Now that 2023 is underway, here are some top political stories for you to watch.
Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action and voting rights
The future of affirmative action in the college admissions application process hangs in the balance in 2023.
Last year, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases: Students for Fair Admissions v. the University of North Carolina and Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. Students for Fair Admissions alleged that the University of North Carolina discriminated against white students and that Harvard discriminated against white and Asian students by giving preferential treatment to students of color. The court is slated to render a decision sometime this year.
The court of last resort will also rule on a case that threatens voting rights for Black Americans. In October 2022, the Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in a lawsuit examining whether Alabama’s congressional redistricting plan violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
According to NPR, Alabama’s congressional map includes seven districts, however, only one is majority Black, while the remaining districts have a white majority population. As a result, the plaintiffs in the case argue that Black voters are disadvantaged while white voters have the option to cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice.
The Supreme Court heard a similar redistricting case in North Carolina in December that could have lasting implications on voting rights and the power of state legislatures.
The fate of student loans hangs in the balance
This year, student loan borrowers are facing uncertainty as it pertains to the Biden-Harris administration’s loan forgiveness program.
In August 2022, President Joe Biden announced that individuals who make less than $125,000 a year or couples who make less than $250,000 annually are eligible for up to $20,000 in student debt relief if they received a Pell Grant and non-Pell Grant borrowers are eligible for up to $10,000.
Shortly after borrowers began applying for student loan debt relief, rulings from federal judges in two cases halted the relief program.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments in either late February or early March on whether the Biden-Harris administration has the authority to broadly cancel student loan debt. The high court is slated to release a ruling this summer.
The role of Vice President Harris in an expanded Democratic-majority in the Senate
Vice President Kamala Harris will no longer serve as a tie-breaking vote in the Senate thanks to Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, who defeated his Republican challenger Herschel Walker in the state’s runoff Election last month.
Although Democrats now hold the majority in the Senate 51-49, there is a chance that Harris may still have to participate in senatorial affairs. According to the Associated Press, the vice president may have to speak up in the event a senator is absent.
Not being tied to Washington to serve as a tie-breaking vote, however, will allow Harris to travel across the country more freely to do the work of the Biden-Harris administration.
The outcome of Fulton County’s Fani Willis’ investigation of Donald Trump
A special grand jury is expected to release a report of its findings in an investigation on whether then-President Donald Trump interfered with the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia, the Associated Press reported.
Last year, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis appointed a special grand jury to investigate Trump after she discovered he made several claims of voter fraud and placed a call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan 2, 2020, requesting that he “find 11,780” votes to secure Trump’s presidential victory. Fulton County, which is predominantly Black and voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden, was one of the counties targeted by the Trump campaign to overturn the election results.
Based on the findings, Willis will then decide whether to have a grand jury announce charges against the former president.
Hakeem Jeffries to become next leader of Democratic Party
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., is slated to replace House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Congress’ next session.
According to NPR, Pelosi announced last month that she would not run for re-election but would remain in Congress. The California political icon held her position as House speaker since 2019 and previously from 2007 to 2011.
Jeffries’ promotion to Democratic leader, and by proxy the next speaker of the House if Democrats win back the majority in 2024, is monumental because he is the first African-American to lead the party.
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