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In a Win for Trump, SCOTUS Tosses Challenge to President’s Plan to Exclude Undocumented Immigrants From Census

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  • In a 6-3 decision, SCOTUS threw out a case on Friday that attempted to block an order from President Trump that would prevent noncitizens from being counted in the census for the first time in American history.
  • The court’s conservative majority said that it was too soon to see a ruling on the question. The three liberal justices dissented, arguing that the policy clearly violated federal law and centuries of legal precedent, thus was ripe for review.
  • If enacted, Trump’s order would exclude millions of people from the once-a-decade count that determines how congressional seats are apportioned and how billions of federal dollars are allocated.
  • While the decision marks a temporary win for the Trump administration, the practical effects are unclear as the Census Bureau has said it will not be able to deliver the totals to Trump before he leaves office.

SCOTUS Gives Trump a Win

The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a challenge to President Donald Trump’s efforts to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census count, resulting in a temporary win for the administraiton.

The case stems from a memorandum Trump signed in July directing the Census Bureau to send him two sets of numbers from the once-a-decade population count that is used to allocate congressional seats and billions of dollars in federal funding.

Under the memo, the first set of numbers would count the total amount of people in every state, and the second would leave out all undocumented immigrants. The administration has reasoned that the full, traditional count could give states with large noncitizen populations more representation than they deserved.

Twenty-three states and several immigrant rights organizations immediately challenged the decision in separate cases, arguing that it violated the Constitution, federal law, or both. This illegal action, they said, would lead to a less accurate census count, thus causing some states to lose representation.

Three lower courts sided with the challengers and blocked Trump’s policy, but a fourth said it was not the right time to consider the case. The administration appealed the earlier rulings to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case last month.

The Supreme Court’s most recent decision appears to fall in line with the fourth court’s assessment. In a 6-3 ruling, the highest court’s conservative majority stated that it was premature to decide the question at this juncture.

“At present, this case is riddled with contingencies and speculation that impede judicial review,” the justices said in an unsigned opinion. “We express no view on the merits of the constitutional and related statutory claims presented. We hold only that they are not suitable for adjudication at this time.”

In a dissent written by Justice Stephen Breyer and joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, the three liberals argued that Trump’s memo clearly violated federal statutes, widely accepted Constitutional interpretations, and historical precedent. They argued the court should be able to make a decision now.

Under the Constitution, congressional seats are to be apportioned using census data “counting the whole number of persons in each state.” The census has always included both citizens and noncitizens. Never has a president claimed the authority to exclude the latter.

If Trump is allowed to fulfill his unprecedented request, it would mark the first time in American history that noncitizens were left out of the count since the first census in 1790.

Practical Implications

The consequences of such a decision would be jarring. Neither the Trump administration nor its lawyers disputes the fact that removing undocumented populations from the census totals would shift representation and federal funds to states where the population tends to be older, whiter and typically Republican.

Numerous reports and studies have found that excluding the undocumented immigrant population from census totals would lead to millions being left out of the population totals used for reapportionment.

According to a Pew Research Center study published over summer, if noncitizen immigrants were excluded from apportionment, California, Texas, and Florida would each lose one seat in Congress. Meanwhile, Minnesota and Ohio — as well as Alabama, which is otherwise projected to lose a seat — would each gain one additional representative.

Despite the startling possible implications, it is currently unclear how much of a practical effect the high court’s decision will have. Technically speaking, the ruling does give Trump the ability to continue pursuing his efforts to exclude noncitizens, but the temporary victory may be limited.

By law, the Census Bureau is required to give the census data to the president by Dec. 31, but the agency has publicly said that it will not be able to reach the deadline this year because it has yet to resolve data errors and irregularities. The bureau got a late start this year because of delays in collecting in-person census data due to the pandemic.

As a result, the agency extended door-to-door efforts to the end of October instead of the initial date which was set for July, and asked the Trump administration to extend the December data delivery deadline until April 2021. 

Trump initially agreed, but in August, the administration abruptly reversed course and ordered the in-count to be cut short a month so that the Dec. 31 deadline could be met despite warnings from top bureau officials that the move would drastically skew the data and potentially leave many uncounted.

At the time, many experts said it was clear the administration had made the decision because in an attempt to ensure Trump would still be able to enforce his memo even if lost the election and was forced to leave office on Jan. 20.

