Another Side Effect of Obamacare: Increased Food Stamp Enrollment?

“Expanded Medicaid under Obamacare could be responsible for more people signing up for food stamps, the Associated Press reported. That’s because so many state agencies are making it simpler to enroll in multiple government assistance programs at once if they are eligible for Medicaid. In New Mexico, enrollment for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, grew by 5 percent in 14 months. “We attribute the increase in SNAP to Medicaid expansion,” New Mexico Human Services Department Deputy Secretary Sean Pearson told the AP. “When folks go online now, they have the ability to apply for multiple programs in a single session.” Overall food stamp use declined from 2013 to 2014 nationally, but increased in 11 states – most of which streamlined the enrollment process under Medicaid expansion. And it could become costly, the AP reported. The average food stamp payment is $125.35 per month. For the 632,000 new food stamp users in the 11 states, that would be another $79 million cost to the taxpayers. The AP noted that it can’t be definitively determined whether the entire increase is a result the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamcare. In most states the increase was between 1 percent and 6 percent over the last two years. However, in Nevada, food stamp enrollment increased by 14 percent. In Illinois, food stamp enrollment jumped 2.5 percent to 2.08 million since 2013, during a time when the state’s unemployment rate fell from 9.1 percent to 6.2 percent. In West Virginia, the 4 percent increase came because people were “more engaged with our systems and more aware what they’re eligible for,” Jeremiah Samples, of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, told the AP…”


States where health law seems to increase food-stamp use (list)

“President Barack Obama’s health care law seems to be enticing more Americans to apply for food stamps in 11 states, despite significant improvement in the economy.

Under the law, many states tried to improve Medicaid and food-stamp enrollment systems by making it easier for people to register for food benefits when they sign up for health coverage. Below is a list of the 11 states with recent enrollment increases in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program…”


Health law brings growth in food stamps in some states

“President Barack Obama’s health care law has had a surprising side effect: In some states, it appears to be enticing more Americans to apply for food stamps, even as the economy improves. New, streamlined application systems built for the health care overhaul are making it easier for people to enroll in government benefit programs, including insurance coverage and food stamps. In most affected states, the enrollment increases were not huge, ranging from 1 percent to 6 percent over two years, according to an Associated Press analysis. The sole exception was Nevada, where enrollment shot up 14 percent. The enrollment is climbing as Republicans try to cut the costs of the food program and at a time when food-stamp usage would normally be expected to decline. Eligibility rules have not changed. West Virginia’s food-stamp enrollment increased 4 percent after a Medicaid expansion that was part of the health care changes. Enrollment jumped because people were “more engaged with our systems and more aware what they’re eligible for,” said Jeremiah Samples of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. With the economy improving, national food-stamp enrollment declined in 2013 and 2014. But in 11 states, demand rose between January 2013 and the end of 2014, the AP analysis showed…”


Shreds of doubt about Obamacare

Five years in, the president’s health care promises remain unrealized

“Last week’s tax-filing deadline was a little bit more complicated than in the past, thanks to Obamacare. Americans had to prove to the Internal Revenue Service that they had health insurance last year — or risk a tax penalty. Many of those that shopped in the exchanges, meanwhile, learned that they actually owed the government money because they misreported their incomes when applying for subsidized coverage. It’s unlikely that these folks would agree with President Obama’s assertion on the law’s recent five-year anniversary that it was working “beyond a shred of a doubt.” Obamacare has failed to increase coverage, deliver affordable care, or significantly improve the economy. The White House claims that since Obamacare took effect, the number of uninsured Americans has dropped from 48 million to 32 million. “In just over one year, the ranks of the uninsured have dropped by nearly one-third,” the president said. But that’s misleading. According to the Census Bureau, the uninsured rate peaked in 2010 at 15.5 percent, four years before the individual mandate kicked in….”


Bill to repeal health insurance tax gains steam in House

“A bipartisan bill to help health insurance companies avoid fees under ObamaCare is now backed by a majority of House lawmakers, its sponsors announced Wednesday. The bill would repeal an ObamaCare provision known as the “health insurance tax” (HIT), which charges insurers an annual fee to help pay for the healthcare law. Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who introduced the bill in February, announced Wednesday that they have reached 218 co-sponsors, which they hope will quickly lead to a full House vote. “I am proud to reach this important milestone and look forward to an expeditious consideration and passage of this important legislation through the House of Representatives,” Boustany wrote in a statement. The bill has six Democratic co-sponsors: Patrick Murphy (Fla.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Brad Ashford (Neb.), Julia Brownley (Calif.) and Gwen Graham (Fla.). Murphy is running for Senate. The provision has been at the center of a years-long lobbying campaign by insurers and business groups. “Reaching 218 co-sponsors is an important milestone that adds to the growing momentum in Congress to repeal the HIT,” the insurer trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, wrote in a statement. The tax, which costs a total of $145 billion, gradually increases during the rollout of the law. While individuals are not directly taxed, critics of the provision argue that insurers are forced to pass along the burden through higher premiums. A similar measure was introduced in the Senate during the budget-drafting process earlier this month, co-sponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) The legislation also reached a 218 majority in 2012, before Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress…”


Vitter’s Obamacare Probe Continues With Subpoena Vote

“Sen. David Vitter’s crusade against government contributions to congressional health care plans continues this week with a vote to subpoena documents from the D.C. government, but he may have some dissenters in the Republican ranks. The Louisiana Republican is the chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, and he has used his perch to investigate congressional enrollment in the District of Columbia’s small-business exchange, which allowed for a government contribution to congressional health care plans. But his investigation has some members questioning whether this is an issue for his committee. “I’m not even confident it’s within the jurisdiction of the committee, so I still have serious questions about it,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., told CQ Roll Call Wednesday. “I have two concerns: whether we have jurisdiction and whether that’s the proper role of this committee.” Ayotte is one of 10 Republicans and nine Democrats on the committee who will vote Thursday on whether to subpoena the D.C. Health Benefit and Exchange Authority for un-redacted congressional applications to the small-business exchange. A recent taxpayer lawsuit obtained the applications, showing that the House and Senate claimed to have fewer than 50 employees and were also classified as “state/local government,” but the names of the House and Senate employees who verified the applications were redacted. In February, Vitter asked House and Senate administrators to reveal which employees signed the applications, but administrators did not supply the information. So after months of unanswered requests — and an appeal to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, for help — Vitter is making a last-ditch effort to force DCHBEA to comply by issuing a subpoena. But to do so, Vitter either needs the support of ranking member Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., or from the majority of committee members. Shaheen confirmed Wednesday she is a “no,” so Vitter will likely need all the panel’s Republicans to support him. Vitter issued a statement Tuesday that included a line noting “most committee Republicans” would support the subpoena. However, none of the seven GOP committee members approached by CQ Roll Call Wednesday said they would vote in favor of the resolution, though they did not say they would vote against it. The lawmakers either did not want to divulge their vote ahead of time, or were still examining the issue…”


Senator Asks Colleagues to Take ‘One Step Closer to Living Under Obamacare’

“Sen. David Vitter wants answers on Obamacare. On Thursday, he’ll learn if the Republican members of the committee he chairs are behind him. The senator from Louisiana has been leading a crusade to uncover why members of Congress and their staffers receive their health insurance on D.C.’s small business exchange—and the employer contribution that goes along with that designation—rather than the individual marketplace. So Vitter’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee will vote on whether to subpoena documents sent to the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority (which oversees the District’s health marketplace). The panel roster has 10 Republicans and nine Democrats, so Vitter will likely need every Republican on his side to approve the subpoena. But on Tuesday, Sens. Deb Fischer and Kelly Ayotte didn’t say how they would vote; they said they weren’t confident there was going to be a vote on the subpoena and didn’t comment on whether they would support Vitter’s endeavor. And Sen. James Risch wouldn’t definitively say how he planned to vote, as he has work to do to catch up to speed before he takes a position. A news release from the committee stated that a vote will occur Thursday and that “most Committee Republicans are committed to supporting Vitter’s request to subpoena the documents.” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the panel’s top Democrat, opposes the subpoena, according to her press secretary, Vivek Kembaiyan. How Congress receives its health care has been a thorny issue dating back to the Affordable Care Act’s negotiations. Democrats say Congress is a large employer, and thus should provide its employees with health coverage, as the law mandates large companies must do…”


Republicans: Keep Obamacare subsidies two more years

“Two Republican senators are proposing to keep Obamacare subsidies flowing for two years should the Supreme Court strike them this summer. Low- and mid-income people would be able to keep their subsidized health insurance plans through August 2017 — although no new enrollees would be allowed — under legislation introduced Wednesday by Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue. It’s the latest GOP proposal for how to move forward if the Supreme Court blocks insurance subsidies to residents in a majority of the states in the closely-watched case King v. Burwell. If the court sides with the challengers, it would mean millions of Americans who are relying on subsidies to help afford insurance won’t get them anymore. Republicans hope the subsidies are blocked, but at the same time they worry they could be blamed if Americans are suddenly deprived of the federal aid. House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan is working on a contingency plan and other Republicans have outlined responses, too. Isakson and Perdue would maintain the subsidies for a longer period of time than any other Republicans have yet proposed. Prolonging them for two more years would give Republicans time to agree on how to approach Obamacare — including perhaps repealing it — should they win the White House in 2016. President Obama is likely to block any of their efforts to significantly change the law while he remains in office. Their plan would also repeal the Affordable Care Act’s mandates for individuals to buy health coverage and employers to offer it and let states spell out their own insurance coverage and benefit requirements. “I’m proud to continue these efforts and make sure hardworking families who have already suffered the harmful effects of the president’s healthcare law will not be further penalized if the Supreme Court rules against the administration,” Isakson said in a statement…”


Health Plans’ Mastery of Obamacare Poses Challenge To Repeal

“Can Obamacare still be repealed? Well, that depends. If the politicians will legislate according to the people’s preferences, Obamacare is a jump-ball. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest tracking poll, 43 percent have a generally favorable opinion of Obamacare, while 42 percent have a generally unfavorable opinion. Further, 22 percent claim Obamacare has hurt them or their family directly, while only 19 percent claim it has helped. That leaves more than half who do not think Obamacare has directly affected them. Perhaps the 25 million who have become insured or dependent on Medicaid after Obamacare rolled out will confirm its success. Actually, there has been no improvement in access to care due to Obamacare. The Commonwealth Fund reports that 35 percent of adults delayed medical care because of cost last year – versus 37 percent in 2005. Further, the proportion of adults ages 19 through 64 who had a medical problem but did not visit a doctor or clinic was 22 percent in 2003 and 23 percent last year. Thirteen percent did not receive needed specialist care last year – the same percentage as in 2003. Basically, when it comes to access to care, Obamacare has returned us to the status quo from before the Great Recession – at great cost to taxpayers. And that is only the picture in broad strokes. Very few people account for most medical spending, and those very sick people are doing poorly in Obamacare plans. A politician who offers a compelling plan to restore prosperity, as well as repealing and replacing Obamacare, should not face overwhelming odds convincing Obamacare beneficiaries. The real obstacle to advancing an alternative to Obamacare will be interests in the health sector, which has mastered Obamacare remarkably. The latest evidence is the first quarter earnings reported by UnitedHealth Group UNH -1.51% (NYSE:UNH) and Hospital Corporation of America (NYSE:HCA), both of which Forbes colleague Bruce Japsen describes as having had the “best Obamacare quarter yet.” UnitedHealth Group posted revenues of $36 billion, 13 percent more than Q1 2014. The stock jumped 3.6 percent on the news. Every part of the firm’s domestic business did better than expected: Medicaid, Medicare, employer-based benefits and Obamacare exchanges….”


Why are Obamacare’s polling numbers so low?

“The Kaiser Family Foundation released a poll Tuesday showing that public opinion is divided on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Forty-three percent of respondents reported that they approve of the health-care law, and 42 percent said they disapprove. That’s a marked improvement from much of the last year. But those of us who believe that the ACA is decent policy that’s working fairly well still need to ask: Why do its polling numbers remain so low? At least part of the answer is that the ACA’s primary purpose was to cover people who had severe trouble affording insurance, and most Americans didn’t have this problem. The ACA is at its core a coverage-expansion policy. It enlarged Medicaid and designed special marketplaces to give people who had limited or no access to private health coverage the ability to get quality insurance. That class of people included low-income Americans and uninsured or under-insured Americans with expensive preexisting conditions. Most people weren’t in those categories. According to polling numbers Gallup reported in January, the rate of uninsured peaked in 2013 at 18 percent, meaning 82 percent of Americans had coverage before the law fully phased in, and most got it in fairly stable “large group” plans, often from their employers, or in preexisting federal health-care programs. Yes, the ACA has a variety of provisions meant to help people who had insurance before the law. It requires insurers to allow children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26. It is supposed to promote competition and price control among insurers in new, well-functioning health-care markets that can’t turn people away. Among other things, that will make people feel more comfortable buying insurance on their own, which enables them to leave jobs they kept merely for the health-care benefits. The law also requires a minimum level of quality among health-care plans, which helps some of the previously insured as well as the newly insured. Programs that punish preventable hospital re-admissions and promote better hospital care, meanwhile, are showing promise driving down medical mistakes….”


