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Wake Up To Politics - June 28, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: All eyes on Breyer
Wake Up To Politics - June 28, 2021

Good morning! It’s Monday, June 28, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 498 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,226 days away.

The Supreme Court is preparing to wrap up for the summer. The court traditionally meets from the first week of October until the last week of June, although the justices continued into July last year after experiencing delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, if everything goes according to schedule, this will be the final week of the court’s term. That means we should soon have answers to two major questions hovering over the highest court in the land:

1. How will the court rule in a marquee voting rights case? The justices have five more cases to decide before leaving for the summer, but none is more highly anticipated than Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the most significant voting rights case to come before the court in almost a decade.

The case involves two Arizona election restrictions: a 1970 policy that requires election officials to throw out ballots cast in the wrong precinct, and a 2016 law that makes it a felony for anyone who isn’t an election official or a family member to collect and turn in someone else’s absentee ballot (a practice known as “ballot harvesting”).  

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has sued the state of Arizona over both policies, claiming that they violate the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits voting restrictions based on race.

Voters wait in line at a polling place in Phoenix, Arizona. (Miguel Otarola/Cronkite News)

Section 2 of the 1965 law has assumed greater prominence since the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 in 2013, invalidating the requirement that certain states obtain federal pre-clearance before making any changes to their voting laws. (Arizona was one of those states.)

Just last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced plans to sue Georgia over the state’s new voting restrictions, citing Section 2. The justices’ decision in Brnovich could therefore have sweeping implications, not just for the Georgia lawsuit but also for the broader war being waged over voting rights in Congress and across the country.  

Based on their comments during oral arguments, most legal observers assume that the justices will uphold the Arizona laws in some fashion. However, the court has produced a series of unexpected results in the last few weeks of the term, with the liberal and conservative justices uniting in surprising alliances to rule with unanimity or near-unanimity on Obamacare, religious freedom, student speech, and NCAA athlete rights.

2. Will Justice Breyer retire? There is no set schedule for when Supreme Court justices announce their retirement — but the last day of the term is a common time to do so. In recent years, Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy both announced they were stepping down on the last day before the court signed off for the summer.

This year, all eyes are on Justice Stephen Breyer. At 82, he is the oldest currently serving justice, and after nearly 27 years on the bench, he is the seniormost member of the court’s liberal wing.

Breyer is under significant pressure from the left to retire, in hopes that his successor can be confirmed while Democrats are in control of both the White House and Congress. (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already indicated he would block a Biden Supreme Court pick if he holds the majority in 2024, and possibly in 2023 as well.)

However, Breyer has said nothing publicly that would suggest he is ready to step down, as CNN noted, and has hired a full complement of clerks, as legal writer David Lat noted (although hiring clerks does not necessarily mean the justice plans to stick around).

This week will likely be the last in which Breyer would announce plans to retire; if no announcement arrives in the coming days, it’s safe to assume that the octagenarian justice is preparing to stick around for at least another term.

Justice Stephen Breyer delivers a speech in 2018. (Anna Miller/Tufts University)

The Rundown

What else you need to know to start your day.

Infrastructure deal back on track. “A fragile bipartisan infrastructure deal appeared to be moving forward once again on Sunday, as moderate Republicans said they had been reassured that President Biden would not hold it hostage while Democrats simultaneously work on a larger, partisan economic package.” (New York Times)

Biden orders airstrikes. “The U.S. military, under the direction of President Joe Biden, carried out airstrikes against what it said were ‘facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups’ near the border between Iraq and Syria, drawing condemnation from Iraq’s military and calls for revenge by the militias.” (Associated Press)

Trump returns to rallies. “Donald Trump’s first MAGA rally since leaving the White House was billed as a takedown of one of the 10 Republicans who voted for the then-president’s impeachment following the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riots.” (Politico)

Former President Donald Trump throws hats to his supporters at his Saturday rally in Ohio. (Tony Dejak/AP)

Policy Roundup: Economics

On Mondays, Wake Up To Politics contributor Davis Giangiulio offers a briefing on this week’s top economic news:

A key inflation indicator rose in May at the fastest rate in nearly three decades. The Bureau of Economic Analysis revealed on Friday that the core personal consumption expenditures price index rose 3.4 percent annually last month, the largest increase since 1992. The indicator is the Fed’s most used tool to measure inflation, and May’s figures are once again above the 2 percent average that is the bank’s target for inflation. But it doesn’t look like the Fed is going to change its position — that this is a temporary surge in inflation — as Chairman Jay Powell continued to downplay fears on Tuesday.

