“Tea Party Patriots is calling on House Republicans to amend the McCaul bill so as it does include interior enforcement, something McCaul’s team has originally resisted claiming they don’t have the jurisdiction to do so. “For whatever reason, the Homeland Security Committee was in a hurry,” Tea Party Patriots spokesman Kevin Broughton told Breitbart News. “Now, our focus will be amending this legislation which is sorely lacking any meaningful teeth. The House — with a smaller GOP Conference than it has now — passed the Carter-Aderholt “border surge” bill last summer. If the GOP is truly committed to regular order and a transparent process, then amending HR 399 with provisions from Carter-Aderholt shouldn’t be a problem. Republicans who ran on stopping amnesty and securing the border now have their chance. The grassroots will shortly be in contact, demanding an end to catch-and-release; an expedited removal process; closure of asylum loopholes; and a real, 700-mile double fence, not the 27 miles the McCaul bill provides.”



Hey Mitt, Jeb, Bobby, Marco, and Rand: Here’s What You Missed by Skipping the Freedom Summit (TPP mention)

“Candidates (or “candidates”) like Gilmore added to a sense that the event, which attracted 1,200 conservative activists, might have been overrated by the press. That wasn’t a fair way of reading it. The event, co-sponsored by Citizens United and Tea Party Patriots (whose founder had to cancel her speech after a death in the family), introduced new stars to GOP voters while allowing the conservative movement to set the terms of debate.”



Policy analyst to speak at tea party meeting Tuesday (TPP mention)





Ohio, several state universities sue Obama administration over Obamacare ‘tax’

“The state of Ohio, several state universities and a county in southwest Ohio are suing President Barack Obama’s administration over what they say is an unconstitutional tax baked into the Affordable Care Act. If successful, this could present yet another challenge to the underpinnings of Obamacare. Republicans have attacked the law since its 2010 passage, and Democrats criticized the suit, announced by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican, before he and Warren County officials held their news conference this morning to announce it. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus and joined by the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, the University of Akron, Bowling Green State University, Shawnee State University and Youngstown State University, does not attempt to knock out the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, directly. But like another case, this one pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, it represents a potential chipping away of the ACA’s foundation and the manner in which the law – requiring most Americans to get health insurance – is financed. “This tax assessment by the Obama Administration is an unprecedented attempt to destroy the balance of authority between the federal government and the states,” said DeWine, whose office filed the lawsuit. “The $5.3 million Ohio is being taxed is money that could be used for education, public safety, and roads and bridges. The states are not the federal government’s tax collectors, and the Obama administration should refund these illegal taxes immediately.” Under the ACA, the “tax,” which the Obama administration calls a “fee,” must be paid by nearly all health insurers, including the plans of employers who provide group coverage for their workers. It comes to $63 per covered person in the first year, and is used primarily to fund a reinsurance pool. Reinsurance protects insurance companies from losses if they estimate their premiums and costs incorrectly and face losses. Congressional Democrats who wrote the ACA, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under Obama, which championed and implemented it, wanted a reinsurance fund for 2014, 2015 and 2016 in case health insurance carriers underestimated the medical costs they’d incur for new clients. Individual premiums on the ACA’s marketplace were to be based on underwriting standards accepted by the insurance industry and state and federal regulators, but Obamacare was brand new — and the parties wanted to be sure that insurers weren’t wiped out financially if their estimates turned out wrong. Reinsurance is a standard tool in the insurance industry. But in this case, the ACA “Transitional Reinsurance Program” was funded not only through the premiums of people participating in the ACA’s new insurance marketplace, in which individual health insurance policies are purchased one at a time. Rather, the fee also had to be paid by employer group insurance plans – that is, by the people already providing insurance to their workers. That included state and local governments and public universities, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS.”



Ohio Sues Over Obamacare Taxes on State, Local Governments (continuation of previous article)


Ohio, Warren Co. sue feds over Obamacare fee


Ohio Attorney General sues over health care law tax



Obamacare program costs $50,000 in taxpayer money for every American who gets health insurance, says bombshell budget report

“–Stunning figure comes from Congressional Budget Office report that revised cost estimates for the next 10 years

–Government will spend $1.993 TRILLION over a decade and take in $643 BILLION in new taxes, penalties and fees related to Obamacare

–The $1.35 trillion net cost will result in ‘between 24 million and 27 million’ fewer Americans being uninsured – a $50,000 price tag per person at best

–The law will still leave ‘between 29 million and 31 million’ nonelderly Americans without medical insurance

–Numbers assume Obamacare insurance exchange enrollment will double between now and 2025”

“It will cost the federal government – taxpayers, that is – $50,000 for every person who gets health insurance under the Obamacare law, the Congressional Budget Office revealed on Monday. The number comes from figures buried in a 15-page section of the nonpartisan organization’s new ten-year budget outlook.  The best-case scenario described by the CBO would result in ‘between 24 million and 27 million’ fewer Americans being uninsured in 2025, compared to the year before the Affordable Care Act took effect. Pulling that off will cost Uncle Sam about $1.35 trillion – or $50,000 per head. The numbers are daunting: It will take $1.993 trillion, a number that looks like $1,993,000,000,000, to provide insurance subsidies to poor and middle-class Americans, and to pay for a massive expansion of Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) costs. Offsetting that massive outlay will be $643 billion in new taxes, penalties and fees related to the Obamacare law. That revenue includes quickly escalating penalties – or ‘taxes,’ as the U.S. Supreme Court described them – on people who resist Washington’s command to buy medical insurance. It also includes income from a controversial medical device tax, which some Republicans predict will be eliminated in the next two years.

If they’re right, Obamacare’s per-person cost would be even higher. President Barack Obama pledged to members of Congress in 2009, as his signature insurance overhaul law was being hotly debated, that ‘the plan I’m proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years.’

It would be a significant discount if the White House could return to that number today.”



CBO: Obamacare to cost $2 trillion over the next decade

“President Obama’s healthcare law will spend about $2 trillion over the next decade on expanding insurance coverage but still leave 31 million Americans uninsured, according to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office released on Monday. When Obama pitched the healthcare law to Congress, he said it would cost “around $900 billion” over 10 years. But his statement was misleading because the way the law was designed, the major spending provisions didn’t kick in until 2014. This meant that 10-year estimates at the time the law was passed in 2010 were artificially low, because they included four years (2010 through 2013) in which spending was negligible. The new CBO analysis finds that between fiscal years 2016 and 2025, spending on the law’s expansion of Medicaid will cost $920 billion and insurance exchange subsidies will cost nearly $1.1 trillion. The major spending provisions, taken together, will total $1.993 trillion. Obamacare does include tax increases and Medicare cuts that previous CBO reports have found would offset the new spending, but CBO is no longer providing a full budgetary analysis of the law. The CBO also said it expected the law’s exchanges to cover 21 million by the end of the 2016 fiscal year and for Medicaid to cover an additional 13 million — gains that it projects will be partially offset by a reduction of 11 million people in employer or other existing coverage. By 2025, the end of the projection period, the CBO projects that Obamacare will increase insurance coverage by a net of 27 million, while 31 million will remain uninsured.”



$1 Billion a Year in Redundant Obamacare Programs

“The Health and Human Services Department is shelling out billions of dollars on three new federal programs that essentially do the same thing. The Affordable Care Act provides funding toward new initiatives aimed at improving the quality of care. But a new report from the HHS Inspector General found that at least three other programs that serve essentially the same purpose are being used by many of the same hospitals. Because of this, the inspector general said the agency is paying significantly more than it should be to achieve the same results. CMS has a $4 billion contract with quality improvement organizations that are set up to help improve care and reduce readmission rates at hospitals. Some of the work they do includes reducing the use of physical restraints in nursing homes and increasing the use of electronic health records. But many of the hospitals collaborating with those organizations are also involved in two separate federal programs that provide the same or similar services. Those programs—the Hospital Engagement Networks and the Community-Based Care Transition Program—have cost about $500 million to set up. The report claims that 80 percent of the hospitals that collaborated with quality improvement organizations also collaborated with the two federal programs in 2013. Over that same time period, 85 percent of hospitals that partnered with the organizations also worked with independent entities like insurers and state and local government programs for similar purposes. The auditors said that the overlap of programs not only wastes money but also makes it difficult to measure which programs are most effective. They criticized CMS for not having better management over the programs and their partner hospitals. “The overlap among CMS’s quality improvement efforts raises concerns about how well CMS coordinates those efforts,” the inspector general said. The IG recommended that CMS ramp up its coordination over the programs to avoid further duplication. The agency concurred, though it cautioned the IG to assume that any money had been wasted. “It is important to note that focus on the same goals through different means does not necessarily equate to duplication, waste or inefficiency,” CMS officials said in their response to the report. Duplication among federal programs is nothing new. Last year, the Government Accountability Office estimated that the government spent about $45 billion in redundant federal programs. The GAO keeps a list of the agencies that are most fraught with overlap and duplication and the Health and Human Services Department is no stranger to that list. Last year, the auditors reported that 10 different agencies within HHS provide similar services relating to AIDS outreach in minority communities while 11 different agencies perform autism research without properly coordinating their efforts. The latest IG report just adds a few new programs to that list. “Our findings underscore that overlap remains a concern,” the auditors said.”



Budget office lowers ObamaCare price tag by 20 percent

“The total price tag for ObamaCare’s insurance programs will be 20 percent less than expected, the government’s budget office said Monday. The law’s insurance provisions are now expected to cost $571 billion through 2019 — a drop of about $139 billion from the government’s earliest estimates five years ago, according to new estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The drop in spending is largely due to the smaller-than-expected subsidies load because enrollment in health insurance through ObamaCare has been slower than expected. The CBO had initially expected 13 million people to sign up for health insurance through the exchanges by the end of this year, though it since revised that figure to 12 million. The enrollment tally is still far higher than the Obama administration’s new target of 9 million people this year. “The agencies still expect enrollment to grow rapidly over the next two years in response to increased outreach by state health agencies and others and to increased awareness of the individual mandate; however, that growth is now anticipated to occur a little more gradually than it was previously,” the report said. The report also offers a glimpse at the long-term changes in the insurance industry likely to result from the Affordable Care Act over the next decade. In all, the CBO predicts that 27 million people will gain coverage under the healthcare law over the next decade. That includes as many as 16 million people gaining coverage through the government-run programs Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as well as a loss of 10 million people with employer-based coverage. The expansion in government-subsidized programs like Medicaid and CHIP is far greater than the government initially expected, and this has driven up costs. By 2025, about 31 million people will remain uninsured, and the majority will be exempt from penalties under the law. About one-third of those who remain uninsured will be immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, the CBO predicted. The White House hailed the CBO’s new figures. “The estimates released today by CBO once again confirm the progress we’ve made in bringing down deficits and expanding access to healthcare under the Affordable Care Act,” said deputy press secretary Eric Schultz in a statement. The costs of ObamaCare have continually decreased since the CBO first began estimating its cost five years ago. Its last estimate was published in April 2014. Some of the lower costs are the result of a slowdown in healthcare expenses, which has been reported by private insurers as well as Medicare and Medicaid officials, the CBO wrote. The law might also be cheaper because of the Supreme Court’s decision making it optional for states to expand Medicaid, a program adopted by about half of the states. The CBO does predict more states will eventually sign onto the Medicaid program, which doles out federal dollars to cover more low-income people under the government-run program. Seven state leaders are currently in talks with the federal government on Medicaid expansions, most of which were not factored into the report. The report only included enrollment figures and administrative actions as of early December. Subsidies made up the biggest chunk of ObamaCare spending, though its costs are less than expected compared to the rising expenses for Medicaid beneficiaries. By 2015, the government will have spent $1.1 trillion on subsidies given to people on the new insurance exchanges or people newly enrolled in Medicaid. The subsidies are expected to keep growing from an average of $5,000 per person in 2016 to $8,000 per person in 2025.”



Obamacare co-ops try to swim—not sink—as red ink persists

“Obamacare co-ops were supposed to be a new way to get insurance to people to help them maintain their health, but more than a year after they first began selling coverage plans, a number of those co-ops might be needing some financial medicine of their own. Before last Friday’s failure of a Midwest-based co-op, a new analysis of the Obamacare co-ops detailed the losses that were booked by all but one of the two dozen nonprofit insurers through the third quarter of 2014. Aggregate underwriting losses at the co-ops hit nearly $244 million through Sept. 30, compared to just more than $72 million in the first quarter of 2014. The A.M. Best analysis also revealed how the debt burden carried by all of the co-ops, which have cumulatively received nearly $2 billion in federal loans to start their businesses, has increased relative to their cash and other assets on hand. And uncertainty over the future funding of a financial shock absorber for insurers built into Obamacare has left a number of the co-ops exposed to the possibility of having to write off what could be a large chunk of income that they are currently booking as an asset if that funding doesn’t materialize, A.M. Best found. “A.M. Best is concerned about the financial viability of several of these plans,” the rating agency said in its report on the co-ops, which the Affordable Care Act created with the goal of providing competitively priced insurance plans on Obamacare exchanges. If some of those plans go out of business, it would mean fewer choices for consumers in their respective markets, and potentially higher premium prices. The report comes weeks after the Iowa insurance commissioner put one of the co-ops, CoOportunity Health, into rehabilitation in late December, taking control of the insurer because of worries the co-op was not adequately capitalized. Nebraska’s insurance department suspended CoOportunity Health’s certificate of authority a day later. Last Friday, Iowa’s insurance commissioner said he would seek to liquidate the co-op. The more than 100,000 customers of the insurer in both his state and Nebraska have been urged to seek new coverage. On Jan. 15, Tennessee’s Obamacare co-op, Community Health Alliance, announced it was freezing enrollment for the 2015 plan year as a “preventative measure to support the long-term viability of” the co-op, which hopes to resume general enrollment later this year for plans that go into effect in 2016. That move came after the Tennessee co-op reported that enrollment in 2015 plans had grown “exponentially” from 2014. Andrew Edelsberg, one of the authors of the A.M. Best report, said, “It’s really hard to handicap it,” when asked if he thought it was likely that one or more co-ops beyond Iowa’s would fail. But Edelsberg noted that when the agency looked at the co-ops last year, just seven had outstanding long-term low-interest loans from the federal government that amounted to more than 100 percent of the value of their capital and surplus. “Now, they’re all over 100 percent,” he said.”




“Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) laid out in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News at the Iowa Freedom Summit the biggest coming scandal of 2015: That the Obama administration is allowing corporations to data mine from healthcare.gov. “We finally have confirmation—I had anecdotal evidence on that when healthcare.gov started up,” Blackburn said. “They denied, denied, denied. Now we have confirmation that yes, indeed, that what healthcare.gov has done is allowed data mining. What we’re trying to find out now—and we’re investigating—did they make money? Did they sell your data? Who got the money? What pool did that money go to? Did that come back into taxpayer funds? Or, have companies been given free access?” Blackburn, the vice chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said congressional hearings are in the works right now, too. “Absolutely, you’re going to see hearings on this,” she said, “because the federal government first and foremost has to protect your data.” Blackburn, a conservative Republican from Nashville, Tennessee, was one of the U.S. House members at the conference that featured several potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates. Blackburn is someone in Congress who can pull many Republicans from different sides of the party in her direction on an issue, and her keen interest in this Obamacare data mining scandal seems to indicate it will become a big deal moving forward. “It is totally outrageous,” Blackburn said. “The federal government—think about it like this. They mandate that you go to this website, and that you enter your personal identifying information, healthcare information and sensitive data into this repository. Your file, if you will, at this website. “Then they transit that website to the IRS, to the Department of Homeland Security, they transit it outside to verify your income and all this information and then they sell it to insurance brokers our outside companies who are going to call you up and try to sell you their product.” Blackburn said it’s a “huge” crony capitalist system, and they’ve got “all this personal data about all these people who have to buy an insurance product.” “Somebody is making money off of you,” Blackburn said.”



Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion Is Nothing to Brag About

“At the end of last year, the Obama administration boasted that almost 10 million people had enrolled in Medicaid since Obamacare went into effect. “This is great news,” an administration official exclaimed. Maybe for the White House. But not for patients and doctors, according to several recent studies. Even before Obamacare, Medicaid was deeply troubled. Its costs have climbed at an average annual rate of 7 percent over the past decade — to nearly $450 billion in 2013. The feds have responded by trying to squeeze doctors and hospitals with de facto price controls. The result is a program that’s breaking the bank while providing substandard care to millions. And Obamacare is only making things worse. Obamacare tempted 27 states and the District of Columbia to expand Medicaid to everyone with income up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level by covering the entire cost of the expansion. In 2017, states will cover 5 percent of those costs. The states’ share of costs will increase each year until 2020, when it will settle at 10 percent. Thanks to this expansion, 65 million Americans are enrolled in Medicaid. That’s an increase of 17 percent over the previous year — and equivalent to one in every five Americans. But just because they have coverage doesn’t mean they’re getting care. Just weeks before the 2014 enrollment numbers were released, the inspector general (IG) for the Department of Health and Human Services released the findings of its Medicaid audit. The IG’s representatives tried to schedule appointments with 1,800 doctors listed as accepting patients through Medicaid managed care plans. Fewer than half managed to get an appointment. Doctors had retired, moved, left the practice, or weren’t taking new Medicaid patients. For those who did manage to secure an appointment, the median wait time was two weeks. One in 10 had to wait more than two months. This delay “creates a significant obstacle for enrollees seeking care,” explained Vince Greiber, an analyst with the Office of Inspector General. The IG shouldn’t have been surprised. A 2011 study published in Health Affairs concluded that almost one-third of doctors weren’t taking new Medicaid patients. Another in the Journal of the American Medical Association observed that just over half of doctors would make an appointment for a Medicaid patient. Still another in the New England Journal of Medicine discovered that Medicaid patients were six times more likely not to get an appointment than those with private insurance. As a result, Medicaid patients often don’t even receive routine care. When they do, it tends to be in high-cost emergency rooms. A 2010 IG report, for example, found that three-quarters of children enrolled in Medicaid didn’t obtain all the required medical, vision, and hearing screenings. An updated audit last year identified only marginal improvements. A study of new Medicaid enrollees in Oregon determined that emergency room use — even for routine care — jumped 40 percent after they enrolled. The Colorado Hospital Association noted that ER use in states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare jumped 5.6 percent last year. States that refused to expand Medicaid only saw an increase of 1.8 percent. Doctors have generally been reluctant to see Medicaid patients because the program offers low reimbursement rates while saddling them with mountains of paperwork.”



Obamacare’s winners and losers

“Meet four of the many faces of Obamacare — two winners and two losers — a small sample among the millions of Americans who remain divided about the benefits of the new government insurance exchanges. One year after the first health insurance marketplaces opened across the country, Health and Human Services officials say more than 185,730 Hoosiers have enrolled in health insurance. And there’s still time. Open enrollment continues until Feb. 15. As a result of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, some people have health insurance for the first time. But others feel they are worse off since the legislation — dubbed Obamacare both drolly and derisively — went into effect…”



Week ahead: ObamaCare deadline nears

“Federal health officials are gearing up for their final enrollment push ahead of the Feb. 15 deadline, roughly three weeks away. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell has been focused on raising the enrollment count to 9.1 million, the administration’s goal for paid sign-ups in 2015. The number of people who have chosen plans or re-enrolled crossed 7 million as of Jan. 16, according to figures released by HHS this week. While most observers expect HHS to hit its goal, it’s still a climb for Burwell and her team, who will continue to hit the airwaves and make appearances next week. During the week, the Congressional Budget Office will release its new outlook and the Senate will be debating the Keystone pipeline. But lawmakers will also hold a number of events on healthcare issues. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will consider six public health bills during a meeting on Tuesday, nearly all of which have bipartisan support and were either authored or considered in the previous Congress. The measures would seek to strengthen enforcement efforts against drug diversion and abuse; improve the Drug Enforcement Agency’s process for scheduling new drugs; avoid unnecessary duplication in training for emergency medical technicians who are military veterans; support rural trauma systems; fund trauma care centers; and support prescription drug monitoring programs at the state level. The bills are expected to pass the health subpanel and advance to consideration by the full committee. The full House will also vote Monday on a number of bipartisan suspension measures to combat human trafficking.”



New surgeon general’s first job: Boosting ObamaCare signups

“The first task for the new surgeon general will be driving up enrollment for ObamaCare – an issue that threatened to derail his confirmation a month ago. Vivek Murthy, who was appointed the U.S. Surgeon General last month, is spending two months meeting with local officials and health leaders in 20 cities, in part to remind them that the last day to sign up for ObamaCare is Feb. 15. Murthy is fresh off a controversial confirmation fight, which centered on his support for gun control and ObamaCare, and which was delayed more than a year. Lawmakers, led by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), had strongly opposed Murthy, blasting him as a dedicated advocate for the president’s healthcare law.  “I’d be reluctant to put into the surgeon general’s office someone who would use that as a bully pulpit to promote a law I think is an historic mistake,” Alexander, who leads the Senate health committee, said last month.”



Young people urged to sign up for ObamaCare

“ObamaCare activists are mounting a new push to encourage young people to sign up for the marketplaces by Feb. 15, the deadline for buying health insurance this year. Thursday will mark the second annual National Youth Enrollment Day, with activist groups scheduled to hold roughly 200 sign-up events around the country.  “With so many millennials qualifying for discounted health plans … it is critical that we provide our peers with every opportunity possible to get covered during this final stretch,” said Jen Mishory, executive director of Young Invincibles, in a statement. The initiative is a joint effort of Young Invincibles, Enroll America and several other organizations. Enrollment fairs will take place in at least 20 states at schools, malls, fitness centers and locations where young people gather, according to a media advisory. The push also involves a new digital campaign intended to bring users to HealthCare.gov and the state-based exchanges. Through coordinated hashtags and Twitter chats, activists hope to generate discussions about health insurance online. The Obama administration and its partners are shifting into high gear in the last three weeks of the enrollment period. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is aiming for 9.1 million paid enrollments for 2015 and hoping to reduce the uninsured rate among Latinos, African Americans and young people. Activists said Monday that most young people are expected to sign up in the final weeks before Feb. 15. HHS announced last week that the number of plans chosen had crossed 7 million.”



Obamacare to reduce uninsured by 19 million through 2015: CBO

“Obamacare will reduce the number of uninsured by 19 million through 2015, Congress’ in-house budget office said Monday. The Congressional Budget Office reported in an update to its budget estimates Monday that Obamacare reduced the number of uninsured non-elderly people by 12 million through 2014, the first year in which the law’s exchanges were open. By 2015, according to the CBO, the number of uninsured will drop by 19 million total, to just 31 million. That figure represents one out of every nine U.S. residents under the age of 65. By 2025, the last year for which the CBO produced estimates, between 24 million and 27 million more people will have health insurance coverage than would have without the law. The CBO’s projections for spending through the law, meanwhile, continue to fall. Altogether, federal spending on insurance coverage will total $76 billion in 2015 and $1.35 trillion over the nine years after that. That total is down $101 billion, or 7 percent, since the CBO’s last estimate in April. Since the CBO first issued estimates for the law in 2010, its projections for spending have come down by roughly 20 percent, mostly because of slower increases in health care prices during that time. In the latest estimates, spending on the health insurance exchanges is marked down by $71 billion over 10 years. Most of that represents smaller cost-sharing subsidies and lower tax credit subsidies for exchange enrollees, as projected by the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation, which produces estimates of tax revenues for Congress.”



HHS outlines shift away from Medicare fee-for-service model

“The Obama administration on Monday set a timeline for historic changes in how it compensates doctors, hospitals and other providers under Medicare, shifting from line-item payments for every service rendered to a system that rewards quality. The Health and Human Services Department will tie 30 percent of traditional, fee-for-service payments to models that base payments on how well doctors and providers care for patients. It hopes to increase that portion up 50 percent by 2018. “Today’s announcement is about improving the quality of care we receive when we are sick, while at the same time spending our health care dollars more wisely,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said. “We believe these goals can drive transformative change, help us manage and track progress, and create accountability for measurable improvement.” The move is an ambitious one for Medicare, which serves roughly 50 million elderly and disabled Americans but tends to pay providers based on the number of tests and services provided, with little regard to health outcomes. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said Medicare’s fee-for-service payments totaled $362 billion in 2014. The agency made virtually no payments under alternative models in 2011, although today they account for 20 percent of payments. The shift comes as Republican majorities in Congress say they’re serious about repealing Medicare’s outdated payment formula, which lawmakers override each year even when the formal calls for a pay cut.  Both parties want to scrap the formula, known as the Sustainable Growth Rate, although they need to find more than $100 billion to pay doctors the current rate while the system shifts to more predictable model. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the conservative American Action Forum and former director of the Congressional Budget Office, said Monday the administration must be sure its solutions will work “before imposing a massive regulatory overhaul for its own sake.” “The first step towards recovery is admitting there is a problem. Fee-for service Medicare doesn’t encourage quality care, and is a great way to waste money, so CMS is right to want to move to alternatives,” Mr. Holtz-Eakin said. “The second step, however, is choosing the right therapy. In its desire to trump Congress with executive action CMS has set ambitious goals with no evidence that these particular alternatives will be effective at reducing costs or improving care.”


Obama administration to overhaul Medicare payments to doctors, hospitals


Gov’t to Overhaul Medicare Payments to Doctors, Hospitals


Major Medicare reforms announced by Obama administration



Senate Finance to consider veterans bill

“The Senate Finance Committee will consider its first piece of legislation of the new Congress on Wednesday, marking up a bipartisan measure to incentivize the hiring of veterans and tweak ObamaCare. The House passed the Hire More Heroes Act roughly three weeks ago by a 412-0 vote, in its first vote dealing with President Obama’s healthcare law this year.

Under the measure, companies could exempt veterans who get healthcare through the Veterans Administration when trying to figure out if they’re subject to ObamaCare’s employer mandate. Backers of the bill say such a move would allow companies to hire more workers. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the measure would add $858 million to the federal debt over a decade, by reducing the tax burden of companies that no longer meet the threshold of 50 or more full-time employees needed to trigger the employer mandate. The Senate didn’t take up the measure in the previous Congress, when it also passed the House overwhelmingly.”



40-Hour Workweek Bill Will Need More Democratic Support

“The first GOP-led attempt this year at changing the Affordable Care Act is slowly advancing toward a Senate vote. Further action looms on legislation changing the health care law’s employer coverage threshold for a full-time worker from 30 hours to 40 hours per week. Earlier this month the House passed its measure (HR 30) adjusting the threshold by a vote of 252-172. Senate Republicans are aware of the need to gain Democratic support for the measure, in order to possibly over-ride an expected White House veto. Two Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana are among the 34 backers of the Senate version of the bill (S 30). However, many more Democrats will be needed to overcome a presidential veto. Only 12 Democrats voted for the House version of the bill. Last week, a Senate panel last week debated the merits of a bill and Democrats on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Democrats appeared unified and seemingly adamant in opposition to the bill.”



What Hearing Did That Slate Reporter Attend? (Forty Hours is Full Time Act hearing)

“I went to testify before the Senate last Thursday and it went as these things do. I had recently written an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal and was asked to appear to discuss the Forty Hours is Full Time Act, a bill that would raise Obamacare’s threshold for employer sponsored coverage from 30 hours to 40 hours a week, eliminating the economic incentive to reduce employees’ hours to fewer than 30 a week. I was invited to testify as the CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc., which owns the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurant chains. But, as is often the case, the more important event may have been some of the post-hearing media coverage. In particular, one article in Slate that ran on Real Clear Politics stands as a case study in the struggles of advocacy journalism with the factual record. As I read this article, I was reminded of Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s wise statement that, “[e]veryone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” First, the article states that another witness and I were “in a tough spot” because we had to “explain why [we] were not providing health coverage to so many of [our] workers.” Actually, I was never “in a tough spot” on this point because no committee member ever asked me for such an explanation. I wish someone had. As I stated in both my written and oral testimony, we offer all – as in every single one – of our employees who qualify for Obamacare that form of coverage (rather than paying the penalty and sending them to the exchanges). We also offer access to inexpensive group insurance to all our employees who are ineligible for employer-sponsored Obamacare insurance. So, every one of our employees has access to health insurance and this has been our policy as long as I’ve been CEO (over 14 years). Had I been asked, I would have been more than happy to discuss the coverage options and why we make sure everyone has the option to purchase insurance. I would hardly have been in a tough spot explaining our actions. Second, this article states that Sen. Murray “noted that Puzder’s claim—that Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. workers who did not get coverage at work could get Obamacare coverage instead—did not hold up in the many states that have rejected the law’s Medicaid expansion.” In reality, I never made this claim concerning our employees getting Obamacare coverage and I never even mentioned Medicaid coverage. Contrary to what Slate and Sen. Murray appear to believe, our employees who work over 30 hours a week make more than the Medicaid cap even in states that did expand that program, so they would be ineligible for coverage regardless of where they live. Had Sen. Murray asked me a question on the substance of this topic, I would have so informed her. She chose to simply make a statement, and Slate reached its own conclusions. Third, the article stated that I said many “Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. franchisees simply could not afford to provide coverage to part-timers. ‘Our franchisees are always trying to keep costs down—that’s the way American businessmen and women succeed.’” It’s an interesting quote. It’s just not something I said. Our franchisees own and operate their own restaurants. My entire testimony discussed our company-owned restaurants, not our franchisees’ restaurants. I did say — and I said this about our company-employed general managers, not our franchisees — that “[i]n an effort to keep consumer prices down, remain competitive and earn their bonuses, our general managers (who are 62 percent minorities and 66 percent women) are always doing what they can to keep costs down. That’s the way American businessmen and women succeed.” But again, let’s be clear, my testimony was about our company-owned restaurant general managers who are employees, not franchisees. I said nothing about what franchises can or cannot afford. My testimony wasn’t even about whether our company (let alone our franchisees) can afford Obamacare’s coverage requirements. Over and above the 1,447 employees to whom we already provided coverage before Obamacare, we offered 5,453 additional eligible employees Obamacare coverage and stood ready to pay the costs of insuring them. Only 420 enrolled. There is a cost associated with insuring these 420 individuals, but it’s something we can fairly easily absorb. The same can’t be said for the thousands of our employees who declined coverage and will have to pay Obamacare’s individual mandate penalty. Finally, the article refers to what the author believes I earned in 2012. Since I wasn’t complaining about Obamacare’s costs, this point seems irrelevant (I wonder how often such notes are made about political or business figures who please Slate). But, in any event, I’m not ashamed of being successful. When looking at issues that impact the business community, I’ve always felt it was beneficial to hear from successful businessmen and women. In fact, I believe businessmen and women have an obligation to speak up. But, they’re generally reluctant to do so, despite their experience and expertise, as certain politically motivated media outlets will inevitably portray them as the bad guys. This only serves to stifle legitimate debate. Perhaps that’s the goal. I hope not. I hope everyone’s true desire is to see businesses create more good-paying jobs for the American people. So, to summarize, this article implied a question was asked that wasn’t, falsely attributed to me a statement (“Puzder’s claim”) I never made, came up with a second statement (“he said”) that I also never made and then tried to discredit me based on what the author believes I earned in 2012. Problematic journalism at the least. The problem, and the real point of this hearing, is that American businesses have adjusted to Obamacare’s 30-hours-a-week coverage threshold by turning hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of jobs where employees work 30 hours or more a week into jobs where they work under 30 hours. This is hurting American workers who need the hours and incomes. The Forty Hours is Full Time Act is an Obamacare fix that would leave the law otherwise intact. In fact, it wouldn’t even eliminate Obamacare’s employer mandate as the left-leaning Urban Institute advocates. This bipartisan bill has passed in the House and has the votes to pass in the Senate, if the Republicans can get the 60 votes needed to bring it to a vote. Republicans only have 54 votes, but with the two Democrats who co-sponsored this bill, there are already at least 56 votes.”



