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Wonkbook: Previewing a huge day of Supreme Court decisions

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Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: Nearly 90,000. That's roughly how many foreign persons or organizations the U.S. government said in a new report it had targeted through surveillance last year.

Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: The shrinking congressional battleground, in one map.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) The last Supreme Court cases of the term; (2) migrant-crisis policy dilemmas; (3) the DOMA ruling anniversary; (4) the GOP schism, explained; and (5) VA care.

1. Top story: The Supreme Court moments you've all been waiting for...

...the much-awaited Hobby Lobby and public-sector union decisions. "The Supreme Court is poised to deliver its verdict in a case that weighs the religious rights of employers and the right of women to the birth control of their choice. The court meets for a final time Monday to release decisions in its two remaining cases before the justices take off for the summer. The cases involve birth control coverage under President Barack Obama's health law and fees paid to labor unions representing government employees by workers who object to being affiliated with a union. Two years after Chief Justice John Roberts cast the pivotal vote that saved the health care law in the midst of Obama's campaign for re-election, the justices are considering a sliver of the law." Mark Sherman in the Associated Press.

Public-sector unions brace for big SCOTUS ruling. "Public-sector unions are bracing for a Supreme Court decision Monday that could deal a major blow to their wealth and political clout. Union leaders fear that conservative justices will use the case, Harris v. Quinn, to strike down laws in 26 states requiring teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public-sector employees to pay dues to the unions that negotiate contracts on their behalf, even if the workers don’t want to become union members. A sweeping decision could decimate union membership and finances — and would come at a time when unions already are besieged and struggling to keep up their numbers." Stephanie Simon in Politico.

How the ruling could affect those unions. "In oral arguments...NRWC's lawyer maintained that compulsory dues violated [Harris'] free speech, since the state could force her to support an organization with which she might disagree....Public employee unions have remained relatively strong, even as those in the private sector weakened in the face of right-to-work laws....If the justices agree with Harris' lawyers, they could effectively make the entire private sector right-to-work....It's particularly important for SEIU, which has made huge gains in the home care worker industry, which is expected to grow by 70 percent over the next decade. On the flip side, the court could do SEIU and others a favor by affirming that collective bargaining is protected by the first amendment." Lydia DePillis in The Washington Post.

Explainer: Every way that the Supreme Court could rule in the Hobby Lobby case. Irin Carmon in MSNBC.

Background reading: What is and isn't at stake for Obamacare in the Hobby Lobby ruling. Puneet Kollipara in The Washington Post.

A Round 2 in the Obamacare contraception-mandate dispute? "It is now nearly a certainty that a second round...involving non-profits, will reach the October. Already, Justice Elena Kagan has given the University of Notre Dame additional time to file an appeal in a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Appeals also were promised in both of the applications filed Friday. The charities in those cases face Tuesday deadlines to take action to obey the mandate....Non-profit groups that are directly affiliated with churches, synagogues, and mosques were granted a religious exemption by the federal government, but not all non-profits with religious objections qualify. That includes many Roman Catholic colleges, hospitals, and other charities." Lyle Denniston in SCOTUSblog.

Hobby Lobby isn't the end. Other anti-ACA cases loom. "Nearly two years after the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act captivated the nation, another major ACA decision — Burwell v. Hobby Lobby — is expected....If it seems like déjà vu — well, it kind of is. The same lawyers on the floor; the same justices on the bench....On the other hand, the Hobby Lobby decision will be much more narrowly defined than NFIB v. Sebelius, the signature anti-ACA lawsuit of two years ago. That case called into question whether all of Obamacare was legal. This year's ruling will turn on just an aspect of the law: whether for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby must offer contraception as part of employees' health coverage." Dan Diamond in Advisory Board Daily Briefing.

Explainer: On anniversary, four big ways Obamacare has changed. Dan Diamond in Forbes.