The CDC on Thursday extended the pandemic-era eviction moratorium once again by another month. But just like many other pandemic procedures, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the ban will soon be lifted. “This is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium,” she said. According to the New York Times, the CDC was reluctant to make the extension, but White House officials exerted pressure to give themselves more time to prepare for when the ban ends and evictions start coming through.

The extension came after calls from progressive lawmakers who said “millions” would face the threat of eviction if the ban wasn’t extended, and housing groups who wanted more time to prepare renters for evictions to become a reality again. But with 6 million renters behind on rent, landlords are frustrated and wanted the ban gone at the end of June. One landlord group called the extension “out of step with the significant progress made in controlling COVID-19 and restoring the economy.” Nevertheless, it appears they’ll get their wish come July 31 when the moratorium is set to expire with no more extensions, although some states’ bans go longer than that.

The CDC bowed to pressure from activists and extended its eviction moratorium, likely for the last time. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

An Indiana judge has ruled that the state needs to pay federal unemployment benefits in full. Judge John Hanley of the Marion Superior Court reversed the June 19 termination of expanded unemployment insurance (UI), mandating a temporary return to the program. Hanley’s reasoning relies on the fact that Indiana law, in his view, gives the state the responsibility of delivering “all rights and benefits” under federal law, including expanded UI. He also added the benefits of ending the program are much smaller compared to the negative consequences.

The office of Gov. Eric Holcomb (R-IN) office said they “took the appropriate steps to terminate” expanded UI and plan on appealing the decision. This is the first time a court has taken action against a state on the termination of expanded benefits, but don’t expect this to become a pattern just yet. The basis of this ruling is on Indiana state law, not federal law, meaning other states that ended benefits early do not have the same provisions they have to follow.


There are a few typos from the last week that I want to take a moment to correct for the record. First off, as many of you noted, I misstated the topline numbers in the bipartisan infrastructure deal in Friday’s newsletter. The proposal includes $579 billion in new spending, including $312 billion for transportation projects (such as roads and bridges) and $266 billion for other types of infrastructure (such as water and broadband).
Additionally, in Tuesday’s newsletter, the captions for photos of Sen. Joe Manchin and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona were switched, and the name of New York City Republican mayoral nominee Curtis Sliwa was misspelled.

My sincere apologies for these errors and my thanks to those of you who pointed them out.


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern.)
Executive Branch
→ President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 9:50 a.m. Later, he will meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at 4 p.m.

→ Vice President Kamala Harris will fly to Washington, D.C., from Los Angeles, California, where she spent the weekend, at 4:30 p.m.

→ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 12:30 p.m.

Legislative Branch
The Senate will convene at 9 a.m. for a brief pro forma session.

The House will convene at 12 p.m. The chamber is scheduled to vote on 11 pieces of legislation, including H.R. 3261, which would repeal the 1991 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq. The House voted last week to repeal the 2002 AUMF against Iraq, as part of a bipartisan effort to rein in presidential war powers.

The other bills scheduled for votes are:

  • H.R. 3283, to repeal the joint resolution entitled, “A joint resolution to promote peace and stability in the Middle East”
  • H.R. 567, the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership Program Act
  • H.Res. 186, calling for the immediate release of Trevor Reed, a United States citizen who was unjustly found guilty and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison
  • H.R. 2471, the Haiti Development, Accountability, and Institutional Transparency Initiative Act
  • H.R. 1500, the Global Learning Loss Assessment Act
  • H.Res. 402, urging the Administration to facilitate assistance in response to the devasting impacts of COVID-19 in India
  • H.R. 391, the Global Health Security Act
  • H.R. 2225, the National Science Foundation for the Future Act
  • H.R. 3593, the Department of Energy Science for the Future Act
  • H.R. 3385, the HOPE for Afghan SIVs ActJudicial Branch
    The Supreme Court will release orders at 9:30 a.m.

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