Congressional Research Service: There’s No Magic Pot Of Obamacare Medicaid Expansion Money
“A recent report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) confirms what many policy experts have known for some time: states that reject Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion aren’t sending that Medicaid expansion money to other states. Instead, that money is simply never spent. This revelation is important because numerous governors and state lawmakers from across the country have used this argument to justify their support for expanding Medicaid through Obamacare. However, as CRS succinctly explains, these arguments are entirely frivolous. There’s No Fixed Pot of Obamacare Medicaid Money – Politicians have made the case for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion based on the false idea that rejecting Medicaid expansion will send their states’ shares of Obamacare money to other states. Governor John Kasich (R-OH), for example, has repeatedly claimed that rejecting Medicaid expansion would send Ohio’s ‘Medicaid expansion money’ to states like California. These false sentiments have been echoed repeatedly in Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming– just to name a few. Obamacare advocates promise that Medicaid expansion won’t increase federal spending, but will instead simply ‘bring back’ their own federal tax dollars. The new CRS report explains that this claim is bogus: “If a state doesn’t implement the ACA Medicaid expansion, the federal funds that would have been used for that state’s expansion are not being sent to another state. There is not a set amount of federal funding for Medicaid. Each state gets the federal funding necessary for their Medicaid program.” This explanation is pretty straightforward: if a state rejects expansion, they don’t get any expansion money. If a state does expand, they get expansion money. But one state’s actions have no relation to how much another state receives from the federal government because there is no pot of funding that’s being divvied up in Washington….”
Washington State Obamacare Exchange Sign-Ups Fall Short (continuation of previous article)
“Washington state’s Obamacare exchange has fallen short of its signup goal by more than 50,000. Fox News reports that the state has only enrolled 160,000 paying customers to the exchange. This has led to an extension of the enrollment deadline, and prompted a request to the state legislature for $125 million in funding. When the exchange was established, it was projected that it would become self-sufficient by year’s end. Even Democrats who supported the Obamacare law are beginning to show signs of frustration with the lack of progress. Most of the money requested by the exchange would go to advertising, not to health care or rising operating costs. Democratic state Rep. Ross Hunter reacted to the advertising plans with skepticism…”
Confusion reigns over Obamacare-related FDA menu rule
“Confusion reigns on a controversial rule that would require restaurants and delivery eateries to put calorie counts on menus, with businesses and even lawmakers unclear on how the new rule will affect them. Senators asked Thursday for the Food and Drug Administration to delay implementation of the rule, which is scheduled for Dec. 1. The agency issued a document Wednesday that gave advice to small businesses affected by the rule. “There is still considerable confusion about what is in the rule,” said outgoing FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. Case in point was an example proffered by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., during the hearing. Under the rule, a restaurant must print the calorie count of every food item on the menu. However, businesses don’t know how this rule applies to more non-traditional eateries, he said. Take pizza deliveries, where a consumer doesn’t look at a menu but calls up a pizzeria for a quick pie. Moran asked if the pizzeria has to put the calorie count on the box, which can be difficult as the calorie count for a cheese pizza and a pepperoni pizza would be very different. Hamburg said that she wasn’t aware of that requirement for pizza boxes. Pizzerias do have to put calorie counts on pizza slices but not on whole pie, which are usually what is delivered to consumers. The rule was mandated by the Affordable Care Act, and intended to provide clear nutritional information. A separate rule affects calorie counts in vending machines. In addition to restaurants and delivery eateries, the rule affects food at movie theaters, bowling alleys, bookstore cafes and other similar establishments…”
Democrats: Allow pregnant women to enroll in Obamacare
“More than 50 House Democrats are askingthe Obama administration to add pregnancy to the limited list of reasons women may enroll year-round in coverage on the Obamacare exchanges. Once the second, extended enrollment period ends April 30, Americans may only sign up for marketplace coverage if they have experienced a major life event like a divorce or the birth of a child. As things stand now, pregnancy doesn’t qualify as a reason a woman could enroll in coverage outside the official signup season. Advocates for the health law, led by the group Young Invincibles, have been pushing the administration on that front for the last month, asking it to issue a rule making pregnancy a “qualifying life event.” They’ve convinced House members to join their cause, too, led by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J. “The Affordable Care Act has made historic progress towards ending discrimination against women in the health insurance market by requiring plans to cover maternity care…however, many women are still vulnerable,” says a letter sent Thursday to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell by Coleman and 54 House members. “Special enrollment periods currently exist for qualifying life events like the birth of a child or the adoption of a child. We believe pregnancy should trigger a similar special enrollment period,” the letter says. Nearly three dozen health advocacy groups, including theAmerican Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,also wrote to Burwell on Thursday asking for the change to be made. Young Invincibles says 50,000 people have signed a petition as well. The 2010 healthcare law requires insurance plans to cover certain benefits, including maternity care. But without making pregnancy a qualifying reason to enroll year round, uninsured women without access to employer-sponsored coverage won’t be able to access those benefits should they become pregnant, advocates say…”
Dems seek Medicaid payment bump
“Two senior Senate Democrats introduced a bill Thursday that would boost payments to Medicaid doctors to equal those paid to Medicare doctors. Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) are hoping to extend a provision of ObamaCare that expired last year that ensures equal payments to all providers. Physician groups have lobbied hard for higher payments for treating Medicaid patients, particularly given that millions of people have been added to the government’s low-income healthcare program since 2010. Doctors are paid as much as 60 percent less under most states’ Medicaid than they are under Medicare or private insurers. “We should be making it easier for providers to accept new Medicaid patients, not harder,” Brown wrote in a statement. The bill would also bump up payments for doctors and nurses who specifically treat women and children, such as OB-GYNs, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The Medicaid bump alone would cost the federal government at least $11 billion, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The bill comes as House GOP leaders are quietly working on legislation that would permanently repeal payment cuts to Medicare providers. While the effort is expected to be bipartisan, Democrats are likely to push for some of their own programs during the deal-making…”
Dems Want To Make Obamacare’s Boost To Medicaid Rates Permanent
“Two Democratic senators introduced a bill Thursday that would boost Medicaid provider reimbursement rates back to Medicare levels — part of an Obamacare provision that was supposed to be temporary. The health care law upped Medicaid reimbursement rates for primary care doctors to Medicare levels for 2013 and 2014 alone. The bump ended Dec. 31, bringing Medicaid back down to its typical level — putting traditional Medicaid patients, and the almost 10 million Medicaid expansion patients, at risk of losing their doctors. Because Medicaid pays health care providers some of the lowest rates around, many physicians opt not to accept the coverage at all. In 2012, before Obamacare temporarily hiked provider fees, health care staffing firm Jackson Healthcare reported that over a third of physicians were refusing to take to Medicaid patients due to falling reimbursements. Experts worry that the trend will continue now that the two-year boost has ended. The Urban Institute found in December that primary care providers were facing an effective pay cut of 43 percent for Medicaid patients come 2015, which could take a hit at the ability to access care for the millions of Americans have been put on Medicaid through Obamacare. Senators Patty Murray and Sherrod Brown want to boost the provider rates once again…”
Study: Fewer plans cancelled under ObamaCare in 2014
“The flurry of media reports that said millions of people were losing their healthcare plans under ObamaCare in 2014 were likely overblown, according to a recent survey. Although a national survey from December 2013 found that one in five people had received a cancellation notice for their insurance, many of those customers were ble to keep their plans in 2014 after changes to the government’s policy, according to a new report from the nonpartisan Urban Institute. About 500,000 people who bought healthcare through their employers saw their plans cancelled last year – about 0.3 percent of all employer-sponsored plans, the Health Reform Monitoring Survey found. In the individual market, about 2.2 percent of people lost their plans, which amounts to 400,000 people, according to the survey. That same survey had previously found that nearly 19 percent of people who bought their insurance plans – or about 2.6 million people – had received cancellation notices. Facing intense political pressure, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) later walked back on some of the new coverage provisions and allowed many plans to be grandfathered in until 2017. Several outlets, included the Associated Press, reported that “millions of Americans who buy their own health insurance” were told that they would have to find new plans. But the survey shows that only 8 percent of people had received any form of notice from their insurance company in 2014…”
Why Not 50 Different Affordable Health-Care Plans?
An obscure provision in the ObamaCare law says states can enact more market-friendly reforms.
“If the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell strikes down subsidies to the buyers of health insurance on the federal exchange, President Obama will call on Congress to change the law to allow the subsidies. There also will be enormous pressure on elected officials to establish state exchanges in the 34 states that don’t have them. Instead, congressional Republicans should be laying the groundwork for market-friendly health reforms and devolving power to the states, meanwhile helping Americans who have difficulty purchasing coverage…”
Governor touts Kentucky as ObamaCare model for red states
“Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is touting his state as an example of making ObamaCare work in a Republican stronghold. The state has drawn national attention for setting up its own ObamaCare marketplace and expanding Medicaid under the law. “Let me be clear: We welcome the attention, because we know we have boldly seized the opportunity to change the course of history in our state,” Beshear said in Washington Thursday at a conference of America’s Health Insurance Plans, an insurer trade group. In his address, he acknowledged the political mine field around the Affordable Care Act but insisted on forging ahead. “Look, I’m well aware of the so-called ‘politics’ of the ACA. President Obama didn’t get a lot of votes in Kentucky,” he said, according to prepared remarks. “We’re represented in the Senate by two high-profile Republicans who have no love for either the president or his signature program,” Beshear continued. “But there’s a huge disconnect between the rank partisanship of national politics and governors whose job it is to help beleaguered families, strengthen work forces, attract companies and build a balanced budget.” The state’s two Republican senators, Rand Paul, who is a likely presidential candidate, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s majority leader, are strongly opposed to the law. A Gallup poll last month found that Kentucky had the second-largest drop in its uninsured rate, after Arkansas, in 2014. The rate declined from around 20 percent to around 10 percent, a result Beshear cited as evidence of the law’s success. A recent analysis of Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion in its first year found that the program added 375,000 people. The study found that as providers expanded to provide the extra care, 12,000 jobs were created, he said. “In short, the first year was even better for Kentucky financially than predicted,” said Beshear.”
