Jul 1, 2022 - Podcasts

The Supreme Court closes out a controversial term

The Supreme Court issued its last two decisions of the term yesterday – including one that curbs the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate climate emissions. It was a blow to the Biden administration's efforts to combat global warming.

  • Plus: the Supreme Court gives President Biden a win on immigration.
  • And: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in, becoming the first Black woman on the nation's highest court.

Guests: Axios' Stef Kight and Andrew Freedman.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Erica Pandey, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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ERICA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Friday July 1st. I’m Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo. Today: the supreme court gives President Biden a win on immigration, and takes away EPA power over climate change. Plus, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in. The supreme court closes out a controversial term…that’s our one big thing.

ERICA: The Supreme Court issued its last two decisions of the term yesterday, including one that curbs the Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate climate emissions. It was a major blow to the Biden Administration's efforts to combat global warming and the implications of the decision go beyond just the EPA. Here to explain is Andrew Freedman, climate reporter for Axios. First off, what does this decision actually change in terms of what the EPA can and can't do?

ANDREW FREEDMAN: So this decision actually concerns regulations that weren't in effect right now. It reviewed a plan that President Obama had put in place called the Clean Power Plan, which basically regulated all power plants in the country and tried to move them from fossil fuels to cleaner technology. So basically the court reviewed fundamental questions about what the EPA can and can't do under the Clean Air Act as made clear by Congress. On the climate change front this makes it much harder for the United States to meet its own targets because power plants are the number two source of emissions in the United States behind transportation. So if you can regulate them in one fell swoop with the national program under the EPA and bring those emissions down in sort of a top down way, then you're well on your way to meeting your target. Now though, they can't, so they have to come up with a solution power plant by power plant and figure out a way that is gonna satisfy the outline, you know, that the court put forward.

ERICA: What kind of impacts might we see locally on the ground, in the future as a result of this decision yesterday?

ANDREW: You know, tomorrow, and the next day, Erica, nothing's gonna change as a result of this ruling that anybody can see. So there's no community that's gonna be heavily impacted by this in terms of having a power plant suddenly switch on that was off or something like that. But The United States is the second largest emitter in the world. So for us to potentially not meet our 2030 targets it doesn't look good on the world stage, gives us less credibility, less leadership potential, and that does affect people all over the world in the form of worsened climate change impacts.

ERICA: And this ruling goes beyond just the EPA, right? I mean, how does it impact federal agencies more generally?

ANDREW: So this ruling could be what I would refer to as a gateway ruling, right? The reasoning that was spelled out suggests that the court is going to take a much narrower view of the authority of federal agencies writ large. This could affect SEC regulations on financial disclosure for climate change. This could affect FTC regulations. This could affect the FCC.

ERICA: How does Biden change his climate agenda in response to this?

ANDREW: You know, it could have been much more sweeping and a much bigger setback for the Biden administration Because it could have overturned EPAs ability to regulate greenhouse gasses completely. And it did not do that. And so they're gonna try to figure out a workaround, but it's a little bit unclear how they're gonna meet their targets. And when you ask officials, the answers we're getting back now suggest that they don't think they're gonna meet them.

ERICA: Andrew Friedman is a climate reporter for Axios and co-author of the Generate Newsletter. Thanks, Andrew.

ANDREW: Thanks for having me.

In a moment, what the supreme court’s Remain in Mexico decision means for U.S. asylum seekers.


ERICA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo. In its last decision of the term, the Supreme Court finally gave President Biden a win and paved the way for his administration to end the so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy. That's a Trump-era immigration policy that forced tens of thousands of asylum seekers to wait out their immigration court cases in Mexico. Axios’ Stef Kight joins us now with the details on this decision. Hey Stef.


ERICA: Stef, catch us up on what this policy was and how it got to the Supreme Court?

STEF: Yeah, so this was a policy initially implemented by President Trump, which impacted about 70,000 migrants who were sent back to Mexico to wait out their asylum immigration court hearings. Um, and this is a policy that the Biden Administration ended pretty early on in Biden's presidency. It was one of President Biden's biggest campaign promises to end the Remain in Mexico policy. And that's something he followed through on only to have lawsuits and eventually court decisions force him to restart the program in December. And since then, there have been about 6,000 people who have been placed in this restarted program.

ERICA: Can you tell me just a little bit about why, those who want this policy to end wanted it to end? What was the consequences of it?

STEF: A lot of immigration advocates and Democrats have continued to point to concerns that the policy put a lot of migrants in danger, both to their physical health and their mental health. I recently reported a, a very sad situation where, where one woman who was returned to Mexico to wait out her immigration hearings, attempted suicide at one of the shelters in Mexico. She has since been brought to the US and is okay. But there have also been reports of, um, migrants being kidnapped after they're sent back to Mexico. So the general concern is just the safety of migrants who are sent back to Mexico and also ensuring that there is access to asylum in the US.

ERICA: So what did the Supreme Court decision say?

STEF: So the Supreme Court said that the Biden administration did do what was necessary to end the Trump era program, and then set the case back to the lower court. They said that that was actually, that second attempt was good and they needed to actually take a look at it and it should have done everything necessary, um, for the administration to actually end use of this policy.

ERICA: Zooming out a little bit. What effect might this have on the number of migrants at the border if the remain in Mexico policy does come to an end?

STEF: You know, it's hard to know for sure what the impact will be. Of course, the remain in Mexico policy has been used for a couple thousand people who have come across the border since December. But it's important to note that the administration has been relying on a different policy known as Title 42, which also was put in place under the Trump administration to kick back tens of thousands of migrants every month, often back to Mexico or their countries of origin. And so we're seeing the administration really rely on this policy, Title 42, which is also being kept in place due to court orders. And of course we've seen calls from immigration advocates and attorneys and members of Congress saying that Title 42, like Remain in Mexico also needs to go away to give migrants real access to the US asylum system.

ERICA: Stef Kight is a politics reporter. She covers immigration for Axios. Thanks Stef.

STEF: Thanks, Erica.

ERICA: One last moment before we go today:

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON: And then I will faithfully and impartially

STEPHEN BREYER: Discharge and perform.

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON: Discharge and perform.

STEPHEN BREYER: All the duties.


STEPHEN BREYER: Incumbent upon me.

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON: Incumbent upon me.

ERICA: That’s Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson being sworn in yesterday as the 116th justice to the supreme court…and the first Black woman ever to serve there. She is the sixth woman to join the court in its history. She replaces former justice Stepehen Breyer who retired yesterday, and her joining the court does not change its current ideological makeup, which will retain its 6-3 conservative majority when it begins its new term in the fall.

ERICA: And that’s all for us this week – Axios Today is produced by Nuria Marquez Martinez and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineer is Alex Sugiura. Alexandra Botti is our Supervising Producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ Editor In Chief. I’m Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and Niala will be back here with you Tuesday morning.

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