Doctor Pay: Still Confusing and Unequal

A new survey of physicians details data on pay by specialty, state and gender.

“Untangling the complicated web that is physician payment is one of the problems confronting the Affordable Care Act. The Obama administration is aiming under the law to tackle the way doctors are paid and to reimburse them based on the quality of care provided to patients, rather than by the number of services provided – many of which often do not increase patient health. A recent bill passed by Congress, lauded as one of the most significant examples of bipartisanship by lawmakers in recent years, also provided a fix for the current Medicare payment formula. Leaders in the House worked behind-the-scenes to negotiate the solution, after 17 short-term patches had been passed since 2003. In a new Medscape survey of 19,500 physicians in 25 specialties, it’s clear there are still issues to solve, including pay gaps by gender and differences in income between areas with a high cost of living and poor and rural areas, where the demand for health care is high. One takeaway: 64 percent of physicians with a private practice and 79 percent of other physicians said they would continue taking both new and current Medicare and Medicaid patients. Critics feared that cutting payment amounts for procedures would mean doctors would take fewer of those patients. In terms of income, primary care physicians still make less on average than specialists: PCPs make $195,000 and specialty physicians make $284,000 – figures that can include salary, bonuses and profit-sharing. PCPs earn an average lifetime income of about $6.5 million compared with $10 million for specialists, according to a 2009 study. This pay difference is one factor that has led to a primary care shortage in the U.S. Nationwide, only 60 percent of the need for PCPs has been met; in order for all needs to be met, we need 8,000 more PCPs, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation…”


Surgeon General Calls Health Care a Civil Rights Issue

“Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declared health care a right, decrying unequal access a problem even after the passage of Obamacare. “To put it simply, health equity is a civil rights issue,” Murthy told a gathering Wednesday attending his ceremonial swearing in…”


Obamacare, Hands Off My Medicare

“A number of factors underpin the anti-redistributionist shift in public opinion that I wrote about last week. First, and perhaps most important, is the emergence of significant resistance to downward redistribution among the elderly, a major voting bloc. The views of older voters deserve scrutiny. They “worry that redistribution will come at their expense, in particular via cuts to Medicare,” Vivekinan Ashok, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Yale; Ilyana Kuziemko, a professor of economics at Princeton; and Ebonya Washington, a professor of economics at Yale, write in a March 2015 Brookings Institution essay, “Support for Redistribution in an Age of Rising Inequality”— an essay my Times colleague Neil Irwin also discussed in a recent column that asked why Americans don’t want to soak the rich. In the end, Ashok, Kuziemko and Washington conclude that the elderly have grown increasingly opposed to government provision of health insurance and that controlling for this tendency explains roughly half of their declining relative support of redistribution….”


Palm to the head: VA manager forced underlings to pay his wife $30 for fortune telling




Census: Record 51 million immigrants in 8 years, will account for 82% of U.S. growth

“Legal and illegal immigrants will hit a record high of 51 million in just eight years and eventually account for an astounding 82 percent of all population growth in America, according to new U.S. Census figures. A report from the Center for Immigration Studies that analyzed the statistics said that by 2023, one in seven U.S. residents will be an immigrant, rising to one in five by 2060 when the immigrant population totals 78 million. The report was provided to Secrets and released Wednesday evening. The surge in immigrant population, both legal and illegal, threatens to slam into the presidential campaign as GOP candidates move to figure out what their position is and the president tries to use executive powers to exempt some 5 million illegals from deportation. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker disrupted the debate this week when he said that legal immigration also needs to be reformed to make sure Americans don’t suffer by losing jobs to new citizens. But even more, the CIS report said that the surge in mostly legal immigrants will have a huge impact on the nation and taxpayers. “These numbers have important implications for workers, schools, infrastructure, congestion and the environment,” said Steven Camarota, the center’s director of research. “They also may have implications for our ability to successfully assimilate and integrate immigrants. Yet there has been almost no national debate about bringing in so many people legally each year, which is the primary factor driving these numbers.” Those numbers are likely to shake up Washington’s political debate over the 12 million illegals in America, the expected 70,000 expected to pour over the border this year and the 4.4 million legal immigrants on a State Department waiting list who have relatives or jobs in the U.S…”



“The immigrant population in the United States will hit its highest percentage ever in the next eight years, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data released Wednesday by the Center for Immigration Studies. CIS’ analysis reveals that by 2023 there will be 51 million immigrants in the U.S. and they will account for more than one in seven U.S. residents, or about 14.8 percent of the population. The report explains that, without any change in current U.S. immigration policy, legal immigration — as opposed to illegal immigration — will be the force propelling that growing immigrant population. “These numbers have important implications for workers, schools, infrastructure, congestion, and the environment,” Steven Camarota, CIS’ Director of Research, said Wednesday. According to CIS, the immigrant population will grow at a rate nearly four times faster than native-born populations. By 2030, the immigrant population will reach 57 million or 15.8 percent and by 2040 it will have grown to 65 million or 17.1 percent. Come 2060, the immigrant population will have grown to 78 million, with nearly one in five U.S. residents being immigrants. That’s about 18.8 percent of the population. The total U.S. population will also have grown to nearly 417 million…”


Obama Administration Admits It Granted Amnesty To Gang Member Accused Of Murdering Four

“In a shocking admission, the Obama administration says that it should not have awarded deferred deportation status to Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez, an illegal immigrant with known gang ties who stands accused of murdering four people in North Carolina, including former “America’s Top Model” contestant Mirjana Puhar. Rangel-Hernandez, 19, was granted amnesty under President Obama’s unilateral amnesty program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) director Leon Rodriguez admitted in a letter sent Friday to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Senate Judiciary Committee. Rangel-Hernandez allegedly killed Puhar and three others in Charlotte in February. In his letter, Rodriguez admitted that Rangel-Hernandez received work authorization and amnesty through DACA despite being a documented gang member…”


Gang member facing murder charges was spared deportation under Obama program

“The Obama administration has admitted that an illegal immigrant and known gang member — who recently was charged in the murders of four people — was allowed to remain in the United States under President Obama’s executive actions.  Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez was allowed in August 2013 to remain in the U.S., following his request about seven months earlier to stay under the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez. Rodriquez acknowledged in a letter to a top Republican senator that Rangel-Hernandez’s application was approved, even though a federal crime database indicated he was a “known gang member.” “Based on the standard procedures and protocols in place at the time, the DACA request and related employment authorization should not have been approved,” said Rodriguez, in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who had raised questions about the case. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, in an interview Wednesday on Fox News, declined to address the Rangel-Hernandez case specifically — or whether illegal immigrants who engage in criminal activity are being allowed to stay in the U.S. under DACA or similar executive actions. (DACA is intended to give a deportation reprieve to some illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.)…”


DHS confirms: Yes, the “Top Model” murder suspect was allowed to stay in the U.S. under Obama’s amnesty — despite being a gang member

“A known gang member, I should stress. His gang affiliation was already flagged in a federal database when he applied for amnesty under Obama’s 2012 DACA action for DREAMers. Immigration officials are supposed to check that database before granting the application. Emphasis on “supposed to.” Two years later, four people in North Carolina are dead, including a former contestant on “Top Model.” How was this guy allowed to stay, Chuck Grassley asked DHS? DHS’s reply: Oops…. The Background Check Unit should have noticed the TECS record and denied Rangel-Hernandez’s amnesty petition. It didn’t, for reasons that are unclear. According to CIS, 49 people out of the more than 886,000 cases approved for DACA relief were either known gang members when they applied or their affiliation became known during or after their applications were approved. Those cases are now under review. Just last month, ICE conducted a national sweep and arrested 15 more especially dangerous illegals who were permitted to stay in the U.S. under DACA despite having been convicted of a crime at least once. Whether all of those 15 are among the 49 noted by DHS is unclear, but it seems likely: Chuck Grassley first started making noise about Rangel-Hernandez and DACA in late February, after he was charged with the “Top Model” murder. That was ICE’s cue to hit the streets in March and round up any other future murderers they might have greenlit for amnesty. Another case like this and the political heat on Obama and DACA will turn way up…”


Gang member facing murder charges was spared deportation under Obama program

“The Obama administration has admitted that an illegal immigrant and known gang member — who recently was charged in the murders of four people — was allowed to remain in the United States under President Obama’s executive actions.  Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez was allowed in August 2013 to remain in the U.S., following his request about seven months earlier to stay under the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez.  Rodriquez acknowledged in a letter to a top Republican senator that Rangel-Hernandez’s application was approved, even though a federal crime database indicated he was a “known gang member.”  “Based on the standard procedures and protocols in place at the time, the DACA request and related employment authorization should not have been approved,” said Rodriguez, in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who had raised questions about the case.  White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, in an interview Wednesday on Fox News, declined to address the Rangel-Hernandez case specifically — or whether illegal immigrants who engage in criminal activity are being allowed to stay in the U.S. under DACA or similar executive actions. (DACA is intended to give a deportation reprieve to some illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.)…”


Small business: visa quotas hinder finding skilled help

“Some small business owners say government quotas are keeping them from finding the highly skilled help they need. H-1B visas allow foreigners with college degrees to work in the U.S. for up to six years. There’s such high demand for employees adept in technology and other skilled fields that nearly two-thirds of the applications will be denied. Congress set a limit of 65,000 for visas for workers with bachelor’s degrees, and 20,000 for those with master’s degrees. “There is not really an abundant supply of the types of folks we’re looking for, with a science, technology, engineering and mathematics background,” says Anand Sanwal, CEO of CB Insights, a New York-based company that compiles information about private firms. He’s waiting to hear if visas for three job candidates will be approved. Thousands of small business owners are waiting to see if their job candidates are among the 85,000 who get H-1B visas this year. If the government rejects their applications, owners have to keep trying to find workers with the right skills, many of them in technology. While many companies complain about a shortage of skilled workers in the U.S., small businesses struggle in particular because many talented people are recruited by big companies or start their own, says Phillip Kim, a professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College. Jacob Tanur believes the government’s 2014 rejection of an application for a prospective worker’s visa limited his film production company’s ability to grow. Click Play Films makes commercials, documentaries and corporate films, and Tanur wants a multicultural mix of cinematographers and other creative staffers who understand the needs of clients in other countries. “It makes us extremely attractive to advertising agencies,” says Tanur, whose New York-based company has 10 staffers. Four have H-1B visas. “What’s cool in China is not something that we can artificially create here.”…”


TPP Equals Mass Immigration

“Under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement, Congress could lose the power to restrict immigration. We could find ourselves back in the era before the 1920s when there were no restrictions on immigration and anyone from anywhere could come to our shores. And Republicans, from Mitch McConnell and John Boehner on down, are unwittingly helping Obama achieve this goal. The TPP, generally supported by pro-free trade Republicans but opposed by labor union Democrats, contains a barely noticed provision that allows for the free migration of labor among the signatory nations. Patterned after similar provisions in the treaties establishing the European Union, it would override national immigration restrictions in the name of facilitating free flow of labor. The draft treaty, now under discussion among 11 Pacific Rim nations — including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Vietnam and Japan — makes provision for needed labor to move across national boundaries without restraint. While much of the commentary on the deal has been focused on high-skill, white-collar migration, it could easily be interpreted as allowing farm workers and others to flow back and forth without legal regulation. In seeking approval of the TPP, the Obama administration has proposed giving it fast track authority to conclude trade deals — a power which would restrict Congress’ ability to amend the deal and force an up or down vote. Led by Republicans, the Senate is moving toward passage of fast track as a precursor to ratification of the TPP treaty, immigration provisions and all. Democrats and unions are staging a last-ditch stand against the bill, which their labor allies condemn as the worst trade deal since NAFTA, pointing to the potential loss of jobs. But Republicans are using their majorities to grant Obama fast track authority. It is odd, indeed, to see Republicans falling all over themselves to reward this president with more power, voluntarily reducing Congressional oversight and increasing executive authority. At the very least, one would assume that TPP would give the GOP bargaining power to force Obama to backtrack on amnesty for people immigrating illegally and possibly on Obamacare. But far from forcing concessions, Republicans are lining up in support of fast track and, by implication, TPP. Because foreign treaties are the “law of the land” according to the U.S. Constitution, any provision governing our borders and the flow of immigrants could not be overridden or even modified by the Congress. A new, Republican, president would be able to reverse Obama’s amnesty plan, but not the open-border provisions of the TPP. The treaty could lead to the effective repeal of the specifically enumerated power granted to Congress in Article I of the Constitution to regulate immigration and naturalization. While the treaty is still being negotiated, the current focus on white-collar immigration be sufficiently elastic to allow open borders. What is white collar vs. blue collar? Are we going to set an income limit on immigration? Curtis Ellis, executive director of the American Jobs Alliance calls the trade deal “a Trojan horse for Obama’s immigration agenda.” He notes that “one corporate trade association says bluntly that ‘The TPP should remove restrictions on nationality or residency requirements for the selection of personnel.'” In his seventh and eighth year, every president worries about his legacy and tries to control events in the future. But here Obama is enshrining in a treaty — that cannot be repealed or amended — an open-border immigration policy for all time. Those who say that he would never carry the treaty’s provisions that far have only to ask themselves the question: Would Obama extend his powers to their maximum limit? Of course he would. Don’t give him the power.”


