Mitch McConnell Says He’d Go After Supreme Court Vacancy In 2020: ‘We’d Fill It’

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The Senate majority leader blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination during the Obama administration in 2016, purportedly because it was an election year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he would work to fill any Supreme Court vacancy in 2020, an election year, despite his efforts to scuttle Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the bench for that very reason in 2016.

“Uh, we’d fill it,” McConnell said in response to an audience question during an event at the Paducah Chamber of Commerce in Kentucky on Tuesday afternoon. The lawmaker issued a small smile during his answer as guests in the room laughed.

He continued: “The reason I started with the judges ... I mean, if you want to have a long-lasting positive impact on a country, everything else changes.”

McConnell’s office did not immediately reply to HuffPost’s request for clarification of his remarks.

The senator’s comments are notable, given his rhetoric during the final months of former President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House. McConnell refused to hold any debate on Garland, Obama’s nominee to fill the vacancy created by the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, saying no one should be considered until after that year’s presidential election.

Filling the vacancy on the court ultimately fell to President Donald Trump, who named Justice Neil Gorsuch to the bench.

McConnell has shifted his story in recent months, saying in an interview with Fox News last October that he didn’t want to “destroy” Garland, but was following “tradition in America.”

“If you have ... a Senate of a different party than the president, you don’t fill a vacancy created in a presidential year,” McConnell told Fox News host Chris Wallace. “That went all the way back to 1888.”

At the time, he declined to say if he would confirm a Supreme Court nomination in 2020 if Trump were in the midst of a reelection battle.

In an interview with The New York Times earlier this year, McConnell called his blocking of Garland the most important thing he’d done in his political career, saying: “I think the most consequential call I made was before President Trump came to office.”

“The decision not to fill the Scalia vacancy,” the senator said. “I think that’s the most consequential thing I’ve ever done.”

McConnell echoed those sentiments on Tuesday and said he hoped his efforts to overhaul America’s judiciary will make a lasting mark on the country’s history.

“What can’t be undone is a lifetime appointment to a young man or woman who believes in the quaint notion that the job of a judge is to follow the law,” McConnell said during the event. “So that’s the most important thing that we’ve done for the country, which cannot be undone.”



Tamron Hall Says She Kept Her Pregnancy At 48 A Secret Because She Was ‘Terrified’

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Many women could relate to the former “Today” host’s reasons for keeping her pregnancy a secret for 32 weeks.

Tamron Hall, who surprised fans when she announced she was 32 weeks pregnant with her first child in March, has opened up about why she kept her pregnancy a secret for so long.

And it’s for reasons that many women could relate to.

The former NBC “Today” host, 48, told People in an exclusive interview for its June cover story that the thought of publicly announcing her pregnancy “terrified” her for multiple reasons.

“I was terrified I would lose this baby and I would have to go back and tell everyone that now it was bad news, and after this pregnancy had gone so far,” the broadcast journalist and TV host said.

She added: “I just wasn’t mentally prepared to deal with that. ... That’s why I waited. And trust me – if I could’ve gone the whole way to delivery, I would’ve.”

She explained her reasoning for this: “I was high-risk, not just because of my age, but there were other medical factors too.”

Hall also revealed that she looked into fertility treatments in her 30s, which failed, and had an “eye-opening” experience when she tried again in her 40s.

“I knew that the clock was not on my side,” Hall admitted, noting that seeing other women in the waiting room at the fertility clinic reminded her that she wasn’t alone, but that the realization made her more “sad” than “empowered.”

It seems like the past for few years for Hall have been an emotional rollercoaster. In early 2017 Hall and NBC announced her departure from “Today” after news broke that Megyn Kelly would be taking her time slot later that year. Although NBC would eventually cancel “Megyn Kelly Today” in October 2018 after her on-air defense of the use of blackface in Halloween costumes, Hall remembers the pain of losing her job.

She told People that she cried after she left the talk show due to “the reality of fear.”

Anchors Tamron Hall, Billy Bush and Al Roker with Kate McKinnon on “Today” in 2016.
Anchors Tamron Hall, Billy Bush and Al Roker with Kate McKinnon on “Today” in 2016.

Yet, Hall explained to the magazine that because she was no longer consumed by the competitive nature of job, she was able to find love with music executive Steven Greener, who she had known for years, but only began dating after she left NBC.

“The fear factor of ‘What’s going on with my spot? Am I going to keep this job?’ fell away, and I could really see Steven,” Hall said.

The couple got married but kept their relationship private — as well as her journey into motherhood.

Hall explained that although she had found love, trying to figure out where her career would go while trying to conceive was an incredibly frustrating experience. At the time, she said she felt “rejected” and was doing everything wrong, but “Somehow, like Rocky, I kept getting up.”