GOP governors scramble for answers on ObamaCare
“Republican governors are scrambling to come up with a response if the Supreme Court cripples ObamaCare, leading to a tangle of divergent views that could make it tougher for the GOP to rally around a single solution. Political pressure on Republican governors to act will be intense if the high court invalidates subsidies that help millions of their states’ citizens buy health insurance. “The Republicans potentially have a PR nightmare on their hands, because what’s going to happen when 8 million people are going to be denied subsidies?” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist and member of The Hill’s Contributors Blog. The fight over King v. Burwell is further complicated by the fact that several GOP governors could be launching presidential campaigns near the time the court reveals its decision, expected in June. Responses from Republican governors are all over the map. In Louisiana, where around 160,000 people would lose subsidies, Gov. Bobby Jindal is rejecting any fix to the law, as he makes a play for conservative voters. Jindal wrote an op-ed in National Review this month arguing people would be better off with no subsidies because, without them, the mandate to buy insurance would no longer apply. “Some on the right want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,” he wrote. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has emerged in polls as a leading potential GOP White House contender, isn’t completely ruling out a fix but says it should come from Congress. About 180,000 people in his state would lose subsidies. “While we continue to monitor the federal court case and the pending outcome later this year, ultimately, the responsibility rests with the federal government to fix this federal law,” Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in a statement. “Following the issuance of a decision, we will continue to work with members of Wisconsin’s federal delegation to enact a solution.” In New Jersey, where 200,000 people could lose subsidies, Gov. Chris Christie has been silent on the issue. His office did not respond to a request for comment. “I wouldn’t say I’ve seen a distinct pattern,” said Stuart Butler, a conservative health policy expert at the Brookings Institution. “They go from outright rejectionist states like Bobby Jindal to those that are trying to figure out some way to say, ‘Can we get that money and use it in a more conservative way?’ ”Because the case centers on the interpretation of a single phrase in the law—“established by the state” — Democrats will be able to pressure Republicans with a politically advantageous argument. The lawsuit argues the phrase makes it illegal to distribute subsidies through the federal insurance marketplace. And Democrats can say it only takes a one-sentence bill to fix the phrasing and restore subsidies for the roughly 8 million people….”
Obama to visit Phoenix VA, claim progress on fixes
Critics, whistleblowers say little has changed
“President Obama will proclaim progress Friday on promised reforms in veterans’ health care at the Phoenix hospital where the scandal erupted last year, but critics and whistleblowers say little has changed at the ailing Department of Veterans Affairs. The president will set foot in the Phoenix VA for the first time since reports surfaced of secret waiting lists and delayed care for veterans. White House aides said Mr. Obama, whose trip includes a Democratic fundraiser and an appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” will call attention to improved care at VA facilities and shorter waiting times nationwide under new embattled VA Secretary Bob McDonald.
But critics say Mr. Obama and his administration have shown a lack of seriousness and accountability in addressing what ails the VA. They say the administration has failed to discipline managers responsible for the crisis, has sought to cut funding that would give veterans more health care options, has looked the other way at retaliation against whistleblowers and delayed an investigation of the Phoenix hospital itself. “The employees are scared to come forward,” said Brandon Coleman, a therapist at the Phoenix VA who was suspended 45 days ago after complaining to a supervisor that suicidal veterans weren’t receiving emergency treatment. Mr. Coleman met one-on-one with Mr. McDonald in Phoenix on Thursday in an effort to be reinstated, and said the secretary agreed to hear a proposal from Mr. Coleman’s attorney on another “wait time” problem — the time it takes for the VA to resolve the employment status of whistleblowers who’ve been suspended….”
Obama’s 2012 Amnesty Sidelined Americans’ Visa Requests
“Administration documents show that visa-related services to many American families were deliberately sidelined in 2012 because President Barack Obama’s deputies rushed to approve work permits for illegal immigrants and for companies trying to import guest workers. Americans — including many new immigrants — who were trying get visas for their foreign spouses or to bring in foreign relatives, did not get “special emphasis” amid the extra workload caused by Obama’s legally questionable award of work permits in 2012 to roughly 800,000 younger illegal immigrants, according to the documents. In contrast, officials fast-tracked visas to companies seeking to hire foreign blue-collar and white-collar temporary workers, foreign workers seeking approval to work in the United States, illegal immigrants who want to travel outside the country, and a few other categories. “Pretty much everybody got bumped to the bottom of the priority lists, except for employers and illegals,” Jessica Vaughan, the policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Daily Caller. Vaughan cited the case of Kevin Morgan, who filed in March, 2014, to get a renewal of his immigrant wife’s residency card. By March, the agency still had not delivered the card, according to a YouTube video posted by Morgan. The damage suffered by American families because of Obama’s legally questionable 2012 amnesty is not part of the Texas lawsuit that has temporarily blocked Obama new 2014 amnesty and his upgrade of the 2012 amnesty. It is nor part of the lawsuit because the damaged Americans have not taken their complaints to court. Many Americans who still waiting for family visas will be reluctant to join a lawsuit out of worry they will be secretly penalized by agency managers, she said. But that won’t be a worry once when the American eventually get their visas, she said. They’ll be free to sue the agencies without fear of punishment, she said. The impact of Obama’s policy was exposed by a February 2014, article in the New York Times. ”Over the past year, waits for approvals of those resident visas stretched to 15 months, and more than 500,000 applications became stuck in the pipeline, playing havoc with international moves and children’s schools and keeping families apart,” said the newspaper. Obama’s favoritism toward illegals caused harm to Americans, and that justifies a large-scale class-action suit against Obama’s immigration agencies, Vaughan said….”
Senators demand to know how many illegals got Social Security numbers
“The administration doled out about 90,000 Social Security numbers to illegal immigrants in the first months of President Obama’s first amnesty in 2012, according to two GOP senators who demanded Thursday to know how many since then have been granted, and whether any benefits are already being paid out. Mr. Obama’s 2012 amnesty applied to so-called Dreamers and was a test run for his broader amnesty announced last November, with more than 600,000 young adult illegal immigrants being granted a stay of deportation and work permits, which entitle them to Social Security numbers. Sens. Ben Sasse and Jeff Sessions say about 90,000 Dreamers got Social Security numbers between Aug. 15 2012, when the first applications rolled in, and Jan. 8, 2013. In a letter to Social Security Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin, the senators asked how many more were granted after that. Social Security numbers are also the key to unlocking a number of benefits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Social Security disability payments or Social Security’s supplemental income program. The two senators asked Ms. Colvin to reveal how many Dreamers have been paid benefits under those last two programs. “Taxpayers have a right to know the full costs of President Obama’s unlawful executive amnesty,” Mr. Sasse said. “Every week we learn more about the hidden costs of the president’s actions and Congress has an obligation to hold the Administration accountable for every taxpayer dollar.” The 90,000 Social Security numbers issued in the first five months of the program suggests most of those approved under the amnesty will end up getting one. Publicly available data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which approves the applications, shows about 125,000 applications were approved through December 2012…”
Benefits for Border Crossers?
“Federal handouts are the latest front in the war on Obama’s amnesty, and once again House and Senate Republicans are at odds over strategy. House and Senate Republicans are once again at odds over how to fight President Obama’s executive amnesty. After Republicans in Congress caved in the battle over funding the Department of Homeland Security last month, a new disagreement in the GOP now looms on how best to prevent illegal immigrants from receiving federal benefits under the president’s executive actions. When Representative Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.) learned that the IRS intends to pay the illegal-immigrant beneficiaries of the president’s executive actions via the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), he sprang into action. He introduced the “No Free Rides Act,” which blocks every illegal-immigrant beneficiary of the president’s executive actions from ever claiming the EITC. “I think when the average American taxpayer knows the president, through his executive order, grants illegal immigrants up to $24,000 from the American treasury, they’ll be outraged,” McHenry says. “This is such a glaring example of the problem with the president’s executive action, when you create a new class of individuals that can utilize something that’s intended for low-income Americans . . . something that seems, on its face, so unfair to the American taxpayer.” For now, the congressman’s staff says it has chosen to focus singularly on the EITC and not on other benefits the unlawful entrants may collect, such as the additional child tax credit or Social Security benefits due to kick in in 2017. While his office expects that future legislation may address other problems caused by the president’s actions, McHenry’s staff says it prefers to attack the Obama administration on one issue at a time with “single rifle shots.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Republicans in the Senate aren’t willing to go as far as McHenry and his GOP colleagues in the House. If the No Free Rides Act is a “single rifle shot,” the bill introduced by Iowa senator Chuck Grassley and co-sponsored by ten of his Republican colleagues is a half-shot. Grassley’s bill, like McHenry’s, would prevent beneficiaries of the president’s November 2014 executive actions from retroactively claiming EITC payments for work they had done as illegal immigrants prior to Obama’s amnesty. This component of Grassley’s legislation would prevent approximately $1.7 billion in new payments via the EITC, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation…”
Senate Democrats Fight For More Illegals In Anti-Prostitution Bill
“Democratic senators say pro-life language is forcing them to block a bipartisan bill that would curb the smuggling of prostitutes into the United States. But the abortion debate is being used to mask Democrats’ back-room opposition to an amendment by Republican Sen. David Vitter that would deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants and tourists. “The bill will not come off this floor as long as that [pro-life] language is in the bill,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. GOP leaders are scoffing at the Democrats’ effort to blame the hold-up on the pro-life language in the bill, which is sponsored by 13 Democratic senators and has already been approved by a committee. The boilerplate language would bar the use of federal money to pay for abortions among detained child prostitutes. “Some of the suggestions being made now that there were provisions in the legislation that people didn’t know about are simply untrue,” GOP whip Sen. John Cornyn told reporters Tuesday. “That presupposes that none of their staff briefed the senators on what was in the legislation, that nobody read a 68-page bill and that senators would vote for a bill, much less co-sponsor it, without reading it and knowing what’s in it,” he said. “None of that strikes me as plausible.” “This bipartisan [pro-life] provision was on page four of this modest-sized bill, so Democrats obviously knew it was in there to begin with,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a March 12 floor speech. “Let’s not filibuster bipartisan help for vulnerable victims just to make a point for left-wing special interest groups.” Democrats have admitted they dislike the pending amendment by that would prevent foreigners from grabbing the hugely valuable prize of U.S. citizenship by birthing their children in the United States. Vitter’s amendment says that only the children of U.S. citizens or legal residents qualify for citizenship. That’s the norm in countries around the world, and is compatible with the U.S. Constitution’s text, Vitter said. Automatic citizenship for foreign children born in the United States is “a huge magnet for more and more illegal crossings, and my amendment would fix that,” Vitter said in a Senate floor speech. Vitter’s amendment is being backed by groups that want to reduce immigration, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and is been jeered by groups that want to increase immigration, such as America’s Voice. Democrats oppose Vitter’s amendment because it would also deny citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants migrating from South America, Africa and Asia….”
