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Trump to Make Supreme Court Nomination Friday or Saturday

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  • 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)

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White House Endorses Bipartisan Senate Bill That Could Ban TikTok

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The measure does not target TikTok specifically but instead would set up a framework to crack down on foreign products and services that present a national security threat.


The RESTRICT Act

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Tuesday that would allow the federal government to restrict or even outright ban TikTok and other technologies produced by foreign companies.

Under the legislation, dubbed the RESTRICT Act, the Commerce Department would have sweeping authority to identify and regulate technologies that pose a risk to national security and are produced by companies in six “foreign adversary” countries: China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea.

In other words, the proposal would not explicitly ban TikTok, but instead creates a path for future prohibitions on the Chinese-owned platform. 

While the bill’s text does not specifically mention TikTok, the group of senators made it clear that the app is their number one target, directing most of their criticism to the platform in statements announcing the measure.

The legislation, however, would go way beyond TikTik: it is also designed to prepare for future situations where apps or technologies from an “adversary” country become popular in the U.S.

The bill’s Democratic sponsor, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Ma.), echoed that point in his remarks Tuesday.

“Today, the threat that everyone is talking about is TikTok, and how it could enable surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party, or facilitate the spread of malign influence campaigns in the U.S.,” he said. “Before TikTok, however, it was Huawei and ZTE, which threatened our nation’s telecommunications networks. And before that, it was Russia’s Kaspersky Lab, which threatened the security of government and corporate devices.”

“We need a comprehensive, risk-based approach that proactively tackles sources of potentially dangerous technology before they gain a foothold in America, so we aren’t playing Whac-A-Mole and scrambling to catch up once they’re already ubiquitous.”

Proponents of the bill also hope that, given the broad scope of the legislation, it will gain more traction than past proposals that zeroed in on TikTok. Support for the measure was further bolstered when the White House announced it would back the move shortly after it was rolled out.

“This bill presents a systematic framework for addressing technology-based threats to the security and safety of Americans,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “We look forward to continue working with both Democrats and Republicans on this bill, and urge Congress to act quickly to send it to the President’s desk.”

A Bumpy Road Ahead

Despite the bipartisan push, there are still some hurdles for the RESTRICT Act to overcome.

Although the legislation does not directly ban TikTok, because that is clearly its intent, the same issues with an outright prohibition still stand. One of the most serious concerns is that banning TikTok would violate the First Amendment.

There is past precedent on this front: in 2020, a federal magistrate judge blocked the Trump administration from requiring Apple and Google to take the Chinese-owned app WeChat off their app stores.

In that decision, the judge argued that the government only had “modest” evidence about the app’s risks and that removing it from app stores would “burden substantially more speech than is necessary to serve the government’s significant interest in national security.”

TikTok has emulated that argument. In a statement responding to the RESTRICT Act Tuesday, a spokesperson for the company said the legislation could “have the effect of censoring millions of Americans.”

Meanwhile, even if the act does pass, there is also the question of whether the Biden administration would decide on a full-scale ban. 

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo would be the one responsible for overseeing the process under the bill, and while she said she said in a statement that she “welcomed” the proposal and promised to work with Congress to pass it, she has also previously expressed hesitation for a full prohibition.

On the other end of the equation, there are concerns that this measure will not ultimately get enough bipartisan support from Republicans who do want an outright ban and will refuse to accept anything that falls short of that.

While speaking with Fox News on Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) said the new plan did not go far enough and argued that Congress “should pass a bill that bans TikTok.”

Even if the legislation does get enough support in the Senate, its path is unclear in the GOP-held House, where it also does not yet have a companion bill. Republicans in the House recently introduced a measure that would give the president the power to unilaterally ban TikTok in the U.S.

That proposal, however, is not bipartisan like the RESTRICT Act, which will be a key test to see if legislators can find a middle ground on the matter.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Reuters) (NBC News)

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What You Need to Know About Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Race — The Most Important Election in 2023

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Gerrymandering, abortion, the 2024 presidential election, and much more are on the line.


Primary Election

An election to fill an empty seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court that has been described as the most consequential race of 2023 has now been narrowed to two candidates after the primary Tuesday.

Liberal Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz easily took first place, winning 46.4% of the vote with nearly all precincts reporting. In second place with 24.2% was conservative Daniel Kelly, a former Wisconsin State Supreme Court justice who was appointed by the state’s then-Republican governor in 2016 but lost his re-election in 2020.

Notably, the wide discrepancy in votes can be explained by the fact that Kelly split Republican ballots with another conservative candidate who came in a close third with 21.9%. As such, the general election is expected to be tight.

Also of note, this race is technically supposed to be non-partisan, but Protasiewicz has closely aligned herself with Democrats and Kelly has done the same with Republicans. Both parties, as well as dark money groups, have poured millions of dollars into the high-stakes election that will determine whether liberals or conservatives will have a 4-3 majority on the state Supreme Court at an incredibly consequential time.

There are a number of paramount issues at play here that have widespread implications not just for Wisconsin but America at-large.

Gerrymandering and Elections

Wisconsin is one of the most important swing states in the country: it helped decide the outcomes of both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, and it is the center of debates on gerrymandering and free and fair elections that have played a role in those races.

The state Supreme Court, which has had a conservative majority for the last 14 years, has been instrumental in shaping those policies, having weighed in on many of the most crucial topics and almost always siding with Republicans.

