July 28, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of July 21

As members discuss ski resorts, bears and rivers, the vice president reminds us why America should be "number one.”

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Pelosi: Don't Tack Expedited Deportations to Border Bill

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday morning that a bill to provide emergency funding for the child migrant crisis at the Southern border should not be tied to changes in a 2008 human trafficking law. “You want to have a separate bill on 2008? Discuss it there. But don’t hold the children hostage to the cosmetics of how tough you are on the border,” Pelosi said at a news conference Friday morning.

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White House Defies Issa, Ignores Subpoena Again

Top White House political adviser David Simas refused again Friday to honor a congressional subpoena, prompting Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to vote to rebuke the administration. The Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 19-14 to reject the White House’s claim that Simas has absolute immunity from a subpoena from Congress.

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McConnell Plans to Testify at EPA Hearing

The EPA plans four public hearings on its proposed “Clean Power Plan” for greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, but none of them are in “coal country” — much to the chagrin of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell said he planned to testify at the hearing in Washington, D.C., and said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was “unmoved” by his personal request to hold at least one of the four listening sessions where coal mining actually happens.

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Boehner 'Hopeful' of Compromise on VA Bill

Amid signs of a collapse on talks to fix the VA health care system, Speaker John A. Boehner said he remains "hopeful" that both chambers can compromise on legislation before the August recess, but blamed a late administration VA funding request for tripping up the talks. “Well, I thought we were making great progress, and frankly, I’m still hopeful that we can get this resolved,” Boehner said Thursday. “But the White House rolls in with a request … not very clearly outlined, no hearings, no nothing and expects us to just add it to this conference report. We’re not going to do that.”

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Boehner: Obama 'AWOL' on Border Crisis

With time running out before the August recess, Speaker John A. Boehner is talking with his colleagues about a supplemental spending package to address the flood of children crossing the border, but put the onus on Democrats and the White House to move in the GOP’s direction. “It’s time for the White House to get their act together,” the Ohio Republican said. “This is a problem of the president's own making. And then he tries to — says he wants to solve the problem, so we that we can stop this influx, but then he changes his mind. We've got a president that's AWOL. And the president ought to get engaged in this if he actually wants something to happen."

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Senate Chairman on VA Talks: 'Any 6th Grader' Knows This is Not Negotiation

Talks on a fix for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care crisis have collapsed, after the lead Senate Democratic negotiator accused the top House GOP negotiator of a “take-it-or-leave-it gambit.” Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., said House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., has signaled he has abandoned talks after calling a noon meeting of the conference committee in an effort to ram a GOP plan through.

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Carnival Cruise Ship Passenger Recounts ‘Horrific’ Incident

Passengers gave harrowing testimony about illness and crime aboard cruise ships at a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Security guards “did everything wrong” and “waited at least 10 minutes to even call for someone to come down and look at my mother’s body to see if she was breathing or not,” said Amanda Butler, whose mother collapsed while on a Carnival cruise while the ship was docked at Grand Cayman Island. The woman, Violet Butler, later died.

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YouTube Star Performs at Taste of Hawaii

YouTube star Aidan James performs on July 23, 2014, at the Taste of Hawaii reception in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building.

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In Reversal, Reid Optimistic on VA Bill

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid predicted Congress would fail to pass a bill to fix the VA health care system, but the Nevada Democrat reversed course Tuesday, saying he "hoped" a bill would be completed before the August recess. "I think the last 24 hours has been quite good," Reid said, referring to conversations with Veterans' Affairs Chairman Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., a member of the conference committee charged with drafting legislation to fix the Department of Veterans Affairs' health care system.

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GOP Leader: Congress on Track to do 'Absolutely Nothing' on Border Crisis

With the White House's emergency funding request for the Southern border in jeopardy, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn on Tuesday added to the increased speculation that Congress would fail to act on the proposal before the August recess. "Unfortunately it looks like we're on a track to do absolutely nothing, which to me is the definition of political malpractice," the Texas Republican said while touting a measure he drafted with Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, changing a 2008 trafficking law to expedite immigration hearings for children.

