March 24, 2016
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Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine.) still hasn't reached a decision on President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, but she really hopes her party gives her the chance to.

"The only way that the Senate can reach reasonable and informed decisions on nominees to the highest court in the land is for us to follow the regular process," Collins said Wednesday in an interview with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. "That means having these individual one-on-one meetings and then also the Judiciary Committee, in my view, should hold the kind of in-depth hearings that it has traditionally held."

Thus far, the GOP has adamantly refused to hold hearings for Garland in favor of waiting for the next president to pick a nominee, a move Collins says she thinks is unjust. "I think it's simply not fair and not right to say that no matter who the president was going to nominate, that we should not look at this person the way that we normally would," Collins said.

Right now, she's trying to get that point across to colleagues — though she admits she hasn't had much success so far. "I wouldn't say I've been overwhelmingly successful in convincing the chairman of the Judiciary Committee to hold hearings," Collins said, "but I hope that as time goes on, and as people sit down with Judge Garland and talk to him one-on-one, that perhaps there will be a shift in the position of the chairman of the Judiciary Committee." Becca Stanek

8:07 a.m. ET

French authorities have begun the process of clearing the massive refugee camp in Calais known as "the Jungle," with demolishment set to begin Tuesday. The camp has poor sanitation and makeshift living quarters, and the French government said it is being destroyed on humanitarian grounds; still, the Jungle was believed to have held more than 7,000 people, and bulldozing the camp requires their relocation to other camps across France. More than 1,200 police have been dispatched to prepare for those who still want to try to get to Britain and may refuse to leave."Our dream is over," one Sudanese man told the BBC. Migrants will be allowed to seek asylum and if they do not, they could face deportation. Jeva Lange

7:25 a.m. ET

The Justice Department will be severely limited in how it is able to address concerns of voter intimidation in the upcoming presidential election thanks to a three-year-old Supreme Court ruling, The New York Times reports:

Since 1965, federal officials have sent about 32,000 observers to jurisdictions with histories of harassing minority voters or even outright denying them access to the ballot. But officials say their hands are now tied by a 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As a result of that decision, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Justice Department will send observers only to jurisdictions where it already has court approval. That encompasses seven counties or jurisdictions in Alaska, California, Louisiana and New York. [The New York Times]

By comparison, in 2012 observers were sent to jurisdictions across 13 states. "We do not want to be in the position we're in," said Vanita Gupta, the top civil rights official at the Justice Department. Election monitors will still be posted outside polling places in 25 states, but they will not be the experts normally allowed inside.

Fears of voter intimidation have spiked after Donald Trump called for his supporters to "go out and watch" the polls. "I'll look for ... well, it's called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can't speak American," one Trump supporter recently told The Boston Globe. Jeva Lange

6:25 a.m. ET
Halil Al-Murshidi/AFP/Getty Images

On Saturday night, Iraq's parliament passed a ban on the sale, consumption, and production of alcohol in the country, a surprise move by Shiite lawmakers as much of the country and world's attention is focused on the battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State. Anyone caught violating the ban is subject to a fine of up to 25 million Iraqi dinars ($21,000). Iraq is majority Muslim, and Islam prohibits drinking alcohol, but alcohol is widely available in Iraq's larger cities, sold in shops mostly run by Christians, and Iraq is home to Farida beer and the anise liquor Asyria arak, among other alcohol producers.

The law will be difficult to enforce is Iraq's Kurdish region, home to many of the country's remaining Christians, and Christian lawmakers vowed to challenge the law in court. "This ban is unconstitutional, as the constitution acknowledges the rights of non-Muslim minorities and ethnic groups who live alongside Muslims in Iraq," said Christian MP Joseph Slaiwa. Mahmoud al-Hassan, the Shiite lawmaker from the dominant State of Law coalition who introduced the measure as a surprise amendment to a law on municipal governance, says it comports with the Constitution's provision that "no law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established."

Some other Muslim countries have laws restricting the sale and consumption of alcohol, but only Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and a few others have forcibly banned it outright. ISIS also strictly bans alcohol in territory it controls, plus cigarettes and other drugs. Peter Weber

5:34 a.m. ET
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Donald Trump's sagging poll numbers appear to be dragging down down-ballot Republicans, too, to the point where some GOP super PACs are openly pleading with voters to keep Republicans in office as a check on President Hillary Clinton. Clinton over the weekend lashed vulnerable Republican Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Richard Burr (N.C.) to Trump, urging voters in each state to repudiate Trump by electing the women challenging each incumbent. Thanks to polling shifts up and down the ballot, "Democrats now have a 73 percent chance of winning the Senate," says Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight, based on the site's "polls plus" forecast.

