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High Court Takes up Census Citizenship Question

The Trump Administration wants to ask whether or not someone is a citizen during the 2020 census. New York and other states do not want the federal government to do this. The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in an attempt to determine who will prevail.

 

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has ordered that the 2020 census include a question about respondents’ citizenship status. While census forms used to ask this question, they have not done so for decades. Secretary Ross justified this change as a way to help the federal government enforce the Voting Rights Act.

 

New York and other states have sued to stop this question from being included. They argue that Secretary Ross violated various federal laws in ordering the question put on census forms. They also say that this question will lead to an undercount of non-citizen residents, something that would negatively affect their states.

 

During Supreme Court arguments, some justices appeared sympathetic to the states’ arguments against the Trump Administration. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, for instance, noted that the Constitution requires the census to count residents, not citizens. She also agreed that a citizenship question would indeed lead to an undercount of these residents.

 

Other justices, however, said that the law gives the Commerce Secretary power to determine what questions are included on census forms. They also pointed out that historically the census has asked this question, so there seems to be little reason why it could not ask it again.

 

The census is set to begin soon, so this case was handled under an expedited review. Lower courts had ruled against the Trump Administration on this issue. The Supreme Court’s decision will determine if the census forms that are set to go out within months will contain this citizenship question or not.

 

Do you think that a question about citizenship status should be included in the 2020 census?

 

Pelosi Not Embracing Impeachment

In the wake of the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, some House Democrats are pushing for the impeachment of President Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, does not think that impeachment is the best path forward at this time.

 

The Democrats who want to begin impeachment proceedings argue that the Mueller report shows ample evidence that President Trump tried to obstruct the special counsel’s investigation. They say the American people expect them to hold the president accountable, and they would be failing in this duty if they did not vote on articles of impeachment.

 

Other Democrats, such as Speaker Pelosi, are pushing back against this idea. They note that impeachment is bound to fail without Republican support. They also point out that Congress has many ways to investigate the president. They say that talk of impeachment should wait until these investigations, which could possibly turn up new evidence of wrongdoing by the president, are complete.

 

The House of Representatives is responsible for impeaching the president. This involves bringing charges against the president that could result in his removal from office. If the House passes such articles, the Senate then must vote on removal. The last time this this happened was in 1998, when the House impeached President Bill Clinton but the Senate did not vote to remove him from office.

 

Do you support impeaching President Trump and removing him from office?

Trump Vetoes Yemen War Resolution

A bloody civil war is raging in Yemen, with Saudi Arabia backing one side and Iran the other. The U.S. is assisting Saudi Arabia in this conflict, and will continue to do so thanks to a veto issued by President Trump on Tuesday.

 

The House and Senate both passed Senate Joint Resolution 7, which directs the president to stop U.S. military involvement in the Yemeni civil war. President Trump vetoed the resolution, arguing that the U.S. is not involved in the Yemeni hostilities. However, the military does provide technical assistance and refueling for Saudi forces that are battling rebels in the country.

 

Proponents of military assistance to Saudi Arabia argue that this is necessary to prevent the Iranian-backed rebels from taking over Yemen. Opponents counter that the U.S. should not involve itself in a Yemeni civil war that has led to atrocities and a high civilian death count.

 

The Senate voted 54-46 in favor of the resolution, while the House voted 247-175 to support it. Neither votes reached the 2/3 majority to overcome a presidential veto.

 

Do you think that the U.S. military should be involved in the Yemeni civil war?

Senators Speeding up Confirmations after Rule Change

Confirming President Trump’s nominees has been a top priority of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Last week he engineered a step that speeds up Senate confirmation, and this week the Senate moved quickly to approve numerous nominees put forward by the president.

 

Senate rules have traditionally given senators numerous ways to block or delay consideration of legislation or nominees. In recent years, however, when the president’s party controls the Senate, the majority leader has taken steps to limit the minority’s power when he perceives it as being obstructionist. In 2013, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid thought that Republicans were blocking too many of President Obama’s nominees. He ended the judicial filibuster for lower court nominees, allowing them to be confirmed with a majority vote instead of a supermajority.

