News Briefing for Saturday, December 20, 2014


CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid to promote ObamaCare

“The Obama administration announced Friday that it will partner with eight pharmacy chains around the country to promote coverage on ObamaCare’s marketplaces.  CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Wal-mart and several smaller chains will provide consumers with information about the healthcare law through written materials, events and targeted outreach, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS assisted in promoting the exchanges last year. “Pharmacies and pharmacists are a trusted source of information for consumers who have health-related questions, and they can provide information directly to consumers looking for quality and affordable health coverage,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a statement.  “These collaborations are integral to getting information directly to consumers from trusted healthcare providers in their communities.”  HHS is gearing up for the final two months of enrollment for 2015 coverage. The exchanges will remain open until Feb. 15, after which consumers can only purchase plans if they meet special qualifications.  Burwell has spearheaded several new efforts to promote the marketplaces, including a partnership with a payment startup that will put ObamaCare ads on 7-Eleven receipts at more than 7,000 stores.”


Move to Medicaid: Nearly 10M enrolled since Obamacare launch

“While enrollment on government-run Obamacare exchanges gets the bulk of media attention, sign-ups for Medicaid have been even greater, in no small part due to another part of the Affordable Care Act. Since October 2013, enrollment in Medicaid and the related Children’s Health Insurance Program had grown by about 9.7 million people as of this past October, according to data released Thursday by the federal government. That’s 17 percent higher than what was the average monthly enrollment level seen from July through September 2013. That bump brings total enrollment in the programs that provide coverage without a premium charge to the poor and young, respectively, up to 68.5 million people nationally. A bit more than half of those people are children. The sharp increase coincides with the October 2013 launch of the Obamacare exchanges, as well as the expansion of eligibility for Medicaid in many states as part of the ACA. Those exchanges, in certifying peoples’ eligibility for coverage for private health plans sold on those marketplaces, direct applicants to Medicaid programs that are jointly run by the federal and state governments if their incomes are low enough to qualify.”


Medicaid Rolls Surge Under Affordable Care Act

“In Idaho, the number of people who signed up for Medicaid has jumped by 13.4 percent. In Georgia, it’s up 12.9 percent. In North Carolina, the rate has climbed 12.4 percent. None of those states opted to expand their Medicaid programs as part of the Affordable Care Act, but all have seen substantial enrollment increases in state health insurance. The explanation for the change is a phenomenon sometimes called the woodwork effect or the “welcome mat effect.” I’ve written about the idea before: Essentially, people who were always eligible for a public program will often enroll when there’s publicity about an expansion. That’s what appears to have happened with the Affordable Care Act. Even though state policy wasn’t changing everywhere, all the talk about new health insurance options and the resources devoted to helping people sign up led to a surge among people who had always been eligible for the program. Altogether, enrollment in the nonexpansion group of states has increased by 6.8 percent, or about 1.5 million people. Of course, the increases in states that have expanded Medicaid are more extreme. In Kentucky, the state with the biggest increase, the Medicaid rolls have grown by 71 percent. Overall, states that expanded Medicaid saw substantially larger reductions in the number of people without health insurance. If every state had expanded, we could expect many more people to be insured through the program. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published the results of a detailed survey of American households this year. It found a 3.4 percentage point reduction in the number of adults under 65 lacking health insurance between 2013 and the second quarter of this year. Its findings are not a surprise — earlier, private polls had shown similar drops. But because of its sample size and methods, the CDC study is the most reliable sign yet that millions more Americans have gotten health insurance this year.”


ObamaCare sign-ups exceed 1M in states

“At least 1.1 million people have signed up for healthcare through ObamaCare outside of the federal marketplace, according to a review of state data by The Hill. That tally is on top of the 2.5 million people who signed up for coverage in the 37 states using the federal exchange, putting ObamaCare on track to outpace its goal for 2015. Out of the 13 states that don’t use the federal exchange, 11 have reported data since Dec. 17 — a total of 1,142,124 sign-ups. Rhode Island and Idaho have not yet reported numbers. Tallies from these states reflect the final chance for customers to purchase coverage before Jan. 1. The deadline was Dec. 15 for the federal exchange and many state exchanges, though that deadline has been extended for some. Five states — California, New York, Idaho, Minnesota and Washington — extended their deadlines this week. Connecticut also announced that it would give customers a “grace period” until Friday to sign up. California alone has reported nearly 600,000 people signing up and says the state is on track to beat its goal of enrolling 1.7 million people during the second year of open enrollment. More people in California bought healthcare over the last month than in the first two months of last year’s open enrollment combined, the state said.  State-based enrollment increased steadily as the deadline approached. Just 183,000 had signed up for coverage as of Dec. 5, according to an analysis by Kaiser Health News. Maryland, which released its figures Friday, reported the third-largest total behind California and New York, with 136,685 sign-ups. “This is a great day for public health in Maryland,” Joshua M. Sharfstein, the head of the Maryland’s health insurance marketplace, wrote in a statement Friday.”



“Ahead of President Obama’s press conference on Friday, Dan Pfeiffer, his senior political adviser, mocked Republicans for failing to repeal Obamacare. “We just finished a debate on how funding the government for next year and the Republicans didn’t even have the heart to suggest repealing it,” he wrote in a post on Medium, “There’s a first time for everything.” In 2014, congressional Republican leaders shied away from a debate on repealing Obamacare, after shutting down the government last year to try to defund the law. Pfeiffer cited the lack of debate as proof that the unpopular law was working. Pfeiffer also insisted that 2014 was a “year of great progress” for President Obama, additionally pointing to the economy, environmental policy, immigration, and the courts. “[Y]ears from now, people will look back on 2014 as one the most significant and successful years of this historic and tremendously consequential Presidency,” he said. “It turns out you can get a lot done with a pen and a phone.”


As Vermont Goes . . .

The Green Mountain State’s liberal governor has pulled the plug on single-payer.

“The one state that not only embraced Obamacare but insisted on going beyond it to a full single-payer system was Vermont, the haven of hippies and expatriate New Yorkers, which has become one of the most liberal states in the nation. In 2011, it adopted a form of neighboring Canada’s government-financed health care and promised to implement it by 2017. (And Jonathan Gruber was a key architect of this plan as well as of Obamacare.) This week, however, Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, admitted the state couldn’t afford the plan’s $2 billion price tag and consequent sky-high taxes, and pulled the plug. The lessons for Obamacare are obvious and profound. Scott Milne, the little-known Republican who opposed Shumlin in last month’s election and came within 1 percentage point of winning the most votes, isn’t surprised. “During the campaign I said that single-payer is dead — I’m telling you that now, and Peter Shumlin’s going to wait until after the election,” Milne told the Burlington Free Press. Milne is still running for governor, since Shumlin won only 46 percent of the vote, and Vermont requires the state legislature to elect the governor in January if no candidate wins the majority. Despite his prescience, however, Milne is highly unlikely to persuade the Democratic legislature to substitute him for Shumlin. But Milne certainly has won a moral victory. Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott, a Republican, called the cancellation of singe-payer a victory for “overtaxed Vermonters.” Noting that the state’s fiscal plan for implementing single-payer was now almost two years late, he said in a statement: “We’ve already spent far too much money exploring this idea, and the discussion has paralyzed our business community.” Business realities weighed heavily in Shumlin’s retreat. His experts calculated the state would need an 11.5 percent payroll tax and an additional income tax of up to 9.5 percent. That’s California-style taxation. “My health-care costs would have gone up by 61 percent if that plan had gone through,” Win Smith, the owner of the Sugarbush ski resort, told reporters. “If there were that 9 percent [income tax] on employees, many would have been paying more than they’re paying now. It would have been a lose-lose.” Shumlin admitted it would be irresponsible for him to be “pushing prematurely for single-payer” when “the risk of economic shock is too high at this time.” But like any good liberal, Shumlin insisted on painting a rosy fantasy that he would bring back a single-payer plan. “[Medicare] took 31 years to become law. Medicaid took 50 years to pass; Social Security took 25 years,” he said in a statement. “Our time will come.” James Haslam of the Vermont Workers’ Center wasn’t buying it, calling Governor Shumlin’s retreat “a slap in the face” of single-payer backers. Health-care experts from outside Vermont point out some of the implications. “It’s a very liberal state, and its leaders spent years trying to design a system that would work,” Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute observes. “If Vermont can’t make it work, single-payer can’t work anywhere in the country where the economy has free and competitive markets. It’s more evidence that centralized government health care is simply not workable in America.” Vermont’s decision should embolden Republicans in Congress and state governments to fight harder against Obamacare. While President Obama insists he will tolerate no changes in his program that he doesn’t unilaterally declare through personal whim, his stubbornness may be more difficult to sustain in coming months.”


What If The Supreme Court Drops A Bombshell On Obamacare?

“The Supreme Court case King v. Burwell will determine whether the IRS overstepped in saying (Obamacare) subsidies are available for health insurance bought through the federal exchange. If the administration loses the case, more than half the states will lose an estimated $65 million in subsidies and an estimated 4 million people will probably lose their health insurance coverage. How should Congress respond? Yuval Levin and James Capretta have an editorial in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal with a suggested way forward. Because I was critical of a previous reform plan of theirs, let me say how much I really like the current version.

  1. Under the plan, every state would have the option to opt out of Obamacare and establish a different kind of health reform. In particular:
  2. There would be no federal mandates – either for individuals or for employers.

People could buy insurance inside an exchange or outside of it, with the states choosing their own regulations.

  1. Everyone in the individual market would get a fixed sum tax credit for the purchase of health insurance. The credit would increase by age, but would not vary by income.

People who have continuous insurance coverage could not be discriminated against because of pre-existing conditions, but this protection is lost for those who try to game the system by remaining uninsured while they are healthy and buying insurance only after they get sick.

  1. People on Medicaid would be free to leave the program, claim the subsidy and buy private insurance instead.

The repeal of the mandates is huge. All of the anti-job parts of ObamaCare go away once you abolish the employer mandate. And with the abolition of the individual mandate, we can ensure President Obama’s promise: if you like your health insurance you can keep it. Letting the states regulate insurance markets may seem inadvisable, given all the mandated benefits the states have piled on commercial insurers in the past. But Obamacare didn’t get rid of any of these. As Austin Frakt has pointed out, Obamacare doesn’t mandate a nationwide benefits package. There are fifty different packages – each one reflecting the mandates in the state where it is offered. Obamacare then piles on with additional cost-increasing mandates – such as the requirement that questionable preventive procedures be offered without any out-of-pocket payment. Under Obamacare, healthy women are entitled to mammograms free of charge, but a woman with symptoms (who really needs a mammogram) can be forced to pay the full cost. With the Levin/Capretta plan, the states would be free to avoid such nonsense. The third item is also huge. Because Obamacare conditions its subsidies on income, it raises the marginal tax rate for middle income families by six percentage points and in some cases far more. At 400 percent of poverty, a family can lose more than $10,000 in subsidies if it earns one additional dollar. At other “cliff” points, families can be subjected to thousands of dollars of additional exposure (higher deductibles and copayments) as a result of earning one more dollar. All these perversions vanish if everyone gets the same subsidy regardless of income.”


GOP Mulls ObamaCare Plan B As King Ruling Looms

“AThe crisis would give the GOP a moment of maximum leverage to prescribe a fix more in keeping with the party’s principles. But to make the most of that opportunity, Republicans need to translate those principles into a workable plan, and they’re not there yet. The various GOP ObamaCare alternative plans to emerge have “a tendency to look at only a small part of the picture,” such as hitting a fiscal goal, said Thomas Miller, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The effort, for the most part, hasn’t graduated much beyond talking points, he said. Now comes “a whole other reality check to make the pieces fit together.” While GOP policymakers have sketched out some possible blueprints, intraparty disagreement and unsolved puzzles show that there’s much work to be done. The King case hinges on whether the law’s text specifying that tax subsidies to purchase coverage are granted via an “Exchange established by the state” should be taken literally to mean that subsidies can only be made available through a state-run exchange. While the outcome is hard to predict, the potential fallout from a defeat for the administration is easy to imagine. With modest-income individuals in states lacking their own exchanges suddenly unable to afford an ObamaCare policy, the makeup of the exchanges would tilt abruptly to the relatively old and less healthy. Drastic premium hikes that would come due in 2016 would only make things worse. That’s an outcome no one should welcome, but just how the 36 states will avoid it is uncertain. Some states would likely jump through the legal hoops required to set up their own exchange. But in other states where support for ObamaCare is weighed down by the law’s baggage — the individual mandate and employer mandate — political leaders may want to consider the GOP’s Plan B — if one is available. One conceivable scenario would have Republicans agree to keep federal subsidies flowing in the short term if the White House agrees to let states choose between ObamaCare and a GOP alternative for 2016. So what might that alternative look like? Three GOP blueprints (one from Sens. Richard Burr, Tom Coburn and Orrin Hatch; the 2017 Project; and Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute) share some common elements. All would ditch ObamaCare limits on age-rating that artificially raise premiums for young adults to make insurance more affordable for older adults. All would make it possible to buy coverage that’s far less comprehensive than ObamaCare options. All would ditch the individual mandate and, in various ways, move away from the guarantee that one can opt to go uninsured one year and not face higher rates the next year — even if one gets seriously ill. Lastly, all would to some extent curtail the subsidies available under ObamaCare. Yet critiques of the three plans from fellow Republicans cast some doubt as to whether the plans are ready for prime-time or if the party can reach a consensus in short order. One unresolved issue is the appropriate size of taxpayer subsidies. The conservative 2017 Project proposed a subsidy scale that is set based on age, regardless of income. The thinking of the authors is that this would level the playing field between those who get subsidized employer coverage and those who purchase through the individual market.

However, Roy notes that this would set up a difficult comparison with ObamaCare: “Wealthy people would gain a subsidy they do not need, while low-income individuals would have their subsidies substantially reduced,” making it more difficult for them to gain coverage.

Roy’s own plan aims to lower the cap on subsidies to 317% of the poverty level from 400% (to about $37,000 for an individual from $47,000). But he has acknowledged that cutting subsidies while lifting age-rating restrictions would make costs spike for older adults. To address this problem, Roy decided to temporarily provide subsidies for those earning up to 600% of the poverty level and gradually lower the cap over a decade. The Burr-Coburn-Hatch plan would automatically enroll those eligible for subsidies who don’t sign up on their own into a catastrophic-level plan that costs no more than the subsidy. Essentially, people would get free coverage with sky-high deductibles. But what happens if they develop a chronic condition and want more comprehensive coverage? “The proposal ignores the complications that might ensue if individuals just barely maintain catastrophic coverage to preserve continuous coverage guarantees but then opportunistically trade up or down in their levels of coverage as their near-term health needs change,” Miller wrote.”


Red states lose out on ObamaCare grants

“A hard-lined effort by Republican governors to keep ObamaCare out of their states has also kept millions of dollars in federal grants out of their state coffers. This week, the federal government doled out $665 million in grants to 28 states to encourage healthcare innovation. Just six of those grants went to GOP-controlled states. Altogether, the government has divided more than $1 billion among 34 states, representing about 60 percent of the total population, according to a release from the Department of Health and Human Services. But a closer look at the winner’s list shows strong defiance by GOP state leaders. Only 40 percent of the innovation grants went to states with Republican governors.”


Healthcare piles up deficits

“Steadily increasing healthcare costs are driving state and local government deficits higher and are a big reason why they could double between now and 2064. Slowing or reversing those deficits will require big changes in state taxing and spending policies, according to the Government Accountability Office. The costs of funding Medicaid and healthcare for government employees and retirees are growing so fast that, at the current rate, spending on such programs will be greater than all other state and local government expenses combined by 2060, according to the congressional watchdog agency. That will mean less money for police and fire protection, road building and maintenance and public schools. “To oversimplify it, they basically can do two things: increase taxes or reduce spending,” said GAO’s Director of Strategic Issues, Michelle Sager. “They could do other things, like spending more efficiently or increasing fees.” The GAO projected the state and local deficits to be about 2 percent of the GDP. By 2060, that number will have doubled. The report also predicted that the governments’ deficit against the GDP nearly doubled since last year. In 2013, the deficit was about $167 billion. The federal government’s deficit was 4 percent of the GDP last year. “Substantial policy changes” are needed, as “most state and local governments are required to balance” their budgets,” the GAO report said. GAO recommended that state and local governments raise taxes and immediately cut spending by 18 percent. The deficit was calculated by measuring the difference between the collective revenues and spending of state and local governments nationwide. The calculation, however, did not include assets held in rainy day funds.”




Obama Aide: GOP President Would Preserve Action on Immigration, Cuba

“It’s Barack Obama’s worst nightmare: A Republican president is elected in 2016 and systematically undoes the executive orders around which the president has staked his legacy. White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said it isn’t going to happen. He predicted Mr. Obama’s administrative actions on immigration and Cuba will stand no matter who sits in the White House in 2017. “Our first 100 days we spent a lot of time signing executive orders undoing what [President George W.] Bush did, and I would like not to be sitting on a beach somewhere reading about President [Ted] Cruz doing that to us, so it’s very important to us,” Mr. Pfeiffer said in an interview Friday with Wall Street Journal reporters and editors. As Mr. Obama is set to take questions as his year-end press conference, Mr. Pfeiffer said the White House is preparing a victory lap of sorts for its 2014 executive order strategy. In a year when Democrats suffered grave losses on Election Day and failed to advance any meaningful legislation on Capitol Hill, the White House believes Mr. Obama’s unilateral actions were a great success. “This has been a very messy year for the whole country and certainly politically for the Democratic Party and the president,” Mr. Pfeiffer said. “But from the perspective of advancing our agenda through our pen and our phone, this has been a tremendously successful year.” But because none of Mr. Obama’s actions are written into the law, they are subject to change by whoever is next elected president. Mr. Pfeiffer said Mr. Obama would do “whatever the Democratic nominee wants” to be helpful during the 2016 campaign and stressed that the Democrat will have a built-in campaign advantage due to the infrastructure built by the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012. The would-be 2016 Republican presidential candidates have, to varying degrees, condemned virtually all of Mr. Obama’s executive actions, though there is a split in the party on Cuba policy. It’s easy to picture a GOP presidential primary debate in which the candidates are asked to raise their hands to signal whether they would rescind Mr. Obama’s unilateral immigration executive actions. Mr. Pfeiffer predicted that won’t help them get elected. “I don’t think we will have a Republican president who doesn’t support immigration reform,” he said. “If we did have one and they undid our immigration executive order, it would be the last Republican president for most of our lifetimes.” Mr. Pfeiffer was less bullish on the president’s executive orders on the environment. He said having “a climate denier in the White House would be very bad, not just for the executive actions, but for the fate of the planet.”


Immigration advocates shift to defense

“Predicting little progress on immigration reform in the next Congress, some of the nation’s top advocates say they’re shifting gears to focus on defending President Obama’s new deportation policy from GOP attacks. “We’re not looking to Congress for relief in the next two years,” Frank Sharry, head of America’s Voice, an advocacy group, said Thursday during a breakfast at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington. “We’re looking to defend the win that we’ve had, and to set the stage to expand on that win.” Republican leaders in both chambers say they’re poised to act on immigration policy next year by breaking out certain provisions of a Senate-passed comprehensive reform bill — including efforts to bolster border security and interior enforcement — in hopes of sending them to President Obama’s desk.

