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‘It’s gross’: Rachel Maddow slams Samuel Alito’s ‘Stop the Steal’ flag  

“Justice Alito has become increasingly unembarrassed about displaying himself as a partisan.”

Missouri Democrats score major win to clear path for abortion amendment  

In the face of unshakeable Democratic solidarity, Republicans backed down

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Samuel Alito’s excuse for his ‘stop the steal’ flag doesn’t add up

The New York Times reported Thursday that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito displayed an upside-down flag, a “Stop the Steal” symbol, at his home in the weeks after the Jan. 6 insurrection. Alito tried shifting blame onto his wife for a supposed political disagreement she had with a neighbor, which Rachel Maddow criticized on MSNBC later that day.

On Friday, Fox News’ Shannon Bream tweeted that she “spoke directly” with Alito and he elaborated on the excuse, saying that the “neighbor on their street had a ‘F— Trump’ sign that was within 50 feet of where children await the school bus in Jan 21.” 

While the Alitos claim they were fretting about a school bus stop, this was January 2021, right around the time when the first round of COVID-19 vaccines was rolled out. Many schools didn’t return to in-person learning until more than a month later. In fact, the public schools in Alito’s town of Alexandria, Virginia, didn’t return from remote learning until March

The Alitos live in the Fort Hunt suburb just south of Alexandria, so they could be referring to the bus stop of a private school that opted to open sooner than public schools. But even if there is some truth to Alito’s excuse, wouldn’t those kids also wonder why an American flag was upside down?

Whether or not Alito’s story is true, or even sort of true, one fact remains: A Supreme Court justice should not be so glib about his partisan biases. 

As Amanda Frost, a law professor from the University of Virginia, told The Times , “This is the equivalent of putting a ‘Stop the Steal’ sign in your yard, which is a problem if you’re deciding election-related cases.”

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Missouri Democrats score major win to clear path for abortion amendment

Missouri Democrats scored a major win on Friday after Republicans abandoned their effort to make it harder to amend the state constitution. The victory paves the way for a ballot measure that would restore abortion rights to pass with just a simple majority this fall.

The stunning climb-down came thanks to a record-breaking Democratic filibuster and bitter internal divisions among Republicans, both between warring factions in the Senate and between the upper and lower chambers of the legislature.

Republicans were open about their desire to thwart an effort to undo Missouri’s near-total ban on abortion by moving the goalposts for an amendment that’s likely to appear on the ballot in November.

To that end, they sought to place a measure on the Aug. 6 primary ballot—just ahead of the November vote—that would require amendments to win not only majority support among voters statewide, as is currently required, but also a majority in five of the state’s eight congressional districts.

Those rules would have made it much harder to pass progressive proposals—but not conservative measures—thanks in large part to Republican gerrymandering.

The fifth “bluest” district in the state (northern Missouri’s 6th District) voted for Donald Trump by a daunting 37-point margin , putting it far to the right of the state as a whole, which Trump won by 16 points in 2020. By contrast, the tipping-point district for conservatives would have been the 3rd District, which backed Trump by 26 points.

“So basically the effect of that is it would dilute the voices of those who live in more populous areas like Kansas City and St. Louis,” Democratic state Sen. Lauren Arthur told Daily Kos Elections on “The Downballot” podcast, “and it would give more power and weight to the votes of those in rural Missouri.”

But Republicans knew that even this one-sided approach would struggle to win the support of conservative voters, even though it would only need a majority to pass.

“I think Republicans recognize that the measure will be incredibly unpopular,” said Arthur, “and that people understand and support the concept of one person, one vote.”

So the GOP sought to sweeten the deal with a cynical bit of manipulation that both sides dubbed—one derisively, the other unabashedly—”ballot candy.”

Like any confection, this candy was sugary, empty, and unnecessary. Republicans proposed to woo conservatives by including provisions that would ban non-citizens from voting and prohibit foreign political donations—things that are already illegal under state and federal law.

Democrats were prepared to fight the GOP’s amendment fair and square at the ballot box and would have let Republicans send it to voters (albeit with Democrats voting against it) without any blandishments.

