Administration prepares for court showdown over Obamacare subsidies (Quote by Kevin Broughton)

Argues law, negative outcomes if offsets reversed

“Conservatives like Kevin Broughton, a spokesman for the Tea Party Patriots, said the administration and its Democratic allies have no one to blame but themselves after muscling their overhaul through Congress in 2010. “There has to be a presumption,” he said, “that the words in a statute mean what they say.”





Dems call for open enrollment for pregnant women

“Democrats are asking the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to improve women’s access to heath care by instituting a special open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act for women when they find out they are pregnant. On Tuesday, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) sent a letter with 36 signatures to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell urging her to address a gap in coverage that could leave women without access to maternity care. “Good maternity care is essential for the well-being of children, and studies show that maternal mortality rates are three to four times higher for women who do not receive prenatal care,” said the letter, signed by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). “Millions of women have benefitted from this protection, and we appreciate your leadership in getting this done.” Without health insurance, lawmakers said, women will either be forced to forgo this critical care of face lofty out-of-pocket costs. In a statement to NPR last month, Burwell said HHS has not included pregnancy as a qualifying life event because it was following insurance companies in determining open enrollment periods. But, she said, HHS is open to considering the issue. In a statement, Christina Postolowski, health policy manager of Young Invincibles, said she’s thrilled to see a growing chorus of leaders calling on the administration to create a special open enrollment period to make maternity coverage available to pregnant women year-round.   According to Postolowski’s December 2014 report “Without Maternity Coverage” maternity care and delivery ranges from $10,000 to $20,000 without complications. “Prenatal visits are crucial for detecting rare but severe diseases that can be caused by or diagnosed during pregnancy – including preeclampsia, placental abruption, diabetes, heart conditions, and Graves’ disease. If untreated, these diseases can lead to severe morbidity or death of the mother and/or fetus,” the report said…”



Senate Dems call for special enrollment in Obamacare for pregnant women

“More than 30 Democratic senators want the Obama administration to create special enrollment periods so uninsured pregnant women can enroll in Obamacare, an idea the administration has toyed with. A letter from the senators said that if a woman gets pregnant now, she wouldn’t be able to get coverage because open enrollment ended on Feb. 15. The administration will hold an additional enrollment period from March 15 to April 30, but only for individuals who may have to pay the individual mandate penalty for not having insurance. “Without access to maternity care coverage, these women are forced to either forgo this critical care or face significant out-of-pocket costs,” according to the letter signed by 37 senators to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and released Tuesday. Healthcare advocates cheered the senators’ letter, and asked the Obama administration to heed the request. “It’s unacceptable that pregnant women without maternity coverage could face more than $23,000 in medical costs — or worse, suffer severe health consequences or death,” said Christina Postolowski, health policy manager for the advocacy group Young Invincibles. The administration allows a woman who recently had a baby to enroll in marketplace coverage even if it is outside the enrollment period, but doesn’t allow it for prenatal care. The Affordable Care Act mandates that new insurance plans include maternity care…”



IRS delaying tax refunds of thousands enrolled in Affordable Care Act — but why?

“The IRS is delaying the refunds of tens of thousands of Affordable Care Act enrollees, said Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate. The hold up, she says, is subsidy data from state health exchanges. What’s more, Olson said the IRS told its telephone representatives not to tell callers the reason for the delay. Affordable Care Act enrollees received subsidies based on their estimated income for 2014. Now that they know their actual income, the IRS has to make sure the initial subsidy amount was correct. Some enrollees will have to pay back part of their subsidies or receive smaller refunds if they underestimated their incomes. Others may get larger refunds if they earned less than they anticipated. The IRS needs to get the 1095-A forms, which includes the subsidy data, from the state exchanges to confirm the information taxpayers put on their return is correct. Olson’s comments are the latest headache for Affordable Care Act enrollees and the Obama administration. Last month, administration officials said that 800,000 enrollees received incorrect 1095-A forms. That forced the majority of them to delay filing their tax returns until they get updated forms. (Some 50,000 people who had already sent in their returns will not have to amend them.) Also, scores of people who paid a penalty for remaining uninsured in 2014 told CNNMoney that their refunds were delayed. The IRS told CNNMoney that early this filing season, some tax returns that include Affordable Care Act subsidies were briefly held for additional review. The agency said that as of last week, it is either processing these returns or reaching out to taxpayers to obtain additional information. The agency said it is seeing a normal volume of returns being held. The IRS issues more than 90% of refunds within 21 days of the tax return being accepted. Through February 20th, it has processed nearly 50 million tax returns. Almost 40 million tax refunds worth a total of nearly $125 billion have been issued…”



ACA enrollees see refund delays Hold up is subsidy data from state health exchanges, officials say

“The IRS is delaying the refunds of tens of thousands of Obamacare enrollees, said Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate. The hold up, she says, is subsidy data from state health exchanges. What’s more, Olson said the IRS told its telephone representatives not to tell callers the reason for the delay. Obamacare enrollees received subsidies based on their estimated income for 2014. Now that they know their actual income, the IRS has to make sure the initial subsidy amount was correct. Some enrollees will have to pay back part of their subsidies or receive smaller refunds if they underestimated their incomes. Others may get larger refunds if they earned less than they anticipated. The IRS needs to get the 1095-A forms, which includes the subsidy data, from the state exchanges to confirm the information taxpayers put on their return is correct. Olson’s comments are the latest headache for Obamacare enrollees and the Obama administration. Last month, administration officials said that 800,000 enrollees received incorrect 1095-A forms. That forced the majority of them to delay filing their tax returns until they get updated forms. (Some 50,000 people who had already sent in their returns will not have to amend them.) Also, scores of people who paid a penalty for remaining uninsured in 2014 told CNNMoney that their refunds were delayed. The IRS told CNNMoney that early this filing season, some tax returns that include Obamacare subsidies were briefly held for additional review. The agency said that as of last week, it is either processing these returns or reaching out to taxpayers to obtain additional information. The agency said it is seeing a normal volume of returns being held. The IRS issues more than 90% of refunds within 21 days of the tax return being accepted…”



Ryan, Kline, And Upton Unveil More Specifics About Obamacare Supreme Court Contingency Plans

“Yesterday, three key Republican senators on health care issues published an op-ed in which they outlined the broad principles of how they would address potential outcomes in the big Obamacare Supreme Court case, King v. Burwell. Today, three House Republican leaders—Paul Ryan (Wisc.), John Kline (Minn.), and Fred Upton (Mich.)—unveiled their own plan, with important new details. It’s a significant step forward. The new op-ed, published in the Wall Street Journal, outlines an “off-ramp from Obamacare” which would transition enrollees in interested states into a better system. The three congressmen chair three House committees with major impact on health care policy: Ways and Means (Ryan), Energy and Commerce (Upton), and Education and the Workforce (Kline). All three were involved in the working group organized by Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.) and the Republican Policy Committee. Liberalizing insurance markets –  Under the Ryan-Kline-Upton plan, states could opt out of Obamacare’s blizzard of insurance mandates and regulations. Instead, residents of those states could use Obamacare’s tax credits to buy a broad range of insurance plans, like the ones that were available before the new health law. The plan wouldn’t eliminate all federal regulations, however. Ryan et al. would “prohibit insurers from imposing lifetime limits on benefits” and “protect people with existing conditions.” Tax credits to purchase health insurance – The plan would deploy advanceable and refundable tax credits, as Obamacare does, to help the uninsured purchase health insurance. The credit would be larger for older people, since their health costs are higher, relative to younger people. Importantly, the plan is silent on the question of whether or not the tax credits would be means-tested or uniform. In other words: would people with six-figure salaries get the same subsidy as those nearing the poverty line? The Obamacare replacement plan proposed by Upton and two senators employs means-tested subsidies, in which lower-income individuals would get more help. Paul Ryan, in the past, has favored programs with uniform tax credits…”



Republicans to high court: We have ObamaCare plan

“Republicans are trying to convince the Supreme Court that their party is nearing a consensus on how to replace about $25 billion of ObamaCare subsidies that the justices could strike down later this year.  The senators’ last-minute attempt to rally their party is an effort to counter criticism that the party lacks a plan to deal with a victory by plaintiffs challenging the legality of the subsidies. It is also a direct appeal to the Supreme Court justices as they begin arguments on the biggest ObamaCare case in three years. With the court prepared to hear oral arguments Wednesday, the GOP is sending the message that the sky won’t fall in if the high court rules against the administration, even though it would deprive about 8 million people of financial assistance to buy healthcare insurance. The effort is intended to make it easier for the court to strike down the subsidies, since Republicans believe the court is more likely to rule in their favor if it believes a plan is in place to limit the fallout.  It’s the same reason Republicans have seized on statements from the White House and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell that officials have “no plans” in case of a plaintiff victory. “What Burwell does not have — any plan — Republicans do have,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told The Hill on Monday. Senate Republicans have recently tried to unite their party around a fallback plan in which people could receive temporary government help to keep their subsidies. “I think there is a kind of consensus among Republicans that there would be some transition,” Cassidy told The Hill. Five Republican senators, including Cassidy, have published three separate op-eds in the last week, each presenting slightly different versions of the temporary assistance programs…”