Prescriptions for contraceptives skyrocket under ACA. "A new report from the Obama administration finds that women saved more than $483 million on prescriptions for oral contraceptives last year, thanks to an Affordable Care Act provision that requires certain medications to be covered at no cost to plan members....Friday's report from HHS shows that the number of prescriptions for oral contraceptives with no co-pays increased by 24.4 million from 2012 to 2013, due mainly to the health law's zero-cost sharing provisions for certain preventative services....The HHS report also estimated that 76 million Americans benefitted from new coverage for expanded preventative services under the health law." Tony Pugh in McClatchy Newspapers.

Primary source: The HHS report.

Supreme irony? High court has its own protest-free zone. "The U.S. Supreme Court, which Thursday struck down a Massachusetts law that established a 35-foot buffer around abortion clinics, enjoys its own protest-free zone. A federal law bars protests from the white marble plaza of the U.S. Supreme Court building, an irony that was not lost on supporters of abortion rights. In a press call, Martha Walz, chief executive officer at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, said the court’s decision also raises questions about the buffer zone at the Supreme Court....Court rules, drawn from the law, ban assemblies, processions and displays on court property." Stephanie Armour in The Wall Street Journal.

After ruling and Aereo's hiatus, company's TV-streaming rivals seize opening. "Traditional broadcasters still must find ways to defend themselves against an array of companies...that want to give viewers an alternative to the their model....Dozens of companies are offering options for the growing number of viewers known as cord cutters, who are canceling their traditional pay-television subscriptions. The providers range from Hulu, which the broadcasters own, to bigger services like Amazon, Google and Netflix, all of which offer cheaper streaming alternatives. Other companies, including Roku, Sling Media, TiVo, Simple.TV and Mohu, sell hardware that allows viewers to stream television to digital devices or watch web video on television sets. And Aereo may yet stick around." Emily Steel in The New York Times.

Other legal reads:

Our tech-savvy Supreme Court? Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times.

Tech industry nervous that others will suffer Aereo's fate. Brendan Sasso in National Journal.

Police ready to abide by court's cell-phone privacy ruling. Tami Abdollah in the Associated Press.

Experts say law enforcement’s use of cellphone records can be inaccurate. Tom Jackman in The Washington Post.

What does the Supreme Court’s NLRB ruling mean for hundreds of labor cases? Michael A. Fletcher in The Washington Post.

Top opinion

STIGLITZ: Inequality is not inevitable. "One stream of the extraordinary discussion set in motion by Thomas Piketty’s timely, important book, 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century,' has settled on the idea that violent extremes of wealth and income are inherent to capitalism. In this scheme, we should view the decades after World War II — a period of rapidly falling inequality — as an aberration. This is actually a superficial reading of Mr. Piketty’s work, which provides an institutional context for understanding the deepening of inequality over time. Unfortunately, that part of his analysis received somewhat less attention ....The dynamics of the imperial capitalism of the 19th century needn’t apply in the democracies of the 21st. We don’t need to have this much inequality in America." Joseph E. Stiglitz in The New York Times.

PETHOKOUKIS: Rubio's ideas — a challenge and opportunity for GOP. "Obamanomics has been an expensive effort in economic nostalgia to recreate the supposedly prosperous, egalitarian 1950s....But the right has also been backward-looking....Marco Rubio is one of the few national Republicans, Mike Lee is another, offering a path out of that ideological cul-de-sac. Not by abandoning conservative principles — but by applying them in a modern, relevant way. Rubio’s big economic speech last week tied together several earlier speeches outlining new approaches to reforming key American institutions such as higher education and the welfare state and addressing problems such as wage stagnation and retirement security in a historic time of globalization and automation." James Pethokoukis in AEIdeas.

