Senate Dems block GOP effort to tie DHS funding to Obama immigration actions

“The Tea Party Patriots group is suggesting that Senate Republicans are backing down because they fear Americans will blame them for a partial DHS shutdown. “Senate Republicans are about to cave in to President Obama,” the group said Monday. “It’s time … to ratchet up the pressure on wobbly Senators.” A federal district court judge in Texas last week temporarily blocked the administration’s plans to carry out an executive action that protects millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.”





ObamaCare’s Max Deductible To Hit $6,850 In 2016

“The Department of Health and Human Services is prescribing an extra dose of two of ObamaCare’s most bitter medicines for 2016. The maximum deductible will rise to $6,850, up 3.8% from this year’s $6,600 ceiling and about 8% above 2014’s $6,350 limit. Meanwhile, the penalty for employers that don’t offer coverage to most full-timers will rise a like amount to $2,160 per employee, up from this year’s $2,080 fine. The original $2,000 fine never applied, because it was bumped up a notch after a year’s delay. In the second year of what is supposed to be an annual ritual, the Obama administration last Friday announced these key parameters for 2016 and others, including the maximum that subsidized consumers will have to pay for a benchmark silver plan. The size of employer penalties and the limit on cost-sharing — how much an individual may have to pay out of pocket for medical costs beyond premiums — are indexed annually based on the average rise in health insurance premiums over the prior year. Notably, the employer fine, up 8% over two years, is growing much faster than wages, which will make the mandate increasingly burdensome. Those costs “will be borne primarily by workers in the form of reductions in wages or other compensation,” the Con gressional Budget Office has said. Employers can try to dodge those costs by keeping workers below the 30-hour-per-week threshold at which ObamaCare penalties start to apply. Cost Shift To Patients – The nearly 8% gain in the maximum deductible and out-of-pocket limit is about double the two-year increase in the amount that subsidized individuals may be required to pay for the second lowest-cost silver plan. Thus, even if premiums were to remain more or less reasonable over time, access to care may become less and less affordable. And ObamaCare enrollees will gradually pay a higher share of income for their premium contribution. In 2015, a single person earning 300% of the poverty level, or $35,010, has to pay as much as 9.56% of income, or $3,347, for the second lowest-cost silver plan. Anything above that would be covered by a subsidy…”



American Federation of Teachers Said Obamacare Would ‘Create Chaos’

“The American Federation of Teachers labor union warned about the potential disastrous effects of Obamacare shortly before the law was implemented. As Obamacare comes under scrutiny again in the Supreme Court’s King v. Burwell case, records reveal that even one of President Obama’s vocal labor supporters feared disaster. In never-before-reported March 2013 comments submitted to regulations.gov, AFT generally supported the health reform law but expressed fear that an aspect of Obamacare ”would create chaos in the insurance market.” “The proposed rule requires employers to offer affordable health coverage to full-time employees and their children up to age 26 in order to avoid a shared responsibility penalty,” AFT director of legislation Kristor W. Cowan said in the comments. “However, no penalty would be assessed on employers who fail to offer coverage to spouses of full-time employees. Spouses with no offer of employer-sponsored coverage could be eligible for exchange premium tax credits.” “While this provision may aid spouses who could access exchange subsidies, it could also harm members with affordable family coverage by encouraging their employers to withdraw offers of coverage for spouses. In addition, this proposed spousal carve-out would create chaos in the insurance market, which does not generally offer multiple insurance products to individual families. These issues are of great concern to the AFT,” Cowan wrote…”



Dems run away from Obamacare penalty they imposed

“The Democrats who wrote and passed the Affordable Care Act were sure of two things: The law had to include a mandate requiring every American to purchase health insurance, and it had to have an enforcement mechanism to make the mandate work. Enforcement has always been at the heart of Obamacare. Now, though, enforcement time has come, and some Democrats are shying away from the coercive measures they themselves wrote into law. The Internal Revenue Service is the enforcement arm of Obamacare, and with tax forms due April 15, Americans who did not purchase coverage and who have not received one of the many exemptions already offered by the administration are discovering they will have to pay a substantial fine. For a household with, say, no kids and two earners making $35,000 a piece, the fine will be $500, paid at tax time. That’s already a fact. What is particularly worrisome to Democrats now is that, as those taxpayers discover the penalty they owe, they will already be racking up a new, higher penalty for 2015. This year, the fine for not obeying Obamacare’s edict is $325 per adult, or two percent of income above the filing threshold, whichever is higher. So that couple making $35,000 a year each will have to pay $1,000…”



Tax Form Errors Plague Affordable Care Act

“It may be an exaggeration to say that the 800,000 erroneous tax forms from HealthCare.gov to people in 37 states means mayhem this tax filing season. But the impact for 50,000 people who already filed their tax returns means they need to amend. It was an HHS error, not one by the IRS. Ironically, it was announced the same day the Obama administration extended the time to sign up on HealthCare.gov through April. The error could impact 20% of the statements sent to those who signed up for coverage and received tax credits. The government is notifying those who received an incorrect statement. The 750,000 people who were sent erroneous form but who haven’t yet filed their taxes are being told to wait until the corrected ones arrive in March. The controversy is about the new health care tax form, IRS Form 1095-A, needed for tax filing. HealthCare.gov sent these forms out to millions of consumers who are receiving coverage through the federal insurance market that serves most states. Many of those forms were correct, but 800,000 are wrong. Form 1095-A is similar to a Form W-2 for health care. The form provides a month-by-month accounting of the subsidies consumers received to help pay their health care premiums. Apart from this tax-related Affordable Care Act problem, this has already been an unsettling opening of tax season. There have been widespread fears about tax fraud and identity theft. The FBI is investigating fraudulent tax returns filed through TurboTax. Moreover, IRS budget cuts have further strapped the agency. Taxpayers are on edge about their filings and their refunds, not to mention the ease of getting questions answered and problems resolved with the IRS. Unmistakably, one of the big new issues this filing season is the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Although sign-ups for health insurance have proceeded apace, in a Buzzfeed video President Obama himself tried to drum up interest in additional healthcare insurance sign-ups. To help that effort, there have been repeated delays and extensions to collect more people…”



Democratic Panic Ensues As Obamacare Flaws Could Create Millions Of Republican Voters



Obamacare Follies: The Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight Now Wants To Control The Number Of Providers

“Things have not gone well in Team Obamacare. On Friday, the Associated Press reported that 800,000 customers of the broken healthcare.gov website got inaccurate 1095-A tax forms, and would have to wait to file income taxes as a result (or do amended returns if they already have filed). Apparently, the same thing happened to 100,000 customers of the California state Obamacare exchange. This is the same set of people who are scrambling to create an emergency enrollment period in Obamacare so that Americans can avoid paying the surtax penalty for not complying with Obamacare’s individual mandate (which may be because healthcare.gov still doesn’t work right).  And these are the same people who have changed the Obamacare statute by executive fiat some 28 times and counting, just to plug all the leaks in the dam. But don’t worry–today they are on the case to tell you how many hospitals you’re allowed to have access to. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is holding a two day gabfest in Washington, DC this week to discuss how Obamacare implementation is going from their perspective.  The FTC recently weighed in on a hospital merger and acquisition event in Idaho, and it seems likely they will do this in a broader way with other providers going forward.  This conference is geared up to develop these ideas. Their argument will be, of course, that fewer providers must equal less access to care and higher prices.  However, that’s not for the FTC, a court, or any arm of the government to decide–that’s for the market to decide. It’s entirely possible that two struggling hospitals, for example, might combine to make one very efficient and better one. Basic Econ 101 tells us that economies of scale happen all the time, and the creative destruction of free markets is what allows the right-sized providers to emerge.  If a hospital in our example does start to get too big and bloated, a more nimble competitor will emerge to eat its lunch. That’s how things work all the time.  Just ask Radio Shack. This free market approach to provider splitting and consolidation is supported by some interesting data which shows that economies of scale are real considerations in health care, that access to capital that comes from economies of scale mean more cutting edge durable medical equipment and other investments, and that several limping providers may unite–Voltron-like–into a much better provider.  Because of these increased efficiency outputs, you end up with a better product for the consumer with greater value than you had before.  If that’s not the result, the market will correct for it. That is, if the government gets out of the way. This isn’t hard.  Looking at just the hospital side of this that the FTC is picking on demonstrates that.  Since 2007, there have been 333 hospital mergers.  One-third of those (111) were reported to the FTC.  Of these only four–FOUR–were challenged in court…”



ObamaCare tax glitch caused by coding error

“The ObamaCare glitch that sent the wrong tax information to 800,000 people this year was the result of a coding error, a federal health official confirmed Monday. The information used to calculate subsidies was wrong on about 20 percent of tax forms “because of an intermittent defect in the code that was used to create these forms,” the official wrote in a statement. Instead of listing information about ObamaCare benchmark plans for 2014, the forms listed 2015 data. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) disclosed the error on Friday after first discovering the issue in January. It had not stated what triggered the problem. The tax form glitch indicates continuing problems with ObamaCare’s health IT in a year in which the HealthCare.gov website otherwise escaped major problems. At least 11.4 million people signed up for ObamaCare this year, far more than last year’s 7 million…”



This Tax Season Was Already Going to Be Bad for Taxpayers. Obamacare Is Making It Worse

“We knew that this tax filling season was going to be painful. But at the end of last week, it got trickier for thousands of taxpayers thanks to another Obamacare mistake. The Wall Street Journal reports that the IRS ”sent some 800,000 people incorrect tax statements about their coverage in 2014″ — that 800,000 number covers 20 percent of those who enrolled in 37 states. More from the Journal: The announcement of the inaccurate forms caps the rough first year for the health-care law, and means many taxpayers will have to wait to file tax returns. The error affects as many as 20% of the statements sent by the federal insurance website to people who signed up for coverage for 2014 and received tax credits to offset the cost of their premiums. … The statements sent to taxpayers from HealthCare.gov are used to determine whether tax credits were the correct amount. The credits are pegged to the cost of premiums in a consumer’s area as well as to income for the past year. Consumers who received too large a credit must reimburse the government, and those who received too little can claim additional money when they file their taxes. The forms contained an incorrect value for the local premium, which affects other calculations, the officials said. The government is notifying those who received an incorrect statement. It is very difficult for consumers to know on their own whether the local premium listed on the statement, known as a 1095-A, is incorrect. Some 50,000 people appear to have already filed their taxes using incorrect statements, federal officials estimated, and a Treasury Department official said the IRS was reviewing what to do about them. The 750,000 who haven’t yet filed are being told to wait until they get corrected statements. According to National Journal, California made a similar mistake, affecting 100,000 of is own citizens.”



Top GOP senator presses for answers on ObamaCare tax error

“Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is pressing the Obama administration for answers about why 800,000 people who signed up for ObamaCare received incorrect tax information.  “These mistakes will impose an unnecessary burden on affected taxpayers,” Hatch wrote Monday in a letter to the heads of the IRS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “[T]his process will delay the processing of returns for 800,000 taxpayers, postpone expected tax refunds, and further add to what [IRS] Commissioner [John] Koskinen has called a ‘miserable’ tax filing season.” The error, announced Friday, was a setback for the Obama administration, and Republicans have jumped on it amid existing concerns that the health law will complicate tax season.  

The problem stems from an error in a form sent to taxpayers on ObamaCare plans. The 2015 cost of a “benchmark” health plan was listed as part of a formula on some forms instead of the correct 2014 cost. That led to people receiving either too much or too little of a tax credit. “Because of an intermittent defect in the code that was used to create these forms, the premiums listed were for 2015,” a federal health official said Monday…”



GOP pounces on Obamacare tax form error

“Republican leaders are demanding answers on how the Obama administration could send the wrong tax form to nearly 1 million people who purchased health insurance through Obamacare. Two House panels will hold hearings this week on the issue, and other lawmakers are asking pointed questions on the error disclosed by administration officials on Friday. “Why did you decide to wait until the close of open enrollment [on Feb. 15] to announce this mistake?” asked Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in a Monday letter to Marilyn Tavenner, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Director, and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen. Hatch also wants details on how the mistake happened and who made the error. The administration said Friday it doesn’t know how the error occurred. “Americans should feel confident that information sent to them by their government, supposedly for their benefit, is accurate and timely,” said Rep. Peter Roskam in a Friday letter to Tavenner. Roskam is chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on oversight. Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell will go before the health subcommittee for the Energy & Commerce committee on Thursday. While the hearing will focus on a variety of Obamacare issues, the tax forms will be an area of interest, a source familiar with the hearing told the Washington Examiner. The House Oversight Committee also will hold a hearing on Thursday on the error and Obamacare’s open enrollment period, which was extended to accommodate people eligible to pay the individual mandate penalty. The committee hasn’t unveiled a witness list yet. The form incorrectly listed the 2015 premium amount instead of the 2014 amount for the second-cheapest silver plan, which is among three plan options that include gold and bronze. The premium amount represents the benchmark plan used to determine the amount of tax credits a person should receive. The administration estimates about 20 percent of Obamacare tax filers are eligible for a tax credit to lower their premiums. The wrong form was sent to 800,000 people, 50,000 of whom already filed their tax returns. The administration said Friday it is reaching out to the people who haven’t filed, and the U.S. Treasury Department will contact those who already have…”



This Week: HHS Budget Hearings Shadowed by Exchange Enrollment Tax Woes



How Obamacare Pits Insurers Against The Medical Industry

“Health plans say they were caught unprepared by the cost of covering a new cure for hepatitis C. They say they didn’t foresee the spending, and didn’t plan for it. Yet everyone else in healthcare seems to have known price tag well in advance. Wall Street analysts predicted the number of patients doctors were “warehousing” for immediate treatment. The drug’s maker, Gilead Sciences GILD +1.7%, Inc, had telegraphed the pill’s list price well before its launch. The estimated FDA approval date was known for almost two years before the medicine went on sale. In fact, a unit of United Healthcare published some of the best analysis of the projected costs – two years ago. Were the health plans being disingenuous, or purposely naïve? More likely, they were setting up a political contest that’s going to become more customary as a result of Obamacare. With insurers’ ability to raise premiums tightly controlled by Washington, and with new costs imposed through federal mandates that regulate what they must cover, the plans are going to be increasingly pressed to find political justification for premium hikes. This year, a new drug became the perfect foil. These shenanigans are not a new phenomenon – the various actors in healthcare have long treated the industry’s economics as a zero sum game. Each sector blames the others for their rising costs. Insurers, for their part, have long used healthcare charges as justification for their premium hikes, whether it’s the rising cost of hospital care, paying doctors, or — in this case – new drugs and medical devices. But Obamacare asserts tight regulation over the annual premium increases that insurers can take, nationalizing that process. Now premium increases aren’t reported on a state-by-state basis, but closely watched as a national standard. That turns the industry’s rate cycle into a closely watched political event. It will require a rotating roster of cause célèbre to give reason to premium hikes — politicizing that process. This will put insurers at odds with the products and services they purchase on behalf of their customers. To keep their hands cleaner, individual health plans will wage these national fights through their Washington trade association…”



