Oklahoma’s U.S. senators support extending surveillance programs to allow more time for debate

“Ahead of a rare Sunday night session in the U.S. Senate, top leaders of the American Civil Liberities Union and the Tea Party Patriots said Friday the law allowing the collection of bulk telephone data should be allowed to expire this weekend. Jenny Beth Martin, president of the Tea Party Patriots, told reporters that the collection of so-called “metadata” regarding Americans’ telephone calls sounded harmless until one considered how much tracking of locations and movement it allowed. “It is violating our freedom and the Bill of Rights,” Martin said. Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the government to collect basic information about calls, will expire Sunday night unless the Senate does something to extend it, even temporarily. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, blocked an extension of the law before Memorial Day and is expected to stage another battle on Sunday…”


Alex Abdo and Jenny Beth Martin: End the NSA dragnet on world surveillance

“Around 1:30am Saturday, there was a seismic shift in the US Congress. As the Senate deadlocked over what to do about several expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, it became clear that political momentum had moved away from surveillance and secrecy toward freedom and privacy. In a rare and theatrical overnight session, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried and failed to reauthorise or even briefly extend the Patriot Act’s surveillance powers before senators left Washington for their weeklong holiday break.  At every turn, he was blocked by a bipartisan group of civil libertarians and surveillance skeptics led by presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, and Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon. Their main target was Section 215, which the government argues allows the National Security Agency to collect, store and analyse Americans’ phone records and other intimate information in bulk. “This is a debate about whether a warrant with a single name of a single company can be used to collect all of the phone records of all of the people in our country,” Paul said from the floor. “Our forefathers would be aghast.” He was right, and we agree, which is why the American Civil Liberties Union and the Tea Party Patriots are pushing senators who are uneasy with NSA dragnet spying to hold the line and, in the absence of far-reaching reform, allow the provisions to expire on June 1. McConnell has already promised that he will try again on Sunday to keep the surveillance status quo, and his allies will probably use scare-tactics to help him get his way. But would-be reformers should take comfort in the fact that the public and the courts are on their side. By a nearly 2-to-1 margin across all ages, ideologies and political parties, Americans believe that the Patriot Act should be scaled back to limit government surveillance and protect Americans’ privacy, according to recent ACLU polling…”


Rollback of U.S. spy powers would mark post-9/11 watershed

“…Groups as diverse as the left-leaning ACLU and the conservative Tea Party Patriots argue the telephone data program is unconstitutionally broad, targeting the communications of millions of innocent Americans…”


NSA’s bulk collection of phone records is set to end today as Rand Paul vows to block reform of the Patriot Act

“…Groups as diverse as the left-leaning ACLU and the conservative Tea Party Patriots argue the telephone data program is unconstitutionally broad, targeting the communications of millions of innocent Americans…”


ACLU, Tea Party Patriots Form Alliance In Debate Over Patriot Act Provisions


Their View: It’s time to end the NSA dragnet (Op-ed)



Experts see big price hikes for Obamacare

Premiums could rise more sharply in 2016.

“The cost of Obamacare could rise for millions of Americans next year, with one insurer proposing a 50 percent hike in premiums, fueling the controversy about just how “affordable” the Affordable Care Act really is. The eye-popping 50 percent hike by New Mexico insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield is an outlier, and state officials may not allow it to go through. But health insurance experts are predicting that premiums will rise more significantly in 2016 than in the first two years of Obamacare exchange coverage. In 2015, for example, premiums increased by an average of 5.4 percent, according to PwC’s Health Research Institute. The premium increases come at a tenuous time for Obamacare, which remains under fire from a Republican Congress that wants to repeal the law, while a Supreme Court ruling on federal subsidies for the health insurance looms in June as well. “Insurers seem to be reporting higher trend, which means they are seeing bigger increases in health care costs,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president for special initiatives at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “But really what’s going on here is they now have data showing what the risk pool looks like. Initially in 2014 they were completely guessing about who was going to enroll and how much health care they were going to use.” Many plans haven’t yet made public their proposed rates; Monday is the deadline for publishing and providing an explanation for rate hikes of at least 10 percent. None announced so far is as dramatic as the New Mexico plan, although a few others are also quite sharp. The Blues in Maryland and Tennessee, both with the largest market share on the exchanges in their states, are seeking increases of more than 30 percent. In Oregon, Moda Health Plan — which attracted more than 40 percent of exchange customers in 2015, despite competing against a dozen other health plans — is seeking average rate increases of 25 percent. Other plans released to date — including some in these four states — are seeking far more modest increases. The reasons for the rising premiums are complex. Part of it, as Levitt noted, is simply that the carriers know a lot more about the health status and health care patterns of their new customers. Part of it’s rising drug prices. And the planned phasing out of certain ACA programs that were designed to reduce risk for insurers who entered the untested Obamacare marketplaces, are also causing carriers to price cautiously…”


Montana health insurers say marketplace rate hikes likely

“Health insurers selling individual policies on Montana’s Affordable Care Act marketplace say rate increases are likely next year after they suffered losses they attribute in part to initial underestimates of the costs of the new business. Companies are now filing requests for higher rates, The Missoulian (http://tinyurl.com/o2ww2nb) newspaper reported. Montana’s insurance regulator, state Auditor Monica Lindeen, said Friday that her office has just begun reviewing the requests and that she’ll likely object to parts of the increases. She added that it’s possible insurers are overestimating expected costs or other factors. “There are a lot of different issues on why these rate increases may be so high,” Lindeen said. “We’re hoping through our process we can decrease the increases.” Individuals started buying policies on the marketplace, choosing among four companies, in late 2013. Montana and other states set up online marketplaces where consumers can compare prices and coverage and in some cases get federal subsidies. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies couldn’t refuse anyone who wanted to buy or take into account pre-existing health conditions in setting prices. Insurers said Friday that costs for their new customers came in higher than expected in 2014, citing as key factors drug prices and high-cost single patients. “What we’re seeing across the country is that nearly all health insurers, large and small, are losing money in the individual marketplace,” said Todd Lovshin, vice president and Montana regional director for PacificSource, which offers policies on Montana’s marketplace….”



“The California Senate’s Appropriations Committee passed SB 4 to give health care to all illegal/undocumented  aliens. Breitbart News estimates that based on the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office projections, SB 4 will cost at least $1 billion, and the cost will undoubtedly go much higher over time. With the state’s fiscal year winding down through June 30th, Sacramento politicians are furiously competing to spend a piece of the state’s $3 billion in “surplus” cash. On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee only rejected about a quarter of the 283 active bills, while the Assembly committee rejected only a third of their 421 bills. But in a major move, the Democrat-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee amended and passed SB 4 on a 5-2 party line vote. The original “Bill Summary” said, “SB 4 would extend Medi-Cal eligibility to individuals who would otherwise be eligible, except for their immigration status.” The amended bill requires the state Health and Human Services agency to apply for federal authorization to offer “unsubsidized” healthcare coverage through California’s Obamacare exchange called Covered California. Although the amendment’s author, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), described the legislation as a limited enrollment healthcare program that is not a state “entitlement,” the bill directly extends free Medi-Cal access to those under the age of 19 and provides California taxpayer-funded free or highly subsidized coverage equivalent to Medi-Cal. Sen. Lara told the LA Times, “Today’s vote represents a historic step forward on the path towards achieving health for all.” He added, “Ensuring that everyone in California is healthy is what’s right for our state.” But after California adopted Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in 2013, Medi-Cal already grew 33 percent to 12.2 million beneficiaries. Because former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder estimated Medicaid fraud was running at 20 percent, and the Office of Inspector General says California is the worst state, Democrat legislators emphasize that SB 4 will require higher-income illegal aliens to buy insurance from Covered California and pay for the premiums. But the statistics regarding illegal/undocumented aliens’ willingness to comply with U.S. laws are shockingly poor. The Executive Office for Immigration Review reported that from 2003 to 2012, the percentage of all aliens that failed to show up for their immigration hearing after being released on their own recognizance averaged about 30 percent. But in the last year, the non-compliance rate skyrocketed to over 90 percent…”


Obamacare’s $273 Billion Bonanza for Paper Pushers

“Since Obamacare took effect, roughly 16.5 million more people have gained health insurance. And while the health care law is objectively succeeding in its key goal of expanding access to coverage to millions of Americans, those gains come with enormous costs to taxpayers — including inordinately steep ongoing administrative costs, according to a new study. The analysis, published in Health Affairs this week, found that Obamacare will add about $273.6 billion in administrative costs between 2014 and 2022, including $172.2 billion in higher private insurance overhead — bringing the total spent on administering government health programs and private insurance overhead to nealry $2.76 trillion for that period. The authors of the study, Drs. David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, professors at the City University of New York School of Public Health and lecturers at Harvard Medical School, attribute the soaring overhead to rising enrollment in private plans, as well as the law’s Medicaid expansion. This year 9.6 million people signed up for plans on the state and federal exchanges. The study also attributes the uptick in overhead to the high cost of setting up and running the exchanges, which are essentially brokers between the government and private health plans. In comparison, the federal government spends just 2 percent in overhead costs on its traditional Medicare program. The latest estimate breaks down to about $1,375 in extra administrative costs per newly insured person per year, according to the report. That’s “over and above what would have been expected had the law not been enacted,” Himmelstein wrote on the Health Affairs blog. Some of the overhead will be added to Medicare and Medicaid programs, but most of it—about $172.2 billion—will come from private insurance. The researchers acknowledge that expanding access to health coverage for tens of millions of Americans — as Obamacare was intended to do — comes at a high price, but they say that soaring administrative costs are avoidable. “Insuring 25 million additional Americans, as the [Congressional Budget Office] projects the ACA will do, is surely worthwhile. But the administrative cost of doing so seems awfully steep, particularly when much cheaper alternatives are available,” the report says. The researchers point out that Medicare Advantage, which also involves federal reimbursement to private insurers, also had “bloated administrative costs,” though in that case the overhead averaged 13.7 percent in 2011, or about $1,355 per enrollee. “But rather than learn from that mistake, both Democrats and Republicans seem intent on tossing more federal dollars to private insurers,” they wrote. In the report, the researchers push for adopting a universal single-payer system, saying that it would significantly scale back on administrative costs. Of course, adopting a single-payer model in the U.S. in this political environment is not likely to happen anytime soon. Last summer, an effort by progressive lawmakers in Vermont to craft the first single-payer model in the country died off when liberal Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, a longtime leader of the movement, realized it would cost his state more than it could afford….”


