5 Pivotal Moves the Trump Administration Has Made to Further Its Agenda Ahead of Biden's Inauguration

President Donald Trump, 7th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett
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What the Trump Administration Is Pushing to Accomplish In Their Last Week

With days left in his time as president, President Donald Trump' administration has made moves, alongside the Supreme Court, to push forward their agenda. As the clock ticks towards the 11th hour, here are five of the pivotal moves executed in the recent days leading up to the inauguration of Joe Biden. Per a report from the Los Angeles Times, the Trump administration has had many of these moves on his agenda for years. Several of these decisions were implemented on Wednesday, Jan. 13 when the House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald Trump from office.

Supreme Court Approves White House Request to Limit Accessibility to Abortion Pill –– Creating Obstacle for Early Pregnancy Termination Medication During Pandemic

Women seeking to terminate their early pregnancies through a medication commonly known as the “day-after-pill” will have a much more difficult time thanks to a Supreme Court decision made Tuesday, according to reports. The country’s highest court granted a request made by the Trump administration this week to restore restrictions for patients who are in need of a drug used to help terminate early pregnancies, NPR reported.

This decision was issued despite a dissent from the high court’s liberal judges –– and has now reinstated a requirement for patients to pick up the pill, mifepristone, in-person, according to a Supreme Court dissent.

This marks the first abortion-related decision made by the Supreme Court since Justice Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in. Since the death of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September, Barrett was sworn in granting a new conservative majority of the nation's most prominent and influential court. Since her new role in office, there has been a heightened fear among advocates and health care professionals over abortion rights.

The majority of women seek abortion care during the first 10 weeks of their pregnancy. They are dependent on two prescription medications: mifepristone and misoprostol, which when taken together, induce the equivalent of an early miscarriage.

Patients can have access to Misoprostol through a retail or mail-order pharmacy, however, the FDA has made access to the second drug necessary to ensure the procedure is completed, Mifepristone, much more difficult, the court documents explain. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, the Federal Government, including the Center for Disease Control, has urged healthcare providers and patients to take full advantage of telemedicine “whenever possible,” the documents said. Out of the 20,000 FDA-approved drugs, mifepristone is the only drug that requires a person to pick up the medication in-person. This means a person seeking the medication would have to go to a hospital, clinic, or medical office.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent that the FDA's rules "impose an unnecessary, irrational, and unjustifiable undue burden on women seeking to exercise their right to choose," she wrote. "One can only hope that the Government will reconsider and exhibit greater care and empathy for women seeking some measure of control over their health and reproductive lives in these unsettling times."

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, three lower court judges blocked the FDA’s pick-up requirement for the drug. The main argument, they cited, was the risks of contracting the coronavirus when visiting a medical clinic or hospital.

Persons of color, specifically Black and Hispanic individuals, seeking abortions or early pregnancy termination are at a particularly high risk of contracting coronavirus while seeking medical care during the pandemic. Three-quarters of abortion patients have low incomes making them more reliant on public transportation to get to a clinic to pick up their medication.

Advocates are hoping that the Biden-Harris administration will be able to reverse the FDA’s requirements.

Julia Kaye, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project, called the court's decision "chilling," NPR reported. She added that the decision "needlessly" endangers "even more people during this dark pandemic winter."

Trump Administration Pushes Through Executions at Last Moment 

Dustin Higgs will likely be the last man to be executed by the Trump administration who, in just under a year, has executed 11 people. This marks the highest number of federal executions in one calendar year in either the 20th or 21st century, The New York Times reported. To compare, in total, just seven prisoners were executed under the state death penalty –– the lowest reported number since 1983. 

This move to rush federal executions began when, in July 2019, Attorney General William Barr resumed federal executions after a 17-year hiatus on the federal death penalty. 

And, now, in one of its final moves, the Trump administration will be executing Higgs who was convicted in connection to the kidnapping and murder of three women. A federal jury sentenced him to death on three counts of first-degree premeditated murder, three counts of first-degree felony murder and three counts of kidnapping resulting in death, according to the Department of Justice

It was never proven by prosecutors that Higgs had killed any of the women himself. There was a second man, Willis Haynes, who confessed to shooting the woman and was later convicted, but because a jury could not reach a unanimous decision as to whether she should be sentenced to death, so he instead received life in prison. Higgs was present for the killing and was even reportedly instructed by Haynes to pull the trigger, but he was ultimately not the one to physically end these women’s lives, according to court documents filed by his attorneys. Still, he was sentenced to his death for his role in the killing.

