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Trump Nominates Amy Coney Barrett for SCOTUS. Here’s What You Need to Know

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  • President Donald Trump announced Saturday that he is nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court.
  • If confirmed, Barrett would likely signal a decades-long conservative shift.
  • Many have now scrutinized her previous writings and opinions on cases involving abortion, Obamacare, LGBTQ+ rights, and more.
  • Some have also questioned if her Catholic faith will play a role in her interpretation of the Constitution, which she has denied.
  • Other’s still have commended Trump for the selection and condemned criticisms of Barrett as attacks on freedom of religion.

Who is Amy Coney Barrett?

After weeks of swirling rumors, President Donald Trump officially announced on Saturday that he had selected Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Barrett is a federal judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, a role she has held since she was appointed by Trump in 2017 after working as a law professor at Notre Dame for several years.

She was on the shortlist to be a Supreme Court Justice nominee back in 2018 for the seat that was eventually filled by Brett Kavanaugh. If appointed this time around, she will become the youngest member of the court at 48-years-old. 

That is notable because Supreme Court seats are lifetime appointments, and Trump’s two other appointees — Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch — are both in their 50s, meaning that all three Trump-appointed justices could potentially serve for decades. Her appointment would firmly lead to a more conservative court, which would have a six-person majority. 

Barrett’s confirmation to the court would also mean that six of the nine justices are Catholic, a fact that is significant because Barrett has received a good deal of scrutiny over public comments she has made about Catholicism and the law in the past.

Religious Concerns

During her confirmation hearing to be a federal judge in 2017, many Democrats worried her religious beliefs would cloud her judgments. However, when pressed on the topic, Barrett swore that would not be the case.

“If you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and I’m a faithful Catholic, I am,” she told Senators at the time. “Although I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”

That response did not dissuade all senators, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.).

“I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein told Barrett. “And that’s of concern.”

Those remarks, which now compose a viral clip, resulted in Feinstein and other Democrats receiving criticism for attacking Barretts faith and being biased, thus propelling her to be a major rallying flag for the religious right.

Now, with her nomination to the Supreme Court, both the concerns regarding her religion are resurfacing, as are the refrands that those concerns are simply anti-religious attacks. During the formal announcement of her nomination, both President Trump and Barrett herself addressed those concerns.

“She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution,” Trump said. “Amy Coney Barrett will decide cases based on the text of the Constitution as written.”

“No matter the issue, no matter the case before her, I am supremely confident that Judge Barrett will issue rulings based solely upon a fair reading of the law.”

Barrett, for her part, also echoed those remarks, addressing her “fellow Americans,” to tell them that Trump “nominated me to serve on the United States Supreme Court, and that institution belongs to all of us.”

“If confirmed, I would not assume that role for the sake of those in my own circle, and certainly not for my own sake,” she continued. “I would assume this role to serve you.” 

Barrett also further emphasized that point while describing her personal judicial philosophy, which she said was the same as former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who she clerked for and described as her mentor.

“His judicial philosophy is mine too: A judge must apply the law as written,” she said. “Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.” 

Whether or not Barrett would follow closely in Scalia’s footsteps is important to an ongoing debate that has popped up with the news of her nomination. On one side, many people and media outlets say that while Barrett will certainly shift the court, she is ideologically in-line with the other conservative judges.

But on the other side, plenty of others — specifically on social media — have said that her past decisions, public statements, and publications show she is an extremist and a religious fundamentalist.

Here’s a deeper look at Barrett’s record, where she stands on key issues, and how that could affect future Supreme Court decisions. 

Abortion

Let’s start with what Barrett’s nomination means for abortion rights because that has easily been the most talked-about and is likely to be a major focus at her confirmation hearings and throughout the nomination process.

Barrett has been quite public about her personal opposition to abortion in both academic and judicial writings. She has explicitly said that abortion is “always immoral,” and her nomination has been widely supported by anti-abortion groups.

