News Briefing for Monday, December 15, 2014
Happy Bill of Rights Day!
OBAMACARE BLAMED FOR KILLING HOSPITALS
Closures by the multitude seen as danger to patients, harbinger of future
“Eighteen acute-care hospitals across the United States shut their doors in 2013. At least 12 more hospitals have closed this year in rural areas alone. More are getting out the plywood to nail over windows and barricades for doors. Don’t worry, it’s just the new normal under Obamacare, says Lee Hieb, M.D. “Events happening now give us some idea of what medicine will be reduced to in the future,” Hieb writes in her forthcoming book, “Surviving the Medical Meltdown: Your Guide to Living Through the Disaster of Obamacare.” “Today, all over America, small and midsize hospitals as well as hospitals in inner-city, poor areas are closing,” she said. Hieb is an orthopedic surgeon and past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. She said the reasons for the closures aren’t complicated. Most of the victims are smaller hospitals or those in poor areas, which often serve the greatest number of Medicare and Medicaid patients. A report at Modern Health Care just a few weeks ago confirmed that among just the critical-access hospitals, which have 25 beds or fewer, there were 14 closures in 10 states in 2013. And the federal bureaucracies that set reimbursement rates for needy patients simply aren’t keeping up with the costs, she said. Hieb writes that “whereas private insurance might pay the surgeon $4,500 for a spinal surgery (my specialty), Medicare paid less than $1,200.” In addition, she says the federal government refuses to pay hospitals for certain services, deeming them “not medically necessary,” regardless of what doctors and patients say. “The result is predictable: economic failure of hospitals and physician practices that have become dependent on government payment for large segments of their population,” Hieb writes. “The hospitals and offices that will close are those with the least private insurance.”
Health Law Hurts Some Free Clinics
Insurance Expansion From Affordable Care Act Dents Funding, Leads to Closures
“Some free health clinics serving the uninsured are shutting their doors because of funding shortfalls and low demand they attribute to the Affordable Care Act’s insurance expansion. Nearly a dozen clinics that have closed in the past two years cited the federal health law as a major reason. The closings have occurred largely in 28 states and Washington, D.C., which all expanded Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for low-income people, and are being heralded by some clinic officials as a sign the health law is reducing the number of uninsured. But the closures have irked some patients and left pockets of uninsured people not covered by the law with fewer venues for care. Some of the roughly 1,200 U.S. free and charity clinics are struggling with a drop in funding because donors believe there is no longer a need for free or low-cost care in the wake of the health law. That is making it particularly difficult for clinics that still report strong demand, especially in states that didn’t expand Medicaid.”
Feeling our ObamaCare pain
“Imagine how long ObamaCare would last if the folks who wrote and approved the law were forced to live by its rules. Sen. David Vitter has been waging this crusade for more than a year now. He wants to require the House and Senate and all their staff to buy their health insurance from the same government exchanges they have inflicted on millions of Americans.
For a long while, it seemed the Louisiana Republican was the only one on Capitol Hill who understood this simple notion: If ObamaCare is so good, why don’t the people who wrote the law want it themselves? This week Vitter’s lonely campaign finally saw some significant daylight: The Senate GOP conference passed his resolution. Now the conference is challenging the Democrats to do likewise. Not surprisingly, Vitter’s push has never been popular on Capitol Hill, even in his own party. Many Hill Republicans wonder why they should have to live under a law they fought against — and that could inflict significant hardship on some staff families. Some fear mass resignations. But Vitter’s answer is clear: “Washington should have to live under ObamaCare just like everybody else, until we repeal it.” In short, Sen. Vitter and the Senate Republicans are putting pressure on Democrats to live by what they claim is a great deal for every other citizen. At the same time, by this resolution they are saying to the citizens of this nation: “We’ll share your pain until we fix this thing.”
Jonathan Gruber’s Pants Inferno
The Obamacare architect is a huge, monumental liar.
LEGAL EXPERT: VERMONT GOVERNOR MAY NOT CLAIM EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE TO SHIELD JONATHAN GRUBER FROM HOUSE SUBPOENA
“A showdown between the United States House of Representatives and Democratic Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin may be in the works over Shumlin’s claim of executive privilege over documents related to controversial MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber’s contract with the state of Vermont. Whether such a showdown materializes over the next few weeks, however, will depend on decisions Gruber has apparently not made yet. On Friday Darrell Issa (R-CA), departing Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, subpoenaed Gruber to produce all records from his Obamacare-related contracts with the federal government and all of the state governments with which he has received contracts.
Vermont, where Gruber has a $280,000 contract to model the state’s proposed single-payer system–the sort of “state health care system innovation” that’s statutorily encouraged by Obamacare–is one of those states where Gruber’s contract and work product are covered by the House subpoena. But the state of Vermont has asserted executive privilege in refusing the release of some documents (in a lawsuit filed by Democratic State Representative Cynthia Browning in May requesting the release of planning documents) and in the redaction of 2,400 pages emails that are part of Gruber’s work product with the state that were released last week in response to a public records request from the Vermont Press Bureau. An inquiry to the Vermont Attorney General’s office by Breitbart News on Friday indicates that the state of Vermont will neither support nor impede the House subpoena of documents from Gruber. The state, however, appears unwilling to open up the redacted portions of those 2,400 pages of emails.”
The Architect of Obamacare Speaks
The government’s defense in King v. Burwell is not open and shut.
“Jonathan Gruber’s testimony before Congress last week was a series of apologies, evasions, denials, and outright lies. The MIT professor widely acknowledged to be the “architect of Obama-care” before it was known that he attributed passage of the law to legislative deception and the “stupidity of the American voter” began his opening remarks by declaring: “I was not the ‘architect’ of President Obama’s health care plan.” He later refused to say how much money he’d made from his consulting and speeches on Obama-care. But the most staggering and consequential falsehood spoken by Gruber came when he tried to explain away his previous claim that states do not qualify for subsidies under Obamacare if they do not set up their own exchanges (the subject of a Supreme Court case, King v. Burwell, that could destroy the law). Gruber said during his opening prepared remarks: The point I believe I was making was about the possibility that the federal government, for whatever reason, might not create a federal exchange. If that were to occur, and only in that context, then the only way that states could guarantee that their citizens would receive tax credits would be to set up their own exchanges. During follow-up questioning, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan pointed out that Gruber’s explanation doesn’t make sense. “The law requires the federal government to create Obamacare exchanges in states that refuse to create the exchanges for themselves,” Amash said. He was right: The law clearly states the secretary of health and human services “shall” establish an exchange in states that fail to do so. So, Amash continued, “What did you mean when you repeatedly said that the citizens of some states may not qualify for Obamacare tax credits?” “When I made those comments, I believe what I was saying was reflecting uncertainty about the implementation of the federal exchange,” Gruber insisted. “I don’t recall exactly what the law says.” Gruber was clearly not telling the truth to Congress. At the very same 2012 speaking engagement in which he said states don’t get subsidies if they don’t set up their own exchanges, he acknowledged that the federal government is directed to set up exchanges in states that decline to do so: Audience Member: You mentioned the health information exchanges for the states. And it’s my understanding that if states don’t provide them then the federal government will provide them for the states. Gruber: Yeah. So these health insurance exchanges—you can go on MAHealthConnector and see ours in Massachusetts—will be these new shopping places, and they’ll be the place that people go to get their subsidies for health insurance. In the law it says if the states don’t provide them, the federal backstop will. The federal government has been sort of slow in putting in this backstop, I think, partly because they want to, sort of, squeeze the states to do it. I think what’s important to remember politically about this is that if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits [emphasis added]. Gruber’s 2012 remarks—and his failure at the December 9 congressional hearing to plausibly walk them back—have dealt a great blow to the government’s defense in King v. Burwell. Before he became a controversial figure, it would have been entirely uncontroversial to state that Gruber knew more about how the law actually works than Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, or Max Baucus. “I was involved in writing the legislation,” Gruber said in a 2010 lecture. “I know more about this law than any other economist,” Gruber told the New York Times in 2012. Gruber’s remarks are consequential not because the Supreme Court will look to them to determine legislative intent, but because they will significantly affect the legal and political debate surrounding King v. Burwell. Democrats and their allies in the media have tried to create a political environment in which the pressure on the Supreme Court would be simply too great for the Court to rule against the government. When cases challenging the legality of Obamacare subsidies began making their way through the courts, liberals roundly mocked and ridiculed the idea that the federal government had broken the law.”
Deadline nears to sign up for ACA coverage
“U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Arizona residents should review their existing health plan and make changes as necessary. Those who don’t enroll by 11:59 p.m. Monday will be automatically put in their existing Affordable Care Act plan for next year or assigned to a replacement plan for policies that will be canceled by the end of the year. “We want to encourage everyone to come back to the marketplace and re-enroll,” said Burwell, speaking at an enrollment event Saturday morning at South Mountain Community College. Burwell visited Phoenix and Tucson with a planned stop in Texas today on a trip targeting states with large numbers of uninsured residents. Burwell’s predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius, came to Phoenix twice during last year’s six-month enrollment period, including days after the marketplace opened with a glitch-ridden website that snarled enrollment. Burwell said that the marketplace’s technical problems have been fixed and that consumers will have a much easier shopping experience this year with information already loaded on healthcare.gov for existing customers and fewer screens to navigate for new customers. The marketplace also will staff its call center with more Spanish-speaking operators who can answer consumer questions, Burwell said. During the first three weeks of the three-month enrollment period, about 1.3 million U.S. residents signed up for coverage and 2.5 million have completed marketplace applications.”
3 Critical Obamacare Deadlines You Need to Be Aware Of
“Three critical dates to be aware of: However, Obamacare’s deadlines for the last enrollment look nothing like the deadlines imposed by regulators this time. Due to technical glitches that made the federally run insurance marketplace, Healthcare.gov, along with a handful of individual states practically unusable for a few months, and taking into account the general newness of the law, many deadlines were extended and the overall length of time when Americans could enroll was considerably longer than initially planned. With a year of experience under everyone’s belt, people seeking health insurance in the current, second enrollment period need to acquaint themselves with three critical deadlines.
Dec. 15: This coming Monday marks the last day consumers can choose an insurance plan and have coverage kick in on Jan. 1, 2015. Insurers need time to process the hordes of applications being submitted, and some time is needed to verify consumers’ income levels to determine whether they qualify for subsidies. In the 2013-2014 enrollment period, for example, 85% of enrollees qualified for some form of financial help in paying for their insurance plan. In addition, if you purchased health insurance through an Obamacare marketplace last year, many folks will be automatically re-enrolled in the same plan for 2015 if you take no action by Dec. 15 of this year (though automatic re-enrollments may not occur in some cases). So those looking to change plans will want to take action in the next few days.
