By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As the U.S. Supreme Court's nine-month term reaches a climax, nearly all of the most hotly anticipated decisions will be in high-stakes business cases. Between now and the end of June, when the court must decide all of the cases argued since October, the nine justices will issue a string of rulings on the viability of securities class action lawsuits, the legal rules for patenting software and the fate of online TV startup Aereo. Although the court still must decide such cases - protests outside abortion clinics and religious objections to President Barack Obama's healthcare law - none is as important as the 2012 opinion that upheld the individual mandate of the healthcare law or the one in 2013 helping to pave the way for gay marriage. "There isn't a singular blockbuster," said Pratik Shah, a lawyer with the Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld law firm.
By David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A slow-motion pile-up is coming into view on U.S. highways and Capitol Hill this summer: federal funding for road construction is running out and Congress faces a big fight over how to replenish it. The trucking industry, many state transportation directors and even a few lawmakers say the simple solution to shore up the Highway Trust Fund and avoid construction layoffs is to raise federal fuel taxes, unchanged since 1993. "We have never proposed or a supported a gas tax," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Monday. Republican House Speaker John Boehner also opposes an increase in fuel taxes, an aide said.
By David Morgan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President Barack Obama's nominee for U.S. health secretary, will need all her skills as a crisis manager to steer the law known as Obamacare away from troubled waters during this year's congressional election campaign. If confirmed by the Senate, her first task would be to get the upper hand on two issues that could spiral out of control for Democrats just before the November elections: rising health insurance costs and the potential for a new wave of policy cancellations for small businesses. Both issues are grist for the Republican campaign mill to win control of the Senate by making the November 4 poll a referendum on Obamacare. The last thing Democrats need is a new self-inflicted wound akin to the fiasco last year, when HealthCare.gov crashed on launch and millions of Americans found themselves with canceled health insurance policies.
By John Whitesides WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A North Carolina Republican backed by the party establishment fought off Tea Party and Christian conservative rivals on Tuesday to win the nomination to take on vulnerable Democratic Senator Kay Hagan in November. State House Speaker Thom Tillis was projected to capture more than 40 percent of the vote, surpassing the amount needed to avoid a costly July runoff with the second-place finisher. Republicans must pick up six seats to win a Senate majority. With about 90 percent of the vote counted, Tillis had 45 percent to Tea Party favorite Greg Brannon's 27 percent and 18 percent for evangelical minister Mark Harris.
WASHINGTON (AP) — North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis captured the Republican nomination to oppose imperiled Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan Tuesday night, overcoming anti-establishment rivals by a comfortable margin in the first of a springtime spate of primaries testing the strength of a tea party movement that first rocked the GOP four years ago.
Kano (Nigeria) (AFP) - US President Barack Obama described the kidnapping of more than 220 schoolgirls by Islamists in Nigeria as "heartbreaking" and "outrageous" as Washington deployed military experts in the hunt for the children. Obama urged global action against Boko Haram and confirmed Nigerian leaders had accepted an offer to deploy US personnel there, soon after residents said the extremist group had seized eight more girls, aged between 12 and 15, again in the embattled northeast. The first group of girls were taken three weeks ago, and concerns have been mounting about their fate after Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility, saying his group was holding the schoolgirls as "slaves" and threatening to "sell them in the market". The team sent to Nigeria consists of "military, law enforcement, and other agencies", Obama said, and will work to "identify where in fact these girls might be and provide them help".
US senators were split over when to impose new sanctions on Russia, with Republicans saying President Barack Obama should not wait until Ukraine's upcoming election before slapping Moscow with sector-wide penalties. The White House has said it remains prepared to impose biting new sanctions on Russia, which has annexed the Crimean peninsula and furthered its aggression in unrest-plagued eastern Ukraine, should its forces disrupt Ukraine's May 25 poll.
WASHINGTON (AP) — North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis moved ahead of a pair of anti-establishment rivals Tuesday night in the race to pick a Republican challenger to Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in the first of a springtime spate of primaries testing the strength of a tea party movement that first rocked the party four years ago.
The United States said Tuesday its sanctions against Moscow over the escalating unrest in eastern Ukraine had taken a toll on the Russian economy and warned more measures were possible. The limited sanctions so far have stimulated heavy capital flight from Russia, hobbled a bank close to President Vladimir Putin and taken economic growth to near zero, Daniel Glaser, the US Treasury assistant secretary for terrorist financing, told a hearing in Congress. If Moscow does not stop interfering in Ukraine and supporting pro-Russia separatists, the US will implement more sanctions, he said. "Our approach is a calibrated effort to impose immediate costs on Russia and to create conditions that will make Russia increasingly vulnerable to sanctions as the situation in Ukraine escalates," Glaser said.
NATO's troop build-up in Eastern Europe amid tensions with Russia over Ukraine could become permanent, the military alliance's top general said Tuesday. NATO countries drew down their defense budgets following the end of the Cold War, as they started to look upon Russia as a partner, US General Philip Breedlove said. But Russia's "annexation of Crimea... changes that dynamic," the NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe told a press conference, after meeting with Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other officials in Ottawa.