News Briefing for Friday, January 9, 2015


N.J. private insurance premiums rising faster since Affordable Care Act passed, study shows

“Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the cost of premiums in New Jersey each year have risen faster than the national average, according to a study released today by a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank. Premiums for New Jersey employer-sponsored health coverage climbed an average of 4.4 percent a year from 2003 through 2010 to $5,153 per single person, according to the study by the Commonwealth Fund. But from 2010 to 2013, the average premium rose 6.4 percent a year, to $6,200. The spike was even greater for family policies. Pre-Obamacare, premiums rose by 4.7 percent a year, but escalated to a 7.4 percent average jump annually from 2010 to 2013. The total cost of a family policy in New Jersey was $17,396 in 2013. In 31 states, however, annual premium increases fell, “during a time when some critics had warned that health insurance reforms might increase the costs of health insurance for people with private insurance,” according to the report. Nationally, the average premium rose 4.1 percent a year, to $5,571 for an employee only policy, and 4.9 percent a year to $16,029 for a family policy. Researchers attributed the decline partly to the decision by many people during and after the recession to spend less on health care, said the study’s co-author Sara Collins. But the landmark law also played a role, with its focus on curbing hospital admissions and other cost-cutting strategies. “The delivery system reforms in the ACA were aimed at reforming Medicare. . .but there is a sense those practices have spilled over into the rest of the private insurance as well,” Collins said. New Jersey is among 10 states where premiums climbed 6 percent or more each year from 2010 to 2013. Similarly high increases were felt in Alaska, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming, according to the report. On the bright side, most New Jerseyans might not be feeling the sticker shock as sharply because wages are higher here, thereby taking a smaller bite out of a worker’s paycheck, Collins said. The median income in New Jersey is $70,010 compared to the national average of $54,000. A New Jersey employee’s share of premium and deductible expenses consumed 7.9 percent of the median household income, compared to 9.5 percent of the national family income.”


How ObamaCare Harms Low-Income Workers (Goodman)

Full-timers become part-timers, losing wages and the opportunity to buy the health coverage they most prefer.


Healthcare costs still rising (but “not soaring”) under Obamacare

“If you had a nagging feeling that you were still paying more and more for healthcare coverage while getting fewer covered services, you probably weren’t imagining it, at least according to a new study from the Commonwealth Fund. But before digging into the details, I would take a moment to note how this phenomena is described by Noam Levey of the LA Times. Although the Affordable Care Act has not led to soaring insurance costs, as many critics claimed it would, the law hasn’t provided much relief to American workers either, according to a new study of employer-provided health benefits. Workers continue to be squeezed by rising insurance costs, eroding benefits and stagnant wages, the report from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund found. Why would you waste our time in such a blatant and ineffective attempt to discredit critics of Obamacare and shore up the reputation of the program when you’re about to show that it has failed in one of its principal selling points? So the “critics” were clearly wrong because the costs of insurance are not soaring. But in the very next sentence we are informed that these insurance costs are rising to the point where workers are being squeezed, their benefits are eroding and their wages are stagnant. Well, I know I certainly feel better now. For a moment there I was afraid that the costs might be soaring, but there’s clearly nothing to worry about. But with that minor quibble out of the way, the consumers most affected here are not those on public assistance or the very wealthy. We’re once again talking about working Americans who are fortunate enough to still have one of those employer provided plans which they were promised they could keep. Their average contribution has now risen to 9.6% of their income, almost twice the 5.3% they were kicking in back in 2003, and more than a 1% increase just since 2010. It is frequently among the largest chunks eaten out of a worker’s paycheck. Let us not forget that we were repeatedly assured that rates would be lower under Obamacare, not just the same or rising more slowly. Nancy Pelosi assured us of that as recently as 2012, though she suffered a mysterious loss of memory on the subject only nine months later. But as I found out first hand early in 2014, when the government mandates a whole raft of new benefits that everyone must get, (whether they want it or not) then they have to be paid for. And those costs are passed on to the customer. This plan has been a failure. No mixing of adjectives to describe the extent of the failure is going to change anything.”


Report: 28% of income going to health insurance premiums, average $16,000

“Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums are up across the country at a time when wages are stalled, forcing some workers to hand over 28 percent of their paycheck just to keep coverage, according to a troubling new national survey of employer programs. “The costs employees and their families pay out-of-pocket for deductibles and their share of premiums continued to rise, consuming a greater share of incomes across the country. In all but a handful of states, average deductibles more than doubled over the past decade for employees working in large and small firms. Workers are paying more but getting less protective benefits,” said a report issued Thursday by the Commonwealth Fund. While the report revealed a slowing in premium hikes since Obamacare kicked in, the decade of flat income meant that employees had to increase their insurance payments by as much as 175 percent, with workers in the South getting slammed the hardest.”


Chart of the Week: How Much Will Obamacare Fines Continue to Rise?

“If you failed to purchase health insurance, expect tax penalties to double this year. And don’t forget to report your health insurance status directly to the Internal Revenue Service — they’re gearing up to collect. Check out the fines to come this year and in 2016 in the chart below. Thanks, Obamacare!”


Study: Employer Health Plan Premium Growth Slows, But Offers Little Help to Consumers


21 pages of Obamacare tax instructions, IRS demands ‘shared responsibility payment’

“The complicated process of signing up for Obamacare is now being matched by IRS instructions to help Americans figure out how much in healthcare taxes they owe Uncle Sam. The agency has issued 21 pages of instructions, complete with links to at least three long forms and nine tip sheets. It is geared to those who have Obamacare or who owe a fine, dubbed “shared responsibility payment,” for refusing to get health insurance. The IRS warned that everybody must have health insurance or pay the tax. “While the vast majority of tax filers — over three quarters — will just need to check a box on their tax return indicating they had health coverage in 2014, people who have coverage through the Marketplaces, or decided not to enroll in coverage, should be aware of some additional steps that will be a part of the tax filing process starting this year,” said the Department of Health and Human Service, which runs the Affordable Care Act. The IRS form gives multiple examples of how much those without insurance, either through Obamacare or employers, owe in their “shared responsibility payment.” For example, a single male earning $40,000 a year would owe $298.50. Individual Shared Responsibility Provision What is the individual shared responsibility provision? For each month of the year, the individual shared responsibility provision calls for individuals to:

–Have qualifying health care coverage (also called minimum essential coverage), or

–Qualify for an exemption from coverage, or

–Make an individual shared responsibility payment when filing their federal income tax return

Individuals are treated as having minimum essential coverage for the month as long as the individuals are enrolled in and entitled to receive benefits under a plan or program identified as minimum essential coverage for at least one day during that month. Who must have health care coverage? In general, all U.S. taxpayers are subject to the individual shared responsibility provision. Under the provision, a taxpayer is potentially liable for him or herself, and for any individual the taxpayer could claim as a dependent for federal income tax purposes. Thus, all children generally must have minimum essential coverage or qualify for a coverage exemption for each month in the year. Otherwise, the primary taxpayer(s) (e.g., parents) who can claim the child as a dependent for federal income tax purposes will generally owe an individual shared responsibility payment for the child. Senior citizens must also have minimum essential coverage or qualify for a coverage exemption for each month in the year. Both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part C (also known as Medicare Advantage) are minimum essential coverage.”


Obamacare and the irritation factor

“…The next round of irritation is almost here and will directly impact the people that the president’s team is hoping to win over. The law provides health insurance subsidies to more than 6 million taxpayers. In general, they are lower-income Americans who file the simplest tax returns — a 1040 EZ. Now, however, that will not be an option. Instead, all who received subsidies must file a Form 8962, which requires five pages of IRS rules to explain. Among other things, it requires a full accounting including the cost of their premium, subsidy and tax credit. Not only that, the form is to be filled out for each and every month of the year. This may not seem like a big deal to those who write the rules and are affluent enough to hire someone else to prepare their taxes. But it is unlikely that those receiving health care subsidies have accountants to handle such things. Adding insult to injury, a substantial number of tax filers will go to all this trouble only to find out that their subsidies were too high and they owe the federal government more money. According to some estimates, more than 3 million people will learn they have to give back some of the subsidies they were counting on. If this were the only irritating aspect of the healthcare law, it might be able to survive. But it comes on top of a long list of other irritations. Some were temporary, such as the initial failure of the website. Some were major one-time events, such as the fact that many people with insurance were not allowed to keep their insurance or their doctor. But some are ongoing. In recent months, it became clear that everybody who gets insurance through the exchanges will have to go back to the website every year. Due to complexities in the formula for calculating subsidies, they will either have to select a new plan (meaning they might also have to switch doctors every year) or risk higher out-of-pocket costs. Changing insurance and doctors every year is a major hassle, to say the least. It’s important to note that these irritations are forced upon the very people that Obama is counting on to make his law popular. There are plenty of reasons for people to oppose Obamacare on policy grounds. But politically, the law’s fatal weakness may be the irritation it delivers to those it’s supposed to help.”


Gov’t Admits Obamacare Will Make Taxes More Complicated

“The Obama administration acknowledged Thursday that Obamacare will complicate some people’s federal tax forms, and said it is preparing to offer a range of resources to help people get through the upcoming tax filing season. “Starting this year, consumers will see some changes to their tax returns,” the Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday. “While the vast majority of tax filers – over three quarters – will just need to check a box on their tax return indicating they had health coverage in 2014, people who have coverage through the marketplaces, or decided not to enroll in coverage, should be aware of some additional steps that will be a part of the tax filing process starting this year.” HHS said people will have questions about how to file their taxes properly, and said the administration is “committed to providing the information and tools tax filers need to understand the new requirements.” “In the coming weeks, the administration will launch additional resources to help consumers prepare for tax filing season, including online tools to help individuals connect with local tax preparation services and determine if they are eligible for an exemption,” HHS said. HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said millions of people have bought health care through Obamacare marketplaces, and said the “vast majority” received tax credits. Burrell said people who get those subsidies will have to fill out a new tax form, Form 1095-A, to reconcile the aid they got. For the last several months, Republicans have cited evidence indicating that people may have received too much in subsidies, which could mean some taxpayers end up owing more in taxes than they otherwise anticipated. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said the situation may differ from taxpayer to taxpayer, but said the administration would work to clarify all questions as much as possible. “A fraction of taxpayers will take different steps, like claiming an exemption if they could not afford insurance or ensuring they received the correct amount of financial assistance,” Lew said. “A smaller fraction of taxpayers will pay a fee if they made a choice to not obtain coverage they could afford.” “We are working to ensure that whatever their experience, consumers can easily access clear information since this is the first year they will see certain changes to their tax returns,” he said.”


Feds launch effort to help people prepare ObamaCare tax filings

“The Obama administration is trying to head off confusion related to ObamaCare’s first tax season by providing online resources to consumers preparing to file their returns.  The joint effort, announced Thursday by the Treasury and the Health and Human Services departments, promises consumer outreach online and in communities as well as partnerships with tax preparers. “For the vast majority of Americans, tax filing under the Affordable Care Act will be as simple as checking a box to show they had health coverage all year,” said Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in a statement.  “A fraction of taxpayers will take different steps, like claiming an exemption if they could not afford insurance. … We are working to ensure that whatever their experience, consumers can easily access clear information since this is the first year they will see certain changes to their tax returns.”  The announcement comes amid a steady drumbeat of news stories about changes for tax filers looming under ObamaCare.”


The Obamacare tax man cometh: Will you be ready?