Dec. 31: The end of the year can get a bit confusing for consumers, considering that the re-enrollment process can differ from state to state. Also, we have to remember that quite a few people — 66%, according to Radius Global Market Research — are expected to switch plans this year in an effort to save money. All this shuffling could cause consumers to lose sight of the fact that their current insurance plan remains active through Dec. 31, 2014, even if they enrolled in a new plan for next year. That might sound like common sense, but for a few weeks, especially if you have changed plans, you could have what seem like overlapping plans although only one is active at a time. It’s something to be keenly aware of, especially when scheduling medical care around the end of the year.
Feb. 15, 2015: Lastly, consumers need to know that the current insurance open enrollment period is just half the length of the first enrollment period from 2013-2014 — three months. The last day to enroll for coverage in 2015 through the Obamacare exchanges is Feb. 15. If we learned anything during the first enrollment period, it’s that Americans are natural procrastinators, and unless they need medical care they’re likely to put off buying their health insurance until the last possible moment. The ACA individual mandate allows Americans to be uninsured for up to three months throughout the year. This means those who plan to wait to the last second can buy health insurance on Feb. 15 and avoid making their January and February premium payments without violating the mandate. For those people who are unlikely to use their health insurance much, if at all, it’s a money-saving maneuver. It’s also the reason why we saw enrollment double in the final few weeks of the sign-up period earlier this year. I’d expect something similar to happen again beginning in late January and heading into the Feb. 15 deadline.”
Crunch time again for health insurance sign-ups
Wyoming health insurance companies report large response ahead of Affordable Care Act deadline
A Post-ObamaCare Strategy
The GOP needs a policy response if the Supreme Court kills subsidies.
GALLUP: U.S.-BORN MINORITIES INCLUDING HISPANICS LESS SUPPORTIVE OF EXEC AMNESTY
“U.S.-born Hispanics and minorities are less supportive of President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty for illegal immigrants than foreign-born Hispanics and minorities. According to Gallup, 51% of U.S.-born Hispanics support Obama’s executive amnesty while 42% disapprove while 75% of foreign-born Hispanics approve of Obama’s executive amnesty while 17% disapprove. Gallup notes that, “more generally, those of all racial and ethnic backgrounds who were born outside the U.S. are far more supportive of Obama’s proposed actions than those born in this country.” Among “non-Hispanics,” 36% of those born in the U.S. support executive amnesty while 57% disapprove, while 60% of foreign-born non-Hispanics support executive amnesty while 32% disapprove. As the Washington Post noted, “Hispanics who are born in this country are much more likely to be Hispanic voters” since “while foreign-born Hispanics are about half of all Hispanic adults, according to Pew, they are only about 24 percent of Hispanic eligible voters.”
Though establishment Republicans have insisted that amnesty programs are necessary to win the Hispanic vote (Republicans can still win the White House without massively flipping the Hispanic vote), even the Post had to conclude that “if you look just at Hispanics who are most likely to vote in the 2016 presidential election, Gallup’s numbers suggest they aren’t as supportive of the executive action as the main poll numbers suggest.”
PEW POLL: HALF OF AMERICANS OPPOSE OBAMA EXEC AMNESTY
“Half of Americans disapprove of President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty, while 56% disapprove of his handling of immigration. A new Pew poll found that 46% support Obama’s executive amnesty and 38% approve of his handling of immigration. There were stark differences between Republicans and Democrats and whites and Hispanics. While 82% of Republicans disapproved of Obama’s executive amnesty, 71% of Democrats approved. Eighty-one percent of Hispanics supported Obama’s executive amnesty, while only 34% of whites approved. The poll also found that Obama’s “executive action on immigration draws more intense opposition (39% disapprove very strongly) than intense support (30% approve very strongly),” while “about two-thirds of the public say they are ‘very sympathetic’ (23%) or ‘somewhat sympathetic’ (42%)” toward “immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.”
The poll was conducted December 3-7.”
GOP Senators Pushing For Anti-Amnesty Vote
Senate GOP Leaders Back Obama Amnesty, Oppose Cruz Vote
“Twenty-four of 42 GOP senators, including all the GOP leaders, backed the $1.1 trillion 2015 budget that also funds President Barack Obama’s unilateral amnesty. The Senate’s 56-to-40 vote came as outgoing Democratic Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid used the broad GOP opposition to the Obama’s amnesty to split the GOP into two factions. That 20-to-22 split came late Saturday, when Republicans finally had a chance to vote for or against Obama’s amnesty. The vote was engineered by Sen. Ted Cruz, who filed a “Point of Order” claim that required the senators to say if they thought the budget bill was constitutional despite not defunding Obama’s amnesty. Unless negated by judges, the amnesty is expected to provide five million migrants with work permits to let them compete for legal jobs against Americans, to put many illegals on a fast-track to citizenship, and to prevent the repatriation of nearly all 12 million migrants in the United States. Twenty-two GOP senators used the Cruz opportunity to say the amnesty is unconstitutional, and three GOP senators were absent. The remaining 20 Republican senators said the budget bill was constitutional, even if Obama’s amnesty is not. The group of 20 senators, however, included many who dislike Cruz, and several angered by Reid’s decision to hold a series of Saturday votes. Reid’s decision forced GOP senators to cancel travel plans and miss planned parties. He skillfully steered that anger toward Cruz, sharply reducing his total votes down to 22, a Senate aide told The Daily Caller.”
GOP Senators’ Actions Versus Words On Obama’s Amnesty Play
Obama’s Immigration Move Benefits Democrats Where It Counts
“A month after President Obama’s decision to defer deportation and offer work authorization to millions of undocumented immigrants, his action not only looks like a winner, but it also seems to be a fairly promising sign for Democrats after the disastrous midterm elections last month. This is not because Mr. Obama’s immigration decision has proved to be popular. In fact, it is, over all, unpopular. Polls show that a majority of adults oppose his plan. But as is the case on many issues, the politics of immigration reform are not simply about the issue’s popularity in national public opinion polls. They are also about intensity and coalitions: Who are the voters that really care about the issue, and how much do they matter? On immigration, the answer is fairly clear. Hispanic voters care a lot, and matter a lot. A Pew Research poll conducted last week showed that 81 percent of Hispanics supported the immigration action, as did 64 percent in a Gallup poll conducted between Nov. 24 and Dec. 8. That large majorities of Hispanic adults support Mr. Obama’s decision isn’t at all surprising. What is more telling is the extent to which Mr. Obama’s approval rating among Hispanic voters seems to have improved. Both Pew Research and Gallup show Mr. Obama’s approval rating rising into the mid-60s, up from around 50 percent earlier in November. The survey samples are not huge, but they are not small either — probably a combined 600 respondents — and they show a decisive, similar and appropriately timed movement toward Mr. Obama. There may not be a better example of a domestic policy change leading to a double-digit increase in a president’s approval rating among the targeted demographic group. Killing Osama bin Laden didn’t boost Mr. Obama’s approval rating by even 10 points among the public at large. To a certain extent, it was easy for Mr. Obama to make big gains among Hispanics. He had a lot of opportunities. The president won 71 percent of Hispanic voters in 2012, but since then his approval rating among them had sunk about 20 points, so there was room for improvement. These Democratic-leaning voters are presumably the easiest for Mr. Obama to win back. Nonetheless the gain is extremely impressive. By signing a piece of paper and taking a trip to Las Vegas, Mr. Obama boosted his rating among Hispanics, who make up 14 percent of the adult population, by around 15 points. He was not assisted by weeks of national media attention — the racial unrest in Ferguson, Mo., interceded soon after the announcement. There was no prolonged national campaign to hammer the message home and certainly no television advertisements. The Republicans didn’t help him out by shutting down the government, as some thought they might. If there had been a shutdown this month, it would have been because of a dispute over financial reform, not immigration reform. Few would have predicted that three weeks ago.”
Undocumented Immigrants Line Up for Door Opened by Obama
“They pushed strollers, tugged toddlers and streamed into the convention center in the heart of this city on Sunday, thousands of immigrants here illegally and anxious to find out if they could gain protection from deportation under executive actions by President Obama. The crowd, waiting in a long snaking line to check in, was drawn by an information session organized by advocacy groups offering people initial assessments to see if they meet the requirements to apply to stay in the country and work. The day became a kind of coming-out party for about 5,000 unauthorized immigrants, the largest gathering in the country of people who might qualify for temporary protection since the president’s announcement last month. Delfina Ibarra, 40, from Mexico, was taking in information while nursing a 17-month-old, Kimberly, the newest citizen in the family. Ms. Ibarra, who has lived in California for 23 years, said she also has a 21-year-old son who is a citizen. She said that without documents, she has been limited to cleaning houses and packing crates in industrial distribution centers. With a legal deferral document and a work permit, Ms. Ibarra said, she could get a driver’s license and go back to school. “It’s never too late to start again,” she said, laughing and holding up her baby. Immigration advocates convened the information session in downtown Los Angeles not just to give out information but to galvanize their supporters as Republicans, angered by what they see as an illegal power grab by Mr. Obama, say they will seek to halt the programs when they gain control of both houses of Congress next year. Texas was joined by more than 20 other states, most led by Republicans, in filing a lawsuit to stop the president’s actions, arguing he exceeded his constitutional authority. Hundreds of activist leaders also converged here for a three-day strategy conclave to plot how to enroll a maximum number of people in order to create momentum among immigrants and Latinos so they will defend the president’s actions and try to stop Republicans from canceling the programs before they get off the ground. “We’re telling all our families to get ready to apply if they qualify, because the more families apply, the harder it is for Republicans to take it away,” said Angelica Salas, the executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, one of the main groups organizing the event. Mr. Obama will offer three-year deportation deferrals and work permits to at least 3.5 million immigrants who have been living in the United States for five years, have no serious criminal records and have a child who is an American citizen or legal permanent resident. The president also expanded a 2012 program for young immigrants. The federal agency in charge, Citizenship and Immigration Services, will begin in mid-February to accept applications for the youth program. Applications by the parents will begin in mid-May. Many who lined up beginning at 7 a.m. and flocked into a vast hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center said they would have no trouble proving their histories in this country. When organizers asked how many Mexicans were in the room, thousands of hands shot up. Two-thirds of the immigrants eligible nationwide will be from Mexico, according to Pew Research Center.”
ILLEGALS FLOCK TO GOVERNMENT WORKSHOPS AFTER OBAMA AMNESTY ANNOUNCED
“Community events are springing up all across the nation aimed at helping illegals learn the moves they will have to make to take advantage of Obama’s announced amnesty. The events also hope to help illegals to avoid being taken advantage of by scammers and con men.
The Associated Press reports that the events are trying to help illegals determine what documents or information they will need to apply for the new status. On Thursday, the White House announced that it was going full speed ahead with its plans to put the framework in place to offer the new application process, despite heavy political pressure and public opinion aligned against the President’s amnesty policy. But illegals are still in the dark as to what step they will have to take to gain the new legal status. Even during its Thursday press call, operatives at the White House admitted that no machinery has yet been put in place for the application process.
