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President Barack Obama

Reuters: Srinivasan or Garland Likely to Be Obama's SCOTUS Pick

Reuters' Julia Edwards reports that President Barack Obama is likely to pick one of two judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. His selection has come down to Judge Sri Srinivasan, who, if confirmed, would be the first Asian American to serve on the nation's highest court, or Judge Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit.

The announcement is expected as soon as tomorrow.

Senate Republicans have vowed not to hold confirmation hearings on any nominee the president names to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Obama Would Sign FOIA Reform Legislation

President Barack Obama would sign a Freedom of Information Act reform bill that has passed the U.S. Senate, Politico's Josh Gerstein reports. The bill "calls for a centralized portal to request records from all government agencies and writes into the law a presumption of openness that the Obama Administration adopted by executive order when he took office in 2009," Gerstein reports. Freedom of information advocates have been criticizing the Obama administration for having broken that promise of openness.

A similar bill has passed the House of Representatives and needs to be reconciled with the Senate FOIA bill.

Koch Brothers, White House Continue to Press for Criminal Justice Reform

Koch Industries, the funding powerhouse behind many conservative causes, and President Barack Obama's administration are continuing to push for criminal reform, The Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin reports. Both sides have agreed that a proposed change to white-collar prosecutions should be jettisoned if it will imperil sentencing reform in Congress.

The change would require prosecutors to prove that defendants "'knew or had reason to believe the conduct was unlawful'" in cases like corporate pollution or food tainting.

But the change to the mens rea standard is not in the Senate version of the sentencing-reform bill, and Koch Industries general counsel Mark Holden said having mens rea reform would not impede the Koch brothers supporting the package.

Federal Government to Pay Long-Overdue $940 Million to American Indians

President Barack Obama's administration has agreed to pay $940 million for failing to compensate American Indian tribes for public services like law enforcement that tribes carried out, NPR's Laura Wagner reports. The services are provided by the tribes under the Indian Self Determination Act, but the federal government pays for them. Sometimes the appropriations were not enough.

Obama Proposes Plan to Ban Discrimination Against Transgender People in Health Care

President Obama's administration has proposed a plan to ban discrimination against transgender people in the health care system, the Associated Press reports. The regulations would expand "insurance coverage for gender transition and prohibit health care facilities from denying transgender people access to restrooms that match their individual gender identity." Public comment is being accepted until November 6, including on providing religious protections for healthcare providers.

GOP Blocking Dozens of Obama's Court Picks

The legacy that President Barack Obama could leave on the federal judiciary could be diminished because the Republican party is blocking dozens of his court picks, Politico's Burgess Everett and Seung Min Kim report: "Democrats believe the GOP is creating an unprecedented expansion of the Thurmond Rule, which holds that the Senate shuts off the confirmation valve of lifetime judicial appointments in July of an election year."

The GOP-controlled Senate is on track this year to confirm the fewest federal judges since 1969, and more than two dozen federal courts have declared emergencies because of excessive caseloads caused by vacancies. Nominations for judges for the home states of Republican senators, however, are moving on the Senate floor.

McConnell: Obama's Circuit Court Nominees Won't Be Confirmed

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the President Obama's nominees to serve on the circuit courts of appeal won't be confirmed anymore, The Huffington Post's Jen Bendery reports. McConnell said on a conservative radio show that "'so far, the only judges we’ve confirmed have been federal district judges that have been signed off on by Republican senators,” and he expects that to be the case through 2016.

However, Luis Felipe Restrepo, a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, has had a hearing scheduled before the Judiciary Committee, and he has the support of Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Kara Stoll, a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, also has been voted out of the Judiciary Committee.

Fate of Obama's Signature Initiatives Rests with Federal Judges

The future of three of President Barack Obama's signature policies rest in the hands of federal judges: health care, immigration and climate change, the Washington Post's David Nakamura and Juliet Eilperin report. "'We’re getting used to getting sued,'” John Podesta, White House counselor, said last week.

U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen ruled Monday that the administration's deferred-deportation program should not move forward while a lawsuit brought by 26 states is pending; the judge found that the executive action on immigration doesn't comply with the rulemaking process of the Administrative Procedure Act.

On March 4, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case in which the plaintiffs argue that Obamacare does not authorize subsidies to low-income people buying healthcare insurance policies on the federally run insurance exchange. And in April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear cases challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s right to use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants.

Nebraska Supreme Court Ships Keystone XL Decision to President Obama

The controversy of the Keystone XL oil pipeline project is now in the hands of President Barack Obama after a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling on Friday, which threw out a legal challenge to the pipeline, the Associated Press' Josh Lederman reports. The Congressional Republicans also have kicked the project over to the president with the House having passed and the Senate close to passing legislation to authorize construction of the pipeline that would carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. However, Lederman reports "Obama has said he will only allow the pipeline if it won't lead to increased carbon dioxide emissions. He also is skeptical of claims by supporters that the pipeline will create jobs or lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil."

Obama's Judicial Legacy Secured

President Barack Obama has now appointed many more federal judges than his predecessors had by this point in their time in the Oval Office; this will define his presidency long after he is out of office, The Huffington Post's Jennifer Bendery reports: "He'll wrap up his sixth year in office with a grand total of 305 district court and circuit court confirmations -- a tally that puts him well beyond where his predecessors were by this point in their presidencies. ... In total, [President George W.] Bush confirmed 256 district and circuit court nominees after six years in office, Clinton confirmed 302, and President Ronald Reagan confirmed 295."

The higher rate of confirmation of Obama judicial appointees in the Senate is probably because the Democratic-controlled Senate "changed the rules last year to require a simple majority, or 51 votes, instead of 60 votes to advance most judicial nominees," Bendery further reports.


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