It appears as though that plan may fail anyway. While the Census Bureau has not yet said when it expects it will deliver the final numbers to the president, documents released by the House Oversight Committee earlier this month cited sources that said the agency would not be able to deliver the data until Jan. 23, three days after President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.

Even if Trump is able to get his hands on the numbers before then, he will almost certainly face another barrage of legal challenges.

“This Supreme Court decision is only about timing, not the merits,” Dale Ho, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represented some of the challengers, said in a statement. “If this policy is ever actually implemented, we’ll be right back in court challenging it.”

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

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Mississippi Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Roe v. Wade

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The Supreme Court’s decision to consider Mississippi’s restrictive abortion ban already has sweeping implications for the precedents set under the landmark reproductive rights ruling, but now the state is asking the high court to go even further.


Mississippi’s Abortion Case

Mississippi filed a brief Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade when it hears the state’s 15-week abortion ban this fall.

After months of deliberation, the high court agreed in May to hear what will be the first abortion case the 6-to-3 conservative majority will decide.

Both a district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had ruled that Mississippi could not enforce the 2018 law that banned nearly all abortions at 15 weeks with exceptions for only “severe fetal abnormality,” but not rape and incest.

If the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law, it would undo decades of precedent set under Roe in 1973 and upheld under Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, where the court respectively ruled and reaffirmed that states could not ban abortion before the fetus is “viable” and can live outside the womb, which is generally around 24 to 28 weeks.

When the justices decided to hear the case, they said they would specifically examine the question of whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”

Depending on the scope of their decision on the Mississippi law, the court’s ruling could allow other states to pass much more restrictive abortion bans without the risk of lower courts striking down those laws.

As a result, legal experts have said the case will represent the most significant ruling on reproductive rights since Casey nearly three decades ago, and the Thursday brief raises the stakes even more.

When Mississippi asked the justices to take up its case last June, the state’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch (R), explicitly stated that the petition’s questions “do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.”

But that was before the court’s conservatives solidified their supermajority with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who personally opposes abortion — following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

New Filing Takes Aim at Roe

With the new filing, it appears that Fitch views the high court’s altered makeup as an opportunity to undermine the constitutional framework that has been in place for the better part of the last century.

“The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion,” Fitch wrote in the brief, arguing that American society has changed so much that the previous rulings need to be reheard.

“Today, adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” she added, claiming the power should be left to state lawmakers. 

“Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date,” she continued. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the states.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Mississippi’s sole abortion provider in the suit against the state’s law, painted Fitch’s effort as one that will have a chilling effect on abortion rights nationwide.

“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the group said in a statement Thursday. “Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country.”

The Supreme Court has not yet said exactly when during its fall term it will hear oral arguments on the Mississippi case, but a decision is expected to come down by next June or July, as is standard.

An anticipated ruling just months before the 2022 midterms will almost certainly position abortion as a top issue at the ballot box.

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

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Republicans Boycott Jan. 6 Committee After Pelosi Rejects Two of McCarthy’s Picks

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The House Minority Leader said that unless House Speaker Pelosi reinstated the two members, Republicans will launch their own investigation into the insurrection.


Pelosi Vetoes Republicans

Republicans are boycotting the select committee to investigate the insurrection after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) rejected two of the five GOP members Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) picked to serve on the panel Wednesday.

In a statement, Pelosi cited the “statements and actions” of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) and Jim Banks (R-In.), whose nominations she said she was opposing “with respect for the integrity of the investigation.”

Jordan and Banks — both staunch allies of former President Donald Trump — have helped propagate the previous leader’s false election claims, opposed efforts to investigate the insurrection, and voted not to certify the election for President Joe Biden. 

A senior Democratic aide also specifically told The Washington Post that Democrats did not want Jordan on the panel because he reportedly helped Trump strategized how to overturn the election and due to the fact he spoke to the then-president on Jan. 6, meaning there is a possibility he could be called to testify before the very same committee.

The aide also said that Democrats opposed Banks’ selection because of a statement he issued after McCarthy chose him.

In the statement, the representative compared the insurrection to the racial justice protests last summer, implied that the rioters were just normal American’s expressing their political views, and claimed the committee was a political ploy “to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”

Notably, Pelosi did say she would accept McCarthy’s three other nominees — including Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Wi.), who also voted against certifying Biden’s win.