This is where local community groups are stepping in to offer some small bit of guidance. Los Angeles activists, for instance, are trying to set up an event where up to 10,000 illegals can get some help to claim Obama’s amnesty. “After this big forum, we’re going to have daily orientations. That is what we have to do in order to deal with the demand,” the AP reported that Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said on Friday. One warning common to these events is that against scammers. No one who takes advantage of Obama’s amnesty will have to pay fees to file paper work or to secure their place in line, activists say. So if someone asks an illegal for money, they are con men and are not a legitimate representative of the Obama amnesty team.”
Is Obama trying to lose the amnesty lawsuit?
“Last Tuesday, in Nashville, President Obama confidently predicted that no future president would be able to reverse his recent executive amnesty of some 4 million illegal immigrants: “It’s true a future administration might try to reverse some of our policies. But I’ll be honest with you — the American people basically have a good heart and want to treat people fairly … So any future administration that tried to punish people for doing the right thing, I think, would not have the support of the American people. … It’s true, theoretically, a future administration could do something that I think would be very damaging. It’s not likely, politically, that they reverse everything we’ve done.” As a political move, this may or may not have been a smart thing to say. As a legal move, it seems a non-trivial blunder.
1) The courts are now considering challenges to the executive amnesty. Many judges probably feel Obama’s grabbed too much power from Congress but are reluctant to intervene. Why taunt them by proclaiming that the alleged power-grab is effectively irreversible? It isn’t irreversible by judges! … P.S.: If you don’t think judges read the newspapers and respond to this kind of political goading — even though it’s not in the briefs — you’ve never clerked for a judge. Obama just increased the chances the Supreme Court will take the case.**
2) Texas Attorney General (soon-to-be Governor) Greg Abbott has asked for a preliminary injunction to block the executive action. (That tactic worked in the 1952 steel seizure case.) One of the things you have to do to qualify for an injunction is show you’ll “suffer irreparable harm” if the court doesn’t step in immediately. Obama has just done much of Abbott’s work for him by agreeing that his action, if allowed to take hold, will in effect be un-undoable.
In other words, Obama’s statement also increases the chance that, if the courts take up the case, he will lose.”
MEXICAN MAN CHARGED IN TEXAS BORDER KIDNAPPING MURDER
“A Mexican man is facing capital murder charges for his alleged role in the kidnapping and murder of a 25-year-old mechanic over a debt. The case is the third kidnapping murder that may be related to drug or human smuggling in recent weeks on the Texas border.
While authorities have not yet confirmed if the debt was over drugs, human smuggling or other illicit activity, in the early hours of Wednesday December 10 Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Deputies found 25-year-old Edgar Gamez on the side of a rural road in the border city of Mission, court records obtained by Breitbart Texas show. Gamez had been shot once in the lower back area as he attempted to flee from a group of gunmen that had kidnapped him from his home also in rural Mission, sheriff’s spokesman JP Rodriguez told Breitbart Texas. Before dying, Gamez was able to utter the name “Monchis” to investigators who after speaking to various individuals were able to identify as 38-year-old Juan Miguel Miranda. While Miranda’s immigration status was not readily available, he is described in police records as being from Mexico. Investigators continue to look for several other men who were involved in the kidnapping and murder.”
BORDER PATROL AGENT BRIAN TERRY: FOUR YEARS SINCE HIS MURDER AND STILL NO ANSWERS
BORDER PATROL DESTROYS INHUMANE ILLEGAL ALIEN CAMP ON TEXAS BORDER
“Human traffickers looking to get around authorities often subject illegal aliens to the most inhuman conditions. Border Patrol agents near the Texas Border are working to stop that.
By working with property owners in rural areas, agents have been able to demolish structures or tents that human smugglers use to hide illegal aliens as they wait to move them north.
The U.S. Border Patrol gave Breitbart Texas access to a makeshift camp where just two weeks ago authorities caught 21 illegal aliens. Poorly set up tents, trash everywhere, human waste and no protection from the elements were the conditions that illegal aliens were subjected to.
While authorities have come across an increasing number of stash houses along the Texas border, criminal organizations have sought out other ways to hide their human cargo. One of those ways is to simply ferry out the aliens to remote rural areas where the illegal aliens are forced to sleep in makeshift tents fully exposed to the elements such as the location that Breitbart Texas visited. Border Patrol spokesman Joe Gutierrez told Breitbart Texas that the conditions are all too common as agents routinely find illegal aliens in deplorable conditions.
“That is why we are working with property owners to remove these places sadly enough criminal organizations will use any means available to get around authorities and this is what they subject their victims to,” Gutierrez. “This is a victory for us because it takes away one location that we know they have used in the past.”
CRUZ, LEE WIN WAR WITH HARRY REID, FORCE VOTE AGAINST EXECUTIVE AMNESTY
“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is keeping senators in Washington for a rare Saturday session—and risking a government shutdown—after he went to extraordinary lengths to block Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) from forcing a vote to block President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty. What happened on Friday night is a series of procedural tactics that Cruz and Lee engaged in with Reid. Cruz tried to force a constitutional point of order—which requires a 51-vote threshold—to challenge the constitutionality of Obama’s executive amnesty. Meanwhile, Lee was pushing an amendment to the cromnibus spending bill that just passed the House that would have blocked funding for Obama’s executive amnesty implementation. Using parliamentary tricks, Reid blocked both Cruz’s and Lee’s measures, then sought unanimous consent to adjourn the Senate until Monday—at which time Senators would have been brought back in for passage for the cromnibus. But in consultation with Cruz, Lee objected to unanimous consent to adjourn the Senate until Monday unless Reid would allow a vote on the effort to block funding for Obama’s executive amnesty. Because Reid wouldn’t agree to allow the vote, he decided to keep Senators in Washington for the weekend.
Because Reid needs to, per Senate rules, fill the timeframe until senators can actually vote on cloture on the cromnibus bill—which they can first technically do at 1 AM early Sunday morning—Reid is now attempting to force through several controversial Obama nominees like NRA-opposed surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy, Deputy Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director nominee Sarah Saldana.
The nominees—like Murthy—who have a hold placed on them still need to clear a 60-vote threshold to be confirmed, which means five Republicans would need to enable any nominee assuming all the Democrats vote for each one. So it doesn’t mean Reid will be able to succeed on them anyway. “While the Senate considers the CRomnibus spending bill, all we’ve done was simply request to hold a vote on a measure to stop President Obama’s amnesty,” Cruz said in a Facebook post about his and Lee’s efforts on Friday evening. “Instead, Majority Leader Harry Reid is holding a series of votes today for the sheer purpose of blocking that vote on Obama’s amnesty. Harry Reid’s last act as Majority Leader is to, once again, act as an enabler for President Obama, by blocking this vote on the President’s amnesty. He is going to an embarrassing length to tie up the floor to obstruct debate and a vote on this issue because he knows amnesty is unpopular with the American people, and he doesn’t want the Democrats on the record as supporting it.”
HARRY REID’S FINAL ACT AS MAJORITY LEADER: CAVING TO FIGHT AGAINST OBAMA’S EXECUTIVE AMNESTY
“Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s final act as the most powerful person in the U.S. Senate chamber is one where he has relented to the Tea Party. Reid’s Senate Democrats lost nine seats in the midterm elections—more than even the most generous prognosticators were expected—giving the GOP control over the U.S. Senate come January. And on Saturday evening, as his chamber readies the so-called “CRomnibus” spending bill for package, Reid has agreed to allow a vote on a measure from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on questioning the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty. “Forcing a vote on the constitutionality of Obama’s amnesty is important for two reasons,” Cruz said in a statement his office provided to Breitbart News. “First, since President Obama enacted his unilateral amnesty after the elections, Democrats have never been made to answer for it. Tonight, they will and they will show America whether they stand with a lawless President, who is defying the will of the voters or the millions of Americans who want a safe and legal immigration system.” Cruz went on to detail more reasons why this fight was important. “Second, it allows Republicans to also show they are committed to ending Obama’s amnesty once and for all in the next Congress,” Cruz said. “If we agree it is indeed unconstitutional, we have no business funding it when the GOP controls Congress last year. The Constitution matters, and we must defend it. That is why we have fought so hard to ensure this vote.” Reid allowing this vote comes after he threw a fit on Friday when Cruz attempted to get a vote on the point of order measure and Sen. Mike Lee (R-TX) attempted to get an amendment into the cromnibus that would have blocked funding for Obama’s executive amnesty.”
Menendez Files ISIS Force Amendment to ‘Cromnibus’ Despite No Chance of Vote
“The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee thinks the current Congress should stick around long enough to consider an Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State, and he’s reiterating that as the Senate wraps up its work. Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., moved a use of force resolution through his committee Thursday, and then filed it as an amendment to one of the last trains leaving the station this year — the catchall “cromnibus” spending bill. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has already used the procedural tools at his disposal to prevent amendments, but senators frequently file them anyway for messaging effect. An aide to Menendez told CQ Roll Call that the the chairman “believes the Congress needs to act on an AUMF to authorize the new war against ISIL. The Cromnibus is the last potential vehicle where a vote could potentially occur on the AUMF in 2014.” Menendez’s AUMF language in the amendment is the text that came through his committee on a partisan split vote, 10-8. The debate over authorizing force against the terror group is expected to resume in earnest in 2015, when Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee will become chairman. The Senate gaveled into session at noon Saturday, with senators planning to work all the way until 1 a.m. Sunday, slogging through procedural votes to allow Reid and his Democrats to confirm up to 20 of President Barack Obama’s nominees before the Congress adjourns and Republicans take control. At 1 a.m., the Senate would vote to invoke cloture — limiting debate — on the spending bill itself.”
REID BLOCKS CROMNIBUS MEASURE PROHIBITING FEDERAL MANDATE OF COMMON CORE STANDARDS
“Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA) office told Breitbart News on Sunday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) blocked out legislation attached to the “CRomnibus” bill that would have stopped the federal government from mandating that states “adopt specific academic standards, including the Common Core standards.” In a press release on Monday, Vitter announced that his legislation would instead be an amendment to the federal spending bill just passed by Congress. The measure, titled the “Local Control of Education Act,” would have permitted “states that do not accept the Common Core standards to still qualify for federal grants and contracts currently limited to states that are in compliance with the standards.”
“I’ve fought tooth and nail for local control of education and against the enormous growth of federal power under President Obama,” the statement read. “That includes prohibiting the federal government from mandating, coercing, or bribing states to adopt Common Core or its equivalent. My legislation would get rid of the federal government’s ability to force states into adopting federal standards.” The Obama administration granted states that adopted Common Core standards waivers to the restrictions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal law.”