 

Since President Trump has been elected, Senator Mitch McConnell has eliminated the judicial filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. Last week he also eliminated the 30-hour rule for consideration of nominees, limiting debate time to 2 hours. Senate Democrats had been using that rule to delay many of President Trump’s nominees, even though they could not ultimately stop them.

 

While it takes a supermajority to change Senate rules, it only takes a majority to change how the Senate interprets these rules. Both Senators Reid and McConnell have used this “nuclear option” to make their rule changes. By a vote of 48-51, senators on April 3 voted against sustaining the ruling of the parliamentarian who said that debate over nominees must last 30 hours.


The Senate has moved 9 nominees under this expedited consideration process:

  • David Bernhardt, Secretary of the Interior, 56-41
  • Steven Morales, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Texas, 56-41
  • Holly Brady, District Judge for the Northern District of Indiana, 56-42
  • John Abizaid, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 92-7
  • Cheryl Marie Stanton, Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor, 53-45
  • Patrick Wyrick, Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma, 53-47
  • Daniel Domenico, Judge for the District of Colorado, 57-42
  • Mark Calabria, Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, 52-44
  • Kalman Altman, Judge for the Southern District of Florida, 66-33

 

Do you support Majority Leader McConnell’s move to speed up consideration of presidential nominees? Do you think that Senate Democrats are right to use 30 hours of debate on President Trump’s nominees?

House Pushes Trump to Defend Obamacare in Court

The legal fight over the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is currently raging in court. This week, the House of Representatives condemned the Trump Administration’s efforts to see this law invalidated by court order.

                                 

On April 3, the House of Representatives passed House Resolution 271, which condemns the Trump Administration’s legal actions against the ACA. That resolution calls on the Trump Administration to reverse its course and defend the law from legal challenges. It passed by a vote of 240-186, with 8 Republicans joining all but one Democrat in backing it.

 

In February 2018, attorneys general and governors from 20 states filed a lawsuit arguing that a portion of the ACA was unconstitutional and the entire law should be invalidated because of that. Initially the Trump Administration took a stance that the portion of the law in question, the minimum essential coverage mandate, was indeed unconstitutional, but that this portion could be ruled so without overturning the entire law. A federal judge in December 2018 agreed with the plaintiffs, finding this part of the law unconstitutional and saying that the entire law had to go because of it.

 

After that ruling, the Department of Justice changed course, saying that this ruling should be upheld and that the entire ACA was unconstitutional. The case is still being litigated, but this new position from the Trump Administration weakens the argument in favor of the law. In most cases, the Justice Department defends federal law when they are being challenged in court.

 

While the resolution passed by the House of Representatives urges the Trump Administration to once again defend the ACA, this is unlikely to have any effect. The Department of Justice is expected to continue arguing that the law should be invalidated. It remains to be seen how the courts will decide, especially since this case is likely to make it to the Supreme Court.

 

Do you think that the Trump Administration should defend Obamacare in court?

Trump Threatens to Close the Border

President Trump this week continues his focus on illegal immigration, threatening to close the border with Mexico if that nation does not curtail the flow of migrants north. This has met pushback from Republicans as well as Democrats, who point out the large economic damage it could cause.

 

On Wednesday morning he tweeted, “Congress must get together and immediately eliminate the loopholes at the Border! If no action, Border, or large sections of Border, will close. This is a National Emergency!” This follows earlier statements calling for Mexico to do more to stem illegal immigration or the border would close.

 

It is unclear how the border would be closed under the president’s scenario. He has floated both a complete closure and a closure of key ports of entry. Either way, say business leaders and elected officials, this would impose a heavy cost on the economy. With significant trade between the U.S. and Mexico, a border closure would impede U.S. exports south and Mexican exports north. Both businesses and consumers would be affected quickly if such an action is taken.

 

The president and his allies say that shutting down border crossing is the best way to deal with an increasing number of illegal immigrants. Many disagree, however. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, said, “Closing down the border would have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country, and I would hope we would not be doing that sort of thing.”

 

Do you think that President Trump should shut down the U.S.-Mexican border?

House Rebukes Trump on Transgender Military Ban

By a vote of 238-185, this week the House of Representatives expressed its opposition to the Trump Administration’s ban on openly transgender troops serving in the Armed Forces.

