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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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Republican Congressman Proposes Bill to Ban Anyone Under 16 From Social Media

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The proposal comes amid a growing push for social media companies to be stringently regulated for child and adolescent use.


The Social Media Child Protection Act

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Ut.) introduced legislation Thursday that would ban all Americans under the age of 16 from accessing social media.

The proposal, dubbed the Social Media Child Protection Act, would require social media companies to verify users’ ages and give parents and states the ability to bring legal actions against those platforms if they fail, according to a press release.

The legislation would also mandate that social media platforms implement “reasonable procedures to protect the confidentiality, security, and integrity of personal information collected from users and perspective users.”

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would be given the authority to enforce these regulations and implement fines for violations.

Stewart has argued that the move is necessary to protect children from the negative mental health impacts of social media.

“There has never been a generation this depressed, anxious, and suicidal – it’s our responsibility to protect them from the root cause: social media,”  he said in a statement announcing the bill.

“We have countless protections for our children in the physical world – we require car seats and seat belts; we have fences around pools; we have a minimum drinking age of 21; and we have a minimum driving age of 16,” the Congressman continued. 

“The damage to Generation Z from social media is undeniable – so why are there no protections in the digital world?”

While Stewart’s arguments are nothing new in the ongoing battle around children and regulating social media, his legislation has been described as one of the most severe proposals on this front.

The plan would represent a huge shift in verification systems that critics have long said fall short. Many social media sites like TikTok and Twitter technically ban users under 13 from joining, but there is no formal verification process or mechanisms for enforcement. Companies often just ask users to provide their birthdays, so those under 13 could easily just lie.

Backlash and Support

Stewart — who spent the weeks before the rollout of his bill discussing the matter with the media — has already gotten pushback from many who say the idea is too extreme and a bad approach.

Carl Szabo, the vice president and general counsel of the social media trade group NetChoice, told The Washington Post that such a decision should be left to parents.

“Rather than doomsaying or trying to get between parents and their families, the government should provide tools and education on how best to use this new technology, not demonize it,” he said.

Others have also argued that the move could cut off access to powerful and positive online resources for kids.

“For many kids, especially LGBTQ young people who may have unsupportive parents or live in a conservative area, the internet and social media are a lifeline,” Evan Greer, the director of the advocacy group Fight for the Future, told The Post. “We need better solutions than just cutting kids off from online community and educational resources.”

Lawmakers have also echoed that point, including Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Ca.), who represents Silicon Valley. However, there also seems to be support for this measure. At least one Democratic Congressmember has told reporters they are open to the idea, and Stewart says he thinks the proposal will have broad bipartisan backing.

“This is bipartisan… There’s Democratic leaders who are actually maneuvering to be the lead co-sponsor on this,”  he told KSL News Radio, adding that President Joe Biden recently wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal that referenced similar ideas.

A Growing Movement

Stewart is just one among the growing number of lawmakers and federal officials who have voiced support for keeping kids and younger teens off social media altogether.

In an interview with CNN Sunday, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy expressed concern regarding  “the right age for a child to start using social media.”

“I worry that right now, if you look at the guidelines from the platforms, that age 13 is when kids are technically allowed to use social media,” he said. “But there are two concerns I have about that. One is: I, personally, based on the data I’ve seen, believe that 13 is too early.” 

Murthy went on to say that adolescents at that age are developing their identity and sense of self, arguing that social media can be a “skewed and often distorted environment,” adding that he is also worried about the fact that the rules around age are “inconsistently implemented.”

His comments gained widespread backing. At least one Senator posted a tweet agreeing, and an FTC Commissioner also shared the remarks on the platform. Stewart, for his part, explicitly cited Murthy’s remarks in the press release announcing his bill. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (KSL News Radio) (CNN)

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Feds Investigate Classified Files Found in Biden’s Former Office

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The documents reportedly include U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics such as Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom


What Was in the Files?

President Biden’s legal team discovered about 10 classified files in his former office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington D.C., the White House revealed Monday.

The Department of Justice has concluded an initial inquiry into the matter and will determine whether to open a criminal investigation.

According to a source familiar with the matter who spoke to CNN, they include U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics such as Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom.

A source also told CBS News the batch did not contain nuclear secrets and had been contained in a folder in a box with other unclassified papers.

The documents are reportedly from Biden’s time as vice president, but it remains unclear what level of classification they are and how they ended up in his office.

Biden kept an office in the. Penn Biden Center, a think tank about a mile from the White House, between 2017 and 2020, when he was elected president.

On Nov. 2, his lawyers claim, they discovered the documents as they were clearing out the space to vacate it.

They immediately notified the National Archives, which retrieved the files the next morning, according to the White House.

What Happens Next?

Attorney General Merrick Garland must decide whether to open a criminal investigation into Biden’s alleged mishandling of the documents. To that end, he appointed John Lausch Jr., the U.S. attorney in Chicago and a Trump appointee, to conduct an initial inquiry.

