By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's RICK KLEIN: The hot buttons are getting pushed again, still warm from the last time. At the halfway point of 2014, the political cycle has combined with the news cycle to draw battle lines that look familiar. The Hobby Lobby decision guarantees another election cycle where the Democrats are going to be talking about the "war on women," with contraceptive rights in the middle of turnout efforts. And President Obama's acknowledgement that he won't be getting that "darn bill" on immigration reform likewise fires up both sides in a long-running fight with no solution in sight. Maybe one reason people are tuning out of politics? Even the arguments themselves are seeming stale.
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: We know tea party activists are angry after Sen Thad Cochran's win in Mississippi, but how do other Senate challengers see it affecting their upcoming primaries? Tennessee State Rep. Joe Carr, the tea partier challenging incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander, said while stumping last week a voter told him, "We have gotten over the grief and we are mad as hell and our heads have exploded." "I think you are seeing a level of energy in Tennessee I have never seen before," Carr said. "They have done this at their own peril." In Kansas, incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts is being challenged by Milton Wolf, a physician. Wolf said "conservatives are infuriated by what the GOP establishment did in Mississippi." "It's an absolute betrayal of what our party stands for." He said Kansans he meets on the campaign trail are "livid" and he's seen both contributions and volunteer sign ups "skyrocket" since Cochran's victory. Both of these races were never thought to be as competitive as Mississippi and in state polls Wolf trails Roberts by double digits, but could the fury that threatens to officially split the party turn into votes? Both halves of the GOP will be closely watching. http://abcn.ws/1oiVLeI
with ABC's SCOTT WILSON
SO YOU WANT TO VACATION IN NORTH KOREA… North Korea is still open for Western tourists, according to the agencies that organize such trips, despite word that at least two Americans are being prosecuted there, ABC's ALI WEINBERG notes. "If you're looking for a vacation that comes with bragging rights, you've found it!" New Jersey-based Uri Tours' website beckons. "Nobody parties like the Workers Party of Korea!" New Korea Tours of Connecticut proclaims. "We don't know 100% [if hotel rooms are not bugged] but hey, that's part of the excitement and mystery of such a journey!" the FAQ section of Pyongyang Travel, based in Germany, reassures. The excitement and mystery have probably worn off for Americans like Kenneth Bae, who has been detained since 2012, and, most recently, Matthew Miller, 24 (who took an Uri tour), and Jeffrey Fowle, 56, who are reportedly being put on trial in the Hermit Kingdom for so-called "hostile acts." Bae, a Korean-American, has voiced concern over his deteriorating health, and his family has sought the help of U.S. citizens, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, to get him out, to no avail. Miller and Fowle were reportedly detained for separate infractions, and State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday that the United States has "humanitarian concern" for their safety. http://abcn.ws/1rbMI2v
IS ELIZABETH WARREN TOO LIBERAL FOR THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL? She has been in the Senate for less than two years, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren's tough talk on banks and Wall Street has made her a progressive icon, with her supporters urging her to consider a future presidential bid, ABC's BENJAMIN SEIGEL notes. Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, has become a popular visitor on the midterm campaign trail, most recently appearing with Kentucky Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes in the Bluegrass State. Her fundraising ability is enviable in the high-spending election cycle: She has raised $2.3 million for 28 Senate Democrats, according to her Senate office. But in tight state races, could a true-blue liberal like Warren be a liability for Democrats? Kentucky Republicans have churned out Warren-themed attack ads. In an ad launched Friday by Republican super PAC American Crossroads, Warren is described as "President Obama's biggest fan" and a "war on coal enthusiast." "Liberals unite," the ad says over a screen showing both Warren and Grimes. "Stop them this November." http://abcn.ws/1qs9yCU
THE HOBBY LOBBY DECISION: QUESTIONS THE SUPREME COURT ANSWERED (AND SOME IT DIDN'T). Supreme Court justices had to weigh three questions before reaching a 5-4 decision that allowed two for-profit corporations with sincerely held religious beliefs not to provide a full range of contraceptives at no cost to their employees pursuant to the Affordable Care Act, ABC's ARIANE DE VOGUE notes. The companies, Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain, and Conestoga, a cabinet making company, had to come out on the right side of all three of the following questions to prevail: 1. Can a for-profit corporation bring a religious liberty claim? 2. Now that Hobby Lobby can get in the door with a free exercise claim, is Hobby Lobby's exercise of religion substantially burdened by the contraception mandate? 3. If the company is substantially burdened, does the government have a compelling interest to pass the law and is it the least restrictive means possible? There were some questions from today's decision that might need to be fleshed out in the lower court. Alito and Ginsburg, for example, disagreed on the breadth of today's holding. http://abcn.ws/1mCXYxf