Republican governors lobby Congress for ObamaCare fix

“Several Republican governors who are nervous about a Supreme Court ruling are asking Congress for help — even if it puts them at odds with their own party. The case, King v. Burwell, threatens to erase ObamaCare subsidies that help people in 37 states buy health insurance on the federal government’s exchange. Most of these states have Republican governors. Fallout from the case is creating a divide between GOP governors who could lose big because of the Supreme Court decision, and House and Senate leaders who believe the lawsuit is their best chance to gut the healthcare law before the 2016 presidential election. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) said he has spoken to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) about the issue at the National Governors Association this past weekend, according to The Washington Post…”



Senator to unveil plan B for ObamaCare

“The Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee on Monday said he will release a backup plan for ObamaCare in case the Supreme Court rules against the law this summer. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said he has been crafting a “solution for those Americans who may be affected” by the looming King v. Burwell case, which threatens to end healthcare subsidies for people living in 37 states. “That solution will address immediate concerns and set the stage for a more permanent solution,” Hatch said during a speech at the Heritage Foundation, about one week before oral arguments in the case are set to begin. The senator said he would share details about his plan “in the coming days.” Hatch’s announcement of an ObamaCare “backup plan” comes about two weeks after he and two other top Republicans unveiled what they called an ObamaCare replacement plan, though few conservatives rallied around it…”



Overnight Healthcare: Another backup plan for ObamaCare



Capitol Hill Buzz: Sen. Hatch prepping health plan

“Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch is backing a Supreme Court challenge to one of the keystones of President Barack Obama’s health care law. Now, he says he’s preparing a plan to help people who might be hurt if his side wins the case. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments next week in a case by conservatives and Republicans that says many subsidies the law provides for millions of people are unconstitutional. They argue that the law only allows such subsidies for the 13 states that set up their own marketplaces to sell health insurance, not the 37 states that use the federal HealthCare.gov website. Democrats say the subsidies were supposed to go to people buying policies on either the federal or state marketplaces. Should the court uphold the suit — a decision is expected in June — millions of people could be forced to drop their health coverage because those subsidies make their insurance affordable. So on Monday, Hatch, R-Utah, told an audience at the conservative Heritage Foundation that he will release “a short-term solution for those Americans that may be affected by the decision” in that case…”



A Simple Cure for ObamaCare: Freedom

The GOP needs a politically defensible alternative if the Supreme Court overturns federal-exchange subsidies.

“On March 4 the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, with a decision expected in late June. If the court strikes down the payment of government subsidies to those who bought health insurance on the federal exchange, Republicans will at last have a real opportunity to amend ObamaCare. Doing so, however, will be politically perilous. The language of the Affordable Care Act states that subsidies should only be paid through state exchanges. The bill’s authors perhaps believed that pressure from citizens…”



Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber may have padded bills to Vermont, auditor says

“A Massachusetts Institute of Technology health economist who made national headlines last year for talking about “the stupidity of the American voter” was a target Monday in a report from the Vermont state auditor saying the economist may have padded his bills to the state. Auditor of Accounts Douglas Hoffer said he referred his findings on Jonathan Gruber and his contract with the state to Attorney General William Sorrell. Hoffer said Gruber’s invoices billed Vermont $100 per hour for the work of a research assistant — 1,000 hours in 10 weeks. “To do so, the RA would have worked exclusively on this project for more than 14 hours per day — every day,” the auditor said. “The evidence suggests that Dr. Gruber overstated the hours worked by the RA and that the Agency of Administration ignored the obvious signs that something was amiss.” The attorney general said in an interview that Hoffer raised “serious questions.” Gruber said in an email Monday he did not wish to comment. An adviser to the Obama administration on the federal Affordable Care Act, Gruber told groups in 2012 and 2013 that voter stupidity and a “lack of transparency” were important to passing the hard-fought legislation. He has apologized repeatedly for his comments, saying they were uninformed, “glib, thoughtless and sometimes downright insulting.”






The Obamacare challenge that won’t die

“Back in 2010, Sen. Charles E. Grassley proposed a minor amendment to a massive health care bill, requiring that federal lawmakers and their staffs start buying coverage through new insurance marketplaces that would – if the legislation ever passed – be set up by the government. In doing so, the Iowa Republican set into motion a strange series of events, entangling both city and federal officials in Washington, triggering one of the most stubbornly resilient legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act, and ultimately giving rise to a bizarre question: Can Congress be considered a small business? In the latest chapter of the saga, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, has opened an investigation into those rules, which have resulted in members of Congress and their employees buying health plans through a new online marketplace otherwise reserved for (and offering subsidies to) small businesses in the District of Columbia. Vitter’s probe is now holding up the confirmation process for a key federal official. The law’s supporters say the investigation – which comes as the Supreme Court prepares to hear a pivotal challenge to the law this spring – is merely another attempt by critics to undermine the health care overhaul by attacking areas where the intent and the letter of the law don’t line up perfectly. Vitter says he is working to undo a so-called exemption that gives lawmakers special privileges not extended to other Americans. “There’s a real contrast between the burdens faced by small businesses under the law and this Washington exemption,” Vitter said in a recent interview. His latest probe starts with a search for Hill staffers who signed and submitted documents certifying that Congress is a small business that employs less than 100 workers. But the entire ordeal really dates back to Grassley’s fateful amendment…”



Hatch: We Need to Help Those Who Could Lose Obamacare Subsidies in Supreme Court Decision

“Senator Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican and one of the few GOP lawmakers definitely not running for president, is speaking at the Heritage Foundation today about the GOP’s plans on Obamacare and the King vs. Burwell lawsuit before the Supreme Court. The Affordable Care Act, as written, said that insurance purchasers would be eligible for a tax credit/subsidy if they bought the insurance through a state-established exchange. The Obama administration contends that they always meant to include those who purchased it through the federally run exchange as well; critics contend that the administration can’t just change what the law says because they claim to have included that provision and just forgot or didn’t write the law clearly enough. From Hatch’s speech: And that’s what’s ultimately at stake in King: Is the President bound to the law, or can he rewrite or simply ignore provisions he doesn’t like in order to further his political agenda? Advocates of the President’s position would have us believe that statutes are infinitely malleable — up can mean down, right can mean left, established by a state can mean not established by a state. What matters to them is advancing some vague notion of statutory purpose — regardless of what the statute actually says — that coheres with the President’s left-wing agenda. Those of us on the other side, however, insist that text matters, words matter. What the statute says is what matters, because at the end of the day, the words in our statutes and in our Constitution are what bind our leaders, and what prevent them from doing whatever they want. Fidelity to text is the foundation of the rule of law. Ultimately, I believe the Supreme Court is going to side with us. Assuming that’s the case, the question becomes: What do we do next? Hatch declares the GOP needs “to help the people who will be hurt by losing their subsidies because of Obamacare’s broken promises. That means providing a reasonable and responsible transition for those who may lose their subsidies while Congress works to repeal and replace Obamacare once and for all.” He says that in the coming days, he will release details on “a short-term solution for those Americans that may be affected by the decision in King. That solution will address immediate concerns and set the stage for a more permanent fix in the future.”



The Meaning of These Four Words at Center of Obamacare Supreme Court Fight



Supreme Court Obamacare case could be derailed




“…Very clear – and it means Gruber lied in his own amicus brief to the DC Circuit, when he wrote: “Appellants’ interpretation of the ACA cannot be squared with the basic economic framework undergirding that statute.” So how did Gruber try to explain away his own statements? He told Congress: “The portion of these remarks that has received so much attention lately omits a critical component of the context in which I was speaking. The point I believe I was making was about the possibility that the federal government, for whatever reason, might not create a federal exchange.” This excuse is quoted to the Supreme Court in the government’s official brief as well as amicus briefs by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, the AARP, and a group of liberal professors. But it’s a lie.  How do we know? When Rep. Scott DesJarlais pointed out the law requires a federal fallback exchange and asked Gruber why he was concerned there wouldn’t be one, Gruber said: “I was concerned about the Federal exchanges because it was a very complicated task to get them set up and we weren’t sure who would be President when the time came to stand them up.” This explanation can’t be true, because in both of the 2012 talks Gruber presented the risk of state resistance as one of the other threats to the law in addition to the risk Obama would lose reelection.  And here’s the thumper, the latest find from Weinstein.  Gruber was still publicly expressing his concerns about states not setting up exchanges after the election. In March 2013, months into Obama’s second term, Gruber said this to interviewer Gillian Roberts: “I think the piece that isn’t going so well is the next step with states.  A number of states have done a great job and are getting ready to go for 2014.  But a lot of states are uncertain and there are other states that are, unfortunately, playing a terrible political game at the cost of their state residents in not developing exchanges.” Which states, specifically? “In terms of moving the legislative process forward, California, Maryland and Connnecticut come to mind.  Massachusetts was already there, of course.  There are probably 10 states total that are ready for opening exchanges.  Then there are the ones that are part of the large middle group that are sort of tip-toeing around legislation and preparedness for the law.  The last group is the one that’s the most worrisome to me.  They’re the states that are those stick-it-to-the-man Conservative states that are trying to make political hay out of doing nothing.” Obama was already reelected.  The federal exchange was certain to be built.  Yet Gruber was most worried about those conservative states sticking it to the man by not establishing exchanges – “at the cost of their state residents.”  Clearly, his concern that non-establishing states would effectively block subsidies had nothing to do with the presidential election or a fear that the federal exchange would not be built.  Gruber was simply able to read “established by the state” and understand its obvious meaning. The government feels the need to tell the Supreme Court that Gruber’s 2012 remarks “were taken out of context.”  They weren’t.  It’s just one more Obamacare lie.”



Obama delivers plea for Medicaid expansion

“President Obama is urging more governors to get on board with a controversial part of ObamaCare that expands Medicaid for millions, stressing that its benefits are “bigger than politics.” “If your state isn’t one of the 28 that has already expanded Medicaid, I’d urge you to consider it, because our team is prepared to work with you to make it happen,” Obama told a group of state leaders gathered in D.C. for the National Governors Association conference. Obama’s remarks are aimed directly at Republican governors – as well as GOP state legislators – who have blocked or halted expansion efforts in more than two-dozen states.

That includes states, like Virginia, that are run by a Democratic governor and a GOP legislature, as well as states like Florida, in which a GOP-controlled legislature is clashing with its Republican governor over the expansion. About a half-dozen states are currently negotiating with the Obama administration, with most seeking waivers to put a conservative twist on the traditional version of Medicaid expansion….”






Medicaid rolls grew by 10M under ObamaCare

“Over 10 million people enrolled in Medicaid and the children’s health insurance program since ObamaCare’s launch a year and a half ago, the administration announced Monday. The numbers show that through the end of December 2014, 10.75 million more people are enrolled in Medicaid or the CHIP children’s health program compared to before ObamaCare’s coverage expansion took effect in 2013, about a 19 percent increase.  While 28 states have accepted the expansion of Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor, under ObamaCare some Republican-led states have declined to do so, often citing costs.  In states that expanded Medicaid, enrollment is up 27 percent compared to 2013, the administration said. By contrast, in states that have not, enrollment is up 7 percent.  The numbers come on top of the 11.4 million people who are enrolled in private insurance through ObamaCare’s marketplaces…”



Bevin would eliminate Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion

“Republican candidate for governor Matt Bevin said he would undo the expansion of the state’s Medicaid system, a move that would take away health insurance from nearly 400,000 people. Bevin is the first candidate to promise this, ensuring the Affordable Care Act will play a prominent role as four Republicans try to woo the state’s conservative voters ahead of the May 19th primary. “Absolutely. No question about it. I would reverse that immediately,” Bevin told reporters during a news conference in Shelbyville with his nine children standing behind him. “The fact that we have one out of four people in this state on Medicaid is unsustainable, it’s unaffordable and we need to create jobs in this state, not more government programs to cover people.” The federal Affordable Care Act required states to expand their Medicaid programs to cover anyone who earns up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $33,900 annually for a family of four. The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled states did not have to expand Medicaid, but they could if they wanted to. In Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear chose to expand Medicaid. And because the federal government promised to pay for 100 percent of the new enrollees for the first three years, he did not have to have the state legislature’s permission. State health officials expected about 150,000 people would enroll in the first year. Instead, the state enrolled more than twice that many. Republicans have criticized Beshear’s decision, pointing out the state would have to start paying for those people eventually and arguing taxpayers could not afford it. The state has struggled through the economic recession, ending the most recent fiscal year with a $91 million shortfall…”



This Doctor Posts His Prices Online. Health Care Should Move in Same Direction.

“There’s a cost-cutting revolution going on in American health care. Anesthesiologist and co-founder of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, a physician-owned ambulatory surgery center, Dr. Keith Smith is at the epicenter of that revolution. In a recent presentation to George Washington University medical students, Smith emphasized that health care costs are rising at unacceptable rates because of market distortions rooted in government intervention and the opaque pricing that accompanies third party payment. Smith posts prices online for his practice. His center provides care priced at one-tenth to one-fifth of what neighboring facilities bill. When Americans purchase anything other than health care, they factor in both cost and quality. For example, no one would spend 10 times more for the same quality cellphone or plumber available for less. But in health care, that kind of irrational purchasing is routine. This lack of free market forces results in waste and inefficiency among health care professionals and institutions. Smith says that by cutting extra layers that increase cost—including administrators, bureaucracies, and public and private third party payment systems—medical professionals can deliver efficient, high quality care at a reasonable price. Smith has put his money where his mouth is: he posts prices online for his practice. It quickly became clear that Smith’s surgery center provided care priced at one-tenth to one-fifth of what neighboring facilities bill while providing at least the same level of quality. Consider the growing phenomenon of Direct Primary Care, which, like Smith’s center, shows the advantages of a patient knowing prices. Instead of going through the bureaucratic apparatus of an insurance claims processing system, the patient pays the doctor directly without any additional administrative costs. This simple payment alternative allows a physician to treat patients at a relatively low price without third party interference. Direct primary care practices, can deliver high quality healthcare at a low transparent price…”





Texas Governor: Since Jan. 1, ‘We Have Had More Than 20,000 People Come Across the Border’

“”We all saw what happened on the Texas border last summer, but we need to understand that the problem is not going away,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told CBS’s “Face the Nation” with Bob Schieffer on Sunday. “Already this calendar year, since January 1, we have had more than 20,000 people come across the border, apprehended, unauthorized. And so we have an ongoing problem on the border that Congress must step up and solve…”




“A grieving Texas father told Breitbart Texas, “my son is dead because the concept of borders is dead.” Spencer Golvach was senselessly murdered by an illegal alien who had been deported a number of times after being convicted of committing crimes, including as law enforcement officers now tell us, crimes of violence. Golvach was shot in the head on January 31st while sitting in his car waiting for a stoplight to change. Golvach’s father said he wants the “boomerang” of deportation and illegal reentry into the country to be stopped…”