Early clues to ObamaCare’s impact

“Five years after the passage of ObamaCare, the impact of the law on the nation’s healthcare system is beginning to come into focus. There is still plenty of uncertainty about the law’s long-term effects, with key provisions — most notably the employer mandate to provide insurance — not yet in effect. But new data is providing an early glimpse of how President Obama’s signature law is reshaping the healthcare marketplace, with millions of people added to the insurance rolls and a slew of new regulatory requirements now in effect. “For us, everything has changed,” said Clare Krusing, spokeswoman for the trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans. The success of the law is the subject of fierce debate between the two parties. While one of the White House’s favorite lines is “the Affordable Care Act is working,” Republicans say the law is an unmitigated disaster that should be repealed. Here are the some of the most tangible changes resulting from ObamaCare so far. 17 million people newly insured – Nearly 22.8 million people have purchased insurance through ObamaCare, according to a national study by RAND Corp. released earlier this month, with 17 million enrolling in a plan for first time. The figures put the Obama administration on track to meet its goal of reducing the uninsured population by 19 million in 2015, with another two months left for new sign-ups this year. The biggest groups of enrollees have been young people between the ages of 18 and 34; blacks; Hispanics; and people living in poorer and rural areas, according to recent data from an analysis by Enroll America and Civis. Much of the expansion can be credited to ObamaCare tax subsidies, which about 80 percent of customers qualify for. So far, more than $10 billion has gone out to help people afford their care. Upticks in premiums – Premium prices for health insurance are increasing, though unevenly, across states. The insurance industry is adjusting to hundreds of new ObamaCare regulations, including the minimum benefit requirements and the ban on rejecting people with pre-existing conditions. On the whole, the new requirements have made coverage more expensive, experts say. As this year’s rating season begins, the biggest insurers in several states — including New Mexico, Tennessee and Maryland — have proposed rate hikes all exceeding 25 percent. All have cited the costs of covering people under ObamaCare. Still, Krusing, from the health insurers trade group, argues that it’s almost impossible to make a blanket statement that ObamaCare is driving up premiums across the board. “It’s more complex than that,” she said, pointing to the rising cost of prescription drugs and the increased number of provider consolidations, which decreases competition. “If you want to understand the premium story, you have to look at factors and local dynamics,” she said….”


Obamacare ruling a time bomb for Democrats?

“Democrats and Republicans are sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what the Supreme Court will decide in King v. Burwell, the looming decision about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as it has come to be known. If the Supreme Court agrees with the challenge, an estimated 13 million people will lose their federal health insurance subsidies. The plaintiffs have argued that based on the literal reading of the legislation, the government is only supposed to provide citizens with subsidies in states that set up their own health care exchanges (a total of 16 states). The sentence in the law upon which their claim is based, The New York Times reported, was based on a sloppy error made during the drafting process. Regardless, the plaintiffs argue that in states where residents rely on federal subsidies (34 altogether), the law does not provide for subsidies…”



What’s Obama’s Plan C for Immigration?

“What a bad week it was for President Obama’s immigration policies, and for millions living in limbo in the United States. A federal appeals panel swatted down Mr. Obama’s latest executive actions to limit deportations — key elements of his strategy to mend a broken immigration system through administrative fixes after a Republican House strangled full-scale legislative reform. It was the second time Republican-appointed judges, with partisan efficiency, picked apart what the administration said was a rock-solid legal argument for using its discretion to protect more than four million people from being deported. This is the month that these millions were supposed to begin lining up to tell the authorities: Here we are, sign us up. But because 26 states sued to block Mr. Obama’s plans, the immigrants, instead of receiving permission to legally stay and work, are left holding nothing but unmet promises, their lives as anxious and uncertain as ever. So what is Plan C? The administration faces a tangle of options. It says it still expects to win its case, probably not with the district judge, whose decision included many pages of railing against Obama “lawlessness,” but maybe in the Republican-dominated Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, or in the Supreme Court. This litigation’s journey will last well into next year, possibly beyond. What lies over that horizon, who knows. While it waits and frets, the administration still has an obligation not to quit. Mr. Obama should follow through on his oft-stated commitment to do all he can to make the immigration system more humane. This means making sure that his original 2012 program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which shields immigrants brought here illegally as children, works as planned. It has not been blocked by any court, and many young people — perhaps 90,000 a year — are still free to make use of it as they reach the age of eligibility. The administration’s revised enforcement priorities — in line with Mr. Obama’s promise to focus on deporting serious criminals, not workers and parents who pose no threat — still need to be honored…”


Immigration Reform News: What’s Next for Obama Administration After Immigration Setback as Gov. Jeb Bush Defends His Immigration Stance


Immigration Reform 2015: Supreme Court Immigrant Cases Could Settle Questions Unaddressed By Congress, Experts Say

“The Supreme Court could soon decide two major issues on legal rights for undocumented immigrants. At stake is the ability for immigrants living illegally in the U.S. to come out of the shadows, earn more money to support their families, and have political power and representation in the government. One of these two cases concerns the Obama administration’s executive actions on immigration that defer deportations and extend work permits to millions of undocumented immigrants, which could go before the Supreme Court if a lower court continues to block its implementation. The other case, which justices announced this week, is a challenge to voter redistricting rules that could exclude undocumented immigrants from population counts. Some legal experts say there isn’t a clear litmus test for which direction the current justices would sway in immigrant rights cases. But many immigrant advocates and attorneys agree that the Obama administration legally issued the actions related to how it would enforce immigration law. For that reason, the Supreme Court is likely to look favorably on Obama’s measure, while the just as critical voting districts decision will be based on a lesser explored legal standard, the experts said. “[The Supreme Court] is certainly a better venue than the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals,” said Brett Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, referring to the court currently reviewing Obama’s executive action on immigration. “In the end, the Supreme Court is going to be the ultimate decider, and I think they [the administration] feel that’s their best strategy.”…”


Texas v U.S. (the Immigration Case) and the Administrative State

“In Texas v U.S.,decided last Tuesday, the Fifth Circuit upheld Texas District Judge Andrew Hanen’s injunction against the implementation of the Administration’s effort to rewrite immigration law to legitimate the status of millions of illegal immigrants. The administration will not appeal to the Supreme Court, so the merits of the case will well be argued in July. The result was not a surprise. As noted in an earlier post, Judge Hanen wrote a good opinion. Fifth Circuit Judge Jerry Smith buttressed the decision with his own solid analysis, joined by Jennifer Elrod. In fairness, though, attention must also be paid to the dissent by Judge Stephen Higginson, which articulately laid out the case for the Administration. Smith was a Reagan appointee; Bush II gave us Elrod; Obama named Higginson. All three have elite academic credentials (Harvard and Yale Law) and distinguished legal careers. From a perspective of legal pedagogy, the case is a fine exposition of some complex areas of administrative law. However, that strength, that excellence as a matter of legal pedagogy, is also the case’s weakness, in that it contains little hint of the larger and more significant context. Texas v U.S. is only one facet of the growing crisis of the administrative state. The President and his party, grown weary of an inability to persuade Congress to acquiesce in their preferred policies or to get the people to elect a more compliant Congress, are pushing their preferred programs on every front, exploiting every ounce of statutory ambiguity and every inch of administrative discretion in the process. In the course of this, different interests that combine in the governing coalition have been allotted different agencies, a semi-feudal system in which the ruler doles out fiefs to his supporters. Even as Homeland Security is remaking a significant part of the nation’s immigration policies, the EPA is revamping its electric grid and asserting power over every mud puddle, the Department of Education is using vague concepts of sexual harassment to upheave universities, and the National Labor Relations Board and Department of Labor dive even deeper in the unions’ pocket than usual. The Internal Revenue Service used its enforcement authority to suppress conservative non-profit organizations and influence the last election while abuse of non-profit status by liberals is so common as to go unremarked. Viz, John Podesta’s hops between his charity and the White House, and, of course, the Clinton Foundation…”


How U.S. Court Ruling on Immigration Reforms Affects H-1B Holders

“Does this week’s federal court ruling upholding a stay on some of President Barack Obama’s immigration reform plans affect changes for those on high-skilled worker visas in the United States? The short answer is no. The court’s decision stops the Obama administration from proceeding with its plan to allow more than four million people residing in the country illegally to apply for deferred deportation and work authorizations, among other benefits. The administration says it will continue to pursue a separate legal appeal to try to move forward with the plans. Tuesday’s ruling though will not affect initiatives for skilled workers, because the lawsuit only pertained to the program that shielded millions from deportation, said Scott J. FitzGerald, a partner at U.S.-based international law firm Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP. The president in November bypassed Congress to unveil the immigration reforms. The changes included allowing the spouses of certain H-1B visa holders to work in the U.S., reducing the time taken to issue green cards and issuing guidelines on how to successfully apply for an L-1 visa used by employers for intra-company employee transfers. The president’s basket of executive actions was welcomed by India’s outsourcing technology industry, which earns billions of dollars sending Indian engineers and programmers to the U.S. and has been demanding America raise the ceiling on the number of skilled-worker visas it issues every year. Some of the measures announced under the reforms have already been rolled out. A rule that allows people with H-4, dependent-spouse visas with partners seeking employment-based, permanent residence status, to work in the U.S., came into effect earlier this week. In April, a group of technology workers under the banner Save Jobs, USA, filed a preliminary injunction in a federal court in Columbia seeking to block the new rule that allows H-4 spouses to work in the U.S. The lawsuit alleged that the U.S. department of labor has no statutory authority to allow foreigners to work on H-4 visas and has circumvented the rules. The court denied the motion earlier this week…”


Facial recognition a new tool for tightening border security

“Facial recognition technology is the Department of Homeland Security’s new tool for tightening border security. It’s getting a three-month tryout at a major airport. Kris Van Cleave reports.”


