June 2015 Current Events: U.S. News
Here are the key events in United States news for the month of June 2015.
Law Ends Phone Records Collection (June 2): The Senate votes, 67 to 32, to pass the USA Freedom Act. The House had previously approved the bill, and President Obama signs it into law. The act ends the NSA's bulk collection of phone records of millions of Americans. That responsibility shifts to the phone companies, who can turn the data over to the government only when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issues a warrant to search the phone records of individuals. The law also reinstates three provisions of the USA Patriot Act, which expired on June 1: roving wiretaps of terror suspects who change devices, surveillance of "lone wolf" suspects who are not affiliated with a terrorist organization, and the seeking of court orders to search business records.
American Pharoah Wins Triple Crown (June 6): With his win at the Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah becomes the first winner of the Triple Crown since 1978.
Blackhawks Win Sixth Stanley Cup (June 15): The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games, 4-2, to win their sixth Stanley Cup. It is the Blackhawks third title in six years.
Golden State Wins First NBA Championship in Forty Years (June 16): The Golden State Warriors defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games, 4-2, in a thrilling NBA finals. It is the first NBA championship in forty years for the Warriors and their fourth overall. The Warriors become the first team since the 1990-91 Chicago Bulls to win a championship without any player on the roster having previous experience in the finals. Golden State's Andre Iguodala is named the Finals Most Valuable Player. The first two games of the series go into overtime, an NBA record.
Man Opens Fire at Charleston Church, Kills Nine (June 17): A white male, believed to be in his 20s, opens fire during a prayer service at the historically significant Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killing nine people, including Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church's pastor and a state senator. The alleged gunman sits in the Charleston, South Carolina church for about an hour before beginning the rampage and flees the scene after the shooting. Charleston Chief of Police Greg Mullen calls the shooting a hate crime. Police, the F.B.I. and other federal agencies are investigating the attack and searching for the gunman. (June 18): Authorities arrest suspected shooter 21-year-old Dylann Roof in Shelby, North Carolina. (June 19): At the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, Roof is charged with nine counts of murder and possession of a fire-arm during the commission of a violent crime. According to law enforcement officials, Roof confesses and says that his intentions were to begin new racial confrontations with the attack.
House Passes Trade Authority Bill (June 18): The House votes in favor of advancing the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill. The legislation passes by a narrow ten vote margin. TPA gives Congress the ability to vote for or against international trade agreements made by the White House, but not filibuster or amend them. It is the latest win for President Obama who hopes to use TPA's "fast track" authority to secure the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership, which involves the U.S. and 11 other nations. The vote comes less than a week after the House did not pass a trade assistance bill connected to TPA. Since one bill passed and the other did not, both must now return to the Senate and pass in separate votes. If both bills pass the Senate and then the House, President Obama will have the authority to negotiate with the 11 other countries to make the Trans-Pacific Partnership a reality. (June 25): As separate bills, TPA and TAA, both pass the Senate as well as the House. The legislation now awaits President Obama's signature. The bills also include a 10-year extension program giving sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access to U.S. markets.
Tsarnaev Apologizes, Is Sentenced to Death (June 24): At his sentence hearing, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev speaks publicly for the first time since his arrest. Tsarnaev apologizes to the victims and survivors in a packed Boston courtroom. "I would like to now apologize to victims and survivors. If there is any lingering doubt, I did it, along with my brother. I am sorry for the lives I have taken, for the suffering I have caused, and for the terrible damage I have done," Tsarnaev says. His apology comes just before Judge George O'Toole hands down a sentence of death by lethal injection.
Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Care Act Subsidies (June 25): In King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court upholds a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, allowing subsidies on federal marketplaces to continue. The subsidies provide tax breaks to the poor and some middle-class citizens who buy insurance in the exchanges set up by the government. The case centered on an Internal Revenue Service rule that makes some people who buy insurance on federal exchanges eligible for subsidies. The rule says that subsidies are offered in exchanges "established by the State." The group that challenged the IRS rule had said the federal subsidies are illegal because they weren't explicitly mentioned in the law. Thirty-six states did not create their own exchanges, forcing residents to enroll through federal exchanges. About seven million people are covered under the federal exchanges. "Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writes in the majority ruling.
Supreme Court Rules for Same-Sex Marriage (June 26): The Court rules in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry and that states cannot say that marriage is reserved for heterosexual couples. "Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right," Justice Anthony Kennedywrites in the majority opinion. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kaganjoin Kennedy in the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito Jr., the court's most conservative members, dissent.
Supreme Court Rejects EPA Mercury Limits (June 29): In Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Supreme Court votes 5-4 to reject federal environmental regulations that would require power plants to limit emissions of mercury as well as other pollutants. The EPA has estimated that the regulations would have cost $9.6 billion per year. "It is not rational, never mind 'appropriate,' to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits," writes Justice Antonin Scalia in the majority ruling. In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan writes, "EPA conducted a formal cost-benefit study which found that the quantifiable benefits of its regulation would exceed the costs up to nine times over, by as much as $80 billion each year. Those benefits include as many as 11,000 fewer premature deaths annually, along with a far greater number of avoided illnesses." The ruling is a defeat for the Obama administration.
Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Controversial Execution Drug (June 29): In Glossip v. Gross, the Supreme Court votes 5-4 in favor of the use of the drug midazolam in lethal injection death penalty executions. Midazolam is the controversial sedative that has been used in multiple botched executions in the last two years. The Court decides that the case filed by death row inmates did not successfully prove that the use of midazolam violates the Eighth Amendment, which protects U.S. citizens from cruel and unusual punishment by the government. Expressing the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito writes, that the "petitioners failed to establish that any risk of harm was substantial when compared to a known and available alternative method of execution." In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor writes the decision means it "would not matter whether the state intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake."