Earlier this week, we predicted that Ketanji Brown Jackson would be confirmed, likely on Thursday, and by a vote of 53-47. And whaddya know? With VP Kamala Harris presiding over the historic occasion, Jackson was confirmed yesterday, 53-47. Don't even try to pretend you're not impressed. That's why readers come to this site: We have the biggest crystal balls in the business.
Jackson—and you might not know this, because it's gotten so little attention—will be the first Black woman to serve on the Court. Waiting for her there, of course, are a Black man and three other women, one of them a Latina. Clearly, this is not your father's Supreme Court. Well, unless we're talking about the four conservative white guys. Then it's certainly your father's Supreme Court. Especially if your father was born in, say, 1880.
As expected, the three Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote for Jackson were Mitt Romney (UT), Susan Collins (ME), and Lisa Murkowski (AK). They also participated in the standing ovation that Jackson got (in absentia, as she was watching from the White House). On the other hand, a number of Republicans made a point of running for the doors of the Senate chamber as soon as the applause began. Perhaps there was a lunchtime cocaine orgy and they didn't want to be late. In addition, three Republicans—Lindsey Graham (SC), Rand Paul (KY), and Jim Inhofe (OK)—were compelled to vote from the Senate cloakroom because they weren't wearing ties, and so were barred from appearing on the Senate floor. Did they accidentally forget their ties at home? Did they misread a memo and think yesterday was casual Thursday? Did they not know that ties are required to appear on the Senate floor? Or was this a passive-aggressive way for the trio to thumb their noses at Jackson and the Democrats? We report; you decide.
Now that Jackson has been approved, she gets to... take a nice vacation. Presumably, she will take time to hire her clerks for next term, but Stephen Breyer's retirement is not official until the end of the current term (in late June or early July). Then, of course, the Court is largely in recess until the new term begins. So, Jackson might get her feet wet voting on a few summer stays of execution, and maybe a few shadow docket matters, but she won't really get going until Monday, October 3 (by statute, SCOTUS terms always begin on the first Monday in October). Readers who are fans of Tina Fey's work may recall that October 3 is Mean Girls Day. Perhaps Jackson will take some inspiration from that. Some of her new colleagues could probably use a bit of the Mean Girl treatment.
Although Jackson will be a part of the badly outnumbered 6-3 liberal minority, she may have an outsized impact on Supreme Court jurisprudence. She can offer perspective as a Black woman, of course, but also as a person whose family is in law enforcement, and, perhaps most importantly, as a former public defender. That's something that doesn't appear on too many Supreme Court résumés. In fact, it didn't appear on any before Thursday, as she's the first PD ever to be seated on the Court.
The Democrats, who have relatively few policy achievements to point to since gaining the trifecta, and even fewer that voters actually seem to care about, are going to milk this for all it's worth. Various Democratic entities are already planning an ad blitz celebrating the confirmation, and emphasizing that it was Joe Biden and Kamala Harris who made it happen. We haven't seen any of the ads, and we're not sure they have actually been cut yet, but we suspect "The Republicans behaved very badly during the confirmation process" and "If we don't hold the Senate, there aren't going to be any more confirmations" will be major subtexts of the commercials.
On that latter point, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was asked yesterday if another Biden nominee would be considered by the Senate, should the Republicans reclaim the majority. "I'm not going to answer your question," McConnell responded. When the question was asked again, he said: "I choose not to answer the question." We all know what that means, though we surely could have guessed what the plan was, even without the Kentuckian's obfuscation.
In other words, even though the seat is filled and no other vacancy is imminent, the Supreme Court is going to be front and center in the midterm elections. That certainly isn't going to help when it comes to the out-of-control politicization of the Court. (Z)
Yesterday, we noted that the House voted to hold Trump White House deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino and Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro in contempt. But the House is just the first link in the chain; the Department of Justice has to be persuaded that contempt charges are warranted, and then the DoJ has to convince a judge. Or possibly, since we're talking criminal contempt, a jury.
When it comes to New York AG Letitia James, the chain has one less link. If she thinks contempt charges are warranted, she goes straight to the judge, and does not pass Go and does not collect $200. And that is exactly what the AG did yesterday, asking State Judge Arthur Engoron to find Donald Trump in civil contempt of court. Basically, he is dragging his feet instead of producing documents that the AG and the court have both demanded from him. "Mr. Trump should now be held in civil contempt and fined in an amount sufficient to coerce his compliance with the Court's order and compensate OAG for its fees and costs associated with this motion," the filing reads.