Hawaii officials welcome advanced immigration screening

“Hawaii officials are welcoming news that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security aims to set up immigration and customs stations to screen Japanese passengers before they arrive in the U.S. The department said Friday it will begin negotiations to expand preclearance operations to 10 new foreign airports, including Narita International Airport outside Tokyo. The program allows Customs and Border Protection officers stationed abroad to decide whether to admit passengers and their belongings to the U.S. before they leave a foreign port. Hawaii Tourism Authority CEO George Szigeti says the program would reduce the number of visitors having to go through customs in Honolulu and save Japanese travelers time. U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz both issued statements welcoming the news…”


Boston helps immigrants prep for Obama’s order

“The city of Boston has launched a program to help illegal immigrants apply for protection under President Obama’s sweeping reform — even as a federal court has thrown the executive orders into legal limbo. “We’re expecting that either the court’s going to make a ruling or something’s going to happen where we’re going to be working with undocumented people and help them become citizens,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said. “This is really giving people some information on this once it happens.” A clinic held yesterday by the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians at Mario Umana Academy in East Boston saw hundreds of undocumented immigrants come for information and an informal screening process. “It’s a lot of work from (the beginning) to applying, so we wanted to make sure people are prepared,” said Alejandra St. Guillen, director of the Office of New Bostonians. She said about 300 people came looking for help. Known as Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, Obama’s immigration reform was frozen by a federal judge last week after 26 states sued, contesting the president’s ability to allow undocumented parents of children born in the United States protection from deportation, as well as his expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which offers protections to immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. An appeal of the order will be heard by a federal appeals court in July. “I’m here to help others like my parents, who could benefit from these programs. People don’t have the information, people need to be guided,” said Cesar Boc, who volunteered at the clinic. Boc came to the U.S. when he was 11, and was included in the first DACA executive order in 2012. Boc said his parents will likely be eligible for DAPA when it becomes an option. “It just goes to the dignity of a human person, that all of us are human beings and all of us need to live in a just society,” he said. The event was held using $15,000 in private donations. A coalition of local business advocates last week backed the city’s initiative, citing the Council of Economic Advisers estimates that the executive action would increase Massachusetts’ GDP by $2.4 billion to $5.6 billion over the next decade…”


Ann Coulter: With amnesty, elites conspire against the middle class


Chuck Todd Acts Indignant to Claim Dems Want Amnesty to Win Elections

“During an interview with Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd appeared visibly shocked when his guest argued that Democrats support amnesty because “they can win more elections.”


Jeb Bush on immigration reform, Social Security

“Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is considering a bid for the Republican nomination for president, talks about his proposals for how to reform immigration and Social Security.”


Lindsey Graham ‘leans in’ on immigration reform

“As the executive director of pro-immigration reform group America’s Voice, Frank Sharry has pushed politicians for years to “lean in” on immigration. He says it worked with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) in 2008 and with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid in 2010. But the most unlikely beneficiary of the so-called leaning in, Sharry says, was Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) last year. “How did he do it? He didn’t do it by saying I’m going to change my position. He did it by explaining his position,” Sharry told Fusion. “You win by leaning into the issue,” Sharry told Fusion. “I think Lindsey Graham is the Republican version of that.” “The future of the GOP is at risk,” he added. “And he’s carrying the mine, saying, ‘Hey, fellas. We’re going to get our clocks cleaned unless we get right on this issue.’” On Monday, Graham is announcing a new candidacy — he will enter his name into the ballooning pool of Republican candidates seeking to become the country’s next president. And judging from his presidential preparations so far, he’ll often be out on an island on an issue of rising importance among the Republican primary electorate. Out on the trail so far, Graham has continued to pronounce a full-throated support of a comprehensive legislative solution to reform the nation’s immigration laws. He helped spearhead the reform effort in the Senate in 2013 as part of the “gang of eight,” which included fellow Republican candidate and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida)…”



“Saying he believes Republicans can win the White House in 2016 “with a hopeful, optimistic message,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush came out in defense of the PATRIOT Act, currently under debate in Congress, according to Knox News: “We need to protect the homeland. ThePATRIOT Act has been a device, along with other strategies, that have kept us safe. There is not a single shred of evidence that anyone’s civil liberties have been violated. Why would we change something that has been working?” Bush also criticized Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, on foreign policy. “We see the consequences of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy. And yes, it is the Clinton foreign policy. She’ll try to do the Heisman on it but she was secretary of state for four long years. We’re seeing the world unraveling because America is not there.”…”



Economy is Weak, Stocks Are In A Bubble, And Washington Must Change Course

“The strength or weakness of the U.S. economy is measured each quarter by its GDP. About 30 days after each calendar quarter the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) releases its report on how the economy performed during the previous quarter. That’s known as the first report. About 30 days later, the BEA issues a revision, known as the second report. Thirty days later, the BEA issues its third and final report on GDP which is the one logged into the public record. The reason for the three releases is that additional information is obtained each time and the report’s accuracy is improved. The first release for the first quarter 2015 indicated that the U.S. economy grew at a rate of 0.2%. The second release which was issued on May 29th revised this lower to a negative 0.7%. The third and final release will come at the end of June. In any event, the economy is slow – actually contracting, which is never a good thing for stock prices, jobs, or much else really. If the economy were to contract during the second quarter we would officially be in recession. What’s the cause of the economic contraction? Some blame the weather. Others point to the West Coast port strike. Perhaps it’s partly due to the rising dollar which reduces U.S. exports. Still others say that Washington is to blame. This last item centers on fiscal policy (i.e. tax policy and regulations) which has stifled small businesses, long considered to be the lifeblood of the U.S. economy. Whatever the cause, the U.S. economy is and has been slow, since the Great Recession ended in June 2009. Clearly, the extended run up in the stock market, which long-term requires a healthy economy for strong profits, is in the early to mid-stage of a bubble. This is evidenced by a reading of 126.8% in the “total market cap to GDP” ratio (100% is fairly valued)…”


Obama’s trade agenda faces tougher odds heading into House

“After several near death experiences in the Senate, the trade agenda that President Barack Obama is pushing as a second term capstone faces its biggest hurdle yet in the more polarized House. Anti-trade forces have struggled to ignite public outrage over Obama’s bid to enact new free-trade agreements, but Democratic opposition in Congress remains widespread. The outcome may turn on Republicans’ willingness to hand the president a major win in his final years in office. Underscoring the difficulties, House leaders are looking at the second or third week of June to schedule a vote, even though House members return from recess on Monday. “The business of bill passing is a messy, sausage-making process. It was in the Senate, and it certainly will be in the House,” White House communications director Jen Psaki said in an interview. “There will be many moments where there will be difficult issues. We have our eyes wide open with that.” At issue is legislation that would give Obama parameters for the trade deals he negotiates but also speed up congressional review of the final agreements by giving lawmakers the right to approve or reject deals, but not change them. Obama is seeking this “fast track” authority to complete a 12-nation Trans-Pacific trade deal that spans the Pacific rim from Chile to Vietnam. He and trade backers say it will open huge markets to U.S. goods by lowering tariffs and other trade barriers. Critics, labor and environmental groups in particular, argue that new trade agreements will cost jobs and that past agreements have not lived up to labor and environmental standards…”


Why Republicans Should Give Obama Trade Promotion Authority

“Republicans don’t trust President Obama.  Can’t fault them for that.  But that distrust is driving many of them to oppose trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation, also known as “fast track.”  That’s the wrong conclusion.  If distrust is the issue, then Republicans should support TPA rather than oppose it. Most Republicans support free trade and would like to give, as they have done many times in the past, a U.S. president the ability to negotiate a trade agreement with other countries as long as Congress gets an up-or-down vote on the agreement.  That’s what TPA does. The issue isn’t TPA so much as President I-Have-a-Pen-and-a-Phone, who has repeatedly overstepped his constitutional authority.  Why, Republican reasoning goes, give him another opportunity to abuse his power? But that reasoning misses an important point: Obama is more likely to go it alone when Congress DOESN’T ACT rather than when it does. That’s what happened when he decided to give a special legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants.  Obama kept urging Congress to act and when it didn’t—at least not fast enough to please him—he moved forward with his amnesty plan. Ditto with his environmental agreement with China.  Obama knew he couldn’t get Congress to approve the agreement, so he acted alone and claimed he had the authority to do so…”


GOP: Budget time and we need a strong defense to deter enemies

“Hello, I’m Senator Deb Fischer and I have the honor of representing the great state of Nebraska in the United States Senate. For generations, our military has answered the call to protect our freedom at home and our interests around the world. These service members are men and women of uncommon courage. From the shores of Normandy to the fields of Korea and beyond, America’s sons and daughters have never wavered in the defense of liberty — both as a fighting force and a force for good. Because of their sacrifice, the 20th century was ‘the American century.’ But our work is far from done. Every generation faces evil. And every generation has been called upon to step forward and protect our way of life. Our nation faces many challenges, and I believe the federal government has no higher priority than protecting the American people in an increasingly dangerous world. With this responsibility in mind, the Senate will soon consider its annual bill to authorize funding and set policy for our military, known as the National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA. I am honored to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and I was proud to contribute to this bipartisan legislation, which was overwhelmingly approved by our committee earlier this month. This bill takes a common-sense approach: it cuts spending from programs that have been delayed or failed to perform, and redirects that revenue to meet the critical needs of our war-fighters. In all, this year’s NDAA finds $10 billion in savings, which it uses to increase the capability and training of our men and women in uniform. It also invests in the future of our national defense, setting aside $400 million for the development of new technologies that will ensure our troops maintain their superiority on the battlefield. We are also addressing issues like the growing bureaucracy at the Pentagon. Our military is getting smaller, but combat units shouldn’t bear these cuts alone. This bill targets real reductions for headquarter and management staff as well.

