News Briefing for Monday, January 12 2015
TEA PARTY PATRIOTS:
The FEC’s Internet gag rule (Op-ed by Jenny Beth Martin and Matt Kibbe)
Liberals don’t want Americans speaking truth to power
“…Just as Williams felled the Liberty Tree to frustrate debate, Ms. Ravel wants to bring the political discourse of freedom-loving Americans under her agency’s heavy-lidded purview with an eye to cutting it off. To hear Ms. Ravel tell it, political speech in cyberspace is unduly influenced by “dark” forces that use blogs, news sites, video uplinks and information exchanges to “pollute” the political atmosphere and poison minds with too much communication. Or, to look at it from the standpoint of those not part of the liberal establishment consensus, to speak truth to power. While serving as chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, Ms. Ravel led an effort to enact a regulatory regime that would have eventually forced blogs and other online commentators to go silent. In her mind, this was, as she and others believe, a necessary step to bring campaigns and the free flow of information in line with the new technologies campaigns and advocates have adopted in the age of the World Wide Web — most of which lie outside the ability of the FEC or any other agency, state or federal, to regulate, monitor or influence. All this has come to a head once again because of the unshackling of citizen political speech via recent decisions by the United States Supreme Court in the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases. Both decisions dramatically expanded the concept of what constitutes free speech in the campaign financearena — and the court sided with the First Amendment, and expanded free speech rights for citizens. These decisions have not gone over well with the liberals in Congress, the legal profession, the Obama administration and the media — all of whom view with suspicion the participation of ordinary citizens in the political process. Under the current FEC regulations, political advertising and commentary posted for free on one’s own website or on sites such as YouTube are exempt from regulation by the FEC. Now, however, many FEC watchers, including some of Ms. Ravel’s FEC colleagues, fear she is intent upon changing the current “hands off the Internet” approach the FEC adopted more than a decade ago. Ms. Ravel appears to be moving to appropriate an upcoming rule-making initiated to bring the FEC regulations into compliance with the court’s decisions in Citizens United and McCutcheon and to use that rule-making as an opportunity to revisit and alter the current FEC nonregulation of the Internet. She has stated publicly that political free speech is unacceptable. The “Commission has turned a blind eye to the Internet’s growing force in the political arena,” she said, as if free and open online debate is some ominous force requiring stern measures to correct. The opportunities for mischief and permanent damage to freedom of speech in the political arena are endless — and alarming. What Ms. Ravel proposes might go beyond the practice of posting political ads and videos on YouTube and result in regulation of all Internet-based communications. Advocates of the kind of political gag rule Ms. Ravel would seemingly impose would be subject to court challenges over many election cycles and with so many Obama appointees in federal judgeships nationwide, who knows whether the First Amendment would ultimately prevail? We, who are in many ways the direct descendants of the Sons of Liberty, who carried out the tea party from which we get our movement’s name and who believe that freedom really works — must be on guard to prevent those who attack freedom and liberty from carrying the day. It is foolish to believe, as Ms. Ravel and others may, that the protections guaranteed us all in the First Amendment to the Constitution — “Congress shall make no law …” — are not applicable to independent agencies of the federal government. Both Tea Party Patriots and FreedomWorks have created Web portals for the purpose of sharing views on the regulation of the Internet by the FEC. Federal agencies are required to review public comments on proposed regulations — with quantity counting just as much as quality. The members of the Federal Election Commission need to hear from you. It is critical that we all make our voices heard and stand up to this latest attempt at government intrusion into our personal freedoms. The Bill of Rights is worthy of protection, even if President Obama’s liberal allies on the FEC want to trample on it. Make an official comment against any new government intrusion at Fec.gov. It takes a few minutes, but it’s worth it. Speech-stifling power grabs such as this get shut down all the time, but only when we speak out and let them know we are watching…”
GOHMERT CELEBRATED BY TEXAS GRASSROOTS
“Congressman Louie Gohmert was greeted to a war hero’s welcome by Tea Party Patriots in Houston on Saturday. The grassroots training meeting was planned before this week’s historic House of Representatives Speaker’s vote and Gohmert had agreed to be the keynote speaker. Gohmert received three standing ovations, one lasting over a minute long. The Congressman, who was weary from lack of sleep, doing battle, and being criticized, told the group that his being at the meeting right after the vote was a “God-thing.” The group surprised the unassuming and humble Texan when Texas Tea Party leaders took time off during the training sessions to honor him. They gave him a framed Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag signed by the Tea Party Patriots in attendance. They had Gohmert sit in an over-stuffed red chair while they told him how much he meant to them. Gohmert told them he was still “immensely uncomfortable about taking a compliment.” He quoted Stephen Curtis Chapman and his song “the only good in me is Jesus.” The Congressman told the patriots that he has “been praying for wisdom since I was six years old and I do not need prayers for courage.” He said he put his name in the Speaker’s race “because ya’ll it was just too much [after the Cromnibus bill].” Gohmert told the activists he understood that the only time he could actually win the Speaker’s race was “in a time of all-out war,” however, he “did not realize how deep the animus would go … I knew people would be upset with me, but I did not know how much.”
ADAM ANDRZEJEWSKI, SPENDING DATA PIONEER, FEATURED AT SOUTH CAROLINA TEA PARTY CONFERENCE (TPP-sponsored event)
“On Friday, the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition announced that government reformer Adam Andrzejewski will speak at the Coalition’s annual conference next weekend in South Carolina. Andrzejewski (pictured), founder of OpenTheBooks.com, has built the largest private database of government spending at all levels, giving activists a critical tool to hold officials accountable. The conference takes place January 17-19 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.”
A government program that worked (same article as January 9th, but different news outlet)
What Obamacare doesn’t do
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, everyone with a stake in the $3-trillion-a-year health industry came out ahead — except the taxpayers, says author Steven Brill
“This month marks one year since health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act began, and from the president’s point of view: so far, so good. More than 10 million Americans who didn’t have health insurance before have signed up. But congressional Republicans are gunning for Obamacare. Even if they can’t outright repeal it, they want an overhaul. And with the debate just getting underway, author Steven Brill, who has spent the past two years immersing himself in the subject, has come out with a new book, “America’s Bitter Pill,” that takes a comprehensive look at what the new law does and doesn’t do. Brill argues that Obamacare is the product of what he calls an “orgy of lobbying” and backroom deals in which just about everyone with a stake in the $3-trillion-a-year health industry came out ahead – except the taxpayers.
Steven Brill: Good news: More people are gonna get health care. Bad news: We have no way in the world that we’re gonna be able to pay for it.
Steven Brill says that the outrage is what the Affordable Care Act doesn’t do.
Steven Brill: It doesn’t do anything on medical malpractice reform. It doesn’t do anything to control drug prices. It doesn’t do anything to control hospital profits.
Lesley Stahl: So all the cost controlling side of this just went by the wayside?
Steven Brill: 99 percent of it.
Brill learned that when it came to controlling costs, the White House was told up front–
Steven Brill: If you go after costs, you’re never going to get anything passed because the lobbyists will just not allow it to be passed.
Lesley Stahl: So let’s go through what each entity won.
Steven Brill: The drug companies they were going to get $200-plus billion worth of new customers able to pay for drugs. They were going to avoid the calamity of the real reforms that they were worried about: price controls generally.
Lesley Stahl: Canada.
Steven Brill: You and I being able to buy drugs from Canada. That would have cost them hundreds of billions.
The hospital lobby did agree to cuts in how much the federal government compensates them for Medicare patients, but Brill says overall the trade off in new paying patients would more than make up for that. And the hospitals managed to keep other cost controls completely off the table, allowing them to charge whatever they can get for hospital stays and greatly mark up drug and test prices. In writing his book, Brill wanted to find out how hospitals jack up those prices. He found the answer in the Recchi family of Lancaster, Ohio. Their experience, both before and after Obamacare kicked in, shows all the things Brill says the law should’ve dealt with — like highly inflated hospital charges — but didn’t….”
Steven Brill Says Affordable Care Act Will Become Unafforadable
Obamacare Problems? Now in Hands of IRS
Deluged with catastrophes, court challenges and criticism, Obamacare (ACA) has had a controversial life to date. Yet it is ready to enter a completely new phase where the implementation gets shifted to the Internal Revenue Service – America’s favorite three words. If you liked the health care plan up to now, you ain’t seen nothing yet. 2010 was actually the first year that the IRS was involved in Obamacare enforcement. The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit went into effect with this filing year. You may remember I wrote that there was mass resistance to this credit by the tax-preparer community. We could not figure out how to get the credit for our clients while at the same time keeping the cost of preparing the paperwork lower than the actual credit being received by our clients. The calculations and the complexity of the credit were obviously created by lawyers and policy wonks that have no discernible experience with taxes on this planet, let alone the United States. Accordingly to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the result was that only 170,300 businesses took advantage of this credit during 2010 when it was estimated that between 1.4 and 4.0 million small business employers would be eligible. In fact, the credits were supposed to encourage small businesses that did not offer insurance to their employees to begin doing so. The GAO reported that the credits went to businesses that were already offering insurance to their employees. That small amount of businesses claiming the credit was not because of preparer ignorance as supporters of Obamacare have claimed. To the contrary, the question becomes how many preparers took advantage of their clients by actually charging them for preparation of the paperwork to garner this credit? Tax-year 2014 begins the filing of Obamacare-related reporting for individuals, and each person must report that they are in compliance with the new law through their own personal tax return. You think taxes were a nightmare before this? Each taxpayer must show that they have insurance or that they are exempt from insurance. To facilitate this the IRS has developed some spanking new forms for the benefit of us all. The primary form you must have in hand is a 1095 form. To make matters more complicated, the IRS could not live with one universal 1095 form; they had to develop three: A, B and C. A is for those receiving their insurance through the Obamacare websites, B is issued by insurance companies to people who have their own plans and C is for employees of large companies. Then there is another form (8965) if you have an exemption from having to have coverage.”
Tax time brings sobering surprise as health care act’s penalties kick in
“First the carrot, now the stick. The Affordable Care Act rolled out last year with the promise of health coverage for those who hadn’t been able to get it before. That was the good part. Now comes the penalty phase: Those who didn’t have health coverage in 2014 will probably owe the Internal Revenue Service money this year. As tax-filing season opens, Americans are beginning to realize that President Obama’s signature health-reform law was as much about taxes as health insurance. Experts estimate that as many as 30 million Americans — 10 percent of the population – will be affected by the changes it made in the tax code this year. How that shakes out – how many will pay penalties or be exempted from them, how many will see their tax refunds increased or decreased by the filing day of April 15 — remains to be seen. But as ignorance and confusion give way to surprise at the law’s impact on consumers’ pocketbooks, the political repercussions could be significant. “I’m afraid this is going to be the third strike,” said Linda Schwimmer, vice president of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. First was the discovery, in the fall of 2013, that those who liked their current insurance coverage wouldn’t necessarily be able to keep it – despite President Obama’s promise to the contrary. Next was the debacle, during the first open-enrollment period, of HealthCare.gov’s computer problems. Now comes the collision of the health law and income taxes. “I think this is a real vulnerability for the Affordable Care Act and its proponents,” said Schwimmer, whose nonpartisan group advocates for accountability and transparency in health care. But most people don’t know what it means yet for their households. While the majority of taxpayers will merely have to check off a box attesting that they had insurance the entire year, others will find it a whole lot more complicated. “Our research indicates that many consumers may be in for a surprise at tax time,” said Kathy Pickering, executive director of H&R Block’s Tax Institute. The majority of taxpayers won’t figure that out “until the moment they sit down to file their taxes this tax season,” she said. What they’ll find is that the Affordable Care Act “is one of the largest changes to the tax code we have seen in the last 40 years,” Pickering said. And the burden of those changes — additional forms, exemption applications, and disclosure requirements, as well as potential payments — falls mostly on those in lower tax brackets. The penalties are a key part of the law not only for the revenue they produce, but – more important – the pressure they put on consumers to comply with the mandate to have insurance. When the broadest possible population is insured, the cost of covering their health care is spread more widely and premiums rise more slowly. H&R Block, the country’s largest tax-preparation company, gauged the level of ignorance and misinformation about the law’s tax impact in its annual surveys and offered free consultations for individual taxpayers at open houses held Thursday at 10,000 offices nationwide. As Lois Van Lenten, manager of the Little Falls office, awaited walk-in clients on that frigid afternoon, she noted that those she’d talked with so far were “mostly concerned with ‘What’s this going to cost me?’ For some, the answer may be downright unpleasant. A family expecting a federal tax refund, for example, may owe the government more than the refund amount because the wage earners underestimated their income and received more than they were entitled to in subsidies to purchase insurance. “A lot of our clients, especially those filing early, get refunds,” said Pickering, of the company’s tax institute, noting that the average is about $2,800. “That’s the largest financial event for them for the year. They’re really looking forward to that money to catch up on bills, fix their car — it’s not an extravagance. It’s tough if you have to deliver that message.” Particularly hard hit will be salespeople and the self-employed: Commission-based income that swings widely from year to year makes accurate estimates difficult, Schwimmer said.”