But Obama and the Democrats are largely opposed to that strategy for fear that passing the popular provisions as stand-alone bills would doom the more controversial elements, particularly the legalization and citizenship benefits for millions of immigrants living in the country illegally. “What we don’t want to do is simply carve out one piece of it … but leave behind some of the tougher stuff that still needs to get done,” Obama said last year. That partisan conflict, the liberal advocates say, sets the stage for yet another two-year impasse on the thorny issue of reform policy.  “I don’t think that there’s any chance of comprehensive immigration reform this Congress,” said Marshall Fitz, an immigration expert at the liberal Center for American Progress. With those dynamics in mind, liberal reform advocates say their focus is shifting to the implementation and defense of Obama’s new deportation policy, rather than expectations of bold congressional action. “That’s going to be the movement’s priority. It is in the interest of our community to make this program a success,” said Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, another group pushing for comprehensive reform. “Republicans have a self-interest, politically, to work on it [comprehensive reform],” she added. “We just don’t see how they get their party together to actually provide a viable solution.” In the absence of congressional action, Obama last month adopted new rules that will halt deportations and grant work permits to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants. The move outraged Republicans, who are searching for legislative ways to dismantle the program. The GOP’s anger over Obama’s unilateral action complicates the debate for Republican leaders, according to the liberal reform advocates, because conservatives in both chambers — figures like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) — will likely fight to attach amendments undoing the executive action to any immigration-related bills that hit the floor. Such amendments would almost certainly lead to an Obama veto, thereby reducing the odds that Congress will make progress on immigration reform before the 2016 presidential election. Meanwhile, the advocates say, the administration is going to need all the help it can get installing the new deportation rules and getting people to participate. “This is a huge undertaking,” Fitz said. “They’re going to be trying to implement this when they’re getting zero support from Congress, no appropriations, and they’re under a withering attack from the appropriators and the Republican leadership. So I think that they’re going to have more than enough to do and focus on in terms of making this a reality.” Leading Republicans on and off Capitol Hill, meanwhile, are pushing their piecemeal approach to immigration in hopes of sending focused bills to Obama. Included in their wish-list are proposals to strengthen border security, expand visas for high-tech workers, streamline a guest-worker program on the nation’s farms, establish a mandatory E-Verify system for businesses and create an exit-visa registry to rein in overstays. “I would bust it up if I were setting the agenda in the Senate, start with border security, H-1B visa expansion, H-2A ag worker provisions, E–Verify and some of the other things I think we can get pretty broad agreement on,” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the incoming majority leader, said earlier this month. Republican activist Grover Norquist, who is pushing the GOP to adopt the piecemeal approach next year, said Obama would have a tough time vetoing bills that reach his desk with bipartisan support. “It’s a losing issue for the Democrats if the Republicans just take this step-by-step,” Norquist said last month. But the liberal reformers, while not opposed to that strategy per se, are quick to warn that it’s destined to fail if legalization and citizenship proposals are not included — provisions that have almost no chance of passing as stand-alone measures with Republicans controlling both chambers.”


Immigration reform will fall short unless state and localities act

“…Whether responding to the president’s latest executive action, or further congressional legislation, state and local governments may be called on to contribute in four key ways:

–Documentation. State and local governments may be the source of the paperwork applicants need to meet eligibility requirements for new programs, including documents proving they have been in the United States for a defined period and, depending on the program, have met any educational requirements, or have U.S.-born children.

–Education. State and local institutions may face increased demand for public education or other specified classes that applicants may need to qualify.

–Protection from fraudulent or predatory providers of immigration legal services. Historically, states have also played a prominent role in protecting immigrants from scams targeting them.

–Outreach and public education. States and localities may be called on to inform potential applicants about new programs, including eligibility and application requirements.

While Washington debates action on immigration, federal officials need to recognize that their decisions will have an impact on other levels of government and organizations across the country. Consulting with state and local officials on timelines, required documentation, costs, and other issues is critical. At the same time, state and local officials need to understand how federal changes will affect them and consider how to respond. Immigration will remain a complex and emotional issue, but careful planning at all levels of government can make the system work more efficiently. Conversely, without understanding the interplay of the federal government and other jurisdictions, any immigration reform efforts could fall short.”


Deportations from U.S. decline in fiscal 2014: DHS report

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported fewer undocumented immigrants in fiscal year 2014, the Department of Homeland Security said on Friday in a report that also showed a decline in the number coming from Mexico. In its year-end report, the department said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a primary agency for border security, deported 315,943 people, down from 368,644 the previous year. The report showed a 68 percent increase in undocumented immigrants from countries other than Mexico, primarily from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, with the number of Mexicans down 14 percent from 2013. A spike during the summer in the number of unaccompanied children trying to cross the U.S. southwestern border was one of the factors responsible for the increase. Eight-five percent of those deported from the U.S. interior had criminal records, the report said, compared with 67 percent in 2011. The federal fiscal year ended Sept. 30.”

Illegal immigration up, deportations down in 2014: DHS

“The number of illegal immigrants crossing the border rose in 2014, while deportations dropped, according to new statistics Homeland Security released Friday in a pre-holiday data dump that signaled potential problems on both sides of the immigration enforcement equation. Apprehensions on the border, which Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says is a yardstick for overall illegal immigration, rose 16 percent in fiscal year 2014, while deportations from within the interior of the U.S. — the measure of how much the administration is going after long-time illegal immigrants — fell 24 percent. Those numbers, which cover from Oct. 1, 2013, through Sept. 30, 2014, are from before President Obama announced his new temporary amnesty on Nov. 20. That is likely to lower deportations even more. An administration official briefing reporters on condition he not be named said the drop in deportations was at least partially due to the surge of illegal immigrants from Central America, who he said require detention, flights and travel documents, which makes them more expensive to deport than Mexicans, who can usually be quickly sent back across the land border. The official also said part of the problem is that so-called “sanctuary city” localities are increasingly refusing to turn immigrants over to federal authorities for deportation. Homeland Security said localities refused 10,182 different requests from federal agents to hold illegal immigrants the agents wanted to pick up for deportation. “This required ICE to expend additional resources to locate, apprehend and remove criminal aliens who were released into the community, rather than transferred directly into custody,” the department said in a memo on the new numbers. “These changes further contributed to decreased ICE removals.”


Texas immigration courts order deportations at much higher rate than nation, according to TRAC


Immigration activists are empowered when they don’t fear arrest


Report: All Net Jobs Growth Since 2007 Has Gone to Immigrants

“All of the net gains in in jobs since 2007 have gone to immigrants — both legal and illegal — according to a new report from the Center for Immigration Studies, meaning that fewer native-born Americans are working today than were at the end of 2007. From November 2007 through November 2014, the number of employed native-born Americans has decreased more than 1.45 million, while the number of employed immigrants has risen by more than 2 million (as the immigrant population grew rapidly, too), according to data compiled by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Native employment has still not returned to pre-recession levels, while immigrant employment already exceeds pre-recession levels,” the report says. “Furthermore, even with recent job growth, the number of natives not in the labor force (neither working nor looking for work) continues to increase.” Native-born Americans accounted for nearly 70 percent of the growth in the population aged 16 and older, the report notes, and yet fewer of them are working now than were in 2007.”


Fewer US-Born Americans Have Jobs Now Than In 2007

“Fewer Americans born in the U.S. have jobs now than were employed to November 2007, despite a working-age population growth of 11 million. The amazing drop in employment highlights President Barack Obama’s slow recovery from the deep 2008 shock, but also spotlights many companies’ growing reliance on foreign migrant labor. Almost one in every two jobs added since 2009 have gone to foreign-born workers. In November 2014, one in every five U.S. jobs was held by a foreign-born worker, up from one-in-six jobs in January 2010, according to federal data highlighted by the Center for Immigration Studies. Since November 2007, the number of working legal and illegal migrants has risen by two million, from 23.1 million in November 2007 to 25.1 million in November 2014.”


Report: Immigrant workers account for all employment growth since 2007

“Overall, the number of U.S.-born workers fell from 124,014 million in November 2007 to 122,558 million in November 2014. Foreign-born workers, who make up 17 percent of the workforce, increased from 23,104 million to 25,108 million in the same time period.


The BLS figures showed that 11 million fewer U.S.-born workers are in the labor force now compared to 2007, and that figure has not improved in the last year. Camarota and Zeigler say the numbers show there is no labor shortage, “even as many members of Congress and the president continue to support efforts to increase the level of immigration.”


Obama administration accused of political motives in push for new citizens

“Nearly 20 years after reporters and congressional investigators caught the Clinton administration trying to register a million immigrants as new citizens and Democratic voters — many without proper documents — some Republicans fear the Obama administration is instituting a similar policy.  The November memorandum issued by the White House and Department of Homeland Security on immigration does more than give a reprieve to millions of illegal immigrants. It also makes a push for legal immigrants to become citizens. It allows legal immigrants in the U.S. to, for the first time, pay their $680 naturalization fee by credit card. And the plan offers to waive the cost, based on income, for families earning up to $47,000 for a family of four.  In the past, the government prohibited such partial waivers. The plan, dubbed “New Americans,” will also include a comprehensive media campaign in major media markets in 10 states. Critics worry this is part of an effort to register new Democratic voters and turn red states blue by the next election. “The goal is to naturalize as many as they can with the idea of registering them to vote with the hope that they’re going to vote Democratic as they did in 1996,” said Republican strategist Randy Pullen. “They’re using our money for political means for their 2016 path to victory in their minds.” But Ali Noorani, director of the National Immigration Forum, a Washington, D.C.- based policy organization, said the goal is to “bring them into the full fold of society, make sure they are assimilating, learning English, learning their civics and becoming U.S. citizens.” He called that a positive.  The administration argues immigrants are good for the economy, representing just 13 percent of the population, but 16 percent of the labor force and 28 percent of all new businesses. The White House Task Force on New Americans, according to the November document, will consist of almost a dozen Cabinet-level agencies. They will train and support other agencies and nonprofits to “improve long term integration and foster welcoming community climates.”  But the GOP sees something else behind the plan. “They’re cutting fees with the intent to spur naturalization on, but someone else is going to pay for this,” Pullen said. “We’re talking about millions of naturalization cases that will have to be handled. The vast majority in the next 18 months.” The plan will target 8-12 million legal immigrants living in states like New York, California, Florida, Illinois, Virginia and Arizona. In some states, the number of legal permanent residents eligible for citizenship far exceeds the margin of victory for candidates in the last election. About half the green-card holders are Hispanic, followed by Asians. In 2012, almost 70 percent of Hispanics voted Democratic. Among Asians, nearly 60 percent did so.  “To have more people become citizens is good for our democracy and at the end of the day, whether a candidate is a Republican or a Democrat, they just have to make the best case possible to get that voter,” Noorani said. “If Republican candidates, whether it’s for president, Senate, House or city council, want Asian, Latino voters to come to them, they have to compete for them.” Indeed, George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. But Republicans fear a repeat of 1996, when the Clinton administration tried to create a million new voters by Election Day, three times the normal amount. In the process, officials pushed the Immigration and Naturalization Agency beyond its capacity, illegally hiring some 900 volunteers without background checks, a violation of federal employment law. An inspector general’s report found numerous memos showing the White House urged the INS to “approve, approve, approve” for political reasons, disregarding policies and protocols designed to keep out immigrants who did not qualify for citizenship.”


