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2020 Daily Trail Markers: 20-state coalition files defense of Obamacare with Supreme Court

Why are Democrats all talking about Obamacare today? On Wednesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, leading a coalition of 20 states and D.C., filed a briefing with the U.S. Supreme Court to defend the Affordable Care Act. CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says this comes after the high court agreed to review an appeals court decision that found the health care law's individual mandate unconstitutional and called into the question whether the law could stand as a whole.

The case originated with a Texas-led effort backed by the Trump administration. Now, as both parties move forward with filings in the Supreme Court, Democrats are sounding the alarm on what has been one of their main talking points during the 2018 midterms and continues to be in the 2020 election: protecting the Affordable Care Act.

"By siding with the Republican Attorneys-General who are seeking to invalidate the ACA in the U.S. Supreme Court, Trump has made clear where his priorities lie. Not with protecting the millions of people who depend on the exchanges for their health coverage. Not with ensuring that more than 100 million people with pre-existing conditions won't be denied coverage or charged more by their insurers. Not with the thousands of Americans who may develop new 'pre-existing conditions' due to their battle with COVID-19. Not with the young people who can now stay on their parents insurance until 26. Not with women, who will no longer be protected against being charged more for their insurance," presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said in a statement. 

"No — Trump has decided he'd rather destroy President Obama's legacy than protect the health care of millions upon millions of Americans," Biden said. His statement was one of many released by Democratic party officials, lawmakers and state leaders as the case moves forward.

Meanwhile, President Trump reiterated support for the Republican-led effort today. "We're not doing anything, we're staying. In other words, we're staying with the group, with Texas and the group," he said in the Oval Office. "Obamacare is a disaster, but we've run it very well. And we've made it barely acceptable," he added. 

In 2017, Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare failed in Congress. President Trump has said on several occasions since that Republicans would unveil their own health care plan, but it has not yet materialized. Now, as the coronavirus strains health care systems across the country, some question whether the entire system needs to be examined, including progressives who've long pushed for "Medicare for All."

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

On Thursday, Biden is taking his presidential campaign to Florida, reports CBS News political correspondent Ed O'Keefe. Well, kind of. He's making "virtual" stops in Jacksonville and Tampa, where he plans to hold discussions with local leaders and a rally, respectively. 

The two events are a first for the Biden campaign as they begin targeting specific swing states ahead of November's election.  Recent polls give Biden a single-digit edge over President Trump in Florida and the stops – or whatever we're calling them – are designed to shore up support in two corners of the state where a Democratic presidential candidate can do well: Jacksonville, which has a large African-American population, and Tampa, which sits at the western edge of the famed I-4 corridor that White House campaigns always target in pursuit of swing voters.

So, what will make these stops distinctly Florida even though Biden will be beaming in from Delaware? Expect a slate of local leaders or political figures to appear before Biden speaks, and there may be some Florida-specific items in Biden's graphics or backdrop, said the aides, who weren't authorized to speak publicly about the matter. 

The events are also the first glimpse at Biden's Florida operations, which have yet to be tested in a big way. Staffers and volunteers are calling, texting and emailing potential supporters urging them to tune into the two events, and aides said the campaign is also spending some money to advertise the event. And we should expect that Biden will also be conducting local television interviews. 

Late last night, Biden commented on the killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, whose death was captured on videoCBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. On Twitter, Biden called for an investigation into Arbery's death, noting it was "clear" that he "was killed in cold blood." 

On Wednesday, Biden was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign saying his "dedication to advancing LGBTQ equality, even when it was unpopular to do so, has pushed our country and our movement forward." 

Dr. Jill Biden also made a foray into her first virtual campaign stops today, Erickson and political unit intern Blythe Edwards report. Dr. Biden first huddled online with Senator Debbie Stabenow and Michigan nurses and then with Representative Brenda Lawrence and the Michigan Democratic Party Black Caucus. Dr. Biden declared that she was "angry" how COVID-19 has disproportionately killed black Americans. Citing the lack of clinics in certain African-American communities, the struggle to pay for food, and the technological gap for some students to e-learn without the adequate resources, Dr. Biden said, "We are seeing that these biases, these injustices…they are deadly. It should make us all angry." 


PRESIDENT TRUMP

President Trump announced today in the Oval Office that his administration will be keeping the coronavirus task force in place "indefinitely" following concerns raised over reports of the group's "winding down."  Mr. Trump told reporters, "I had no idea how popular the task force is, until actually yesterday, when I started talking about winding it down…I'd get calls from very respected people, saying, I think it would be better to keep it going, it's done such a good job. It's a respected task force." 

The president also said his administration will be adding 2 or 3 additional members to the task force with a renewed focus on re-opening the country. "I look forward to when we can close the task force, because then the job will be essentially, hopefully over," Mr. Trump later added. 

CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says the president also remarked that keeping the country on economic shutdown is "not sustainable," calling the coronavirus pandemic, "the worst attack we've ever had." Trump continued, "This is worse than Pearl Harbor. This is worse than the World Trade Center. There's never been an attack like this. And it should have never happened."

GETTING ORGANIZED

GOING DIGITAL

Multiple organizations have been forced to transition political operations to digital platforms in response to COVID-19. As many down ballot candidates make the virtual transition, CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that the political action committee EMILY's List announced Wednesday that it has added new lessons to its online training center in an effort "to help women candidates adopt digital strategies in their campaigns." 

EMILY's List Training Center was launched in 2018 and has since provided tools to teach pro-Democratic women who are running for office how to run a successful campaign. "As pro-choice Democratic women push for progress and protection in some of our most vulnerable communities, we are committed to helping them run up and down the ballot," said EMILY's List president Stephanie Schriock in a press release statement. 

"Paired with our online trainings, the Training Center's newest lessons will ensure our women continue to lead strong campaigns." According to EMILY's List, the 10 new lessons help identify best digital practices to use for digital organizing, web development and digital ads. 

CBS News recently reported that political digital teams across the country are trying to adapt to the new reality during the pandemic. Schriock said in her statement that their team is doing the same. "The power of EMILY's List is that our community is strong and we are all working together to adjust to the unexpected transitions from the COVID-19 pandemic."

PROGRESSIVE PRAISE

Today the Progressive Turnout Project (PTP) announced a slate of 101 endorsements ahead of the 2020 election including former Vice President Joe Biden, 16 current senators and challengers running for the Senate and 84 House candidates. 

The grassroots-funded political action committee told CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice its bottom line is to get Democrats to the polls. 

"We want to win a majority and we want to take back the White House, so we prioritized the White House, we prioritized winning back the Senate and retaining the majority in the House," said Executive Director Alex Morgan. 

Morgan told CBS News the PAC is focusing on battleground races where it can make the most difference, but because access to the ballot is core to its mission, the group is also concentrating on a slate of candidates who support legislation focused on voting access like the For the People Act and the Voting Rights Advancement Act. 

"Having someone at the top of the ticket being outspoken about those issues is really crucial," Morgan said of Biden.

As part of its mission to get people to the polls, PTP is investing more than $52 million to knock on more than 10 million doors and get out the vote in 17 presidential and Senate battleground states. And despite the coronavirus' has people homebound for now, that plan has not changed. 

The organization already hired all of its district leadership positions in February, including about 115 people who would be opening offices and training staff in 17 states. It's opening offices, buying supplies, and setting up the technology needed by its teams. 

At the same time, all trainings are being conducted via Zoom.  While there are still questions about when people will be heading out and knocking on doors, PTP is talking about ordering face masks and hand sanitizer. 

"We're talking about pre-packaging," Morgan said. "Normally we would hand someone a clipboard. We are not going to do that this cycle because we don't want to exchange things back and forth." 

Morgan emphasized the group is also keeping a close eye on stay-at-home orders and will not be going door-to-door until it gets the local go-ahead. 

In addition the group has launched an effort called Turnout 2020, which is a virtual phone banking program. Through that program, millions of supporters on their email list who were going to travel to engage with voters could still volunteer. 

Some staff have also shifted their attention to making calls to battleground states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona to remind voters that they can sign up to vote-by-mail online in November. 

"We've been calling voters and walking them through that process," said Morgan. "You know, while everybody is at home to say, 'hey, this is a really good action you can take right now to ensure you get a ballot and can cast your vote this November regardless of what happens.'"

ISSUES THAT MATTER

GUN CONTROL

While the pandemic has transformed and curbed the fundraising scene dramatically, the Brady PAC, a sister organization of the Brady gun control advocacy group, has actually seen an increase in fundraising and interest. Brian Lemek, executive director of Brady PAC, told CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro Brady PAC has raised $1 million so far in the year, and based off the activity in the past two months, has doubled its election cycle fundraising goal to $5 million. 

Lemek said there are two factors mainly spurring grassroots support: the images of some state capitol protesters bringing their assault-style weapons, and the type of "panic purchasing" of firearms in states where gun shops have been deemed "essential." 

To the Brady PAC, the "panic purchasing" at gun shops highlights the issue of improper use and storage of weapons in the home. "They're introducing this element to their home and because they're new gun owners and because perhaps they aren't able to go to the range for practice or get more familiar with the weapon, it's being mishandled and it could be used to harm those in their homes," he said. 

Like many groups and campaigns, Lemek said at the onset of the pandemic, the group was preparing to "batten down the hatches" in anticipation of a downturn in fundraising. 