EDITORIAL: Obamacare tax hit
“Get ready for another Obamacare surprise. As if canceled policies, dropped doctors, higher premiums, higher deductibles and enrollment nightmares aren’t enough, millions of people who were supposed to be most helped by the law are about to be hit with a tax bill. As reported by The Wall Street Journal’s Stephanie Armour and Louise Radnofsky, as many as half of the 6.8 million people who received Affordable Care Act subsidies in 2014 may have to return some of that money to the government. Ms. Armour and Ms. Radnofsky explained that enrollees were awarded subsidies based on estimates of their 2014 income, but millions of those estimates were wrong and resulted in subsidies that were too generous. Vanderbilt University assistant professor John Graves told The Wall Street Journal that, on average, the tax credits would be too high by $208, based on the applicants’ most recent tax returns. So millions of people could face a tax bill that in some cases will be modest but could be as high as $2,500 for families at the upper end of the subsidy eligibility range. Some people may have to reimburse overpayments in full. These are the people who were supposed to be least able to afford insurance. Equally as bad for these 2014 filers is the fact that no one — not even professional tax preparers — has any experience with the IRS forms that reconcile the subsidies. So lower-income earners will face the most complicated process in complying with Obamacare’s individual mandate, a process that is expected to force many of them to shell out even more money to have their returns professionally prepared. These are not unintended consequences. When lawmakers create a new entitlement and put the IRS in charge of verifying Americans’ health coverage, no one can expect simplicity and efficiency. This tax season will provide one more reason for Americans to loathe Obamacare. And one more reason for the Republican-led Congress to deconstruct it.”
Non-Profit Helps Uninsured Individuals Enroll in Affordable Care Act
“Residents in the area who needed some assistance in obtaining healthcare were able to attend a session on Saturday and receive free information on the Affordable Healthcare Act and Enrollment. Although the event is over, there are still ways that you can get the help you need to enroll. “I told my wife, I need insurance. I saw this Project Amistad last night on T.V, and I told my wife that it’s time, so we’re here. We came this morning and they’re helping us pretty good,” Midland resident, Pedro Vela, said. Pedro is not alone when it comes to being uninsured. According to officials, 5.7 million people will be uninsured in 2016. “We know that in our community here in Midland-Odessa and in other parts of far West Texas, there are countless numbers of people who currently do not have affordable health insurance,” Roy Ortega, Community Relations Manager for Project Amistad, said. It may be difficult for some people to enroll on their own if they don’t have a computer at home or if they’re not proficient in English. That’s why Project Amistad has made these services available. “Insurance can be a very complicated thing for a lot of people. We do have people on our staff who are able to provide these services and explain the Affordable Care Act to anyone who wants to have these services provided to them,” Ortega said. Another reason that some people may have waited to get insurance is because of the cost. But through the Affordable Care Act, health care is the lowest it has been in decades. “Some people they don’t have money, they think that insurance costs too much a month to pay. The insurance is better for your health so that way you can go see the doctor. If you don’t have money, then you’ve got insurance,” Vega said.”
HHS Regional Director visits Tucson as Affordable Care Act deadline approaches
GOP courts Warren to repeal medical device tax
“Republicans are looking to an unlikely ally in their bid to repeal a controversial piece of ObamaCare: Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The Massachusetts Democrat, who has emerged as a liberal hero, has shown support for efforts led by the GOP and business groups to scrap Obamacare’s medical device tax, a 2.3 percent levy on medical devices and supplies projected to raise almost $30 billion over the next decade. Now, Republican aides and industry sources say they’re urging Warren to sign onto Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) legislation to repeal the tax. Warren’s office declined repeated requests for comment. It’s a complicated position for a rising Democratic star who progressives are urging to launch a 2016 presidential campaign. Liberal groups including the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and the Campaign For America’s Future also did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the issue. Warren, who supports Obamacare in substance, has opposed the medical device tax ever since she defeated then-Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in 2012. Other prominent progressives, including Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) also support nixing the tax. Both Massachusetts and Minnesota are home to prominent medical device companies, including Andover-based Philips Healthcare and Minneapolis headquartered Medtronic. Warren supported Hatch’s amendment to repeal the tax in March 2013, but she did not co-sponsor a similar Hatch bill in the last Congress. Republicans praised her policy position, but they couldn’t help but criticize what they said was hypocritical politics for a lawmaker who has crafted an image as crusader against giant corporations. “Elizabeth Warren is to the left of the left wing movement,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the conservative American Action Forum and former economic adviser to 2008 GOP presidential nominee and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz). Holtz-Eakin said that it’s quite telling that she’d be willing to support getting rid of this.” “It tell you that it’s just really bad policy,” he said. “But don’t be fooled — she’s neither the first nor the last politician to want to have it both ways. Take her at face value, this is a hypocritical political position given everything else she says.” A senior Republican House aide said that Warren is “very critical of pro-business members, but when it affects her home state she’s singing a different tune.”…”
Wimping Out on Obamacare?
“Republicans have now won two Obamacare elections, the first in 2010 and the second in 2014. (In 2012, their presidential nominee chose not to engage on the issue.) In the lead-up to their latest victory, Republicans ran far more ads against Obamacare than either party ran for or against anything else. Voters responded by giving the GOP 9 more Senate seats and 13 more House seats. The one candidate who ran on a genuine alternative to Obamacare, Ed Gillespie in Virginia, almost pulled off the upset of the night. Predicted by polls to lose by nearly ten percentage points, he lost by less than one. Witness the first weekly Republican address of the new year. In it, Republicans touted two small-ball Obama-care fixes. The first was the Hire More Heroes Act, which the House passed last week. To quote the address, that act “exempts veterans already enrolled in health care plans through the Department of Defense or the VA from being counted toward the employee limit under the health care law.” It had already passed the House last March by a vote of 406-1. Picking it as a lead-off item for the new Congress was akin to taking a vote in favor of puppies or baseball. Worse, the address also declared that the House would act to modify Obamacare’s definition of a full-time workweek, which it proceeded to do later last week. This is an example of lawmaking that is worse than doing nothing, for it will help give Obamacare—which the Democrats passed without a single Republican vote—a layer of bipartisan gloss. If President Obama were actually executing it as written, Obamacare would require all businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to provide them with Obamacare-compliant health insurance. Obamacare defines full-time employees as those who work at least 30 hours a week; House Republicans voted to change that to 40 hours. But why would Republicans want to “fix” the law in this way? The focus of Obamacare’s opponents should be on repealing and replacing the overhaul, not on repairing it—and everything they do should be with an eye toward advancing that larger goal. In the short term, therefore, they can look to pull pieces out of Obamacare—particularly pieces whose absence would simultaneously provide relief for Americans and undermine Obamacare. A fine example is the individual mandate: Americans hate it, and Obamacare relies upon it. Another good play is to highlight especially egregious sections that haven’t gotten much popular attention, such as the effective ban on building or expanding doctor-owned hospitals—a striking example of Obamacare’s rampant cronyism, and one that comes at the expense of a group with whom Republicans would be well-served to align themselves. It is one thing to take pieces out of Obamacare in a strategic way, however, and quite another to reach inside and start actively tweaking and “fixing” it, a trap that Republicans had essentially avoided to date. If they succeed in changing the definition of full-time work from 30 to 40 hours, Republicans will put their fingerprints on Obama-care, a monstrosity not of their making, taking partial ownership of the president’s unpopular namesake.”
Democrats have second thoughts about Obamacare
“In the Time magazine issue published after the 2008 election—whose cover depicted Barack Obama as Franklin Roosevelt—Peter Beinart anticipated a new “era of liberal hegemony” that would last until “Sasha and Malia have kids.” President Obama is not yet a grandfather, but his era of liberal hegemony only appears to have lasted months, not decades. Photoshopping gave Obama the pince-nez and cigarette holder that were FDR’s trademarks but could not conjure the startling congressional majorities of the 1930s. The Depression and New Deal left Republicans discredited, irrelevant, and shattered. GOP House and Senate majorities of 62 percent and 58 percent, respectively, after the 1928 election shrank to caucuses of 20 percent and 17 percent after 1936. Under Obama the trajectory has been the opposite: Republicans have gone from 41 percent of the House seats after the 2008 election to 57 percent after 2014 and from 40 senators to 54. Inevitably, Democrats are trying to figure out why the present that dismays them is so much less congenial than the future they recently anticipated. Some have begun to disparage Obamacare, the incumbent’s most FDR-like achievement. Half of the 60 Democratic senators who voted for the Affordable Care Act in December 2009—the exact number needed to prevent its being filibustered to death, since all Republicans opposed it—are no longer in the Senate. These ex-senators include eight who were defeated by Republicans, and eight more who chose not to run again and were succeeded by Republicans. One of the latter, Tom Harkin of Iowa, recently told a reporter, “I look back and say we should have either done [health care reform] the correct way or not done anything at all.” Charles Schumer of New York, in the remnant of Democrats whose Senate careers have survived Obamacare, voiced similar sentiments in a National Press Club speech three weeks after the 2014 elections. “Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them” in 2008, Schumer said. “We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem—health care reform.” Arguing that 85 percent of Americans had health insurance they were satisfied with when Democrats took power in 2009, and few of the uninsured voted at all, much less on the basis of health policy, Schumer contended, “To aim a huge change in mandate at such a small percentage of the electorate made no political sense.” Despite these recent recriminations, Harkin and Schumer had been like most Democrats in believing that Obamacare was good policy that would quickly prove to be good politics. In 2012 Harkin praised the Affordable Care Act for bringing us closer to the day when “every person has affordable, quality health care.” Months before Democrats were routed in the 2010 midterms, Schumer predicted that Obamacare would be an asset to politicians who had supported it and a liability for its opponents. Not just health care policy but the value and political feasibility of modern liberalism’s raison d’être is at stake. The main point of Schumer’s recent speech was “Democrats must embrace government” as “what we believe in,” “what unites our party,” and as “the only thing that’s going to get the middle class going again.” He thought that Obamacare was regrettable to the extent it had complicated rather than furthered that fundamental purpose. The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky strongly endorsed Schumer’s argument: Since “Democrats are the party of government,” the “one principle they all subscribe to is a belief that the federal government can and must intervene in the economic and social spheres to even things out.” The party will never create political openings for new government interventions, however, until it solves the public relations problem that afflicts existing ones. Democrats, he wrote, have done a “pathetic job” of getting people to appreciate “the dozens of ways in which the federal government already helps them and their communities.” The resulting “hatred of government we see in this country is sickeningly childish and hypocritical.” Instead of acknowledging and appreciating government successes against water pollution, for example, most people “just think that lake cleaned itself somehow over the years.”
Seahawks stars Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman throw long for Obamacare (continuation of previous articles)
“Add Superbowl Seattle Seahawk stars Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman to the list of sports big shots pitching for Obamacare as time runs out for signing up. “Make the right call,” said Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, standing next to Sherman in a YouTube ad for the Department of Health and Human Services. “Visit healthcare.gov. Get covered,” he added. “When your health or the health of the game is on the line, nothing is more important than quality coverage,” says Sherman. “I want to thank Russell and Richard for volunteering their time to raise awareness about the importance of enrolling in health insurance coverage and join them in calling for people to visit healthcare.gov and click out their options,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell. Jan. 15 is the enrollment deadline.”
The Long, Slow March Into Tyranny
JUDGE LANDS ANOTHER BLOW AGAINST OBAMACARE
Orders that contraception mandate cannot be enforced against Michigan company
“A federal judge has delivered another blow to Obamacare, issuing a permanent injunction against enforcement of the national health care law’s contraceptive mandate against a Michigan company whose owners objected to the president’s signature law because of its violation of their religious faith. The ruling comes from U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker in the case brought by the company Autocam, a maker of medical devices. He ordered that the federal government is “permanently enjoined” from trying to enforce the Obamacare Contraceptive Coverage Requirement against the company. The fight had been handled by officials with the Thomas More Society who worked to protect the religious freedom for officials of Autocam Medical LLC. Jonker initially had ruled against Autocam when the lawsuit first was filed more than three years ago. But in light of last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, he reversed himself. Now, the family owned business cannot be required “to provide its employees with health coverage for contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and related patient education and counseling to which plaintiff objects on religious grounds.” Jack Kennedy, the CEO of the company, always has held that the government had no right to require that Autocam buy group insurance coverage that provides employees with morally objectionable contraceptives, including abortifacients and sterilization. “Prior to the government’s implementation of the controversial mandate, Autocam had specifically designed a health insurance plan with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan to exclude contraception, sterilization, abortion, and abortion-inducing drugs, in keeping with its owners’ deeply held religious beliefs,” the report from the Thomas More Society said. The Kennedys embrace the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church that contraception, abortion and sterilization are serious wrongs, the legal team said. “Coercing citizens to violate their conscientious religious beliefs makes a mockery of the very notion of religious freedom,” said Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society. “We applaud this decision which honors our client’s constitutional rights under the First Amendment as well as its statutory rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and we thank Professor Patrick T. Gillen of Ave Maria Law School, our special counsel, for his help in winning this splendid result for our client, one that sets another strong precedent for the free exercise of religious faith on the part of all American citizens.” The judge’s decision found that the government could not enforce the Obamacare provision against the company, nor could it attempt to impose penalties or fines. “Ordered that judgment is entered in favor of plaintiff and against defendants on plaintiff’s claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” the judge wrote.”
