WHO IS RAUL LABRADOR: THE CONSERVATIVE CONGRESSMAN AND FORMER IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY

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For all the continual bumps in the road, the GOP is doing what it can to make inroads in the Hispanic community.  But while it seems like everyone left, right, and center has heard of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Congressman Raul Labrador (R-ID), fellow member of the class of 2010, has been behind the scenes advancing a strong conservative agenda in the House of Representatives. While Congressman Labrador has appeared on the Sunday shows a number of times, and was even a speaker at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., he has not received the same attention from media circles as his colleague in the Senate, despite the accolades from the right. He recently obtained a 100% rating from the Club for Growth and previously from Americans for Prosperity, two well established conservative organizations. In addition, he made recent news for putting his money where his mouth is regarding fiscal responsibility, returning21% of his office budget to to pay down the national debt.

Raul Labrador provides the GOP with a credible face for broader immigration reform. | AP Photo

Born and raised by a single mother in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Rep. Labrador first moved to the United States in 1981 at the age of 13, but not to the usual locations of New York or Florida. A friend of his mother’s suggested Las Vegas, Nevadawhich at the time experienced an economic boom. He later graduated from Brigham Young University (where he met his wife, Rebecca) and received his law degree from the University of Washington.

So how did Congressman Labrador find himself becoming a conservative standard bearer?

Labrador’s mother was heavily involved in Puerto Rican politics, describing her as a Democrat and strong admirer of the Kennedys. “But when we moved to Las Vegas, one of the first things [my mother] did after getting a job was getting registered to vote,” says Labrador in an interview with Politic365. “And in Las Vegas, Nevada you had to register by party, and she decided to register as a Republican, which was shocking to me!”

Labrador’s mother was one of those famed “Reagan Democrats,” excited about voting for Reagan in the next primary.

It was from there that Labrador discovered Ronald Reagan, the values and principles he held, discovering the same principles Reagan held aligned with those taught at home. His mother taught him to not rely on the government, to work hard, and be successful in whatever path he chose to take, and the GOP was the party who advocated these same principles. But despite Congressman Labrador’s virtually perfect backstory for a political candidate, like Marco Rubio he had to achieve victory over the GOP Establishment by winning the 2010 primary in an upset. “I went back to the old Reagan coalition,” Labrador explained when asked how he won over the primary voters, “and I talked to all of them about exactly how the Republican Party should be. I believed the Republican Party has kinda lost its way for awhile, sometimes we are good at espousing conservative principles, but not at living them.” Like many other Tea Party candidates in 2010, Labrador’s message of bringing honest conservative principles back to the GOP and a willingness to go against the wishes of the establishment propelled him to victory as a freshman member of Congress.

U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) speaks at a Tea Party rally March 31, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. The group says it is "challenging Congress and the members it helped sweep into power to take swift action on the budget." (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

 A Look at the Federal Tax Code

Coming into 2012, Congressman Labrador is hoping major progress can be made towards making the current federal tax code make sense. “When you talk to Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, they’re all frustrated with the current tax code that we have.” He lamented the current tax code as one that picks winners and losers, and places the blame on both parties favoring their own special interests when altering the code, leaving the middle class to suffer the burden. He believes in a flat and fair code in which everyone should pay something, from the 40-45% of American wage-earners who pay no federal income taxes, to corporations like General Electric who takes advantage of directed tax subsidies and loopholes, and can afford the accountants, lobbyists, and lawyers to obtain them. “That’s not what makes America great.”

Immigration Reform

On the tepid relationship between Hispanics and the GOP, and in particular the issue of immigration reform, Labrador’s experience as an immigration attorney gives him a unique measure of credibility on the issue. Labrador’s biggest piece of advice to Republicans: let Hispanics know that they are welcome in the party – Hispanic principles of family and hard work form the bedrock of the GOP’s platform. He argues rhetoric from some in the Republican Party has turned off many in the Hispanic community. “We can be for a strong border, but we can also be for legal immigration and finding a system that actually works in the United States, and I think most people are frustrated with the current system of immigration.” Labrador said his goal is to help the GOP articulate a conservative consensus on legal immigration.

A Rising Star

photo source AP

From taxes, to the debt crisis, to the issues of life and entitlements, Labrador has the record to make any conservative stand up and cheer. But, a unique background mixed with an ability to become a conservative conduit to Hispanics on immigration sets him apart from the other Tea Party freshmen in Congress. If he is not already a rising star in the Republican Party, many believe he should be.

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CAN SOMEONE EXPLAIN THE THE SCOTUS RULING ON TX REDISTRICTING?

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Basically, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the three-judge court in Texas to redraw congressional and legislative lines using Texas’s own plans as a starting point. The Court held that the three-judge court should deviate from Texas’s maps only if it is likely that parts of the maps violate the Voting Rights Act.

“On the contrary,” the opinion continued, “the state plan serves as a starting point for the district court. It provides important guidance that helps ensure that the district court appropriately confines itself to drawing interim maps that comply with the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, without displacing legitimate state policy judgments with the court’s own preferences.”

SCOTUS — cited its 1996 decision in Lopez v. Monterey County — said that a District Court may not adopt “as its own” a state plan that needs Washington clearance but does not yet have it. However, the precedents “say nothing about whether a district court may take guidance from the lawful policies incorporated in such a plan for aid in drawing an interim map.” Turning then to its 1982 decision in Upham v. Seamon, the Court said that a district court has a duty to “defer to the unobjectionable aspects of a state’s plan” even in a situation where clearance was sought but had been denied.

The Justices flatly rejected the declaration of the San Antonio court that it was “not required to give any deference” to what the legislature had crafted. The lower court was wrong, the Court added, “to the extent” it “exceeded its mission to draw interim maps that do not violate the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act, and substituted its own concept of ‘the collective public good’ for the Texas legislature’s determination of which policies serve ‘the interests of the citizens of Texas.’ ”Further, the Court wrote, “because the District Court here had the benefit of a recently enacted plan to assist it, the court had neither the need nor the license to cast aside that vital aid.”

As far as Section 5, requiring some states and local governments to get Washington legal approval before they may put into effect any change in their election laws; Justice Thomas spoke for himself citing his belief that it is unconstitutional.

What does this mean? The opinion favors the state’s maps. This decision only affects the interim maps and this is not necessarily a defeat for the redistricting plaintiffs.

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