House Republicans propose Obamacare ‘off-ramp’



Congress Planning Legislation After King v. Burwell Supreme Court Decision

“Congress is busily making plans for legislative action should the latest challenge to Obamacare prevail in the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, the justices will hear arguments in King v. Burwell to decide whether the IRS had the authority to write a rule authorizing subsidies to go to millions of people in the 37 states with federal exchanges. The plaintiffs say the language of the law is clear: Subsidies are allowed in “an Exchange established by the State under [section] 1311of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” It doesn’t just say this once, but nine times in various linguistic forms. That is the point that MIT economist Jonathan Gruber made when he famously said: “If you’re a state, and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.” The government argues that it’s just a typo in the law: Congress clearly wanted subsidies to be available to citizens of all of the states, and the IRS therefore had the authority to write its rule. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell each have appointed high-level task forces to come up with legislative solutions should the plaintiffs win. Sens. Orrin Hatch (UT), Lamar Alexander (TN), and John Barrasso (WY) penned an op-ed for the Washington Post on Monday in which they described their “plan to protect Americans harmed by the administration’s actions” and about giving “states the freedom and flexibility to create better, more competitive health insurance markets offering more options and different choices.” The chairmen of the three committees with jurisdiction over the issue in the House – Reps. Paul Ryan (WI), Fred Upton (MI), and John Kline (MN) – similarly write today about their reform plans in the Wall Street Journal. “What we will propose is an off-ramp out of Obamacare toward patient-centered health care,” they write. “It has two parts: First, make insurance more affordable by ending Washington mandates and giving choice back to states, individuals and families. And second, support Americans in purchasing the coverage of their choosing.”…”



House Republicans Outline A Way Out Of Obamacare

“House Republicans outlined the beginnings of an “off-ramp” from Obamacare for Tuesday, in case the Supreme Court strikes down a key part of the law. If the Court determines that federal subsidies for Obamacare enrollees are illegal, millions of people could be stuck with plans they can’t afford. Reps Paul Ryan, John Kline and Fred Upton propose giving those people tax credits to purchase a replacement plan. “No family should pay for this administration’s overreach,” they wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. The law states that only people who buy Obamacare “though an Exchange established by the state,” are eligible for subsidies, but the IRS has subsidized plans for millions of people who purchased them through the federal exchange. If the Court determines those subsidies are illegal, those people will have to pay the full cost of their plan. “Americans should have an off-ramp from ObamaCare—a legislative alternative that leads them away from an expensive health-care wreck and toward a patient-centered system,” they write, and claim House and Senate Republicans have found “a great deal of consensus” on the issue…”



Ryan: Plan to replace ObamaCare ‘not at all’ like subsidies

“The architect of the House GOP’s backup plan for ObamaCare is pushing back against criticism that his party’s strategy does not veer far enough away from the current law. House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Tuesday that his plan’s proposed tax credits are “not at all” like the tax credits under the current law, which the GOP hopes will be struck down by the Supreme Court this year. Paul, along with other top Republicans, published an op-ed Tuesday laying out how they would react to a court decision that struck down the tax credits, or subsidies, in King v. Burwell. Arguments for the case begin Wednesday and a decision would likely be announced in June. Paul said in an interview with Fox News that the Obama administration’s tax credits are actually “thinly veiled subsidies policed by the Internal Revenue Service.” When asked if the subsidies and the tax credits were the same thing, Ryan replied, “Not at all, not at all.” “They are subsidies, [the administration] calls them tax credits,” he said. “They’re saying, buy the Washington-mandated plan and the IRS will police how you buy that. We’re saying, give people freedom.” Fears have grown within the Republican Party over how to respond to a conservative victory in King v. Burwell, which would mean a loss of $25 billion in subsidies to about 8 million people. As many as three-quarters of those people could lose their coverage altogether, and some Republicans are afraid they could be blamed. Ryan, as well as Republicans in the Senate, say its important to put some sort of backstop in place to prevent the subsidies from immediately evaporating. But hard-lined conservatives, like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), argue that the Republican Party should not try to restore subsidies. “Americans would pay billions more in higher taxes to fund the newly-restored subsidies, making Obamacare that much more entrenched. What self-proclaimed conservative of sound mind would do such a thing?” he asked in an op-ed Tuesday.”



Cruz unveils ObamaCare alternative

“Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Tuesday offered the latest in a series of Republican ObamaCare alternatives ahead of a Supreme Court ruling that could gut the law. Cruz’s bill, called the Health Care Choices Act, would allow people to buy health insurance across state lines, long a Republican health policy goal. It would also repeal Title I of ObamaCare, which would undo much of the law, including the mandate to buy insurance, the insurance marketplaces and subsidies to help people afford coverage. Republicans are looking to show that they have a plan ready if the Court strikes down subsidies for around 7.5 million people in the roughly three dozen states using federally-run marketplaces. The Court will hear arguments in the case, King v. Burwell, on Wednesday.  The Obama administration insists that it does not have a contingency plan and that it will prevail in Court.  “The administration has done absolutely nothing to prepare for an upcoming Supreme Court decision that could leave millions of Americans unable to afford insurance thanks to this failed law,” Cruz said in a statement. “Republicans must offer the American people alternatives that lower costs and break the status quo that favors big government and big health care business over hardworking Americans.”…”



Ted Cruz leads latest GOP alternative to Obamacare



GOP proposes vague solutions to Obamacare subsidies case



As Supreme Court takes up ObamaCare, GOP offers alternatives, Dems warn of ‘massive damage’



Key conservatives don’t rule out temporary ObamaCare extensions

“Several key conservative lawmakers aren’t ruling out support for proposals to temporarily extend people’s ObamaCare plans if the Supreme Court strikes down subsidies under the law. “I don’t want to prejudge that debate right now, I want to assess the options,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) raised concerns about how long the extension would be, but also suggested he could consider it. “I think it should be limited, perhaps, but I don’t shut the door on that,” he said.  Republicans are looking to show the Supreme Court that they have a plan ready if the court rules to invalidate subsidies for around 7.5 million people in at least 34 states in the case of King v. Burwell, set for arguments on Wednesday. A central part of the plans unveiled this week is a proposal to provide financial assistance to people losing their subsidies so that they can temporarily keep their ObamaCare plans and avoid disruption. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), as well as Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), have proposed versions of that idea.  Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) was a leader in the 2013 effort to defund ObamaCare, but he is interested in the extension idea. He and other lawmakers recently met with Sasse. “We’re in the process of evaluating it, but I love that forward thinking, [making] sure we have a plan and he’s doing a good job of that,” Meadows said of Sasse. Asked if it would be politically difficult to pass Sasse’s proposed extension of plans, Meadows said “No, I think the compassionate way, you have to deal with the reality.” “That’s why the implementation on October 1 of 2013 was so critical, and I said a number of times then, once it gets in place, it’s very difficult to take those subsidies away, and we just need to make sure that they have healthcare coverage,” he added. A group of House committee chairmen, including Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), unveiled their own plan on Monday night. It would give states the ability to opt-out of ObamaCare’s mandates to buy insurance and provide tax credits to help people afford coverage. It makes no mention of the temporary assistance in the Senate plans.  It’s silent on that question right now,” said Ways and Means Committee spokesman Brendan Buck. Still, not all Republicans are open to the idea.  Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a possible Republican presidential candidate, wrote in an op-ed in National Review Tuesday morning that the extension of plans would only make the law “more entrenched.”



Republicans Shouldn’t Try to Save Obamacare Subsidies in Wake of King Ruling

A King v. Burwell victory would mean a sizable tax cut—if the GOP allows it to happen.