IRS offers ObamaCare relief

“The IRS said Monday that it would offer some taxpayers relief if they received too much of a subsidy for purchasing healthcare. Taxpayers who received a premium tax credit to purchase health insurance are required on their tax return this year to reconcile the tax break they received with the amount they were supposed to get based on their actual income.

Because of that requirement, some taxpayers who received the premium tax credit are likely to face an unexpected expense on their return this year. Under the deal the IRS offered Monday, taxpayers who ask for a waiver by April 15, are otherwise current on their taxes and report the excess payment won’t face a penalty for not paying the IRS back on time. Those taxpayers do still have to eventually pay back taxes for the credit, with interest.”



Here comes the next Obamacare showdown

“If the U.S. Supreme Court rules in June that health insurance subsidies for millions of Americans are illegal, Republicans better not be caught flat-footed, because President Obama will be ready to pounce, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told the Washington Examiner in an interview. “As the president said to me in the White House [earlier this month], he said, ‘There are five million people [who receive subsidies through the federal exchange] — and I know who they are.’ He spoke like a community organizer who was going to try to use those people that he has actually caused significant damage to by not applying the law,” Barrasso said from his senate office. The Wyoming senator has of late been something of a Paul Revere of the Republican Senate majority, shouting, “King vs. Burwell is coming! King vs. Burwell is coming!” King vs. Burwell is a case with major implications for the future of Obamacare that will be argued before the Supreme Court on March 4 and likely decided by the end of June. At issue are the subsidies that the federal government provides for individuals purchasing insurance through Obamacare. Though the text of the law says the subsidies were to go to individuals obtaining insurance through an “exchange established by the state,” a rule released by the Internal Revenue Service subsequently instructed that subsidies would also apply to exchanges set up on behalf of states by the federal government… Additionally, the individual mandate exempts those who can’t find health insurance options for less than 8 percent of their income — thus, if the subsidies are eliminated, more people will be able to claim this exemption. “The King decision is going to force the president’s hand to sign legislation and it’s going to give us an opportunity to work on ways of trying to eliminate some of the most damaging parts of the healthcare law,” Barrasso said. Should the justices rule this way, Barrasso expects that Obama and his allies in the media would focus on those who would be stripped of insurance subsidies – people who he argued were thrown into turmoil by Obama’s misapplication of the law. Obama would likely push Republicans to pass a simple technical “fix” that would change the language of the statute to allow for subsidies to be used toward purchasing coverage on the federal exchange. But such a bill is likely to receive a cool reception from Republicans. For one thing, the bill would restore hundreds of billions of dollars of spending that would have been effectively wiped out once the subsidies were declared illegal. Also, restoring the subsidies would further entrench Obamacare, before a Republican president even has a chance to advance an alternative were Republicans to take over the White House in 2017. Instead, Barrasso said Republicans are likely to demand that Obama agree to make changes to Obamacare that would eliminate objectionable features of the law, such as the individual mandate, in exchange for a temporary restoration of the subsidies. “This president is going to try to force Republicans to pass a one-page fix that says, make all that he has done illegal, and make it legal with a one-page bill,” Barrasso said. “I don’t see Republicans doing that. I think if he does want to continue subsidies for some period of time — which will be a limited period of time — that he’s going to have to agree to make some significant, what he would consider concessions, that I would consider differently. I’d consider as removing more damaging parts of the healthcare law. And that would be eliminating the mandates, giving more freedom and flexibility to those 37 states who haven’t set up their own exchanges.” Barrasso said he’s already been working on possible legislation to respond to the verdict, along with the relevant Senate committees, the Republican Policy Committee, and House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan. Barrasso said the nature of the legislation could change based on the nuances of any Supreme Court ruling. “We are working on a transition plan from what the President’s health care law is now, that does provide for those people who are getting subsidies and would possibly be abruptly cut off, as we transition to a more market-based health care plan,” he said.”



GOP leaders use ‘60 Minutes’ spotlight to ding Obamacare, but alternative remains elusive



GOP Plan To Repeal Obamacare Is Doomed

“Reconciliation” is the process congressional Republicans seem hell bent on using to repeal, or at least make a sizeable change in, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). But what the GOP majorities in the House and Senate haven’t yet admitted to themselves…or anyone else for that matter…is that using reconciliation to do what they say they want to do on Obamacare is virtually guaranteed not just to fail but to fail miserably. Indeed, even though this session of Congress only started three weeks ago, any effort by Republicans to use reconciliation to do away with Obamacare has all the signs of being the biggest GOP legislative debacle not just of this year but through the 2016 election. A just-published, excellent and brief paper by David Reich and Richard Kogan of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provides the basics of reconciliation. (CBPP is where many other Republican and Democratic budget analysts turn to when they have questions about concepts and procedures and this paper is straightforward and not partisan.) Based in part on my reading of what David and Richard wrote as well as my own experiences with federal budget politics and procedures, here’s why the GOP plan to use reconciliation to repeal, gut, modify or slow down Obamacare just won’t work. Reconciliation only happens if Congress passes a budget resolution conference report that includes directives to one or more committees to make changes in mandatory spending programs or revenues within their jurisdiction. But even with Republican majorities in both house of Congress, and even with the procedures that prevent it from being filibustered in the Senate, adopting a budget resolution is anything but a sure thing this year. Indeed, as the first three weeks of this session of Congress have shown, it is not at all clear that the more inflexibly conservative House Republicans and their more politically vulnerable Senate Republican colleagues will be able to agree on as many things as was assumed the day after election day. No budget resolution will mean no reconciliation. No reconciliation will mean that proposed changes in the Affordable Care Act can be filibustered in the Senate and will require 60 votes to proceed. And it is highly unlikely that Democrats will provide the votes needed to invoke cloture on a major (and perhaps even very minor) Obamacare change bill and allow the debate to proceed. Even if Congress adopts a budget resolution conference with reconciliation instructions to make changes in Obamacare, there’s hardly a guarantee that the specific changes proposed by the House will be acceptable to the Senate and vice versa. The same ideological and political differences between House and Senate Republicans that will make it difficult for a budget resolution to be adopted could make it virtually impossible to reach an agreement on the actual changes in the law.”



High court declines to review Oklahoma case against Affordable Care Act

“The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday to consider Oklahoma’s case against Affordable Care Act subsidies as part of the justices’ review of the issue. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt had asked the court to pair the state’s case with one from Virginia. In that case, a federal appeals court ruled that the health insurance law allowed the U.S. government to subsidize insurance policies purchased on federal exchanges. The lawsuit was brought by Virginia residents who argued that the 2010 law only allows subsidies for policies bought on state exchanges. The subsidies are intended to help people afford coverage. A federal judge in Oklahoma sided with Pruitt and ruled last year that the subsidies should only be available to insurance policies purchased on state exchanges. The Obama administration appealed that decision to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has yet to rule. Pruitt wanted the Supreme Court to take the Oklahoma case before the 10th Circuit actually ruled, which would be an unusual step. The high court declined. Still, the issue being pressed by Pruitt and other opponents of the Affordable Care Act is expected to be decided sometime this summer.”



White House asks court to toss House Republicans’ Obamacare lawsuit

“The administration asked the federal court late Monday to dismiss the House lawsuit against President Obama, saying he is faithfully carrying out his health law and the GOP lawmakers who filed the legal challenge have no right to sue. “The Supreme Court has made clear that federal courts do not sit to referee this sort of institutional dispute,” the administration said in its legal brief asking the federal court in Washington, D.C., to reject the House lawsuit.”



Does Obamacare provide federal subsidies for elective abortions?

“Public funding for abortions is intricately structured. Under the Hyde Amendment, federal funds can’t be used for elective abortions under Medicaid-funded plans. Some states do pay 100 percent of the cost of elective abortions without passing on any cost to the federal government. Under Obamacare, health insurance plans could cover some or all elective abortions, but they can’t use federal tax credits and subsidies to offset the cost. Insurance providers that cover elective abortions must charge consumers separately and deposit the money into a separate account that contains no federal money. Providers need to bill enrollees separately for elective abortions by itemizing them separately in monthly bills or sending separate bills. States can pass laws to ban or restrict health plans from providing coverage for elective abortions. In 2014, 23 states restricted coverage for these procedures. There were 1,036 plans in 28 states that provided some or all coverage for elective abortions. In a speech to Congress and a subsequent executive order, President Obama gave assurances that federal subsidies would not be used to cover elective abortion services. He ordered Health and Human Services and the Office of Management and Budget to issue a guideline for states so they can comply with billing and funding segregation requirements. Obama’s not keeping his promise, say supporters of H.R. 7. Staffers for Foxx and two of the other lawmakers who made similar claims — H.R. 7 sponsor Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) – pointed to a September 2014 Government Accountability Office report. At the request of GOP leaders, the GAO examined whether health plans were following the elective abortion billing requirements. GAO picked 18 plans in 10 states with no laws restricting abortion coverage as a non-probability sample representing a quarter of all health plans that cover elective abortions. GAO found 17 of 18 issuers were not separately billing consumers. The one remaining issuer said its bills show there is a charge “for coverage of services for which member subsidies may not be used.” These issuers did not give blanket coverage for all abortions. One covered abortions that a health-care provider determines necessary, and two limited coverage to no more than one elective abortion a year. All 18 issuers had payment requirements such as co-pays, deductions and out-of-pocket costs.”








Border Surge Likely Again In 2015, Data Shows

“The flow of Central American migrant families across the Texas border is continuing at almost the same level as a year ago, according to newly released federal data. In the last three months of 2014, 7,468 Central American migrants crossed in family units, down only 12 percent from the 8,511 migrants who crossed during the last three months of 2013, according to the federal data. The late 2013 flow was the vanguard of roughly 60,000 adults and children who crossed in so-called “family units” during the 12 months up to October 2014. That “family unit” inflow occurred alongside the much-publicized inflow of 60,000 children and youths. Since last summer, White House officials have made deals with Mexico and other Central Americans countries that are intended to block the northern flow of migrants. The continued flow across the border suggests those deals have not succeeded. Republican leaders are rapidly pushing a new border security bill that only adds 48 miles of fending to the 2,000-mile border but doesn’t do anything to end President Barack Barack Obama’s catch-and-release policy toward Central American migrants, say critics. The bill also calls for improved technological surveillance of the border and a better visa tracking system, and for more active duty officers and agents on the border. The leaders’ bill is slated for a quick markup as early as Monday Jan. 26, and a floor vote on Wednesday, Jan. 28. The continued inflow of family migrants suggests there will be another border surge starting as early as March, said Jessica Vaughan, policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that favors low-scale immigration. But the Central American governments want their poor citizens to migrant to the United States, the Mexican police are too corrupt to stop the cartel-managed surge, and Obama will likely repeat his 2014 policy of allowing the migrants to apply for asylum and work permits, Vaughan said. GOP legislators “will look foolish if they pass this [border] bill,” because it doesn’t force Obama to actually block the migrants, she said.”




“The controversial border security legislation that was supposed to receive a House vote Wednesday has been pulled from the schedule. A House leadership aide pointed to the weather and scheduling issues as the reason Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul’s (R-TX) Secure Our Borders First Act was scrapped from this week’s list of House votes. A decision on when the bill will receive a vote remains to be determined, the aide added. House votes were cancelled Monday due to a blizzard bearing down on the northeast. The already short week means there will now only be two legislative days. McCaul’s border bill has taken heat from many quarters, including conservative Republicans such as Sen. Jeff Sessions, who argues the legislation does not go far enough.”



Snow forces House to cancel Monday votes

And action on a border security bill has been postponed for the entire week.

“The House has canceled its vote series Monday evening due to the winter storm bearing down on the East Coast. This was already slated to be a short week in Washington. The House Democrats begin their legislative retreat Wednesday afternoon in Philadelphia. The chamber will now only be in session for two days. The storm has also forced the House to put off consideration of a border security bill. The legislation was running into some opposition from conservatives, who thought it was a first step toward comprehensive immigration reform. Instead, the House will consider the LNG Permitting and Transparency Act, which relates to exports of liquefied natural gas.”