Dick Morris: Fast Track could lead to unlimited immigration

“The Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote today to give President Obama “Fast Track” authority to negotiate trade treaties without congressional amendment.  The bill would then come to the full Senate for a possible vote. Dick Morris is warning Republicans against giving Obama Fast Track power, partly because Obama could use it to destroy America’s future border controls.  Morris warns: “The current Pacific Rim agreement, which would include Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam — Pacific Rim countries (at the moment not China, but eventually it will) — provides that there should be free flow of labor among the signatories, just like in the European Union. What this means is that Congress can no longer control Mexican immigration into the United States, or Central American immigration, because any law that congress passes, quota-ing or limiting the number of people who can come in legally is superseded by treaty under the Constitution, and this treaty requirement of free flow of labor would vitiate any attempt by Congress to regulate immigration. Morris also points out that giving Obama unbridled Fast Track authority could lead to trade treaties that permit cheating.  Morris continues: As long as we’re doing free trade, let’s include prohibitions against manipulation of currency for trade advantage, like China is doing endlessly, and let’s set that precedent and build that in as a requirement for fast track on any free trade duty…”


Media Ignores Evidence Americans Want To REDUCE Legal Immigration

“Media outlets scoffed at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker this week for his stated view that immigration policy should prioritize the needs of American workers, ignoring polls that consistently show otherwise to insist his position will alienate most voters. “How much worse can Republicans make matters [with immigrants and hispanics]?” asked MSNBC. “The party’s 2016 candidates can do the one thing Romney didn’t: go after legal immigration.” We have remarked that the temptation in the GOP primary is to play to the loudest voices and the staunchest segment of the party, even though they do not represent a majority of voters in the party, let alone in the general electorate,” wrote Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin. Walker said Monday immigration policy should center around the needs of American jobs and wages, calling their needs “a fundamentally lost issue” to politicians…”


Department of Homeland Security says flood of migrant kids is slowing

“The flood of Mexican and Central American children trying to illegally cross without their parents or guardians into the U.S. appears to be slowing significantly, at least for this year, a top Department of Homeland Security official told Congress Wednesday. “I’m confident at this point based on where we are halfway through this year that we will not see the level of unaccompanied children…that we saw last year,” Michael Fisher, the chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, told the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Story Continued Below Thousands of children flowing over the southwestern U.S. border has been a driving force in recent immigration politics, complicating the Obama administration’s strategy last year for rolling out controversial executive actions and also drawing sharp lines over whether to immediately send the minors into deportation proceedings. Since 2012, extreme poverty and violence in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico has prompted a surge of children trying to enter the U.S. at the southwestern border. Last fiscal year, the Border Patrol encountered 67,339 children from just those four countries, a nearly 44 percent increase from 2013…”


Top immigration officials say summer won’t see surge in kids

“There won’t be nearly as many immigrant children who cross the border on their own this summer as there were last year, top officials say. Daniel Ragsdale, deputy director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said authorities expect far fewer migrant children and families than the influx last year that gained worldwide attention and left Border Patrol agents unable to process so many people. “I’m happy to say all the work we’ve done last year is bearing fruit,” Ragsdale said. Ronald D. Vitiello, the Border Patrol’s deputy chief, agreed. “This year is far better off than last year,” he said. Vitiello and Ragsdale made the remarks Wednesday at the Border Security Expo in Phoenix. Authorities were overwhelmed last year with an influx of unaccompanied minors and families with children last year. More than 68,000 youths from mostly Central America crossed the border without a parent last fiscal year…”


Arizona sheriff set to testify Thursday at contempt hearing

“An Arizona sheriff known for cracking down on illegal immigration has been scheduled to testify at a contempt-of-court hearing for disobeying court orders in a racial profiling case. A judge set the testimony of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for Thursday in the case marking the boldest attempt yet to hold the normally defiant sheriff personally responsible for his actions. On Tuesday, a supervisor with Arpaio’s now-disbanded smuggling squad offered a tough critique of the sheriff, blaming Arpaio for ignoring the 2011 orders and describing the famed lawman as being driven by a need for publicity. The former leader of the immigration enforcement unit that helped elevate Arpaio’s national profile is expected to testify Wednesday. The hearing was convened over Arpaio’s acknowledged violations of three orders in the profiling case, including disobeying a 2011 injunction that barred him from conducting immigration enforcement patrols. Rank-and-file officers who were never told about the ruling violated the order for about 18 months. The sheriff also has accepted responsibility for his agency’s failure to turn over traffic-stop videos and bungling a plan to gather such recordings from officers once some videos were discovered. Arpaio made the acknowledgments in an unsuccessful bid to get the hearing called off…”


ACLU sues feds in bid to make Catholic groups provide abortion to illegal immigrants

“Providing food and shelter to illegal immigrants isn’t enough for federally-funded Catholic organizations, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the federal government to help ensure the religious organizations provide abortion and contraception to them as well. The suit aims to obtain government records related to reproductive healthcare policy for unaccompanied immigrant children in the care of federally funded Catholic agencies, which do not believe in abortion. “We have heard reports that Catholic bishops are prohibiting Catholic charities from allowing teens in their care to access critical services like contraception and abortion- even if the teenager has been raped on her journey to the United States or in a detention facility,” said ACLU staff attorney Brigitte Amiri…”


Undocumented immigrants paid nearly $12 billion in taxes, study claims


Women, Black Groups Mark 5 Years of Arizona Immigration Law

“For organizers like Celeste Faison, the fight for civil rights isn’t limited to the U.S.-born black community. It also extends to immigrants who experience hardships caused by what she sees as the nation’s broken immigration system. “Our struggles are not necessarily the same in every aspect, but our experiences are similar,” said Faison, who is the black organizing coordinator for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Faison was among the group of women who traveled to Arizona on Wednesday to discuss how immigrants in Arizona – especially women – are affected by immigration laws, including the state’s controversial SB 1070. The trip came on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the signing of SB 1070, which allows police officers to question the immigration status of individuals who they believe are in the country illegally. The law was challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck many of its provisions, but upheld the provision on questioning individuals about their status when reasonable suspicion exists, which some referred to as the “Show Me Your Papers” provision. They visited Tent City, where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio houses immigrants awaiting possible deportation. They also stopped at an immigration detention center before traveling to Tucson where they witnessed how a federal court processes up to 70 people per day with criminal immigration-related charges. They also planned to cross the border to Mexico to meet people who were recently deported…”


The killer question of immigration reform

“A number of Republican 2016 presidential candidates are heading for a difficult moment on the issue of immigration reform. Here is how it will work:

1) It is commonplace among Republicans along the spectrum of opinion on the issue to say that the United States is not going to deport all 11 or 12 million immigrants currently in the country illegally. What that generally means is the United States is not going to deport any of those immigrants, barring some who have been convicted of multiple serious crimes.

2) It is becoming more common for Republicans to say that immigration reform has to be enacted in pieces and sequentially. That means that new security measures — the main ones are enhanced border security, the E-Verify system to identify employees working illegally, and the visa entry-exit system to stop visa overstays — those systems have to be not only passed into law, not only funded, but actually be implemented and up and running before lawmakers consider the status of the 11 or 12 million.

That leads to 3) If those new security measures are implemented, they will work. What then? Better border security would not be a problem for the millions currently here illegally; it would just prevent new illegal immigrants from entering the country. Entry-exit would also not be a problem for those already here; it would begin to track people entering the country and force them to leave at the point in the future when their legal permission to stay in the United States ends.

But what about E-Verify? If businesses were actually required to ascertain the legal status of their employees, those businesses would certainly identify millions of workers holding jobs in the United States illegally. What would happen to them? Candidates have already pledged that there will be no mass deportations of illegal immigrants who have not been convicted of multiple serious crimes. If they deport people identified by E-Verify, they’re breaking that pledge. And if they don’t, they’re enacting the type of “amnesty” they also promised to avoid. On Tuesday evening, I posed the “what then” question to a key Republican, one who has thought a lot about immigration. His response was essentially that there are some questions that need not be answered right now, and this is one of them…”


Marco Rubio and like-minded Republicans ‘opened the floodgates’ on immigration: GOP Rep.

“Rep. Mo Brooks, Alabama Republican, said Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida led efforts to “open the floodgates” on immigration because of their support for a comprehensive 2013 bill that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for most of the approximately 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. Mr. Brooks said that, coupled with the number of illegal immigrants that could be granted legalization through the bill and the increase in the number of lawful immigrants, “over a 10-year period of time, the number of foreigners who would be either legalized because they’re already here or would be allowed to come into the United States of America would be anywhere in the neighborhood of 44 to 57 million.” “Now, I’m from the state of Alabama – that’s the equivalent of nine to 11 state of Alabama populations brought into America or legalized in America over a short, 10-year period of time – that’s a huge change,” Mr. Brooks said on Tim Constantine’s Capitol Hill Show on The Washington Times radio…”


On Immigration, Walker Bucks the Beltway Consensus

The Republican party should welcome his call for a closer examination of evidence.

“Scott Walker’s most recent comments on immigration may make possible an honest-to-God debate about America’s immigration policy. It’s about time. Chatting with Glenn Beck on Monday morning, Walker said: The next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal-immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, protecting American workers and American wages. . . . What is [current legal immigration policy] doing for American workers? What is this doing to wages? We need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward. But, Walker observed, among elected officials, questioning our currently legal immigration policy is “a fundamentally lost issue.” And Republicans quickly proved him right. Utah senator Orrin Hatch dismissed as “poppycock” Walker’s insinuation that high levels of legal immigration might have negative effects on employment and wages. Arizona senator John McCain declared that immigrants were necessary to supplement an aging population: “I think most statistics show that they fill part of the workforce that are much needed.” South Dakota senator John Thune, head of the Senate Republican Conference, admitting that he had not heard Walker’s comments exactly, still declared: “We have a workforce issue in this country. . . . So having a robust legal-immigration process helps us fill jobs that otherwise wouldn’t be getting filled.” And Ohio senator Rob Portman retreated to sentiment: ““As a party, we’ve always embraced immigrants coming here legally, following the rules. And it’s enriched our country immeasurably.”…”


Reminder: Polls show public support for Scott Walker’s position on legal immigration

“Not always majority support, granted, but Ramesh Ponnuru reminds us there’s a sizable chunk of voters out there who are open to reducing legal as well as illegal immigration. Given widespread paranoia among top Republicans about losing Latinos forever over grassroots opposition to amnesty, Walker moving to Mitt Romney’s right by questioning legal immigration seems counterintuitive and politically dangerous. But is it? Per Ponnuru, hmmmm: (chart) Interesting, but maybe that 39 percent opposition is driven almost entirely by Republicans, people whom Walker can already count on to support him as nominee, in which case his legal immigration position isn’t winning him any new votes. Look back a bit further to another Gallup poll from last year, though, and you’ll see that’s not true: (chart) Even among indies, a strong plurality of 43 percent wants immigration decreased. At a minimum, 74 percent of American adults don’t want to see immigration increase, putting them squarely at odds with a lefty base that’s forever clamoring for amnesty. Go back another year, to 2013, and you’ll find even stronger opposition to legal immigration via a Fox News poll:…”


Reporting on Walker on Immigration

“Walker and his spokespeople have not been crystal clear on this subject, so confused reporting is not entirely reporters’ fault. Nevertheless, there are a few things journalists should keep in mind on this topic: 1) Walker has not actually said that he wants to reduce the number of legal immigrants coming to the United States. 2) Before writing that Walker “supports limits on legal immigration,” try to think of a politician who doesn’t. 3) “Anti-immigration” and ”against legal immigration” are not neutral descriptions of the view that legal immigration levels should be lower. 4) Before calling advocacy of lower levels of legal immigration a “far-right” position, look at the polls that show around 39 percent of the public holds that position. Maybe even note that in your story, along with the fact that smaller percentages of the public want the higher legal immigration levels that “comprehensive immigration reform” entails.”


