have every right to their beliefs. And so do LGBTQ activists. What they can't do is force their beliefs on others. But that is what groups like REAP want to do -- force a religious college to allow a man pretending to be a woman to study on campus, when religion and science both reject the notion that a person can change his or her biological sex."

Unfortunately for the Left, they've picked this fight at exactly the wrong time. Yes, extremists finally have a radical president in the White House who agrees with their twisted priorities. But that's all they have. The public -- especially after incidents like the Left's pool party last weekend -- has turned on the idea that Americans should accommodate this gender madness at their children's expense. The transgender movement knows it. Pollsters know it. For a lot of families, especially in sports, the transgender debate is no longer an academic one. And as this conversation hits closer and closer to home, America's reaction is becoming a lot like the swimmers' parents at Saturday's Ivy League meet: this is "messed up."

Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

A Win at SCOTUS on Vaccine Mandates

January 14, 2022

On Thursday afternoon, the Supreme Court issued a mixed bag regarding President Biden's vaccine mandate. The Court struck down OSHA's mandate requiring all employers with over 100 employees to enforce a vaccine mandate. However, Justice Roberts and Kavanaugh sided with the liberal justices to permit the mandate on those working with Medicaid and Medicare recipients to move forward.

Overall, yesterday was a win for liberty at SCOTUS. The OSHA mandate is a larger victory as that mandate reached the government's tentacles into the private business of employers and employees that had no relationship with the government. OSHA is charged with administering occupational health and safety standards -- not broad public health policy. As we are all well aware, COVID doesn't just spread in work environments; it spreads at family events, social events, all aspects of life. OSHA only has the authority to set standards to protect workers -- not people in every aspect of their life. In addition, the rule is so broad it treats landscapers who spend a majority of their time outside equal to those who work indoors in close quarters. It was clear that the Biden administration simply wanted to create a vaccine mandate and searched high and low for any remote legal authority -- the Supreme Court saw through this.

The majority opinion noted that Congress has passed plenty of legislation in light of COVID. If they wanted to pass a vaccine mandate, they could have. A policy that impacts over 80 million people should be decided by Congress. Not OSHA, who lacks the authority from Congress. Biden far overreached any authority he had and thankfully the Supreme Court was there to stop his regime.

Meanwhile, in the Medicaid and Medicare case at the Supreme Court, the majority said that the Secretary is permitted to make a long list of detailed conditions with which facilities must comply to receive Medicare and Medicaid funds. The Court also found that the Secretary was able to require the vaccine for workers to be included in the list -- especially due to the vulnerable nature of those receiving Medicaid and Medicare.

While this will continue to play out in the lower courts, we are hopeful they will continue to rule for freedom in the face of this mandate. As Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita told Tony Perkins on "Washington Watch," this is "going to bode well" for the federal contractor mandate challenge. "We have to argue those cases in front of the same court," Rokita said. "So [there's a] slightly different kind of a fact pattern in the sense that the federal contractor case was an executive order made by President Biden to do this to employees that had federal contracts with the federal government. But if they smack down the OSHA argument because OSHA was never meant by Congress to be that broad, then it's also kind of hard to argue, then, that the federal government through the executive branch ... can say to the employee of a federal contractor, you have to do this, that and the other thing that has nothing to do with the federal contract."

Meanwhile, Rokita noted that the Head Start case may go along the same lines as the Medicaid and Medicare ruling. "I do see the similarities [with the health care workers mandate] in the sense that Head Start is federally funded," he said. "These hospitals are also federally funded through Medicare, Medicaid, and so there's a nexus to the federal government there that's stronger than an OSHA... The HHS secretary in the CMS case has, by definition, broader public health concerns." However, "you could argue that that's not the role of federal government," he observed. It "would be a great argument." We shall see.

While we would like to have seen a win for liberty in both cases -- as nobody should be forced to make the choice between their job or the vaccine -- we applaud the Supreme Court for rejecting Biden's attempt to overreach into the health decisions of private employees. The halt yields a beautiful result of allowing private health decisions to be made by people without fear or coercion.