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November 6, 2021 By the melone Off

Biden and GOP-held states go to war in court on vaccines, voting

But he may have been writing presciently about 2021.

The global coronavirus outbreak may have reminded Americans about the importance of federalism — about the way state governments’ powers frequently trump the federal government’s on matters like requiring testing, or closing and opening schools and stores.

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But the not-quite-post pandemic is putting a spotlight on the courts as the referees of American politics, especially when Congress can’t or won’t act. Judges and justices play an undeniably constitutional role in adjudicating disputes among different branches of government or the federal government and the states. But their influence seems to loom especially large now.

That’s because President Biden and Republican-held states have turned to judges with their disagreements over two enormously important questions — the legality of Biden’s federal workplace vaccination mandate, and of states’ new restrictions on voting practices Republicans blame for former president Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat.

After nearly two years of pandemic closures and delayed courtroom proceedings, it might be tempting to view Americans suing each other as a perennially litigious society’s return to normal. Or it could at least be a respite from seeking more dramatic remedies like secession or violence, like the Jan. 6 insurrection fueled by Trump’s false claims he actually won reelection.

Test of court legitimacy

But what’s coming could test the courts’ legitimacy with tens of millions of Americans, mostly Republicans, who increasingly see fellow citizens who disagree with them about politics not as rivals for power or opponents, but as actual enemies. And the Supreme Court’s standing has already slipped to a new low, with just 40 percent of Americans saying the justices are doing a good job.

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On Thursday, the Biden administration formally unveiled a federal rule under which workplaces with more than 100 employees will have to require coronavirus vaccinations by Jan. 4, or require frequent regular testing and mask-wearing for those who don’t get the shot(s).

My colleague Eli Rosenberg noted: “The policy is already being contested by a number of Republicans, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Twitter he planned to sue the federal government to block the policy, calling it an “illegal, unconstitutional regulation.”

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In addition to those names, according to Andrew DeMillo and Geoff Mulvihill of the Associated Press, Republican governors or attorneys general Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma said Thursday they’d fight the mandate in court. “The Daily Wire, a conservative media company, filed a challenge in federal court on Thursday. So did companies in Michigan and Ohio represented by a conservative advocacy law firm,” they reported.

Voting rights

On voting rights, the shoe is on the other foot. My colleague Amy B Wang reported Thursday: “The Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit over Texas’s new voting restrictions, alleging they disenfranchise eligible voters — including older Americans and people with disabilities — and that they violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

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“The lawsuit was filed against the state of Texas and the Texas secretary of state over Senate Bill 1, which Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed into law in September. The bill imposed new criminal penalties for violating voting laws, banned 24-hour and drive-through voting and allowed more access for partisan poll watchers.

“‘Our democracy depends on the right of eligible voters to cast a ballot and to have that ballot counted,’ Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Thursday. ‘The Justice Department will continue to use all the authorities at its disposal to protect this fundamental pillar of our society.’”

At the New York Times, Reid J. Epstein, Nick Corasaniti, and Katie Benner reported: “The Justice Department’s lawsuit comes as President Biden’s administration and congressional Democrats face sustained pressure to counteract one of the greatest contractions to voting access in generations, with Republicans in 19 states passing at least 33 laws that place new barriers in the voting process. In June, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced that the Justice Department would prioritize the issue and double its enforcement staff.”

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The courts now face the question of whether and how they can apply judicial reasoning to resolve a political issue, and perhaps do so without further fueling partisan fires.

What’s happening now
Will House Democrats finally get their vote on Biden’s agenda?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is forging ahead with a plan to vote on Build Back Better and the bipartisan infrastructure bill, trying to push through the multitrillion dollar legislation before lawmakers leave town (the House is out next week). Even if that happens, the Senate isn’t going to rubber-stamp the House package so a long road ahead remains.

  • “House Democrats on Friday are set to hold two pivotal votes to advance the entirety of President Biden’s roughly $3 trillion economic agenda, marking major milestones in a months-long battle over the plans to improve the country’s infrastructure and overhaul federal health care, education, climate, immigration and tax laws,” Tony Romm reports.
  • Moderate Democrats, however, were still holding out for a Congressional Budget Office score on the reconciliation package. “Everyone is waiting for the CBO to do its job,” Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) said, per Politico.

Back from his European trip, the president is trying to clinch the win:

The U.S. economy added 531,000 jobs in October

“The unemployment rate dropped too, to 4.6 percent from 4.8 percent. It is still up from its pre-pandemic low of 3.5 percent in February 2020 but down significantly from January of this year, when it was at 6.3 percent,” Eli Rosenberg reports.

“The new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also showed that a late-summer labor market slump wasn’t as bad as earlier thought. BLS officials revised upwards their August and September payroll reports to show that hiring had not slowed as dramatically as they initially thought.”

Ciattarelli refuses to concede

“Republican Jack Ciattarelli is refusing to concede the New Jersey governor’s race but sought to assure supporters in video that the outcome ultimately would be fair and urged them not to buy into conspiracy theories about the vote count,” John Wagner reports.

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Added:

“Gov. Phil Murphy (D) declared victory in the far-tighter-than-expected race Wednesday after news organizations projected him the winner in a state that President Biden carried by 16 percentage points last year.”

Colin Powell to be honored by Biden, military leaders at funeral at Washington National Cathedral

“The invitation-only service, which is scheduled to begin at noon, will broadcast and streamed online,” Felicia Sonmez reports.

RNC names Duke Buchan new finance chair as Ricketts steps down

“[Todd] Ricketts has served as finance chair since 2018, when he replaced Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn, who stepped down amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Ricketts is a scion of one of the most powerful megadonor families in Republican politics: His parents, Joe and Marlene, have given millions of dollars to the party over the years. Ricketts’ brother, Pete, is the second-term governor of Nebraska,” Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports.

