Little Sisters's Short-Term Victory: Reuters: "The U.S. Supreme Court said on Friday that, while litigation continues, the federal government may not enforce a part of President Barack Obama's healthcare law that requires employers to provide insurance covering contraception against an order of nuns and one other Roman Catholic Church-affiliated group. The court said, however, that the groups in question must first notify the Department of Health and Human Services in writing that they object to the so-called contraception mandate. The groups are the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Baltimore-based order of nuns that runs nursing homes across the country, and Christian Brothers Services, a group based in Romeoville, Illinois, that administers healthcare plans for Catholic groups."
Your Contraception Mandate Refresher: NBC News: "All new insurance plans, including those provided by employers, must provide free birth control as part of a list of essential benefits, including vaccinations and cancer screenings. Churches are exempt from the law and don't need to take any action. Religiously affiliated non-profit groups -- like the nuns -- may also get an exemption, but it isn't automatic: they must fill out a form stating that providing contraceptive coverage would violate their religious principles. If they don't seek the exemption and refuse to provide the coverage, they face big fines. ... The sisters say signing the form, in essence, deputizes their insurance provider to offer the coverage, making them part of a process they find objectionable."
Speaking of Obamacare: CBS/Reuters: "About three million people have enrolled in private health insurance plans through federal and state marketplaces since Oct. 1, a top U.S. official said on Friday. Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a blog posting that the administration expects the number to grow in coming weeks as a public outreach campaign accelerates. The administration last reported 2.2 million enrollees in Obamacare plans through late December, indicating that about 800,000 more have signed up for coverage so far in January. Before the botched Oct. 1 start of enrollment, the government had expected to enroll 3.3 million people in private coverage by the end of 2013."
GOP Talks Immigration Deal: Washington Post: "Recent signals from House Republican leaders that they will pursue their own vision of immigration reform has presented the White House with an opening to achieve a major legislative deal this year that has eluded lawmakers for decades. Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected to release a brief outline of immigration principles to his caucus as soon as its annual retreat next week. The goals would include strengthening border security and creating new visas for foreign workers, while providing a path toward legalizing the status of the nation’s 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants, according to people briefed on the deliberations. ... White House officials view immigration as the best chance President Obama has to pass a major piece of domestic legislation in his final three years in office, largely because some GOP leaders believe their party must broaden its appeal to Latinos and Asian Americans."
Reality Check: Time magazine: "But while optimism is high ... experience suggests that, at most, only border security will see Congressional approval this year. ... First, House Republicans don’t need to tackle the hard issues of immigration reform to keep the chamber. Democrats need to win 42 of 43 competitive races to take over the House, according to the Cook Political Report, and Republicans might even gain a few seats in the wake of the ObamaCare rollout fiasco. Next year, with no congressional election, could provide a better political environment for House Republicans. The second reason is that the right wing of the House Republican conference has yet to embrace reform, and there is little indication that Speaker John Boehner will rebuff them as he has conservative outside groups. In fact, it is President Obama who has moved towards Republicans, accepting in November their 'step-by-step' or 'piecemeal' approach, on condition that all of the steps—border security, high-tech and agriculture worker visas, a path to legality, etc.—get done."
Dimon's Big Bonus: USA Today: "Financial services giant JP Morgan, hit with $20 billion in legal fines, settlements and related costs in 2013, provided CEO Jamie Dimon $20 million in compensation last year, a 74% jump from 2012. Dimon, who earned $11.5 million in 2012, received $18.5 million in restricted shares and $1.5 million in salary last year, according to Securities & Exchange Commission filing Friday. It was Dimon's highest compensation package since 2011, when he received $23 million from the nation's largest bank. Dimon's compensation package came under immediate fire from critics of the bank's missteps in mortgage lending, credit card sales and even overseeing the bank accounts of Bernard Madoff's $17 billion Ponzi scheme."
Massive Interstate Pile-Up: Associated Press: "A couple from Michigan and a man from Chicago were killed in a massive pileup on a snowy interstate in northwestern Indiana, authorities said Friday, as the busy highway finally reopened a day after the 40-plus-vehicle wreck. More than 20 people were injured in the crush of semitrailers and mangled passenger vehicles Thursday afternoon on the eastbound stretch of Interstate 94 connecting Chicago with Detroit. Conditions very quickly changed from clear to near-whiteout at the time of the crash. State police Lt. Jerry Williams said there was a sudden burst of heavy lake-effect snow that took everyone by surprise."
The End of a Dynasty? New York Times: "Duck season is proving a bit hit and miss so far this year. For a second week in a row, ratings for Duck Dynasty, the prodigious success for the A&E network, were off sharply from its previous cycle, suggesting — though far from proving — that there has been a significant backlash to comments made by Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family at the center of the show. ... So far, the new season, the show’s fifth, is showing a significant audience falloff. The second episode, Wednesday night was down to 6.6 million viewers (before delayed viewing is counted) from 8.5 million for the second episode of the show’s previous cycle, which aired in August. The audience for last week’s premiere, also 8.5 million, was down from 11.7 million for the show’s previous premiere."
That's all for today. See you back here Monday. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.
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