HEALTHCARE FOR ILLEGALS PUSHES CALIFORNIA’S BUDGET TO $5.8 BILLION OVER INFLATION
“Over the last 15 years, California racked up three small surpluses, two break-evens and 10 huge deficits. “There’s not a lot of money left in the budget,” said Gov. Jerry Brown regarding the $164.7 billion budget unveiled Friday. “It’s very tight.” The real reason money is tight is Brown and the Democratic legislature increased spending by five percent in a period when inflation is averaging 1.3 percent. California’s proposed spending will jump $5.8 billion more than inflation. Jerry Brown tried to sound financially responsible when he crowed that his budget projects a $1.2 billion surplus, but he avoided addressing out-of-control healthcare costs. Buried in Brown’s spending plan is the fact that the state’s Medi-Cal enrollment expansion is $2.5 million over projection, the least expensive Covered California health plan premium just jumped by 11.7 percent and the state’s un-funded retiree medical liability is $71.8 billion. Unmentioned in the Governor’s spending proposals are the healthcare costs for another million illegal adult immigrants residing in California that are now eligible for Medi-Cal enrollment since President Obama’s expanded his executive order to include adults, as long as they qualify by income. Since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) took effect, Medi-Cal enrollment has expanded from 7.9 million people in 2012-13 to 12.2 million people this year. Two million people newly enrolled in Medi-Cal last year, but Brown’s budget proposal estimates only another 300,000 will sign up during the 2015-16 budget year. Brown’s supposed “balanced budget” has no provision for another million illegals. Originally titled as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, there were are 125,000 that would have gained coverage under Medi-Cal in 2013. But President Obama made 5 million more adult illegal aliens eligible for renewable two-year deferred deportation and work eligibility in November of 2014. The federal government will fund the total cost for the first three years for any newly “eligible” Medi-Cal expanded population. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that DACA adult grantees are lawfully present in the United States — and now California is responsible to provide Medi-Cal coverage another one million adult illegals residing in California. According to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Governor’s Proposed Budget assumed average per member per month (PMPM) costs for the mandatory Medi-Cal expansion population was $139 for adults and $97 for children. Therefore, the cost to California for another one million Medi-Cal enrollees is $1.668 billion. California may appear to have financially improved due to a stronger economy and Proposition 30 temporary tax increases. But proposing to spend $5.8 billion more than inflation and dramatically under estimating healthcare costs means California may soon be back in serious financial trouble.”
Visa waiver program poses security threat, Dem senator says
“Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Sunday that the U.S. visa waiver program poses a threat to national security by making it easier for terrorists to enter the United States. “The visa waiver program is the Achilles heel of America,” Feinstein said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” urging Congress to examine the program. “[Terrorists] could come back from training, they go to a visa waiver country and they could come into this country.” The California Democrat was responding to the attacks in Paris last week in which Muslim extremists targeted satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish deli. Seventeen people died. Critics have said France was lax in tracking the three men behind the attacks, all of whom were killed last week. Feinstein replied that it’s “difficult to ferret someone out” as they travel country to country. “There are stolen travel documents in large numbers,” she said. “They could pick up a false passport … We have a big problem there.” Defenders of the U.S. visa waiver program said it has heightened U.S. security by increasing intelligence sharing between countries.”
DHS spending bill to ID sanctuary cities; Obama amnesty fight looms
“The House GOP’s new homeland security spending bill released Friday would require the Obama administration to name-and-shame so-called sanctuary city jurisdictions that refuse to hold illegal immigrants for federal authorities to deport. The get-tough bill boosts funding for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement by 10 percent, signaling the desire by the House GOP to pressure President Obama to step up, rather than cut, enforcement against illegal immigrants. Still, the bill does not explicitly halt President Obama’s deportation amnesty. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said lawmakers will have a chance to amend the bill to try to halt the amnesty next week, when the bill reaches the House floor. “We will also consider a series of amendments which respond to the president’s executive action,” Mr. McCarthy said on the House floor. The spending bill is designed to fund the Homeland Security Department for the rest of fiscal year 2015. The department is currently operating on a short-term bill that expires on Feb. 27. Funding for airport security, the Coast Guard, cybersecurity, the Secret Service and a host of other operations is included, but most of the attention will go to immigration, because of the battle with Mr. Obama over his new policy to grant amnesty from deportation to 4 million more illegal immigrants.”
House GOP Won’t Target DACA In Main Response to Obama’s Executive Orders
“House Republicans settled on a plan to withhold funding for President Obama’s most recent executive orders on immigration and related policies, though not the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that the president announced in the run-up to his reelection campaign. The House will vote on a separate, stand-alone amendment that would withhold funding for the DACA program, according to an announcement from Representative Lou Barletta (R., Penn.), one of the lead authors on the original amendment. Both of these bills will be offered as amendments to the bill that finances the Department of Homeland Security beyond February 27. The small groups of lawmakers negotiating the legislation seemed likely to include the DACA language in the larger package, but some Republicans pushed back on the idea during the House GOP conference meeting Friday morning. Republican Representative Mike Coffman, who represents a tossup district with a significant Hispanic population, was among those arguing against the inclusion of the DACA language. (Coffman is one of the 11 Republicans who voted against attacking the DACA program when the issue came up during the summer border crisis.) Some conservative lawmakers shared Coffman’s view, but for tactical reasons. Representative Mick Mulvaney (R., S.C.) “argued to leave DACA alone because that is what Obama will use to demagogue [Republicans] knowing that his adult amnesty is less popular,” one Republican congressman who was in the meeting tells National Review Online. And so, DACA is out, but it gets a separate vote. Instead, the main legislation will include a ban on funding policies that are “substantially similar” to the November executive orders. “It also “prevent[s] any funds from any source from being used to carry out the so-called ‘Morton Memos,’ which directed immigration officers to ignore broad categories of illegal immigrants,” Barletta’s announcement says. Additionally, the bill declares that the president’s policies have no basis in federal law or the Constitution and therefore have no legal effect.” The lead authors on this final package are Barletta, Representative Robert Aderholt (R., Ala.), and Representative Mick Mulvaney. The bill is a compromise between Mulvaney (who preferred to focus on the November executive orders) and a more aggressive package that Aderholt and Barletta worked on with the help of Representative Lamar Smith (R., Texas). “When we passed the CROmibus at the end of last year, I wanted to make sure that we fulfilled the promise that we would be back to block amnesty at the earliest possible moment,” Barletta said. “If you look back at where we were in December, this bill will accomplish even more than we discussed back then.”
Bill to Defund Homeland Security Unlikely to Pass Senate
“Late last year, Republicans decided to fund the Homeland Security department only through February in hopes of using the agency’s funding as a lever to force change on immigration once the GOP controlled both houses of Congress. But the bill will need 60 votes to clear the Senate, meaning at least six Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents would have to vote yes. That looks to be nearly impossible. A survey of several Democratic senators who have been critical of the executive action found most saying they would not support the effort. “I’m not looking for a political fight. I’m looking to solve a problem,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) said in a statement. An aide said the senator is likely to oppose any Homeland Security spending bill that blocks the executive action. Sen. Angus King (I., Maine), is also opposed, said his spokeswoman, Kathleen Connery Dawe. “Sen. King does not support the House bill to defund the president’s executive action on immigration,” she said. “Withholding funds from the Department of Homeland Security would be particularly dangerous at a time of worldwide terrorist threats.” An aide to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) said she believes “the only responsible way for Republicans to supersede this executive order is to finally consider, debate and vote on comprehensive immigration reform.” An aide said Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) would likely vote against the House bill, and a spokesman for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), who voiced concerns about executive action this fall, said she opposes defunding Mr. Obama’s November action. An aide to Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.) said the senator is opposed to using the Homeland Security budget to roll back the executive order. Mr. Tester said in a statement: “If the House had passed the comprehensive, bipartisan immigration bill that the Senate passed a year and a half ago, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. I wish the president wouldn’t have gone out on his own, but threatening the Department of Homeland Security’s budget doesn’t solve the immigration crisis or strengthen our borders.” None of the Senate Democratic offices interviewed indicated they would support the move, but one, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D., Ind.), was noncommittal. “Senator Donnelly will take a look at any immigration-related proposals as they come forward,” a spokeswoman said. Of course, even if the measure passed both houses, the plan was certain to draw a presidential veto, and neither house has the votes needed to override that.”
Paris terrorist attacks raise stakes for looming immigration fight
“Terrorist attacks by Islamic fundamentalists in Paris and Sydney have raised the stakes in a looming battle over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, say Republican and Democratic officials. Senate and House Republicans are warning against a standoff with President Obama and Senate Democrats that could shut down the department tasked with protecting the homeland within weeks of terrorist attacks against Western targets. They worry the GOP could wind up taking the blame, which is what happened when a dispute over implementation of the Affordable Care Act shuttered the federal government for 16 days.
While Republicans are unified in their desire to reverse the executive order Obama issued after Election Day shielding an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation, some are warning Tea Party colleagues such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) not to take the fight too far. “Defunding that part of the bill that deals with enforcing the executive order makes sense but we can’t go too far here because look what happened in Paris. The Department of Homeland Security needs to be up and running,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Former Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) on Friday called it “absolutely essential” that counterterrorism be funded given the spate of attacks around the world. A Senate GOP aide warned that Democrats would pounce on a departmental shutdown to accuse Republicans of prioritizing the desires of their conservative base over national security. “There’s no question that if the DHS shuts down in some way, Democrats will do everything to take full advantage of the situation,” the aide said. A senior Senate Democratic aide said Republicans would lose the public relations battle over homeland security, especially after the deadly attacks on the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. “Republican efforts to play politics with Department of Homeland Security, which is actively engaged against the threat posed by ISIS, is a dangerous and risky move that can backfire,” the aide said, making reference to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “The House proposal is an attempt to throw a hunk of red meat to the right at a time when the nation is at risk for attack,” the aide added. House Republicans held a closed-door meeting Friday to discuss using the Homeland Security funding bill to fight Obama’s immigration policies, just as authorities in Paris were in two separate standoffs with suspected terrorists. Leaders “kept emphasizing” the House package would be narrowly tailored toward stopping Obama’s executive actions and would not jeopardize funding for things like border security and counterterrorism measures, said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.). They plan to move legislation next week that would fund the department through the end of the fiscal year along with amendments to block Obama’s unilateral action on immigration, fulfilling a promise many Republicans campaigned on in the fall. One amendment would halt the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Obama enacted in 2012 to shield illegal immigrants who came to the county at a young age, continuously resided in the country, and have a clean record. Another would prohibit the department from using fees to carry Obama’s executive orders, which are otherwise insulated from congressional spending decisions. Senate Republicans say they will do everything possible to pick off enough centrist Democrats to pass it over the 60-vote hurdle required of most major legislation in the Senate, but Democrats declared it dead on arrival.”
DEMOCRATS TO USE PARIS ATTACK TO HALT GOP LIMITS ON OBAMA’S AMNESTY PLANS
“By some reports, Democrats may attempt to use the terror attacks in Paris to try and stop the Republicans from using budget negotiations for the Department of Homeland Security as a means to put a crimp in the President’s amnesty plans. Last week, House Republicans revealed that they intended to propose a DHS budget that would defund the President’s amnesty plans that are to be implemented through the security agency. Speaking for those Republicans who want to take money targeted for amnesty away from the DHS, Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) said on Friday, “We are not going to allow taxpayer dollars to be used to fund those unlawful orders.” But now, after radical Islamists attacked a French newspaper killing 12, some are reporting that Democrats intend to use the attacks as a means to put a halt to any debate over the security agency’s budget. DC-based political newspaper, The Hill, quoted one Congressional staffer saying that Democrats would invoke the terror attack in the coming debate. “Republican efforts to play politics with Department of Homeland Security, which is actively engaged against the threat posed by ISIS, is a dangerous and risky move that can backfire,” the aide said. Still, some Republicans are saying that they are worried that the Democrat attack will find receptive ears both in Congress and in the public. One willing to go on the record with his reservations is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “Defunding that part of the bill that deals with enforcing the executive order makes sense but we can’t go too far here because look what happened in Paris. The Department of Homeland Security needs to be up and running,” he told The Hill. Republicans like Graham are afraid that the GOP will get blamed if there is a shutdown of DHS should budget negotiations stall. On the other hand, conservatives continue to point out that even with the partial shutdown of the government early in 2013, the GOP did not get any blame for shutting down the government then. In fact, the GOP won a landslide election in the very next election after that budget discussion.”
