In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Frank Gaffney is back at the Conservative Political Action Conference that for a time shunned his extremist views.

Gaffney, the founder for the Center For Security Policy, led a panel Thursday titled "Countering the Global Jihad" where he invited some of Europe's most notorious anti-Muslim voices to weigh in on how the Western world should be combatting the perceived threat of Islam.

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Senate Democrats accused their Republican counterparts of hiding from the public, rather than explaining why they won’t even consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. The allegations flew after an unrelated public meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- the committee that would typical host Supreme Court nomination hearings -- scheduled for Thursday was abruptly canceled.

“This would have been the first opportunity for all members of this committee to debate in public the Republican chairman's unilateral decision to issue a blanket hold on an unnamed Supreme Court nominee,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a committee member, said on the Senate floor Thursday. “They're afraid to discuss the issue. They cannot in public debate win the argument that we shouldn't be doing our job.”

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As the debate over whether President Barack Obama should be allowed to nominate someone for the Supreme Court grows ever more rancorous in the halls of Congress, it is no doubt echoing across the street in the quieter quarters of the Supreme Court. There, the people arguably most affected by the vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia -- the eight justices still on the bench -- can hide away from the public eye and avoid weighing in on whether lawmakers should consider Obama’s nominee to replace him.

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Oral arguments in a major abortion case at the Supreme Court Wednesday gave few clues as to how the key swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, felt about the case. The absence of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last month, was felt as only two justices in the court’s conservative bloc offered a vocal defense of the law, while the court’s liberals were able to pursue the sharpest lines of questioning.

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During a Tuesday meeting at the White House with President Obama, GOP Senate leaders remained unbowed in refusing to consider his nominee to the Supreme Court, according to top Democrats present.

"They were adamant. They said no, we are not going to do this at all. We are going to do what has never been done before," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters at a stakeout after Tuesday's meeting, according to the White House pool report. "All we want them to do is fulfill their constitutional duty and do their job. At this phase they have decided not to do that."

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The two sides arguing a blockbuster Supreme Court abortion case will walk into the courtroom Wednesday knowing that the debate will have the potential to shape a woman’s access to the procedure for a generation or longer. But the death of Justice Antonin Scalia almost guarantees that conservatives will not be able to issue a majority opinion that would have given states nationwide the freedom to restrict abortion as they pleased -- as was the fear of abortion rights proponents when the court accepted the case.

In the case, Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, pro-choice forces are asking the court to strike down a Texas law mandating myriad restrictions that have a closed a large swath of its clinics can still score a victory by winning over Justice Anthony Kennedy to their side and stemming the tide of abortion restrictions passed in red states in recent years.

The lack of Scalia's ninth vote -- one that certainly would have favored the law’s defenders -- blunts the potential impact of even an outcome that would amount to a loss for abortion rights activists.

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The Supreme Court has only been in session without Justice Antonin Scalia for a week. But already, his death is affecting cases, and particularly decisions not to take certain cases to the Supreme Court without the guarantee of his vote.

Last week, Dow Chemical made headlines by opting for a $835 million settlement in a class action lawsuit rather than risk having the case heard by a Scalia-less Supreme Court. A lower court had already ruled against the company for allegedly conspiring to fix prices for industrial chemicals, and prior to the settlement, Dow had appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling.

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