Aside from personal views, in her role as a federal judge, she has overseen three cases regarding laws restricting abortions in her home state of Indiana. In all three cases, she expressed concerns over earlier rulings that had ended those restrictions, and twice she joined dissenting opinions that would have struck down lower court rulings and upheld abortion restrictions.

However, both her personal beliefs and past rulings don’t necessarily mean she would strike down Roe v. Wade. While Trump has vowed to appoint justices ready to overrule the 1973 decision that established the Constitution recognizes a right to abortion, Barrett has not yet said publicly how she would rule on abortion if confirmed to the Supreme Court. 

This is where things get a little messy. Barrett has in the past called Roe an “erroneous decision” and claimed it “ignited a national controversy” by deciding the issue via the Supreme Court rather than leaving it up to the states. 

At the same time, she has also repeatedly said she does not think SCOTUS would overturn the ruling.

“I don’t think the core case, Roe’s core holding that women have a right to an abortion, I don’t think that would change,” she stated speaking at an appearance in 2016. “But I think the question of whether people can get very late-term abortions, you know, how many restrictions can be put on clinics, I think that will change.”

That last point is important because while many experts believe it is unlikely that SCOTUS will wholesale overturn Roe anytime soon, what is likely is that the court will make decisions on cases that will slowly chip away at the ruling instead.

However, others have said with the appointment of another conservative to replace Ginsburg, the conservative justices could have enough votes to go after abortion directly. If that were to be the case, it is unclear how Barrett would proceed here as well.

A fact that is significant because Barrett has also published controversial views regarding the judicial principle that justices should respect the past court precedents, and made it clear that she would be open to reversing a Supreme Court precedent if she believed it went against the Constitution.

Affordable Care Act

The second highly talked-about effect Barrett could have on the court is in regards to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — or Obamacare. Her views here are exceptionally important because a week after Election Day, the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the latest challenge to the ACA. 

Barrett, for her part, has publicly criticized the Supreme Court decision that upheld Obamacare as constitutional repeatedly. In a 2017 article she wrote, she quoted her mentor Scalia’s dissension with the law by saying it should be called “SCOUTScare.”

In the article, Barrett argued for an originalist reading of the Constitution — interpreting the Constitution how it was originally written and with the same understanding the authors had when they wrote it. Under that view, she argued, the Supreme Court would not allow for Obamacare.

She also criticized Chief Justice Roberts’ stance on Obamacare, and said that he considered too many factors outside of the Constitution when considering Obamacare’s constitutionality. Her originalist interpretation of the Constitution lends fuel to Democrats claims that she could upend the Affordable Care Act.

Adding to concerns is her stance about Obamacare forcing employers to offer birth control, regardless of their religious preferences. In 2012, she allegedly signed a petition against this provision and is quoted by Newsweek as saying at the time: “This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.”

Other Important Rulings and Remarks

Abortion and the ACA are the two biggest talking points when it comes to Barrett, but those who believe she is an extremist have also noted her record on other hot button issues in the country.

For example, many have pointed to her stance on LGBTQ+ rights. According to reports, in 2015, Barrett signed a letter addressed to Catholic bishops that detailed her personal beliefs. It also included a statement about “marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.”

Regarding marriage, some also cited a lecture she gave in 2016 where she defended Supreme Court justices who argued against making gay marriage legal. In a separate speech, she argued that Title IX does not apply to transgender individuals.

A lot of people also pointed to other controversial decisions she has made in her three years as a federal judge, like how she refused to rehear a racial segregation case in 2017, as well as a ruling she made in 2019 that made it easier for men accused of sexual assaults on college campuses to challenge the proceedings against them.

Some also condemned her stance on immigration. In one case, she oversaw, Barrett argued that the U.S. has a right to block people it deems likely to become dependent on public assistance — even if they’ve never used it in the past.

