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Wake Up To Politics - October 14, 2020

It’s Wednesday, October 14, 2020. Election Day is 20 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Supreme Court

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett declined to outline her views on a range of controversial issues throughout 12 hours of questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Barrett promised that she had no “agenda” and would separate her personal views from her decision-making in cases that may come up before the court.

“Judges can’t just wake up one day and say, ‘I have an agenda, I like guns, I hate guns, I like abortion, I hate abortion,’ and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world,” Barrett said at one point.

Pressed repeatedly on the Affordable Care Act — the signature Obama-era health care law will be considered by the court next month — Barrett promised that she made no “commitments or deals or anything like that” with President Donald Trump or Senate Republicans before her appointment. “I’m not here on a mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “I’m just here to apply the law and adhere to the rule of law.”

Facing questions on a number of hot-button topics, Barrett repeatedly cited the so-called “Ginsburg rule,” a standard named for her would-be predecessor Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who originated the practice of Supreme Court nominees remaining circumspect in their responses about cases they could later be asked to rule on.

Barrett did, however, offer a hint at her views on the key question of precedent,  splitting with some in the legal community by stating that Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion case, “is not a super-precedent,” a decision so fundamental that it could never be overturned. (“But that does not mean it should be overruled,” she hastened to clarify.)

Barrett said that she only views two cases as “super-precedents”: Marbury v. Madison, which established judicial review, and Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down “separate but equal” segregation laws.

The nominee also rejected calls for her to pledge to recuse herself from any election-related disputes that the Supreme Court could soon be wrestling with. “I would certainly hope that all members of this committee would have more confidence in my integrity than to think that I would allow myself to be used as a pawn to decide this election for the American people,” she said.

President Trump has repeatedly emphasized the need for Barrett to be confirmed before the election so that she could rule in cases relating to potential incidents of voter fraud. Asked about other comments by the president, Barrett declined to weigh in on whether Trump had the power to delay the November election, which he has previously floated.

“If I give off-the-cuff answers, then I would basically be a legal pundit,” she demurred. “I don’t think we want judges to be legal pundits. I think we want judges to approach cases thoughtfully with an open mind.”

--- For more on the judicial confirmation process, listen to the latest Wake Up To Politics podcast episode.

Campaign 2020

Via New York Times: “Virginia’s online voter registration portal crashed on the final day it was available when roadside utility workers cut the wrong cable. Texans waited in long lines on the first day of early voting in their state’s biggest cities, and in one county in the Houston suburbs, a programming error took down all of the voting machines for much of the morning. On Georgia’s second day of early voting, long lines again built up at polling places in the Atlanta suburbs.”

“The hurdles to early voting on Tuesday resulted from a combination of intense voter interest that stressed the capacity of overwhelmed local elections officials and the sort of messiness that has long been common in American elections and which is now under a microscope as concerns over voter suppression and the unprecedented dynamics of voting during a pandemic collide.”

--- According to the U.S. Elections Project, more than 13 million ballots have already been cast in the 2020 election. (Around this point in the 2016 election, only 1.4 million had been reported as being cast.)


The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the 2020 Census could halt its nationwide count about two weeks earlier than originally planned. The court’s order ended months of litigation over the decennial census, which has broad political implications in both congressional apportionment and allotment of federal aid.  

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had initially indicated in April that the census counting deadline would be extended from July 31 to October 31 due to the coronavirus pandemic, before announcing in August that the counting would end on September 30 instead. Two lower courts ruled that the Census Bureau had to restore the October 31 deadline, but with the Supreme Court’s order on Tuesday, the bureau announced that Americans had until 6 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday morning to complete the census.

According to the Census Bureau, 99.9% of housing units have already been accounted for in the census, although some experts have claimed that minority households are being undercounted.


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump will deliver remarks to the Economic Clubs of New York, Florida, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Sheboygan, Wisconsin at 11 a.m. in the Rose Garden. He will then travel to Des Moines, Iowa, where he will hold a campaign rally at 7 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence will speak at a campaign event in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at 12:30 p.m.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will attend a virtual fundraiser.

The House and Senate are not in session.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will kick off Day 3 of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings at 9 a.m. Each member of the panel will have about 20 minutes to question the nominee.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases:

  • Torres v. Madrid (10 a.m.): When the police unsuccessfully attempt to arrest someone by using force, has a “seizure” occurred under the Fourth Amendment? The case arose after a New Mexico woman, Roxanne Torres, was shot twice by police while sitting in her car. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that because Torres wasn’t taken into custody right away, she had not been “seized” and thus couldn’t sue the police for damages.
  • Pereida v. Attorney General Barr (11 a.m.): Noncitizens can’t appeal a government deportation order if they’ve been convicted of certain offenses under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). However, the offenses listed in the INA are sometimes confusingly broad, leaving it unclear which noncitizens are eligible to apply for deportation relief.

— Supreme Court case summaries contributed by Anna Salvatore.

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