Jury to begin hearing case in killing of Ahmaud Arbery

“In a trial that will scrutinize citizen’s arrest laws, an almost all-white Georgia jury will hear opening arguments on Friday in the case of three white men accused of chasing down and killing Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery, who they say they suspected was a burglar,” Reuters’s Rich Mckay and Jonathan Allen report.

Lunchtime reads from The Post
The summer of 2020 brought calls to address racism aggressively. The fall 2021 elections show how hard that has been.

“Tuesday’s election results underscored how much the political winds have shifted since the start of what many activists had hoped was a new national awakening to the stubborn legacy of America’s racist history,” Matt Viser and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. report.

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  • “Republican Glenn Youngkin won the governor’s race in Virginia, in part, by warning about anti-racism curriculums in schools that examine the ways policies and laws perpetuate systemic discrimination.”
  • “A proposal to overhaul policing was defeated in Minneapolis — the liberal city that gave rise to the summer of protests after a police officer murdered George Floyd — as voters rejected the idea of replacing a traditional law enforcement presence with one that would take a ‘comprehensive public health approach’ to public safety.”
  • “Democratic cities elected mayors more focused on economic, crime and education issues than implementing major police and racial justice policies advocated by the protesters in summer 2020.”

The Jack Daniel’s committee: How D.C.’s police lodge made thousands selling whiskey online

“In March 2017, the leaders of Washington’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge — an umbrella group for police unions in the capital — told their members about an exciting new idea. It was called the Jack Daniel’s Fundraising Committee,” Peter Hermann, David A. Fahrenthold and Dana Hedgpeth report.

“The lodge’s leaders were buying Jack Daniel’s whiskey, engraving the bottles with a police-union logo, then reselling them online at the marked-up price of $80.”

So was it legal? Great question.

… and beyond

Where does the Sunrise Movement go from here?

“This year, Sunrise’s strategy has run up against a roadblock all the enthusiasm in the world can’t budge: In a 50-50 Senate, with no margin for error, climate policy is subject to the veto of whoever the most conservative, most cautious Democratic senator happens to be,” Politico Magazine’s Ruairí Arrieta-Kenna reports.

“Now, Sunrise is faced with a question about how to move forward: embrace the idealistic side of its mission and keep hammering Biden — the president who’s on the verge of making more progress toward the climate agenda than any of his predecessors — for not going far enough, or embrace its pragmatic side and declare a partial victory whenever Congress passes its spending compromise?”

How Youngkin won

Strategists for Glenn Youngkin’s campaign talk to Politico’s Ryan Lizza about the upset, pointing to a candidate they dub a “once-in-a-generation talent.”

  • Kristin Davison makes the point the campaign didn’t “run to win a convention and lose a general election” (i.e. tack too far right in the nominating contest: they reached “out to different voting groups that haven’t been Republican ever or haven’t been Republican in a long time; starting different coalitions back in February — African-American Virginians, Asians, Hispanics, women …”
  • Jeff Roe says it’s Democrats on the fringes now: “The Republicans have been revolutionaries for most of the 2000s. And then they lost mightily because of it … Democrats now are the revolutionaries. It just took them 10 months what took us 10 years, and they’re going to hollow out their version of the suburbs.”

The Biden agenda
Frustrations among Biden’s donors
Inside the frustrations of Biden donors

“Nearly 10 months into his presidency, some of Mr. Biden’s most loyal contributors and top fund-raisers are feeling neglected if not outright cast aside, according to more than 30 interviews with Democratic donors, fund-raisers and the operatives who work with them,” the Times’s Shane Goldmacher reports.

“With the loss of the Virginia governorship this week making plain the darkening political climate for Democrats, the White House has accumulated precious little good will among some of the party’s most important financiers. Their frustrations also include impatience with the pace of substantive policy changes: One of the party’s top donors is now signaling he is planning to withhold funds entirely over the languishing of voting-rights legislation.”

World deforestation, visualized
Hot on the left
Has Manchin been cherry-picking budget estimates?

Yes, David Dayen writes for the American Prospect. “When Sen. Joe Manchin lamented the “shell games” and “budget gimmicks” in the Build Back Better Act on Monday, he was basing his view on an analysis from the Penn Wharton Budget Center, which supplies its own approximations of the budgetary effects of policies, separate and independent from any official score from the Congressional Budget Office or the Joint Committee on Taxation.”

“But Manchin has ignored Penn Wharton’s analysis of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that he helped broker, which shows a far greater level of, well, shell games and budget gimmicks.”

Hot on the right
Opinion: Here are some proposals that Republicans can embrace to tax the rich

“Imagine a GOP budget-balancing package that combined repealing unnecessary tax breaks for the rich with full taxation of capital gains from big university and foundation endowments and means-tested entitlements while also ensuring that rich retirees no longer receive Social Security or Medicare subsidies they don’t need. This could cut the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars each year without costing the average American a penny,” columnist Henry Olsen writes.

“A politically successful future Republican Party will have to be an alliance between economic conservatives and blue-collar populists. Backing the elimination of the unfair tax breaks benefiting the nation’s elites might be the cement that glues the coalition together.”

Today in Washington

At noon, the Bidens will attend Colin Powell’s funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral.

Principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will brief at 2:30 p.m.

Vice President Kamala Harris will tour the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., at 4:05 p.m. and give remarks at 4:45 p.m.

In closing

Don’t forget to set your clocks back Sunday!

Thanks for reading.