“Twenty-five years ago this fall, what Richard Wirthlin, President Reagan’s pollster, called the “six most destructive words in the history of presidential politics” came crashing down. On November 5, 1990, President George H. W. Bush officially violated his “read my lips: no new taxes” pledge by signing his infamous budget deal with Democrats in Congress. For the intervening quarter-century, Republicans across the country, seeing the bipartisan opposition to Bush’s change of heart, have held the line, steadfastly refusing to pass tax increases. Now, however, some on the right are considering what amounts to a twofold case of apostasy: passing a multi-billion dollar tax increase — the first in 25 years — to fund additional spending on Obamacare. The issue surrounds the upcoming King v. Burwell case, set to be heard by the Supreme Court this week. In it, the Court will decide the legality of insurance subsidies offered on 37 state exchanges run by the federal government. The text of the law says that insurance subsidies should be available only to those who purchase insurance coverage from an “Exchange established by the state.” Yet the Obama administration unilaterally expanded this restrictive language, allowing individuals in states that did not establish exchanges to receive subsidies. A Supreme Court ruling restoring the original language of Obamacare — nullifying the administration’s rule, and striking down subsidies in the 37 states — would have several knock-on fiscal effects. Because Obamacare’s employer mandate is directly tied to the subsidies — firms not offering coverage pay the penalty only if their workers receive federal premium assistance — the mandate taxes will disappear in those 37 states. Likewise, the individual mandate’s affordability test is linked to the subsidies; the mandate only applies if coverage is affordable after any premium subsidies received. Removing themwill dramatically weaken the individual mandate, reducing both the number of people to whom it applies and the amount of revenue it will raise…”



Jindal to GOP: Don’t ‘save ObamaCare’ with more subsidies

“Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is lashing out against Republicans in Congress who have rolled out alternative plans for ObamaCare, which he warns will only make the law “more entrenched.” “Some on the right want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,” Jindal wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday in the National Review. One day before the Supreme Court hears arguments for its biggest case on the Affordable Care Act in three years, House and Senate Republicans have rushed to present fallback plans in case the justices rule against the law. Republicans in both chambers have created contingency plans for a plaintiff victory in King v. Burwell, which would throw out about $25 billion of ObamaCare subsidies in states that didn’t set up their own insurance marketplaces. Both plans would create tax credits or other forms of financial assistance to help the 8 million people who could suddenly face far steeper healthcare costs — on which Republicans in both chambers say they have achieved “a great deal of consensus.” The effort is intended to make it easier for the court to strike down the subsidies, since Republicans believe the justices are more likely to rule in their favor if they believe a plan is in place to limit the fallout. But Jindal criticized their planning as “a ‘solution’ in search of a problem.” “Americans would pay billions more in higher taxes to fund the newly-restored subsidies, making Obamacare that much more entrenched. What self-proclaimed conservative of sound mind would do such a thing?” he wrote. The firebrand governor, who is considering a White House bid in 2016, countered that restoring subsidies would weaken the Republican’s effort to repeal the whole law. He argues that the loss of subsidies would virtually eliminate the penalties for the employer mandate and the individual mandate, which only apply when subsidies are available. If the subsidies are kept, however, Jindal said, it would only strengthen those rules. The Louisiana governor’s conservative think tank, America Next, also published a study Tuesday that says a plaintiff victory would cut taxes by $48 billion because of the elimination of the employer mandate penalties and the reduction of individual mandate penalties. The research will be sent to GOP members of Congress on Wednesday, when arguments in King v. Burwell begin at the Supreme Court….”



Jindal: Why are Republicans planning to rescue ObamaCare subsidies?

“Good question. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments shortly in King v Burwell about the legality of ObamaCare subsidy payments through the federal exchange, and the White House claims it has no Plan B if they get thrown out. Democrats in Congress certainly have reason to look for a fix that restores those subsidies, since ObamaCare has (a) forced everyone to buy health insurance, and (b) driven up the costs with artificial mandates. The voter backlash over the incompetent legislative effort behind ObamaCare will threaten their already low chances of winning back control of Congress in 2016. That may be a problem for Democrats, Jindal argues in National Review today, but it’s an opportunity for Republicans to dismantle ObamaCare: Eliminating the subsidies nationwide would therefore cut Americans’ tax liability by approximately $48 billion on net. Granted, these sums from CBO apply to all 50 states, while the King ruling would apply only to the 37 states that have not established exchanges. But the trend from the numbers is crystal clear: The tax reduction from eliminating the employer mandate, and weakening the individual mandate, outweighs any tax increase from eliminating the subsidies — meaning a favorable ruling in King v. Burwell would cut Americans’ taxes by many billions. And here’s where some on the right want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Conventional wisdom in Washington has assumed that, should the Court strike down the subsidies in 37 states under King, states will immediately act to establish their own state-run exchanges — allowing the subsidies to flow once more. Alternatively, Congress might be tempted to pass language extending the subsidies to the federally-run exchange, allowing Obamacare to comply with the Court ruling. That’s a “solution” in search of a problem. If eliminating the subsidies represents a net tax cut, then restoring the subsidies — whether by states creating their own exchanges, Congress passing new legislation, or some combination of the two — would re-impose a sizable tax increase. Americans would pay billions more in higher taxes to fund the newly restored subsidies, making Obamacare that much more entrenched. What self-proclaimed conservative of sound mind would do such a thing? Alternatively, some have talked about enacting a “compromise” that would restore the Obamacare subsidies while reforming some of the law’s new insurance requirements and regulations. But restoring the flow of subsidies means restoring the employer mandate, thus raising taxes. And even if such a “compromise” weakens or eliminates the employer mandate, the Obama administration — to say nothing of the insurance companies themselves — will hardly countenance a repeal of the individual mandate, which restoring the subsidies will only strengthen. So those seeking to restore the flow of subsidies will likely end up having to raise taxes on millions of Americans, in some way, shape, or form…”



Dear Republicans, Please Do Not Save Obamacare

“The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the King v. Burwell case this week. Petitioners are asking that Obamacare be enforced as it was conceived and written by Democrats in 2010 rather than how it’s been conveniently re-imagined by Democrats in 2015. Whatever the outcome will be, watching the Left panic over the case tells us just how risky a ruling could be for the future of Obamacare. If the SCOTUS does find that the 75-percent subsidy the federal government has been dubiously giving health insurers in the 37 states that rejected Obamacare “marketplaces” are illegal, there is a good chance the law could be in serious trouble. Unless, that is, someone bails it out. Which brings me to Sen. Ben Sasse, who recently warned in the Wall Street Journal that if the King v. Burwell goes the way of conservatives, the ensuing liberal attacks would be devastating. The GOP will be blamed for shutting off chemotherapy and dialysis machines and engaging in various forms of gentricide.  Sasse argues that the administration will then approach all the non-subsidy state governments with bribes that would extend the subsidies to all states. Under political pressure, Republicans governors would be helpless to resist and Obamacare would be saved. So the Nebraska senator has an idea: So within a week I will introduce legislation that uses the 1985 “Cobra” law as a temporary model to protect those harmed by ObamaCare. Cobra offers workers who have lost their jobs the option to keep their health coverage for 18 months—so Congress should offer individuals losing insurance the ability to keep the coverage they picked, with financial assistance, for 18 transitional months. This would simultaneously avert the full-scale implementation of ObamaCare in these 37 suddenly desperate states. It would also help protect suffering patients entangled in the court’s decision to strike down illegal subsidy payments. There are a few problems here. For starters, are we certain all of this would go poorly for the GOP? The notion that Obamacare will suddenly become a liability for Republicans and people will be clamoring to save it after years of steady disapproval is a common talking point in the media these days, but it doesn’t exactly mesh with reality. If it turns out that the law was poorly written, amateurish, unenforceable, lawlessly enacted, and now directly hurting poor people, the one sure-fire way Republicans could lose the upper hand is by putting their fingerprints on the legislation. What is likely is that over those transitional 18 months, Obamacare would only further metastasize. Democrats would never pass a bill that would offer market relief, so it’s unlikely that those using tax credits today would be able to find cheaper insurance in 2017, anyway. An extension without broader reforms would not change anything. And, on a political level, the same pressures and societal anxieties that scare Sasse now will still exist when billions of dollars of subsidies he voted for would run out. Well, with one major difference. If the GOP Cobra plan passes, Washington will be debating the future of a Republican-passed plan in 2017 rather than debating a way replace Obamacare in 2015. Either way, Democrats will accuse Republicans of turning off chemotherapy and dialysis machines. That’s if there’s ever a sunset for subsidies. Sasse’s plan would allow the King v. Burwell decision to end both the individual and employer mandates, and put an end to enrollment. That’s a great start. But it is exceedingly difficult to believe that 18 transitional months of subsidies won’t turn into 18 transitional years or more. Which welfare subsidy has ever seen a sunset, after all? Sasse argues that Republicans will have to unify around a set longer-term solutions, and then turn the 2016 presidential election into a referendum on two competing visions of health-care policy. Is the best way to remind people about the competing visions to make the Democrats’ vision less disastrous? Sasse’s plan reinforces the notion that we have an uninsured problem rather than a price-controlled marketplace problem that needs less government interference. Once you’ve acquiesced to the idea that billions in subsidizes are needed, the idea becomes bipartisan…”



GOP looks to protect employer wellness programs in ObamaCare

“Republicans are trying to fend off a legal attack against one of the few pieces of ObamaCare that has achieved bipartisan support in Congress. A half-dozen Republicans in the House and Senate introduced legislation Tuesday to protect an employee wellness program that discounts healthcare costs for workers who demonstrate healthy lifestyles. Under the increasingly popular program, employers can discount premiums as much as 50 percent for workers who quit smoking or maintain healthy cholesterol levels. But officials with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have said some provisions of the program are illegal, such as benefit rules that impose financial penalties unless employees and spouses take medical tests. The Republicans, including the chairmen of the Senate Finance and Health committees, say their bill would clarify the legality of the programs and “eliminate confusion” caused by the EEOC lawsuits. “At a time when Obamacare is creating uncertainty for employers and employees, this act will provide legal certainty to employers offering workplace wellness programs,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) wrote in a statement. Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, criticized the EEOC for “actually punishing employers for offering wellness plans.”