Obama-Nominated Judge: New Illegal Immigrants Must Be Released

“A federal judge has ordered the federal government to grant U.S. civil rights to illegals who are caught at the border, and to release all migrants except for those who may endanger Americans. The migrants “may have legitimate claims to asylum … [and] their presence here may become permanent … [so] that they are entitled to the protection of the Due Process Clause, especially when it comes to deprivations of liberty,” said the judge, who was nominated by President Barack Obama. Under current rules, border-crossers who are released are also allowed to compete against Americans for jobs, and to attend U.S. schools and to receive welfare, until their cases are decided by immigration judges. But immigration courts are already so clogged with asylum-seekers that many cases aren’t decided for several years. The slow process gives migrants many opportunities to find other legal avenues to become citizens, and full access to U.S anti-poverty programs for themselves, their parents and their children. Unless reversed, the decision opens a huge hole in U.S. border security, and likely will dramatically increase illegal immigration and competition for jobs, partly because immigration enforcement has already been greatly reduced by President Barack Obama…”



Leaked E-mail: Border Patrol Instructed to Curtail Deportation Proceedings

“President Obama claimed his executive amnesty would “stem the flow of illegal crossings and speed the return of those who do crossover.” But internal e-mails obtained by National Review Online reveal that his administration has taken steps to ensure the opposite outcome, ordering Border Patrol agents to curtail the initiation of deportation proceedings and to screen the illegal border crossers they detail for eligibility under the president’s deferred-action programs instead. Before a federal judge last week halted the president’s executive amnesty program, the Border Patrol issued new guidance to agents that would eliminate the likelihood of deportation for thousands of illegal immigrants that will encounter by Border Patrol. Border Patrol division chief Kelly C. Good e-mailed agents last month to tell them they should issue far fewer “Notices to Appear,” or NTA, in immigration court for deportation proceedings. Notices to Appear are the charging documents issued by the Department of Homeland Security, of which the Border Patrol is a part, to commence deportation proceedings. “Under the Executive Action, there will be limited instances where we will issue an NTA,” Good wrote. The result: a likely dramatic drop in the number of illegal immigrants deported from the country. Border Patrol training documents obtained by NRO and published last month by Breitbart indicate that  Border Patrol are now instructed to proactively determine whether the illegal immigrants they detain qualify for the deferred action programs authorized by Obama’s executive orders – that is, broadly speaking, whether they are parents of legal residents. The training materials distributed direct agents to “proactively identify detained and newly encountered individuals who may qualify” for the president’s programs and to refer them to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. As NRO previously reported, the federal judge’s injunction prevents Border Patrol agents from considering the president’s programs when processing individuals. But Border Patrol is still adhering to DHS secretary Jeh Johnson’s border enforcement guidelines that accompanied the president’s executive actions. So, while the president is saying one thing, his bureaucracy is doing another.”




“An Oregon Democrat believes that the fight for amnesty for illegal immigrants is the “civil rights battle” for millennials that will decide who controls the the country for the next three decades. “Immigration reform is probably the biggest issue of the 21st century,” Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) reportedly said at an “Immigration Day Action” event this weekend. “It will decide who is in charge of this country for the next 20 or 30 years.” According to the Portland Tribune, Schrader made his remarks at an event that was sponsored by Causa, a prominent Oregon pro-amnesty group, and he compared today’s amnesty fight to the civil and voting rights movements in the 1960s, saying the amnesty movement is “the civil rights battle for the younger generation.” “They, too, had a different background — different ethnicity, different race — and yet they had rights to participate in this country of ours that had been denied them,” he reportedly told the gathering at Chemeketa Community College. “This is what is at stake now for a lot of you and your families. I feel a kinship and a need to support all people who had an opportunity to come to this great country…”




“The anti-amnesty Center for Immigration Studies is offering more details on what it calls a “shadow work-permit system,” in which the Obama administration has issued millions of work permits beyond the levels mandated by Congress. CIS — which recently revised its initial estimate of the unauthorized issuance of additional new work permits up— reports that between 2009 and 2014, the Obama administration issued 7.4 million new work permits, above the annual 1.1 million new legal and 700,000 guest workers admitted to the U.S. “The huge number of work permits being issued above and beyond [congressionally mandated] limits inevitably reduces opportunities for U.S. workers, damages the integrity of the immigration system, and encourages illegal immigration,” Jessica Vaughan, CIS’ director of policy studies, writes in her report. Monday CIS revealed more details on the “shadow” system, specifically that from 2009 to 2014, of the 7.4 million permits, 4.7 million were new issuances and 2.7 million were renewals, and that the fastest growing category of issuances were those to illegal aliens, tourists, students and family members of temporary workers. The level doubled over the six year period. Further, CIS says that the largest categories of work permit issuances had an approval rate of 90 percent or greater — for example, according to CIS, the the approval rate for illegal border crossers was 90 percent, tourists as 93 percent, and unknown/unreported was 94 percent.”



Muslim Immigration Poses Serious National Security Threat



Obama administration requests stay of immigration ruling

“The Obama administration Monday sought an emergency action to lift an injunction issued by a Texas judge that would block the president’s plan to defer the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants. The Justice Department’s filing represents the government’s first formal response to U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s order in a legal fight that could be destined for review by the Supreme Court. Asserting that the injunction “vastly exceeds the relief necessary,” the government said that its request for a stay is “necessary to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security is able to most effectively protect national security, public safety and the integrity of the border.” Although the administration argued that a full stay of Hanen’s order was warranted across the nation, the Justice filing offered a alternative: suggesting that the injunction only apply to Texas — the only state whose claims of possible harm related to the president’s executive action were recognized by the judge. Texas, which led a coalition of states in the lawsuit challenging the president’s immigration action, argued that the deferred deportation program would place undue financial burdens on state governments. “The court finds that the government’s failure to secure the border has exacerbated illegal immigration into this country,” the judge stated in last week’s ruling. In the court papers filed Monday, however, the administration argued that the states “unquestionably lack any authority over the nation’s immigration policies.” “An injunction interfering with federal immigration enforcement, issued at the behest of the states, is directly contrary to the allocation of powers between the federal and state governments,” the government’s challenge stated. The administration has asked for a ruling by Wednesday. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the judge’s ruling “only makes it harder to secure the border and reform a broken immigration system.” “When an injunction is issued by a judge, it should be narrowly tailored,” he said.There are two dozen states and the District of Columbia that have come forward and said these executive actions would actually be good for their states … If the full stay is not granted, let’s at least move forward in those states where the judge has ruled — or at least not found — that there is harm.”



US seeks stay of ruling on Obama immigration action

“The U.S. government asked a federal judge Monday to lift his temporary hold on President Barack Obama’s action to shield millions of immigrants in the country illegally from deportation. The Justice Department’s motion for a stay was filed with the court of U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas. The federal government on Monday also filed a three-page notice with Hanen, telling him it is appealing his decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans… Justice Department attorneys said a stay of Hanen’s ruling is necessary “to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security is able to most effectively protect national security, public safety, and the integrity of the border.” The 20-page motion argued that keeping the temporary hold “would also harm the interests of the public and of third parties who will be deprived of significant law enforcement and humanitarian benefits of prompt implementation” of the president’s immigration action. Government lawyers also contended Hanen lacked the authority to issue the injunction, the national effect of which is “vastly” excessive. The injunction issued by Hanen should only focus on Texas “so that we can move forward with these executive actions in other states,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday. It is not unheard of for judges to delay rulings they have issued. Last year, a federal judge ruled Texas’ same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional but put that on hold to allow the state to appeal. But legal experts say it’s unlikely Hanen will put his ruling on hold, because his ruling said states would “suffer irreparable harm in this case” if Obama’s actions on immigration were to proceed while the lawsuit is argued. “Based on (Hanen’s) language, it stands to reason that if you stay this order then those harms would start to accrue and that’s the whole point of him enjoining the order in the first place,” said Pratheepan Gulasekaram, a constitutional and immigration law professor at Santa Clara University School of Law in California. The first of Obama’s orders – to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children – had been set to take effect Feb. 18. The other major part, extending deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years, was not expected to begin until May 19. The government said if Hanen doesn’t act by the end of business Wednesday, they may ask the 5th Circuit for a stay. But Lourdes Martinez, an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, said the 5th Circuit is known to be fairly conservative, and is likely to deny the request. Ultimately, it could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The stay request is separate from the Justice Department’s appeal to the 5th Circuit; documents detailing the government’s arguments have not yet been filed. That appeal would likely take anywhere from four to nine months to be ruled upon, Gulasekaram said…”



Obama administration appeals ruling on immigration orders

“In Monday’s filing, the administration asked the court to let Obama’s order go forward while the appeal is being decided. The program, which Obama announced in November, was scheduled to begin Feb. 18. “Preventing the deferred action policies from going into effect interferes with the Federal Government’s comprehensive strategy for enforcing our immigration laws,” Sarah Saldana, the director of U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, wrote in the emergency motion to stay the ruling. The government argued that the states do not have the standing to sue to block the orders because they are a choice of the federal government. The motion for stay cited the use of “prosecutorial discretion,” where the government uses its discretion to decide how to best allocate resources and apply the law. “Plaintiffs lack standing and because the Deferred Action Guidance is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion by the Secretary that is neither subject to challenge by the States, nor required to be issued through notice-and-comment rulemaking,” the motion to stay said. While Hanen’s order would halt the program nationwide, DOJ argued that Texas is the “only State whose claims of harm the Court credited.” and if a full stay is not granted the ruling should only apply to Texas. Other states, the government wrote, “have informed this Court that they desire and expect to benefit from implementation of the Deferred Action Guidance.” Twelve states and the District of Columbia have filed an amicus brief supporting Obama’s actions. The administration said that the states lack standing under Article 3 of the Constitution to prohibit DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson from implementing federal policy…”



Feds ask appeals court to restart amnesty

“The Obama administration on Monday filed both an appeal and a request for an immediate stay of last week’s court ruling halting the president’s deportation amnesty, arguing that if it can’t grant illegal immigrants work permits and Social Security numbers it cannot enforce other laws properly. Both moves were expected after the Feb. 16 ruling by Judge Andrew S. Hanen, which stopped the amnesty just two days before the first applications were expected to be filed. In court papers Monday, Justice Department and Homeland Security officials insisted that illegal immigrants will be denied benefits if they cannot immediately apply for the deportation amnesty, which grants a three-year tentative lawful status, work permits, Social Security numbers, travel rights and the right to a driver’s license to as many as 4 million illegal immigrants. “The balance of hardships tips decidedly in favor of a stay,” Joyce R. Branda, acting assistant attorney general, said in the filing. The appeal will go to the circuit appeals court that sits in New Orleans, while Ms. Branda asked Judge Hanen to issue a stay of his own injunction. In one striking request the government said at the very least the amnesty should go into effect for a dozen states that filed court papers saying they believed the program would benefit them. It marks a stunning reversal for the administration, which for years has argued against treating some states differently in immigration, saying there needs to be uniformity across the country for immigration policy to make sense…”



US seeks stay of ruling on Obama immigration action



Justice Department asks judge to halt immigration ruling, seeks appeal

“The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a motion to appeal a Texas judge’s decision to block President Obama’s executive action meant to defer deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants and is asking that judge to lift his injunction that bans the government from accepting applications for relief. The government appealed to U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who ruled last week that Texas and 25 other states have the standing to sue the White House over the immigration action. Government lawyers argue that Hanen not only lacked the authority to issue an injunction against the executive actions, but also said stopping the program would “harm the interests of the public and of third parties who will be deprived of significant law enforcement and humanitarian benefits of prompt implementation.” If DOJ cannot get a full stay, they’re asking for a stay in states other than Texas which have not made a show of “harm.” “If you won’t grant a stay for the full injunction, then you should just grant a stay so that we can move forward with these executive actions in other states,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday. DOJ’s fill appeal of Hanen’s ruling will be heard by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans. In the original lawsuit, states argued that they would suffer financial burdens as a result of Mr. Obama’s orders and that the administration had not followed required procedures for changing federal rules. “Plaintiffs will bear the costs of issuing licenses and other benefits once DAPA beneficiaries–armed with Social Security cards and employment authorization documents– seek those benefits,” Hanen wrote, referring to the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, a specific program that grants reprieve to the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens. Hanen added that the program should undergo an administrative review process…”



Obama Admin Response to Immigration Injunction: We Have to Have Amnesty In Order to Secure the Border

“It was widely expected that the Department of Justice would seek a stay of the injunction a Texas federal judge announced last week against President Obama’s most recent executive action on immigration. You might be a little surprised, though — or this non-lawyer was — but the argument they’re making for why they need a stay that would allow them to go ahead and implement the program. Josh Blackman, a law professor who’s written on President Obama’s executive amnesty for NR, quotes the argument summary (emphasis mine): “A stay pending appeal is necessary to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS” or “Department”) is able to most effectively protect national security, public safety, and the integrity of the border. Specifically, the Deferred Action Guidance enjoined by this Court is an integral part of the Department’s comprehensive effort to set and effectuate immigration enforcement priorities that focus on the removal of threats to public safety, national security risks, and recent border crossers, thereby best securing the Homeland in the face of limited resources. Absent a stay, DHS will sustain irreparable harm—harm that would not be cured, even if Defendants ultimately prevail on that appeal. Allowing the preliminary injunction to remain in place pending appeal would also harm the interests of the public and of third parties, who will be deprived of the significant law enforcement and humanitarian benefits of prompt implementation of the Guidance. When these harms are weighed against the financial injuries claimed by Plaintiffs (and found by the Court only as to Texas), the balance of hardships tips decidedly in favor of a stay; the harms claimed by Plaintiffs are not imminent and are fully within their power to avoid.” The argument, more succinctly: Unless we can open the application process to offer millions of illegal immigrants temporary legal status and work permits — a process that is likely to have little, if any, security measures or oversight – we can’t secure the border and protect the public…”



Justice Dept. Reveals Border Logic: ‘Integrity of the Border’ Best Served by Protecting Illegal Immigrants

“The Justice Department argued Monday that by stopping the Obama administration from conferring benefits to illegal immigrants, a federal court is actually making it harder for the administration to enforce U.S. immigration laws. The argument is likely to ring hollow with opponents of Obama’s plan to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation and let them work in the United States. Those opponents say Obama’s plan skirts U.S. immigration laws, and that last week’s court decision to block Obama’s plan was an effort to return to the rule of law. As expected, the Justice Department on Monday sought an emergency stay of that injunction with the same federal court. In its court filing, the department put forward the argument that protecting illegal immigrants and letting them work is an integral part of protecting the border and U.S. national security. “The preliminary injunction blocks DHS from exercising its authority, conferred by Congress, to establish ‘policies and priorities’ to enforce the nation’s immigration laws,” Justice wrote. “A stay pending appeal is necessary to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security is able to most effectively protect national security, public safety, and the integrity of the border,” it added. Last week, the Texas court said it had no problem with the administration’s decision to prioritize which illegal immigrants to deport, and which should be seen as lower-priority illegal aliens because of resource constraints. But it stopped the administration from affirmatively helping those lower-priority immigrants by officially exempting them from deportation, and by giving them work permits…”



Will Obama Shut Down DHS Over a Program He Can’t Implement?