McCarthy Threatens Separate Investigation

McCarthy, however, refused to select new members, and instead opted to remove all his appointees from the would-be bipartisan committee.

In a statement condemning the move, the minority leader said that Pelosi’s action “represents an egregious abuse of power.” 

“Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility and shows the Speaker is more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth,” he said.

“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”

Pelosi defended her decision during a press conference Thursday, where she said that Banks and Jordan were “ridiculous” choices for the panel. 

“When statements are ridiculous and fall into the realm of, ‘You must be kidding,’ there’s no way that they’re going to be on the committee,” she added.

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

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More Republican Are Pushing COVID Vaccinations, But the Party Remains Divided on Its Messaging

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The renewed effort to encourage vaccination comes as the surge in COVID cases caused by the delta variant continues to disproportionately impact Republican-led states with low vaccination rates.


GOP Leaders Ramps Up Vaccination Push

In recent days, more Republican leaders and prominent conservatives have ramped up efforts to encourage members of their party to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the U.S. continues to see massive surges from the delta variant.

Some, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), have been pushing Americans to get vaccinated for months — a call he reiterated again on Tuesday. Many others, however, have been reticent to do the same until recently.

Most notable on that list is Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), the no. 2 Republican in House leadership, who just got his first dose over the weekend after resisting vaccination, claiming he had antibodies from previously contracting COVID. Scalise explained he changed his mind because of delta and encouraged others to do the same.

“There shouldn’t be any hesitancy over whether or not it’s safe and effective,” he said.

The top leader is set to continue pushing that advice. Earlier this week, the GOP Doctors Caucus announced that it would hold a news conference Thursday alongside Scalise and the third-ranking House Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), to encourage vaccination.

Rank and File Republicans Continue To Cast Doubt, Spread Misinformation

There are still plenty of Republicans working to undermine the renewed push to get their party vaccinated.

While many have painted vaccination as a matter of freedom of choice, others have sought to downplay the virus. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose state currently accounts for 40% of all new COVID cases, dismissed the spikes as the result of a “seasonal virus” on Monday.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk — who has had COVID twice — echoed that in a statement to reporters on Tuesday, where he argued that COVID is just something everyone has to live with.

“This is something we deal with in our lives on a daily basis; ever since I’ve been born, there’s sicknesses, there’s flu, there’s different diseases,” he said.

Some members of the GOP have used their positions of power to actively fight against vaccination. That includes Sen. Ron Johnson (Wi.), who has openly said he is not vaccinated. He has also been widely condemned for promoting unproven treatments and false information about vaccines during interviews and congressional hearings.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), who has repeatedly refused to share her vaccination status, has also drawn ire for sharing misinformation and continually comparing COVID prevention efforts to the Holocaust.

Greene was temporarily suspended from Twitter earlier this week for sharing false information on Monday, but she continued to utilize her spotlight to spread misinformation about vaccine-related deaths and side effects during a press conference the following day.

Uphill Battle

While those who downplay the coronavirus and spread false information about vaccinations are certainly not representative of the entire Republican Party, they are some of the most visible.

Greene and many of her counterparts who push anti-vaccine narratives have frequently been accused of acting in inflammatory ways to get more press — a strategy that more often than not tends to work in their favor. 

As a result, Republicans who want to encourage people to get the jabs will have their work cut out for them. Even many of those who have not openly expressed skepticism themselves have still let it flourish in the party for so long by not publicly pushing back against claims from members who sow disinformation.

The GOP’s broader failure to unify around a singular message on vaccines shows clearly among the party’s base.

According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News, poll 86% of Democrats have received at least one shot, but just 45% of Republicans have done the same. While just 6% of Democrats say they are not likely to get the vaccine, 47% of Republicans said they probably will not, and 38% said they definitely will not. 

Meanwhile, Republican-led states with low vaccination rates are suffering the most from the new spike in cases and the rapid spread of the delta variant. 

Arkansas, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country at just 35%, is currently reporting the highest per-capita cases in the U.S. Hospitalizations have gone up 85% in the state in the last two weeks, placing some hospital systems on the brink of collapse — a problem also faced by parts of Missouri, which has the third-highest COVID cases nationwide.

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

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