The US supreme court’s conservative majority is now 6-3, after Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed by the Republican-led Senate and sworn in by fellow justice Clarence Thomas at the White House on Monday evening. She has taken the seat left empty by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and in doing so, cemented the right’s control over the judiciary.
During her confirmation hearings, Barrett portrayed herself as an impartial judge who would respect precedent. But investigations by the Guardian have revealed a deeply conservative record, and progressives fear she will help to dismantle key legal protections, including reproductive rights and voting rights.
Emily Holden reports on how Barrett’s elevation could undermine climate change policy, while Katelyn Burns explains how a fresh supreme court battle over Obamacare is also a crucial fight for trans rights. Cecile Richards, the former head of Planned Parenthood, says this moment is a wake-up call for female voters:
It’s not only Roe v Wade that’s on the line under a Barrett court. Paid leave, affordable childcare, equal pay, voting rights, racial justice, and LGBTQ+ equality are in jeopardy. And with arguments on the Affordable Care Act slated for 10 November, Barrett may have the chance to repeal critical healthcare protections in the middle of a pandemic.
Barrett describes herself as a constitutional ‘originalist’, who seeks to abide by the original meaning of the constitution at the time it was written. But as Tom McCarthy learns, “originalism is closely aligned with the policy preferences of the Republican party”.
Biden criticises Trump for hosting ‘super-spreader’ events
As the White House reeled from another round of coronavirus infections, this time among vice-president Mike Pence’s close aides, Joe Biden told reporters on Monday that the difference between his and Donald Trump’s campaigns was not that Biden is hiding in his basement – as Trump has claimed repeatedly – but that “we’re not putting on super spreaders”.
Coronavirus surges have recently been reported in at least five swing state communities that hosted Trump rallies in the preceding weeks. And while the president insisted at last week’s debate that the Covid-19 infection rise in Texas has “now gone”, El Paso is experiencing its worst weeks of the crisis so far.
The Oxford Covid vaccine reportedly works to create an immune response in adults of all ages, further raising hopes that a vaccine could be approved before the end of 2020. But the US has abandoned a plan to offer early vaccines to Christmas performers playing Santa and his helpers.
How Maricopa county could point the way to America’s future
Maricopa county, which is home to 4.5 million people and the city of Phoenix, dominates Arizona politics. To many, it was once synonymous with its hardline, anti-immigration sheriff Joe Arpaio, an infamous Trump ally. But over the past decade, demographic changes have turned this former conservative bastion into one of the country’s most closely watched and fiercely contested presidential battlegrounds. Lauren Gambino and Maanvi Singh report as part of a new Guardian US series, Phoenix Rising.
Wisconsin can’t count mail-in ballots after election day
The supreme court has sided with Republicans in a 5-3 decision to prevent Wisconsin counting any mail-in ballots received after election day on 3 November. The ruling appeared to contradict the court’s conclusion in a similar case last week: the chief justice, John Roberts, joined the court’s liberals to protect an extension to the absentee ballot deadline in Pennsylvania. But Roberts wrote that “different bodies of law and different precedents govern these two situations”.
Are Democrats taking Wisconsin’s black voters for granted? Guardian US reporter Kenya Evelyn grew up in Milwaukee. On the latest edition of the Today in Focus podcast, she finds the city’s local activists struggling to drum up support for Biden among black voters.
In other election news…
The US embassy in Bogotá has warned Colombian politicians not to get involved in the US election, after at least three senior far-right lawmakers from Colombia were accused of acting as Trump surrogates in Florida.
Facebook is doing too little to protect its moderators from the mental health risks of their job on the frontline of the 2020 election, say two former Facebook contract workers who claim the company underpaid and mistreated them.
Stat of the day
A group of academics has studied the voting records of supreme court justices and devised a method of placing their views on a liberal-conservative spectrum, with Clarence Thomas the most conservative justice (3.6 on the Martin-Quinn ideology scale) and Sonia Sotomayor the most liberal (-2.7).
As the Guardian US data editor, Mona Chalabi, explains, the average score across all nine justices before Ginsburg’s death was a narrowly conservative 0.1. Since her passing, the average of the eight surviving justices has been 0.3. But with Barrett joining the court, it could rise to 0.9.
View from the right
The confirmation of Barrett was a victory for Mitch McConnell and for constitutional originalists. But it was also a triumph for one particular marginalized political group, argues Carrie Severino in the New York Post: conservative women.
Unfortunately, many of the influencers in academia and mainstream media, to say nothing of our governing class, are decidedly less welcoming of conservative women, and especially women of faith.
Don’t miss this
Five months after George Floyd’s death inspired demonstrations across the US, hundreds of protesters are facing serious charges from federal and local prosecutors, including dubious accusations of “assaulting” police officers, and threats of deportation. Sam Levin and Maanvi Singh report.
Last Thing: the Philadelphia dancers bringing joy to the polls
A collective of artists and performers are keeping voters’ spirits up in the long wait for the ballot box by dancing outside polling places in Philadelphia. A member of the non-partisan Joy to the Polls group said their aim was to create “a feeling of safety and joy” at a time of “rampant voter suppression”.
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