Administration prepares for court showdown over Obamacare subsidies

Argues law, negative outcomes if offsets reversed

The Obama administration has prepared for Wednesday’s Supreme Court showdown by spending an extraordinary amount of time not just arguing the law, but the possible bad outcomes if the justices strike down Obamacare’s subsidies in most states. By hammering away at the potential fallout, the administration and its allies are appealing to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and other conservative justices who’ve argued states deserve fair warning when Congress tinkers with the delicate boundary between federal and state authority in pursuit of its policy goals. At issue are the subsidies the Affordable Care Act offers to millions of customers who buy insurance on Obamacare’s exchanges. The law says subsidies can only be paid to customers of exchanges “established by the state” — but the administration decided that meant the federal HealthCare.gov exchange, which serves more than 30 states that didn’t set up their own exchanges, could offer subsidies too. Obamacare opponents say that’s an affront to the plain language of the law, while the administration has been focused on arguing the devastating outcomes should the opponents prevail. “First, millions of people would lose their health insurance subsides and therefore would no longer be able to afford health insurance,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a recent letter to Republican leaders. “Second, without tax subsidies healthy individuals would be far less likely to purchase health insurance, leaving a disproportionate number of sick individuals in the individual insurance market, which would raise the costs for everyone else. And, third, states that did not establish a state marketplace would return to a time when the recourse for those without insurance was to seek care in hospital emergency rooms, further driving up insurance costs for everyone.” The administration also argues that such an unthinkable outcome is proof that whatever the law says, Congress didn’t mean for only some exchanges to pay subsidies. Lawyers said if Congress had wanted to use the subsidies to entice states to set up exchanges on their own, independent of the government, they would have been a lot clearer. “It makes little sense to conclude that Congress would have communicated these consequences in so oblique a manner if — as petitioners insist — its purpose was to ensure that every state got the message that it needed to establish its own exchange to avoid harms to its citizens and its insurance market,” Justice Department attorneys say in their main brief to the justices…”



Why HHS Has No Plan B

As King v. Burwell comes before the Court, the administration’s only strategy is fear-mongering.

“The case of King v. Burwell, in which the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments tomorrow, is a major test of the implementation of Obamacare. A ruling for the plaintiffs would invalidate health-care tax subsidies for Americans who purchased insurance through the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov, rather than through a state exchange, as the law specifies. Last week, in a letter to a member of Congress, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell said that the administration has no backup plan in the event that the Court rules against it. Burwell’s scare tactics were transparent: “First, millions of people would lose their health insurance subsidies and therefore would no longer be able to afford health insurance; second, without tax subsidies healthy individuals would be far less likely to purchase health insurance, leaving a disproportionate number of sick individuals in the individual insurance market, which would raise the costs for everyone else; and third, states that did not establish a state marketplace would return to a time when the recourse for those without insurance was to seek care in hospital emergency rooms, further driving up insurance costs for everyone.” Never mind that her first two points describe problems that were largely created by Obamacare. As for the third point, multiple studies have shown that Obamacare has, at least temporarily, increased ER visits. On Thursday, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren wondered incredulously, “I don’t get why the Obama administration has no plan B ready for this one; I sure would.” But Burwell’s position is rather different: “We know of no administrative actions that could, and therefore we have no plans that would, undo the massive damage to our healthcare system that would be caused by an adverse decision.” Writing in the Wall Street Journal last Wednesday, freshman senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) laid out a vision for a Republican plan to temporarily shield Americans from massive health-insurance disruptions if the Supreme Court decides to hold the government to the plain language of the Affordable Care Act (further bolstered by the plain language of now persona non grata Jonathan Gruber) that subsidies may be paid only to consumers who purchase through an exchange “established by the state.” The IRS chose to interpret that clause as meaning that consumers who purchase insurance through an exchange established by the federal government also qualify for the subsidy — an interpretation that is plainly unlawful and without any support in the ACA. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the Court will do what it should — and what it usually does in less political cases — and rule that federal agencies may not invent law based on a guess as to legislative intent, particularly a guess which seems so divergent from the plain text of the law. Liberals are twisting in the wind, making excuses such as Professor Timothy Stoltzfus Jost’s description of the ACA as “a statute whose words clearly say what Congress clearly did not mean.” But, putting aside the professor’s dubious claim about congressional intent, if government is allowed to enforce laws other than as they are written based on a flimsy claim of “I know what they really meant,” where do you draw the line? To be sure, with this administration there are no enforceable lines. No red line in Syria, no constitutional prohibition against the president’s summarily granting amnesty to illegal aliens — although both of those lines were clearly drawn by Barack Obama himself. His eraser is more permanent than his pen. But a forward-thinking liberal should be careful what he wishes for in King, because Democrats are not going to have control over the executive branch forever. Imagine the outcry from the Left if a future conservative president were to order his own HHS or IRS to take a regulatory action regarding abortion or taxation using the “I know what Congress really meant” argument.”



Top Dem: GOP sending ‘false message’ to court about ObamaCare plans

“Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, hit back at Republicans’ alternative to ObamaCare, accusing them of sending a “false message” to the Supreme Court. House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), along with two other Republican chairmen, outlined a plan on Monday night to provide states an “off-ramp” from ObamaCare if the Supreme Court guts the law’s subsidies in the case of King v. Burwell, set for arguments on Wednesday. “This isn’t an off-ramp. It would be a dead end for millions of Americans who would see their tax credits disappear,” Levin countered in a statement on Tuesday. “Republicans are trying to send a false message to the Supreme Court that they could repair the enormous damage that this case could bring to the health care of Americans when they cannot even address basic funding for the Department of Homeland Security,” he continued. “This plan is vacuous. The result of an adverse Supreme Court ruling would be hugely dangerous.” Republicans are trying to show the high court that they have a backup plan ready if the justices strike down the law’s subsidies…”



Have the practical effects of a plaintiffs’ victory in King been exaggerated? (And does it matter?)

“Such scenarios generally assume that the political process fails to respond to a court decision recognizing that the PPACA’s text only authorizes tax credits in state-established exchanges. Yet it’s possible that Congress will swing into action, that states will reconsider whether to create exchanges, and even that the administration, when push comes to shove, discovers ways to ease the effects of ending illegal subsidies. The amicus brief filed on behalf of Consumers Research by noted administrative law scholar Ronald Cass questions the nightmare scenarios painted by the government’s defenders, and argues that such considerations are not province of the Court.  Here’s a brief excerpt: Claims that health insurance markets would be disrupted and that essential goals of the legislation to be construed here, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119, would be frustrated unless an ACA reference to exchanges “established by the State under Section 1311” is deemed to include exchanges established and operated by the federal government (federal exchanges) under a different Section of the ACA (Section 1321) have been advanced in the opinion of the court of appeals, in arguments of defendants and amici below, and in the Respondents’ filing in this Court in opposition to the petition for certiorari. See, e.g., King v. Burwell, 759 F.3d 358, 374 (4th Cir. 2014) (King); Brief of Respondents in Opp. to Cert., at 12-13, 25-27. These claims are inappropriate as a basis for judicial construction of statutory text; they call for decisions within the province of the political branches, not the courts; and, as so often is the case with such claims, the assertions of dire consequences fail to account for a variety of potential adjustments that could well eliminate or vastly reduce any of the predicted effects. First, the duty of courts, including this Court, is to say what the law is, not to determine what it should be to promote good consequences or to avoid ill consequences. See, e.g., Lewis v. City of Chicago, 560 U.S. 205, 217 (2010) (Lewis). Unlike the courts’ role when construing the import of decisions that comprise common law, the judicial power in applying governing legal texts such as statutes is restricted to understanding the terms of the law and applying them to the case at bar. Courts should not refuse to give effect to the plain meaning of legal texts because they predict unfortunate practical consequences would result. See, e.g., Stern v. Marshall, 131 S. Ct. 2594 (2011); Lewis, supra, 560 U.S. at 217. Advertence to consequences may be appropriate to some determinations clearly within judicial purview, such as identifying the relation among statutory provisions for purposes of severability. See, e.g., National Fed’n of Indep. Bus. v. Sebelius, 132 S. Ct. 2566, 2607-08 (2012) (NFIB) (Roberts, C.J., Breyer, and Kagan, JJ.); id., at 2674 (Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, JJ., dissenting). However, reliance on judges’ own assessments of practical consequences as a guide to deciphering what a legal text means risks letting the interpretive task morph into law creation. Second, assessment of practical consequences from judicial construction of a particular legal command is different in kind from evaluation of a legal term by reference to the context in which it is used. Evaluation of a term’s meaning in light of the nature and context of the legal instruction in which it is used calls on tools of construction within the core competence of lawyers and judges. See, e.g., Frank H. Easterbrook, Legal Interpretation and the Power of the Judiciary, 7 Harv. J. L. & Pub. Pol’y 87 (1984) (starting with the predicate that “Judges interpret words,” and arguing that so far as ordinary sources of linguistic meaning fail, judges must be more modest about their task). In contrast, construction of meaning in light of predicted practical consequences requires judgments that draw on resources that often lie well beyond the lawyer’s or judge’s natural ken. See, e.g., id., at 97-98; Frederick Schauer, Thinking Like a Lawyer: A New Introduction to Legal Reasoning 29-35 (2009) (explaining the nature, role and importance of formalism—as contrasted with consequentialism—in judicial decisionmaking). Commonly, there are many different potential adjustments in behavior and in law that can be made to any judicial interpretation of the law, and judges simply are not well-positioned to evaluate the relative likelihood, the ultimate impact, or the relative social merit of any of these responses. Judges’ assessments of practical consequences, thus, should not guide determinations respecting judicial construction of statutory provisions or judicial acceptance of administrative determinations under the Court’s jurisprudence related to Chevron USA, Inc. v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 847 (1984) (Chevron). Finally, the practical consequences that Respondents and some amici in filings below (repeated by Respondents before this Court) predicted would follow from a straightforward reading of the statutory provisions at issue do not take account of a number of potential adjustments that could eliminate or substantially ameliorate the predicted effects. Although the dire predictions were credited by the court of appeals below as a reason for accepting the interpretation of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), King, supra, 759 F.3d at 374-75, they ignore evidence of related experience and do not account for potential actions by the states that have not set up exchanges, by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), or by Congress. Further, the predictions do not address the operation of various legal rules that would cushion the effect of any decision recognizing the unavailability of subsidies for purchases through the federal exchanges. The number, variety, and difficulty of predicting these potential adjustments—and the failure to take such adjustments seriously in the assertions by Respondents, the court below, and others making predictions of calamitous consequences from deciding that the ACA (Section 36B, 26 U.S.C. § 36B) limits subsidies to purchases through state exchanges established under ACA Section 1311, 42 U.S.C. § 18031, not federal exchanges established under ACA Section 1321, 42 U.S.C. § 18041—underscore why courts are not well-positioned to assess practical consequences.”



