Abortion at the Supreme Court: A roadmap to the cases pending over Texas’ six-week ban

Pro-choice and anti-abortion activists protest alongside each other during a demonstration outside of the Supreme Court on October 04, 2021. WASHINGTON – The Biden administration’s effort to get the Supreme Court to block a Texas ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy may be the best shot reproductive rights advocates now have to halt enforcement of the controversial law.

But the high-profile case is just one row in a Rubik’s Cube of lawsuits that may signal where the Supreme Court is heading on the thorny issue of abortion, and whether it will continue to uphold the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that established the right to the procedure.

Texas’ ban has prompted a flurry of overlapping and difficult-to-follow lawsuits in different courts, any one of which may decide its fate. The justices, meanwhile, are also considering challenges to other state abortion laws that could affect the Texas case.

Signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, Texas’ law bans abortions when cardiac activity is detected, which can occur at six weeks. The law includes no exception for rape or incest. It is the ban’s unusual enforcement mechanism that has so far confounded courts: Rather than criminalizing the procedure, the law gives private citizens a right to sue abortion providers – and collect damages starting at $10,000.

The Justice Department on Monday appealed a ruling from the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit that allowed the Texas law to remain in effect – for now. The Supreme Court hours later asked Texas to respond to that appeal by Thursday, an indication it intends to move quickly to resolve the litigation.

The high court then set the same deadline for a response in another lawsuit challenging the Texas law. That appeal was filed weeks ago by abortion providers in Texas .

Here’s a look at the leading legal battles being fought over Texas’ abortion ban. Justice Department’s appeal

The Biden administration stepped into the fray in early September , suing the State of Texas directly in a way the abortion providers who initially tried to block the law were barred from doing. It is the Justice Department’s suit that has drawn the most attention recently and experts say it may be the most likely vehicle to halt enforcement of the law.


Biden’s dilemma: Satisfying Manchin risks losing other Dems

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s Washington’s enduring question: What does Joe Manchin want?

But increasingly the answer is crystal clear. The conservative West Virginia Democrat wants to dismantle President Joe Biden’s proposed climate change strategies and social services expansion in ways that are simply unacceptable for most in his party.

So the question becomes less about what Manchin wants and more about whether Biden can bring him, the party’s other centrist senators and its progressives to middle ground and salvage his once-sweeping $3.5 trillion proposal from collapse.

As the White House pushes its Democratic allies on Capitol Hill to wrap up slogging negotiations before end-of-the-month deadlines, pressure is mounting on the party to hold its slim majority in Congress together to deliver on Biden’s priorities. The president will meet with House lawmakers from both groups again Tuesday at the White House. Biden spoke by phone with Manchin on Monday, and Manchin met separately with two progressive leaders: Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state.

“We are at a point where we feel an urgency to move things forward," Biden press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged Monday.

For months, Manchin has publicly and repeatedly balked at the size and scale of Biden’s plan to expand the social safety net, tackle climate change and confront income inequality.

Already, he and fellow centrists, including Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona , have forced Biden to concede that the final price tag will likely be much smaller, likely around $2 trillion — largely paid for with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy , those earning more than $400,000 per year.

But as negotiators sift through the details of what’s in and out of the proposal, it’s Manchin’s priorities that are driving much of the debate, infuriating colleagues and complicating a deal.

To start, Manchin is on board with raising the corporate tax rate to 25%, though not quite as much as the 26.5% Democrats have proposed, to finance Biden’s expansive vision, agreeing that corporations should pay their “fair share” at a time when many have reported paying zero taxes.


The Jan. 6 committee will vote to hold Bannon in contempt. Here’s what we know

WASHINGTON – The House Select Committee investigating the Capitol attack in January will vote Tuesday to begin contempt proceedings against former Trump adviser Steve Bannon after he refused to cooperate with the panel’s subpoena.

Now, the committee is ramping up its efforts to compel him to testify and deter others they have subpoenaed from not cooperating.

More: January 6 committee seeks to hold Steve Bannon in contempt as ex-Trump aide refuses subpoena

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the Jan. 6 commission, told USA TODAY last week, “If you don’t show up for a subpoena, and you just blow off a government order, that’s a crime.”

Here’s what we know about Tuesday evening’s vote from the Jan. 6 select committee: Who is Steve Bannon?

Bannon, 67, served a prominent role in Trump’s first campaign for president, then as White House chief strategist for the first few months of the Trump presidency until he left in Aug. 2017 .