That does not sound like an investigation that is winding down, or that is about to be abandoned. Similarly, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg Jr. spoke to CNN and said "We are every day following up on new evidence that we've secured. Investigations are not linear so we are following the leads in front of us. That's what we're doing. ... The investigation is very much ongoing." Bragg also said he was unable to put a timeline on when he and his team might finish up, or to say much about the "meat" of the investigation, but promised that the public will be well informed when he finally makes a decision whether or not to move forward. The final chapter may not be in focus yet, but this is clearly a story that is still being written. (Z)
In response to the atrocities taking place in Bucha, Congress finally got its act together, passing two bills yesterday. The first is the Ukraine Invasion War Crimes Deterrence and Accountability Act. It would, under the auspices of the already existing Magnitsky Act, give the White House the authority to investigate war crimes and sanction offenders. It passed the Senate 100-0 and the House 418-7. The second, which doesn't have a pithy name, suspends free trade with Russia and formalizes the ban on importing Russian oil into the United States. That one also passed the Senate unanimously, while clearing the House 422-3.
So, which representatives voted against bills that are apparently so agreeable that they managed to get Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), Mitch McConnell, Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN), and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) all on board? We bet you can guess most of them. The two representatives to give the thumbs down to both bills were Tom Massie (R-KY), and—wait for it—Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Surprise! The third "nay" on the trade bill was Matt Gaetz (R-FL), while the other four nays on the war crimes bill were Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Warren Davidson (R-OH), and Scott Perry (R-PA). Even the staff mathematician can see that's only 6 nays for the war crimes bill; the seventh was from Liz Cheney (R-WY), but she said the vote was accidental and that she will ask the House clerk to correct the record.
Meanwhile, while the House Putin Caucus was doing its work, the United Nations General Assembly was voting on whether to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. Undoubtedly, many people would like to see Russia booted from the considerably more important Security Council, but the rules don't allow that, and besides, the needs of diplomacy are generally poorly served by banishing the bad guys from the room (see Versailles, Treaty of). Anyhow, the vote was successful, but 58 nations abstained, and 24 voted "nay." Here are the "nays":
Central African Republic
Undoubtedly, Greene will be thrilled to learn she's on the same side as Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. Anyhow, we now have excellent lists of the most Vladimir Putin-friendly nations and members of Congress. (Z)
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA) is not your typical politician (and that's putting it mildly). Generally speaking, the people who run political parties do not like outside-the-box types. And so, the Democratic Party did little to support Fetterman's burgeoning career when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016, or when he ran for lieutenant governor in 2018. In fact, in the former case, the DNC put its thumb on the scale for Katie McGinty, who ran a middling campaign, and lost to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA).
This time around, the Democratic machinery is staying out of the Pennsylvania Senate race, and isn't helping Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) or state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D). As a general rule, a military-veteran centrist and a charismatic Black man are the sorts of candidates that party pooh-bahs swoon over. But the pooh-bahs also know how to read polls, and in every poll, Fetterman is leaving his opponents in the dust, generally doubling or tripling their support. For example, in the most recent poll of the race, from The Hill/Emerson, Fetterman was at 33%, Lamb at 10%, and Kenyatta at 8%. Reportedly, internal polls are saying the same thing.
With something like 20% of the vote going to lesser candidates, and something like 30% undecided, it is theoretically possible for Lamb or Kenyatta to turn things around. However, they would need a real game-changer, and one has not been forthcoming. Lamb, for his part, is clearly getting desperate. One of the PACs that supports him cooked up an attack ad that smears Fetterman as "a self-described Democratic Socialist." The DNC does not need its own candidates for office repeating Republican talking points, so it expressed its... pique with that ad, and the ad has been withdrawn.
Lamb and Kenyatta also participated in a candidates' debate, while Fetterman—who clearly knows a few things about how to remain a frontrunner—didn't show up. Lamb was so upset about losing his chance to take the Lieutenant Governor down a few pegs that he sent out a cheap-shot tweet:
We all know why John Fetterman isn't coming to the debate on Sunday.— Conor Lamb (@ConorLambPA) March 31, 2022
He doesn't want to talk about the fact that he chased down an unarmed Black man and held him at gunpoint.