KRUGMAN: Charlatans, cranks and Kansas. "Two years ago Kansas embarked on a remarkable fiscal experiment: It sharply slashed income taxes without any clear idea of what would replace the lost revenue....But Kansas isn’t booming — in fact, its economy is lagging both neighboring states and America as a whole. Meanwhile, the state’s budget has plunged deep into deficit, provoking a Moody’s downgrade of its debt....Yes, the Kansas debacle shows that tax cuts don’t have magical powers, but we already knew that. The real lesson from Kansas is the enduring power of bad ideas, as long as those ideas serve the interests of the right people. Why, after all, should anyone believe at this late date in supply-side economics...? The doctrine crashed and burned two decades ago." Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

BERNSTEIN: A minimum wage that makes more sense. "Travel around this country a bit will find that prices vary a great deal....These estimates arrive courtesy of the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ regional price parities, or R.P.P.s....The R.P.P.s tell us how prices differ at a particular time across the country. I’ve been thinking about these R.P.P.s since I read a new paper by the economist Arindrajit Dube, an associate professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, on ways to incorporate price differences across states when setting state or local minimum wages. It’s a worthy idea: Just a quick look at an R.P.P. chart suggests that the buying power of a uniform federal minimum wage varies greatly across the land." Jared Bernstein in The New York Times.

ANTLE III: The tea party is winning the GOP war on corporate welfare. "The political punditocracy just can't seem to settle on the conventional wisdom about the Tea Party....It really does seem like one week we get a series of articles proclaiming that the Tea Party is toast, and the very next week there are equally confident assurances that the Tea Partiers are ready to storm the Capitol, wielding flaming torches and pitchforks. Is it time to raise the drawbridge or conduct an autopsy? The truth is, neither sweeping narrative is completely accurate. But they both tell part of the story....Helping business — even if it involves a little largesse — is a quintessentially Republican thing to do. That's why many Republicans have supported the Export-Import Bank in the past....Not anymore." W. James Antle III in The Week.

DAYEN: How to stop the epidemic of student-loan defaults. "This week, while analysts debated the seriousness of the student debt crisis, one statistic went unchallenged: Student loan defaults are at their highest rate in 20 years, affecting over 7 million borrowers....Private student loan servicing disproves the myth that private enterprises automatically perform tasks more efficiently and effectively than the federal bureaucracy. This study shows conclusively that injecting the profit motive into student loan servicing has distorted it, and that a public model would achieve the government’s stated goal of helping student borrowers avoid default. Simply put, private student loan servicers should not exist." David Dayen in The Fiscal Times.

Animals interlude: The 50 happiest animals of all time.

2. The policy dilemmas surrounding the migrant crisis

Obama's immigration dilemmas: One short-term, one long-term. "President Obama faces a wrenching dilemma over immigration that has significant implications for the 2014 midterm election and his legacy. Should he use his executive powers to stop most deportations? He is under heavy pressure from pro-immigrant groups to do so. Democratic strategists say such a move would spur turnout among Latino voters. But such a dramatic gambit could also destroy any chance of legislative compromise with Republicans in 2015. The president must wrestle with a longer-term question, as well. If he takes only limited executive action this year, he then must decide how much ground he is willing to cede to Republicans next year in order to get legislation to his desk." Alexander Bolton in The Hill.

Why immigration reform is stalled one year after the Senate passed a bill. "Republicans have spent the last few months arguing that they won't pass immigration reform because they can't trust the president to enforce the laws already on the books. There's little chance that that criticism will go away, given that the House is preparing to sue the president over his use of executive actions....An immigration-related one — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — has often been the target of Republican criticism. And then there's the crisis stemming from thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in record numbers." Elahe Izadi in National Journal.

Another dilemma: Migrants complicate Obama's decision-making on curbing deportations. "Such a move may be difficult in light of the increase in border crossings, because it could send a message to potential migrants that they wouldn't be deported if they reached the U.S....Republicans appear to be taking an increasingly hard line on how to treat young illegal immigrants. A string of GOP members of Congress has denounced the president's leniency toward those already in the U.S. and said the policy should be rescinded. Some in the party are backtracking from legislation that would give legal status to young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children." Laura Meckler in The Wall Street Journal.