 

House Resolution 124 states that the House of Representatives:

 

(1) strongly opposes President Trump’s discriminatory ban on transgender members of the Armed Forces;

 

(2) rejects the flawed scientific and medical claims upon which it is based; and

 

(3) strongly urges the Department of Defense to not reinstate President Trump’s ban on transgender members of the Armed Forces and to maintain an inclusive policy allowing qualified transgender Americans to enlist and serve in the Armed Forces.

 

Every Democratic member of the House who voted supported this resolution, and they were joined by 5 Republicans.

 

In 2017, President Trump issued a memorandum that prohibited openly transgender individuals from serving in the armed forces. This reversed a 2016 action by the Obama Administration which allowed such individuals to serve. President Trump’s ban has been tied up with legal challenges, although the Supreme Court did rule 5-4 in January to lift one of the injunctions against it.

 

This resolution does not have the force of law, but it does signal the disagreement of the House of Representatives with the president's action.

 

Do you think openly transgender individuals should be allowed to serve in the military?

House Fails to Override Trump Border Emergency Veto

A majority of the House of Representatives may want to terminate President Trump’s border wall emergency declaration, but there weren’t enough votes to overcome his veto keeping it in place.

 

By a vote of 248-181, the House voted to override the president’s veto of House Joint Resolution 46. This resolution would end the national emergency declared by President Trump in February to shift federal funds around to build a border wall.

 

Both the House and Senate passed this resolution, but President Trump vetoed it earlier this month. The Constitution requires a 2/3 vote, or 288 members of the House of Representatives, to override a veto. The vote yesterday fell well short of that number.

 

This is not the end of the fight over the emergency declaration, however. Sixteen states are suing the federal government over this issue. Under the terms of the National Emergencies Act, the House of Representatives can also bring up another resolution to terminate the emergency in 6 months. See our Deep Dive on presidential emergencies for more information

 

Do you support a vote to override President Trump’s veto of a resolution to terminate the border wall emergency declaration?

Trump Admin Announces Nuclear Power Support

With the Senate readying a vote on the Green New Deal this week, the Trump Administration recently announced a big boost for nuclear power.

 

Speaking to nuclear power plant employees in Georgia, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that “This is the real new green deal.” He used the opportunity on Friday to announce that the federal government would issue taxpayer-backed guarantees for building new nuclear power plants. This is similar to arrangements made during the Obama Administration to support construction of new nuclear plants.

 

The Trump Administration has long supported nuclear power, pointing out that it is a way to produce electricity without carbon emissions. They also note that nuclear power can generate electricity regardless of the weather conditions. Administration officials say that this power source should be a big part of any strategy to combat climate change.

 

Some Democrats, however, have a different view. They prefer renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind, for carbon-free power generation. The Green New Deal does not include provisions to increase the use of nuclear power.

 

Because of strict regulations and a high cost to construct new facilities, nuclear power plant operators rely on federal loan guarantees. Even with these guarantees, however, some new plants are behind schedule for completion. The electricity produced by these plants is also more expensive than electricity produced by natural gas plants, which is causing issues for existing nuclear power plant operators.

 

Do you think that the federal government should guarantee loans for nuclear power plant construction? Are nuclear power plants a good way to produce carbon-free electricity?

Trump signs College Free Speech Order

Over the past few years, incidents of speakers being shut down at colleges around the nation have increasingly made news. Now President Donald Trump has waded into the controversy, issuing an executive order aimed at bolstering free speech on college campuses.

 

In his executive order, the president has directed federal agencies to ensure that colleges receiving federal research funds “promote free enquiry” and that private colleges receiving federal funds comply with their stated free speech policies.

 

The order states that colleges should not “creat[e] environments that stifle competing perspectives.” It also says that “it is the policy of the federal government to encourage institutions to foster environments that promote open, intellectually engaging, and diverse debate.”

 

In some high-profile cases, speakers invited by conservative groups have been shouted down or disinvited from speaking on college campuses. These incidents have garnered the notice of President Trump, who has praised some of the speakers.

 

It is unclear how much of an effect this executive order will have, since the schools affected are already bound by constitutional free speech guarantees. It may give the federal government a tool to use if egregious instances are reported, however.