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With August Recess Looming, Reid Juggles Border, Highway Funding Measures

The Senate might just have too much to do before departing for August recess. But, it is a chamber where "magic" all-too-often occurs on Thursday evenings, and senators might need it come July 31. There's no shortage of big ticket items on the legislative agenda of Majority Leader Harry Reid, including funding for the crisis involving unaccompanied migrant children, stop-gap highway funding and the ongoing issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Reid: 'Clear' Health Care Ruling Will be Overturned

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday echoed the White House's criticism of a federal appeals court ruling, which would restrict the 2010 health care law's subsidies to insurance exchanges formally established by the states, as opposed to those run by the federal government. "Two activist Republican judges sought to undermine a law that was passed in congress — by congress, upheld by the Supreme Court, that is now benefiting millions of Americans," Reid said at his weekly news conference. "It seems clear to me that that decision will be overturned."

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Earnest: WH 'Confident' in Legal Basis for Health Care Law

The White House doubled-down on its support for the 2010 health care law Tuesday, following a federal appeals court ruling that some say could derail the law's success. "You don't need a fancy legal degree to understand that Congress intended for every eligible American to have access to tax credits that would lower their health care costs, regardless of whether it was state officials or federal officials who were running the marketplace," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. "This will work its way through the legal process and we are confident in the legal case that the Department of Justice will be making.”

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Reid Predicts Congress Will Not Pass Bill to Fix VA

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday predicted Congress would fail to pass a fix for the veterans’ health crisis, blaming the GOP for penny-pinching. “We had a big show here, not long ago, where we provided $35 billion to help veterans. We’ve spent trillions of dollars in two wars, unpaid-for by the way. That’s what President [George W.] Bush wanted, and that’s what he got. But now, when we’re being asked to spend a few dollars to take care of these people who have come back in need as our veterans … it looks to me like they’re going to come back with nothing."

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Reid Hammers Republicans for Delay on Border Crisis Funding

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blasted Republicans on Monday while suggesting Congress may fail to pass the White House's emergency funding request to address the influx of child migrants at the Southern border. “We need to get resources to our border patrol agents and others who are caring for these children in central America. We need judges to hear these kids’ cases and decide whether they need protection or need to be sent back home,” Reid said. “The world is watching how this great democracy of ours responds to this crisis.”

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Segs in the City: They're Just Not That Into You

There are things worse than being small, electric and self-balancing in Washington. Like: Being small, electric and self-balancing and having your tour guide's speech regulated in Washington. The most exciting, challenging and significant tour of the capital you could take is the one you take yourself. And if you find a tour company like Segs in the City that can use Segways to self-propel you while you take yourself on the tour, that's just fabulous.

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of July 14

As members discuss bathroom breaks, candy and "The People's Court," Sen. Bill Nelson refuses to yield the Senate floor.

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Pelosi: 'It's Stunning to Me How the Republicans Have Tried to Politicize' Border Crisis

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reaffirmed her support for President Barack Obama's emergency funding request for the child migrant crisis at the Southern border while slamming Republicans at her weekly news conference Thursday. "It's stunning to me how the Republicans have tried to politicize this issue," Pelosi said. "We must act in the best interest ... of the children ... and that means we need the resources to get that job done."

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Reid Lambasts Delays in Confirming US Ambassadors

An international body that’s been responsible for investigating airplane crashes such as Malaysia Airlines MH17 is among the entities lacking a U.S. ambassador. That’s as the crash of the Malaysia Airlines flight in Eastern Ukraine was reported to have had Americans on board and may require an independent investigation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has begun regular complaints about delays in confirming the backlog of State Department nominations. “Right now, there are gaping holes in our nation’s front lines. American embassies all over the world are without their leaders," Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday. “Republicans are abdicating the Senate’s constitutional role to confirm ambassadors.”

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Boehner: 'Israel's Enemies Are Our Enemies'

Following an Israeli ground invasion into the Gaza Strip Thursday, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, reaffirmed his support for Israel while criticizing the White House for its handling of regional terrorists and over its nuclear program negotiations with Iran. "Israel is our friend, and Israel's enemies are our enemies," Boehner said at his weekly news conference. "Republicans remain focused on pushing the White House to do more to counter Iran's support for terrorists.”