Immigration Is Driving Broad Demographic Shifts In U.S., Report Says

“Native-born Americans are making up a smaller percentage of those living in some areas of the U.S. as immigration moves to become the key factor in population growth within the next quarter-century, according to a new analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts that examined county-level census data. The U.S. Census Bureau has projected that migration to the U.S. will become the primary driver of population increases sometime between 2027 and 2038, but Pew’s Immigration and the States Project has taken a closer look at the trend. Key findings in the Pew report include:

— The percentage of immigrants in the “gateways” of California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas, has decreased, while as a percentage of the population, they have increased in other states, including Nevada, North Carolina and Washington. The numbers include both legal and illegal immigration to the U.S.

— Immigration is driving population growth in the Sunbelt, Pacific Northwest and Mountain states. According to Pew: “Several states not traditionally regarded as destinations for immigrants also saw substantial growth because of immigration, including Washington, North Carolina, Maryland, and New Mexico. In Maryland, 22 of 24 counties experienced growth in foreign- and native-born populations, with the former accounting for an average of 24 percent of growth.”

— The portion of native-born Americans in some parts of the country has fallen. This change is mainly concentrated along a north-south axis from Montana and North Dakota to Texas. Pew says: “[The] native-born population decreased in the counties running down the nation’s midsection, and along the Mississippi River in southern Arkansas and western Mississippi, as well as in some other isolated areas. Counties in the Great Plains that had relatively small populations to begin with lost a substantial portion of their native-born residents. Approximately two-thirds of counties in North Dakota, Kansas, and Nebraska experienced some decline in their native population; those counties had an average decline of 12 percent.”

— Immigration has slowed population declines in many of those same areas in Middle America. Pew says: “In a swath of counties running from the Dakotas to the Texas Panhandle, and in the southeastern corner of Arkansas, the native population declined while the foreign-born increased. In the counties indicated by light green, the growth of the foreign-born did not fully replace native-born loss, but the population would have declined even more if not for the growth of the immigrant population.”

Changing Patterns in U.S. Immigration and Population

Immigrants slow population decline in many counties


Census: 30% of U.S. population growth will be immigrants, 78 million by 2060


Mexican woman wins $25K from Arizona county in immigration lawsuit

“A federal court on Thursday awarded more than $25,000 to a Mexican woman who claimed her five-day detention at an immigration office in Arizona two years ago was an illegal arrest. The judgment came after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit three months ago on behalf of Maria del Rosario Cortes Camacho, alleging constitutional violations in how the Pinal County sheriff’s office enforced Arizona’s landmark immigration enforcement law. The U.S. District Court in Phoenix awarded Cortes $25,001 “plus taxable costs including reasonable attorney’s fees.” Defendants in the suit were Pinal County, Sheriff Paul Babeu and two sheriff’s deputies. “This was a decision from the Arizona County Insurance Pool, which is shared among 12 counties,” Babeu said in a statement. “This was clearly a legal strategy to avoid the hundreds of thousands (of dollars) it would have cost to litigate and represented a better way to get rid of this frivolous lawsuit.” Cortes, a domestic violence victim who applied for a visa allowing her to remain in the U.S. to assist authorities with the case, alleged the two deputies had unreasonably prolonged the length of a September 2012 traffic stop that was prompted by her cracked windshield. She also accused the deputies of making an illegal arrest by bringing her in handcuffs to a U.S. Border Patrol office about 13 miles away where she was detained for five days. Cortes was pulled over in Eloy, about 65 miles southeast of Phoenix, as she was driving home and told one of the officers about her visa application, but he wasn’t interested in looking at it, according to the lawsuit. She was cited for having a cracked windshield, driving without a license and failing to show proof of insurance. The suit alleged the officers violated Cortes’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures by prolonging the length of her stop after the original purpose was completed. She alleged the stop also was prolonged based on her immigration status.”


Immigration: Fight against Obama’s lawlessness just beginning

“That’s why my colleagues and I at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) Tuesday joined with 27 members of Congress and more than 60,000 Americans to file an amicus brief in the leading lawsuit against President Obama’s immigration actions. We’re joining 24 states in challenging the president, and our arguments are clear. The Constitution clearly vests in Congress the exclusive authority to make law and set immigration policies. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution declares that Congress has the power to “establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization” — not the president. And Congress has acted in accordance with that authority, drafting statute after statute regulating immigration and creating a truly comprehensive legal scheme. Under the appropriate Constitutional framework, when Congress has spoken this clearly, a president’s ability to draft executive orders that at all contradict this Congressional intent is at its “lowest ebb.” And let’s be clear—that’s exactly what President Obama did. He, to use his own words, “took an action to change the law.” He contradicted Congress. Moreover, the president can’t justify his new, sweeping program by claiming he’s merely exercising “prosecutorial discretion.” As his lawyers acknowledge, prosecutorial discretion typically involves a case-by-case analysis, setting enforcement priorities consistent with available resources and policy priorities. Yet the president is creating a sweeping, class-based program that would provide automatic benefits to any person meeting the criteria. That’s not prosecutorial discretion, that’s new law. And it’s unconstitutional. I’m not the only one to think so. On Tuesday, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that President Obama’s immigration action was unconstitutional, using much the same reasoning we outlined in our amicus brief. The president’s immigration plan faces real legal jeopardy, but it also should face a clear Congressional challenge. Next year will begin with a new Congress, a Congress with a clear conservative majority. It should place an immediate priority on defending the Constitution by defunding any Obama administration efforts to implement its sweeping, lawless immigration plan. Under the so-called “CRomnibus” spending bill passed late last week, the Department of Homeland Security—the department responsible for immigration matters—is only funded through February 27. That gives the new Congress the ability to take a second look at immigration funding and impose its will on a lawless president. Still, as we defend the Constitution, we need to make clear that being pro-Constitution is not the same as being anti-immigrant. I’m the grandson of Russian immigrants, and I understand that America is the hope of the world in so many ways. I believe in the promises engraved on the Statue of Liberty that we want to welcome those who yearn to be free. The process, however, must be lawful. Impatient presidents do not get to violate the Constitution, and immigration actions that fail to address true border security will never offer a long-term solution. So, yes, let’s reform our immigration system, but let’s do it according to a constitutional process. The president claims he’s acting because Congress has “failed” to act. But what he really means is that he’s acting because Congress has failed to give him exactly what he wants.”


The Knives Come Out for Senators Cruz and Lee

Republican leaders don’t want them to derail Obama’s amnesty.



“White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer conceded that he fears a President Ted Cruz will overturn President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty, perhaps signaling that Cruz represents the greatest threat to the progressive left. Our first 100 days we spent a lot of time signing executive orders undoing what [President George W.] Bush did, and I would like not to be sitting on a beach somewhere reading about President [Ted] Cruz doing that to us, so it’s very important to us,” Pfeiffer told the Wall Street Journal on Friday. Earlier in the day, Pfeiffer declared that Obama’s executive amnesty was one of the reasons that made 2014 a “year of great progress” for the “progressive agenda.” He told the Journal that from the “perspective of advancing our agenda through our pen and our phone, this has been a tremendously successful year.” Cruz, a potential 2016 heavyweight, would run as a bold conservative. And the conservative Texas Senator has not been ambivalent in the least about wanting to repeal Obamacare and reverse Obama’s executive amnesty. Cruz has also, with his actions, made it clear that he isn’t the type of politician who campaigns as a conservative and then turns his back on the base as soon as he is elected. That, more than anything, is why the bipartisan permanent political class and Washington insiders despise him. Despite his fears, though, Pfeiffer, according to the Journal, ultimately “predicted Obama’s administrative actions on immigration and Cuba will stand no matter who sits in the White House in 2017.”


‘Not Sure Whether to Laugh or Cry’: It’s Hard to Believe College Students Really Signed This Immigration Petition

“Several students at the George Washington University signed a fictitious petition this week calling on President Barack Obama to “deport one American citizen, in exchange for one undocumented immigrant.” “Everyone must be allowed a shot at the ‘American Dream.’ Americans should not be greedy. Let us right the wrongs of our past and make another’s dreams come true,” read the petition, circulated by education watchdog Campus Reform. “It makes sense,” one student said. “Like, I’ve noticed that there is a lot of like hatred against undocumented immigrants and it’s not necessarily their fault.” “Everybody deserves a shot and we shouldn’t rule anybody out,” echoed another. The education watchdog said online that more than two-thirds of the students they spoke to in more than an hour signed the petition. At the time of publication, video showing the students sign the petition had amassed more than 60,000 views on YouTube. “Not sure whether to laugh or cry,” commented one individual. “I’m having a difficult time deciding if this is funny or just sad,” wrote another.”