She has also repeatedly refused to review cases brought by immigrants who claim they’ve been wrongfully denied humanitarian protections or other immigration benefits.

What Next?

Of course, on the other side, Republicans have widely applauded Barrett’s nomination, including from key leaders, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Trump “could not have made a better decision.” 

Sen. Lindsey Graham — who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and is in charge of the nomination process — also called her an “outstanding” pick.

As for what happens next, Barrett will meet with Senators for the next two weeks — a timeline that Graham cut significantly short. Normally lawmakers are given around six weeks to meet with and vet a SCOTUS nominee, but Republicans have argued that the quick turnaround is okay because Barrett was already vetted by the Senate in 2017 for a Supreme Court seat. 

After meeting with Senators, Graham has scheduled four consecutive days of confirmation hearings starting Oct. 12, with a full committee vote set for Oct. 22. Graham’s intentions here are clear: he hopes to have a full floor vote before the election. 

Notably, McConnell has not yet committed to a pre-election vote, but regardless, right now, it seems almost certain he will have enough votes. Only two Republicans — Senators Susan Collins (R-Me.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.) — have said they oppose filling the seat before the election.

However, even without them, the Republicans still have a clear path to a 51-47 majority vote. Still, even with the vote all but locked, everyone expects her confirmation process to be a deeply divisive, partisan battle.

This is by far the closest a confirmation fight has played out to an election in American history, and many Democrats have repeatedly condemned Republicans for trying to push through a nominee so fast — especially when Trump has said he expects the election results to end up in the Supreme Court.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, as well as anyone who opposes Barrett’s nomination, there is really not much they can do. Regardless of what happens, this firmly places the nomination as a central issue in the election — and not just for Trump, but for the Senators too.

Trump and Republicans are hoping that the prospect of conservatives holding a 6-3 majority will energize conservative voters ahead of the election, but that could also go the other way: Republican’s trying to jam through a nomination could mobilize more liberal voters too.

Several recent polls have shown that a majority of voters want whoever wins in November to choose the SCOTUS nominee, so it is possible that moving too fast could backfire. 

“For many Republican senators up for re-election this year, the ideal situation might be to begin the confirmation process quickly, injecting it into the political bloodstream and energizing conservative voters, but waiting until after Election Day — when vulnerable incumbents no longer have to worry about being cast out by angry independent and liberal voters — to hold a confirmation vote,” The New York Times explained.

There are several key, incredibly close, Senate races happening in November, and political analysts say that control of the chamber is up for grabs. At the same time, even if Republicans lose the Senate, they could still approve Barrett in the time after the election and before the new session in January.

See what others are saying: (Politico) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)

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House To Send Impeachment Article Monday, Starting Impeachment Trial Process

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  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the House will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of the impeachment trial process.
  • The news comes one day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.
  • The senators could still come to their own agreement to delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs. 
  • Some Democrats have signaled support for this move because it would give them extra time to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominations before the trial starts.

Pelosi To Send Impeachment Article

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday.

The move will officially trigger the start of the impeachment trial process. The announcement comes one day after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.

Despite Pelosi’s decision, the senators still could come to their own agreement to start the ceremonial proceedings but delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs.

In fact, Democrats, who have been pushing for a schedule that would allow them to still confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees before the trial proceedings start each day, have signaled that they might not oppose a delay because it would give them extra time for confirmations.

During his announcement this morning, Schumer indicated that the details were still being hashed out.

“I’ve been speaking to the Republican leader about the timing and duration of the trial,” he said. “But make no mistake a trial will be held in the United States Senate and there will be a vote on whether to convict the president.” 

McConnell, for his part, responded by reiterating that his party will continue to press for Trump’s team to be given enough time.

“This impeachment began with an unprecedentedly fast and minimal process over in the House,” he said. “Senate Republicans strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defense.”

While the leaders may not have worked out the particulars yet, according to reports, both parties have already agreed that this trial will be shorter than Trump’s first impeachment, which lasted three weeks.

