Todd Ruger

Lawmakers Seek Quick Action on Consensus School Safety Measures
‘There are things we agree on, we should pass those things’

Senators from both parties expressed their desire Wednesday to quickly pass school safety legislation that has bipartisan support as students nationwide walked out of high schools and rallied on Capitol Hill to call for federal gun laws to stop school shootings.

“There are things we agree on, we should pass those things,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing in the aftermath of the Feb. 14 shooting at Parkland, Fla., that left 17 students dead.

Supreme Court Justices Make Their Own Security Choices, Documents Reveal
Watchdog group says domestic travel policy should be tightened

Updated 03/14/18 at 11:06 a.m. | Supreme Court justices only get security protection during domestic trips outside the Washington metropolitan area when they request it, according to a U.S. Marshals Service policy unveiled Wednesday by a court watchdog group.

Fix the Court, a nonpartisan group that advocates accountability and transparency at the Supreme Court, obtained the security policy and hundreds of pages of related records through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The documents are an official and more detailed peek inside a security arrangement that gives justices broad discretion when it comes to their protection.

DOJ Agrees to Give Oversight Panel Fast and Furious Documents
Settlement would wind down lingering battle between House Republicans and the Obama administration

The Justice Department agreed to a conditional settlement Wednesday with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to produce documents related to a flawed law enforcement initiative known as Operation Fast and Furious.

The department will turn over files and emails of then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and other top officials related to its responses to Congress and the committee’s oversight investigation, as well as documents in certain date ranges and with specific search terms such as “executive privilege.”

Gun Debate Unfolds Outside of Senate Judiciary Panel’s Confines
Grassley uses White House meeting to brief Trump

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley used a White House meeting last week to explain to President Donald Trump the panel’s role in getting a consensus and moving legislation dealing with gun violence and school shootings.

But before the Iowa Republican could finish, Trump pivoted right back to negotiating provisions about age restrictions for gun purchases, a proposal championed by two senators who aren’t on the committee, Pennsylvania Republican Patrick J. Toomey and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III.

Supreme Court Considers Voter Fashion Sense
Make America Great Again hats, Black Lives Matter t-shirts among issues

The Supreme Court grappled Wednesday on where to draw a line when it comes to voters who want to wear a “Make America Great Again” hat, a “#resist” T-shirt, a “Parkland Strong” button or other political messages when they cast ballots.

A century-old Minnesota law, similar to those in about nine other states, prohibits voters from wearing clothes with political messaging related to an election or ballot question. The state wants to keep the dignity, decorum and solemnity of polling places.

Orrin Hatch and Staff Have a Day in Court
Utah Republican swears in staffers to Supreme Court Bar

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch used some old connections to get a prime seat at Supreme Court arguments Tuesday — and the Utah Republican also snagged some front-row seats for two staffers who worked on legislation at issue in the case.

Hatch, 83, has been a senator since 1977, and that makes him the second-longest serving member. But almost 10 years before that, in April 1967, he became a member of the Supreme Court Bar, Hatch spokesman Matt Whitlock said.

Supreme Court Backs Congressional Power to Affect Lawsuits
Chief Justice Roberts, Gorsuch dissent in the decision

A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday backed the power of Congress to pass legislation that would affect ongoing litigation, ruling that a law about Michigan land and its use as a Native American casino did not violate the Constitution.

In a 6-3 opinion, the court found that Congress did not overstep into the power of federal courts with a law to end a lengthy court battle over the Interior Department’s decision to take that tract into trust for the Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians.

Justices Debate Waiting for Congress in Privacy Case
Several lawmakers have filed legislation to address pending Microsoft case

Three Supreme Court justices on Tuesday pondered waiting for Congress to pass a new privacy law to resolve a major case about whether email service providers must comply with warrants even if data is stored outside the United States.

During oral arguments that pitted tech giant Microsoft against the government, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor asked why Congress wasn’t better suited to resolving the dispute.

Supreme Court Appears Split on Union Case
Case about dues could have a far-reaching impact on labor unions

Justice Neil Gorsuch likely holds the key vote in a major labor case that drew dueling protests outside the Supreme Court building for Monday’s oral arguments, but he did nothing to tip his hand about his thinking.

Gorsuch did not ask a question during an hour of arguments, while the other eight justices appeared to be equally split along ideological lines. The case asks the justices to overturn a decades-old precedent and deal a financial blow to the unions that represent teachers and other public-sector employees.

Supreme Court Declines to Step Into DACA Fight
Move means status of immigrants to remain in limbo for now

The Supreme Court announced Monday it won’t immediately step into the legal fight over the Trump administration’s cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The move leaves in limbo nearly 700,000 “Dreamers” who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children since the Trump administration won’t be able to end the DACA program until the appeals move through the courts. That could take months — well past the March 5 deadline the government had set to wind down the program created by President Barack Obama in 2012.