He was once one of the most divisive figures in politics, who in 2017, helped spearhead the so-called "Muslim ban" and craft Trump’s rhetoric blaming "both sides" after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

His departure came amid intense public pressure after the deadly clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville. (FILES) In this file photo taken on January 22, 2017 US President Donald Trump (L) congratulates Senior Counselor to the President Stephen Bannon during the swearing-in of senior staff in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. – Lawmakers investigating the deadly assault on the US Capitol said Thursday they were pursuing criminal contempt charges for a key ally of former president Donald Trump for refusing to testify.Former White House advisor Steve Bannon had already made clear he had no intention of complying with a subpoena to appear Thursday before the cross-party January 6 congressional select committee. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 0 ORIG FILE ID: AFP_9PP7DL.jpg Prior to his involvement with Trump, Bannon was a founding member and executive chairman of the far-right media company, Breitbart News. After his time at the White House, he returned briefly to the network before leaving again in 2018. He then focused on creating pro-Trump and far-right content, including a documentary and an online podcast program entitled "War Room".

Bannon is known for his alignment with the so-called alt-right movement and comments like calling for Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious-disease expert, and FBI Director Christoper Wray to be beheaded. He was banned from Twitter in 2020 for those comments.


Jan. 6 Committee chairs Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney call Trump’s subpoena lawsuit ‘an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe’

Jan. 6 Committee chairs Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney call Trump’s subpoena lawsuit ‘an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe’ Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), left, listens as Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) speaks during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack in Washington, DC, on July 27, 2021. Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Michael Fanone is at center. Members of the Jan. 6 Committee insisted they have the authority to seek White House records.

Former President Donald Trump said he intends to use executive privilege to reject the subpoenas.

The committee is seeking Trump-related records, including his internal communications.

Jan. 6 Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss) and Vice-Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) reiterated that they have the authority to seek White House records in light of a lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of former President Donald Trump in an attempt to block subpoenas related to the investigation into the insurrection.

"The former president’s clear objective is to stop the Select Committee from getting to the facts about Jan. 6, and his lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe. Precedent and law are on our side," the statement from Thompson and Cheney said .

Thompson and Cheney added in their statement that President Biden has so far declined to invoke executive privilege and that it is not absolute.

"Additionally, there’s a long history of the White House accommodating congressional investigative requests when the public interest outweighs other concerns," the statement from Thompson and Cheney said . "It’s hard to imagine a more compelling public interest than trying to get answers about an attack on our democracy and an attempt to overturn the results of an election."

Trump’s lawyers alleged in the lawsuit that the subpoenas are "invalid and unenforceable through the Constitution and the laws of the United States," and said Trump intends to use executive privilege to reject them .

The Jan. 6 Committee has asked for a trove of Trump’s records, including his internal communications with lawyers, campaign operatives, and senior officials, Politico reported .


‘Stop listening to grifters telling you not to vote’ – Marjorie Taylor Greene appears to contradict Trump’s call for his supporters to not vote in 2022 and 2024

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene appeared to contradict former president Donald Trump this week by encouraging GOP voters to "flood the polls." Trump last week said his supporters should not vote in 2022 or 2024 if the Republicans do not back his election fraud claims. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene contradicted former President Donald Trump in a tweet calling for GOP voters to flood the polls.

Greene on Monday told Republicans to "stop listening to grifters telling you not to vote."

Trump released a statement last week saying his supporters should not vote in 2022 and 2024 if the GOP does not back his baseless election fraud claims.

Georgia lawmaker Marjorie Taylor Greene appeared this week to contradict former President Donald Trump’s stand that his supporters should not vote in the 2022 midterm elections or the 2024 presidential elections unless the GOP backs his election fraud claims .

"Voices online that are telling you not to vote are doing the Democrats’ dirty work. Stop listening to grifters telling you not to vote," Greene posted on Twitter on October 18 , advocating for Republicans to "get serious."

"We must root out the fraud, but we also have to VOTE," Green continued . "If we don’t vote, the Democrats win by default. It’s time to audit the 2020 election, prosecute the fraud, end mass mail-in ballots, and FLOOD THE POLLS in 2022."

Last week, Trump released a statement on Twitter via his spokeswoman, Liz Harrington, claiming that unless the GOP backs him on his baseless voter fraud claims, his supporters will opt out of going to the polls in 2022 and 2024.

"If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24," Trump said in his October 13 statement. "It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do."

Greene, a congresswoman from Georgia, is up for re-election in 2022. She won a strongly Republican-leaning district easily when her Democratic challenger dropped out of the race . However, Insider’s Ashley Collman reported that Greene’s 2022 re-election race is set to be a "bloodbath," with likely threats to her seat from both within the Republican party and from the Democrats.


Texas lawmakers pass new congressional maps bolstering GOP

Texas Republicans approved on Monday redrawn U.S. House maps that favor incumbents and decrease political representation for growing minority communities, even as Latinos drive much of the growth in the nation’s largest red state.

