Author

Kelly Coyle

Kelly Coyle is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at kelly.coyle@ballotpedia.org

Trump and Kim meet for second summit

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met face-to-face on February 27 and 28, in Hanoi, Vietnam, for their second in-person summit.
 
Trump and Kim were unable to reach an agreement on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Trump said that Kim wanted all economic sanctions to be lifted in return for closing some, but not all, of its nuclear weapons sites.
 
Trump said, “I am never afraid to walk from a deal. … Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that. I just felt it wasn’t good enough. We had to have more.”
 
Trump’s first meeting with Kim, the first-ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, took place on June 12, 2018, in Singapore.
 
During the first summit, Trump and Kim signed a document outlining a framework for future negotiations. They committed to working toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and recovering the remains of prisoners of war. In return, Trump committed to providing security guarantees to North Korea.


Senate confirms Wheeler as EPA administrator

Andrew Wheeler, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 52-47, mostly along party lines. Republican Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined 46 members of the Democratic caucus in voting against Wheeler’s nomination. No Democrats voted for Wheeler’s nomination.
 
Trump announced his intent to nominate Wheeler as EPA administrator on November 16, 2018. During a White House ceremony for Medal of Freedom recipients, Trump said, “He’s done a fantastic job and I want to congratulate him.” Trump formally nominated Wheeler on January 9, 2019.
 
Wheeler replaces former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who left the role in July 2018. Wheeler has served as acting EPA administrator since Pruitt resigned.


US House passes firearms legislation

The House passed a bill that proposes requiring federal criminal background checks on all firearms sales by a vote of 240-190. Eight Republicans voted with most Democrats in favor of the bill. Two Democrats—Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Collin Peterson (Minn.)—voted with Republicans against the bill.
 
The bill proposes requiring background checks for commercial and private firearms sales. Federal law does not currently require background checks for private sales. The bill would not require background checks for transfers between family members or for temporary use of a gun.
 
The bill also includes language backed by 26 Democrats and members of the Republican caucus that would require sellers to report the names of individuals residing in the country without legal permission to the U.S. Immigration and Enforcement Agency if they attempt to buy a gun.
 
The requirement was added during a motion to recommit. It was the second procedural vote where Republicans were able to gain votes from Democrats to alter legislation. An earlier motion that was adopted condemned anti-Semitism and was attached to a House resolution barring U.S. involvement in the Yemeni civil war. According to Politico, it is rare for the minority party to win a procedural vote. Republicans did not lose a procedural vote from 2011 to 2019 when they were in charge of the House.
 
The bill now heads to the Senate. President Donald Trump said that he would veto the bill if it is sent to him.


Senate rejects Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

The Senate rejected the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act by a vote of 53-44. It needed 60 votes to advance. The bill proposed making it a felony if a healthcare practitioner failed to care for a child who survived an abortion or attempted abortion.
 
All Republicans and Democratic Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.), Doug Jones (Ala.), and Joe Manchin (WVa.) voted for the bill. No Republicans voted against the bill. All 44 votes against the bill were cast by members of the Democratic caucus.
 
After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “Evidently the far left is no longer convinced that all babies are created equal.”
 
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) criticized McConnell for bringing the bill to the floor for a vote. He said, “This is pure Mitch McConnell. It’s all aimed at keeping his base in line, while the president grows increasingly unpopular. We’re not doing infrastructure, we’re not doing health care. We’re not doing anything that matters to help our country. It’s just votes on abortion and other kinds of divisive votes he’s going to bring.”


House passes resolution to overturn Trump’s national emergency declaration

The House passed legislation to overturn President Donald Trump’s declaration of national emergency on the southern border. The resolution passed by a vote of 245-182. Every Democrat and 13 Republicans voted for the resolution.
 
The 13 Republicans who voted for the resolution were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Mike Gallagher (Wis.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Will Hurd (Texas), Dusty Johnson (S.D.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Francis Rooney (Fla.), Jim Sensenbrenner (Wis.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Fred Upton (Mich.), and Greg Walden (Ore.).
 
Trump declared a state of emergency on the southern border and directed $8.1 billion to build a border wall on February 15, 2019.
 
The resolution now heads to the Senate where four GOP senators will have to vote with every member of the Democratic caucus to send it to Trump’s desk. The resolution needs a simple majority to pass. If it passes, Trump said that he would veto the resolution. It would be the first veto of his presidency.