Immigrants’ birth rates tumble as effect on population growth debated
“Immigrants’ birth rates have fallen precipitously in recent years, according to a report being released Thursday by the Center for Immigration Studies, which says the numbers undercut the argument immigrants are critical to ensuring the U.S. maintains its generous social safety net programs such as Social Security and Medicare. The birth rate of immigrant women of reproductive age dropped from 76 births per 1,000 women in 2013 to 62 births per 1,000 in 2008. By contrast, native-born women’s birth rate dropped from 54 per 1,000 to 50 — a much smaller decline. Immigrant women still have a higher fertility rate, but their average of 2.22 children expected during their lifetime is well below immigrants’ peak of 2.75 in 2008, said the report, written by Steven A. Camarota and Karen Zeigler for the Center for Immigration Studies. By contrast, the native-born fertility rate was just 1.79 children per woman in 2013, for an average of 1.87 overall. The authors said the findings should give pause to those who believe immigrants’ fertility can help slow the aging of the population. “It is true that immigrants have more children on average than natives,” the authors said. “But the impact on the nation’s overall fertility rate is quite modest no matter how fertility is measured.” Birth and fertility rates are fairly volatile, with the foreign-born fertility rate going from an expected 2.49 children per woman in 2006 to 2.58 in 2007, peaking at 2.75 in 2008, then steadily dropping to 2.45 in 2011 and 2.22 in 2013. Asians had by far the lowest fertility rates among the native-born, at 1.59 children expected per Asian female in 2013. Among immigrant women, Asians and whites were nearly even, at 1.93 and 1.94, respectively…”
US government asks for end to hold on immigration action
“The U.S. government is asking an appeals court to lift a temporary hold on President Barack Obama’s executive action to shield millions of immigrants from deportation. Obama’s plan – which could spare from deportation as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally – had been blocked last month by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, following a lawsuit filed by 26 states. The Justice Department asked Hanen to lift a preliminary injunction while the case was appealed. But Hanen put that on hold pending a hearing next week to review allegations the government misled him about part of the immigration plan. Justice Department attorneys Thursday filed an emergency motion with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to lift Hanen’s injunction…”
Justice asks appeals court to lift hold on Obama immigration actions
“The Justice Department is asking a federal appeals court to lift a lower court’s hold on President Obama’s latest executive actions on immigration, upping its push to lift a court order blocking the controversial programs. Obama’s actions from late last year would shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation, and provoked a standoff in February with the Republican Congress over funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The move shows that White House isn’t willing to wait for the lower court to act. And appealing to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is the next step in the path towards the potentially landmark case ending up at the Supreme Court. “The district court’s order is unprecedented and wrong,” the Justice Department writes in its appeal to the Fifth Circuit. “The preliminary injunction is a sweeping order that extends beyond the parties before the court and irreparably harms the Government and the public interest by preventing DHS from marshalling its resources to protect border security, public safety and national security, while also addressing humanitarian interests.” The case has, until now, been dealt with in a federal district court in Texas. But this move elevates the case to Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, located in New Orleans. The district court blocked the president’s immigration actions, which seek to delay deportation for millions of illegal immigrants and provide them with access to work permits, back in February. Judge Andrew Hanen’s ruling halted the DHS from enacting the new policies until courts could rule on whether the measures are constitutional. The Justice Department’s latest filing seeks to bypass Hanen and get the Fifth Circuit to remove the court’s stay, a legal procedure that blocks future action until a later court ruling. The new appeal from the administration echoes previous court documents that have characterized the suit as infringing on the president’s power to prioritize deportations. It also slams Hanen for applying his ruling to the program as a whole, instead of limiting it to the areas where he has jurisdiction. But a group of 26 states, led by Texas, argues Obama is overreaching and rewriting federal laws from the Oval Office. Immigration groups immediately applauded the move, as many have encouraged the White House to aggressively push to implement the deportation relief program and have clashed with the White House in the past over immigration. “This filing rightly recognizes that our communities are robbed of the opportunity to live free from fear of deportation and our economy is deprived of much-needed fiscal benefits with each day that this injunction remains in place,” Marielena Hincapié, the National Immigration Law Center’s executive director, said in a statement. “The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but that’s no reason to allow people and our economy to suffer while this case makes its way through the courts. While the Justice Department immediately asked Hanen to lift his temporary delay, he said the court will not consider it until a hearing March 19. The administration is expected at that hearing to explain why it processed 100,000 extended work permit renewals for illegal immigrants under new policies announced by the president….”
Obama administration asks judge to lift freeze on immigration actions
“The U.S. government is asking an appeals court to lift a temporary hold on President Obama’s executive action to shield millions of immigrants from deportation. Obama’s plan — which could spare from deportation as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally — had been blocked last month by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, following a lawsuit filed by 26 states. The Justice Department asked Hanen to lift a preliminary injunction while the case was appealed. But Hanen put that on hold pending a hearing next week to review allegations the government misled him about part of the immigration plan. Justice Department attorneys Thursday filed an emergency motion with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to lift Hanen’s injunction.”
Obama asks appeals court to re-start amnesty
“The administration asked a federal appeals court Thursday to let President Obama’s amnesty go into effect immediately, calling a lower judge’s ruling halting the amnesty “unprecedented and wrong” and saying illegal immigrants will be hurt until the new policy can be implemented. Justice Department lawyers said Texas, which sued to stop the amnesty, had no basis to be in court, and said Judge Andrew S. Hanen, who issued an injunction last month halting the amnesty, went too far in halting the program nationwide, rather than just in Texas and its 25 fellow states that sued. “In short, the preliminary injunction is a sweeping order that extends beyond the parties before the court and irreparably harms the government and the public interest,” the lawyers said. Their request to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Texas, asking to stay Judge Hanen’s injunction was expected, but still amounts to a major escalation. Some immigrant-rights advocates have feared that a second loss in court could demoralize the illegal aliens hoping to apply for Mr. Obama’s amnesty. As many as 4 million illegal immigrants could qualify for the new policy, announced in December, that would grant tentative legal status, work permits and Social Security numbers to illegal immigrant parents whose children are either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers could qualify under a separate policy Mr. Obama announced in 2012 but expanded in November, which applies to illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children…”
GOP wary of new immigration battle
“Senate GOP leadership is staying away from a proposal to ensure illegal immigrants don’t get tax break payouts from the government, with the party still smarting from a battle over Department of Homeland Security funding. Senior Republicans generally say they support the goals of the bill from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that seeks to keep immigrants protected from deportation by President Obama’s executive actions from claiming several years’ worth of earned income tax credits. But with the most recent immigration fight having just finished, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has said he’s still examining the legislation, and even GOP leaders who openly back the measure say now is not the right time to push hard for the measure. “It’s more of a longer-term project,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (Texas), one of the 10 GOP co-sponsors of the bill. Conservative lawmakers and outside groups are still angry that the GOP didn’t continue the fight to withhold Department of Homeland Security funding, which they viewed as the best avenue to combat Obama’s decision to shield millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally from deportation. “I’m clearly one of those who thinks that we need to continue to push very aggressively and that we should have pushed harder earlier,” said Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), another co-sponsor on the tax credit bill. But with a federal court having blocked Obama’s executive actions, Senate Republicans have increased their focus on other issues, including an anti-human-trafficking bill and nuclear negotiations with Iran. Top Senate Republicans say lawmakers will have to deal with immigration again but now are less sure about when the matter will return as a central focus on Capitol Hill. The Senate is scheduled to deal with its budget at the end of March, and leadership aides have simply said Grassley’s measure is in the Finance Committee’s hands now. “It’s an issue that’s always going to be with us,” Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, said about immigration. Grassley’s bill would bar unauthorized immigrants shielded by Obama from claiming the earned income tax credit, a refundable tax break aimed at working families, for the years they worked in the U.S. illegally. Immigrants protected by Obama’s executive actions late last year could potentially receive work permits and a Social Security card, which also allows them to claim the tax credit. And the IRS has made it clear that those workers would be able to seek payments of the credit for up to three previous years, which Grassley calls a loophole that should be closed. Grassley said Wednesday that he had yet to press his case with leadership about his bill and that his first priority would be talking up the measure with Hatch. But the Iowa Republican also said that any reluctance GOP leaders might have about his bill might fade, when they’re trying to cobble together packages for Medicare’s “doc fix” and the Highway Trust Fund, both of which face deadlines in the coming months. “I don’t know very many people in the Republican Party that want to fritter away $1.7 billion,” Grassley said, pointing to how much congressional scorekeepers say his measure will raise over a decade. The proposal also underscores the challenges Republicans face heading into the 2016 election season, after support for the GOP among Hispanics continued to plummet in the last presidential election.”
Chicago activist gets prison term for immigration crime
“A judge sentenced a Chicago activist to 18 months in federal prison Thursday for failing to disclose her convictions for bombings in Israel when she applied to be a U.S. citizen. Rasmieh Odeh, 67, also was stripped of her citizenship and eventually will be deported, likely to Jordan. But she will remain free while she appeals the case. Odeh helps run Chicago’s Arab American Action Network, an education and social services agency, and more than 100 supporters filled the courtroom or spilled over into another room to watch a video feed of the hearing. In 2004, she answered “no” on her U.S. citizenship application in Detroit when asked about any past criminal record. Odeh was convicted of two bombings in Jerusalem in 1969, including one that killed two people at a market. She insists that she believed the questions were related to U.S. crimes, although the form said “EVER.” Speaking to the judge in Arabic and English, Odeh said she’s not a “terrorist” or a “bad woman.” She recalled a tumultuous life overseas due to conflicts between Palestinians and Israelis and said it would be “torture” to the many Arabic women she has helped in the Chicago area if she was sent to prison…”
15 immigrants protected from deportation arrested in sweep
“Federal agents in a sweep targeting the most dangerous criminal immigrants arrested 15 people who have been allowed to remain in the U.S. under President Barack Obama’s executive action intended to protect children who came to the U.S. years ago with their parents, The Associated Press has learned. Fourteen of the 15 had been convicted of a crime, the Homeland Security Department confirmed late Thursday. In at least one case, the Obama administration renewed the protective status for a young immigrant after that person’s conviction in a drug case, a U.S. official briefed on the arrests said. One of the eligibility requirements for the program is that immigrants not have a criminal history. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to discuss the matter by name. It was not immediately clear when 13 of the immigrants were convicted or what their crimes were. They were arrested by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. The answers to those questions could undermine the integrity of the government’s program, since eligibility is reserved for ambitious, young immigrants enrolled in school or who graduated and who would benefit American society…”
Obama clash with Venezuelan leader backfires, Latin Americans unite against U.S.
“President Obama largely shrugged off the provocations of Hugo Chavez, but a clash with the late Venezuelan leader’s hand-picked successor may be backfiring. Latin American leaders have rallied around embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as relations between Washington and Caracas have plunged to a new low. Governments from Havana to Buenos Aires have denounced Mr. Obama’s executive order labeling Venezuela as a national security threat as unwelcome U.S. meddling in regional affairs. Analysts say the move may do little to improve the volatile situation in Venezuela and could well worsen it. The Obama administration imposed sanctions against seven high-ranking Venezuelan officials Monday as it accused Mr. Maduro of human rights abuses. It demanded the release of “all political prisoners,” including opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, detained since February 2014, and Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, whom the government accuses of plotting a coup. Mr. Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader who succeeded the populist Chavez in 2013, fired back that the “U.S. imperialist elite” was trying topple his government. Venezuela’s allies across the Western Hemisphere have supported that view. Ecuador called the U.S. order an “unacceptable attack on Venezuela’s sovereignty,” and Cuba — in the midst of efforts to mend ties with the United States — assured Caracas of its “unconditional support.”