“A federal judge’s decision to block the implementation of President Obama’s recent executive amnesty orders has changed the political calculus in Congress in the final days before the Department of Homeland Security funding lapses, but it’s not clear how. “I think everyone’s wondering whether the president is really willing to shut down DHS for an executive order he can’t even execute because the Texas judge stopped it,” one Senate Republican aide tells National Review Online. “The case for the Democrats to claim that we must fully fund whatever the president is doing when he can’t even do it is hilarious.” The judge’s order could cut the opposite direction, though, with some Republicans inclined to argue that they should not risk getting blamed for a potential shut down of DHS over a program that can’t be implemented anyway. “Our goal has been to block the president’s executive action,” a senior GOP aide tells NRO.  ”Since the courts have already done that, we’ve won that fight for the time being.  As we learned in 2013, not only will [Republicans] be blamed, but we’re likely to have less leverage – not more – if the Department shuts down.”  Multiple GOP aides suggested Congress might pass a short-term continuing resolution to fund DHS, but there’s uncertainty as to whether that would end with the GOP passing a clean DHS bill, as the Senate Democrats — who are filibustering a House-passed funding bill because it includes blocks implementation of the 2014 executive orders and the 2012 deferred action program — demand. “The question is, can Mitch McConnell find 14 Republicans to vote for a clean bill?” says one aide, referring to the number of Republicans Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) would need to join Democrats in voting for a clean DHS funding bill if he decides to go that route. The judicial intervention is temporary, pending resolution of a lawsuit filed against the 2014 orders by 26 states. Obama’s attorneys are appealing the decision and requesting that the judge issue a stay that would allow the programs to be implemented while the legal battle plays out. “Lourdes Martinez, an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco said the 5th Circuit is known to be fairly conservative, and is likely to also deny the request for a stay,” Fox News notes. One Senate aide said that GOP leadership is keeping their cards close to the vest, even within the Republican conference, in order to avoid leaks to the press. “I assume somebody somewhere has an idea of where this is going to go,” the aide says. The picture should become a little clearer as lawmakers return to D.C. this evening, when the Senate is also scheduled to vote again on a motion to proceed to the House-passed DHS funding bill. Senate Democrats are expected to persist in blocking debate on the bill.”



White House denies scare tactics in homeland security funding dispute

“The White House said Monday there was no credible terrorist threat against the Mall of America in Minnesota, and denied that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s warning to shoppers was a scare tactic in the administration’s immigration funding battle with congressional Republicans. “The intelligence community has said that they are not aware of any specific, credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic commercial shopping center here in the United States,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “I think what the secretary is trying to say … is the American people should remain vigilant.” The mixed message came after Mr. Johnson issued what sounded to many like an ominous warning on Sunday. “If anyone is planning to go to the Mall of America today, they’ve got to be particularly careful,” Mr. Johnson said on CNN. “There will be enhanced security there, but public vigilance, public awareness and public caution in situations like this is particularly important, and it’s the environment we’re in, frankly.” The Islamist terrorist group Al-Shabaab has heavily targeted recruiting efforts in the Minneapolis area, home to the largest Somali population in the U.S. The group’s leader was killed by the U.S. in an air strike in Somalia last year, and Al-Shabaab has vowed to avenge his death. Asked by a reporter if Mr. Johnson’s warning was meant to “scare” lawmakers who have stalled homeland security funding, Mr. Earnest was succinct. “No, it did not,” he said. But Mr. Obama also told the nation’s governors Monday that the funding impasse over his temporary immigration amnesty would have “a direct impact on America’s national security” because border patrol agents and others won’t receive paychecks after the end of this month. “Their hard work helps to keep us safe,” Mr. Obama said. “And as governors, you know that we can’t afford to play politics with our national security.”



DHS Secretary Warns as DHS Bill Comes Up: ‘If Anyone Is Planning to Go to The Mall…’

“Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson went on the Sunday talk shows to demand that Republicans fund the Department of Homeland Security without blocking money for President Obama’s executive amnesty plan. But he prefaced his you-better-fund-my-department pitch by warning that an al Qaeda-linked terror group, Al-Shabaab, is publicly calling for attacks on shopping malls in the United States, specifically the Mall of America in Minneapolis. “I would say that, if anyone is planning to go to the Mall of America today, they have got to be particularly careful. And, as the statement you read indicates, there will be enhanced security there that will be apparent to people who are there,” Johnson told CNN’s “State of the Union” with Gloria Borger…”



‘No credible plot’: DHS distances itself from chief’s ‘mall terror threat’ warnings

“The Department of Homeland Security has denied it is aware of any credible terrorist plots against shopping centers on US soil after their chief advised shoppers, particularly in the Mall of America, to be careful following threats from Somali extremists. “We are not aware of any specific, credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic commercial shopping center,” Homeland Security Department spokeswoman Marsha Catron said in a statement. She noted, however, that federal agents have shared the information with local law enforcement and “private sector partners.” Earlier on Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson spoke on CNN’s State of the Union about the threat made in a video attributed to Somalia’s Al-Shabaab radical group. “Anytime a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we’ve got to take that seriously,” he said, calling for caution by those visiting US malls, particularly one of the world’s largest – the Mall of America. “This latest statement from Al-Shabaab reflects the new phase we’ve evolved to in the global terrorist threat, in that you have groups such as Al-Shabaab and ISIL publicly calling for independent actors in their homelands to carry out attacks,” Johnson said…”



Obama says Congress could hurt state economies. But states are hurting themselves, too.

“President Obama on Monday warned a group of the nation’s governors that Republican threats to withhold funding for the Department of Homeland Security would hurt state economies. Republicans frustrated by the president’s executive action on immigration appear ready to let DHS funding expire by a Friday deadline, after which most of the department’s employees will have to continue working without the promise of pay. “Unless Congress acts, one week from now more than 100,000 DHS employees—border patrol, port inspectors, TSA agents—will show up to work without getting paid,” Obama said. “They all worked in your states. These are folks, who if they do not have a paycheck, are not going to be able to spend that money in your states. It will have a direct impact on your economy…”



Obama to governors: DHS shutdown will hurt you, too



Obama warns governors of impact of Homeland Security spending lapse



Obama warns governors DHS shutdown will impact states

“President Obama on Monday warned state governors that the looming Homeland Security shutdown could have a direct impact on local economies, casting it as the latest of the “manufactured crises and self inflicted wounds” bogging down Congress. “Unless Congress acts, one week from now, more than 100,000 DHS employees, border patrol, port inspectors, TSA agents, will show up to work without getting paid,” said Obama during a White House speech to the National Governors Association.  “They all work in your states. These are folks that, if they don’t get a pay check, will not be able to spend that money in your states.”

The White House is ramping up its warnings with Congress facing a Friday deadline to fund the Department of Homeland Security before its cash runs out. Republicans want to use a funding bill as a vehicle to halt the president’s recent immigration executive actions, but Democrats aren’t backing that proposal and instead are calling for a clean funding bill.  White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that a Department of Homeland Security shutdown might be in sight, as he’s not confident that Congress will pass a funding bill before the Friday deadline. “That does seem to be where we are headed, and that’s disappointing,” Earnest said. “But hopefully, maybe after spending a week at home, or wherever Congress has been for the last 10 days, that they’ll have a chance to clear their heads and maybe come to their senses, even. And as long as they are collecting a paycheck, they might as well do their jobs.” The funding fight wasn’t the only issue on Obama’s mind Monday, as he also highlighted the bipartisan group of governors that agreed to extend Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. “If your state isn’t one of the 28 that’s expanded Medicaid, I’d urge you to consider it, because our team is prepared to work with you to make it happen,” Obama said. “Because some of you may not always agree with my approach or policies, I think we can all agree that it’s a good thing when a family doesn’t lose a home just because a member of that family gets sick.”



Obama Makes Bottom-Line Pitch to Governors Over Homeland Security Funding

“President Barack Obama warned the nation’s governors Monday that if the Department of Homeland Security is not fully funded, it will mean financial harm to their states. “Unless Congress acts one week from now, more than 100,000 DHS employees, border patrol, port inspectors, TSA agents, will show up to work without getting paid,” Obama said at the White House, speaking on the final day of the National Governors Association winter meeting. “They all work in your states. These are folks who if they don’t have a paycheck, they are not going to be able to spend that money in your states and it will have a direct impact on your economy.” Congressional Republicans do not want to fund Obama’s executive actions on immigration, leading to an impasse over the $40 billion spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. Obama says he will veto legislation that does not fund his immigration action, but the White House has been unclear about whether it would support a continuing resolution to temporarily fund the department. Last week, a federal judge dealt a setback to the administration with a temporary injunction against the executive actions. The Justice Department has since announced it will seek an emergency stay against the injumction. Obama said that withholding DHS funding “will have a direct impact on America’s national security because their hard work helps to keep us safe. As governors know, you know we can’t play politics with out national security…”



Governors: Obama Won’t Ask Senate Dems to Stop Delaying Vote on Republican DHS Funding Bill

“President Barack Obama told the nation’s governors Monday that he will not ask Senate Democrats to stop filibustering a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security without funding his executive actions on immigration, two governors told reporters. Last week, Senate Democrats stopped the DHS funding bill from coming to a vote on three occasions. During a question-and-answer session with governors, Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence asked Obama about whether he would call on Senate Democrats to allow a vote. The National Governors Association has been having its winter meeting in Washington. “Governor Pence said to the president that he might consider the Senate Democrats allowing a vote on the bill for DHS as an up or down vote, then see what happens in court and deal with immigration later,” Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin told reporters. Fallin was among a group of governors who spoke to the press in front of the White House after the meeting with Obama; Pence was not among them. Obama issued executive actions late last year to shield about 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation. Republicans in Congress have sought to fund the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration enforcement, without paying for the implementation of Obama’s executive actions. “The president did not agree to tell the Democrats to allow there to be a vote and he said he would veto the bill if it came to his desk with the language as its currently written,” Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal told reporters. Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, the NGA chairman, initially didn’t answer when the question came up about Senate Democrats, but tried to strike a balanced tone. “The governors didn’t take one slant or another,” Hickenlooper said. “The governors said, we are fed up. Every single state is dependent on homeland security resources. As a temporary solution, a continuing resolution, doesn’t address the grants. If someone does have a natural disaster, how do they use the traditional federal resources to start the resiliency and the rebuilding. We didn’t get into who’s right or who’s wrong.”



Governors: Obama Won’t Try To Stop DHS Filibuster

“President Barack Obama told the nation’s governors Feb. 23 that he won’t ask Senate Democrats to end their filibuster of the homeland security budget. He “refused to do that,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told The Daily Caller as he walked out of the White House after the meeting with the president. “Obama absolutely should tell the Democratic senators to allow a vote,” Jindal said. “But even more importantly than that, the president should stop his attempt to to go around the Congress, to go around the law, to go around the constitution and to unilaterally impose his amnesty,” he said. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence asked the question during the White House meeting…”



Virginia Reps Pressure Senators To Drop DHS Funding Filibuster

“A group of Virginia Republican representatives put the spotlight on their Democratic senators, urging them to stop voting to filibuster the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill that denies funding for President Obama’s immigration executive orders. “This vote transcends policy,” the lawmakers, including House Judiciary Committee chairman wrote in the letter. “The true threat is that any future President will take this precedent and choose which laws they wish to enforce and ignore the will of Congress and the American people. We have reached a moment of constitutional crisis. We implore you not to give up the power with which our constituents have entrusted us. Exercise your authority, which the president’s recent action seeks to nullify.” The group of eight Republicans includes House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, whose committee has jurisdiction over the interior enforcement of immigration laws, and Representative Dave Brat, who defeated then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by campaigning against the Senate’s Gang of Eight immigration bill. The letter was also signed by Representative Barbara Comstock, Representative Randy Forbes, Represetative Morgan Griffith, Representative Robert Hurt,  Representative Scott Rigell, and Representative Rob Wittman. “We agree with Senator Warner’s assertion last September: on ‘a big issue like immigration the best way to get a comprehensive solution is to take this through the legislative process,’” the letter says. “We agree with the 22 occasions in which President Obama said to take such action unilaterally would be illegal, unconstitutional and imperial.”  The short-term continuing resolution to fund DHS expires on February 27…”



Hassan calls for clean Homeland Security funding bill

“Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan on Monday called on Congress to pass a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security that does not include efforts to overturn the president’s executive actions on immigration. Hassan’s comments came after a weekend in Washington for the National Governors Association’s winter meeting. Homeland Security funding is set to run out Friday if Congress doesn’t pass a bill. The House passed a funding bill that aims to stop President Barack Obama’s executive order that would allow immigrant parents of U.S. citizens to stay in the country. The bill is now stalled in the Senate. A federal judge in Texas recently ruled to halt implementation of the order, and Hassan says the immigration issue should play out in court rather than be tied to Homeland Security funding. Hassan said it’s important to “keep those workers in those very important Homeland Security positions and take up the immigration matter once the court acts on it.” During the weekend meeting, Hassan met with the governors of New England to discuss regional energy issues. The group hopes to meet again in March or April to talk about diversifying the region’s energy sources and expanding natural gas supply, Hassan said. As opioid addiction continues to rise in New England, the governors also discussed the possibility of sharing prescription drug-monitoring data across state lines. Hassan did not comment on recent accusations from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, that she is using her job as governor to set herself up for a U.S. Senate bid…”



DHS staff would remain on the job with no pay if Congress does not fund agency



Amnesty contract canceled as White House struggles to comply with ruling

Republicans seek honorable retreat from homeland security funding fight amid shutdown fears

