October 4, 2019

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is receiving his biggest abortion test yet.

The Supreme Court announced Friday it would hear a case involving a Louisiana law that restricts which doctors can perform abortions. It's essentially the same law the court struck down in 2016, but this time around, there's an additional conservative justice on the bench, The Washington Post reports.

The law in question, enacted in 2014, requires that abortion providers also have surgical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics. It also sets hospital-like standards for clinics, including mandating their hallways are a minimum width and that they have certain expensive equipment, per NPR. Louisiana has said that its law is just like the Texas mandate that the court struck down three years ago, but this time, the consistent swing voter Justice Anthony Kennedy has retired and been replaced with Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh isn't skirting around his position on the case. The Louisiana case already came to the Supreme Court last year after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it and Louisiana abortion clinics appealed. But the top court didn't issue a full ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts only joining liberals in a 5-4 vote to block the law from taking effect for the time being.

Kavanaugh wrote the court's dissent in last year's Louisiana decision, implying he'll do the same this time around. Roberts meanwhile voted with the minority conservatives in the 2016 Texas case, and if he does the same again, he'll solidify a conservative majority and open up the possibility of more state laws that make it harder for abortion providers to do their jobs. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:06 p.m.

After the Senate voted on Monday night to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court justice, she spoke at a White House event, saying she was "truly honored and humbled" to be selected for the position.

Before Barrett spoke, Justice Clarence Thomas administered the constitutional oath to her; on Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the judicial oath during a private ceremony. Several Republican senators attended the event, held outside on the White House's South Lawn.

During her remarks, Barrett said it is "the job of a senator to pursue her policy preferences" but "it is the job of a judge to resist her policy preferences," and "the oath that I have solemnly taken tonight means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor, and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences. I love the Constitution and the democratic republic that it establishes, and I will devote myself to preserving it." Catherine Garcia

9:12 p.m.

The Supreme Court on Monday night refused to reinstate a Wisconsin court's order to extend the deadline for absentee ballots in the state.

The order was put on hold by a federal appeals court. The justices split 5-3, with the conservative justices opposing the extension, which would have let election officials count mail-in ballots as long as they are received up to six days after the Nov. 3 election.

Democrats have argued that because of the coronavirus pandemic, more mail-in ballots will be sent, and there needs to be additional time to count them all. Wisconsin is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases, and hospitalizations have reached a record high.

In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the Supreme Court "has failed to adequately protect the nation's voters," adding that in April, Wisconsin allowed a six-day extension during primary voting, and about 80,000 ballots were received on the day after the primary election. Justice Neil Gorsuch said while "no one doubts that conducting a national election amid a pandemic poses serious challenges," that does not mean "individual judges may improvise with their own election rules in place of those the people's representatives have adopted." Catherine Garcia

8:25 p.m.

The Senate on Monday night confirmed Amy Coney Barrett as the 115th justice to the Supreme Court, succeeding the late liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

It was a 52-48 vote, with Sen. Susan Collins of Maine the only Republican to join Democrats in opposing Barrett's confirmation. Barrett, 48, was President Trump's third nominee to the Supreme Court, and increases the conservative majority on the court to 6-3.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) moved at lightning speed to ensure Barrett was confirmed ahead of the Nov. 3 election, despite refusing to allow a vote in 2016 when former President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February. At that time, McConnell said the next Supreme Court justice should be selected by the next president, elected in November. Catherine Garcia

7:45 p.m.

Zeta, the earliest ever 27th named storm of the Atlantic season, strengthened to a hurricane Monday afternoon, and is centered about 90 miles southeast of Mexico's Cozumel island, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Zeta has maximum sustained winds of 80 mph and is moving northwest at 10 mph. Forecasters expect the storm to make its way over the Yucatan Peninsula late Monday before moving into the Gulf of Mexico. Zeta will likely approach the Gulf Coast by Wednesday, but could weaken by that point.

The storm could bring four to eight inches of rain to Mexico, parts of Cuba, and the Cayman Islands, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said, and could make landfall in the United States anywhere from Louisiana to Florida's Panhandle. Zeta is the 11th hurricane of the 2020 season; during an average season, there are six hurricanes and 12 named storms, The Associated Press reports. Catherine Garcia

7:09 p.m.

Republican Voters Against Trump released a new ad on Monday afternoon featuring several former Trump administration officials who are backing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The three ex-staffers — Miles Taylor, Olivia Troye, and Elizabeth Neumann — have appeared in their own ads, but this is their first video together. In it, they share their insights into President Trump, with Troye, a former adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, saying if he had taken the coronavirus "seriously, he would have saved lives," and Taylor, who once served as chief of staff to former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, revealing that whether it's a cyber attack or terrorism threat, Trump "wasn't interested in these things because they didn't benefit him personally."

Neumann, a former assistant secretary of counterterrorism and threat prevention at the Department of Homeland Security, says Trump's "divisive language is indirectly tied to some of the attacks that we have seen in the last two years," with his words giving "permission to white supremacists" to get violent. The ad's narrator intones that the three Republicans "saw Trump up close" and voters should "listen to their warnings," and the video ends with Taylor cautioning that inside the White House, "it is so much worse than it looks," and Troye stating "we will no longer be America after four more years of Trump." Watch the ad below. Catherine Garcia

6:17 p.m.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows seems to have developed a strong rapport with President Trump, who has mostly bestowed effusive praise on the former congressman. But those sentiments aren't shared by many Trump administration staffers and re-election campaign officials, The Washington Post reports.

Per the Post, Meadows' critics think he's been ineffective when it comes to executing his actual job requirements and instead serves more as a political adviser to and confidant of the president. One example of that apparent ineffectiveness occurred during Trump's hospitalization after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. Four anonymous administration officials told the Post Meadows failed to communicate anything to staff about the president's condition for several days.

He also reportedly failed to provide logistical details at the time, such as if the West Wing would partially close amid the outbreak and whether people should work from home, what precautions were in place to curb the spread, and even how many other staffers had contracted the virus themselves. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

5:10 p.m.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has taken a step toward revealing his Supreme Court plans.

The last-minute nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court has raised allegations from Democrats that Republicans are unfairly gaming the system. It has also led some Democrats to suggest Biden either expand and pack the court with liberal justices if he's elected, or adopt term limits to replace the current lifetime appointments.

Biden has so far refused to give a decisive answer on how he'll handle the courts if he wins next week's election. But on Monday, Biden did reveal a bit of his plan, saying "it's a lifetime appointment. I'm not going to attempt to change that at all."

Last month, three Democrats in the House introduced a bill to instill 18-year term limits on Supreme Court justices, granting presidents two nominees during each of their terms. Biden has brushed off questions about whether he will support expanding and packing the court, saying he'll give an answer when the election is over. Kathryn Krawczyk

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