SCOTUS releases 10th unanimous opinion of term

The U.S. Supreme Court released its 10th unanimous opinion of the term.
 
Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered the unanimous opinion in Nutraceutical Corp. v. Lambert, a case concerning claim-processing rules. It was her first opinion of the term.
 
The justices have issued 11 decisions, 10 of which were unanimous.


SCOTUS releases two unanimous opinions

The U.S. Supreme Court released two unanimous opinions this week.
 
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered the unanimous opinion in Timbs v. Indiana, a case concerning the Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines. It was her second opinion of the term.
 
Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the unanimous opinion in Dawson v. Steager, a case concerning federal retirement benefits and state income taxes. It was his second opinion of the term.
 
SCOTUS has heard arguments in 44 cases this term and has 25 cases scheduled for argument.
 
The justices have issued 10 decisions, nine of which were unanimous.


SCOTUS to hear four cases next week

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the following four cases next week:
 
*Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, a case concerning the First Amendment’s limitation on governmental restriction of free speech and public access television channels.
 
*Mont v. United States, a case concerning supervised release for criminals.
 
*United States v. Haymond, a case concerning additional time for sex offenders who violate terms of supervised release.
 
*The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, a case concerning a World War I memorial cross on public land.
 
SCOTUS has heard arguments in 44 cases this term and has 25 cases scheduled for argument.
 
The justices have issued 10 decisions, nine of which were unanimous.


Sixteen states file suit against Trump’s emergency declaration

Sixteen state attorneys general filed a lawsuit in California’s Northern District against President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to pay for a wall along the southern border.
 
The lawsuit states that the emergency declaration shows a “flagrant disregard for the separation of powers. … President Trump has veered the country toward a constitutional crisis of his own making.”
 
On February 15, 2019, Trump declared a state of emergency on the southern border and directed $8.1 billion to build a border wall.
 
The lawsuit was filed by Democratic attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia. They said that the emergency declaration would cause their states to lose millions in federal funding and cause environmental damage.
 
At the time of the filing, the following states with Democratic attorneys general did not join the lawsuit: Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin.
 
“The states’ lawsuit is likely to stall the implementation of the emergency declaration and generate protracted legal battles that could land before the conservative-dominated Supreme Court. The case may not be resolved before 2020, potentially making Mr. Trump’s plan an issue in the next presidential election,” according to The Wall Street Journal.


Trump signs bill to fund parts of the government and border barrier; declares state of emergency

President Donald Trump signed a $328 billion spending bill that includes $1.375 billion in funding for barriers on the southern border. He had requested $5.7 billion in wall funding. Trump, because he said he did not get the amount requested, declared a state of emergency on the southern border and directed $8.1 billion to build a border wall.

In a Rose Garden announcement, Trump explained his emergency declaration, saying, “It’s a great thing to do because we have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized the declaration, saying in a joint statement, “The president’s unlawful declaration over a crisis that does not exist does great violence to our Constitution and makes America less safe. The president is not above the law. The Congress cannot let the president shred the Constitution.”

The day before Trump declared a state of emergency, the Senate passed the $328 billion spending bill by a vote of 83-16, and the House passed it by a vote of 300-128.

In the Senate, 42 members of the Democratic caucus and 41 Republicans voted for the bill. Eleven Republicans and five Democrats voted against the bill. 2020 presidential candidates Cory Booker (N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) all voted against it. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) also voted against it. The 11 Republicans who voted against the bill were Sens. Mike Braun (Ind.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Josh Hawley (Mo.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Tim Scott (S.C.), and Pat Toomey (Pa.).

In the House, 213 Democrats and 87 Republicans voted for the bill. One hundred and nine Republicans and 19 Democrats voted against the bill.

The package of seven spending bills includes funding for unfunded departments and agencies through September 30, 2019. It also included “$1.375 billion for construction of 55 news miles of physical barrier along Border Patrol’s highest priority locations along the southwest border,” according to a Senate Appropriations Committee summary. This was the same amount of money that was in the 2018 spending bill, according to Politico.

The bill was the result of negotiations that began on January 25, 2019, when members of Congress and Trump reached an agreement to temporarily fund the government while they worked out a larger plan to address immigration and border security.



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