“The Homeland Security Department quietly canceled one of its major amnesty contracts after a judge’s ruling against the program last week, but officials have struggled to explain how they are complying otherwise even as the administration filed an appeal Monday asking that it be allowed to begin processing applications immediately. Republicans on Capitol Hill searched for an honorable retreat from a fight over homeland security funding that could cast blame on them for a second partial government shutdown in 17 months. Meanwhile, President Obama’s lieutenants struggle to figure out how to live up to Judge Andrew S. Hanen’s ruling. In a notice posted Friday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it had “hereby cancelled” a contract that would have hired hundreds of outside workers to receive and process amnesty applications. USCIS refused to say whether it is still spending money to hire its own workers or prepare for other parts of the amnesty even after Judge Hanen ruled Feb. 16 that it ran afoul of the law. The agency also has left immigrant rights groups struggling to understand what happens to so-called Dreamers, who are eligible for a 2012 amnesty but who were poised for more benefits under the expanded amnesty. One immigration lawyer said the White House was trying to figure out how to comply with the judge’s ruling without demoralizing millions of illegal immigrants eagerly awaiting the chance to apply for the amnesty, fearing another disappointing legal defeat could cripple the program. After a week of debate, the administration filed an appeal asking Judge Hanen for an emergency stay of his own injunction. The appeal said the administration wanted to start the expanded amnesty for Dreamers as soon as possible. “This reflects our commitment to trying to work this through the legal process as quickly as possible,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. The case likely will be sent to an appeals court in New Orleans and, eventually, to the Supreme Court. The administration signaled that it is determined to begin approving at least some amnesty applications as soon as possible. The longer the process waits, the more agents in the field will be pursuing immigrants whom Mr. Obama will never deport anyway, the administration argued. “If law enforcement organizations do not ensure that their limited resources are directed to their highest priorities, overall public safety might be compromised,” Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said in an affidavit. The administration was so eager to approve some applications that it asked Judge Hanen to allow the amnesty to begin in at least a dozen states that have told the court they support the program. The request marked a striking turnaround for Mr. Obama, who just a few years ago took Arizona to court arguing that the state’s laws were creating a patchwork of the immigration system. The 26 states that sued to stop the amnesty, led by Texas, told Judge Hanen that there should be no rush to lift his injunction. They noted that Mr. Obama’s attorneys waited a full week before filing their request…”



Senate Dems block GOP effort to tie DHS funding to Obama immigration actions

“Senate Democrats blocked legislation Monday that would have rolled back President Obama’s executive actions on immigration in exchange for funding the Department of Homeland Security through September. But soon after the early evening vote — the fourth Senate attempt to block Obama’s controversial decision to grant work permits to millions of illegal immigrants — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suggested separate legislation to combat Obama’s executive actions. “The new bill I described offers another option we can turn to. It’s another way to get the Senate unstuck from a Democrat filibuster and move the debate forward,” McConnell said on the Senate floor after a vote to advance the House-passed bill failed 47-46, short of the 60 votes needed. Three previous attempts earlier in the month had yielded similar results. It was not clear whether McConnell’s gambit would succeed ahead of Friday’s midnight deadline to fund the department or see it shut down. It was far from certain whether it would win any Democratic support, and House conservatives remain firmly opposed to any funding bill for the Homeland Security Department that does not also overturn Obama’s executive actions on immigration. If no funding deal is reached by the deadline, the DHS could partially shut down, resulting in the furloughs of roughly 30,000 DHS employees. About 200,000 others would continue to work, but they would receive no pay until Congress authorizes funding. It’s a reality that was on display during the 16-day government-wide shutdown in the fall of 2013, when national parks and monuments closed but essential government functions kept running, albeit sometimes on reduced staff…”



Senate Dems to block Homeland Security funding bill again

“The Republican-led Senate will vote on Monday — for the fourth time in as many weeks — to begin debate on a stalled funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, which faces a Friday deadline. But like the three votes before it, Senate Democrats are expected to block taking up the bill that passed the GOP-controlled House because it contains what they consider poison pills — provisions that would block President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration. With only four days before DHS funding ends — when large parts of the agency will be shuttered or employees will be forced to work without pay — the two sides are at a stalemate and there are no known serious negotiations involving congressional leaders or the White House to bridge differences. “We passed a bill that fully funds the department,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said in an interview on CNN. “We’ll probably see something come from the Senate this week and we’ll have to make some tough choices.” While it wasn’t clear what McCaul expects back from the Senate — since the chamber can’t even take up a bill right now — the chairman warned that with the recent surge in deadly terrorist attacks abroad, “It would be irresponsible for lawmakers and policy-makers to shut down his national security agency at this grave time.” Democrats hoped a recent ruling from a federal judge in Texas blocking, at least temporarily, implementation of the President’s most recent immigration orders, would give Republicans a reason to fund the department while the issue plays out in court. But there was little evidence GOP lawmakers would do so. In fact, Republicans continued to try to pressure centrist Democrats, some who have not fully embraced the President’s immigration orders, to change their minds and vote to block Obama from carrying them out. House Republicans from Virginia wrote a letter to the state’s two Democratic senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, urging them to approve the House bill….”



Dems Block DHS Funding — Again — With Just Four Days Left Before a Partial DHS Shutdown

“Senate Democrats blocked legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security for the fifth time on Monday, leaving just four days before DHS funding expires, and with no apparent way forward to break the deadlock. Republicans have insisted that the Senate should take up the House-passed bill for weeks, but Democrats have refused because they oppose language that would defund President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration. Monday evening, the Senate voted 47-46 to move the bill ahead, but because 60 votes were needed, the majority vote wasn’t enough to advance the legislation. That reflects the same lack of Democratic support as three prior roll call votes — Democrats also blocked a unanimous consent request to get on the bill earlier in the month. The fight has led to an endless back-and-forth between the parties over who would be blamed if DHS were partially shut down after Friday, when funding for the department expires. Republicans have said it’s the fault of Democrats, since the vote so far is only to allow the Senate to proceed to the bill, after which senators could consider amendments. “The point is, it’s time to allow this Homeland Security funding measure to come to the floor,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “Democrats say they want the ability to amend DHS’ funding legislation. But then they keep voting to block their own ability to offer amendments.” Democrats have insisted that it’s really the Republicans who are blocking DHS funding, by not putting up a “clean” DHS bill that Democrats can support. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) repeated this argument today after McConnell spoke. “I’m very disappointed… at the political ploy used by the congressional Republican leadership to force a shutdown of Homeland Security,” Reid said. On Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson declared flatly that “Democrats are not blocking debate.”



Democrats block fourth attempt to advance Homeland spending bill



Senate Democrats Show Limits of GOP Spending Strategy

“When Republican leaders seized control of the Senate, they quickly targeted must-pass appropriations bills — not shutdown showdowns — as their best tool for reining in the Obama White House. Two months into the 114th Congress, they have run smack into the limits of that strategy. The immigration fight that has stalemated the fiscal 2015 Homeland Security spending bill, leaving the department days away from a possible shutdown, makes clear the high hurdles that remain for getting bills to President Barack Obama’s desk. Even worse for Republicans, Senate Democrats found a strategy that has left the GOP feuding with itself over who needs to make the next move. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Late last year, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell explained his plan to CQ Roll Call in an interview. “If you believe one of the biggest problems confronting the country is over-regulation by this administration, the single most effective way to begin to rein in the aggressive regulators, who in my view have done great damage to this economy, is in the bills that fund the regulators,” the Kentucky Republican said. McConnell has encouraged GOP senators to use the 12 must-pass spending bills to impose limits on the president’s signature policies, from EPA greenhouse gas regulations to the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul, and his junior colleagues appear to be taking that message to heart. “I say we put not dozens, not hundreds, but thousands of instructions to the president on how it should be spent,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told a local radio audience late last year. But other Republicans on both sides of the Dome say GOP lawmakers need to temper their expectations given the threat of Democratic filibusters. Quietly, they are trying to make the case to colleagues that there’s a sweet spot between attacking the Obama administration agenda and crafting legislation that can actually make it to the president. “Part of our challenge right now as Republicans is to try to tamp down expectations,” said Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho, a senior GOP appropriator. “It’s nice to have Republican chairmen of committees that we’re working with to negotiate bills out and stuff, but the general public thinks we’re in total control and can do anything now. The rules of the Senate don’t allow that.” At a briefing with reporters early this month, Sen. Lisa Murkowski made much the same case. “We are going to be working aggressively every step of the way to put together a bill that is responsive and is something that we can gain support for passage — not a messaging bill, but support for passage,” the Alaska Republican said of the perennially contentious Interior-Environment measure she’ll be in charge of crafting this year….”



GOP leader offers immigration vote to try to resolve impasse

“Days from a Homeland Security Department shutdown, Senate Republicans sought a way out Monday by splitting President Barack Obama’s contested immigration measures from the agency’s funding bill. It was not clear whether the gambit by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would succeed ahead of Friday’s midnight deadline to fund the department or see it shut down. It was far from certain whether it would win any Democratic support, and House conservatives remain firmly opposed to any funding bill for the Homeland Security Department that does not also overturn Obama’s executive actions on immigration. But with Senate Democrats united against a House-passed bill that funds the agency while blocking the president on immigration, McConnell said it was time for another approach. “It’s another way to get the Senate unstuck from a Democrat filibuster and move the debate forward,” McConnell said on the Senate floor after a vote to advance the House-passed bill failed 47-46, short of the 60 votes needed. Three previous attempts earlier in the month had yielded similar results. “This is our colleagues’ chance to do exactly what they led their constituents to believe they’d do: defend the rule of law, without more excuses,” McConnell said in a jab at the handful of Senate Democrats who have voiced opposition to Obama’s executive actions offering work permits and deportation deferrals for millions in the country illegally. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, welcomed McConnell’s move, though without predicting its chances of success in the House…”



McConnell Offers Plan to Break DHS Logjam

“Just days from a shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has begun to pivot toward a new strategy to separate funding for the Department of Homeland Security from the GOP’s plan to roll back President Barack Obama’s immigration actions. The Kentucky Republican offered a standalone bill focused on the 2014 immigration actions alone after Democrats for the fourth time filibustered the House-passed DHS bill, this time on a 47-46 vote, 13 shy of the 60 needed to advance. “It isn’t tied to DHS funding. It removes their excuse,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor. “This is our colleagues’ chance to do exactly what they led their constituents to believe they’d do: defend the rule of law, without more excuses.” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who had pushed a strategy of only targeting the most recent actions as part of the Homeland Security Department funding debate, said Monday that last week’s court ruling in Texas could provide the opening for avoiding a shutdown. “I hope that now that the court has ruled that perhaps one way would be to have a clean DHS funding bill and a resolution that puts the Senate in support of the court’s ruling,” Collins said. “I’ve always thought the judicial system was an alternative way to deal with the president’s overreach last November, and now that one court has ruled to put a stay on his executive order, perhaps that frees us to go forward and get the department fully funded. Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, welcomed McConnell’s latest maneuvering. “This vote will highlight the irresponsible hypocrisy of any Senate Democrat who claims to oppose President Obama’s executive overreach on immigration, but refuses to vote to stop it.  If we are going to work together on the American peoples priorities, Washington Democrats must be honest with the people they represent,” Steel said in a statement. McConnell’s maneuver comes as he faces pressure from both sides of his party to act to break the logjam. Moderates like Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, both of whom are up in 2016, want to avoid a shutdown showdown over the immigration issue…”



GOP uncouples immigration fight from Homeland funding bill

“With just four days remaining before Department of Homeland Security funding runs out, Senate Republicans Monday signaled they could be edging toward a solution to end weeks of spending gridlock with Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., introduced standalone legislation to block President Obama’s November executive action that permits millions of illegal immigrants to obtain work permits and some federal benefits. The move uncouples the GOP-backed provision curbing the president’s executive actions from a $40 billion Homeland Security spending bill that Democrats have been blocking because it includes the immigration language. “The new bill I described offers another option we can turn to,” McConnell said Monday. “It’s another way to get the Senate unstuck from a Democrat filibuster and move the debate forward.” The measure would not block the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The DACA program was implemented by Obama through executive action in 2012 and allows young people who arrived here illegally as children to obtain work permits and federal benefits. “It isn’t tied to DHS’ funding,” McConnell said. “It removes their excuse. This is our colleagues’ chance to do exactly what they led their constituents to believe they’d do — defend the rule of law, without more excuses.” McConnell introduced the new legislation after Democrats for the fourth time Monday blocked the GOP’s effort to to advance the spending bill. Congress faces a Feb. 27 deadline to reach a deal on a funding bill or the department will face a partial closure. Republicans, who control both the House and Senate, have not confirmed they will pass a short-term funding measure by the end of the week but Republican leaders have said repeatedly they plan to avoid politically-damaging government shutdowns while they control the gavel in both chambers for the first time in eight years…”




“Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is seeking to break an impasse over funding for the Homeland Security Department by allowing a vote to overturn President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. McConnell announced the new strategy Monday night after Senate Democrats united for the fourth time against House-passed legislation that funds the department through the budget year while also blocking Obama’s immigration moves. McConnell said his new bill offers a way out of the impasse, days ahead of Friday night’s deadline for funding for the Homeland Security Department to expire. The bill offers a stand-alone vote against the immigration policies.”



McConnell Unveils Anti-Executive Amnesty Bill That Isn’t Tied to DHS Funding

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) unveiled legislation targeting President Obama’s most recent executive orders on immigration that does not withhold funding for the programs, after Senate Democrats once again filibustered a motion to debate the House-passed Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill. “Some Democrats give the impression they want Congress to address the overreach,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “But when they vote, they always seem to have an excuse for supporting actions they once criticized. So I’m going to begin proceedings on targeted legislation that would only address the most recent overreach from November. It isn’t tied to DHS’ funding. It removes their excuse.” An aide to House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) hailed the bill as a way to flush out Democrats who claim to oppose Obama’s executive amnesty but have closed ranks around the funding bill. “This vote will highlight the irresponsible hypocrisy of any Senate Democrat who claims to oppose President Obama’s executive overreach on immigration, but refuses to vote to stop it,” said spokesman Michael Steel.  “If we are going to work together on the American peoples priorities, Washington Democrats must be honest with the people they represent.” As uncomfortable as the vote might be for some Democrats, McConnell’s gambit frustrates some conservative lawmakers who note that Obama can veto any legislation targeting the orders and then implement his programs with funding provided through a clean DHS appropriations package. “Cave, cave, cave,” one Republican lawmaker says. “It would pass with unanimous Dem support and fractured GOP support in each house — not exactly what the base will want to see.” “If this is where McConnell wants to go, I’m not sure why doesn’t just Rule 14 a new appropriations bill, but which only defunds the November 2014 stuff,” says a Senate aide, referring to the rule that allows the Senate majority leader to bypass the committee process and bring a bill straight to the floor. “That would create the same political problem, but actually have a path to passage.” Another conservative Senate aide, though, maintained that Republicans can content themselves with putting red-state Senate Democrats in the position of having to defend the executive amnesty, votes that could imperil their reelection prospects…”



GOP leader offers immigration vote to try to resolve impasse



McConnell offers way out of Homeland Security impasse



Senate GOP ready to split DHS funding and blocking Obama’s amnesty into separate bills?