Senate objections to spending bill slowing, but shouldn’t stop, final passage
Nation agog as US Senate actually … works on Saturday
“The original plan looked fairly simple. After much wrath and acrimony, the cromnibus passed the House and moved on to the upper chamber. In order to comply with Senate rules, a five day spending extension would provide a bit more time to get business done and the vote would be held over until Monday. At that time, several people who love having face time with the cameras would make some impassioned speeches, some amendments would be demanded (and fail to pass or even get a vote) and the bill would be passed. The Senators would be able to take the weekend off, put in a few hours on Monday and then head home for the holidays, secure in the knowledge that the government would be funded for an extended period and everyone could work on wrapping their Christmas gifts. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men… “But in a surprise development, some of McConnell’s junior members defied the agreement after he left. Reid tried to get unanimous consent for an adjournment until Monday when there would be enough votes to end a filibuster, but Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, objected because Reid would not guarantee a vote on an amendment dealing with immigration funding. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas also joined the objection, forcing the Senate to meet on Saturday. Reid then announced to an almost empty chamber that the Senate will be in session beginning at noon Saturday.” Cruz and Lee want a vote on an amendment to defund executive amnesty now, rather than in February. Warren and Vitter want a vote on an amendment to strip out the campaign finance provisions. The problem is, if either of these amendments (or any others, for that matter) were to pass, the bill would have to go back to the House. That’s problematic because almost all of the House members have gone home. Both Reid and McConnell could have afforded to allow such amendment votes if they thought there were sufficient supporters of the overall cromnibus package to defeat them. But if either of them were to pass we would be right back to near midnight, crisis management mode. Reid’s procedural moves seem to have derailed the amendments question, at least for now. (And possible for good.) So what will actually get done today? Reid will try to rail through a number of votes on some of Obama’s remaining nominees. Another good bet is that the five day spending extension will pass. That gives them most of this week to get things wrapped up with a bow and onto the President’s desk. Reid’s procedural moves last night may have killed any chance for amendment votes, but the members will supposedly be bringing up a variety of similar rules book maneuvers today to get everything back on the table. Then, on Monday, the big vote on ending debate will take place. We’re still getting hopeful notes from staffers on the Hill signaling that the votes are there to shut down the discussion and go to an up or down vote on the total bill, which would almost undoubtedly pass.”
Cruz center of Senate meltdown
“Sen. Ted Cruz, the firebrand conservative freshman from Texas, has blown up the Senate leadership’s plans to have a peaceful weekend by forcing round-the-clock votes on President Obama’s nominees and the $1.1 trillion omnibus. Cruz took to the floor late Friday to castigate congressional leaders for trying to pass the 1,600-page spending bill after only a few hours of debate and questioned the resolve of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to fight Obama’s executive order protecting five million illegal immigrants from deportation. “Even though millions of voters rose up just one month ago to protest how President Obama and the Senate Democrats were running Washington, business as usual is continuing inside the marble halls of the United State Congress,” Cruz said in a fiery floor speech. Because of objections from Cruz and his ally Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the Senate will begin slogging through procedural votes on nominees starting at noon Saturday and vote to end a filibuster of the omnibus spending package at 1 a.m. Sunday morning. “It appears that we’re going to have to have a series of votes all day tomorrow starting as soon as we get here and perhaps into the morning,” Reid said shortly before temporarily adjourning the chamber Friday night. A senior Senate Democratic aide said the Senate may hold up to 40 procedural votes on nominees this weekend due to what he called the “extreme pettiness on the part of Republicans.” The plan sets up a final vote on the omnibus at 7 a.m. Monday and confirmation votes on 20 nominees starting Monday. Reid attempted to postpone work until 5 pm Monday to avoid requiring Senators having to vote throughout the day on Saturday and early morning Sunday but Lee objected, citing the “grave concerns” of the American people “with the president’s decision to take action unilaterally with regard to executive amnesty.” Had Reid gotten his way, votes on the omnibus would have started late Monday afternoon. “I don’t see any reason why the United States Senate should suspend its operations while the American people are waiting for us to act,” he said. Cruz will raise a constitutional point-of-order against the spending bill on Sunday to protest Obama’s immigration order, setting up vote that he says will require his colleagues to take a position on the controversial issue. “This procedural tool will ensure that every Senator will be on record regarding the constitutionality of President Obama’s illegal amnesty,” said Cruz’s spokeswoman Catherine Frazier. Any senator can raise a constitutional point-of-order objection, which does not require consent. Cruz questioned whether McConnell and Boehner are fully committed to battling Obama on immigration. “I would note that a whole lot of citizens across the country feel a little bit like Charlie Brown with Lucy and the football, wherein fight after fight leadership in Congress says, we’ll fight next time — not this time, no, no, no. The wise thing to do is to fight in a month, fight in two months,” he said on the Senate floor. The senior Democratic aide noted McConnell left the Capitol Friday evening apparently believing he had a deal with Reid to avoid a weekend vote-a-rama, telling reporters, “see ya Monday.” “Senator McConnell left the Capitol apparently thinking there was a deal but his caucus rejected it after he left, while Senator Cruz took to the Senate floor to openly question Senator McConnell’s honesty and integrity,” the aide said. Republican senators and aides said Friday they were prepared to approve the omnibus and a package extending expired tax provisions that same day. The GOP sources said the only hold up was Reid’s insistence on also confirming 20 of Obama’s nominees. Democrats, however, said Cruz remained an obstacle, dismissing what one aide called “the crocodile tear act” on nominees. “Republican objections to voting on the government funding bill itself are holding up an agreement to vote on the government funding bill,” the Democratic aide said. The Texas freshman certainly did not sound like someone prepared to okay swift action on the omnibus as he railed against it Friday evening. “This bill is not designed to help working Americans. It is designed to pay off all the promises made to lobbyists who funded campaigns over the past year,” Cruz said in his lengthy floor statement. “Before the United States Senate is a bill that does nothing, absolutely nothing to stop President Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional amnesty,” he said. Reid set up a vote early Sunday to end filibusters of the spending bill and executed a procedural maneuver to block colleagues from amending it. Sen. Jeff Sessions, a conservative Republican from Alabama, wants to offer an amendment that would prohibit the use of federal funds for Obama’s order halting deportations.”
GOP SENATORS UPSET THEY HAVE TO WORK ON THE WEEKEND
“Several Republican senators are publicly griping about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s move to keep Senators in town for a rare Saturday session. But instead of blaming Reid, they’re blaming conservative Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT). “I think this is ridiculous,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who had already returned to New Hampshire with plans to “to see The Nutcracker with her daughter this weekend,” told Politico. Ayotte is up for re-election this cycle in New Hampshire, a state where Republican Scott Brown nearly beat incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) by running heavily on an anti-amnesty message. Brown didn’t seize the populist anti-amnesty message until late in the campaign, but it helped him close a wide gap in the final weeks of the campaign. Ayotte voted for the Senate “Gang of Eight” immigration bill that Brown hammered on the campaign trail—noting that it would hurt American workers—and she hasn’t expressed regret for doing so. She did, however, come out swinging against a move by now outgoing Senate Budget Committee chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to cut pensions for veterans while still allowing illegal aliens illicit access to tax credits. Ayotte’s immigration position could put her at risk for a challenge from the right in a primary from someone—perhaps even Brown… It’s notable that the reason Reid kept senators in town this weekend is because he would not allow a vote on a constitutional point of order from Cruz questioning the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty, or an amendment from Lee to the CRomnibus bill that passed the House that would block funding for Obama’s executive amnesty action.
Cruz’s and Lee’s procedural warfare has paid off, however, as they’ve now won and will soon force Senators to vote on whether they support or oppose executive amnesty. It’s unclear at this time when the vote will be, but major conservative organizations including Tea Party Patriots, Heritage Action, and NumbersUSA are scoring any vote against Cruz’s forthcoming point of order as a vote for amnesty for illegal aliens.”
Merry Cromnibus to all, and to all a good night
“A small group of conservatives, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), had tried to block debate on the bill by raising concerns with Obama’s immigration policy, forcing a marathon weekend session. The move infuriated their colleagues, particularly Republicans who complained that forcing senators to stay in session produced nothing positive for the GOP and only helped Democrats in their bid to approve a final batch of Obama’s nominees for government posts… The move forced members of both parties to abruptly cancel holiday and retirement festivities back home. Some senators slogged through the Capitol hallways with their young children in tow. Several skipped the Army-Navy football game in Baltimore. Staffers forced to work entertained out-of-town guests by giving them rare weekend access to the Capitol. The fact that any of them had to show up on Saturday and couldn’t head home from work two weeks before Christmas and stay there until early January isn’t exactly tugging at my heartstrings. What’s more surprising is that cromnibus got a vote on Saturday night rather than on Monday as originally expected. Of course, something was going to pass sooner or later, and as I’ve written here before, it was going to be pretty odious no matter whether it was the full cromnibus or a three month CR… But to be fair to both sides of the argument, Erick Erickson has some rather strong words on the subject and insists it would have made no difference. What did Cruz and Lee do? They made objections and dragged out the clock. In the interrim, Sen. Harry Reid filed for cloture on nomination votes. Republican critics of Cruz and Lee claim that if they had not fought on amnesty, cloture would not have been filed on the nominations… Cloture votes occur in the order they are filed, but after disposition of each bill or nomination that is the subject of the cloture petition. For example, if Reid files cloture on bill A and bill B, one after the other, cloture on B only occurs after both cloture and passage of A. Cloture, remember, is the procedure to cut off debate — not a vote on actual passage. Last night [Reid] filed cloture on the CROmnibus. Today he is going through procedural votes to file cloture on a number of nominations. Under Senate rules though, both cloture and final passage of the CROmnibus must occur before the cloture votes on nominations can happen. Therefore, we will be in the same place by Monday as we would be if [Lee] hadn’t objected to [Reid]. The real disappointment in all of this is not, to my way of thinking, the fact that cromnibus passed (which was pretty much impossible to stop at this point anyway) nor even that all of those nominations marched through yesterday. The final agreement which resulted in the vote included a deal where Cruz was granted a vote on a constitutional point of order declaring executive amnesty unconstitutional. And Cruz spelled it out fairly clearly for his colleagues. “Forcing a vote on the constitutionality of Obama’s amnesty is important for two reasons. First, since President Obama enacted his unilateral amnesty after the elections, Democrats have never been made to answer for it. Tonight, they will and they will show America whether they stand with a lawless President, who is defying the will of the voters or the millions of Americans who want a safe and legal immigration system. “Second, it allows Republicans to also show they are committed to ending Obama’s amnesty once and for all in the next Congress. If we agree it is indeed unconstitutional, we have no business funding it when the GOP controls Congress next year. “The Constitution matters, and we must defend it. That is why we have fought so hard to ensure this vote.” It was a safe vote for every single Republican there to take and wouldn’t have stopped progress on the spending bill anyway, since none of the Democrats were going to vote for it. But when the dust settled, Cruz saw a lot of his team members bail out. A vast majority of the Senate disagreed with Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) assertion that President Obama’s executive order on immigration is unconstitutional. Cruz raised a constitutional point of order against the $1.1 trillion “cromnibus” — which funds most of the government through September, preventing a government shutdown… Only 22 senators voted with Cruz and 74 voted against his point of order.”
