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Federal Judge Stops Stricter Enforcement of Food Stamp Work Requirement

A federal judge has put a stop to the Trump Administration's plan to enforce work requirements for food stamp recipients.

 

Under the Trump Administration rule announced last year, states would have less ability to waive rules requiring food stamp recipients who are between 18 and 49 and who do not have a disability or dependents to work or be in work training programs for 20 hours a week. A federal judge blocked the rule from going into effect this week, preserving the broad authority of states to waive this requirement. 

 

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia had sued to overturn the rule. Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell agreed with these plaintiffs, saying that the Trump Administration had acted capriciously in changing regulatory policy. He also said this rule would increase food insecurity for millions of Americans.

 

Trump Administration officials argued that this rule was a way to spur food stamp recipients to find jobs if they are able to work. These officials pointed out that it does not affect people who are caring for children, the elderly, or those who have a disability.

 

Opponents countered that this regulation will end vital food assistance to needy Americans. They said that it was a way to push people off a program that they need to feed their family. They also argued that it removed the flexibility of states to design a food stamp program that takes into account people who have sporadic work or are underemployed. 

 

Congress had put the stricter enforcement of the work requirement on hold during the course of the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

Do you support work requirements for able-bodied food stamp recipients?

West Virginia Sues Walmart, CVS over Opioids

Contending that CVS and Walmart contributed to the state’s opioid crisis, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has filed suit against these companies.

 

In his lawsuit, Attorney General Morrisey claims that the companies should have monitored suspiciously large orders of opioids and refused to deliver them to retailers in the state. He says that corporate practices led to West Virginians becoming addicted to opioids and causing significant harm to the state. 

 

This suit is one of many filed by state and local governments against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. At the base of these suits is the idea that companies knew these drugs caused harm and were being misused, but did nothing to stop them. These suits allege that these companies’ policies encouraged the use of opioids, making the problem worse. They argue that companies should have taken steps to stem the flow of opioids to consumers once they realized that people were abusing the drugs.

 

These suits are not without controversy, however. Critics point out that opioids are legal drugs that have legitimate purposes. They contend that the companies did nothing illegal in their actions, and that they are not responsible for people who misuse the drugs. Some allege that the politicians filing the suits are simply looking for easy money from deep-pocketed companies.

 

In total, states like West Virginia are seeking over $26 billion in compensation for opioid-related harms.

 

Do you think that states should sue drug makers and retailer over the opioid crisis?

NY Sues to Disband the NRA

The New York attorney general has filed suit to dismantle the National Rifle Association (NRA), a move she says is necessitated by serious misconduct within the organization.

 

Letitia James announced the suit today, alleging that NRA President Wayne LaPierre and other defendants "fostered a culture of noncompliance and disregard for internal controls that led to the waste and loss of millions of assets and contributed to the NRA's current deteriorated financial state." The NRA has lost $64 million over the past three years.

 

The lawsuit alleges a variety of questionable spending by the organization's officials, including the use of private jets and international vacations. The attorney general alleges that those in charge of the NRA used it as a "piggy bank" to divert funds benefiting themselves instead of furthering the goals of the organization. The NRA's corporate charter is in New York, and that state's law allows organizations to be disbanded because of such misconduct.

 

The NRA disagrees with this characterization, however. It says that this suit is politically-motivated, noting that Attorney General James supports gun control. Wayne LaPierre rejects claims that he misspent funds.

 

This lawsuit will work its way through the New York court systems. Even if the attorney general can prove her claims against the defendants, courts could impose sanctions that are less stringent than disbanding the NRA.

 

Do you support New York's lawsuit to shut down the NRA?

Judge Once Again Blocks Federal Executions

The Trump Administration’s movement to resume federal executions has once again been put on hold by a federal judge.

 

On Monday, the federal government planned to execute Daniel Lewis Lee, who was convicted of three murders in 1996. There have been ongoing legal challenges to his execution, but an appeals court had ruled on Sunday that it could proceed. However, hours after this ruling, another federal judge placed an injunction on any federal executions.

 

That judge, Tanya Chutkan, said that the courts still needed to sort out the legal challenges from four inmates on death row. These cases concern whether federal execution protocols are cruel and unusual, and are therefore banned by the Constitution. Some analysts argue that the drugs used for lethal injection cause significant pain and distress to those being executed.