But they objected furiously to the inclusion of conservative candy. And they had good reason to, since this tactic had proven successful in the past: In 2020, voters repealed a redistricting reform measure they’d passed in a landslide two years earlier by narrowly adopting a Republican amendment that included some fig-leaf ethics reforms .

The Senate’s Democratic minority turned to one of the few tools at its disposal to keep ballot candy off the ballot. In February, Democrats successfully staged a 20-hour filibuster that led the chamber to pass a version without these artificial sweeteners, though the measure’s sponsor, Republican Mary Elizabeth Coleman, said at the time the battle to reinsert them wasn’t over.

Coleman was right, and with the legislative session entering its final week, Democrats launched what turned into an epic, 50-hour talk-a-thon starting on Monday, with the intent of once and for all preventing the GOP’s candy-laden amendment from advancing.

A Missouri filibuster, mind you, is nothing like the D.C. version, which requires only that a senator file a piece of paperwork. Rather, the Show Me State demands a “talking filibuster,” just like in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” And with a tiny Democratic caucus of just nine members, sustaining one is no easy task.

“I mean, it’s physical. You’re standing at your desk for three hours at least,” explained Arthur. “Some have picked up extra shifts and really helped out. It’s been an incredible team effort, and I’m really proud of everyone for stepping up and sacrificing sleep, and at times hydration, and talking at all hours of the night.”

Members of the Senate’s nihilistic Freedom Caucus exhorted their colleagues to break the filibuster by invoking a seldom-used procedural maneuver known as “calling the previous question,” which, notably, only requires the support of a simple majority.

But the Republican leadership, which has been engaged in a rancorous row with the Freedom Caucus for years now, ignored those pleas. With the far right determined to burn everything down, GOP leaders have had to rely on Democrats to keep basic government functions operational.

Just a week ago, for instance, Democrats provided the votes for the state’s annual budget while the Freedom Caucus stood opposed. Were Republicans to call the previous question, Democrats would have no reason to keep working with them.

So in the face of unshakeable Democratic solidarity and an utter lack of unity on their own side, Senate Republicans backed down on Wednesday afternoon. They instead voted to refer their amendment to a conference committee that would hash out a path forward with the House.

But the House had no interest in talking. The lower chamber had already passed the make-amendments-harder amendment, complete with ballot candy , and wasn’t about to change course. As St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum explained , House Republicans believed that voters would never pass a sugar-free version of the amendment.

As a result, on Thursday afternoon, the House rejected the Senate’s request for a confab. Democrats, their bodies exhausted but their spirits energized, stood ready to renew their parliamentary marathon, knowing they would only have to sustain it until 6 PM local time on Friday—the drop-dead end of the legislative session.

That turned out to be unnecessary. While the chamber’s leader, Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, made one last public attempt early Friday morning to encourage the House to pass a ballot candy-free version of the amendment, the Senate adjourned a short time later .

“There’s no way the Senate can get done in 8 hours what it couldn’t do in 50,” Rowden said just before his party caved.

It was a complete and total victory for Democrats: No version of the GOP’s amendment, either with or without candy, will appear on the ballot this year. Remarkably, almost the exact same thing happened a year ago, when a previous Republican plan to restrict direct democracy died on the very last day of the legislative session—also due to GOP disarray.

Now the focus will be on November, when voters are very likely to have the chance to reinstate the right to an abortion. Earlier this month, reproductive rights advocates submitted more than double the number of signatures needed to place their amendment on the ballot. A review of those signatures is pending, but few in Missouri doubt they’ll hold up—which is why Republicans were so desperately trying to pass their amendment.

Abortion rights supporters also have reason to think their amendment will win this fall. A February survey from St. Louis University and YouGov showed the proposal ahead 44-37, while data from Civiqs finds that 50% of Missouri voters think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 46% who say it should be illegal in all or most cases.

A long and expansive battle lies ahead, and Republican officials like Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft may try once again to use their powers to keep the amendment from reaching voters. But Democrats are energized.

