News Roundup (Week of Mar. 26-Apr.1, 2017)

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Hello, readers! Last week was a busy one, but for now, I will start you off with some international news.


Table of Contents

Here are the stories I have curated for this week*:

International

National

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* I might add more stories for the other sections, since there was important legislation in the United States.


In International News …

This week, I will start in Queensland, Australia, where a cyclone made landfall.

Cyclone Debbie Made Landfall in Queensland, Australia.

Last week, Cyclone Debbie battered the northeast Australian coast. It made landfall between Bowen and Airlie Beach in Queensland as a category 4 storm. The cyclone had gusts of up to 263 km/h (163 mph), a 50 km-diameter eye wall, and it carried torrential rains (150-500 mm).

The cyclone was downgraded to a category 2 storm as it moved inland. But since it was slow moving, it still presented inherent dangers, like flooding and compromised buildings. Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart likened it to a “battering ram effect.”

From early reports, the cyclone led to the loss of power for tens of thousands of homes. According to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, that made it all the more difficult to assess the damage of the storm.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the parliament that he had activated a disaster response plan. In the meantime, people who could not evacuate were told to stay indoors. (Over 25,000 people were told to evacuate in anticipation of the storm.) Rescue workers were also told to stay indoors until the wind had calmed down enough and local airports were closed.

This was the most devastating storm faced by Queensland since 2011. But the damage of it is still being assessed.

There was at least one confirmed injury and one confirmed death related to the storm. A man was seriously injured after a wall collapsed due to the storm. A woman died in a weather-related car crash.

Ethnic Violence in Myanmar Escalated Along Its Border with China.

On Tuesday, China’s military carried out drills along the border with Myanmar. Xinhua news agency said the joint land and air exercises were a show of force by China to show its resolve to protect its people. Reportedly, China notified Myanmar’s military of the drills ahead of time.

The drills come at a time when internal clashes between Myanmar’s security forces and ethnic rebel fighters are forcing people to flee to China. Just last month, thousands of Burmans sought refuge in China.

In 2015, five people died in China as a result of the fighting.

The Events That Lead Up to the Military Drills

Much of the current fighting taking place is between the Myanmar government and rebels in the Kokang region in Myanmar’s northeaster Shan state.

In early March, at least 48 clashes between the Burmese government and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) took place along the border with China, resulting in at least a dozen soldier deaths.

The clashes took place during the Myanmar government’s clearance operations which occurred from Mar. 6-12. On Mar. 6, the MNDAA abducted a group of 270 hotel staff in Laukkai and took them to Nansan for forced military training. On its website, the rebel group said the move was something the staff “supported and acclaimed.”

On Mar. 7, the Chinese government called for a ceasefire between the two sides.
On Thursday, Mar. 9, China’s foreign ministry reported that 20,000 people had sought refuge in China due to the ethnic clashes along the border with Myanmar. China is assisting the refugees on a humanitarian basis.

One person was injured after a shell reported exploded about 100 meters across the border with China.

The Myanmar government said five residents and five traffic policeman were killed in the rebel group’s attack on Laukkai. Authorities later discovered 20 more dead residents.

The rebel group in question is part of the Northern Alliance, which is comprised of the Kachin Independence Army and two other militias.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is a Nobel laureate who took office in Myanmar in 2016. Suu Kyi’s chief goal is to reach a peace deal with the ethnic minorities in her country. That promise was primarily what pushed her rise to power.

But that is easier said than done. Myanmar (also called Burma) has long been mired in political and ethnic fighting since the country won independence from Great Britain in 1948.

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Russian Protesters Were Arrested Across the Country.

Dozens of protests were held across Russia on Sunday, Mar. 26, as demonstrators called for an end to corruption. The protests around Russia in the largest wave of anti-Kremlin dissent since 2011-2012.

The protests were part of a campaign called “He is not your Dimon,” which is in reference to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Protesters called for the resignation of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, but many were arrested.

Police estimated that around 7,000-8,000 people took part in demonstrations in Moscow, mostly in Puskin Square. The crowds could have been larger than the police estimate of 7,000 protestors. Pushkin Square is one hectare (2.5 acres) in area.