Ted Cruz Forced the Senate to Vote on Obama’s Immigration Plan — Here’s How it Turned Out
““Tonight is the first opportunity that Congress has to express its disapproval,” Cruz said late Saturday of Obama’s immigration plan. Cruz lost the vote, as expected in a Senate that is still controlled by Democrats for a few more weeks. But Cruz’s tactics — which forced the Senate to work unexpectedly late into Saturday night — also drew criticism from Republicans, and several GOP senators vote against Cruz. In the final vote, the Senate decided 22-74 against Cruz — less than half of the Senate’s 45 Republicans voted with Cruz. The only Republicans voting with Cruz were Sens. Roy Blunt (Mo.), John Boozman (Ark.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Hoeven (N.D.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Rob Portman (Ohio), James Risch (Idaho), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Jon Thune (S.D.) and David Vitter (La.). Cruz raised his constitutional argument against the bill on Friday night, a move that surprised both Republicans and Democrats and forced the Senate back into the office for a rare Saturday session. After several hours of negotiating, Democrats finally agreed to give Cruz his vote. The vote itself was a victory — many Republicans have been begging for either the House or Senate to go on the record about Obama’s unilateral immigration decision. Even Republican leaders in the House failed to give the GOP a vote in the Senate when it passed the $1.1 trillion spending bill, a factor that prompted anger among Republicans and led 67 GOP members to vote against it. Late Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) publicly rejected a GOP offer to vote on an amendment to the bill on immigration. Cruz said his more complicated procedural tactic was the only way to get around Reid’s effort to block a vote.”
Senate Rejects Cruz Point of Order on Obama’s Immigration Action
“Ted Cruz’s proxy vote against President Barack Obama’s executive action ended in an overwhelming defeat Saturday night, splitting the GOP in half. Not that Cruz didn’t try. “It allows Republicans to also show they are committed to ending Obama’s amnesty once and for all in the next Congress. If we agree it is indeed unconstitutional, we have no business funding it when the GOP controls Congress,” the Texas Republican said in a statement ahead of that vote. “The Constitution matters, and we must defend it. That is why we have fought so hard to ensure this vote.” Cruz’s point of order failed 22-74, with about 20 Republicans joining with the Democrats to oppose it, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. and Cruz’s fellow Texan, Republican Whip John Cornyn. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ripped Cruz’s maneuver as “irresponsible” in a statement late Saturday: “While the president’s executive actions on immigration are reprehensible and deserve a strong response, I value the oath I took to support and defend the Constitution too much to exploit it for political expediency,” said Corker. “The Constitution gives Congress the power to fund the government so to assert that the House-passed spending bill is unconstitutional is not only inaccurate but irresponsible.” Cruz’s vote was a rather blunt instrument, since he raised a Constitutional point of order against the entirety of the section of the catch-all “cromnibus” spending bill providing continuing appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security. Putting the question directly to the chamber was in keeping with longstanding Senate practice. “The junior senator from Texas is wrong, wrong, wrong on several counts,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor, saying the objection on Constitutional grounds had no basis, pointing out that the House had already passed the entirety of the spending bill. The other 11 regular appropriation bills (aside from Homeland Security) are funded through the end of fiscal 2015.”
Jeff Flake Undermining Cruz and Lee
“Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) tends to talk a good game when it comes to taking on Barack Obama, especially when it comes to immigration. But now with the battle lines being drawn on the Republican side between conservatives and the establishment, Flake is also letting it be known he stands squarely with the establishment GOP many conservatives no longer trust. “Sen. Flake opposes keeping Senate in session over the wknd. “I fail to see what conservative ends were achieved,” he says via @PaulKrawzak”
Ted Cruz’s moves on spending bill roil Republicans
“When Cruz got his vote Saturday, he lost badly, 74-22, as even Republicans who agree with him on immigration repudiated his effort. Moments later, Congress cleared the spending bill. “You should have an end goal in sight if you’re going to do these types of things and I don’t see an end goal other than irritating a lot of people,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said it was a repeat of last year’s shutdown showdown over Obama’s health care law, when it was engineered by Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. Isakson said it was a movie he had seen before and “wouldn’t have paid money to see it again.” He called Cruz’s move a problem, not a strategy. Added Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.: “I fail to see what conservative ends were achieved.” For once, Democrats opted not to criticize Cruz publicly, a surefire indication they calculated that he was only hurting Republicans. Cruz was unapologetic. He said the sole purpose of his efforts was to secure a Senate vote to “stop President Obama’s amnesty” — his description of the president’s plan for work visas for an estimated 5 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. “Both Democrats and Republicans will have the opportunity to show America whether they stand with a president who is defying the will of the voters or with the millions of Americans who want a safe and legal immigration system,” Cruz said in a speech to a crowded Senate chamber moments before the vote.”
Ted Cruz irks fellow Republicans with moves on spending bill
Senate Clears Way for Vote on $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill
After day of drama, Senate passes $1.1 trillion spending bill for Obama’s signature
Senate Avoids Shutdown, Passes Cromnibus in Bipartisan Vote
“The Senate has avoided a government shutdown, easily clearing the $1.1 trillion “cromnibus” funding the government through September. The government was scheduled to shut down at midnight Saturday, but the Senate first cleared a four-day stopgap measure by voice vote and later reached a deal to clear the cromnibus after lawmakers in both parties sparred over who was to blame for the impending shutdown theatrics. The final vote was 56-40 in an extremely bipartisan vote, with 21 Democrats, 18 Republicans and independent Bernard Sanders of Vermont voting no. Republican no votes: Bob Corker of Tennessee; Michael D. Crapo of Idaho; Ted Cruz of Texas; Jeff Flake of Arizona; Charles E. Grassley of Iowa; Dean Heller of Nevada, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah; John McCain of Arizona; Jerry Moran of Kansas; Rand Paul of Kentucky; Rob Portman of Ohio; Jim Risch of Idaho; Marco Rubio of Florida; Tim Scott of South Carolina; Jeff Sessions of Alabama; Richard C. Shelby of Alabama; and David Vitter of Louisiana. Democratic no votes: Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut; Cory Booker of New Jersey; Barbara Boxer of California; Sherrod Brown of Ohio; Maria Cantwell of Washington; Al Franken of Minnesota; Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Tom Harkin of Iowa; Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii; Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Carl Levin of Michigan; Joe Manchin III of West Virginia; Ed Markey of Massachusetts; Claire McCaskill of Missouri; Robert Menendez of New Jersey; Jeff Merkley of Oregon; Jack Reed of Rhode Island; Tester of Montana; Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Ron Wyden of Oregon. In the key vote earlier Saturday night, the Senate easily cleared the 60-vote threshold to stop a filibuster attempt, 77-19. Thirteen Republicans, five Democrats and Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., voted to filibuster the bill.”
Senate passes $1.1 trillion spending bill, averting partial gov’t shutdown
Senate closes trillion-dollar deal
Omnibus spending bill goes to Obama’s desk.
Senate passes $1.1T funding bill
“The Senate voted 56-40 late Saturday evening to pass a $1.1 trillion spending package that funds most of the government through next September. The vote culminates a week of acrimonious sniping and sends the spending bill to President Obama’s desk for a signature. The debate exposed divisions within the Democratic and Republican caucuses on both sides of the Capitol and sets the stage for what could be a year of internecine squabbling in 2015.
Twenty-one Senate Democrats voted against the bill while 24 Republicans voted for it, including every member of the Senate GOP leadership. Democratic opponents included several senators rumored to have presidential ambitions such as Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) The package includes 11 appropriations bills that fund most of the government through Sept. 30 and a continuing resolution (CR) funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through Feb. 27. It nearly died in the House this week after Warren, a rising star among her party’s liberal base, urged House Democrats to oppose it because of language repealing a key provision of the 2010 Wall Street Reform Act. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) needed dozens of Democratic votes after conservative Republicans revolted en masse because it does not block President Obama’s executive order on immigration and for other reasons. Conservative freshman firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) made a last-ditch attempt to bring down the bill Saturday night by raising a point-of-order objection. He argued it violated the Constitution by funding Obama’s immigration order. But his effort gained little traction with Republican colleagues. Twenty of them voted against him, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Republican Whip John Cornyn, his fellow Texan. While the Senate roundly rejected Cruz’s objection by a vote of 22-74, it sets up a fight over immigration early next year. House Republicans leaders chose the short-term bill for DHS to give conservatives another chance to defund the executive order at the end of February. Cruz said he expects GOP leaders to wage a tougher fight once they gain control of the upper chamber. “If we agree it is indeed unconstitutional, we have no business funding it when the GOP controls Congress next year,” he said in a statement before the vote on final passage. “The Constitution matters, and we must defend it.” The package of appropriations bills, dubbed the “cromnibus,” narrowly passed the House on Thursday night in a 219-206 vote after Obama hit the phones to quell a Democratic uprising against it. Most Democrats followed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) lead and voted against the package because of two riders she described as “egregious.” One of the policy riders repeals part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law to allow banks to directly engage in derivatives trading. The other loosens limits on the amount of money people can contribute to national political parties. Just after 9 p.m. Thursday, the House wound up passing the bill with the help of 57 Democrats. Besides the two most contentious riders, GOP leaders tucked other provisions in the package, including one that bans Washington, D.C., from implementing a new referendum that legalizes recreational use of marijuana. One rider bars the federal government from listing sage grouse as an endangered species in an effort to protect oil-drilling projects. Another relaxes school nutrition standards championed by first lady Michelle Obama. The House also wrapped in an amendment submitted by the leaders of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Reps. John Kline (R-Minn.) and George Miller (D-Calif.), that would permit trustees of underfunded pension plans to adjust benefits, saving troubled plans without a federal bailout. The $1.013 trillion deal abides by budget caps set by last December’s budget deal, which relieved sequestration for two years. Additional emergency spending that falls outside the caps brings the total to just under $1.1 trillion. The emergency spending includes $64 billion for overseas contingency operations that have been used to fight the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It allocates $5 billion from that fund for the administration to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — slightly less than what the White House had requested. Appropriators included $5.4 billion in emergency funding to fight the Ebola epidemic. The bill has no funding for body cameras for police, which Obama requested after the outcry over police killings of two black men and grand jury decisions not to indict the officers involved. The spending package, however, does provide funding for other related community policing programs. The legislation does not include funding for high-speed rail, for the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” education program and for the International Monetary Fund, among other things. No new funding for ObamaCare is included, but the bill also does not reduce any funding for the healthcare law. The bill includes the Hyde Amendment, which bans all federal funding for abortions. The Senate still needs to confirm 12 executive branch and 12 judicial branch nominees and pass a package extending a variety of expired tax cuts before wrapping up the 113th Congress next week.”