In September 2018, Hall and ABC Owned Television Stations Group announced a partnership to launch her own syndicated Disney talk show, which will premiere Sept. 9.

And in April, Hall announced the surprise birth of her son, Moses.

“Two and a half years ago when I walked out of that NBC building,” Hall recalled to People, “I was in a fog, not knowing that so many of us lose things we think are important, and we have no idea that something better is right there.”




Thirty-Two Black Women Make History at West Point

They will become the largest class of Black women to graduate from the academy in its 217-year history.

Congrats are in order for the 32 cadets who will make history as the largest class of Black women to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Pointin its 217-year existence, Because of Them We Can reports.

The women celebrated their upcoming graduation with a traditional Old Corps photo shoot.

Cadet Tiffany Welch-Baker opened up about inspiring the next generation of military leaders during an interview with Because of Them We Can. “My hope when young Black girls see these photos is that they understand that regardless of what life presents you, you have the ability an fortitude to be a force to be reckoned with,” she said.

She discussed her journey at West Point and finding comfort with her peers. “In just a short while I met so many cadets that looked like me, and that offered me some comfort. I have been so fortunate to have my sisters in arms, we have been fortunate to have each other.”

Though West Point was established in 1802, women were not allowed to enroll until 1976.

Over the past few years, the academy has made strides toward inclusion, boasting several historic firsts. Last year, Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams became the academy’s first Black superintendent. Two years ago, Cadet Simone Askew became the first Black woman named First Captain of the Corps of Cadets at West Point.



As Employment Rises, African American Transplants Ride Jobs Wave To The South

Sam Smith, Brittany Smith and their daughter Erelah outside their Charlotte home. The Smiths moved to Charlotte looking for change and opportunity. They are part of an influx of African Americans to Mecklenburg County, where the African American population has ballooned by 64% since 2000.

Swikar Patel for NPR

Brittany Smith grew up mostly in Detroit, earning a master's degree in public health from the University of Michigan. But when she and her then-boyfriend, Sam, began their careers, they ran into roadblocks. It was 2013, and Detroit was still struggling from the effects of the Great Recession. Sam Smith couldn't find full-time work. His job as a college career counselor wrapped when the campus where he worked shut down.

They began looking for an out.

"We were looking at what cities are growing for young professionals, and Charlotte was always one of the top five," says Smith, now 32.

So they picked up and moved to Charlotte, N.C., where the couple has done well. Two years ago, they bought a custom-built house. They had a daughter, Erelah, who is now 15 months old. Smith just began a new job leading a community outreach team at a health insurance company. She gave up what she calls a dream job at a different health care company because this one pays better and is more challenging. And Sam found work as a university career adviser.

"As much as I love Detroit ... I was looking for a change and more opportunity," Smith says. "And we received some great ones here in Charlotte."

Brittany Smith and her daughter at their home. The family has flourished in Charlotte. Two years ago, Smith and her husband bought a custom-built house and both found new work opportunities.

Swikar Patel for NPR

The Smiths are part of an influx of African Americans to Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located. The African American population here has ballooned by 64% since 2000. Some people come from neighboring counties in North and South Carolina, but thousands are from Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Illinois, according to Chuck McShane, vice president of business analytics at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance.

The recovery from the Great Recession has in some ways led to a tiny reversal of the Great Migration.

Other cities in the South also are attracting large numbers of African American newcomers, including Houston; Atlanta; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Columbia, S.C., according to David Harshbarger of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

Throughout much of the 20th century, millions of African Americans left the South to escape racial discrimination, oppression and lack of opportunity, says demographer Jessica Barron of the Frontline Solutions consulting firm in Durham, N.C. They headed toward industrial cities such as Chicago, Detroit and New York for work.

"Opportunities for black folks — the South and that have never been in the same sentence," Barron says.

"That's why we got the Harlem Renaissance and Chicago blues. ... These are all a part of the story of the first Great Migration," Barron says.

The Smith family's neighborhood in Charlotte.

Swikar Patel for NPR

But now there are new job opportunities in the South. Over the years, as manufacturing has dried up in the Rust Belt, services, tech and finance industries have grown in Southern cities. Some African Americans have started heading back South, a move that dovetails with plentiful job opportunities and more affordable housing.

Barron says migrants tend to arrive with higher education and a broader network of connections than African Americans who remained in places such as North Carolina for generations. Smith, for example, found her job through a business contact.

Upwardly mobile African Americans are benefiting from a job market that for the past two years has been the best ever. Unemployment for African Americans is at 6.7%, and last year it was even lower, marking the lowest rate since the U.S. government began tracking that measure in the 1970s.

Despite what seems like boom times for African Americans, gaps remain. The low black unemployment rate is still more than double that of white Americans. And in Charlotte, which has seen eight years of job growth, the benefits are also uneven.