GOP Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign off on the changes. Civil rights groups sued before Republican lawmakers were even done Monday.

"Texas is using all the means at its disposal to prevent the inevitable change in the Texas electorate," said Nina Perales, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. The U.S. and Texas flags wave outside the Texas Capitol on July 13, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Montinique Monroe/Getty Images) Her organization filed the lawsuit along with several other minority rights groups in federal court in Texas. It alleges that Republican mapmakers diluted the political strength of minority voters by not drawing any new districts where Latino residents hold a majority, despite Latinos making up half of Texas’ 4 million new residents over the last decade.

A spokesperson for Abbott, who is named in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Republicans have said they followed the law in defending the maps, which protect their slipping grip on Texas by pulling more GOP-leaning voters into suburban districts where Democrats have made inroads in recent years.

Texas has been routinely dragged into court for decades over voting maps, and in 2017, a federal court found that a Republican-drawn map was drawn to intentionally discriminate against minority voters. But two years later, that same court said there was insufficient reason to take the extraordinary step of putting Texas back under federal supervision before changing voting laws or maps.

The maps that overhaul how Texas’ nearly 30 million residents are sorted into political districts — and who is elected to represent them — bookends a highly charged year in the state over voting rights. Democratic lawmakers twice walked out on an elections bill that tightened the state’s already strict voting rules, which they called a brazen attempt to disenfranchise minorities and other Democratic-leaning voters.

The plan does not create any additional districts where Black or Hispanic voters make up more than 50% of the voting population, even as people of color accounted for more than 9 of 10 new residents in Texas over the past decade.

Republican state Sen. Joan Huffman, who authored the maps and leads the Senate Redistricting Committee, told fellow lawmakers that they were "drawn blind to race." She said her legal team ensured the plan followed the Voting Rights Act.

The Texas GOP control both chambers of the Legislature, giving them nearly complete control of the mapmaking process. The state has had to defend their maps in court after every redistricting process since the Voting Rights Act took effect in 1965, but this will be the first since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling said Texas and other states with a history of racial discrimination no longer need to have the Justice Department scrutinize the maps before they are approved.

However, drawing maps […]


FDA to approve ‘mix and match’ approach to vaccine booster shots: report

Fox News contributor Joe Concha reacts to NBC fact-checking Dr. Anthony Fauci’s COVID-19 super-spreader prediction for football season. The Food and Drug Administration is planning to approve allowing Americans to receive a different COVID-19 vaccine for booster shots than the vaccine originally taken, according to the New York Times .

State health officials have come under increased pressure to authorize a "mix and match" approach after President Biden announced a nationwide booster campaign in August, raising fears that supplies of certain vaccines could run low in some areas.

"The No. 1 thing I heard from state health secretaries was the need for permissive language around a mix-and-match approach," said Dr. Nirav D. Shah , president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. FILE – In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, file photo, a patient receives an influenza vaccine in Mesquite, Texas. Amid all the focus on COVID-19 vaccinations, U.S. health experts have another plea: Don’t skip your flu shot. With U.S. schools and businesses reopened, international travel resuming and far less masking this fall, flu is likely to make a comeback. BIDENS CAUGHT VIOLATING DC MASK MANDATE AT POSH GEORGETOWN RESTAURANT

"From a public health perspective, there’s a clear need in some situations for individuals to receive a different vaccine," said Dr. Amanda Cohn, a high-ranking official at the Centers for Disease control and prevention.

The FDA in September approved a Pfizer booster shot for those over 65 years old and other high-risk individuals, while the same type of guidance was approved last week for the Moderna vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which unlike Moderna and Pfizer only required one initial dose, has also been approved for a vaccine booster shot.

The news comes as Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday signaled his belief that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should have been given in two doses , similar to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, responds to questions by Senator Rand Paul during the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on July 20, 2021. "What the advisers to the FDA felt is that, given the data that they saw, very likely this should have been a two-dose vaccine to begin with," Fauci said during an appearance on ABC’s "This Week." President Joe Biden speaks during a visit to the Lehigh Valley operations facility for Mack Trucks in Macungie, Pa., Wednesday, July 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) Fauci also supported the idea of mixing and matching vaccines, saying those who had initially received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would likely have the flexibility to receive a Moderna of Pfizer booster shot.

Dr. Marcus Plescia, the chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, agreed that health officials should have the flexibility to mix and match boosters.


Youngkin campaign ad uses McAuliffe’s words to showcase his stance against parents influencing schools

Youngkin: McAuliffe is telling parents ‘sit down, be quiet, I don’t care what you think’ FIRST ON FOX: The campaign of Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin has clapped back after his Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe accused the Republican of "twisting" his words on education.