On Obamacare, GOP is thinking right, but not big enough

“Republicans will soon take up a measure that would change Obamacare’s definition of full-time work from 30 hours to the traditional official mark of 40 hours per week. The distinction is an important one. As matters now stand, employers will face fines for failing to insure workers who work as few as 30 hours per week. This is causing many part-time employees — especially waiters and part-time employees of public school districts and colleges — to lose hours and thus lose wages. It might also be preventing the U.S. job market from returning to its previous balance between part-time work (which is now more common) and full-time work (which is now more scarce). In fighting to repeal Obamacare, it is understandable that Republicans want to aim for something they believe might actually reach Obama’s desk, from which he has already promised a veto, as opposed to holding out for something perfect. But even acknowledging that, they have an opportunity to think a bit bigger. In particular, Republicans should be thinking about repealing the employer mandate entirely, or delaying its implementation again until some distant future date when the rest of the law can be replaced. At the very least, they should force a floor vote on repealing the mandate as part of the amendment process. The restoration of the 40-hour work week may help in some areas of the economy, but it will not stop the employer mandate from wreaking havoc on the U.S. job market. It may help the 10 million American workers who, according to the Labor Department, work 30 to 34 hours per week. But many other employers will still have an incentive to reduce hours, avoid making their 50th hire that would trigger the mandate, and perhaps eliminate a few open positions or even lay off workers if they feel it is practical. Even worse, as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office notes, restoration of the traditional 40-hour threshold could make things worse for at least some of the 60 million people who work 40-hour weeks. It is not clear how severe the effect would be, but there will be a downside. All of that said, Republicans are right to try to do something to mitigate Obamacare’s damage. If conservatives resist any piecemeal approach to dismantling Obamacare for political reasons, that is, out of fear that the coalition to repeal Obamacare will break up if pieces of the law vanish — then they will be inflicting years of needless suffering and expense upon the very voters who just elected them to stop Obama and his law. The problems with the 40-hour provision highlight how Obamacare is like a booby-trapped time bomb. Each piece is part of the problem, yet removing any piece can make the problem even worse. This is also true of repeal of the employer mandate. It might prompt employers to dump their workers into the Obamacare exchanges, shifting more of the burden directly to taxpayers. But this is more of an argument for why the law ultimately needs to be fully repealed.”


House passes 40 hour work week bill as Obamacare fight enters new phase on Capitol Hill

“The opening salvo in the Obamacare fight in the new Republican-controlled Congress has been fired, with the House easily passing a measure Thursday designed to weaken the healthcare law. The bill seeks to revoke the Affordable Care Act’s provision that companies offer health coverage to employees who work at least 30 hours a week. Instead, the measure stipulates that employees must work 40 hours to be eligible for healthcare benefits. The bill passed 252 to 172, with 12 Democrats voting yes. No Republican voted in opposition. Republicans said the 30-hour threshold has caused many struggling Americans to have their work hours cut by employers that can’t afford to provide insurance. “Businesses are now reacting to Obamacare’s perverse incentive, and scaling down,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “The employer mandate and Obamacre as a whole are hurting the job market and is hurting America. Only a full repeal of this law will solve the problem, but this bill helps.”

House Passes First Obamacare Change

New House passes first anti-Obamacare measure

House votes down ObamaCare’s 30-hour workweek, 252-172


House approves ObamaCare bill despite veto threat

“Obama’s 2010 health care law, a perennial GOP target, is phasing in a requirement that companies with more than 50 full-time workers offer health care coverage or face penalty payments to the government.  House Republicans say boosting the standard to 40 hours would protect those workers and named their bill the “Save American Workers Act.” They cite a study by the conservative Hoover Institution saying that 2.6 million workers are at risk of having their hours reduced by the 30-hour minimum, including disproportionately high numbers of female, low-income, younger and less-educated workers.  The White House and Democrats, with support from labor and liberal groups, mock the measure as the latest attempt by Republicans to scuttle Obama’s health care law. The House has voted more than 50 times to repeal or roll back parts of that law since Republicans took control of the chamber in 2011.  Democrats say changing the full-time threshold from 30 to 40 hours would make fewer workers eligible for employer-provided health coverage and put more of them at risk of losing that coverage from companies looking to cut costs. The measure’s fate is less clear in the Senate, where majority Republicans will need at least six Democratic votes to get the 60 needed to overcome Democratic delaying tactics. Senate GOP leaders have not said when the bill will be debated.”


House starts its Obamacare repeal march


Business groups cheer passage of ObamaCare workweek bill

“A chorus of business groups is cheering the passage of a House bill that strikes at the ObamaCare mandate that all employers provide insurance to their workers. The bill, which raised the threshold of a full time work week under the healthcare law, had been pushed by a broad coalition of groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association and the National Retail Federation. The groups, which organized the “More Time for Full Time” campaign, released a statement Thursday praising the vote and urging the Senate to “swiftly” pass the bill… The National Restaurant Association, representing hundreds of businesses nationwide, praised the bill for giving its members breathing room as its looks to comply with ObamaCare’s employer mandate. “The restaurant industry is attractive for millions of Americans looking for flexibility and a career to suit personal needs,” the group wrote in a release, adding that the industry “relies on large numbers of part-time and seasonal workers with unpredictable hours and lengths of service.” Retail groups, such as the Retail Industry Leaders Association, also said the bill would help maintain flexibility for small businesses. “Retailers have voluntarily offered healthcare coverage to their employees and their families for decades and restoring the historic 40-hour work week threshold is critical to allowing them to continue to offer this coverage,” said Christine Pollack, the group’s vice president of government affairs. Steve Caldeira, head of the International Franchise Association, called the bill a “win-win” for both businesses and workers, stressing that the measure will allow businesses to be more flexible as they provide insurance options for workers. All but 12 Democrats voted against the bill, which has also been opposed by groups such as the American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO, the National Education Association and the National Women’s Law Center.”


40-Hour Workweek May Worsen ObamaCare Jobs Impact

“ObamaCare’s controversial employer mandate finally took effect on Jan. 1 — one year behind schedule and coinciding with the Republicans’ return to power in the Senate. Not surprisingly, among the first agenda items for the GOP-led Congress is to target the mandate’s much-disdained rule setting the full-time workweek at 30 hours, letting employers avoid ObamaCare penalties for those held to 29 hours or fewer. The House, which already voted last year to lift the law’s full-time threshold to 40 hours per week, did so again on Thursday by a vote of 252 to 171. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled that the bill, which never reached the Senate floor while Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., called the shots, will come up for a vote soon.

Retailers, restaurants and hospitality companies strongly favor a 40-hour threshold. But it’s fair to say that the first GOP attack on ObamaCare since voters put Republicans back in command isn’t going as smoothly as those pushing the change had hoped. Despite some bipartisan support — Democratic Senators Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia are co-sponsors — President Obama threatened a veto this week. The House came up well shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. Just 12 Democrats backed the change to 40 hours, vs. 18 that did so last year. Making The Law Worse? But the real blindside hit came from conservatives. The National Review editorialized that shifting the law’s full-time definition to 40 hours “threatens to make the law worse.” The magazine’s editors, echoing an issue that the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and other ObamaCare defenders have raised: A lot more people work 40-hour weeks or just above than clock exactly 30 hours or a bit more.

No one knows for sure how employers would react, but it’s possible that more workers could have their hours reduced just below the full-time threshold, if it’s raised to 40 hours, then has been happening at 30.  Analysts on the left deny that ObamaCare has had a negative workweek impact, but the data — viewed closely — say otherwise. Turning Back The Clock – The number of workers usually clocking 25 to 29 hours a week in their main job is up by exactly a half million, or 14.4%, since the end of 2012, Current Population Survey data show. Meanwhile, the number working 31 to 34 hours is down 257,000, or 10.3%.”

The GOP’s Mandate Strategy (article that was referenced in the above article)


GOP back with attack on ObamaCare safety net

“Republican lawmakers are reintroducing legislation to repeal ObamaCare’s risk corridors, a temporary program intended to serve as a safety net for insurers entering the new marketplaces. The bill from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), put forward again on Thursday, would eliminate risk corridors on the assumption that taxpayer money would flow to insurers under the program. While this is a possibility, experts say risk corridors are primarily designed to shift money from insurance companies that fare better in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to those that do worse. Supporters of the program, including the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), argue that eliminating it will raise premiums and reduce options for consumers on the marketplaces. Rubio, meanwhile, called risk corridors a “bailout” for insurers in a statement.”


Washington tinkers with Obamacare amid mixed results for health law

“More than four years after the law’s passage, Republicans are as insistent as ever that Obamacare is destined to fail. Illustrating their commitment to taking down the law, the GOP-led House on Thursday is voting on a bill that would make a major adjustment to the Affordable Care Act. “Just because we can’t fix Obamacare doesn’t mean we can’t start to get rid of its worst features,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, wrote in a USA Today op-ed this week. The bill up for consideration Thursday is the Save American Workers Act. It would change the definition of a “full-time” worker under the Affordable Care Act, from one who works at least 30 hours a week to one who works at least 40 hours a week. That change would impact a provision in the law called the “employer mandate,” which requires businesses with at least 50 full-time employees to provide their workers with insurance. Democrats have balked at the GOP’s moves and by and large insist that “Obamacare is working.” The White House was quick to issue a veto threat against the House bill. At the same time, the administration is discussing with lawmakers ways to tinker with Obamacare to accommodate the concerns of conservative state lawmakers. The continued debate over Obamacare, which was passed in 2010, come amid some new evidence that the law has helped make the health care market more accessible — while leaving room for improvement. For instance, the Commonwealth Fund on Thursday reported that employer-sponsored health insurance premiums grew more slowly in 31 states and the District of Columbia between 2010 and 2013 — after the passage of Obamacare — compared with 2003 to 2010. That’s good news that may in part be accredited to the law. At the same time, wages have grown even more slowly, leaving health care costs even less affordable for Americans. The lingering question, Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal told reporters on Wednesday, is “when will workers start to see the benefits of the health care cost slowdown?” Meanwhile, a Gallup report released Wednesday showed that the uninsured rate among American adults for the fourth quarter of 2014 averaged 12.9 percent — down more than four points since last year, when Americans were required under Obamacare to obtain insurance.”


GOP split over how to tackle ObamaCare

“Republicans are struggling to reach a consensus on how to deal with ObamaCare now that they control both chambers of Congress for the first time since the law was passed. GOP leaders are under enormous pressure from the grassroots to undo Obama’s signature achievement, but they are also hearing calls to show they can govern in the run-up to 2016, when the party hopes to control the White House as well as the Senate and House. That sets up a test: how to balance the promise to take down the Affordable Care Act with a pledge to be productive. “The big elephant in the room is ObamaCare now that we’ve got control,” a Senate GOP aide acknowledged.”


Cornyn: Obamacare Repeal Vote Should Wait

“Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said he hopes his GOP colleagues hold off on a vote to fully repeal Obamacare until after Republicans have shown they can govern. “I think it’s important that we demonstrate that we can be productive before we have the inevitable fight over repealing Obamacare,” the Texas Republican said in an interview with CQ Roll Call Wednesday. “We are going to have that vote. But my own preference would be we have it after we’ve been able to demonstrate that we can actually get some things done.” Asked if he would be opposed to an Obamacare repeal amendment being offered to the bill due on the floor next week to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, Cornyn said, “I think that would muddle the message.” Supporters of the Keystone bill have also said that they would prefer that only relevant amendments be offered. Adding a repeal to any bill would effectively act as a poison pill for Democrats and the White House — and a pure repeal is certain to fall short of the 60 votes necessary to end a filibuster. But Republicans have pledged to try and repeal it anyway. To that end, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., earlier told CQ Roll Call there will at least be a vote on proceeding to a bill repealing the law. Cornyn predicted the King v. Burwell case that will be argued before the Supreme Court in March will end up going a long way towards undoing the law. The court will decide whether the law allows people participating in the federally run health care exchange to get subsidies. A decision denying the subsidies would significantly undermine the law. “What I expect is that the Supreme Court is going to render a body blow to Obamacare from which I don’t think it will ever recover,” Cornyn said. He also said there may be bipartisanship on some of the much smaller Affordable Care Act rollbacks, such as a bill that passed the House 412 to 0 on opening day that would encourage the hiring of veterans by exempting them from counting toward the employer mandate under Obamacare. “So I think there are going to be some parts of repealing Obamacare that are going to be consensus, bipartisan items,” Cornyn said. Some of those bills with bipartisan backers face opposition from the White House. That’s true in the case of a measure that would define full time employment as 40 hours per week for the purposes of the Affordable Care Act. “Our goal is simple. We want to protect part-time workers from having their hours reduced and their paychecks cut because of the definition in this law,” said lead Senate sponsor Susan Collins, R-Maine. That bill faces a White House veto threat and received a fairly ugly CBO score saying it would boost the deficit, result in more people uninsured and on Medicaid and potentially reduce, not increase, the number of hours worked by full-time workers. Ahead of a House vote, the Office of Management and Budget said “it would significantly increase the deficit, reduce the number of Americans with employer-based health insurance coverage, and create incentives for employers to shift their employees to part-time work — causing the problem it intends to solve.”