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Boehner Losing Optimism on Addressing Border Crisis Before August Recess

Speaker John A. Boehner seems to be losing confidence that Congress can pass legislation addressing the wave of children coming across the border before lawmakers head back to their districts for the August recess. Asked on Thursday during his weekly news conference whether he thought Congress would address the crisis before the recess, Boehner said, “I would certainly hope so, but I don’t have as much optimism as I’d like to have.”

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McCain: Putin Should Pay if Separatists Shot Down Malaysia Airlines Plane

If it's determined that Ukrainian separatists shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed in Eastern Ukraine Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin should face consequences, Sen. John McCain said. The Arizona Republican said it's too early to know exactly what happened to the plane that reportedly crashed near the Russian border. "It's an outrageous and incredible act of terrorism that people [should] be held responsible and not only be people directly responsible, but indirectly," McCain said when asked about reports the plane was shot down. "And if these are ... separatists, which are also Russian, Vladimir Putin should be paying a heavy price. But I am not concluding yet that until we find out all the information."

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State Department Not Attributing Responsiblity for Plane Shot Down in Ukraine

As the White House continues to gather intelligence surrounding a crashed Malaysia Airlines flight that may have been shot down in Eastern Ukraine on Thursday. State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki did not confirm nor deny whether separatists in Ukraine aligned with the Russian government were responsible for the incident.

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House Republican: Obama to Blame for Short-Term Transportation Bill Fix

House Republicans reached back to recent history Tuesday to rebut Democratic critics who blame them for not working on a multi-year transportation authorization bill. Rep. Don Young of Alaska asked why President Barack Obama, at the height of his power in 2009, did not push for a multi-year transportation bill supported by then-Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota.

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House Amendment Could Make D.C. the Nation's Most Permissive Gun Jurisdiction

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., decried a House proposal Wednesday that would effectively wipe out all of the District of Columbia's gun safety laws. "This amendment is being offered by a member who claims, at every turn, to support the principle of local control or local affairs, yet he is using the big foot of the federal government to overturn local laws," Norton said. The amendment was proposed by Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., one of Congress' most outspoken libertarians.

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Senate Confirms Federal Judge 17 Years After Nomination

Roughly 17 years after first being nominated, Ronnie L. White is finally on his way to becoming a federal judge in Missouri. The Senate confirmed White, 53-44, to a seat in the Eastern District of Missouri after limiting debate earlier in the day with 54 affirmative votes, short of the 60 that used to be required for cloture before Democrats used the "nuclear option" in 2013 to effectively change the rules. White's nomination during the Clinton administration eventually fell on a party-line vote in 1999, 45-54. Republicans had the majority in the Senate at that time. Ahead of Wednesday's action, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., called the original vote "a grievous error."

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McConnell: Obama's Healthcare Actions 'Creative,' 'Maddening'

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would not specifically address Speaker John A. Boehner's proposed lawsuit against President Barack Obama on Tuesday, but the Kentucky Republican said Obama had taken a "rather expansive view of his responsibility to faithfully execute the laws." "And he's been particularly creative … with regard to Obamacare ... and it is maddening. I think the best response for the American people might be this fall to change the Senate.”

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McConnell, Cornyn Tout Border Crisis Measure

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, defended a proposed fix to a 2008 trafficking law on Tuesday, which is backed by Cornyn and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas. "I think there's a lot of misunderstanding -- this is not a criminal trial in the context of the OJ Simpson case, this is rather straightforward and simple petition for benefits under the immigration law," Cornyn said, later adding he would not support a "blank check" for the administration. "This problem is growing and a backlash associated with it is growing too."

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Reid Balances Highway, VA and Emergency Funding Bills Before August Recess

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., did not commit to firm timetables Tuesday, but said he "hoped" the Senate would not leave for the August recess before addressing President Barack Obama's $3.7 billion emergency funding request. Reid also defended the Senate's work to address the Highway Trust Fund and the Department of Veterans Affairs, while throwing his support behind the Export-Import Bank reauthorization.

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Reid: Cornyn-Cuellar Bill 'Too Broad,' Border is 'Secure'

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday he would oppose proposed legislation from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, that would revise a 2008 trafficking law at the center of the child migrant crisis on the Southern border. "From all the reports I've gotten on the legislation the answer from me is 'no,' I won't support it," Reid said, later adding the proposal was "too broad; it addresses more than just the border problem."

