News, Straight to the Point

The stage was set for fireworks this weekend during the rare Sunday Senate session that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called to push forward a major transportation funding bill, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) did not disappoint. The underlying must-pass bill, which finances federal construction programs on the nation's roads, has become the focus of proxy battles on everything from Planned Parenthood to the Export-Import Bank. Sunday, however, Senate Republicans lined up behind McConnell to shut down Cruz's attempts to wreak havoc on the legislation.

Here is what happened Sunday:

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An undercover video surfaced Tuesday purportedly showing a high-level Planned Parenthood official discussing the sale of tissue obtained from aborted fetuses. Heavy emphasis on purportedly.

Conservative media outlets have covered the video extensively. Abortion opponents have alleged the video shows there is a black market for fetal tissue, and the originators of the video allege Planned Parenthood is breaking the law. The apparently casual, some might say callous, tone of the Planned Parenthood official -- shown on the video talking about how to avoid "crushing" certain parts of the fetus during the abortion procedure to preserve more desirable tissue -- has further enflamed the debate.

The video is being blamed (or credited, depending on your point of view) for fueling an effort to derail a bill in Congress to mint a commemorative breast cancer coin because some of the proceeds from the coin were to go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which provides some non-abortion funding to Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood is on the defensive, arguing the video was "heavily edited" and doesn’t show any wrongdoing.

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A rash of church fires in the South, most of them at black churches, has religious leaders and civil rights activists concerned, particularly on the heels of the June 17 shooting at the Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina that left nine African Americans dead. Arson is suspected in some but not all of the fires, and authorities have not yet found evidence to suggest the fires were racially motivated.

Here's what we know and don't know:

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Last week’s Supreme Court decision declaring marriage a constitutional right for same-sex couples has left gay marriage foes grasping at straws. While some states stepped out of the way so gay couples could marry, others have slow-rolled implementing the Supreme Court's ruling, using legal procedural maneuvers, religious freedom arguments, or even by contemplating giving up on marriage altogether.

Here are the five main ways gay marriage foes are resisting the Supreme Court's decision.

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Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), who's been referred to as "America's craziest governor," is known for his brash leadership style and off-color, at times vulgar remarks.

But LePage has now potentially moved beyond personal insults and into the territory of real injury. He was accused last week of blackmailing a charter school that hired the state's House speaker, Democrat Mark Eves, as president by threatening to withhold $500,000 in state funding unless Eves was fired.

Maine lawmakers are now broaching the subject of impeachment and the state's attorney general has said she's "very troubled" by the accusations against LePage.

Here are five of the most outlandish things LePage has said and done during his tenure as "America's craziest governor."

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Whatever you may think of her, former vice presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) knows how to leave an impression.

Her appearances as a Fox News contributor over the past several years were shining examples of that.

Whether it was publicly bashing Fox News — while appearing on Fox News — or giving such a garbled speech that a Fox anchor questioned whether the TelePrompTer was working, Palin produced a few gems.

Thus, the news Wednesday that Fox had dropped Palin as a contributor on June 1 came as a surprise for the simple fact that Palin was good TV.

In honor of her tenure as a Fox News contributor, here are five of her most notable appearances.

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In voting to uphold Obamacare Thursday, the Supreme Court preserved health care insurance for millions of Americans, ended what is likely the last major legal challenge to the core elements of the president's signature legislative achievement, and bitterly disappointed conservatives who saw this case as the last best hope for mortally wounding the sprawling health care reform law.

Adding insult to injury, it was Chief Justice John Roberts who joined with Justice Anthony Kennedy and the four liberal justices in the majority in King v. Burwell. Roberts authored the opinion himself in a case which was tailor-made by conservative legal activists to undermine Obamacare. Their challenge centered on a four-word phrase in the statute that the challengers said invalidated the subsidies offered to consumers in the states where insurance exchanges were operated by the federal government. Had the challengers prevailed, the subsidies for certain consumers in 34 states with federal exchanges would have been invalidated, insurance markets would have been massively disrupted in each of those states, and the Republican-controlled Congress would have tried to use the decision as leverage to force concessions from the President in future negotiations over Obamacare.

Other than that, no big deal.

Here's the rationale Roberts and the majority fashioned for upholding the Obamacare subsidies:

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Ask Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and he himself will say it: he's not part of the 1 percent. And a Tuesday report in The New York Times goes into detail about the 2016 candidate's fraught financial history, which includes using the Florida Republican party's credit card for personal purchases, buying multiple houses, and appointing unqualified family members to serve in political positions with fiscal responsibility.

The piece notes that Rubio, like many Americans, carries credit card debt, and has had to grapple with mortgages and paying off student loans. What sets Rubio's financial troubles apart from those of many Americans, however, is that Rubio's had the long-time financial support of billionaire Norman Braman, a major campaign donor who helped fund Rubio's job as a college instructor, hired Rubio as a lawyer, and continues to employ his wife.

Here are the five key takeaways from the Times story:

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is hankering to pick a fight -- any fight -- with the Obama administration over Obamacare subsides. In a mini-drama that is more theater than substance, Cruz is now threatening to issue subpoenas to the Treasury Department after it refused last week to produce the officials from whom Cruz demanded testimony.

Here are the five points on how Cruz found himself facing an empty row of seats last Thursday:

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