The protests were called for by opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who runs the Foundation for Fighting Corruption. The organization released a report about Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev, accusing him of amassing a fortune (through bribes and state bank loans) that surpasses his official salary.

Medvedev is accused of collecting mansions, yachts, and vineyards. Also, he is said to have a house for raising ducks.

Medvedev’s spokeswoman called the allegations “propagandistic attacks.”

Hundreds of protesters were detained by police officers, but the numbers differed depending on the source. OVD-Info is an organization which monitors Russia political suppression. By OVD-Info’s count, at least 800 people were arrested in Moscow demonstrations alone. The state news agency Tass cited Moscow police, who said there were 500 arrests.

Navalny was among those arrested. Police detained him as he was walking on Tverskaya Street to Pushkin Square with supporters. The rally was unsanctioned; the request to hold the rally was rejected by city authorities.

The demonstrations in Moscow were cleared after three hours of protests. The remaining protesters were finally driven away by hundreds of police officers, who started from Manezh Square at the end of Tverskaya Street.

Elsewhere in Russia …

There were rallies in other cities, including St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk.

  • There were about 5,000 protesters in the Mars Field park in St. Petersburg.
  • There was a demonstration in Vladivostok. Police detained protesters near the city’s railway terminal. At least 25 people were arrested in the city overall.
  • Four people were reportedly detained at a rally at Yekaterinburg’s Labor Square. The city is in the industrial Urals region.
  • There were also gatherings in Siberia’s Chita and Barnaul.
  • At least 40 people were arrested in Dagestan.
  • There were also protests in Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, and Khabarovsk (where 12 were arrested).

About Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny, part of the liberal opposition to President Putin, plans to run for president next year. But Putin, who currently enjoys high ratings, is expected to win a fourth term.

Alexei Navalny has served short jail terms for participating in previous protests and was twice convicted of fraud, although he was given a suspended sentence. Navalny was convicted on embezzlement charges and he is currently serving a 15-day sentence for resisting police. The conviction technically disqualifies him from running for president.

The opposition already faces a tough road ahead. The country’s 2018 election is expected to result in Putin winning a fourth term as president. Putin first rose to power when he was elected president of Russia in 2000 and he has enjoyed high approval ratings throughout his political career.

In May 2016, Putin’s overall approval rating fell … to 80%. That was the lowest rating he had received in two years.

Putin remains popular in Russia for a few reasons:

  • He stamps down dissent.
  • The Russian government runs much of the media, which spins his actions as patriotic dissent against the Western juggernaut. An example of this is Russia’s decision to support the government of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
  • Much of Russian society is conservative.
  • Even those who dislike Putin so no real alternative to him.
  • Putin has crafted an image of a tough, yet “good Czar.” An example of this is the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

A 2014 law was passed to made unauthorized protests punishable by 15 days in jail or five years imprisonment for a third offense.

Putin’s Response

There were no overall figures on the attendance of protests or the number of arrests made.

There have been no investigation into the allegations and many top Russian politicians have remained mute on the demonstrations.

The opposition to Putin is often dismissed as “a Westernized urban elite.” State media hardly mentioned the protests. State news TV channel Rossiya-24 ignored the protests altogether.

On Thursday, Putin made his first remarks on the demonstrations. He made comparisons between the Arab Spring and annexation of Crimea in 2014.

We know very well what this led to, to what bloody events it led to in this region. We also know well into what chaos these events sunk our neighbor, Ukraine.

On Friday, Russian authorities blocked social media pages that organizing more protests against the Kremlin.

The U.S. Response

Trump didn’t say anything about the protests, but acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner issued a statement. Toner said, the U.S. “strongly condemns the detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters throughout Russia on Sunday.”

Additionally, Toner said the arrests were “an affront to democratic values.” In his statement, Toner called for the Russian government “to immediately release all peaceful protestors.”

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Israel Is Targeting BDS Supporters.

Israel has worked to sanction all foreigners who speak out against Israeli settlements. One angle the government is taking is targeting those who speak out in favor of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

On March 6, the Israeli parliament passed legislation to ban every individual or representative of groups leading similar boycotts of Israel. Israeli citizens and permanent residents would face no such sanctions. The law took effect on Mar. 14, but some foreigners were already being barred for being vocal against Israeli settlements.

