Rod Nordland & Peter Baker of the New York Times: "American warplanes began airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Tikrit late Wednesday, finally joining a stalled offensive to retake the Iraqi city as American officials sought to seize the initiative from Iran, which had taken a major role in directing the operation.The decision to directly aid the offensive was made by President Obama on Wednesday, American officials said, and represented a significant shift in the Iraqi campaign."
John Bresnahan, et al., of Politico: "After two weeks of backroom negotiations with fiscal conservatives and defense hawks, the House approved a spending blueprint that would balance the budget in a decade, transform Medicare and Medicaid, prevent tax increases and repeal Obamacare.... The Senate is slated to vote on its budget Thursday night or in the early hours of Friday morning, after an hours-long 'vote-a-rama' to consider amendments." CW: All this is meaningless, but WTF? House members got a chance to repeal the ACA again (even as most of them get their insurance through it.)
For some odd reason, Charles Pierce sees the dead hand of Lee Atwater in Republicans' holding up Loretta Lynch's confirmation vote. Also, too, the lady opinionators of the Washington Post are dolts.
Maya Rhodan of Time: "Companies that provide special treatment for a large percentage of their injured workers should do the same for pregnant women, the Supreme Court decided on Wednesday. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of former UPS employee Peggy Young, who challenged a company policy that did not allow her to take on lighter duties during her pregnancy, even though the company provided alternative work to some employees with injuries or other circumstances that prevented them from doing their regular jobs." The decision, written by Justice Breyer, is here. Justice Alito wrote a separate concurrence. Justices Scalia, Kennedy & Thomas dissented.
Rick Hasen, writing in ScotusBlog, says it might be consequential (Justice Scalia called the decision "a sweeping holding that will have profound implications for the constitutional ideal of one person, one vote, for the future of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and for the primacy of the State in managing its own elections"), or it might not mean much.
Jonathan Chait has a brief e-mail conversation with Larry Tribe regarding his sellout to advocacy for the coal industry. Chait pretty much whacks Tribe.
Julie Pace & Ken Thomas of the AP: "Rather than keeping him at arm's length, Hillary Rodham Clinton is embracing President Barack Obama -- sometimes even literally. Clinton had been expected to look for some ways to separate herself from the president to avoid the impression that having her in the White House would amount to a third Obama term. But as she prepares for another presidential campaign, Clinton has aligned herself with Obama far more often than not."
AP: Jeb "Bush was an aggressive chief executive throughout his tenure as Florida governor, pushing the limits of executive authority, bristling at legislative oversight and willing to work around the courts.... But as Bush draws closer to launching his campaign for president in 2016, he's aggressively criticizing President Barack Obama's own use of executive power, accusing him of 'trampling on the Constitution.'" ...
... Alexandra Jaffe of CNN: "Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's fundraising swing through Texas this week will be a family affair. Both former Bush presidents will reportedly attend fundraising events for the expected presidential hopeful in Jeb Bush's home state. According to The Dallas Morning News, George W. Bush and his wife Laura will both attend a Wednesday evening reception at the home of wealthy Dallas Banker Gerald Ford. Donors have reportedly been asked to contribute $100,000 per couple for the event...."
In an Effort to Make Himself Seem Presidential, Chris Christie Joins Immigrant-Suppression Suit. of the Elise Foley of the Huffington Post: "After months of staying out of the legal battle over the president's executive actions on immigration, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) finally -- but quietly -- waded in this week. Christie joined Republican Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota in filing a brief on Monday that asked an appeals court to maintain an injunction that has prevented the Obama administration from moving forward with deportation relief programs it proposed in November 2014." CW: This should make Chris even less popular in New Jersey, which has a large immigrant population. ...
... Mark Hensch of the Hill: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's political action committee on Wednesday hired a digital firm in the latest sign of the Republican's likely presidential run." Because Christie is so presidenty.
Philip Bump of the Washington Post does a lovely job on Ted Cruz's anti-science views on climate change, including his claim that Galileo Galilei had a conflict with "flat-earthers." (I just ignored this the other day & referred to Galileo's geocentric opponents, I think, but I should have pointed out -- as Bump does -- that Cruz, who somehow sees himself as a modern-day Galileo, was confused about Galileo's work, too.) Bump's piece is a pretty good read.
Ian Hanchett of Breitbart "News": "Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that he would not take a subsidy for Obamacare on Tuesday's' Mark Levin Show.'... He ... accused CNN of playing 'gotcha' over him complying with the law." ...
... Update. Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Ted Cruz hasn’t made a final decision on whether he will sign up for Obamacare but will make up his mind 'in the coming days,' a spokesman said Wednesday." CW: He has to decide whether he can best continue to demagogue the ACA from within or without. Such are the dilemmas of a principled man. ...
... James Downie of the Washington Post: "With [Ted] Cruz' wife, Heidi, stepping away temporarily from her job at Goldman Sachs, the Cruz family has to get its insurance somewhere, and the Texas senator has decided that 'somewhere' is HealthCare.gov." Other insurance options are available to him. Cruz "thinks that Obamacare ... is such an existential threat to the United States and its health-care system that it was worth shutting down the government in an attempt to undermine the law. But suddenly the law and the health system it created is not scary enough for his family? If Cruz really wants to run as the candidate of righteous convictions, he'll have to do a better job of following his own." ...