Obama’s LA trip for TV show will cost you $2 million
“This is that time of year when millions of American families begin designing their humble summer vacation, that much-anticipated special week or perhaps 10 days of togetherness, fun and relaxation that generate the next two months of credit card bills. After the kids are in bed these evenings, Moms and Dads calculate which vacation nights on that trip will be Motel 6 and which one will be the splurge at a Holiday Inn with indoor pool. So, it may be some comfort for those middle-class families to know that their president, who professes such concern for middle-class families, doesn’t worry about such mundane things as travel costs. All thanks to the hard work of American taxpayers. In fact, get out your checkbook right now because the Democrat’s about to drop some $2 million of other peoples’ money for a few minutes on a late-night TV show. This president is good with spending a lot on travel. He took the entire family, including grandma, to Alabama last weekend. And according to latest figures, the Obamas’ last three Christmas vacations in Hawaii have cost taxpayers more than $15.5 million just in transportation expenses. The first family annually rents the same beachfront house in Kailua near Honolulu. It only has 13 bedrooms, but somehow they make do. The watchdog outfit, Judicial Watch, files regular Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to obtain Obama travel cost information from history’s most transparent administration. Judicial Watch reports, for example, that last December’s nine-hour-plus one-way Air Force One flight cost American workers $3,672,798.60 to get the Obama clan and staff to and from tropical sunshine. That’s about 802 times what the average American family spent on holiday season gifts last year.
By comparison, another Obama family vacation tradition, the annual August time-off on Martha’s Vineyard, was a real bargain, costing taxpayers only $400,666.30. Air Force One is a luxury 747 complete with soundproof bedroom, shower and window blinds run by a remote control, so no president need bother pulling cords to darken his room. It costs about $206,000 per flight hour for the Air Force to operate the jumbo craft. Thus, for instance, when Barack and Michelle zip up to New York of an evening for dinner and a show, that costs taxpayers almost a half-million dollars just for round-trip, fixed-wing air travel…”
Senate Democrats target sequesters, demand tax hikes, more spending
“Emboldened by winning the shutdown showdown over homeland security, and poised to triumph on raising the debt limit, Senate Democrats set their sights Thursday on the budget sequesters, demanding that Republicans hike taxes and raise spending. It was a shot across the bow for Republican budget writers, who are set to unveil their proposals next week, which are expected to further slash spending and balance the budget in 10 years — slowing the growth of runaway national debt that currently tops $18 trillion. Senate Democrats insisted that keeping the automatic spending cuts would jeopardize the economic recovery, hurt the middle class and weaken the U.S. military. And they warned Republicans that President Obama will reject any budget sent to him that does not increase spending on both defense and domestic programs. “The president has been very clear: He will not accept a budget that locks in sequester, and he will not accept a budget that severs that vital link between defense and nondefense spending,” said Shaun L.S. Donovan, the director of the president’s Office of Management and Budget, who joined Democrats at a Capitol Hill press conference to make the demands. Mr. Donovan boasted that the spending scheme supported by Mr. Obama and his Democrats makes investments in infrastructure, manufacturing and education. “These investments are more than paid for with smart spending cuts, program integrity measures and common-sense tax loophole closures,” he said…”
Senate Dems, Obama official call on GOP to lift spending limits
“Senate Democrats, along with a senior Obama official, are calling on Republicans to lift spending ceilings that are set to return in October. Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan made clear at a Capitol Hill press conference on Thursday that President Obama would not accept a budget that maintains those caps. “He will not accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward,” said Donovan, who was later asked if Obama would sign appropriations bills that keep those levels in place. “We’re not in the business of making decisions until we see bills,” Donovan replied. Congressional budget blueprints don’t require a presidential signature, but provide benchmarks to appropriators who produce spending bills Obama would have to sign. Obama would also not accept a budget that “severs the vital link” between defense and non-defense spending, Donovan said. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) called on Republicans to work with Democrats to raise the spending levels for both the military and non-defense domestic programs equally.
Republicans want to “lop the top off programs that create jobs and grow the economy,” Schumer said. McCaskill said sequestration budget limits, set by the Budget Control Act of 2011, “handcuffs our ability” to fund the military and areas such as research and technology that are necessary to compete globally. The press conference came in advance of budget resolutions House and Senate Republicans are scheduled to unveil and mark up next week. Donovan and the Senate Democrats acknowledged that it would take a change in law to adjust the sequestration limits. Donovan said he hopes Congress can produce a budget deal similar to the one reached in December, 2013, that eased sequestration for two years. Asked if he’s had any serious conversations with congressional Republicans about a possible compromise, Donovan declined to comment…”
Obama budget projected to add $6T to deficit
President Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget request would add nearly $6 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Thursday. This is slightly more than the $5.7 trillion shortfall that the president’s budget projected for the 10-year window, but the CBO estimate is less than the $6.6 trillion it said the president’s previous budget would add to the deficit over 10 years. If Congress approved Obama’s budget request, submitted in early February, CBO says the deficit in 2016 would fall to $380 billion—much less than the $455 billion projected under current law. CBO said the president’s policies would achieve $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade. The following components of the budget below would have the most significant effects on spending, taxes and the deficit, the agency said. Funding for military operations, including those in Afghanistan: Under current law, CBO estimates that average annual overseas contingency operations (OCO) funding would be $74 billion through 2025. Obama’s budget makes a request of $58 billion in funding for the next year, which CBO estimates would end up saving $532 billion over the next decade.
–Immigration reform: Obama asked Congress to pass the bipartisan immigration reform bill approved by the Senat in 2013. CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimate that the legislation would reduce the deficit by $158 billion.
–Increase in income tax receipts: Obama’s budget proposes to cap the reduction in tax liability that results from exclusions and deductions at 28 percent. That change would increase taxes by $526 billion over the next 10 years, CBO and JCT projected.
–Medicare spending decreases: Changes to Medicare requested in the budget would decrease federal spending by $240 billion over the next decade, CBO said.
Obama’s budget called on Congress to breach sequestration spending limits for at least the next fiscal year and to raise $320 billion in revenue by taxing large financial companies and the wealthy. Republicans declared his blueprint—the second-to-last of his presidency—dead on arrival because of the spending and tax hikes. GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate are scheduled to mark up separate budget blueprints next week and vote on them the last full week of March…”
CBO: Obama budget to add $6T to deficit
Obama budget would reduce deficits by $1.2 trillion: Budget office
“President Obama’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget would reduce deficits by $1.2 trillion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The budget office, which serves as Congress’ in-house budget accountant, on Thursday released its projections of the White House budget published in February. Its assessment of Obama’s plans for taxing and spending mostly followed the White House’s own projections. Over 10 years, annual deficits would total $5.98 trillion under Obama’s policies, the budget office projects, just $300 billion more than the White House’s own projections. The budget office sees the Obama proposal pushing the deficit below $400 billion next year, and then slowly expanding it the rest of the decade. In 2025, the federal debt would total 73 percent of U.S. economic output, roughly the same as where the White House pegged it. Under current law, the budget office would expect the debt to hit 77 percent of gross domestic product by then. The biggest savings to the Treasury in the Obama budget would come from tax increases, the biggest of which would be a limitation on the amount of deductions and exclusions taxpayers can claim. That would raise an additional $530 billion over 10 years. Tax increases on capital gains and dividends ($230 billion), corporate earnings held overseas ($210 billion), and estate taxes ($153 billion) would be among big revenue producers. The administration’s plans for reducing Medicare spending would spare the deficit $240 billion. Passing an immigration reform bill along the lines of the one that passed the Senate in 2013 also would be a net boost to the budget of $158 billion. Large-scale immigration reform would entail big increases in government spending but also in taxation, netting out to savings for the Treasury. Those savings would be offset by the president’s spending plans. Most notably, he would undo the spending caps negotiated between the White House and congressional Republicans, and introduce a number of new or expanded refundable tax credits for low-income families and children, as well as for college….”
Senate Republicans blame Obama for Social Security crisis
“President Obama’s proposal for solving the Social Security crisis would only make the situation worse, according to the Senate Republican Policy Committee. The committee released a paper Thursday blaming the Obama administration for damaging the Social Security system, particularly the Disability Insurance Trust Fund. When the Disability Insurance Trust Fund is depleted in late 2016, payments to its 11 million beneficiaries will automatically be cut by 20 percent. “The finances of trust fund have worsened drastically in comparison with the agency’s 2007 projection of what would happen,” the paper said. “The number of program enrollees is up 21 percent during the Obama administration. …The condition of the trust fund has significantly worsened during the Obama administration, and the depletion of the trust fund is coming 10 years sooner than experts predicted in 2007.” Over the past 20 years, changing demographic factors are responsible for a third of the growth in disability insurance payments. The paper cites the poor economic recovery, relaxed eligibility rules, and mismanagement by the Social Security Administration as reasons for the rest of the growth. “This includes skewed agency policies that incentivized hundreds of administrative law judges to essentially rubber stamp disability claims,” the paper said. The increase in Disability Insurance enrollees comes despite improving health and working conditions. The number of Disability Insurance recipients with subjective health conditions, such as back pain or depression, has grown significantly, according to Mark Duggan, a former advisor to Obama on healthcare policy. “The employment potential of SSDI applicants with these more subjective conditions remains substantial, and it is often difficult to verify the severity of these conditions (in contrast to cancer or heart conditions),” Duggan wrote in 2013. “With the liberalization of the medical eligibility criteria, it has become increasingly possible for people who are capable of working to qualify instead for SSDI benefits.”…”
How whistleblowers helped government curb DHS overtime abuse
“Recent whistleblower actions have helped the government curb overtime abuses within the Department of Homeland Security, where border agents once clocked extra hours while working as CrossFit instructors. In a memo released Thursday, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel told President Obama that the government is on track to save an estimated $100 million through steps Congress and the department took to address the problem. The watchdog agency, which investigates and prosecutes federal whistleblower cases, called Homeland Security’s overtime problems “profound and entrenched” and a “gross waste of government funds” when it first revealed them in a 2013 report to the White House and Congress….”
February Retail Sales Disappoint, As Winter Chill Cooled Shopper Spending
“The harsh winter kept many shoppers out of stores in February, and just as temperatures dropped, so did retail sales, according to the National Retail Federation. Excluding automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants, February retail sales slipped 0.2% on a seasonally adjusted, month-to-month basis. “Big picture, we thought retail sales should have been a little bit stronger, they felt like a disappointment, because of the recent [economic] momentum,” Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the NRF, told Forbes. “We had a number of people being employed, more than one million jobs were added in the last two or three months,” which typically means more income and spending, he said. However “the weather was a major deterrent to spending in February.” Indeed, frigid weather “was very widespread, reaching all the way down to Florida.” But there were some bright spots. February sales at sporting goods, hobby, and book and music stores rose 2.3% from January, and increased 3.3% year-over-year. Sporting goods retailers, which sell winter wear, likely benefited from the cold spell, Kleinhenz said…”
Cold weather chills U.S. retail sales; jobs market firming
House Bill Would Provide Tax Deduction For Gym Membership; Shake Weight
“One Congressman is betting on it. Last week, Charles Boustany (R-LA) introduced H.R. 1218, which seeks to encourage healthy lifestyles by providing a tax incentive to individuals who want to get in shape. Under current law, Section 213 provides a deduction for any amount paid for ”medical care” that is not otherwise compensated by insurance. Medical care includes amounts paid for:
–the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body,
–transportation primarily for and essential to medical care ,
–qualified long-term care services, or
–for health insurance premiums.