Implications for Power-Sharing Deal

The new impeachment trial deadline could also speed up the currently stalled negotiations between Schumer and McConnell regarding how power will be shared in a Senate with equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats.

Democrats effectively control the Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris will be the deciding vote, but she cannot always be there to resolve every dispute.

As a result, McConnell and Schumer have been working to come up with a power-sharing deal for day to day operations, similar to one that was struck in 2001 the last time the Senate was split 50-50. However, those negotiations have hit a roadblock: the legislative filibuster.

The filibuster is the long-standing Senate rule that requires a supermajority of at least 60 senators to vote to end debate on a given piece of legislation before moving to a full floor vote. Technically, all 50 Democrats and Vice President Harris could agree to change the rule to just require a simple majority to legislation advance, or what’s known as the “nuclear option.”

That move, in effect, would allow them to get through controversial legislation without any bipartisan support, as long as every Democrat stays within party lines. Many more progressive Democrats have pushed for this move, arguing that the filibuster stands in the way of many of their and Biden’s top priorities.

Given this possibility, McConnell has demanded that Democrats agree to protect the filibuster and promise not to pursue the nuclear option as part of the power-sharing deal. 

But top Democrats have rejected that demand, with many arguing that having the threat of filibuster is necessary to get Republicans to compromise.

In other words: if Republicans fear that Democrats will “go nuclear,” they will be more likely to agree to certain bills and measures to avoid that.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Politico) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Biden Signs 17 Executive Order During His First Day in Office. Here’s What You Need to Know

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  • In the first hours of his presidency, Joe Biden signed 17 executive orders and proclamations, many of which focused on rolling back Trump administration policies regarding immigration, the environment, and protections for minority groups.
  • Biden also implemented several measures to tackle the coronavirus, including requiring masks to be worn on federal property and by federal employees. He is also expected to announce a new national strategy aimed at restructuring the federal response to the pandemic.
  • On Thursday, Biden will also invoke the Defense Production Act, which would speed up the development and distribution of vaccine-related equipment.

Biden Rolls Back Trump Policies

President Joe Biden signed 17 executive actions and proclamations Wednesday afternoon. Many of his first acts in office are focused on rolling back several policies implemented by former President Donald Trump that Biden’s aides said have caused the “greatest damage” to the country.

“I thought there’s no time to wait, get to work immediately,” Biden told reporters present during the signed of several of the orders. 

Here is a breakdown of some of the key measures Biden implemented.

Immigration

Biden immediately ended all construction on the border wall by overhauling the national emergency declaration Trump had enacted to divert billions in federal funds to his central campaign promise.

The new president also expanded protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and overturned a Trump policy that made immigration enforcement more strict and

In similar actions, he also ended the travel ban on multiple Muslim-majority countries and revoked a Trump administration order that would have excluded non-citizens from the 2020 Census count.

The Environment

One of the most significant actions Biden took was signing a letter to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. It will take 30 days for the return to go into effect.

The president also issued a sweeping order that reversed a number of the Trump administration’s environmental policies, including revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, re-establishing a working group to look into the social costs of greenhouse gasses, and temporarily banning oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Justice for Minority Groups

In one far-reaching order, Biden directed all federal agencies to review equity in their programs and policies. They are required to issue a report within 200 days that, among other things, details how each will remove barriers to opportunities and ensure all Americans have equal access to federal resources.

Biden also ended Trump’s policy that limited federal agencies, contractors, and other organizations from holding diversity and inclusion training. The same order also disbanded the 1776 Commission created by Trump to study his claims that the education system was too liberal in its teaching of American history.

In a separate order, the president issued changes that will broaden federal protections against sex discrimination to include LGBTQ+ Americans, reversing a previous action by Trump.

Government Accountability

As part of a broad measure aimed at general accountability in the executive branch, Biden issued an order that will establish ethics rules for all people in his administration. The same order will also require all executive branch appointees to sign an ethics pledge. 