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Senate Chairman: 'Culture of ESPN' is 'Undermining our Commitment to Education'

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., criticized ESPN at a hearing on the NCAA and student-athletes on Wednesday, saying the network was "undermining our commitment to education." “This country is now so soaked in the culture of ESPN, plus I guess a couple of other stations, and watching football, baseball, world soccer all the rest of it. My own view is it’s undermining our values,” Rockefeller said. “I’ll tell you one thing for sure: I think it’s undermining our commitment to education.”

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of July 7

As members discuss Jesus and car brakes, Rep. Mike Simpson says members need to know when to "shut up."

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Pelosi Still Supports Senate-Passed ENDA Despite Diminishing LGBT Support

As advocacy groups withdraw support for a Senate-passed bill to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination in the workplace, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi signaled Thursday that she was still prepared to support the legislation should it come to the House floor. "I think it would be a great advancement," the California Democrat said at her weekly news conference. "Everybody has to make an accommodation." A coalition of influential LGBT rights organizations jointly pulled endorsements earlier this week of the legislation, partly in protest of the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision. The Senate bill's "conscience clause," they said, is now too bitter a pill to swallow.

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Pelosi: 'It's Totally Irresponsible' for Boehner to Sue Obama

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had stern words for Speaker John A. Boehner's, R-Ohio, developing lawsuit targeting the president Thursday, dismissing the proposed action as "subterfuge" and "totally irresponsible." "It's a distraction," Pelosi said of an intended lawsuit accusing President Barack Obama of overstepping his constitutional authority with the use of executive actions.

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Boehner Says Border Crisis Won't Get 'Blank Check'

One day after President Barack Obama urged Congress to move quickly on a request for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to address the Texas border crisis, Speaker John A. Boehner made it clear the spending supplemental will not be rubber-stamped. "We’re not giving the president a blank check," Boehner said during his weekly press conference Thursday.

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House Passes Social Media Homeland Security Bill

The House passed a bill on Tuesday to establish a social media working group within the Homeland Security Department to provide guidance and recommendations for first responders when terrorist attacks and other emergencies occur. Chairwoman of a House Homeland Security subcommittee Susan W. Brooks, R-Ind., and ranking member Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr., led debate on the bill called the “Social Media Working Group Act.”

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Reid: House GOP 'Kicking Dirt' to Distract Nation With Obama Lawsuit

House Republican leaders are acting like one-time LA Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, "kicking dirt at the umpire" to distract the nation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday morning. The Nevada Democrat torched GOP leaders for pursuing "stunts" such as a lawsuit against President Barack Obama and for spending $3.3 million on the select Benghazi committee. Reid, who also accused House Republicans of blocking a deal to fix the Department of Veterans Affairs, recalled Lasorda's legendary fights with umpires, which he said were often stunts intended to distract from other problems on his team. And he said GOP leaders are doing the same thing.

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Mitch McConnell: It's Clear Thad Cochran Won Mississippi Runoff

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky dismissed allegations from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, of impropriety in the Mississippi Republican primary — but noted it’s an issue for state officials to decide. “I assume the people in Mississippi will look at what ever complaints are filed,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday when asked to comment on Cruz’s call for an investigation in to voter fraud. “That is what typically happens in a post election situation if there are complaints filed they are dealt with at the state level.” “I think it’s pretty clear who won. Sen. [Thad Cochran, R-Miss.,] ran a very successful runoff campaign and got the most votes," McConnell added. "But anybody is entitled to contest the outcome and that may well may happen in Mississippi.”

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Senate Republicans Lament Lack of Amendments

With a packed July work period awaiting the Senate, Republicans on Tuesday called on Majority Leader Harry Reid to refrain from votes to score political points, while Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., called on the Nevada Democrat to reopen the amendment process on the floor. "The House of Representatives this week will pass the sixth appropriations bill," Blunt said at the Senate Republicans weekly news conference. "And they've done that the old fashioned way, also known as the constitutional way, where you bring the bills to the floor, use this long-forgotten process in the Senate called amendments, and let every member bring every amendment they want to bring."