Explainer: Five key questions about the border crisis, answered. Peter Sullivan in The Hill.

Obama's latest move: Ask Congress for $2 billion, more authority to return children home. "The White House says it will ask for authority to return children to their native countries faster. This will apply to nations that aren't contiguous to the U.S., as a law already allows for a quick return to Mexico, given the shared border. The administration also has asked for a 'sustained border security surge,' a request likely to be welcomed by congressional Republicans....Moreover, the president will ask for a 'significant increase' in immigration judges in an effort to clear court backlogs....The request also will include increased penalties for those who smuggle migrants and 'the resources necessary' to detain, process and care for children and adults who cross illegally." Laura Meckler in The Wall Street Journal.

Some lawmakers want refugee status for the kids. "Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, told Reuters on Thursday that establishing refugee application programs in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, where domestic abuse, gang violence and poverty are rampant, is the 'key' to defusing the growing U.S. border crisis. McCain and other members of Congress - both Republicans and Democrats - say that a refugee program could help discourage minors from making the perilous journey north alone. At the same time, it would give some of them a legal way to flee the three nations, which rank among the top five countries with the highest murder rates in the world." Richard Cowan in Reuters.

Border Patrol is using video interviews to process migrants. "The long-distance interviews...are a response to the dramatic increase of Central Americans crossing the border in Texas that has flooded immigration facilities with hundreds of women and children. The Border Patrol does not have the staff to process all the immigrants crossing in the Rio Grande Valley, but faraway colleagues have time to spare. The remote video processing highlights a predicament that has bedeviled the Border Patrol as it struggles to keep up with constantly-shifting migration patterns: Many agents wind up stationed in places where crossing activity is slowest." Elliot Spagat in the Associated Press.

How tactical shift by cartels could be fueling migrant surge. "Recent arrests of the leadership of the Zetas and Gulf cartels, which control much of the illicit human transit just south of McAllen, Texas, has dismantled the groups' hierarchy and led to splinter groups that are shifting away from drug trafficking and getting increasingly involved in human smuggling, said Tony Payan,director of the Mexico Center at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy....As the U.S. has beefed up its border with Mexico, adding 21,000 agents, drones and new checkpoints, these criminal rings avoid venturing into the U.S., Payan said. Instead, they take their human cargo as far as the Rio Grande and tell the families to turn themselves in on the other side." Rick Jervis in USA Today.

BURKHALTER: Sex abuse — an overlooked aspect of the migrant crisis. "It is not news to Guatemalan, Salvadoran and Honduran children that they are at high risk of violent abuse and have nowhere to turn for protection. But now that they are fleeing across our border by the tens of thousands, it is apparently news to U.S. policymakers. The drug trade that is destroying Central American societies is clearly part of the problem. But kids aren’t only fleeing narco-violence and gangs; they are also trying to escape sexual abuse. The United States should commit significant foreign assistance to address this overlooked aspect of the child migration crisis." Holly Burkhalter in The Washington Post.

Other immigration reads:

Trade dispute hangs over the child-migrant crisis. David Rogers in Politico.

Like a girl interlude: This video seeks to make doing things "like a girl" cool.

3. How the gay-rights movement has changed, one year after the DOMA ruling

Video: The Defense of Marriage Act ruling, one year later. Time Magazine.

What have same-sex marriage advocates achieved since? "As The Washington Post's Philip Bump points out, nearly half of all gay Americans now live in states where same-sex marriage is legal. On Wednesday, Indiana joined the 18 other states where gay marriage is legal by striking down its state ban. All told, seven states have successfully legalized same-sex marriage in the past year: New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and now Indiana. In states like Wisconsin, the status of gay couples' right to marry is tied up in the courts. Utah's decision may go all the way to the Supreme Court. Other states have passed milder laws, like recent decisions by Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio to recognize out-of-state marriages." Emma Roller in National Journal.

Explainer: An update on the status of challenges to same-sex marriage bans. Associated Press.

