Biden’s Plan B for the climate crisis, explained

“If Congress fails to enshrine key climate policies as federal laws, Biden’s Plan B includes executive orders and major regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, the New York Times reported.
The problem is that executive actions aren’t an ideal substitute for federal laws, and may last only as long as Biden’s presidency. EPA regulation also “tends to lag [behind] the technological realities,” meaning it may only modestly nudge the economy in a new direction, Jesse Jenkins, an environmental engineering professor at Princeton University, told Vox. It’s also vulnerable to intervention by the Supreme Court.”

The Supreme Court decides not to light the housing market on fire

“The premise of the unitary executive doctrine is that all officials who execute federal law must be accountable to the president. That means that the president typically must be able to fire agency leaders and other top government officials at will — a view that the Supreme Court upheld in 2020.”

“The Court’s previous decisions..have some language suggesting that any action taken by an agency led by a director who is unconstitutionally shielded from presidential accountability is void — and that’s certainly how the plaintiffs in Collins read those decisions. They argued that literally every action taken by the FHFA since its creation 13 years ago must be declared invalid.

Had the Supreme Court agreed with this approach, it would have meant that all of the hundreds of billions spent to prop up Fannie and Freddie were spent illegally. It’s hard to even imagine how to unravel these transactions, and the process of doing so could have sparked another housing crisis similar to the catastrophic 2008 meltdown.

In any event, when confronted with the possibility of being responsible for one of the greatest financial crises in modern American history, Justice Alito blinked, as did most of his colleagues. Collins did not lead to an apocalyptic event; instead, it will stand as a warning of what can go wrong if the Court is too cavalier about remaking our constitutional system in a conservative image.”

“Though the head of the FHFA must be removable at will by the president, Alito argues in his opinion that “there was no constitutional defect in the statutorily prescribed method of appointment to that office” — that is, an FHFA director who is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate may still exercise executive power. Their previous actions are not void.
It’s as good a reason as any not to light the nation’s economy on fire.”

The Trump administration forced Apple to turn over lawmakers’ data. Democrats are outraged.

“That the Department of Justice sought the private phone data of US lawmakers without their knowledge is remarkable and disturbing. While details are still emerging, the exchange sets a concerning precedent about the ability of the executive branch to obtain the digital records of lawmakers as well as tech companies’ roles in complying with such orders.”

“The DOJ’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, announced on Friday that he will start a review of the agency’s actions under the Trump administration and will look at “whether any such uses, or the investigations, were based upon improper considerations.””

COVID-19 Demonstrates the Need To Change Nuclear Weapon Launch Authority

“While Congress or military leaders are involved in any other decision to use of military force, the president can legally order a nuclear strike on his own. “Congress doesn’t have any role in this at the moment,” says Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science at the Stevens Institute of Technology. “They’re not expected to be consulted.”

Unitary presidential control of nuclear weapons dates from the immediate aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, and the practice has been cemented over time. This is partly a product of the general shift toward a stronger executive, and partly just an issue of timing: If the missiles are coming, you can’t call up Congress.”

“”The system we have is very much a product of the 1940s, with some modifications in the 1950s and the 1960s,” Wellerstein says. “And we don’t live in the 1940s, ’50s, or ’60s. So I think we should feel free to question whether the system we have now is the ideal system for our present day.””

The Supreme Court’s big decision on the CFPB and the “unitary executive,” explained

“the justices largely focused on the question of whether the president may remove the CFPB’s sitting director at will.

A majority of the Court agreed that a president may remove the CFPB director. In the short term, that decision could benefit presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who will be able to remove Trump’s CFPB director right away if Biden becomes president. In the long term, however, the decision could potentially empower the president to manipulate the political process.”

“So the immediate upshot of Seila Law is that the CFPB survives this attempt to strike it down in its entirety, and Democrats gain the power to remove Trump’s CFPB director if Biden is sworn in next year. But it is unlikely that we will know the full significance of Seila Law until the Court hears a new case testing its meaning.”

“Most independent agencies — including the Fed and the FCC — are led by a multi-member board.

The CFPB is unusual, though not entirely unique, in that it is led by a single director who could not be removed at will by the president. This unusual leadership structure, according to Roberts’s majority opinion, is not allowed. According to Roberts, the Constitution “scrupulously avoids concentrating power in the hands of any single individual.””

“there are very good reasons why we do not want some agencies to be fully subject to presidential authority. If the president can threaten to fire Fed governors or FCC commissioners, those agencies might try to influence the result of an election in illegitimate ways.

And while much of Roberts’s decision focused on the CFPB’s single-director structure, it is far from clear, after Seila Law, whether multi-member agencies like the FCC or the Fed may remain independent.”