Free exercise. Four conservative U.S. senators filed a friend of the court brief at the U.S. Supreme Court today, voicing their support for businesses fighting the Obamacare contraceptive mandate. The court will hear oral arguments in the cases brought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties in March. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has argued cases before the court before, wrote the brief. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and David Vitter (R-La.) also signed the statement. “The First Amendment guarantees every American the right to free exercise of religion,” Cruz said in a statement issued today. “Yet, the Obama administration has chosen repeatedly to break the law by giving breaks to big business and Congress, while refusing to grant those same waivers to people with sincerely held religious beliefs.” On the other side of the issue, 19 Senate Democrats filed a brief supporting the government’s demand that businesses provide health insurance that includes coverage for contraceptive and abortifacient drugs, even if that violates the owners’ religious beliefs.
Loyalty. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is getting a little help from a friend today, although it seems unlikely to do him much good with ultra conservatives in his home state. The Arizona Republican Party voted on Saturday to censure McCain for a liberal record that has been “disastrous and harmful” to the state and nation. Basically, the former Vietnam War hero and longtime Republican lawmaker isn’t conservative enough for them. But his former running mate on the 2008 presidential ticket, Sarah Palin, is urging her fellow conservatives to give her friend a break. “I know how important the virtue of loyalty is because in politics it’s pretty much nonexistent,” Palin wrote on her Facebook page. “I stand on that most important virtue and answer those asking today: ‘Yes, I am proud to have been asked to run with him in 2008, and he is my friend.’” McCain is serving his fifth term in the Senate and is considering running again in 2016.
Swan song. American folk singer and activist Pete Seeger died Monday. He was 94. Seeger and his group, the Weavers, are known for songs like “Goodnight Irene,” “On Top of Old Smokey,” “So Long (It’s Been Good to Know You)” and “Wimoweh.” The group’s successful career ended when Seeger was called before Congress during the Red Scare in 1955 to answer questions about his political beliefs. When he refused, Congress held him in contempt and he narrowly avoided serving jail time. Seeger’s activism turned to environmental causes in his later years, although he continued to sing, write, and tour the country. He became a mentor and inspiration to many folk musicians who came after him. His musical legacy lives on in a small instruction manual he wrote for people who want to learn how to play the five-string banjo.
Southern snow. After two rounds of nasty winter weather in the plains and the Northeast, it’s the South’s turn to shiver. Snow and ice are forecast for today and tomorrow from Texas to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Airlines canceled 2,665 flights by Tuesday morning. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm and urged people to stay off the streets.