These definitions do not, as a general rule, cover gym memberships, fitness equipment, or the like. HR 1218, however, would change that. It would add to the definition of medical care “qualified sports and fitness expenses,” which include amounts paid for:
–membership at a fitness facility,
–participation or instruction in a program of physical exercise or physical activity, and
–equipment used in a program (including a self-directed program) of physical exercise or physical activity.
A “fitness facility” is required to meet certain standards in order for the membership fees to be tax deductible: it may not offer golf, hunting, sailing or riding facilities or be a private club owned and operated by its members. The “equipment” portion of the bill would permit a deduction for instructional videos and books. Importantly, it would cover only equipment used exclusively for fitness, and would exclude apparel, meaning the sixteen compression sleeves you wear to your Crossfit box would not provide you with a tax break. The bill would cap the total deduction at $2,000 (if married filing jointly, $1,000 if single). Let me be clear — I love this bill. I am a firm believer that for all of the sin taxes the government assesses on smoking and drinking, it is certainly not beyond Congress to provide incentive for healthy behavior. Like nude beaches or ESPN Classic, however, the shortcoming with HR 1218 is not in its premise, but rather its execution. Specifically, there are two problems with trying to reduce obesity with an enhanced medical deduction. First, deductible medical expenses are subject to a floor — a taxpayer may only deduct medical expenses to the extent the total of those expenses exceeds 10% of the taxpayer’s Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) (7.5% if the taxpayer is over the age of 65). Thus, a taxpayer under the age of 65 with $100,000 of AGI would need to amass total medical expenses in excess of $10,000 before he or she would derive any benefit from the deduction. If the taxpayer’s total medical expenses were $14,000, the taxpayer would only receive a deduction equal to the excess of the expenses over the AGI floor, or $4,000 ($10,000 – $4,000). Thus, from a realistic perspective, few taxpayers would enjoy a tax break resulting from the expanded definition of medical care to include fitness costs, because even with those costs — and remember, they are capped at $2,000 — most taxpayers will not generate enough medical deductions to exceed the 10% floor. The second, bigger, problem, is one of the interplay between tax law and socioeconomics. Medical expenses are an itemized deduction. Under current law, a taxpayer only utilizes itemized deductions — items like mortgage interest, real estate taxes, and charitable contributions — if the sum of the allowable itemized deductions exceeds the “standard deduction,” which is $12,400 in 2015 (for married filing jointly, $6,300 if single). Because of this “greater of” analysis, only approximately 30% of taxpayers itemize their deductions…”
Politico: Taxpayers funded Clinton Foundation staff
“Say, how is Clinton nostalgia working out for Democrats these days? Some of them may long for the days when Clintonian freeloading meant stealing furniture from the White House. That amounted to chump change compared to the millions received by the Clintons in the years since they loaded up the moving van at the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency. That comes to over $16 million, according to an analysis by Politico’s Kenneth Vogel, and includes cash that has gone into salaries for staffers at the Clinton Foundation: “Multiple sources familiar with Clinton’s funding say the special federal money has supplemented the salaries of some employees of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, a global nonprofit that has served as Hillary Clinton’s primary platform as she prepares for a presidential campaign expected to launch in coming weeks. Critics for years have questioned why taxpayers need to support former presidents when they and their families can reap huge paydays, like the then-record $15 million book advance paid to Clinton for his 2004 memoir. But scrutiny of the act — and of the vast financial empire built by the Clintons — is poised to intensify as questions mount about the family’s commingling of personal, political, government and foundation business. … Of the $16 million requested under the former presidents fund, nearly $3 million has been slated for staff salary and benefits, according to GSA budgeting documents. The documents do not list the names or positions of the former presidents’ federally paid employees. But sources say that several Bill Clinton staffers who have been paid through the GSA have also been paid through the foundation or his personal office. They include Doug Band, the former White House aide who previously helped run the foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative, and senior foundation official Laura Graham, whose foundation salary increased from $74,000 in 2005 to more than $180,000 in 2013, according to tax filings. Another Clinton insider believed to have been on the GSA payroll is Bill Clinton’s chief of staff Tina Flournoy, a former union official who advised Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign and whose arrival on her husband’s staff in 2012 was seen by some insiders “as Hillary’s planting a sentinel,” according to a report in New York magazine.” The $16 million haul, in both cash and services, also belies Hillary Clinton’s claim of poverty as the two exited the White House, a claim she made to much derision during her book tour last summer. Not only did the Clintons do well off of their prior public service (while Hillary served in the Senate, too), they managed to pass off a considerable amount of the expenses associated with their family business onto taxpayers. It’s difficult to fail when a business of any kind gets a $3 million subsidy for its salaries. Vogel skewers the poverty claim, noting that the Clintons took in $16 million on their own in the first year after their White House exit…”
Is The Middle Class Getting Squeezed By Liberal Public Policies?
“President Obama’s concern about “middle class economics” is justified. But as I pointed out in a previous post, his prescriptions would do almost nothing to solve the problems. According to a private sector estimate, the benefit for families in the middle from all of the Obama proposals would be a paltry $12 a year. According to the Treasury Department, the benefit would be closer to $150. Either way, it’s small potatoes. If you don’t understand the problem – or won’t acknowledge it even if you do understand it – you are unlikely to find a solution that works. Here is what is going on. All middle class families understand that for their children to do well in life they need to be in good schools. But the opportunity to attend a good public school these days is rationed through the housing market. And those opportunities are far removed from what life was like for the parents of today’s parents. During the 1960s, 70s and 80s, federal judges – most of them well intentioned – put the goal of integration above just about every other goal. By the time they threw up their hands and conceded defeat, the public school systems in many of our inner cities were just as segregated as when they began. And, as law professor Lino Graglia explained in Disaster by Decree, the judges left the public school system in shambles. As the judges retreated, the teachers’ unions stepped in. As they gained power, it became increasingly difficult to do anything to improve failing schools. And at the local level, the party that is often in the best position to improve the schools seems to be owned lock, stock and barrel by the unions. That’s why Rahm Emanuel may get ejected as mayor of Chicago. While the unions hate the term “school choice,” the public school system itself offers a myriad of choices. Almost a decade and a half ago Matt Moore and I investigated how the system worked in Dallas. At that time there were 79 school districts within a 50-mile radius of downtown Dallas. Assuming each district had at least two campuses at each grade level, a typical family had a choice of about 158 public schools — provided the parents could afford to buy a house in any neighborhood and were willing to drive a considerable distance to work…”
‘IRS should notify victims of tax identity theft,’ Sen. Warner says
“Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said the IRS should inform taxpayers when they have become victims of tax identity theft. “If we’re looking at $5.8 billion in fraudulent refunds [in 2013], making sure the IRS informs people when they’ve been the victims of identity theft, I think, would be a step in the right direction,” he said during the Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday on protecting taxpayers from schemes and scams during the 2015 tax filing season. He asked if the IRS could create a national education system where taxpayers could be notified of tax scams and check to see if a fraudulent return has been filed on their behalf. “It’s a matter of finding the resources,” said Timothy Camus, deputy inspector general for investigations at the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The IRS has said funding cuts have made it all the more difficult for the agency to combat tax fraud. Congress has cut the agency’s funding by $1.2 billion since 2010, resulting in a workforce reduction of more than 13,000 employees. The agency was budgeted $346 million less in 2015 than it received in 2014, with $10.9 billion to spend for the year. During the hearing, Warner also called for a national standard for financial institutions and retailers to follow for reporting a data breach. “This is an area where there’s a lot of finger pointing between the retail sector and the financial sector,” he said….”
Senate Finance chair said tax fraud ‘must stop’
“Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said taxpayers must be better protected from tax fraud. During a committee hearing Thursday, Timothy Camus, deputy inspector general for investigations at the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, said tax identity theft and phone impersonation scams are two of the most pervasive ways criminals are scamming taxpayers this filing season. The highest amount that a phone scammer took from one individual was over $500,000, he said. And though the IRS is trying to improve its identification of identity theft tax returns, Camus said the agency lacks timely access to third-party income and withholding information. “Most of the third-party income and withholding information is not received by the IRS until well after taxpayers begin filing their tax returns,” he said. “For example, the deadline for filing most third-party information returns with the IRS is March 31, yet taxpayers began filing their tax returns for the 2015 Filing Season on January 20th.” In order to accelerate the filing deadline, he said, legislation is needed. John Valentine, chairman of the Utah State Tax Commission, recommended Congress strengthen information sharing between the IRS and states; create stricter regulations for prepaid debit cards; prohibit the practice of applying refunds to payment of fees for filing services, a practice called “refund transfer; and require third-party filing services to tighten front end security by using multifactor authentication and other measures to secure data from unauthorized disclosure and identity theft…”
Fake IRS agents target more than 366,000 in huge tax scam
Politico sat on allegations Lois Lerner had prior history of targeting conservatives
“Politico scored a journalistic coup with its exclusive 2014 profile on Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the agency’s targeting of conservative groups. But a former Illinois lawmaker who said Politico contacted him repeatedly that year with questions regarding claims he was targeted by Lerner in the mid-1990s has been left wondering why the news group chose to ignore his documented dealings with the former federal official. “I was shocked,” Al Salvi told the Washington Examiner’s media desk, describing what he characterizes as several “lengthy” interviews with Politico reporter Rachael Bade. Lerner went after his 1996 Senate campaign with a lawsuit totaling $1.1 million — an enforcement action that was eventually thrown out of court — when she was working at the Federal Election Commission, according to Salvi. “I spent something like an hour and a half talking to Politico about this,” said Salvi, whose dealings with the FEC are well documented by the federal agency. “And I’m nowhere in the story. They had no intention of using anything I said.” With its Lerner profile, titled “Exclusive: Lois Lerner breaks silence,” Politico became the first news group to gain access to the embattled former bureaucrat, who resigned from the Internal Revenue Service after bombshell revelations in 2013 that the IRS had singled out Tea Party and other conservative nonprofits for exceptional scrutiny and slow-walking of applications for tax exemptions. Lerner headed the tax agency’s exempt organizations division at the time. In 1996, Salvi, a representative in the Illinois state house, ran for an open U.S. Senate seat against then-Rep. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. His campaign attracted powerful scrutiny from the Federal Election Commission’s enforcement division, creating a scandal that Salvi said cost him the race…”
Americans Say ‘Government’ Is Most Important US Problem (continuation of previous article)
“Americans named “government” as the most important problem facing the country for the fourth month in a row. Almost 1 in 5 Americans polled by Gallup last week said “dissatisfaction with government” is the most important problem, topping the economy (11 percent), unemployment (10 percent) and illegal immigration (7 percent). Only 31 percent said they are satisfied with “the way things are going” in the country. Government has consistently been named the top problem, but is even more clearly the leading problem this month because fewer Americans named the economy, Gallup noted. Those who named the economy as the most important problem dropped from 16 percent in February to 11 percent in March. Those who named dissatisfaction with government increased to 18 percent…”
America’s top problem? Government
“What does America see as the biggest problem facing the nation? It’s not terrorism, foreign policy, or race relations — and it’s not even the economy. That comes in a distant second to the government itself, which has topped the list for four straight months in the Gallup poll: Americans continue to name the government (18%) as the most important U.S. problem, a distinction it has had for the past four months. Americans’ mentions of the economy as the top problem (11%) dropped this month, leaving it tied with jobs (10%) for second place. Though issues such as terrorism, healthcare, race relations and immigration have emerged among the top problems in recent polls, government, the economy and unemployment have been the dominant problems listed by Americans for more than a year. … While the ranking of the top two problems is similar to what Gallup found in February, mentions of the economy dropped from 16% to the current 11%. In a separate measure, Americans’ confidence in the economy had been dipping further into negative territory in late February and early March, but has been improving in recent days. If one combines “Economy in general” and “Unemployment/Jobs,” the 21% would outstrip government, but only just. Those two combined for 25% in February, so the trend on that line has dropped, but not for “government.” Gallup’s chart for that category only goes back a year, but during that time, it has remained at or near the top of the list for the biggest problems the US faces — peaking at 20% four different times, and only dropping as low as 15% once — immediately after the midterms….”