The coming Republican failure on immigration
“Republicans in Congress are nearly unanimous in opposing President Obama’s unilateral executive action on immigration. Nearly all want Congress to overturn the president’s edict. But how to do it? Republicans have two basic options, and as the time to act nears, it appears they are preparing to choose the one more likely to fail. The first option is to pass a brief, simple bill that denies funding for the implementation of Obama’s action, as announced last Nov. 20 and as outlined in memoranda from both the Department of Homeland Security and the White House. Such a move would be direct, unambiguous, and would focus specifically on Obama’s action, which is what the controversy is about in the first place. The second option is to begin with a defunding measure but then add other provisions, targeting not just Obama’s executive action but also a large chunk of the president’s immigration policy going back five years. The first, simpler, option probably has the greatest likelihood of success. The second is more complex, and each additional component is likely to give some lawmaker — a few moderate Republicans or the Democrats whose votes are needed for passage in the Senate — a reason to vote against the measure. While nothing is set in stone, it appears the GOP leadership seems to be headed toward the second option. In answering the president’s overreach on immigration, Capitol Hill Republicans are engaging in some overreach of their own. The House Rules Committee has published a list of five amendments to be considered on the immigration question. The key amendment is from Reps. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, and Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania. It’s also the most ambitious and most likely to scare off lawmakers wary of going beyond reversing Obama’s action of last November. The Aderholt amendment begins by banning the expenditure of any money for the implementation of “any of the policy changes set forth” in the so-called Morton Memos, referring to a set of memoranda issued by former Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief John Morton. The amendment specifically bans funds for the implementation of policies in four such memos, dated March 2, 2011; June 17, 2011; Nov. 17, 2011; and Dec. 21, 2012. Together, the memos undermined the enforcement of several key immigration laws, basically making it much harder for federal officials to deport immigrants in the U.S. illegally. After undoing the Morton Memos, the amendment would attack Obama’s recent unilateral action. Specifically, it would bar funding for the implementation of any policies set forth in a series of eleven memos released on Nov. 20 and 21 of last year, when the president announced his action. The bottom line is that instead of simply negating Obama’s November 2014 action on immigration, the GOP would instead attempt to overturn the administration’s policies going back to early 2011. One big issue left out of the Aderholt amendment is DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that constitutes one of Obama’s most far-reaching unilateral rewrites of immigration law. Republicans decided to attack DACA in a separate amendment, this one by Rep. Marsha Blackburn. Her measure would deny funding “to consider or adjudicate any new, renewal, or previously denied application for any alien requesting consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals.” Since those currently affected by DACA are required to renew their status every two years, that would be the end of DACA. Why do a separate amendment for DACA? Why not just include it in the Aderholt amendment? The reason is there are a few Republicans who are not inclined to overturn DACA. Making separate amendments would allow them to vote for Aderholt and against Blackburn, thus still voting to overturn the president’s recent executive action. Yet another Republican amendment is by Reps. Ron DeSantis and Martha Roby. It would very specifically target the administration’s priority structure for removing criminal immigrants. Currently some domestic violence and sex offenders are not in the highest-priority removal category. The DeSantis-Roby measure would put them there. Finally, there are two other amendments, one by Rep. Matt Salmon and the other by Rep. Aaron Schock, that are so-called “sense of Congress” amendments, meaning they are not binding and don’t really mean anything. The Salmon measure says government policy should not favor illegal immigrants over people in the United States legally — that it is the sense of Congress that “the executive branch should refrain from pursuing policies, such as granting deferred action and work authorization to unlawfully present individuals, that disadvantage the hiring of United States citizens and those in lawful immigration status in the United States.” The Schock amendment says the government should not favor those in the country illegally over those patiently waiting their turn to come to the U.S. legally — that it is the sense of Congress that federal officials should “stop putting the interests of aliens who are unlawfully present in the United States ahead of the interests of aliens who are following proper immigration laws and procedures by adjudicating petitions and applications for immigration benefits submitted by aliens unlawfully present in the United States.” So that is the lineup. The only way for a lawmaker to vote to undo Obama’s executive action from last November is to vote for the Aderholt measure — but that would also mean voting to rescind the Morton Memos and administration policy over the last several years. It is not hard to imagine a Democrat saying, “I’m troubled by what the president did in November, but I’m not comfortable voting to overturn his entire policy.” The bottom line is that by broadening the effort to overrule Obama in the Aderholt amendment, Republicans are likely making sure that fewer lawmakers will vote for it, especially in the Senate. By the way, Republicans did have a clean, simple amendment that would have reversed only Obama’s November action. It was filed by Roby on Tuesday with the title “Prevention of Executive Amnesty Act of 2015.” But by the time the leadership got through with things, the original Roby bill was nowhere to be seen. There is some dark talk in the Capitol that it’s all intentional, that the House leadership is sabotaging its own amendments, structuring them to make them unpassable in the Senate, because it really doesn’t want to overturn the president’s action. “It’s sending a bill to the Senate that is designed not to pass the Senate,” says one GOP congressional aide, “because members who are on the fence, whose votes we could have gotten, are going to know they have a pretext to vote no.” At the least, such talk is a measure of the distrust of leadership that prevails in some House and Senate circles. Of course something will pass. Lots of lawmakers will vote for the DeSantis amendment and prioritize enforcement against illegal immigrants who are domestic violence offenders or sexual predators. Why oppose that? And why not vote to say you believe the U.S. should favor American citizens over illegal immigrants? Those are easy votes that don’t mean much. But on the main issue — overturning Obama’s executive action of last November — Republicans have made success less, not more, likely by including other provisions. Actually rescinding Obama’s action was always going to be almost impossible to do. Republicans would be enormously fortunate to win 60 votes to defeat a Democratic filibuster in the Senate and send a rescind bill to the president’s desk. But if Obama vetoes it, as he certainly will, Republicans don’t have the 290 votes in the House and 67 in the Senate needed to override. So ultimate victory isn’t really in the cards. But many Republicans strongly believe they have to try — and if they succeed, they will force the president to veto a bill passed by a supermajority of Congress. That’s not a politically happy thing to do. Now, though, it may never come to that, not because of anything Obama did but because Republicans have undermined their own chances to succeed.”
Immigration Group Urges Congress to Join States in Fight Against Immigration Executive Action
“As 25 states sue the Obama administration over the president’s controversial executive amnesty order, an immigration group is urging Congress to join the fight on behalf of taxpayers and the Constitution. “For six years, the Obama administration has been obsessed with centralizing power but refused to use it to enforce immigration laws. Instead, they’ve focused their efforts on dismantling enforcement and shutting down states that have tried to enact bills reacting to the inaction in Washington,” said Bob Dane, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Dane added: “Congress must also act to restore its power to ‘establish a uniform rule of naturalization’ under Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 of the Constitution, meaning Congress makes the laws; the president must carry them out.” Outgoing Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., issued a scathing report over the weekend, declaring that less than 3 percent of illegal immigrants will ever be deported. Last week, the Congressional Research Service announced that illegal immigration began to rise in 2012 after a five-year lull.”
Norquist coming to Lincoln to promote immigration reform
“Grover Norquist, a national conservative leader with a big streak of renegade in him, is coming to Lincoln to promote immigration reform, which he supports primarily on economic grounds. Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform, an advocacy group he founded in 1985 at President Ronald Reagan’s request. ATR works to limit the size and cost of government and opposes higher taxes at the federal, state and local levels. His conservative credentials include his membership on the boards of the National Rifle Association of America and the American Conservative Union. His most famous quote is: “My goal is to cut government in half in 25 years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Newt Gingrich called Norquist “the person who I regard as the most innovative, creative, courageous and entrepreneurial leader of the anti-tax efforts and of conservative grassroots activism in America. … He has truly made a difference and truly changed American history.” But Norquist parts ways with many conservatives on the issue of immigration. In an essay he wrote in 2013 for The Guardian, Norquist wrote, “People are an asset, not a liability. The United States is the most immigrant-friendly nation in the world and the richest country in the world. This is not a coincidence. Those voices that would make us less immigrant-friendly would make us less successful, less prosperous and certainly less American.” He endorsed immigration reform legislation that would allow 11 million undocumented immigrants to earn legal status by submitting to a background check to weed out those with felony convictions, and paying taxes and a fine. “This legislation would greatly strengthen the American economy,” he wrote in The Guardian. Norquist was invited to speak at an invitation-only reception and dinner Feb. 2 at Lincoln Station by a coalition of businesses, people, lawyers and interest groups: the Nebraska Restaurant Association, the Nebraska Retail Federation, Nebraska Cattlemen Association, League of Women Voters of Lancaster County, Prairie Fire — The Progressive Voice of the Great Plains, Brown Immigration Law LLC of Lincoln and Justice for Our Neighbors of Nebraska, a nonprofit in Omaha. “He’s famous for his stance on tax reform,” said Jim Partington, executive director of the restaurant group. “He’s equally eloquent on immigration, but it doesn’t get as much attention.” Partington insists the immigration issue isn’t divided along traditional political lines, conservative/liberal, nor Democratic/Republican. Both President Bushes favored reform, he said, and so do mainstream Republican-leaning business organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. On the other hand, some left-leaning people favor harsh immigration policies they think will protect U.S. jobs. Partington said he was on a panel of a National Immigration Forum when he became aware of Norquist’s positions on the issues. The Nebraska Coalition for Immigration Reform, an informal gathering for years, supported a pro-reform resolution passed last year by the Nebraska Legislature, LR399. “So that’s how we got started,” Partington said. “A broad-based coalition, a spectrum of political interests.” The Nebraska Coalition for Immigration Reform and Prairie Fire produced an advocacy study in 2013 from roundtable discussions in five Nebraska communities: Crete, Omaha, Norfolk, Lexington and Scottsbluff. “We’re hoping Grover’s coming here will open some eyes,” Partington said.”
Immigration Reform Is a High Priority
“Senator Orrin Hatch issued a list of high priorities including a priority to reform the immigration policy for high-skilled workers.He denounced President Obama’s executive order on immigration because it doesn’t offer any legal remedy for those who are here illegally. It doesn’t provide them with a guarantee of amnesty from deportation. The Senator said that the Republican Party should enact legislation to secure the border, verify legal workers with an authorization check, and check for expired visas. The legislature should then consider if the system favors attenuated family members over trained professionals. Whenever illegal immigration is considered, four main points are debated. They are that crime on the street will increase, unemployment will increase, social services will cost more, and the economy will slow down. When crime on the street is considered, the Department of Homeland Security estimated immigrants accounted for 20 percent of the criminals incarcerated. The DHS also reported that only 8.6 percent of people in the country are non-citizens. This does not imply that illegals are a major cause of crime. It did report that in some areas, the immigration incarceration percentage was very high. When employment of high-skilled personnel is considered, Stephen Moore with the Heritage Foundation compared the economic advantages of giving trained professionals working visas to an untapped gold mine. Most economists agree, but they point out that those without a high school diploma will suffer a decrease in wages. Therefore, the upper income workers should do well and the lower-income workers might suffer. However, if the economy grows, all sectors of the economy should improve. Making it possible for a skilled and trained immigrant to work here, should be a high priority of any reform. The biggest problem of making a high priority of illegal immigration reform is the cost of social services caused by it. With over 11.6 estimated illegal immigrants living in the United States in 2012, the cost was over $113 billion in 2010. The expenses have escalated since these figures were released. With medical costs, education costs, and housing costs increasing, state budgets are stretched to the point of bankruptcy. These social service costs must be considered in any immigration reform.”
Momentum builds in Congress for raising the federal gas tax
“Record-low gas prices across the U.S. have given rise to fresh talk in Washington of raising the federal gas tax for the first time in over 20 years, with leading Republicans now saying a hike must not be ruled out. The GOP has long resisted calls from business leaders and others to boost the 18.4 cent-per-gallon tax as a way to pay for upgrades to the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges. Yet in recent days, senior Senate Republicans have said they want to keep options open and that “nothing is off the table” when weighing the best mechanisms to pay to finance infrastructure projects. “I just think that option is there, it’s clearly one of the options,” said Sen. Inhofe (R-Okla.), new chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the third-ranking Senate Republican, also said they were open to the possibility of raising the tax. Democratic leaders in both chambers of Congress, meanwhile, declared this week that “now is the time” for an increase. While major obstacles stand in the way — namely the House of Representatives —business groups believe there is a real chance to raise the tax in the final two years of the Obama administration. “Comments this week from Sens. Inhofe, Hatch and Thune signal a growing recognition that the gas tax is a fair and consistent way to fund our infrastructure needs,” Association of Equipment Manufacturers spokesman Michael O’Brien said in an interview on Thursday. Democrats have typically been more open to the idea of hiking the gas tax, but it’s the shift in Republicans’ tone that is drawing more attention to the possibility. Inhofe argues lawmakers “don’t have a choice” but to consider raising the gas tax, which he says is more accurately called a “user fee” — a characterization the founder of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, has yet to sign off on. Americans for Tax Reform said it is still opposed to the idea of increasing the gas tax, despite the recent decline in fuel prices. “Before Congress even thinks about asking Americans to pay higher prices at the pump, it should make sure that the $33 billion the federal government collects annually from drivers is spent efficiently,” the anti-tax group said in a statement that was provided to The Hill. The tax reform group, however, did not say whether it would consider a gas tax hike this year a violation of its anti-tax pledge, which is signed by almost every Republican in the nation who runs for federal office. Inhofe said he has a response to those who may pushback against considering the fee as a viable option. “I remind my conservative friends, and people who ask the question about maybe as a part of a package having to increase the user fees, that this is what we are supposed to be doing,” Inhofe told The Hill in a brief interview. “The user fee is very, very popular. The evidence of that is a lot of states are doing that on their own because ‘well if the federal government won’t do it we’ve got to do something about the roads,'” Inhofe said.”
