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The Supreme Court Just Dealt a Devastating Blow to Public Unions

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision on Monday that mandatory public union dues violate some members' First Amendment rights.

In the ruling on Harris v. Quinn, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the precedent that had upheld the state of Illinois' right to require membership dues was shaky.

The issue at hand in Harris v. Quinn involves Pamela Harris, a home caregiver in Illinois who takes care of her disabled son. Harris is among home caregivers who have decided not to unionize through the Service Employees International Union, opting instead to bargain directly with the Medicaid recipients who decide how much money to allocate to their caregivers.

In the ruling, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the precedent that had upheld the state of Illinois' right to require membership dues was shaky. The court's precedent on public unions, a 1977 case called Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, found that non-union members may be required to pay membership dues in exchange for collective bargaining.

"Abood itself has clear boundaries; it applies to public employees. Extending those boundaries to encompass partial-public employees, quasi-public employees, or simply private employees would invite problems," Alito wrote. "If we allowed Abood to be extended ...

Play of the Day: America Is Winning at Marriage Equality

The United States should be celebrating: The Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional a year ago, and now nearly half of all states allow same-sex marriage. But according to late-night comedian John Oliver, this only means that the other half of America is racing to see which state can hold out the longest against equal rights. 

Plus: Democrats hire youth specialists to give insight into the younger demographic expected to vote in the midterm elections, and a food truck in Washington sells entrees laced with marijuana.  

Bipartisan Bill Would Make it Harder for Agencies to Claim FOIA Exemptions

Agency officials processing Freedom of Information Act requests would shift to a “presumption of openness” under a bipartisan bill introduced June 24 by Sens. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and John Cornyn, R-Texas.

The FOIA Improvement Act would curb agency “overuse of exemptions to withhold information from the public,” the senators said, and would bolster the independence of the Office of Government Information Services, a small unit in the National Archives and Records Administration set up in 2007 to facilitate public use of FOIA requests.

Specifically, the bill would require agencies to disclose the harm that might be caused by release of documents for which its FOIA office wishes to claim an exemption to protect internal deliberations or attorney-client privilege. Requesters could win disclosure by demonstrating a compelling need, and agencies would no longer be able to seal off documents more than 25 years old.

“The Freedom of Information Act is one of our nation’s most important laws, established to give Americans greater access to their government and to hold government accountable,” said Leahy, who held a hearing in March on agency use of exemptions. “Both Democrats and Republicans understand that a commitment to transparency is a commitment to the ...

Play of the Day: On Iraq, Congress is Always Wrong

There's no right answer when dealing with ISIS, the terrorist organization sowing discord in Iraq. But there are several wrong answers—and, according to The Daily Show host Jon Stewart, all of them are coming from Congress. 

Plus: A Fox Business contributor thinks he knows why World Cup fever is sweeping the United States, Colorado's DUI cases escalate after the legalization of marijuana, and some intrepid soul has actually written a musical about the life and times of Bill and Hillary Clinton. 

Hillary Clinton: I Am Not Mitt Romney. And Voters Know That.

Hillary Clinton is still trying to downplay the significance of recent gaffes about her personal wealth, which Republican critics have pounced on as evidence that the presumed 2016 presidential front-runner is "out of touch."

"I shouldn't have said the five or so words that I said, but my inartful use of those few words doesn't change who I am," Clinton told PBS NewsHour's Gwen Ifill on Wednesday, referring to comments she made that she and her husband Bill were "dead broke" when they left the White House. She later tried to clarify her comments by saying the couple was different from others who are "truly well off" and don't pay "ordinary income tax."

In the interview, Clinton accused others of taking her comments out of context or trying to "create some caricature." When Ifill noted that such a strategy "sticks sometimes—ask Mitt Romney," Clinton emphatically rebuked the connection.

"That's a false equivalency," Clinton said. "People can judge me for what I've done. And I think when somebody's out in the public eye, that's what they do. So I'm fully comfortable with who I am, what I stand for and what ...