Clear Language Or Clear Intent? Supreme Court Hears Obamacare Subsidies Case

“United States Supreme Court arguments tomorrow in the Affordable Care Act case known as King v. Burwell come down to a basic philosophical divide between textualists, who think a law means what its words say, and purposivists, who think it means what Congress meant it to say. They’re often portrayed as ideological opposites but there’s not as much distance between them as some observers think. Even Justice Antonin Scalia, the king of the textualists, wrote in his 1997 book “A Matter of Interpretation that “[i]n textual interpretation, context is everything.” Justice Clarence Thomas, also a textualist, held in a decision that same year that the word “employees” in the Title VII antidiscrimination statute also referred to “former employees” because his interpretation was “more consistent with the broader context” of the law. So when you read this case is a slam-dunk win for the plaintiffs, don’t be so sure. King v. Burwell hinges on what Congress meant when it directed the Internal Revenue Service to distribute tax credits to people who purchased health insurance on “an Exchange established by the State,” under a section of the law dealing with state, not federal insurance exchanges. Elsewhere in the law Congress refers to “Exchange of the State,” suggesting that for tax purposes, the Democrats who wrote this statute intended to differentiate between exchanges that were set up by the states and those the federal government set up on their behalf. As it turns out, only 14 states set up their own exchanges. The Obama administration and its supporters say it would be absurd to seize on such a subtle element in the law to throw out the primary mechanism that makes it work. Without subsidies, most of the law’s intended beneficiaries couldn’t buy health insurance, and without enough paying customers the health insurers could be crushed under the medical expenses of those who can now buy insurance regardless of preexisting conditions. Using those four words, “established by the State,” to upend the entire edicice known as Obamacare would be equivalent to squeezing “the proverbial elephant into the proverbial mousehole,” as one judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals put it…”



“Bad Textualism”

“That’s Jonathan Adler’s bottom-line assessment of an amicus brief, much ballyhooed by the Left, that several legal academics have submitted in support of the Obama administration in King v. Burwell (the Obamacare exchange-subsidies case being argued tomorrow). As Adler spells out at length, “For all the brief’s talk about the need to consider context and not to take words or phrases in isolation, it ignores key provisions and grossly misinterprets others.” Adler further observes: As should be clear by now, I was quite underwhelmed by this brief. When I saw the list of signatories, I expected something more compelling. The arguments put forth in the brief are likely convincing to those who are not particularly familiar with the relevant statutory provisions and arguments. For those immersed in the case, on the other hand, the brief’s shortcomings are quite plain. Perhaps I should not have been surprised. After all, while the brief purports to make a “textualist” argument, the most notable names on the brief are outspoken critics of textualism, not adherents. The various sorts of statutory interpretation advanced by Prof. Eskridge, for example, would undoubtedly offer more support to the government’s position than does a more sober and restrained textualist analysis. The only problem is that the current Court has not adopted Prof. Eskridge’s theories, which is why the brief is styled in textualist trappings.”



King v. Burwell: Who Writes the Laws in the United States?

“Obamacare. It’s either the best thing since sliced bread or – as more Americans think – a deadly mix of government incompetence and intrusiveness. So when the Supreme Court decided to hear King v. Burwell, a case billed as having the potential to fatally undermine the law, both sides agreed a lot was at stake. Yet there is more riding on the case than just the survival of Obamacare. The Court’s decision this term will actually determine who ultimately writes the laws in this country: Congress or a politicized agency like the IRS.  The original Obamacare Supreme Court challenge, NFIB v. Sebelius – dealt with the constitutionality of the individual mandate. This term’s big case , by contrast, addresses the law’s subsidy provisions. And this time Obamacare’s defenders are fighting the text of the law itself. The Affordable Care Act’s proponents assume d all states would jump at the chance to create exchanges to sell Obamcare-compliant insurance policies. But because the federal government doesn’t actually have the authority to force the states’ hand, the law also includes an escape clause: if a state fails to set up an exchange, the federal government will.   Yet when the rubber hit the road, nearly two-thirds of the states decided they didn’t want anything to do with implementing the unpopular legislation. That’s why we got the Healthcare.gov disaster, which transformed the word “glitch” into a term of art.  These states’ decision not to be complicit with Obamacare triggered another section of the ACA. The section describing who is eligible for subsidies clearly provides that those subsidies are only available for plans “enrolled in through an Exchange established by the State.” There is no end to speculation about why those words are in the statute. Some – including one of the law’s architects, MIT professor Jonathan Gruber – have explained it as an incentive to get each state to set up an exchange. After all, dangling money in front of states is a time-honored way to persuade states to do what Congress wants, ranging from criminal law enforcement to environmental law. Others think the reference to state exchanges simply reflects the prevailing assumption that all states would be on board. Still others seem to think the words were some horrible typo that has taken on a life of its own. But at the end of the day, the question isn’t why the law’s drafters wrote the language the way they did, what an individual Member of Congress voting on the law thought it contained, or if they even read it at all.  To paraphrase Rep. Nancy Pelosi, we who waited until the law was passed have found out what was in it, and that text – voted on by Congress and signed by the president – is now the law of the land. Or it should be. The IRS, however, decided it wouldn’t do to only have the subsidies operating in a minority of states, so it issued a regulation interpreting “Exchange established by the State” to include exchanges established by the federal government. It’s that regulation the King v. Burwell petitioners have challenged as unlawful…”



Two sides gearing up for another Supreme Court battle over health care

“Washington lawyer Michael A. Carvin will be back at the Supreme Court on Wednesday for the second great battle over the Affordable Care Act, once again facing off against a familiar adversary in Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. With hardly a trace of deadpan, Carvin said it would be wrong to characterize the case as a rare second chance to bring down President Obama’s health-care law. “Me, personally?” he said. “I’m a libertarian. I’d get rid of three-quarters of the U.S. Code if I could.” But he added, “The ACA is the law of the land. We want it to be implemented the way Congress intended for it to be.” Which, in Carvin’s view, would eliminate federal subsidies that an estimated 7.5 million Americans use to pay for health insurance in 34 states. The two armies have reassembled. In truth, they never dispersed. They’ve been marshaling their forces and their arguments ever since the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in 2012 to uphold the constitutionality of the measure, devastating those who wanted the justices to strike down the nearly 1,000-page law in its entirety. Conservative and libertarian groups, such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute, were planning their next court challenge even before the last one was completed. Liberal groups such as the Center for American Progress and the Constitutional Accountability Center reinforced their defenses, this time armed with emotional stories of those who have been helped by the law and now face the loss of insurance. In 2012, Carvin teamed up with George W. Bush administration solicitor general Paul D. Clement to make the case for the challengers. But Clement has no role in the current case. This time, it will be only the brash Carvin squaring off against the laid-back Verrilli. Verrilli’s performance three years ago was panned by courtroom critics. But the understated corporate lawyer was vindicated when Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. used one of Verrilli’s alternate constitutional theories to fashion the opinion that saved the act. When Obama got that news, Verrilli was the first person he called…”



