In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A Saturday meeting of the Virgin Islands Republican Party is perhaps the perfect distillation of just how off the rails things have gotten. There are interloping Michiganders, competing slates of delegates, direct mail schemes and years worth of petty, intra-party shenanigans all on the cusp of boiling over into a potentially contested convention in Cleveland.

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If Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is thinking about dismissing a major immigration lawsuit on a technicality, he wasn’t showing it at Monday’s oral arguments.

The case is U.S. v. Texas, a lawsuit Texas and 25 other states brought challenging President Obama’s 2014 executive action that shielded certain undocumented immigrants from deportation.

An ideological 4-4 split would defer to a lower court’s decision halting the action, so the next best hope defenders of the immigration program had was that Roberts -- who in the past has shown skepticism to suits brought by states against the federal government -- would vote with the liberal justices to throw the case out on the basis that Texas didn’t meet the legal qualification known as "standing" to sue in the first place.

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When President Obama announced his major second term executive actions on immigration, it was almost immediately clear that it would lead to a Supreme Court showdown. But now that the case is finally at the high court, the conservative forces pushing it will be without a major ally, with Justice Scalia's unexpected death in February.

All eyes at Monday's oral arguments will be on Chief Justice John Roberts to gauge how he will navigate his court through an already hyper-political case that the vacant seat further complicates.

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Paul Ryan, the budget wunderkind who was elected speaker only after a united House GOP dragged him into the job, is finding himself in the exact same position as former House Speaker John Boehner: unable to find consensus in his conference.

Just months after being elected as speaker with the promise he'd return the House to what is called "regular order," Ryan will miss an April 15 deadline to pass a budget even as he still seeks to find consensus around one.

"It's important for Paul," said Rep. Peter King (R-NY) on passing a budget. "It's important to anyone who is speaker, I think because it is what we are supposed to be doing. It is regular order. And with him being budget chairman and even apart from that, it lays out the roadmap for the House for the year."

The irony for Ryan is that the budget debacle unfolding on his watch is more about perception than an actual legislative crisis. Under a fiscal agreement struck between outgoing House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama, there is already a 2017 funding bill in place, a parting gift from Boehner that was intended to save Ryan from the kind of high profile vote wrangling he is facing now as GOP schisms bubble up in an election year.

Ryan, however, had made a pledge to bring back "regular order" and restore the budget process to the committees, all an effort to encourage his conference to feel a stake in the process and unite his party.

Ryan's token of goodwill appears to be backfiring.

"Part of the problem is we're a victim of the success of the fact that we have appropriations numbers already in law. We already have an agreement in law," Ryan said Thursday during a press conference. "That has taken pressure off of the budget situation and that is one of the challenges we are dealing with."

The disagreement raging in the House is over how much Republicans should set out to spend with their top line number. House Budget Chairman Tom Price released a budget plan earlier this year that set discretionary spending at $1.07 trillion for 2017 but some conservatives in the House wanted to see $30 billion less in spending. Ryan has said he still wants to see a budget, but the intransigence of the far right could prove impossible to untangle without a looming deadline.

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One of Donald Trump's top advisers on delegates met with Trump-backing congressmen at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington Thursday morning. The meeting was meant to offer reassurances on the campaign's delegate strategy as worries loom about a contested convention that could deny Trump the nomination.

Political consultant Ed Brookover, who was Ben Carson's campaign manager and is now advising Trump on delegate selection, told TPM that he met with seven congressman and some staff Thursday morning. Brookover told reporters that the meeting centered on delegate math and how he is confident that Trump easily sails to 1,265 delegates ahead of the convention in Cleveland.

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If an unexpected order the Supreme Court issued in an Obamacare case could be seen as a last ditch effort to avoid a four-four split, the challengers in the case do not look too eager to play along.

Both the U.S. government and the religious organizations suing it weighed in on what seemed to be a compromise proposal by the Court in the case -- in which religious organizations are objecting to the accommodation offered to them as a part of Obamacare's contraceptive mandate -- and neither side was too happy with it.

But, while government begrudgingly signaled it would accept the tweaks to the current workaround that the Supreme Court floated, the challengers in the case doubled down on their arguments that female employees should do the extra work to get birth control coverage if their employers object to it and that coverage must come through a separate "contraceptive-only" plan. Their posturing isn't going to make life easy for the eight-justice Supreme Court to avoid a tie vote, which threatens a patchwork system where some employees' access to contraceptive coverage could depend on where they live.

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Death threats -- including threats that describe death by hanging.

References to where you live.

Not-so-subtle allusions to your family.

Warnings that your personal information will soon become public -- or perhaps it has already.

These are just some of the reports coming in from low-level GOP officials around the country about the threats they claim to have received from pro-Trump forces. As Trump accuses other politicians and the party at large of denying him delegates, ominous messages believed to be coming from freelance Trump backers -- usually hiding behind anonymity -- have injected fear and anxiety into the usually low-stakes delegate selection process at the local and state level.

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The Republican conventions of years past have been a kind of political summer vacation for its delegates. For many party regulars, becoming a delegate is an opportunity to hobnob with your state's political power brokers, be bussed from one catered meal to the next, stay in nice hotels and cheer on the nominee at the convention from the best seats in the house during primetime.

But, this year, the Republican Party's delegates could have to work overtime, and many are in over their heads as they prepare for what could be the biggest Republican melee in decades, a potentially contested convention.

"I don’t know what to totally expect," said Mary Beth Dougherty, who is a spokeswoman for a state lawmaker and is running to be an uncommitted delegate from Pennsylvania. "I am anticipating very high profile coverage all week long. Down time is not happening."

Delegates who have been attending the convention for decades, recognize the 2016 Republican Convention is going to be an entirely new ballgame.

"We are in all new unchartered grounds," said Holland Redfield, a delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands who has attended the convention as a delegate multiple times beginning in the 1980s.

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Two GOP factions in the U.S. Virgin Islands are clashing over who should attend what most expect to be the most contentious Republican convention in decades. The intra-party charade is playing out in a dramatic way in a year when a little-recognized U.S. territory could have an outsize role in a contested convention.

The warring factions in the deeply divided U.S. Virgin Islands Republican Party have each put forth their own slate of delegates the convention in Cleveland.

The latest move in the month's old fight came Monday in the form of a press release from Republican National Committeeman Holland Redfield. He claimed that the delegation from the Virgin Islands has been selected and included nine people including six who received the most votes in a party contest in March. The delegates announced Monday, however, were not the same as those announced by U.S. Virgin Islands Republican Party Chairman John Canegata last month.

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