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Oct 13, 2020
Originally published on October 13, 2020 7:44 pm

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We have some breaking news now about the 2020 U.S. census from the Supreme Court. This afternoon, the high court granted the Trump administration's request to end counting as soon as possible. This comes after an emergency request from the administration. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang covers the census for us and joins us now.

Hi, Hansi.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: What does this Supreme Court ruling mean for the 2020 head count?

WANG: You know, this order on this emergency request by the Trump administration really clears the way for the Trump administration to end counting efforts immediately. That includes door-knocking efforts at households that have not yet responded to the 2020 census. And this is an order that - it's not clear exactly what the thinking of the court is, other than we know that Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented from this decision. And she wrote that - she said that the government failed - the Trump administration failed to show why it couldn't show - bring more resources to try to meet this deadline the Trump administration said it's trying to reach. That's why it's wanting to end this count early.

SHAPIRO: There are still many people in the U.S. who have not been counted. If a household wants to get counted in the census, what can they do right now?

WANG: You know, the fastest way you can check to see if you can still get counted is to go to my2020census.gov. That's the online form for the 2020 census. And if that form is still live, presumably the Census Bureau is still collecting responses as of this moment. There are also toll-free numbers if you don't have online access or you know someone who does not have online access. And for now, it's not clear if door-knocking will continue.

SHAPIRO: You have covered so many attempts by the Trump administration to limit the reach and scope and duration of the census. Remind us why they've tried so many times to end this early.

WANG: Well, the Trump administration has really changed its positions a number of times. Back in April at the beginning of this pandemic - really being called a pandemic - the Trump administration said it needed more time to conduct the census and then in July made an about-face. And that about-face where it said they need to end the census early to meet this December 31 deadline for reporting the first set of results to the president - that decision, this about-face by the administration, came right around the same time President Trump issued an - presidential memo calling for the exclusion of unauthorized immigrants from specifically the census numbers used to reapportion seats in Congress that determine how many seats in Congress each state gets and also, by the way, determines how many Electoral College votes each state gets for the next decade.

Now, the Constitution calls for a count of the whole number of persons in each state, and that is another ongoing legal fight. And the administration's been trying to get counting to end earlier than had planned. So it was to continue through October 31. Lower courts had ordered that as well, but the administration said they need to end counting as soon as possible, said need to end last week in order for it to try to meet this December 31 deadline to get numbers to President Trump. That would allow him to try to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the count, whether or not he wins reelection or not.

SHAPIRO: OK. So in addition to this breaking news from the Supreme Court about the census count ending early, you say there is this ongoing legal fight over the memo. What is the status of that fight?

WANG: That is currently also before the Supreme Court. Supreme Court justices are expected to discuss whether or not to hear oral arguments in that case as early as December. That would allow, possibly, for the court to issue a ruling before year's end - this December 31 deadline - which will allow President Trump, regardless of whether he wins reelection, to try to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the census numbers.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Hansi Lo Wang, who covers the 2020 census for us.

Thanks, Hansi.

WANG: You're welcome, Ari.

(SOUNDBITE OF KYLE DIXON'S "KIDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.