Who Should Get Obamacare Subsidies: Supreme Court Hears Major Challenge

“The Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, dodged a bullet in 2012 when the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate. Wednesday, it faces a second major legal challenge; this one to the taxpayer-funded premium subsidies that underpin the entire law. The nine justices will hear arguments over whether it’s legal to give out the subsidies in 34 states where the federal government established and runs the insurance exchanges, HealthCare.gov. The debate centers on interpretation of a four-word phrase buried in the 2000-page law that says financial aid is available through “exchanges established by the state.” The stakes are high: About 7.5 million Americans have received subsidies to purchase health insurance coverage in those 34 states. If the court strikes them down, the “vast majority” will be forced out of coverage almost immediately because their premiums will become prohibitively expensive, experts say. “There could be chaos,” said Abbe Gluck, a Yale Law School professor who specializes in health law. An average American receiving Obamacare subsidies pays just $105 a month out of pocket for insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Take away the aid and the cost spikes to $373 a month – for many, a price out of reach. “The horror stories will be real,” Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska warned in the Wall Street Journal. “Chemotherapy turned off for perhaps 12,000 people, dialysis going dark for 10,000.” Experts are also sounding alarm bells about a broader impact: the upending of individual insurance markets and a likely “death spiral.” Premiums would skyrocket for everyone in those 34 states, not just those who purchased Obamacare, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found. And if you think the states, Congress or the Department of Health and Human Services could enact a quick, even temporary, fix, then think again. There has been little-to-no preparation for a court decision striking the subsidies down. “We’ll have to wait and see what the Supreme Court decides,” President Obama told Reuters Monday. “If they rule against us, we’ll have to take a look at what our options are.” There will be just 25 days to look at those options after the court releases its opinion, which is expected in June, leaving precious little time for lawmakers and those relying on subsidized Obamacare insurance to act to come up with an alternative plan…”



What to Watch for in the King Oral Arguments

Liberal justices’ lines of questioning will indicate how committed they are to the letter of the law.

“What happens when the Internal Revenue Service decides to rewrite a law to “fix” legislation that the president himself signed? King v. Burwell, that’s what. Tomorrow morning, the parties will argue the biggest case of the Supreme Court term. King centers on the IRS’s decision to issue a regulation rewriting a key statutory provision that limits Obamacare’s subsidies to individual plans purchased on an insurance exchange “established by the State.” Although King doesn’t present a constitutional issue in the conventional sense, you don’t have to scratch hard to find one underneath. Because the Constitution allocates legislative power to Congress alone, the Obama administration’s attempt to turn statutory interpretation into legislation by other means strikes at the heart of the Constitution’s separation of powers. The story begins in 2010, when Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act on a party-line vote by the thinnest of margins. Although many Democrats were hoping for something more ambitious, Senate Democrats lost their ability to override a filibuster on party lines after the intervening special election of Republican Senator Scott Brown (Mass.) a few weeks after the House of Representatives voted on its own bill. But the House bill was dead in the Senate once Senator Brown arrived. As a result, the Obama administration was forced to accept a Senate bill that gave substantial power to the states. The Senate bill was structured around a notion called “cooperative federalism,” in which Congress provides a variety of incentives to get states to do what Congress wants them to do. (This is typically something they won’t do on their own, such as environmental regulation or Medicaid.) Since the Constitution prevents Congress from ordering states around (they are sovereigns, after all), Congress must use carrots and sticks. A typical carrot might be, say, making a new pot of taxpayer money available in exchange for states’ cooperation. A stick, by contrast, might be revocation of federal funds or the imposition of unfavorable federal regulations on the residents of an uncooperative state. With Obamacare, the centerpiece of the cooperative-federalism vision is state-specific insurance exchanges, each a miniature version of Healthcare.gov. The exchanges are so central, in fact, that the Affordable Care Act orders states to create them (even though the government has never tried to enforce that particular verbiage). If a state refuses, the federal government establishes a federal exchange for plans bought within the state…”



Tomorrow could be the beginning of the end of Obamacare: Everything you need to know

The Supreme Court begins to hear an Affordable Care Act case that challenges one of the tenets of the law



Supreme Court Case Could End Obamacare Subsidies In 34 States

“Union leaders and supporters are preparing to rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday to oppose a case which could end ObamaCare tax credits for residents in 34 states. The Supreme Court case, King v. Burwell, is part of a series of lawsuit which argue that ObamaCare was written to allow tax credits only on state-run exchanges. This means the Internal Revenue Service can’t provide the tax credits to people in states that opted-out of setting up their own healthcare exchanges. “The Supreme Court will hear King v. Burwell, a case that could take away healthcare for 8 million Americans and cause premiums to spike for millions more by eliminating tax credits to buy health coverage through the Affordable Care Act in approximately three dozen states,” The Service Employees International Union declared. “The resulting chaos would wreak havoc on the health care system, impacting consumers and health providers across the country.” The SEIU is leading the rally in front of the Supreme Court building to show its support for upholding the law because of how it helps working Americans, even the parts being challenged. If the court finds that the law only specified tax subsidies for individuals in states that set up their own exchanges, then residents in all 34 states without exchanges will lose their tax credits. Plaintiffs in the case argue that the law was clearly written to only allow tax subsidies for those individuals on state exchanges. They allege that the law was written in such a way in order to incentivize states into starting their own exchanges, but the plan backfired when 34 states refused to do so, leaving many ineligible for tax subsidies. This in turn prompted the federal government to offer subsidies to people in states that don’t have their own exchanges in violation of what the law actually specified…”



ObamaCare back at the Supreme Court



Obamacare case: All eyes on 2 justices

The keys to the case are expected to be John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy.

“The future of Obamacare again falls on the shoulders of John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy.

As the Obama administration and Obamacare opponents prepare for another Supreme Court showdown Wednesday, both sides are tailoring their arguments to win over the chief justice, who cast the saving vote for the Affordable Care Act in 2012, and Kennedy, the perennial swing vote on the Supreme Court. The court is likely to split largely along ideological lines with Kennedy or Roberts casting crucial votes. Some Obamacare backers are even making a pitch to Justice Antonin Scalia to look at a broad reading of the law, although winning him over seems like a long shot. The challengers — four Virginia residents who don’t want to abide by the mandate that Americans buy health insurance — argue that the Obama administration is illegally giving out Obamacare subsidies. They say a phrase in the text of the massive law — that subsidies go to “exchanges established by the state” — only allows the money to go to residents of the 16 states, plus Washington, D.C., that set up their own insurance exchanges. If the plaintiffs prevail, more than 7 million people now receiving the subsidies in 34 states would lose them. The opponents’ lawyer, Michael A. Carvin of the law firm Jones Day, will argue that Congress all along intended to direct the subsidies through the state-run exchange as an incentive for the states to take on that task instead of leaving it to the federal government. The plaintiffs point to early versions of health reform legislation, one considered in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, that tied together subsidies and a state’s insurance reforms. The first goal of Solicitor General Don Verrilli is to take apart the challengers’ narrative. Several Democratic members of Congress who wrote the law told the court that there was never a plan to use the subsidies as an incentive to states. Of all the congressional debate over Obamacare in 2009 and 2010, no one considered that Democrats were setting up a scheme in which blue states would get a benefit that most red states wouldn’t accept, the government will say. “If there was any ambiguity that not everyone [would be eligible for subsidies] there would have been a war among the Democratic Caucus that you all could not have helped but noticed,” said John McDonough, who was a senior health staffer on the HELP Committee at the time. The Obama administration hopes to set up a scenario in which the justices agree it’s clear that Congress intended for subsidies to go to everyone. That would make it much harder for them to rule that the subsidies must end merely based on the one clause. It’s an argument that could resonate with Roberts and Kennedy. However, the law’s critics are hoping that the two justices do precisely the opposite: that they find the phrase about the state exchanges so clear-cut that they don’t embark on a quest to sort out what Congress intended…”



Should Justice Kagan Recuse Herself From Obamacare Case? [VIDEO]

“Oral arguments begin at the Supreme Court Wednesday in the King v. Burwell case, which will determine the constitutionality of Obamacare’s federal subsidies. The Obamacare law is pretty clear that people can only get subsidies from state exchanges. As Grace-Marie Turner pointed out, the law says subsidies apply to “an Exchange established by the State under [section] 1311of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” And Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber said, “If you’re a state, and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.”…”