FCC Leaves Itself Wiggle Room on Net-Neutrality Rules
Agency releases 400 pages on rules but also says many issues will be decided case by case
“The details of the Federal Communications Commission’s new net-neutrality rules make clear the regulator is struggling with how to handle some of the hot-button issues that helped put the topic back on the agenda in the first place. The uncertainty in some of the rules, released in full for the first time Thursday, reflects in part the fast-changing nature of the Internet and the agency’s lack of experience in areas that it now has…”
Senate Republicans want chemical agency head removed
“Two Republican senators tasked with overseeing the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) are asking President Obama to pressure the agency’s embattled chairman to resign. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who leads the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the CSB, wrote to Obama Thursday expressing their concerns with Rafael Moure-Eraso. The letter came a week after a hearing in the House Oversight Committee, the third in a year on Moure-Eraso’s alleged shortcomings.
Inhofe and Rounds joined House members from both parties who have called for Moure-Eraso’s resignation amid allegations that he’s retaliated against whistleblowers, used a personal email account for government work, impeded watchdog investigations and created a hostile workplace for employees. The senators wrote that investigations by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General and by Congress show that Moure-Eraso “is incapable of executing the important functions for which he was appointed.” They singled out Moure-Eraso’s private email use as one of the most egregious violations of his tenure, but also said he’s been hostile toward colleagues, leading the agency to be ranked last among places to work in the federal government. Moure-Eraso’s term at the CSB expires in June, and Obama has nominated Vanessa Sutherland, an attorney at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, to replace him. But Inhofe and Rounds said that’s not enough and said Obama should ask the chairman to resign immediately. “Based on the aforementioned findings and statements, there is … no doubt that Chairman Moure-Eraso has lost the confidence of CSB staff, the EPA OIG, and members of both parties in Congress,” they said. “He has violated his oath of office. He has violated the law. The CSB can no longer continue to operate credibly under this leadership, and it is therefore our recommendation that you ask for Chairman Moure-Eraso’s immediate resignation.”
“”But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact,” said President Barack Obama in his 2014 State of the Union address. Saying the debate is settled is nonsense, but the president is right about climate change. GlobalChange.gov gives the definition of climate change: “Changes in average weather conditions that persist over multiple decades or longer. Climate change encompasses both increases and decreases in temperature, as well as shifts in precipitation, changing risk of certain types of severe weather events, and changes to other features of the climate system.” That definition covers all weather phenomena throughout all 4.54 billion years of Earth’s existence. You say, “Williams, that’s not what the warmers are talking about. It’s the high CO2 levels caused by mankind’s industrial activities that are causing the climate change!” There’s a problem with that reasoning. Today CO2 concentrations worldwide average about 380 parts per million. This level of CO2 concentration is trivial compared with the concentrations during earlier geologic periods. For example, 460 million years ago, during the Ordovician Period, CO2 concentrations were 4,400 ppm, and temperatures then were about the same as they are today. With such high levels of CO2, at least according to the warmers, the Earth should have been boiling. Then there are warmer predictions. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, warmers, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, made all manner of doomsday predictions about global warming and the increased frequency of hurricanes. According to the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, “no Category 3-5 hurricane has struck the United States for a record nine years, and Earth’s temperature has not budged for 18 years.” Climate change predictions have been wrong for decades. Let’s look at some. At the first Earth Day celebration, in 1969, environmentalist Nigel Calder warned, “The threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind.” C.C. Wallen of the World Meteorological Organization said, “The cooling since 1940 has been large enough and consistent enough that it will not soon be reversed.” In 1968, Professor Paul Ehrlich predicted that there would be a major food shortage in the U.S. and that “in the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people (would) starve to death.” Ehrlich forecasted that 65 million Americans would die of starvation between 1980 and 1989 and that by 1999, the U.S. population would have declined to 22.6 million. Ehrlich’s predictions about England were gloomier. He said, “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”…”
Don’t Bet On Obama’s Plan To Drill In The Atlantic
“President Obama’s energy policies have been a debacle since his first day in office. Now, with Americans dubious of his schemes after being burned by his war on coal, stifling environmental regulations, and refusal to allow the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, the president is pulling a new tactic from his bag of tricks in hopes of winning back public support: The old switcheroo. Last month, when the president announced his draconian new policies that would block the production of as much as 30 billion barrels of oil off the coast of Alaska and ban future generations from recovering an estimated 10 billion more sitting beneath Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he included a trade-off meant to help American energy production efforts elsewhere. Or so it seemed. In his compromise, Obama promised to open up areas of the Atlantic coast from Virginia to Georgia to new opportunities for offshore oil and natural gas leasing … sometime between 2017 and 2022 … maybe. That same area had previously been approved for energy exploration before, but the president killed that plan in 2010. There’s little reason to believe that any drilling will occur in the region this time around, either. Under the trade-off, energy producers lose the opportunity to begin extracting 40 billion barrels of oil from Alaska now in exchange for the hope that, years from now, the federal government might grant offshore leases to drill in an area off the Atlantic coast that, even using the most hopeful estimates, holds less than 5 billion barrels. And that’s assuming the government grants the leases necessary to perform the drilling. To make matters worse, it’s entirely possible — likely, even — that the government will renege on the whole deal, either by refusing to offer lease rights to the Atlantic oil reserves, or by blocking permits needed for energy exploration. If such a bait-and-switch occurred, it would be devastating to America’s economy and our nation’s energy independence. But it would be par for the course with this administration…”
Obama administration: Wind power could dominate energy sector by 2050
“Wind power is poised to take off over the next 30 years and could become one of the nation’s dominant power sources, the Obama administration said Thursday. The Energy Department projects that by 2050 wind power could provide 35 percent of U.S. electricity — a dramatic jump from today’s energy landscape, in which wind provides less than 5 percent of power generation. With the administration admittedly aiming to lessen the role of fossil fuels, particularly coal, wind power increasingly is viewed as perhaps the most viable alternative. “Since President Obama took office, the electricity we get from wind has increased by three fold. In fact, between 2009 and 2013, wind represented approximately 30% of new electricity generation in the United States,” the White House said in a fact sheet promoting an Energy Department report on wind. “With economically competitive prices in many areas, the U.S. wind energy market currently remains strong as more utilities select wind as a cost-saving option, paving the way to a low-carbon future that protects our air and water and addresses climate change.” In 2014, coal provided 38.7 percent of the nation’s electricity, making it the single largest power source, according to Energy Information Administration data. Natural gas provided 27.4 percent. But the administration expects coal’s share to steadily decline in the coming years. The administration projects coal will provide 37.2 percent of U.S. electricity this year, while natural gas is expected to provide 29.2 percent…”
John Kerry Says Climate Science Is as Settled as Gravity
“Secretary of State John Kerry argued Thursday that the science showing Earth’s climate is warming because of human activity is as clear and settled as the science that shows gravity will force an apple to fall out of its tree and down to the ground. “When an apple falls from a tree, it will drop toward the ground. We know that because of the basic laws of physics. Science tells us that gravity exists, and no one disputes that,” Kerry said in a climate speech before the Atlantic Council in Washington. “Science also tells us that when the water temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it turns to ice. No one disputes that,” he said. ”So when science tells us that our climate is changing and human beings are largely causing that change, by what right do people stand up and just say, ‘well, I dispute that, or I deny that elementary truth?’ ” “And yet there are those that do so,” he said. Kerry has routinely called for steps to reduce human-based carbon emissions, and said Thursday that the issue is “personal to me.” Kerry’s devotion to the issue has led some to criticize him for focusing on climate issues instead of spending more time on Ukraine, Iran or other global hotspots. Kerry spoke for nearly an hour at the Atlantic Council, and insisted that the science behind climate change is settled. “It may seem obvious to you, but it isn’t to some,” he said. “The science is and has and long been crystal clear when it comes to climate change.” “It’s not particularly complicated,” he added. “I don’t mean to sound, you know, haughty about it, but think about it for a minute.” Kerry also said the solution is simple as well. “If we make the switch to a global clean energy economy … if we think more creatively about how we power our cars, heat our homes, operate our businesses, then we still have time to prevent the worst consequences of climate change,” he said. “It really is as simple as that.”
Here are all 400 pages of the FCC’s net neutrality rules
“The Federal Communications Commission has finally published its full net neutrality rules on its Web site. And they’re not for the faint of heart. Together with the dissents from the agency’s Republican commissioners, the document adds up to 400 pages. The release of the rules comes two weeks after the FCC voted to approve them in a historic, polarized vote at the commission. Now begins the next chapter in the story. Expect Internet providers to comb through the publication, probing the rules for legal weaknesses they can take to court. The FCC’s net neutrality order seeks to prevent Internet providers from blocking Web traffic, slowing it down or setting up paid fast lanes. It reflects a year’s worth of intense lobbying by carriers and Web companies — not to mention the public, whose 4 million written comments to the FCC helped convince the agency to adopt far more aggressive regulations. “That public input has created a robust record, enabling the Commission to adopt new rules that are clear and sustainable,” the FCC writes in the order. Internet providers vowed to press for other alternatives.