Senate Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill
“The Senate passed the bill on a day Democrats launched a drive to confirm two dozen of Obama’s stalled nominees to the federal bench and administration posts, before their majority expires at year’s end. Several Republicans blamed tea party-backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for giving the outgoing majority party an opportunity to seek approval for presidential appointees, including some that are long-stalled. It was Cruz who pushed the Senate to cast its first vote on the administration’s policy of suspending the threat of deportation for an estimated four million immigrants living in the country illegally. He lost his attempt Saturday night, 74-22, although Republican leaders have vowed to bring the issue back after the party takes control of the Senate in January. “If you believe President Obama’s amnesty is unconstitutional, vote yes. If you believe President Obama’s amnesty is consistent with the Constitution, vote no,” he said. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rebutted instantly, saying Cruz was “wrong, wrong, wrong on several counts,” and even Republicans who oppose Obama’s policy abandoned the Texan. The spending bill, which cleared the House on Thursday, was the main item left on Congress’ year-end agenda, and exposed fissures within both political parties in both houses. It faced opposition from Democratic liberals upset about the repeal of a banking regulation and Republican conservatives unhappy that it failed to challenge Obama’s immigration moves. While the legislation assures funding for nearly the entire government until next fall, it made an exception of the Department of Homeland Security. Money for the agency will run out on Feb. 27, when Republicans intend to try and force the president to roll back an immigration policy that removes the threat of deportation from millions of immigrants living in the United States illegally.”
Senate approves $1.1 trillion spending bill
The $1.1T bill: School lunches, light bulbs, pot (good list)
In Final Spending Bill, Salty Food and Belching Cows Are Winners
Stopgap Spending Bill to Avoid Gov’t Shutdown Clears Senate, Goes to Obama
Congress sends Obama $1.1 trillion spending bill
Did the Cruz/Lee plan to stop executive amnesty in the Senate backfire?
“Cruz and Lee’s Republican colleagues in the Senate placed the blame for the likely confirmation of these stalled nominees squarely on the two conservatives’ shoulders. “This reminds me very much of the shutdown last year, where the strategy made absolutely no sense,” [Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)] said, adding that until Saturday, liberals were being faulted for holding up the spending bill. “Now, I guess the blame will be shared,” she said. … Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Democrats whom he spoke with on the Senate floor were pleased with the ultimate outcome, despite the weekend session. “The White House is going to end up with far more nominations confirmed than they ever would have,” he said. “And actually, as I talk to Democrats on the floor, even though this is an usual process, most of them are pretty happy about the outcome,” Corker later added. Cruz’s communications director, Amanda Carpenter, raised a strong point in her boss’s defense. “Did anyone seriously believe Reid was going to let noms die when there was working time on the clock left?” she asked. It’s true that there was not much preventing Reid from forcing through the stalled White House nominees before he surrenders his role as majority leader, but both he and McConnell are also working on a package of tax breaks and may still take up a House bill reauthorizing a federal terrorism insurance program. Those are a lot of sticky issues to litigate before the Senate plans to adjourn for the year. Carpenter added that reporters were failing their readers by giving the “false nomination narrative” more attention than a vote which Cruz forced this weekend after he raised a constitutional point of order against the “Cromnibus” bill. “If you believe President Obama’s executive order was unconstitutional, vote yes,” Cruz told his colleagues prior to the vote over his objection to the budget resolution because it dedicates funds to the implementation of Obama’s immigration action. “If you think the president’s executive order is constitutional, vote no.” Only 22 senators voted with Cruz. Another 74 senators voted against him, many of whom were Republicans who rejected his characterization of that vote on “Cromnibus” as one that would legitimize Obama’s executive actions on immigration. In spite of the ineffectuality of Cruz and Lee’s attempt to derail the “Cromnibus,” the accelerated debate on the approval of Obama’s stalled nominees, and significant new bitterness between these two conservatives and their GOP colleagues – or perhaps because of that – grassroots conservatives are expressing their gratitude, according to The Los Angeles Times.”
Spending deal may not offer 2015 Congress road map
George Will On Warren, Cruz Omnibus Opposition: ‘No One Knows What They Were Trying To Accomplish’ [VIDEO]
“One day after the Senate passed the much-debated omnibus spending bill, syndicated columnist George Will was critical of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Ted Cruz, both of whom opposed the bill. Will told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that “no one knows what they were trying to accomplish” with their opposition, a subtle dig against the possibility of a shutdown. While he was critical, he also warned those “clamoring” for bipartisanship will “get a good look at it and recoil in horror.”
WILL: “Well, this is how you get things done. The country clamors for bipartisanship, that’s what it looks like. It’s not pretty, and it’s long and it’s confused and it’s yet another piece of legislation we had to pass in order to find out what’s in it, but this is log rolling. This is how democracy in a continental nation gets things done. People aren’t going to like it. We had the politics of futile gesture that has become bipartisan.” “Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz together at last. No one knows what they were trying to accomplish, but that doesn’t seem to matter to them. I do think this will change substantially when you get the new Congress here. Lame ducks, who’ve already been repudiated, leave, and you get the Republicans in charge and we’re going to see if they can’t implement the restoration of what they call regular order so we don’t run this government with sprawling pieces of legislation like this.”
WALLACE: “The final passage, 56 senators voted to keep the government funded. 32 Democrats, 24 Republicans. I mean, that’s the making of a bipartisan governing coalition.”
WILL: “Yes, and Americans who are clamoring for bipartisanship are going to get a good look at it and recoil in horror, probably, but that’s just the nature of democracy. The transaction costs of democracy are large, wasteful, messy…but it’s our system.”
WALLACE: “Do you think we’re going to see some bipartisan compromises, actual legislation, business getting done in Washington?”
WILL: “I do. The most important committee, the ways and means committee, is in the hands of a grown-up, Paul Ryan, and he will move it forward.”
Mike Lee Spokesman: Harry Reid’s Shutdown Threat is a ‘Total Fabrication’
“Outgoing Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) stoked fears that the government might shut down in an attempt to confirm a group of President Obama’s nominees by unanimous consent before Republicans take control of the Senate, according to a Senate aide. “That speech Reid gave this morning was a total fabrication,” Brian Phillips, a spokesman for Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) tells National Review Online, referring to the top Democrat’s suggestion that conservative senators were refusing to allow a vote to keep the government open. The shutdown was averted on Saturday afternoon, when the Senate agreed to pass a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government before it ran out of money at midnight. “They could have done that last night at 9 o’clock,” Phillips says. “We told our leadership last night that we did not have a problem with a voice vote on a five-day short-term CR.”
Ingraham: ‘We Have Two Parties that Agree on Too Much’
“Talk-show host Laura Ingraham is not happy about the “cromnibus” spending bill that passed Congress this week — especially a new provision that would increase the limit on contributions to campaign spending: “You know what the problem is? We have two parties that agree with each other on too many issues. They agree on open borders, they agree on immigration amnesty, they agree on Common Core. And apparently, they agree that individuals should be able to give hundreds of thousands . . . to the political parties. I am not in favor of anything that makes it easier for the incumbency in Washington, D.C. And this cromnibus bill makes it easier for the incumbents and the establishment in both parties to run amok.” “Most of these people didn’t read this bill. Most of these people don’t know what’s in this bill. How is this good for the people?” Ingraham shrugged.”
Obama’s Boehner Bailout
“How often will President Obama come to House Speaker John Boehner’s rescue even when Republican leaders aren’t willing to give much in return? And does the president want to preside over a split in his party? These are among the questions raised by the dramatic budget battle that came close to breaching the deadline for a government shutdown. It was a remarkable moment because something quite unexpected happened. Progressives and many moderates were outraged over many parts of the bill, two in particular. One undercut the financial reforms of the Dodd-Frank law by loosening its restrictions on the ability of banks to use taxpayer-insured funds from depositors for some potentially risky transactions involving derivatives. Former Rep. Barney Frank, one of the architects of the 2010 law, warned that tossing such a provision into a must-pass bill would provide “a road map for the stealth unwinding of financial reform.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., called it “the worst of government for the rich and powerful.” The other tore apart campaign finance laws by allowing big donors to contribute up to $1,555,200 to a political party committee over a two-year election cycle, and a couple to give up to $3,110,400. This empowers only the wealthiest among us. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., nicely captured the government-for-sale message sent by the two components. “You’ve got the quid and the quo in one bill,” he said. Typically, Democrats are more anxious to avoid government shutdowns and thus give a lot of ground to Republicans in budget fights. But negotiating in this way rewards those who use shutdown threats as a form of hostage-taking. If the reasonable side regularly makes concessions to unreason, the extremists win. This time, Boehner was operating from a position of weakness because he could not pass the bill with Republican votes alone. His tea party members wanted to pick a fight with the president over his executive order on immigration, while Boehner wanted to kick that battle down the road. On the final roll call late Thursday night, Boehner lost 67 members of his own party. The banking and campaign finance issues set off a rebellion among House Democrats that nearly scuttled the bill. Yet before they had any chance of seeing if they could use their newfound leverage to improve the measure, the White House issued a statement calling for its passage. It criticized the provisions in question. But the administration felt this was a better deal than it could get in the next Congress and went to work rounding up up Democratic votes for Boehner. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, one of Obama’s most loyal allies, expressed her unhappiness over this oh-so-eager Boehner rescue operation. “I’m enormously disappointed that the White House feels that the only way they can get a bill is to go along with this,” she said on the House floor. In the end, it passed 219-206. Democrats split 57 in favor, 139 against. There are several dynamics here that will prove important in the coming year. One is that Senate Democratic negotiators were out of sync with many of their House colleagues. The campaign finance and derivatives sections came out of the Senate, and the potential for further splits between Democrats in the two houses is substantial. Moreover, Obama will not always be able to count on the Senate to block Republican bills he objects to. To sustain his vetoes, he will depend on House loyalists, the very people the administration’s performance disappointed this time. Pelosi played down the problems in an interview on Friday and said the differences with the White House were largely over short-term tactics. In trying to get a budget through, she said, the president and his lieutenants understandably wanted to “clear the decks” so the administration and Congress could start fresh next year. “I am very confident in the White House and how we move forward,” she said, adding that the resistance of so many Democrats sent a signal to Boehner that there are limits on what she and her colleagues will accept, particularly when it comes to undercutting financial reform.”
It’s (Still) a TARP!