HOBBY LOBBY RULING REIGNITES CALLS FOR REPEAL BY POSSIBLE GOP CANDIDATES. Several high-profile Republicans possibly eyeing a presidential bid in 2016 praised the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby as a victory for religious liberty while also sharply attacking the Obama administration for executive overreach through his signature legislative achievement, ABC's JEFF ZELENY and JOHN PARKINSON report. Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is believed to be considering a campaign for president, said that while he believes the court's decision affirms religious freedom of American families, "believers" will have to find courage to "stand up for what's right" as the legal and legislative battle plays out in the coming months and years. Sen. Marco Rubio, another contender for the Republican nomination, said the decision reminded him "why Obamacare is such a flawed law that needs to be entirely repealed and replaced." Sen. Ted Cruz, another Republican often mentioned as a possible candidate in 2016, called the decision is a "landmark victory for religious liberty," while also condemning the White House for taking executive actions to alter the health care law. http://abcn.ws/1sRSnwy
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE HOBBY LOBBY BILLIONAIRES The Supreme Court handed down its decision today in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, ruling that for-profit businesses can opt-out of the Obamacare provision requiring them to provide contraceptives in their health plans if it conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs, according to ABC's SCOTT WILSON. The ruling thrilled the Green family, the owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft supplies stores. "Our family is overjoyed by the Supreme Court's decision. Today the nation's highest court has re-affirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country's founding principles," said Barbara Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby . "The court's decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith. We are grateful to God and to those who have supported us on this difficult journey." The family behind the lawsuit are the Greens, the billionaire, evangelical owners of Hobby Lobby who succeeded in challenging the federal provision. http://abcn.ws/1oiTlwB
HILLARY CLINTON WARNS HOBBY LOBBY RULING 'A REALLY BAD SLIPPERY SLOPE'. Hillary Clinton slammed the Supreme Court's decision on Hobby Lobby on Monday, describing it is as "deeply disturbing" and a "really bad slippery slope" that should incite a "real outcry" from the American public, according to ABC's LIZ KREUTZ. "I obviously disagree," Clinton said when asked during a live-Facebook chat at the Aspen Ideas Festival Monday afternoon about the Supreme Court's decision to enable some private companies to opt out of the federal health law's contraception coverage requirements. "I disagree with the reasoning as well as the conclusion." "Just think about this for a minute," Clinton continued. "It's the first time that our court has said that a closely held corporation has the rights of a person when it comes to religious freedom. Which means that the…corporation's employers can impose their religious beliefs on their employees. And of course denying women the right to contraception as part of their health care plan is exactly that. I find it deeply disturbing that we are going in that direction." http://abcn.ws/1o0FSYC
WHY CLINTON DIDN'T APOLOGIZE FOR IRAQ VOTE IN 2008. During a live Facebook chat at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado Monday, Hillary Clinton explained that the reason she did not just apologize for her 2002 Iraq War vote during her 2008 presidential campaign was because she didn't want to be "one more person" telling the young soldiers fighting overseas that it was a mistake, ABC's LIZ KREUTZ reports. "I have, as my friends say, an overactive responsibility gene. I said look, if we had known then what we know now I never would have voted and I did a lot of rhetorical distancing, but I didn't say I made a mistake," Clinton said. "And in part it was because I didn't want to say to the young men and women who were serving in the United States military in Iraq, fighting and dying and being injured, yeah one more person is saying it's a mistake you're there." "I know in our political system you get pummeled either way. But for me it was much more personal. And for me it was a mistake," she admitted. http://abcn.ws/1o0KjCF
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
'KISSING CONGRESSMAN' VANCE MCALLISTER RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION. The pond just got a little more crowded in the race to represent Louisiana's Fifth Congressional District. Rep, notes ABC's BENJAMIN SIEGAL. Vance McAllister, who was captured on video making out with a married staffer and has since been dubbed the "kissing congressman," had vowed to not run for re-election. But he announced today that he has changed his mind, setting up a possible showdown between two candidates supported by the stars of "Duck Dynasty." McAllister said his wife convinced him that voters should decide if he retires from politics. "She said … 'you need to go out with it being their decision. You need to continue doing the work you're doing and make sure they have that choice, and not take that choice from them,'" McAllister said to supporters today in Monroe, La. Under Louisiana's open primary system, all candidates in the race will run against each other in the Nov. 4 primary, with the top two candidates advancing to the general election on Dec. 6. http://abcn.ws/1rRhbAD
@kenvogel: Asked about rumors that she'd buried the hatchet w her sister Liz, Mary Cheney responded: "Curious who told you that" http://politi.co/1ok2Mfd
@HuffPostPol: Rachel Maddow is completely dismayed by the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling http://huff.to/1qukDDq
@blakehounshell: If you drink Budweiser today, are you an American patriot or a Belgium-coddling traitor?