Pro-union activists rally in front of the Supreme Court on January 11.

The Supreme Court deadlocked on Tuesday for the second time since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month—and this time, public sector unions were the winner.

The 4-4 split underscores the immediate impact of Scalia's death and the new reality of a divided eight-member court. Senate Republicans have so far refused to consider President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to replace Scalia.

Before Scalia's death, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court was poised to strike a "mortal blow" to public sector unions, long a target of the conservative movement. A conservative legal group brought Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association to stop unions from collecting compulsory fees from nonunion employees covered by collective bargaining agreements. The case aimed to weaken unions' political sway by driving down union membership and decimating union coffers.

The conservative group behind the case brought it knowing that it likely had a 5-4 majority on its side. After oral arguments in January, the Supreme Court appeared ready to rule against unions. But Scalia's death changed that. As Mother Jones' Stephanie Mencimer predicted after the justice's passing, "Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of Scalia's death are public sector unions."

The split leaves in place a lower court ruling in favor of the labor unions and demonstrates how the union opponents' strategy has backfired. When they still had a likely 5-4 majority on their side, the union opponents had rushed the case to the Supreme Court by asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule against them quickly in 2013. The 9th Circuit complied—but the Supreme Court's ruling came a month and a half too late.

Republicans have long rallied supporters by emphasizing the importance of selecting Supreme Court justices and warning what might happen if a Democratic president picks the next one. In a speech Monday afternoon at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Hillary Clinton will make the same case to Democrats.

Clinton will discuss the blockbuster cases before the court this term, according to a Clinton campaign aide familiar with the speech, to hammer home the importance of electing a Democratic president in order to protect the party's top priorities. Those cases include one about abortion access and another on President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration.

"Given the range of cases currently before the Court—on everything from immigration to a women's right to choose, affirmative action to voting rights—Clinton will say that the core pillars of the progressive movement are at risk of being upended by the Court in a single term," the aide said in an email. She will remind voters that the next president will likely make additional nominations to the court, beyond filling the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Clinton will also discuss the current confirmation battle surrounding Merrick Garland, Obama's nominee to replace Scalia. Clinton plans to argue that "it is critically important that Senate Republicans not be allowed to succeed in their strategy of refusing to consider the President’s nominee," according to the aide.

The speech, which will also address Donald Trump and the dangers his hypothetical Supreme Court nominees could pose to progressive causes, will likely be seen as a pivot to the general election. Clinton's Democratic primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, swept three races over the weekend and is hoping to score an upset against Clinton in Wisconsin on April 5. But Clinton still holds a substantial lead over Sanders in the pledged delegate count, 1,243 to 975, with 2,383 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.

Update, April 1: California's State Assembly approved the measure. Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill into law on Monday.

California lawmakers and labor unions have reached a historic deal to raise the state's minimum wage to $15, the LA Times reports.

The plan will boost the minimum wage from $10 to $10.50 by January 2017, gradually increasing it to $15 over the following six years. Smaller businesses, those with less than 25 employees, will have one extra year to comply with the new changes.

If the deal passes in the state legislature, California will become the first state in the country to adopt a $15 minimum wage—a goal that activists and lawmakers around the country have pushed in recent years as one way to combat income inequality. According to the Times, state legislators could vote on the issue by the end of next week.

The movement to boost the $7.25 federal minimum wage has been an important campaign issue for Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. While both Democratic rivals support raising the minimum wage, only Sanders has endorsed hiking it to $15. Clinton supports raising it to $12.

California Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to announce the deal as early as today. For a deeper look at the issues surrounding the minimum wage debate, check out our analysis here.

Donald Trump denied any involvement on Friday in a National Enquirer story alleging that Ted Cruz has had affairs with five different women, but he couldn't help inserting himself into the melee. In a statement posted on Facebook, Trump said he hoped the allegations against "Lyin' Ted Cruz" were not true, but hinted that they well might be.

I have no idea whether or not the cover story about Ted Cruz in this week's issue of the National Enquirer is true or not, but I had absolutely nothing to do with it, did not know about it, and have not, as yet, read it.