Separately, the president additionally froze all new regulations Trump had put in place during his last few weeks in office until they can be further evaluated.

Economy and Coronavirus

Chief among Biden’s first acts in office were his plans for the coronavirus pandemic and the damage it has caused to the American people.

In terms of financial relief, Biden extended the ban on evictions and foreclosures and paused student loan payments until September.

As for direct actions concerning the pandemic, the president imposed a mask mandate for all federal employees and anyone on federal property. He also signed an extensive order aimed at restructuring the federal response to the pandemic.

Biden is expected to enact more policies in regards to the coronavirus in the coming days, including taking more executive actions to ramp up testing and vaccine distribution, safely reopening schools and businesses, and provide more money to states to help carry out those efforts, among other things.

To achieve these goals, he will also invoke the Defense Production Act, which will compel American companies to manufacture supplies for the pandemic response such as PPE and other items needed for vaccines.

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

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U.S. To Join WHO-led Vaccine Distribution Plan as Biden Implements a Flurry of COVID-19 Executive Orders

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  • Dr. Anthony Fauci indicated Thursday that President Joe Biden will join COVAX, a World Health Organization-led COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
  • Fauci’s announcement comes one day after Biden signed an executive order reversing former President Donald Trump’s plan to remove the United States from the WHO. 
  • Among other orders, Biden plans to implement a mask mandate for airports, planes, trains, and other forms of interstate travel. He has already ordered masks to be worn on all federal property. 
  • Biden is also expected to invoke the Defense Production Act on Thursday, which would speed up the development and distribution of vaccine-related equipment.

U.S. To Join COVAX

Just one day after President Joe Biden signed an order to keep the United States in the World Health Organization, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the country will join its global COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.

That plan, COVAX, is a collaborative effort between 92 countries to ensure that COVID vaccines aren’t only distributed in wealthy countries.

The idea behind the plan is that establishing a global herd immunity will be much more effective at curbing the spread of the virus than just establishing herd immunity in countries that can afford to buy large quantities of the vaccine, especially when international travel picks back up. 

The plan is not without its shortcomings. Earlier this week, the WHO stated that some countries participating in COVAX have been disregarding the plan and buying large quantities of vaccines for themselves.

Nonetheless, in a video conference call Thursday morning with the WHO’s executive board, Fauci — now chief medical advisor to the president — said the Biden administration believes it can inoculate every American while also helping people in other countries.

Biden’s plan to join COVAX is a stark contrast from the Trump administration, which refused to participate in the program. 

Fauci said Biden will issue the directive to join COVAX later Thursday. 

Additionally, Fauci noted that the U.S. once again “intends to fulfill its financial obligations” to the WHO. 

In his attempt to leave the organization, Trump cut off payments from the U.S.; however, his administration never got the chance to fully cut ties with the organization because the U.S. wasn’t scheduled to officially leave until July of this year. 

Biden Signs Mask Mandate, Other Orders To Come

Among other COVID-related executive orders signed Wednesday, Biden implemented a national mask mandate for people on federal property. 

Sometime Thursday, Biden is also expected to sign another order requiring masks to be worn in airports, as well as on airplanes, trains, and other interstate transit systems.

Also on Thursday, Biden is also expected to sign an order that will establish a COVID-19 testing board. Once implemented, the board will be responsible for increasing testing rates, addressing supply shortfalls, and determining the rules and regulations for international travelers coming into the U.S. It will also have the power to distribute resources to minority communities that have been disproportionately affected by the virus.

On top of that, Biden plans to sign an order that will direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse states and Native American tribes for their emergency response efforts. Notably, those reimbursements include costs related to reopening schools.

Finally, Biden is expected to invoke the Defense Production Act on Thursday. Such a move would speed up the production of masks and other equipment needed to help administer vaccines.  

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Reuters) (CNBC)

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