Senators Warn Union Case Risks Supreme Court’s Reputation
Conservative high court majority appears likely to rule against unions

The Supreme Court appears set to overturn a decades-old precedent and deal a financial blow to Democratic-aligned unions that represent teachers and other public-sector employees in a major case with blatant political overtones.

Ahead of oral arguments Monday, two Democratic senators sent the justices this message: The Supreme Court’s reputation is at stake, and overturning the 1977 ruling will further erode the public’s confidence that the federal courts are neutral and above politics.

Justices Air Differences on Value of Congressional Reports
High court appears as divided as ever on giving weight to legislative history

An opinion Wednesday shows the Supreme Court is as divided as ever on whether congressional committee reports should be used to help understand what Congress meant when drafting and enacting a law.

All the justices agreed that the 2010 Dodd-Frank law only protects whistleblowers who tell the Securities and Exchange Commission about corporate wrongdoing. But the decision became a platform for justices to air their judicial philosophies about the long-contested idea of whether to give weight to legislative history.

Justices Reject Challenge to Waiting Period for Gun Purchases
‘The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this Court’s constitutional orphan’

Revealing Tales from the Election Interference Indictment
Russians Used Americans for ‘Discord’

Russian operatives allegedly kept an internal list of more than 100 real Americans, their political views and activities that they had been asked to perform by the Russians pretending to be grassroots political organizers.

The Justice Department used an indictment Friday to tell the story of some of those requests and the social media campaigns that the Russian operatives put together, enabling them to grow hundreds of thousands of online followers.

Grand Jury Indicts Russian Nationals for Election Interference
Operatives targeted Clinton, Rubio and Cruz, while largely supporting Trump and Sanders

Updated 3:25 p.m. | The Justice Department charged Russian operatives Friday with a sweeping effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, spending millions of dollars to wage social media campaigns, buy political advertisements and pose as grass-roots organizers to spark political rallies on American soil.

The grand jury criminal indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies landed like a bombshell in Washington, where the debate has raged over the extent of Russia’s influence in the election while President Donald Trump has waged a campaign to quell special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.

Senators Ponder How to Break Criminal Justice Logjam
With Trump not on board with bipartisan bill, “we’re stuck,” Grassley says

Senate Judiciary Committee members grappled Thursday with the best strategy to overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system, since the leading bill has broad bipartisan support but the White House apparently backs only one part of it.

Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa set a markup next week for a bill that represents a hard-negotiated compromise — first struck in 2015 — that backers say would pass the Senate with a bipartisan supermajority if brought to the floor. It is expected to easily advance from the committee and could be a signature legislative accomplishment for the Senate.

Grassley Moves on Judicial Nominee Over Baldwin’s Objections
Lack of state commission recommendation, as well as blue slip process, being disregarded

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing Wednesday for an appeals court nominee from Wisconsin over the objections of Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a move that could portend a weakened influence of senators over federal judicial picks from their states.

By scheduling the hearing, Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa sided with the Trump administration and the executive branch instead of his Senate colleague when it comes to the sway a senator has in recommending who should sit on the federal bench.

Podcast: How Trump is So Quickly Remaking the Federal Bench
Roll Call Decoder, Episode 2

The end of filibusters, changes in other Hill customs and subcontracting nominations to conservative groups – all have combined to make Senate judicial confirmations much more about “consent” than “advice,” CQ legal affairs reporter Todd Ruger explains.

Show Notes:

Supreme Court Hops Into Case About a Frog and Property Rights
But the justices will leave bearded seals alone

The Supreme Court jumped into a case about the government’s power to designate private land as critical habitat for an endangered frog species, but is staying out of another case seeking to protect the bearded seal from future threats of climate change. 

The justices announced Monday they will hear oral arguments about the dusky gopher frog and a 1,500-acre tract of Louisiana forestry land that could lose $34 million in development value because of the Fish and Wildlife Service designation under the 1973 endangered species law. The arguments will likely be scheduled for the next Supreme Court term that starts in October.

In Supreme Court Privacy Case, Lawmakers Side With Microsoft

Five lawmakers told the Supreme Court on Thursday that Congress didn’t intend for an electronic privacy law to authorize the government’s seizure of data overseas and say interpreting it differently could have “dangerous repercussions” for future legislating.

The group’s brief backs tech giant Microsoft in a dispute with the United States about whether email service providers must comply with warrants even if data is stored outside of the country — in this case in Dublin, Ireland.