 

Chutkan’s ruling contends that there is sufficient evidence that these drugs do indeed constitute cruel and unusual punishment, so there should be a definitive ruling by federal courts before executions resume. The Trump Administration has aggressively fought to begin using the death penalty again.


The last person executed by the federal government was Louis Jones in 2003.

 

Do you support the federal government resuming use of the death penalty?

Lawyers Argue that Trump’s Name on Stimulus Checks is Illegal

Stimulus checks going out to millions of Americans contain the name of President Donald Trump in the memo line. A bipartisan group of lawyers is arguing that this is a violation of federal law.

 

Congress passed legislation authorizing stimulus payments to tens of millions of Americans due to the economic effects of the coronavirus epidemic. Many of those payments were made by direct deposit. Some people, however, are receiving paper checks.

 

There were reports that President Trump wanted his signature to appear on the line authorizing the checks. Generally, the signature of the Secretary of the Treasury appears on government checks. Due to legal reasons, this idea could not be realized. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that he had the idea to place the president’s name in the memo line of the check, something that has never been done before.

 

A group of lawyers who have worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations argues that this move was intended to boost the president’s re-election campaign. As such, they say, it violates a federal law that prohibits the use of federal employees and property for campaign purposes. They sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr urging him to appoint a special counsel to investigate this situation.

 

Legal observers note that no one has been prosecuted under the section of the federal code that these lawyers cite.

 

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has introduced legislation to prohibit the federal government from using the president or vice=president’s name or image in promotional material.

 

Do you think it was appropriate to put President Trump’s name on stimulus checks?

McConnell Pushes to Limit the Coronavirus Liability of Business Owners

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants to take steps to limit what he says will be a “lawsuit pandemic” in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

 

With businesses set to begin reopening around the nation, some people fear that there will be lawsuits from customers if they contract coronavirus in these places. Many business owners cite their concern over these potential lawsuits as one of the reasons they are hesitant to resume operation.

 

Sen. McConnell has said he will insist that any future bill to provide more aid related to the coronavirus must also contain a limitation on the liability for business owners and health care workers. He argues that this is a key way to begin restarting the economy.

 

Democrats in Congress have been pushing for a new coronavirus bill that will provide aid to local and state governments. Sen. McConnell has been cool to this idea, noting that many of these governments were facing budget issues prior to the coronavirus. He has said that the federal government should not be bailing out states that spent irresponsibly. However, he has said he would be open to considering carefully-crafted aid if it also contains a liability limit.

 

The Senate will likely meet next week. The House was supposed to reconvene, too, but Majority Leader Steny Hoyer now says that members will not be returning to Washington in early May.

 

Do you support giving business owners and health care workers protection from lawsuits over the coronavirus?

High Court Bars Non-Unanimous Jury Verdicts

Today the Supreme Court held that there must be unanimous jury verdicts to convict someone in criminal cases.

 

In Ramos v. Louisiana, the court held that it violated the Constitution to convict someone of a crime using a jury that did not return a unanimous verdict. This applies only to offenses deemed “serious.” The court did not rule on cases concerning petty offenses.

 

This decision arose from the conviction of Evangelisto Ramos for murder in Louisiana. A jury in that state found him guilty by a verdict of 10-2. At that time, Louisiana allowed non-unanimous jury verdicts. It has subsequently changed its law.

 

The decision finding these verdicts unconstitutional was 6-3, with Justice Neil Gorsuch writing the majority opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts dissented along with Justices Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan. The majority concluded that the standard at the time the Constitution was written required a unanimous verdict. The dissenting justices said that the court had previously held that it was not unconstitutional for states to use non-unanimous jury verdicts, so the court should not be overturning precedent here.

 

Only Oregon is currently affected by this decision, at it was the last remaining state that allowed criminal convictions without a unanimous verdict.

 

Do you support requiring unanimous jury verdicts for criminal convictions?

Court Allows Rule Defunding Planned Parenthood to Take Effect

A federal appeals court has rejected calls that it block a Trump Administration regulation that prohibits federally-funded family planning services from referring women for abortions.

 

This rule, issued in 2019, bans organizations that receive federal family planning funds from referring women to an abortion provider or from being associated with organizations that provide abortions. This regulation had a big effect on Planned Parenthood, which received significant federal family planning funding. After this rule went into effect, Planned Parenthood stopped accepting this money.

