Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that it's unconstitutional for the government to permit certain robocalls but ban others based on who's doing the calling and for what purpose.

Why it matters: The ruling leaves existing restrictions on robocalls in place and ends a recent exemption from them, rather than opening the floodgates to more.

Details: The court said Congress violated the Constitution in passing a 2015 amendment to the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the law that places limits on the use of robocalls. That 2015 change exempted callers that are collecting debts owed to the U.S. government, such as federal student and housing loans.

  • That was tantamount to a speech test, favoring "debt-collection speech over plaintiffs’ political speech," said Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the court.
  • The plaintiffs were representing political consultants who wanted the justices to make broader exceptions to TCPA's ban on robocalls so that political campaigns, pollsters and the like could more easily make such calls to Americans, including on their mobile phones.
  • But the court didn't do that — instead, it left TCPA intact, aside from striking down the 2015 exemption.

The bottom line: With the highest court establishing an all-or-nothing precedent in its treatment of robocalls as speech, lawmakers looking to make TCPA's robocall rules more effective will likely have to think bigger than placing narrow, content-based restrictions or exemptions.

Go deeper: Robocallers make First Amendment case at the Supreme Court

Go deeper

Sep 21, 2020 - Health

If Trump replaces Ginsburg, the ACA really is at risk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Supreme Court vacancy created by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death leaves the Affordable Care Act in much greater jeopardy than it was just a few days ago.

The big picture: Conventional wisdom had held that Chief Justice John Roberts would likely join with the court’s liberals to save the ACA once again. But if President Trump is able to fill Ginsburg’s former seat, Roberts’ vote alone wouldn’t be enough to do the trick, and the law — or big sections of it — is more likely to be struck down.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Updated Sep 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Democrats' Armageddon option

A makeshift memorial outside the Supreme Court yesterday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Furious Democrats are considering total war — profound changes to two branches of government, and even adding stars to the flag — if Republicans jam through a Supreme Court nominee then lose control of the Senate.

On the table: Adding Supreme Court justices ... eliminating the Senate's 60-vote threshold to end filibusters ... and statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico. "If he holds a vote in 2020, we pack the court in 2021," Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) tweeted.

Biden to Senate GOP after RBG passing: "Please follow your conscience"

Joe Biden made a direct appeal to Senate Republicans in a speech addressing the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, urging them to "cool the flames that have been engulfing our country" by waiting to confirm her replacement until after the election.

The state of play: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said soon after the news of Ginsburg's death that President Trump's nominee would get a vote on the Senate floor.

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