President Obama’s community college proposal doesn’t make the grade
“But under Mr. Obama’s plan, taxpayers would pay even for those who could pay for themselves. If additional money can be found for education, why not direct it to those who face the highest barriers? Further increasing the size of Pell Grants, for example, would be a more progressive way to help very needy students. Larger Pell Grants would also be usable at four-year colleges and universities, which could give some poor students a better chance at success, and not just at community colleges. The government should at least make Pell Grants available year-round, so that students could study over the summer, rather than just during the school year. These are all higher priorities. If the president wants to help those who earn just too much to qualify for Pell Grants, he could consider means testing community college tuition assistance some other way. The White House, however, hasn’t gamed out how means testing would affect the proposal, in part, apparently, for philosophical reasons. “The president believes that it is time to make college education the norm, and that about 100 years ago this country decided that high school would be the norm and that now is the time to make sure that all Americans, regardless of age, have access to higher education,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Friday. That’s a fine goal. But in an era of constrained resources, there are better ways of improving access to higher education than establishing a new middle-class entitlement.”
Six Reasons Why Obama’s Free Community College is a Poor Investment
Gas tax, infrastructure funding puts some daylight between GOP House, Senate leaders
‘Is this a joke?’ Bozell’s 7 million group unloads on GOP senators embracing gas tax
“The clutch of Republican senators signaling an openness to raising the federal gas tax just as prices are finally dropping has sparked angry shouts of “betrayal” by conservatives, led by the 7.1 million-member ForAmerica and the Americans for Tax Reform. “It is appalling that there are Republicans actually considering this. It’s a betrayal of the pledges they made to their constituents,” said ForAmerica Chairman Brent Bozell. “Is this a joke?” he added. Many Republican activists and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce back a tax hike to fix problem roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure. Some believe that the dramatic drop in gas prices over the past few months is a good time to raise the fee because it wouldn’t impact drivers like it would have when prices were hovering well over $3 a gallon.”
Obama on State of the Union: It’s going great
“President Obama’s weekly remarks: Hi, everybody. About a year ago, I promised that 2014 would be a breakthrough year for America. And this week, we got more evidence to back that up. In December, our businesses created 240,000 new jobs. The unemployment rate fell to 5.6%. That means that 2014 was the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s. In 2014, unemployment fell faster than it has in three decades. Over a 58-month streak, our businesses have created 11.2 million new jobs. After a decade of decline, American manufacturing is in its best stretch of job growth since the ‘90s. America is now the world’s number one producer of oil and gas, helping to save drivers about a buck-ten a gallon at the pump over this time last year. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance in the past year alone. We have cut our deficits by about two-thirds. And after 13 long years, our war in Afghanistan has come to a responsible end, and more of our brave troops have come home. It has been six years since the crisis. Those years have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everybody’s part. So as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve got to show for it. America’s resurgence is real. And now that we’ve got some calmer waters, if we all do our part, if we all pitch in, we can make sure that tide starts lifting all boats again. We can make sure that the middle class is the engine that powers America’s prosperity for decades to come.
That’ll be the focus of my State of the Union Address in a couple weeks — building on the progress we’ve made. But I figured, why wait — let’s get started right now. On Wednesday, I visited a Ford plant outside of Detroit — because the American auto industry and its home state are redefining the word “comeback.” On Thursday, I traveled to Arizona, a state that was hit among the hardest by the housing crisis, to announce a new plan that will put hundreds of dollars in new homeowners’ pockets, and help more new families buy their first home. And, I’m speaking with you today from Pellissippi State Community College in Tennessee, a state making big strides in education, to unveil my new plan to make two years of community college free for every responsible student. I’m also here to establish a new hub that will attract more good-paying, high-tech manufacturing jobs to our shores. Making home-ownership easier. Bringing a higher education within reach. Creating more good jobs that pay good wages. These are just some of the ways we can help every American get ahead in the new economy. And there’s more to come. Because America is coming back. And I want to go full speed ahead. Thanks, everybody, and have a great weekend.”
Obama Weekly Address: “America Is Coming Back” (video)
Obama takes economic victory lap: ‘America is coming back’
“President Obama is highlighting the country’s recent economic gains, boasting that employers appear now to be more confident than they’ve been since the start of the great recession in 2008. “About a year ago, I promised that 2014 would be a breakthrough year for America. And this week, we got more evidence to back that up,” the president said in his weekly address Saturday. Employers added approximately 252,000 jobs in December, pushing the unemployment rate from 5.8 to 5.6 percent, according to a report released Friday by the Labor Department. This is the lowest unemployment rate since June 2008. Revised figures also revealed that employers added approximately 573,000 jobs in October and November combined, 50,000 more than initial estimates predicted, the Labor Department report added. “ was the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s. In 2014, unemployment fell faster than it has in three decades,” the president said. “It has been six years since the crisis. Those years have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everybody’s part. So as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve got to show for it. America’s resurgence is real,” he added. “And now that we’ve got some calmer waters, if we all do our part, if we all pitch in, we can make sure that tide starts lifting all boats again. We can make sure that the middle class is the engine that powers America’s prosperity for decades to come.” Obama promised in his weekend remarks that he would make the U.S. economy and its recent gains a central theme of his upcoming State of the Union address to Congress. “Creating more good jobs that pay good wages. These are just some of the ways we can help every American get ahead in the new economy. And there’s more to come. Because America is coming back. And I want to go full speed ahead,” he said.”
Obama puts focus on middle class growth
Democrats, in a stark shift in messaging, to make big tax-break pitch for middle class
“Senior Democrats, dissatisfied with the party’s tepid prescriptions for combating income inequality, are drafting an “action plan” that calls for a massive transfer of wealth from the super-rich and Wall Street traders to the heart of the middle class. The centerpiece of the proposal, set to be unveiled Monday by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), is a “paycheck bonus credit” that would shave $2,000 a year off the tax bills of couples earning less than $200,000. Other provisions would nearly triple the tax credit for child care and reward people who save at least $500 a year. The windfall — about $1.2 trillion over a decade — would come directly from the pockets of Wall Street “high rollers” through a new fee on financial transactions, and from the top 1 percent of earners, who would lose billions of dollars in lucrative tax breaks. The plan also would use the tax code to prod employers to boost wages, which have been stagnant for four decades despite gains in productivity and profits. “This is a plan to help tackle the challenge of our times,” Van Hollen said, previewing a Monday speech at the Center for American Progress. “We want a growing economy that works for all Americans, not just the wealthy few.” With Republicans in control on Capitol Hill, Democrats have little hope of pushing the plan through Congress. Instead, they are looking to craft an alternative to GOP plans to cut tax rates for the top earners, and to shape a new Democratic agenda for 2016 that offers voters the promise of genuine change. The plan marks a rejection of the more cautious approach to economic policy taken last year by President Obama and Democratic leaders. That strategy — which emphasized raising the minimum wage, achieving pay equity for women and easing the burden of college debt — tanked with voters. Democrats lost 13 seats in the House and nine in the Senate, ceding control of that chamber to Republicans.”
Dems suit up for tax reform battle
U.S.-funded Afghan police payroll at risk of waste and abuse: watchdog
“The United States is spending more than $300 million a year on Afghan police officer salaries despite a significant risk that the funds are being wasted and abused, a U.S. government watchdog said on Monday. In an audit of Afghan National Police (ANP) salaries, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), said police rosters were inflated, staff were overpaid and payments were made to more employees than were authorized. It said the organizations responsible for verifying police data – the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the multi-national Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) – had not properly scrutinized figures provided by Afghanistan’s interior ministry (MOI). “Officials confirmed that over the past year they accepted, without question, all personnel totals provided by the MOI,” SIGAR said. Worries about lack of accountability have long dogged the trust fund established by the UNDP in 2002 to administer the payment of salaries of more than 145,000 Afghan police officers. The United States has provided 38 percent of the $3.6 billion that the international community has contributed to the fund since 2002, according to SIGAR. Overall, the United States has poured more than $100 billion into reconstruction in Afghanistan. The country is ranked one of the most corrupt in the world, and donors are worried about lack of progress in fighting graft. FRAUD AND ABUSE The audit said ANP identification cards were the main method to help protect against fraud and abuse, but found they were not being used properly, and that there were almost twice as many cards in circulation as active police personnel. Despite nine years of development, an electronic human resources system, critical for ensuring the proper personnel were being paid and given the correct amount, had not been successfully implemented, SIGAR said. One in five ANP personnel were at risk of not receiving their full salaries because they were paid in cash by an MOI appointed agent, a process the watchdog said “lacks documentation and accountability”. CSTC-A reported that corrupt practices within the agent system of salary payments could siphon off as much as 50 percent of a policeman’s earnings, it added. SIGAR said Washington would have increasingly limited oversight of ANP data collection processes as U.S. and coalition forces continued to draw down and transfer security responsibility to the Afghan government. “Unless the MOI develops the capability to ensure and verify the accuracy of ANP personnel and payroll data, there is a significant risk that a large portion of … U.S. government funding for ANP salaries will be wasted or abused,” SIGAR said. Among its recommendations, the audit called for controls to monitor police attendance and a fully operational electronic payroll system by Jan. 2016.”
The Economic Impact of Falling Oil Prices: “Expansionary Disinflation”
Republicans, court ship oil pipeline decision back to Obama
GOP’s Hoeven: Keystone is all about jobs and only Obama’s in the way
“Sen. John Hoeven gives the Republican Party’s Weekly Remarks: Hi, I’m Senator John Hoeven from North Dakota and I’d like to talk to you about why I believe we should pass legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline — and why making it the first bill we take up in the new Congress is important. I want to start, however, with some good news we got yesterday from Nebraska. The Nebraska Supreme Court has decided that their state has properly determined the route of the Keystone KL pipeline. Now, only the federal government is holding it up, and that’s unfortunate because the Keystone XL pipeline is all about energy, jobs, economic growth, and national security. Along with roads, rail, and transmission lines, pipelines like the Keystone XL are part of a comprehensive national energy plan. The pipeline will carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day, including 100,000 barrels of domestic oil from North Dakota and Montana. Working with one of our closest friends and allies, Canada, we can achieve true North American energy security at home, and at the same time help our allies abroad, which makes our people more secure both here and overseas. The oil and gas we are producing in North America is already changing the global geo-political dynamic, weakening petro-dependent states like Russia, Iran, and Venezuela and strengthening America. Domestic energy production is also good news for American families and small businesses because increased supply is reducing the price of gas at the pump and putting more money in their pockets. Lower prices at the pump, down by more than 60 cents a gallon from a year ago, will have the equivalent effect of cutting taxes in the U.S. by between $100 billion and $125 billion, according to economists. That is a tremendous boon to the American economy because energy is a foundational industry. Virtually every other industry sector depends on it and does better when energy prices are lower. The benefits of lower energy prices flow across the economic spectrum, but they especially help middle and low income households because those households spend a larger share of their budget on energy.
In 2013, energy accounted for 27 percent of after-tax household income for families making less than $30,000, but only 9 percent for households making $50,000 or more. But make no mistake: gasoline prices aren’t lower now because OPEC decided to give us a Christmas present this year.”
Republican senator slams Obama’s Keystone veto threat
“North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven slammed President Obama Saturday for threatening to veto a bill approving the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline “even before he’s seen the final product.” The House passed a bill green-lighting the long-stalled project Friday – the tenth time such a measure has passed the House in the last three years – and the newly Republican-led Senate is expected to take up the measure next week. The president, though, vowed this week to veto any attempts by Congress to force his hand on the pipeline, which has been delayed for six years pending the completion of an executive branch review process. Hoeven, a Republican tasked with delivering the party’s weekly address, argued Saturday that six years is quite long enough. “If the president isn’t willing to get on board with the Keystone XL pipeline – which nearly 70 percent of the American people support, all the states along the route have approved and a bipartisan majority of Congress has passed – what will it take for him to work with us to get something done?” he asked. The pipeline, if built, would carry crude oil harvested from Canadian tar sands to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Proponents say it would increase energy security and create jobs, while foes argue those benefits are overstated and that the pipeline would exacerbate carbon pollution and climate change. Hoeven hailed a decision by Nebraska’s Supreme Court Friday overturning a lower court ruling that struck down a law proposing the pipeline’s route through the state – a decision that effectively cleared that particular impediment to the pipeline’s construction. The administration had previously cited the ongoing legal wrangling in Nebraska in its decision to continue delaying the completion of its review process. “Now, only the federal government is holding it up,” Hoeven said, “and that’s unfortunate because the Keystone XL pipeline is all about jobs, economic growth and national security.” The senator said the pipeline would aid American economic and foreign policy goals while having a minimal impact on the environment. “The oil and gas we are producing in North America is already changing the global geo-political dynamic, weakening petro-dependent states like Russia, Iran and Venezuela and strengthening America,” Hoeven said. “Domestic energy production is also good news for American families and small businesses because increased supply is reducing the price of gas at the pump and putting more money in their pockets.”
Do Senate Republicans have the votes to override Obama on Keystone?