President and Congress are heedless to the limits of their power

“The other substantial news story was the compromise achieved by Congress and the White House to fund the government through the end of September. That legislation, which is 2,000 pages in length, was not read by anyone who voted for it. It spends a few hundred billion dollars more than the government will collect in tax revenue. The compromise was achieved through bribery; members of Congress bought and sold votes by adding goodies (in the form of local expenditures of money borrowed by the federal government) to the bill that were never debated or independently voted upon and were added solely to achieve the votes needed for passage. This is how the federal government operates today. Both parties participate in it. They have turned the public Treasury into a public trough. Hidden in the law that authorized the government to spend more than it will collect was a part about funding for the 16 federal civilian intelligence agencies. Hidden in that was a clause, inserted by the same Senate intelligence committee that revealed the CIA torture, authorizing the National Security Agency to gather and retain nonpublic data for five years and to share it with law enforcement and with foreign governments. “Non-public data” is the government’s language referring to the content of the emails, text messages, telephone calls, bank statements, utility bills and credit card bills of nearly every innocent person in America — including members of Congress, federal judges, public officials and law enforcement officials. I say “innocent” because the language of this legislation — which purports to make lawful the NSA spying we now all know about — makes clear that those who spy upon us needn’t have any articulable suspicion or probable cause for spying. The need for articulable suspicion and probable cause has its origins in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which was written to prohibit what Congress just authorized. That amendment was a reaction to the brutish British practice of rummaging through the homes of American Colonists to look for anything that might be illegal. It is also a codification of our natural right to privacy. It requires that if the government wants nonpublic data from our persons, houses, papers or effects, it must first present evidence of probable cause to a judge and then ask the judge for a search warrant. Probable cause is a level of evidence that is sufficient to induce a judge into concluding that it is more likely than not that the place to be examined contains evidence of crimes. In order to seek probable cause, the government must have an articulable suspicion about the person or place it has targeted. Were this not in the law, then nothing would stop the government from fishing expeditions in pursuit of anyone it wants to pursue, and fishing expeditions turn the presumption of liberty on its head. The presumption of liberty is based on the belief that our rights are natural to us and that we may exercise them without a permission slip from the government and without its surveillance.”


Obama Signs 2014 Tax Extenders: Money In Your Pocket

“It’s finally official—President Barack Obama signed H.R. 5771, The Tax Increase Prevention Act today. While businesses are celebrating the one-year extension of the research and development credit and bonus depreciation, individual taxpayers have cause to celebrate too. That’s because the list of 50-plus tax extenders means money in your pocket come tax day next April. There’s tax relief for teachers, commuters, home renovators who go green, and folks who live in no-income-tax states. They’ll all see the breaks on their 2014 tax returns—the filing season is just around the corner. The one-year extension of the laws, which expired on December 31, 2013, is good through December 31, 2014. That spells uncertainty come January 1 (good luck estimating your 2015 taxes).”


Obama: Like Rest Of America, Black America “Better Off Now Than It Was When I Came Into Office”

“APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Thank you, Mr. President. Last question, I guess. Mr. President, six years ago this month I asked you what was the state of black America, in the Oval Office, and you said it was the best of times and the worst of times. You said it was the best of times in a sense that there was — there has never been more opportunity for African-Americans to receive a good education and the worst of times because of unemployment and lack of opportunity. Well, ending 2014, what is the state of black America as we talk about those issues as well as race relations in this country?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office. The jobs that have been created, the people who have gotten health insurance, the housing equity that’s been recovered, the 401 pensions that have been recovered. A lot of those folks are African-American. They’re better off than they were. The gap between income and wealth of white and black America persists. And we’ve got more work to do on that front. I’ve been consistent in saying that, you know, this is a legacy of a troubled racial past, of Jim Crow and slavery. That’s not an excuse for black folks, and I think the overall majority of black people understand it’s not an excuse. They’re working hard. They’re out there hustling and trying to get an education, trying to send their kids to college, but they’re starting behind oftentimes in the race.”


Obama: America’s ‘resurgence’ is real

“President Obama made an end-of-the-year declaration that the U.S. economy is coming roaring back and that most Americans are better off than they have been in years. “Pick any metric you want,” Obama told his reporters in his final press conference of the year. “America’s resurgence is real – we are better off.” Referring to 2014 as a “breakthrough year,” Obama said 2014 was the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s and noted that U.S. businesses have created a record number of new jobs and wages are on the rise again. Rejecting the narrative that he is a lame duck with limited power in his last two years in office, the president only briefly referred to the deep Democratic losses in the 2014 midterm elections, saying he “sincerely” wants to work with the new Republican majorities in Congress when it comes to making the lives of hardworking middle-class Americans better. He also suggested a willingness to compromise with Republicans at times next year. “We’re going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement and that’s going to involve compromises,” he said. “We learned through the lame duck” that it’s possible. Other accomplishments, he said, include the country moving into the position of being the top producer of oil and natural gas, and that the American auto industry has fully recovered from the economic crisis and now is on track for its strongest year since 2005. Thanks to Obamacare, he said, millions of Americans now have gained health insurance and health care has risen at the slowest rate in 50 years. Around the world, he cited American leadership in developing a coalition to degrade and destroy the Islamic State, leading assistance to Ukraine, working to normalize relations with Cuba, and ending U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of the month. “Moore troops are home for the holidays than in a decade,” he said. In general, he said, he was “energized” and “excited about the prospects for the next couple of years.” “My presidency is entering the fourth quarter, and interesting things happen in the fourth quarter,” he remarked.”


Obama: America is leading

President touts message in year-end news conference.




High School: Islamic vocabulary lesson part of Common Core standards

“Parents in Farmville, North Carolina want to know why their children were given a Common Core vocabulary assignment in an English class that promoted the Prophet Muhammad and the Islamic faith. “It really caught me off guard,” a Farmville Central High School student who was in the class told me. “If we are not allowed to talk about any other religions in school – how is this appropriate?” The Islamic vocabulary worksheet was assigned to seniors. “I was reading it and it caught me off guard,” the student told me. “I just looked at it and knew something was not right – so I emailed the pages to my mom.” “In the following exercises, you will have the opportunity to expand your vocabulary by reading about Muhammad and the Islamic word,” the worksheet read. The lesson used words like astute, conducive, erratic, mosque, pastoral, and zenith in sentences about the Islamic faith. “The zenith of any Muslim’s life is a trip to Mecca,” one sentence read. For “erratic,” the lesson included this statement: “The responses to Muhammad’s teachings were at first erratic. Some people responded favorably, while other resisted his claim that ‘there is no God but Allah and Muhammad his Prophet.”


Common Core Supporters Can’t Demonstrate Its Effectiveness. Are They Counting On A Christmas Miracle?

“As any Christmas show will tell you, whether it’s the rejuvenation of Charlie Brown’s tree or the saving of George Bailey, ‘tis the season for miracles! Perhaps in that spirit, several high-profile advocates for the Common Core national curriculum standards are promising, essentially, an educational miracle. But while we can always count on a miracle on 34thStreet, the children who go to school there – or anywhere else – deserve real evidence the Core will work. One prominent voice in this vain has been that of former Democratic Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford. In a June op-ed, Ford claimed that “Common Core adoption means better schools, smarter students and a stronger America.” He cited no research on the quality of the Core, or the effect of academic standards generally. He just proclaimed it. Ford doubled down on that tack in an op-ed just a few weeks ago, and added that the recent elections proved that “parents want to continue with implementation of high standards and the results they promise.” But elections turn on much more than education, and one of the few Core supporters Ford referred to – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo – ran an ad highlighting a minimum five-year delay on putting Core scores on students’ permanent records. This despite being a virtual shoo-in for reelection. And public support is clearly lacking. A Gallup poll released in September indicated that 60 percent of the public opposed the Core, part of a clear trend of plummeting support. Common Core has plenty of other notable advocates who’ve recently weighed in with words, if not evidence. University of Miami president and former Clinton administration official Donna Shalala penned an op-ed stating that the country needs Common Core to address “gender-based inequities” hurting female students. Not only did Shalala offer no evidence supporting the notion that the Core would fix inequities, when it comes to college- and career-readiness – what the Core is supposed to put on turbo boost – women are outperforming men, 57 percent of college students are female and only 43 percent male, and women far surpass men in taking rigorous Advanced Placement courses in high school.”


Education Department releases framework for rating U.S. colleges and universities

Obama administration outlines its new college rating system

“President Obama’s education department on Friday released an outline of its plans for rating colleges based on their accessibility, affordability and the success of their students. The planned ratings system, which the department aims to roll out ahead of the 2015-2016 school year, is part of a set of initiatives Mr. Obama announced last year to help make college more affordable and accessible to more students. “What we want to do is rate them on who’s offering the best value so students and taxpayers get a bigger bang for their buck,” the president explained at the time. Mr. Obama eventually wants to work with Congress to tie the $150 billion in federal funding that goes to colleges every year to the new rating system. “Colleges that keep their tuition go down and provide a quality education are going to see their funding go up,” the president said last year. “It is time to stop subsidizing schools that are not providing good results.” While the education department has yet to release its first actual draft proposal of a ratings system, it explained on Friday what metrics and parameters it may use. In its first version of the ratings system, the department will focus on two-year institutions that award associate degrees and four-year institutions that award baccalaureate degrees, which will be placed in separate categories. Graduate-degree only and non-degree granting institutions won’t be included at this point. The administration wants to avoid ranking colleges, so it is considering rating schools as either high-performing, low-performing, or somewhere in the middle. The education department is still working on the best ways to determine what constitutes “low-performing” or “high-performing,” as well as ways to recognize improved performance over time. As for its proposed metrics, the education department noted that the percentage of students receiving Pell grants “is the most common measure of access and the most readily available.” The department may also consider measuring family income quintiles, to determine an institution’s enrollment of low- to moderate-income students. To measure accessibility, the government may consider the percentage of students who did not have a parent who attended college. The average net price of an institution could provide an obvious measure of a school’s affordability, while the department notes that net price by quintile “may offer a more accurate measure of the actual price paid by students of various family income backgrounds than average net price.” The department may also evaluate completion rates, transfer rates, and labor market success. However, questions remain about these proposed metrics. For instance, when it comes to labor market success, the department points out that “a better or good job can mean different things to different people. Are they able to secure work in their chosen field or location? Have they increased their earnings potential?”




How bad would an IRS shutdown be?


Lots to say in historic Obama-Castro phone call

“When the leaders of the U.S. and Cuba had their first phone conversation in more than 50 years, they were not at a loss for words. As President Barack Obama told the story at his news conference Friday, he opened his call with Cuban President Raul Castro — brother of famously longwinded Fidel — with a 15-minute monologue, then apologized for taking so much time. “He said, ‘Don’t worry about it, Mr. President,'” Obama related. “‘You’re still a young man, and you have still the chance to break Fidel’s record. He once spoke seven hours straight.” Obama said Raul Castro then launched into his own preliminary remarks, which “lasted at least twice as long as mine.” “And then,” Obama went on, “I was able to say, ‘Obviously it runs in the family.'” The phone call Tuesday lasted about 45 minutes, heralding a revival in U.S.-Cuba ties severed when Fidel Castro seized power in 1959 and the U.S. imposed its embargo two years later. Obama said he imagines he’ll visit Cuba “at some point in my life” but that’s not in the cards now.”