Supreme Court Limits President Obama's Appointment Powers

This story has been updated. 

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court on Thursday limited the president's power to make recess appointments for vacancies in the executive branch. The case, National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning et al., specifically related to three appointments Obama made in 2012 to the NLRB while the Senate was in pro forma sessions, convening every three days. As the Court sees it, for the Senate to truly be in recess, it would have to be out for at least 10 days.

The majority opinion in the case was written by Justice Stephen Breyer, which was joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. A concurring opinion written by Antonin Scalia was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

The Court's summary states (emphasis ours) "The Recess Appointments Clause empowers the President to fill existing vacancy during any recess—intra-session or inter-session—of sufficient length." But the question here is whether the Senate was actually in recess. "A Senate recess that is so short that it does not require the consent of the House under that Clause is not long enough to ...

Play of the Day: The Obama Conspiracies, Immigrant Children Edition

America's borders are flooded. Thousands of unaccompanied minors from Latin America are illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, and Texas Governor Rick Perry knows just who to blame: President Obama. Late-night host Stephen Colbert couldn't agree more.

Plus: Jon Stewart keeps a close watch on Rep. Charles Rangel and Sen. Thad Cochran's primaries, the Federal Aviation Administration rejects delivery-by-drone policies, and a federal judge has some news for the government's no-fly lists. 

Mike Rogers: Lawmakers Should Spend More Time in D.C.

Members of Congress don't spend enough time in Washington together doing detailed committee work required for expertise on the important issues confronting the nation, says outgoing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers.

Huh?

That sure sounds like politically dangerous "inside-the-Beltway" apostasy that most lawmakers today would adamantly avoid and reject—at least publicly.

But Rogers, first elected to Congress in 2000, is not running for reelection this fall. He would lose his chairmanship because of House GOP term limits if he stayed, anyhow.

Instead, the Michigan Republican has already announced that he will join Cumulus Media after the end of this session as a radio host. And in some ways, it seems, he's already talking like an outside observer of Congress.

Speaking Wednesday to reporters on Capitol Hill during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, Rogers did speak solemnly about Iraq and how the intelligence reporting from Iraq "sends chills down my spine" over the possibility of a terrorist attack against the United States.

But his conversation touched on other matters, including his belief that lawmakers needed to spend more time working within their committees and with each other in Washington.

"The problem we've gotten ourselves into in ...

Promises of Federal Spending Help Thad Cochran's Surprise Rebound Against Tea Party

In a remarkable comeback for a candidate many Republicans had begun to write-off, Sen. Thad Cochran won a surprise victory Tuesday in Mississippi's Republican runoff race for the Senate, dealing a stinging blow to tea party-groups that considered the six-term lawmaker their best opportunity to knock off a Republican incumbent in 2014.

He now moves on to face former Democratic Congressman Travis Childers in the general election, a race Cochran enters as the prohibitive favorite in red-state Mississippi.

Cochran's victory caps what has been the most heated showdown of the 2014 primary season, a months-long battle that pitted conservative challenger Chris McDaniel and his allies—including groups like the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservative Fund—against Cochran, an institution in Mississippi politics who had the backing of just about every influential Republican leader in the state and in Washington. The race has included allegations of criminal wrongdoing, open questions about Cochran's state of mind, and personal insults directed both ways. Establishment Republicans spent millions of dollars trying to prevent a victory by McDaniel, whose history of controversial comments would not only jeopardize their hold over Mississippi's Senate seat but also damage their candidates elsewhere ...

Play of the Day: A Poor-Off Will Decide 2016

To appeal to the working class, candidates in the next presidential election will have to prove they can relate to voters. Hillary Clinton has already attempted to dispel the notion that she's wealthy. But who will win when late-night host Jon Stewart pits Clinton against Joe Biden in a "Poor-Off"? And why exactly do politicians feel like America needs a "hobo" for president? 

Plus: Chris Christie plays ball at Yankee Stadium, and the Food and Drug Administration lays down new ground rules for how pharmaceutical companies can use Twitter.