It would also take steps for real reforms to our acquisition system — the way our military purchases weapons and equipment — to prevent wasteful spending…”


GOP urges Senate to pass controversial defense spending bill


Wall Street Costs The Economy 2% Of GDP Each Year

““Wall Street is back,” says the New York Times, and the economic cost is high. The excessive financialization of the US economy reduces the GDP by 2% every year, according to a new study by International Monetary Fund. That’s a massive drag on the economy–some $320 billion per year. Wall Street has thus become, not just a moral problem with rampant illegality and outlandish compensation of executives and traders: Wall Street is a macro-economic problem of the first order. The Financial Tail Wags The Economic Dog – How has this happened? Properly scaled, the financial sector is a good thing. The financial sector plays a healthy role in translating products and services into exchangeable financial instruments to facilitate trade in the real economy. Through deposits, banks channel citizens’ savings to businesses that can use them productively. Through mortgages, workers can trade their promise of future wages for a home. Through insurance, homeowners are able to share financial risks and avoid financial catastrophe. Problems occur when the financial sector gets too big. When the financial sector loses interest in the “boring” returns from financing the real economy and instead devotes its efforts to activities that are more lucrative in the short-term, like playing zero-sum games, or even negative-sum games, through complex transactions aimed at making money out of money, then excessive risk-taking occurs, with mis-allocation of human and financial resources and periodic financial crashes. Throughout history, periods of excessive financialization have coincided with periods of national economic setbacks, such as Spain in the 14th century, The Netherlands in the late 18th century, and Britain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The focus by elites on “making money out of money” rather than making real goods and services has led to wealth for the few, and overall national economic decline. “In a financialized economy, the financial tail is wagging the economic dog.” How Big Is Too Big? –  How big is too big? An IMF study in 2012 showed “that “once the [financial] sector becomes too large—when private-sector credit reaches 80 percent to 100 percent  of GDP— it actually inhibits growth and increases volatility. In the United States in 2012, private-sector credit was 184 percent of GDP.” So the US financial sector is already way too big…”


Cutting the Capital Gains Tax When a Rate Cut Isn’t in the Cards

“All conservatives agree that capital gains should be excluded from a consumption tax base (the tax base which is used in all conservative tax reform plans, from the FAIR Tax to the flat tax to everything in between). This takes two forms ideally–either new savings is deducted from personal income, or (as is more common), the yield on savings is excluded from personal income. Taxing income this way makes sense, because it isolates consumed income (as opposed to saved or invested income) and only consumed income to taxation. This leaves the maximum amount of productive income untouched from taxation so that it can increase productivity, grow wages, create jobs, augment nest eggs, etc. Eventually, even this income is consumed and subject to taxation, so there are no loopholes. Cutting the Capital Gains Tax Directly In the real world, movement toward this consumption base ideal is halting, unsteady, and uneven. A key policy goal of incremental progress toward a consumption base is cutting the tax rate on capital gains (and dividends, distributed after-tax corporate earnings) to zero. We’re a long way from that today. Thanks to the fiscal cliff (as mitigated by subsequent legislation) and Obamacare, the top capital gains rate today stands at 23.8 percent. That’s up from a nadir of 15 percent as recently as a few years ago. Cutting this tax rate is going to be difficult. First, it involves eliminating one of the twenty new or higher taxes in Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act slapped a 3.8 percentage point surtax on investment income in households that earn more than $200,000 per year (not indexed to inflation, incidentally). That’s hard enough…”


Can 2016 Republicans top Hillary on issue No. 1 — the economy?

“Friday’s rotten news guaranteed that the top issue of the 2016 race for the White House will be the economy. The question is whether the Republicans can come up with a prescription that beats Hillary Clinton’s message of Obamanomics Lite. We yield to no one in our contempt for President Obama’s (mis)management of foreign policy, a litany of woes in which Clinton is fully complicit. But that’s not going to be front-and-center in voters’ minds. Friday’s numbers show that the US economy contracted in the year’s first quarter. If the second quarter winds up a bit worse than early estimates put it, then the nation’s officially back in recession. Either way, America’s still stuck in the “new normal” of an economy that’s essentially treading water…”



Carly Fiorina: Common Core ‘limits parents’ choices’ and ‘children’s options’

“GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina would give Common Core a failing grade. “Our education system is a big problem,” the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard said on “Fox News Sunday.” “When a Washington bureaucracy gets involved in a program, it becomes heavy-handed and standardized. It’s how Washington bureaucracy works.” Common Core is a set of federally mandated academic guidelines that dictate what students should know at the end of each grade of schooling from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Fiorina used China as an example of how federal involvement in education hurts the country. “China has put in place an education system that standardizes behavior,” she said. “It is part of their regime’s oppression.” What China has done is similar to Common Core in the United States, she said. “Common Core, unfortunately, limits parents’ choices,” Fiorina said. “It will, over time, limit our children’s options.”…”


Carly Fiorina In-Depth Interview With “Fox News Sunday”



Zogby Presidential Report Card: Rotten week puts Dems on notice

“Pollster John Zogby reports in our weekly White House report card that President Obama suffered a double whammy on the economy and saw Islamic State advance, issues that could be trouble to Democratic candidates next year. “Such a rotten week. The president gets a double whammy on the economy. First is the report that the economy contracted .7 percent during the first quarter. That is devastating in itself, aside from what it does to the public spirit. “Next, the Consumer Confidence Index was down again, as it was last week and for the whole month of May. “At the same time, ISIS continues its advance. None of this is reflected in the polling on Obama yet, but it could get there. This is not what Democratic candidates need as the 2016 campaign develops. Just as much as GOP candidates certainly did not need news about squeaky clean Speaker Dennis Hastert. But a rotten week for the president.”…”


Loretta Lynch has a Lois Lerner decision to make

“Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee have asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch for an update on whether she will pursue criminal charges against former IRS employee Lois Lerner for her role in the IRS targeting scandal. The committee last year identified three possible criminal charges that could be brought against Lerner, and asked the Department of Justice to consider bringing those charges. At the time, the attorney general was Eric Holder, and the committee chairman was Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich. The new chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., asked Lynch on Thursday where that criminal referral stands. “The committee continues to believe that these serious charges should be [pursued] by the Department of Justice,” the letter said. “We would appreciate receiving an update on the status of the referral as soon as possible.” Last year, the committee said Lerner used her position to delay decisions on the tax-exempt status of conservative groups. Ryan’s letter said those efforts denied these groups “due process and equal protection rights under the law.” The committee also said Lerner provided misleading statements to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration when it was investigating the scandal, and that Lerner may have exposed confidential taxpayer information in the course of her tenure at the IRS. In March, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia told House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that no charges would be brought against Lerner for her failure to testify in Congress about the scandal. But Ryan’s letter noted that the U.S. attorney was silent on the committee’s criminal referral of Lerner on the other three charges. Ryan’s letter was signed by 23 other Republicans, and can be seen here:…”


Some surveillance powers to expire unless Senate acts

“In the run-up to this evening’s Senate showdown over National Security Agency surveillance, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) vowed to end the agency’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records, even as President Obama is urging passage of a compromise bill that would shut down that NSA program but also preserve several other spying powers. The Senate, which convened Sunday at 4 p.m., has only hours to act. At midnight Sunday, the surveillance authorities — all created under the USA Patriot Act — are due to lapse. “So what’s the problem?” Obama said in his weekly radio address Saturday. “A small group of senators is standing in the way. And unfortunately, some folks are trying to use this debate to score political points. But this shouldn’t and can’t be about politics. This is a matter of national security.” Obama urged lawmakers to “put the politics aside” and pass the USA Freedom Act. That bill, the product of months of compromise between Republicans and Democrats, the administration and privacy groups, won House approval by an overwhelming 338-to-88 vote earlier this month. It would carry out a goal that Obama announced nearly 11/2 years ago: to end the NSA’s bulk collection of phone metadata. Under the bill, the agency would stop future gathering of billions of call records — times, dates and durations. Instead, the phone companies would be required to adapt their systems so that they can be queried for records of specific terrorist suspects based on individual court orders. The bill also would renew other expiring investigative powers that the FBI says are critical. But a handful of senators who want to see stronger reforms and some who would prefer that the NSA program remain as is, have effectively blocked action on the bill. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Sunday again called on the Senate to pass the House-approved legislation that would provide for an orderly transition away from the bulk collection program. He did so in an unusually strongly worded statement. “Al-Qaeda, ISIL and other terrorists around the globe continue to plot attacks on America and our allies,” Boehner said, using an alternative name for the Islamic State. “Anyone who is satisfied with letting this critical intelligence capability go dark isn’t taking the terrorist threat seriously. I’d urge the Senate to pass the bipartisan USA Freedom Act, and do so expeditiously.” On the Senate floor Sunday afternoon, Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) lambasted Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for a lack of “strategy, planning and open lines of communication.”…”


Pressure on US Senate to act before NSA spy programs expire


Obama Weekly Address: “Put Politics Aside” And Pass “Freedom Act”

“…PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hi, everybody. As President and Commander in Chief, my greatest responsibility is the safety of the American people. And in our fight against terrorists, we need to use every effective tool at our disposal — both to defend our security and to protect the freedoms and civil liberties enshrined in our Constitution. But tomorrow — Sunday, at midnight — some important tools we use against terrorists will expire. That’s because Congress has not renewed them, and because legislation that would — the USA Freedom Act — is stuck in the Senate. I want to be very clear about what this means. Today, when investigating terrorist networks, our national security professionals can seek a court order to obtain certain business records. Our law enforcement professionals can seek a roving wiretap to keep up with terrorists when they switch cell phones. We can seek a wiretap on so-called lone wolves — suspected terrorists who may not be directly tied to a terrorist group. These tools are not controversial. Since 9/11, they have been renewed numerous times. FBI Director James Comey says they are “essential” and that losing them would “severely” impact terrorism investigations. But if Congress doesn’t act by tomorrow at midnight, these tools go away as well. The USA Freedom Act also accomplishes something I called for a year and a half ago: it ends the bulk metadata program — the bulk collection of phone records — as it currently exists and puts in place new reforms. The government will no longer hold these records; telephone providers will. The Act also includes other changes to our surveillance laws — including more transparency — to help build confidence among the American people that your privacy and civil liberties are being protected. But if Congress doesn’t act by midnight tomorrow, these reforms will be in jeopardy, too. It doesn’t have to be this way. The USA Freedom Act reflects ideas from privacy advocates, our private sector partners and our national security experts. It already passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support — Republicans and Democrats. A majority of the Senate — Republicans and Democrats — have voted to move it forward. So what’s the problem? A small group of senators is standing in the way. And, unfortunately, some folks are trying to use this debate to score political points. But this shouldn’t and can’t be about politics. This is a matter of national security. Terrorists like al Qaeda and ISIL aren’t suddenly going to stop plotting against us at midnight tomorrow. And we shouldn’t surrender the tools that help keep us safe. It would be irresponsible. It would be reckless. And we shouldn’t allow it to happen. So today, I’m calling on Americans to join me in speaking with one voice to the Senate. Put the politics aside. Put our national security first. Pass the USA Freedom Act — now. And let’s protect the security and civil liberties of every American. Thanks very much…”


Obama urges Senate to “put the politics aside” on NSA surveillance extension

“The president is pushing for the Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act, which would curb the NSA’s controversial surveillance powers without expiring them completely.”


Obama: Let’s put politics aside


Obama: controversial NSA bulk data collection ‘not controversial’

“President Obama used his weekly radio address to call on the Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act. Without its passage, the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic surveillance program will expire June 1 along with the Patriot Act. The USA Freedom Act, which passed the House, will extend most aspects of the Patriot Act. Currently, the NSA preserves meta-data from all American citizens’ phones for five years. The USA Freedom Act preserves the NSA’s ability to use the meta-data, but keeps the bulk records with phone companies who must preserve them for 18 months. “The Act also includes other changes to our surveillance laws — including more transparency — to help build confidence among the American people that your privacy and civil liberties are being protected,” said Obama, a proponent of the bill. The NSA’s sweeping program that collects data on all Americans, not just those suspected of terrorism, only came to light two years ago due to revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden…”


Obama pushes Senate to pass Patriot Act extension

“As the deadline approaches to renew key provisions of the Patriot Act, President Obama is urging Congress to pass an NSA reform bill that would curb the agency’s controversial surveillance powers without expiring them completely. “Tomorrow — Sunday, at midnight — some important tools we use against terrorists will expire,” Mr. Obama said Saturday in a video. “That’s because Congress has not renewed them and because legislation that would — the USA Freedom Act — is stuck in the Senate.”


