clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Vox Sentences: Mike Pence casts tiebreaking vote to allow defunding of Planned Parenthood

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world, curated by Dara Lind and Dylan Matthews. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

Another ruling against Trump’s travel ban; North Carolina strikes down its bathroom bill; Mike Pence breaks tie on law to block funding for Planned Parenthood.

Hawaii is the hero we need

Protesters Demonstrate Against President Trump's Travel Ban
Demonstrators (including Rachel Weaver, seen here) protest President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • Two weeks ago, just hours before it would have gone into effect, a federal judge in Hawaii blocked President Trump’s second attempt at an executive order banning immigrants and visa holders from several Muslim-majority countries and halting almost all refugee intake. [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • Last night, Judge Derrick K. Watson made his hold on the ban “indefinite” rather than temporary. Meanwhile, another block on the ban in Maryland prevents the order from going into effect until the case has made it out of the courts. [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • Watson’s argument is that the ban will have negative consequences for Hawaii’s tourism industry, state universities, and one local imam, whose Syrian mother-in-law would not be able to visit the US if the ban were in place. [Washington Post, Associated Press / Jennifer Sinco Kelleher]
  • But the part of Watson’s argument getting the most traction is a quote referencing the Trump administration’s attempts to make the second executive order seem less like a Muslim ban to get it through the courts: “The Court will not crawl into a corner, pull the shutters closed, and pretend it has not seen what it has.” [Politico / Josh Gerstein]
  • Trump and his associates have been their own worst enemies in this regard, with Rudy Giuliani, Stephen Miller, and, most notably, Trump himself openly calling the order a “Muslim ban.” That had legal consequences. As Watson wrote in his earlier ruling: “These plainly-worded statements, made in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the Executive Order, and, in many cases, made by the Executive himself, betray the Executive Order’s stated secular purpose.” [Vox / Tara Golshan]
  • Even if Watson’s rulings weren’t quite so strongly worded, his block on the ban was likely to provoke outrage from the administration. White House press secretary Sean Spicer has said this development “will allow the administration to appeal,” though it’s worth noting that the ruling would not be suspended by the White House’s decision to appeal. [Washington Post, Associated Press / Jennifer Sinco Kelleher]
  • So as Vox’s Dara Lind writes, it seems almost inevitable that the White House will try to take this fight to the Supreme Court. Indeed, that’s the only way they’ll ever get their ban into effect. [Vox / Dara Lind​]

“Bathroom bill” repealed, but discrimination continues

North Carolina Clashes With U.S. Over New Public Restroom Law
A unisex sign and the “We Are Not This” slogan outside a bathroom at Bull McCabes Irish Pub in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images
  • Late on Wednesday, news broke that North Carolina’s legislators had reached a deal to repeal part of its infamous law that forces transgender people to use the wrong gender’s public bathrooms and prevents local governments from passing laws that would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. [New York Times / Richard Fausset]
  • Today, both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly passed the compromise repeal; it repeals the public bathroom part but not the ban on local anti-discrimination statutes, which is set to last through December 2020. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • The law was passed more than a year ago, and has resulted in major companies, celebrities, and sports teams boycotting the state and threatening to take business elsewhere. The NCAA gave North Carolina until today to change the law or lose the ability to host any college sports championships through the year 2022. [Washington Post / Mark Berman, Amber Phillips]
  • Within months of the bill’s passage, the Justice Department issued a warning that it was a civil rights violation, and that the state could lose million of dollars in federal funding. [New York Times / Eric Lichtblau, Richard Fausset]
  • The state’s Republican leadership refused to back down at the time. [Wall Street Journal / Jon Kamp, Valerie Bauerlein]
  • But then in November, North Carolina elected a new governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, who campaigned on repealing the law. The issue was seen as a major reason for Cooper’s narrow victory in a state that went for Trump and reelected its Republican US senator. [WCNC]
  • In a tweet celebrating the partial repeal, Gov. Cooper wrote, “It wasn’t a perfect deal or my preferred solution, but an important first step for our state.” [New York Times / Richard Fausset]
  • The editorial board of the Charlotte Observer is already putting pressure on Cooper to do more, calling the compromise “a betrayal of the promises the governor made to the LGBT community and a doubling down on discrimination by Republican legislators who have backed it all along.” [Charlotte Observer / editorial board]