 

The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Planned Parenthood and other plaintiffs who urged the court to block this rule. The court instead held that, given past Supreme Court precedent, the rule was likely to survive legal challenge and so courts should not stop it from going into effect. The Supreme Court had upheld similar restrictions on the use of federal money in the past.

 

Supporters of this rule argued that taxpayers should not be subsidizing the operation of organizations that provide abortions or counsel women to get abortions. They said that Planned Parenthood and other groups should be cut off from taxpayer dollars. Opponents countered that this rule would penalize poor women who use Planned Parenthood for family planning services unrelated to abortion.

 

There are still ongoing lawsuits over the ultimate fate of this regulations.

 

Do you think that the federal government should fund organizations like Planned Parenthood that refer women for abortions?

Senate Continuing to Focus on Judicial Nominations

The House of Representatives was in recess this week, with members out of Washington, D.C., for district work sessions. Senators, however, stayed in D.C., taking a series of votes. As has been their practice throughout this year, they focused on confirming President Trump’s judicial nominees.

 

These are the nominees confirmed by senators this week:

  • William Joseph Nardini, of Connecticut, to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit – 86-2
  • Jennifer Philpott Wilson, of Pennsylvania, to be U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania – 88-3
  • Lee Philip Rudofsky, of Arkansas, to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas – 51-41
  • Danielle J. Hunsaker, of Oregon, to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit – 73-17
  • David Austin Tapp, of Kentucky, to be a Judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims – 85-8

 

The Senate has considered little legislation during the 116th Congress, but has confirmed scores of judges nominated by President Trump. After Senate Democrats were using Senate rules to force lengthy debates on the nominations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell engineered a rule change to limit debate. This has sped up confirmations, something that Sen. McConnell has been proud to tout.

 

Democrats criticize this focus on judicial nominees, saying that it ignores important legislative priorities. Liberals also dislike the fact that many of these judges will be in office for years, leading to a more conservative judiciary. Senate Republicans point out that their voters value judicial confirmations highly, so they are doing the work they are elected to do. They also note that much of the legislation passed by the Democratic-controlled House does not have majority support in the Senate, so there is no use debating bills that will ultimately fail.

 

Do you support the Senate focusing on confirming President Trump’s judicial nominees?

Trump Vetoes Attempt to Overturn Border Wall Emergency

Congress wants to end President Trump’s emergency declaration on the U.S-Mexican border wall. But President Trump is fighting back with a veto of a resolution that would terminate his declaration.

 

In February, President Trump declared a national emergency regarding the situation at the border between the U.S. and Mexico. His declaration freed up money that Congress had appropriated for other sources in order to build a border wall, something that Congress had explicitly refused to fund.

 

Under the terms of the national emergency law (something explained in this VoteSpotter Deep Dive), Congress can vote every six months to terminate that declaration. Congress voted to do so in the spring, and it recently did so again. But this termination resolution is subject to the president’s veto. President Trump vetoed the resolution in the spring, and he vetoed the latest resolution yesterday.

 

There were not enough votes to override the first veto, and there are unlikely to be enough to override this one. That means that, as far as Congress is concerned, there is no way to stop the border wall construction from occurring. However, the president’s plans have recently suffered a setback in the courts. Local officials in Texas sued to stop construction, and a federal judge sided with them. This ruling does not affect the entire length of the border wall, however, and it is likely to be appealed by the Trump Administration.

 

Do you support congressional and legal efforts to stop President Trump’s emergency declaration to build a border wall?

“Right to a Safe Climate” Suit Heads to Alaska High Court

The justices of the Alaskan Supreme Court will soon be hearing a case that poses a unique question – is the state’s promotion of fossil fuels responsible for hurting young Alaskans’ right to a safe climate?

 

The young plaintiffs filing this lawsuit contend that the climate is something that should be held in the public trust like wildlife or air. The state, they say, is harming this climate by promoting the use of fossil fuels. Alaska has a large petroleum industry as well as a state law that calls on the state to support using fossil fuels. Under the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are seeking to have this state fossil fuel law overruled and to require the state to come up with a climate change recovery plan.

