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By Pete Williams

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked Louisiana from enforcing a law that women’s groups said would leave only a single doctor legally allowed to perform abortions in the state.

By a 5-4 vote, the court said the restrictions must remain on hold while challengers appeal a lower court decision in favor of the law. Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the court’s liberal members.

It was the Supreme Court’s first significant action on the hot-button issue of abortion since Donald Trump’s nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, replaced Anthony Kennedy, who generally voted with the court’s liberals to uphold abortion rights.

In Thursday’s ruling, Kavanaugh voted with the conservatives — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch.

Kavanaugh filed a dissent, writing only for himself. He said he would have allowed the law to take effect in order to see whether it would impose a burden on women’s access to abortion in the state.

Abortion-rights advocates applauded the court ruling, while opponents expressed disappointment.

“The Supreme Court has stepped in under the wire to protect the rights of Louisiana women,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The three clinics left in Louisiana can stay open while we ask the Supreme Court to hear our case. This should be an easy case — all that’s needed is a straightforward application of the court’s own precedent.”

Benjamin Clapper, executive director for Louisiana Right to Life, said he was disappointed that the law remains on hold. He said supporters of abortion rights have fought “against every common-sense health standard. This is just another example of the extreme lengths the abortion industry pursues to protect abortion-on-demand.”

The high court’s decision Thursday was not a ruling on the legal merits of the Louisiana restriction. But the decision to keep the law on hold signals that a majority of the justices have doubts about its constitutionality.

Passed by the state legislature in 2014, the measure requires any doctor offering abortion services to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. Two Louisiana doctors and a clinic filed a legal challenge, arguing that it was identical to a Texas law the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. In that ruling, joined by Justice Kennedy, the court said Texas imposed an obstacle on women seeking access to abortion services without providing them any medical benefits.

Chief Justice John Roberts arrives prior to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill on January 28, 2014.Larry Downing / Pool via Getty Images

The Center for Reproductive rights said Louisiana’s law would leave only one doctor at a single clinic in New Orleans to perform the procedure, a drastic limitation that “cannot possibly meet the needs of approximately 10,000 women who seek abortion services in Louisiana each year.”

But Louisiana officials urged the Supreme Court to let them begin enforcing the law. They said the challengers’ claim of harm rested on the fear that clinics would be shut down overnight. “But that is not correct. Louisiana envisions a regulatory process that begins, logically, with collecting information from Louisiana’s abortion clinics and their doctors,” the state said.

The Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling, in a case called Whole Women’s Health, said requiring abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges was medically unnecessary, given that only a tiny fraction of abortions in the first trimester require hospitalization. By contrast the Texas law caused half the abortion clinics in the state to shut down, forcing women to endure longer travel and increased wait times.

It was the most important abortion ruling in 25 years and blocked similar restrictions in Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

The court’s action Thursday came in a brief unsigned order with no written opinion, so none of the five justices who voted to block enforcement of the Louisiana law explained their reasoning.

Roberts was among the dissenters when the court struck down the Texas law. But the court ruled that it was unconstitutional, and his vote Thursday was consistent with that holding.

In response to the lawsuit over Louisiana’s identical law, a federal judge said it was likely unconstitutional and issued a stay, blocking its enforcement. But a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals voted to lift the stay. In a 2-1 ruling, the court said Louisiana’s law would present far less of an obstacle than the Texas law would have. Less than one-third of Louisiana women seeking an abortion would face even the potential of longer wait times, the court said.

The appeals court concluded that the Louisiana law would not impose an “undue burden” on access to abortion, which has been the Supreme Court’s key legal test for challenges to abortion restrictions for nearly three decades. The lower court’s ruling was to have gone into effect February 4, but the Supreme Court put it on hold, giving itself more time to decide what to do.

Kavanaugh said that because Louisiana promised to put the law into effect gradually, he would have waited to see how many doctors were able to get hospital admitting privileges. So far, he said, the two sides in the case have offered only “competing predictions” about its effect.

The stay on enforcement of the law will remain until the challengers bring their full appeal to the Supreme Court. If the court agrees to hear the case, the stay would remain until it issues its decision, which would happen sometime late this year or early in 2020.



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Democratic lawmakers vow to fight Trump’s emergency declaration

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By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — Democratic leaders said Friday that they would use “every remedy available” to challenge President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in an effort to circumvent Congress and fund his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This is plainly a power grab by a disappointed president, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement as Trump announced the emergency declaration in the White House Rose Garden.

“The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available,” they added.

Trump acknowledged Friday that his executive action will draw lawsuits, and Democrats have threatened to fight the declaration through legislation, as well. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who determines the House floor schedule, vowed in a statement Thursday that “House Democrats will challenge this irresponsible declaration.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, confirmed in a tweet Friday that she and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, plan to introduce a joint resolution to terminate the emergency declaration, something House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said Thursday that he fully supports.

The pair “aren’t going to let the president declare a fake national emergency without a fight,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

A joint resolution would not take effect unless both chambers of Congress passed it and either the president signed it or Congress overrode a veto.

Trump will “absolutely veto” congressional efforts to stop him, a Trump aide said Friday morning.

With the national emergency declared, Trump will have access to roughly $8 billion for the wall, which includes the $1.375 billion appropriation included in the funding package that Congress passed Thursday. It would also include $600 million in Treasury forfeiture, $2.5 billion from the drug interdiction program and $3.6 billion in military construction from the Defense Department, according to a senior White House official.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Army Corps of Engineers, said in a statement Friday that Congress can’t allow Trump to “steal funds” from civil works programs as well as flood prevention and reconstruction projects in Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Past national security emergencies have involved hurricanes, wildfires, hostage crises, epidemics and public health emergencies and terrorist attacks posing grave and immediate risk to American lives. The situation at the border clearly falls short,” she said.

A number of Republicans have expressed concern with the declaration, as well, and warned Trump that it sets a dangerous precedent for future presidents.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., a former member of House GOP leadership, said in a statement Thursday that she doesn’t support Trump’s decision and that it “sets a very dangerous precedent that undermines our constitutional separation of powers.”

“By circumventing Congress and Article I of the Constitution, President Trump is opening the door for any future president to act alone without Congressional approval,” she said. “If elected president, how would Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders use this precedent for a national disaster declaration to force the Green New Deal on the American people?”

Several congressional Democrats have said that it could lead to Democratic presidents declaring national emergencies to address issues like gun violence and climate change, which they say are more pressing than building a wall on the border.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., tweeted Friday: “100 people die from guns every day. That’s a national emergency. If Trump gets away w this border emergency declaration, then a Dem President can declare a gun violence emergency and institute universal background checks and an assault weapons ban by executive action.”

“A national emergency declaration for a nonemergency is void. A prerequisite for declaring an emergency is that the situation requires immediate action and Congress does not have an opportunity to act,” Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., tweeted Friday, adding that Trump “is attempting to circumvent our constitutional system.”

Trump dismissed those in his party who criticized his plans as unconstitutional.

“Not too many people have said that. But the courts will determine that. I expect to be sued,” Trump told reporters during the White House event.

GOP leaders have expressed support for the declaration, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Democrats argued Friday that a real emergency would stop Trump from traveling to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the holiday weekend.

“Anyone else out there playing emergency golf this weekend?” tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, on Friday.

Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., also noted how Trump rambled throughout his off-the-cuff remarks Friday, which the president opened by talking about negotiations with China.

“This bizarre, rambling speech about everything that passes through the president’s mind is not exactly conveying the sense of urgency which most people would associate with a national emergency,” he tweeted.

“If there was a real #NationalEmergency, POTUS would lead with that instead of talking about a bunch of other issues,” added Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y.



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What is a national emergency?

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 / Updated 

By Dareh Gregorian

President Donald Trump on Friday declared a “national emergency” to pay for his wall on the southern border.

1. What is it?

Presidents have long had broad discretion to declare national emergencies and can tap into an array of emergency powers when they do.

While a president’s emergency powers aren’t spelled out in the Constitution, legal scholars say the president is entitled to them under the broadly defined “executive power.” Abraham Lincoln used the power to suspend habeas corpus during the Civil War, while Franklin Roosevelt used it order the internment of 100,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Congress set out to limit the power after Watergate with the National Emergencies Act of 1976. The act scaled back the provisions of federal law that granted emergency authority to the president — then about 470 — and was intended to give lawmakers a way to check presidential power.

2. What are the powers?

An analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal law and public policy institute, at New York University’s School of Law identified 136 statutory powers that emergency declarations could give the president, covering everything from the military and land use to public health and agriculture. The president could, for example, take over or shut down radio stations or even “suspend a law that prohibits the testing of chemical and biological weapons on unwitting human subjects,” the analysis says.

In the case of Trump’s border wall, the president is relying on Section 2808 of the Title 10 U.S. Code. It says if the president declares a national emergency “that requires use of the armed forces,” the defense secretary “may undertake military construction projects…not otherwise authorized by law that are necessary to support such use of the armed forces.”

3. Can Congress stop it?

Theoretically, but not likely. The National Emergencies Act originally held that Congress could repeal a presidential emergency declaration with a simple majority vote in both houses, but that was later amended because of a 1983 Supreme Court ruling involving separation of powers. As a result, both houses of Congress would have to act with a veto-proof supermajority, according to some experts. That’s highly unlikely, since the current divided Congress has had problems even keeping the government open.

4. Can the courts?

Possibly. Washington Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said on MSNBC’S “The Rachel Maddow Show” that such a measure would “be subject to a court challenge very quickly.”

Trump acknowledged to reporters at the White House on Friday that his declaration will be challenged in the courts and that the case would likely wind up at the Supreme Court, where he predicted victory. But experts have noted the legal process could take a long time, and there’s a likelihood any construction would be put on hold until the court case was concluded.

5. Have other presidents used the power?

Yes, many times. Since the 1976 law was enacted, presidents declared national emergencies 58 times, but never to fund a stalled policy goal. Republicans and Democrats say doing so could lead down a slippery slope.

6. Has Trump?

Yes, three times. He most recently used the National Emergencies Act in November of last year to slap sanctions on high-ranking members of the Nicaraguan government.

7. Has a president ever been blocked?

Yes, but not in decades. President Harry Truman tried to use emergency powers to nationalize the steel industry during the Korean War in 1952 over objections from Congress. Truman maintained that “the president has the power to keep the country from going to hell.” The bid was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court, which found in a 6-3 ruling that Truman had exceeded his authority.

President Truman responds as he is greeted by an estimated 30,000 persons in Cleveland’s Public Square, Oct. 9, 1952.Bettmann Archive file

8. Are other emergencies in effect?

Thirty-one national emergencies are still ongoing, with the longest-running one involving sanctions on Iran in 1979 over the hostage crisis, according to the Brennan Center. The president needs to renew national emergencies annually.

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Farage hits out at EU – ‘Artificial Brussels gang has no future’

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NIGEL Farage has hit out at the European Union as having “no future” and promised to fight to replace the superstate with free nations independent of Brussels.

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