“We knew it would come to this. Alternate headline: “Party that promised to avoid shutdowns will avoid shutdown.” At least we’ll get some entertainment over the next few days from GOP aides trying to convince the media this isn’t a total cave. Senate Republican leaders are plotting a new strategy that they hope will allow them to prevent a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) next week. They are considering a plan in which they would split off legislation attacking President Obama’s executive action on immigration from funding for DHS, according to a Senate GOP aide familiar with the discussions. Senate GOP leaders are also looking at dropping any effort to overturn Obama’s 2012 executive action, which set up the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Polls suggest this program is more popular because it helps illegal immigrants who came to the country as children… “We would try to have a vote on just that issue,” the aide added. “Does it have to be addressed as part of DHS, or can it be addressed separately? If we can get to that issue and have a vote on that issue, then you come back to DHS appropriations. The point of the cromnibus in linking DHS funding to blocking Obama’s executive amnesty was to put extra pressure on Senate Dems and Obama to agree to the GOP’s demand. Want Homeland Security (or at least its nonessential agencies) to keep running? Aha! — better join Republicans in undoing O’s immigration action then. Two months later, delinking the funding is supposedly the way to put pressure on Obama and the Dems. Want to force Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill, and other centrists to take a truly tough vote on all this? Aha! — pass a clean funding bill for DHS, taking that issue off the table, and then present them with a new bill focused squarely on overturning Obama’s November mega-amnesty. You can tell your party’s being run by master strategists when their grand plan for achieving an important goal involves doing the exact opposite of what they wanted to do as recently as six weeks ago. Gonna be a fun two years for the new majority…”



GOP senator: Court’s action could pave way for ‘clean’ funding bill

“Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Monday said a court’s move to temporarily halt President Obama’s immigration action could pave the way for passage of a “clean” bill funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). “My hope is now that the court has ruled, that perhaps one way would be to have a clean DHS funding bill and a resolution that puts the Senate in support of the court’s ruling,” Collin told reporters before the Senate voted for a fourth time to open debate on the House-passed DHS funding bill that would reverse Obama’s immigration actions. “I’ve always thought the judicial system was an alternative way to deal with the president’s overreach last November and now that one court has ruled to put a stay on his executive order, perhaps that frees us to move forward and get the department fully funded,” Collins added.  Collins noted her idea is similar to the proposal she floated several weeks ago that would only defund Obama’s 2014 executive orders, but protect the 2012 order that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that defers deportations for people who came to the United States illegally as children. Several other GOP senators have suggested over the last week that the injunction issued by a Texas judge last week could give Republicans a way out of the funding debate. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) suggested to reporters Monday evening that Republicans could move forward by filing an amicus brief in support of the new ruling while funding DHS.  “You can also file an amicus in that just like we did in the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case and that’s a good way to litigate that if the president acts beyond his authority as he did in the NLRB case to pursue our disapproval of his executive order, but then we need to fund DHS,” Ayotte said. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, put a standalone bill on the calendar that would defund Obama’s immigration actions.  The Senate GOP conference is expected to huddle Tuesday afternoon to discuss how to move forward. The House, meanwhile, doesn’t return to Capitol Hill until Tuesday evening for votes.  Congress has less than five days to fund DHS and prevent a partial government shutdown.”




“Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) Monday became the most senior Republican lawmaker to support eliminating the filibuster in order to break an impasse over a Department of Homeland Security spending bill. The Alabama Republican, the chairman of the powerful Senate Banking Committee, said Democrats had “broken the eggs” a year ago in using the so-called “nuclear option” to end filibusters of presidential nominees. “My own view is we should go ahead and break some more eggs. It’s just a rule, it’s not a law, it’s a rule that the Senate sets. And the rule is that each Congress makes its own rule,” Shelby said. Calls to end the filibuster had previously come from House backbenchers and conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer. Several of Shelby’s colleagues indicated support for the move was not widespread within the GOP conference.”



Don’t Nuke the Filibuster

“It is a tool for limited government. With Senate Democrats still refusing to allow a vote on funding the Department of Homeland Security — in part because the Republicans’ bill defunds the president’s executive action on immigration, an issue they fear voting on — some on the right are calling for Senate Republicans to “go nuclear” and eliminate all uses of the filibuster. Advocates of the nuclear option note that Harry Reid pioneered it back in 2013, when he eliminated most filibusters on presidential nominees, and they argue that nuking the filibuster the rest of the way would benefit the GOP politically. While nuclear-option advocates are no doubt well intended, they are both tactically and strategically mistaken. Exercising the nuclear option would not even be winning a battle only to lose the war; it would be losing the war to execute a military maneuver that might not even help win a battle. In the short term, going nuclear would at most provide Republicans with a couple of extra talking points. Republicans could blame the White House for vetoing the DHS bill — as President Obama has already vowed to do — rather than Senate Democrats for not allowing a vote. However, it’s not clear what would really be gained. Blaming the White House doesn’t give the GOP much more real leverage, and it doesn’t avoid the real procedural obstacle: the promised veto itself, which would trigger a showdown with Congress and possibly a “shutdown” of the department, whose funding expires Friday. For this small-to-nonexistent gain, Republicans would trade away a valuable tool for limited government. A source of constant frustration for many far-left ideologues is the prevalence of checks and balances throughout the federal government. These checks and balances make it hard to impose radical change upon the country. As even nuclear-option proponent Charles Krauthammer has long argued, American politics has often been played between the 40-yard lines; in many European nations, by contrast, the political extremes tend to exert more influence. The institutional DNA of the United States — especially the difficulty of passing new laws — might help explain some of this emphasis on political moderation…”



Lindsey Graham: DHS Shutdown ‘Bad Strategy,’ Republicans ‘Will Get Blamed’

“South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham insisted that the GOP-led Congress pass a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security this week, calling the continued resistance of some of his fellow Republicans “bad strategy.” Homeland Security is set to run out of money on Friday, the result of a Republican attempt to thwart President Obama’s unilateral executive amnesty by denying funding to the agency charged with its implementation. The House has sent a bill to the Senate that would restore funding to all DHS operations not related to executive amnesty, but that bill would inevitably be stopped by a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. And the White House has so far refused to budge on its plans, betting that the American people will blame Republicans if DHS goes dark. Graham agrees, on Monday doubling down on his prior statement that the courts, not Congress, will decide the immigration issue. “Bad strategy,” he told Fox and Friends, referring to the brinksmanship favored by lawmakers like Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz. “For God’s sake, don’t shut down the premier homeland security defense line called the Department of Homeland Security,” the senator said. “If we do, as Republicans, we’ll get blamed.”






Why Congress doesn’t need to shut down Homeland Security this week

“The Department of Homeland Security will run out of money if Congress doesn’t approve a new round of funding for the agency by Sunday. Republicans have threatened to withhold appropriations for the agency until President Obama halts his recent executive actions to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. The two sides haven’t flinched from their respective positions in recent weeks, leaving Homeland Security bracing for a shutdown. But a recent court decision has made all the brinksmanship unnecessary, at least for the near future…”




“A core group of House Republicans are currently signing on to a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise urging them to hold the line against funding for President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) is leading the effort to thank leadership, and urging it to remain stalwart. “We write you today to thank you for standing firm and forcing the Senate to act on a Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill that stops President Obama’s unlawful executive actions on immigration,” the Republican House members who have thus far signed Duncan’s letter write to Boehner, Scalise and McCarthy. “The House of Representatives continues to reflect the will and sentiment of the majority of Americans by combatting the President’s executive overreach.” Republicans who have signed Duncan’s letter include: Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Ryan Zinke (R-MT), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Steve King (R-IA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), John Fleming (R-LA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Gary Palmer (R-AL), Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Curt Clawson (R-FL), Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Mark Sanford (R-SC) and Walter Jones (R-NC). “The Federal District Court’s concerns with the President’s executive actions on immigration are very encouraging,” they write….”



Face in the News: DHS shutdown nears, immigration policy in limbo, Ukraine crisis deepens

“After a week that featured debate in Washington over the semantics of the war against ISIS, there were major developments in a war raging in a very different region: Ukraine. After weeks of fighting that wasn’t even stopped by a cease-fire deal, Ukrainian troops withdrew this week from the key railroad city of Debaltseve, effectively surrendering the town Russian-backed rebels. And while that fight is over, Ukraine says Russia is sending in more troops and tanks for the next battle. The U.S. and its allies have so far decided against giving weapons to Ukraine to help them with the fight – a decision that was criticized sharply Sunday on “Face The Nation” by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. “They’re asking for weapons to defend themselves, and they are being slaughtered, and their own military’s being shattered,” McCain said. “This is a shameful chapter. I’m ashamed of my country, I’m ashamed of my president, and I’m ashamed of myself that I haven’t done more to help these people.” McCain’s comments were covered by UPI, Time, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Washington Times, the Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller and Newsmax. Looking beyond that conflict, the top story in Washington this week was homeland security…”



NBC Nightly News Omits Obama’s Amnesty While Covering the Homeland Security Funding Battle



On Amnesty, the DOJ Grasps at Legal Straws

“No, DHS may not grant work permits to whomever it wishes. Judge Hanen’s Presidents’ Day drubbing of Obama’s amnesty agenda was so comprehensive in its rebuttal of the DOJ’s arguments that the DOJ’s initial reaction was stunned silence rather the immediate flurry of filings that usually follow their rare defeats. In his ruling, the judge swiftly smacked down the Department of Homeland Security’s attempt to assert that it had a “generalized discretion” to enforce or not enforce our immigration laws. Such a generalized approach, he wrote, would render Congress’s carefully drafted statutes on immigration “superfluous” and “meaningless.” Hanen further pointed out that the DOJ’s approach to DHS’s discretion was so expansive that “the only logical end point of its argument” was that DHS “could have made DAPA [Deferred Action for Parental Accountability] applicable to all 11.3 million [illegal] immigrants” in the country. What Judge Hanen could have rebutted more fully, however, was the DOJ’s purported statutory basis for claiming such sweeping discretion in immigration enforcement. In a footnote of their brief, the DOJ cites Obama’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)’s made-to-order DAPA opinion to assert that Secretary Jeh Johnson’s “authority to grant work authorization” is “confirmed” by a federal regulation — 8 C.F.R. § 274a.12(c)(14) — which they allege “has long been understood to recognize [such authority].” Rightly, the DOJ made the point that “plaintiffs [did] not challenge” this regulation as a legal basis for DAPA’s work-authorization provisions. Judge Hanen also failed to challenge it, but he easily could have. Let’s hope that he does as the case proceeds. This once-obscure regulation is the statutory linchpin for DAPA’s work-permit program and presumably for the work-permit program in DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] as well. (The OLC has never published its legal opinion on DACA; recently, the Immigration Reform Law Institute has requested through FOIA that they make this opinion public.) Immigration-law expert John Eastman recently eviscerated the DOJ’s assertion of statutory grounding, calling it a “slim reed” that “any first-year law student” would know is entirely baseless. Section 274a.12 is a part of the federal regulatory code that purports to allow for work permits for certain categories of illegal aliens, including recipients of deferred action. According to Eastman, “the regulation itself acknowledges [that] those provisions allowing for work authorization must be grounded in statutory authority.” That is, they must rely on legislative acts, such as the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) passed in 1952. But none of the INA provisions cited in the regulation or by the DOJ, Eastman says, provide the necessary authority, a “must” under administrative-law principles. (See similar criticism regarding the IRS’s rule on Obamacare’s tax credits here.) The statutory provision that permits this work-authorization regulation, according to the DOJ, is section 274A of the INA, added by the Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA) amendments of 1986. Section 274A provides exceptions to the general rule that it is unlawful “to hire, or to recruit or refer for a fee, for employment in the United States an alien knowing the alien is an unauthorized alien.” “Unauthorized alien” is defined as any alien not “lawfully admitted for permanent residence” or an alien not “authorized to be so employed by this chapter or by the Attorney General” (emphasis mine). Despite IRCA’s general rule against employing illegal workers, DOJ attorneys claim that this four-word phrase — “by the Attorney General” —  lets the attorney general (now the DHS secretary) use the “regulatory process” to give himself unfettered discretion in granting work permits to any category of illegal aliens he chooses. IRCA and other provisions of the INA allow for certain illegal aliens, such as refugees, to obtain legal-resident status; separately, there are other provisions that authorize or require the attorney general to provide those beneficiaries with work permits. According to Eastman, then, the logical interpretation of the phrase “by the Attorney General” is that it refers back to the detailed exemptions of section 274A, which, again, specifies when the attorney general may grant work permits. If this wasn’t the case, says Eastman, and Congress really intended to delegate complete discretion to the attorney general in granting work permits, “none of the pages and pages of carefully circumscribed exemptions would be necessary…”



The Obama Administration Has Responded Very Differently To Two Recent Immigration Rulings

“The Obama administration has had two notably different reactions to two injunctions related to immigration policy, which were handed down by federal judges last week. One critic of relaxed immigration laws says that the two different responses are further proof of the administration’s desire to undermine immigration restrictions. On Monday, the Justice Department announced that it was asking Andrew Hanen, U.S. District Court Judge in Brownsville, Texas, to lift an injunction which threatens to block President Obama’s plan to extend amnesty to 5 million illegal immigrants. Early last week when Hanen issued the injunction — in which he agreed that the 26 states that filed suit claiming that amnesty could potentially suffer a financial burden because of amnesty — the White House immediately responded. “The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement…”




“The anatomy of a Mexican cartel operation based on U.S. soil can be seen in a Tucson, Arizona case in which 40-year-old Joel Sesma Garcia and 41-year-old Gerald Fidel Herrara were sentenced for their roles in a cocaine distribution ring that spanned five states over a four year period, involved over 527 kilograms of cocaine and tens of millions of dollars. Vast amounts of the proceeds were sent back to Mexico, specifically to a region controlled by the Sinaloa Federation, a conglomerate of various criminal organizations commonly referred to as the Sinaloa cartel. In a previous interview with Breitbart Texas, a federal agent who spoke on the condition of anonymity discussed another Mexican cartel operation and mentioned the Tucson sector. The agent stated, “This cell was undoubtedly Los Zetas, just as any large narcotics ring in the RGV Sector is undoubtedly the Gulf cartel, and any large trafficking ring in the Tucson sector is undoubtedly the Sinaloa Federation.” [Emphasis added.] The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office simply stated that this was a “cocaine operation,” however, documents obtained by Breitbart Texas reveal that Luis Gastelum-Mendoza, a co-conspirator in the case, was recruited to send cash proceeds to Mexico, via wire transfer. Mendoza acquired the funds in the form of cash in an attempt to conceal the fact that the funds were proceeds of illegal narcotics trafficking activities…”



Dad Furious About Son’s Immigration Assignment That Bashes GOP

 “A Wisconsin father is outraged about a homework assignment given to his son that bashes the Republican Party on the issue of illegal immigration. An 8th grade social studies class at Shattuck Middle School had to complete an assignment that suggested Republicans were destroying the “pathway to citizenship” for immigrants. The teacher, Grace Davis, used a political cartoon that featured a Democrat laying bricks to build a “pathway to citizenship,” while a Republican character removed the bricks to dismantle the immigration process…”



What a Mexican Filmmaker Suggests the ‘Government’ Might ‘Inflict’ Seems to Take Oscar Crowd a Bit Off Guard

“During his portion of the Best Picture acceptance speech for “Birdman,” Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu noted to the crowd that he didn’t really want to talk since he’s the “worst-English speaking guy here.” Then Inarritu started talking — leading off with a dig apparently directed toward the United States that seemed less than off-the-cuff. “Maybe next year the government will inflict some immigration rules to the Academy,” he said, which seemed to take some in the crowd a bit off guard. But Innaritu — who had earlier picked up an Academy Award for directing “Birdman” — managed to lighten the mood pretty fast, silently invoking last year’s best director winner, Alfonso Cuaron: “Two Mexicans in a row. That’s suspicious, I guess.”