Scott Walker Backed EB-5 Visas for Rich Chinese Immigrants

“As governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker was a supporter of a company that helps wealthy Chinese citizens immigrate to the the United States. This revelation stands in contrast to his recent statement that legal immigration policy should be based on “protecting American workers and American wages.” Not only did Walker previously support so-called “amnesty” (which some argue would be a magnet drawing more illegals) — but as governor, he “has been a long time friend” of a company based in Beijing and Milwaukee that “helps foreign investors become United States Citizens through the Department of Homeland Security Immigrant Investor (EB-5) program.” This is the same program that Hillary brother and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe appear to have gamed. According to the company’s website, “The partnership provides an investment vehicle that qualifies investors for a Green Card and Citizenship, if so desired. The investment is a $500,000 minimum required program, targeted toward high net worth individuals who understand and appreciate the convenience and timeliness created by participating in a carefully designed program.”…”


Scott Walker, the media and “anti-immigration” rhetoric



“While seemingly the entire political establishment—from the Institutional Left to the mainstream media to even some establishment Republicans—have their long knives out for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker over his new pro-American-worker immigration position, the cavalry has arrived to defend him. Phyllis Schlafly, the longtime grassroots conservative activist who personally took on the leftist Equal Rights Amendment and has fought against the political establishment from a populist perspective for more than half a century, told Breitbart News she’s pleased with Walker’s new strong stance in favor of American workers. “I’m thrilled to see that Scott Walker wants to defend American jobs and understands that American voters are directly impacted by immigration — both illegal and legal,” Schlafly, the founder and CEO of Eagle Forum, said in an emailed statement. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol agrees. “Anyone’s free, obviously, to disagree with what Walker said,” Kristol told Breitbart News in an email. “But what strikes me is that the establishment types seem offended that he even dared say it.” For Kristol’s publication on Wednesday, Jeffrey Anderson wrote a piece titled “Walker’s Smart Play On Immigration.” In it, Anderson lays out that Walker isn’t just right for policy purposes—it’s a political winner too. “Scott Walker’s recent comments suggesting that the United States’s policy on legal immigration should be focused on what’s good for American workers — a seemingly obvious point that nevertheless has ruffled feathers — offers further evidence of the Wisconsin governor’s political savvy,” Anderson wrote. “When two of one’s strongest competitors (namely, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio) share a weakness on an issue, it’s smart to draw attention to that issue by making clear there is daylight between you and them.”…”




House report: Cash-strapped IRS prioritized bonuses, union activity over helping taxpayers

“While facing budget cuts, the IRS nevertheless prioritized worker bonuses, union activity and the implementation of President Obama’s health care law over assisting taxpayers during tax season, according to a new report released Wednesday by the House Ways and Means Committee. The findings, in a Republican-led report, were released ahead of a subcommittee hearing Wednesday morning with IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.  At the hearing, Koskinen stressed that the agency is significantly under-funded, and those cuts have consequences.  He said less funding means there will be a decline in service for taxpayers, and pledged that service would improve if they got more money.  “Customer service — both on the phone and in person — has been far worse than anyone would want. It’s simply a matter of not having enough people to answer the phones and provide service at our walk-in sites as a result of cuts to our budget,” he said.  But Republicans argued the IRS is making bad spending choices. “I would just suggest to you that there’s hardly a person in America today that isn’t doing more with less, that hasn’t tightened their belt and learned how to work with less,” Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., said.  The IRS has faced congressional budget cuts of $1.2 billion since 2010, and has faced criticism in recent years over the targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status and reports of wasteful spending. The new report said the cuts were intended to “force the IRS to manage its resources more effectively and immediately stop inappropriate activities.” However, while cuts were made in part to focus the agency on customer service, the report asserted that “spending decisions entirely under the IRS’s control led to 16 million fewer taxpayers receiving IRS assistance this filing season.” The panel found the IRS had cut customer services while continuing to hand out bonuses to employees, allowing staff to conduct union activities, failing to collect debt owed by employees of the federal government and spending over $1.2 billion on implementing ObamaCare. Even though the IRS’s budget for taxpayer assistance remained flat from fiscal year 2014 to 2015, the level of over-the-phone customer service significantly decreased, with the agency shifting staff in customer service to focus on written correspondence instead of telephone calls. Meanwhile, the number of calls doubled in that period. The panel found that wait times increased from 18.7 minutes to 34.4 minutes, and answered calls decreased from 6.6 million to 5.3 million…”


IRS diverted millions from taxpayer assistance to pay for employee bonuses

“A House Ways and Means Committee report Wednesday said decisions by Internal Revenue Service officials — not congressional budget cuts — hampered the federal tax agency’s ability to assist taxpayers this season. “Spending decisions entirely under the IRS’s control led to 16 million fewer taxpayers receiving IRS assistance this filing season,” said the report, which was prepared by majority staff of the tax-writing House panel chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. “Other spending choices, including prioritizing employee bonuses and union activity on the taxpayer’s dime, used up resources that otherwise could have been used to assist another 10 million taxpayers,” the report said. Budget cuts that Congress has imposed on the IRS in recent years resulted in part from “waste and misconduct” at the tax agency, including nearly $50 million spent on employee conferences that critics say were extravagant and unnecessary. Congress has reduced IRS funding by $1.2 billion since 2010…”


GOP: Poor IRS funding choices hurting taxpayers

“House Republicans intensified their criticism of the IRS’s customer service on Wednesday, lashing out at the agency for spending choices it said hurt taxpayers seeking assistance.  John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, has blamed years of budget cuts for reducing taxpayers services to “abysmal” levels. But Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee are making the case with a new report that the IRS –which is receiving $10.9 billion this fiscal year – is getting plenty of funding and simply making poor choices with the money it gets. “I’m concerned that the IRS, by its own admission, is doing ‘less with less’. And the IRS’s choices – and they are choices – on how to allocate resources have been deeply disappointing,” Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) said Wednesday at a hearing featuring Koskinen.  Most critically, GOP lawmakers say, Congress did not cut the IRS’s budget for taxpayer services this year. At the same time, the IRS reduced by almost three-quarters, from $183 million to $49 million, its use of user fees for taxpayer services, the Republican report said. That drove an overall decrease of 6 percent in total funding for taxpayer assistance….”


Report: IRS Deliberately Cut Its Own Customer Service Budget

“If you tried to contact the IRS with a question about your taxes this year, chances are you didn’t get a response. The IRS estimated that it would only answer 17 million of the 49 million calls received this filing season. Taxpayers lucky enough to have the IRS answer their calls waited an average of 34.4 minutes for assistance–nearly double the wait time last year (18.7 minutes). IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has blamed the IRS’s “abysmal” customer service on congressional budget cuts–funding is down $1.2 billion from its 2010 peak–but a new congressional report points the finger back at the IRS. While congressional funding for the IRS remained flat from 2014 to 2015, the IRS diverted $134 million away from customer service to other activities.


In addition to the $11 billion appropriated by Congress, the IRS takes in more than $400 million in user fees and may allocate that money as it sees fit. In 2014, the IRS allocated $183 million in user fees to its customer service budget, but allocated just $49 million in 2015–a 76 percent cut. Commissioner Koskinen will appear before the House Ways and Means Committee this morning, one week after the federal tax filing deadline, and he can expect to be asked why the IRS cut its own customer service budget and continues to spend money on other questionable activities. The report notes that Koskinen reinstated bonuses weeks after his appointment, has allowed IRS employees to spend roughly 500,000 work hours on union activities, and failed to collect delinquent taxes owed by federal employees. The tax agency has also been strained by Obamacare. According to the report, the IRS has spent “over $1.2 billion on the President’s health care law to date, with a planned expenditure this year of an additional $500 million.”…


House Republicans say IRS should blame itself for rough tax season

“It was a tough tax season for the Internal Revenue Service, but GOP lawmakers in Congress says the agency only has itself to blame. Last month, IRS commissioner John Koskinen said that years of budget cuts and staffing losses had led to “abysmal” customer service from his agency. But Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee say the agency’s financial problems stem from bad budgeting decisions, employee bonuses, and overspending on administrative costs. “The IRS’s spending decisions have real consequences for taxpayers,” the GOP representatives said in a report on Wednesday. “Wasteful spending and failure to prioritize taxpayer assistance led to millions of calls going unanswered for filing season 2015.”…”


Hello? 8M phone calls unanswered as IRS cut taxpayer service

“The IRS’ overloaded phone system hung up on more than 8 million taxpayers this filing season as the agency cut millions of dollars from taxpayer services to help pay to enforce President Barack Obama’s health law. For those who weren’t disconnected, only 40 percent actually got through to a person. And many of those people had to wait on hold for more than 30 minutes, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Wednesday. The number of disconnected callers spiked just as taxpayers were being hit with new requirements under the health law. Last year, the phone system dropped 360,000 calls, Koskinen said. For the first time, taxpayers had to report whether they had health insurance last year on their tax returns. Those who received government subsidies had to respond whether they received the correct amount. People without insurance faced fines, collected by the IRS, if they did not qualify for an exemption…”


House Dem seeks to limit IRS levies

“A House Democrat is pushing to keep the IRS from seizing assets from struggling taxpayers as a way to settle tax debts.  Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) introduced a bill Tuesday that would protect also taxpayers who make less than 250 percent of the federal poverty rate – roughly $29,000 a year for a single taxpayer – from getting their wages or retirement accounts garnished. In a statement, Watson Coleman said the IRS already had plenty of ways to ensure the proper amount of taxes get collected without hurting people for whom “every penny you get is going toward things that are keeping you above water – things like rent, groceries, and train fare to get you to and from your job.” “Recklessly recouping the funds from already economically vulnerable Americans will be the final financial blow for these families,” Watson Coleman added. The New Jersey Democrat’s bill wouldn’t excuse taxpayers from paying an outstanding bill. But it would force the IRS to rely more heavily on methods like payment plans to collect revenue from taxpayers facing economic hardships…”


No pay raise for Congress in $3.3B bill

“The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday released a $3.3 billion bill to fund the operations of the legislative branch for fiscal 2016. The measure, which is about $172 million below President Obama’s request, keeps funding at the current 2015 level and maintains a freeze on lawmakers’ salaries that has been in effect since 2010. Since Republicans took control of the lower chamber in 2011, funding for the House has been reduced by 14 percent, the GOP-led committee said. The bill funds House operations as well as the Capitol Police, the Architect of the Capitol, the Library of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Government Publishing Office (GPO). The bill funds House operations at the 2015 level, which is $1.2 billion. This covers operations for leadership, committees and officers of the House, among other things. Capitol Police would receive $369 million under the bill, an increase of $21 million above the 2015 level. The Appropriations panel said this is meant to fund critical safety and security at the Capitol and to maintain public access to its buildings. The Architect of the Capitol would receive nearly $497 million, which is $9 million below the 2015 level. The measure would provide authority for the renovation and restoration of the Cannon House Office Building. The Library of Congress would receive $591 million, which is $510,000 above the 2015 level. This is the third fiscal 2016 appropriations bill the panel has released so far. It is marking up the first two bills on Wednesday, which cover energy and water development as well as military construction projects and veterans benefits…”


House GOP unveils spending cuts for 2016

“House Republican appropriators on Wednesday approved spending preliminary allocations for fiscal 2016 that stick to the overall $1.017 trillion cap under sequestration by slashing billions from government agencies. “As we all know, we’re operating under a very constrained budget this year,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who described the allocations as “fair and balanced.” Rogers said the panel prioritized funding and made “tough choices” to balance out budgetary increases. Appropriators are proposing to cut funding next year in the following funding bills: Financial Services and General Government; Labor Department, Health and Human Services, and Education; and Interior and the Environment…”


Hal Rogers tries for delicate balance on spending


Bernie Sanders: GOP Budget A “Disaster” For Students, Healthcare, Debt


Democrats’ trade spat becomes a full-on brawl

Warren fires back at Obama, and O’Malley takes a shot at Clinton as Hill Dems bicker.