“Republican lawmakers sounded hopeful Sunday when asked whether they have enough votes in the U.S. Senate to override President Obama’s veto threat on the Keystone XL pipeline project. Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and John Hoeven of North Dakota were asked separately on Sunday morning whether the Republican-controlled Senate can garner votes to work around Obama’s veto threat on Keystone, a project that has been held up by federal authorities for the past six years. “We don’t know, exactly, how the [House’s Keystone] bill will come out of the Senate. As you know, the new majority leader … has pledged an open process where anybody with a good idea can offer that and get a vote on it in the Senate,” Cornyn answered immediately after CBS News’ Bob Schieffer asked him whether Republicans have the votes. “But right now, on the Keystone XL pipeline, we know there is bipartisan group of roughly 63 senators who support that.” And although Cornyn ultimately admitted that Republicans do not at this moment have the 67 votes necessary to override a presidential veto, he said he’s hopeful they will have at least four more senators signed on when the time comes. “It could well happen by different amendments to get offered in the Senate and, of course, we’ve been so stuck on dysfunction that we haven’t even engaged in the normal legislative process for a long time, including conference committees between the House and the Senate. I think there’s way forward,” the Texas senator said. Elsewhere, the senator from North Dakota sounded just as optimistic. “Right now we’ve got about 63″ votes for Keystone, Hoeven told Fox’s News Chris Wallace, “but we’re going to the floor with an open amendment process, trying to foster more bipartisanship, getting the Senate to work the way it’s supposed to work, so we can pass this measure and other measures. And either override the veto or attach the bill to other legislation that will get 67 votes.”
Four More Votes Needed To Override Obama Keystone XL Veto, Senator Says [VIDEO]
Hoeven says Senate still needs four votes to pass veto-proof Keystone legislation
Will Keystone XL pipeline create 42,000 ‘new’ jobs?
Obama turns focus to Internet security, privacy
“President Barack Obama will highlight plans next week to protect American consumers and businesses from cyber threats, a month after the most high-profile hacking attack on a U.S. company. Internet security became a national focus after a cyberattack on Sony Pictures that Washington blamed on North Korea. The attack and subsequent threats of violence against theaters prompted Sony to scale back its release of “The Interview”, a comedy film that depicts the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. A White House official said on Saturday Obama would announce legislative proposals and executive actions that will be part of his Jan. 20 State of the Union address and will tackle identity theft and privacy issues, cybersecurity and broadband access. On Monday, Obama will present plans “to improve confidence in technology by tackling identity theft and improving consumer and student privacy” in a visit to the Federal Trade Commission, the official said, on condition of anonymity. Obama will host members of Congress from both parties on Tuesday to discuss common goals for the economy and national security, the official said, as the Democratic president prepares a speech that will be his first to the U.S. Congress since Republicans won the Senate in November elections. Later he will visit the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity nerve center to promote voluntary information sharing between government and private sector and industry to fight cyber threats “while protecting privacy and civil liberties”, the official said. The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center monitors threats to the country’s critical infrastructure, including energy and chemical plans, emergency and financial services and government facilities. In Iowa on Wednesday, Obama will propose new steps to increase access to affordable, high-speed broadband across the country, the White House said. Last week, the president highlighted economic issues and plans to help Americans, including a proposal to make two years of free community college tuition to students. That plan, and its $60 billion price tag over 10 years, immediately faced skepticism from Republican lawmakers on Friday.”
Obama to Announce Cybersecurity Plans in State of the Union Preview
Obama coming to Cedar Falls on Wednesday
“President Barack Obama is coming back to Iowa to pitch ideas for expanding Internet access. On Wednesday, Obama will fly in to give a speech proposing new steps to increase access to affordable, high-speed broadband across the country, a White House official told The Des Moines Register on Saturday morning. “Further details on the president’s travel to Iowa will be available in the coming days,” the official said. Sources told the Register that Cedar Falls Utilities will host the event at 2 p.m. Cedar Falls is Iowa’s only gigabit city, which means the highest-speed broadband fiber with capacity of up to 1 gigabit per second is installed directly to its homes and businesses. It’s the gold standard of Internet communications.”
Barack Obama to seek limits on student data mining
“President Barack Obama on Monday is expected to call for tough legislation to protect student privacy, adding his voice to a sizzling debate about the best way to bring the benefits of technology into the classroom without exposing students to commercial data mining. Obama is expected to urge Congress to impose a bevy of restrictions on companies that operate websites, apps and cloud-computing services aimed at the K-12 market, according to sources briefed on the announcement. The president is likely to cite as a model a landmark California law that passed last year with huge bipartisan support. Once it takes effect next January, the California law will bar education technology companies from selling student data or using that data to create profiles of students or to target them with advertising. It specifically protects a long list of data that private companies might have access to through their work with schools, including students’ grades, medical records, test scores, photos, text messages, food purchases, political affiliations, voice recordings and disciplinary records. A federal version of the California law would vastly expand the narrow student privacy protections now on the books. “This is a really big deal,” said James Steyer, the CEO of Common Sense Media, a national advocacy group which helped write the California law and plans to promote similar bills in state legislatures nationwide. “We are over the moon happy that they’re pushing this forward so quickly,” Steyer said. Obama’s student privacy push will kick off three days of campaign-style events focused on cybersecurity and billed as a preview of the State of the Union address. The president will talk about student privacy — along with consumer privacy and identity theft — in a speech scheduled for 11:55 a.m. at the Federal Trade Commission. The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment Sunday.”
Obama to Call for Laws Covering Data Hacking and Student Privacy
“President Obama on Monday will call for federal legislation intended to force American companies to be more forthcoming when credit card data and other consumer information are lost in an online breach like the kind that hit Sony, Target and Home Depot last year, White House officials said Sunday. The Personal Data Notification and Protection Act would demand a single, national standard requiring companies to inform their customers within 30 days of discovering their data has been hacked. In a speech scheduled for Monday at the Federal Trade Commission, Mr. Obama is expected to say that the current patchwork of state laws does not protect Americans and is a burden for companies that do business across the country. “As cybersecurity threats and identity theft continue to rise, recent polls show that nine in 10 Americans feel they have in some way lost control of their personal information — and that can lead to less interaction with technology, less innovation and a less productive economy,” according to a White House briefing document on the proposed legislation. Monday’s announcements are part of a weeklong focus on privacy and cybersecurity by Mr. Obama ahead of his State of the Union address next week. White House officials said they expected bipartisan support for the initiatives and did not anticipate fierce opposition from industry or advocacy organizations. But on Capitol Hill, Mr. Obama faces a Republican-controlled Congress for the first time in his presidency. It remains unclear how quickly his adversaries in the House and the Senate will move to take up the legislation, and whether disputes in other areas could delay its consideration. Consumer and privacy groups have yet to see details of the president’s proposals, and some remain concerned that any federal standard could be weaker than the robust state laws passed in recent years. California, for example, recently passed a state law protecting student data. “The problem is that the effect will likely be to pre-empt the stronger state laws,” said Marc Rotenberg, the president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, who favors disclosure faster than 30 days. “We want a federal baseline, and leave the states with the freedom to establish stronger standards.”
FCC Can’t Pick and Choose Network Neutrality Rules
“Chairman Wheeler of the Federal Communications Commission has announced that on February 26, the FCC will vote to approve sweeping new Internet regulations popularly termed “Network Neutrality.” For the first time, the FCC will vote to designate broadband and other Internet services as a “telecommunications service.” As such, the Internet will be exposed to billions of dollars in taxes and fees and hundreds of pages of FCC rules, some written decades ago, designed for land-line dial-tone telephone services. Regulating the Internet the same as dial-tone telephone services is widely recognized as harmful to the Internet and to American economic growth. Many high tech companies reached that conclusion last month. So too have broadband providers. The palliative the FCC apparently will offer is “forbearance.” With a single stroke, the FCC will both declare that broadband is a telecommunications service and “forbear” from applying a wide range of dial-tone telephone regulations. Who will decide which rules will apply to the Internet and which will not? The FCC, of course. America and the Internet need not worry about the dial-tone telephone regulations, says the FCC; many will not apply to the Internet. The FCC is telling America that it can pick and choose which telecommunications regulations to apply to the Internet. Broadband providers will challenge the FCC’s authority to label broadband services as telecommunications services. Various consumer groups and businesses with a possible opportunity under an expansive set of federal regulations will challenge the application of forbearance by the FCC. Anyone interested in the health of the communications industry should be pleased with the concept of forbearance. The statutory authority for the FCC to forbear from regulations is commonly known as “Section 10.” It was written as a deregulatory provision of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It instructs the FCC “forbear from applying any regulation or any provision of this chapter to a telecommunications carrier or telecommunications service” under specific circumstances. But forbearance is a rarely-applied deregulatory device at the FCC. The few instances that it has been used have taken years for the FCC to make a determination, and further years of court reviews. The FCC has not granted all forbearance petitions. Any effort by the FCC to forbear from regulations that apply to telecommunications services will certainly be challenged in court, and the court decisions will likely to take years to decide. If the FCC proceeds with designating broadband and Internet services as “telecommunications services,” it would be one of the largest single expansions of federal regulatory authority ever. The balancing antidote of “forbearance” in turn would be the largest exercise in regulatory “forbearance” ever. There is just one major problem with the forbearance approach the FCC contemplates…”
British PM David Cameron to meet with Obama next week
“British Prime Minister David Cameron will meet with President Obama during his trip to the United States next week, the White House announced Saturday. Obama and Cameron will have meetings at the White House on Thursday, Jan. 15 and a meeting in the Oval Office on Friday, Jan. 16, the White House said. They will discuss issues including economic growth, the Ebola virus, cybersecurity, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, international trade, Iran, counterterrorism and Russia’s actions in Ukraine. “The United Kingdom is an uniquely close friend and steadfast ally, and the president looks forward to beginning the New Year by working with Prime Minister Cameron on these issues and reaffirming the enduring special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom,” the White House said in the statement.”
How to Win Young Voters
Michelle Obama gives schoolkids a lesson in the false promises of big-government liberalism.
“…Michelle Obama’s war on fat kids gives hungry children no quarter. Regulations based on the questionably named Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 sets maximum calorie allowances; a high school senior is allowed no more than 850 calories per lunch. But that’s all right, because he has to consume, at a weekly minimum: fruit (five cups), dark green vegetables (half a cup), red/orange vegetables (one and quarter cups), legumes (half a cup), “other” vegetable (three-quarters of a cup), and “additional” vegetables” (one and a half cups). And don’t worry — those seniors won’t be hungry; the regulations’ “Tips and Suggestions” supplement suggests preparing recipes “with more vegetables” or adding “legumes and other veggies . . . for increased fiber and protein. This fills students up and keeps them satisfied all afternoon.” (My italics.) Masses of those filled-up and satisfied students have hopped on Twitter to post pictures of their exceptionally healthy vegetable-mush meals, accompanied by the sardonic hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama. And though #ThanksMichelleObama may not be Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, it amounts to the same thing. These kids are getting first-hand experience with the core of conservatism: that the details of daily life can’t be decided in distant halls of power. Seventy-five million children don’t all have the same lunch requirements. Idealistic liberal promises of “hunger-free kids” are as empty as promises of cheaper health care & keeping your doctor – or, dare I say, as empty as the kids’ stomachs. The youth are learning that big government doesn’t work. Their revolution has started. According to the Washington Times, since the rules were promulgated, 1,086,000 students have dropped out of the National Lunch Program, as have 321 school districts. The kids who haven’t dropped out are having their own Boston Tea Party: The GAO reports that “48 of 50 states [have] cited waste as a challenge,” as kids throw away “some or all of their fruits and vegetables.” (While dressed as American Indians?) According to the National School Board Association, “unintended consequences” of the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act include “trays of uneaten cafeteria food thrown in the trash.” Also, “hungry kids.” Today’s 17-year-old hungry kids are tomorrow’s 18-year-old voters. And they’ve all been given a material lesson in big-government liberalism. When we start to gear up for 2016, Reince ought to put that in some ads. And remind his colleagues that there’s a way to appeal to young people that doesn’t involve Rand Paul.”
A small band of moderate Democrats could be key to the GOP Senate’s success
“Some of the most influential senators in the new Congress are neither in the majority nor among the longest-serving. They don’t show up on the Sunday-morning talk shows, and they aren’t talking about running for president in 2016. Instead, they’re a pack of Democrats from mostly smaller, rural states who are inclined to work with Republicans on legislation President Obama doesn’t support. They may even be willing to help the GOP override his vetoes. Some of them support building the Keystone XL oil pipeline and are expected to be active as the Senate begins to debate the issue this week. Others want Congress to pass tougher sanctions against Iran, and all are open to making changes to Obama’s health-care law. All three issues have drawn veto threats from the White House in recent days. One of the biggest unanswered questions about the week-old Congress is whether the new Republican majority will be able to overcome Capitol Hill’s culture of stifling partisanship and cultivate enough Democratic support to challenge Obama. These moderate Democrats say they will cooperate if Republicans don’t use the Senate floor to score political points — as Democrats have done over the past several years. They have big expectations for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who will need to keep his larger conference unified while sustaining his promise to allow a more open and nonpartisan debate process. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who is firmly planted in the middle of both parties, said he’ll support bills “that both Republicans and Democrats who sit down and talk to each other think will make things better for us. I think you’ll see that extreme legislation — whether right or left — is going to go nowhere.” The moderates’ influence could get an early test this week as the Senate begins debating the Keystone pipeline again. Despite an Obama veto threat, the House voted Friday to authorize the long-delayed project, with the support of 28 moderate Democrats. McConnell has promised a Keystone debate of several days, with time set aside to debate proposed amendments from both parties. Passage of those amendments likely will rest with moderate Democrats…”
House Dems stay the course with their leadership team
“Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland have held the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in their caucus continuously since 2003. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina has been the third-ranking leader since 2007.”
