South Carolina

Today, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had one of the least-fun jobs in Washington: She had to testify at the House Judiciary Committee’s DHS oversight hearing.  The Republican members of this particular committee—especially the chairman, immigration hardliner Lamar Smith—have found very little to like about the White House’s immigration policy, and, sure enough, the back-and-forth I watched today was less than cordial. But in one important respect, it was revealing. Consider Napolitano’s exchange with Republican Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.

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That didn’t take long. Republican lawmakers from across the country are saying no to the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid—even though it means turning down a sweetheart deal from the federal government that would create jobs in their states and, more important, provide millions of low-income Americans with health insurance. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and, of course, Rick Scott of Florida were the first Republican governors to say they would take advantage of last week’s Supreme Court ruling in NFIB v.

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Given the immense attention rightly being devoted to the Supreme Court’s treatment of the individual mandate, it’s not surprising that far fewer words are being spilled on the Court’s other big finding: that the federal government cannot withhold all Medicaid funds from states refusing to accept the Medicaid expansion that contributes so much to the law’s goal of covering the uninsured.

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Just the other day, someone wrote this: The United States of America has a black President whose chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Eric Holder, is also black. They have a lot of political power. So how are they using it? Well, one way is to assert to black audiences that voter ID laws are really attempts to disenfranchise black Americans.

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“We’re Americans,” Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu told me two weeks ago in the Russell Senate building in Washington, D.C. “We don’t eat our dogs, and we don’t eat our horses.” She had just finished delivering a speech to a rapt audience of two-dozen bright-eyed teenage girls, a handful of congressmen, top members of the ASPCA and Humane Society, and Lorenzo Borghese, star of the ninth season of the reality television show The Bachelor.

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Of all the issues on which Mitt Romney will be tempted to execute an “Etch-a-Sketch” moment as he heads into the general election, immigration is the most pressing. Remember, on immigration Romney didn’t just rely on his super PAC to slur his opponents; he identified himself robustly with the nativist strain in the GOP. This worked out fine in the primaries: It helped him snuff the existential threat of Rick Perry’s candidacy, and provided additional fodder for his team’s crucial attack on Newt Gingrich after the South Carolina primary.

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When Governor Jan Brewer signed S.B. 1070—Arizona’s notorious immigration law—in 2010, she didn’t just enact what was, at the time, the harshest immigration regime in the United States; she also inspired copycat bills in a number of other states. But with the Supreme Court set to consider the constitutionality of Arizona’s law—oral arguments for Arizona v. United States will be heard on Wednesday, and the Court’s decision is expected by the end of June—there’s a lot more at stake than the fate of S.B. 1070 and its imitators.

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The Operator

Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. In early 2010, Karl Rove convened a group of businessmen for lunch at a private club in Dallas. The guests included some of the richest and most influential people in Texas. T. Boone Pickens, the corporate raider from Amarillo, was there, as was Harlan Crow, the prodigal son of Trammell Crow, the most prominent real estate developer in the country in his day.

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Located halfway between the state capital of Columbia and the port city of Charleston, Orangeburg County, South Carolina is among the more geographically blessed areas of the country. It’s also one of its poorest. Over a quarter of its population lives below the poverty line, with a per capita income of $17,579. And this is poverty of a particularly stubborn sort.

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It became clear this week that Newt Gingrich's ego trip campaign, which brought him one glorious night in South Carolina, has come at the cost of losing a very lucrative racket: the for-profit health care think tank he presided over this past decade has filed for bankruptcy. From the Washington Post: The Center for Health Transformation had promoted private-sector solutions to America’s skyrocketing health-care costs. It also became a source of significant cash for Gingrich and his wife, Callista.

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