Over the holiday season and continuing into 2014, one of the biggest legal developments has been a spate of activity in lawsuits brought by religiously-affiliated nonprofit organizations challenging the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers’ group health insurance plans cover preventive care for women, including access to the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives. A number of religiously-affiliated non-profit employers – including large, religiously-affiliated universities such as the University of Notre Dame – have sought relief in the federal courts, claiming that the ACA infringes their religious liberty by forcing them to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees in a manner that compromises deeply held religious beliefs.
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On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear the first oral arguments of 2014. On the calendar that day is NLRB v. Noel Canning, which addresses the scope of the President’s recess appointment power. The questions at issue are whether the President can use the recess appointment power 1) during a recess that occurs during a session of Congress rather than between sessions; 2) to fill vacancies that exist during a recess as well as those that arise during one; and 3) when the Senate is holding pro forma sessions during a recess.
On January 8, 1790, President George Washington gave the first State of the Union address (then known as “the Annual Message”). He delivered it in the Senate Chamber of Federal Hall in New York City, where Congress was meeting at the time.
President Washington opened his efficient speech—the shortest ever, at just 1,081 words—by celebrating the “recent accession of the important State of North Carolina to the Constitution of the United States.”
Only eleven states had ratified our Nation’s charter when Washington took office. North Carolina was the twelfth; Rhode Island would not become the thirteenth until the following May.
Sixty-seven years ago today, the U.S. Congress broadcast its proceedings on live television for the first time.
On January 3, 1947, the opening session of the 80th Congress was broadcast live from the House Floor by a local television stations in Philadelphia and New York. You can spot that historic footage at the beginning of this newsreel: