President Trump has said he will name a replacement to Ruth Bader Ginsburg by week’s end and urged the Republican-controlled Senate to confirm his Supreme Court choice before 3 November.
The plan has launched a high-stakes battle ahead of the election.
Mr Trump would replace Ginsburg, a liberal stalwart who died on Friday aged 87, with a conservative.
The president appears to have secured enough support in the US Senate to win approval for his nominee.
This would cement a right-leaning majority on the court for decades.
The ideological balance of the nine-member court is crucial to its rulings on the most important issues in US law.
What happens next?
On Monday Mr Trump said that he was “constitutionally obligated” to nominate someone for the Supreme Court.
“We’re looking at five incredible jurists… women that are extraordinary in every way. I mean, honestly, it could be anyone of them, and we’re going to be announcing it on Friday or Saturday,” he told supported at a rally in Ohio .
The president earlier had a private meeting at the White House with a potential nominee: Amy Coney Barrett, an appeals court judge who is backed by anti-abortion conservatives.
Once the president names a nominee, it is the Senate’s job to vote on whether to confirm them. The Judiciary Committee will review the pick first, and then vote to send the nominee to the floor for a full vote.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to hold a confirmation vote before the election in November. Democrats have accused him of hypocrisy.
Following the death of conservative justice Anthony Scalia in 2016, Mr McConnell refused to hold a vote to confirm a nominee put forward by then-President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
Mr Obama had nominated Merrick Garland in February of that year – months before the election – but Mr McConnell argued that Supreme Court justices should not be approved in an election year.
In 2017, Mr McConnell also changed Senate rules to allow for a simple majority (51 votes) to confirm nominees.
However, this time around, with a president of the same party, the Senate leader says because the Senate and White House are both Republican-held, unlike 2016, the nomination should proceed.
Do Senate Republicans have the votes?
The president’s plan to appoint a justice was boosted on Monday after two closely watched senators of his party, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Charles Grassley of Iowa, signalled they backed moving ahead.
Their support may grant Republicans the 50 votes they need to confirm a justice, given that Vice-President Mike Pence can cast a tie-breaking vote if needed.
Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the upper chamber.
Lindsey Graham, the powerful Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, said on Monday he would be “leading the charge to make sure that President Trump’s nominee has a hearing, [and] goes to the floor of the United States Senate for a vote”.
Mitt Romney, of Utah, remains undecided. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have backed a delay in the vote.
Ms Collins said she had “no objection” to the process of reviewing a candidate beginning now, but that she did not believe the Senate should vote on the candidate before November’s election. Ms Collins is facing a tough re-election bid this year.
Ms Murkowski said she “did not support taking up a nomination eight months before the 2016 election” and believed the “same standard must apply” now.
Even if Republicans lose their Senate majority on 3 November, the new Congress does not take office until 3 January, which would give them time to confirm Mr Trump’s pick.
If the nominee is not confirmed by 20 January, Inauguration Day, they would have to be re-nominated by the president (whoever that ends up being).
Battle over Supreme Court
How long does it take to confirm a Supreme Court judge?
Typically, it’s a months long process to go from selection to confirmation – but there are no rules regarding this time frame.
Since 1975, it has taken about 70 days on average. This time, the election is just weeks away.
The last time lawmakers completed a confirmation this speedily was for Ginsburg’s own selection in 1993. She was approved in 42 days.
What’s at stake?
The highest court in the US is often the final word on highly contentious laws, disputes between states and the federal government, and final appeals to stay executions.
In recent years, the court has expanded gay marriage to all 50 states, allowed for President Trump’s travel ban to be put in place, and delayed a US plan to cut carbon emissions while appeals went forward.
The court also handles reproductive rights issues like abortion – a highly contentious election issue, especially for one of Mr Trump’s key Republican constituencies. Opponents of abortion have called for overturning abortion protections, and appointing judges who sympathise with this view is one of Mr Trump’s pitches for re-election.
Clara Spera, Ginsburg’s grand-daughter, disclosed that the late justice’s dying wish was not to be replaced until after the election. “She was concerned about this country and about the court that she served so diligently for over 27 years,” Ms Spera told BBC World Service.
“I think that she would be heartened to know that there are many, many people who believe that we need to return to order and norms, and agree and want to fulfil that most fervent wish of hers,” she said.
Ginsburg will lie in state at the US Capitol on Friday.