“Democrats have taken the gloves off in their own trade war. In Washington and on the campaign trail, the public sniping over whether Congress should give the White House power to clinch the biggest free-trade deal in history has reached new heights. Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday escalated her war of words with President Barack Obama, saying in a blog post that he’s the one who is wrong on trade. The Massachusetts Democrat said it’s unfair for the White House to show corporations the contents of a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, but to ask Congress to sign off on it, sight unseen. “When giant corporations get to see the details and the American people don’t, we all lose. Let’s level the playing field: No vote on fast-tracking trade until the public can read the TPP deal,” Warren wrote in a post titled “You can’t read this” on her campaign website. Warren’s missive was just one of the blows in the simmering fight between Obama and his fellow Democrats over a 12-country trade pact that would cover more than 40 percent of global GDP. A number of progressive Democrats fear the deal could undercut U.S. wages and ship jobs overseas. Obama said on Tuesday that he loves Warren, “but she’s wrong on this.” The fight has also ensnared Hillary Clinton. She is in an awkward position – she has ties to the TPP deal dating back to her time as secretary of state and she risks having to attack her former boss. But she also risks alienating the left wing of her party. For the time being, Clinton has threaded the needle, laying out conditions for what she would deem a successful trade deal, but not commenting directly on what is before Congress. Sensing Clinton’s vulnerability, fellow Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley has gone on the attack against the front-runner…”


Obama turns to his base for trade support

“President Obama will try to mobilize his supporters this week to help him convince Democrats in Congress to back his trade agenda. The president will use a Thursday speech at an Organizing for America summit in Washington to sell liberals on supporting a fast-track trade bill his administration says is crucial to finalizing a pair of international agreements at the top of his agenda. But many Democratic lawmakers and labor unions are working to kill the bill.  “He’s going to speak to this next generation of progressives and organizers from across the country and continue to make the case for trade promotion authority that paves the way for new, high-standard trade agreements that put American workers first and help American businesses expand,” White House spokesman Eric Schulz said Wednesday. Obama is ramping up his sales pitch to Democrats, many of whom oppose trade promotion authority bills because they worry new deals with Europe and Asian nations would hurt American workers. During an MSNBC interview on Tuesday, the president said trade critics, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), are wrong. “I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good for the middle class,” Obama said. The president said the emerging deal is the “most progressive framework for trade we have ever had,” adding the trade promotion bill contains strict labor and environmental protections. But Warren and her allies are not backing down, a sign the Democratic divide on trade may be getting deeper. “The Obama Admin says I’m wrong — we shouldn’t worry about TPP. So why can’t the American people read the deal?” Warren wrote on Twitter…”


Connecticut Democrats face tough choice opposing trade deal

“Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a liberal stalwart from New Haven, finds herself in an unusual spot: She’s fiercely opposed to President Barack Obama on a key issue. The 13-term congresswoman is organizing opposition to legislation backed by Obama that would allow Congress to vote up or down, without amendments, a trade pact with 11 Pacific nations. “It’s not a question of Democrats and Republicans,” DeLauro said. “What we know from empirical data is that the agreement would increase the trade deficit, loss of jobs and depression of wages.” DeLauro also refuses to forfeit her prerogative to propose and negotiate changes in legislation. “I don’t believe in giving up my constitutional authority,” she said.Fellow Connecticut Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney also opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He cited the plight of unemployed workers he’s met in his district who lost their jobs when plants closed due to trade. “When I visit plants, talk to workers, tell them about extended unemployment and health benefits, the people are just looking at you,” he said. Their message, he said, is “Thank you very much for your help, but I just want my job.”…”


Dem leaders lining up against Obama on trade

“House Democratic leaders are lining up against legislation granting President Obama broad new authority to negotiate trade deals. Reps. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), chairman of the Democratic Caucus, and Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), vice-chairman of the caucus, both said Wednesday that they’ll vote against the trade promotion authority (TPA) bill, known as fast-track, when it’s marked up Thursday in the Ways and Means Committee, on which both sit. “If it’s the TPA that I saw introduced, I would not be supporting that TPA,” Becerra told reporters after a closed-door caucus meeting in the Capitol. “We find elements that are good,” he added, “but we had indicated over the last several months things that would have to be in a bill to make it really work. And if it’s not going to help create jobs in America, and if it’s going to cause American jobs to be outsourced outside of America, it’s tough to want to be for that kind of a bill.” Crowley echoed that message, noting that he opposed a similar proposal pushed by former Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), and the latest version offers little improvement…”


Liberal darling Elizabeth Warren stands up to lame duck Obama on trade deal

“Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, is hitting back at the Obama administration over a proposed free trade deal with Pacific-rim countries, calling for the government to release more details on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “The administration says I’m wrong – that there’s nothing to worry about,” Ms. Warren wrote in a blog post Wednesday. “They say the deal is nearly done, and they are making a lot of promises about how the deal will affect workers, the environment, and human rights. Promises – but people like you can’t see the actual deal.” Mr. Obama said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Hardball” that he “loves” Ms. Warren and that they’re allies on a host of issues. “But she’s wrong on this,” he said. The administration is trying to rally support from Capitol Hill Democrats to grant Mr. Obama “fast track” authority on the deal, which would give Congress an up-or-down vote on the proposed deal with no amendments. But some Democrats, such as Ms. Warren and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, are opposing the president’s plan and do not want to give him trade promotion authority on the deal. Ms Warren said that the American people should get to see more about the deal. “If most of the trade deal is good for the American economy, but there’s a provision hidden in the fine print that could help multinational corporations ship American jobs overseas or allow for watering down of environmental or labor rules, fast track would mean that Congress couldn’t write an amendment to fix it. It’s all or nothing,” she wrote. “Before we sign on to rush through a deal like that – no amendments, no delays, no ability to block a bad bill – the American people should get to see what’s in it.”…”


Elizabeth Warren: Obama is the one who is wrong on trade

“Elizabeth Warren fired back at the White House over a controversial trade deal, saying Barack Obama is the one who is in the wrong. In a blog post on Wednesday morning, the Massachusetts Democrat said it’s unfair for the White House to show corporations the contents of a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, but to ask Congress to sign off on it, sight unseen.

Story Continued Below “When giant corporations get to see the details and the American people don’t, we all lose. Let’s level the playing field: No vote on fast-tracking trade until the public can read the TPP deal,” Warren wrote in a post titled “You can’t read this” on her campaign website. Warren’s missive is the latest blow in an escalating fight between Obama and his fellow Democrats over what is expected to be the largest trade deal in history, covering more than 40 percent of global GDP. A number of progressive Democrats fear the deal could undercut U.S. wages and ship jobs overseas. Obama said on Tuesday that he loves Warren, “but she’s wrong on this.” Warren turned those words against the White House on Wednesday.

“The Administration says I’m wrong — that there’s nothing to worry about,” she said in the blog post. “They say the deal is nearly done, and they are making a lot of promises about how the deal will affect workers, the environment, and human rights. Promises – but people like you can’t see the actual deal.”…”


Obama facing Dem revolt on trade push, Reid says ‘hell no’

“President Obama is facing a Democratic revolt over ambitious trade initiatives that are dividing the party, leading to tensions with everyone from Senate party leader Harry Reid to liberal icon Elizabeth Warren. The disagreements erupted on Wednesday as leaders of the Senate Finance Committee tried to proceed with a vote on trade legislation, but liberal opposition quickly delayed the process. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a fierce opponent of the trade push, invoked a Senate scheduling rule to sideline the committee’s actions for hours. “This job-killing trade deal has been negotiated in secret,” said Sanders, who made a lengthy Senate speech denouncing the legislation. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, vowed the committee would finish the bill Wednesday. “I don’t care how much time it takes,” he said. The flare-up was just one of many in the Democratic ranks. In a blunt challenge to the president, Reid told reporters earlier this week: “I’m not only no, I’m hell no” on Obama’s proposal…”


Obama admin: No ‘distance’ from Hillary on trade

“The White House Wednesday attempted to downplay any differences with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over a wide-ranging trade deal with Pacific Rim nations, suggesting that no “distance” existed between their respective camps. “I believe that if you look at the points that are being raised in terms of human rights, environmental protections and labor protections, those are important priorities for this president,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters on Air Force One. “So I haven’t seen anything to suggest any distance.” As Obama presses Democrats to give him fast-track power, which would allow trade deals to go through Congress without amendment, Clinton is taking a cautious view of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact among 12 Pacific Rim nations. Progressives have furiously lobbied against the White House’s trade push, with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Wednesday using a procedural maneuver to at least temporarily prevent a Senate committee from taking up the fast-track bill. Clinton has not publicly opposed the deal but has not endorsed it either. “Any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security,” she said on the campaign trail Tuesday. Obama is attempting to bolster his legacy with the massive trade deal, a rare big-ticket item that has overwhelming GOP support, while not alienating his own base. Schultz told reporters traveling with the president to Florida Wednesday for a climate event that Obama would discuss trade during an Organizing for Action meeting Thursday.”


Trade Rift Pits Obama vs. Progressives, Puts Hillary on Fence

“Harry Reid and Elizabeth Warren say they’re in the “hell, no!” camp of Democrats eager to defy President Obama over his support for a trade deal with Pacific Rim nations. The president returned fire Tuesday, arguing that Warren “is wrong,” and that members of his party and advocacy groups that oppose the pending pact as a job killer are lobbing political objections not supported by “the facts.” The Democratic Party’s trade rift, simmering for decades and fanned by economic angst and misgivings about the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was enacted in 1993 after a huge push at the outset of President Clinton’s administration, has drifted out of the Capitol and onto the 2016 campaign trail. Republicans, whose votes Obama needs for a trade accord, are chortling over Democrats’ intraparty disagreements. They are also on alert to Hillary Clinton’s heightened caution about trade now that she’s seeking the presidency and is acutely conscious of her party’s progressive wing. On Friday, her campaign issued a statement saying she would wait and evaluate any trade pact when it was completed. In her book, “Hard Choices,” highlighting her achievements as Obama’s secretary of state, Clinton conceded “costs as well as benefits” attached to international trade and globalization. But she concentrated on the benefits, noting that she and Obama as 2008 primary rivals each vowed to pursue “smarter, fairer” deals to benefit the U.S. economy. The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is not finalized and would encompass more than a third of the world’s trade, served as “one of our most important tools for engaging with Vietnam” and other Asian nations, she wrote. That argument is intended to bolster the idea that a Pacific Rim pact can become a counterweight to China’s dominance in the region, even though China would not be a signatory…”


Noam Chomsky: Every Word In The Phrase “Free Trade Agreement” Is False

“MIT linguist Noam Chomsky speaks at a conference for whistleblowers, alternative media, and activists in Munich. He answers a question on free trade at minute 8:00.

