From the Supreme Court to the floor of the House of Representatives, the Capital City has been busy today.
This morning the Court issued an opinion in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council. The 5-4 opinion struck down an illinois law which had required non-union workers to pay fees that paid into collective bargaining and overturned a 1977 law which required employees to pay “fair share” fees. Workers did have the ability to opt-out of paying these fees but they have been compelled to pay agency fees in order to cover collective bargaining. The Majority opinion was authored by Justice Alito and held that the First Amendment rights of non-union workers were violated when the state compelled them to pay union fees against their will. The Majority reasoned that it was unconstitutional to compel individuals to support political speech, through payment of fees “because the compelled subsidization of private speech seriously impinges on First Amendment rights, it cannot be casually allowed.” These fees were a result of the 1977 decision of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and covered collective bargaining costs, such as contract negotiations, but are meant to exclude political advocacy. Justice Kagan wrote a dissent, which criticized the majority for disrespecting an established precedent. Kagan wrote that the decision "prevents the American people, acting through their state and local officials, from making important choices about workplace governance...And it does so by weaponizing the First Amendment, in a way that unleashes judges, now and in the future, to intervene in economic and regulatory policy."
Justice Alito delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and, Gorsuch joined. Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion as did Justice Kagan which Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor joined.
After the Court issued its opinions for the day, Justice Kennedy announced his retirement from the bench. This term alone the court has issued 14 separate decisions which have been decided by a 5-4 conservative majority. The retirement of Justice Kennedy afford Trump the opportunity to seat another Justice to the bench. Although seating two of the nine Justices on the bench seems significant the previous four presidents have appointed an equal number during their time in office. What is significant is remembering the statements Trump made during the confirmation process of Justice Gorsuch, that he specifically wanted a Justice who would be tough on immigration and overturn Roe v. Wade or be tough on women's rights should it be brought up to the bench. Kennedy’s resignation will take effect on July 31st 2018 and Trump is said to make a quick nomination for his replacement and is considering the twenty-five judges who made his shortlist back in 2017.
The House of Representatives defeated a Republican Immigration bill. The votes came down as 121-301 dispite Trump’s last ditch effort to push the bill through. Dozens of Republicans went against the bill out of fear of backing a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for legal Dreamers. The bill has been up for discussion for the past 10 days in the House as representative attempted to discern Trump’s desire to build a wall, which the bill in part funded, and their individual views on immigration.