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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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Biden Outlines $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Plan

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  • President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus proposal on Thursday.
  • Under the plan, $1 trillion would go to direct relief for Americans. This includes a round of $1,400 stimulus checks, an extension and $400 weekly increase to federal unemployment benefits, and a $15 minimum wage.
  • The proposal would also allocate $440 billion for aid to local governments and businesses, as well as provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus with more testing and vaccinations, among other efforts.

Biden Outlines Direct Aid in Stimulus Plan

President-elect Joe Biden announced the details of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus package while speaking at an event in Wilmington, Delaware on Thursday.

Biden described the package, titled “American Rescue Plan,” as a set of emergency measures to immediately address the country’s economic and healthcare needs. The package will be followed by a second, broader relief package in February, which will aim to address more long-term economic recovery efforts.

Most significantly, $1 trillion — more than half of the funding allocated in the first package — will go to direct relief for Americans. Among other measures, the direct aid provisions in the plan include increasing federal unemployment benefits from $300 a week to $400 a week and extending them from March to September.

Biden’s plan also includes $1,400 stimulus checks to top off the $600 already approved in the December stimulus package. However, eligibility for the direct payments would be expanded to families of non-citizen immigrants as well as families with adult dependents.

Additionally, the proposal includes several other measures targeted at directly helping struggling Americans, such as raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, adding billions in funding for child care, and expanding the child tax credit to poor and middle-class families.

Broader Goals

As for the broader economic and pandemic-centered measures, Biden’s package would allocate $440 billion for aid to states, local governments, and businesses. It would also provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus, with a major focus on expanding testing and accelerating vaccine distribution.

Biden has set the dual goals of delivering 100 million vaccines and reopening the majority of K-12 public schools in his first 100 days. To meet that objective, his plan includes $20 billion for a universal vaccination program, $50 billion to expand testing, and $130 billion to help schools reopen safely.

The proposal, overall, meets many of the demands for direct aid that Democrats have pushed for months but have been unable to approve with the Republican-controlled Senate. Now that Democrats hold the presidency and control of both chambers, many members have urged Biden to ask for an even higher price tag.

Biden, for his part, has said he would like to try for a bipartisan majority on his first piece of legislation, but given Republicans months-long resistance to many Democratic asks, that desire is likely a pipe-dream.

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

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Democrats Ask for Investigation into GOP Members Aiding Rioters

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  • More than 30 House Democrats signed a letter Wednesday demanding that security officials look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” at the Capitol the day before last week’s insurrection.
  • The lawmakers claimed they “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting, including guests who “appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day.”
  • The letter comes one day after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) accused her Republican colleagues of bringing rioters into the Capitol the day before for “reconnaissance.” 
  • Notably, neither the letter nor Sherill herself directly named any members, and these claims have not yet been verified.

Demands for Investigation

Congressional Democrats are demanding an investigation into whether Republican representatives aided the Capitol rioters who lead last Wednesday’s insurrection.

In a letter signed by 31 members Wednesday, lawmakers asked the acting House and Senate Sergeants at Arms to look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” the day right before the attack. 

In that letter, the Democrats say that they as well as some of their staffers “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting the Capitol.

They pointed out that was unusual because the building has restricted public access since March as part of pandemic protocols. Since then, tourists have only been allowed to enter the Capitol if they were brought in by a member of Congress.

The members found the tours “so concerning” that they reported them to the Sergeant at Arms the same day.

“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day,” the letter continued. “Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.” 

The demands come after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (R-NJ) claimed during a Facebook livestream Tuesday that she saw Republican representatives bringing now-identified rioters into the Capitol the day before the riots for “reconnaissance.” Sherrill also alleged that some of her GOP colleagues “abetted” Trump and “incited this violent crowd.”

Members Under Fire

Neither the letter nor Sherill have directly named any members, and none of these claims have yet been verified. However, over the last few days, a number of Republicans have been condemned for their perceived involvement in inciting the rioters.

In a now-deleted video, right-wing conspiracy theorist and “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander claimed he had planned the rally that took place before the riot with the help of three House Republicans: Paul Gosar (Az.), Andy Biggs (Az.), and Mo Brooks (Al.). All three men voted to undermine the will of the American people and throw out the electoral votes in Arizona following the insurrection. 

Biggs and Brooks have both denied that they have any involvement, but Gosar, who tagged Alexander in a tweet he posted just hours before the attack, has not responded to any requests for comment from several outlets.

“Biden should concede,” Gosar wrote. “I want his concession on my desk tomorrow morning. Don’t make me come over there. #StopTheSteaI2021”

While Brooks has denied any involvement in planning the rally, his remarks to the would-be domestic terrorists at the event have sparked widespread condemnation.

“Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” he told the crowd. “Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?”

Some House Democrats introduced resolutions to censure Brooks for his comments. Other members have also been pushing to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a relic of the post-Civil War era which disqualifies people who “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. from holding public office. 

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) has also received 47 co-sponsored on her proposed resolution that would start investigations for “removal of the members who attempted to overturn the results of the election and incited a white supremacist attempted coup.”

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

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House Impeaches Trump By Largest Bipartisan Margin in History

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  • The House voted to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.
  • Ten Republicans broke party ranks to vote in favor of impeachment, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.
  • Ahead of the vote, sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he was pleased Democrats were moving forward with a vote because it will make it easier to “purge” Trump from the party.
  • McConnel later said he has not yet decided whether he will vote to convict Trump. Still, he has refused to convene the Senate before Jan. 19, meaning that as of now, there is little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before his term ends.

House Debates Impeachment

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 232 to 197 to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.

All Democrats voted in favor of the single article. They were also joined by 10 Republicans, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.

The decision was debated on the floor after Vice President Pence rejected Democrats’ calls to invoke the 25th amendment and remove Trump from office.

Most notable among the Republican members who voted to impeach was Liz Cheney (R-WY), the number three House Republican who announced her decision Tuesday night.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said in a statement.

Questionable Path in Senate

No Republican Senators have publicly said they support removing Trump from office.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he “has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party.”

Sources separately told Axios that “there’s a better than 50-50 chance” that McConnell would vote to convict Trump.

McConnell responded to the reports earlier on Wednesday but did not outright dispute many of the claims.

“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” he said.

As for whether or not other members of the GOP would follow suit, a top Republican close to McConnell also told Axios that “Senate institutional loyalists are fomenting a counterrevolution” to Trump. 

Additionally, McConnell’s advisers have said that he has “privately speculated that a dozen Republican senators — and possibly more — could ultimately vote to convict.” Notably, it would most likely require 17 Republicans to join Democrats in order for Trump to be found guilty.

In regards to a timeline, the Senate is in recess and not set to reconvene until Jan. 19, the day before Joe Biden’s inauguration. McConnell has rejected calls to ask that members return before then, meaning that as of right now there is very little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before he leaves office.

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

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