Mon. Sep 25th, 2023

Four directions the supreme court’s abortion pill case could take

It’s possible that today ends with a supreme court decision allowing abortion medication mifepristone to stay available at pharmacies nationwide. Or, the court’s conservative majority could again display its willingness to throttle reproductive care access and allow an appeals court decision reimposing restrictions on the drug to go into effect.

Here’s a look at four ways the ruling on the mifepristone case could go, from Steve Vladeck of the University of Texas School of Law:

Here we go again:

Four possible #mifepristone rulings from #SCOTUS today:

1) Grant stay pending appeal;

2) Deny stay pending appeal;

3) Weird mixed ruling; or

4) No ruling.

(1) means no change to mifepristone access anytime soon; (2)-(4) mean big changes starting Saturday.

— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) April 21, 2023

It’s also *possible* that Justice Alito extends the administrative stay *again* (what happened on Wednesday), but that seems exceedingly unlikely.

One way or the other, I expect that we get something from the full Court today—although *when* and *what* is anyone’s guess.

— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) April 21, 2023

And a reminder of how this complex case reached this point, from the Guardian’s Lauren Gambino:

Earlier this month, Matthew Kacsmaryk, a federal judge in Texas, declared that the FDA improperly approved the drug in 2000, in effect saying it should be pulled from the market even where abortion remains legal.

The Biden administration appealed to a federal court, where a divided three-judge panel said mifepristone could remain available but imposed several barriers to how the drug is accessed and administered.

Following the appellate ruling, the justice department sought emergency relief from the supreme court, asking the justices to block a lower court ruling that would have sharply curtailed access to the pill by reversing a series of regulatory actions on mifepristone that the FDA loosened, beginning in 2016.

The pause gives the justices additional time to study arguments and consider the restrictions ordered by the lower court, which include limiting mifepristone use after seven weeks of pregnancy – it is currently approved through 10 weeks – and banning delivery by mail.

If the justices allow the appeals court ruling to stand, the Biden administration has argued, it would dramatically limit the accessibility of mifepristone for both women seeking it and providers dispensing it, causing chaos.

Key events

Closing summary

We continue to await potential supreme court action on a petition from the justice department challenging a federal appeals panel’s reimposition of restrictions on mifepristone, a drug used in medication abortion. A stay of the appeals court’s ruling expires today at midnight, and it’s possible the justices will before then announce an action that restricts access to the drug, or keeps it as is. The decision could arrive at any time.

Here’s what else is going on today:

  • Joe Biden could as soon as next Tuesday officially announce plans to run for a second term in the White House.

  • A top adviser to Donald Trump is sitting for an interview with special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecutors for the second day in a row.

  • Hunter Biden could be charged with four federal crimes, some of which are felonies, according to a report.

  • Republicans love Trump and Democrats are willing to put up with Biden: Those are the conclusions from a pair of new public opinion polls.

  • Who had the worst week in Washington? It might be Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

At today’s White House press briefing, reporters tried their best to get the president’s spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre to confirm that Joe Biden would run for a second term.

They did not succeed, but ABC News made a particularly clever attempt that’s worth watching:

.@marykbruce: “Does the President have any plans to mark the fourth anniversary of his announcement of his 2020 campaign?”@PressSec: “That’s very good…I don’t have anything else beyond the week ahead that I just laid out, but I really appreciate the effort. That was very good”

— Molly Nagle (@MollyNagle3) April 21, 2023

Another showdown between Democratic and Republican state lawmakers is brewing in Montana, where the GOP leader of the house of representative is refusing to allow a transgender lawmaker to speak on the floor.

The Associated Press has the latest on that:

Montana’s house speaker on Thursday refused to allow a transgender lawmaker to speak about bills on the House floor until she apologizes for saying lawmakers would have “blood on their hands” if they supported a bill to ban gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth, the lawmaker said.

Rep. Zooey Zephyr, who was deliberately referred to using male pronouns by some conservative lawmakers demanding her censure, said she will not apologize, creating a standoff between the first-term state lawmaker and Republican legislative leaders.

Speaker Matt Regier refused to acknowledge Zephyr on Thursday when she wanted to comment on a bill seeking to put a binary definition of male and female into state code.

“It is up to me to maintain decorum here on the House floor, to protect the dignity and integrity,” Regier said Thursday. “And any representative that I don’t feel can do that will not be recognized.”

Regier said the decision came after “multiple discussions” with other lawmakers and that previously there have been similar problems.

Democrats objected to Regier’s decision, but the House Rules committee and the House upheld his decision on party-line votes.

“Hate-filled testimony has no place on the House floor,” Republican Rep. Caleb Hinkle, a member of the Montana Freedom Caucus that demanded the censure, said in a statement.

Zephyr said she stands by what she said about the consequences of banning essential medical care for transgender youth.