 

Do you think that colleges and universities should do more to protect free speech? What role should the federal government play in policing free speech conflicts on campus?

House Wants Mueller Report Made Public

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is on the verge of releasing his report on potential crimes committed by President Trump's campaign to Attorney General William Barr. The House of Representatives wants to make sure that you get to read it.

 

By a vote of 420-0 (with 4 Republicans voting “present”), the House of Representatives approved House Concurrent Resolution 24. This resolution states that “the allegations at the center of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation strike at the core of our democracy, and there is an overwhelming public interest in releasing the Special Counsel’s report to ensure public confidence in both the process and the result of the investigation.”

 

The resolution then calls “for the public release of any report, including findings, Special Counsel Mueller provides to the Attorney General, except to the extent the public disclosure of any portion thereof is expressly prohibited by law; and calls for the full release to Congress of any report, including findings, Special Counsel Mueller provides to the Attorney General.”

 

When this resolution reached the Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer moved for a vote. Senator Lindsay Graham objected, arguing that the measure should demand a larger investigation into how the Justice Department conducted the Trump investigation.

 

It remains to be seen if this measure will be voted on by the Senate or not. Senator Schumer said he would try to bring it up again, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell controls the calendar of votes.

 

Do you think that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report should be made public?

Senate Rejects Trump's Border Emergency

The Senate today joined the House of Representatives in voting to terminate President Trump’s border emergency.

 

By a vote of 59-41, the Senate voted in favor of House Joint Resolution 46. This resolution would end the national emergency declared by President Trump in February to shift federal funds around to build a border wall. Twelve Republicans joined all the Democrats in voting for this measure.

 

Under the National Emergencies Act, the law that allows President Trump to declare an emergency, Congress has the authority to pass a resolution to terminate that emergency declaration. Both houses of Congress must pass the resolution, and it is subject to the president’s veto.

 

The House of Representatives passed the same resolution in late February by a vote of 245-182. However, the majorities in the House and Senate for approval were not large enough to meet the threshold to override the promised veto by President Trump.

 

This is not the end of the fight over the emergency declaration, however. Sixteen states are suing the federal government over this issue.

 

Do you support the vote in the House and Senate to terminate President Trump’s emergency declaration allowing him to build a border wall?

Deep Dive: The Budget Process

President Trump released his annual budget this week, which has led to many news stories about how he plans on cutting certain programs or changing the way the federal government works. President Trump may indeed have ideas about how the federal government should spend money, but he cannot do anything alone. The budget he released is merely the official start of the budget process.

 

The process for determining how much money the federal government will spend in the next fiscal year will take until at least October, more likely longer. There are many steps that Congress must take between now and then until we know how much money individual departments or agencies will receive.

 

The President’s Budget

 

While the law states that the president must submit his budget by the first Monday of February, in many years presidents submit them later (just as President Trump has done this year). The president’s budget has a few parts:

  • Recommendations on spending for the next fiscal year (which runs from October 1 through September 30)
  • Proposals for major policy changes that have budget implications, such as reforms to programs like Social Security or Medicaid
  • Projections for future spending levels, revenue collections, and budget deficits
  • Historical data on spending and revenue amounts

 

It is important to outline a few things that the president’s budget does not do:

  • It does set any spending. It merely recommends what the president would like to see spending levels set at.
  • It is not law. This is not the president announcing how spending will proceed in the next fiscal year. If he recommends the elimination of a certain program or cuts in another program, these eliminations or cuts will not happen unless Congress agrees.
  • It does not bind Congress to do anything. The president’s budget is delivered to Congress, but Congress does not have to adopt any of it. In fact, Congress routinely ignores it.

 

So why is the president’s budget resolution important? Its importance lies in laying out the president’s overall vision for federal spending. It indicates the programs he thinks are important, those he thinks should be cut (or eliminated), and often outlines a path towards a balanced budget.

 

However, as a practical matter, the president’s budget resolution does not directly affect spending. It may indicate that, as Congress finishes up its spending process (described below), the president may veto spending bills that deviate from his priorities. Even that is not necessarily true, however, as negotiations over actual spending bills later in the year often ignore the president’s budget priorities in favor of more immediate concerns.