What’s the reaction?
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful Democrat in Washington, suggested she may try to influence what happens next with the confirmation.
Mrs Pelosi told the New York Times she had “arrows in [her] quiver, in the House quiver” but would not offer more details.
On Sunday, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Mr Trump had “made clear this is about power, pure and simple”.
He urged Senate Republicans to “please follow your conscience, let the people speak, [and] cool the flames that have been engulfing our country”.
During a vigil for Ginsburg on Sunday night, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren drew cheers from the crowd for criticising Republicans over the nomination.
“Mitch McConnell and his henchmen believe that they can ram through a Supreme Court justice only 45 days from Election Day,” she said. “What Mitch McConnell does not understand is that this fight has just begun.”
Who are seen as top contenders?
- Amy Coney Barrett: Member of the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, she is a favourite of religious conservatives and known for her anti-abortion views. She was a legal scholar at Notre Dame Law School in Indiana
- Barbara Lagoa: A Cuban American of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, she was the first Hispanic judge on the Florida Supreme Court. She is a former federal prosecutor
- Kate Comerford Todd: Deputy White House Counsel, has a lot of support inside the White House. Served as former senior VP and Chief Counsel, US Chamber Litigation Center
India’s Ranjitsinh Disale wins 2020 Global Teacher Prize and splits it with runners-up
Ranjitsinh Disale, a teacher at Zilla Parishad Primary School, in the village of Paritewadi in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, was chosen as winner from more than 12,000 nominations and applications, from over 140 countries around the world.
The award recognized his efforts to promote girls’ education at the school, whose pupils are mostly from tribal communities.
The Global Teacher Prize said he learned the local language of the village in order to translate class textbooks into his pupils’ mother tongue.
He also created unique QR codes on the textbooks to give students access to audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments, greatly improving school attendance. His QR technology is now being rolled out more widely across India.
Rather than keeping all his winnings, Disale told Fry in an interview that he would share the prize with the other nine finalists, giving them $55,000 each — the first time anyone has done so in the award’s six-year history.
He told Fry: “I believe that if I share this prize money with nine teachers it means I can scale up their work. Their incredible work is still worthy… If I share the prize money with the rest of the teachers they will get a chance to continue their work… and we can reach out and lighten the lives of as many students as we can.”
“Educating young children, especially from poor and needy backgrounds is perhaps the best way to help them as individuals, and actively contributes to creating a better world,” he said.
The award’s nine runners-up are teachers working in the United States, Britain, Vietnam, Nigeria, South Africa, Italy, South Korea, Malaysia and Brazil.
Pelosi eyes combining Covid aid with mammoth spending deal
Pelosi said the $908 billion proposal released this week by a centrist group of Senate and House members helped restart the stimulus talks, which fell apart just before the election after months of dragging on with little real movement.
“There is momentum — there is momentum with the action that the senators and House members in a bipartisan way have taken,” Pelosi said Friday, in the latest sign that negotiators are closing in on a deal. “The tone of our conversations is one that is indicative of the decision to get the job done.”
President-elect Joe Biden on Friday said he’s “encouraged” by the $908 billion proposal, framing it as the type of bipartisan work that he hopes to foster as president. He cautioned that “any package passed in the lame duck session is not going to be enough overall.”
But hurdles remain. Government funding runs out in just one week, and there are still a sizable number of issues impeding an agreement on a massive spending package that would increase agency budgets for the rest of the fiscal year.
The sheer number of outstanding items at such a late stage makes it increasingly likely that congressional negotiators will require a brief stopgap spending bill to complete their work before leaving for the holidays. Such a decision could be made early next week if lawmakers fail to make significant progress over the weekend.
Pelosi demurred when asked about the possibility of a short-term stopgap to buy more time for talks, and dismissed the need for a longer term continuing resolution that would extend current government funding into early next year.
“We will take the time that we need,” Pelosi said, while acknowledging that a number of issues remain, including some outside of appropriators’ jurisdiction.
“Don’t worry about a date,” she added.
While appropriators in both chambers remain optimistic that they’ll finish their work before the holidays, Republicans and Democrats are still swapping offers and arguing over details, kicking some of the most difficult items up to congressional leaders.
For example, a House Democratic aide close to the talks said Republicans want to scrub any mentions of Covid-19 from the omnibus package entirely. Earlier this year, House Democrats added coronavirus relief to their slate of fiscal 2021 appropriations bills, while Senate Republicans have insisted that pandemic aid remain totally separate from annual appropriations measures.
Republicans are also objecting to funding for research on reducing racial and ethnic inequalities in the justice system, in addition to language that would require the Capitol Police to report on policies and procedures on eliminating unconscious bias and racial profiling during training, the Democratic aide said.
Republicans, meanwhile, are accusing Democrats of holding up omnibus talks by insisting on the removal of two Interior-Environment policy riders that have been included in annual spending bills for years. The provisions involve protections for the greater sage-grouse, in addition to a provision related to the carbon neutrality of forest biomass.
“Dredging these up right now is beyond counterproductive,” a GOP aide familiar with the talks said Thursday night.
Funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall also remains a perennial sticking point — Senate Republicans have proposed $2 billion for fiscal 2021, which began on Oct. 1. House Democrats have proposed no extra cash.
Lawmakers have also disagreed on detention beds for detained migrants in recent days, although Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) — the top Senate Democrat who oversees funding for the Department of Homeland Security — said Thursday that issue may get solved without the help of leadership.
Also in question is whether the White House will ultimately support a package that classifies billions of dollars in veterans’ health care spending as “emergency” spending outside of strict budget limits. Both House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey and Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby are moving forward with their negotiations assuming that’s the case, since the White House has previously signed off on such an arrangement.
Pelosi on Friday also said that whatever coronavirus relief they include in the government funding bill will not be the last time Congress addresses the ongoing pandemic, which continues to devastate the U.S., killing more than 275,000 Americans and causing a sharp downturn in the economy. The U.S. saw the deadliest day ever on Thursday, with Covid-19 fatalities exceeding 2,700.
“President-elect Biden has said that this package would be, just at best, just a start. And that’s how we see it as well,” Pelosi said.
The speaker also defended her decision to hold out for months, demanding a larger deal in the ballpark of $2 trillion or more, only to agree to negotiate this smaller package now. McConnell, similarly, refused to come off his much smaller baseline over the summer — pushing a $500 billion package — resulting in a standoff between congressional leaders.
“That was not a mistake, it was a decision,” Pelosi told reporters, saying the dynamics have significantly shifted since the election of Biden and the quicker than expected vaccine development. “That is a total game changer — a new president and a vaccine.”
With cautious optimism about the prospect of passing some fiscal stimulus to buoy the American economy during a bleak pandemic winter, lawmakers remain hopeful that Congress will pull it together before leaving Washington, despite lingering omnibus headaches.
“You know this place — turns on a dime,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who was elected by the Democratic caucus on Thursday as the next Appropriations chair.
Sarah Ferris contributed to this story.
Gavin Williamson Claims The UK Approved A Coronavirus Vaccine First Because It Is A “Much Better Country”
2 min read
Gavin Williamson has claimed the UK’s speedy approval of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine was due to it being a “much better country” than France, Belgium and the US.
The UK become the first country in the world to approve a clinical vaccine for coronavirus on Wednesday after the medicines regulator, the MHRA, gave the green light for the jab to be rolled out from next week.
The Education Secretary said this is because the UK has the “best medical regulators”, dodging questions about the impact of Brexit on the approval process of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Speaking after the approval announcement on Wednesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that “because of Brexit” the UK regulator had been able to approve the vaccine without having to wait for the European Medicines Agency to do so.
But his claims were later contradicted by both No10 and senior figures within the regulator, with a spokesperson for Boris Johnson insisting the approval was “thanks to the hard work of the MHRA”.
Meanwhile, Dr June Raine, head of the regulatory agency said the green light to roll out the vaccine from next week was made “using provisions under European law which exist until January 1”.
But pressed on the impact of Brexit on the approval process, Mr Williamson instead suggested the approval was down to the UK having “much better” medical regulators than France, Belgium and America.
“Well I just reckon we’ve got the very best people in this country and we’ve obviously got the best medical regulators,” he told LBC
“Much better than the French have, much better than the Belgians have, much better than the Americans have.
“That doesn’t surprise me at all because we’re a much better country that every single one of them, aren’t we.”
He added: “Just being able to get on with things, deliver it and with brilliant people in our medical regulator making it happen means that people in this country are going to be the first ones in the world to get that Pfizer vaccine.”
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