In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Update: Health care policy experts explained to TPM why the options floated by the court's conservatives were unworkable. Read more here.

The Supreme Court hearing Wednesday on Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate presented the fourth challenge to the health care legislation since it was passed 2010, and thus the fourth opportunity for the justices to grapple with the thorny trade-offs of health care policy as they collide with abstract concepts of law.

Judging by the questions from conservatives on the court -- all men -- they’re still not fully aware of how every day people -- particularly women -- receive health care in the United States, or how health insurance actually works.

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More turmoil in the Virgin Island Republican Party erupted Tuesday as the GOP chair there announced the disqualification of six delegates that had been selected to represent the territory at the Republican convention and the elevation of new delegates in their place.

The now-disqualified delegates include GOP strategist John Yob, along with his wife Erica and Lindsey Eilon, who were all already the subject of scrutiny after allegations that Yob had falsified information on his voter application. Virgin Island GOP Chairman John Canegata issued a statement Tuesday saying the Yobs, Eilon and three other delegates had been replaced over a violation of Virgin Islands Republican Party rule which says delegates must within five days of the caucus "confirm in writing, that he or she accepts election” and that they are “willing and able” attend the Republican National Convention.

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Count Wednesday’s hearing on a challenge to the Obamacare contraceptive mandate among the cases where the stakes have been somewhat defused by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. The religious non-profits bringing the case face an uphill battle with their arguments that the accommodation granted to them to opt out of the birth control coverage mandate is still a burden on their religious beliefs.

Even before Scalia’s unexpected passing last February, the case was already considered somewhat of an overreach by the conservative forces pushing the court to take up the challenge. But without Scalia’s fifth vote, the challengers will need to sway the vote of one of the court’s four liberals -- who all signed on to most of Justice Ruth Ginsburg’s scathing dissent defending Obamacare in Hobby Lobby -- or hope for a 4-4 split decision that punts the case until Scalia’s seat is filled.

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They are some of the most conservative members on Capitol Hill, a group of lawmakers whose opposition to and tenuous relationship with former House Speaker John Boehner is often cited as the reason Boehner finally turned in his speaker's gavel.

From one perspective, the Freedom Caucus – with its rabble-rousing, no-compromising brand of conservatism–could be seen as opening the door for Donald Trump's rise. The few dozen Freedom Caucus members in the House wrote the book on opposing the establishment, on everything from the debt ceiling to funding bills. One of their members, Dave Brat (R-VA) stunned the political world in 2014 when he took out a sitting Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary. This month, the Freedom Caucus voted against supporting their own party's budget plan, putting House Speaker Paul Ryan, a former budget committee chairman, in a bind.

The Freedom Caucus' own rhetoric, including its promises to repeal Obamacare (even though Obama is in office), has fueled some of the anger and resentment against Washington that Trump has benefited from. But while the Freedom Caucus and Trump both love raging against the so-called Washington establishment, there are a lot of Freedom Caucus members who wish they could put Trump back in the bottle.

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President Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland to succeed justice Scalia on the Supreme Court was not the nominee progressives were dreaming of a month ago, when Scalia’s unexpected death opened up a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the Supreme Court.

But Garland was almost certainly not who Senate Republicans were expecting when they drew the hard line soon after Scalia’s death that no Obama nominee would be considered. Just last week, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) -- a member of the Judiciary Committee -- said he didn’t “believe” Obama’s assurances to him that he would nominate a “moderate.”

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The leaders of the conservative legal groups that will lead the charge against the Senate consideration of Merrick Garland downplayed early hints Wednesday that Senate Republicans might be giving ground in their absolute opposition to anyone President Obama would have nominated.

Soon after President Obama's announced that Garland was his Supreme Court nominee to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a smattering of Senate Republicans expressed publicly a willingness to meet with him, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) suggested an openness to confirming Garland in a lame duck session after the November election if a Democrat wins the White House.

Did those shifting political dynamics with the nomination of a 63-year-old, well-regarded moderate worry outside conservative groups?

"Senators hold all sorts of meetings with all sorts of people," Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said on a press call Wednesday afternoon. "I don't think that the fact that some senators are willing to meet with Merrick Garland means anything. The key is for the senators to hold the line on no hearing or no floor vote."

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Updated at 12:20 p.m. ET

President Obama announced his nomination Wednesday of Merrick Garland to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Garland is the chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The announcement comes a little more than a month after Scalia died unexpectedly while staying at a resort in Texas in February.

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As stopping Donald Trump from winning the GOP nomination becomes more of a long shot, the choice facing anti-Trump Republicans becomes more complicated. They despise Trump. But do they despise him enough to vote for Hillary Clinton, a figure that attracts a singular brand of hatred and opposition from the Republican Party?

That is the reality the GOP’s Trump foes are increasingly being forced to grapple with. For Republicans worried a Trump nomination could forever rupture their party, saying they would support Clinton instead is a particularly bitter pill.

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