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan wants to go even further. Last week, he called or a national database to track any Israelis who are involved with the movement by tracking their online activity.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is from the far-right Likud Party, decries the BDS movement as anti-Semitic. He says it seeks to delegitimize Israel.

The BDS movement is similar to the actions taken by the international community to protest apartheid in South Africa. To many observers of the situation in the West Bank, the issue of Israeli settlements is thus similar to Apartheid, if not another example of it.

The BDS movement is led by the Palestinians, who want their own state. It was started in 2005, but it has recently gained some steam.

Qatari-born Palestinian Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the BDS movement, could not be banned from the country since he is married to an Israeli-Arab and is a permanent resident of Israel. However, he was arrested last week on suspicion of tax evasion.

How American Jews Feel About Israel’s Stance

Americans Jews who make visits to Israeli are concerned about the law for at least two reasons.

For one thing, many American Jews are against the settlements. While they might not support the BDS movement, many are aligned with the international community in saying those settlements are illegal.

Also, American Jews are alarmed by it since it seeks to cut into free speech. While many inside Israel are often allowed to voice their concerns about the government freely, yet the situation should be watched Erdan’s idea is implemented on Israel citizens. However, it looks like Israel seeks to shut down criticism outside its borders; that could lead to isolationism.

Another concern is that the ban does not distinguish boycotts. Some boycotts (of Israeli products) might not be in protest of the settlements. In some European Union countries, products from Israeli settlements are labeled as such. Consumers could choose to buy only products produced in non-settlement land.

Missing Obama?

In an opinion piece by Anshel Pfeffer, he makes a case for why pro-settlement Israelis may miss President Barack Obama.

With Obama, the issue of Israel became more politicized, especially as Benjamin Netanyahu rose to power. The two could never see eye-to-eye, but the pro-settlement Israelis had allies in the Republican Party.

The election of Donald Trump at first look presented the pro-settlement crowd with an opportunity. David Friedman was being appointed as the ambassador to Israel. Friedman served as Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer and he helped to finance the construction of homes at Beit El. And Nikki Haley, the new ambassador to the United Nations, has made it her mission to combat the assembly’s perceived bias against Israel.

However, a few weeks into his presidency, Trump’s team pulled back on any rhetoric in favor of the settlements while in fact telling Benjamin Netanyahu to rein them in.

Now, Israel (and particularly Netanyahu) has to walk a fine line as it pertains to the settlements. They don’t want to alienate themselves from their American allies, but they have to be cognizant of what Trump wants to do. And if Trump really wants to pull for a two-state solution, there is no way that can be spun to paint Trump as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.

Netanyahu was already walking a fine line. According to some Israeli settlers, Bibi’s first concern was the security situation. It was always possible that he could pull back the settlements as long as he got what he wanted militarily.

Another settler thinks Benjamin may have preferred a Hillary Clinton victory. At least he would know where she stood and be able to “help him keep the status quo.”

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Here’s a Prelude to the G20 Conference.

On Saturday, Mar. 19, government “finance chiefs” — finance ministers and central bank leaders — from the “Great 20” met in Baden-Baden, Germany. Near the end of the conference, most of those involved in the discussion took multiple positions on free trade, and climate change finance.

The communiqué* walked back the pledge to reject protectionism and endorse free trade. There was also “only a token reference” to trade’s rule in strengthening economies. Additionally, the ministers stepped back from the commitment to support climate change finance.

The positions made were most likely in anticipation of Donald Trump’s attendance to the G20 summit in July. His rhetoric since taking office has boosted protectionism (“America First”) and he has long called the discussion of climate change a Chinese hoax.

According to multiple delegates, representatives from the United States didn’t make things easy. The delegates said “the US was holding out on key issues, unwilling to compromise and essentially torpedoing a deal,” because deals require all countries in attendance to be on board.

However, all the financial leaders did agree to refrain from competitive currency devaluation.

Trading countries are worried that Trump’s protectionism will lead to bad deals for them. But Theresa May is hopeful that the United States and the United Kingdom can come across a mutually beneficial trade deal post-Brexit. She was the first to meet Trump after his inauguration.