"As the tide has risen here, it has not lifted all boats equally," says Charlotte historian Tom Hanchett, author of Sorting Out The New South City and former staff historian of the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte.

Tom Hanchett, a former staff historian at the Levine Museum of the New South, says decades of segregation and redlining have given African Americans in Charlotte fewer opportunities to buy homes and build wealth.

Swikar Patel for NPR

He says decades of segregation and redlining have given African Americans in the city fewer opportunities to buy homes and build wealth. Wealthy newcomers are putting upward pressure on housing prices. And African Americans who lived in the city center are being pushed out to the margins as millennials with higher incomes choose to live in the same neighborhoods.

"This is happening in every American city, and it's happening very quickly," Hanchett says. "And nobody has their arms around it. It's not a centralized, planned thing in any way, and people are trying to figure it out."

In Charlotte, many African Americans work in industries such as hospitality and retail, where wages have stagnated. That mirrors the national trend, where wages have grown more slowly for them than any other group.

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The city is trying to fix that gap by issuing a $50 million bond to promote affordable housing, and initiating new programs to give local workers the skills they need for jobs in finance and technology. But change is slow.

Don Thomas is on the front lines of that change. In Chicago, he and his wife Monica worked with children in the juvenile justice system until funding for their jobs ended. In Charlotte, he is the community impact director at Leading on Opportunity, an organization devoted to improving economic mobility in the city.

Don Thomas moved to Charlotte from Chicago. He's now the community impact director at Leading on Opportunity, an organization devoted to improving economic mobility.

Swikar Patel for NPR

The couple bought a home in the Mint Hill suburb. It sits on a half-acre, where their three children and family dog can run around and play freely.

In Chicago, Thomas says, he worried about his children's safety, especially after he lost a friend in a shooting.

"The gun violence started to come closer to where we were living," Thomas says. Charlotte feels safer, he says.

Still, the efforts of Charlotte officials and idealistic newcomers can only go so far.

Nicole Muse-Dennis has met some of these new arrivals at Sydney's Martini and Wine Bar, where she is a manager at night. By day, she teaches special education.

"I'm what I call over-employed," she says. "I have two jobs and I'm still just trying to make it."

Nicole Muse-Dennis (center) has two jobs. By day she's a school teacher, and by night a manager at a bar in Charlotte.

Swikar Patel for NPR

Muse-Dennis says raising two daughters as a single mom on a teacher's salary has forced her into a 65-hour workweek.

On a Friday morning, she wakes up at 5 a.m. and walks her dog in the dark before hurrying her daughter to school for a class trip. She grabs an energy drink named Full Throttle on her way out of the house as she braces for a 40-minute drive to work.

"The hard part is just making sure I get up, actually get up in the morning," she says. "Then making sure I can actually drive there."

Muse-Dennis talks to her daughter Loralyn Dennis, 10, as they wait for school to open. Muse-Dennis says raising two daughters as a single mom on a teacher's salary has forced her into a 65-hour workweek.

Swikar Patel for NPR

Muse-Dennis owns her townhouse in a middle-class neighborhood called University City. The value of her home has increased in recent years, but her taxes also have inched up.

As Muse-Dennis strains to make a living, Brittany Smith, the Detroit transplant, is not as overextended. Smith and her husband both work good-paying jobs they love, and they have one child. But Smith says she's lucky. She's the first in her family to go to college.

"Here I am, a transplant ... and I've taken advantage of all these opportunities," Smith says, while feeding her daughter Erelah a pouch of organic sweet potatoes."Now some of it may be due to I have an education and same for my husband, but also it made ... my husband and I ... look at ways we can help bridge the gap."

The structural issues that keep many African Americans unemployed or underpaid are difficult to fix. But a strong economy opens more paths to success for the Smith family and millions of other African Americans who are starting new lives in the South.

The Smith family playing in their Charlotte home. Brittany Smith and her husband both have good-paying jobs. She says she's lucky. She's the first in her family to go to college.

Harriet Tubman $20 bill won’t be released next year, Mnuchin says

Treasury secretary denies he is scrapping the design entirely

The new $20 bill featuring a portrait of Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist who guided many slaves to freedom, won’t be unveiled in 2020 as has previously been scheduled, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday.

Mnuchin, who has generally avoided the issue since taking office, was pressed for an update on the status of the new design during a House Financial Services Committee hearing.

Under questioning, Mnuchin said the new $20 bill will now not come out until 2028.

The Tubman design was announced by the Obama administration in 2016 after a public poll that drew lots of attention.

President Donald Trump has never seemed at ease with the Tubman design. He called it an example of political correctness and suggested the image should be on a $2 bill instead.

Mnuchin denied that he was scrapping the Tubman design entirely. Rather, he said he was focused solely on the security features of the currency revamp and that what the currency would look like would be left for a successor.

“It is not a decision that is likely to come until way past my term,” Mnuchin said.

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