Garland reportedly picked him for the role despite him being in a different jurisdiction to avoid appearing partial.

Lausch has reportedly finished the initial part of his inquiry and provided a preliminary report to Garland.

If a criminal investigation is opened, Garland will likely appoint an independent special counsel to lead it.

The case mirrors a similar DoJ special counsel investigation into former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified materials and obstruction of efforts to properly retrieve them.

On Nov. 18, Garland appointed Jack Smith to investigate over 300 classified documents found at Trump’s Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago.

Trump resisted multiple National Archives requests for the documents for months leading up to the FBI’s raid on his property, then handed over 15 boxes of files only for even more to be found still at Mar-a-Lago.

“When is the FBI going to raid the many houses of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” Trump wrote on Truth Social Monday. “These documents were definitely not declassified.”

Rep. James Comer (R-KY), the new chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told reporters he will investigate the Biden files.

Republicans have been quick to pounce on the news and compare it to Trump’s classified files, but Democrats have pointed out differences in the small number of documents and Biden’s willingness to cooperate with the National Archives.

The White House has yet to explain why, if the files were first discovered six days before the midterm elections, the White House waited two months to reveal the news to the public.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (BBC)

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Lawmakers Propose Bill to Protect Fertility Treatments Amid Post-Roe Threats

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The move comes as a number of states are considering anti-abortion bills that could threaten or ban fertility treatments by redefining embryos or fetuses as “unborn human beings” without exceptions for IVF.


The Right To Build Families Act of 2022

A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would codify the right to use assisted reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertility (IVF) treatments into federal law.

The legislation, dubbed the Right To Build Families Act of 2022, was brought forward by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Il) and Patty Murray (D-Wa.) alongside Rep. Susan Wild (D- Pa.). The measure would bar any limits on seeking or receiving IVF treatments and prohibit regulations on a person’s ability to retain their “reproductive genetic materials.” 

The bill would also protect physicians who provide these reproductive services and allow the Justice Department to take civil action against any states that try to limit access to fertility treatments.

The lawmakers argue it is necessary to protect IVF because a number of states have been discussing and proposing legislation that could jeopardize or even ban access to the treatments in the wake of the Roe v. Wade reversal. 

“IVF advocates in this country today are publicly telling us, ‘We need this kind of legislation to be able to protect this,’” Murray told HuffPost. “And here we are after the Dobbs decision where states are enacting laws and we have [anti-abortion] advocates who are now starting to talk, especially behind closed doors, about stopping the right for women and men to have IVF procedures done.”

Fertility Treatments Under Treat

The state-level efforts in question are being proposed by Republican lawmakers who wish to further limit abortions by redefining when life begins. Some of the proposals would define embryos or fetuses as “unborn human beings” without exceptions for those that are created through IVF, where an egg is fertilized by a sperm outside the body and then implanted in a uterus.

For example, a bill has already been pre-filed in Virginia for the 2023 legislative session that explicitly says life begins at fertilization and does not have any specific language that exempts embryos made through IVF.

Experts say these kinds of laws are concerning for a number of reasons. In the IVF process, it is typical to fertilize multiple eggs, but some are discarded. If a person becomes pregnant and does not want to keep the rest of their eggs. It is also normal that not all fertilized eggs will be viable, so physicians will get rid of those.

Sometimes doctors will also implant multiple fertilized eggs to increase the likelihood of pregnancy, but that can result in multiple eggs being fertilized. In order to prevent having multiple babies at once and improve the chance of a healthy pregnancy, people can get a fetal reduction and lower the number of fetuses.

All of those actions could become illegal under proposals that do not provide exemptions. 

“In my case, I had five fertilized eggs, and we discarded three because they were not viable. That is now potentially manslaughter in some of these states,” said Duckworth, who had both of her daughters using IVF.

“I also have a fertilized egg that’s frozen. My husband and I haven’t decided what we will do with it, but the head of the Texas Right to Life organization that wrote the bounty law for Texas has come out and specifically said he’s going after IVF next, and he wants control of the embryos,” Duckworth added.

In a hearing after Roe was overturned, Murray also raised concerns about “whether parents and providers could be punished if an embryo doesn’t survive being thawed for implantation, or for disposing unused embryos.”

Experts have said that even if anti-abortion laws defining when life begins do provide exceptions, it would be contradictory and confusing, so providers would likely err on the side of caution and not provide services out of fear of prosecution.

“[Abortion bans] are forcing women to stay pregnant against their will and are, at the very same time, threatening Americans’ ability to build a family through services like IVF,” Murray said in a statement to Axios. “It’s hard to comprehend, and it’s just plain wrong.”

The federal legislation to combat these efforts faces an uphill battle. It is unlikely it will be passed in the last few days of lame duck session, and with control of Congress being handed to Republicans come January, movement in the lower chamber will be hard fought.

Duckworth, however, told Axios that she will keep introducing the legislation “until we can get it passed.” 

See what others are saying: (Axios) (HuffPost) (USA Today)

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