Is the Supreme Court ready to tackle same-sex marriage head-on? "Now that a federal appeals panel has struck down one state's ban on gay marriage, the stage is set for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in and decide the matter for the entire country....Many experts believe the wave of lower-court rulings makes it all but certain the justices will tackle it. Less clear is the timeline for action and, of course, the outcome of a case that would decide whether states can block gays and lesbians from tying the knot....The justices wouldn't announce until the fall whether they will hear the case, and then they would have until next June to issue a decision. And that's only if they decide to hear the Utah case right off the bat." Tracy Connor in NBC News.

Explainer: And here's what have advocates of same-sex couples' benefits have achieved. Jonnelle Marte in The Washington Post.

Obama takes the gay-rights push abroad. "Former President George W. Bush supported AIDS prevention efforts globally, but it was the Obama administration that launched the push to make lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights an international issue. The watershed moment came in December 2011, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to the United Nations in Geneva and proclaimed LGBT rights 'one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time.' Since then, embassies have been opening their doors to gay rights activists, hosting events and supporting local advocacy work....Just weeks after the Supreme Court struck down parts of [DOMA]...consular posts also began issuing immigrant visas to the same-sex spouses of gay Americans." Vanessa Gera in the Associated Press.

The latest Republican to back gay marriage: Sen. Susan Collins. "Maine Sen. Susan Collins announced her support for same-sex marriage...hours after the nation’s largest gay-rights group endorsed her for re-election this year over Democrat Shenna Bellows, a longtime advocate of gay couples' right to marry. Collins had previously declined to reveal where she stood personally, saying the issue was best handled at the state level....Many observers expected Collins to endorse it last year as other members of Congress, including a few Republicans, announced their support amid shifting public attitudes. But Collins steadfastly remained silent on the issue, or said she believed that states should make the call, whether through referendums or legislation." Kevin Miller in Portland Press Herald.

Background reading: Republicans who back same-sex marriage are still an endangered species. Aaron Blake in The Washington Post.

St. Louis, Mo., is taking an unconventional approach to fighting its state's same-sex marriage ban. "Missouri was the first state in the country to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage 10 years ago, and it’s now the latest to see its ban come under fire amid rapidly changing public opinion. The challenge came as officials in St. Louis, the state’s most prominent city, issued marriage licenses to four same-sex couples Wednesday evening, just hours after federal judges struck down similar same-sex marriage bans in Utah and Indiana as unconstitutional. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said city officials knew going in that defying the marriage ban would probably trigger a court showdown, and he welcomes that." Nicholas P. Fandos in Politico.

Coffee in space interlude: Astronauts get an espresso machine for their space station.

4. What Pew's new political survey tells us about the GOP's split

What divides Republicans? "Republicans broadly share a belief in smaller government, but they are sharply divided over issues including perceptions of Wall Street, the power of big corporations, the value of immigration and free trade....The findings provide timely insight into the political battle that unfolded this week in Mississippi...that exposed the broader tensions within the GOP coalition. That election pitted the business and establishment wing of the Republican Party against the populist-conservative wing....The new study...suggests that the GOP faces continued instability because of profoundly different views on some issues held by those who identify with the party." Dan Balz in The Washington Post.

Exhibit A today: The Ex-Im Bank battle. Marcy Kreiter in International Business Times.

Chart: One graph that explains the Republican schism. Ezra Klein in Vox.

Two swing groups hold the key to the GOP's future. "The 'Hard-Pressed Skeptics' may hold the key to the short-term fortunes of the Republican Party....They are neither affluent nor well educated....Mr. Obama won these voters by a 40-point margin in 2012, but they have soured on his presidency....But these voters are not easy converts....The Republican challenge is likely to get worse, since the two Republican groups, 'Steadfast Conservatives' and 'Business Conservatives,' are virtually nonexistent among young voters....To compensate, Republicans will need to consolidate their support among...the 'Young Outsiders.'...These voters are conservative when it comes to the role of government....but...are liberal on cultural issues....They are deeply skeptical of an assertive foreign policy...As a result, these voters merely tilt Republican." Nate Cohn in The New York Times.