Supreme Court’s chance to do the right thing on Obamacare

“THE SUPREME COURT is about to hear a case — King v. Burwell — that again threatens to undermine the Affordable Care Act and strip health insurance from millions of Americans. The King challenge, which focuses on a handful of words in that famously long piece of legislation, is a clever one. But it’s too clever by half. Finding for the challengers would require taking a few words in the ACA out of their proper context, ignoring the law’s structure and purpose, and even jettisoning the conservative justices’ own pro-states’ rights views. The challengers zero in on a sub-clause in the ACA describing how federal tax credits to help people buy health insurance are to be computed. It says such credits can go only to people buying insurance through “an exchange established by the state.” But the ACA specifically authorizes the federal government to establish substitute exchanges for states that ask for such help. The challengers claim the IRS wrongly interpreted the law’s reference to “state-established” exchanges to include the exchanges the feds set up on behalf of the 34 states that didn’t establish their own. But the ACA was clearly designed to treat state-established and federally-established exchanges the same way. It even refers to an exchange set up by the federal government in the same sentence where it discusses an exchange established by a state, encompassing both within the phrase “such exchange.” To be sure, there are legal arguments that could provide cover for going the other way: a 1,000-page statute is bound to contain some clumsy or inept phrasing, and the Supreme Court could give lawmakers a lesson in draftsmanship by punishing innocent citizens and the states they happen to live in. But it would be hard to reconcile such a harsh approach with how the court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, has recently set about interpreting federal laws. Just last week, in a case involving the prosecution of a sneaky fisherman under a federal law designed to catch financiers who destroy incriminating documents or other “tangible objects,” Roberts joined three Democratic appointees in an opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that refused to interpret the term “tangible object” to include fish, even though a literalist would surely conclude that fish, being objects one can touch, are literally covered by the law’s language — so much so that Justice Elena Kagan dissented…”



Could Ohio set up its own health-care exchange after all?

“As the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a case this week that could affect 234,000 Ohioans who get health insurance through a federally run exchange, Democrats say it’s time for Ohio to consider a state-run exchange. “No one should underestimate the difficulty that setting up a state exchange could entail,” said Rep. Michael Stinziano, D-Columbus. “That’s why this legislation to begin that conversation is so important.” He and Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, will introduce legislation this week to create a state health-care exchange. The two say it’s important to at least start talking about what it would take to create an exchange, in the event that the Supreme Court strikes down federal subsidies that help people pay for their insurance. Ohio is one of 34 states that did not create its own exchange, using the federally run exchange instead. In King v. Burwell, the court will decide if people in those states can continue to get subsidies, or if the law specifically requires each state to set up its own exchange. “If we wait for the Supreme Court’s ruling, we’re going to find ourselves at a disadvantage,” Stinziano said, noting that 85 percent of Ohioans on the exchange get a subsidy. More than $500 million in federal subsidies are flowing into Ohio. Losing those subsidies, Stinziano said, would cause insurance premiums to rise by 35 percent. That could lead people to drop insurance, particularly young and healthy Ohioans needed to keep rates low among the entire pool of recipients. Antonio said a state-run exchange also could provide broader options for Ohioans under a program geared toward Ohio, where a number of insurance companies do business. For example, she said, it could be designed to provide more coverage to more pregnant women, helping with prenatal care and reducing Ohio’s poor infant-mortality numbers…”





Obama Immigration Fix: 4M Illegals Who Never Paid U.S. Tax, Get 3 Years Of Tax Refunds

“You have to admit it sounds crazy. The normal rule is that the IRS can audit for three years, so you can usually go back three years to amend your return or claim a credit you forgot. What if you never had any income or never filed a return? Just wait. Since an illegal immigrant under President Obama’s executive action can now get a Social Security Number, the immigrant road map is clear. First, get the Social, then claim the Earned Income Tax Credit for the three open tax years, and Voila! IRS sends you three years of tax refunds. Welcome to America! No matter that you never paid taxes, never filed a return, worked off the books, etc. All sins forgiven. And the IRS says this is the way the Earned Income Tax Credit works. Recall that the Earned Income Tax Credit—EITC to those in the tax biz—is the one that is responsible for billions in fraudulent refunds. In that sense, this is just one more accolade for the EITC. If this sounds too good to be true, or too strange to be possible, check out what the IRS says about the Earned Income Tax Credit, including this list of questions and answers. It makes you wonder if he knew in advance of the tax refund bonanza for illegal immigrants or this is just gravy. Regardless, Republicans are not happy with the President or the IRS Commissioner. Commissioner Koskinen may just be the messenger, though he does not appear to mind doing the President’s bidding. Mr. Koskinen explained the seemingly bizarre result to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). Mr. Koskinen says the IRS is following a 15-year-old opinion that “a taxpayer may claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for a taxable year using a social security number (SSN) acquired in a later taxable year.” Calling the three year tax refund perk a mockery of the law, Senator Grassley noted that illegals would be able to claim billions of dollars in tax benefits. He vowed to push legislation to overturn the IRS position. “The tax code shouldn’t reward those who broke our immigration laws,” he said. Of course, there are many other reasons that the President’s executive action on immigration remain highly controversial. So far, the President hasn’t backed down on changing our immigration laws by himself. A court battle over the executive action is underway. As a result, the court has temporarily put the President’s plans on hold. Yet more than tax dollars are at stake. If the President’s executive action is ultimately upheld by the courts, the illegal immigrants in question would not only get Social Security numbers, and now tax refunds. They would apparently be entitled to driver’s licenses. Moreover, some commentators have suggested that Obamacare could make illegal immigrants more attractive to hire than U.S. born workers. Kafka must be taking notice.”



Grassley wants to block so-called ‘amnesty bonuses’ for immigrants

“A senior Republican is pushing for Congress to ban millions of immigrants from receiving tax credits for the working poor under President Obama’s recent immigration orders. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday said he is drafting a legislation to make the Earned Income Tax Credit off-limits for undocumented workers who would be shielded from deportation under the president’s actions, which have been on hold since a federal judge suspended them indefinitely last month. The president’s plans will allow undocumented immigrants to remain and work in the United States if they have lived in the country for at least five years and have children who are citizens or legal permanent residents. They would first have to register with the government and pass background checks. Many Republicans are concerned because the immigrants could obtain Social Security numbers through Obama’s orders, making them eligible to apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit under Internal Revenue Service guidelines. “The tax code shouldn’t reward those who broke our immigration laws,” Grassley said in a statement on Monday. Other critics have said the tax credits would amount to “amnesty bonuses” or “amnesty rewards” for previously undocumented workers. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) warned in a recent statement that they would “increase the burden on law-abiding taxpayers.” But immigration advocates argue that undocumented workers already receive low wages for their jobs relative to legal employees, and that many of them pay taxes without being eligible for federal benefits. “What do we as a nation gain by further impoverishing them?” National Immigration Law Center analyst Ellen Sittenfeld said, according to a recent AP article…”



Biden: Raising taxes in Central America will slow illegal immigration

“As part of the Obama administration’s plan to discourage illegal immigration, Vice President Joseph R. Biden is calling on Central American governments to raise their taxes. During a meeting in Guatemala City, Mr. Biden said that part of the solution to prevent Central Americans from emigrating to the U.S. is for nations such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to embark on their own tax-and-spend programs to raise their standards of living. “Right now your countries have among the lowest effective tax rates in the entire Western Hemisphere,” Mr. Biden told the presidents of the three nations Monday. “The only way to collect funds necessary to invest in your future is to do others to do the same, is to take action to collect and manage the revenues and make sure they are managed effectively, efficiently and transparently so people know where the money is going.” The vice president said security is important, but “without good governance, your folks don’t have much of an opportunity.” The Obama administration scrambled last year to deal with a surge of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from Central America, many of them unaccompanied children. In the wake of that migration, the administration has been working with Central American governments to address chronic poverty, crime and corruption in those countries. In July, President Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to pay for the services needed to handle the surge in illegal immigrants, but lawmakers approved only a fraction of his request. Mr. Obama has proposed an additional $1 billion in aid for Central America in his new budget…”



Administration halts all hiring for amnesty program

“The administration said Tuesday it has left hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space empty and halted job offers to 360 potential employees as it has tried to comply with a federal judge’s order halting President Obama’s new deportation amnesty program. Officials had spent $11 million getting the office in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, ready to begin handling applications, but said they are doing their best to comply with the judge’s injunction that halted all work, after the court ruled Mr. Obama’s program likely violates the law. “All hiring activity has ceased,” Dan Renaud, associate director for field operations at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told the Senate Judiciary Committee.”