House delays border security bill vote

“The House won’t vote this week on a controversial GOP border security plan that some conservatives complained would do little to stop President Obama’s order to shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.  Aides to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who controls the floor schedule, said the blizzard pummeling the Northeast forced the cancellation of votes Monday night. And due to the shortened schedule this week, the vote on the border bill — originally slated for Wednesday — has been postponed until a later date. But conservative opponents of the border legislation, authored by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas), say the snowstorm gave GOP leaders a convenient excuse to pull the bill as they struggled to shore up support. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and a handful of conservative House allies have been warning fellow Republicans about the McCaul bill. They say Senate leaders might try to take up the border bill to fight Obama’s immigration actions while abandoning a tougher, House-passed bill that would block funding for the president’s unilateral efforts. “Voting for a feeble border bill would just help the Senate leadership strip out the House defund measure,” said one GOP aide. “GOP leaders are therefore having trouble whipping the votes. House members don’t want to help leaders across the chamber detract from their defund measure.”



GOP nixes vote on border bill

“House Republican leaders Monday abruptly canceled votes this week on their border security bill, blaming the weather but also earning more time to work out disagreements within their own caucus that had threatened to scuttle the legislation. Under the new schedule announced Monday afternoon, the House will no longer vote on any bills Monday evening, but will spend Tuesday and Wednesday working on bills dealing with human trafficking and liquid natural gas. The border bill had been planned for debate on Wednesday, but is no longer on the schedule. The House will take a short vacation Thursday and Friday for Democrats to hold their annual policy retreat. Democrats are overwhelmingly opposed to the border bill, arguing that Congress should leave it up to the Obama administration to decide how to enforce the laws. That means GOP leaders weren’t able to count on any Democratic support for the bill. Republicans could still pass the bill through the House if they were unified, but conservatives have rebelled, arguing the border bill doesn’t go far enough in cracking down on the problem. Couple with Democrats’ opposition, it was unlikely Republican leaders could have mustered enough votes for their bill without changes.”



House GOP leaders cancel vote on border security bill amid blizzard of complaints

“However, the bill, passed last week in the House Homeland Security Committee, faced opposition from some of the chamber’s most conservative members. Some lawmakers argue the bill — considered a first step toward a more comprehensive immigration package — fails to adequately address the issue of illegal immigrants inside U.S. borders. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., called the bill “a show horse, not a work horse.”  The opposition has frustrated GOP leaders as they try to formulate their own strategy on immigration. “For God’s sakes, if we can’t unite around border security what can we unite around?” asked Texas GOP Rep. Michael McCaul, author of the legislation and chairman of the homeland security committee.  Republicans have controlled the House since 2011 and in November increased their majority by 13 seats. However, party leaders have struggled to corral members in the opening weeks of the 114th Congress — scrapping a vote just last week on an anti-abortion bill after female members objected to its narrowly tailored exception clause. The vote on the border security bill likely will not take place until at least next week, considering McCaul is scheduled to lead a large group of fellow House Republicans on a tour this weekend of the U.S.-Mexico border. Amid conservative complaints about the bill itself, some lawmakers argued that House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team were trying to rally support for the bill instead of making a strong stand against recent executive actions by President Obama that suspended deportation for millions of illegal immigrants. (The House has passed a bill unraveling those actions, but its fate is unclear in the Senate.)  Brooks said, “And as such, it is an effort to convince the American people that we are doing something substantive to secure the border when in fact nothing substantive is being done.” Brooks is among a group of House conservatives aligned with Alabama GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions, perhaps Congress’ most outspoken critic of the administration’s so-called “amnesty” immigration policies.”



House bill on border security sidetracked



House GOP pulls border bill, citing weather, but foes say support wasn’t there



Conservatives win border security battle

“House Republicans have pulled a border security bill from floor consideration this week amid concerns by conservatives that the legislation is not tough enough. Republican leadership aides told the Washington Examiner that internal opposition was not behind their decision, but conservatives are claiming victory. “They knew they didn’t have the support for this bill,” one GOP lawmaker told the Washington Examiner, requesting anonymity.  Republican leadership aides pointed to the weather forecast of 1-3 inches of snow in the Washington area, coupled with a blizzard forecast in the Northeast, that could make it difficult for many lawmakers to travel to Washington D.C.  In addition, leadership aides said, they are dealing with a shortened legislative schedule this week due to a planned Democratic retreat. “We don’t have enough time,” said a spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. But conservatives say the the bill was pulled from scheduled floor debate mainly because conservatives wouldn’t support it. Some of them said they feared it would be used to dodge a Department of Homeland Security spending showdown with President Obama over his executive actions aimed at providing work permits for millions of illegal immigrants. A House-passed bill that would defund Obama’s executive moves on immigration has yet to be considered in the Senate. “We should finish the amnesty issue before we start up another bill,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., told the Examiner. The border bill, authored by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, would set deadlines for DHS to secure the border and would require other enhancements aimed at stopping the influx of illegal immigrants.  Conservatives said the bill lacked improvements to interior enforcement, which the GOP leadership said would be debated in future legislation. Conservatives told the Washington Examiner they want lawmakers to debate an interior enforcement bill alongside the McCaul border security bill. An interior enforcement bill could be ready as early as February, some lawmakers said.  Conservatives are particularly eager to address the “catch and release” policies that have resulted in the release of tens of thousands of illegals, including thousands with criminal convictions. Opposition began mounting last week among lawmakers. Over the weekend, the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing more than 16,000 border patrol agents, put out a statement opposing the legislation, saying it would “do very little,” to secure the border because it did not call for enough of an increase in staffing, resources or training.  Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a staunch proponent of border security enhancements, said he also opposes the House measure.  The growing chorus of opposition left Republican leaders on Monday with little choice but to pull the legislation. It’s likely the GOP would have needed most of the GOP conference to back the border bill because Democratic caucus so far has registered strong opposition. Democrats say the bill was crafted without their input and unanimously opposed it in a committee vote last week.”



House may delay border security bill until mid-February

“The House might have to delay consideration of its border security bill until the middle of February, Republican leadership sources said Monday. The leadership’s original plan was to have House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul’s (R-Texas) legislation on the floor this week. But the impending snow storm has left Congress with just two days in session, and GOP leaders fear they do not have enough time to canvass the House Republican Conference for support. Attendance might be light.”




“A border bill introduced by House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) has less than 50 miles of border fencing because McCaul thinks it would cost American taxpayers too much to secure the whole border, McCaul aides tell Breitbart News. “Fencing is expensive, and when you talk to folks on the ground, like we did this week, they say they just don’t need it,” a Homeland Security Committee aide told Breitbart News in an email when asked about the deficiency of fencing in the bill. “Some areas they do, most they don’t. Fencing alone doesn’t solve the problem, [because] even in areas of double fencing they drive through/cut through and if you don’t have visibility from the sky, and agents, its useless. This bill seeks to give each sector what the stakeholders need, [because] each sector is unique in terrain and traffic volume.” McCaul has called his bill the “strongest” border security measure ever introduced in the history of the United States Congress, but the revelation that he thinks—according to his committee—that building a double-layer fence along the full border is too expensive undercuts that notion. In addition, committee materials that were distributed to House Republicans in an effort to win their support for the bill contain provably false information—specifically a claim that there are already 652 miles of double-layer fencing, of the 700 miles required by law, built on the U.S. border with Mexico… There are still hundreds of miles of that 700 miles of double layer fencing required by current law that haven’t been built. But in talking points the Homeland Security Committee has been distributing secretly to House Republican offices—with the help of the Republican leadership—they claim that the 48 miles of double-layer fencing the amended McCaul bill has would meet the full 700-mile requirement of the Secure Fence Act. “As amended, the bill requires the 48 miles of double-layer fence to complete the 700 miles of fencing required under current law,” the McCaul talking points document distributed to unsuspecting House Republican offices, since obtained by Breitbart News, reads. In the document, McCaul’s committee actually counts vehicle barriers that fully allow illegal aliens to walk right through from Mexico into the United States as if they were part of hundreds of miles of the double-layer fencing. It also counts weaker single-layer fencing—called “pedestrian fence” in the talking points document—as double-layer fencing, which just isn’t accurate. “[W]e only have 652 miles of the 700 miles of fence required by current law,” McCaul’s committee staff wrote in the talking points. “Of that, 353.8 miles is pedestrian fence and the remainder, 299.8 miles, is made up of vehicle barriers. The Secure Our Borders First Act completes the 700 miles of fencing.” Jessica Vaughan, a Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) immigration expert and former U.S. State Department official, wrote in an analysis that the McCaul bill as amended would leave more than 600 miles of the required double-layer fencing undone. “The main change to the bill made in the committee mark-up process was to increase the number of miles of new double fencing from 27 to 48, adding an additional ten miles in the Del Rio sector and another mile in the Tucson sector,” Vaughan wrote. “This would bring the total length of double fencing up to 84 miles (over 600 miles less than the 700 miles mandated by the Secure Fence Act of 2006.)”



Surprise: Ineffective Republican Border Security Bill Drafted Without Input From Border Patrol Agents

“…But many Border Patrol Agents don’t agree and hardly view the legislation as “very tough” or strong. In a statement released Friday, National Border Patrol Council spokesman Shawn Moran said McCaul’s legislation will “not be effective in helping to secure our borders,” and offered a set of additional solutions. Moran also pointed out Border Patrol agents working on the front lines weren’t consulted during the drafting of the legislation.  The National Border Patrol Council believes that in order to reverse the current trends legislation must contain the following elements:

–Increased manpower to deal with the illegal immigration and drug smuggling. The NBPC is advocating for an additional 5,000 agents. HR 399 only duplicates a staffing floor that is already in place through the annual appropriations bill.

–Increased training to better prepare agents to react to changing threats on the border. This would include restoring the academy to approximately 20 weeks that most law enforcement agencies have, and not the 54 days used by the Border Patrol.

–Increased resources for agents to do the job they are trained to do. This would include  better gear, more M-4 rifles in the field, and improved communications equipment.

“We believe that overall H.R. 399 will not be effective in helping to secure our borders. This legislation speaks about metrics but frankly does not provide either the strategy or the resources necessary to achieve them. We need real solutions on the border where the trends are moving in the wrong direction with increased apprehensions, more aggressive action from smugglers and drug cartels, and continued threats from terrorists,” Moran said. “Although there are some positive elements to H.R. 399, we believe in it’s entirety it will only serve as window dressing and was drafted without any input front line agents who are protecting our border. We are very interested in working with any member of Congress to create legislation that focuses on a real strategy that keeps our nation and our agents safe.” National Border Patrol Council is urging lawmakers to vote no on the legislation this week.”



Border Patrol Agents’ Union Critical of McCaul Border Bill

“The National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), the union that represents some 17,000 Border Patrol agents and support personnel, announced on January 23 that they are opposed to the Secure Our Borders First Act (H.R. 399), introduced in the House by Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas), on January 16. H.R. 399 “does nothing to preclude anyone in the world from turning themselves in at the U.S. border and obtaining automatic entry and federal benefits,” said NBPC President Kenneth Palinkas in a statement released January 22. The problem with the bill, asserted Palinkas, is not that it would fail to apprehend illegal aliens at the border, but that it lacks a procedure to quickly process those ineligible for asylum and return them to their home countries. He continued: Almost anyone at all can call themselves an asylum-seeker and get in; it’s a global joke. It’s not border security if anyone can recite the magic words and get waved right on in. Those who arrived in the 2014 border run are still here, often living on U.S. support and even applying for U.S. jobs.”



Sen. Sessions Hits McCaul Proposal: ‘We’re Not Going To Have Control Of The Border’ [AUDIO]

“Continuing his assault against reforms to the U.S. immigration system, Sen. Jeff Sessions lashed out at Rep. Michael McCaul’s border security proposal. The Alabama senator told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham Monday morning that his main concern with the proposal is that “five years from now, we’re not going to have control of the border,” while adding that nobody is “going to do anything about it” in the future. “The biggest danger to me is that we will say we’ve fixed the matter when we’ve fixed the border and nothing else has to be done, and the special interest forces that are so effective in blocking things that will actually work will re-double their efforts and block the things that need to be done,” Sessions said. “I do believe this bill is not strong, won’t make a big difference, Border Patrol agents have just hammered it, saying it’s not going to be effective.” “It doesn’t add any Border Patrol officers, doesn’t end the catch and release,” Sessions told Ingraham. “It may not be McCaul’s jurisdiction, but we’ve got to be sure that this idea where you capture people at the border and then they’re released in the United States, asked to come back to court, and of course they never come back to court, that’s got to end, and this bill doesn’t deal with that.” “The most realistic, from my perspective, problem is that five years from now, we’re not going to have control of the border and nobody’s going to do anything about it,” Sessions said pointedly. “We’ve been talking about this for 30 years and it hasn’t happened.” The Alabama Republican also touched on the potential 2016 candidates, telling Ingraham that he hasn’t seen any prospective candidate come “out with clarity” on what needs to happen in the future with immigration and the border. “I don’t see anyone yet coming out with clarity on what needs to occur,” Sessions said. “I would like them to say with integrity, ‘I understand the American people, your family, your jobs are being hurt by this excessive, illegal flow of immigrants, we’re going to end that. We’re going to stop the border, we’re going to create a lawful system that serves the national interest, not the special interests, and I’m going to be laying out details to show how to get there.’” “This can be done. It’s not that hard,” Sessions added.”





Immigration Officials Have This To Say About Obama’s Executive Amnesty Order, and the GOP May Not Like It

“Illegal immigration remains at the top of the list of most important issues to Americans. States that border Mexico had to deal with an overwhelming influx of illegal immigrants in the past year. According to Kenneth Palinkas, the president of National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, which represents United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) workers, the situation will only be getting worse. He blames President Barack Obama’s amnesty executive order. Palinkas says that the President’s executive order, which allowed five million immigrants to remain in the United States, has compromised the ability of USCIS workers to do their jobs. “Instead of meeting our lawful function to protect the Homeland and keep out those who pose a threat to US security, health, or finances, our officers will be assigned to process amnesty for individuals residing illegally inside our nation’s borders. “This compromises national security and public safety, while undermining officer morale.” Palinkas went on to say that current bills in Congress do not fully address the immigration issue. According to Palinkas, the bill put in place to close off the borders to illegal immigrants lacks the teeth to dismantle the President’s order. “Almost anyone at all can call themselves an asylum-seeker and get in; it’s a global joke. It’s not border security if anyone can recite the magic words and get waved right on in. “Those who arrived in the 2014 border run are still here, often living on US support and even applying for US jobs.” USCIS workers are overwhelmed by the amount of immigrants who are not turned away at the border, says Palinkas. Immigrants may stay in the United States under false pretense. Palinkas has called on Congress to provide the USCIS with the necessary resources to properly process out the immigrants who have no cause to seek asylum. “We process millions upon millions of applications every year for lifetime immigrant green cards, refugee admissions, asylum-seekers, temporary workers, visitors, tourists, and more – but we do so without any of the resources or mission support we need to screen these individuals properly, let alone to conduct in-person interviews.” According to Palinka’s insights, the President’s amnesty order does little to help those on the front lines of border control. And USCIS workers provide important security in the battle to protect the nation from those who want to do U.S. citizens harm. Congress would be wise to heed his warning and counter the President’s immigration policy. That would hopefully give border workers the tools they need to protect Americans.”




