- 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)
Judges Uphold North Carolina’s Congressional Map in Major GOP Win
The judges agreed that the congressional map was “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting” but said they did not have the power to intervene in legislative matters.
New Maps Upheld
A three-judge panel in North Carolina upheld the state’s new congressional and legislative maps on Tuesday, deciding it did not have the power to respond to arguments that Republicans had illegally gerrymandered it to benefit them.
Voting rights groups and Democrats sued over the new maps, which were drawn by the state’s Republican legislature following the 2020 census.
The maps left Democrats with just three of North Carolina’s 14 congressional seats in a battleground state that is more evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Previously, Democrats held five of the 13 districts the state had before the last census, during which North Carolina was allocated an additional seat.
The challengers argued that the blatantly partisan maps had been drawn in a way that went against longstanding rules, violated the state’s Constitution, and intentionally disenfranchised Black voters.
In their unanimous ruling, the panel — composed of one Democrat and two Republicans — agreed that both the legislative and congressional maps were “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting.”
The judges added that they had “disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our state to ridicule.”
Despite their beliefs, the panel said they did not have a legal basis for intervening in political matters and constraining the legislature. They additionally ruled that the challengers did not prove their claims that the maps were discriminatory based on race.
Notably, the judges also stated that partisan gerrymandering does not actually violate the state’s Constitution.
The Path Ahead
While the decision marks a setback to the plaintiffs, the groups have already said they will appeal the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
The state’s highest court has a slim Democratic majority and has already signaled they may be open to tossing the map.
There are also past precedents for voting maps to be thrown out in North Carolina. The state has an extensive history of legal battles over gerrymandering, and Republican leaders have been forced to redraw maps twice in recent years.
A forthcoming decision is highly anticipated, as North Carolina’s congressional map could play a major role in the control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections if they are as close as expected.
See what others are saying: (Politico) (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal)
Biden Administration Says Private Insurers Will Have to Cover 8 At-Home Tests a Month
The policy will apply to all the nearly 150 million Americans who have private insurance.
New At-Home Testing Policy
The Biden administration announced Monday that private health insurers will now be required to pay for up to eight at-home rapid tests per plan member each month.
Under the new policy, starting Saturday, private insurance holders will be able to purchase any at-home test approved by the FDA at a pharmacy or online. They will either not be asked to pay any upfront costs or be reimbursed for their purchase through their provider.
The move is expected to significantly expand access to rapid tests that other countries have been distributing to their citizens free of charge for months.
According to reports, nearly 150 million Americans — about 45% of the population — have private insurance.
Each dependent enrolled on the primary insurance holder’s account is counted as a member. That means a family of four enrolled on a single plan would be eligible for 32 free at-home rapid tests a month.
All tests may not be fully covered depending on where they are purchased.
In order to help offset costs, the Biden administration is incentivizing insurance providers to establish a network of “preferred” pharmacies and stores where people in the plan can get tests without paying out of pocket.
As a result, health plans that do create those networks will only be required to reimburse up to $12 per test if they are purchased out of that network, meaning people could be on the hook for the rest of the cost.
If an insurer does not set up a preferred network, they will have to cover all at-home tests in full regardless of the place of purchase.
During a briefing Monday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said tests should be “out the door in the coming weeks.”
“The contracts [for testing companies] are structured in a way to require that significant amounts are delivered on an aggressive timeline, the first of which should be arriving early next week,” she added.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Biden Administration Unveils Plan To Replace All Lead Pipes
The effort builds on the $15 billion allocated under the bipartisan infrastructure bill for lead pipe replacement, but industry leaders say $60 billion will be needed for nationwide revitalization.
White House Outlines Actions on Lead Pipes and Paint
The Biden administration rolled out a sweeping plan on Thursday to remove all the nation’s lead pipes over the next decade and take other steps to prevent lead paint contamination.
Lead, which was commonly used in piping for municipal water systems all over the country until it was banned in 1978, is a dangerous neurotoxin that can cause serious nervous system damage, especially in children.
Contamination from lead pipes seeping into water supplies has caused multiple high-profile public health and environmental catastrophes over the last decade, including the notorious crisis in Flint, Michigan.
According to a White House factsheet, an estimated 10 million households are connected to water through lead pipes. Children and teenagers in 400,000 schools and child care facilities also risk exposure to lead-contaminated water.
“Because of inequitable infrastructure development and disinvestment, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to these risks,” the factsheet stated.
To address those disparities and revitalize water systems across the nation, the White House outlined 15 new action items the Biden administration is taking, including:
- Launching “a new regulatory process to protect communities from lead in drinking water” through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Clarifying that state, local, and Tribal governments can use the $350 billion aid allocated under the American Rescue Plan to replace lead service lines.
- Establishing federally-operated regional technical assistance hubs “to fast track lead service line removal projects in partnership with labor unions and local water agencies.”
- Awarding federal grants through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to remove lead paint in low-income communities.
- Directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand childhood lead testing.
- Establishing “a new Cabinet Level Partnership for Lead Remediation in Schools and Child Care Centers.”
The White House also said it will direct the EPA to allocate $3 billion for state, local, and Tribal governments to replace lead pipes through funding that was approved under the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden last month.
A Matter of Funding
In total, Congress provided $15 billion to revitalize the nation’s lead-pipe systems under the infrastructure bill.
However, industry experts have estimated that it will cost $60 billion to entirely overhaul all the remaining lead pipes in the U.S.
As a result, the Biden administration has proposed several additional funding mechanisms in the social safety net package, known as the Build Back Better Act, that is currently being negotiated by Congress.
Specifically, the legislation would set aside $9 billion for lead remediation grants to disadvantaged communities, $1 billion for rural water utilities to remove lead pipes, and $5 billion for mitigation efforts such as removing lead-based water fixtures in low-income households.
The Build Back Better Act would additionally provide $65 billion for public housing agencies and $5 billion for other federally-assisted housing organizations to improve housing quality, including by replacing lead pipes and service lines.
The status of that legislation, as well as what provisions will remain in the final version, remain in limbo. While Democratic leadership has pushed to pass the sweeping social bill before the new year, all 50 of the party’s members in the Senate will need to sign on, and moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has continued to withhold his support.