SCOTUS decision on ObamaCare advisory panel could come Friday

“The Supreme Court could decide Friday whether to take up another legal threat to ObamaCare, this time challenging a controversial medical board that the party has labeled “a death panel.” At the center of the case, Coons v. Lew, is a federal panel called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which is charged with cutting Medicare spending if it exceeds a certain level. The plaintiffs in the case argue that the advisory board — which has not yet been officially formed — oversteps the bounds of separation of powers. The case has strong backing from the GOP. A group of 25 Republicans filed an amicus brief last month urging justices to take up the case, warning of the impact of the “unelected, unaccountable bureaucracy.”


Supreme Court shouldn’t ignore Constitution to save Obamacare


Study: 9.6M could lose ObamaCare if subsidy challenge succeeds

“Roughly 9.6 million people could lose medical coverage on ObamaCare’s exchanges if the Supreme Court rules that subsidies distributed by the federal marketplaces are invalid, according to a new study. Researchers with the RAND Corp., a nonpartisan research group, said such a ruling could cause “significant instability” and “threaten the viability of the individual health insurance market” in the 34 states where the federal government manages the exchange. Premiums on the individual market would also rise by 47 percent, or $1,610 annually, for a 40-year-old non-smoker with a silver plan, the study said. The findings point to the high stakes in this year’s King v. Burwell case, which is expected to receive a Supreme Court ruling in the summer.  Plaintiffs argue that ObamaCare does not allow subsidies to be distributed on exchanges established by the federal government. A finding in their favor would effectively gut the healthcare law, RAND said.  “Our analysis confirms just how much the subsidies are an essential component to the functioning of the ACA-compliant individual market,” said Christine Eibner, author of the study and a senior economist at RAND.”


Obamacare Has Been A Boon For The Insurance Industry


McCain Slams Obama in Blistering Tweet: ‘Pres Obama’s Motorcade Rolls by #Phoenix VA Today, But…’

“Arizona Sen. John McCain turned to Twitter Thursday night to slam President Barack Obama for failing to visit vets during his trip to Phoenix. The veterans had lined up on the street in their wheelchairs outside the Veterans Affairs hospital at the center of the VA scandal to watch the president go by. “Pres Obama’s motorcade rolls by #Phoenix VA today, but he refuses to stop & visit vets – sad,” McCain tweeted. The senator, who ran against Obama for president in 2008, also released a statement about the incident. “This morning, veterans in wheelchairs lined the sidewalk outside Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix and watched President Obama’s motorcade pass by without stopping on its way to Central High School, just around the block – one mile away,” McCain said. “It is deeply disappointing that the president refused to take time to visit the veterans at the Phoenix VA, where the national scandal of mismanagement in VA health care first surfaced this spring,” he added. “There is much more work to be done to restore veterans’ confidence in the VA system responsible for their care, and a visit by the president would have made clear that it is a key priority.” “Unfortunately, President Obama missed another opportunity to do right by those who have served and sacrificed on our nation’s behalf,” McCain concluded. Earlier in the day, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus ripped Obama for skipping an opportunity to visit the Veterans Affairs hospital.”


GOP, Vets Outraged at Obama Snub of Phoenix VA Center

“The White House gave no real consideration to President Obama visiting the VA facility that was at the center of the scandal that led to as many as 40 deaths while he visited Phoenix on Thursday — and the snub outraged Republicans and veteran’s organizations. “Not really” was how White House spokesman Josh Earnest responded to a reporter’s question aboard Air Force One Thursday afternoon about whether the administration had considered visiting the Phoenix Veterans Administration Health Care Center. “The president traveled to Arizona because Arizona was one of the states that was … among the most hardest-hit states in the country in the midst of the housing downturn,” Earnest said, according to a transcript of the session. Obama visited Phoenix to announce a program to cut mortgage fees charged by the Federal Housing Authority. He said the program could save homeowners $900 a year and attract 250,000 first-time buyers. The announcement was a precursor to the president’s State of the Union speech on Jan. 20.”

While visiting city at the center of the VA scandal, Obama blows off the VA


Obama Sneaks In Gym Workout But Skips VA During Phoenix Visit [VIDEO]


Obama slammed for failing to visit Phoenix Veterans Affairs




Obama Admin Hands Out Fliers Advertising Amnesty To Illegals

“The Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security is now advertising its immigration executive orders with a series of fliers. “[United States Citizenship and Immigration Services] encourages stakeholders to use these fliers when communicating with the public about these actions,” according to an email that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is circulating around Capitol Hill. “The fliers are available in English, Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese. A Chinese version will be available soon.” “President Obama has announced a series of executive actions on immigration,” the fliers proudly proclaim. The fliers urge immigrants to avoid scams and lay out the guidelines for illegals to apply for amnesty through Obama’s executive orders. “While USCIS is not accepting requests for expanded DACA or DAPA at this time, you can gather documents that establish factors such as your:


–Relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident; and

–Continuous residence in the United States over the last five years or more.”



GOP calls special conference meeting on immigration funding

“House Republicans will huddle in a special conference meeting Friday morning to debate how to respond to President Obama’s executive action on immigration.  GOP lawmakers were notified Thursday about the 10:30 a.m. closed-door meeting, a leadership aide said. Republicans are grappling with how to craft a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with some pushing to attach language that would defund Obama’s plan to defer deportations for millions of illegal immigrants. Congress must pass a new spending bill for the DHS by Feb. 28, or the department could shut down. Several GOP lawmakers, including Reps. Mick Mulvaney (S.C.), Martha Roby (Ala.) and Robert Aderholt (Ala.), have legislation ready that could be attached to the funding bill that would block the Obama administration from implementing the executive actions on immigration.”


Republicans move toward vote on blocking Obama immigration actions

“Republicans are charging ahead with their effort to block President Obama’s immigration executive actions, teeing up a House vote as early as next week as they move toward a major confrontation with the administration.  GOP House leaders huddled Thursday with colleagues in an effort to build consensus on a bill to “defund” the president’s initiatives. Under the recently struck budget deal, the Department of Homeland Security is only funded through Feb. 27 — Republicans want to use the deadline as leverage to block the immigration spending.  On the Senate side, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the new chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced a bill Thursday to block funding for Obama’s immigration executive actions. He said the measure would “stop unelected bureaucrats from using the dollars of hardworking taxpayers to implement the president’s unconstitutional executive actions.” The strategy opens yet another front with the Obama administration just days into the new, Republican-controlled Congress. Lawmakers already are moving legislation on ObamaCare and the Keystone pipeline which the White House has vowed to veto.  The White House is likely to fight hard to preserve funding for the immigration initiatives, which would spare potentially millions of illegal immigrants from deportation while allowing them to work in the U.S.  But those pushing the “defund” bill also have to contend with renewed concerns about homeland security funding in the wake of the Paris terror attack.  A senior GOP source who asked not to be identified indicated that Republicans must walk a fine line on DHS funding.  Lawmakers like GOP Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., have urged Congress not to jeopardize DHS funding over the immigration battle. House Speaker John Boehner also assured Thursday that his party would fund DHS.  DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson hinted Wednesday that failing to fund DHS in a timely fashion could prevent the U.S. from being able to stave off a new-style terrorism attack akin to what happened at the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo.”


The Republican plans to halt Obama’s executive amnesty emerge


Boehner moves GOP closer to shutdown fight over immigration

“The new Congress has only just begun and Republican leaders are already debating how to handle a looming shutdown fight over immigration. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security expires Feb. 27 and conservatives want any new legislation extending the department’s cash line to include language stopping President Obama’s plan to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. The White House indicated last month that it would veto measures blocking the president’s executive action, which would lead to a partial government shutdown if Congress doesn’t back down.  Speaker John Boehner headed off a larger shutdown in December by passing legislation funding the government through September, except for DHS, which handles immigration enforcement, among other things. At the time, he argued Republicans would be in a better position to win a fight once the new, majority-GOP Senate was sworn in. On Thursday, he assured members that his plan to challenge Obama has not changed, even in the wake of a terrorist attack on Paris that’s put national security issues back on the front page.  “I said we would fight it tooth and nail when we had the majority and I meant it,” Boehner said in a weekly press briefing. The immigration dispute is designed almost perfectly to divide the GOP. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he wants to keep the party from appearing “scary” and House Republican leaders have indicated they want to be known for more than constant high-stakes confrontations with the White House. A number of Republicans, although increasingly marginalized, have urged the party to focus on passing immigration reform instead of demanding more deportations. But Boehner, who put down a significant rebellion from right-leaning members to win his post this week, is under intense pressure to confront Obama with every tool at his disposal. Reading the tea leaves on how far Republicans are willing to go to stop Obama can be difficult, in part because all sides insist they’re against shutting down the department and leaders have yet to put forward a formal plan. Proponents of attaching the immigration language argue it’s Obama’s fault if DHS goes dark because he and Democrats refused to accede to their legitimate demands. “I don’t believe that the funding of the department is, in fact, at risk,” Boehner said Thursday. “What is at risk is the rule of law and the sanctity of America’s Constitution.”  It’s clear from public statements, however, that some Republicans are uneasy with using Homeland Security funding as a bargaining chip in the immigration fight, especially after this week’s deadly attack on a satirical newspaper in Paris. If things come to a head, they could potentially push leadership towards splitting the two issues across separate measures, which would all but guarantee a defeat on immigration but avoid a politically explosive shutdown. “Whatever we do on that, as far as immigration, cannot in any way be allowed to interfere with our counterterrorism methods,” Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, said on Fox News Wednesday. “I mean, the juxtaposition would be terrible: a terrorist slaughter in Paris, and the U.S. cuts back on Homeland Security funding.” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a prominent hawk, warned Republicans the same day that they should tread carefully. “I hope that we could challenge the executive action of the president in a mature fashion,” Graham told CNN. “I’ve never been for shutting down Homeland Security.” Asked whether the Paris attack affected his calculus, Boehner took issue with the notion Republicans were threatening to defund the agency. “The issue isn’t about funding the Department of Homeland security,” he said. “Members of Congress support funding the department, but we cannot continue to allow the president to go around the Congress, to go around the law and take unilateral action.”



“House Speaker John Boehner is renewing a vow to take on President Obama’s executive amnesty. “I said we’d fight it tooth and nail when we had new majorities in the House and Senate and I meant it,” Boehner told reporters Thursday. House Republicans are expected to take up a Department of Homeland Security funding bill that will take on Obama’s executive amnesty as early as next week. The Speaker argues that stopping the president’s unilateral actions are a priority. “Republicans are in agreement that this is a gravely serious matter,” he said. “The president’s unilateral actions were an affront to the rule of law and our system of government. The American people don’t support it as their representatives cannot let it stand.” Wednesday, DHS Sec. Jeh Johnson warned against continuing to fund the department on a short-term basis, especially in light of the recent terrorist attack in Paris. Johnson says that would put security at risk.”


House GOP plans immigration showdown

“A vote is targeted for early next week, before House and Senate Republicans head to a joint retreat in Pennsylvania. Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt told reporters he discussed his proposal with House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers and other leaders on Thursday. It would not only void the president’s executive order, but also any future executive orders on immigration and bars any fees that the USCIS collects from being spent on operations to carry out the President’s policies. Some congressional Republicans pushed to attach a similar plan to last year’s spending bill. But because the USCIS is self-funded through the fees it collects and doesn’t need Congress to approve them, many — including Rogers — argued it would be difficult to stop that agency’s flow of money. But Rogers told reporters on Thursday he expected to see “an amendment that would change the basic law in order to give Congress jurisdiction of the fees.” House Republicans are likely to be able to pass this type of proposal next week, but it then faces an uphill battle in the Senate where Republicans must get the half a dozen Democratic votes to overcome a likely filibuster from Democratic leaders. Even if the Senate can pass the bill, the president is likely to veto it. The Department of Homeland Security runs out of funds at the end of February, so there is some time for the process to play out on Capitol Hill. But Democrats are already pointing out that at a time when the focus is on the terror attack in Paris it is critical the agency’s budget not be at risk.”



“Senior conservatives in Congress are rallying around a bill from Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) that aims to block funding for President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty while forcing the administration to start enforcing immigration laws. Senate Judiciary Committee member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) endorses the bill. Sessions’ support for any measure dealing with immigration policy is crucial to grassroots conservatives. He’s a dependable defender of American workers from the special interests pushing amnesty and lax immigration enforcement, and has enormous respect and support throughout the conservative movement and Republican Party. Sessions has issued a lengthy statement explaining the problem with executive amnesty and reminding his colleagues of Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Reince Priebus’ pre-election promise to block funds for Obama’s amnesty. Sessions writes: President Obama’s executive amnesty voids the laws Congress has passed in order to foist on the nation measures Congress has refused to pass. In violation of U.S. law, it grants illegal immigrants work permits, Social Security, and Medicare—taking jobs and benefits directly from struggling Americans. The President has arrogated to himself the sole and absolute power to decide who can enter, live, work, and claim benefits in the United States. Before the election, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus made a promise: “We will do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen.” We can’t allow it to happen and we won’t let it happen. I don’t know how to be any stronger than that. I’m telling you, everything we can do to stop it we will. Sessions noted that getting Aderholt’s bill into law would mean Republicans kept Priebus’s promise. “Legislation introduced by Congressman Aderholt would fulfill that pledge and accomplish that goal. It would block funds for the President’s illegal scheme; surely, Congress should not fund an illegal act that eliminates our constitutional role as a lawmaking body,” Sessions said, before laying out exactly what the bill contains. Further, the Aderholt bill would take steps to address one of the most serious problems now unfolding: the mass release of illegal immigrants who show up at the border into the interior of the country. Approximately 99% of the Central American youth and adult relatives who showed up unlawfully this year presently remain in the United States. No ‘border security’ plan can succeed that does not begin to end the destructive practice of catch-and-release. Simply providing the President with more money for ‘border security’ will be turned into a slush fund to resettle illegal immigrants in the interior of the United States.”


GOP lawmaker: Veto on DHS funding bill would harm national security


States Fight Obama’s Claim Immigration Order Is Unreviewable

“The states are trying to block the order from taking effect until their challenge to overturn the policy plays out in federal court in Brownsville, Texas. Immigration officials will soon begin processing applications to let certain undocumented workers avoid deportation and apply for work permits and some federal benefits, such as Social Security and Medicare. The administration claims the policy is “challengeable by no plaintiff, reviewable by no court, and subject to no public input,” lawyers for the states said in an 88-page filing. The last U.S. president to take this stance was Harry Truman, and the Supreme Court blocked executive orders he issued during a steelworkers’ labor dispute in 1952, the states said. “This court should respond likewise,” the states said. “Only the courts can prevent the executive’s self-aggrandizement.” The Department of Homeland Security has urged the judge to dismiss the case, saying the executive branch has broad authority to order immigration officials to “prioritize their resources” on removing criminals and illegal immigrants without family ties to the U.S. Obama’s Nov. 20 order grants quasi-legal status to more than a third of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. undocumented immigrants must have been in the country for more than five years or have a child who is a U.S. citizen, or have been brought here themselves as children, to qualify under the new policy. They must also pass a criminal background check. The states claim they have the legal right to challenge the executive order because they have to spend “hundreds of millions of dollars on health, education and law-enforcement programs” that will be strained by a new wave of immigrants encouraged to enter the U.S. illegally because of the new policy.”


California newspaper office vandalized over use of ‘illegal’ immigrant label

“A California newspaper will continue to use the term “illegals” to describe people who enter the U.S. without permission, despite an attack on its building by vandals believed to object to the term. The Santa Barbara News-Press’s front entrance was sprayed with the message “The border is illegal, not the people who cross it” in red paint, sometime either Wednesday night or early Thursday, according to the newspaper’s director of operations, Donald Katich. The attack came amid wider objections to a News-Press headline that used the word “illegals” alongside a story on California granting driver’s licenses to people in the country illegally. “The vandalism and the damage speak for itself, as well as the motivation behind it,” Santa Barbara Police Officer Mitch Jan said. “At this point in time, I don’t really have any suspect information. Without cameras or an eyewitness, we really don’t know who would be responsible.” In addition to the writing on the building, graffiti espousing a no-borders mentality was scribbled on the walkway through Storke Placita and the sidewalk near Santa Barbara City Hall. Police were braced for a protest in front of the paper later this week. Jan said hundreds could show up, and the Police Department is aware of the call for a protest. “There is a plan underway,” he said. “There is extra staffing on board for it.” In a statement, the newspaper said it has no plans to drop its style in describing illegal immigrants.”

Newspaper’s immigrants headline criticized, building defaced


U.S. Welcoming Islamic Immigrants France Now Regrets Welcoming

“Border Security: As terror-torn France and other European countries put curbs on Islamic immigration, the Obama administration is waving foreign Muslim nationals into the U.S. in record numbers. According to a recent Center for Immigration Studies report, America between 2010 and 2013 imported more people from Muslim countries than Central America and Mexico combined. And now, with the president’s executive amnesty, the welcome mat is bigger than ever. That’s a major shift in immigration flows — and one that poses a major national security threat. If just a fraction of these nearly 300,000 new Muslim immigrants follow in the footsteps of the Franco-Algerian brothers who just terrorized Paris, we could be facing chronic terror. The main homeland threat from groups like the Islamic State comes through our immigration system. If they also use our loose policies as a vehicle for jihad, we will face the same crisis as France and the rest of Eurabia. If enough trained jihadist fighters get into the country, they could band together and launch regular car bombings and tactical assaults, effectively orchestrating insurgencies in our cities, including the capital. It’s not far-fetched. Just 19 foreign Muslims killed some 3,000 Americans and crippled the economy within just two years of entering the U.S. Fifteen of them were Saudi nationals. Yet Obama welcomed 43,878 more Saudis from 2010 to 2013, mostly young men here on a student visa deal Obama cut with the Saudi king. At least 88,894 Saudis now live here. If some never show up on college campuses or they overstay their visas, it doesn’t matter. Obama is no longer enforcing deportations.

And if they qualify for amnesty, many can now get the kind of documentation — including Social Security cards, driver’s licenses and work permits — that the 9/11 Commission warned against. Would-be foreign terrorists are freer than ever to conduct surveillance, coordinate operations, receive funding, go to flight school, obtain weapons and materials, and execute attacks.

Over the 2010-2013 period, Obama let in an additional 41,094 from war-torn Iraq and 38,644 from Egypt. Meanwhile, he’s cut Israeli immigration by 817. While America ushers in Islamic immigrants, Europe is pulling up the welcome mat. In recent months, both France and Britain have proposed imposing curbs on immigration out of fear of importing more terrorists. The bills will likely pass in the wake of the Paris massacre. Thanks to mass immigration from North Africa, France’s Muslim population has swelled to 6.5 million, or 10% of its population. More than 1,000 French Muslims have joined IS. A recent poll found that 27% of French Muslims ages 18-24 support the Islamic State. Growing pockets of radicalism are spreading in towns throughout France. There are no-go zones for police, not just in Paris but all over the country. Authorities say that they’ve lost control of the situation. Muslim attacks on police and synagogues are now regular events. The problem has been that many of these Muslim immigrants refuse to integrate into Western society. And now some are killing their hosts. Why are we letting foreign Muslims flood our shores when most of Europe now regrets liberalizing immigration from Muslim countries? We are just setting ourselves up for the same internal security crisis.”






As gas prices swoon, lawmakers eye gas tax hike


Boehner Leaves Door Open on Gas Tax Proposal (Video)

“A renewed push by some Democrats for an increase in the federal gas tax to replenish the Highway Trust Fund drew a frosty reception Thursday from Speaker John A. Boehner — though the Ohio Republican stopped short of ruling the idea out. Both Boehner and the top-ranking Democrat in the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, were asked Thursday about an increase in the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gas tax after the National Republican Campaign Committee sought to make a gas tax increase a political liability for Democrats. “I’ve never voted to raise the gas tax. Funding the highway bill is critically important, it is a priority for this year. How we will fund it  — we’re going to have to work our way through it,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said at his weekly press conference. The Highway Trust Fund is set to run out of money in four months unless Congress takes action. In the Senate, there is a Democratic proposal to raise the gas tax by 12 cents over the next two years, an idea that some Republicans in the upper chamber have said they would consider. Boehner demurred as to whether he and other House Republicans were actively eyeing the tax as a means to keep the trust fund solvent, instead saying Democrats had not been able to get the votes necessary for the increase in the past. As for whether a gas tax could be part of a compromise deal to lower income taxes, Boehner said, “There’s a lot of ideas. We’ve got to  find a way to deal with America’s crumbling infrastructure, and we need to do it in a long term program that is, in fact, funded.” During her own press conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said raising the gas tax while prices are low is the best time to do it, but that she would not consider such a tax increase as part of a compromise lowering income taxes. Gas prices have dropped in recent months and the national average has dipped to less than $2.20 per gallon, according to AAA. “What I would be interested in seeing is something serious, not something showbiz, which would be, ‘How do you relate the gas tax to the highway trust fund?’ That’s the relationship that is real,” she said. “That’s where we need to have. If there is to be an increase in the gas tax that’s where those resources should be used.”


Boehner: Read My Lips, ‘No Gas Tax Hikes’

“House Speaker John Boehner said he would not support plans to raise the national tax on gasoline, saying lawmakers would have to “work our way through” funding the country’s highways. “I’ve never voted to raise the gas tax,” said Boehner, an Ohio Republican, adding that he doubted there would be enough votes to raise gas taxes. Boehner’s remarks come as Republican lawmakers have been tinkering with the idea of raising the national gas tax to raise highway revenues. Plunging oil prices have caused gasoline prices to dramatically decline. On Thursday, the national average price for gas hit $2.20 per gallon — down from $3.31 per gallon a year ago, according to AAA Fuel Gauge.”


House Speaker Boehner douses gas tax hopes


Pelosi: Time is now for gas-tax hike

“Falling oil prices give Congress a great opportunity to hike the gas tax, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday.  But the Democratic leader also cautioned that her party won’t trade the store in return for the gas-tax increase being floated by some Republicans. “I can’t respond to their proposal because I don’t know what it is,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. “But I do think that if there’s ever going to be an opportunity to raise the gas tax, the time when gas prices are so low — oil prices are so low — is the time to do it.”