 

The basis of the suit is the allegation that the use of fossil fuels by Alaska is causing climate change that will, within the lifetime of young Alaskans, cause irreparable harm. Some of the Alaskans filing the suit are natives whose villages have suffered from rising sea levels.

 

Those opposing the suit argue that the courts are not the place to resolve questions of climate change. Instead, they say, this is best left to scientists to determine what is causing this change and what could be done to mitigate it. Then legislators, not judges, should decide what steps should be taken.

 

Similar lawsuits have been thrown out by Alaska courts in the past, but this one has survived legal scrutiny so far. The state Supreme Court will hear arguments on October 9, then render a decision if this case can go to trial.

 

Do you support lawsuits over climate change?

Federal Judge OKs Philadelphia Safe Injection Site

In an attempt to stem opioid overdoses, cities around the county are considering allowing nonprofits to open “safe injection sites” – places where people can use opioids under the supervision of trained professionals. The Justice Department says this would violate federal law, but today a judge disagreed.

 

According to some public health experts, opioid overdoses and other problems that come with the use of these illegal drugs could be curtailed through the use of safe injection sites. These are areas where users take their drugs to be tested to ensure that there are no lethal additives in them and then inject the drugs under the supervision of personnel to prevent overdoses. These sites usually have substances such as naloxone to revive users if they overdose. There are no such sites in the U.S., but they exist in Canada and Europe where they are credited with saving lives.

 

Supporters of these sites contend that they are a way to save lives by removing much of the danger that comes from opioid use. They note that they have worked in other countries, so they should be able to be opened in the U.S. Opponents counter that these sites will simply increase drug use by making it more attractive.

 

A nonprofit in Philadelphia sought city permission to open such a facility. The Justice Department sued to prevent this, citing a 1986 drug law. Today a federal judge ruled that the law does not address safe injection sites, so the city could proceed in approving the nonprofit’s request.

 

The Justice Department can appeal this decision.

 

Do you support safe injection sites for opioid users in order to reduce overdoses and other problems? Or do these places encourage more drug use?

Court Upholds FCC’s Net Neutrality Repeal

A federal court refused to reinstate federal net neutrality rules. In a decision handed down today, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did not break the law when it repealed Obama-era net neutrality regulations.

 

At issue is the December 2017 vote by the FCC to repeal regulations that classified the services of Internet providers as a public utility. The result of the regulations was to force providers not to discriminate in pricing, content, and the management of the network. The FCC put these rules in place in 2015 to the dismay of service providers. However, companies such as Google and Netflix had lobbied for them.

 

The 2017 vote did not remove federal oversight from the Internet. In fact, the rule mandates transparency for network management practices. The Federal Trade Commission also regulates Internet service providers. But it did lessen the ability of the government to set rules proactively that constrain Internet service providers.

 

Proponents of net neutrality rules took the FCC to court, arguing that this repeal was unlawful. The circuit court rejected this argument, but did bar the FCC from prohibiting states from passing similar laws.  

 

In April, the House of Representatives voted 232-190 in favor of HR 1644, a bill that would reinstate net neutrality rules. The Senate has not taken action on the bill.

 

Do you favor re-instating net neutrality rules? Should Internet service providers be regulated as public utilities?

 

Court Begins Hearing Challenge to Tennessee’s Abortion Waiting Period

A federal court challenge to Tennessee’s mandate that women seeking an abortion must undergo a mandatory waiting period began today in Nashville.


Under Tennessee, a woman seeking an abortion must visit a clinic once to receive counseling and set up an appointment for a procedure, then wait 48 hours until the procedure occurs. Thirteen other states have some form a mandatory waiting period for abortions.

 

Supporters of the law argue that it gives women a chance to reflect on their decision and possibly change their mind. Opponents, however, say that it places a large burden on women who must make two trips to an abortion clinic. They note that many women travel far distances to abortion clinics, so requiring them to do so twice is especially burdensome.

 

Similar bans have been challenged in other states. The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a law in that state that mandated a waiting period of 72 hours. A federal court ruled a Florida law mandating a 24-hour waiting period was unconstitutional, but that case is currently under appeal. The Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that a Pennsylvania law requiring a 24-hour waiting period was constitutional.

 

Do you think that states should be able to impose a mandatory waiting period on women seeking an abortion?

Terrorist Watch List Ruled Unconstitutional

A federal judge for the Eastern District of Virginia has ruled that the federal government cannot keep a watch list of suspected terrorists.