Centrist angst over Dems’ leftward lurch
Boehner’s embrace of GOP rebels nudges House caucus to right
“Die-hard House conservatives bungled a coup against House Speaker John Boehner but now look like winners, pushing Republicans farther right. Rather than punish and isolate those who opposed him as leader, Boehner surprised many on Friday by embracing an immigration plan that’s tougher than lawmakers had expected. It would block President Barack Obama’s recent limits on deportations and undo protections for immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children. The House is heading toward a vote Wednesday. As the rebellious hard-liners celebrated, mainstream Republicans said Boehner’s decision probably portends firmly conservative approaches to other issues. That would complicate life for some of the more moderate Senate Republicans and ensure fierce battles with the Democratic president. Florida Rep. Richard Nugent, one of the 25 House Republicans who voted to oust Boehner, praised the Boehner-backed immigration plan. The dissidents have complained that Boehner, R-Ohio, is too willing to compromise with Obama and Democrats. But rather than seeing the rebels frozen out during private GOP discussions on immigration strategy, Nugent said, “this time it’s a very collaborative approach.” For now, though, Nugent is still off the House Rules Committee, where membership is at the speaker’s discretion. Equally enthusiastic was Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican sometimes portrayed by Democrats as the most unreasonable of conservative purists. “One of the things that has really been lacking for the last eight years is having more input like we’ve finally gotten in this bill,” Gohmert said. Some Boehner allies had urged him to punish and isolate Gohmert and the other rebels. But that approach might permanently antagonize tea party-leaning Republicans and “force Boehner into making more concessions” to Democrats to pass bills, “which is the last thing in the world we want,” said GOP Rep. Kenny Marchant of Texas, shortly after Tuesday’s leadership vote. By Friday, Marchant was reassured. “The focus now is to solicit input and try to bring them into the fold,” he said.”
AP: CONSERVATIVE REBELS ‘WINNERS PULL HOUSE TO THE RIGHT’
Coup averted, House Speaker Boehner embraces hard-right agenda, GOP dissidents
Why Sen. Sessions Got This Freshman Congressman’s Vote For House Speaker
“Denying any part in an organized coup against House Speaker John Boehner, the newest Alabama congressman, Gary Palmer, told Boehner last September he would not vote for him if elected. Quite simply, Palmer was just keeping his campaign pledge last week when on the opening day, he was one of 25 Republicans who voted against Boehner for Speaker. “If the first thing I did when I got up here was to break my word to the voters, and violate that trust, not only would I lose their confidence, but I would lose his,” he explains in this exclusive video interview with The Daily Caller. Demonstrating he was a man of his word, he then asked for two prime committee assignments, Palmer said. Instead of Boehner, Palmer’s choice for Speaker last week was his dear friend, Sen. Jeff Sessions, who Palmer describes as “a patriot, honor bound, one of the most principled people I have ever met.” Congressman Palmer felt Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions “got a raw deal in the Senate by being denied the chairmanship of the [Senate] Budget Committee” in a surprising post-election challenge. Now with Palmer’s help, Sessions’ “name will go down in history.” If voting against the Speaker does not ensure Palmer’s ideas will be buried, this new Alabama representative has the temperament, experience and savvy to help a Republican Congress navigate this nation away from its path of decline with excessive government.”
‘It May Be Time for a Third Party’: Blaze Readers React to Report About John Boehner Taking Revenge on Those Who Crossed Him
Portman: Big bucks, strong backing for re-election bid
“Sen. Rob Portman announced Thursday that he will begin the 2016 Senate race with nearly $6 million in the bank and the backing of Ohio’s Republican establishment. In an early morning email, Portman’s campaign said the senator ended 2014 with $5.8 million cash on hand — a hefty sum in a race that could be one the most expensive in the country. First elected in 2010, Portman could face a primary challenger in 2016, with conservatives gunning to oust him over his support for gay marriage. And Democrats are also searching for a strong candidate to take him on in the general election. Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has already starting to raise money for a possible challenge. Other potential Democratic candidates include ex-Gov. Ted Strickland, former northeast Ohio Congresswoman Betty Sutton, and northeast Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan. Portman is clearly bracing for a tough battle. His Thursday email says he has the endorsement of 250 GOP leaders in the state, including Gov. John Kasich and the entire GOP congressional delegation. With that show of strength, Portman may be aiming to scare possible challengers. “Despite the Washington gridlock, during my first four years in the Senate I have made real progress, but there is a lot more to do,” Portman said in the email. “We need to fight on, together, to provide commonsense conservative leadership to create good jobs, better wages, and stronger Ohio communities.”
For Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, a history of ambition fuels a possible 2016 collision
MITT ROMNEY THINKS TED CRUZ WILL DESTROY JEB BUSH’S CANDIDACY
MITT ROMNEY IN 2016 COULD SPLIT GOP ESTABLISHMENT
ZUCKERMAN: JEB WILL BE GOP NOMINEE IN 2016
“US News and World Report Chairman and Editor-in-Chief and publisher of The New York Daily News, Mort Zuckerman predicted that Jeb Bush will win the 2016 GOP nomination on Friday’s “McLaughlin Group.” After fellow panelist Eleanor Clift predicted that Jeb will “sew up the major GOP donors by Spring,” Zuckerman went one step further, declaring “Jeb Bush will be the Republican nominee for the presidency.”
Jeb In 94: I Would Do ‘Probably Nothing’ For African-Americans
“Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appears poised for a presidential run and is currently leading the polls among potential Republican candidates for 2016, but the comments he made in 1994 during his first run for Florida’s highest office may come back to haunt him. The Associated Press reports that Bush described himself then as a “head-banging conservative” and used fiery rhetoric — such as claiming he would do “probably nothing” for African-Americans if he became governor — in his ultimately unsuccessful bid. Bush made that statement in response to a question on what he would for African-Americans if elected to office. “It’s time to strive for a society where there’s equality of opportunity, not equality of results. So I’m going to answer your question by saying: probably nothing,” he replied. Bush made other comments that don’t mesh well with his present image as a moderate Republican. He said that women on welfare “should be able to get their life together and find a husband.” On the issue of granting special legal privileges to gays and lesbians, Bush believed “we have enough special categories, enough victims, without creating even more.” He also said that “sodomy” should not hold the same constitutional status as race and religion.”
Trump looking ‘very seriously’ at 2016 run
“Iowa straw poll lives another day
“The Iowa Republican Party’s central committee voted Saturday to approve a 2015 straw poll, but it’s unlikely to be a spectacle on the scale of 2011. Fox News will not be hosting a pre-straw poll debate, Politico reported Saturday, and it’s questionable whether top-tier candidates will make appearances. Michele Bachmann, who won the 2011 Ames Straw Poll, went on to finish sixth in the Iowa caucuses. The straw poll, which will likely be held in August, was publicly opposed by the state’s Republican governor, Terry Branstad, but is popular with activists. But with the committee going ahead with the straw poll, the governor expressed support. “The governor looks forward to working with the Republican Party of Iowa and the State Central Committee to make the straw poll a successful event,” his spokesman said Saturday.”
GOP can overcome ‘party of no’ label by empowering the states
Elizabeth Warren and tea party are spot on
“The ungainly term “CRomnibus bill” combines two phrases — “Continuing Resolution” and “omnibus” — which makes it unfortunately typical of how business is done in Washington these days. Continuing resolutions are short-term spending measures that maintain a spending status quo, and they have been used in recent years when Congress couldn’t agree on a budget. “Omnibus” bills are comprehensive measures that cover spending throughout the government, and they have been used in recent years when Congress couldn’t pass appropriations bills. Neither is an ideal way to decide government policies and priorities. And, even apart from any linguistic offenses, the two combined ensure more bad legislation finds its way into law. Consider in depth just one example: a provision to restore FDIC insurance for high-risk trading in derivatives. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, opposed that provision, and “Warren Democrats” have followed her lead, coming out in opposition to the change. By removing the Dodd-Frank separation of derivatives trading from federally insured traditional banking, the “CRomnibus” spending bill effectively restores federal insurance for the kind of high-risk derivatives trading that overleveraged Wall Street and toppled the economy in 2008. As a matter of policy, indemnifying bankers against losses from high-risk derivatives trading means bankers reap rewards without risk, while taxpayers assume risk without rewards. It essentially would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system. In other words: private profits, socialized losses. Mrs. Warren aside, this is also the sort of Wall Street / K Street cronyism that animates the spirit of the tea party at its best, which was a response to a Washington Republican establishment that spouted conservative rhetoric but governed mostly in service of its own narrow interests. This is an anti-market, anti-middle class provision due to the following:
–By putting taxpayers on the hook for Wall Street losses, it raises the specter of rich-get-richer bailouts, a reverse transfer of wealth upward from the middle class at a time when the left is already exploiting stagnant middle-class wages and growing income inequality to incite class warfare.
–it undermines public confidence in the essential fairness and neutrality of a free market economic order at a time when job losses to global competition and digitization have already rattled nerves.
–It subsidizes risky trading in derivatives. Subsidize something, and you get more of it. Indemnify losses from risky trading, and you get more risky trading — and, in turn, more losses, more taxpayer-funded bailouts and then more risky trading in a vicious circle.
–By insulating wealthy financiers from the costs of failure, it undermines the ethic of personal responsibility. If we ask unwed teenage mothers and young workers straining under student loan debt to take personal responsibility, the least we can do is ask the same of Wall Street bankers.
–By artificially propping up failed enterprise, we interrupt free market feedback circuits and disable capitalism’s immune system, preventing learning from error and gaining overall strength from localized weakness.
This provision was not only bad policy from the left but also bad policy from the right. And thus a pluperfect case of something that is indefensible in the light of day, but which our governing class, in the dead of night, tucks into the crevasses of 1,000-page bills.”
Ron Paul: “Reality Is Now Setting In For America… It Was All Based On Lies & Ignorance”
“If Americans were honest with themselves they would acknowledge that the Republic is no more. We now live in a police state. If we do not recognize and resist this development, freedom and prosperity for all Americans will continue to deteriorate. All liberties in America today are under siege. It didn’t happen overnight. It took many years of neglect for our liberties to be given away so casually for a promise of security from the politicians. The tragic part is that the more security was promised — physical and economic — the less liberty was protected. With cradle-to-grave welfare protecting all citizens from any mistakes and a perpetual global war on terrorism, which a majority of Americans were convinced was absolutely necessary for our survival, our security and prosperity has been sacrificed. It was all based on lies and ignorance. Many came to believe that their best interests were served by giving up a little freedom now and then to gain a better life. The trap was set. At the beginning of a cycle that systematically undermines liberty with delusions of easy prosperity, the change may actually seem to be beneficial to a few. But to me that’s like excusing embezzlement as a road to leisure and wealth — eventually payment and punishment always come due. One cannot escape the fact that a society’s wealth cannot be sustained or increased without work and productive effort. Yes, some criminal elements can benefit for a while, but reality always sets in. Reality is now setting in for America and for that matter for most of the world. The piper will get his due even if “the children” have to suffer. The deception of promising “success” has lasted for quite a while. It was accomplished by ever-increasing taxes, deficits, borrowing, and printing press money. In the meantime the policing powers of the federal government were systematically and significantly expanded. No one cared much, as there seemed to be enough “gravy” for the rich, the poor, the politicians, and the bureaucrats.”
Poll: Call Muslim killers ‘Islamic terrorists;’ most expect Paris-type attack in U.S.
“It is not religious discrimination to refer to the Paris killers that yelled “Allahu Akbar” as they fired their weapons with deadly precision as “Islamic terrorists,” according to new poll. Despite the administration’s reluctance to use the term, a new poll found that 60 percent of adults don’t think it is discriminatory to call them religious terrorists. What’s more, the new Rasmussen Reports survey confirmed earlier surveys that found most Americans believe that a similar religious attack will occur in the United States. Some 65 percent think it’s likely an attack on those critical of Islam will happen in this country in the next year, said Rasmussen. A similar poll in Secrets last week said that 74 percent are deeply worried that the a “catastrophic terrorist attack” by Islamic militants will occur in the United States. Rasmussen hinted at a reason why the American public is concerned: 41 percent “still believe most Muslims around the world view the United States as an enemy.”
Why Isn’t President Obama Going to Paris?
“In On Liberty, John Stuart Mill wrote, “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” By not attending the unity rally in Paris on Sunday, President Obama has missed an opportunity to show leadership, to demonstrate that Americans are as committed to fight against terrorism as anyone in the world. And that America stands with its allies in a worldwide battle that, unfortunately, is likely to last many years. In a statement, President Obama said, “And I think it’s important for us to understand, France is our oldest ally. I want the people of France to know that the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow.” But he won’t be standing with them on Sunday.”
America snubs historic Paris rally: Holder skipped out of proceedings early, Kerry was in India, Obama and Biden just stayed home
“–German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and David —Cameron were among the leaders at the march today
–Neither President Obama or Vice President Joe Biden attended the historic event, though both of their schedules were open
–U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris for a terrorism summit, but was not seen at the march which followed
–The only U.S. representative at the march was Ambassador Jane Hartley”
Obama, Kerry absent from unity rally in Paris
Obama, Biden Absent From Paris Solidarity March (great photo)
ISRAEL’S NETANYAHU, LIEBERMAN, BENNETT ATTEND PARIS SOLIDARITY RALLY
Nobody from the US govt marched in Paris today… not even Eric Holder
As World Leaders Gather for Paris Rally, Holder Skips Town and Obama Sends . . . His Ambassador to Paris
White House criticized for absence at rally
“The Obama administration was criticized on social media Sunday for the lack of high-ranking U.S. officials at the unity rally in Paris, where more than 40 world leaders marched in commemoration of the lives lost to terrorism last week. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris for talks on combatting terrorism and was scheduled to attend the rally. He was replaced by U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley, according to reports.”