High court divided on refusal of a visa to a U.S. citizen’s Afghan spouse

“Everyone agrees the federal government does not owe Kanishka Berashk, an Afghan, much of an explanation for turning down his immigration visa request. He has no constitutional right to enter the United States. But does his wife, a U.S. citizen, deserve more of a reason? A divided Supreme Court engaged in a lively debate over that question Monday morning. In the end, it seemed a slight majority might agree with the government that such immigration decisions made by overseas consulates, especially when related to concerns over terrorism, are not reviewable by federal courts. “This court has repeatedly held that the power to exclude aliens is inherent in sovereignty and necessary to defending the nation against encroachments and dangers,” said Deputy Solicitor General Edwin S. Kneedler, representing the government. “It is a power exercised by the political branches of government.” But judges are never keen to hear there is no judicial review of government decisions. “No matter what?” Justice Stephen G. Breyer asked Kneedler. Even if the result “is that an American citizen either must live separately from her spouse forever or must give up her right” to live in America? The case comes from California, where Fauzia Din settled with her family after fleeing Afghanistan in 1998. She entered the country in 2000 and became a naturalized citizen in 2007. She returned to Afghanistan in 2006 to marry Berashk, whom she had known for years. He worked as a low-level clerk in the Afghan government, both during the time the Taliban was in control and after. They began the process to get him a a visa to join Din in the United States, and he had an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. In June 2009, Berashk’s application was rejected. When he sought to find out why, the embassy said he was denied under a section of the law that made an alien ineligible because of “terrorist activities” and that it would not be possible to be more specific…”



GOP must embrace pro-immigration policy, big donors say

2016 campaign hinges on legalization

“…In a recent call with reporters, Spencer Zwick, finance director for 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney — who took a particularly hard line on immigration and deportation — said the next standard-bearer must be like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who advocates a pathway to citizenship for most illegal immigrants. “If someone wants to be taken seriously running for president, in my opinion, they need to be in a similar place,” Mr. Zwick said. The dichotomy between Congress, where legalization is a dirty word for many Republicans, and the presidential campaign trail, where a healthy number of potential candidates have described legalization as a critical part of any immigration debate, is striking. “It’s the thorniest issue for Republicans today,” said Mark Rozell, political science professor at George Mason University. “Party leaders and major donors mostly lean one way; grass-roots activists who dominate primaries lean the other way. And there’s no workable middle ground, it seems. “The issue is a huge problem for the party right now,” he said. “Reform alienates the base; restrictive policies alienate almost everyone else. I don’t see any winning formula for the party going forward.”



Walker Settles on Immigration Message

“After a few weeks of flailing about on the immigration issue, Scott Walker appears to have settled on a position.  “President Obama’s lack of leadership has completely changed how our immigration system now needs to be approached and Governor Walker has seen his fellow governors have to deal with the collateral damage of Obama’s decisions and lack of leadership,” Walker spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski told Talking Points Memo on Friday.  According to Kukowski, Walker believes that “Obama’s executive action should be repealed” and that “we need absolute security at our borders and then we can address fixing our legal immigration system and deal with those here illegally but amnesty is not the answer.”  That’s still relatively vague and it gives Walker plenty of wiggle room, but it does acknowledge the possibility that the governor’s views have changed. That possibility has dogged Walker since NR’s Andrew Johnson published a piece on a 2002 resolution Walker signed as Milwaukee county executive that called for “comprehensive immigration reform” that would have allowed “undocumented working immigrants to obtain legal residency in the United States.” Five days later came a piece from Politico’s Gabriel DeBeneditti, who unearthed a 2006 resolution signed by County Executive Walker that embraced the McCain-Kennedy immigration reforms backed by the Bush administration.  At the same time, Walker was telling Fox News’s Bret Baier that he’d never supported a path to citizenship. Baier raised the issue because, in a 2013 editorial board meeting with a local Wisconsin newspaper, the Wausau Daily Herald, Walker had discussed the matter. “Actually, I’m glad you asked about that, because the Wausau newspaper erroneously quoted me on that,” Walker told Baier. “That’s wrong. It’s not what I said.” When the Daily Herald unearthed the video showing that it is what the governor said, Walker was again caught flatfooted.  So now we have a sense of how Walker will explain his about-face – an about-face that is absolutely necessary if he wants to preserve his current position as a conservative alternative to the establishment front-runner, Jeb Bush. Whether rank-and-file Republicans will buy it is another question, but they are certainly hungry for a viable challenger to the establishment pick. As a result, they may prove forgiving of past ideological indiscretions so long as Walker is toeing the line now.  And: It’s better explaining the reversal than pretending it doesn’t exist.”



Voter challenges Rubio’s immigration stance during town hall





Voters Need to Tell Presidential Candidates That Responsible Budgeting Is a Priority | Commentary

“As former — and maybe reformed — elected officials, we know how much politicians like to talk about good news: tax breaks, infrastructure improvements, job growth announcements. But they are far less interested in talking about the bad news and hard choices on the horizon as the federal debt continues on an unsustainable upward path. Politicians don’t see big constituencies for that kind of news, and no special interests score them on whether they discuss it with voters. Even the close cousin of bad news — blunt talk — is usually avoided in politics. Yet, politicians and voters alike should understand sacrifices will be necessary in the years ahead as an aging population, rising health care costs and a deeply flawed tax system put more and more pressure on the federal budget. Only by acknowledging difficult budget realities can we hope to chart a better course that promises fiscal stability, a stronger economy and a brighter future for the country. The short-term improvements in the deficit are just that — short term. Economists at the Congressional Budget Office and elsewhere agree the long-term outlook is bleak unless we take steps now to do something about it. That’s one reason the Concord Coalition and the Campaign to Fix the Debt have come together to raise the issue during the 2016 presidential campaign under the nonpartisan label of “First Budget.” Concord and Fix the Debt have long been committed to fiscal responsibility, regardless of party affiliation. Unless candidates for president are pressured, they’d rather not focus on the bad news about the national debt. But we will be in Iowa and New Hampshire with citizen activists engaging candidates on the subject. Congress has not been interested in addressing the issues, and it is critical that the next president comes into office with a budget plan that reflects the reality of the situation. The federal debt is now the highest it has been in our history, other than during World War II. It’s true that short-term deficits have come down and Washington has enacted more than $4 trillion of 10-year deficit reduction to help stabilize the medium-term situation. But the short-term improvement is mostly due to the economic recovery, and the enacted savings were largely in the parts of the budget that do not pose the greatest threat to fiscal stability. As a result, the debt is continuing to increase and will likely exceed the size of the economy in the mid-2030s. Simply bringing debt levels down to 70 percent of gross domestic product within 10 years would require $2.2 trillion of additional deficit reduction, and would still leave debt at twice its pre-recession average. Meanwhile, the growth of health, retirement and interest spending is crowding out important investments in education, infrastructure, and research and development. We are asking candidates to acknowledge the problem and have a plan detailing what they would do. We also are asking that all options remain on the table…”



What Obama’s New Rule Could Mean for Your Retirement Account

“President Obama is pushing for tighter regulations on advisers who handle 401(k) and IRA retirement plans. Alleging that middle-class Americans can get ripped off by their financial advisers, the president spoke at AARP’s Washington, D.C., headquarters today to make the case for a new proposed rule. “Because of bad advice, because of skewed incentives, because of a lack of protection, you could end up in a situation where you lose some of your hard-earned money simply because your adviser isn’t required to put your interest first,” Obama said. “The truth is, most people don’t even realize it’s happening.” The new rule would require that advisers who handle retirement funds like 401(k)s and IRAs act in their clients’ best interest, adhering to a new “fiduciary” standard that doesn’t currently exist. The idea is that financial advisers get paid extra to recommend certain funds, incentivizing bad advice and costing investors in the long run, according to Obama. The new rule won’t go into effect immediately — or at all, necessarily. It will be proposed by the Labor Department and will then be subject to public and congressional comment. The Labor Dept. says it will take criticisms into account before making anything final. So, if a new regulation is adopted, what would will it mean for your retirement account? Pamela Banks, senior policy counsel at the D.C.-based group Consumers Union, says the rule would help investors. “These rules would help put consumers first by removing conflicts of interest among brokers and other financial retirement advisers, closing loopholes, and raising accountability for the industry,” Banks said in a press release. The effects are being debated by the White House and the financial industry…”



Obama tells financial advisors to put client interests first

“The administration is proposing a new rule that would require financial advisors to put the advice they give their clients above their own financial gain.”



Obama to crack down on ‘bilking’ of retirement savings

“President Obama on Monday started a new effort to crack down on conflicts of interest among retirement advisers, which he said offend “our basic values of honesty and fair play.” In an appearance at the seniors organization AARP in Washington, Obama lent his vocal support to a forthcoming administrative rule that would aim to limit conflicts of interest in retirement investing, decrying the current lack of uniform “rules of the road” for advisers and warning that some are “receiving backdoor payments or hidden fees” to steer clients into higher-cost funds. “You should have the peace of mind that the advice you’re getting for investing those dollars is sound,” the president said, casting the new rule as part of his broader “middle-class economics” agenda. The problem, according to a report released by Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers on Monday morning, is that some brokers direct workers’ retirement savings into funds with high fees that don’t perform better and may perform worse than low-cost plans to receive fees, commissions or other compensation from those funds’ managers…”



Obama launches financial adviser crackdown

“President Obama moved ahead Monday with plans to impose contentious new regulations against financial advisers. In a speech to the AARP, Obama said the rules are needed to better protect Americans from financial advisers who sell faulty advice in order to pocket commissions from big banks. “You should have the peace of mind that the advice you’re getting is sound, that your investments are being protected,” Obama said in his remarks. The business community says that the new regulations — known as the “fiduciary rule” — would limit access to financial advice for low- and middle-income Americans because it would remove incentives for financial advisers to take on less-lucrative accounts. The proposal is unlikely to take effect in the immediate weeks or months. Procedurally, he is only submitting his still undisclosed regulations for a review at the Office of Management and Budget. After that review — which could take months — it will be released for public comment. Acknowledging the intense industry pressure against the rule in the past, Obama said there will continue to be significant lobbying as the newly proposed rule moves forward. “There are a lot of financial advisers that support these basic safeguards … but there are also some special interests that will fight this with everything they’ve got,” he said. But he argued that if a financial firm is truly acting on behalf of clients, there is nothing to worry about, adding that other countries have not seen the type of “industry doomsday predictions” of retirees losing financial advisers or spiking costs…”



Obama Seeks New Protections for Retirement Savings in Speech to AARP



Obama calls for tighter rules on retirement account brokers



Will Obama’s New Regulations Wreak Havoc Upon The Elderly? Financial Advisers Say Yes.

“If you’re over 65 and you like your financial adviser, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to keep your adviser. President Obama is set to speak at AARP headquarters in Washington, D.C. Monday afternoon alongside Sen. Elizabeth Warren and consumer protection chief Richard Cordray. Obama will announce new regulations from his Department of Labor, which will set new rules governing financial managers and advisers. The White House said that it wants to abolish ”hidden fees that hurt consumers and back-door payments that help Wall Street brokers.” But the financial lobby is freaking out, claiming that Obama’s new rules — which have yet to be announced by the White House or independently verified — will take a huge toll on financial planners and affect millions of retirees. A financial planner trade organization told The Daily Caller that the new rules come with a catch: they will effectively prohibit retired persons from keeping their trusted financial advisers if they make new investments during retirement. “The rule will say that if you’re an adviser with a 401(k) helping participants, and you want to look at a lifetime income option [for your client] then you as an adviser would be effectively blocked from working with that participant if there’s any fee difference,” Brian Graff, executive director of the National Association of Plan Advisors, told TheDC, citing insider talk and a past Obama administration attempt in 2010 to push through similar rules. If the fee you pay your financial adviser in retirement — for products like annuities — is even slightly higher than the fee you were paying your adviser when you were working and just had a 401(k) plan, then you will have to pay a 15 percent tax penalty on your total account value, Graff said, citing insider talk. So if your 401(k) is worth $100,000, then you’ll have to pay a $15,000 penalty if you want to make new investments that would lead you to pay your adviser even one dollar more. Seniors might have to drop the advisers who help them with their 401(k) rollover.  “They have this view that you should always keep your money in the [401k] plan,” Graff said of the Obama administration. ”We think that’s a dumb idea. An adviser you trust shouldn’t be blocked from working with you.” “No one’s going to pay a 15 percent tax to keep their adviser,” Graff said. “This isn’t 95 dollars like the health care one. We expect that millions of 401(k) participants will be affected.” “The irony is that you could then go down the street and get a new financial adviser who might charge you 200 percent more, and there’s no rule preventing that,” Graff said. “Is it theoretically possible that you’ll have exactly the same amount of money in your rollover as you did in your 401(k)?,” Graff said. “No. Why then would you roll over?…”



Warren Joining Obama for Retirement Security Push



GOP moves to expand 529 college savings program

“A month after President Obama introduced his ill-fated proposal to tax popular 529 college savings plans, the GOP-led House will vote on a bipartisan measure to expand the program. Lawmakers have proposed legislation to expand the plans in various forms in recent years but the effort to strengthen the program took on new urgency in recent weeks after President Obama called for eliminating tax-free withdrawals of 529 savings in his 2016 budget proposal. Obama’s plan to tax 529 accounts was widely criticized by both Republicans and Democrats, and the president eventually dropped the idea at the urging of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats. Republican leaders are moving their 529 plan to the House floor for a vote on Wednesday, part of a trio of bills the House will debate this week that are aimed at reducing taxes. The proposal expands the 529 savings program by adding computers and Internet service costs to the approved spending, which now includes tuition, books and some other college expenses. The legislation will also allow those who use the program to return funds to their 529 accounts if they withdraw from school or otherwise receive a tuition refund…”



