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SCOTUS Could Take Up 2 Mass. Gun Laws

There is little consensus on anything in Washington — including what COVID-19-related workplace precautions federal officials should take to protect themselves and others. The Senate will return on Monday. The House will not. And the Supreme Court will phone it in — literally. I, for one, have my own social distancing policy.

Supreme Court To Ponder Taking Up Mass. Gun Rights Cases

In this March 16 photo, people walk outside the Supreme Court in Washington. (Patrick Semansky/AP)
In this March 16 photo, people walk outside the Supreme Court in Washington. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Justice Brett Kavanaugh says it’s time for the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify its previous gun rights rulings — and a challenge to Massachusetts’ public-carry law could give them the chance to do that.

On Friday, the justices will hold their regular conference — by phone — to consider adding cases to next term’s docket. Up for consideration: a challenge to the state’s law governing licenses to carry firearms outside the home. That law allows local authorities to make applicants demonstrate the need to carry a gun because they have “good reason to fear injury to the applicant or the applicant’s property.”

That case, as well as a challenge to the state’s assault weapons and ammunition ban, had been put on hold by the court while it considered a New York public-carry case. On Monday, the court dismissed the New York case as moot because the law had already been repealed.

In a concurring opinion, Kavanaugh said he shared a concern also expressed in Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent “that some federal and state courts may not be properly applying Heller and McDonald” — two cases that upheld individuals’ Second Amendment right to own handguns.

“The Court should address that issue soon, perhaps in one of the several Second Amendment cases with petitions for certiorari now pending before the Court,” Kavanaugh wrote. Hours later, the Massachusetts cases were back on the court’s conference list. The court could announce whether it will take up the Massachusetts cases as soon as Monday. In total, there are 10 gun control cases from across the U.S. on the list for the court to consider.

Neal Says He’ll ‘Insist’ On State, Local COVID-19 Aid

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., is questioned by reporters as lawmakers work on a coronavirus aid package, at the Capitol in Washington on March 13. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., is questioned by reporters as lawmakers work on a coronavirus aid package, at the Capitol in Washington on March 13. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Rep. Richard Neal, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee and has the ear of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, told mayors across the country that he’ll demand inclusion of state and local aid in the next big coronavirus relief package.

“We are going to insist, on our side, that this package include direct assistance to all of you,” Neal told the mayors of Pittsburgh, Columbia, South Carolina, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Dayton, Ohio and Arlington, Texas on a video call yesterday.

Neal's comments came days after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walked back a suggestion that states file for bankruptcy instead of receiving federal aid — despite state and local officials' collective request for $750 billion in federal assistance to respond to the coronavirus crisis. President Trump and Mnuchin have expressed public support for providing some form of state and local government relief.

Neal also noted that states and some localities are required by law to balance their budgets, which leaves them no financial breathing room.

“It is nonsensical to consider, at a time when we are going to need police and fire and health care workers and those on the front lines, that because you have to meet statutory guidelines as to budgetary matters, that you would be simultaneously sending out layoff notices,” Neal told the mayors.

Neal said Mnuchin, who he speaks with frequently, has also signaled support for moving forward with infrastructure legislation — despite comments from McConnell that infrastructure is off the table.

By the way, I joined On Point this week to talk about the battle over state and local aid. Check it out here.

Lawmakers Push Hazard Pay For Workers

Lawmakers from New England said a $600 hazard payment to front-line health care workers, first responders and other employees who face specific risk from the coronavirus must be included in the next round of congressional relief.

“One of the ideas that I suggested was to take the existing unemployment system where we would provide another $600 benefit [from federal funds for hazard payments],” Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline said on a Zoom call with Reps. Katherine Clark and Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Annie Kuster of New Hampshire.

“There are other proposals for direct [hazard pay] payments to front-line employees,” that lawmakers will consider, Cicilline added.

Clark, who last week joined a letter from lawmakers to House leaders calling for hazard pay, child care funding and other measures to be included in the bill, said lawmakers are looking for “comprehensive” relief for front-line workers.

“We are taking a holistic approach, and hazard pay is certainly part of it,” said Clark, who vice chairs the House Democratic Caucus. “But we have to make sure that every single worker in this country is safe when they go to work.”

4 More Things:

— Warren presses $50 billion child care coronavirus ‘bailout’: Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and 28 other lawmakers to demand Senate leadership include $50 billion in additional funding for child care in the next round of relief. "While the $3.5 billion for child care included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was an important first step in helping to fund childcare for front-line health care workers and other essential employees, since its passage, we have only learned more about the extent of closures required by this pandemic and the dire situation that childcare providers are in, which necessitates additional relief,” Warren and the lawmakers said in the letter.

— Lynch files bill to boost strategic stockpile transparency: Rep. Stephen Lynch filed a bill that would allow the use of blockchain technology to monitor the availability of supplies in the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) and in each state, in an effort to avoid the crush and confusion that surrounded the early weeks of the pandemic. The bill also provides funding to create state repositories for supplies. “Throughout the COVID-19 crisis we have watched health care providers and centers pushed to their breaking points as they risk their lives to provide vital care to their communities,” Lynch said in a statement. “By adopting a private blockchain system we can verify the status of our biodefense capacity in real-time which will allow us to be better prepared.”

— Markey demands Trump administration require face masks on flights: Sens. Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal wrote to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Alex Azar to demand that they require all airline passengers to wear masks on flights.

— Lawmakers seek disaster relief for Bay State fisheries: Sens. Warren and Markey, along with Reps. Bill Keating and Seth Moulton, wrote to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to demand immediate federal guidance for how fishery participants can access the designated $300 million in disaster assistance funding included in the CARES Act.


WHAT I'M READING

  • ‘Instead Of Coronavirus, The Hunger Will Kill Us.’ A Global Food Crisis Looms. (New York Times)

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"If you think 48,000 suicides is bad, per year, before COVID-19, and 72,000 overdoses is bad before COVID-19, imagine what those numbers are going to look like when you add on top of it the dislocation, the unemployment, the stress, and trauma that we’re going to see.”

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island

Kennedy spoke in an MSNBC interview yesterday to discuss a new initiative he’s helping to launch called the Mental Health & Suicide Prevention National Response to COVID-19. The effort is led by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, a public-private partnership of federal agencies and private sector groups.


PARTING NOTE

This afternoon I’m moderating an online discussion about the 19th Amendment and its legacies, jointly hosted by the Law Library of Congress and the American Bar Association. Join us for the Law Day conversation, “Social Movement Changing America: The Legacies of the 19th Amendment.” The virtual event at 3:30 p.m. is free.

Kimberly Atkins Twitter Senior News Correspondent
Kimberly Atkins is a senior news correspondent for WBUR, covering national political news from Washington, D.C., with a New England focus.

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