Likewise, I have nothing to do with the National Enquirer and unlike Lyin’ Ted Cruz I do not surround myself with political hacks and henchman and then pretend total innocence. Ted Cruz's problem with the National Enquirer is his and his alone, and while they were right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about Lyin’ Ted Cruz.

I look forward to spending the week in Wisconsin, winning the Republican nomination and ultimately the Presidency in order to Make America Great Again.

- Donald J. Trump

On Friday afternoon, Cruz called the Enquirer's report "garbage" and accused "Donald Trump and his henchmen” of planting the story. Not to be outdone, Trump claimed in his response that it was Cruz who had surrounded himself with "political hacks and henchmen."

On Thursday evening, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a new law expanding Indiana's abortion restrictions. The measure will prohibit women from electing to have an abortion due to the race, gender, or disability of the fetus, and will impose strict rules on doctors who perform abortions.

"By enacting this legislation, we take an important step in protecting the unborn, while still providing an exception for the life of the mother," Pence said in a statement. "I sign this legislation with a prayer that God would continue to bless these precious children, mothers and families."

Indiana is the second state in the nation, after North Dakota, that prohibits a woman from seeking an abortion because the fetus is diagnosed with a disability, such as Down's Syndrome or microcephaly. The law will also require that the remains of an aborted fetus be interred or cremated and prohibits fetal tissue donation.

Additionally, the law will hold doctors liable for wrongful death if it is found that they perform an abortion that was motivated by a fetal defect, sex, or other prohibited reasons. 

"It's disgraceful that politicians in Indiana want to shame a woman who may choose to end a pregnancy following diagnosis of a lethal fetal anomaly," said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards in a March statement about the bill.

"Abortion reason" bans like the one just enacted in Indiana are opposed by many in the medical community, who say that they will cause women to censor themselves when discussing critical, sometimes heartbreaking, health decisions with their doctors. "These 'reason bans' represent gross interference in the patient-physician relationship, creating a system in which patients and physicians are forced to withhold information or outright lie in order to ensure access to care," wrote the president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in a March statement. "By restricting the termination of pregnancies with genetic anomalies, the bill would cause additional severe emotional pain for women and their families."

Meanwhile, some critics wonder whether the passage of this stringent bill is mostly about gaining political points: Many of the bill's main sponsors are in the middle of primaries in Indiana, often running in close races against other social conservatives.


"When the head of the Ku Klux Klan, when all these weird groups come out in favor for the candidate of my party, either they're not Republicans or I'm not," says the thoughtful-looking man as he stares into the camera.

You wouldn't be at fault for assuming such a line was used to describe the existential crisis within the Republican party today, as it wrestles with the very real prospect of Donald Trump becoming its presidential nominee. But it's actually a direct quote from "Confessions of a Republican," a 1964 television advertisement attacking then-nominee Barry Goldwater. It features an actor playing a lifelong Republican who struggles to come to terms with the Arizona senator's rise.

The classic campaign ad has resurfaced today because of its eerie parallels to the 2016 election and the increasingly likely chance that Trump will secure the GOP nomination.

"This man scares me," the man in the ad says. "Now maybe I'm wrong. A friend of mine said to me, 'Listen, just because a man sounds a little irresponsible during a campaign doesn't mean he's going to act irresponsibly.' You know, that theory that the White House makes the man—I don't buy that."

For nearly five minutes the actor ponders the implications of his party's nominee, regretting that he did not go to the San Francisco convention and oppose him. He concluded by urging Republican support of the Democratic candidate, Lyndon Johnson.  

"I think my party made a bad mistake in San Francisco, and I'm going to have to vote against that mistake on the third of November."

That's probably where the parallels to today end.