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Hobby Lobby, Immigration Supplemental At Top of Reid's July Agenda

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans a packed July work period with the Senate expected to consider a raft of bills, including a Democratic response to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision and the emergency immigration supplemental spending bill. "We have so much to do this month," Reid said after a meeting with his Democratic colleagues. "At the caucus that I just completed we weren’t able to get through all the issues. So we have to finish our work on Thursday just to talk about them."

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Reid: There is a 'Crisis' at Southern Border

At his weekly news conference Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did not address any Democratic objections to the White House's $3.7 billion emergency spending request for child migrants and wildfires, instead deferring to Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski. "No one has seen any legislative language; Mikulski is going to have a hearing … Thursday. I think we'll know more then," Reid said. "We have to pass emergency supplemental [funding], to provide resources to deal with the crisis at the border, and we do have a crisis at the border."

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What You Missed: An Independence Day Parade in 69 Seconds

When Independence Day rolls around in an election year, it means the Roll Call photojournalists head out to small towns in contested districts across the country to catch candidates and beauty queens marching in their local parades. This year I found myself at the Ripley, W.Va., Fourth of July parade billed as "the USA's Largest Small Town Independence Day Celebration." This is a collection of every frame I shot of the parade, most which never get filed or shown publicly. The music is a recording I captured on my iPhone of local musicians hanging out under a tree. Leo Enoch was on guitar and Leonard Whiting was on banjo. Have a look for yourself as Roll Call presents 623 photos of the parade in 69 seconds.

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The Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game in 3 Minutes

From the opening stretches to Speaker John A. Boehner's slow jam, watch members in all their glory as the Democrats capture their sixth-straight coveted Roll Call trophy 15-6.

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Earnest: 'Constitutional Lawyer in the Oval Office Disagrees' With Hobby Lobby Decision

Congress should act to restore insurance coverage of contraception benefits after Hobby Lobby’s big win in the Supreme Court, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday. Earnest said the decision jeopardizes the health of women by depriving them of federally mandated benefits for contraceptive services, and said the president doesn’t believe that bosses at for-profit companies should be able to impose their beliefs on the benefits provided to their employees.

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Wyden: 'Why Hasn't the Bulk Collection of Americans' Phone Records Been Ended?'

Sen. Ron Wyden is raising additional concerns about "backdoor" queries of communications by American citizens by federal intelligence and law enforcement authorities. During an open hearing on June 5, the Oregon Democrat pressed the Obama administration about the collection of records. "Why hasn't the bulk collection of Americans' phone records been ended?" Wyden said. "The fact that this dragnet surveillance is taking place right now is unacceptable to me."

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Obama Acting 'Without Congress' on Immigration; House GOP Unable to 'Pass a Darn Bill'

President Barack Obama will not wait any longer for House Republicans to pass an immigration bill, after Speaker John A. Boehner told him he will not allow a vote this year, the president said Monday. "Last week he informed me that Republicans will continue to block immigration reform at least for the remainder of this year," Obama said Monday in a Rose Garden statement where he announced he would go it alone on immigration, "without Congress," as far as he can. Obama said he believes Boehner when he says he wants to pass an immigration bill, but he hasn't been able to pass anything despite a year and a half of trying. "America cannot wait forever for them to act," Obama said.

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of June 23

While members counted votes and confused reporters in their final week before the July Fourth recess, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell sang to overcome the odds.

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Obama: 'Just Not True' Government is the Enemy

Responding to a question from a federal worker about federal pay freezes, sequestration and furloughs, President Barack Obama pivoted to broadly defending the federal government during a town hall event in Minneapolis, Minn on Thursday. "Folks in the federal government, the overwhelming majority, they work really hard doing really important stuff," Obama said. "I don't know when it was that somehow working for government, whether the state or local or federal level, somehow became not a real job. This whole idea that somehow government's the enemy, or the problem, is just not true."

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Email Search Warrant Provision Added to Spending Bill

Among the 12 annual spending bills that fund the federal government, the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill is generally one of the more contentious. But during a markup of the House’s fiscal 2015 version, there wasn’t any fight when it came to an amendment targeting a law that allows federal agencies to obtain emails older than 180 days without a search warrant. The amendment, offered by Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder would bar money in the bill (which applies only to fiscal 2015 and covers certain agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service) from being used to require email service providers to disclose contents of customer emails without a warrant. The panel adopted it by voice vote during Wednesday’s markup.

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