 

President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal, released on March 11, 2019, can be found here.

 

Congressional Budget Resolutions

 

Once the president releases his budget, the House and Senate Budget Committees consider them. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also analyzes the budget. The committees consider the CBO analysis and are supposed to release their budget resolutions by April 1. The full House and Senate then consider these resolutions and adopt them, usually with amendments, by April 15.

 

The adopted budget resolutions are not laws, so are not subject to presidential veto. However, they do set the funding allocations that the appropriations committees in each house use to set their spending bills. These committees, described in more detail below, set the actual spending levels for the fiscal year for discretionary government programs (that is, for programs that are not entitlements such as Social Security or Medicaid).

 

While passing a budget resolution is helpful in setting a federal spending blueprint, it is not mandatory. In fact, in Fiscal Years 2011, 2012, and 2013, Congress did not pass a budget resolution. When that happens, the prior year’s budget resolution sets the spending blueprint that appropriations committees follow.

 

These budget resolutions can also contain “reconciliation instructions.” These are instructions to committees to make changes to the law that have budget implications. The reconciliation process is not subject to a Senate filibuster, and must be considered on a faster timeframe than other legislation. That makes it a useful tool to enact policy that does not have strong bipartisan support.

 

The Appropriations Process

 

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are the committees that actually set spending levels for discretionary government programs. These committees each have 12 subcommittees that use the budget resolution allocations to determine how much government departments and agencies spend.

 

These 12 appropriations bills are supposed to be completed by Congress and signed by the president by the beginning of the fiscal year, October 1. That rarely happens. This leads to a variety of maneuvers to fund the federal government for temporary time periods or, failing that, a government shutdown.

 

What Does This Mean to You?

 

The budget process is how the government determines how much it will spend on the programs it administers. It also helps determine how much the deficit will be and how much the government will add to the national debt. If this process breaks down due to disagreement between the President and Congress, it could also lead to another government shutdown. Since President Trump has just released his budget, it remains to be seen what will happen with spending, the deficit, and a possible government shutdown this year.

 

 

 

Senate Approves 3 Federal Judges

 

For many of his supporters, President Trump’s judicial appointments rank near the top of why they backed him for president. Throughout his term, his team has put a priority on filling judicial vacancies. This week saw three more of these judges move through the Senate.

  • Eric Murphy, Sixth Judicial Circuit, approved 52-46
  • Chad Readler, Sixth Judicial Circuit, approved 52-47
  • Allison Jones Rushling, Fourth Judicial Circuit, approved 53-44

 

During President Trump’s term, judicial votes have largely fallen along partisan lines. Nearly all the Democrats vote against them, while every Republican supports them (with few exceptions). This was the case in the votes this week.

 

The importance that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell places on filling these judicial vacancies was clear from the Senate action this week. Aside from votes on these judges, the only other vote that he scheduled was for another Trump Administration nomination.

 

Do you approve of President Trump’s judicial nominees?

Deep Dive: Presidential Emergencies

On Friday, February 15, President Donald Trump announced that he would declare a state of emergency to allow him to use federal funds to build a border wall. Talk about this “emergency” is common in the media, but this declaration involved a legal process that gives powers to both the president and Congress. This explainer will give you more information about the law in question, what it allows the president to do, and how Congress can react.

 

The issue of a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border has been one that President Trump has been supporting since he ran for president, but Congress has not allocated funding to do this. President Trump used a 1976 law to bypass Congress, but the law does not give him unlimited power to do whatever he wants. By invoking this law, the president also gives Congress an opportunity to take action to terminate his declaration.

 

The National Emergencies Act of 1976

 

President Trump is using authority under a law passed in 1976, the National Emergencies Act, also known as Public Law 94-412.

 

Presidential Power

 

This legislation gives the president broad powers in an emergency, but also puts some limits on those powers:

  • Where Congress has enacted legislation to delegate emergency powers to the president, he can invoke this law use those powers through a declaration.
  • The president must specify the law under which he is acting.
  • The president must renew emergency declarations annually and can terminate them at any time.