Obama: ‘Pass the USA Freedom Act now’

“President Obama pressured the Senate on Saturday to immediately authorize the USA Freedom Act. “Today, I’m calling on Americans to join me in speaking with one voice to the Senate,” Obama said in his weekly address. “Put the politics aside,” he said. “Put our national security first. Pass the USA Freedom Act — now.” Obama said the proposed legislation was the best way to replace some Patriot Act provisions expiring Sunday night without quick congressional action. It struck a measured balance between privacy rights and protecting national security, he added. “As president and commander in chief, my greatest responsibility is the safety of the American people,” Obama said. “And in our fight against terrorists, we need to use every effective tool at our disposal – both to defend our security and to protect the freedoms and civil liberties enshrined in our Constitution.” Obama also argued that extremists could exploit even the smallest gaps in the nation’s intelligence capabilities. “Terrorists like al Qaeda and ISIL aren’t suddenly going to stop plotting against us at midnight tomorrow,” Obama said. “And we shouldn’t surrender the tools that help keep us safe.” “It would be irresponsible,” Obama added. “It would be reckless. And we shouldn’t allow it to happen.” The USA Freedom Act would renew several major counterterrorism and intelligence measures detailed in the Patriot Act…”


President Obama Scolds “Handful of Senators” Preventing PATRIOT Act Renewal

“Sections of the post-9/11 PATRIOT Act are set to expire this week unless the Senate acts during a special Sunday session. “These authorities expire Sunday at midnight,” pleads the president. “Suddenly we’re dark and heaven forbid we’ve got a problem.”  Rand Paul and an alliance of liberals and libertarians in the Senate have vowed to block re-authorization of the PATRIOT Act as it was, while a more close-knit group around Paul also opposes the similarly-named USA-FREEDOM Act, a compromise worked out last month in the House. “The only thing standing in the way is a handful of Senators who are resisting these reforms,” states President Obama…”


Rare Sunday Senate session will decide fate of NSA spying powers

“The Senate is set to convene for an unusual Sunday session later this afternoon in an eleventh-hour effort to extend three controversial segments of the Patriot Act that are set to expire, among them Section 215 of the law, which the NSA used to collect Americans’ phone records. Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian-leaning Republican and presidential hopeful, has pledged to block any extension of the law tonight, which will cause it to expire at midnight tonight. “Tomorrow, I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program,” Paul said in a statement on Saturday. The segment is part of the USA Patriot Act, which was enacted in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and includes multiple components with varying expiration dates. Both Paul and Democratic Sen. Paul Wyden, of Oregon, are opposed to extending the law — even for a few additional days — to allow the Senate to work out a compromise…”


Boehner tells Senate to pass NSA reform ‘expeditiously’

“Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is putting new pressure on the Senate to renew expiring parts of the Patriot Act, mere hours before they are set to run out. “Al Qaeda, ISIL and other terrorists around the globe continue to plot attacks on America and our allies,” Boehner said in a statement on Sunday afternoon. ISIL is an alternate acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the extremist group. “Anyone who is satisfied with letting this critical intelligence capability go dark isn’t taking the terrorist threat seriously,” he added. “I’d urge the Senate to pass the bipartisan USA Freedom Act, and do so expeditiously.” The comments appear to be a dig at Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has pledged to kill the counterterrorism provisions by forcing the Senate to debate on the issue past midnight, when they will expire. Paul’s firm stance has inspired ire from all corners over the weekend, amid some skepticism that he is using the pulpit to focus attention of his White House campaign. At the same time, Boehner’s comments also come as a rebuke to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has opposed the USA Freedom Act. The bill would renew the Patriot Act provisions but end the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, which McConnell has said would cripple the country’s ability to respond to terrorists. McConnell’s steadfast resistance to reforming the NSA led him to oppose the USA Freedom Act for weeks — even after it sailed through the House 338-88 — and increased the likelihood that the law would expire at the end of the day…”


Sen. Rand Paul: I Will Stop the Illegal NSA Spying

“Sunday, I will continue my fight to end the illegal collection of American phone records. The Second Appeals court has ruled the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records illegal. We should not be debating modifying an illegal program. We should simply end this illegal program. How will we defend ourselves if the Patriot Act expires? Well, perhaps we could just rely on the Constitution and demonstrate exactly how traditional judicial warrants can gather all the info we need—and how bulk collection really hasn’t worked. We have all the tools we need to preserve both security and liberty. What we now need is a president with the will to do just that. I have fought for several years now to end the invasive and illegal spying of the NSA on ordinary Americans. I am ready to debate how we fight terrorism without giving up our liberty. Let me be clear: I acknowledge the need for a robust intelligence agency and for a vigilant national security. I believe we must fight terrorism, and I believe we must stand strong against our enemies…”


Paul: ‘I’m not going to take it anymore’

“Sen. Rand Paul burst back into Washington on Sunday evening making clear that he is not relenting in his battle to hobble the Patriot Act. “Are we going to so blithely give up our freedom? Are we going to so blindly go along and take it?” the Kentucky Republican and presidential candidate said from the Senate floor, raising his voice to reach the approximately two dozen supporters wearing “Stand with Rand” t-shirts in the chamber gallery. “I’m not going to take it anymore,” he added. “I don’t think the American people are going to take it anymore.” Paul spoke minutes after an altercation with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a frequent sparring partner over the years who accused the Kentucky Republican of not understanding Senate rules.

The Senate is holding a rare Sunday session on National Security Agency legislation in large part because of Paul, who more than a week ago objected to a short-term extension of the Patriot Act. Paul also appears intent on unilaterally forcing the three provisions of the Patriot Act to expire at midnight, by preventing the Senate from voting on reform legislation until later in the week. Backers of legislation to renew the Patriot Act provisions but end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records — known as the USA Freedom Act — appeared confident heading into Sunday that they had the 60 votes necessary to proceed. But Paul can still the stop the bill dead in its tracks — at least temporarily. The Senate needs unanimous consent of the chamber to begin voting on a second procedural step on Sunday evening, without waiting until 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Paul’s opposition is likely to mean they don’t get it, forcing the Senate over the midnight deadline and killing the three legal measures. Paul appears primed to chip away at the powers of the National Security Agency (NSA), which he has described as illegal and unconstitutional. “This is a debate over the Bill of Rights,” he said. “This is a debate over the Fourth Amendment. This is a debate over your right to be left alone.”


Watch: Rand Paul’s 5-minute speech against domestic surveillance


Patriot Act’s fate now in Rand Paul’s hands

“Rand Paul has the future of the Patriot Act in the palm of his hand. The Senate is scheduled to hold a rare Sunday evening vote on three  Patriot Act provisions mere hours before they expire at midnight. The late hour — and lack of a clean path forward — means any single senator has an undue amount of leverage to gum up the works. After staking his reputation on fighting the National Security Agency (NSA) to the bitter end, the Kentucky Republican and White House contender now finds himself with the best chance yet to hobble it. On Saturday morning, he pledged to take no prisoners. “Tomorrow, I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program,” he said in a statement distributed by his presidential campaign. “I do not do this to obstruct,” he added. “I do it to build something better, more effective, more lasting, and more cognizant of who we are as Americans.” If he wanted to, Paul certainly could doom parts of the post-9/11 counterterrorism law — at least temporarily. “It requires unanimous consent to get anything done by midnight — that gives him a lot of leverage,” said Nathan White, the senior legislative manager at Access, an advocacy group that supports reforming the law…”



“GOP presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) 93% – a vocal opponent of the USA Patriot Act – said Sunday evening during Senate debates that the House’s USA Freedom Act, which slightly alters the original Patriot Act, will “ultimately pass” but that he hopes tonight ends the bulk collection process. According to NPR, Paul said he worries Congress will replace one bulk collection program with another. “It’s hard for me to have trust in the people who we are giving great power to,” Paul said, adding he plans to offer some amendments. Around 7:00 pm Sunday evening, the Senate voted 77-17 to vote on the House’s USA Freedom Act, but first any senator can still debate the measure over the next 30 hours. “That bill renews three of the Patriot Act provisions expiring at midnight and would overhaul the controversial bulk telephone collection program. Because of Senate procedural rules and possible votes on amendments it is likely there will not be a vote on final passage for several days,” CNN reported….”



“Co-author of the USA Freedom Act, Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) 100% said Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) 93% ’s opposition to the act may delay it a few days but it is destined to pass, according to reports. The legislation will “end the NSA’s bulk collection of millions of Americans’ phone records while also renewing the expiring parts of the post-9/11 counterterrorism law.” Lee emphasized that he agreed with Paul on the merits but disagrees on Paul’s strategy. The leading Republican behind a Senate effort to rein in the National Security Agency (NSA) said on Sunday that he expected to have the 60 votes necessary to advance his bill later in the afternoon.At the same time, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)100% (R-Utah) acknowledged that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)93% ’s (R-Ky.) pledge to “force an expiration” of parts of the Patriot Act may delay the final passage until later in the week — after the three provisions expire. At the same time, Independent Sen. Angus King (I-ME)0% was not as kind in his criticism of Paul’s tactic. Sen. Angus King (I-ME)0% (I-Maine) has opposed Lee’s bill, because it would not impose any requirements on phone companies to hold onto subscribers’ records so they could be handed over to the NSA…”


Republicans Say What Rand Paul Plans to Do Tonight Will Probably Lose Him the Presidential Nomination

“Presidential contender and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul plans to kill the PATRIOT Act. His fellow Republicans aren’t happy about it. On Saturday, Paul pledged, “[T]omorrow, I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program,” ahead of an unusual Sunday evening Senate vote. Through a procedural maneuver, he could effectively force the expiration of the PATRIOT Act that many Republicans say has kept the nation safe from terror attacks after 9/11 — and his stance has drawn the fury of many on the right. Former New York Gov. George Pataki accused Paul of “simply putting Americans at risk for a political reason” on Sunday, while former Flordia Gov. Jeb Bush said Paul’s work to kill the PATRIOT Act is flat-out “wrong.” Over on Fox News, commentator Brit Hume said it seems Paul is “confused about which party he’s running in.” He continued, “These stances, either on surveillance or on who’s responsible for ISIS, they’re not going to sit well with the majority of the Republican population.” In Hume’s view, only a small portion of the GOP shares Paul’s “somewhat paranoid view of things.”


