Our weekly summary of federal news highlights a federal court blocking the Biden administration’s healthcare worker vaccine requirement and SCOTUS’ December argument sitting. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the Federal Tap.
Congress is in session
Both the House and Senate are in session next week. Click here to see the full calendar for the first session of the 117th Congress.
SCOTUS is in session
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in five cases next week. To learn about the 2021-2022 term, click here.
Where was the president last week?
On Monday, Biden remained in Washington, D.C.
On Tuesday, Biden delivered remarks on the bipartisan infrastructure law in St. Paul, Minnesota.
On Wednesday, Biden remained in Washington, D.C.
On Thursday, Biden delivered remarks on COVID-19 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
On Friday, Biden departed Washington, D.C., for Camp David, Maryland.
Opinion polling comparison during the Trump and Biden administrations
President Biden’s approval rating for the 44th week of his term was 42%, down 0.6 percentage points from the week before. President Trump’s approval rating at the same point in his term was 38.2%, down 0.1 percentage points from the week before.
- 78 federal judicial vacancies
- 26 pending nominations
- 37 future federal judicial vacancies
Upcoming Article III Judicial Vacancies
According to the latest vacancy data from the U.S. Courts, there were 37 total announced upcoming vacancies for Article III judgeships. The earliest vacancy announcement was on Jan. 21, 2021, when U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas Judge Vanessa Gilmore announced that she would retire on Jan. 2, 2022. The most recent was on Dec. 1, 2021, when U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit Judge David Hamilton announced he would assume senior status upon the confirmation of his successor. Twenty vacancy effective dates have not been determined because the judge has not announced the date they will leave the bench.
For historical comparison, the week of Nov. 29 through Dec. 5, 2020, there were 58 federal judicial vacancies and five upcoming vacancies in the federal judiciary reported by the U.S. Courts.
SCOTUS begins December argument sitting
- Becerra v. Empire Health Foundation involves whether the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had the authority to change Medicare’s hospital reimbursement formula when a federal court ruled that the statute was clear regarding how the agency should calculate those payments. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Click here to learn more about the case’s background.
- Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller, P.L.L.C. concerns federal disability laws and whether they allow the petitioner to be awarded compensatory damages for emotional distress. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Click here to learn more about the case’s background.
- American Hospital Association v. Becerra involves whether the Chevron deference doctrine permitted U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to interpret the Medicare statute in a way that allowed the department to lower Medicare’s reimbursement rate. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Click here to learn more about the case’s background.
- Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization concerns the constitutionality of a Mississippi state law prohibiting abortions after the fifteenth week of pregnancy except in cases of medical emergencies or fetal abnormalities, as well as the Supreme Court’s decisions in Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). The case originated from the Fifth Circuit. Click here to learn more about the case’s background.
Next week, SCOTUS will hear arguments in five cases. To date, the court has agreed to hear 50 cases this term. Four cases were dismissed and one case was removed from the argument calendar. Nine cases have not yet been scheduled for argument.
Federal court blocks Biden administration’s healthcare worker vaccine requirement
On Nov. 30, U.S. District Court Judge Terry A. Doughty, who was appointed to the court by former President Donald Trump (R), issued an injunction against the Biden administration’s national vaccine requirement for healthcare workers. The requirement had been set to take effect Dec. 6.
The requirement was originally issued on Nov. 4, and would require vaccinations of eligible staff at healthcare facilities that participate in the Medicare or Medicaid programs. Doughty wrote in his opinion: “There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million health care workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency. […] It is not clear that even an act of Congress mandating a vaccine would be constitutional.” The lawsuit was filed by 14 states, led by Louisiana.
A final ruling in the case has not been issued pending oral arguments. Additionally, a ruling in this case could be appealed to a higher court.
Redistricting update: Connecticut Supreme Court assumes control over congressional redistricting
The Connecticut Supreme Court assumed control over the state’s congressional redistricting process on Dec. 1 after its Reapportionment Commission failed to complete redrawing maps by the Nov. 30 deadline. The Commission announced that it had decided to formally request that the state’s highest court grant it a three-week extension to finish congressional redistricting. According to The Westerly Sun, “Both Republicans and Democrats said they’re optimistic they’ll reach an agreement on a bipartisan congressional plan by Dec. 21.”
After the 2010 census, the Reapportionment Commission did not complete congressional redistricting by the deadline and the state supreme court approved a plan developed by a special master on Feb. 10, 2012. Connecticut completed its state legislative redistricting process last month when the Reapportionment Commission approved new district boundaries for both the state House and Senate.
Also, three states—Maryland, New Mexico, and South Carolina—will hold special legislative sessions during the week of Dec. 6 to consider redistricting plans in each state. Maryland’s and New Mexico’s sessions will commence on Dec. 6. The South Carolina House began its special session on Dec. 1 while the state Senate will start work on Dec. 6.