“Breitbart Texas’ Managing Director Brandon Darby responded to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul’s (R-Texas) claim that the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Sector is “the most wide open unprotected sector that we have on the U.S. – Mexico border.” Darby said, “He’s dead wrong about the RGV sector. In fact, he’s substantially wrong about his border security approach across the board.” “Breitbart Texas has spent considerable time in each of the nine sectors on the U.S. border with Mexico,” Darby explained. “The Laredo Sector is much more open and under-secured than the RGV Sector. The same is true for the Del Rio and the Big Bend Sectors. Parts of the Tucson Sector are mountainous and frighteningly wide open. This politician is either woefully uninformed or he is just grandstanding — as many politicians have done regarding the RGV Sector.” McCaul’s comments came at the conclusion of a Congressional delegation’s tour of the RGV Sector of the Texas border on Sunday. This sector has been one of the focal points of the border security debate. The issue of border security was recently reinvigorated with the filing of the Secure Our Borders First Act. The delegation rode in armored boats along the banks of the Rio Grande, guarded by Texas Rangers and U.S. Border Patrol agents. They docked in Anzalduas Park, a local attraction that became famous as the entry point for thousands of illegal immigrants and unaccompanied minors from Central America. These immigrants would turn themselves in to authorities hoping to get processed and released with a notice to appear in court that many began erroneously calling a “permiso” or permit — though it did, in effect, result in them being allowed to stay in the United States. “This is what I believe is the most wide open unprotected sector that we have on the U.S. – Mexico border,” said McCaul during a press conference right after the tour. The bill, as described by McCaul, is the strongest border security bill to date and claims to follow Texas’ response with the border surge of DPS troopers and the deployment of the National Guard. “I credit the State of Texas for their response with their border surge but this is a federal responsibility and this is a federal border surge,” he said. Darby also took issue with this statement. He said, “Again, the politically-beneficial myth that Texas secured the border surfaces. The State of Texas has five border sectors. The RGV Sector is one of the five. Very little to nothing was done in the Laredo Sector that sits next door. The same is true for the Del Rio Sector, the Big Bend Sector, and the El Paso Sector. They have been wide open in many areas and Border Patrol agents risked their careers to publicly bring attention to this fact. The State of Texas did not address them, just as the federal government did not address them. They were wide open before the surge, during the surge, and they remain wide open to this day.” According to McCaul, the bill is set to fully fund the National Guard, provide military aerostats and sensors, as well as fund additional fencing and roads. The bill also doubles the funding for grant programs such as “Stone Garden,” which gives money to local departments to place overtime officers on border security and drug interdiction details. Darby noted that Border Patrol agents routinely express concerns over not having the manpower to respond to each sensor and visual security aid they already have in place. He said, “Adding more cameras and sensors, without adding Border Patrol agents who can respond, is just ridiculous. This aspect relies upon the hope that the public is ignorant of the realities of the Southwest border. There are not enough agents. The agents in some sectors have to deal with mountains that can take a several hour commitment to climb and track aliens. The current situation is one where agents can’t work past their scheduled hours. What good would more sensors or balloons do them? Border security demands more agents and the ability for those agents to work more hours when needed — and get compensated for those hours.”




“The biggest casualty of the President’s executive amnesty, aside from the Constitution, has been the American worker. President Obama is handing out millions of work permits to illegal aliens at a time when many Americans are struggling to find a job. It is difficult to grasp why President Obama seems more interested in lending a helping hand to illegal aliens than American workers. Sadly, the issuance of work permits is often an overlooked part of the President’s amnesty. The unemployment rate in the African American community stands at 10.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Black women twenty years of age and older are unemployed at 8.2 percent. Black men and women, ages 16-19, are suffering through an astonishing unemployment rate of 33.2 percent. The unemployment rate in the Hispanic or Latino community is 6.5 percent (also above the national average of 5.6 percent). While the Administration touts the decline of the unemployment rate as a sign that the economy is back, the devil is in the details. The workforce participation rate dropped in December to 62.7 percent, a thirty-six year low. The truth is that Americans are dropping out of the workforce in record numbers because they have lost “hope.” President Obama is betraying American workers by outsourcing jobs to illegal aliens, especially those in minority communities where unemployment is the highest. Food stamp usage has reached records level during the Obama presidency, yet he is further diminishing their chances of finding a job because he wants to take care of those who broke our laws to come here. What about American workers? I have fought the President’s amnesty relentlessly and will continue to do so. Last summer I worked with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas to freeze the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by passing a bill out of the House. On January 14th, the House passed my Amendment to the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill to once again freeze DACA. The DACA program grants work permits to illegal aliens between the ages of 15 and 33. (subject to limited exception, applicants must have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 and at least 15 years or older to request DACA according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). I do not believe that President Obama should be putting the needs of illegal aliens over American citizens. Americans are tired of being broke and jobless. Meanwhile, President Obama is unilaterally issuing millions of work permits to illegal aliens. Does this sound like “hope and change”? We should be putting the needs of our own citizens first. American workers are being betrayed by the President’s amnesty.”




“President Barack Obama’s approval rating is as high as it’s been since mid-2013, reaching 50 percent on Monday according to Gallup. “Less than a week after President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address to Congress, his job approval rating reached 50% in Gallup Daily tracking conducted Friday through Sunday,” Gallup’s Lydia Saad wrote on Monday. “This is the first time the president’s rating has returned to that level in Gallup’s ongoing three-day rolling averages since June 2013.” This comes as Republicans have backed down from several immigration campaign promises as they seek to “govern” rather than follow through on what they said they were going to do. Republicans, in late 2014 in the lame duck session of Congress, passed a 1,774-page, $1.1 trillion “cromnibus” spending bill that funded Obama’s executive amnesty—despite prior campaign trail promises from almost every Republican candidate and Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus that Republicans would block funding for it. Not one member of Congress had time to read the text of the cromnibus bill before voting for it. It wasn’t until the new Congress was seated in early 2015—and after a nearly successful coup attempt against Speaker John Boehner by 25 Republicans in his conference—that the House passed a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending bill that blocks funding for Obama’s executive amnesty. The cromnibus debate handed GOP leverage to Obama and then outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — Boehner relied on Democrat votes to pass it. Still, the House-passed the DHS funding bill could block funding for Obama’s executive amnesty—if the Senate passes it and Republicans could convince Obama to sign it despite his veto threat. Senate Republicans say they will “try” to pass the House-passed bill, but they need to convince at least six Democrats to support it to get past cloture since there are only 54 Republicans in the new GOP-controlled Senate.”






2 more states join Texas-led immigration lawsuit

“Texas says two more states have joined its coalition suing over the Obama administration’s executive action on immigration, meaning 26 states are now part of the case. New Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Monday that Nevada and Tennessee have officially become part of the coalition.”


Nevada joins lawsuit challenging Obama’s action on immigration



Garcetti Joins Court Effort To Oppose Lawsuit Over Immigration Reform

“Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was among more than 30 mayors to go to court Monday in an effort to oppose a lawsuit brought by over a dozen states to block President Obama’s immigration reform plan. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City and Houston Mayor Annise Parker along with Garcetti organized a national coalition of mayors that filed its Amicus curiae brief – which are “friend-of-the-court” briefs filed by interested parties in cases in which they are not direct participants – in federal court, according to officials. Texas v. United States was filed last month by a coalition of states and governors against President Obama’s executive action on immigration. “Our residents, economies and municipal budgets directly suffer the consequences when federal immigration reform is stalled,” Mayor Garcetti said. “Moving forward with these reforms is a human and economic imperative, and we’re united to make sure this important policy moves forward.”



Legislators seek to tighten security of visa waiver program amid threats in Europe

“The recent terrorist attacks in Paris are prompting bipartisan legislative efforts to tighten the security of a program that allows millions of foreigners, mostly from Europe, to travel to the United States without visas. The visa waiver program, begun in the mid-1980s to spur tourism and business travel, now includes 38 countries. Citizens from those nations can come here for up to 90 days, bypassing the in-person interview at a U.S. consulate abroad traditionally required for a visa, though the travelers are still screened in a variety of other ways. Conceived in a previous era when traditional European allies were not viewed as threats, the program first raised flags after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Convicted Sept. 11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui, a French national, boarded a flight to the United States visa-free, as did “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, a British national. The Bush administration responded by tightening security requirements. But the recent attacks that killed 17 people in France, combined with the influx of foreign fighters into Syria to fight for the Islamic State and other groups, is triggering heightened concern. With at least 3,000 of those fighters coming from Europe, including an estimated 1,000 from France, some lawmakers fear that radicalized Europeans could return home, fly to the United States without visas and carry out attacks here. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a leading Senate voice on national security, is planning to introduce legislation to strengthen the program’s security features, though her office would not provide details. “There’s no question in my mind that the Visa Waiver Program is a weak link in our efforts to keep violent extremists out of our country and needs to be tightened up,’’ she said in a statement issued to The Washington Post. In the House, homeland security committee chairman Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) has voiced similar concerns and recently co-sponsored legislation that would require the Department of Homeland Security — which administers the program — to consider additional steps to better screen travelers. McCaul’s committee is investigating the program as part of a broad probe into whether the Obama administration has done enough to stop the flow of foreign fighters.”



Republicans in the immigration minefield

“Any Republican event convened by Rep. Steve King — he of “calves the size of cantaloupes” fame — could easily have degenerated into a festival of immigrant-bashing. It is to the credit of the serious GOP presidential prospects in attendance that the Iowa Freedom Summit generally did not. Yes, Donald Trump emerged from his stretch clown car to say that “half of them are criminals.” And King declared that protesting Dream Act supporters were from “the other planet.” But the Republican script in Iowa was mainly focused on criticizing President Obama’s immigration executive actions rather than negatively characterizing illegal immigrants themselves. Avoiding offensive language is admittedly a low bar. But it is progress for Republicans to realize that they are walking in a minefield instead of a meadow. The greatest hazard to Republican prospects with rising demographic groups came in the form of an argument rather than an epithet. Former senator Rick Santorum made the case that the GOP should be “the party of the worker.” Which is better than being the party of disdain for “takers” and the “47 percent.” But Santorum went on to claim that immigration has depressed the earnings of native-born Americans. “We need to stand for an immigration policy,” he said, “that puts Americans and American workers first.” The campaign slogan “America first,” it turns out, is already taken. But Santorum is proposing a serious response to the GOP’s national electoral challenge. Republicans, in this view, need to shift their focus away from high earners to struggling ­middle- and working-class families; and they also need to choose between courting the working class and courting Hispanic voters, because immigrants take jobs and depress wages at the low end. The party of the worker, therefore, must be the party of immigration restrictionism. Santorum is often thoughtful; in this case, he is thoughtfully wrong. His economic case is overblown. Economists sift and dispute the evidence. But the long-term impact of immigration on native wages seems to be slight — slightly positive for those with a high school and some college education, slightly negative for those who don’t graduate from high school. These effects, however, are overwhelmed by other economic trends, such as the advance of technology and globalized labor markets. The white working class does have many problems, but competition from low-skilled immigrants is not among the biggest ones.”



Ashford: Republicans, Democrats need to work together on immigration reform

“After his first weeks in office, Rep. Brad Ashford is back in Omaha and sharing his experiences as a first-year congressman. He believes this session will be more productive than the previous two with major national issues forcing Republicans and Democrats to work together. Ashford says he can already see the next great debate coming in congress – immigration reform. “May not be in the next two, three weeks, but certainly in the next year, I see that happening,” Ashford said. He says the controversial issue will force Republicans and Democrats who want reform to cooperate. But even with motivated members, he says productive debate is hard to come by on the House floor. “It’s structured for conflict. The limiting of debate on some of these big bills we’ve been voting on – the pipeline bill had an hour of debate,” Ashford said. He voted for the Keystone XL pipeline, sparking conflict back home. “I voted for it because I support the pipeline. But this is an opportunity for the country to have a bill that deals with other environmental issues and energy issues,” he said. Ashford said Congress should attach clean energy amendments to the Keystone bill, making it more enticing for the president to sign.”



Measles outbreak likely from illegal immigrant children



White House: Here’s A Map To Show You How Amnesty Will Help Your State!

“The White House is embarking on a public relations pitch to raise awareness about President Obama’s executive amnesty, which the administration claims will provide a boost to the economy and have no negative impact on American workers — a claim which Obama himself has disputed in the past. To help sell Obama’s unilateral action, which he announced in November, the White House has published a U.S. map which shows how much economic output will increase for each state due to amnesty. The amnesty will provide temporary relief from deportation and legal work status to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants. The White House is also creating a series of eye-catching flash cards for each U.S. state with the hashtag #ImmigrationAction, which show how each will supposedly benefit from amnesty. California is the first state the White House is highlighting. Texas is next.”








New Report: Deficit Will Exceed $1 Trillion Before Decade’s End

“The new Congressional Budget Office report released today shows deficits and debt rising over the next decade, despite a short-term improvement in the 2015 budget year. The report contains several pertinent facts concerning spending, taxes, deficits, and debt, including these five:

  1. Spending is going up. Spending in 2025 will be $2.5 trillion higher than it is today, rising from a projected $3.6 trillion in 2015 to $6.1 trillion in 2025. The CBO attributes this increase in spending to the aging of the population, rising health care costs and a significant expansion in eligibility for federal subsidies for health insurance (Obamacare). The major health care programs (Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program and Obamacare) are driving 32 percent of the increase in spending over the next decade, followed closely by the Social Security program at 28 percent, and interest on the debt at 24 percent. All other spending programs will be responsible for the remaining 16 percent in the increase in spending.
  2. The deficit will exceed one trillion before the end of the decade. CBO projects the 2015 deficit at $468 billion, slightly down from the $483 billion level recorded in 2014. This marks the end of a three-year period— following the great recession and its stimulus excesses—of declining deficits. The deficit for 2016 is expected to come in at about the 2015 level and then rise steeply from there. Before the end of the decade, regardless of certain policy decisions concerning scheduled Medicare provider payment cuts, the sequester and a host of expiring tax provision, the annual deficit will exceed one trillion again.
  3. The increase in the debt in 2014 exceeded the 2014 deficit by more than $300 billion. Although the deficit was recorded at below half a trillion dollars in 2014, the debt held by the public increased by about $800 billion—or by more than $300 billion more than the size of the deficit. The difference is explained by changes in the government’s cash balance, investments in the federal Thrift Savings Plan, and operations among about 120 federal government credit programs (student loans, mortgage programs, etc) that are not included in budget totals. Taxpayers need to know that the federal government’s debt exposure exceeds its annual deficits.
  4. Foreign investors hold about half of the public debt. Of the $12.8 trillion in federal debt held by the public (borrowed in credit markets) at the end of 2014, 52 percent ($6.7 trillion) was held by domestic investors and 48 percent ($6.1 trillion) was held by foreign investors. China and Japan held 40 percent of the public debt held by foreign investors.
  5. Revenues from the Federal Reserve asset buying program reach their highest level ever. Remittances to the Treasury from the Federal Reserve are the largest ever, both in dollars and as a share of Gross Domestic Product, according to the CBO. The Federal Reserve’s massive bond buying program led the central bank to amass more than $4 trillion in Treasury securities on which it is earning tens of billions in interest each year. After covering its operating costs, the Federal Reserve sends any asset earnings to the Treasury’s General Fund. Even as these remittances are expected to decline over the next decade, federal revenues are expected to hover around their historical average.”



