Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 18, 2021

The Supreme Court upholds the Affordable Care Act for a third time, Biden signs bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday, and more


Supreme Court upholds Affordable Care Act, again

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the Affordable Care Act for the third time, ruling 7-2 that Republican-led states lack legal standing to try to overturn the law, popularly known as ObamaCare. The states had argued that Congress' 2017 decision to remove the penalty for not buying health insurance — the so-called individual mandate — rendered the whole law unconstitutional. A decision in their favor would have resulted in eliminating the law and the popular provisions it includes, such as guaranteeing coverage for pre-existing conditions. But Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority that the states' lawsuit was improper because the plaintiffs couldn't trace a legal injury to the individual mandate. President Biden called the decision a "major victory for all Americans benefiting from this groundbreaking and life-changing law."


Biden signs bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

President Biden on Thursday signed a bill establishing Juneteenth, June 19, as a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery, calling it a day of "profound weight and profound power." June 19, 1865, was the day when Union Major General Gordon Granger brought the news of President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation to Texas. The Office of Personnel Management announced that most federal employees would have the day off on Friday, since Juneteenth falls on Saturday. The legislation passed Congress on Wednesday after gaining momentum during the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police last year. Juneteenth is the first federal holiday created since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was recognized as a holiday in 1983.


House votes to repeal 2002 war powers authorization

The House voted Thursday to repeal the 2002 war powers measure that authorized the invasion of Iraq, marking the first time lawmakers have curtailed presidential war powers in a generation. The bipartisan, 268-161 vote signaled broad support for dialing back the sweeping authority lawmakers gave then-President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and that presidents have been able to use ever since to justify military action. "To this day, our endless war continues costing trillions of dollars and thousands of lives in a war that goes way beyond any scope that Congress conceived, or intended," said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a longtime proponent of reining in presidential war powers. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Senate would take up the measure next week.


Supreme Court rules Catholic foster care agency can turn away same-sex couples

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday that a Catholic foster care agency in Philadelphia could reject gay and lesbian couples as clients in a case pitting LGBTQ rights against the First Amendment's protection of actions reflecting religious beliefs. The Catholic agency "seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. "The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents ... violates the First Amendment." The decision marked the most significant defeat for gay rights activists since the court's 2018 ruling in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.


Record heat wave nears peak in West

An extreme heat wave continued to push temperatures to record highs across the West on Thursday as 40 million Americans continued to endure triple-digit heat. The temperature hit 118 degrees in Phoenix on Thursday, smashing the daily heat record of 114 degrees set in 2015. The core of the heat blast shifted from the north and central Rockies to the Desert Southwest and California's Central Valley, where more records were expected to be broken through Saturday as the extreme weather peaks. Temperatures have climbed to the highest levels ever observed in parts of Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. Weather experts said the "mega-heat wave," fueled by climate change, was worsening a severe drought and intensifying the threat of wildfires.


Hong Kong police raid pro-democracy newspaper's offices

About 500 Hong Kong police officers raided the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily's offices on Thursday and arrested editor-in-chief Ryan Law and four other executives, including Apple Daily publisher Chan Pui-man and director Cheung Chi-wai, at their homes. The paper, owned by jailed entrepreneur and activist Jimmy Lai, has been critical of leaders in mainland China, who have curtailed Hong Kong's autonomy recently. Police said in a press briefing on the crackdown that Apple Daily had published more than 30 articles advocating sanctions on Hong Kong and China. Authorities said the newspaper's reports violated a national security law. Lai already faces a trial for allegedly breaking the national security law, and could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.


U.S. lifts Trump tariff on Scotch 

The U.S. and Britain agreed Thursday to a five-year suspension of 25 percent tariffs on certain goods imposed under former President Donald Trump as part of a long trade dispute over subsidies to Boeing and its European rival, Airbus. The Biden administration and the European Union resolved the aerospace dispute earlier this week, paving the way for the suspension of the 2019 retaliatory tariffs. For Britain, which was part of the EU in 2019 but isn't anymore, the highest-profile export hit in the trade war was single malt Scotch. The 25 percent tariffs on Scotch led to a 30 percent drop in exports to the U.S. in the 18 months through March 2021, the Scotch Whisky Association says. British tariffs on American whiskeys remain in place as part of a different EU-U.S. dispute.


Supreme Court rules former West Africa child slaves can't sue U.S. companies 

The Supreme Court ruled against six former child slaves from Mali in West Africa who sued food companies Nestle and Cargill accusing them of perpetuating illegal working conditions in the global chocolate industry. The plaintiffs said in the 15-year-old suit that they were trafficked to cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast, and forced to work. They said the companies' pressure to keep down cocoa prices fueled a system that relied on enslaved children on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast and Ghana. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said that the plaintiffs couldn't sue because the actions took place in Ivory Coast, not the United States. Associate Justice Samuel Alito noted that the suit "didn't even allege that [Nestle and Cargill] knew about forced child labor."


Report: GOP candidate threatened rival with 'hit squad' in secret recording

William Braddock, a longshot Republican candidate for a highly competitive Florida congressional seat, was secretly recorded threatening to dispatch "a Russian and Ukrainian hit squad" to make GOP primary rival Anna Paulina Luna "disappear," Politico reported Thursday after obtaining a copy of the recording. Braddock also warned the conservative activist with whom he was speaking not to support Luna in the race for the Tampa Bay-area seat being vacated by Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), who is running for governor. "Luna is a f---ing speed bump in the road," Braddock said, according to Politico. "She's a dead squirrel you run over every day when you leave the neighborhood." Braddock said he had not heard the recording, and there was "no proof" it was him, or that it had not been "altered and edited."


1 killed, 12 wounded in drive-by shooting spree near Phoenix

One person was killed and 12 others injured in eight drive-by shootings in a 90-minute spree near Phoenix on Thursday, police said. A suspect has been arrested. Police say the first shooting occurred at about 11:10 a.m. in Peoria, with the suspect arrested during a traffic stop in the town of Surprise after 12:40 p.m. A gun was found in the vehicle. Four of the people wounded had gunshot wounds. The others were injured by broken glass or shrapnel. Investigators couldn't immediately determine a motive for the shootings, but they didn't think it was road rage. "We don't normally see road rage where this much happens," Peoria Police Spokesman Sgt. Brandon Sheffert said.


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