Congressional Digest

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    D.C. Circuit Court Deals Blow to Health Care Law’s Contraceptive Mandate

By , Editor,
November 02, 2013
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While the Obama Administration attempts to sort out difficulties with the healthcare.gov website and Congress holds hearings on the subject, another cases challenging an employer-related portion of the Affordable Care Act is a step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court. On October 31, the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the provision mandating that all health insurance plans must provide free-of-charge contraceptive coverage could violate the First Amendment religious freedom of owners of small businesses. In the case of Gilardi v. U.S. Department of Health  & Human Services, the two brothers who own Freshway Foods and…

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    Obama Addresses UN General Assembly

By , Editor,
September 27, 2013
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“These are extraordinary times, with extraordinary opportunities,” President Barack Obama told the United Nations on Tuesday as part of the opening proceedings of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly. In his 50-minute address, President Obama focused on the Middle East, a region of the world that has been at the center of U.S. foreign policy in recent months. He urged the UN Security Council to pass a resolution addressing Syria’s use of chemical weapons, stating: “If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws. …

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    Controlling College Costs — The Latest on Reducing Loan Rates, Debt, and Tuition

By , Editor,
September 04, 2013
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From 2000 to 2011, the cost of undergraduate tuition, room, and board rose 42 percent at public institutions and 31 percent at private not-for-profit institutions after adjusting for inflation, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that, as of May 2013, outstanding student loan debt was approaching $1.2 trillion. No one disputes that the situation is out of control, and there is no shortage of proposals from Congress and the White House to control costs and reduce student loan debt. New Student Loan Interest Rates On August 9, President Barack Obama signed into law…

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    Polls Show Falling Approval for U.S. Supreme Court

By , Editor,
August 02, 2013
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According to a recent survey by the Gallup polling firm, more Americans (46 percent) disapprove of the way the U.S. Supreme Court is handling its job than approve (43 percent). This marks only the second time since Gallup began asking the question in 2000 that the High Court has had a negative favorability rating. The other time was in June 2005. (Interestingly, the 2004-05 term featured few high-visibility, controversial cases, although the Court was criticized by many for its decision in favor of giving government broad eminent domain powers in Kelo v. City of New London.) Digging down into the…

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    Another Filibuster Showdown Averted

By , Editor,
July 22, 2013
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With his announcement on July 11 that he would start a process to change the rules to make it easier for the Senate to confirm Obama Administration nominees, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV-D) had set the stage for a confrontation with Republicans over the Senate filibuster rule for Executive Branch nominations. But on July 16, an eleventh-hour deal averted a floor battle that could have led to the most significant change in the Senate rules since 1975,  when the number of votes needed to cut off debate was reduced from 67 to 51. How the Drama Played Out Reid…

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    Gay Marriage, Voting Rights Make Headlines in Court’s Last Week

The U.S. Supreme Court closed out its 2012-2013 term last week, and as predicted, it handed down blockbuster decisions on the Voting Rights Act and gay marriage in its final days. The week started with the Court issuing a ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which challenged the consideration of race as a factor during the undergraduate admissions process. Rather than issuing a decisive opinion on the subject, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for a seven-justice majority, remanded the case back to the circuit court, with instructions that the court reconsider the case and apply “strict scrutiny” to…

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    Food Stamp Funding Presents Biggest Hurdle in Farm Bill Debate

By , Editor,
June 17, 2013
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On June 10, by a vote of 66 to 27, the Senate easily passed a five-year reauthorization of the Farm Bill, sending it to the House, where it now faces an uncertain fate. Officially known as the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, the legislation sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry policy. The last Farm Bill was passed in 2008 and expired in 2012. Congress approved a partial extension on January 1 to continue funding for certain programs. The Senate version of the Farm Bill would end direct and countercyclical payments to farmers, which account for most current commodity…

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    Court Upholds DNA Testing of Arrestees

By , Editor,
June 05, 2013
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On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld Maryland’s DNA Collection Act, which allows law enforcement officials to collect DNA samples on anyone they arrest for a serious crime. In the case, Maryland v. King, Alonzo Jay King, Jr. had been arrested for assault after pointing a shotgun at a group of people. Police took a DNA sample from King, and four months later, after the sample had been sent off to a national crime database, DNA evidence linked King to an open rape case from 2003. King was tried and convicted for rape based on that evidence. He appealed, and Court…

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    Obama Talks Terrorism, Drones, and Guantánamo in Major Speech

By , Editor,
May 28, 2013
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In a major address on national security and counterterrorism at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., last Thursday, President Barack Obama declared that America is at a crossroads and “this is the moment to ask ourselves hard questions — about the nature of today’s threats and how we should confront them.” He said that after the elimination of Osama bin Laden and other high-ranking leaders, al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat and its regional affiliates — in places like Iraq, Yemen, and North Africa — pose regional threats to U.S. interests abroad, not direct threats to the U.S….

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    New Fracking Rules Draw Fire From Both Sides

By , Editor,
May 22, 2013
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New Federal draft rules governing hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on public and tribal lands are drawing sharp criticisms from both industry and environmental groups. The proposed regulations, released on May 16, include changes designed to alleviate opponents’ objections to an earlier version. Fracking is an extraction process that involves pumping water, chemicals, and sand deep into hard-to-reach rock formations at high pressure to force cracks and release natural gas, allowing it to flow freely to the production well. Now used in over 90 percent of vertical and horizontal oil and gas wells in the United States, the technique is enabling…

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