That's the elephant in the room. And we have to talk about it. pic.twitter.com/eiGx1Yoqz8
This campaign had been noted for its civility, but not anymore, it would seem.
Time is running out for Lamb, Kenyatta, or anyone else to change the trajectory of the race. The primary is on May 17, which is a little more than 5 weeks away. It sure looks like it will be Fetterman, and if so, then we'll learn if the Republicans are able to make hay out of his support for legal pot, for LGBTQ rights, for "socialism," and for ending the filibuster. If he is able to fend off these lines of attack, then the Democrats will certainly be taking notes, while he would be on the path to being a Democratic superstar. (Z)
This isn't that important a news story, though it is a little scary, given how dangerous rabies is. Yesterday, we wrote about the fox that attacked and bit several people on the Hill, including Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA). This afforded us the opportunity to make a few biting remarks at the expense of a different Fox, albeit one where rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth behavior is also on regular display.
Anyhow, we don't like to make substantive updates to items after we've made the day's post live. However, we also thought we should note how things turned out. And so we have our second item on the fox in as many days. As the headline notes, she did indeed turn out to have rabies. And so, euthanasia—which was necessary to test for the disease in the first place—turns out to have been the most humane resolution. It does not matter if you are a human, dog, cat, or fox, rabies is an agonizing way to die. Unfortunately, the fox had just birthed a litter, and the kits had to be put down as well, given the risk and the high likelihood that they had contracted the disease.
It is lucky that Bera is a physician, and he knew exactly what to do after being bit, and not to waste any time doing it. Hopefully, he and all the others who were bitten received (or receive) the proper course of treatment and will make a full recovery. (Z)
In their rush to pass bills that are reactionary and often performative, red-state legislatures don't always seem to think through the implications of their legislation (blue-state legislatures make this mistake, too, but recently it's been the red-staters that are more obviously guilty). We've wondered many times if Texas (and its copycats) considered that if they are able to put a bounty on abortions, it's only a matter of time until blue states put a bounty on guns of some sort. Earlier this week, we wondered if Oklahoma has really thought through its ultra-harsh abortion ban. And we've also wondered if Florida has properly thought through its "Don't Say Gay" bill, which forbids K-3 teachers from discussing sexual orientation with their students (and strongly discourages teachers of older grades from doing so).
The glaringly obvious problem—and, we must say, this was apparent to us immediately—is that "straight" is also a sexual orientation. And while banning the discussion of straight, heterosexual relationships is clearly not consistent with the spirit of the bill, it's entirely consistent with the letter. So, a person who wanted to make a point could certainly use that angle to do it.
As readers P.D. in Santa Barbara, CA, and J.A. in Austin, TX, have brought to our attention, some unknown teacher or activist in Florida has had the exact same thought. And so, this "template" is currently circulating on social media:
Dear Florida parent/caretaker:
The Florida house of Representatives has recently ruled that "Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students."
To be in accordance with this policy, I will no longer be referring to your student with gendered pronouns. All students will be referred to as "they" or "them." I will no longer use a gendered title such as "Mr." or "Mrs." or make any references to my husband/wife in the classroom. From now on I will be using the non-gendered title "Mx."
Furthermore, I will be removing all books or instruction which refer to a person being a "mother," "father," "husband" or "wife" as these are gender identities that also may allude to sexual orientation. Needless to say, all books which refer to a character as "he" or "she" will also be removed from the classroom. If you have any concerns about this policy, please feel free to contact your local congressperson.
It's not clear if any teacher has actually used the template, but does it really matter? The point being made couldn't be clearer, and the more that people point out the absurdity in this sort of Orwellian thought policing, the less likely that said policing is likely to work. This letter is just the first act of defiance; there will be others.
It is not a secret that we don't approve of politicians using real people's real lives to score cheap political points, particularly when they do real harm in the process. There may be no person in America today who is more guilty of this particular crime than Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). So, to see that people are already starting to hoist him, and his fellow Florida demagogues, by their own petards... certainly that is schadenfreude time. (Z)
The final portion of the round of 16:
The Others bracket now looks like this:
Here are the ballots for this round of voting:
You've got until Monday, April 11, at noon. Please do send in any comments on the matchups, if you have them. (Z & V).