The bill would ban transgender minors in Montana from receiving puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones or surgical procedures. Those are treatments for gender dysphoria, the clinically significant distress caused by feeling that one’s gender identity does not match one’s biological sex. Medical professionals who provided such care would lose their medical licenses for at least a year.

If it seems like it’s been a rough few days for Ron DeSantis, it’s because it has.

The Florida governor keeps getting outmaneuvered by Donald Trump, who has managed to keep up a steady flow of Republican endorsements for his presidential campaign – including from one lawmaker who did so right after a meeting with DeSantis. The governor has reportedly gone as far as to ask his state’s congressmen to cut it out.

It got even worse for DeSantis this morning, when Politico published its daily Playbook, one of the most-read newsletters in Washington. In today’s edition, they report that a former Republican lawmaker who served on the House foreign affairs committee with DeSantis during his time as a congressman called them up to offer his thoughts about the now-governor.

“I think he’s an asshole,” David Trott said.

There you have it. You can read the rest here.

When he’s not railing against the media, Democrats or other perceived enemies, Donald Trump has recently channelled a lot of his vitriol towards Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to soon announce a campaign for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination.

But now, a Trump-aligned Republican House representative from the state has joined in on the criticism. Citing an article from Politico that says Florida’s state lawmakers have grown tired of passing legislation they view as little more than props for DeSantis’s presidential campaign, Greg Steube called on them to stand up to the governor. Here are the tweets:

Sad to see the Florida House and Senate, two bodies I had the honor to serve in, carrying the water for an unannounced presidential campaign.

— Greg Steube (@gregsteube) April 21, 2023

To my fellow elected officials serving in Tallahassee, your constituents voted you into those positions to represent them, not to kowtow to the presidential ambitions of a Governor! Be strong and courageous, the people of Florida will thank you.

— Greg Steube (@gregsteube) April 21, 2023

Biden may announce re-election campaign next week: report

Joe Biden’s plan to run for a second term as president has been the worst-kept secret in Washington for months, but as the Guardian’s Martin Pengelly reports, Biden is reportedly planning to soon put an end to the speculation with a formal announcement:

Joe Biden is preparing to announce his bid for re-election as soon as Tuesday, the anniversary of the launch of the 2020 campaign that put him in the White House, multiple news outlets reported.

The president has long and clearly signalled that he intends to seek re-election. Last week, he said he would launch his campaign “relatively soon”.

But as he is the oldest president ever inaugurated, and will be 82 on inauguration day in 2025 and 86 by the end of a second term, questions have persisted about his hunger and fitness to run.

Republicans have sought to make an issue of Biden’s age, despite the clear leader in the GOP presidential primary, Donald Trump, being only four years younger.

More details are emerging about the motivations of the gunman in a mass shooting that took place in Louisville earlier this month, one of a wave of killings across the United States that have underscored the severity of the country’s gun violence problem:

The family of a man who killed five people at a Louisville bank this month is working to destroy the AR-15 rifle he used, despite a Kentucky state law that sends firearms confiscated by law enforcement to auction and uses the proceeds to buy law enforcement equipment.

“The Sturgeon family was aghast to learn Kentucky law mandated the assault rifle used in the horrific event last week be sold to the highest bidder at public auction,” a family statement said.

It was reported, meanwhile, that the gunman, 25-year-old Connor Sturgeon, left two notes before he went to the Old National Bank and opened fire.

According to CNN, citing two law enforcement sources, “the notes reveal that part of the shooter’s goal was to show how easy it was in America for someone dealing with a serious mental illness to buy an assault-style weapon”.

The day so far

We’re awaiting potential supreme court action on a petition from the justice department challenging a federal appeals panel’s reimposition of restrictions on mifepristone, a drug used in medication abortion. A stay of the appeals court’s ruling expires today at midnight, and it’s possible the justices will before then announce an action that restricts access to the drug, or keeps it as is. The decision could come at any time.

Here’s what else is going on today:

  • A top adviser to Donald Trump is sitting for an interview with special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecutors for a second day.

  • Hunter Biden could be charged with four federal crimes, some of which are felonies, according to a report.

  • Republicans love Trump and Democrats are willing to put up with Biden: Those are the conclusions from a pair of new public opinion polls.

Martin Pengelly

Martin Pengelly

A worrying, not to say roundly depressing report from the Associated Press, over what the database of mass killings it maintains with USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University says about the year so far…

The US is setting a record yearly pace for mass killings, with around one each week. According to a database tracking such events, the death toll from 17 mass killings in 111 days is 88. All were shot. Only 2009 saw as many such killings in the same period.

At a Nashville elementary school, three children and three adults were killed. In northern California, farm workers died over a workplace grudge. At a ballroom outside Los Angeles, dancers were massacred as they celebrated the Lunar New Year.