More from the survey:

6 charts that show Republican vs. Democrat wildly oversimplifies American politics. Andrew Prokop in Vox.

More than three-quarters of conservatives say the poor "have it easy." Christopher Ingraham in The Washington Post.

'Game of Thrones' interlude: A 1980s pop rendition of the show's intro theme.

5. The problems with veterans health care aren't confined to the VA...

...they plague military hospitals, too. "Since 2001, the Defense Department has required military hospitals to conduct safety investigations when patients unexpectedly die or suffer severe injury. The object is to expose and fix systemic errors...that can have disastrous consequences....Yet there is no evidence of such an inquiry into Mrs. Zeppa’s death. The Zeppa case is emblematic of persistent lapses in protecting patients that emerged from an examination by The New York Times of the nation’s military hospitals, the hub of a sprawling medical network...that cares for the 1.6 million active-duty service members and their families. Internal documents obtained by The Times depict a system in which scrutiny is sporadic and avoidable errors are chronic." Sharon LaFraniere and Andrew W. Lehren in The New York Times.

White House report finds 'corrosive' culture in VA care. "The Department of Veterans Affairs’ health network lacks accountability and suffers from a host of other problems, including a 'corrosive culture' of employee discontent and management retaliation, according to the two men President Obama appointed to fix the system. White House adviser Rob Nabors and acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said in briefing to Obama on Friday that the Veterans Health Administration 'needs to be restructured and reformed.'...Among their other conclusions, the officials determined that the VA’s goal of scheduling patients within 14 days is 'arbitrary, ill-defined and misunderstood,' and that it may have 'incentivized inappropriate actions.'" Josh Hicks in The Washington Post.

Primary source: The White House report. German Lopez in Vox.

Maybe that explains Obama's unconventional pick for VA chief. "President Obama on Monday will nominate Bob McDonald, a West Point graduate who served as chief executive of Procter & Gamble, to take over as head of the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs....The un­or­tho­dox pick of a retired corporate executive...rrather than a former military general — underscores the serious management problems facing the agency....In recent years, the job of VA secretary has been filled by retired generals, medical professionals or politicians. McDonald’s background is a significant departure, though he and his wife have deep family ties to the military." Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post.

Other health care reads:

Supply won't meet growing demand for health care. Kaitlyn Krasselt and Jayne O'Donnell in USA Today.

Astronomy interlude: Flying saucers are no longer the stuff of sci-fi movies; NASA tests out one of its very own.

Wonkblog roundup

Public sector unions could radically change this week. Lydia DePillis.

Tax cuts in Kansas have cost the state money — and job creation’s been terrible. Christopher Ingraham.

The banking industry wants to be just like Amazon. Danielle Douglas.

How states are still limiting Obamacare’s outreach program. Jason Millman.

Here’s how you spend your days, America — in 10 charts. Christopher Ingraham.

The Ex-Im Bank battle is personal for these small business owners. Rebecca Robbins.

Where binge drinking is deadliest in the U.S. Roberto A. Ferdman.

This new mapping technology will show whether global warming could drown your town. Lori Montgomery.

He’s allocated money to victims of 9/11 and the BP oil spill. Can Ken Feinberg handle GM?. Michael A. Fletcher.

Et Cetera

Advice for state-of-the-art central banker from BIS. Simon Kennedy in Bloomberg.

Jobs, cars seen cementing spring rebound in U.S. Philip Blenkinsop in Reuters.

How colleges vary in reports of sex assault and other sex offenses. Nick Anderson in The Washington Post.

Loophole for condensate exports may apply to other crudes. Timothy Gardner and Kristen Hays in Reuters.

Efforts grow to take the sting out of bee die-off. Jo Craven McGinty in The Wall Street Journal.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail us.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams and Ryan McCarthy.



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