 

Congressional Power

 

This legislation also gives Congress a role to play in national emergencies:

  • Within 6 months, and every 6 months thereafter, Congress must meet to consider a resolution to determine if a national emergency should be terminated.
  • A concurrent resolution by Congress can terminate an emergency. This resolution is subject to the president’s veto, so it must pass by a two-thirds majority to ensure that it will overrule the president’s actions.
  • Every six-month time period in which an emergency is in effect, the president must provide a list of expenditures to Congress that have been incurred due to this emergency declaration.

 

History of Use

 

Since this law has been in effect, there have been 59 emergencies declared. Thirty-one of them have been annually renewed. These include emergency declarations regarding the September 11 terrorist attacks and sanctions on various foreign regimes that support terrorism.

 

President Trump’s Emergency Declaration

 

Under President Trump’s emergency declaration, various federal sources of money can be used to pay for the construction of a border wall. These include:

  • $3.6 million from uncompleted military construction projects
  • $2.5 billion from Department of Defense anti-drug efforts
  • $601 million from funds in the Department of Treasury from assets seized and forfeited to the federal government

 

Legal Issues

 

Besides the congressional resolution of disapproval, there will also be challenges in the courts to this declaration. Opponents of the declaration are likely to argue these points in court:

  • There is no true emergency. According to this argument, there is nothing new happening at the border that justifies declaring the situation an emergency. The president, they say, is simply calling this an “emergency” in order to bypass Congress.
  • Congress has refused to act, so the president should not have the presumption of authority in this case. Unlike in past emergencies, this declaration comes after Congress has explicitly refused to grant funding for the purposes of the declaration. Past emergency declarations did not involve spending money in ways that have been denied by Congress, so those who make this argument contend that President Trump is on much weaker ground in justifying his declaration.

 

The Supreme Court’s decisions do not provide much precedent in this area. In Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, the court held that President Truman’s could not declare an emergency to seize private property. The court decided this case in 1952, however, and has not adjudicated any case under the 1976 law.

 

What This Means for You

 

The House of Representatives voted 245-182 on February 26 to terminate President Trump’s national emergency. The Senate will now take up this question. With a handful of Republicans already announcing their support for the resolution, this body is likely to vote in favor of terminating the emergency, too. With a majority of both houses in favor, this would be the first time that Congress voted to revoke an emergency declaration by the president.

 

President Trump still has the option of vetoing this resolution, however, and he is likely to do so. The votes in favor of the disapproval resolution did not reach two-thirds of either chamber of Congress, so any veto override attempt is almost certainly doomed. That leaves the fight over the fate of President Trump’s emergency declaration with the courts. Sixteen states’ attorneys’ general have filed suit to stop it. This could take years to resolve. A border wall, if it gets built at all, is unlikely to be finished any time soon.

 

 

Trade Deficit Reaches 10-Year High

A key plank in Donald Trump’s presidential platform was reducing the U.S. trade deficit. Today, however, new numbers show that it has reached levels not seen since 2008.

 

In 2018, the U.S. imported $621 billion more in goods and services than it exported. That is the widest gap since 2008.

 

Calling the trade deficit a “disaster” during his campaign, he has pursued tariffs and renegotiated trade agreements as a way to close it. Recently labeling himself “Tariff Man,” President Trump has engaged in a trade war with China and imposed new tariffs on goods from that country. He has also attacked long-standing trade agreements and supported tariffs for other nations.


According to President Trump, imports hurt American workers while exports grows the economy. Economists disagree, however, arguing that reducing barriers to trade makes the economy more efficient, something that helps both workers and consumers overall.

 

Do you think that President Trump’s tariff policies have contributed to the increased trade deficit? Or do you think that the higher trade deficit shows that the president needs to be tougher on America’s trading partners?

Rand Paul Says “No” To Border Wall Emergency

President Trump usually has an ally in Senator Rand Paul. When it comes to the border wall, however, the Kentucky senator is breaking with the president, saying that the emergency declaration is “extra-constitutional.”

 

In a speech over the weekend, Sen. Paul said he would vote in favor of a resolution that would terminate the president’s emergency declaration. He justified it by pointing to the Constitution. According to Sen. Paul, “I can’t vote to give the president the power to spend money that hasn’t been appropriated by Congress. We may want more money for border security, but Congress didn’t authorize it. If we take away those checks and balances, it’s a dangerous thing.”

