Supreme Court Limits President’s Power to Fill Temporary Posts
PBS NewsHour – The Supreme Court on Tuesday limited the president’s power to temporarily fill vacant government posts while nominations are tied up in partisan political fights.
The 6-2 ruling said a former top lawyer at the National Labor Relations Board had served in violation of a federal law governing temporary appointments.
Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts said that Lafe Solomon was not allowed to serve as acting general counsel of the agency that enforces labor laws while he was at the same time nominated to fill that role permanently.
At issue is a 1998 law aimed at preventing the president from using temporary appointments to bypass the Senate’s advice-and-consent role. The Federal Vacancies Reform Act says a person nominated for a post requiring Senate confirmation can’t serve in the same position on a temporary basis.
But the law contains an exception if the nominee served for 90 days as a “first assistant” to the person who previously held the office. The Obama administration said the exception also covered Solomon because he had been a director at a different office at the NLRB.
Arkansas Cruel and Unusual Killing Spree
New York Times – Arkansas’s plan to execute eight men in 11 days next month is a recipe for disaster, one entirely of the state’s making.
Although the state has not put anyone to death since November 2005, it now says that it must execute two people per day on April 17, 20, 24 and 27 because its current supply of rmidazolam, one of its three execution drugs, will expire at the end of the month.
This will be the fastest spate of executions in any state in more than 40 years, placing extraordinary pressure on the execution team and increasing the risk of errors. What’s more, the state’s rationale for the schedule — the expiration date on its supply of midazolam, a common sedative — is faulty, because the drug shouldn’t be used in executions in the first place.
According to 16 pharmacology professors who signed an amicus brief for the Supreme Court, there is “overwhelming scientific consensus” that midazolam is incapable of inducing the “deep, comalike unconsciousness” necessary to ensure a humane and constitutional execution. (We have consulted with lawyers working on a number of the midazolam cases.)
US Diplomacy in Crisis Amid Cuts and Confusion at State Department
The Guardian – The US state department is hosting a 68-nation meeting on Wednesday aimed at consolidating the international effort against the Islamic State.
But the foreign ministers are convening in Washington at a time when the state department itself is under siege, facing swingeing budget cuts by a hostile White House, and led by a former oil executive who has said he did not want the job in the first place.
Rex Tillerson has billed the counter-Isis coalition meeting as a decisive moment “to set Isis on a lasting and irreversible path to defeat”. The secretary of state lambasted the Obama administration for its policy on Isis, claiming his predecessor never had a proper strategy to defeat the extremist movement.
Air Rushing Out of the Post-Election Stock Bubble
CBS – The streak is over. For the first time in 110 sessions — going all the way back to October — large-cap stocks suffered a loss of more than 1 percent on Tuesday . All at once, the overconfident and overextended bulls were suddenly reminded that, yes, stock prices can actually fall.
And they can fall hard: The day’s losses wiped out a month of gains (chart below).
The catalyst was growing apprehension about legislative gridlock in Washington as prospects remain uncertain for President Trump’s health care reform efforts ahead of a House of Representatives vote, possibly on Thursday. With conservative members of the House lukewarm, and Democrats frigid, this jeopardizes any push on tax reform and infrastructure spending this year — things that investors had aggressively priced into equity prices since Election Day.
Congress Votes to Kill Protections for Wolves and Bears on Alaska Refuges
Huffington Post – Donald Trump could allow for bears, wolves and other predators to once again be hunted in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges.
Following in the footsteps of their House colleagues, Senate lawmakers on Tuesday approved a measure to repeal an Obama-era rule that largely banned hunting of Alaska’s most iconic predators on more than 76 million federal acres.
The Republican-sponsored legislation would undo the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule, ultimately opening the door for the state to resume aggressive predator control tactics, including shooting bears and wolves from airplanes and killing cubs and pups in their dens.
The Senate passed the resolution by a 52-47 party-line vote. It was adopted last month by the House, so the measure now heads to Trump’s desk for final approval.