CBO: National Debt to Hit $19.1 Trillion Under Obama

“The Congressional Budget Office is predicting that the national debt will rise by a bit more than half a trillion dollars for the next two years, which will leave the nation with a $19.1 trillion debt by the time President Barack Obama leaves office. That would be close to a doubling of the debt under Obama — the total national debt was $10.6 trillion when he took office in 2009, and now sits at nearly $18.1 trillion.”



Government debt on a dangerous track

“Legislative and economic changes have improved the federal government’s short-term deficit, according to a new outlook from the Congressional Budget Office. However, the federal deficit is still on pace to hit almost $1 trillion within the next 10 years and the nation’s accumulated debt is never expected to return to pre-recession levels. Debt held by the public is projected to reach 78.7 percent of GDP by 2025, up from 74.1 percent in 2014 — and more than double the level it was before the economic downturn. Federal debt as a percentage of GDP in 2014 is three times higher than it was four decades ago — and at a level not seen since 1950. A previous long-term report by the Congressional Budget Office showed debt could reach 245 percent of GDP by 2050 — meaning if two years of the nation’s economic growth were entirely devoted to paying off creditors, it still wouldn’t be enough to wipe out the debt. Federal debt held by the public peaked at 106 percent of GDP in 1946, as the country was recovering from World War II. Debt levels then recovered as the economy improved. In the past, debt has always fallen after a crisis caused it to spike. The Civil War and World War I also caused debt spikes, but recoveries followed. The CBO’s projections show no federal debt recovery is expected in the aftermath of the Great Recession. As recently as 2007, federal debt held by the public was only 35 percent of GDP. After World War II, debt eventually fell to 23 percent of GDP in 1974. In contrast, CBO projections expect federal debt to surpass the World War II peak in 2030. Federal debt isn’t just a scary number. It represents obligations that have to eventually be paid off through higher taxes or reduced benefits — and the longer it takes for the problem to be addressed, the more sudden and disruptive such changes will have to be.”



Obama Leaves Ticking Deficit Time Bomb For Successor

“Barack Obama is ready to turn the page on the $1 trillion deficits that once defined his presidency. That’s easy for him to say — he’ll no longer be in office when everything blows up. Yes, Monday’s Congressional Budget Office report is consistent with his State of the Union assurances of “a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry and booming energy production.” Especially shrinking deficits: the annual discrepancy between federal spending and revenues is projected to drop to $468 billion. While that’s still a big number, it’s the lowest of the Obama administration and amounts to only about 2 percent of the economy. Deficits peaked at $1.4 trillion. That’s the good news. The bad news is the deficit begins spiking again in 2017, the year Obama’s successor will be sworn into office, before returning to $1 trillion a year in 2025. All that red ink comes without another Great Recession, with the country’s biggest wars supposedly ending, without any new big-ticket spending items. Medicaid spending will be double what it was when Obama took office, thanks in part to Obamacare. Spending on the health care exchanges, a mere $15 billion in 2014, will be just under $100 billion annually in only two years. Between 2016 and 2025, the Obamacare Medicaid expansion will cost $920 billion and $1.1 trillion on health insurance subsidies. That’s a rounding error away from $2 trillion. Think about that the next time you read a White House statement about “deficit-reducing health care reform.” Obama has been pretending you can be Calvin Coolidge and Lyndon Johnson simultaneously for quite some time. The CBO estimates 31 million people will still be uninsured. Federal spending on entitlements and interest payments on the debt will gobble up 100 percent of tax revenues by 2030, leaving deficits to pay for national defense and all the remaining discretionary spending. Some of this is due to projected higher interest rates, which if true will nearly quadruple interest payments on the debt by 2025. But health care accounts for a third of the total spending growth over the next ten years. In 2013, Social Security paid out 9 percent more than it received in noninterest income. That’s expected to nearly double, averaging 17 percent over the next decade. By 2039, the net federal debt will exceed the nation’s economy. The gross debt already does.”



Federal budget shows short-term rebound, long-term deficits



CBO projects deficit to fall to $468B in 2015

“The annual budget deficit will fall to $468 billion in fiscal 2015, the lowest level of President Obama’s tenure, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported Monday. Lower government spending and the improving economy are driving down the annual deficit, the CBO reported, with the shortfall for the year projected to be 2.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the lowest level since 2007. The CBO projected that the economy will grow at an annual rate of 2.9 percent over the next two years and by 2.5 percent in 2017, with unemployment falling to 5.3 percent by the end of 2017. The new CBO projections provide some good news for Obama, whose approval rating has reached 50 percent partly on the strength of the economy and falling gas prices. “The estimates released today by CBO once again confirm the progress we’ve made in bringing down deficits and expanding access to healthcare under the Affordable Care Act,” said White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz in a statement, touting the new numbers. “The CBO projected that the economy will grow at an annual rate of 2.9 percent over the next two years and by 2.5 percent in 2017, with the unemployment rate falling to 5.3 percent by the end of 2017. The new CBO projections provide some good news for Obama, whose approval rating has reached 50 percent partly on the strength of the economy and falling gas prices.” “Under the President’s leadership, the deficit has already been cut by about two-thirds as a share of the economy, the fastest sustained deficit reduction since World War II,” he continued. “CBO’s longer-term budget and economic projections confirm the need for Congress to act to strengthen our economy for the middle class while putting our debt and deficits on a sustainable trajectory, including by making the investments that will accelerate economic growth and generate good new jobs for our workers to fill.” Still, while the job market is improving, wage growth “has been a good deal lower” since it was before the recession, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf said at a briefing Monday. “We think compensation growth will pick up,” he added, as participation in the labor market increases and employers are pressured to offer higher salaries. And while the deficit is shrinking now, the nation’s debt load is steadily increasing. By the end of September, the CBO estimates U.S. debt will be 74 percent of GDP — more than twice the level at the end of 2007 and higher than in any year since 1950. By 2025, the office projects debt will rise to nearly 79 percent of GDP. “This ‘new normal’ is unacceptable, and it will mean less opportunity for American families and job creators now and in the years to come,” House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) said in a statement. The debt is expected to rise because the government will need to borrow more money from the Treasury Department to cover federal spending. In 2015, for example, the government will need to borrow $112 billion to finance new student loans and other credit programs, the CBO said. Furthermore, over the next decade, the government will need to borrow about $60 billion more each year than projected deficits suggest.”


U.S. deficit to dip in 2015 as era of dramatic declines ends: CBO

“The U.S. budget deficit will decline slightly to $468 billion this fiscal year, the lowest level since President Barack Obama took office, congressional forecasters said on Monday in a report heralding the end of a brief period of dramatically shrinking red ink. The deficit, down from the $1 trillion-plus levels of Obama’s first four years and a $483 billion gap in fiscal 2014, will stay largely flat in 2016, then begin to march upward due to rising costs for debt and caring for fast-retiring Baby Boomers. Estimates by the Congressional Budget Office kick off what promises to be a contentious budget debate in Washington.”


CBO: Budget Deficit to Fall to $468 Billion



Bernie Sanders flips the script with ‘deficits’ plan

“Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is flipping the script on the GOP with a seven-step plan to address national “deficits” through increases in spending. Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said lawmakers must address deficits in jobs, income equality, infrastructure, trade, retirement security and education in their next budget blueprint. “These deficits must be immediately address by the Budget Committee,” he said in an eight-page report. Sanders, a self-described socialist who caucuses with Democrats and is eyeing a White House run in 2016, has a high-profile role as the leading counterweight to Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee. While Republicans are aiming to cut deficits and trim deficit spending, Sanders is pushing for new spending on social programs as the recipe for growing the economy.”



White House defends affordable housing funds

“President Obama’s top housing finance regulator will defend the administration’s decision to re-finance affordable housing trust funds that Republicans say put taxpayers at risk. Mel Watt, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), will testify before the House Financial Services Committee that he’s put “prudent safeguards” in place to protect the taxpayers, according to his submitted testimony, obtained first by The Hill. Watt announced in December that he was directing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to begin financing affordable housing groups through the Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund, reversing the administration’s 2008 decision to cut funding following the collapse. Both funds focus on providing affordable rental housing for low-income and impoverished families, including the homeless. The move was lauded by progressives, who argue that it would help the economy by allowing for low-income Americans to obtain housing. But Republicans, including House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), blasted the decision.”



Democrats push Obama’s vision with paid leave bill

“House Democrats, eager to align themselves with President Obama’s recently outlined populist agenda, have formally introduced one of his most popular proposals in Congress. Lawmakers on Tuesday announced a bill that would provide federal employees six weeks of paid parental leave, responding to Obama’s call for such a bill during his Jan. 20 State of the Union address. Bill sponsor Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said the bill is needed to help government employees take paid time off for parenting or caring for a sick relative. Current law gives federal employees 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave. “It’s no longer Ozzie and Harriet, with Harriet sitting at home,” Maloney said, referencing a 1950s television series. “Both Ozzie and Harriet are working and carrying a very stressful burden. The support system is not there.” The bill is among the first Democratic attempts to move an agenda outlined by Obama before a joint session of Congress last week.”



Democrat bill would give federal workers paid parental leave

“Federal employees would be eligible for six weeks of paid leave for purposes related to the birth or adoption of a child, under legislation introduced Monday by a group of House Democrats. President Obama two weeks ago called on Congress to enact that benefit–which would be paid “administrative” leave that would not be charged against either sick leave or annual leave time–while separately ordering agencies to advance up to six weeks of paid sick leave for those purposes under existing authority. Currently, federal employees are eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave and can substitute paid sick and annual leave for part or all that unpaid time. Agencies additionally may advance leave for those purposes to employees who have accumulated an insufficient amount; the memo essentially removed the discretion they had over whether to grant such requests.”


House bill calls for 6 weeks of paid leave for federal employees



New banking protections for college students

“College students would be protected from dubious credit card, debit card and checking account offers under new recommendations from the Obama administration’s top consumer watchdog. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is considering new guidelines to help colleges in selecting banks to partner with and offer financial services to their students. The CFPB will publish a draft edition of the Safe Student Account Scorecard in Tuesday’s edition of the Federal Register, kicking off a public comment period. “An important issue for young people is how best to manage their money while they are still in school,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. “Because of the influence schools may have on the financial products students choose, we are working to arm them with the information they need to negotiate safe and affordable products for students.” Colleges and universities often endorse loans, checking accounts, debit cards, credit cards, and prepaid cards from local banks: more than 850 schools promote debit and prepaid cards from local banks as of 2013, according to the federal government. The scorecard is intended to help schools make sure they are promoting financial services that will not take advantage of students. It would include information about the fees for these products, and how much money the bank and the school receive, among other things. “Our goal is to help students get the best deal available on these kinds of products,” Cordray said.”



Obama wants more money to fight antibiotic-resistant germs

“President Barack Obama wants the U.S. to invest much more in fighting antibiotic-resistant germs to prevent re-emergence of diseases conquered long ago. The White House said Tuesday that Obama will ask Congress to nearly double its funding to fight antibiotic resistance to $1.2 billion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 23,000 Americans die every year from infections that can withstand some of the best antibiotics. The World Health Organization said last year that bacteria resistant to antibiotics have spread to every part of the world and might lead to a future where minor infections could kill. Obama’s proposal would fund research into new antibiotics, monitoring of outbreaks and address resistance at veterans’ and military hospitals. It also would fund efforts to prevent overprescription of antibiotics.”


Extra funding sought to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria



Obama unveils $4B India trade push



The Audacity Of… What?: Obama Pushing Taxes He Fought AGAINST In Senate AND In His Book

“Part of President Barack Obama’s ambitious tax reform plan is a proposal to gut the popular 529 savings accounts used by millions of Americans to save for college. The administration has labeled the plans “inefficient” and complained that the benefit accrues too heavily towards higher-income Americans. But in 2006, Obama actually voted in the U.S. Senate to make the 529 savings permanent, and has written favorably of the plans in the past. The bill in question was the Pension Protection Act of 2006, which perpetuated a tax benefit that was originally created in the 2001 Bush tax cuts. The bill was overwhelmingly approved, but several Democrats did oppose it, including Senator Barbara Boxer. Ryan Ellis, the tax policy director with right-leaning nonprofit Americans for Tax Reform, said it’s no surprise that Obama voted to preserve the plans back then. “Presumably, he saw a lot of virtues with [529 plans],” Ellis told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “He spoke about them quite favorably in his autobiography.”



Is Dynamic Scoring of Tax Bills Ready For Prime Time?



Study: 2014’s Employment Boom Almost Entirely Due to the Expiration of Unemployment Benefits Obama Wanted to Renew

“Those who’ve listened to President Obama’s speeches over the past couple months have heard him boast that 2014 has seen impressive improvements in the labor market — the best year in job creation since 1999, he points out, and he’s right. But there’s no obvious explanation for why 2014 has been, by a good margin, the best year of a weak jobs recovery. The president has naturally credited his policies (without any justification). But what if 2014’s jobs boom is mostly thanks to the expiration of a program that the Obama administration and Democrats fervently pushed to renew? That’s the finding of a new NBER working paper from three economists — Marcus Hagedorn, Kurt Mitman, and Iourii Manovskii — who contend that the ending of federally extended unemployment benefits across the country at the end of 2013 explains much of the labor-market boom in 2014. About 60 percent of the job creation in 2014, 1.8 million jobs, they find, can be attributed to the end of the extended-benefits program. That’s a huge amount, and suggests that long-term unemployment benefits, while there’s a good charitable case for them, could have played a big role in the ongoing lassitude of our labor market. (Indeed, an earlier working paper from a few of the same authors argued that extended benefits raised the unemployment rate during the Great Recession by three percentage points; see a summary of that paper here.) So what was the program Democrats wanted to renew? States run their own unemployment-insurance programs, which provide around 26 weeks of benefits to people who’ve lost jobs and are looking for new ones. But during the recent recession, as they have in other downturns, Congress repeatedly authorized federal extensions that allowed people to draw benefits for much longer. At the end of 2013, the Senate narrowly passed a renewal of the program, but the House never took it up and the extensions, already much longer than any previous recession had seen, expired. This created something of a “natural experiment.” States had unemployment-insurance programs of widely varying length — they ranged from 40 weeks up to 73, roughly — but after the end of the federal extensions at the start of 2014, the duration of benefits in almost all states went back to around 26 weeks. The paper uses that shift to examine how expiring benefits might have affected the labor market, and they find that the expiration of extended benefits produced a big boost to job creation, labor-force participation, and hiring. It’s a dramatically different result than what the White House and Democrats were predicting at the end of 2013: The Obama administration was predicting that the drop-off in stimulative spending from the expiration would cost 240,000 jobs, while the NBER paper finds that it created 1.8 million jobs.”