On Thursday in Wisconsin, Sen. Ted Cruz put on his most presidential jacket, pointed straight to the camera, and called his party's likely nominee a "sniveling coward" for making disparaging comments about his wife, Heidi:

This is where the Republican primary is at right now. The latest drama over Trump began earlier this week, when an anti-Trump group unaffiliated with the Cruz campaign ran ads shaming Trump's wife, Melania, for having once posed nude in GQ. Trump accused Cruz of putting the group up to it (which would be illegal), and then promised to "spill the beans" on Heidi Cruz. On Wednesday, Trump used his Twitter account to quote a tweet that included a photo of Melania next to a photo of Heidi Cruz, with the tag line, "the images are worth a thousand words." So Cruz has reason to be pissed—and to his larger point, Trump really does have a problem with women.

But almost as soon as he finished his remarks on Thursday, Cruz was asked a simple question: Would he support Trump as the nominee? It was a revealing moment that echoed a similar press conference two weeks ago, when a visibly distraught Marco Rubio called Trump a con artist and a third-world strongman who foments violence—but stopped short of suggesting he'd vote for someone else. This time, Cruz didn't quite answer either, insisting only that Trump would not be the nominee. He may think Trump's a misogynist, but he still wants Trump's voters.

The latest episode in the national freak-out over Syrian refugees is playing out in South Carolina, where the state senate has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would create state refugee registry and require state law enforcement agencies to investigate incoming refugees.

"With the danger today of a terrorist infiltrating the refugee program, we have no other option than to enroll this information,” said Kevin Bryant, a Republican state senator who co-sponsored the bill, according to South Carolina's The State newspaper. The bill still has to be passed by South Carolina's House of Representatives and signed by Gov. Nikki Haley (R) before becoming law.

Read more here:

The United States has pledged to take in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees, a small fraction of the US' overall refugee intake each year. Government officials say Syrian refugees are strictly and lengthily vetted, enduring a degree of scrutiny higher than any other group of people trying to enter the US. But after the terrorist attacks in Paris last November, governors and state lawmakers around the country tried to bar refugees from their states or restrict aid money and cooperation for people being resettled there.

The final version of the bill passed in South Carolina doesn't try to cut off any funding for refugees, which the federal government and refugee resettlement groups say is illegal. Instead the measure would have the refugees' sponsors submit information about the refugees to the state's social services agency, which would pass the data on to state and local law enforcement agencies for additional (and unspecified) security checks. It also adds another layer of suspicion in a state where anti-Muslim rhetoric helped propel Donald Trump to a convincing win in the Republican primary there last month. But South Carolina is not alone; the New York state legislature is also considering a registry bill that would require fingerprinting and monitoring of refugees.

President Obama danced the tango during a state dinner in Argentina on Wednesday, after receiving a friendly invitation from a professional to join her on the dance floor. The president, who initially tried to decline the dance, nailed the impromptu performance, which was both wonderfully awkward and a delight to watch for everyone else.

Well, almost everyone. By morning light, political pundits jumped at the opportunity to chastise the president. That buzzkill brought to you by Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations.

However, the advance person who let him do the tango, that person ought to be looking for work on somebody's—in somebody's campaign very far away. That was a tremendous mistake. It's fine to go to Argentina, you want to do the work, but you've got to be careful of these little photo ops and optics. Baseball games and tango, that's inconsistent with the seriousness of the day.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich rebuked Sen. Ted Cruz's call to "patrol and secure" Muslim neighborhoods in the wake of the deadly explosions in Brussels on Tuesday.

"We are not at war with Islam—we're at war with radical Islam," Kasich told reporters in Minneapolis, according to the New York Times. "In our country we don't want to create divisions where we say, 'Okay well your religion, you're a Muslim, so therefore we're going to keep an eye on you."

He added, "The last thing we need is more polarization."

ISIS has since claimed responsibility for the attacks, which have killed at least 30 people.

Kasich's remarks stand out against those of his other Republican primary opponent, Donald Trump. In response to the attacks on Tuesday, Trump announced his support for employing torture tactics against terror suspects for intelligence-gathering purposes, despite considerable evidence that such methods fail to produce useful information.

"If they could expand the law, I would do a lot more than waterboarding," Trump said on the Today Show. "You have to get the information from these people."

Terrorism expert Malcolm Nance slammed Trump for the comments, describing them as fodder for terrorist recruitment efforts.