 

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga wrote:

 

An individual’s placement into the [list] does not require any evidence that the person engaged in criminal activity, committed a crime, or will commit a crime in the future and individuals who have been acquitted of a terrorism-related crime may still be listed.

 

The list is officially named the Terrorist Screening Database, and it contains over a million names of individuals that the Department of Homeland Security considers to have terrorist ties. This list is not the same as the “no-fly” list also compiled by the federal government (that list has also been ruled unconstitutional). Inclusion in this database triggers a higher level of scrutiny and government action. In recent years, some Democrats have pushed for legislation that would deny individuals on the list the right to purchase a firearm.

 

The 23 individuals who sued are all Muslim. They noted numerous instances of government actions that impeded their ability to travel, among other things. They alleged that they were not notified of their inclusion on the list nor were they given proper ways to challenge such an inclusion.

 

Judge Trenga agreed, noting that the list is based on subjective decisions and is error-prone. He concluded that the database violates the Constitution’s Due Process Clause and ordered the plaintiffs and the government to file briefs setting forward ways to remedy these problems.

 

Do you think the government should have a terrorist watch list? Should individuals on that list have special scrutiny when they travel or buy a gun?

 

Judge Fines Drug Company in State Opioid Suit

An Oklahoma judge yesterday issued a first-in-the-nation ruling, holding that the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson is responsible for the opioid crisis in that state.

 

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter had sued the company, claiming that it had made a “public nuisance” by selling numerous pills in the state and pressuring physicians to prescribe them. He said that led to addiction and public health problems that the company should pay for. The judge agreed with this argument, ordering Johnson & Johnson’s parent company to pay $572 million to the state.

 

Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the verdict. The company says that it followed all state and federal laws governing pharmaceuticals, which are a heavily regulated product. They note that very few overdose deaths were from the pills they made, and that their pills were only used by a small number of Oklahomans.

 

The role that pharmaceutical companies have played in the rising number of opioid addicts and overdoses is hotly debated. Elected officials around the country have joined with trial attorneys to sue the companies, looking for huge settlements based on the tobacco litigation of the 1990s.

 

Other states and local governments have filed similar suits against pharmaceutical companies. The Oklahoma verdict is the first one in the nation to find that a drug company bears the blame for the opioid crisis.

 

Do you support state lawsuits against drug companies that allege these companies fueled the opioid epidemic?

Court Says Homeless Have a Right to Sleep in Public

In the face of a rising number of homeless people camping out on city sidewalks, Boise city leaders passed a law banning this practice. A federal appeals court overruled the city, saying that such a ban was unconstitutional. Now the city is filing an appeal in a case that is drawing attention from other cities struggling with what to do about the homeless.

 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that banning outdoor sleeping was a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.” The judges said that since sleep was necessary to live, the city could not prohibit people from sleeping in public if there was not sufficient housing for them. City officials say that this eliminates their ability to take steps to curb homeless camps that may cause public health issues and be a nuisance.

 

Other cities are also grappling with this issue. Some, such as Austin, recently rescinded laws that criminalize public sleeping. Officials there said that individuals cited under the law would not show up to court, which led to criminal charges that made it even more difficult for that person to find housing and a job.

 

Loosening restrictions on homeless sleeping is often unpopular with the public. Business owners complain about homeless people deterring customers in downtown locations and city residents worry about the spread of diseases. This spring, voters in Denver overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would allow people to camp or sleep in their cars in public. Some politicians are seizing on this issue, promising to take steps that would remove the homeless from the streets by incarcerating them for minor crimes.

 

Do you think that cities should be able to ban sleeping on city streets? What measures should be taken to deal with the homeless?

Court Rules Electoral College Members aren’t Bound by Popular Vote

States that mandate their Electoral College members vote in line with the popular vote may find that these laws are void. A recent federal court ruling said that electors are free to vote their conscience, regardless of state law.

 

Most states bind electors to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in that state. During the 2016 election, the Colorado Secretary of State removed an elector who refused to cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton, the winner of that state's popular vote. That elector sued, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of the elector.