At 18.4 cents per gallon, the current gas tax hasn’t changed since 1993, and many environmental and infrastructure advocates are urging an increase to help eliminate annual deficits plaguing the Highway Transportation Fund. That fund is filled primarily by the gas tax, but the combination of rising infrastructure costs and more fuel efficient vehicles has created a shortfall that reached $16 billion last year.  In the upper chamber, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) are pushing legislation to increase the levy by 12 cents over the next two years. And both Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and James Inhofe (R-Okla.), head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said they remain open to the idea.”


Obama to unveil proposal for tuition-free community college

“President Obama on Friday will propose making community college tuition-free for “responsible students,” launching what officials described as an ambitious plan for the federal and state governments to widen access to higher education. Under a program dubbed America’s College Promise, administration officials said, an estimated 9 million students a year nationwide could benefit. The average tuition savings for a full-time student at a public two-year college was estimated to be $3,800 a year. Obama’s goal, said Cecilia Muñoz, the White House’s domestic policy director, is “to make two years of college the norm — the way high school is the norm.” Muñoz and Ted Mitchell, undersecretary of education, discussed the plan Thursday evening in a conference call with reporters, saying it would be included in Obama’s State of the Union address and his budget. The officials declined to provide an estimate of the cost to the federal government, but they said states would be expected to share about a quarter of the overall expense.”


Obama to propose free community college

““It’s a significant proposal,” Munoz said. “States will have to take the initiative to pick it up so it’s not something we expect to happen overnight.” White House press secretary Josh Earnest hinted earlier Thursday that the president could hope to achieve some aspects of the proposal unilaterally – while conceding Congress would be necessary for the bulk of the proposal. “I think there will be an allusion to some executive actions that are possible, but what the President has in mind tomorrow will be some steps that we can take with Congress,” Earnest said. Cory Fritz, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), dismissed the proposal Thursday, saying, “with no details or information on the cost, this seems more like a talking point than a plan.” Separately, Obama is also expected to propose a new training fund that would provide additional grant dollars for technical training programs. The fund would underwrite the start-up of 100 centers for teaching workers the skills they need to secure jobs in high-growth fields like energy, IT, and advanced manufacturing. And Obama will announce the establishment of a new manufacturing hub at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville designed to create new materials lighter and stronger than steel. The new materials could be used to lighten cars and trucks — increasing their fuel efficiency — or to create bigger wind turbines. The Obama Administration has help fund a half-dozen of the hubs, public-private partnerships that seek to bring together private companies, universities, and federally-backed researchers in a bid to spur job creation. The president has asked for funding to create 45 such institutes — based on similar public-private partnerships in Germany — in previous State of the Union addresses.”


Obama to propose two free years of community college for students

“President Barack Obama will need the approval of Congress to realize his proposal for making two years of community college free for students. So far, that plan doesn’t have an official price tag — other than “significant,” according to White House officials. If all 50 states participate, the proposal could benefit 9 million students each year and save students an average of $3,800 in tuition, the White House said. But administration officials insisted on a call with reporters Thursday evening that “this is a proposal with bipartisan appeal.” Case in point: Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, whose brainchild Tennessee Promise program strongly influenced Obama’s proposal. Beginning this year, any high school graduate in that state is eligible for two years of free community college tuition under the Tennessee Promise. Obama, alongside Vice President Joe Biden and second lady Jill Biden, will tout his proposal dubbed “America’s College Promise” during a visit Pellissippi Community College in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday. “What I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who’s willing to work for it,” Obama said in a White House video posted Thursday evening. “It’s something we can accomplish, and it’s something that will train our workforce so that we can compete with anybody in the world.” The president’s proposal would make two years of community college free for students of any age with a C+ average who attend school at least half-time and who are making “steady progress” toward their degree. To be eligible, community colleges would have to offer academic programs that fully transfer credits to local public four-year colleges and universities or training programs with high graduation rates that lead to in-demand degrees and certificates. Community colleges must also adopt “promising and evidence-based institutional reforms” to improve student outcomes. Federal funding would cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college, and Obama is asking states to pick up the rest of the tab — assuming Congress agrees to the plan in the first place. “I hope we’ve got the chance to make sure that Congress gets behind these kinds of efforts to make sure that even as we rebound and grow in 2015, that it benefits everybody and not just some,” the president said in the video.

Obama said his online announcement was “a little preview” of his plans for the Jan. 20 State of the Union address. The cost details will be in the president’s 2016 budget proposal, White House director Cecilia Muñoz said. Muñoz said Obama aims to make college “the norm in the same way high school is the norm now.” The Tennessee Promise idea has, needless to say, caught on. And Education Undersecretary Ted Mitchell said on Thursday’s call that he hopes Obama’s plan will encourage more states to start similar programs. But the idea is not without critics. The Institute for College Access and Success, which is typically in step with the Obama administration, called the proposal “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Among the problems, TICAS says, is that the more substantial costs of college — living expenses, textbooks and transportation — are typically left out of the deal. And Bryce McKibben, a former Association of Community College Trustees policy analyst who recently became a policy adviser to Democrats on the Senate education committee, has noted potential flaws. For instance, the program could end up doing more for less needy students than those who need it the most, because low-income applicants may already be covered by Pell grants and other federal aid. Since state appropriations plummeted during the economic recession, students and families have been forced to pay more for college. From 2008-12, public college funding in 26 states fell by 5 percent or more, according to a recent Center for American Progress report.”


Obama proposes free community college program

“President Obama on Thursday proposed making community college free “for everybody who is willing to work for it.” In a video posted on Facebook, the president previewed his plan, which will be formally announced during a trip to Tennessee Friday. “It’s not for kids,” Obama said. “We also have to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to constantly train themselves for better jobs, better wages, better benefits.” The proposal drew an immediate critical response from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who said, “with no details or information on the cost, this seems more like a talking point than a plan.” According to a White House press release, federal funding would cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college and states that choose to participate will be expected to contribute the remaining funds necessary.  Students are required to maintain a 2.5 GPA while in college, and must make steady progress toward completing their program in order to have their tuition eliminated, according to the press release. “Put simply, what I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who is willing to work for it,” the president said. The White House expects an estimated 9 million students to participate in the program and each could save $3,800 a year on tuition. Last year, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law a scholarship program that provides free community and technical college tuition for two years to the state’s high school graduates. About 58,000 of the state’s roughly 62,000 seniors have applied to participate this fall.”


Obama wants to make community college free


Obama Proposes TWO FREE YEARS Of Community College


Obama Plan Would Help Many Go to Community College Free

“The plan is modeled after Tennessee’s free community college program, called the Tennessee Promise, which will be available to students graduating high school this year. It has drawn 58,000 applicants, almost 90 percent of the state’s high school seniors, and more than twice as many as expected. The program has gone a long way toward making community college attainable for all students. In addition, the proportion of applicants who are African-American and Hispanic is higher than their proportion currently enrolled in Tennessee colleges. The program is backed by the state’s Republican governor, Bill Haslam, and largely financed from lottery funds. Still, Tennessee Promise has been criticized by some who say it is structured to benefit middle-income students more than the neediest. It is designed as a “last dollar” scholarship, paying only for tuition costs not covered by other programs. A low-income student who is eligible for a maximum Pell Grant of $5,730 would not receive assistance under the Tennessee program, because that amount would already cover tuition. A more affluent student, however, could get full tuition paid by the program. Mr. Obama’s plan, by contrast, would cover tuition costs up front, White House officials said. Representative Diane Black, Republican of Tennessee, said despite the success of her state’s program, she was skeptical of the Obama initiative, calling it “a top-down federal program that will ask already cash-strapped states to help pick up the tab.” Chicago, too, has a new free community college initiative starting this year. The program initiated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, will give Chicago Public School students who graduate with at least a 3.0 grade-point average waivers to cover tuition, books and fees at the city’s seven community colleges. White House officials acknowledged in a conference call with reporters that the program was unlikely to win quick approval in Congress. Still, they said, in proposing it, Mr. Obama was seeking to press states and community colleges to beef up their investments in high-quality education in ways that would have a lasting effect even before federal legislation was enacted. “We don’t expect the country to be transformed overnight, but we do expect this conversation to begin tomorrow,” said Cecilia Muñoz, the president’s domestic policy chief. About 7.7 million Americans attend community college for credit, of whom 3.1 million attend full time, according to the American Association of Community Colleges, relying on 2012 data. Over all, the federal government provides about $9.1 billion to community colleges, or about 16 percent of the total revenue the colleges receive. Tuition from students provides $16.7 billion a year, or nearly 30 percent of revenue. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a former education secretary, will attend the announcement at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday. In an op-ed published on Thursday, he expressed concern about the federal role in such a program. Tennessee has been hindered by federal bureaucracy, he wrote in The Knoxville News Sentinel. “Let other states emulate Tennessee’s really good idea,” he wrote.”


Are High Community College Tuitions the Problem?


Obama’s Free Community College Idea May Be Hard Sell

“The administration likens the dream to its universal pre-K proposal from State of the Union two years ago; that one has languished on the Hill but does have some bipartisan support. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner reacted to the community college proposal with skepticism. “With no details or information on the cost, this seems more like a talking point than a plan,” Cory Fritz said in a statement. Still, the notion of free community college is tantalizing to many. Democrats envision a system akin to free the nation’s public high school system which is funded jointly by state and federal governments. Broadly, the White House sketches it out this way:

–2 years free community college for students who attend at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and remain enrolled.

–Community colleges would have to allow students to transfer to four-year schools and/or train in high-demand occupational areas.

–Federal funding would pay for 3/4th; states would pay 1/4th.

–The White House projects up to 9 million students could benefit if every state participates. Average savings $3800 in tuition per year.

“What I’d like to do is see the first two years of community college free for everybody who’s willing to work for it,” Obama says in the Facebook video. “That’s something we can accomplish and it’s something that will train our workforce so that we can compete with anybody around the world.” There’s also the issue of capacity. The nation currently only has 1,100 community colleges. Some states that have individually dabbled in subsidized or free community college programs have seen their systems overwhelmed. As for the politics of it – White House points to red state Tennessee and Gov. Bill Haslam who pioneered a statewide program that provides free community college tuition for two years, signed into law last year. Some 57,000 students – or 90 percent of the state’s high school graduating class – applied, signaling high demand. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will visit Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday to pitch the proposal as part of a presidential tour to preview the State of the Union.”


Why Obama Says Buying Your First Home Just Got More Affordable

“A new White House initiative could put hundreds of dollars back into the pockets of homeowners with mortgages through the Federal Housing Authority, President Obama says. Obama has directed the FHA to reduce the fees attached to government loans for home buyers by half a percent, from 1.35 to 0.85 percent. It may seem like a paltry figure, but the White House estimates the lowered premium will put $900 back into the pockets of the average borrower, annually. “Buying a home has always been about more than buying a roof and four walls,” Obama told a packed gymnasium at Phoenix Central High School today. It’s about “that sense of accomplishment that you were building something, for your family and your future.”


Obama Unveils Plan to Cut Federal Mortgage Rates


Obama Wants More Borrowing for Home Purchases, Vows Not a Repeat of ’08 Crisis

“President Barack Obama on Thursday announced a new executive action to make it easier for Americans to buy homes. Speaking in Phoenix, Obama said the Federal Housing Administration would cut annual mortgage insurance premiums from 1.35 percent to 0.85 percent. It was the second day of a three-day tour where Obama is talking about some of the points he’ll raise in his State of the Union address this month. “That’s enough to save the average buyer $900 a year, that’s $900 to pay for groceries, gas, a child’s education, or depending on what it is, your monthly mortgage payment,” Obama said. “Over the next three years, that will give hundreds of thousands of families the ability to own their own home.” The White House asserts the lower premiums will help more than 800,000 homeowners save on their monthly mortgage costs and help about 250,000 new homebuyers to purchase a home. But the government’s enthusiasm for more home buying was a major factor in the 2008 housing crisis, said Mark Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. “At least in the president’s mind, we are past the point of being concerned about the housing crisis, and it’s time to get everyone in a house whether they can afford it or not,” Calabria told TheBlaze. “The FHA is by definition a very low down payment. So a buyer is underwater when they close.” He said FHA loans encourage borrowing, prolong debt and are essentially subprime loans. “After what we went through as a country, I find it shocking we would say, everybody jump back in,” Calabria continued.”


