In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The timing of last week’s unexpected fight in Congress over the Confederate flag could not have been much worse for congressional Republicans. If GOP leaders don’t get a handle on the issue soon, the debate could undermine their position on their major agenda issues, particularly in the high stakes budget battle expected this fall.

Their plan was to strengthen their position in the budget standoff by passing a series of conservative spending bills to show that they could govern and to put negotiating pressure on Obama and Democrats in the budget process. But with the standoff over the Confederate flag, none of the spending bills are going anywhere immediately. That has created a roadblock with no clear way around it for Republicans, all due to the party's reluctance to abandon the flag entirely.

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As Republicans face a withering blowback for embracing the display of Confederate flags on National Parks and federal cemeteries, Democrats are looking to capitalize on the misfire and draw attention to Republican reluctance to let go of the Confederate flag.

The procedural maneuvering is a little complicated, but the gist is this: Late Wednesday night Republicans introduced an amendment that would have reversed a previously passed Democratic amendment restricting the display of Confederate flags at federal cemeteries.

Democrats were quick to decry the sneak-attack reversal, carrying with them to the House floor poster boards bearing the Confederate flag. The backlash was so immediate and fierce that by Thursday morning the House GOP leadership was forced to cancel a vote on a major Interior appropriations bill that contained the flag provision.

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Wisconsin Republicans may have swiftly backtracked on a proposal that would have gutted the state’s open records law, but the big question remains as to who inserted the language into the budget bill in the first place and whether Gov. Scott Walker (R) -- who was already facing a lawsuit challenging him to release certain legislative documents -- was involved in pushing the changes.

The changes to the public records law were initially approved by the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee by a party-line vote Thursday evening, before the long Independence Day weekend. But a fierce backlash prompted Republican leaders, led by Walker, to announce during the holiday weekend they were dropping the provisions. The proposal, part of a budget package known as Motion #999, would have removed a number of legislative documents from under the scope of government transparency laws, and would have permitted lawmakers to opt out of submitting to other types of public records requests. The proposal appeared to target communications tracking how legislation is developed, which often reveals the influence of special interests.

So far, Republicans have stayed mum on who initially pushed for the changes, though it has emerged in the last 72 hours that most of leadership chain was at the very least aware of them before they were put in front of the Joint Finance Committee on Thursday. As for Walker's role, the specifics of his involvement, if any, remain unknown. But the consensus in Madison is nothing would have gotten that far in the legislative process without at least Walker's tacit approval.

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While a case the Supreme Court decided in favor of the death penalty Monday focused on the use of a singular execution drug, Justice Stephen Breyer broke new ground in a dissent joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing that it was “highly likely” that capital punishment as a whole violated the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

“[R]ather than try to patch up the death penalty’s legal wounds one at a time, I would ask for full briefing on a more basic question: whether the death penalty violates the Constitution," Breyer wrote.

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Leading LGBT groups were planning for all contingencies that could have come out of Friday's Supreme Court gay marriage decision. But just because the high court granted them a win doesn't mean their work is over.

“There we will be a lot of work by a lot of different people to enforce a Supreme Court victory,” Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project Director, told TPM earlier this week before the decision.

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Chief Justice John Roberts does not "begrudge" people for celebrating Friday's Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. But, he warned, the decision was also actually a loss for gay rights advocates.

"Indeed, however heartened the proponents of same-sex marriage might be on this day, it is worth acknowledging what they have lost, and lost forever: the opportunity to win the true acceptance that comes from persuading their fellow citizens of the justice of their cause," Roberts wrote in his dissent. "And they lose this just when the winds of change were freshening at their backs."

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In his dissent to Friday's monumental Supreme Court ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia accused the five-justice majority of "constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine."

"So it is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage. It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me," Scalia wrote. "Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court."

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Justice Antonin Scalia strongly objected to Thursday's Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, so it was amusing to see Chief Justice John Roberts use Scalia's own dissent in the last major Obamacare case against him.

It was buried in a footnote and amounted to a small dart lobbed Scalia's way, especially when compared to Scalia's blistering dissent that ripped Roberts' legal reasoning.

To defend making the subsidies available to consumers everywhere, Roberts cited a line the dissent to the 2012 decision in favor of Obamacare, in which Scalia said, "Without the federal subsidies . . . the exchanges would not operate as Congress intended and may not operate at all."

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Chief Justice John Roberts may have upheld a crucial part of Obamacare in King v. Burwell, but not without a few choice words for Congress, accusing it of "inartful drafting" in crafting the law.

"The Affordable Care Act contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting," Roberts wrote in his majority opinion for King v. Burwell. "Several features of the Act’s passage contributed to that unfortunate reality. Congress wrote key parts of the Act behind closed doors, rather than through 'the traditional legislative process.'"

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