Rand Paul Outmaneuvers Mitch McConnell?

“[T]omorrow, I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program,” Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told Politico Saturday. It seems the long-running “Kentucky feud” between Paul and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over government surveillance will end with Paul the victor. McConnell and others had been pushing the USA Freedom Act as a reform bill as the PATRIOT Act was set to expire, but Paul blocked that bill last week. Politico noted that McConnell had planned to expedite debate on the USA Freedom Act in an unusual Sunday session, but with his statement Saturday Paul was using Senate rules to put the kibosh on the whole thing — and allow the PATRIOT Act to expire. Paul affirmed his libertarian bona fides in the end of his statement on the issue, saying: Sometimes when the problem is big enough, you just have to start over. The tax code and our regulatory burdens are two good examples. Fighting against unconditional, illegal powers that take away our rights, taken by previous Congresses and administrations is just as important. I do not do this to obstruct. I do it to build something better, more effective, more lasting, and more cognizant of who we are as Americans. President Barack Obama has expressed concerns about terror attacks taking place because the PATRIOT Act was allowed to expire…”


It’s Rand Paul vs. Almost Everybody on Patriot Act (Updated)

“Rand Paul’s presidential campaign wants to portray his fight to block any Patriot Act extension as a faceoff against President Barack Obama. But the Kentucky senator is waging an increasingly lonely battle. Some of his usual tea party allies are abandoning him. House Republican leaders are not pleased with his antics. And then there’s Paul’s feud with the senior senator from Kentucky and the most prominent Republican to endorse his presidential campaign, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Put it this way — there aren’t many times that Obama, Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, Speaker John A. Boehner, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid all agree on something. But this weekend, at least, they are singing off the same song sheet: Rand Paul is wrong. McCarthy put out a sharply worded statement Saturday urging the Senate to clear the USA Freedom Act, which passed the House with 338 votes and has Obama’s strong support. “Now is not the time to be playing games with our national security,” the California Republican said. That’s a message that could be interpreted as hitting both Paul and McConnell, who is almost equally isolated. He has been pushing for an extension of Patriot Act authorities and voted to filibuster the USA Freedom Act. Boehner followed up Sunday with another missive aimed squarely at Paul: “Al Qaeda, ISIL and other terrorists around the globe continue to plot attacks on America and our allies. Anyone who is satisfied with letting this critical intelligence capability go dark isn’t taking the terrorist threat seriously,” Boehner said. Lee, a usual Paul ally, co-authored the Senate version of the USA Freedom Act, appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday and said his side has more than the 60 votes they need to end a filibuster . The Utah Republican made an appeal to the Senate — and Paul — to send the bill to Obama’s desk before midnight. Cruz, one of Paul’s rivals for the Republican nomination, is also an early co-sponsor of the USA Freedom Act, which would dismantle the bulk collection of phone records over a six-month period and replace that with expedited queries of data held by private telecom companies. The Texas Republican appeared on the Senate floor late into Paul’s filibuster-esque speech before the Memorial Day recess to praise his opponent’s efforts even as he noted that they disagree on the issue. Cruz, like Obama, believes the USA Freedom Act would protect civil liberties by ending the bulk collection of phone records by the government. Paul calls the bill a “phony” overhaul that could actually expand surveillance by expediting queries of information held by telecom companies. The USA Freedom Act also extends other Patriot Act surveillance authorities that are less controversial than the bulk data program: individualized collection of business and other records under Section 215, roving wiretaps targeting suspected terrorists using “burner” phones, and the never-used “lone-wolf” provision…”


Senate Intel member: Paul ‘simply false’ on NSA

“Members of the Senate will be on the hook if they are unable to renew expiring parts of the Patriot Act by the end of the day on Sunday, according to Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.). “There will be accountability for what our vote is and what we do,” Coats — who sits on the chamber’s Intelligence Committee — said on Fox News on Sunday. “Going dark — losing a valuable tool that’s part of the effort of gathering intelligence, that helps keep Americans safe — is something that we’re going to be responsible for if we allow this to happen.” In particular, Coats criticized Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for “making statements that simply do not describe the program” run by the National Security Agency (NSA). “What he’s said is that the government is literally collecting your emails, your buddy lists, the content of your calls — I think that is not the case at all,” Coats said. “It is an important tool that has been so badly misrepresented.” The NSA has controversially used one of the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, known as Section 215, to collect in bulk millions of records about Americans’ phone calls. The “metadata” records do not include people’s actual conversations, but instead list the numbers they dial, when the phone calls occurred and for how long. However, the NSA has other programs that are able to pick up communications of Americans without a warrant, so long as they are picked up “incidentally” during a search for foreigners’ information. Paul this weekend pledged to force the Senate to kill the laws, by preventing lawmakers from passing legislation by the time they run out at midnight. The strategy has already made him a prime target for many hawks, who worry that he is handicapping American defenses while threats are on the upswing around the globe.  “Something is amiss here, and I think people like Sen. Paul need to understand that we are living in a world of real threats to the American people, and his description of the program is simply false,” Coats said on Sunday…”


Pataki: Paul ‘putting Americans at risk for political reasons’

“Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is risking Americans’ safety in order to score political points, former New York Gov. George Pataki (R) said on Sunday. Pataki — who is facing off against the Kentucky Republican in the race for the GOP presidential nomination — criticized Paul for using procedural tactics to try and kill three parts of the Patriot Act set to expire at midnight…”


Paul skips GOP conference meeting

“Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) skipped a Senate Republican meeting late Sunday afternoon during the fight over extending the Patriot Act. Senate Republicans huddled in the Capitol for more than an hour on how to resolve the spying fight ahead of a midnight deadline when the provisions will expire. After emerging from the meeting, a number of Republicans switched their votes and moved to end debate on legislation reforming the controversial National Security Agency programs authorized by the Patriot Act. Asked why he didn’t attend the caucus meeting, he said that after tension on the Senate floor earlier Sunday: “I didn’t think it was going to be that collegial.” Before the caucus meeting, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) tried to block Paul from speaking on the Senate floor about the Patriot Act provisions. Paul is opposed to both a clean extension of the Patriot Act and the USA Freedom Act. He had tried to reach a deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that would allow the Senate to speed up votes in exchange for Paul receiving votes on two amendments with a simple majority threshold…”


McCain, Paul scuffle amid NSA debate

“Republican Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) faced off late Sunday afternoon, as the Kentucky Republican tried to speak from the Senate floor about expiring provisions of the Patriot Act. McCain and Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) were speaking about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) phone “metadata” collection program when Paul tried to ask a question. Coats said he had not yielded the floor to Paul, effectively blocking the 2016 presidential candidate from speaking. Coats then yielded to McCain for a question, instead. “The senator from Kentucky needs to learn the rules of the Senate,” McCain said. “Maybe the senator from Kentucky should know the rules of the Senate.”…”


Sanders ‘very, very worried’ about NSA, privacy

“Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on Sunday that he is concerned for the privacy of everyday Americans as Congress debates possibly renewing the Patriot Act. “I have been very, very worried by the invasion of privacy not just by the government but by business interests as well,” Sanders told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The Senate will hold a rare night session on Sunday to reexamine the Patriot Act’s intelligence-gathering provisions before they expire at midnight. Sanders said on Sunday he would prefer the USA Freedom Act, proposed compromise legislation that would replace the Patriot Act. “I will be voting for it,” the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate said of the USA Freedom Act. “I voted against the original Patriot Act.” The USA Freedom Act would end bulk, warrantless collection of individual phone record metadata by the National Security Administration (NSA) originally approved by the Patriot Act. Critics have argued that the intelligence-gathering measures are an unconstitutional government overreach into citizens’ lives. Sanders also praised President Obama’s time in office while reflecting on his own White House ambitions. “I have a lot of respect for President Obama,” he said. “I consider him a friend.” “I think history will judge the president a lot better than many of his contemporaries,” Sanders added. “He came into office at a terrible, terrible time.” Sanders formally announced his 2016 campaign on Tuesday in Burlington, Vermont. The Vermont lawmaker also lashed out at critics of controversial fiction he authored in 1972…”


Mitch McConnell expected to swallow USA Freedom Act

The clock ticks to midnight on expiring PATRIOT Act surveillance authority.

“In a reversal, Senate Republicans were moving closer Sunday to accepting the USA Freedom Act, despite opposition from GOP leaders to the House-passed surveillance plan. But they will try to make changes first. The ultimate question will be whether detractors like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) delay final passage of the bipartisan measure past midnight, when three key surveillance authorities expire. Few expect the presidential hopeful, who has called for a repeal of the PATRIOT Act, to relent. In a rare Sunday session, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will bring the House’s USA Freedom Act back up for another vote at around 6 p.m. even though he personally objects to the legislation. The measure fell three votes short of breaking a filibuster recently, but Senate Republicans are expected this time to let the bill come to the floor for debate. Republicans hope they will be able to amend the plan and send it back to the House, but support for major changes at this late juncture would be an uphill climb. Sources said the USA Freedom Act, with or without amendments, could be approved as early as Tuesday or Wednesday even if Paul continues his fight…”


NSA reformer: We’ve got the votes

“The leading Republican behind a Senate effort to rein in the National Security Agency (NSA) said on Sunday that he expected to have the 60 votes necessary to advance his bill later in the afternoon. At the same time, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) acknowledged that Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) pledge to “force an expiration” of parts of the Patriot Act may delay the final passage until later in the week — after the three provisions expire. “I do believe we have the votes,” Lee said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “At this point, I think is not about whether we get this passed but when,” he added. “It’ll happen either tonight or it’ll happen on Wednesday, or somewhere within that 72 hour window.” Lee is one of the authors of the USA Freedom Act, which would end the NSA’s bulk collection of millions of Americans’ phone records while also renewing the expiring parts of the post-9/11 counterterrorism law. The Senate is scheduled to take a rare Sunday evening vote on that bill, but Paul’s continued opposition could push it past the midnight deadline. “Sen. Paul and I share similar concerns about the collection of bulk metadata,” Lee said on Sunday. “We do differ as to the strategy for how to deal with it.” “Although he and I share a similar concern, I don’t agree with his approach and I’ve taken a different approach here,” he added. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) has opposed Lee’s bill, because it would not impose any requirements on phone companies to hold onto subscribers’ records so they could be handed over to the NSA. However, he appeared to accept on Sunday that the bill seemed destined to pass. “I would hope that those who are making a big deal of standing in the way and potentially blocking realize that all they’re potentially doing is to slow something down for two or three days,” King said….”