NOAM CHOMSKY, MIT: It is not a free trade agreement. It has nothing to do with “free trade.” Virtually nothing. Tariffs are already very low, and changing the tariff agreements means essentially nothing. It is anti-free trade. First off all, it is in secret. Remember it is virtually in secret, the population is not supposed to know about it. It is not totally in secret, the corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are writing it; it is not a secret to them. So it is not a secret to the corporate world, it is not a secret to the state authority. It is just a secret to the population. Pieces have been leaked through Wikileaks. One piece leaked was the “Intellectual Property Rights” section, which is one of the core elements of the agreement. Now what are intellectual property rights? It is a complicated word that means highly protectionist measures to ensure the exorbitant profits of American and international pharmaceutical and media corporations. That is anti-free trade. It is extreme protectionism in the interests of very wealthy and powerful parts of the corporate system. But other parts are –we don’t have the details remember because it is secret– a variety of “investor rights” provisions, to ensure the rights of investors against the population.  Take NAFTA, which we do know because it is there we can see, was also negotiated in secret but now it is public…”


Obama’s fight for trade authority faces radically altered political landscape

“Twenty-two years ago, 102 House Democrats joined 132 Republicans to ratify the North American Free Trade Agreement. Today, supporters of a new trade measure are on the hunt for votes to give President Obama more authority to negotiate multilateral trade deals, but shifting party politics and an evolving congressional map will make their task much tougher than it was two decades ago. The Senate Finance Committee will began debate Wednesday on the measure, known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), and while most observers believe it will pass the Senate, the vote count in the House is much tighter — and no one believes anywhere near 102 Democrats will support the new deal. Most of the votes in favor of TPA will come from the Republican side of the aisle, where House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is leading the campaign. But a significant number of more conservative Republicans have voiced opposition to any deal that appears to give Obama, their political arch-nemesis, any more power. “There’s a trust issue with the executive,” said Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), who circulated a letter among House Republican freshmen in support of the trade deal. “The response that I would generally hear [among Republicans] was, ‘Hey, I don’t want to give this president, this administration, any more authority.’ ”…”


Emotions over Obama’s trade agenda roil Senate, delay action

“Emotional disagreements over trade erupted in Congress on Wednesday, when a liberal senator delayed a committee’s likely endorsement of a top trade priority for President Barack Obama. The day began with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, predicting a “strong bipartisan vote” for “fast track” legislation. The measure would renew presidential authority to present trade deals that Congress can endorse or reject but not amend. But liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a fierce opponent of the trade legislation, invoked a Senate scheduling rule to delay the committee’s actions for hours. “This job-killing trade deal has been negotiated in secret,” said Sanders, who made a lengthy Senate speech denouncing the legislation. “It was drafted with input by special interests and corporate lobbyists, but not from the elected representatives of the American people.” Hatch rejected the claims, saying fast track and other trade proposals have been carefully negotiated and will undergo long public scrutiny. “We need to be doing all we can tear down barriers to American exports while, at the same time, creating enforceable rules for our trading partners so we can be sure that American workers and job creators are competing on a level playing field,” Hatch said…”


Sanders forces delay of trade bill consideration


Senate panel approves trade bill

“The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would streamline passage of global trade deals through Congress. The panel approved, on an 20-6 vote, a long-awaited trade promotion authority (TPA) measure with the support of seven Democrats, sending the measure to the Senate floor, where it will face another tough test in the coming weeks. The Democrats who voted to approve were Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Tom Carper (Del.), Mark Warner (Va.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.). The lone Republican to oppose was Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.). In the most contentious vote of the day, Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) lost their bid — on an 11-15 vote — to include an amendment in the legislation that would have required the White House to include enforceable currency manipulation provisions in international trade agreements. Five Democrats — Cantwell, Nelson, Carper, Bennet and Warner — and 10 Republicans opposed the amendment. Portman, a former U.S. trade representative, said the amendment was needed because the “playing field is tilted against us” and it would “allow our workers to compete.” Stabenow argued the Obama administration’s process is “just not enough” to convince countries to make faster progress toward market-driven exchange rates. After markup, Portman said he will make another attempt at passing the rule in floor debate. The White House has argued that requiring the addition of currency provisions would derail negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and likely jeopardize its passage in Congress…”


House Republican on trade bill: We have the votes

“House Republicans are confident they will be able to pass a contentious trade bill. “We do have the votes to pass the bill,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) Wednesday. “We are going to pass this piece of legislation.” With President Obama working to sway skeptical Democrats to back “fast-track” trade legislation, Republican backers at the Capitol painted the upcoming vote as a critical inflection point for the U.S. within the global economy. “This is a crossroads right now for America,” said Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), who said the fate of the legislation would determine “whether or not we are leaders.” The trade bill, recently hammered out by lead tax writers in the House and Senate, would limit Congress to an up-or-down vote on trade agreements negotiated by presidential administrations. Backers of the bill say the measure would help the president finalize trade pacts, like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with several nations in the Asia-Pacific….”


Highway Funding Still Under Construction

“Congress’ efforts to fund highway spending look like a driver trying to extricate a car from the snow. Lawmakers move an idea into first gear, then slip it into reverse, then back to first, hoping the back-and-forth-motion generates enough momentum to get off the slick spot and move some legislation. Congress first encountered this particular snowdrift about seven years ago. In 2008, with reluctant support from the Bush administration, lawmakers transferred $7 billion to the Highway Trust Fund — where most of the federal government’s transportation spending comes from. Back then, the country was grappling with a deep recession and a devastating fiscal crisis that threatened to make the trust fund insolvent. Today, circumstances have changed. The government’s budget deficit as a share of gross domestic product has dropped to its lowest level in seven years and the economy is on an upswing. Even so, Congress has relied on more than 30 short-term extensions to keep highway programs afloat. Lawmakers all agree that America’s roads and bridges are in terrible, even dangerous, condition. But the temporary funding patches are likely to be their only response. On its face, the problem is about numbers. The Highway Trust Fund, funded largely by a gas tax whose rate hasn’t changed since 1993, is facing a $13 billion shortfall in fiscal 2016. Hiking any taxes is an enormous lift. And lawmakers never indexed the gas tax to inflation, which means it has been declining in real terms. Then there’s the shift in most Americans’ consumption of gasoline. For decades, as more and more people got behind the wheel, policymakers could expect gas tax revenues, the primary driver of highway funding, to steadily rise. Now, with people driving more fuel-efficient cars, gasoline consumption is set to stall, leading to a widening gap between gas tax revenues and funding needs. But at the heart of the debate is another, deeper divide over the proper role of the federal government. Should Washington, which spent some $46 billion on highways in 2014, still be in the business of building and maintaining roads? If so, how should those roads be paid for? The current debate demonstrates just how much the GOP has changed. Not long ago, Republicans were pretty reliable backers of infrastructure spending, a priority that routinely united business and labor groups. Nowadays, the GOP is undergoing soul-searching over the issue, even though businesses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and state governments are still adamant that infrastructure spending is a good use of public dollars…”


Head of conservative House Freedom Caucus: Let Ex-Im Bank ‘expire’

“Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Tuesday that Congress should let the Export-Import Bank expire this year. The charter for the Export-Import Bank, which promotes U.S. exports, will expire on June 30 unless Congress renews it. Jordan cited the widespread opposition to the bank among GOP presidential candidates, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and conservative activist groups. “When are the stars going to line up better for that position than now?” Jordan said during an event on Capitol Hill hosted by the Heritage Foundation. Jordan argued that it would be easy for Congress to simply ignore the deadline and let the bank, which he called “corporate welfare,” lapse….”


Tax Cuts Do Increase Employment, Do Create Jobs, The Science Is In

“An interesting paper from Owen Zidar showing that tax cuts really do increase employment, really do create jobs. This isn’t all that unusual a finding it must be said as several different theories would lead us to the same conclusion. But it’s nice, as always, to have empirical proof of a generally thought to be true theoretical result. After all, we don’t want to be like the mythical French economists who, when presented with facts ask “Well, yes, but is it true in theory?” However, there is one point from this paper that will, I fear, be misunderstood. Which is that the paper seems to be showing that tax cuts for the top 10% of income earners don’t have all that much effect on jobs or employment growth. And, assuming that I’m reading this paper the right way (no sure thing that) that’s not something that the paper, by its design, can really test. Here’s how the WSJ reports it: “Tax cuts are an effective way to bolster a weak economy and create jobs—as long as they are targeted at the bottom 90% of income earners. That’s according to a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research that adds new evidence to the age-old debate about the effectiveness of various types of economic policies aimed at spurring growth and fostering employment…”


Feds face new pressure on corporate giving

“A coalition of investors and state officials is launching a new push for regulations requiring publicly traded companies to disclose their campaign spending to shareholders. It’s the latest effort in a long-running dispute pitting business groups who decry the proposal as an attack on the First Amendment against financial reform advocates who argue the political expenditures should be disclosed. “There’s no reasonable explanation to deny this information to shareholders,” Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler told reporters Tuesday. The group is calling on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to move forward with a rule that mandates reporting. Without the political spending information, the group says, shareholders are left in the dark, unable to make informed investment decisions or determine whether their money is going to groups that advocate for issues they oppose. Wheeler, who also submitted a separate letter to the SEC from state treasurers in Washington, Vermont, North Carolina and Rhode Island, said some companies have voluntarily agreed to disclose their political spending. “When will the SEC realize the shift and turn the lights on for all companies?” he said.  The agency only requires companies to disclose their unaudited financial statements in quarterly reports and report major company events like bankruptcies or changes in leadership. The group noted that roughly $7 billion was spent in the last presidential election cycle, including more than $300 million from undisclosed donors. Financial reformers have sought the regulations since August 2011 and appeared to have made headway in December 2013, when the SEC added consideration of the proposal to its formal rule-making agenda. The agency received over a million comments on the rule-making petition. But it ultimately decided to drop the idea following pressure from congressional Republicans and business groups, who warned the forced disclosure could have a chilling effect on free speech. They argued the SEC lacked the expertise necessary to make campaign finance reforms…”




New York Principal Exits Job to Protest Common Core

“A high school principal in New York is retiring early from her job to fight the Common Core standards, WNYW-TV reported. “The Common Core was hastily put together,” said Carol Burris, the principal of South Side High School at Rockville Centre in Long Island. The station described her reputations as “popular and academically distinguished.” “It was not put together by educational professionals for the most part,” Burris said of Common Core. “It’s developmentally inappropriate in the primary years and I have problems with it even at the high school level.” She also disagrees with the New York state government basing 50 percent of teacher evaluations on Common Core test results. “There are ways you can evaluate teachers without including test scores,” Burris said. Last week, about 200,000 New York public school students opted out of taking the Common Core English tests. Jennifer Hensely, executive director for the Association for a Better New York, contends that the tests are necessary to measure teacher performance. The nonprofit business group backs the K-12 math and English standards and Hensely said she hopes parents and children will be more open minded about the Common Core exams…”


Obama Admin Might Force Students To Take Tests

“Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said at a Q&A in Chicago Tuesday that widespread student boycotts of standardized tests are not acceptable, and if state governments don’t stop them, the federal government will. Under No Child Left Behind, at least 95 percent of students in a state must take annual standardized tests in reading and math from grades 3-8. Until now, the federal government has never had to contemplate enforcing that regulation, but a growing parent-led boycott effort is changing things. Now, in many states, thousands of parents who oppose new Common Core-aligned tests or simply oppose testing in general are yanking their children out of exams. In New York, activists claim over 175,000 students are refusing to take the state’s new standardized English tests, a figure that would put the state on pace to miss the 95 percent threshold. In many states, public school students can’t be forced to take tests, and some states even explicitly protect the right for parents to opt out. Now, Duncan says if states aren’t willing to make sure kids take tests, the federal government will….”




Obama’s executive action rollouts increasing in pace

President Obama never used the words “executive action” until nearly three years into his presidency. Now announcements of executive actions have become a routine, almost daily occurrence.

“As President Obama visits the Florida Everglades on Wednesday to give a speech on climate change, the White House is announcing a package of eight different executive actions, implemented by seven government agencies, to “protect the people and places that climate change puts at risk.” The announcement contains no executive orders, sweeping directives, legislative proposals or bill signings. Instead, the actions are smaller-bore staples of Obama’s “pen-and-phone” strategy that shows no sign of letting up: a report on the value of parks to the environment, a proclamation declaring National Parks Week, and conservation efforts in Florida, Hawaii, Puget Sound and the Great Lakes. “This is an example of how the administration can continue to advance what we consider to be and what the world considers to be a top priority, which is dealing with the impacts of climate change in a way that makes communities more resilient,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. But White House officials say such actions are also part of a broader political strategy to stay on offense and have the new Republican Congress respond to the president’s agenda — and not the other way around. “Since the election, the president has had a pretty explicit strategy,” said Brian Deese, a senior Obama adviser. “And it has consisted of trying stay on offense, trying to push where he can to move the agenda through executive action. You’re going to keep seeing the president in that posture going forward.” “Executive action” — a phrase Obama never uttered publicly in the first two and a half years of his presidency — has now become part of his daily lexicon…”


Senate Dems take on Obama on Atlantic drilling

“Six Senate Democrats from the Northeast are taking on the Obama administration with a bill to prevent offshore oil and natural gas drilling on the Atlantic Coast. The senators introduced their bill on Earth Day, saying that although the Interior Department has only proposed drilling somewhere between Virginia and Georgia, a disastrous spill could spread to their states in a way similar to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. “Five years later, Big Oil wants to bring Deepwater Horizon to the Atlantic,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) told reporters Wednesday.

