Supreme Court could cut into Biden agenda: The Note

Supreme Court could cut into Biden agenda: The Note

May 18, 2021

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It’s never easy to predict the impact of the judicial branch, shrouded as it is in relative secrecy and placed as it is with relative distance from partisan politics.

But the full meaning of the 6-3 conservative edge on the Supreme Court is only beginning to be felt. That matters for President Joe Biden and his agenda — and to those who believe Democrats need to worry about the three justices named by Democratic presidents, and/or find ways to add to that number.

Start with Obamacare and a high-profile case that could overturn the entire law set to be decided in the days or weeks to come. Most court watchers don’t expect that, but the newest justice, Amy Coney Barrett, has criticized Chief Justice John Roberts’ 2012 ruling that saved the health-care law the first time a full-frontal challenge was before the high court.

Now comes a case testing abortion rights. A Mississippi law banning virtually all abortions after 15 weeks could threaten Roe v. Wade — and with it nearly half a century of politics built around that landmark case — because the Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on it.

PHOTO: Clouds are seen above The U.S. Supreme Court building, May 17, 2021, in Washington, DC.

There’s also a case on gun rights coming before the court, the most significant such case concerning the right to bear arms and the Second Amendment’s reach in more than a decade. Both cases could see decisions handed down next summer, during the heat of the midterm elections.

Former President Donald Trump bragged in 2016 that electing him would bring new justices to the court who would “automatically” overturn Roe. That’s not how it works, of course, though Trump’s legacy in shaping the courts is already cemented and likely only to grow over time.

The Supreme Court could hand both parties fresh material for campaign arguments to come in the months ahead. Even before next fall, decisions could reshape Biden’s agenda and force him to confront voices inside his own party who think the high court’s structure needs to be remade while Democrats have the power to do so.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

As violence continues to ravage Israel and Gaza and amid growing bipartisan calls to stop the bloodshed, Biden called for ceasefire in the region for the first time. It comes as the Biden administration continues to tread carefully, opting to keep much of its work around the deadly attacks under wraps.

“There are times in diplomacy where we’ll need to keep those conversations quieter, where we won’t read out every component of it,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday afternoon. According to a readout from the White House, Biden “reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself” and “encouraged’ the protection of civilians. Still, Netanyahu has pledged airstrikes would continue.

PHOTO: An Israeli air strike hits a building in Gaza City, May 17, 2021.

The White House’s continued reluctance to critique Israel seems increasingly out of step with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, many of whom have expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people.

“The US cannot stand for security, human rights, and dignity while ignoring the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli occupation,” tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on the issue. “Palestinians deserve to live in freedom and prosperity.”

Conversely, if Biden moves closer to progressives on Israel, it could give the fractured Republican Party a reason to unify.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

While some of Pennsylvania’s more high-profile races are still more than a year away, on Tuesday a significant contest in Philadelphia could serve as a test case for Democrats’ approach to policing reform.

The competitive Democratic primary in the race for district attorney will help determine whether the nation’s sixth largest city will continue supporting the current progressive policies coming from the DA’s office, or if an increase in homicides tips the scales toward a more “tough-on-crime” approach.

PHOTO: District attorney Larry Krasner talks to volunteers before they canvas around the Fairmount neighborhood in Philadelphia, May 16, 2021.

Incumbent District Attorney Larry Krasner won in 2017 as a candidate seeking to drastically reform the district attorney’s office. Along the way, he wrote a book and was the focus of a recent PBS documentary, but critics like challenger Carlos Vega, are questioning the effectiveness of Krasner’s approach. Vega, a former assistant district attorney who was fired from his post by Krasner, said the incumbent “wants to hold police accountable, but hasn’t managed to put a single bad cop in prison.”

Regardless of who wins, the primary stakes are high — a Democrat has been at the helm of the Philadelphia DA’s office since 1991 and the winner of Tuesday’s contest could ultimately win in November.


Last week, when the White House announced an agreement with Uber and Lyft to offer free rides to vaccine sites as part of President Joe Biden’s aim to inoculate 70% of Americans against the coronavirus by the Fourth of July, the partnership drew praise but also questions. The administration touted the arrangement as an answer to one of the vaccine effort’s toughest challenges. But it’s also drawn fresh attention to the role several senior administration officials played prior to serving in the administration in working and advocating for the ridesharing app companies.


ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. Tuesday morning’s episode features ABC News Supreme Court contributor Kate Shaw, who tells us about a pivotal abortion case that the court has agreed to take up. ABC News’ Jason Nathanson walks us through the implications of the Warner Media-Discovery merger. And ABC News’ Will Steakin explains what a guilty plea from an associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., could mean for the embattled congressman.

FiveThirtyEight’s Politics Podcast. The crew debates whether a poll asking Americans which animals they could take on in a fight is a good or bad use of polling. They also discuss what would make a third party viable in the American political system, after a group of more than 100 Republicans published a letter threatening to split from the GOP if it didn’t make changes. Finally, they consider the political and scientific calculations of the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks or social distance indoors.


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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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