* com·mu·ni·qué | kəˌmyo͞onəˈkā,kəˈmyo͞onəˌkā/ | noun – an official announcement or statement, especially one made to the media.

“A communiqué from the surgeon general is expected this morning.”

synonyms: official communication, press release, bulletin, message, missive, dispatch, statement, report, announcement, declaration, proclamation, advisory; informalmemo

Were All the Financial Leaders on the Same Page?

While some financial leaders had a conciliatory tone, the communiqué of this meeting alarmed others in attendance. The agreement broke a decade-long tradition of endorsing free trade.

Malta’s finance minister, Edward Scicluna, is also the current holder of the EU presidency. Of the meeting, he said:

The atmosphere wasn’t negative or acrimonious. However, it was surreal because the G20 is meant to find overall cooperation.

I’m modestly optimistic that it served for countries to prepare themselves for the July summit (of the G20 nations) and then we’ll see the outcome.

Johan Van Overtveldt, Belgium’s finance minister said there was “a worrying trend” toward protectionism and “We should do everything we can to stop it and reverse it back to the good direction.”

Luxembourg Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna said, “We are all worried in Europe that open trade and globalization with its good sides have been put into question.”

Will Trump Be Protectionist?

In February, Gerard Lyons, who co-founded Economists for Brexit, said that in Trump would not pursue a “truly protectionist” agenda with his policies when all is said and done. Trump promised to do things like impose heavy tariffs on imports, but Lyons said an aggressive agenda like that could ultimately hurt the American economy. Furthermore, Lyons posited that all American presidents wanted to put “America First,” and more open trade policies were always part of the equation.

Finally, Lyons brought it back to Brexit. Lyons, who once served as economic advisor to Boris Johnson when the latter was the mayor of London, said that it would be in the U.K.’s best interest to eye global trade as it leaves the EU.

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Rima Khalaf Resigned from Her Post at United Nations Over a Report About Israel.

Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian, resigned as United Nations Under Secretary General in the middle of March. Her reasoning was because of the pressure she received to withdraw a report for the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

Khalaf accused Israel of running a racist state. The report itself concluded “that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.”

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez distanced himself from the report. He said it only reflected the author’s views and pressure was likely put on him to ask Khalaf to take down the report. (It was published on Wednesday, Mar. 15 and taken down on the 17th.)

Israel condemned the report, with Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon calling it an “attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East.” He said the comparison to apartheid was “a false analogy” and “a blatant lie.”

The Palestinians in the West Bank have lived under the Israeli government since 1967. Since that time, Israel has created settlements that are the home of 500,000 people. Beyond the U.N.-drawn borders of Israel, the settlements are deemed illegal by international law.

The ESCWA promotes economic and social development in 18 Arab countries. It is based in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

Link to website: https://www.unescwa.org/about-escwa

Khalaf Is Certainly Not the First to Use the Term ‘Apartheid’ in reference to Israel.

In April 2014, The Daily Beast reported on a closed-door meeting involving officials from the United States, Japan, and Europe (known as the Trilateral Commission). During the meeting, then-Secretary of State John Kerry said that Israel ran the risk of running “an apartheid state” if it did not agree to a two-state solution. Kerry reiterated that the only way toward peace between the Israelis and Palestinians was a two-state solution.

A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative, because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens – or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.

At the time, peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians hit a wall and Israel suspended them indefinitely. The talks had resumed for the first time since July 2013. The peace talks were put on hold for three years prior.

Now, Obama shied away from using the term “apartheid,” saying the use word in reference to Israel was “unhelpful and inaccurate.”

Who Else Used the A-Word?

As BBC’s Washington Bureau Chief Paul Danahar opined, the use of the word had occurred with Israel’s leaders, albeit internally. However, the use of the term by a foreign ally of Israel added legitimacy to that line of thought. Additionally, Kerry was pointing out that Israel was hurting the legitimacy of its own state with its policies regarding the Palestinians.

