In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Last fall's government shutdown and subsequent two-year budget accord injected a sense of hope that Congress would be able to keep important federal programs running this year without partisan fights that threaten disruptions.

But election-year considerations and a Republican party hungry for confrontation with President Barack Obama have dimmed prospects for a drama-free summer. Congress has 12 working days before the five-week August recess. After that it'll have a mere 10 working days before federal agencies and programs will need to be funded to avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

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House Republicans are suing President Barack Obama for unilaterally delaying Obamacare's employer mandate. At the same time, the GOP has identified repealing the mandate as one of their potential moves if they take control of the Senate next year.

Can those two objectives really co-exist?

The GOP and its supporters believe they can simultaneously move ahead with the lawsuit and repeal. But some outside experts who are supportive of Obamacare said that if Republicans were to repeal the mandate, it could be problematic for their legal action.

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The subpoena of a Republican House aide in a federal investigation of insider trading has unnerved some of his colleagues on the Hill -- at least those who are paying attention.

The Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this year subpoenaed Brian Sutter, a staff director for House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp (R-MI). The commission was investigating how a policy change for Medicare was leaked to Wall Street traders before it became public. The agency has since said in court filings that Sutter "may have been" the source of the leak, and it is currently battling with the House counsel's office in court over whether Sutter should be forced to comply with the subpoena.

The subpoena of a congressional staffer is unusual. (Lawyers for the House say it is also unconstitutional.) That, paired with the fact that what Sutter is alleged to have done is considered unremarkable by some on the Hill, has sent a chill through certain congressional staffers who are following the case.

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The chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party panned a call from his counterpart in Missouri to appoint a committee to investigate "racially divisive ads" targeting Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) in the primary runoff election against incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran.

Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef (pictured) called the idea a "publicity stunt."

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The millions of dollars being spent in televisions ads that criticize Obamacare might have actually backfired and led to increased enrollment under the health care reform law, according to a study published Wednesday by the Brookings Institution.

Brookings fellow Niam Yaraghi observed "a positive association between the anti-ACA spending and ACA enrollment." Spending on negative Obamacare ads has outpaced spending on positive ads 15 to 1, according to media research. In Senate races where Democrats are running for re-election, which have been the major targets for anti-Obamacare ads, Yaraghi detected a spike in enrollment.

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When Supreme Court justices suggested in March that certain forms of birth control were abortion-inducing, nobody stood up to point out that the claim by Hobby Lobby lacked support within the medical community.

So it came as little surprise that the 5-4 ruling against the Obamacare contraception mandate ignored the scientific research about whether those contraceptives actually cause abortion. The religious owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood believed it, and that was enough.

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