Youngkin is launching an ad showing footage of the seven times McAuliffe said he doesn’t want parents determining what schools teach their children. The ad, which the campaign exclusively provided to Fox News, uses footage of McAuliffe’s own words to make his position clear. MAJORITY OF VIRGINIA PARENTS WANT A SAY IN THEIR KIDS’ EDUCATION, FOX NEWS POLL FINDS

Earlier on Monday, the McAuliffe campaign released an ad claiming that the Republican had been "taking my words out of context" on the issue. "I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision," McAuliffe, who served as Virginia’s governor from 2014 to 2018, said during a September debate . "I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach."

A recent Fox News poll found that 57 percent of Virginia parents said that parents "should be telling schools what to teach."


The education debate has reached a fever pitch in Northern Virginia where parents have turned out in droves to express concerns about COVID-19 policies, transgender policies, and critical race theory , a framework that involves deconstructing aspects of society to discover "systemic racism" beneath the surface. Some parents have called CRT divisive, claiming it encourages White students to view themselves as oppressors.

Parents in Fairfax County and Loudoun County have spoken up at school board meetings, drawing national attention. Parents in both locations have complained about sexually-explicit books in libraries, mask mandates for children in school, and "equity" trainings that parents say inculcate CRT.

Parents in both locations have also protested Attorney General Merrick Garland’s directive to the FBI to investigate what the Justice Department called a "disturbing trend" of "threats of violence" at school board meetings.


State Department inspector general to investigate end of Afghanistan operations

WASHINGTON — The State Department inspector general will launch an investigation into the end of U.S. diplomatic operations in Afghanistan, according to a Monday report by Politico.

Acting inspector general Diana Shaw notified Congress Monday that the department will review the Special Immigrant Visa program, Afghans processed for refugee admission into the U.S., the resettlement of refugees and visa recipients and the emergency evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Politico reported .

The probe will also "include evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan nationals,” according to a memorandum to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that was obtained by Politico.

Shaw also said her office will look into “several oversight projects” related to the withdrawal of U.S. troops and other military and diplomatic personnel from Afghanistan, according to a separate letter obtained by the outlet.

“Given the elevated interest in this work by Congress and the unique circumstances requiring coordination across the Inspector General community, I wanted to notify our committees of jurisdiction of this important work,” Shaw wrote. The letter was sent to leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as the intelligence committees in both chambers, among others.

“State OIG notified its committees of jurisdiction today of planned projects in the areas you mention," State OIG spokesperson Ryan Holden told Politico. "This work will be conducted in coordination with other members of the IG community. However, it is inaccurate to say that these projects are investigations. We indicated to Congress that these projects will be reviews.”

USA TODAY did not immediately receive a response to a request for comment from the State OIG by the time of publication.

The evacuation of U.S. citizens and visa holders along with the withdrawal of U.S. troops by an Aug. 31 deadline culminated in a frenzied effort to get everyone out of Afghanistan as the Taliban regained control of the region.


With new public defenders, Joe Biden quietly makes history on the courts

WASHINGTON — While President Joe Biden ’s economic agenda is mired in Democratic infighting , the Senate is quietly making history on his judicial nominees.

On Monday, the Democratic-controlled Senate voted 52-41 to confirm Gustavo Gelpi to be a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, making him the fifth new circuit court judge on Biden’s watch with a background as a public defender.

Set against recent history, that is a remarkable statistic. President Barack Obama confirmed a total of five former public defenders to the appeals court over his entire eight years, according to the progressive judicial group Demand Justice. Biden has matched that in his first nine months.

Overall, Gelpi is Biden’s eighth new judge with experience as a public defender. That’s as many as Presidents Donald Trump, Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton landed in their first years combined, said Chris Kang, the chief counsel of Demand Justice.

“It really is amazing how far Biden has shifted the paradigm,” Kang said. “This is going to be an important part of his legacy.”

With the latest confirmation, Biden is currently outpacing every president since Richard Nixon on confirmation of circuit court judges, who have the last word in most federal cases — though that pace will be difficult to maintain.

One of his new appellate judges is Ketanji Brown Jackson , another former public defender who is widely seen by people close to Biden as a future Supreme Court contender.

Progressives have lamented the longstanding tendency of presidents in both parties to prioritize corporate lawyers and prosecutors for federal judgeships, arguing that the lack of experiential diversity on the courts has created blind spots in the justice system.

Kang, who worked on judicial selection in the Obama White House, recalled having to grapple with criticism the ex-president received for a lack of professional diversity among his nominees.

Biden’s White House counsel, Dana Remus, has sought to correct that early by making clear it intended to change course and nominate more public defenders and civil rights lawyers.