This was supported by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who said:

Secretary Kerry, like Justice Minister [Tzipi] Livni, and previous Israeli Prime Ministers [Ehud] Olmert and [Ehud] Barak, was reiterating why there’s no such thing as a one-state solution if you believe, as he does, in the principle of a Jewish state.

He was talking about the kind of future Israel wants and the kind of future both Israelis and Palestinians would want to envision. The only way to have two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two-state solution. And without a two-state solution, the level of prosperity and security the Israeli and Palestinian people deserve isn’t possible.

Kerry has also said that a two-state solution was more likely to come to fruition after a change in both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership. He has also long criticized the construction of Israeli settlements.

The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) called Kerry’s statements “deeply troubling” and said Kerry’s use of the word “apartheid” was “offensive and inappropriate.”

The talks between Israel and the Palestinians were suspended after Israel demanded that the Palestinians annul the agreement reached between Fatah and Hamas to form a unity government. Fatah was led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmous Abbas. Hamas, opposes Israel’s existence, is designated as a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union, Israel, and other countries.

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A Rape Case in Mexico Highlights a ‘Pandemic.’

In 2015, Daphe Fernández was raped by three of her former classmates in a car driven by a fourth man. Her father, Javier Fernández, did not want to go to the police initially because he felt the case would have been held up indefinitely. But he ultimately sought help from the authorities because Daphne, his youngest daughter, was being harassed.

Sometime before going to the police, the frustrated single father recorded conversations he had with the assailants, the driver of their car, and some of their wealthy families. The men consented to being recorded and they admitted wrongdoing on the tapes.

Despite these confessions, Daphne, who was 17 at the time of the rape, was being harassed online and accused of being promiscuous. For instance, the “Did she drink?” and “Did she wear a short skirt?” rhetoric which is familiar in the West was being used to excuse the behavior of the classmates.

When the Fernández family did seek justice, the case was delayed until Javier Fernández released the tapes to the media. Arrests were made and one the assailants, 21-year-old Diego Cruz, was extradited to Mexico from Spain. Cruz was ultimately found not guilty, because the judge in the case said that Cruz did not act with “carnal intent.”

Out of the four men named in the case, only three have been indicted. Since Cruz was acquitted that leaves two more of the rapists who have yet to stand trial.

The judge in Cruz’s case found that Cruz had touched Daphne Fernández’s breasts, penetrated her with his fingers and that she was forced into the car. But Cruz was found not guilty of assault because the judge said Cruz had not acted with “carnal intent” and Fernández was never “helpless.”

The Legal Situation in Mexico

The story highlights the dangers faced by women in Mexico and the lack of justice in Vera Cruz. There is not justice for people who are hurt by the wealthy and the criminal element in the state.

According to Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography, only 10 percent of rapes were reported to local authorities.

More:

The ferocious Zeta drug cartel has a near-monopoly over the state. Eight out of 10 people there say they live in fear. Since 2011, at least 15 journalists have been killed and hundreds of people have vanished. (One human rights advocate, Father Alejandro Solalinde, called the city “a factory of forced disappearances.”)

Unsurprisingly, few trust the justice system and fewer come forward after an attack. In 2014, only 1 in 10 was reported to local authorities, according to Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography. The Mexican government’s National Institute for Women says more than 80 percent of sexual assaults are not reported, and barely 4.5 percent of criminals face sentencing in Mexico. A majority of victims told researchers that they didn’t report because they didn’t want to “waste their time,” the New Yorker piece said, citing a study.

Rape is used as a tool to intimidate and women are often used as “territory.” Thousands of women have disappeared and there was a 500% jump in female homicides between 2001 and 2010. Ana Güezmez, Mexico’s Women’s representative to the United Nations said violence against women in Mexico was a pandemic.

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In National News …

On Monday, there will be a vote on whether to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Most Democrats have other plans.

A Final Vote on Neil Gorsuch’s Confirmation Will Be Taken This Week.

Federal district Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination was first taken up during the week of March 19-25. Democrats had their work cut out for them to block him, but most contend that Gorsuch’s “judicial and economic philosophy unduly favors corporations and the wealthy.”

Corporate Ties?