“We refuse to jeopardize the livelihood of our fishermen and everyone whose well-being depends on keeping the Atlantic and our coasts clean and safe.” The bill’s other original sponsors are Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ben Cardon (D-Md.)…”


Obama ventures into swamp, and enemy political territory, to deliver Earth Day message

“Florida’s Everglades provide a scenic backdrop for President Obama’s Earth Day message on global warming, but the not-so-subtle choice of the Sunshine State, where Gov. Rick Scott is a well-known climate change skeptic, also means the warning gets sent from the backyard of a high-profile opponent of White House environmental policy. Speaking from swampy wetlands prowled by alligators, Obama is expected Wednesday to warn of the damage he says climate change is already inflicting on the nation’s environmental treasures — and to hammer political opponents like Scott who he says are doing far too little about it. The planned trip to Everglades National Park marks an attempt to connect the dots between theoretical arguments about carbon emissions and real-life implications as Obama’s climate change agenda is under attack in Washington and courthouses across the U.S….”


At Everglades, Obama to warn of damage from climate neglect

“With swampy wetlands and alligators as his backdrop, President Barack Obama will use a visit to Florida’s Everglades to warn of the damage that climate change is already inflicting on the nation’s environmental treasures – and to hammer political opponents he says are doing far too little about it. Obama’s trip to the Everglades on Wednesday, timed to coincide with Earth Day, marks an attempt to connect the dots between theoretical arguments about carbon emissions and real-life implications. With his climate change agenda under attack in Washington and courthouses across the U.S., Obama has sought this week to force Americans to envision a world in which cherished natural wonders fall victim to pollution. In Florida, rising sea levels have allowed salt water to seep inland, threatening drinking water for Floridians and the extraordinary native species and plants that call the Everglades home. Christy Goldfuss of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality said without stepped-up action, Joshua Tree National Park could soon be treeless and Glacier National Park devoid of glaciers. “Regardless of the political debate, there are decisions being made in communities in Florida and across this country to make changes to the way they live as a result of climate change,” Goldfuss said. Those political overtones were impossible to avoid…”


Obama arrives at Everglades National Park, plans to highlight climate change threat

“President Barack Obama arrived at Everglades National Park on an overcast and muggy Wednesday to deliver an Earth Day speech intended to connect climate change impacts already unfolding in the imperiled wetlands of South Florida to wider risks across the nation. The president and park rangers walked the Anhinga Trail, the park’s most popular tourist stop, passing baby alligators, sleek cormorants and a pair of black vultures, which are infamous for occasionally eating the rubber off of visitor vehicles. As he began his speech, Obama said he could think of “no better place” to spend Earth Day and extolled the virtues of the Everglades, remarking that it provides habitat for both alligators and crocodiles. “I’m told this is a good thing,” he joked. He also quoted Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the Miami author turned activist who is most famous for her book, The Everglades: River of Grass: “There are no other Everglades in the world.” In addition to making an economic, public health and national security case for confronting the risks of climate change and rising seas, the president was in South Florida to tout his administration’s record on tackling environmental problems, including imposing a historic cap on carbon pollution and spending $2.2 billion on Everglades restoration projects. He further planned to unveil new ways to assess the value of the country’s national parks, including a study that shows protected wild lands play a major role in keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. Visitors to parks also poured $15.7 billion into surrounding communities, the administration said. Obama was expected to reveal new conservation efforts in four areas of the country, including Southwest Florida. And in a move some say is long overdue, the National Park Service will designate as a national historic landmark Douglas’ cottage in Coconut Grove, which several years ago sparked a contentious fight between preservationists and neighbors. The pioneering preservationist is largely credited with sparking Everglades restoration…”


Obama visits the Everglades to talk about climate change — and goad Republicans to do the same


At Everglades, Obama warns of damage from climate neglect


Obama devotes Earth Day speech to climate change


Obama Mocks Climate Change Skeptics: ‘It Can’t Be Edited Out’

“President Barack Obama jabbed at global warming skeptics while visiting the Everglades National Park on Earth Day, characterizing climate change as a dire threat. “Climate change can no longer be denied,” Obama said. “It can’t be edited out. It can’t be omitted from the conversation. And action can no longer be delayed. That’s why I’ve committed the United States the world in combatting this threat.”..”


Obama on climate change: ‘This is a problem now’


Obama’s Earth Day Flight Emits More CO2 Than 17 Cars Would In A Year

“President Barack Obama’s trip to see Florida’s Everglades for Earth Day has racked up quite the carbon footprint. Using government estimates, his one day trip emits as much carbon dioxide as 17 passenger vehicles do in one year of driving. Obama announced over the weekend he would be visiting the Everglades Wednesday to highlight how the region could be lost to rising sea levels and more extreme weather if nothing is done to stop global warming. “The Everglades is one of the most special places in our country. But it’s also one of the most fragile,” Obama said in his weekly address video. “Rising sea levels are putting a national treasure – and an economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry — at risk.” “So climate change can no longer be denied — or ignored,” the president added….”


More Than 9,000 Gallons Of Fuel To Be Used On Air Force One For Obama’s Trip To Everglades On Earth Day

“With swampy wetlands and alligators as his backdrop, President Barack Obama will use a visit to Florida’s Everglades to warn of the damage that climate change is already inflicting on the nation’s environmental treasures — and to hammer political opponents he says are doing far too little about it. Obama’s trip to the Everglades on Wednesday, timed to coincide with Earth Day, marks an attempt to connect the dots between theoretical arguments about carbon emissions and real-life implications. With his climate change agenda under attack in Washington and courthouses across the U.S., Obama has sought this week to force Americans to envision a world in which cherished natural wonders fall victim to pollution. According to CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller, Obama’s Earth Day trip to the Everglades will cover 1,836 miles roundtrip and consume 9,180 gallons of fuel on Air Force One…”


Obama picks a fight with Florida Republicans on climate change

“As he heads to the Everglades to mark Earth Day, President Obama is picking a fight with Florida Gov. Rick Scott on climate change — part of a broader White House effort to use the issue to help Democrats and hurt Republicans ahead of the 2016 elections. White House officials readily admit that Mr. Obama seeks an “elevated political debate” on the issue of climate change and also say Republicans are playing with fire by either denying man-made global warming or downplaying its effects. The president’s trip to the Florida Everglades — where he will talk both about protecting national parks and natural wonders, and his controversial climate-change agenda — has clear political undertones. While the White House won’t admit it, Mr. Obama’s Florida trip seems to be an attempt to shine light on the climate-change positions of several GOP presidential contenders, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Mr. Rubio has formally launched a presidential bid while it is presumed Mr. Bush will run…”


Obama to talk parks, climate in Florida

“President Obama is planning to highlight the effects of climate change on national parks in a Wednesday trip to the Everglades in Florida, his top advisers said. Obama’s Earth Day visit will focus not just on destruction that he says a warming planet is already bringing to parks, but also the economic impacts that come from the changes to parks. “The Everglades is one of our most unique landscapes, and climate change is putting the treasured ecosystem at risk,” Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the Council on Environmental Quality, told reporters Tuesday. “This is really ground zero.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called the Everglades National Park “one of the most unique, beautiful and environmentally sensitive regions of the country.” Obama’s remarks Wednesday will also touch on the public health and national security problems that he has recently highlighted as results of climate change and the efforts he has taken and proposed to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that warm the planet. “The president is hoping that his visit to the Everglades on Wednesday will prompt and elevate political debate about making climate change a priority,” Earnest said…”


Obama to Republicans: ‘Don’t stick your head in the sand’ on climate change

“President Obama on Wednesday chastised Republicans who he says don’t understand or choose to deny the reality of climate change. In a speech at the Florida Everglades National Park, the president said the U.S. can wait no longer to confront the challenges posed by a changing climate. He urged Republicans to follow the lead of previous GOP leaders and not sit idly by as climate change worsens. “Teddy Roosevelt is a Republican, started our national park system. Richard Nixon started the EPA. George H.W. Bush was the first president globally to acknowledge the impacts of climate change and that we needed to do something about it. This is not something that historically should be a partisan issue,” Mr. Obama said in his speech commemorating Earth Day. “We know that, in our own lives, if you’ve got a coming storm you don’t stick your head in the sand. You prepare for the storm.” In conjunction with the Democratic National Committee and other party arms, the White House in recent days has launched an all-out assault on Republicans, accusing them of ignoring climate change and subsequently condemning the planet to certain doom. Administration and Democratic party officials specifically have targeted Florida Gov. Rick Scott, former Florida Gov. and likely 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. and declared presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and others. In his brief remarks at the Everglades, Mr. Obama also took a shot at Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican who in February brought a snowball to the Senate floor to make the case global warming is, at best, being blown out of proportion…”


Why don’t GOP presidential candidates address climate change? Because they want to win.

“A politician has a choice to make when he or she is running for office: One can hold a position that comports with one’s beliefs even if the electorate objects, or one can tell the electorate what it wants to hear. In the overlap of climate change politics and the 2016 election, Republican candidates are almost uniformly rejecting the idea that human activity is making the world warmer. (Jeb Bush has offered that he’s “concerned” about warming, for what it’s worth.) In most cases, that’s because they don’t accept the scientific link between the two. But even if they did, the electorate doesn’t want to hear it. On Wednesday — it’s Earth Day, we’ll note — Gallup pointed out that the most skeptical political group on the subject is conservative Republicans. Just more than one-third of that group thinks it will see the effects of climate change in its lifetimes, and 40 percent think it will never happen….”


Earth Day: Environmental Protection Shouldn’t Hurt Economy


Obama pledges millions for national parks restoration


Senate passes trafficking bill 99-0, ending long abortion fight

“The Senate on Wednesday passed legislation aimed at curbing human trafficking, ending a monthlong fight over abortion that bitterly divided the parties and held up attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch. The legislation, which was approved 99-0, would create a special fund to help victims of sex crimes, bolstering efforts to combat what advocates decry as “modern-day slavery.” But it was the bill’s language on abortion that received the lion’s share of attention in a floor battle that began in March. Democrats repeatedly blocked an earlier version of the proposal, arguing it would create an expansion of the Hyde Amendment, which restricts the use of federal funds for abortions. The deal that resolved the stalemate requires money for the victims’ fund to come from two sources: criminal fines and money that Congress previously appropriated. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) touted the vote as a win for Republicans and anti-abortion groups, saying that under the agreement, the trafficking legislation “won’t violate longstanding, bipartisan Hyde precedent.” Republicans also shot down a last-ditch effort by Democrats to strip the abortion provisions from the legislation, which if successful would likely have killed the bill. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) urged his colleagues to remove “the divisive language that limits victims services and has held us up for so long.” “Congress has a long history of passing legislation to address human trafficking,” he said. “We’ve consistently done so without abortion politics being in the discussion.” But Leahy was ultimately unsuccessful, with Democratic Sens. Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) voting against him. But Democrats also claimed victory in the abortion fight, arguing that they blocked a Republican attempt to expand the abortion restrictions to private funding. “We started this fight against a bill that applied Hyde to non-taxpayer dollars for the first time and brought in no real money for trafficking victims,” a Democratic aide said. “We’re now in a much better place.” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) also touted the agreement, saying Democrats were able to “reach a deal that gets this done in a way that does not expand restrictions on women’s health to non-taxpayer dollars or to new programs.”…”


Trafficking bill passes unanimously, Lynch vote Thursday



“The Senate is slated to consider President Obama’s nominee for attorney general Loretta Lynch this week. The vote could end up being one of the closest attorney general confirmation votes in recent years. To date, just five Republicans have signaled support for Obama’s nominee. Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Jeff Flake (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), Orrin Hatch (UT) and Mark Kirk (IL). A significant majority of the Republican caucus, meanwhile, have said they will not vote for Lynch, largely citing her support for the legal argument behind executive amnesty and concerns that she will not be an independent voice in the administration. The Hill, which has been keeping a whip count, notes that just four Republicans have not declared how they would vote: Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Thad Cochran (MS), Mike Enzi (WY), Rob Portman (OH). If the entire Democratic caucus (44 senators) and both Independents (two senators) vote yea — as anticipated — that would leave Lynch with a bare minimum 51 votes to scratch by. If all the undecided Republicans vote for Lynch, she would have more breathing room with 55 votes. The vote therefore is likely to land somewhere between that 55 and 51 vote range. In recent weeks Lynch supporters have decried the long amount of time it has taken since since Obama nominated Lynch for her confirmation to receive a vote. They argue she has waited longer than the previous seven attorney generals combined. If her vote is in that 55 to 51 vote window her confirmation could be among the closest in recent memory, including those seven prior attorney generals — except for, perhaps, Michael Mukasey…”


Lynch vs. the Constitution

“The Senate must vote no. Although Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Republicans who control the Senate are under no obligation to do so, they have agreed to grant a confirmation vote to Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee to replace Eric Holder as United States Attorney General. Ms. Lynch has testified that she supports and would implement President Obama’s executive action providing de facto amnesty to illegal immigrants. This edict, which blatantly violates Obama’s oath to execute the laws faithfully, also unconstitutionally confers positive legal benefits on illegal aliens, something only Congress has the authority to do. Yet, five Republican senators have announced that they will vote to confirm Ms. Lynch. Three have already supported her in the Judiciary Committee: Orrin Hatch (Utah), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and Jeff Flake (Ariz). The two others are Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Susan Collins (Maine). If they follow through in the vote now scheduled for Thursday, Ms. Lynch would almost certainly have the 51 votes needed to be confirmed…”


House passes cybersecurity bill

“The House on Wednesday passed the first major cybersecurity bill since the calamitous hacks on Sony Entertainment, Home Depot and JPMorgan Chase. Passed 307-116, the Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA), backed by House Intelligence Committee leaders, would give companies liability protections when sharing cyber threat data with government civilian agencies, such as the Treasury or Commerce Departments. “This bill will strengthen our digital defenses so that American consumers and businesses will not be put at the mercy of cyber criminals,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). The legislation is the first of three measures Congress must pass to finally get a cyber info-sharing law in place. The White House has put its hesitant stamp of approval on two House bills, and seems open to supporting the Senate’s companion legislation. Congress has contemplated some form of this law for nearly five years. But catastrophic data breaches within the last year have laid bare hundreds of millions of Americans’ credit card data and Social Security numbers, raising public awareness and putting the onus on Capitol Hill to act. The goal is to increase the public-private flow of information about hacking attempts. Advocates say such an exchange is the biggest first step the country can take to thwart hackers. Lawmakers, government officials and most industry groups argue more data will help both sides better understand their attackers and bolster network defenses that have been repeatedly compromised over the last year. Privacy advocates and a group of mostly Democratic lawmakers worry the bill will simply shuttle more sensitive information to the National Security Agency (NSA), further empowering its surveillance authority. Many security experts agree, adding that they already have the data needed to study hackers’ tactics. ..”