 

Within the past two decades, two presidential elections have gone to the candidate who won the electoral vote and not the popular vote – George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016. During the presidential election, voters are not directly voting for candidates, but are instead voting for slates of electors who will then meet and select the president. Most of the time these electors are party regulars who can be counted to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged. But in 2016, there were multiple electors who voted for candidates other than Clinton or Trump.

 

With these developments, the Electoral College has come under increasing criticism. Some states have passed bills that would create a compact wherein they would award their electoral votes to whomever won the national popular vote, regardless of who won their individual state’s popular vote. Some politicians are also advocating banning the Electoral College and relying exclusively on the popular vote.

 

The question of what power states possess to bind electors will likely be decided by the Supreme Court.

 

Do you think that states should be able to require that electors vote in line with that state’s popular vote? Do you think the Electoral College should be abolished?

Senate Continuing to Focus on Confirming Trump Nominees

Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made no secret that he wants to see the Senate confirm as many of President Trump’s nominees as possible. This has become a top priority for the upper chamber, with far more votes occurring on nominations than on legislation.

 

Many of the nominees being confirmed are federal judges. When Democrats controlled the Senate, they had eliminated the filibuster for some judges; under Sen. McConnell’s leadership, the Senate ended the filibuster entirely for judges and other nominees. The majority leader also reduced the time necessary to consider nominees.

 

The result has been numerous nominee votes during 2019. In recent weeks, these have included some confirmation votes that were broadly bipartisan. The Senate confirmed General Mark Milley as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by a vote of 89-1 and Mark Esper as Secretary of Defense by a vote of 90-8.

 

Some confirmation votes split the Democratic caucus, with a sizable number of Democrats supporting President Trump’s nominee. These include Donald Tapia’s nomination to be ambassador to Jamaica (confirmed 66-26), Thomas Barber’s nomination to be a federal judge for the Middle District of Florida (confirmed 77-19), and Rodney Smith’s nomination to be a federal judge for the Southern District of Florida (confirmed 78-18).

 

Most confirmation votes fall largely on partisan lines, however. The Senate confirmed Brian Buescher as federal judge for the District of Nebraska by a vote of 51-40, Wendy Williams Berger as federal judge for the Southern District of Florida by a vote of 54-37, Stephen Dickson to be Federal Aviation Administration Administrator by a vote of 52-40, and Daniel Bess to be a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by a vote of 53-45.

 

These votes fall in line with the pattern of other confirmations during the Trump Administration. A few nominations receive widespread bipartisan support, but most only attract a handful of Democratic votes. Supporters of the president say that this is an example of Democratic obstructionism, in which they will do anything to stymie the president. Critics of the president counter that he is nominating radical or unqualified people for these posts, and senators are only doing their duty in opposing them.

 

Do you think that President Trump’s nominees should receive wider bipartisan support? Or are Democratic senators right in opposing many of them?

Court Won’t Let Border Wall Plans Move Forward

The Trump Administration wants to move forward with building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, but lawsuits are stopping this from happening. A federal appeals court this week declined to issue a stay that would allow the wall work to proceed.

 

President Trump has made a border wall a top priority for his administration. Congress, however, has failed to provide money to build one. After a government shutdown earlier this year over the issue, the president used his emergency power to re-allocate funds to build such a wall. Residents in the border area went to court to stop this construction.

 

These residents argued that the president is violating the Constitution and federal law by his emergency action. They say that Congress did not appropriate funds for a border wall, so the president should not be able to build a wall. Federal courts have agreed with this argument, stopping the Trump Administration from proceeding with border barriers.

 

The Justice Department asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to stay these lower court orders, which would allowed construction to begin. By a 2-1 decision, a panel of this court’s judges disagreed. They wrote that the president is indeed misusing his authority:

 

The Constitution assigns to Congress the power of the purse. Under the Appropriations Clause, it is Congress that is to make decisions regarding how to spend taxpayer dollars. Congress did not appropriate money to build the border barriers Defendants seek to build here. Congress presumably decided such construction at this time was not in the public interest. It is not for us to reach a different conclusion.

 

The Trump Administration argues that the wall is necessary to secure the border from drug traffickers and illegal immigrants.

 

This decision by the 9th Circuit judges does not end the matter. The Justice Department can continue its legal fight in favor of the border wall, which means the Supreme Court may ultimately decide this matter.

 

Do you think that President Trump misused his power to spend money for a border wall when Congress did not authorize such spending?

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