Roberts Sides With the Liberals, Again
Abortion rights — and the C.F.P.B. — make it out of the Supreme Court alive, while Trump’s “hateful” language gets the boot on social media platforms. It’s Tuesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.
Chief Justice John Roberts has firmly established himself as the swing vote on a conservative-leaning Supreme Court. The latest proof came yesterday, when Roberts joined the court’s four liberal justices in rejecting a Louisiana law that restricted women’s access to abortions — nearly to the point of banning the procedure in the state.
A George W. Bush appointee with a largely conservative track record, Roberts has become the only backstop against a conservative majority whose members have often proved willing to throw out decades of precedent in order to enshrine a so-called constructionist interpretation of the Constitution.
Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the Louisiana law unduly curtailed women’s constitutional right to an abortion, calling it “almost word-for-word identical” to a law in Texas that the court had struck down in 2016, in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined three other conservatives in dissent, and Democratic Senate candidates pounced on the news. A number of Republican senators facing tough re-election battles this year voted in 2018 to confirm Kavanaugh.
One of them, Susan Collins of Maine, said at the time that she believed he would uphold court precedent around abortion rights. After the decision came down yesterday, Collins’s Democratic opponent, Sara Gideon, tweeted: “Do you still think Brett Kavanaugh believes Roe v. Wade is settled law, @SenSusanCollins?” Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, promised to go after Republican senators who had supported Kavanaugh’s nomination.
In what’s becoming a trend, the court also issued some lower-profile decisions yesterday that were more favorable to conservatives. (The same thing happened a couple of weeks ago, when the court announced a landmark L.G.B.T.Q. nondiscrimination ruling.) It declined to hear the appeal of a ruling in a capital-punishment case, effectively clearing the way for the federal government to resume executions after a 17-year hiatus.
And Roberts joined his four fellow conservatives in a decision that will allow President Trump to fire the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau without stated cause. Congress created the consumer-protection agency as part of the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010, stipulating that the president could remove its leader only in cases of “inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance.”
Writing for the majority, Roberts argued that this provision “violates the Constitution’s separation of powers.” But the decision also ensured that the C.F.P.B., an object of ire among many pro-business conservatives, would continue to exist — answering a political question that has remained open for 10 years. “The agency may therefore continue to operate, but its director, in light of our decision, must be removable by the president at will,” Roberts wrote.
The coronavirus is surging in areas across the country, and many state governments are either pausing their plans to reopen or rolling them back altogether. Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Philip Murphy of New Jersey each said yesterday that they were reconsidering plans to allow restaurants to reopen in the coming days.
Vice President Mike Pence wore a mask at a series of recent events, something Trump continues to resist doing, even as the vice president echoed his boss’s assertion — largely rejected by public health experts — that the reopening of businesses is not contributing to the virus’s surge. “Wearing a mask is just a good idea,” Pence told reporters. “And it will — we know, from experience — will slow the spread of the coronavirus.”
The Republican mayor of Jacksonville, Fla., the newly chosen home of Trump’s convention speech, announced yesterday that he would require everyone in the city to wear masks when in a public, indoor space. The decision was likely to rankle Trump, who moved his speech to Jacksonville largely because he thought he would be able to give a traditional, rally-style speech there in late August.
House Democrats yesterday passed a bill seeking to limit the amount of money Americans have to pay for health care, but it appears destined to fail in the Senate, where Republicans are united in their opposition. Motivated by the Covid-19 pandemic but carrying applications well beyond it, the House’s legislation would cap all health-insurance payments at 8.5 percent of people’s incomes.
Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, agreed to a budget yesterday that shifts $1 billion away from the Police Department, an apparent concession to the demands of protesters. Demonstrators have filled City Hall Park in Manhattan in recent days under the moniker “Occupy City Hall,” articulating a clear call for $1 billion in police cuts.
The budget proposed on Monday by de Blasio and Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, would ditch a previously hatched plan to hire over 1,000 new police cadets.
But half of its cuts to the N.Y.P.D. would come through fiscal sleight-of-hand, moving functions such as school patrols and homelessness outreach away from the N.Y.P.D. and under the aegis of other departments. “I don’t think anyone marching for Black Lives Matter is doing it to see school safety agents moved from the N.Y.P.D. budget to the schools budget,” Ben Kallos, a Democratic councilman, said on Monday.
The citywide budget, which must be approved no later than tonight, also cuts spending from a range of other departments, in response to a revenue shortfall brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump received blowback on Sunday after he shared a video on Twitter in which a supporter of his shouted “White power!” in response to a protester. The president eventually removed that tweet — but he doesn’t appear to have been cowed. The next day, he retweeted a video in which a white man and woman in St. Louis point guns at peaceful black protesters who were marching past their home.
Trump retweeted an ABC News link to a video and an article about it, but didn’t offer any comment of his own — as he had on Sunday. Still, he has historically been a strong defender of Second Amendment rights and has made clear his distaste for protesters against racial injustice.
Twitch has become the first known social-media platform to suspend Trump’s account. The livestreaming service, which is owned by Amazon, said yesterday that two of Trump’s recent streams had violated its rules around hateful speech. One of the videos featured the 2015 speech in which Trump accused Mexico of sending drugs, crime and rapists into the United States; the other was from Trump’s recent rally in Tulsa, Okla., where he told the story of a “very tough hombre” breaking into a woman’s house at night.
“Hateful conduct is not allowed on Twitch,” a Twitch spokeswoman said in a statement. “In line with our policies, President Trump’s channel has been issued a temporary suspension from Twitch for comments made on stream.”
Reddit offered a similar explanation yesterday as it announced that it had banned r/The_Donald, its biggest community (or subreddit) for fans of Trump. “Reddit is a place for community and belonging, not for attacking people,” Steve Huffman, the company’s chief executive, told reporters. “‘The_Donald’ has been in violation of that.”
r/The_Donald includes more than 790,000 users. Reddit also announced that it was banning about 2,000 other communities from across the political spectrum, including one devoted to the leftist podcast “Chapo Trap House.”
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