House Passes Cybersecurity Bill Despite Privacy Concerns


‘Lunch lady’ lobby joins GOP to fight Obama’s school lunch rules

“In the farm-to-fork-crazed city of Portland, Ore., campus gardens supply public school cafeterias and food service workers seek out chicken free of antibiotics. But the school system’s nutritional director finds there’s one advocate for healthy food whose demands she just can’t meet — Michelle Obama. “We have tried every noodle that is out there,” said Gitta Grether-Sweeney, the Portland nutritional director who says she is exasperated by the federal school lunch rules the first lady champions. “Whole-wheat noodles just don’t work in lasagna. We are having to go lawless to use regular pasta.” The locally sourced macaroni and cheese the schools had been serving turned to mush when it was made with whole-grain macaroni to meet the new rules, Grether-Sweeney said. That once-popular meal is now off the menu. So too are wraps, which she says won’t hold together with the brittle wheat tortillas she now must use. Many fewer meals are getting sold at school, she said. Food service directors like Grether-Sweeney have been warmly embraced by Republicans who are trying to undermine federal school lunch rules that they see as the cornerstone of a nanny-state agenda from the first couple. In response, the Obama administration has put together its own coalition of celebrity chefs, health organizations and military leaders to mitigate the damage caused by its falling-out with the “lunch lady” lobby — 55,000 school cafeteria workers who were once a major ally. Back in 2010, when it passed, the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act was seen as a landmark nutritional achievement for the most health-conscious White House in recent memory…”


And the New State Dept. Spokesman Is…

“Former Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby will retire from the military and move to the State Department to be that agency’s new public face, U.S. officials said Wednesday. Secretary of State John Kerry tapped Kirby to be the department’s spokesman because of his deep experience and knowledge of international issues and the fact that he is widely seen as a non-political face, the officials said. Kirby will replace Jen Psaki, a former spokeswoman for President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, who left the State Department last month to become White House communications director. Kirby, who served as top communications aide to former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and was ex-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s spokesman from 2013, won’t begin formal briefings at the State Department until his military retirement, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the paperwork for Kirby’s appointment isn’t yet finalized. The officials said acting State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf may remain in the building to handle broader strategic communications and press issues related to the ongoing Iran nuclear talks. Harf, a former spokeswoman for the CIA and the Obama campaign, has been the lead press contact for the U.S. delegation at the Iran negotiations for nearly two years…”


McConnell pushes renewal of NSA mass-surveillance authorization to Senate floor


‘Concerned 8-Year-Old Citizen’ Pens Blistering Letter to Michelle Obama — and Some Folks Don’t Like It One Teeny Bit

“His name is Peter. He’s a “concerned 8-year-old citizen.” And when it comes to expressing his concerns about the direction America is headed, he sugarcoats nothing. Peter’s shoot-from-the-hip sentiments were on full display in a blistering handwritten letter he penned to first lady Michelle Obama, which appeared in the Weekly Standard. So why wasn’t the letter addressed to the president? Apparently Peter initially got miffed over the first lady’s much-maligned school lunch calorie cutback — even though he attends a private school — and simply added other issues to the letter: “He said something about wanting to ‘give a voice to the voiceless,’” his father said… Peter ended his critique with what appeared to be a friendly question: “Is the White House comfortable?” While there are no apparent reactions from the first lady or the White House, some commenters didn’t take too kindly to Peter’s sentiments:

–“Well, from the hand writing it certainly has the mature look of a Tea Party activist!” Olu Alemoru commented.

–“This borders on child abuse,” Roch Cherry wrote. “He’ll figure out what jackasses his parents are in a few years. He’ll hopefully become a productive member of society and not another right-wing mental midget who votes against his own interests. Good luck Peter!”

–“Do you suppose that ‘private’ school he attends just might be a ‘private Christian’ school?” Kenneth Metal asked.

–“Are we sure Peter is not a sixty something year old ‘proud and patriotic’ member of the Tea Party who wants to ‘take his country back’??????” Jan Cameron wondered. “To this former teacher of 2nd graders, this letter just does not pass the smell test…”


Hillary Clinton Probably Won’t Like the GOP’s Plan for Releasing the Final Benghazi Report

“House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday that he supports plans by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) to have the House Select Committee on Benghazi release its final report just before the 2016 presidential election. That timing is already being seen by Democrats as a political move by Republicans to damage Hillary Clinton’s chance of winning the White House. But both Boehner and Gowdy have said the timing isn’t based on politics, and is instead based on the total lack of cooperation they’re getting from Clinton and the Obama administration…”


Boehner: Obama admin making it ‘virtually impossible’ to get Benghazi facts

“House Speaker John A. Boehner said Wednesday that the Obama administration has made it “virtually impossible” to get to the facts surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, as the special panel investigating the attack indicated its inquiry could continue into 2016. “They could clean this up a whole lot quicker if the administration and former Secretary Clinton were in a position to actually cooperate with the committee and turn over the kind of information that we’ve been seeking for some time,” Mr. Boehner told reporters. “But the administration has made it virtually impossible to get to the facts surrounding Benghazi. And so when we have the facts, we’ll have a report.” Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican and chairman of the committee, said he hopes the committee can finish its work by the end of the year. But a spokesman for the committee said Wednesday that factors beyond the committee’s control could affect that timing. “Factors beyond the committee’s control, including witness availability, compliance with documents requests, the granting of security clearances and accreditations — all of which are controlled by the executive branch — could continue to impact the timing of the inquiry’s conclusion,” said spokesman Jamal Ware. Mr. Gowdy wants former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to appear twice before the panel; the first appearance would be for a transcribed interview by May 1 on her decision-making in creating a private email system while serving as the nation’s top diplomat. Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state at the time of the attack, which claimed the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens…”


This Is Carly, Hear Her Roar

Carly Fiorina says if she runs for president, she’ll take identity politics away from Hillary Clinton.


Facing threat in Congress, Pentagon races to resettle Guantanamo inmates

“Facing a potential showdown with Congress, the Pentagon is racing to move dozens of detainees out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in coming months before lawmakers can block future transfers and derail President Obama’s plan to shutter the U.S. military prison. As a first step, officials plan to send up to 10 prisoners overseas, possibly in June. In all, the Pentagon hopes that 57 inmates who are approved for transfer will be resettled by the end of 2015. That would require “large muscle movements” by at least two countries, which officials hope will each agree to take in 10 to 20 Yemeni detainees, who cannot be repatriated because of security conditions in their war-torn homeland. “I am aware of the clock ticking,” a defense official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning. “It’s going to take high-level leadership, and it’s going to take some big asks to some countries.” The issue of what to do with those remaining detainees on trial in military commissions or who are deemed too dangerous to release also looms over a White House that is facing the end of Obama’s second term in 2017. In the event that Congress does pass legislation that would freeze Guantanamo Bay’s population, currently at 122, White House officials are exploring options for the unilateral closure of the prison and moving detainees into the United States, an action that Congress has opposed from the president’s first months in office…”


Deal or No Deal?

“The Obama team’s effort to negotiate a deal with Iran that could prevent the Iranians from developing a nuclear bomb for at least a decade is now entering its critical final stage. I hope that a good, verifiable deal can be finalized, but it will not be easy. If it were, we’d have it by now. Here are the major challenges: First, you can negotiate a simple arms control agreement with an adversary you don’t trust. We did that with the Kremlin in the Cold War. By simple, I mean with relatively few moving parts, and very clear verification procedures that do not require much good will from the other side — like monitoring Soviet missile sites with our own satellites. You can also negotiate a complicated arms control deal with a country that shares your values: Japan and South Korea regularly submit their nuclear facilities to international inspections. But what is hard to implement is a complex arms control deal with an adversary you don’t trust — like Iran or North Korea. Each moving part requires some good will from the other side, and, because there are so many moving parts, the opportunities for cheating are manifold. It requires constant vigilance. Are the United States, Russia, China and Europe up for that for a decade? After the Iraq invasion, we took our eye off North Korea, and it diverted nuclear fuel for a bomb. With Iran, the U.S. Energy Department is planning to put a slew of new, on-the-ground monitoring devices into every cranny of Iran’s nuclear complex, which should help. But there also has to be zero-tolerance for cheating — and a very high price if there is. Second, for us, this is solely an arms control agreement. For Iran, this is “an identity crisis” that it’s being asked to resolve, and it’s still not clear it can do so, says Robert Litwak of the Wilson Center and the author of “Outlier States: American Strategies to Contain, Engage, or Change Regimes.”…”


Obama’s credibility gap: The President has forfeited the people’s trust in his nuclear negotiations with Iran

“In selling his nuclear deal with the Iranians, President Obama says that his “historic understanding” would “cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.” He asks the American people to trust his word and judgment. That trust must be denied, because Obama hasn’t been straight with the American people about Iran’s nuclear capabilities. When he unveiled his tentative deal, Obama made the shocking revelation that Iran was “only two or three months away from potentially acquiring the raw materials that could be used for a single nuclear bomb.” How close Iran has been to that “break out” threshold has been central to the question of how urgently Obama has needed to confront the mullahs…”


Would Iran Deal Imperil Jews’ Loyalty to Democratic Party?


Chris Matthews: Obama Didn’t Seem Disturbed By Iran Arming Rebels, “More Focused On Trade Fight At Home”

“PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS: This is sort of politically problematic for this White House because I guess in simple terms, why should the U.S. trust Iran on a nuclear deal if Iran is thumbing its nose at the U.S. in the Arabian sea? How’s the president doing trying to balance the issues?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, the countries have different interests. Even with a deal on nuclear, we still have different geopolitical interests. We did this with the Soviet Union and all the deals we had on the nuclear disarmament during the time we were fighting in Vietnam. And that proxy war there. So what we thought was a proxy war. So it’s normal. You just — we’re not going to be best buddies. It’s a question of whether we can, you know, moderate their behavior a bit. Obviously the president in the interview with me yesterday was talking about being pretty strong and stating we don’t want them arming people down there. We don’t want the Iranians arming the rebels down there. But we’ll see. He didn’t seem that disturbed from what I could tell. I think he was more focused on the trade fight at home…”


Obama again avoids calling 1915 Armenian killings ‘genocide’

“President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to fulfill a campaign promise and use the politically fraught term on the 100th anniversary of the killings this week. Officials decided against it after opposition from some at the State Department and the Pentagon. After more than a week of internal debate, top administration officials discussed the final decision with Armenian-American leaders Tuesday before making it public. “The president and other senior administration officials have repeatedly acknowledged the historical fact that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred and marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Wednesday. “As we have said in previous years, a full frank and just acknowledgment of the facts is in all of our interests, including Turkey’s, Armenia’s and America’s.”…”