12 IRS Embarrassments, 6 Questions Each Taxpayer Should Ask



The Ex-Im bank solves its problems by disappearing its data

“We’ve brought you plenty of coverage on the somewhat boringly wonky but still important story of the Ex-Im Bank. Facing mounting criticism over its practices which essentially identify it as a crony capitalism slush fund which wastes taxpayer dollars, the institution’s directors clearly had to take action. And what’s the best way to answer the journalists who are examining your records and finding fault? Obviously, you make the records disappear. Critics of the Export-Import Bank are seething over the removal from a government Web site of previously public data earlier they say helps them detect cronyism. Between January 29 and February 13, officials at the bank removed disclosures listing businesses that applied for financing at the bank but were denied, a source at the bank told The Hill. “During a regular quarterly review, it was decided to reformat the way data is presented,” the source said. Under the changes, bank officials are no longer disclosing denied applicants. But critics of the Ex-Im, created to help U.S. companies finance overseas endeavors, say that information helps illuminate how the bank chooses which businesses to finance. At Redstate, our colleague Leon Wolf has a long and helpful analysis of just how awful this particular public relations move was. He begins by explaining at least one of the main problems with the Ex-Im Bank and its practices. For those who don’t know, the Ex-Im bank is a program that is intended to finance American investments overseas. The specific criticism of the bank is that it acts as crony capitalist clearing house that helps to pick winners and losers in the market by approving cheap loans to politically well connected companies and denying them to others. The Bank’s opponents have attacked the bank by pointing out the disparate treatments that apparently similar companies have gotten from the bank when they applied for loans. Leaving aside for the moment the current debacle underway at Ex-Im, I will at least partially disagree with Leon, though he is largely correct. The actual purpose of the bank – as I read it – isn’t to fund American investments overseas, although that is one practical upshot of it. The real structure of its activities is geared towards arranging loans for overseas customers which ostensibly make it easier for them to import American products, thereby increasing our exports. Also, the underlying problem with the bank is actually that it has long since stopped serving its stated purpose, since the vast majority of benefits seen from the bank’s activities go to Boeing, a company which is not really in need of that much help. But Leon is again correct in identifying one of the major areas of fallout from the free hand that Ex-Im has in its activities, that being the power to pick winners and losers, depending on who they choose to support…”



Yellen heads to the Hill



Lawmaker with lavish decor billed private planes, concerts

“Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock, a rising Republican star already facing an ethics inquiry, has spent taxpayer and campaign funds on flights aboard private planes owned by some of his key donors, The Associated Press has found. There also have been other expensive travel and entertainment charges, including for a massage company and music concerts. The expenses highlight the relationships that lawmakers sometimes have with donors who fund their political ambitions, an unwelcome message for a congressman billed as a fresh face of the GOP. The AP identified at least one dozen flights worth more than $40,000 on donors’ planes since mid-2011. The AP tracked Schock’s reliance on the aircraft partly through the congressman’s penchant for uploading pictures and videos of himself to his Instagram account. The AP extracted location data associated with each image then correlated it with flight records showing airport stopovers and expenses later billed for air travel against Schock’s office and campaign records…”



Did The Energy Department Use Taxpayer Dollars To Sponsor A Casino Night? (continuation of previous article)





Obama will quickly veto Keystone bill

“President Obama is poised to reject GOP-backed legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline with a swift veto designed to minimize any distraction from a looming shutdown within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Republicans plan to send the bill to Obama’s desk Tuesday morning and intend to flay the president over his promised veto. But quick action, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said, “eliminates any opportunity to take the focus off the bizarre things Republicans are doing on DHS and immigration orders.” “It would be smart to do it right away,” he said. “The longer they delay it, the longer Republicans are allowed to work on two or three issues at the same time.”



Keystone headed to Obama’s desk Tuesday

“SHALL WE PLAY A GAME?: It may not be a war game, but the messaging battle over Keystone XL will rise again on Tuesday.  Republicans said they will send legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline over to the White House Tuesday morning where it is expected to meet a swift demise.  White House spokesman Josh Earnest reiterated the president’s plan to veto the bill on Monday and said not to expect “a lot of drama or fanfare” surrounding the veto.

He added he doesn’t expect a “lengthy delay” on the veto, hinting at a fast rejection of the bill, which the Senate spent nearly one month debating. Check back with The Hill Tuesday morning for more details on the pending veto…”



Obama expected to get Keystone bill on Tuesday



Obama Insists To Governors That The Keystone Pipeline Won’t Be Built

“President Barack Obama on Monday insisted to a bipartisan gathering of governors at the White House that the Keystone XL Pipeline simply won’t be built, according to several GOP governors present. This week, Obama is expected to veto legislation passed by the Republican-controlled Congress calling for the pipeline’s construction. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, speaking to reporters after the governors met with Obama, said the president was dismissive during a private Q&A with the governors when Keystone was brought up. Haley said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin broached the topic with Obama. “She spoke up and said we would respectfully like to talk to you about the Keystone Pipeline,” Haley recalled. “And the second she got it out of her mouth, he goes, ‘Not gonna happen.’ I mean, he immediately shut us down and implied it was not anything he was going to entertain.” “He stated very clearly, and concisely, that he was going to veto the pipeline bill,” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, added…”



GOP governors: Obama is an obstructionist

“Republican governors on Monday blasted President Obama for resisting compromise with the GOP-controlled Congress. During a news conference after meeting with Obama at the White House, Republican governors criticized the president for vowing to veto legislation authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and similarly threatening to reject a House-passed bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security while reversing his executive immigration order. The GOP tied language reversing “executive amnesty” to legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security, which runs out of money on Saturday. Not all of the governors necessarily support the approach taken by Republicans in Congress to fight Obama’s unilateral move to legalize and offer work permits to 4.1 million illegal immigrants. “I don’t think you should hijack homeland security funds to deal with that issue,” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said. (His colleague and neighbor, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, volunteered that she would like congressional Republicans to “stick to their guns” in their showdown with Obama on homeland security funding and immigration.)..”



GOP gov: Obama open to discussing oil exports

“President Obama is willing to discuss whether to allow companies to export crude oil, Oklahoma’s governor said after meeting with him. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) told reporters Monday that the topic came up after she encouraged Obama to sign the bill authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline, which he again said he will veto. “I asked him if he would consider allowing the United States to export crude oil or [liquefied natural gas] and he said that he was open to that discussion,” Fallin said outside the White House after she and other state governors spoke with Obama as part of the National Governors Association meeting.

“So I was encouraged that there was some areas that we could find to work together,” she said. The White House did not immediately comment on Fallin’s description of the meeting, which was closed to the press…”






Republican FCC Commissioners Ask Wheeler To Delay Net Neutrality Vote, Release Proposal

“Three days before the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote on the most significant Internet regulations in history, two commissioners are asking Chairman Tom Wheeler to delay the vote and release his proposal to the public. “We respectfully request that FCC leadership immediately release the 332-page Internet regulation plan publicly and allow the American people a reasonable period of not less than 30 days to carefully study it,” Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly said in a statement Monday. “Then, after the commission reviews the specific input it receives from the American public and makes any modifications to the plan as appropriate, we could proceed to a final vote.”  The commission is set to vote on Wheeler’s aggressive proposal — which will regulate Internet service providers as public utilities and set new standards for speed and pricing — on Thursday, when it is expected to pass by a partisan vote of 3-2.  “With the future of the entire Internet at stake, it is imperative that the FCC get this right,” the commissioners said. “And to do that, we must live up to the highest standards of transparency. Transparency is particularly important here because the plan in front of us right now is so drastically different than the proposal the FCC adopted and put out for public comment last May.”  The FCC traditionally never releases proposed regulations prior to their implementation, prompting Pai to spend the weeks since Wheeler laid out the foundation of the plan to point out its most aggressive regulations in press releases and op-eds with commissioners from fellow agencies…”



FCC chief pressed to release net neutrality rules

“A key Republican lawmaker in Congress called for Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to make proposed net neutrality regulations public before a planned Thursday vote on the measure. In the latest wrinkle in the Republicans’ battle to quash Wheeler’s proposals, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who’s also the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter today to Wheeler, questioning whether the FCC has been “independent, fair and transparent” in crafting the rules to protect content on the Internet. “Although arguably one of the most sweeping new rules in the commission’s history, the process was conducted without using many of the tools at the chairman’s disposal to ensure transparency and public review,” he said. Chaffetz urged Wheeler to publicly release the 332-page draft order that was given to the other four commissioners nearly three weeks ago and appear at a House Oversight hearing Wednesday before a vote at the FCC’s monthly meeting Thursday. Also today, FCC commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly too asked for Wheeler to release the proposal to the public and postpone the Thursday vote to allow for 30 days of public comment…”



Obama’s regs will make Internet slow as in Europe, warn FCC, FEC commissioners

“As the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Election Commission toy with regulating aspects of the Internet, critics on those agencies are warning that speed and freedom of speech are in jeopardy. In a joint column, Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai and Federal Election Commission member Lee Goodman, leveled the boom on the Obama-favored regulations, essentially charging that it will muck up the freedom the nation has come to expect from the Internet. In one key passage of the column published in Politico, the duo wrote Monday that heavy-handed FCC regulations like those imposed in Europe will significantly slow down Internet speech. “These Internet regulations will deter broadband deployment, depress network investment and slow broadband speeds. How do we know? Compare Europe, which has long had utility-style regulations, with the United States, which has embraced a light-touch regulatory model. Broadband speeds in the United States, both wired and wireless, are significantly faster than those in Europe. Broadband investment in the United States is several multiples that of Europe. And broadband’s reach is much wider in the United States, despite its much lower population density,” the two wrote. They also joined to warn about the Democrat-chaired Federal Election Commission eyeing regulation of political speech on the Internet…”



Senator Obama: ‘Irresponsible’ For FCC To Vote On Rules Unreleased To The Public

“Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on Monday again declined to publicly release his aggressive net neutrality proposal prior to a vote. This is despite the fact that the process of adopting such rules — which line up perfectly with those called for by President Obama in 2014 — was described as “irresponsible” by Sen. Obama in 2007. In a Monday letter from House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz to Wheeler lamenting his decline to appear before the committee and testify on any influence the White House may have had over the rules, Chaffetz pointed out that during his tenure in Congress, the president himself criticized the agency’s process of adopting new regulations prior to their public disclosure. “At a September 2007 public hearing in Chicago, Senator Obama submitted a statement that he ‘strongly requested’ the FCC ‘put out any changes that they intend to vote on in a new notice of proposed rulemaking,’” Chaffetz wrote. A month after his September 2007 statement, Sen. Obama submitted a letter to then-FCC Chairman Kevin Martin arguing that the “proposed timeline and process” used by the agency to adopt rules are “irresponsible,” noting that while a specific proposal “may pass the muster of a federal court, Congress and the public have the right to review any specific proposal and decide whether or not it constitutes sound policy.”



Obama’s Move To Regulate Internet Has Activists’ ‘Fingerprints All Over It’

“The Obama White House has worked directly with online activists to pressure the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the internet. The Commission is expected to vote on the president’s “net neutrality” policy on Thursday. According to White House visitor logs, on September 23, 2014, Obama senior internet advisor David Edelman met with 30 netroots activists and executives from Spitfire Strategies. Spitfire is a public relations firm that received over $2 million from the Ford Foundation since 2009 to create PR and media strategy relating to net neutrality. During the hour-long meeting, the Obama White House appears to have collaborated with the netroots activists and PR media professionals to create the notion that the public truly wants Title II regulation applied to the internet. The activists have even celebrated President Obama’s loyalty to their cause in emails to their factions of supporters. According to the White House visitors logs, participants at the meeting included representatives from the Free Press, Fight for the Future, Demand Progress, Daily Kos, Public Knowledge and several others. Individual meeting attendees also included PR, media and campaign strategists Michael Khoo, Karley Kranich and Cheryl Leanza from Spitfire Strategies and A Learned Hand, as well as Martha Allen with The Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press. Six weeks later in November, Obama announced his Title II internet regulation proposal in a video statement.  The president’s video used an ample amount of the activists’ messaging, including a fake “buffering” gag that showed viewers the well-known “site loading” circular animation…”



Yahoo executive and NSA chief clash over online data privacy



Beef producers say Obama is trying to kill their industry

“Lawmakers from cattle producing states are seeing red following a 571-page federal report that that encourages Americans to go green. A panel of nutrition experts recruited by the Obama administration to craft the newest dietary guidelines suggested last week that the government should consider the environment when deciding what people should eat. The report, which was presented to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bills itself as a way to “transform the food system” and that’s got a lot of people in the heartland and those elected to represent them in Washington fuming. “Generations of cattle farmers and ranchers have been and continue to be conscientious about conserving limited natural resources,” Sen. Chuck Grassley R-Iowa, told FoxNews.com. “They rely on the land and the environment for their livelihood. Those facts get lost in Washington and in arguments that eating red meat hurts the environment.” The report, which is open for public comment for 45 days, will be used by the government not only to mold dietary guidelines but also used as the basis for government food assistance programs as well as school lunch programs, worth an estimated $16 billion annually. The North American Meat Institute slammed the report, calling it “flawed” and “nonsensical.” Members of the meat industry as well as those from soda makers, say the panel has gone “beyond its scope.”



VA Secretary Robert McDonald Caught on Video Making Big False Claim About His Military Service

“Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald falsely claimed he served in special operations forces during an exchange with a homeless military veteran that was caught on video earlier this year. McDonald’s spent most of his five-year military career with the 82nd Airborne Division, the Huffington Post reported on Monday…”



VA Secretary Apologizes for Misstating Military Record



Tea Party group ‘disappointed’ with Ex-Im backers

“A prominent Tea Party group on Monday sent a critical letter to House Republicans who are supporting Rep. Stephen Fincher’s (R-Tenn.) five-year reauthorization proposal for the Export-Import Bank. Americans for Prosperity vice president for government affairs Brent Gardner criticized the lawmakers for supporting what he called “deeply flawed legislation.” “The Export-Import bank epitomizes corporate welfare by taking hard-earned tax dollars from working Americans and handing it over to huge corporations and foreign-owned firms,” Gardner said in a statement. “We are disappointed to see 57 Republicans who claim to stand for fiscal responsibility add their names to this piece of legislation.” Fincher and 57 other Republicans are backing a bill that would extend the bank’s charter while adding reforms that they say would boost transparency. That’s drawn the ire of Tea Party groups such as American for Prosperity and Heritage Action, which say the bank is corporate welfare and cronyism designed to help big businesses such as Boeing. Centrist Republicans and Democrats, on the other hand, say that the bank is needed to sustain millions of U.S. jobs and help business officials make inroads in foreign markets where they can’t receive financing through the private market. The bank will shut down on June 30 unless Congress votes to reauthorize its charter.  House Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is a top opponent of the bank. His panel holds jurisdiction over moving a reauthorization bill, and he hasn’t said whether he will move Fincher’s bill. Earlier this month, Heritage Action officials took aim at Fincher’s supporters as well…”



Louis Farrakhan Calls Giuliani A ‘Privileged Cracker’ & ‘Devil’ For Criticizing Obama [VIDEO]



White House Says There’s a ‘Sense of Urgency’ for an Iran Deal, but No Plan B if One Isn’t Reached

“White House press secretary Josh Earnest said there is no plan B for dealing with Iran if the U.S. is not able to reach a nuclear deal with the country  before April. “These talks have been going on for a substantial number of months, more than a year. As the president himself has said, he does believe we are getting close to a time when we are going to find out whether a deal can be reached or not,” Earnest said Monday. “There is a sense of urgency because the president believes it is clearly in the interest of the United States for us to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”



Historic US-Iran nuclear deal could be taking shape



Obama open to changes to military authority against IS



Jindal on Obama & Islamists: ‘If You Cannot Admit the Problem, You Cannot Fix the Problem’