Elizabeth Warren, corporate-welfare queen
“Senator Elizabeth Warren, the millionaire Massachusetts class warrior who has made the vilification of Wall Street bankers her second-favorite pastime (right behind prospering on the largesse of Wall Street lawyers, the gentlemen and scholars who funded her very generously compensated position at Harvard and fill her campaign coffers) did not exactly make the issue her hill to die on, but the fight did provide her an excellent opportunity for grandstanding. No doubt aware that 99 percent of those who look to her for guidance on financial regulation could not explain what a derivative is, Senator Warren did her usual dishonest shtick, engaging in her habitual demagoguery without every making an attempt to actually explain the issue, which is a slightly complicated and technical one, to the rubes who make up the Democrats’ base. Angrily insisting that the reform is about nothing more than ensuring that “the biggest financial institutions in this country can make more money” is cheap, and it’s easier than trying to explain why many midsized banks believe that the rule puts them at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis the big Wall Street firms, to say nothing of exploring the convoluted question of why agricultural swaps are covered by the rule while interest-rate and foreign-exchange swaps are not. This led Maggie Haberman of Politico to admire Senator Warren’s “authenticity,” the choice of precisely that word being the cherry on this sundae of asininity. Senator Warren is as much an authentic champion of ordinary working people as she is an authentic Cherokee princess — and Mel Brooks and those Yiddish-speaking Indians from Blazing Saddles were more convincing in that role. Bailout politics is still very much with us: People resent — rightly — what was done and how it was done. Many on the Tea Party right and the Occupy left intuit that there exists a dysfunctional relationship between Wall Street and Washington, though Senator Warren et al. maddeningly believe that the way to ameliorate this is to invest Washington with even greater powers, enabling even worse misbehavior and even more remorseless rent-seeking. And those who bother to keep up with such things know that neither Dodd-Frank nor anything else that has happened in Washington since the financial crisis has in fact eliminated, or even reduced, the phenomenon of financial institutions’ being considered — inevitable phrase — “too big to fail.”
Senate’s Spending Votes Seen as Litmus Tests for 2016 Candidates
Economic Victims, 2014
“I have aggregated Zogby Polls from January through October 2014. Based on a total sample of 11,979 adults (with an overall margin-of-sampling error of +/- 0.9 percentage points, here is an in-depth look at the millions of economic victims in our midst. One in nine (11%) reported that they or someone in their household had “lost a job due to corporate downsizing in the past year.” But the distribution was uneven. Younger Americans were more likely to fall into this category – 14% each of 18-29 year olds and 30-49 year olds, and particularly those right in the middle (25-34 year olds, 18%). Hispanics were especially hard hit (23%), which helped drive up those who lost these jobs in the West (16%) and among Catholics, with a high concentration of Hispanics (17%). Residents of large cities were far more likely to lose jobs (17%) as were Americans who are married (13%), weekly attendees at a place of worship (28%), those living in a household where there is a union member, a veteran or current member of the armed forces (21%), and a weekly shopper at Wal-Mart (18%). Sometimes, the results appeared to be counter-intuitive. Self-identified members of the Creative Class were harder hit than others (18%), as were NASCAR fans (21%), members of the Investor Class (20%), and (notably) current members of the National Rifle Association (38%). Seventeen percent of those who identified themselves as LGBT lived in a household where someone lost a job due to corporate downsizing – as did the 17% who earned $100,000 to $150,000 and the 15% who earned over $150,000 in 2013. Those who sympathize with either the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street have about the same experience (21% and 22%, respectively). One in five (22%) told us they lived in a household where someone “is afraid of losing a job within the next year.” Interestingly, this fear seems to plague those 30-49 more (25%) than younger Americans (20%) – perhaps because Millennials feel less a sense of permanence on the job and because many are still single, with fewer family responsibilities. Again Hispanics are high (28%) as are Asians (23%), residents of large cities (24%), Catholics (24%), union households (32%), members of both the Creative Class (27%) and the Investor Class (26%), NASCAR fans (27%), those who have at least college degrees (22%), current NRA members (40%), Weekly Wal-Mart Shoppers (26%), and those either sympathize with the Tea Party (30%) or Occupy Wall Street (30%). Again, the percentage is higher among those in the LGBT community (28%). There is across the board impact among all income groups. Twenty-three percent told us that they “or someone in their household works at a job that pays less than an immediate previous job.” I have seen the national response to that question climb from 14% in 1991 to 19% in 2000, to 27% in 2007, and 37% by 2009. The reasons for the decline are simple. The key to understanding the question is the term “immediate previous job” – meaning that by now many Americans are working in their second (or more) in a series of lower paying jobs, or they have simply retired and are not working at all. In any event, one in four working for less is an enormous number – and its impact is really across the board. All income groups are in the 18% to 26% range. Residents of large cities (27%), those who are married (25%); Hispanics (25%), Asians (22%), whites (23%), and African Americans (19%) are harder hit as are people living in union households (31%), members of the Creative Class (30%) and the Investor Class (26%), and those who identify themselves as LGBT (27%). So when we read about Americans who are disappointed, disillusioned, angry, have given up, have little faith in government, and feel that the country is not headed in the right direction – there is so much at work here than ideology, talk radio and cable television. It is the actual experience of status anxiety, the reality of losing ground – and fearing losing more ground.”
Social Security continuing to pursue claims against family members for old debts
“The Social Security Administration, which announced in April that it would stop trying to collect debts from the children of people who were allegedly overpaid benefits decades ago, has continued to demand such payments and now defends that practice in court documents.
After The Washington Post reported in April that the Treasury Department had confiscated $75 million in tax refunds due to about 400,000 Americans whose ancestors owed money to Social Security, the agency’s acting commissioner, Carolyn Colvin, said efforts to collect on those old debts would cease immediately. But although some people whose refunds were seized were reimbursed in recent months, some of those same taxpayers have since received new demands from Social Security, asserting that the debts remain and seeking repayment.”
EXPLODING CHINA TRADE SURPLUS SENDS STOCKS TO WORST WEEK IN 3 YEARS
Why Are We Spending a Billion on Government Preschool?
President Obama, You Had the Worst Year in Washington Again
Democrats push to confirm Obama nominees
“Senate Democrats are pushing to confirm roughly 20 of President Barack Obama’s nominees in the final days of the lame-duck session — and before the Republicans grab the majority next month. In a rare Saturday session, the Senate held a series of procedural votes to move ahead on the nominees, including the surgeon general choice, the pick to head Customs and Immigration Enforcement and the nominee to be the nation’s No. 2 diplomat. About a dozen judicial nominees also hang in the balance. Among the nominees are:
Carolyn Colvin, for a six-year term as commissioner of the Social Security Administration. All 11 Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee said there is evidence that Social Security officials misled Congress and investigators about a $300 million computer project that doesn’t work. Colvin, the acting commissioner since February 2013, told The Associated Press in an interview that she has always met the highest ethical standards.
Vivek Murthy, to be surgeon general. Nominated more than a year ago, Murthy drew the opposition of the National Rifle Association over his support for gun control, which he expressed in both a tweet and a letter he sent to Congress as president of Doctors for America following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Murthy has said he wouldn’t use the position as a bully pulpit for gun control.
Sarah Saldana, to head Customs and Immigration Enforcement. Republicans have opposed Saldana over her support for Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Texas’ senior senator, Republican John Cornyn, had backed the U.S. attorney in Dallas earlier this year, but Obama’s move to lift the threat of deportation for millions here illegally changed that. Cornyn said he could no longer support Saldana.
Tony Blinken, to be deputy secretary of state. Republican Sen. John McCain and other GOP senators have opposed the nominee for the job of America’s No. 2 diplomat. McCain has argued that Blinken, now Obama’s deputy national security adviser, isn’t qualified because of comments he made in 2012 touting Iraq’s security, prosperity and democracy.”
GUN CONTROL-SUPPORTING SURGEON GENERAL NOMINEE TO GET VOTE NEXT WEEK
“On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) communications director Adam Jentleson tweeted that Reid filed cloture on the nomination of Obama’s gun control-supporting Surgeon General nominee Vivek Murthy. Jentleson indicated a “confirmation vote will be early next week.” Last week, Breitbart News reported that Democrats were trying to confirm Murthy as surgeon general before they lose control of the Senate at year’s end. On the one hand, Murthy has the best chance for confirmation now, while Democrat rule changes still allow confirmation by a simple majority. On the other, Politico reports that his confirmation is a long shot due to “queasiness among Republicans and moderate Democrats about Murthy’s positions on guns.” On October 12, the Los Angeles Times reported that Murthy’s believes “guns are a public health issue.” The Times then indicated that if confirmed, Murthy could campaign against firearms the way C. Everett Koop “[campaigned] against smoking.”
Senate cancels vote on Obama Social Security pick
Obama pick to head Social Security runs into more trouble; Senate cancels confirmation vote
“President Barack Obama’s pick to head the Social Security Administration has run into more trouble after Senate Democrats canceled a procedural vote on her nomination. Obama nominated Carolyn W. Colvin to a six-year term as commissioner in June, and Colvin’s nomination cleared one procedural hurdle in the Senate Saturday. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., canceled an upcoming vote, making it likely Colvin won’t get a vote until next year, when Republicans take control of the Senate. Colvin’s nomination would have taken up valuable floor time as the Senate rushes to finish its year-end business. Senators could speed the process but that would require a bipartisan agreement. Colvin’s nomination first ran into trouble when a group of Republican senators said they would try to block it while investigators look into a $300 million computer project at the agency. The project, which doesn’t work, predates Colvin’s tenure — she has been acting commissioner since Feb. 2013. But an inspector general’s investigation is ongoing. “I don’t know how the Senate can, with good conscience, vote to confirm anyone with this type of ongoing investigation going on around their immediate office,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a floor speech. “It may very well turn out that Ms. Colvin did nothing wrong, but we need to know for sure.” Colvin defended her integrity and her long career in government in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “I’ve worked in government my entire life. There’s never been a suggestion, personal or professional, of any wrongdoing,” Colvin said in the interview, which had been scheduled before the controversy erupted. “I’m certainly not ending my career with that,” Colvin continued. “I came out of retirement to help this organization, not hurt it.” Six years ago, Social Security embarked on an aggressive plan to replace outdated computer systems overwhelmed by a flood of disability claims. But the project has been racked by delays and mismanagement, according to an assessment commissioned by the agency over the summer. The new computer system is supposed to help workers process and manage disability claims. But the project is still in the testing phase and the agency can’t say if it will ever be operational or how much it will cost. Colvin, 72, first worked as a deputy commissioner at Social Security in the 1990s. She left the agency in 2001 to become director of human services for the District of Columbia. She later had a similar job in Montgomery County, Maryland. Colvin returned to Social Security in 2010 as deputy commissioner.”
GOP’s Tim Scott: Committed to returning government to the people
“Sen. Tim Scott gives the Republican Party’s Weekly Remarks: Hi, I’m Senator Tim Scott from the great state of South Carolina. I’m deeply honored to have been elected by the hardworking people of South Carolina to represent them in the United States Senate. The mid-term elections put the President’s policies on the ballot, and the American people overwhelmingly rejected them by electing Republicans into office all around the country. (Scroll down for video of these remarks.) The new Republican majority in the Senate, alongside the House of Representatives, will present solutions that work for American families, and I truly hope the President will join us.