“We are confident the issue will be resolved by bipartisan action by Congress or a future FCC, or by the courts,” said AT&T in a statement Thursday. To see the document for yourself, check it out below…”
FCC releases 313 pages of Internet order
“The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday released the full text of its recently approved net neutrality rules, which face legal challenges and Congressional pushback. The order alone runs for 313 pages. Including the statements of the five commissioners, the document hits 400 pages, with the two GOP dissents taking up the final 79 pages. The rules were approved two weeks ago on a 3-2 vote and have proved controversial throughout the yearlong rule-making process. The FCC is sending the order to the federal register, and it will take effect 60 days after publication. For months, critics and Republicans in Congress had called on the FCC to release the text of the rules early, given the huge interest surrounding them…”
FCC Cites Soros-Funded, Neo-Marxist-Founded Group 46 TIMES In New Regs
“New internet regulations finally released by the Federal Communications Commission make 46 references to a group funded by billionaire George Soros and co-founded by a neo-Marxist. The FCC released the 400-page document on Thursday, two weeks after it passed new regulations, which many fear will turn the internet into a public commodity and thereby stifle innovation. “Leveling the playing field” in that way has been a clear goal of Free Press, a group dedicated to net neutrality which was founded in 2003. As Phil Kerpen, president of the free-market group American Commitment, first noted, Free Press is mentioned repeatedly in the FCC document. Most of the references are found in footnotes which cite comments by Free Press activists supporting more internet regulation. The term “Free Press” is mentioned 62 times in the regulations. Some are redundant mentions referring to the same Free Press activists’ comments in favor of more oversight. In total, the FCC cited Free Press’ pro-net neutrality arguments 46 times…”
Net Neutrality’s Babes in Toyland
Netflix, Google and Tumblr sent the Internet into Washington’s heart of darkness.
“Washington’s seizure of the Internet is one of the great case studies in the annals of political naïveté. Over several years, leading lights of the Web—among them Netflix,Google and Tumblr—importuned the Obama White House to align itself with the cause of net neutrality. “Net neutrality,” like so many progressivist-y causes—climate change, health care for all—is a phrase designed to be embraced rather than understood. But net neutrality had real meaning. Its core idea was that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, a Washington agency whose employees have been regulating communications since 1934, should design and enforce a price mechanism for the Internet. Up to now, nobody did that. In February the FCC did, and on that day the Little Red Riding Hoods of net neutrality found out what big teeth grandma has. The FCC said its plans to regulate the Web were in a 332-page document, which no one can see until the agency is ready. Within days, Netflix CFO David Wells spoke about the Internet coming under the FCC’s Title-II control: “Were we pleased it pushed to Title II? Probably not. We were hoping there might be a non-regulated solution. But it seems like companies that are pursuing their commercial interests including us have to arrive at something like that.” The Internet’s descent into the Washington heart of darkness is a perfect example of that famous Santayana-ism: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. For our purposes, the personification of this forgotten wisdom would be David Karp, the 28-year-old founder of the Web’s popular blogging platform, Tumblr. Mr. Karp got Barack Obama’s ear on net neutrality at one of the president’s nonstop New York City fundraisers. Mr. Obama then told aides and lawyers in the White House to move on it, and they told Chairman Tom Wheeler of the nominally independent FCC that regulating the Web was a done deal. Netflix and the others are being mocked for turning the Internet over to a telecommunications law written in the 1930s. But you don’t have to travel back that far to understand the fix they’ve gotten themselves into. The more relevant political event is the Telecommunications Act of 1996, passed when Mr. Karp was . . . 10 years old. Mr. Karp and the rest of the 20-something and 30-something Peter Pans in the app development world should find their way to the 80-something communications lawyers and lobbyists retired in Florida for a tutorial on what it’s like trying to get Washington off your back once it has climbed on. Here’s the tweet-length version: You are going to pay and pay and pay. To save you, Washington will bleed you…”
Loretta Lynch nomination a cliffhanger
She currently has the bare minimum number of votes to succeed Eric Holder.
“Just days before her nomination as attorney general goes to the Senate floor, Loretta Lynch is stubbornly stuck right around 50 votes — suggesting a confirmation fight the Obama administration once seemed certain to win with relative ease will go down to the wire.
Barring an 11th-hour surprise, Lynch is likely to be confirmed. But with four GOP senators currently backing her along with unanimous support from Senate Democrats, Lynch would secure the bare minimum required to be installed as the nation’s top cop – as long as senators hauled in Vice President Joe Biden to break a tie. Several Republican senators who could have been potential “yes” votes are signaling ahead of the confirmation vote that that they will instead vote against her. The overwhelming bloc of opposition from Republicans stems from President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, and Lynch’s confirmation is also plagued with remnants of congressional Republicans’ toxic relations with current attorney general Eric Holder. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said when he met with Lynch more than two months ago, he asked the federal prosecutor to lay out how the Justice Department’s agenda would differ than that of Holder, who’s led the Justice Department since 2009.
“She told me it would not be different,” Burr recalled of his conversation with the nominee. “I voted against Eric Holder and he’s lived up to exactly what I thought he would.”
Striking a Blow Against the Obama Bullet Ban
“This past week, we witnessed a devious Obama administration scheme to infringe on our right to bear arms — and a swift and mighty pushback. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had proposed a ban on M855 ammunition, often called green tips. Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia told Fox News that the green tip is the second most commonly used round in America’s favorite sporting rifle, the AR-15, which is owned by 5 million Americans. After a withering barrage of emails, letters and calls from National Rifle Association members and other like-minded Americans, the bureau backed off. On Tuesday, the plan was shelved — for now. The green tip is capable of penetrating body armor worn by police. Since 1968, armor-piercing rounds have been banned for handguns, which are the weapon of choice for most criminals. The green tip is nearly always used in sporting rifles, however, so it’s always been exempt from the bullet ban. Still, a few recently designed handguns are capable of firing the round. Does this pose a serious threat to police? Not according to Brent Ball, a 17-year veteran police officer in Springfield, Missouri. Officer Ball told the Springfield News-Leader, “Criminals aren’t going to go out and buy a $1,000 AR pistol.” He added, “As a police officer I’m not worried about AR pistols because you can see them. It’s the small gun in a guy’s hand you can’t see that kills you.”…”
House bill would ban AR-15 bullet
“Democrats have introduced new legislation in the House that would ban forms of armor-piercing ammunition. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) is pushing the Armor Piercing Bullets Act followingthe Obama administration’s decision earlier this week to withdraw a controversial proposal that would restrict a bullet used in AR-15 rifles. “Armor-piercing rounds like green tips should only be in the hands of military personnel or police officers, period,” Engel said. “There is absolutely no compelling argument to be made for anyone else to have access to them.” “But the out-of-touch gun industry lobby is fighting tooth and nail to keep cop-killing ammunition on the streets. We need to speak up on behalf of our police officers and say ‘stop the madness, ’” he added. Engel’s legislation would restrict the sale of certain small caliber ammunition commonly used in AR-15 rifles that can penetrate police body armor. Even as they pursue legislation, congressional Democrats are also pushing for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to move ahead with restrictions on the armor-piercing bullets. The ATF had sought to prohibit gun companies from manufacturing or selling 5.56 mm projectiles for M855 cartridges, but shelved the plan after an outcry from gun groups and congressional Republicans. Dozens of Democrats, including including Reps. Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Jackie Speier (Calif.) and Steve Israel (N.Y.), are expected to sign a letter that will be sent on Friday to ATF Director B. Todd Jones asking him to reconsider the plan. Speier is also planning to introduce her own piece of legislation next week that would more broadly ban forms of armor-piercing ammunition.”
Dems push ATF to revive bullet ban
“Congressional Democrats are pressuring the Obama administration to move ahead “swiftly” with a proposal that would ban a form of armor-piercing ammunition. In a draft letter first obtained by The Hill, Democrats are urging the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to use his “existing authority” to keep “dangerous ammunition out of our communities.” “We hope that the Bureau will swiftly review comments on the proposed framework and issue a revised proposal that will address the danger posed by handguns that fire 5.56mm and other rifle ammunition,” Democrats write in the letter. The ATF had sought to prohibit gun companies from manufacturing or selling 5.56 mm projectiles for M855 cartridges, arguing they are a threat to law enforcement officers because they can be used in handguns. But the proposal generated a firestorm of opposition from Republicans and gun groups, who denounced it as an attack on the Second Amendment that could open the door to sweeping restrictions on ammunition. With the backlash growing, the ATF backed down earlier this week, shelving the proposal indefinitely to allow time for “further study.” House Democrats in their letter say they are “very disappointed” that the ATF delayed the rule. The proposal, they say, is true to the spirit of the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act, which Congress passed in 1986 to ensure that officers do “not face extreme safety risk from firearm technology.” “It is critical to update this legislation as new technologies are developed in order to keep law enforcement officers and our communities safe,” they write. “That is why we urge you not to drag out this delay and to act swiftly to keep armor-piercing ammunition that can be used in handguns off the street.” Dozens of House Democrats, including Reps. Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Jackie Speier (Calif.) and Steve Israel (N.Y.), are expected to sign the letter, which will be sent on Friday to ATF Director B. Todd Jones. Jones declined to comment Thursday on whether his agency might reconsider the bullet ban at a future date, but he defended the plan as a “good faith effort” while testifying at a Senate hearing on the agency’s budget. “I want to make sure everyone understands that this was not — contrary to the blogosphere — an effort to completely ban that sort of cartridge,” he said…”
Dems want bullet ban back
Obama Says ‘You Think I’m Exaggerating’ on Guns. Fact Checker Says…
“President Barack Obama told a college crowd last week he wasn’t “exaggerating” when it comes to some of the proposals the pro-gun crowd has thrown around. The Washington Post’s fact checker begs to differ. Speaking during a town hall event at Benedict College on Friday, Obama asserted that in some places, it’s easier to buy a gun than it is “to buy a book” or “a fresh vegetable.” “And as long as you can go into some neighborhoods and it is easier for you to buy a firearm than it is for you to buy a book, there are neighborhoods where it’s easier for you to buy a handgun and clips than it is for you to buy a fresh vegetable — as long as that’s the case, we’re going to continue to see unnecessary violence,” Obama said. Post Fact Checker columnist Glenn Kessler called the assertion “a very strange comment that appears to have no statistical basis.” Obama also said during the town hall: “What we also have to recognize is, is that our homicide rates are so much higher than other industrialized countries. I mean by like a mile. And most of that is attributable to the easy, ready availability of firearms, particularly handguns.”…”
Brands Take a Stand: When Speaking Up About Controversial Issues Hurts Or Helps Business
“How do you feel about same-sex marriage? Emergency contraception? Obamacare? These issues weigh heavily on the minds of American voters, but it’s not just individuals engaging in public dialogue about these topics. Increasingly, corporations are choosing to take public stands in support or opposition to social-political issues. In a study we ran using Qualtrics, we found that Americans are 8.1% more likely to purchase from a company that shares their opinions and are 8.4% less likely to purchase from a company that doesn’t. In other words, it’s no longer just about whether a person likes the product or service, it’s about whether they like the company’s stance on certain pertinent issues. In fact, research by the Global Strategy Group indicates that 56% of Americans now believe corporations should engage in dialogue surrounding controversial social-political issues. More and more, corporations and brands are expressing public support or opposition towards social-political issues. Whether intentionally or not, when CEOs express their stance on controversial issues, their companies become aligned with those views. Take Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who made support for same-sex marriage a core element of Starbucks’ business culture. Additionally, Chick-fil-A CEO, Dan Cathy, made several statements in support of marriage between a man and woman, igniting public controversy on the issue of corporate endorsement of social-political issues…”