For example, in what VICE described as “arguably the most important decision the court made in recent years,” the court ruled 4-3 last year to uphold one of America’s most gerrymandered maps that gave Republicans a massive advantage.

“The maps are so gerrymandered that Republicans hold six of Wisconsin’s eight House seats and nearly two-thirds of legislative seats in the state—even though Democrats won most statewide races last year,” the outlet reported.

That ruling created something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: the conservative majority court has decided so many critical topics because the state government is deadlocked with a Republican majority in the legislature and a Democratic governor.

So, by approving a map that massively favored Republicans, the conservative court kept that system in place, ensuring that they would continue to have the final say on so many of these essential areas.

However, if Protasiewicz wins the general election, the court is all but certain to revisit the gerrymandered map. Protasiewicz, for her part, explicitly stated in a recent interview that a liberal majority could establish new election maps. Kelly, meanwhile, has said he has no interest in revisiting the maps. 

A decision unfavorable to the GOP-drawn maps would have significant implications for the internal politics of Wisconsin and control of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Republicans currently hold a very slim five-seat majority.

To that point, the Wisconsin Supreme Court also plays a big role in how the state’s elections are administered and how its ten Electoral College votes will be doled out in the 2024 presidential election. 

Last year, the conservative court banned absentee ballot drop boxes, and in 2014, it upheld a GOP voter ID law that studies have shown suppressed Black voters. While the court did vote against considering former President Donald Trump’s lawsuit to try and overturn the 2020 election in Wisconsin, it only did so by a thin margin of 4-3.

The court will very likely be tasked with wading into elections-related cases in the coming years. Already, it is anticipated that the justice will hear a lawsuit by a conservative group aiming to further limit voting access by banning mobile and alternate voting facilities.

Abortion and Other Important Statewide Subjects

In addition to the ramifications for America broadly, there are also plenty of paramount issues concerning the state Supreme Court that will materially impact the people of Wisconsin.

Much of the race has been centered heavily on the topic of abortion and reproductive rights because the composition of the court will almost positively determine whether or not abortion will be legal for the state’s six million residents.

Following the Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade, an 1849 Wisconsin law banning abortion went back into effect. Currently, a lawsuit against the ban is winding its way through the court system, and it is all but assured that battle will eventually go before Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.

Experts and analysts say that if Kelly wins, it is essentially guaranteed that abortion will remain illegal in almost all cases. Protasiewicz, by contrast, has campaigned extensively on abortion rights and vocally supported the right to choose.

Beyond that, there are also several other major issues the court will likely rule on in the coming years. For example, Protasiewicz has also said she believes a liberal majority could reverse a 12-year-old law that basically eliminated collective bargaining for public workers. All of that is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Everything is at stake, and I mean everything: Women’s reproductive rights, the maps, drop boxes, safe communities, clean water,”  Protasiewicz told VICE. “Everything is on the line.” 

See what others are saying: (VICE) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)

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Republicans Want to Cut Food Stamps — Even As Pandemic-Era Programs Wind Down

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Experts say cuts to food stamps could have a devastating impact on the 41 million Americans who rely on the program.


GOP Weighs SNAP Cuts in Budget

In recent weeks, top Republican lawmakers have floated several different ideas for cutting food stamp benefits.

Earlier this month, Republicans now leading the House Budget Committee flagged food stamps — formally known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP —  as one of the ten areas they would support cuts to in their new budget proposal. 

In a memo, the panel argued that stricter work requirements would “save tens of billions,” while a more rigid verification process for applicants would limit waste, fraud, and abuse. The idea comes as part of a broader effort to reduce the federal deficit.

Experts, however, say the proposed changes could result in debilitating cuts for the 41 million Americans who rely on food stamps and exacerbate an ongoing hunger crisis at a time when inflation has sent food prices rising.

SNAP provides low-income households with an average of around $230 a month for groceries. For many of those families who are also the most impacted by inflationary price increases across the board, that money is absolutely essential.

Experts have also noted that any additional cuts to SNAP would be especially harmful because Republicans are still proposing new cuts despite the fact that Congress already agreed just two months ago to end a pandemic-era program that had increased benefits in some states.

Under the pandemic policies, SNAP was expanded so households could receive maximum benefits instead of benefits based on income testing while also giving bigger payouts to the lowest-income Americans.

That expansion is now set to expire in March, and according to the anti-hunger advocacy group the Food Research and Action Center, an estimated 16 million households will see their per-person benefits drop by around $82 a month.

The Farm Bill Debate

Even if Republicans do not end up cutting SNAP in the budget, the program may still be in hot water.

While raising the debt limit is at the forefront of ongoing partisan battles at the moment, there is already a fight shaping up over another essential piece of legislation: the farm bill.

The farm bill is a package that has to be updated and reauthorized every couple of years. One of the most important legislative tasks Congress is responsible for, the farm bill includes many important subsidies and programs that are imperative to America’s food systems, farms, and much more.

SNAP is among the nutrition-based programs that fall under the purview of the farm bill, and Republicans have already tossed around the idea of cutting food stamp benefits in their ongoing negotiations.

Those debates are quite forward-looking, though it is normal for such discussions to occur early during a year in which Congress is charged with passing the farm bill. Lawmakers have until Oct. 1 to either enact a new version or agree on some kind of extension.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Business Insider) (Axios)

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