 

The House of Representatives passed a resolution to terminate the emergency declaration on February 26 by a vote of 245-182.

 

Sen. Paul’s vote will join a handful of other Republican senators who have announced their support for ending the emergency declaration. These include Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Susan Collins of Maine. With all the Democratic senators expected to vote in favor of the Senate resolution, these Republican votes will ensure that the resolution will pass. If this happens, then President Trump still has the option of vetoing it.

 

Do you think that the Senate should vote in favor of ending President Trump’s border wall emergency declaration?

House Rebukes Trump on Border Wall

President Trump may think that there’s an emergency at the U.S.-Mexican border, but the House of Representatives disagrees.

 

By a vote of 245-182, the House voted in favor of House Joint Resolution 46. This resolution terminates the national emergency declared by President Trump earlier this month in order to shift federal funds around to build a border wall. Thirteen Republicans joined all the Democrats in voting for this measure.

 

Under the National Emergencies Act, the law that allows President Trump to declare an emergency, Congress also has the authority to pass a resolution to terminate that emergency declaration. Both houses of Congress must pass the resolution, and it is subject to the president’s veto. If one house of Congress passes the resolution, the other house must consider it within 15 days.  

 

There is likely enough support among Republicans in the Senate to pass a disapproval resolution. However, the majority in the House for approval is does not meet the threshold to override a presidential veto. That means that if President Trump vetoes the resolution, which he is likely to do, then his emergency declaration stands.

 

This is not the end of the fight over the emergency declaration, however. Sixteen states are suing the federal government over this issue.

 

Do you think that Congress should vote to terminate President Trump’s emergency declaration allowing him to build a border wall?

“ISIS Bride” Puts Citizenship Dispute at the Forefront

Who is a citizen and what duties does the government owe a citizen – these are the questions at the center of a new lawsuit.

 

The case is being brought on behalf of Hoda Muthana, a woman who left the U.S. to marry an ISIS fighter in Syria. She is seeking to return to the U.S. but the Trump Administration is barring her, arguing that she is not a citizen. President Trump has waded into the fray, tweeting that he instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to bar her from re-entry.

 

The case hinges on a few key disputes. One is whether Muthana is a citizen or not. She claims that because she was born in the U.S., she is a citizen via birthright citizenship. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution grants citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. with a few exceptions. One of those exceptions is for children born who are not “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.” That is generally interpreted to pertain to children of diplomats. Muthana was born to a Yemeni diplomat, but her lawyers argue that her father had resigned his diplomatic position prior to her birth. The Trump Administration counters that this resignation did not become effective until after her birth.

 

A follow-up dispute occurs if indeed Muthana is determined to be a citizen. Her lawyers contend that the government cannot block any citizen from returning to the U.S. They say that if this happens, it would be a violation of the Constitution for a president to unilaterally disregard citizenship protections.

 

If Muthana returns to the U.S., she expects to face criminal charges for her interactions with ISIS.

 

Do you support birthright citizenship, the constitutional practice of recognizing anyone born on U.S. soil as a citizen? Can the government prevent citizens from returning to the U.S.?

Senate Confirms Trump Attorney General Pick

President Trump has a new attorney general.

 

By a vote of 54 to 45, senators confirmed Bill Barr as attorney general on Thursday. Barr, a former attorney general under George H. W. Bush from 1991 to 1991, is the second attorney general to serve under President Trump.

 

His first, Jeff Sessions, resigned last year. President Trump had criticized Sessions numerous times for recusing himself from overseeing the investigation into possible illegal activities undertaken by the Trump campaign. Some Senate Democrats had voiced concern that Barr will not allow this investigation to continue.

 

Every Senate Republican supported Barr’s nomination except one, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. He expressed concerns about Barr’s support of warrantless wiretapping and opposition to criminal justice reform. Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Doug Jones of Alabama, and Kristyn Sinema of Arizona broke with Senate Democrats by voting “yes” on the Barr nomination.

 

Do you support Senate confirmation of Bill Barr to be attorney general?

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