- President Donald Trump plans to nominate a new Supreme Court Justice on Friday or Saturday, one week after the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
- Her death sparked a partisan debate over whether or not her seat should be filled before the election. After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016, Republicans set a precedent for what to do when a Justice dies during an election year by demanding that a vote not happen until after the election.
- However, Republicans are now walking back on that, vowing to push a nomination through in the six weeks leading up to the election. Democrats are outraged, calling this hypocrisy and demanding that the vote wait until after votes have been cast.
- Republicans Senators Collins and Lisa Murkowski have said they believe a vote should wait. Democrats need at least two more Republican to express a similar stance Many are waiting to hear from Sen. Mitt Romney and Sen. Chuck Grassley, who some think might flip in this situation.
Trump’s Nomination Plans
President Donald Trump plans to nominate a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday or Saturday after ceremonies honoring her life and legacy have taken place.
Trump has pledged to nominate a woman and there are already several potential candidates being considered. U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett and former Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Lagoa are widely understood to be the two favorites.
The president’s choice to go forward with a nomination comes as the Senate Democrats and Republicans are divided on whether or not to move forward with a nomination so close to the election. Ginsburg died at the age of 87 on Friday, just six and a half weeks before Election Day. Following her death, Trump tweeted that Republicans have an obligation to get the ball rolling to fill her seat “without delay.”
Republicans Break Precedent
Many Republican leaders have backed him on this, but Democrats have found their inclination to rush this process hypocritical. When Justice Antonin Scalia died in February of 2016 under President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold a hearing on Obama’s nominee because of the upcoming election.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” McConnell said in a statement back in 2016.
McConnell argues that there is a major distinction between 2016 and 2020: Obama was a lame duck president and Trump is up for re-election. He believes that in this case, a replacement should be made, even though the election is looming even closer than when Scalia passed.
“In the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term,” McConnell wrote in a statement following Ginsburg’s death. “We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.
McConnell wrote that when a Republican majority was re-elected to the Senate, they vowed to work with Trump and they plan to stand by that. Because of this, he said that “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
The debate about whether or not Ginsburg should be replaced before the election has become one of the biggest political fights of the moment. The late justice likely knew the partisan infighting that would come as she left a court vacancy behind her. NPR reported that just days before her death, as her strength was waning, she gave a statement to her granddaughter saying “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
Still, McConnell is not the only Republican fighting to break the precedent set by their own party in 2016. After Scalia’s death, Sen.Lindsey Graham said that the new rule going forward should be that during an election year, Supreme Court nominations must wait.
“I want you to use my words against me. If there is a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say ‘Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination,’ and you can use my words against me and you’d be absolutely right,” he said at the time.
“We are setting a precedent here today, Republicans are, that in the last year at least of a lame-duck eight-year term, I would say it’s gonna be a four year term, that you’re not going to fill a vacancy of the supreme court based on what we’re doing here today. That’s gonna be the new rule.”
Now, he plans to break that rule. In a series of tweets Saturday, he argued that Democrats have made major changes to the judicial confirmation process, and because of this, he will support Trump’s effort to push a nominee through before the election.
Several other Republicans have also announced their intent to support Trump. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) told Fox News that he believes the situation is urgent because if there is a contested election, having an eight-person court could lead to a “constitutional crisis.”
Democrats Call For Vote to Wait
Democrats, on the other hand, are pushing to have the vote wait until Americans have taken to the polls. Presidential candidate Joe Biden called the Republican effort to jam a nominee through so quickly “constitutional abuse” when speaking on the campaign trail on Sunday.
President Barack Obama also wrote a statement honoring Ginsburg. He asked that her wish for her replacement to wait be honored.
“Four and a half years ago, when Republicans refused to hold a hearing or an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland, they invented the principle that the Senate shouldn’t fill an open seat on the Supreme Court before a new president was sworn in,” Obama wrote.
“A basic principle of the law — and of everyday fairness — is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment. The rule of law, the legitimacy of our courts, the fundamental workings of our democracy all depend on that basic principle.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer fought against McConnell’s efforts by tweeting out the same exact statement McConnell made in 2016, asking that a vote wait until after the election. A source also told several outlets that Schumer has said “if Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans move forward with this, then nothing is off the table for next year.”
As far as what that could look like, several prominent Democrats have said that if Republicans push a nomination through, the next Senate should expand the Supreme Court.
Democrats Fight to Get Republicans on Their Side
It’s unclear which party’s efforts will result in victory as much of the potential vote remains up in the air. The Senate, which is the only body responsible for approving the nomination, is currently split 53-47 with a Republican majority.
A total of 51 votes are needed to confirm a nomination, so the Democrats would need at least four Republicans to hop to their side on the matter if they want a chance. As of Monday, two have stated that they oppose holding a vote.
“In order for the American people to have faith in their elected officials, we must act fairly and consistently, no matter which political party is in power,” Senator Susan Collins (R-Me) wrote, explaining she is okay with the Senate reviewing the credentials of a nominee, but not with a confirmation hearing.
“In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the president or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the President who is elected on November 3rd.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.) joined Collins in her opposition.
“For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election,” she said in a statement. “Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed.”
Now, many are looking for other potential pathways Democrats could walk down in order to secure another two votes. Some think Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Ut.), the only Republican to vote in favor of impeachment, will join the Democrats. Others have also noted that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) said in 2018 that he would not consider a Supreme Court nomination in 2020.
The Senate race in Colorado could also be impactful. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Co.) is currently in a tight race for his re-election bid against former Governor John Hickenlooper. His choice here could be key when it comes to getting votes. While he has not stated his intentions on the matter, he did say that the country should have time to mourn the loss of Ginsburg before politics start.
Democratic Fundraising Surge
Currently, the American public is fairly split on the issue. According to a poll published on Saturday, 51% do not think Trump should nominate a new justice while 42% say he should. The poll is pretty much split along party lines.
Americans have had a very active response to Ginsburg’s death, particularly Democrats. Many saw her as a pillar holding up Democracy, and now fear that groundbreaking policies like the Affordable Care Act and Roe V. Wade could be in jeopardy without her. Those fears apparently turned into swift motivation.
Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue tweeted on Sunday morning that since the news of her death had broken on Friday, they had received $100 million from small-dollar donors.
The funds are being spread all across the Democratic party. One fund called “Get Mitch or Die Trying” which splits donations across several races aiming to flip Republian seats, saw a huge influx in the hours after she passed.
The fund started the day at $5 million raised. By the end of the day it had raised over $15 million and continued to soar throughout the weekend.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (Politico) (New York Times)
Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena
The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.
Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.
In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.
Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.
Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee.
That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.
After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.
Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.
Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts
The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.
It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same.
The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively — are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.
Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.
As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.
Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December
The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.
Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily
The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.
The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.
After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.
The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.
“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.
The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession.
Major Hurdles Remain
While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.
Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain.
Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.
Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.
Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.
Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.
Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.
In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul.
As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported.
It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent
California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.
Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.
Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.
“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.
Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.
Others May Follow
The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.
Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.
“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”
The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.