Boehner And McConnell: Which Parts Of Obama’s Agenda Are Dead Or Alive?

“PELLEY: Unemployment has fallen to 5.6 percent, gasoline prices are down, the stock markets are up. The economy grew by five percent in the third quarter. That’s the fastest rate in more than a decade. You don’t congratulate the president for that?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Look, things are getting better. But the point is who is benefiting from this? This has been a top of the income recovery– the so-called one percent that the president’s always talking about have done quite well. But middle and lower income Americans are about $3,000 a year worse off than they were when he came to office.

PELLEY: Is income inequality a problem in this country? Is it a problem that Republicans want to address?

REP. BOEHNER: It is. And frankly the president’s policies have made income inequality worse. All the regulations that are coming out of Washington make it more difficult for employers to hire more people, chief amongst those, I would argue is Obamacare– which basically puts a penalty or a tax on employers for every new job they create.

PELLEY: From the president’s State of the Union address let me ask you, dead or alive, raise taxes on the wealthy?

REP. BOEHNER: Why would he want to raise taxes on people?

PELLEY: I’ll take that as a dead.

REP. BOEHNER: Dead, real dead.

PELLEY: Make community college free of charge, dead or alive?

SEN. MCCONNELL: We added more debt during the Obama years than all the presidents from George Washington down to George Bush. And giving away free tuition strikes me as something we can’t afford.

PELLEY: I’ll put that down as dead as well. Increasing the federal minimum wage?

REP. BOEHNER: Bad idea.


REP. BOEHNER: It’s a bad idea. I’ve had every kinda rotten job you can imagine growin’ up and gettin’ myself through school. And– and I wouldn’t have had a chance at half those jobs if the federal government had kept imposing higher minimum wage. You take the bottom rungs off the economic ladder.

PELLEY: Finally, dead or alive, tripling the childcare tax credit for working families?

REP. BOEHNER: We’re all for helping working class families around America. I think we’ll take a look at this when he sends his budget up, something that could be looked at in the overall context of simplifying our tax code and bringing rates down for everyone.

SEN. MCCONNELL: I would just add trade. Virtually every Republican in the audience the other night stood up and applauded when the president talked about trade.

Scott Pelley: Speaking to folks at the White House the other day, they told us that one of the areas they thought there was a chance for progress is on infrastructure in this country; roads and bridges. What do you think?

REP. BOEHNER: We agree. You know, the biggest problem I have is that the Highway Trust Fund, which is funded by gasoline taxes, continues to shrink as cars get more and better mileage standards. And so the money that’s in the Highway Trust Fund isn’t sufficient to meet the infrastructure needs of the country.

PELLEY: You can fix that. You can raise the gas tax. Hasn’t been raised in decades.

REP. BOEHNER: Well, listen. When the Democrats controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House, they couldn’t increase the gas tax. We believe that through tax reform, a couple of other options that are being looked at, we can find the funds to fund a long-term, highway bill. It’s critically important to the country.”



In Saudi Arabia for 4-Hour Stop, Obama Admin Books Rooms at Ritz, Marriott, Radisson

Brief trip will cost taxpayers $267,787



Falling Gas Tax Revenue Has California Lawmakers Considering Mileage Tax Plan





School superintendent writes ‘warning’ letter on PARCC Common Core test

“Superintendent Trisha Kocanda of Winnetka Public Schools in Illinois has written what could be called a “warning” letter to parents, community members and district staff about the PARCC Common Core exam that students in the state will be taking in March and May.  She writes in part: “As we learn more about the assessment, we grow wary. We are concerned about the amount of instructional time it will displace, the impact this will have on students, and the usefulness of the results.” The PARCC test was created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, one of two federally funded multistate consortia tasked with creating new Common Core tests with some $360 million in federal funds. (The other is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.) In 2010, PARCC had 26 member states, but it has suffered major defections since then, with fewer than a dozen states now committed to using the PARCC exam this year. Mississippi pulled out this month, and Chicago Public Schools, the third-largest system in the country, recently decided to buck a state mandate to give the PARCC to all of its students this school year.”



Kasich Says Fellow Republicans Are Lying About Common Core

“Common Core has been a popular punching bag for many Republicans seen as 2016 presidential contenders. Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker and Mike Huckabee have all taken their turn bashing it. The most common line of attack claims that Common Core, which began as a shared initiative between many state governments, has become a means of federal control forced upon states by the Obama administration. Jindal has been a particularly strong proponent of this argument, filing a federal lawsuit against the government claiming that Department of Education incentives such as Race to the Top amounted to an illegal effort to nationalize curriculum. Kasich, however, said on Fox News Sunday that such attacks are bogus, and accused his fellow governors of not merely being wrong, but also of being dishonest. “These were governors who helped create Common Core,” he said. That up-close involvement means they know Common Core wasn’t Obama-driven. “The Common Core was written by state education superintendents and local principals,” Kasich said. “In my state of Ohio, we want higher standards for our children, and those standards are set and the curriculum is set by local school boards. Barack Obama doesn’t set it, the state of Ohio doesn’t set it. It is local school boards driving better education, higher standards, created by local school boards.” Kasich said the narrative of Common Core’s creation is so clear that foes have been unable to genuinely challenge it. “I’ve asked the Republican governors who have complained about this to tell me where I’m wrong, and guess what, silence,” he said. Kasich said their skepticism is almost certainly political rather than genuinely ideological in nature. “Part of the problem is today politicians, are running to try and get votes,” he said.


Supreme Court ruling could make Colorado a school choice destination






“On Sunday, President Barack Obama released an anti-oil drilling environmental video shot aboard Air Force One–an aircraft that has a 53,611 gallon fuel capacity. The video, which shows Obama aboard Air Force One, is interspersed with scenes of arctic animals and wildlife landscapes, reports National Public Radio (NPR). It’s all part of Obama’s ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) newly proposed plan to ban roads, permanent structures, vehicles, drilling, and mining on 12.28 million acres in ANWR. On Saturday, Obama flew Air Force One over 8,000+ miles to India to discuss global warming and other issues.”



Obama’s Trans-Alaska Oil Assault

He’s slowly starving the current pipeline so it will have to shut down.

“Washington’s energy debate has been focused on President Obama’s endless opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, but maybe that was only a warm-up. His new fossil fuel shutdown target is Alaska. President Obama announced Sunday that he’ll use his executive authority to designate 12 million acres in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as wilderness, walling it off from resource development. This abrogates a 1980 deal in which Congress specifically set aside some of this acreage for future oil and gas.”



Obama administration to propose new wilderness protections in Arctic refuge — Alaska Republicans declare war

“The Obama administration will propose setting aside more than 12 million acres in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, the White House announced Sunday, halting any chance of oil exploration for now in the refuge’s much-fought-over coastal plain and sparking a fierce battle with Republicans, including the new chair of the Senate Energy Committee. “Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge is an incredible place — pristine, undisturbed. It supports caribou and polar bears, all manner of marine life, countless species of birds and fish, and for centuries it supported many Alaska Native communities. But it’s very fragile,” President Obama said in a White House video on the move. The announcement, according to individuals briefed on the plan, is just the first in a series of decisions the Interior Department will make in the coming week that will affect the state’s oil and gas production. The department will also put part of the Arctic Ocean off limits to drilling as part of a five-year leasing plan it will issue this week and is considering whether to impose additional limits on oil and gas production in parts of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska… “What’s coming is a stunning attack on our sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy that allows us, our children and our grandchildren to thrive,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the new chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement. “It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory. . . . I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska. But we will not be run over like this. We will fight back with every resource at our disposal.” Murkowski spoke to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell about the department’s plan during a brief phone call Friday. Speaking to reporters in India Monday, Podesta said that while GOP lawmakers had opposed several of Obama’s previous executive actions, “I was hoping that a more balanced reaction would be forthcoming from some of the people who have commented on this… Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, said in a statement he may be forced to accelerate oil and gas permitting on state lands to compensate for the new federal restrictions. “Having just given to Alaskans the State of the State and State of the Budget addresses, it’s clear that our fiscal challenges in both the short and long term would benefit significantly from increased oil production,” Walker said, adding that most of the roughly 40 billion barrels of the state’s untapped reserves are in federal areas where oil and gas activity is blocked or restricted. Oil industry officials decried the proposed limits as another example of the administration’s regulatory excesses. “Today’s announcement is the perfect bookend to the president’s State of the Union speech last Tuesday in its utter disregard for the midterm election results and disdain for a Republican-controlled Congress,” said Stephen Brown, vice president of federal government affairs for the petroleum refiner and marketer Tesoro Corp. “There is no longer any pretext of bipartisanship — just this ‘my way or the highway’ approach.” Erik Milito, said director of upstream and industry operation for American Petroleum Institute, said in an interview, “It sends the wrong signal to Alaskans, the industry and the world.” “These are strategic assets, and the U.S. should be leading the way in the development of these resources,” Milito said, adding the industry has proved it can develop them “in a safe and environmentally responsible way.” Environmental leaders, however, described the wilderness proposal as a prudent measure rooted in a long-term view of the region’s future. The refuge’s coastal plain lies north of the jagged peaks of the Brooks Range, between the mountains and the sea. Polar bears, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, den there in winter, birth their cubs and nurse them until spring; it serves as the species’ most important denning habitat along the U.S. Arctic coast. In addition to serving as calving ground for the Porcupine caribou herd, it is home to other mammals, including grizzly bears, musk oxen and wolves.”



GOP rips Obama’s bid to block drilling

“The lawmakers lambasted the plan, calling it symptomatic of an administration that doesn’t care about Alaska or about Congress. “This administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but they won’t negotiate with Alaska,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, doubling down on a comparison that earned a rebuke from White House adviser John Podesta when she made it a day earlier.

“ ‘King George’ Obama really believes he doesn’t have to acknowledge laws that were passed by the Congress,” joined Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). “Disgusting for the nation, disgusting for the people. This man, this person, has gone completely wacko.” The remarks came during a news conference convened a day after the Obama administration announced that it would propose to Congress a wilderness designation — the most protective federal land designation — for the 1.5 million-acre Coastal Plain.”



Obama’s Alaska plans spark Republican ire



Watch: Lawmaker Says Obama Has Gone ‘Completely Whacko’ With Alaska Wilderness Decision

“Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) teed off on President Barack Obama on Monday for his attempt to designate millions of acres of land in his home state, a move that Young and others said would make it harder for Alaska to develop its resources. Young joined Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R) and Dan Sullivan (R) in a press conference reacting to Obama’s Sunday announcement. All three said the Obama administration failed to consult with Alaska’s congressional delegation at all. “King George Obama really believes he didn’t have to acknowledge laws that were passed by the Congress,” Young said. “He’s done this on numerous occasions. He ignores us, he lectures the legislative body, ‘you’re not important, I’m the king.’ “ “Disgusting for the nation, disgusting for the people,” Young added. “This man, this person has gone completely whacko. This is an attack upon the state, attack upon previous laws, attack upon the nation.” Young questioned the premise of Obama’s decision, which seemed to be that people and wildlife can’t co-exist. “The idea that man and wildlife can’t be compatible is stupid,” he said. Murkowski said she wasn’t contacted at all about the decision to designate 12 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “I don’t know whether you just don’t give a rip about Alaska, or whether you just don’t think about us at all,” she said of the administration’s attitude toward Congress.”



Obama Proposes Expanding No-Drill Territory in AK; Senators Furious



Obama Has Big Plans for Alaska, and the State’s Republicans Aren’t Happy

“I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska,” she added. Newly elected Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) agreed. “This outrageous action confirms what most Alaskans have feared – that the Obama administration’s war against Alaska families and the middle class would only intensify under the final two years of President Obama’s tenure,” he said. “This callously planned and politically motivated attack on Alaska by the Obama administration is akin to spitting in our faces and telling us it’s raining outside,” said Rep. Don Young (R). “As if on command from the most extreme environmentalist elements, this president and his team of D.C. bureaucrats believe they alone know what’s best for Alaska, but this brazen assault on our state and our people will do the complete opposite.”



Alaska lawmakers push back against Obama’s ‘stunning attack’ on state’s sovereignty

“There’s fury brewing in Alaska. The Obama administration’s plan to designate 12.2 million acres of the state’s public land as pristine wilderness sounds nice, but the vast parcel also happens to contain Alaska’s richest oil and natural gas prospects on the Arctic coastal plain. While environmentalists celebrate and Interior Dept. Secretary Sally Jewell calls the gorgeous land “one of the nation’s crown jewels,” the state’s Republican lawmakers and governor are not disguising their disgust. The decision, they say, will have long lasting impact on Alaska’s economy and energy security. Sen. Lisa Murkowski calls the plan “a stunning attack on our sovereignty,” adding, “I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska. But we will not be run over like this. We will fight back with every resource at our disposal.”



Obama offshore drilling plan coming Tuesday, says Sen. Lisa Murkowski

“Sen. Lisa Murkowski told the Washington Examiner the Obama administration told her it plans to release its draft five-year offshore drilling plan Tuesday. The administration’s draft drilling plan, which would run from 2017 through 2022, is expected to allow oil and gas exploration in waters off Alaska’s coast and open the Atlantic Ocean to drilling for the first time since the 1980s. Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she was told the plan would allow for drilling in Alaska’s Arctic waters, but that the administration might change the way drillers bid for leases in a way the oil and gas industry contends will discourage production. When asked whether the draft plan was coming Tuesday, Interior Department spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw told the Examiner, “You can expect to see the proposed five-year plan in the coming days.”



Obama adviser chides Alaska senator for criticism of refuge plan

“White House adviser John Podesta chided a top senator for berating the Obama administration’s plan to enact more protections against oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s wildlife refuge. Speaking with reporters in New Delhi during Obama’s trip to India, Podesta said he wasn’t surprised that Republicans vowed to fight against the new restrictions on oil and natural gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). “As we’ve seen, a number of the administrative actions, executive actions that the president has taken under existing laws and authorities that he has … have been opposed by Republicans in Congress,” Podesta said.

Podesta specifically called out Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, saying her reaction was not warranted. “We don’t think that the reaction that particularly Sen. Murkowski had to this announcement was warranted,” he said.”



EPA: States can’t ‘preempt’ climate rule

“The Obama administration told an appeals court that 12 states cannot preemptively challenge its landmark proposed climate rule for power plants. Justice Department attorneys, on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), told the court Friday that the rule cannot be challenged in court until it is made final later this year. The states also cannot sue against a 2010 court settlement because it did not obligate the agency to write the regulation, it said.