Boom, Bust, Bailout: Obama, GOP Fight Over The Mortgage

“President Barack Obama announced Thursday he is taking action to save typical first-time home-buyers $900 a year by reducing the cost of federal mortgage insurance.

“It could be a full month’s payment that they’re saving, and that could make all the difference for a family that is owning its first home,” Obama said. “And over time, this is going to potentially have an impact over millions of families all across the country.” The policy reduces mortgage insurance premiums for loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) from 1.35 percent to 0.85 percent, which will save first-time home-buyers and existing homeowners who refinance into an FHA-insured loan hundreds of dollars a year. The move angered some Republicans, who think the limited housing market recovery does not warrant looser federal mortgage standards. “It was just two years ago that taxpayers had to bail out the FHA to the tune of $1.7 billion, and just two months ago an audit revealed that FHA is still in violation of federal law because it does not maintain sufficient capital reserves,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling, House Financial Services Committee chairman said in a statement. The mortgage insurance premium has historically been around 0.55 percent, but was more than doubled after the recession to shore up the FHA. “The American people want an end to the destructive cycle of boom, bust and bailout that poor decisions in Washington produce,” Hensarling added. “If President Obama follows through on today’s pledge, he will be increasing the likelihood that taxpayers will have to foot the bill for yet another bailout.” In a White House statement explaining his decision, Obama said his tough enforcement of past abuses and new consumer protections have made lending more responsible, and cited low foreclosure levels and rising home values as evidence the housing market is gaining ground. More than 800,000 borrowers are expected to take advantage of the lower rates this year, and a quarter of a million people will now be able to purchase a home in the next three years, a statement from the White House said. Obama delivered the remarks at an Arizona housing development that has received nearly $2 million in federal funding under the 2009 stimulus bill. The once privately owned development consisted of 25 vacant lots after the recession, but with the federal assistance and the help of a non-profit it now houses more than 30 homeowners.”


Castro defends move to lower federal mortgage fees

“Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro on Thursday defended the Obama administration’s plan to cut fees on some government-backed mortgages. Castro said the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has enough money in its reserve fund to lower borrowing costs aimed at helping many first-time homebuyers. Amid an improving financial picture, $40 billion in reserve and continued drops in delinquencies, “now is the time to offer a premium reduction,” he told reporters on Thursday. The agency will cut the fees by half a percentage point, in a move expected to help more than 2 million FHA homeowners save an average of $900 a year and spur 250,000 people to purchase their first home over the next three years. Castro emphasized that the half-point reduction still leaves fees at 50 percent above pre-recession levels after climbing 145 percent during the housing crisis when the FHA took a huge financial hit from bad loans and a run on reverse mortgages.”


Terrorism insurance bill passes two days after Coburn’s exit

“It took just two days for the new Senate to leave former Sen. Tom Coburn’s legacy behind, quickly passing a terrorism insurance bill that the Oklahoma Republican had single-handedly blocked late last year. The bill renewed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which expired at the end of last year after Mr. Coburn launched a one-man opposition effort, objecting to one specific part of the measure that creates a national registry for insurance agents. It passed the Senate on a 93-4 vote, after clearing the House a day earlier 416-5, making it the first piece of legislation to clear in the new Congress. President Obama is expected to sign it. “TRIA has become essential to job creating construction projects across the country. With the renewal of TRIA, we can be assured that development projects can move forward,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat who helped forge the compromise, fighting off efforts from both the right and left. Senators were conscious of the absence of Mr. Coburn, who retired at the end of the last Congress, cutting his second term short by two years as he battles cancer. In his final weeks in office last month, in addition to stopping the terrorism bill, Mr. Coburn single-handedly blocked an energy conservation bill and halted another measure supporters said was designed to stop veterans’ suicides, but which he said only duplicated existing VA programs at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars.”

OVERNIGHT FINANCE: Terror insurance bill heads to Obama’s desk


Obama tells Americans: Don’t buy a gas guzzler

“President Barack Obama told Americans on Thursday that cheap U.S. gasoline prices would not last and that they should not buy gas-guzzling vehicles. As fuel prices have dropped to near six-year lows, sales of pickup trucks and SUVs have surged. “Gas prices aren’t going to be low forever, so don’t start suddenly saying you don’t have to worry about fuel efficiency,” Obama said in a speech about the rebounding economy, noting gas prices are about $1.10 per gallon cheaper than a year ago. “If you’re going out shopping for a new car, don’t think it’s always going to be this low, because then you’ll be surprised and you’ll be mad at me later, and I’ll be able to say, ‘I told you don’t get a gas guzzler because gas is going to go back up,'” he said.”


Obama: Don’t Get Too Used To Low Gas Prices

“President Obama is warning Americans not to get too used to low prices at the pump, saying that people will be hurting when gasoline prices rise back to previous levels.

“I would strongly advise American consumers to continue to think about how you save money at the pump because it is good for the environment, it’s good for family pocketbooks and if you go back to old habits and suddenly gas is back at $3.50, you are going to not be real happy,” Obama said, according to The Detroit News. “The American people should not believe that … demand for oil by China and India and all these emerging countries is going to stay flat. Just demographics tell us demand is going to continue to grow, that over the long term it will grow faster than supply and we have to be smart about our energy policy,” Obama added. Obama’s remarks came as he is touring the country’s auto manufacturing hubs, including a Ford plant that got federal funding for electric cars. Obama will address plant workers and reporters Wednesday afternoon and talk about his administration’s role in financing Ford’s electric and hybrid car factories. Electric and hybrid cars have been touted as an alternative to gas vehicles because they don’t need to use high-priced gasoline — a year ago the average national gas price was $3.31 a gallon. But now that gas prices have fallen below $2 a gallon for much of the U.S., electric cars are looking less attractive than before.”


US consumer debt up $14.1 billion in November





“A record percentage of Americans (42%) identified as political independents in 2013, according to Gallup. The percentage is “the highest Gallup has measured since it began conducting interviews by telephone 25 years ago,” and it has “come more at the expense of the Republican Party than the Democratic Party” as more conservatives in recent years have viewed the GOP as being hardly different from establishment Democrats. Gallup notes that “Republican identification fell to 25%,” which is the lowest in that time span. Many independents are “leaners,” though–16% of independents sided with Democrats and another 16% leaned Republican. Democrats, taking leaners into account, had a six-point party identification advantage over Republicans. Though “Republican identification peaked at 34% in 2004, the year George W. Bush won a second term in office,” it “has fallen nine percentage points, with most of that decline coming during Bush’s troubled second term” when Bush supported comprehensive amnesty legislation and the Wall Street bailouts that set up the groundwork for what would be the Tea Party movement. Democrats have not done any better–Gallup found that “Democratic identification has also declined in recent years, falling five points from its recent high of 36% in 2008, the year President Barack Obama was elected. The current 31% of Americans identifying as Democrats matches the lowest annual average in the last 25 years.” Gallup notes that the “rise in political independence is likely an outgrowth of Americans’ record or near-record negative views of the two major U.S. parties, of Congress, and their low level of trust in government more generally,” and “candidates who are less closely aligned to their party or its prevailing doctrine may benefit.” A year before House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) survived the greatest party revolt in more than 150 years, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who has always taken on her party’s establishment, said, “If the GOP continues to back away from the planks in our platform, from the principles that built this party of Lincoln and of Reagan, then, yeah, more and more of us are going to start saying, ‘You know, what’s wrong with being independent?’”


Have Liberals Lost the Middle Class?


Obama Admin. Unleashes 300 Regulations In The First Week Of 2015

“This year is already seeing a wave of new regulations being published in the Federal Register as the Obama administration unveils 300 new rules in the first seven days of 2015, according to federal data. Federal agencies have published 300 final rules, proposals for new rules and regulatory notices in the seven days since the new year began, according to the website The bulk of these new regulations are notices, which can lead to rulemakings, meetings and other government activities. Rules having to do with energy, environment, public lands and agriculture make up the largest share of new regulations. Included in these new rules are proposed EPA air quality standards for lead, reforming coal and oil leases on Indian lands and adjustments for the total amount of fish people can catch off Alaska’s coast. One major rule that has not been finalized yet, however, is the EPA’s carbon dioxide emissions limits for new power plants. The rule was set to be finalized by Thursday, but the agency announced Wednesday it would be pushed back until mid-summer 2015. “This is all about the best policy outcome, and the appropriate policy outcome,” Janet McCabe, EPA’s acting clean air administrator, told reporters on Wednesday. “That is what we are talking about here, and that is why we think it is important to finalize these rules in the same time frame. EPA’s rule would limit the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted by newly built coal- and natural gas-fired power plants. But the power plant rule has been attacked by critics because it sets the carbon dioxide threshold for coal plants so low the only way operators can meet the standard is by using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. CCS has been touted by the Obama administration and the environmentalists as the best solution for coal plants, but the technology has yet to be used on a commercial scale without the help of government subsidies. Republicans and the coal industry have challenged the legality of EPA’s de facto CCS mandate, saying requiring coal plants to install subsidized technology violates federal law. But the EPA insists the rule is legally sound. Sources within the EPA have previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation that EPA is scrambling to protect its carbon rule for new power plants as lawmakers and watchdog groups continue to find problems with the agency’s reasoning for mandating CCS. In arguing that CCS was viable technology, the EPA relied on a major project in Mississippi called Kemper. But Kemper has been beset by huge cost overruns and delays, hurting the agency’s argument that the technology is workable. Kemper was also given a $270 million grant by the Obama administration and will be eligible for $279 million in tax credits when it begins operation. The plant’s opening date, however, has been pushed from June 2015 to March 2016 and additional delays could cost $20 to $30 million a month.”


Keystone XL bill clears hurdle despite Obama’s veto threat

“The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee sent a bill to the floor Thursday authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline — but the real work for both opponents and supporters will begin after a full Senate vote. With President Obama issuing a veto threat of the legislation, the committee knew it was wading into heady waters when it gave the bill a 13-9 vote, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., joining Republicans in favor of the bill. But committee chairwoman Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the panel should forge ahead. “There’s a veto threat out there, but I don’t think that that threat should deter us,” the Alaska Republican said Thursday. The House, meanwhile, will vote on and likely pass similar legislation Friday. The bill would green-light construction of the Canada-to-Gulf Coast oil sands pipeline, which has been under federal review for more than six years. The White House issued the veto threat because it said it wanted to continue with the State Department review, which is on hold until the Nebraska Supreme Court determines whether a 2012 law that sped approval of a new pipeline route is constitutional.”


Mitch McConnell: Obama Controlled By ‘Far-Left Environmental Extremists’ [VIDEO]


Experts Say That Battle on Keystone Pipeline Is Over Politics, Not Facts


Democrats launch first filibuster of the year on Keystone

“Democrats launched the first filibuster of the new Congress on Thursday, objecting to the GOP’s effort to try to bring the Keystone XL pipeline bill to the floor early next week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to schedule action early next week on the bill, and promised an open process, including allowing both sides to offer amendments to the bill — an attempt to break with the previous few years, when Democrats controlled the floor and kept a tight lid on amendments. But Democrats objected to Mr. McConnell’s request, forcing him to begin the procedure for breaking a filibuster. “We’ll work through this because we’re determined to get bipartisan jobs legislation on the president’s desk as soon as we can,” Mr. McConnell said. The proceedings represented a role-reversal from the last Congress, when Democrats tried to push bills to the floor only to face a GOP filibuster. In many of those cases, however, Republicans said they were filibustering because Democrats — led by Sen. Harry Reid — blocked out all amendments. This time around, Mr. McConnell promised to allow amendments from all sides. Keystone has bipartisan support, but President Obama has vowed a veto. Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, said he thinks there could be enough Democrats willing to support the pipeline that the Senate could overturn an Obama veto, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said her troops in the lower chamber would sustain Mr. Obama’s veto.”


