September 3, 2014

In June of this year, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) introduced an amendment to halt the Pentagon's 1033 program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars of military-grade weapons and equipment to local police annually. The amendment overwhelmingly failed, and just seven out of 41 voting members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) supported it.

That vote has drawn controversy in the wake of this summer's protests and grotesquely militarized police response in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson's own congressman is Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.); he is a member of the CBC, and he voted against demilitarizing police.

Now, The New York Times reports that the CBC is campaigning on what happened in Ferguson to turn out African-American voters for 2014, an effort which would presumably be more difficult were the CBC's record on police militarization more widely known. Bonnie Kristian

11:27 a.m.

While Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee reportedly do not intend to boycott the confirmation hearing for President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, the party's senators will likely do whatever they can to slow the process, Politico reports.

Some of the tactics available for Democrats, who believe Republicans set a precedent for rejecting Supreme Court nominations in the lead up to a presidential election in 2016, that Politico lists include: invoking the "two-hour" rule — which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has already done — slowing down legislative business, objecting to recess, denying a quorum, raising points of order, enlisting the aid of the Democratic-controlled House, and delaying the final committee vote. Politico goes into more detail about each tactic here.

Politico also reports that there is broad, overwhelming support for pulling out all the stops among Democrats, including those, like Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who face tough re-elections and may get pulled off the campaign trail during a potentially lengthy process, and typically more conservative lawmakers like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.).

Jones accused Republicans of a "power grab," so even though Democrats don't have the votes to block the confirmation, "you do what you can to call attention to it." As Manchin put it, "we don't do anything around here anyway, we've got plenty of time to do meetings." Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

10:56 a.m.

Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation process may be motivating Democrats more than Republicans, at least in North Carolina and Georgia, both of which are in play for the upcoming presidential election.

In both states, a new CBS News/YouGov poll shows, 60 percent of Democrats say the polarizing Supreme Court debate has made them more motivated to vote compared to 46 and 47 percent of Republicans in Georgia and North Carolina, respectively. As CBS News points out, the court battle probably won't change many votes, since polls are suggesting that the majority of voters have their minds pretty set, but it could increase turnout.

That said, it hasn't made a huge difference in North Carolina and Georgia so far, as both states remain quite competitive and relatively unchanged. Biden leads Trump by two points in North Carolina, which is down slightly from his four point edge this summer. Georgia is closer still, more or less a straight toss up at this point. Trump leads by a point, a statistically insignificant change from Biden's previous one point advantage.

The CBS News/YouGov polls were conducted in North Carolina and Georgia between Sept. 22-25 online. In Georgia, 1,164 registered voters were surveyed and the margin of error was 3.3 percentage points. In North Carolina, 1,213 registered voters were surveyed and the margin of error was 3.6 percentage points. Read the full results at CBS News. Tim O'Donnell

8:08 a.m.

Fighting has broken out between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the Armenian government has declared martial law and total military mobilization.

The neighboring nations, both former Soviet republics, have been mired in a decades-long standoff over the contested Nagorno—Karabakh region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but has a majority ethnic Armenian population that has been running its own affairs since Azerbaijani forces were pushed out during a war in the 1990s. A ceasefire was brokered in 1994, but there have been flare-ups since, and Sunday's escalation appears to be the worst since 2016, Al Jazeera reports.

Both sides have reported civilian deaths and blamed the other for instigating the fighting, while providing conflicting reports on how the clash has played out. The Armenian Defense Ministry said Azerbaijan launched an attack on civilian settlements Sunday morning, and in response Armenia shot down two helicopters and three drones and destroyed three tanks. Azerbaijan only acknowledged that one helicopter had been lost while the crew survived, and a defense ministry spokesperson said several villages in Nagorno-Karabkh "which were under enemy occupation for many years have been liberated."

Russia, France, and the European Union were among the governments that have called for an end to the violence and an immediate return to the ceasefire and negotiations. Read more at BBC and Al Jazeera. Tim O'Donnell

September 26, 2020

President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court on Saturday, and the early reactions from the nation's political leaders are in.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is naturally at the forefront of the Senate GOP's push to confirm Barrett before the November election, was effusive in his response to the nomination. In a statement, he said Trump "could not have made a better decision" and called Barrett "an exceptionally impressive jurist and an exceedingly well-qualified nominee," leaving little doubt as to how he'll vote, assuming the nomination moves past the Senate Judiciary Committee, as expected. The committee chair, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), meanwhile, agreed that Barrett is an "outstanding" nominee, adding that he's committed to ensuring she receives a "challenging, fair, and respectful hearing."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wasn't quite so thrilled, expressing particular concern for the future of the Affordable Care Act. "If this nominee is confirmed," Pelosi said in a statement, "millions of families' health care will be ripped away in the middle of a pandemic that has infected seven million Americans and killed over 200,000 people in our country."