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote an opinion piece for The Boston Globe in which she laid out the reasons why Neil Gorsuch should not be confirmed to the Supreme Court. Overall, she said Gorsuch was a judge who consistently sided with corporations over American residents, consumers, and employees. His elevation to the Supreme Court would mean corporate interests were successful not only in smearing Merrick Garland (President Obama’s last nominee who did not even get so much as a confirmation hearing) and selling the SCOTUS seat to the highest bidder.

Gorsuch was nominated to his current position with help from one of his former clients, billionaire Philip F. Anschutz. Gorsuch represented Anschutz on numerous corporate cases and maintained ties to Anschutz and others connected to the billionaire. These connections offer a glimpse into the type of SCOTUS judge Gorsuch would be. Also, there may likely be a number of conflicts of interest if any of Anschutz’s holdings or connected companies are involved in a case before the Court.

Gorsuch could avoid trouble by recusing himself on certain cases if there is at least an appearance in impropriety. But, it looks like he is not discounting the possibility of working on Anschutz-related cases on the Court and there is “a vague standard for recusal set by a 1974 statute.” The statute does not address whether a Supreme Court Justice’s decision to work on a case involving former clients amounts to an appearance of a conflict of interest.

(It’s not clear how well Gorsuch and Trump know each other, but in confirmation hearing, Gorsuch said he was first contacted by Trump’s people about the Supreme Court nomination.)

Frustration?

During a 10-hour confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Mar. 21, Neil Gorsuch frustrated Democrats when he withheld direct answers to numerous questions. He was asked to weigh in on past Supreme Court decision like Roe v. Wade and Citizens United. All Gorsuch would say are those were “seminal cases” or they set Court precedents.

Gorsuch called the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision on gay marriage “settled law.” While he would not give direct answers when asked how he would rule on certain cases, calling that case “settled” made a clear distinction from cases like Roe v. Wade, which were not called “settled law.”

The Democrats wanted to tap down which direction Gorsuch would go as a Supreme Court Justice, but he said it would be inappropriate to express his personal opinions. He did say he would be independent of Trump if confirmed.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) was frustrated at Gorsuch for being “less forthcoming, less direct and specific” than the senator had hoped. Blumenthal said Justices John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel Alito were more forthcoming with their judicial opinions when they were being confirmed. However, the senator admitted that Gorsuch deftly answered the questions posed to him.

Some of the best questions were asked by Sen. Shelden Whitehouse (D-RI), but Gorsuch was still pretty evasive. Whitehouse asked Gorsuch if he had regretted seeing the large sums of money used by political groups to boost his judicial nomination. Gorshuch only said he had regretted to put his family thought the whole process.

Filibuster?

In late March, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that he intended to filibuster Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to Supreme Court. The Republicans threatened to change the rules if Democrats tried to filibuster, but Schumer was undeterred.

“If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes—a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees and President Bush’s nominees—the answer is not to change the rules, it’s to change the nominee,” Schumer said.

If the Democrats go the filibuster route, only 8 Democrats would need to side with the republicans to block it.

If Gorsuch can clear the filibuster, he would only need a simple majority to be confirmed. As it looks right now, there might not be enough Democrats to clear a filibuster, but they do need 41 to establish one. At the moment, there are 37 senators (including independent Bernie Sanders) who plan to join the filibuster.

Five Democrats and Angus King (I-ME) have not announced what they would do on Monday, when the vote begins.

Three Democrats — Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Joe Donally (IN) — plan to block the filibuster. The first two also expressed that they are willing to vote to confirm Gorsuch.

What Is Manchin Doing?

In an interview with Yahoo Global New Anchor Katie Couric, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), called on Democrats to give Gorsuch an “up-or-down vote” and to avoid a filibuster, which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for to block the judge. Manchin said he did not want that because it might lead to the Republicans using the “nuclear option.”*

Manchin said he wanted to preserve the integrity of the Senate and the judge-confirmation process. And he decried the use of the nuclear option when then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV; he retired before this Congress) in order to confirm non-Supreme Court judges.

* The “nuclear option” would be a rule change to lower the threshold for the required number of votes for a judicial nominee to clear a filibuster from 60 votes to 51. Currently, the Republicans have 52 senators and could confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority.

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