Pelosi: Dems will sustain Obama vetoes

“Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed Thursday that Democrats will unite to sustain presidential vetoes on some of the thorniest issues facing the 114th Congress. The House minority leader said that, despite the Republicans’ larger majority this year, GOP leaders won’t have the votes to override expected vetoes from President Obama on proposals to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, scale back the Democrats’ healthcare reform law and eliminate taxpayer protections in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. “We have the know-how, the knowledge of the issues, the parliamentary skills and the humility to try to find a path to ‘yes’ on something that we can work together on. But that’s a two-way street,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol.  “Our leverage in the discussion springs from the fact that we have a Democrat in the White House … and our upholding his veto strengthens the hand of the minority in a debate of this kind.” Republicans picked up more than a dozen seats in November’s midterm elections, increasing their majority to 246 seats, versus the Democrats’ 188. There is also one vacancy in the lower chamber; former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) resigned this week after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion. But the Republicans would need a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override a presidential veto. In the House, that means Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the Republicans would need the support of almost four dozen Democrats to reach the roughly 290 votes they would need — a heavy lift considering the liberal lean of the House Democratic Caucus.”


Hatch officially ratified as Finance chairman

“Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) vowed to pursue common-sense healthcare reform as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee after his selection was ratified on Thursday. “The higher premiums and fewer choices brought on by ObamaCare is [sic] not what the American people were promised,” Hatch said in a statement.  “We need to empower American families with patient-centered reforms that will lower costs and increase high-quality care,” Hatch said.  The Utah Republican also promised action to strengthen Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. He became chairman after serving as the panel’s ranking member. Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.) is the committee’s top Democrat.”


First lady taps new chief for ‘Let’s Move’ anti-obesity initiative


Three weeks after Cuba accord, why haven’t more political prisoners been freed?


Gohmert’s profile in courage and self-sacrifice

“Courage is a rare commodity amongst elected officials. But the willingness to sacrifice for a cause greater than yourself is almost extinct. Yet that is what America witnessed, and the media who covered it missed, in the battle over whether John Boehner (R-Ohio) would be retained as Speaker of the House of Representatives. The unwritten story after the largest in-party insurrection against a sitting Speaker in more than 100 years is that of what really happened with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas). Rather than seeking the office, Gohmert was asked by some of his colleagues to run so those who were deciding on whom to vote for Speaker could not say they did not have someone else to vote for. It wasn’t an office that Gohmert had campaigned for over the course of years; his run was designed to provide an alternative. But the real act of self-sacrifice was Gohmert’s encouragement of other candidates to get into the race and encouraging his colleagues to vote for any of the alternatives. Those who wish to diminish the legitimacy of the rebellion by pointing to the final tally where Gohmert received three of the 25 votes against Boehner miss the big picture. Unlike most in Washington, Gohmert, by being the very public stalking horse, sacrificed votes for himself in encouraging his colleagues to vote for other candidates. The courage to take on a sitting Speaker who controls all the levers of power in the House of Representatives is rare and precious. Those who took that very hard step are currently facing retribution for their decision. But choosing to subject yourself to ridicule by deliberately sabotaging your vote in the race to help make it easier on your colleagues was an act of true leadership. It is the exact kind of America-first self-sacrifice that comes from Allen Drury novels, but it is an all-too-rare commodity on real-life Jenkins Hill. It is the definition of being a statesman who cares more about the cause than about the personal cost involved in seeking it. And while he doesn’t need it, this commentator thanks Gohmert for re-instilling a knowledge that people of courage, honor and self-sacrifice have not been completely stricken from the ranks of the body politic. While this notion may seem naive amongst the political power-climbing class in D.C., it is what Americans expect of every member of Congress. On Jan. 6, 2015 the D.C. establishment witnessed the very characteristics that so many claim to long for, and Congress and indeed Speaker Boehner will be better for it. It is too bad that the media couldn’t look past the horse race to tell this great American story.”



“Newly elected Representative Alex Mooney (R-WV) demonstrated with his vote in favor of re-electing John Boehner as Speaker of the House on Tuesday that he is a master of the political art of word-parsing and rationalization, especially when it comes to advancing his own ambitions. On December 9, 2013, when the opportunistic former Chairman of the Maryland GOP was considered a long-shot candidacy to win the Republican primary in West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, he signed the Madison Project Candidate Pledge. Part of that says: “I pledge to vote against the current leadership when the first reasonable opportunity presents itself. (House)” “We obviously view John Boehner as current leadership and Tuesday’s vote was a reasonable opportunity,” Drew Ryun of the Madison Project tells Breitbart News on Thursday. But Mooney is demonstrating a Clintonesque handling of the English language. His spokesperson tells Breitbart News, “[t]he pledge said he would vote against leadership when a ‘reasonable opportunity’ presents itself. It is the Congressman’s belief since ‘there was no alternative candidate with a reasonable chance of success’ this was not a reasonable opportunity.”


Boehner Says It Hurts to Be Called ‘Spineless or a Squish’

“House Speaker John Boehner said today that he found it painful to be described as “spineless or a squish,” but said the worst comments about him was that he was “the establishment.” Boehner’s comments came during a news conference where he was touting his conservative credentials and rebutting criticism from the right that he has become too willing to work with President Obama. Boehner, R-Ohio, at first tried to empathize with frustrations of Americans when he was asked about conservative broadcasters like Mark Levin and Sean Hannity and a small cadre of his conservative colleagues working to dethrone him from the speakership. “The American people are very frustrated. They’re frustrated in a struggling economy, they’re frustrated that they don’t think Washington’s listening, and they want action. I talk to Americans every day, talk to my constituents every day and this frustration that’s out there, they need to take it out on somebody. They can take it out on the president, take it out on me – and it comes with the territory.” Boehner was prodded in a follow-up question to recall his conservative voting record. “During my years here when I voted, I had the eighth-most conservative voting record in the Congress,” Boehner said. “It does pain me to be described as spineless or a squish, and I’ll tell you what pains me the most is when they describe me as the establishment.” “Now, I’m the most anti-establishment speaker we’ve ever had. You know, who was the guy who got rid of earmarks? Me!” Boehner said. “Who’s the guy who believes in regular order? Me. Who believes in allowing more members to participate in the process from both sides of the aisle? Me!” Boehner told reporters: “I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin,” adding a pledge that he would prove his value over the next two years. “I’m going to do my best to show all of our members – Democrats and Republicans and those members who voted against me — that I’m up to the job that I was given,” he said. Asked about the pressure to retaliate against the 25 House Republicans who opposed him for speaker, Boehner said the “family conversation” is ongoing. “My focus is on the American people’s priorities,” Boehner said. “We’ve got an economy that’s improving a bit, but most Americans aren’t seeing it. And so we’re going to stay focused on the American people’s priorities. This family conversation will continue and we’ll come to some resolution in the days and weeks ahead.” That conversation is likely to be among the topics discussed at the Joint House and Senate Republican retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Jan. 15-16.”

Boehner: It hurts when critics call me ‘spineless, or a squish’

“House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday displayed emotional candor rare for a national leader, acknowledging to reporters that it stings when critics call him “spineless” or a “squish.” The Ohio Republican was re-elected to a third term as speaker on Tuesday, but suffered the defection of 24 GOP House members, many of whom said their opposition to Boehner stemmed from pressure from their constituents expressed through phone calls and emails. Boehner said he understands that Americans are frustrated with Washington, and that as the speaker, he stands to pay a price for that in form of public dissatisfaction with his leadership. But the specific charge from conservatives that he is insufficiently right of center, or a GOP establishment lackey, is another matter, and Boehner admitted that it bothers him. He expressed himself after a reporter asked him: “About 25 members of your own conference voted against you, there’s a lot of opposition [from people] with outside conservative influence. Why is there such fervent, conservative opposition to your speakership?” “Listen, I’ve given some thought to this, as you might imagine,” Boehner answered, with a chuckle. “The American people are very frustrated — they’re frustrated with a struggling economy, they’re frustrated because they don’t think Washington’s listening and they want action. I talk to Americans every day; talk to my constituents every day and this frustration that’s out there, they need to take it out on somebody, take out on [President Obama,] take it out on me. And, it comes with the territory.” The reporter followed up: “But you’re one of the most conservative members of the last 20 years, does it frustrate you?” Boehner said: “During my years here when I voted, I had the eight most conservative voting record in the Congress. And, it does pain me to be described as spineless, or a squish. And, I tell you what pains me the most is when they describe me as the establishment. Now, I’m the most anti-establishment speaker we’ve ever had. Who was the guy who got rid of earmarks? Me. Whose the guy that believes in regular order? Me. Who believes in allowing more members to participate in the process, from both sides of the aisle? Me.”


John Boehner: Don’t Call Me ‘Spineless Or A Squish’

“U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday he doesn’t like being called “spineless” or a “squish” by critics, and he vowed to prove his mettle to lawmakers who bopposed his re-election earlier this week. Boehner was re-elected Speaker of the House on Tuesday even as 25 members of his own Republican party declined to support him, the biggest such intra-party rebellion against a speaker candidate since 1859. His detractors, many of them on the right wing of his party, say Boehner is too prone to compromise with Democrats. Boehner said that portrayal is false. “During my years here when I voted, I have the eighth most conservative voting record in the Congress. And it does pain me to be described as spineless or a squish,” he told reporters. Since becoming speaker in 2011, Boehner has faced a series of internal challenges to his leadership, particularly on his handling of budget matters in which small-government Tea Party Republicans have demanded a more aggressive confrontation of President Barack Obama’s agenda. In 2013, Boehner warned against a government shutdown, but Tea Party lawmakers pushed for a showdown over Obama’s healthcare law that resulted in a 16-day closure of the federal government. Boehner said what hurt the most was being called “establishment” by his fellow Republicans. “I’m the most anti-establishment speaker we’ve ever had,” he said, noting he had stopped lawmakers from using “earmarks,” the legislative provisions that directed funds to be spent on specific projects. Those projects typically benefited lawmakers’ home towns and sometimes were of questionable value. Boehner said he had not decided yet whether to reverse a decision to kick two Republicans off a key panel for opposing his re-election to the top House job. He said he understood that criticism comes with being speaker. “I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. And I’m going to do my best to show all of our members, Democrats and Republicans and those members who voted against me, that I’m up to the job that I was given,” Boehner said.”



“House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is defending his conservative bona fides after a failed attempt by conservatives to oust him from his speakership. “It does pain me to be described as spineless or a squish,” Boehner said to chuckles from reporters. “I tell you what pains me the most is when they describe me as ‘the establishment.’ Now I’m the most anti-establishment speaker we’ve ever had.” “Who was the guy who got rid of earmarks? Me,” he continued. “Who’s the guy who believes in regular order? Me. Who believes in allowing more members to participate in the process from both sides of the aisle? Me.” Tuesday, on the first day of the 114th Congress, 25 House conservatives — encouraged by outside conservative groups and pundits — voted against Boehner’s reelection as speaker. When asked about why he faced such conservative opposition, the Speaker explained it comes with the job. “I’ve given some thought to this as you might imagine,” he said. “The American people are very frustrated. They’re frustrated in a struggling economy, frustrated that they don’t think Washington’s listening and they want action. I talk to Americans everyday, talk to my constituents everyday. And this frustration that’s out there — they need to take it out on somebody. They take it out on the President, take it out on me. It comes with the territory.”