“There is a lot of movement and momentum to have that issue on the ballot in November,” said Arthur . “And I think this is a pretty brazen and obvious attempt to make it harder for people to make decisions about their bodies.” That’s something many voters are unlikely to soon forget.

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It’s time for the Senate to do something about Supreme Court corruption

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin issued a sternly worded statement Thursday calling on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to recuse himself from cases involving the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 insurrection. The New York Times reported that an upside-down American flag was seen flying at his home for several days following the attack on the Capitol.

This follows a similar call from Durbin for Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself on these issues, and it will probably be heeded by Alito as much as it was by Thomas: not at all. 

Enough talk, Mr. Durbin. It’s time to do something.

“The court is in an ethical crisis of its own making, and Justice Alito and the rest of the court should be doing everything in their power to regain public trust,” Durbin said in a statement Friday. “Flying an upside-down American flag, a symbol of the so-called ‘Stop the Steal’ movement, clearly creates the appearance of bias.” 

While all of that is true, it will likely  be ignored by Alito and the one person who nominally has the power to enforce the court’s toothless code of conduct : Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts already failed to rein in Alito during a separate recusal demand in which Alito had been gifted an op-ed by The Wall Street Journal, a clear conflict of interest.

It’s time for Durbin to make a very big stink about Alito’s—and Thomas’—blatant abuse of ethics and debasement of the Supreme Court with public hearings.

That includes enforcing the committee’s subpoena  issued to Leonard Leo, founder and former director of the Federalist Society and—thanks to multimillion-dollar campaigns in support of his hand-selected right-leaning nominees—the architect of the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court. 

Last fall, the committee authorized subpoenas to Leo and Harlan Crow, a Texas billionaire and Thomas benefactor, which took months to be issued. When it finally happened last month, Leo said that he would refuse to comply.  

“Mr. Leo has played a central role in the ethics crisis plaguing the Supreme Court and, unlike the other recipients of information requests in this matter, he has done nothing but stonewall the committee,” Durbin said.

Durbin added that Leo’s “outright defiance left the committee with no other choice but to move forward with compulsory process.”

Then do it.

Instead, Durbin has been spending energy on plotting a bipartisan agreement on the blue slip process for appeals court nominees that gives home-state senators veto power over judicial nominations. It’s been a political process abused by Republicans since the Obama administration , and, as it stands now, Durbin is moving appeals court judges without blue slips but has retained the practice for district courts. 

And sure enough, Republicans like Missouri Sens. Josh Hawley and Eric Schmitt are blocking President Joe Biden’s nominees . That just demonstrates that a bipartisan agreement wouldn’t even be worth the paper it’s written on. 

It’s time for Durbin to start focusing on how to save our democracy from a corrupt Supreme Court.

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Enforcement of Arizona’s 1864 abortion ban delayed until late September

The Arizona Supreme Court granted a request from Attorney General Kris Mayes to pause its ruling for 90 days.

By Gloria Rebecca Gomez, Arizona Mirror

The Arizona Supreme Court has agreed to delay the enforcement of a 160-year-old abortion ban that mandates prison time for doctors, granting women and health care providers across the state a reprieve until September.

In doing so, the court granted a request from Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, who asked the justices to delay the implementation of the court’s April 9 ruling on the Civil War-era abortion ban so she could craft an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In its bombshell April ruling , the Arizona Supreme Court revived a law from 1864 that carries with it a two- to five-year prison sentence for doctors who perform an abortion for any other reason than saving a woman’s life. The decision upended the political landscape in Arizona, and led to weeks of turmoil at the state legislature as Democrats and a handful of Republican lawmakers pushed to repeal the near-total ban.  

And while that effort finally proved successful on May 1, the repeal won’t go into effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which is still nowhere in sight. That uncertainty prompted reproductive rights advocates to use legal maneuvers to delay the court’s ruling as much as possible.

