The U.S. Supreme Court ended its term this week with a bang as Justice Anthony Kennedy — known as a swing vote between the four conservative and four liberal justices — announced his retirement.
The announcement sets up a major partisan battle in the Senate where Republicans hope to confirm President Trump’s nominee before the mid-term elections in November while Democrats will seek to delay the confirmation until next year.
Meanwhile, the session ended with several major opinions that favored Trump and conservatives — and, not surprisingly, were panned by Connecticut’s all-Democrat Congressional delegation.
In a 5-4 ruling, the court found government unions can’t force non-members to pay “agency fees,” removing a source of funding that had been available for years.
Representative Rosa DeLauro described the decision as part of an ongoing effort by conservatives to weaken labor unions.
“For decades, corporations have blocked efforts of working people to form organizations like unions. Unions empower workers to collectively bargain for higher wages, safer working conditions, and better benefits — like health care, paid sick leave, overtime pay, vacation time, and retirement plans. With this decision, the Court has sided with the Koch brothers and other dark money groups who are putting workers at the mercy of corporate interests,” she said.
Senator Richard Blumenthal agreed.
“Make no mistake, this decision is about more than just public sector unions — it’s about chipping away at the entire labor movement. The strength of one is the strength of all, and undermining one type of union has ramifications that threaten the rights of workers everywhere and our goal of building a stronger middle class — a sad and cynical consequence of the Court’s decision,” he said.
In another 5-4 decision, the justices upheld the Trump administration’s travel ban saying the president has the power to ban travelers from certain majority-Muslim countries for national security reasons.
Senator Chris Murphy called for passage of legislation he has introduced to block Trump’s travel ban.
“This Supreme Court decision essentially gives the White House license to discriminate based on nationality or religion, which stands in direct opposition to what I was taught to love about this country,” he said. “The Supreme Court won’t stop that unconscionable policy, but an act of Congress can. I have a bill that would immediately stop President Trump’s mean-spirited Muslim ban and once again open our doors to children and parents suffering at the hands of our enemies.”
Representative Elizabeth Esty also decried the decision.
“Today’s decision will be a stain on our nation’s history. But history will also remember which of our political leaders stood up for our American values — and which were willing to judge people based on their faith and country of origin. This ban has had the effect of keeping students from their studies, scientists from their labs, and parents from their kids. It will not make America safer,” she said.
The Justices also issued a 5-4 decision striking down a California law requiring crisis pregnancy centers to provide information to patients about available abortion options.
Senator Richard Blumenthal criticized the decision, which he said presents a serious public health risk to women.
“When so-called crisis pregnancy centers mislead women about their qualifications or fail to inform women about the availability of abortion services, they put women’s health at risk and undermine women’s fundamental rights,” he said.