World Briefly 6/26


Court frees states with history of racism from strict oversight

WASHINGTON — A deeply divided Supreme Court threw out the most powerful part of the landmark Voting Rights Act on Tuesday, a decision deplored by the White House but cheered by mostly Southern states.

Split along ideological and partisan lines, the justices voted 5-4 to strip the government of its most potent tool to stop voting bias — the requirement in the Voting Rights Act that all or parts of 15 states with a history of discrimination in voting, mainly in the South, get Washington’s approval before changing the way they hold elections.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a majority of conservative justices, said the law’s provision that determines which states are covered is unconstitutional because it relies on 40-year-old data and does not account for racial progress.

The decision effectively puts an end to the advance approval requirement that has been used to open up polling places to minority voters in the nearly half century since it was first enacted in 1965, unless Congress can come up with a new formula that Roberts said meets “current conditions” in the United States.

GOP divided on immigration legislation

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans are split over the immigration bill steaming toward approval at week’s end, a divide that renders the ultimate fate of White House-backed legislation unpredictable in the House and complicates the party’s ability to broaden its appeal among Hispanic voters.

To some Republicans, the strength of Senate GOP support for the bill is all but irrelevant to its prospects in the House. Conservatives there hold a majority and generally oppose a core provision in the Senate measure, a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the United States illegally.

Any such impact is “greatly overrated,” said Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, who previously served as chief vote counter for House Republicans.

But Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., offered a different view. A Senate vote on Monday to toughen border security with thousands of new agents and billions of dollars in technology “obviously makes final legislation more likely,” the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee said on CBS.

One prominent Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, also says House sentiment can be changed, particularly through the addition of stronger border security.

Watchdog: IRS credit cards used to buy wine, novels

WASHINGTON — Poor oversight by the Internal Revenue Service allowed workers to use agency credit cards to buy wine for an expensive luncheon, dorky swag for managers’ meetings and, for one employee, romance novels and diet pills, an agency watchdog said Tuesday.

Two IRS credit cards were used to buy online pornography, though the employees said the cards were stolen. One of the workers reported five agency credit cards lost or stolen.

IRS employees used agency credit cards to make more than 273,000 purchases totaling nearly $108 million in 2010 and 2011, according to the report by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.

The vast majority of those purchases were legitimate, the report said. However, the report said the IRS has inadequate controls to prevent inappropriate purchases.

For example, investigators found one IRS employee spent $2,655 on diet pills, romance novels, steaks, a smartphone and baby-related items, including bottles, games and clothes. The case was referred to the IG’s office that investigates employee misconduct, the report said.

By wire sources