On April 30, Mayes, a Democrat who campaigned on a promise to protect abortion access, filed a motion requesting a 90-day pause while her office explored the possibility of appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, the Arizona Supreme Court froze enforcement of the 1864 law until Aug. 12 . But because of a different court-ordered 45-day stay on implementing the Supreme Court’s ruling, it means the 1864 law can’t be enforced until Sept. 26.

In a written statement, Mayes said she was grateful for the increased delay, and vowed to continue looking into whether to appeal the state court’s ruling, saying she believes it warrants further discussion.

“I continue to believe this case was wrongly decided, and there are issues that merit additional judicial review,” she said. “I will do everything I can to ensure that doctors can provide medical care for their patients according to their best judgment, not the beliefs of the men elected to the territorial legislature 160 years ago.”

In her request, Mayes argued that the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling potentially undermined a federal judge’s decision in a separate abortion law case, raising constitutional questions. That’s because the Arizona justices relied on a fetal personhood law from 2021 to justify making the 1864 near-total ban the law of the land. But that 2021 law was blocked by a federal judge, who explicitly prohibited it from being used against doctors.

Using the 2021 law to revive the 1864 law, Mayes wrote, violated that ruling.

Chris Love, the spokeswoman for the Arizona for Abortion Access campaign, which is spearheading an effort to let voters decide whether Arizonans should have a constitutional right to abortion, lamented that the court’s ruling still leaves abortion restrictions in place. Until the 1864 law can go into effect in September, a 15-week gestational ban passed in 2022 will determine who can get a procedure in the state.

That law includes no exceptions for rape or incest beyond its 15-week deadline and only allows abortions to be performed beyond that date if a woman faces imminent death or permanent injury.

“Arizonans deserve to know our rights are ensured and protected, not constantly in flux based on the whims of politicians or the outcomes of endless lawsuits,” Love said in an emailed statement. “Only the Arizona Abortion Access (Act) restores and protects Arizona’s right to access abortion care once and for all, and that’s why Arizona voters will turn out to support it in November.”

The initiative, which has so far exceeded its required signature threshold , preserves abortion access up until fetal viability, which is generally regarded as 24 weeks, and includes exceptions beyond that time for procedures that a doctor deems necessary to protect the life, physical or mental health of their patient.

Angela Flores, the CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, celebrated the delay of the near-total ban and promised to continue offering abortion care as long as “legally possible.”

“Planned Parenthood Arizona will continue to provide abortion care through 15 weeks of pregnancy and we remain focused on ensuring patients have access to abortion care for as long as legally possible,” Flores said, in a prepared statement. “We know that it is now more important than ever to provide care to as many patients as we legally can, and we are committed to expanding our services to meet the increasing needs of our community, including recently resuming medication abortion services at our Flagstaff Health Center. We will not be intimidated or silenced by anti-abortion extremists, because our bodies and our autonomy are at stake.”

The organization is the state’s largest abortion provider, with four out of its seven clinics offering the service, and has been the main challenger of the 1864 law in court. On May 1, hours after the Arizona legislature fully repealed the 1864 law, Planned Parenthood Arizona filed a motion requesting that the state supreme court delay  the enforcement of the near-total ban until after the repeal became effective.

But while the justices granted Mayes’ 90-day delay on Tuesday, they also denied Planned Parenthood Arizona’s request, without an explanation.

Jake Warner, an attorney with anti-abortion legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom, who argued in court to revive the 1864 law, lamented the court’s most recent decision but pointed out that the delay still won’t completely prevent the law from going into effect.

“Arizona’s pro-life law has protected unborn children for over 100 years, and while we are deeply saddened by the legislature’s recent vote to repeal the law, it won’t take effect immediately, as the legislature intentionally decided,” Warner said. “And though the court paused its judgment, we will continue working to protect unborn children and promote real support and health care for Arizona families.”

Arizona lawmakers failed to add an emergency clause to the repeal that could have given it immediate impact. And because the court-ordered delay doesn’t extend beyond November, when Arizona voters will likely have a chance to weigh in, the 1864 law is still expected to be in place for at least a short period of time. On top of that, any decision voters take won’t be official until the election is certified, on Nov. 25.

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