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, also focused on the ACA, which he helped usher in while serving as former President Barack Obama's second-in-command, stating that Barrett "has a written track record of disagreeing" with the high court's previous decisions to uphold the ACA. Biden made another call for the Senate not to vote on Barrett's confirmation and wait for the presidential election to pass before filling the vacancy. Tim O'Donnell

September 26, 2020

As expected, President Trump on Saturday officially nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, for the Supreme Court following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week.

Speaking at the White House, Trump described the 48-year-old Barrett, who traveled to Washington, D.C., from her home in South Bend, Indiana, for the nomination, as "one of our nation's most gifted and brilliant legal minds" and a "woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution."

During her own remarks, Barrett first paid tribute to Ginsburg, who she said "smashed" glass ceilings in the legal profession. She also paid homage to the late Justice Antonin Scalia — and his famed friendship with Ginsburg despite their fierce legal disagreements — whom she clerked for in the late '90s. Barrett, who is well-respected in conservative circles, said she shares the judicial philosophy of her mentor. Judges, she said, "must apply the law as written" while "setting aside any policy views they might hold."

Barrett must now be confirmed by the Senate in what is expected to be a contentious process. While Barrett's legal opinions likely won't appeal to several Democratic lawmakers, the circumstances surrounding her nomination are what make this a particularly controversial nomination. In 2016, the Republican-led Senate blocked then-President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, on the grounds that it was too close to that year's presidential election. There's actually an even smaller window between nomination and election this time around, but the GOP is ready to go through with the confirmation process, arguing the current situation differs from 2016 because the Senate majority and president hail from the same party. Tim O'Donnell

September 26, 2020

As Democrats try to beat the odds and prevent the confirmation of President Trump's Supreme Court nominee (almost certainly Amy Coney Barrett) before the November presidential election, some lawmakers and activists have suggested boycotting the Senate Judicary Committee hearings, which are tentatively scheduled for the middle of October. Just don't expect the idea to gain much traction, The Washington Post reports, especially among Democrats who sit on the committee.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) has said he will forego the standard courtesy visit, in which the nominee meets with senators individually, but he does intend to participate in the hearings and he believes "all my Judiciary colleagues will."

The risks of skipping out on the hearings seem to outweigh the potential reward, per the Post. If Democrats don't go, Republicans would likely move swiftly though the questioning and toward a committee vote.

More specifically, though, a boycott could prevent Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who sits on the committee, from giving a jolt to her own vice presidential campaign, the Post notes. Harris, who is running alongside the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, has become well-known for her interrogations of Trump's nominees over the last few years, and there's a sense that she could enhance her ticket's chances during the hearings.

With all that in mind, it's more likely that Democrats will try to extend questioning as long as possible and make their case for why the nominee shouldn't be confirmed in a more traditional manner. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

September 26, 2020

For the first time since June 5, New York state, the home of the United States' worst coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began earlier this year, reported just over 1,000 new COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Saturday that the Empire State crossed the quadruple-digit threshold, though he didn't specifically address the number, saying only that New Yorkers should continue to practice social distancing, wear masks, and follow other mitigation guidelines.

The state has seen a consistently upward trend in cases over the last week, which has prompted some concern as businesses and college campuses reopen, and officials have noted that spikes in some neighborhoods in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens are especially worrisome. But New York also continues to see a high number of daily tests. Data collected by the state shows the positivity rate has remained at 1 percent, or just a tick below, for some time now, indicating that the high volume of tests is a significant factor in the case increase.

A new study published by The Lancet on Friday that searched for COVID-19 prevalence in a large nationwide sample of patients on dialysis found that about one-third of those tested in New York showed signs of a previous coronavirus infection. In terms of the study, that's the highest of any state in the U.S. and while it's far from what experts have pinpointed as the target for herd immunity, those experts have also pointed out that numbers like that can still help slow the spread of the virus. Read more at Bloomberg and NBC New York. Tim O'Donnell

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