At the start of the week, the Supreme Court swiftly ignored a request for stay of execution for Lisa Montgomery and executed her by lethal injection in the early hours of Tuesday. Montgomery was waiting on death row for 10 years, after she was convicted by a federal jury for the horrific murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett who, pregnant at the time, was strangled by Montgomery, cut open, and her fetus taken from her womb. 

Montgomery’s execution shook human rights advocates in the wake of the Supreme Court’s rapid decision to push forward her death –– even though her legal team requested a mental review in order to determine whether her execution would comply with the Eight Amendment, which cites cruel and unusual punishment. 

In a similar sequence of events, Corey Johnson was executed on Wednesday after a year of legal disputes including a preliminary injunction, for killing seven women in 1992. He was executed the day after Montgomery.

President-elect Joe Biden, who will be inaugurated into office in a matter of days, has vowed to work to bring capital punishment to an end –– but despite his promises, the execution of these prisoners couldn’t be prevented.

Trump Opens Habitat of a Threatened Owl to Timber Harvesting

The northern spotted owl species is at a larger threat now after the Trump administration on Wednesday removed millions of acres of of protected land.

The habitat protection plan issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service was a result of a legal settlement with a lumber association that, in 2013 sued the government claiming that 9.5 million acres of land intended to protect the endangered spotted owl, according to The New York Times. A large portion of this land was barred from timber harvesting, which the association argued would result in major economic losses.

Under this new plan, 3.4 million acres spanning across Washington, California and Oregon will be susceptible to deforestation –– a major threat to the species. Initially, only 200,000 acres of critical habitat.

Wildlife biologists spoke out to the decision. Susan Jane Brown, a staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center, a conservation group, said “I’ve gotten several calls from wildlife biologists who are in tears who said, ‘Did you know this is happening? The bird won’t survive this.’”

The species has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. The two main threats to the spotted owl's continued survival are habitat loss and competition from the barred owl, an invasive species native to eastern North America, the federal agency said.

The legislation could likely fall into the hands of the Biden administration to reverse the move. 

Trump EPA Attacks Clean Air, Threatens Future Climate Action

In another environmental attack, the Trump administration has chosen the side of big oil instead of clean air. In a rule made Wednesday, the administration dismantled the Clean Air Act. In this final rule regulating carbon emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants, the Biden administration could be impeded from any future climate action.

“This is a lights-are-shutting-off, last-ditch, heading-out-the-door attempt to trip up climate action by the incoming administration,” says Julie McNamara of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

This rule has determined that “significant” polluters are only those considered to contribute more than 3% of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

McNamara said this past year was tied for the “hottest on record globally”. 

“There is, without question, an urgent need to curtail carbon emissions,” she wrote. “And yet, when confronted with these facts and the staggering costs to come, the Trump administration has once again forsaken the needs of the people it has a duty to protect and chosen instead to advance the interests of polluters.”

She calls the 3% limit an “arbitrary metric” for what is considered a significant source of carbon pollution.

Under the Congressional Review Act, the new rules are reportedly subject to repeal by Congress, but many votes would be needed, the Los Angeles Times reported. According to the paper, the Sierra Club may opt to go to court to overturn at least one Trump effort to roll back an environmental rule.

Trump Administration Passes Up Colorado, Will Move U.S. Space Command to Alabama

Colorado lawmakers are blasting Trump after he moved ahead with changing the location of the 1,400-person U.S. Air Force headquarters to Huntsville, Alabama from its original base at the Peterson Air Force in Colorado.

Moving this location as the permanent space home has left critics upset, calling the decision an “intervention” by Trump, according to Air Force Magazine.

"This last-minute decision, based entirely on political expediency, will devastate our space capabilities," Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado wrote in a statement, according to Politico. "I call on you to use your authority upon taking office as our nation's commoner-in-chief to reverse this foolish and hastily made decision."

"Just as President Trump is leaving office, Colorado was not selected despite reports that it was the Air Force's top choice," Colorado Democratic Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper wrote in a joint statement. "We believe a process based on the merits will keep Space Command in Colorado. There is no role for politics when it comes to our national security."

The Alabama location is known as “Rocket City,” named after the rockets that were launched with astronauts aboard to the moon, according to Politico.

The U.S. Space Command was established by the Pentagon in August 2019 as an initiative to oversee the military’s space troops. Certain states complained that they weren’t given ample consideration for the base's location choice, the outlet reported.

In November, six finalists were announced after several applications from cities in 24 states were submitted. Other finalists included Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska and Joint Base San Antonio in Texas.