“The premise of petitioners’ suit is wrong; the proposed rule is not the result of that settlement agreement, but rather part of an administration initiative to address the most critical environmental problem of our time,” the EPA wrote in its brief responding to the lawsuit from West Virginia and 11 other states. The states also argue that because other power plant pollutants are already regulated by the EPA, it cannot order the 30 percent cut in carbon emissions that it proposed in June.”



Obama: Green growth will help India’s middle class

“President Obama cautioned Indian and U.S. business executives Monday that increasing economic growth must benefit India’s middle class while adhering to clean-energy standards. At a business forum in New Delhi, Mr. Obama outlined steps to boost trade between the two nations and said both sides should ensure that their growth is spread evenly among their workers.”



US, India set sights on Paris climate talks

“President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are setting high hopes for the upcoming December climate change talks in Paris.  During a joint press conference, Obama said the two nations would push for a “strong” international climate accord that over 190 countries would sign to slash greenhouse gas emissions.  “The prime minister and I made a personal commitment to work together to pursue a strong global climate agreement in Paris,” Obama said. “I think India’s voice is very important on this issue,” he added.  Obama stressed that India is dangerously at risk to the impacts of climate change.”



Senate Fails To Move Forward On Keystone Bill

“The Senate has failed to move forward on the Keystone XL Pipeline Monday evening, extending the battle over the controversial Canadian oil import project that is one of the Republican Party’s top priorities since taking over control of the Senate in January. The Senate voted 53 – 39, falling short of the 60 vote requirement to pass the critical procedural hurdle. When the Senate passed a similar procedural motion related to the Keystone bill on January 12th, which also needed 60 votes, 11 Democrats joined 52 Republicans to pass the motion. But fewer Democrats supported the vote this time. Instead they protested the way Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is running the floor and the amendment process. “Senator McConnell promised Democrats an open amendment process and a full throated debate on the Keystone pipeline, and we are holding him to that promise,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said in a statement. “Trying to muzzle the debate by refusing to allow Democrats even one minute to advocate for their amendment and then simply refusing to hold votes on dozens of other amendments is not a remotely ‘open’ process.” McConnell complained on the Senate floor, saying he heard Democratic leadership was “pressuring” its members to vote against the motion.”



Democrats filibuster Keystone, force Republicans to rethink strategy, amendments

“Democrats successfully blocked the Keystone XL pipeline Monday, launching a filibuster in the Senate that keeps the long-delayed project on ice for at least the near term while Republicans try to figure out whether they can revive the bill. “We hit our first little bump in the road back to regular order, but we’ve got to roll with some things,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Republican who was in charge of shepherding the bill through the chamber.”



Senate blocks measure to build Keystone XL pipeline; discussions will continue

“Senate Democrats stalled the Republican-led push to construct the Keystone XL pipeline on Monday, dealing the first significant blow to the new GOP majority less than three weeks after it was sworn in. The outcome handed at least a temporary victory to some Democrats and environmentalists who staunchly oppose construction of the pipeline. But Monday’s vote was more a speed bump than a roadblock; both parties are expected to continue hashing out their differences on the bill. The measure fell short of attaining the 60 votes needed to proceed to final passage under Senate rules. Fifty-three senators voted to move to a final vote on the oil pipeline, which would run from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, and 39 voted against it. The vote fell mostly along party lines. While a handful of centrist Democrats crossed over to vote with Republicans, others withheld their support in protest against Republican leaders, who they say unfairly ended consideration of proposed amendments last week. Eight senators were absent, including Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who is recovering from eye surgery; Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is on a fundraising swing as he weighs a White House run; and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was traveling to Saudi Arabia to pay respects to the late King Abdullah.”



Judiciary to Loretta Lynch: Expect a grilling

Though likely to win confirmation, the attorney general nominee will face questions on issues like immigration, war and the IRS.



After forging her path from N.C. to Brooklyn, Lynch is poised to become attorney general



Obama’s Internet ‘takeover’ means ‘massive’ taxes, warns Sen. Mike Lee

“Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is stepping up his criticism of President Obama’s plan to regulate the internet, warning that new rules will lead to the types of taxes and fees slapped on telephones and cable service. “Under this new regulatory regime, Internet service providers will be subject to these fees as well, and then pass them on to you, the consumer,” said Lee. “This is essentially a massive tax increase on the middle class, being passed in the dead of night without the American public really being made aware of what is going on,” he added. Lee’s warning comes in a new letter asking supporters to sign a petition demanding that the president withdraw his plans to reclassify the internet as a public utility. It follows other warnings from Lee on the issue. In his latest, Lee compared the president’s action to Obamacare, the Veterans Affairs scandal and the IRS-Tea Party scandal. “These are just a few examples of what happens when we give government huge power without oversight,” he wrote in the letter, pasted below, that urges foes of so-called “net neutrality” to fight the administration. His focus was on the potential for fees and taxes being passed on to users of internet services and the possibility that government regulation could lead to government censorship, as seen in countries like Iran and Russia. “I am not accusing anyone of sinister motives here, but I am deeply concerned about the idea of any government bureaucrat having the power to tell companies what they can and cannot do. In the long term, this could have a chilling effect on political speech, in ways that today we could not even begin to imagine,” he wrote in a letter for the advocacy group Protect Internet Freedom. Advocates, however, said the president’s plan would not not amount to a federal takeover, and would prohibit broadband providers from slowing or blocking most Internet traffic, and preserve an open internet, and free speech.”



On Net Neutrality: Title II Regulation Means Higher Taxes On Consumers



Cuba’s $6B debt to Americans for seized properties hangs over US talks

“A $6 billion sticking point could create headaches for the U.S.-Cuba talks. Though concerns over human rights, press freedoms and U.S. fugitives living free on the island have dominated debate over the Obama administration’s negotiations on restoring diplomatic ties, the Castro regime also still owes Americans that eye-popping sum. The $6 billion figure represents the value of all the assets seized from thousands of U.S. citizens and businesses after the Cuban revolution in 1959. With the United States pressing forward on normalizing relations with the communist country, some say the talks must resolve these claims. “The administration has not provided details about how it will hold the Castro regime to account for the more than $6 billion in outstanding claims by American citizens and businesses for properties confiscated by the Castros,” Sen. Robert Menendez, D-Fla., top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of historic talks in Havana last week. Menendez urged the U.S. to “prioritize the interests of American citizens and businesses that have suffered at the hands of the Castro regime” before moving ahead with “additional economic and political concessions.” Beginning with Fidel Castro’s takeover of the Cuban government in 1959, the communist regime nationalized all of Cuba’s utilities and industry, and systematically confiscated private lands to redistribute — under state control — to the Cuban population. The mass seizure without proper compensation led in part to the U.S. trade embargo. Over nearly 6,000 claims by American citizens and corporations have been certified by the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, totaling $1.9 billion.”



Gallup: Obama’s job approval surges to 50/45, highest since May 2013

“It’s not just Gallup that’s seen a long drought. Per RCP, the last time he hit 50 percent approval in any poll was mid-May 2013, when he touched 50 in the ABC/WaPo survey. Here’s your daily reminder that there are few political sins that can’t be absolved, at least temporarily, by an improving economy and low, low, low gas prices.”



House Tea Partyers Face New Resistance From GOP Pragmatists

“Some conservatives are fighting back, demanding that Senate Republicans stand firm against President Barack Obama. But their leverage is limited. And now, however reluctantly, some tea party-affiliated House members are acknowledging a political landscape in which the GOP-run Senate will dilute House legislation, and Obama’s vetoes may be insurmountable. The divide between Republican pragmatists and ideological purists may be on display when the House takes up a border security bill in the coming weeks. Democrats say it sets unreasonable goals, but some conservative Republicans say it doesn’t go far enough. That’s a familiar dynamic that often makes GOP leaders work hard to pass bills. For the first six years of Obama’s presidency, Republicans’ internal disputes were largely symbolic. Democrats, who controlled the Senate, kept Republican initiatives from reaching the president’s desk. Republicans now hold 54 of the Senate’s 100 seats. But Democrats still can block many GOP measures with filibusters, which require 60 votes to overcome. The House’s most outspoken conservatives chafe at talk of crafting compromise legislation to win at least six Democratic senators’ votes. They prefer principle-over-pragmatism defiance. At a monthly event called “Conversations with Conservatives,” Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona praised Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s attention-getting 2013 filibuster protesting U.S. drone policies. “One person over there can bottle up the whole place,” Salmon said, urging similar tactics on immigration bills. Another conservative, Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho, said House Republicans shouldn’t trim their ideological ambitions simply because “we have only 54 votes” in the Senate. “That’s why we always lose,” Labrador said, “because we send the message we’re beat.” In an interview, Labrador acknowledged that Obama can veto bills even if they squeak through the Senate. But that shouldn’t stop conservatives from pushing their priorities, he said.”



Meet the Freedom Caucus

House conservatives are tired of losing fights with leadership. Now, they’re doing something about it.

“About 30 House Republicans will meet Monday evening to establish the bylaws of a new caucus animated by two principles: First, rank-and-file Republicans must pressure leadership to enact a more conservative agenda. And second, this pressure should never involve frantic scurrying on the House floor. The House Freedom Caucus, an invitation-only group, will work in concert in order to guide the House Republican Conference at key junctures, starting with the debate over a border-security bill that has conservatives alarmed. “We’re going to focus on what we believe middle-class voters sent us here to do,” Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), the de facto chairman of the organization pending leadership elections, tells National Review Online. As a caucus devoted to moving leadership’s agenda to the right, the group has a chance to take over the traditional role of the Republican Study Committee, which many lawmakers believe has strayed from its founding mission as an organization designed to pressure moderate GOP leaders to adopt more conservative positions. National Journal first reported that such a group was forming. Jordan, a former RSC chairman, wants to avoid any tension with the longer-standing group. “I like to think that a smaller, more cohesive, more agile group can buttress and support some of the good policies and good ideas that are coming from the RSC,” he says. The group has nine founding members, including Jordan and Representatives Raúl Labrador (R., Idaho), Justin Amash (R., Mich.), Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), John Fleming (R., La.), Scott Garrett (R., N.J.), Mark Meadows (R., N.C.), Mick Mulvaney (R., S.C.), and Matt Salmon (R., Ariz.). The founding members will decide who receives an invitation to join the group; to finance the hiring of staff, they’ll also pay “mortgages,” a higher level of funding for the organization than the rest of the dues-paying members will be required to provide. They hope to cap the group at around 40 lawmakers, and expect to debut with more than 30 — a crucial number, because it takes 29 dissents to block the House Republican majority from passing a bill.”





DCCC started 2015 $10 million in debt

“The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee started 2015 carrying $10 million in debt, a committee aide said Monday. The House Democratic campaign arm raised $4.1 million between Nov. 25 and Dec. 31. It ended the year with about $2.2 in its campaign account. It is common for campaign committees to go into debt at the end of election cycles due to loans and other expenses assumed in the final push to win as many seats as possible. The DCCC reduced its debt load by about $2 million during the final few weeks of the year. It was $12 million on debt on Nov. 24. The committee also said it took in more than $200 million for the 2014 election cycle, including a $12 million loan and more than $70 million collected online. The National Republican Congressional Committee has not yet released its latest numbers. It was carrying $8.8 million in debt on Nov. 24.”



Will Hillary ’16 Be a ‘White Dude Fest’?



Read Hollywood Actor’s Scathing Comeback to Failed Presidential Candidate’s Attacks on ‘American Sniper’

“Hollywood actor Gary Sinise, who regularly goes above and beyond to support the military, hit back at Howard Dean on Monday after the failed Democratic presidential candidate attacked “American Sniper” and the millions of people who are flocking to theaters to see it. “There is a lot of anger in this country, and the people who go see this movie are people who are very angry,” Dean said recently.. “I bet you if you looked at a cross-section of the Tea Party and people who go see this movie, there’s a lot of intersection.”



Freed Al Qaeda operative floated as part of prisoner swap, ex-diplomat says

“An admitted Al Qaeda agent released this month from a U.S. federal prison had been offered up as part of a potential prisoner swap in exchange for two Americans held in Qatar, a former U.S. diplomat said Monday.  Richard Grenell, who had worked on the case of the jailed Americans, confirmed to Fox News that the offer was put on the table.  “There’s no disputing the fact. I don’t care what they say — the idea was floated,” he said.  The Daily Beast first reported that the trade was proposed to the then-U.S. ambassador in Qatar in July 2014 by an individual close to Qatar’s attorney general. Grenell, a former spokesman for the U.S. mission at the United Nations under the George W. Bush administration, confirmed the idea was floated to then-U.S. Ambassador Susan Ziadeh by a “close confidant” of the Qatari attorney general. Further, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., wrote in a letter last week to the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee that he understands “engagement began months ago” on such a “possible exchange arrangement for other Americans” at the request of the Qataris.  Al Qaeda operative Ali Saleh al-Marri, who had been in U.S. custody since 2001, was ultimately released this month prior to completing his 15-year sentence because of “time served,” according to the Justice Department.  Meanwhile, the two Americans — Matthew and Grace Huang — were allowed to leave the country last December after their controversial conviction in the death of their adopted daughter was overturned.  Administration officials, though, disputed the notion that the Al Qaeda operative’s release was part of a quid pro quo. A State Department official told The Daily Beast that “no such proposal was ever on the table.” The official said al-Marri was sent home as scheduled, not because of a deal. “Al-Marri’s release happened as a matter of course, as a result of his court-imposed sentence being completed,” another administration official told The Daily Beast. That squares with what other officials have claimed.”



Obama Admin Seeks to Release 47 Yemenis from Guantanamo Bay



Obama’s casual sacrifice of America’s security and moral standing in the Middle East



Islamic State Spokesman Calls on Muslims in the West to Carry Out More Attacks






Obama aide names American held by ISIS

“White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on Sunday appeared to name the American woman held hostage by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), something that administration officials had not previously done. Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” McDonough was asked by host George Stephanopoulos if there was any hope of saving a Japanese hostage held by ISIS or any information on the American woman still being held. “Well, the president had a good talk overnight, our time here, with Prime Minister Abe, underscoring our continued support for and partnership with the Japanese, they making this huge investment of, you know, halfway around the world, like we are, in Iraq and Syria against ISIS,” McDonough said. “And as it relates to our hostages, we are obviously continuing to work those matters very, very aggressively,” he added. “We are sparing no expense and sparing no effort, both in trying to make sure that we know where they are and make sure that we’re prepared to do anything we must to try to get them home.” McDonough then apparently named the hostage, saying her “family knows how strongly the president feels about this and we will continue to work this.” ABC Foreign Editor Jon Williams first noted the discrepancy.”


White House Chief of Staff Accidentally Reveals ISIS Hostage’s Name on Live TV