New possibility for pro-democracy bills in Congress

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November 21, 2022

Colleagues, Please note that our next meeting is 11/28, 7:30 pm. Please encourage your members and supporters to come to the Supreme Court in DC on 12/7 as indicated below. Please read about Sheldon Whitehouse’s new bill on Supreme Court term limits and accountability. I will send you a draft letter to Sen. Cardin and Sen. Van Hollen urging them to co-sponsor and actively support. You comments are welcome, and I hope you will support Supreme Court reform at this point when the opportunity has arisen. You can watch the session with Sen. Whitehouse here. – Charlie, 410-624-6095

Please rally at Supreme Court on December 7

From 9:00-11:30 am on Tuesday, December 7, we need to show a strong popular revulsion for the Supreme Court’s continuing campaign to undermine democracy. Arguments will be heard in Moore v. Harper on that morning. It is a case from North Carolina that would allow unchecked power by extreme partisans who control state legislatures. It would make preservation of one-party rule more important than your right to have a meaningful vote. The League of Women Voters, Public Citizen, Common Cause, Represent.US and a host of other national organizations will join North Carolinians who are fighting for fair districts in this case.

Note: Our next meeting will be on November 28. See the box below.


Congress: Lame Duck session may consider two important fair elections bills

GMOM and our 29 sister organizations in the For the People — Maryland coalition have been working to promote the enactment of reforms to the Electoral Count Act. The House has passed a bill, and the Senate has sufficient bi-partisan support to pass its version. “The bill now has 16 Republican co-sponsors, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, plus [Maine Senator Angus] King and 19 Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.” (Spectrum News) We have heard that the Senate language may be inserted into the budget bill. Reconciliation with the House version could prove to be a barrier, but the House version does have support from nine Republican members.

Supreme Court Reform may be on the agenda during this lame duck session (which ends December 21). New revelations about leaks, allegations of corruption, and the influence of right-wing dark money groups have created some new momentum. The New York Times reported that a well-connected anti-abortion advocate, Rev. Rob Schenk, is accusing Justice Samuel Alito of leaking the decision in the 2014 Hobby Lobby case to a wealthy right-wing donor. Following on the recent leak in the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, the charges are whipping up the winds of criticism: “The revelations underscored the lack of accountability mechanisms at the Supreme Court. Unlike other federal judges, the justices are not bound by a written code of ethics.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Hank Johnson hope to force a vote on their accountability bill (bill summary) that would mandate term limits and ethical standards for Supreme Court Justices. If Speaker Pelosi would shepherd the bill’s passage on House floor, Whitehouse would argue in the Senate that the Court’s ethical crisis justifies a carve-out from filibuster rule so that it could pass with a simple majority.

Whitehouse has released a new book — The Scheme — and he spoke in Washington on Saturday (watch here) to explain that Republican leaders, especially Senate Leader McConnell, fear that billions in dark money spending to elect Republicans would dry up if they did not take extraordinary measures to fill Supreme Court vacancies with right-wing ideologues. He also alleges that religious and conservative non-profit groups spent lots of money wining and dining sitting justices and giving them all-expense-paid luxury trips and other perks. These same nonprofit groups file amicus briefs before the Court, and the justices know which groups are which. The Supreme Court has upheld dark money and unlimited “independent spending” by corporations in our elections; nevertheless, it is clear that puppet-masters spending billions in elections have some way to signal what they want to the politicians they support.

Sen. Whitehouse explains the right-wing dark money mechanisms at the confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett.

Let’s take action to support ethics and term limits for the Supreme Court

The ethics and term limits bill by Rep. Johnson and Sen. Whitehouse would require Supreme Court Justices to retire after 18 years. They could then serve as substitute justices when a sitting justice was ill or had to recuse themself. It also would require the Court to establish a system of ethics investigation and enforcement, with accountability for justices who behave unethically. It has the support of Sen. Patrick Leahy, who chaired the Judiciary Committee for eight years.

Gallup says that confidence in the Supreme Court has reached an all-time low. I recommend that GMOM and FTP-MD ought to ask Cardin and Van Hollen to co-sponsor and to push for lame duck enactment. I will draft a letter to our senators and send it to the GMOM Board and our For the People — Maryland partners for comment.

Left, Clarence Thomas is criticized for not recusing himself from January 6-related matters because of his wife's involvement in post-election maneuvering. Right, Samuel Alito is now suspected of leaking the results of two Supreme Court decisions.


More details on Moore v. Harper

On December 7, The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Moore v. Harper. The Republican-dominated North Carolina legislature objected to a ruling from the North Carolina Supreme Court that the partisan congressional district map it had drawn violates the North Carolina constitution. The legislature claims that Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution excludes state courts from ruling on the constitutionality of maps drawn by legislatures. It states: “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations….”

Time after time, however, the Supreme Court has ruled that the usual checks and balances do apply to this authority that state legislatures have over making election rules. This was confirmed, most recently in 2019. “In its decision, the state court followed the legal road map laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court just a few years earlier in Rucho v. Common Cause, where the high court explicitly ruled that in gerrymandering litigation, ‘state statutes and state constitutions can provide standards and guidance for state courts to apply.'” (Sozan)

But now, the Supreme Court has six right-of-center members, and there is a real possibility that they could rule in favor of the North Carolina legislature under the so-called “Independent State Legislature Theory” (ISLT). If the Court allows the partisan gerrymander under ISLT, they might also go further and allow legislatures to make partisan rules governing voter registration and access to the polls, protection from voter intimidation, and ballot tallying in both congressional and presidential elections.

Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution states: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government….” GMOM and our allies in the For the People — Maryland coalition favor this type of republicanism, and we oppose ISLT. We believe that the checks and balances that apply to all laws made by Congress should apply to laws made in the states that affect federal elections.

Register to attend by clicking a picture, above.

GMOM and For the People — Maryland teleconference

Monday, November 28, 7:30 pm

2 ways to join
1) Dial 1 301 715 8592, meeting ID: 931 3066 2622. Password: 173976.
2) Click on your device if you have downloaded the app from Zoom. Meeting Agenda
Resume our work on encouraging enactment of fair elections bill in Congress.

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