Obama says Cuba visit not ‘in the cards’


Why We Isolated Cuba for 53 Years

“For more than five decades, presidents, Democratic and Republican, politically isolated and economically sanctioned Communist Cuba for the best of reasons. Here are four of them:

  1. Cuba has been a communist prison since Fidel Castro came to power. From 1959 through the late 1990s, more than 100,000 Cubans were placed in forced labor camps, prisons and other places of incarceration. Between 15,000 and 17,000 people were shot. Castro justified his reign of terror with these words: “The revolution is all; everything else is nothing.”
  2. Communist Cuba exported Marxism-Leninism throughout Latin America, in Colombia, Guatemala, Venezuela and especially Nicaragua, which was taken over by the Marxist Sandinistas in the late 1970s. Another target was the small island nation of Grenada, which was to function as the third leg of a communist triangle of Cuba, Grenada and Nicaragua. President Reagan foiled the communists’ plans by freeing Grenada from a pro-Moscow radical regime. As a Venezuelan communist leader explained, the Cuban revolution was like a “detonator.”
  3. Communist Cuba often provided the ground troops for the Soviet Union’s strategy of inciting Third World revolution, especially in Africa. From 1975 to 1989, according to “The Black Book of Communism,” Cuba was the major supporter of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola. Castro sent an expeditionary force of 50,000 men to Angola, explaining in part why for decades Moscow propped up the Castro regime in the amount of $5 billion a year.
  4. Communist Cuba brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1962 when it allowed the Soviet Union to build sites for offensive nuclear missiles aimed at major cities in the United States. Castro knew what he was doing: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev has said that Castro requested a Soviet nuclear attack on the United States.”


Paul Challenges Rubio Over Obama’s Cuba Plan


Michael Steele: Obama Basically Throwing The Bird Up In The Air To Pretty Much Everybody in This Town”


Judge Napolitano Tells “Special Report” Panel Obama Has No Authority To End Cuba Embargo


Castro daughter: US ‘dreaming’ if they think Cuba will return to capitalism

The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro said on Thursday the United States “must be dreaming” if it thinks Cuba will return to capitalism after both countries agreed to normalise diplomatic relations


House invites Obama to give State of the Union speech Jan. 20

Boehner Formally Invites Obama To Give State Of The Union


Obama to Deliver State of the Union Address on Jan. 20

“President Obama has accepted House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to report to Congress on the state of the union next month. Boehner, R-Ohio, invited the president to deliver his State of the Union address in a letter Friday. “The new year will bring a new American Congress, and with it, the opportunity to continue our work to build a stronger economy and secure a better future for our country,” the House speaker said in the letter. “In that spirit, it is my honor to invite you to address a Joint Session of Congress on Tuesday, January 20, 2015 so that you may fulfill your duty under the Constitution to report on the state of the union and recommend measures for our consideration.” “Your report will inform our efforts to address the people’s priorities,” Boehner added. The joint session of Congress to receive Obama’s address is slated to take place at 9 p.m. ET on Jan. 20.”


Obama’s Theme for the New Year: ‘We Can’t Be Stopped’

“A relaxed President Obama held a year-end press conference this afternoon, where he reflected on his first six years in office and looked ahead to the last quarter of his presidency. In a brief prepared statement and then a lengthy question-and-answer session, Obama weighed in on issues such as the U.S. economy, relations with Congress, Ferguson, his recent deal with Cuba and Sony’s decision to cancel the release of a movie due to a cyber attack from North Korea. He also revealed his theme for the new year. “My theme for the end of the year is that we have gone through difficult times, but through persistence and effort and faith in the American people, things get better,” Obama said. “Part of what I hope as I reflect on the new year is that this should generate some confidence. America knows how to solve problems. When we work together, we can’t be stopped.”


Six Big Themes in Obama’s Year-End Press Conference

“–Sony 6758.TO -1.29% and North Korea: The president took a tough line on Sony Pictures’s reaction to the hacking of its computer systems by North Korea, saying that the company should not have backed away from the release of a buddy comedy about assassinating the North Korean leader. “I think they made a mistake,” Mr. Obama said. “I’m sympathetic that Sony as a private company was worried about liabilities and this and that and the other. I wish they had spoken to me first. I would’ve told them, ‘Do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.’”

–American renewal: Mr. Obama made the case that the United States was ascendant economically and militarily at home and abroad. “There is no doubt that we can enter into the new year with renewed confidence that America’s making significant strides where it counts,” he said, pointing to signs the economic recovery is gaining strength and to what he described as American leadership countering Russian aggression in Ukraine, Islamic State militants in the Middle East, and Ebola in West Africa.

–Relations with the Republican-controlled next Congress: The president said that he hoped to work with Republicans in Congress but vowed to veto any changes to his signature 2010 health care law or to consumer protection measures passed in the wake of the financial crisis. On the other hand, Mr. Obama also said it was possible to work with Republicans on trade, immigration, tax reform, infrastructure investment, and other issues. “I’d rather do it with you,” Mr. Obama said of his message to the GOP.

–Cuba: The president defended his new Cuba policy as a chance to influence the Cuban government and improve conditions there after 50 years of a failed embargo. His moves this week to establish an embassy and restore diplomatic ties have created controversy, but he said they would enable the U.S. to use “carrots as well as sticks” to influence the country. ”What I know deep in my bones is that if you’ve done the same thing for 50 years and nothing’s changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome,” he said.

–Keystone: Mr. Obama played down the potential economic benefits of approving the Keystone XL pipeline, saying it would bring very little benefit to U.S. consumers. “At issue in Keystone is not American oil. It’s Canadian oil that is drawn out of tar sands in Canada,” Mr. Obama said. —-

–Improved race relations: Asked about relations between black and white Americans, the president said Americans should take the long view. “Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office,” Mr. Obama said. But he said the income and wealth gap between black and white Americans persisted — “a legacy of a troubled racial past, Jim Crow and slavery.”

He ended the news conference on an optimistic note. “There’s an opportunity of all us to come together and, you know, take a practical approach to these problems,” he said. “And I guess that’s my general theme for the end of the year, which is we’ve gone through difficult times… But through persistent effort and faith in the American people, things get better.”


Obama Rattles Veto Pen but Hopes for Productive Congress

“President Barack Obama said Friday he hopes to work with the new Republican Congress on tax changes, rebuilding roads and bridges and trade, but warned he’s prepared to use his veto pen — something he hasn’t done since 2010. And after signing the “cromnibus” including the repeal of an anti-bailout provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street overhaul, Obama says he won’t do that again — nor will he sign provisions that cost people health insurance. “If Republicans seek to take health care away from people who just got it, they will meet stiff resistance from me. “If they try to water down consumer protections that we put in place, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I will say no, and I’m confident that I’ll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions,” Obama said. “But on increasing American exports, on simplifying our tax system, on rebuilding our infrastructure, my hope is that we can get some things done.” But approving the Keystone XL pipeline doesn’t sound like it is high on his agenda. The president dissed the pipeline repeatedly as helping Canadian oil companies while providing few long-term jobs for Americans or impacting gas prices paid by Americans. He said the oil once it reached the Gulf would be sold on the world market. He declined however to issue a veto threat on legislation Republicans plan to kick off the next Congress forcing him to approve the project. Obama also dismissed the idea that his extremely active “pen and phone” agenda resulted in Congress getting less done.”


Obama: I Will Use Executive Actions To Implement Recommendations From Task Force On Race Relations

“At his end of the year press conference on Friday, President Obama addressed the task force on race relations he put together following the grand jury decisions of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. The president says the report will not be “abstract musings” but instead “concrete, practical things” that law enforcement agencies can “begin implementing right now to rebuild trust between communities of color and the police department.”  “The task force that I formed is supposed to report back to me in 90 days,” President Obama said. “My intention is to, as soon as I get those recommendations, to start implementing them. Some of them I’ll be able to do through executive actions, some of them will require Congressional action, some of them will require action on the part of states and local jurisdictions.”


Obama threatens to veto any measures to weaken consumer protections

“President Barack Obama on Friday threatened to veto any efforts by a Republican-controlled Congress to weaken measures aimed at protecting consumers from abuses in the financial system. “If they try to water down consumer protections that we put in place in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I will say no,” Obama told a news conference. “And I’m confident that I’ll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions.”


Obama’s year-end message to Americans: I’m not a lame duck


Obama’s No Good, Bad, Terrible ‘Breakthrough’ Year

“President Barack Obama’s year of political failure has really been a “year of action… a breakthrough year for America,” Obama told a room full of non-confrontational reporters. “Take any metric you want, America’s resurgence is real, we are better off,” he insisted Friday, shortly before departing for Christmas vacation in Hawaii. But Obama was exquisitely careful about the metrics he choose to highlight. 2014 was “the strongest year of job growth since the 1990s,” he said, without mentioning that fewer native-borne Americans hold jobs in November 2014 than held jobs in November 2007. “Wages are on the rise again,” he said, without mentioning that median weekly wages rose from $771 in the third quarter of 2013, up to $790 in the third-quarter of 2014. That’s a 2.3 percent increase, amid inflation of roughly 3 percent. Part-time workers’ weekly wages rose from a media of $241 in late 2013, to $245 in late 2014. That’s $3 a week in wage increases.”


The Post-Constitutional Presidency Continues

“On MSNBC, one of the hosts just gleefully compared Obama’s end-of-the-year statement to a “middle finger.” Leader of the free world, ladies and gentlemen! In his comments, Obama indicated he’s exceptionally likely to veto legislation approving the Keystone pipeline. He’s concluded he doesn’t need Congress for a de facto amnesty. He’s concluded he doesn’t need Congress to normalize relations with Cuba, even though an act of Congress is needed to lift the embargo, congressionally passed funding is needed to open a new embassy, and any American ambassador to Havana would require Senate approval. It’s not surprising that Obama doesn’t welcome the Republican-controlled Congress arriving in January. It is a bit surprising how little he thinks it matters.”