2016 Republican hopefuls embrace big-money allies while they still can
“In the last presidential contest, super PACs were an exotic add-on for most candidates. This time, they are the first priority. Already, operatives with close ties to eight likely White House contenders have launched political committees that can accept unlimited donations — before any of them has even declared their candidacy. The latest, a super PAC called America Leads that plans to support Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, was announced Thursday. The goal is simple: Potential candidates want to help their super PAC allies raise as much money as possible now, before their official campaigns start. That’s because once they announce their bids, federal rules require them to keep their distance. Official candidates can still appear at super PAC fundraisers, but they can only ask donors to give up to $5,000. And they cannot share inside strategic information with those running the group. “Once someone becomes a candidate, there will be some very important guardrails you have to abide by,” said Michael Toner, a Republican campaign finance attorney who served on the Federal Election Commission. But for now, there are few guardrails for most of the 2016 hopefuls. That’s why former Florida governor Jeb Bush is headlining $100,000-a-head fundraisers for a super PAC already ballooning with tens of millions in donations. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s political committee is soliciting corporate money and six-figure checks. And on Monday in New York, former New York governor George Pataki was the guest of honor at a fundraiser for his super PAC at a private Manhattan club, where co-chairs were asked to contribute $250,000 each. The aggressive and open manner in which many White House hopefuls are embracing super PACs has startled many campaign finance experts, who say they are venturing onto untested legal ground even as undeclared candidates…”
Fournier: ‘Never Seen’ Hillary Look Less Presidential Than During Press Conference [VIDEO]
White House can’t believe what a terrible campaigner Hillary is
Krauthammer on Clinton OF-109 Separation Form: “We Are Returning To It Depends What The Meaning Of The Word ‘Is’ Is”
“CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: It’s not over. It’s got legs. It’s got long legs. It’s got legs because the AP has now sued the State Department to get access to her e-mails, because three committees in the House are going to sue to get access or subpoena her e-mails because we are now in a position where we’re arguing over what is the proper meaning of the word is. I said that a week ago and I did it as a joke. With the Clintons, you can’t make this stuff up. We are actually returning to it depends what the meaning of the word is is. And I think what the Judge is explaining, what Shannen Coffin, who used to work at the Justice Department, has raised, is a very serious issue. If she did not sign the document, then what she did, the one on separation, then what she did is to leave without turning over government documents, which I believe is a felony. I don’t see how you could interpret it either way. If she signed it, it’s perjury. If she didn’t, then she left with government documents, which is illegal. So, now we have the legal issues. I’m sure the Clintons will invent a parsing of the words, it depends what a document means, it depends what is is, but I do want to say one thing about what the Obama people are saying in astonishment. I suspect that what the hell is a loose translation of what they actually said…”
NO ONE READ HILLARY’S EMAILS BEFORE DELETING THEM
“Looks like we’ve got our answer to one of the lingering questions I listed after Hillary Clinton’s train-wreck press conference! It was Question Number 8, to be exact: Clinton insists that the 30,000 emails she has deleted – purportedly about half of the correspondence stored on her server – was personal in nature. Who made that determination, and what criteria were used? Even if her claims are taken at face value, it seems unlikely Clinton herself reviewed the messages one at a time. Who assisted her in this task, and what security clearance did they possess? The answer, courtesy of Time: nobody read the emails before deleting them. For more than a year after she left office in 2013, she did not transfer work-related email from her private account to the State Department. She commissioned a review of the 62,320 messages in her account only after the department–spurred by the congressional investigation–asked her to do so. And this review did not involve opening and reading each email; instead, Clinton’s lawyers created a list of names and keywords related to her work and searched for those. Slightly more than half the total cache–31,830 emails–did not contain any of the search terms, according to Clinton’s staff, so they were deemed to be “private, personal records.” So Clinton’s legal team whipped up a list of words, her aides searched for messages containing those words, we have Hillary’s pinky-swear assurance all of those messages were printed out and handed over to the State Department… and everything else was deemed “personal” and deleted. Even though no actual people treat their personal email that way. What was on the list of keywords? Trust the Clinton mob, it was a great list. Was every message discovered by those searches faithfully handed over? Trust the Clinton mob, they’re honest as the day is long. The notion of the media accepting a delirious load of crap like this from any Republican official for longer than a single day is enough to give you giggle fits. The feedback Time procured from a legal expert is understated enough to fetch another basket of giggles: This strikes experts as a haphazard way of analyzing documents. Jason R. Baron, a former lawyer at the National Archives and Records Administration who is now an attorney in the Washington office of Drinker Biddle & Reath, says, “I would question why lawyers for Secretary Clinton would use keyword searching, a method known to be fraught with limitations, to determine which of the emails with a non-.gov address pertained to government business. Any and all State Department activities–not just communications involving the keywords Benghazi or Libya–would potentially make an email a federal record. Given the high stakes involved, I would have imagined staff could have simply conducted a manual review of every document. Using keywords as a shortcut unfortunately leaves the process open to being second-guessed…”
CLINTON EMAILS BREATHE NEW LIFE INTO BENGHAZI PANEL
“It’s a photo that became an Internet meme: Hillary Rodham Clinton, wearing sunglasses, staring at her BlackBerry. Now it’s becoming a focal point for Republicans on the House committee that’s investigating the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The chairman, South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy, wants to know why the panel has no emails from the day the photo was taken as Clinton, then the secretary of state, was en route to Tripoli. In fact, the committee says it has no emails at all from Clinton’s October 2011 trip, which occurred just days before longtime Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi was killed. The disclosure that Clinton relied on personal emails to conduct government business has breathed new life into the Benghazi panel’s investigation. The inquiry had threatened to stall amid partisan discord….”
Hillary Clinton’s Over-Played Woman Card
Six in 10 say Iran deal unlikely to slow nuclear weapons development: poll
“Six in 10 likely U.S. voters say it’s unlikely the treaty President Obama is negotiating with Iran will slow or stop the country’s development of nuclear weapons, according to a survey released Thursday. Thirty-one percent said Iran is likely to slow or stop its nuclear weapons development as a result of the deal, with 9 percent saying it’s very likely, according to the Rasmussen poll. A third said it’s not at all likely to do so. The so-called P5+1 — the U.S., Russia, China, France, Germany, and Great Britain — is seeking to halt Iran’s uranium enrichment program for at least 10 years in exchange for easing some of the economic sanctions that have been placed on the country. A recently released NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that seven in 10 respondents said such an agreement would not make a real difference in preventing Iran from producing nuclear weapons, compared to 24 percent who said it will make a real difference. The Rasmussen poll of 1,000 likely voters was conducted March 10-11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points…”
No, Obama Can’t Just Use the U.N. to Validate His Iran Deal
“Some are now suggesting that President Obama and Secretary Kerry’s real gambit, in response to the Cotton letter, is to make a nonbinding deal, and then ask the U.N. Security Council to bless it. Whether the U.N. approves of any deal has no effect on the agreement’s legality under our domestic law. The Supreme Court made that clear in a series of death-penalty cases, ending in Medellin v. Texas, where the Supreme Court made clear that Texas could refuse to obey an order by the International Court of Justice (whose authority also comes from the U.N. Charter). Of course, the Supreme Court had held earlier that the Supreme Court was not bound by the ICJ either. Neither the Security Council nor the ICJ can alter our Constitution’s separation of powers, including its division of roles in the approval of international agreements. As a question of international law, the United Nations Security Council could always order the United States, and any nation, to undertake some action. Refusal to obey a command of the Security Council could be considered a breach of the U.N. Charter. It should be noted that Iran is already in breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions ordering it to halt its nuclear-weapons programs. But whether any Security Council action on a sole executive agreement could give it some kind of binding agreement would depend on what the resolution says. Usually, the Security Council does not command action by its members; instead, it requests that they assist. Nations are usually free to choose to decline to assist. When the Security Council approves sanctions or even authorizes hostilities, it does not command nations to sanction or fight — it merely requests that nations choose to help. Nations often do not, and there is no breach of international law. This points out the real way that Obama could try to end-run around Congress. He does not even need an agreement with Iran. He could just go to the U.N. Security Council and ask it to enact a resolution that would call for the quid pro quos of his ideal agreement. The Security Council could ask nations to drop its sanctions. It could also ask Iran to stop its nuclear program (basically repeating itself). It could call for international inspectors. But this would amount to a desperation move, because it would have no effect on Congress’s ability to impose mandatory sanctions or a future president’s right to violate any agreement with Iran, real or secret.”
Senator: Obama should not bypass Congress on Iran deal
“The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned President Barack Obama on Thursday not to try an end-run around Congress by getting the United Nations to implement a nuclear deal with Iran. Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee cited reports that the Obama administration was contemplating taking an agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program — or at least parts of it — to the U.N. Security Council for a vote. In a letter, Corker said letting the U.N. consider such an agreement, while at the same time threatening to veto legislation that would allow Congress to vote on it, is a “direct affront” to the American people and would undermine the role of Congress. In exchange for signing onto a deal aimed at keeping it from developing nuclear weapons, Iran seeks relief from sanctions, including those imposed by the U.S. executive branch, the United Nations and Congress. Corker has introduced legislation requiring any final agreement with Iran to be submitted to Congress for review before any sanctions imposed by Congress can be eased. On Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki raised the possibility of establishing the deal through the U.N. Security Council. Psaki didn’t speak definitively on the matter but cited the example of a 2013 strategy agreed to between the U.S. and Russia on Syria relinquishing its chemical weapons stockpile. That plan was then endorsed by the United Nations’ top body…”
Portman: Tom Cotton Letter Should Yield Better Iran Deal
“The controversial letter signed by 47 Republicans to Iran’s leaders authored by Sen. Tom Cotton should yield a better agreement if used properly by the Obama administration, Sen. Rob Portman said Thursday. Portman, who faces a re-election fight next year in Ohio, said he didn’t see the letter as a way to sabotage the talks — quite the opposite. “I signed it for a very simple reason, which is I want a good agreement with Iran, and I think it helps to get a good agreement,” Portman told reporters. “As you all know, because you cover us up here, it’s the Congress that has taken the lead on sanctions, it’s the Congress that insisted on sanctions, it’s the administration that was reluctant, it was sanctions that got Iran to the table in the first place,” he said. “And the letter states the obvious, which is Congress is going to have a role here, but it also reminds those negotiators at the table, on the other side of the table from us, that this has to be a verifiable, strong agreement that actually ends their nuclear weapons program. And if it is not, well it’s not going to pass muster here. And I think that helps to get a good agreement.” Portman, who has experience in international negotiations as a former U.S. trade representative, said he hopes the administrations uses the leverage of Congress “to let the Iranians know that this has got to be real. And if it’s not, it’s not going to withstand the test of time. And I’m hopeful that we’ll see, out of this whole process, a stronger agreement and one that we can all support.”