Shame On President Obama For Skipping The Paris Unity Rally Against Terrorism
White House Ignores Question About Obama Absence
WHITE HOUSE STATEMENT ON ‘VIOLENT EXTREMISM’ OMITS ISLAM
“On Sunday, as world leaders gathered for an anti-terror rally in Paris, France, the Obama administration announced that it would convene a global “Summit on Countering Violent Extremism” on Feb. 18. The White House released a statement describing the summit agenda, which failed to mention Islam, radical Islam, or anything related to the actual ideology motivating the Paris attacks. The full text, as released by CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, is as follows: On February 18, 2015, the White House will host a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism to highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the United States and abroad to commit acts of violence, efforts made even more imperative in light of recent, tragic attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, and Paris. This summit will build on the strategy the White House released in August of 2011, Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States, the first national strategy to prevent violent extremism domestically. Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts rely heavily on well-informed and resilient local communities. Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis-St. Paul have taken the lead in building pilot frameworks integrating a range of social service providers, including education administrators, mental health professionals, and religious leaders, with law enforcement agencies to address violent extremism as part of the broader mandate of community safety and crime prevention. The summit will highlight best practices and emerging efforts from these communities. At the same time, our partners around the world are actively implementing programs to prevent violent extremism and foreign terrorist fighter recruitment. The summit will include representatives from a number of partner nations, focusing on the themes of community engagement, religious leader engagement, and the role of the private sector and tech community. Through presentations, panel discussions, and small group interactions, participants will build on local, state, and federal government; community; and international efforts to better understand, identify, and prevent the cycle of radicalization to violence at home in the United States and abroad. Additional information regarding participants and the agenda will be provided at a future date. President Barack Obama did not attend the Paris rally, nor did Vice President Biden or Secretary of State John Kerry. Attorney General Eric Holder, notorious for refusing to identify radical Islam as the source of terrorist attacks against the U.S., was sent instead.”
Obama Will Hold Summit on ‘Countering Violent Extremism’–Not Radical Muslim Terrorism
White House eyes steps to prevent radicalization
Eric Holder Refuses To Say The US Is At War With Radical Islam After Paris Attack [VIDEO]
“In two separate instances Sunday morning, Attorney General Eric Holder refused to follow the lead of France and declare that the U.S. is at war with radical Islam in the aftermath of the brutal attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices on Wednesday. Instead, Holder, who was pressed by both NBC’s Chuck Todd and ABC’s George Stephanopolous with the same exact question, said that the U.S is war with “terrorists” who “corrupt the Islamic faith” or use a “corrupted version of Islam.” “The French Prime Minister declared that France is at war with radical Islam. Would you say the United States is at war with radical Islam?” Todd asked Holder. “I would say that we are at war with terrorists who commit these heinous acts and who use Islam, they use a corrupted version of Islam, to justify their actions,” Holder told Todd on “Meet The Press.” “We are bound and determined to hold them accountable, to find them wherever they are.” “And then to try…to come up with ways in which we prevent young people, who become attracted to this radical ideology, from becoming members of these groups and perpetrating these heinous acts,” Holder added.”
Eric Holder Asked Twice if the U.S. Is at War With Radical Islam. Just Guess How He Responds.
US at war with terrorists who ‘corrupt’ Islam, Holder says
Holder: Remember That We’ve ‘Decimated Core al-Qaeda’
French Prime Minister: ‘We Are at War…Against Terrorism and Radical Islam’
“French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said his nation is at war against terrorism and radical Islam. “We’re at war, but not at war against a religion, not against a civilization, but at war to defend our values, which are universal,” Valls said in his late Saturday speech, the Huffington Post reported. ”It is a war against terrorism and radical Islam, against everything aimed at breaking solidarity, liberty and fraternity.”
‘We are Charlie’: Around 3 million people march to honor victims of Paris attack
“Around 3 million people including more than 40 world leaders streamed into the heart of Paris on Sunday for a rally of national unity to honor the 17 victims of three days of terror. The French Interior Ministry said the rally for unity against terrorism is the largest demonstration in France’s history. Calling the rally “unprecedented,” the ministry said the demonstrators are so numerous they spread beyond the official march route, making them impossible to count. French media estimate up to 3 million are taking part, more than the numbers who took to Paris streets when the Allies liberated the city from the Nazis in World War II. The aftermath of the attacks remained raw, with video emerging of one of the gunmen killed during police raids pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group and detailing how the attacks were going to unfold. Also, a new shooting was linked to that gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, who was killed Friday along with the brothers behind a massacre at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in nearly simultaneous raids by security forces. “Today, Paris is the capital of the world,” said French President Francois Hollande. “Our entire country will rise up toward something better.” Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were among the leaders attending, as were top representatives of Russia and Ukraine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron were alongside Hollande at the front of the crowd, estimated to be around one million people, Sky News reports. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is in Paris this week to attend a meeting on fighting terrorism, but did not participate in the march.”
Paris March Bigger Than 1969 Vietnam Protest and 2013 March for Life Combined
“Estimates for Sunday’s Paris march attendance have soared higher, with some outlets reporting as many as 3 million people swarmed the heart of the French capital to support free speech. The Associated Press reported that around France, up to 3.7 million people marched on Sunday — which could mean more than 1 in 20 French, 5.6 percent of the nation’s population, had taken a public stand.”
‘Paris Is the Capital of the World Today’: Largest Demonstration in French History Brings World Leaders Together for Free Speech
13 stunning photos from Paris’ massive anti-terror rally (great photos)
MINISTER: 700,000 PEOPLE RALLY IN FRANCE AFTER JIHADIST ATTACKS
“Around 700,000 people have poured out onto the streets of France on Saturday to pay tribute to the 17 people killed during three days of terror, the interior minister said. “700,000 people have marched” in cities around France, Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters on the eve of a rally in Paris he said would likely attract “several hundred thousand” people, as well as a string of world leaders.”
Source: Terror cells activated in France
“…French law enforcement officers have been told to erase their social media presence and to carry their weapons at all times because terror sleeper cells have been activated over the last 24 hours in the country, a French police source who attended a briefing Saturday told CNN terror analyst Samuel Laurent. Ahmedy Coulibaly, a suspect killed Friday during a deadly kosher market hostage siege, had made several phone calls about targeting police officers in France, according to the source. The alert came amid word that the lone remaining suspect wanted in connection with a terrorism spree — Hayat Boumeddiene — entered Turkey on January 2, a Turkish prime ministry source told CNN. Boumeddiene was tracked by Turkish authorities to a location near the Turkey-Syria border, according to an official in the Turkish Prime Minister’s office. Boumeddiene arrived at the Istanbul airport on a flight from Madrid with a man. During routine screening of passengers, the couple were flagged by Turkey’s Risk Assessment Center and a decision made to maintain surveillance on their movements, the official said. The official in the Turkish Prime Minister’s office would not elaborate as to when Boumeddiene was tracked to the border province. That means Boumeddiene may not have been in France at the time of Thursday’s deadly shooting of a policewoman in Paris, as authorities originally believed. Authorities offered no immediate explanation of the discrepancy, but have said she is wanted in connection with a terrorist attack. A flurry of developments Saturday included claims linking one of the Charlie Hebdo attackers with the so-called underwear bomber, who sought to bring down a plane over Detroit in 2009. The connection has not been confirmed by officials, and French investigators are still trying to piece together the web of connections between three suspects killed Friday as two sieges came to a bloody end. The country, meanwhile, continues to cope with three days of terror that left 17 people dead; thousands gathered on the streets for vigils Saturday and hundreds of thousands were expected at massive rallies Sunday, along with heads of state and other dignitaries. The suspects killed were brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, authors of Wednesday’s deadly attack on the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo; and Coulibaly, who was suspected in the death of a French policewoman Thursday and the shootings and hostage-taking at a kosher supermarket Friday. Investigators in France and the United States have been looking for evidence tying the Kouachi brothers to associates in terror networks such as al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate and ISIS.”
Terrorist Sleeper Cells Activated in France, CNN Source Says
Hundreds of ‘No-Go Zones’ Across France Are Off-Limits to Non-Muslims
Dianne Feinstein: Terrorist sleeper cells are in the U.S.
“A key senator said Sunday she believes there are terrorist sleeper cells in the U.S. that could carry out attacks similar to the ones in France that left 17 people dead last week. Sen Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, did not comment on specific threats against America but said other attacks are possible. “I think there are sleeper cells not only in France but certainly in other countries and, yes, in our own,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “This calls for vigilance. … Hopefully, we can be even more active in terms of doing those things which enable us to find terrorists, see who they’re communicating with and to track that.” Ms. Feinstein’s words come the same day a new Rasmussen poll shows that 65 percent of Americans believe terrorist attacks similar to those seen in France last week are likely to happen over the next 12 months. But administration officials say there is no information on specific plots or sleeper cells. “I don’t think that we have any information that would indicate, certainly with regard to the homeland, that there is any ongoing threat or any threat that was activated by what we see so tragically here in France,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday. “With regard to sleeper cells here in France, that is an investigation that’s ongoing and being conducted by our French allies.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham: “I’ve Never Been More Worried About Being Hit At Home”
“SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Last time I checked, we’re at war. I wouldn’t send my attorney general if I were president to deal with radical Islamic terrorists … It’s a global war. We don’t have a strategy. The attorney general is a law enforcement officer and it tells you all you need to know about Obama’s view of this conflict. He thinks it’s a crime out of control. I think it’s a war out of control… If we wait two or three years to deal with these guys, the likelihood of getting attacked at home is great. President Obama’s strategy is not going to degrade or destroy [ISIS]. It’s going to allow this conflict to go further and longer… I’ve never been more worried about being hit at home, because the president’s worldview and strategy toward radical Islam is failing.”
Former Intel chairwoman: Major attack on US ‘in the realm of possibility’
NYPD ON HIGH ALERT FOLLOWING ISIS CALL TO ‘RISE UP AND KILL POLICE OFFICERS’
Holder: French attacks point to US threats
Republicans to Obama: Get tougher on terror
“Two Republicans leaders said Sunday that Obama administration needs to be more aggressive when it comes to protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism. The recent attacks in Paris have brought new attention to the threat of Western jihadists traveling to rouge states like Syria to train with terror groups. One of the suspects in the Charlie Hebdo shooting, Said Kouachi, traveled to Yemen in 2011 and trained with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the most active terror affiliates in the Middle East.”
SAS rushed in to guard our streets as Al Qaeda warns ‘you’re next’
SAS troops are patrolling the streets of Britain to prevent a Paris-style terrorist outrage.
LONDON HATE PREACHER: “BRITAIN IS THE ENEMY OF ISLAM”
Leaked Emails Show Al Jazeera Editor Has a Very Different Take on the Charlie Hebdo Massacre
“The editor and executive producer of Al Jazeera English reportedly sent out a company-wide memo following the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices imploring his staff to avoid characterizing the killing of the cartoonists as an assault on free speech and European values and alternately asked if the attackers could have been motivated by French actions in Mali, Libya and against the Islamic State group. He also asked the network’s anchors and correspondents to question on air if the phrase being used to express sympathy “I am Charlie” is “an alienating slogan.” National Review Online obtained the Thursday internal email sent by Salah-Aldeen Khadr, Al Jazeera English’s executive producer, as well as critical responses from non-Qatar-based reporters for the network. Khadr opened his email writing, “Please accept this note in the spirit it is intended – to make our coverage the best that it can be …. We are Al Jazeera!!!!”
Afghanistan rally hails Charlie Hebdo attackers as ‘heroes’
Al Jazeera responds to leaked Charlie Hebdo emails
Top Obama military adviser: No al Qaeda link to Paris attacks
Deli jihadist admits link to Charlie Hebdo killers in ISIS martyrdom video – as French police discover his massive arms cache and link him to ANOTHER shooting two days earlier
“–Amedy Coulibaly recorded seven minute long video before deli attack
–Clip shows him discussing support for IS, and working out
–He also claims to have put a bomb on car that blew up in Parisian street
–Coulibaly confirmed he and Kouachi brothers were working in tandem
–Says of brothers in clip, ‘we did some things together, some separately, to have more of an impact’
–Appears to say he gave one of the brothers ‘a few thousand euros’
–Makes call to arms to ‘vigorous’ Muslim men to ‘defend the Prophet’
–Asks ‘what are you you doing when our Prophet is so seriously insulted?’
–Ballistic tests link Coulibaly to shooting of jogger in Fontenay aux Roses
–Runner was seriously injured in shooting on Wednesday”
RADICAL IMAM ALL BUT CONDONES PARIS TERRORIST ATTACK
Attack will empower Europe’s far right
STUDY: CHRISTIANS SUFFER ‘EXTREME PERSECUTION’ IN COUNTRIES WITH MAJORITY MUSLIM POPULATIONS
Iran, Venezuela Vow to ‘Neutralize’ Oil Price Problem