"We never for a moment, thought that that COVID would tie back to guns. But the collective movement is outraged... it's brought this attention we never imagined that we would have, with it being a virus, to the issue. And the grassroots network has been incredibly responsive," he said. 

With its funds, the group is looking to help boost both incumbents and candidates.  On Tuesday it  endorsed one House Democrat challenger, 11 House Democrat incumbent "Frontliners" and two Senate candidates: Barbara Bollier in Kansas and Theresa Greenfield in Iowa. 

STATE-BY-STATE

MICHIGAN

Republican legislative leaders in Michigan announced a lawsuit challenging Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer's emergency powers after she extended Michigan's state of emergency through May 28th last week, according to CBS News campaign reporters Jack Turman and Adam Brewster. 

The lawsuit, which was filed in the Michigan Court of Claims, argues that Whitmer has violated the separation of powers in her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"She has chosen to regulate every aspect of nearly 10 million lives with no consent or input from the people's representatives, whose assistance the Governor publicly disdains," the court filing says. 

Republicans are challenging Whitmer's executive authority under an emergency powers law from 1945 and the Emergency Management Act of 1976. The 1945 law does not mention that a governor needs legislative approval to issue "reasonable orders," but Republicans are arguing that the law does not pertain to statewide pandemics, but instead "applies only to geographically limited, civil disturbance-like emergencies."  

The Emergency Management Act of 1976 does note an extension to a state of emergency requires legislative approval. Because the legislature did not extend the state of emergency at the end of April, Republican legislators argue that Whitmer does not have emergency powers under the 1976 law. 

Whitmer has cited both laws for giving her the ability to enact a state of emergency and issue executive orders related to COVID-19. Tiffany Brown, a spokesperson for Whitmer, said that Whitmer will not be distracted by this lawsuit and will continue to make decisions based on data and guidance from medical experts. 

"This lawsuit is just another partisan game that won't distract the governor," Brown said in a statement. "Her number one priority is saving lives. She's making decisions based on science and data, not political or legal pressure."

NEW YORK

A federal judge restored the New York Democratic presidential primary, ruling Tuesday that its cancellation by the New York State Board of Elections last month was unconstitutional. CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga and political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson report the order from U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres returns all qualifying presidential candidates — including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders — to the primary ballot and mandates that the election must take place June 23, as previously scheduled.  

Last month, New York state — the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic — took the unprecedented step of canceling its presidential primary, citing coronavirus concerns. Tuesday's opinion followed a legal challenge filed by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and a group of delegates aiming to reverse the cancellation. 

Lawyers for Sanders and Yang presented arguments in Manhattan Monday. "If all but one of the presidential candidates are removed from the ballot and the primary is not held, Delegate Plaintiffs will be deprived of the opportunity to compete for delegate slots and shape the course of events at the Convention, and voters will lose the chance to express their support for delegates who share their views," Judge Torres wrote in her ruling, adding, "The loss of these First Amendment rights is a heavy hardship."

The New York Board of Elections originally voted to remove candidates who have suspended their campaigns from the primary ballot under an obscure provision entered into the state budget signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in April. That decision said Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, would receive all the 274 pledged delegates. That is no longer the case.  

The Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic National Committee is meeting on May 12 to discuss what to do with delegates of states who have moved their primaries past the designated window in the party's rules. According to the rules, states must hold primaries by June 9, and all delegates must be elected by June 20. While states may request a waiver, it must be ultimately approved by the Rules and Bylaws Committee.

OHIO

A little over a week after Ohio's vote-by-mail primary concluded, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is proposing voting reforms ahead of future elections. In a fact sheet from the Secretary of State's office, some of the reforms include allowing voters to request an absentee ballot online, providing pre-paid postage envelopes in order for voters to mail in their ballots and moving the absentee ballot request deadline to the Tuesday before election day. 

The current deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot is three days before election day, which "creates a likelihood that voters will not receive their ballot on time," according to the fact sheet. Aaron Ockerman, the executive director of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, a bipartisan organization that represents the county boards of elections and their employees, told CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman that the association is supportive of LaRose's proposals. 

Ockerman added that the reforms are "common sense" and he hopes the reforms will be seriously considered by Ohio's legislature before the legislature recesses for the summer.

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE SENATE

Rep. Joe Kennedy's Senate campaign has debuted its first ad of the campaign, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. The new ad called "Lead" will start running Thursday in the Boston, Springfield, Rhode Island, and Albany media markets on broadcast, cable, Spanish-language, streaming services, and digital platforms, according to the Kennedy campaign. Kennedy already has an active virtual campaign for the Senate race including bi-weekly "Kennedy Evening Broadcasts," "Weekly Wednesday Q&A," and live social media check-ins. 

Kennedy is competing in the primary on September 1 against incumbent Senator Ed Markey.

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