Senate advances NSA reform — but program to lapse at midnight

“The Senate advanced legislation 77-17 to reform the National Security Agency on Sunday, but parts of the Patriot Act will nonetheless lapse for a few days amid opposition from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). The legislation, called the USA Freedom Act, will not reach President Obama’s desk until after the three measures expire at midnight, meaning that the provisions will expire until the bill is passed by the Senate and signed by Obama later this week. “The Patriot Act will expire tonight,” Paul declared triumphantly from the Senate floor during a rare Sunday evening vote. “It will only be temporary. They will ultimately get their way.” Obama has supported the measure and had repeatedly urged lawmakers to support it in the days leading up to Sunday’s deadline. The bill needed 60 votes in order to advance. A failed gambit by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opened the door to Paul’s use of procedural tactics to delay consideration of the bill. Paul had made the spying programs unearthed by former government contractor Edward Snowden a central part of his presidential candidacy and vowed to force the expiration of the Patriot Act heading into the weekend. Paul argues the USA Freedom Act — which was approved by the House 338-88 earlier in May — does not go far enough to rein in spying programs that he and his allies argue are unconstitutional. “Are we going to so blithely give up our freedom? Are we going to so blindly go along and take it?” Paul said in heated remarks on the Senate floor before the vote.  “I’m not going to take it anymore,” he declared, as his voice rose to a shout. “I don’t think the American people are going to take it anymore.” Paul — who had roughly two dozen supporters crowding the gallery of the Senate in red “Stand with Rand” t-shirts — appeared to declare victory after the vote. “We didn’t have 60 votes before to end the bulk collection,” he told reporters after emerging from the chamber. “By slowing the process down, talking about the Patriot Act, we now will end bulk collection of records by the government.” Lawmakers are expected to introduce amendments later on Sunday evening. While Paul has fought to be able to introduce amendments, his measures appear likely to be blocked by his fellow lawmakers. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is expected to introduce amendments of his own, which John McCain (R-Ariz.) predicted would be approved. Paul’s opposition will push votes on both those amendments and the final bill back to Tuesday at the earliest, and potentially Wednesday…”


Clock runs down for Patriot Act surveillance programs


Rand Paul win doesn’t mean NSA spying ends, experts say


Reid blames McConnell for ‘manufactured’ NSA crisis

“Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) slammed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday for creating a “manufactured crisis” over expiring provisions of the Patriot Act. Reid said McConnell was to blame for the possible expiration of the law at midnight, and not Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has opposed a bipartisan reform bill and a straight extension of the Patriot Act, which would authorize key National Security Agency programs. “It is clear that the majority leader simply didn’t have a plan,” Reid said in comments on the Senate floor during a rare Sunday session of the upper chamber. “I disagree with the junior senator from Kentucky, but we’re not in the mess today because of the junior senator from Kentucky,” Reid said, referring to Paul. “We are in the mess we are in today because of the majority leader.” The Senate is expected to take three procedural votes after 6 p.m. on Sunday. The third vote would be to end debate on the USA Freedom Act, which would reform the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs and was approved by the House in a 338-88 vote. Supporters of the bill believe they have the 60 votes to end debate, which would set up a vote as early as 1 a.m. Tuesday. McConnell wants a “clean” extension of the Patriot Act provisions. McConnell and other top Senate Republicans have opposed the House-backed USA Freedom Act, which would require the NSA to request phone records from private companies. But McConnell was unable to get the necessary votes last week to pass an extension of the provisions. Reid doubled down on his push Sunday that passing the USA Freedom Act is now McConnell’s only option. “There is a way out: Pass the USA Freedom Act which the House overwhelmingly passed with 338 votes on a totally bipartisan basis,” he said. “All we need is a few more Republican senators to vote with Democrats and the bill will pass.” Paul opposes the USA Freedom Act and has said he will block action on that legislation unless he gets commitments that his amendments to the bill will be considered for up-or-down votes. His opposition makes it unlikely the Senate will take action to extend the Patriot Act provisions before midnight, when they would expire…”


CIA chief: Terrorists watching Senate NSA fight

“Terrorists who want to attack the U.S. are closely monitoring the congressional battle over the Patriot Act with hopes of finding ways to strike, the head of the CIA said on Sunday. “I think terrorist elements have watched very carefully what has happened here in the United States,” Director John Brennan said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Whether or not it’s disclosures of classified information, or whether it’s changes in the law and policies, they’re looking for the seams to operate within,” he added. “This is something that we can’t afford to deal with right now, because if you look at the horrific terrorist attacks and violence that’s being perpetrated around the globe, we need to keep our country safe.” Brennan’s comments are the latest pressure from the Obama administration, which has been frantically warning Congress not to run through the midnight deadline to renew three parts of the Patriot Act. The administration has repeatedly urged lawmakers to pass the USA Freedom Act, which would renew those laws while also ending the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. “The tools that the government has used over the last dozen year to keep this country safe are integral to making sure were able to stop terrorist attacks,” Brennan said. The odds for passing a bill appeared to get a lot tougher this weekend, after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) pledged to do everything he could to force the laws to expire. Paul is running for president and has come under some criticism for using the Patriot Act deadline to prop up his White House campaign. On Sunday, Brennan added to that criticism…”


Jeb Bush: “Not A Shred Of Evidence” NSA Metadata Program “Has Violated Anybody’s Civil Liberties”

“Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a likely presidential candidate, says Congress should reauthorize the Patriot Act “as is” and that the Obama administration should pursue a tougher strategy against ISIS. JEB BUSH: I do, I do [beleive the country is in danger if the PATRIOT Act expires Sunday at midnight]. It is not a violation of civil liberties, there is no evidence, not a shred of evidence that the metadata program has violated anybody’s civil liberties. The first duty of the national government is to protect the homeland and this has been an effective tool, along with many others. The PATRIOT Act ought to be reauthorized as is.”



“Sunday on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” recently announced Democratic candidate for president and former governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley said President Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is a “race to the bottom for the cheapest labor in the world.” On Wall Street, O’Malley said, “I’m saying we need new leadership to accomplish to rein in excesses on Wall Street. When you have a CEO telling his employees that he would be fine with either Bush or Clinton, that should tell all of us something,” and added, “I’m not beholden to Wall Street interests.” On the president’s controversial trade agreement O’Malley said, “I’m opposed to it. We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom for the cheapest labor in the world.  That diminishes us as a people and it hurts our economy. ”


Western states decry Obama plan to save greater sage grouse

Utah’s Bishop calls scheme a federal land grab

“There’s one big problem with the Bureau of Land Management’s newly released federal habitat plan for the greater sage grouse: It’s federal. That was the reaction Thursday from Western Republicans, industry groups and economic development advocates, who accused the Obama administration of bigfooting in what should be a state-led effort to protect the declining species — while balancing economic and development interests across the region. “This is just flat-out wrong,” said House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop, Utah Republican. “If the administration really cares about the bird, they will adopt the state plans as they originally said they would. The state plans work. This proposal is only about controlling land, not savingthe bird.” The clash comes as the federal Fish and Wildlife Service must decide whether to list the greater sage grouse by Sept. 30, a ruling that could have devastating consequences for Western states whose economies rely on agriculture and energy development. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who unveiled the updated BLM land-use strategy Thursday at a press conference in Cheyenne with Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, said a federal role is necessary because “as land managers of two-thirds of greater sage grouse habitat, we have a responsibility to take action that ensures a bright future for wildlife and a thriving Western economy.” About 64 percent of the greater sage grouse’s habitat lies on federal land, but Western governors and private landowners have moved aggressively with projects to conserve and enhance sagebrush in a massive and unprecedented effort to avoid an Endangered Species Act listing…”


GOP pledges to “rein in” Obama on climate change

“The Obama administration says a new federal rule regulating small streams and wetlands will protect the drinking water of more than 117 million people in the country. Not so, insist Republicans. They say the rule is a massive government overreach that could even subject puddles and ditches to regulation. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, is promising to “rein in” the government through legislation or other means. It’s a threat with a familiar ring. Capito and other Republicans are also pledging to block the administration’s plan to curb carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, its proposal for stricter limits on smog-forming pollution linked to asthma and respiratory illness, and a separate rule setting the first national standards for waste generated from coal burned for electricity. The rules are among a host of regulations that majority Republicans have targeted for repeal or delay as they confront President Barack Obama on a second-term priority: his environmental legacy, especially his efforts to reduce the pollution linked to global warming…”


GOP pledges to ‘rein in’ Obama on EPA rules, global warming


EPA’s new biofuel proposal could spark court battle

“Lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency became more likely on Friday, with the long-overdue release of the agency’s renewable fuel requirements that would reduce corn ethanol targets. The EPA’s flagship Renewable Fuel Standard sets requirements for amounts of biofuels that refiners must blend in the nation’s gasoline and diesel supplies. It’s a program the refiners want abolished by Congress, although they have worked with EPA in recent years to tweak the policy until Capitol Hill gets around to passing a bill. Nevertheless, new litigation over the latest RFS rules, which set fuel targets retroactively for 2014, 2015, and 2016, won’t necessarily originate from the oil industry when the rules are finished in November. Lawsuits from the corn ethanol industry and biofuel community could be the first filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The new proposed rules for 2014, 2015, and 2016 would allow volumes of ethanol up to 13.25 billion gallons for 2014, 13.40 billion gallons for 2015, and 14 billion gallons in 2016, according to EPA. The numbers are nearly a billion gallons shy of where Congress directed the agency to set the standards in those years because of EPA’s application of its waiver authority…”


EPA’s renewed renewable fuels push has critics fuming

Inhofe calls statutory mandate ‘unachievable’