Obama: “My Presidency Is Entering The Fourth Quarter And Interesting Stuff Happens In The Fourth Quarter”


‘I’m not done’

Obama swaggers his way into 2015.


Chuck Todd: Obama Showed Some “Swagger,” Sent Message “I Am Through Appeasing Washington”

“CHRIS MATTHEWS HARDBALL: Let’s bring on Chuck Todd, moderator of Meet the Press. It seems like the president has gotten himself into this conversation. Was Sony right? The president jumps in and says, no, kids out in Hollywood, I’m a grownup. You know what, you made a mistake. You did. You buckled. You appeased. Very strong statement. You should have talked to me.

CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: Incredibly strong. I mean, that — look, that whole press conference, that was a president who feels as if he has earned the right to have some swagger, the way he answered questions, and how he dealt with certain issues and not brushing them off in snarky ways, just feeling very confident. But on Sony, it is clear, he seems incredibly — look, there had been some question, did Sony consult with Homeland Security? Was there some reason here that Sony decided to pull the release itself and things like that. Boy, he wanted to make it unequivocal, they didn’t consult the government. And they made a mistake. I mean, there’s already a hashtag starting on twitter #sonyweakbostonstrong. When he threw Boston marathon on there, talk about a little extra sting in the criticism to Sony on this one.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Yeah, me Churchill, you Chamberlain. Let’s go to the long term trajectory here. There was a version, a plot point in Hollywood terms, from the president’s sort-of hiding, told to hide before the election, and the way he’s behaved these last six weeks. You said swagger. It wasn’t that kind of faux swagger you got from W, where you wonder where it came from. This seems to be based on a confidence that’s come out of his own — his own inner, what reaction, defiance, the right word? I haven’t come to it yet. I am me. I’m going to be me. How do you see it?

CHUCK TODD: My sense is he’s decided, I’m through with appeasing Democrats in Washington. because when you think about it, just listen to his answer on Keystone. That’s a man who gave an answer on Keystone, who no longer has to worry about Mark Begich, Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor.  When you look at his answer on dealing with Congress and he’s sitting there going, you know, the premise of the question, of course, being, do your executive actions make it harder to work with Congress. His mind set is, hey, Congress has to decide how they’re going to work with me because I’m going to — you know, I’m confident they’re going to be able to — that his party is going to be able to uphold vetoes.  So, I think he looks almost — I had heard this from others close to him, that there was sort of a sense of relief that he didn’t have to make all of these decisions, which if you think about the first ten months of 2014, there wasn’t a decision announced that didn’t have some appeasement that Harry Reid needed to save the Senate. Delaying immigration, timing talks about Keystone. That State of the Union, which was the sort of emptiest State of the Union he had given as far as policies were concerned. They were very light. It was all very light touch. Anything that could unite a Mark Pryor and Bernie Sanders on the same page. And all of a sudden these last six weeks it’s like, I don’t have to listen to those guys anymore. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are going to complain all they want. I don’t have to worry about them anymore because it’d gone anyway.”


In Case You Missed It, Obama Made History Today: Calls Only on Female Reporters


Obama says Keystone pipeline mostly helps Canadian oil companies, not Americans

“President Obama on Friday downplayed the potential benefits of the Keystone pipeline, claiming it would not lower gas prices much for Americans — but instead would boost Canadian oil companies. Obama, who was speaking at a year-end news conference, said the controversial pipeline was not “a magic formula to what ails the U.S. economy” and added that it’s “hard to see on paper where exactly they’re getting that information from.”  The president often downplays the economic benefits of the project, but appeared to be putting new emphasis Friday on claims that it would disproportionately help Canada. He said it would be “not even a nominal benefit for U.S. consumers.”  A spokesman for developer TransCanada fired back in a statement late Friday, noting the project would support thousands of U.S. jobs and describing it as mutually beneficial.  “The Keystone system is about helping our Canadian and American customers — which includes leading U.S. oil producers and refiners — get a safe, secure and reliable supply of crude oils they need to create products we all need — gasoline, diesel, aviation fuels and many other products we use and consume here in North America,” spokesman Shawn Howard said. “After being approved, Keystone XL will employ thousands of skilled American pipeline industry workers in the United States.”  He also said there are no plans to export this oil overseas.  Obama spoke ahead of a new congressional session where majority Republicans are expected to push the pipeline as a first order of business. “


Obama: Keystone would have “very little impact” on U.S. gas prices


Obama: Keystone benefits for U.S. consumers, workers nominal

“U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday that construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to transport crude oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast would only nominally benefit American consumers and workers. “There is very little impact – nominal impact – on U.S. gas prices, what the average American consumer cares about,” Obama told reporters during an end-of-year press conference. Construction of the pipeline would create a “couple thousand” jobs, but there are better ways to create long-term, paying jobs for American workers by investing in infrastructure, Obama added.”


Obama hits Keystone again but declines to threaten veto


EPA sets first national standard for coal waste

“The Obama administration on Friday set the first national standards for waste generated from coal burned for electricity, treating it more like household garbage rather than a hazardous material. Environmentalists had pushed for the hazardous classification, citing the hundreds of cases nationwide in which coal ash waste had tainted waterways or underground aquifers, in many cases legally. A hazardous classification would have put the federal government in charge of enforcement, which has been uneven across states that have varying degrees of regulation. The coal industry wanted the less stringent classification, arguing that coal ash wasn’t dangerous, and that a hazardous label would hinder recycling. About 40 percent of coal ash is reused. But classifying coal ash as solid waste leaves it up to citizens and states to ensure standards are met. “The regulatory uncertainty that has impeded the beneficial use of coal ash for half a decade has finally come to an end,” said Thomas H. Adams, the executive director of the American Coal Ash Association. “EPA’s final decision to regulate coal ash as a ‘non-hazardous’ material puts science ahead of politics and clears the way for beneficial use of ash to begin growing again — thereby keeping ash out of landfills and disposal ponds in the first place.” The Environmental Protection Agency said in a call with reporters Friday that the record did not support a hazardous classification. The agency said the steps they were taking would protect communities from the risks associated with coal ash waste sites and hold the companies operating them accountable. “It does what we hoped to accomplish … in a very aggressive but reasonable and pragmatic way,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. The Obama administration was under court order to unveil the rule Friday, ending a six-year effort that began after a massive spill at a Tennessee power plant in 2008. Since then, the EPA has documented 132 cases in which coal-fired power plant waste damaged rivers, streams and lakes, and 123 where it has tainted underground water sources, in many cases legally. Coal ash had been piling up in ponds and landfill sites at power plants for years, an unintended consequence of the EPA’s push to scrub air pollutants from smokestacks. In volume, it ranks only behind household trash in quantity, and it is expected to grow as the EPA controls pollutants like heat-trapping carbon dioxide and mercury and other toxic air pollutants from the nation’s coal fleet. On the upside, a switch from coal to natural gas-fired power plants in recent years has generated less ash. The rules unveiled Friday will boost monitoring for leaks and control blowing dust, and require companies to make testing results public. They also set standards for closing waste sites, and require those that are structurally deficient or tainting waterways to close. The new rules would also apply to closed coal ash ponds at sites where utilities still have active operations, such as the Duke Energy plant in Eden, North Carolina, where the sudden collapse of a drainage pipe triggered a massive spill in February that coated 70 miles of the Dan River in gray sludge. Duke was operating a new natural gas plant on the property at the time of the spill, and no longer creating coal waste. But prior to the spill, tests showed it was among 32 unlined pits being operated by the company in the state and tainting groundwater in violation of state standards. The new rule requires new waste pits to be lined. But the regulations do not cover sites at shuttered power plants. And in some cases, they would allow existing landfills that do not meet the new standards to continue to operate. Environmentalists said the rule had “glaring flaws” and vowed to work to make the rules stronger Friday. “Today’s rule doesn’t prevent more tragic spills like the ones we are still trying to clean up in North Carolina and Tennessee. And it won’t stop the slower moving disaster that is unfolding for communities around the country, as leaky coal ash ponds and dumps poison water,” said Lisa Evans, an attorney with Earthjustice, which sued the EPA in 2012 to issue the rule, representing 10 environmental groups. While pleased, even industry groups said they would work with Congress to fix what they saw as flaws in the rule, namely that the EPA could change the classification down the road with more evidence, a power Congress gave the agency when it exempted coal ash and other energy wastes from being treated as hazardous wastes in late 1970s.”


Obama Quietly Reissues Rules Making It Harder To Build Fossil Fuel Projects

“The White House reissued a guidance Wednesday night on how government agencies should conduct environmental reviews. The draft guidance would require officials to evaluate the greenhouse gas emissions of major projects. Republicans blasted the White House’s update on how bureaucrats should conduct National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews, saying this sneaky guidance could stymie energy production. “The Obama Administration is attempting to increase federal authority beyond NEPA’s original intent and further slow down job-creating projects in this last-ditch effort to appease its far-left environmental base right before the holidays,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter. The White House guidance will require projects like pipelines, natural gas export terminals, coal export terminals and even oil and gas operations to be evaluated based on thir potential impact on global warming. But the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) says the updated draft guidance is needed to “increase the efficiency of environmental reviews and help agencies make informed decisions that are sound investments of taxpayer dollars and good for American communities.”


Experts: China May Fail To Meet CO2 Emissions Pledge

“Energy experts say that China’s slowing economic growth may mean it won’t be able to keep the environmental promises it made in a deal with the Obama administration. China pledged to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and expand green energy production to 20 percent of its power supply. “I think low growth make it more difficult to achieve their target,” Shoichi Itoh with Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ) told The Daily Caller News Foundation. China pledged last month to peak its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and ramp up its use of renewable energy, including using more nuclear power and hydroelectric energy. Republicans criticized the deal since China did not make any firm commitments, but the White House called in an “historic” agreement. But Itoh and his colleagues at IEEJ say that slowing economic growth in China may be a huge setback to meeting their emissions pledge.”


Obama’s Crummy Year: The Presidency In 2014 by the Numbers

“Fresh off his announcement about normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba, President Obama today will hold what will likely be his final press conference of the year before the first family jets off to Hawaii for 17 days of R and R. Here’s a look at how the commander-in-chief has fared this year:

–He has a 41 percent job approval rating in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll out this week, a single point from his career low, with 54 percent disapproving.

–His approval rating averaged just 43 percent in 2014, making it his worst year by a significant margin.

–His rating on the economy is essentially flat; 52 percent disapprove, despite recent economic gains. Fifty-four percent disapprove of his work on international affairs, a steadily negative majority since September. He’s gained 9 points on handling immigration, but only to 38 percent approval, with 55 percent disapproving. And for only the second time, numerically more disapprove than approve of his handling of terrorism, 48-43 percent.

–He’s presided over the steepest drop-off in Democratic self-identification we’ve ever seen. Just 26 percent of Americans now identify themselves as Democrats, down 6 points from late October to the fewest on record since the start of ABC/Post polling in 1981. (More are independents; Republican Party ID is flat, but the GOP’s favorability rating has risen sharply.)

Obama’s career-long job approval rating, 50 percent on average, lags all three of his immediate two-term predecessors at this point in their tenure.

–He’s at 29 percent approval among whites, the lowest of his presidency; not only do 67 percent disapprove, but a majority, 53 percent, does so strongly. Nearly two-thirds of nonwhites, by contrast, approve of Obama’s work in office.

–Previous results also have indicated the president’s problems: He reached career lows in both favorability and empathy – understanding the problems of people like you – in a pre-election ABC/Post poll. His career low job approval, 40 percent, was Oct. 12.”


Mrs. Obama’s Tall Tales of Racialized Victimhood


FCC Proposes Rules for Online Video Services Providers

Chairman Tom Wheeler Hopes Changes Allow Consumers to Buy Channels a la Carte


GOP goes on K Street hiring spree

“Lobbyists can come home again. As Republicans take control of Congress, they are bringing in veteran influence peddlers to help them run the show. Nearly a dozen veteran K Streeters have been named as top staffers to GOP leaders or on key committees as lawmakers prepare to take the gavel in January. For instance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell named Hazen Marshall policy director earlier this week. Marshall, a former staff director for the Senate Budget Committee, has spent the last 10 years as a lobbyist at the Nickles Group representing dozens of clients like AT&T, Comcast and energy company Exelon. The trend is in part because Republicans are taking control of the Senate next year, opening up attractive jobs once held by Democrats.

And while former staffers-turned lobbyists often end up back in public service — the revolving door has been swinging for years — there is a notable increase in the pace of K Streeters making the move back to Congress this month. “I think it’s to be expected, especially when you have a change in leadership in the Senate. The upper House has a little more glamour for a lot of people” said Ivan Adler, a headhunter with the McCormick Group. “There’s a lot of people who are looking to enhance their credentials… Going back to the Hill in a senior level position with lots of responsibility and visibility is just like people moving in the entertainment or sports industry in LA or New York.” Marshall in McConnell’s office is hardly alone. Mark Isakowitz, who has been downtown since the mid-1990s first at the National Federation of Independent Business and then at the boutique firm Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, is also making the transition to Capitol Hill. The Ohio native will be chief of staff to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Appropriations guru Jeff Shockey is taking another swing through the revolving door — he has done two previous stints working in the House — will this time be leaving S3 Group to become staff director to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on the House Intelligence Committee.

In an email announcing his departure from the Nickles Group, Marshall wrote friends and clients that after working for former Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) for nearly three decades he was looking forward to his next challenge as Republicans return to power. “I am very excited about returning to the Senate to work for Leader McConnell and will do my best to help him and his talented team succeed,” Marshall wrote in an email announcing his move. “I love the Senate and I am blessed to have been given this opportunity to work with a great Leader who will restore the glory of that institution.” Although lobbyists are sure to take a pay cut to return to the public sector — former long-time staffers can also use the time to increase their pensions and reach the next level of compensation.”


Leaked: Democrats’ attack plan for Bush


Federal Gov’t: More Than 48,000 Federal Workers’ Personal Information Potentially at Risk



FBI Officially Blames North Korea for Sony Hack

“The Obama administration on Friday formally accused the North Korean government of being responsible for the devastating hacking attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, providing the most detailed accounting to date of a hugely expensive break-in that could lead to a U.S. response. The FBI said in a statement it has enough evidence to conclude that North Korea was behind the punishing breach, which resulted in the disclosure of tens of thousands of leaked emails and other materials.”


Obama: Sony Should Have Come To Me First

“PRESIDENT OBAMA: But even as we get better, the hackers are are going to get better, too. Some are going to be state actors, some of them are going to be non-state actors. All of them will be sophisticated and many of them can do some damage.  We can not have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States. Because if someone is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie magine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like. Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody’s whose sensibilities probably need to offended. So, ou know, that’s not who we are. That’s not what America is about.  Again, I’m sympathetic that Sony as a private company was worried liabilities and this, that and the other. I wish they would have spoken with me first. I would have told them do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.”



“Friday, during his end of the year news conference, President Obama admonished Sony Pictures for cancelling its Christmas Day release of “The Interview.” He went on to say that if the company had called him, he would have told them to stick by the movie. Sony responded later that same day saying they did in fact reach out to the White House: [Sony Pictures CEO Michael] Lynton reacted to Obama’s comment that he wished Sony had reached out to them. “We definitely spoke to a senior advisor in the White House to talk about the situation. The fact is, did we talk to the president himself? … The White House was certainly aware of the situation.” An American company and one of the cornerstone’s of our culture has been under a devastating attack by a foreign country for nearly a month. Apparently, the president believes it’s Sony’s job to fight the North Koreans, and not his.”


Obama: Sony “made a mistake” pulling movie

Obama: Sony “made a mistake” by canceling release of “The Interview”

“”Sony’s a corporation, it suffered significant damage, there were threats against its employees – I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced,” Mr. Obama said in a news conference at the White House. “Having said all that — yes, I think they made a mistake.” The FBI on Friday formally blamed the North Korean government for the retaliatory cyber attacks against Sony. In the satirical movie “The Interview,” a pair of American journalists are sent to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Ultimately, the threat of additional cyber attacks scuttled “The Interview’s” planned Christmas Day release. Responding to Sony’s decision, Mr. Obama said, “That’s not who we are. That’s not what America’s about.” “We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” the president continued. “Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they do when they start seeing a documentary they don’t like, or news reports they don’t like. Or even worse, imagine if producers or distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of someone whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.”


Obama on North Korea hacking Sony: “We will respond”

Obama Vows a Response to Cyberattack on Sony


Sony CEO to Obama: “We Have Not Caved”

Sony CEO hits back at Obama: He’s ‘mistaken’

“The CEO of Sony Entertainment dismissed President Obama’s criticism of his decision to cancel the release of a movie about the assassination of Kim Jong Un, saying Obama was “mistaken as to what actually happened.” “We do not own movie theaters. We cannot determine whether or not a movie will be played in movie theaters,” said Sony CEO Michael Lynton during an interview on CNN. “I don’t know exactly whether he understands the sequence of events that led up to the movie not being shown in the movie theaters,” Lynton added. “Therefore, I would disagree with the notion that it was a mistake.” Earlier Friday, Obama said it was a “mistake” for Sony to scrap the Dec. 25 release of “The Interview” after North Korean hackers threatened attacks against theaters screening the film. Obama argued that it set a dangerous precedent and could lead to self-censorship by American companies not wanting to anger the North Korean government. “If somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like,” Obama warned. Lynton insisted the studio would like to release the movie, but said the lack of theater participation made it impossible to do so on Christmas Day. “We have not given in,” Lynton said. “And we have not backed down. We have always had every desire to have the American public see this movie.”

Sony CEO Fires Back at ‘Mistaken’ Obama: ‘We Have Not Caved’


Major Hollywood Actor Slams Kim Jong Un: ‘Of All F***ing People’ He Should Not Control Movies We See


5 Times We Made Fun of a North Korean Dictator And Got Away with It


Obama to block exports of goods, technology, services to Crimea

“President Barack Obama on Friday said he would ban exports of goods, technology or services to Ukraine’s Crimea region, and called on Russia to end its annexation of the region. Obama also authorized the Treasury Department to impose sanctions on individuals and companies operating in the region. The measures come after the European Union banned investment in Crimea on Thursday. In a statement, Obama said his order “is intended to provide clarity to U.S. corporations doing business in the region and reaffirm that the United States will not accept Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea.”


Hospital: Child remains in ‘stable’ condition, checked for Ebola virus

“A child with a fever has been admitted to University of Chicago Medical Center to be checked for the Ebola virus after being screened at O’Hare International Airport. The patient remains in stable condition Friday evening, according to a statement from the hospital. The child, whose age and gender was not released, was admitted Friday morning “for observation to rule out Ebola virus disease,” the hospital said in an earlier statement. “Federal authorities identified the child as having a fever but no other symptoms of Ebola during screening at O’Hare. “The patient has been isolated under strict quarantine protocols until the child’s condition improves and a diagnosis is established,” the statement said. “No other information can be shared about the child due to patient privacy laws.”




U.S. Declares Bank and Auto Bailouts Over, and Profitable

“While both the Tea Party and Occupy movements in many ways appeared to embody the political fringe on both sides of the political spectrum, they gave voice to millions of Americans who felt singed, cast aside and marginalized through the sins of corporate America. Conservatives and liberals were left feeling that Washington was willing to do whatever it took to save mega-banks and corporations, while letting the vast majority struggle with unemployment, declining wages, disappearing savings and houses worth less than their mortgages. “What we learned from TARP, the stimulus and the Detroit bailout is when big government, big business and big labor join forces at the taxpayers’ expense, it’s the average citizen who is left out,” said Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots.”


Cruz at center of DC political drama — again

“But to Cruz, it was important to “show America whether they stand with a lawless president.” While a number of Cruz’s Republican colleagues derided the move as reckless, his tea party allies came to his defense. “I’m glad there are a couple of conservatives in the Senate actually willing to fight the Obama agenda,” said national Tea Party Patriots leader Jenny Beth Martin.”