Boehner: I’m most ‘anti-establishment’ Speaker in history

“After defeating a rebellion by 25 conservative Republicans this week, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday declared himself “the most anti-establishment Speaker” in history. “During my years here when I voted, I had the eighth-most conservative voting record in the Congress, and it does pain me to be described as spineless or a squish,” Boehner told reporters. “But what pains me the most is when they describe me as the establishment. “I’m the most anti-establishment Speaker we’ve ever had. “Who was the guy who got rid of earmarks? Me. Who’s the guy who believes in regular order? Me,” Boehner continued. “Who believes in allowing more members to participate in the process from both sides of the aisle? Me.” Boehner won his third term as Speaker on Tuesday, but with more defections from his own party than any Speaker in modern history. He chalked up the conservative opposition to widespread anger at Washington. “The American people are very frustrated. They are frustrated in a struggling economy,” Boehner said. “This frustration that’s out there, they need to take it out on somebody. They take it out on the president; they take it out on me. It comes with the territory.”

Boehner: ‘I’m The Most Anti-Establishment Speaker We’ve Ever Had’

Boehner: ‘I’m the Most Anti-Establishment Speaker We’ve Ever Had’


John Boehner: The Godfather


Liars In Congress Are Our First Primary Targets For 2016

“Our friend Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation said what most conservatives we know were thinking in a tweet the day before Republicans voted to re-elect John Boehner Speaker of the House: Primary Every Republican Who Votes For Boehner. But if conservatives did recruit primary candidates to oppose those who voted for Boehner, where would we start? From our perspective our top targets ought to be those who lied and said during their campaigns they would oppose John Boehner’s re-election, and then went ahead and voted for him. From our quick research (and there are probably more) here are five freshmen who clearly said they would oppose Boehner during their campaigns, but voted for him when the choice was before them:

Rick Allen (GA-12)

DC office: (202) 225-2823

Jody Hice (GA-10)

DC office: (202) 225-4101

Barry Loudermilk (GA-11)

DC office: (202) 225-2931

John Ratcliffe (TX-4)

DC office: 202-225-6673  Twitter – @RepRatcliffe

Mark Walker (NC-6)

DC office: 202-225-3065

Of course there were some Republicans, such as Rep. Paul Ryan, who said up front he was backing Boehner; although you can accuse them of bad judgment or betraying conservative principles, you can’t accuse them of lying. But Allen, Hice, Loudermilk, Ratcliffe and Walker clearly lied to get elected – and that is not just bad judgment – that is a betrayal of their commitment to We the People who elected them to force change in Washington’s business-as-usual culture. The Tea Party rebellion came into being in large measure due to the perception among middle class taxpayers that America’s major establishment institutions were corrupt – and there is no more compelling evidence of just how far the American political system has been corrupted by Washington’s insider culture, than how common and accepted lying has become among the political elite of Capitol Hill. The Tea Party rebellion is many things – a fight for a return to a limited constitutional government, a middle class outcry against the crony capitalism of the Washington – Wall Street Axis, but as much as anything it is a demand for a government, and leaders, who tell the truth.*”



“Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) announced on Thursday that she will retire from her position after finishing her fourth term in office and more than three decades in Congress. She claims neither age nor the the strain of politics played roles in her decision. “Some people are old at 40 and some people are young at 80, but I feel as young as I did when I got elected,” Boxer said during an interview with her grandson Zach Rodham, in which the announcement was made. The video is also posted to her web site. “I am never going to retire. The work is too important. But I will not be running for the senate in 2016.” Boxer, 74, said she wants to come home to California; the state she loves so much. She said she will be focusing on helping the Democratic candidate for president.”


Issa: Boxer’s seat was already ‘vacant’

“California GOP Rep. Darrell Issa declined to discuss his interest in the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Barbara Boxer — and instead criticized her tenure in office. “There’s been a vacancy for two decades,” Issa said outside a men’s room near the House floor. “The fact that she’s not running doesn’t change the fact it’s always been a vacant office.”


California: The $1B Senate race?

“Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-Calif.) retirement is setting off a chaotic scramble to replace her — and could lead to a crowded, outrageously expensive race. Boxer is one of a number of California Democrats who have reigned over the state for decades, leading to a lot of pent-up political ambition for younger members of her party. With her gone, that energy is about to explode. “It will be a very expensive race and it will be a crowded field,” former Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), a close friend of Boxer’s, told The Hill. “There will be a lot of really talented people who will be vying for this seat.” Democrats are buzzing about both California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), two rising stars, as early front-runners should they jump in. Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer is also signaling interest in a campaign.  Whoever takes the plunge will need lots of cash. California has long been one of the most expensive states in the nation to campaign in due to its huge population and multiple media markets, and political campaigns’ prices have risen exponentially in recent years with the advent of super-PACs.  On top of that, California’s new “jungle” primary system — where the top two candidates advance regardless of party — has proven to be a money-suck in other races, as everyone has to spend heavily to try to make it through both rounds. Strategists are predicting the race will be the most expensive in history, with some mentioning $1 billion in total spending as within the realm of possibility depending on who runs.  “That’s one thing the new primary system has brought us — an incredible extra expenditure of money, which is unfortunate,” said Miller.”



“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will speak at the Iowa Freedom Summit at the end of January hosted by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Citizens United, Breitbart News has learned exclusively. “Governor Walker looks forward to sharing the story of Wisconsin’s successful reforms and common sense message with grassroots conservatives,” Walker’s spokesman Tom Evenson told Breitbart News. Citizens United president David Bossie added that he’s thrilled Walker will join the already impressive lineup of speakers. “Congressman Steve King and I are thrilled Governor Scott Walker, a leading conservative voice, plans to attend the Iowa Freedom Summit,” Bossie said. “The Iowa Caucus is the first step for any conservative running for the Republican nomination and we are pleased Governor Walker appreciates and respects its importance.” Walker, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has held off the left for years amid numerous attempts by Democrats to take him down. During his tenure as governor, he’s cut unemployment in Wisconsin substantially—it was 7.8 percent when he took office and it’s currently down to 5.2 percent. He cut taxes by $2 billion, including lowering property taxes in the state compared to their rise of 27 percent in Wisconsin in the decade before he took office. Taxpayers have saved an estimated $3 billion at the state and local level, too, thanks to Walker’s collective bargaining reforms—the catalyst which caused the institutional left, organized labor, and democrats to target him. He also froze tuition for all University of Wisconsin system students for two years and is aiming to do so again for another two years because of the system’s surplus.”


Iran-Backed Militias Are Getting U.S. Weapons



“On Thursday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest announced that the Obama administration would prioritize fighting Islamophobia in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in France. Never mind that most Westerners aren’t Islamophobic, but rather GettingShotInTheFaceForExpressingMyOpinion-Phobic. The real problem, according to the Obama administration, is lack of leadership in defending Islam: “There are some individuals that are using a peaceful religion and grossly distorting it, and trying to use its tenets to inspire people around the globe to carry out acts of violence. And we have enjoyed significant success in enlisting leaders in the Muslim community, like I said, both in the United States and around the world to condemn that kind of messaging, to condemn those efforts to radicalize individuals, and to be clear about what the tenets of Islam actually are.  And we’re going to redouble those efforts in the days and weeks ahead.”  This, of course, is not the first time the Obama administration has discovered a duty to illuminate the inherent beauty and wonder of Islam. Over and over again, the Obama administration, in high culturally imperialist dudgeon, has attempted to explain to the world the true meaning of Islam. Here are five other examples: President Obama, 2009: Immediately upon taking office, Obama did an interview with Al-Arabiya in which he explained that his job as president encompassed apologizing to the Muslim world for evil America, and explaining to Americans that Muslims are the cream of the religious crop: “My job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy.” If you forgot the provision of Article II of the Constitution that gives the president the authority to do outreach on behalf of Islam in the United States, that’s because it doesn’t exist. But don’t worry: Obama’s on the job. President Obama, 2009: In speaking about Islam at Cairo University on June 4, 2009 – a speech to which the Obama administration invited the then-banned Muslim Brotherhood – Obama stated: “So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed.  That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t.  And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.” If you forgot the provision of Article II of the Constitution that places responsibility for fighting negative stereotypes of Islam in the hands of the executive branch, that’s because it doesn’t exist. But don’t worry: Obama’s on the job…”


Has Obama Revised His Stance On The Slander Of The Prophet Of Islam?



“Nigel Farage has warned viewers of Fox News that Western societies are threatened by a “fifth column living within our own countries” that is “out to destroy our whole civilisation and our way of life”. The UKIP leader made his comments during an interview with Neil Cavuto about yesterday’s terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices. He said: “The first thing we have to do is recognise the mistakes of the past, let’s be absolutely frank and honest about this. We now have, within many European countries, and dare I say it within the USA too, a fifth column living within our own countries, people mercifully few in numbers, but people who are out to destroy our whole civilisation and our way of life.” He continued: “The implications on free speech and our democracy are very serious, so let’s recognise the mistakes we’ve made: uncontrolled immigration, just not knowing in many cases who the people were, that were coming into our country.” Farage blamed the problem on Western governments, for failing to stand up for Christian values. He said countries like Britain had allowed people to come to the country without knowing who they were, and then encouraging them not to integrate or learn English. He said: “We’ve allowed, and I’m certainly speaking for Britain here, within our Mosques, people coming in, heavily funded by some Middle Eastern states, pushing a deeply unpleasant and anti-Christian heritage culture. “And we’ve also – and here’s the biggest mistake that governments have made – we have promoted multi-culturalism. We have promoted division within our societies. We have said to large numbers of people: ‘you can come here from any part of the world. By the way please don’t bother to learn our language, don’t integrate in any way at all. You can take over whole parts of our towns and cities and we will say it has made us a wonderful diverse national.’ That hasn’t worked. “We’ve got to start being a bit more assertive about who we are and what our values are… We come from countries with Christian culture and Christian constitutions and we’ve got to start standing up for that.”


Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld Has a Scathing Message for the U.S. Media in Wake of Paris Terror Attack


After Paris, Will Obama Continue to Close Gitmo?


#JeSuisCharlie: Cartoonists react to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris


12 Powerful Cartoons Drawn In Response To The #CharlieHebdo Terror Attack


Saudi Blogger to Receive First of 1,000 Lashes for Insulting Islam

“A Saudi blogger who was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes will be publicly flogged for the first time after Friday prayers outside a mosque in the Red Sea coastal city of Jiddah, a person close to his case said Thursday. Raif Baddawi was sentenced on charges related to accusations that he insulted Islam on a liberal online forum he had created. He was also ordered by the Jiddah Criminal Court to pay a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals, or about $266,000. Rights groups and activists say his case is part of a wider clampdown on dissent throughout the kingdom. Officials have increasingly blunted calls for reforms since the region’s 2011 Arab Spring upheaval.”

Saudi blogger to be publicly flogged for insulting Islam


Muslim Cleric Defends Paris Terrorist Attack


Britain’s MI5 chief warns al Qaeda in Syria planning mass attacks on West

“Al Qaeda militants in Syria are plotting attacks to inflict mass casualties in the West, possibly against transport systems or “iconic targets”, the head of Britain’s MI5 Security Service said on Thursday. Speaking after gunmen killed 12 people in an assault on a French satirical newspaper, MI5 boss Andrew Parker warned a strike on the United Kingdom was highly likely. “A group of core al Qaeda terrorists in Syria is planning mass casualty attacks against the West,” Director General Parker said in a rare public speech at MI5 headquarters in London. His last public speech was in October 2013. In the speech, planned before the killings in Paris, Parker said seasoned al Qaeda militants in Syria aimed to “cause large-scale loss of life, often by attacking transport systems or iconic targets” in the West.”