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.