Washington can’t seem to drop the Mike

Trump Hosts a Reception for US Senators
Vice President Mike Pence and a mic.
Photo by Ron Sachs - Pool/Getty Images
  • Today, Vice President Mike Pence broke a tie in the Senate to reverse an Obama-era rule that sought to stop states from denying federal funding to Planned Parenthood and other clinics providing abortion services. [Washington Post, Associated Press / Mary Clare Jalonick, Alan Fram]
  • Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can through a simple majority vote of each House and the president’s signature repeal rules released by executive branch agencies. The change isn’t filibusterable. Trump and Republicans in Congress have been using this to dial back a lot of Obama’s rules, especially on the environment. [Vox / Brad Plumer]
  • Two women GOP senators (Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski) broke from their party and voted against blocking the rule; the effort has already passed the House. But Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who is recovering from two operations, made it to the floor for the vote, making the tally 50-50 and leaving the deciding vote to Pence. [New York Times / Jennifer Steinhauer]
  • Federal funding for abortion services (except when necessary to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest) has been banned since 1976 under the Hyde Amendment. Any federal funding sent to Planned Parenthood and other clinics could only be used to cover health services such as annual exams and screenings, and contraceptives. [Mother Jones / Hannah Levintova]
  • But that didn’t stop state-level Republicans outraged about the Planned Parenthood hidden camera “scandals” from trying to block Title X federal funding for family planning from going to the group and other abortion providers. [NYT / Jackie Calmes]
  • Congress’s action will limit access to women’s health services for low-income women especially. [Politico / Seung Min King, Brianna Ehley]
  • But Pence has also found himself in the spotlight for a personal reason: A Washington Post profile of Pence’s wife unearthed a factoid from 2002, when Mike Pence told the Hill he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he only attends events with alcohol if she is by his side. [Washington Post / Ashley Parker]
  • The anecdote from the profile provoked outrage, with many arguing that such a policy was de facto workplace discrimination, since no female professional or politician could ever hope to build the kind of working relationship with Pence that a man could. That’s especially problematic given that Pence is second in line for POTUS — and several world leaders, not to mention countless other important figures, are women. [Washington Post / Paul Waldman]
  • This, in turn, triggered a batch of essays excusing his behavior on the grounds that plenty of religions have sects that enforce rules like this. (Of course, plenty of religions discriminate against women in a whole lot of ways.) [Atlantic / Emma Green]
  • But the Planned Parenthood news is the bigger Pence story this week. It’s a reminder that behind the scenes, Pence plays an important role in the White House, making inroads with the congressional party that President Trump is quickly realizing he’ll need in order to enact his agenda. [New York Times / Glenn Thrush, Maggie Haberman​]


  • If you train a neural network with the complete bibliography of H.P. Lovecraft and then feed it cookbook recipes, really magical things happen. [Janelle Shane]
  • We know what an anti-democratic, authoritarian government in America looks like. It looks like the Jim Crow South. [MTV / Ezekiel Kweku and Jane Coaston]
  • Just a few weeks ago, Chase was running ads on some 400,000 websites. It then cut the number down to 5,000 — and is getting the same results. Which raises the question: How useful are these ads, really? [NYT / Sapna Maheshwari]
  • Julia Hahn is Steve Bannon's most trusted aide in the White House. But other than her age (25) and prior job (Breitbart), there's been basically nothing in the public record about her or her beliefs. Until this profile. [Washington Post / Ben Terris]
  • The federal hiring freeze is preventing NASA from hiring aerospace engineers, which seems like a problem for Donald Trump's dream of going to Mars. [Gizmodo / Matt Novak]


  • “That was some weird shit.” [George W. Bush on Trump’s inaugural speech, via NY Mag / Yashar Ali]
  • “Everyone lies about sex, though maybe every generation lies about sex differently.” [NY Mag / Laura Kipnis]
  • “An earlier version of this post characterized a mulberry as being about the size of a potato. Mulberries actually do not get bigger than the first joint of your pinky. The Times regrets both the error and the fact that there are no potato-sized mulberries.” [NYT / Ava Chin]
  • “Don’t worry about introducing yourselves. I’ve already learned all of your names. I put little Polaroid photos on index cards, and I used a calligraphy pen to write your first name, last name, a nickname, and a drawing of a whimsical sea creature that I, personally, believe is reflective of your personality. I then organized the index cards alphabetically and took another set of Polaroids of all of them in case the originals are lost. Then I put the second set of Polaroids in a safe located in a pastel-colored self-storage complex in Vermont.” [“Wes Anderson” via McSweeney’s / Matthew Disler]
  • “The Maine Republican said she was ‘just stunned’ that some of her male colleagues would be so concerned about working closely with their female aides. ‘To me, that's just extraordinary because of what it implies, the lack of professionalism that it would imply,’ Collins said. ‘It implies that a man and a woman can't have a completely professional, proper relationship. That's just stunning.’” [National Journal / Sarah Mimms]

Watch this: Life as a transgender woman

Here's what it's like to transition when you're not a celebrity like Caitlyn Jenner. [Vox / Joe Posner]

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.