... CW: Does this even make sense? The difference in cost between a policy obtained thru the ACA (without the subsidy for members of Congress) & private insurance, including one via Heidi's COBRA benefit, should not be all that great. If there is a great difference, then ObamaCare is obviously terrific, & Ted is making a tacit admission that, even without the subsidy, obtaining insurance thru the ACA exchange is a sweet deal.
Vicki Needham of the Hill: "Liberal groups are threatening to back a primary challenge to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a key member of the Senate Finance Committee, in 2016 if he helps Obama secure a new trade pact that would stretch from the Asia-Pacific to Latin America. Activists have protested for months at Wyden's home in Portland and his offices in Oregon and Washington, D.C., demanding that the senator oppose the 'fast track' authority that the White House says is essential for a deal."
Beyond the Beltway
Anita Chabira of the Guardian: "California’s attorney general will go to court to stop a controversial proposed ballot initiative that calls for the legalized execution of gay people.... Kamala Harris, who recently announced her bid to succeed Barbara Boxer as US senator, had earlier appeared powerless to stop the Sodomite Suppression Act, a ballot initiative filed last week by Huntington Beach lawyer Matt McLaughlin. "Controversial," Anita? This is journo-hack beyond the pale. Get out your dictionary & find a better adjective. "Heinous" or "appalling" would do.
John Hanna of the AP: "Kansas is poised to join a handful of other states that allow their residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit after the Legislature gave final approval Wednesday to a bill backed by the National Rifle Association. The measure was headed to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. Brownback's office didn't say what his plans are, but he's signed every other major gun-rights measure sent to him since taking office in January 2011."
AP (March 16): "While the Keystone project awaits a final decision..., almost every week ... lesser-known developments ... have quietly added more than 11,600 miles of pipeline to the nation's domestic oil network. Overall, the network has increased by almost a quarter in the last decade. And the work dwarfs Keystone. About 3.3 million barrels per day of capacity have been added since 2012 alone -- five times more oil than the Canada-to-Texas Keystone line could carry if it's ever built.... During the long wait for Keystone, the petroleum industry has pushed relentlessly everywhere else to get oil to market more efficiently, and its adversaries have been unable to stop other major pipelines."
Jack Jenkins of Think Progress: The Disciples of Christ, "A Christian denomination with historic ties to Indiana, is threatening to boycott the Hoosier state if the governor approves an exclusionary 'religious liberty' bill, the latest in a growing wave of criticism over legislation that could be used to discriminate against LGBT people."
Reuters: "Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi left his refuge in Aden for Saudi Arabia on Thursday as Houthi rebels battled with his forces on the outskirts of the southern port city."
CBS News: "A National Guardsman arrested for supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, had allegedly planned an attack on a military post in Illinois, the Justice Department said Thursday. Army National Guard Spc. Hasan Edmonds, 22, was arrested at Chicago Midway International Airport Wednesday night while he was attempting to fly to Cairo to allegedly join ISIS, the department said in a statement."
Guardian: "The UK supreme court has cleared the way for the publication of secret letters written by Prince Charles to British government ministers, declaring that an attempt by the state to keep them concealed was unlawful. The verdict -- the culmination of a 10-year legal fight by the Guardian -- is a significant blow for the government, which has been battling to protect the Prince of Wales from scrutiny over his 'particularly frank' interventions on public policy."
Washington Post: "Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes early Thursday in neighboring Yemen, heading a coalition of Arab nations in an effort to dislodge Houthi rebels sweeping through that country. The strikes were a startling turn of events that came as the Houthis, in control of Yemen's capital for months, barreled south toward the coastal city of Aden, seizing an air base along the way that was evacuated by U.S. Special Operations forces last week." ...
... New York Times UPDATE: "Egypt said Thursday that it was prepared to send troops into Yemen as part of a Saudi-led campaign to drive back the Iranian-backed Houthi advance, signaling the growing likelihood of a protracted ground war on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula."
New York Times: "As officials struggled Wednesday to explain why a [Germanwings] jet with 150 people on board crashed amid a relatively clear sky, an investigator said evidence from a cockpit voice recorder indicated one pilot left the cockpit before the plane's descent and was unable to get back in." ...
... ** UPDATE: "The co-pilot of Germanwings flight 9525 deliberately crashed the aircraft, French officials said Thursday, pointing to voice recorder evidence that he had locked the captain out of the cockpit, ignored his pleas for re-entry and steered down into the French Alps as passengers were heard screaming. The assertions instantly changed the nature of the Tuesday crash, which obliterated the Airbus A320 and killed all 150 aboard, into a wide-ranging criminal investigation that focused on the co-pilot, a 28-year-old German with no obvious reason to commit mass murder, who had been hired less than two years ago." ...
... The Guardian's live updates are here.
... Washington Post: "A mother and daughter from Prince William County were among three Americans who perished when an Airbus jet plunged into a frozen ridge in the French Alps this week, officials said Wednesday. Yvonne Selke, a longtime government contractor, and Emily Selke, a recent graduate of Drexel University, died Tuesday along with 148 others on the Germanwings flight...."