"Control of the Senate is coming down to six key states, with Democrats needing to gain four seats to win a majority if Clinton wins the White House," Enten explains. The Democratic challenger will likely win in Wisconsin and Illinois, he said, so they have to hold the open seat in Nevada and win two more of the five remaining tossups — Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — and momentum appears to be shifting in the Democrats' direction.

But even if the Democrats do win control, Chris Cillizza notes at The Washington Post, "it could be a blink before they are back in the minority." The 2018 map is "remarkably bad" for Democrats — they will be defending 25 seats, versus just eight for Republicans. "That's as lopsided an election cycle as you will ever see," Cillizza says, and it gets worse: 20 of the Democratic seats are in states Mitt Romney won in 2012, and the election will likely be in the first midterm of Hillary Clinton's presidency, a time when the White House party usually loses seats. That means, he said, "a President Hillary Clinton will have two years to work with a friendly Senate before things get much, much tougher for her in Congress." So there's some good news for Republicans. Peter Weber

4:23 a.m. ET

The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals somehow managed to end their game in Glendale on Sunday night in a 6-6 tie, after each team missed potentially game-winning field goals in overtime. It was only the 21st tie in NFL history, or at least since current overtime rules were put in place in 1974, and the lowest-scoring tie on the books, the NFL says. Each team had 3 points and lots of failed plays going into overtime, and each kicked a field goal. The wheels seriously started coming off the bus when Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro managed to bounce a second overtime field goal attempt off the left upright.

The Seahawks' Stephen Hauschka returned the favor, missing a 28-yard field goal attempt entirely, and the game ended with a Hail Mary pass by Carson Palmer. "Two hundred games, including playoffs," Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said after the game, "I have never played in a game as crazy as this one before." Peter Weber

3:36 a.m. ET
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Michelle Obama will appear with Hillary Clinton for the first time this campaign during an event Thursday in North Carolina.

Clinton's campaign made the announcement Sunday, with press secretary Brian Fallon calling the first lady Clinton's "not-so-secret" weapon. Obama has hit the trail for Clinton six times since July, when she made an electrifying speech at the Democratic National Convention. "She's been an absolute rock star," Fallon said.

Without ever saying his name, Obama has carefully crafted a message to voters that Donald Trump is not the right person to lead the United States, saying earlier this month that they cannot dismiss his remarks about women as "just another day's headline." The first lady is "one of the most admired people in America, period," Fallon said. "And I think it's exceptional to have the opportunity to have a strong woman like the first lady attest to another strong woman like Hillary Clinton who is running for president." Catherine Garcia

3:33 a.m. ET

"I would like to talk to you about drugs," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight, but not in some 1960s "reefer madness" way. "Unfortunately, America is now in the midst of a new drug crisis, and it seems that no one is safe from it," he said. That would be the "epidemic of addiction to opioids, like heroin and prescription painkillers," he said, and it's a serious one: As of 2015, an estimated 2.6 million Americans were addicted to these drugs, and some 30,000 Americans die from overdoses each year from heroin and prescription opioids.

Oliver focused on the prescription variety, the chemical cousins of heroin that some 75 percent of U.S. heroin addicts started their addiction with. Now, according to the U.S. surgeon general, some 250 million opioid prescriptions are written each year, equal to one for each adult. It wasn't always this way — as recently as the early 1990s, doctors were "excessively wary" about prescribing these powerful, addictive drugs, Oliver said. And it wasn't just Big Pharma — patient advocates argued that excessive fear of opioids was causing injured and dying people too much pain. But when Perdue — maker of OxyContin — and other drug companies got involved in the late 1990s, he said, all hell broke loose.

After discussing Perdue's shady marketing and downplaying of addiction risk, Oliver said we "may be glad to hear that in 2007 they admitted some responsibility," paying out $634 million. "But at a certain point, the question has to become less 'What did we do wrong?' and more 'What do we do now?'" Oliver said. "There is no one simple answer here." We need to be more careful about prescribing opioids and make alternative treatments more widely available, he said, but "not all opioid addicts will respond to the same treatments, and not all people in pain will find relief from alternative therapies. This is going to take a massive effort and a significant investment — it won't be cheap, it won't be quick, and it won't be easy. And it is hard not to be angry at the drug companies, like Purdue, whose promise of cheap, quick, easy pain solution helped put us in this f---ing mess." Watch below, and be warned, that last F-bomb isn't bleeped out. Peter Weber

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