“The Obama administration’s move last week to increase the amount of ethanol and other renewable fuels that must be blended into gasoline supplies left virtually everyone unhappy, casting new doubt on the future of the government’s long, contentious Renewable Fuel Standard. The RFS, codified with 2007 legislation written before the U.S. energy boom, has become increasingly unpopular and its targets difficult to achieve as domestic oil-and-gas production levels have gone through the roof in recent years. The RFS was written at a time when blending ethanol into fuel supplies seemed a worthwhile complement to an effort to both lower prices at the pump and increase U.S. energy security. Despite today’s relatively low gas prices, and with American energy production at record highs largely because of fracking and other technological breakthroughs, the Environmental Protection Agency still is forging ahead with the RFS. On Friday, the agency released a higher set of targets, though they fall far short of what Congress envisioned nearly a decade ago. Critics say the agency is going in precisely the wrong direction, arguing that the standards remain entirely unrealistic and that the RFS must be scrapped or, at the very least, dramatically overhauled. “EPA’s announcement adds to the building evidence of how poorly the agency has managed the renewable fuel standard, and how the mandate is in need of significant reform and oversight. Clearly, the statutory volumes are unachievable,” Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Chairman James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, said in a statement. “Congress wrote the RFS with the assumption that gasoline demand would continue to increase significantly due to concerns about domestic sources of energy. However, the shale boom has led to extensive growth in U.S. oil and gas production.”…”


House Democrat Carolyn Maloney Floats Obamacare for the Second Amendment

“Carolyn Maloney is at it again. Per The Hill: House Democrat Rep. Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.) has introduced a bill that would require gun owners to carry liability insurance. The Firearm Risk Protection Act, unveiled Friday, would require gun buyers to have liability insurance coverage before being allowed to purchase a weapon, and would impose a fine of $10,000 if an owner is found not to have it. Service members and law enforcement officers, however, would be exempt from the requirement. “We require insurance to own a car, but no such requirement exists for guns,” Maloney said in a statement. “The results are clear: car fatalities have declined by 25 percent in the last decade, but gun fatalities continue to rise.” Maloney said auto insurance carriers incentivize drivers to take precautions to reduce accidents, but no such incentives exist for firearm owners. “An insurance requirement would allow the free market to encourage cautious behavior and help save lives,” she said. “Adequate liability coverage would also ensure that the victims of gun violence are fairly compensated when crimes or accidents occur.” Goodness me. How many mistakes can one make in one statement?…”


Justice Department prepares raft of new gun restrictions

“…His efforts to enact new restrictions on the Second Amendment rights of Americans through the normal legislative process may have failed, but the President is clearly ready to give it the old college try and have the Justice Department ram through some new gun control rules. Of course, “new” is a bit of a misnomer in this case because it’s more of the same old tricks we’ve seen before. As The Hill reports, we should expect to see the finished version of these plans by the end of the year as Barack Obama tries to cement his legacy as a hero to liberal gun grabbers. The Justice Department plans to move forward this year with more than a dozen new gun-related regulations, according to list of rules the agency has proposed to enact before the end of the Obama administration. The regulations range from new restrictions on high-powered pistols to gun storage requirements. Chief among them is a renewed effort to keep guns out of the hands of people who are mentally unstable or have been convicted of domestic abuse.

We won’t have the specifics for a while yet, but it’s pretty much the same script we’ve seen in the past. The Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is looking to revive a rule proposed way back in 1998 that would block domestic abusers from owning guns. As proposed, the regulation makes it illegal for some who has been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense to own a gun… The ATF is also looking to prohibit the mentally ill from owning firearms, which is attracting even more criticism from gun rights groups…”




Jeb Bush: No decisions yet, but “I hope I run” for president

“Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says he’s still mulling it over, but he “hopes” to run for president. He also said that if he does run, he will fully comply with campaign finance regulations regarding super PACs…”


Jeb Bush Says He Is Still Just Considering a Presidential Run


Poll: Scott Walker Expands Lead in lowa

“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has upped his advantage in Iowa, leading second-place Republicans with their eyes on the White House by seven points, Bloomberg Politics reported Saturday. Republican presidential hopeful Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks during the 2015 Southern Republican Leadership Conference May 21, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Walker weighed in at 17 percent in the new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, two points higher than his top finish in a similar January poll, Bloomberg Politics added. “Scott Walker’s momentum puts him solidly in first place,” J. Ann Selzer, president of West Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll, told Bloomberg Politics. “For the time being, he’s doing the right things to make the right first impression.” Tied for the second spot? Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ben Carson at 10 percent; knotted at third with 9 percent — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Another telling tally: More than a third of likely Republican caucus participants indicated they’d never vote for Bush; 43 percent view him favorably while 45 percent view him unfavorably…”


Carly Fiorina: Big government is crushing Americans

“Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina told a packed audience that a huge, complex and sometimes corrupt government was “crushing the potential” of Americans. “That is not hyperbole,” she said. “That is fact.” When democracy becomes so big and powerful, and so costly and complex, Fiorina said, only the big, powerful, wealthy and well-connected can handle it. “The small and the powerless get crushed,” she said. At the Delaware GOP convention in Wilmington on Saturday morning, Fiorina came out strong against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, questioning why the former U.S. secretary of state has answered so few on-the-record questions…”


Fiorina: Clintons part of ‘professional political class’

“GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina argued Saturday that Hillary Clinton is a political elite who does not deserve the Oval Office once occupied by her husband. “Bill and Hillary Clinton are the personification of the professional political class,” Fiorina said of the former president and his wife at the Delaware GOP convention, according to The Delaware News Journal. “It has nothing to do with the fact that either one of us are women,” she added of her frequent attacks on Hillary Clinton. “It has to do with the fact that 82 percent of the American people now believe that we have a professional political class that is more focused on preserving its power and privilege than it is on doing the people’s work.” Fiorina also continued her ongoing attack on Hillary Clinton’s lack of transparency in the public eye. “Since I declared my candidacy about three weeks ago, I’ve answered maybe 500 questions on-the-record,” she said. “Hillary has answered maybe 20,” she added. “That’s maybe a generous estimate.” Fiorina said she was an alternative to the big-government persona Hillary Clinton embodies. Such vast bureaucratic power, she said, was “crushing the potential” of everyday Americans. “That is not hyperbole,” Fiorina said of bloated government. “That is fact. The small and powerless get crushed.” The former Hewlett-Packard CEO added that the growth of political power contradicted America’s traditional values….”


Kasich: I have ‘best resume’ for 2016

“Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) said on Sunday that he had the strongest political background of any 2016 presidential candidate. “I think it’s the best resume and a terrific record,” Kasich told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Kasich has long teased a White House run next year but has not yet publicly declared a bid. “I’m optimistic about where we are,” he said Sunday. “I don’t need to do this to have a good life but I think I can help our country,” Kasich added. “If I can really step up and help it, I intend to do it.” Kasich has repeatedly touted his efforts combating crime in the Buckeye State. He said on Sunday he would remain a fierce protector of its death penalty law while remaining in office there. “I have supported the death penalty and will continue to do so,” Kasich said. “A lot of families just want a sense of closure and to see justice done,” he said of victims who favored the state’s ultimate punishment. “It isn’t about revenge, it is about justice,” he added. Kasich additionally showed his bipartisan side by extending kind words toward Vice President Biden, a Democrat…”


Martin O’Malley Launches Longshot 2016 Challenge to Hillary’s Left

“Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley – one of the nation’s most liberal chief executives for having raised taxes, abolished the death penalty and imposed sweeping gun control – stepped up Saturday to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. “We cannot rebuild the American dream here at home by catering to the voices of the privileged and the powerful,” O’Malley said. “Recently the CEO of Goldman Sachs let his employees know that he’d be just fine with either [Jeb] Bush or Clinton. I bet he would,”  O’Malley continued. “Well I’ve got news for the bullies of Wall Street. The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families. It is a sacred trust we earn from the American people.” O’Malley made the announcement from Baltimore, where he served as mayor, in front of a sign that read, “New Leadership,” a likely dig at Clinton. O’Malley was perhaps most known nationwide for the “rain tax” that was credited for the election of his Republican successor Larry Hogan in 2014. The tax was levied on water bills against property owners for land with “impervious surfaces,” defined as anything that prevents rainwater from seeping into the earth, including roofs, driveways, patios and sidewalks. The goal was to prevent the water from draining elsewhere. The tax was imposed to help clean up Chesapeake Bay….”


O’Malley Joins 2016 Presidential Race


Full Speech: Martin O’Malley Announces He Is Running For President




Clinton Foundation accused of trading ex-president’s presence for donation

“The Clinton camp was hit Friday with yet another bombshell report on the family foundation, even as the Democratic power couple launched a counteroffensive against critics of the foundation’s dealings. The New York Times reported Friday on a questionable arrangement last year involving Bill Clinton’s attendance at a fundraising gala thrown by a school-building charity.  According to the report, Clinton agreed to accept a lifetime achievement award at the June 2014 gala, hosted by the Happy Hearts Fund, only after founder Petra Nemcova offered to give $500,000 to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.  Sue Veres Royal, the group’s executive director at the time who was later “dismissed,” alleged that this amounted to a “quid pro quo.”  She told the Times the foundation had rejected an invitation from the Happy Hearts Fund “more than once.” That changed, she said, when “there was a thinly veiled solicitation and then the offer of an honorarium.”  Representatives for Nemcova and the foundation countered that the money was not solicited — and would be used for projects in Haiti.  Royal received a cease-and-desist order Friday from legal representatives of the Happy Hearts Fund, saying that her contributions to the Times article amounted to a violation of a confidentiality agreement she had entered into…”




Exclusive interview: Ian Bremmer says America is no longer ‘indispensable’, and that’s bad news for Britain

The foreign policy guru and author of “Superpower” speaks with Peter Foster about American retrenchment, the rise of China and what it means for Britain’s future


Marco Rubio: Obama’s strategy for the Middle East has backfired

“The fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to the Islamic State and recent gains by the group in Syria are the latest signs that President Obama’s strategy to defeat this brutal terrorist group is failing. But the problem is far bigger than that. The president’s entire approach to the Middle East has backfired. The Middle East is more dangerous and unstable than when Obama came into office — a time when Iraq and Syria were more stable, the Iranian nuclear program was considerably less advanced and the Islamic State did not yet exist. Much of this instability is a result of Obama’s disengagement from the region, best symbolized by the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011. The vacuum created by America’s pullback has been filled by bad actors, including terrorist extremists, both Sunni and Shiite, who have flourished in the absence of U.S. leadership. On one side are the radical Sunni extremists of al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and affiliated groups. The Islamic State has capitalized on the political grievances many Iraqi Sunnis have with their sectarian Shiite leaders, as well as the divisions between Syrian Sunnis and the brutal Alawite-dominated Assad regime, which is supported by Iran. The Islamic State’s black banner is now spreading as far afield as Libya and Afghanistan. On the other side is Iran, a country run by a militant Shiite clerical regime that is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism and has as its primary goal regional domination and the export of the Iranian revolution. As the Obama administration has focused on negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran, Tehran has exploited U.S. weakness and expanded its reach into Syria, Iraq and Yemen, among other countries…”