In the last week, four partygoers were killed and 32 injured at a Sweet 16 party in Dadeville, Alabama. In Bowdoin, Maine, a man just released from prison fatally shot four people including his parents before firing on motorists on an interstate highway.

“Nobody should be shocked,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was one of 17 people killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. “I visit my daughter in a cemetery. Outrage doesn’t begin to describe how I feel.”

Read on:

Martin Pengelly

Martin Pengelly

Asked if he would subpoena John Roberts, the chief justice of the US supreme court, for testimony over corruption allegations against Clarence Thomas, the Senate judiciary committee chair made clear his frustration with a continued absence from the panel that has left Democrats unable to make such a move.

Clarence Thomas.
Clarence Thomas. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

“It takes a majority,” Dick Durbin of Illinois said yesterday. “I don’t have a majority.”

Democrats do not have a majority because Dianne Feinstein, the 89-year-old California senator, has been hospitalised with shingles. Some Democrats have called for Feinstein to resign. Others have labelled such calls sexist. Feinstein has said she hopes to return. Republicans blocked a move for a temporary committee replacement.

Thomas is the senior conservative on a court tilted 6-3 to the right. This month, he has been the subject of bombshell reporting from ProPublica, about his long relationship with and acceptance of gifts from Harlan Crow, a rightwing megadonor and collector of Hitler memorabilia. Crow’s links to Thomas’s wife, the rightwing activist Ginni Thomas, have also come under the spotlight.

Thomas and Crow deny wrongdoing, the justice saying he was advised he did not have to declare gifts, the donor saying he and Thomas did not discuss politics or business before the court. Observers counter that Thomas broke the law. But though supreme court justices are subject to federal ethics rules, they essentially govern themselves.

Durbin invited Roberts to testify on 2 May. He also said Roberts could send another justice in his place, pointing to testimony by Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer in 2011.

Durbin said: “There’s been no discussion of subpoenas for anyone at this point.”

Republicans opposed the request. But there is pressure on Democrats to act over what Chris Van Hollen of Maryland has called the “unacceptable” way in which “the supreme court has exempted itself from the accountability that applies to all other members of our federal courts”.

Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut has suggested Thomas and Crow should be the ones receiving subpoenas.

Martin Pengelly

Martin Pengelly

More on Matthew Kacsmaryk, the judge whose mifepristone ruling set us barreling down the track to today’s expected supreme court decision.

As highlighted by Lucas Kunce, a Democratic US Senate hopeful in Missouri, in 2018 Kacsmaryk made his first political donation in three years: $500 to the Republican senator Josh Hawley, after Kacsmaryk’s nomination to a federal judgeship in Texas by Donald Trump but before his confirmation by the US Senate.

There’s nothing wrong with that, as Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, explains: “A federal judge can’t [make donations] under Canon 5 of the Code of Conduct for Federal Judges, but a federal judicial nominee can contribute as nominees have a first-amendment right to support a political candidate.

“It is arcane, but makes sense, as federal judges must at least appear to be impartial, because we trust them to be fair in dispensing justice.”

But the donation – which appears in Federal Election Commission records, alongside previous donations to other Republicans including Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, the last before the Hawley donation coming in 2015 – does point to Hawley’s close connection to the mifepristone case.

The senator’s wife, Erin Morrow Hawley, was a lead lawyer presenting arguments for the banning of mifepristone before Kacsmaryk in Texas.

As noted by Vanity Fair: “The fact that the wife of a senator is involved in a high-profile lawsuit is not necessarily noteworthy on its face.”

But Kunce charges: “This is what corruption looks like … senators shouldn’t be in the business of using their position to benefit their family’s legal careers and activism, especially if there is financial incentive to do so. And there shouldn’t even be a hint of campaign donations impacting who, when, and how a judge gets on a court.”

Martin Pengelly

Martin Pengelly

Our columnist Lloyd Green considers the current plight of Ron DeSantis, the Republican Florida governor with big plans for a presidential run but who has seen his poll numbers plunge in the face of an onslaught from Donald Trump

The DeSantis boomlet is done. He consistently trails Trump by double-digits. A Wall Street Journal poll out Friday pegs Florida’s governor in severe retrograde, slipping 27 points since December. DeSantis mistakenly conflates his campaign’s bulging war chest with adulation. Wrong!

He forgot that working-class Americans dominate the Republican party and that mien matters. Voting to gut social security comes with fatal backlash, and eating pudding with your fingers is gross. Said differently, largesse from the party’s donor base coupled with little else is a losing recipe.

Charles Koch has but a single vote and David Koch is gone. Before he goes any further, DeSantis needs to be reminded of past campaign flame-outs – Jeb Bush, John Connally and Mike Bloomberg – if he is to avoid their inglorious endings.

Read on…

Source link