We must regain the trust of the American people and we will do so by immediately focusing on jobs and the economy. This fresh start will bring efforts to restore the 40-hour workweek, realize the full potential of America’s energy industry and ensure every child, everywhere, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education. A Senate controlled by Democrats has blocked many of these solutions for years, leaving bills gathering dust instead of spreading success. We will look to tackle our over-complicated and outdated tax code while reducing excessive regulation, empowering families and giving our small businesses the opportunity to grow. We will tackle the Affordable Care Act head on and present solutions to lower health care costs and increase access to care. I look at colleagues like Congresswoman Martha Roby and Senators Mitch McConnell and Mike Lee, who have authored legislation to give single parents and working families more flexibility to get their time in at work while taking care of their families at home. And Senator John Hoeven, who has led a bipartisan charge to approve the Keystone Pipeline and create tens of thousands of jobs. My Opportunity Agenda focuses on increasing educational choice to ensure every child has the chance to succeed, as well as creating more jobs through our energy resources and apprenticeship programs. Republicans are also committed to protecting the rights of the minority party — a drastic shift from the past few years in Washington. Amendments will be encouraged, not ignored; The practice of passing massive bills, just to see what’s in them, will be a thing of the past; And open debate and strong oversight will become the norm. While many may be skeptical, and rightfully so given how broken Washington has become, Republicans are committed to returning government to the American people.”
Sen. Scott Gives GOP Weekly Address: Obama’s Policies Were Overwhelmingly Rejected In Election
JEB BUSH HINTS AT RUN, TELLS POTENTIAL DONORS: ‘KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY’
“The first official hat may soon land in the 2016 presidential ring. Associates of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a Republican who’s been out of office for eight years, say he could announce his candidacy within a month. “Keep your powder dry,” Bush wrote in a recent email to potential donors, hinting they should refrain from giving money to other potential candidates. Bush’s backers are also reaching out to potential campaign employees. The Washington Post reports his leading strategist, Mike Murphy, is encouraging political insiders to wait before signing on with a candidate. Murphy also hints Bush will make an announcement soon.
If he does run, Bush would face tough scrutiny from conservatives. As Dr. Susan Berry wrote in September, “Bush has been an outspoken champion of both amnesty for illegal immigrants and the Common Core standards, the Obama-supported and federally funded education initiative that opponents say espouses a utilitarian workforce mentality.” Both positions are staunchly opposed by conservatives. Rush Limbaugh recently came out strongly against a potential Jeb Bush candidacy. He told Fox News the former governor “is totally absorbed in this comprehensive immigration business,” which voters oppose. “The American people are being let down here. They’re voting. They’re expressing their desires. They want this stuff stopped and the Republican Party is not listening.” Still, Bush is apparently going to try to spin his unpopularity with the base as a positive. “I kinda know how a Republican can win, whether it’s me or somebody else — and it has to be much more uplifting, much more positive, much more willing to be… ‘lose the primary to win the general’ without violating your principles,” he said earlier this month. “It’s not an easy task, to be honest with you.”
Act of Love: Jeb Preps Run for the Presidency
David Brooks: “Elizabeth Warren Owes It To Us To Run”
Elizabeth Warren poses a challenge to Hillary in 2016
Democrats divided on their path to 2016
Santorum: The GOP Establishment Is ‘Very Much Influenced By Corporate America’ [VIDEO]
“Q. So is the GOP leadership addressing this issue of jobs and wages or is it beholden to business interests?
[A:] I think pretty much we have an establishment leadership within the Republican Party, and the establishment is very much influenced by corporate America. If you look at the response to the president’s immigration edict — aside from the tyranny of an authoritarian president dictating new laws, changing the law without going through the proper constitutional requirements — if you look at the impact of what that 5 million new workers is going to be on average workers in America, and to see the response of the Republican Party, there seems to be just confusion. They say the right things, at least some of them say the right things — that this is terrible, tyranny and all that stuff — but they don’t do anything. [It is] as if the president’s edict caught them by surprise even though he’s been promising to do this for six months, and they didn’t sit down and have a plan in place to say “Here’s how we’re going to fight this unconstitutional power grab.” Even if they were just selfish and we just looking at their own prerogatives as congressmen and senators, you’d think they would react with more hostility to the president than they did. But they haven’t, and I suspect the subject matter is one that divides the party, and that is rather disconcerting.
- Why do Republican leaders decline to fight on amnesty, even though numerous polls show the president’s actions are really unpopular?
[A:] Well, you know, the leadership of the [Democratic] Party spends a lot of their time campaigning for the candidates, working to raise money, and the same is true with the leaders of our party, and like it or not, the folks who fund the Republican Party are not where I am on the issue of immigration, or by the way, on economics and social issues in general. They are much more corporatist in their viewpoint, and that’s like with the Democratic Party — a big source of their funds — it is also a big source is of Republican funds, and it has inordinate sway in my opinion.”
CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL SUED TO STOP DISCLOSURE OF CONSERVATIVE GROUP’S DONOR ADDRESSES
“Conservative think tank Americans for Prosperity (AFP), co-founded by principals of Koch Industries, sued in federal court to prevent ultra-liberal California Attorney General Kamala Harris from using her office to disclose the names and addresses of their 90,000 donors.
Harris may have a problem with AFP being a major force behind the Tea Party movement and its support of free markets, entrepreneurship, lower taxes, and limited government spending and regulation. As a federally registered 501(c)(4), not-for-profit educational organization, Americans for Prosperity is allowed under federal law to raise and spend money educating the public regarding issues associated with political campaigns and elections, as long as the charitable organization does not spend money in support of a specific candidate. Contributions to a 501(c)(4)s are not deductible against income taxes and therefore federal rules allow donors names to be “redacted” from public disclosure. But Attorney General Harris in October took advantage of an old requirement under state law that California “charities” must submit copies of IRS public filings, known as the Form 990 that lists donors over $5,000 on “Schedule B.” Harris’ office threatened AFP that failure to comply would result in suspension of the “charity” and daily fines against each member of the Board of directors individually, according to the complaint. Conservatives were shocked at the demand and suspicious that Attorney General Harris intended to engage in the type of alleged unethical action by IRS manager Lois Lerner, who may have used the IRS to retaliate against Tea Party members. Americans for Prosperity complained that they had registered every year in California since 2001 and had never received such a request in the past. But then Harris’s office also demanded that another conservative group called Center for Competitive Politics 501(c)(3) hand over their donor list. Harris warned the “charitable foundation” this summer that AFP’s registration was “incomplete” for 2011 and 2012 because the group did not include a “Schedule B” list of donor names and addresses. According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, the Attorney General’s spokesman preposterously stated AFP had been out of charitable compliance for over a decade, but did not receive a demand because the “section responsible for enforcement has been chronically underfunded for years.”
OP-ED: TEXAS TEA PARTY LEADER CRITIQUES SUPPORT OF STRAUS
- BEN CARSON TO ADDRESS SOUTH CAROLINA TEA PARTY CONVENTION
“Dr. Ben Carson will be a top featured speaker at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention next month from January 17 to 19 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Joe Dugan, founder and executive producer of the group’s fourth annual convention, told Breitbart News that Tea Partiers in South Carolina are excited to hear Dr. Carson’s message. The convention comes a little more than a year in advance of South Carolina’s 2016 Presidential primary. Carson, raised in poverty in Detroit, Michigan, rose to prominence as one of the top neurosurgeons in the world. He recently retired from Johns Hopkins University and is rumored to be considering a run for the 2016 Republican Party presidential nomination. The newly formed National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee has been calling on voters to tell Dr. Carson to “Run, Ben, Run!”
‘YOU ARE A ‘TEABAGGER!” LONG ISLAND WOMAN RECEIVES $1.12 MILLION FOR FALSE PROSECUTION
FORMER CIA OFFICIAL: PELOSI, FEINSTEIN, ROCKEFELLER ALL BRIEFED AND DIDN’T OBJECT TO WATERBOARDING
“On “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace,” Jose Rodriguez, the former director of the National Clandestine Service of the CIA said members of Congress where briefed dozens of times on the enhanced interrogation techniques including Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and they did not voice any objection. Rodriguez said, “I remember very clearly briefing Nancy Pelosi in September of 2002. The Congress had been on break, as soon as they got back from break in September, the first thing I did is I went to brief her and the Chairman of the House Select Committee on intelligence at the time. We briefed her, and I was not the only one who came from the agency. I had my lawyers with her. We briefed her specifically on the use of the enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubeta. She knew back in September of 2002 every one of our enhanced interrogation [techniques].”
When asked specifically, “Did you tell her about waterboarding, about sleep deprivation?” Rodriguez said, “Yes, yes, we did. Yes, I did.” Adding, “I briefed her on all of the techniques. These people were fully aware of all the techniques that were given to us and approved by the Office of Legal Counsel of Justice.” He added “The only one that ever objected to any of this, and it was more of a caution, was Jane Harman in 2003 when she said, ‘be careful because the perception will be in the future that you did this to hide something.’ But that was — she was the only person who ever objected to anything.” On Rockefeller, who was the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Rodriguez said, “You know, it’s interesting because I can remember going back to hearings and meetings with the Congress back in 2002. And their biggest — their biggest thing they told me was, ‘you know, your problem is that you guys are risk averse. You have to go out and use the authorities that you’re given to protect America.’ All of these people were briefed, Rockefeller in particular.”
ISIS FIGHTER ADMITS KILLING 70 PEOPLE IN FOX NEWS INTERVIEW
Brennan Draws on Bond With Obama in Backing C.I.A.
TEA PARTY PATRIOTS:
GOP SENATORS UPSET THEY HAVE TO WORK ON THE WEEKEND
“Just when you may have thought the fight over the CRomnibus was over, Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Jeff Sessions are doing their best to hold their colleagues accountable in the Senate,” Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin blasted in a list to the organization’s grassroots activists nationwide. She went on to say: We strongly support their efforts as they fight to ensure that the Congress does not appropriate funds for an unlawful, unconstitutional order. We urge their colleagues to join them in that fight. This is not a fight about amnesty; this is a fight over whether or not America will remain a Constitutional Republic. Please find your Senators on Facebook and Twitter and express your support for Sens. Cruz, Lee, and Sessions and their fight for liberty this weekend. Please be prepared to make phone calls to the Senate first thing Monday morning.”
Tea Party, Conservatives Rally Behind Cruz’s Budget Efforts
“Still, conservative groups praised Cruz and the other senators for their efforts. “We strongly support Sens. Sessions, Cruz, and Lee as they fight to ensure that the Congress does not appropriate funds for an unlawful, unconstitutional order,” said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, before the final vote. “We urge their colleagues to join them in that fight. “This is not a fight about amnesty; this is a fight over whether or not America will remain a constitutional republic,” she said.”