Gov’t Union: Obama’s Weak Immigration Policy Is Inviting An Attack Worse Than 9/11

“President Barack Obama’s lax immigration policies are inviting another massive jihad attack similar to the 9/11 atrocity, says Kenneth Palinkas, president of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees’ union. Obama’s deputies are “lessening the vetting of each and every alien who applies for permanent residency or citizenship in the U.S.,” Palinkas said in a statement Tuesday. “By not scrutinizing each and every applicant to the fullest extent possible to ensure America’s security, we invite an even more catastrophic event than what occurred on 09/11/2001,” he said. Obama’s rollback of security checks means that “it is more than likely that any attack from terrorists will come from within the borders of the U.S., and it is further likely that ISIS or Al Qaeda would try to launch these attacks by obtaining a visa or working with elements already here on visas,” he said. Numerous legal immigrants have launched, or tried to launch, jihad attacks in the United States…”









Homeland funding appears on track minus immigration add-ons

“After a weeks-long political struggle, legislation to fund the Homeland Security Department is headed back to the House without restrictions conservatives demanded on President Barack Obama’s immigration policies. Even so, it stands a good chance of passage. Speaker John Boehner and other House GOP leaders declined Monday night to say what their next move would be in a controversy that has exposed deep divisions inside the party’s ranks. But even Republican officials conceded the leadership was running out of options apart from a capitulation to Obama and the Democrats. House Democrats were eager for a vote on the measure. “The world is far too dangerous for House Republicans to show so little regard for the security of American families. Republicans should join with Democrats to keep the American people safe, protect our homeland, and bring a clean, long-term DHS funding bill to a vote immediately,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. She issued her statement after Senate Democrats had blocked a Republican move to convene formal negotiations between the two houses. Because the GOP holds a majority in both, the result would inevitably have been a bill that included funds for the agency as well as steps to roll back presidential directives that have shielded millions of immigrants from deportation. Democrats said they wouldn’t permit that to happen – and ignored Republican complaints that they were ignoring 200 years of congressional tradition by refusing to permit formal negotiations…”



GOP Establishment Group Backs Bill That Funds Obama’s Amnesty

“The GOP’s business wing is openly siding with President Barack Obama’s alliance of progressive and media to pressure conservative GOP legislators into accepting Obama’s executive amnesty. The new establishment alliance emerged Monday, when a recent top aide to Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus announced a new $400,000 ad campaign that will be aimed at the GOP’s populist anti-amnesty wing, including conservative leaders Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine, Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp. The group’s role “really exposes what the failure to fight is all about: amnesty at any cost,” said Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action. “Could u imagine the ads they could run against Dems putting handouts 4 illegals ahead of border agents? instead they are attacking us,” tweeted Dan Horowitz, a conservative advocate. Business groups are funding the ad campaign via the American Action Network, which was formed by Fred Malek, a hotel investor. Hotels are primary users of lower-wage immigrant labor, as kitchen staff and cleaning crews. The amnesty would provide work permits and tax-rebates to roughly 5 million illegals, allowing them to openly compete for jobs sought by Americans, and could help get them citizenship and the documents needed to vote in the 2016 election. The ad campaign was announced Monday as 16 GOP senators switched votes in the Senate to join with 42 Democratic senators in rejecting the House GOP’s effort to block spending on the unpopular amnesty, which would be funded via the Department of Homeland Security. The vote switchers include Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Whip Sen. John Cornyn. Last week, they supported the anti-amnesty measures in the DHS bill, but did little to rally public opinion against Obama’s amnesty. The Senate vote means that Republican House leaders will face increased pressure from Democrats and the media to pass a DHS budget bill that won’t block Obama’s amnesty spending until at least October. Democrats say the anti-amnesty push is threatening to shut down the nation’s homeland security agency. In fact, the agency won’t be shut down if the budget is blocked, because border officials will remain on the job, although they won’t be paid until a budget deal is completed…”



John Boehner moves to end DHS stalemate

“Speaker John Boehner announced that the House will vote Tuesday on the Senate’s bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, a move that could enrage some conservatives but end the impasse over the agency’s funding. “I am as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this president,” Boehner said to a private meeting of Republicans, in reference to President Barack Obama’s changes to the enforcement of immigration laws, according to a source in the room. “I believe this decision – considering where we are – is the right one for this team, and the right one for this country. “The good news is that the president’s executive action has been stopped, for now. This matter will continue to be litigated in the courts, where we have our best chance of winning this fight,” Boehner added.

Boehner received a standing ovation, according to a source in the room. The speaker’s decision shows that he is refusing to be hamstrung by a pocket of conservatives who blocked a one-week extension of DHS funding last week. Indeed, he is risking their wrath in deciding to work with both parties to fund the anti-terrorism agency through the remainder of the fiscal year, Sept. 30…”



Boehner to Allow Clean Homeland Security Vote (Updated)

“Speaker John A. Boehner told his restive flock Tuesday he would allow a vote on a clean Homeland Security spending bill later in the day, citing concerns about terrorism and pinning blame on the Senate for failing to pass limits on President Barack Obama’s immigration actions. In a humbling moment for the Ohio Republican, he told his members the Senate’s DHS bill would be brought up for a roll call vote after it arrives in the House later Tuesday, according to a source in the room. That effectively leaves it up to the courts to rein in Obama — or not. “I am as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this president,” Boehner said. “I believe this decision — considering where we are — is the right one for this team, and the right one for this country. The good news is that the president’s executive action has been stopped, for now. This matter will continue to be litigated in the courts, where we have our best chance of winning this fight.” Boehner explained his thinking, putting the onus for what amounts to a cave after months of pledging to fight “tooth and nail” on the Senate. “Unfortunately, the fight was never won in the other chamber. Democrats stayed united and blocked our bill, and our Republican colleagues in the Senate never found a way to win this fight,” Boehner said. “The three-week CR we offered would have kept this fight going and allowed us to continue to put pressure on Senate Democrats to do the right thing. Unfortunately, that plan was rejected.” Boehner said another short-term CR would be unlikely to pass, given what happened last week, and he rejected the idea of a partial shutdown of the department. “With more active threats coming into the homeland, I don’t believe that’s an option. Imagine if, God forbid, another terrorist attack hits the United States,” he said. Boehner’s announcement ultimately meant he would not hide behind House Rule XXII, which would allow any House member, Democrat or Republican, to force a vote on the clean Senate DHS bill, without Boehner having to do anything. The reality is that House and Senate Republican leaders have been trying for months to placate conservative demands to roll back Obama’s executive actions without shutting down the government, but had no path to do so given a united Democratic front backed by a veto threat from the president…”



Boehner backs down in DHS funding fight, plans to hold vote on ‘clean’ bill

“House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday agreed to Democrats’ demands to hold a vote on legislation funding the Homeland Security Department through the end of the budget year, without any immigration measures attached.  The move is a victory for the Obama administration and sets up a presumably swift resolution to the weeks-long standoff on Capitol Hill. Republicans had tried to use the DHS funding bill as the vehicle to reverse President Obama’s controversial immigration executive actions. But Democrats repeatedly blocked the move, insisting they pass the spending bill with no riders attached. “I am as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this president,” Boehner told his caucus on Tuesday morning, according to a source. But he said he believes the decision to vote on a “clean” bill, “considering where we are — is the right one for this team, and the right one for this country.” Boehner’s decision to drop the immigration demands could lead to a backlash in the party, especially since House GOP leaders repeatedly denied claims that he struck a deal with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi last week to hold such a vote. “This is the signal of capitulation,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. “The mood of this thing is such that to bring it back from the abyss is very difficult.” But other Republicans welcomed Boehner’s move. “Sanity is prevailing. I do give John Boehner credit,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. A vote is set for later Tuesday. Short-term funding for the department expires on Friday at midnight…”



House to vote on bill to fully fund Homeland Security

“The House will vote as soon as Tuesday afternoon on a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security for the rest of the fiscal year. The measure will not target President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, giving Democrats what they have long demanded and potentially enraging conservatives bent on fighting the president on immigration. “As you’ve heard me say a number of times, the House has done its job by passing legislation to fund DHS and block the president’s executive actions on immigration,” Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) told rank-and-file Republicans in a Tuesday morning meeting, according to a person in the room. “Unfortunately, the fight was never won in the other chamber.” The bill is likely to to pass. It could win the support of many Democrats and some Republicans. The decision marks a big win for Democrats, who have long demanded that Congress pass a “clean” bill to fund DHS free of any immigration riders. For weeks, Boehner and his top deputies have refused to take up such a bill, as conservatives have demanded using the DHS debate to take on Obama’s directives, which include action to prevent the deportations of millions of undocumented immigrants. “Today, we have an opportunity, in a bipartisan way, to strengthen the homeland security of our nation,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a statement. “The Senate has voted in a bipartisan way, and House Democrats have made it clear we support full, long-term funding.” The person in Tuesday’s meeting, granted anonymity to describe internal strategy, said Boehner presented Republicans with three options: another stopgap bill, taking up a “clean” bill which has already passed the Senate, and a Friday-into-Saturday shutdown of DHS…”



Boehner to allow House vote on Senate bill funding DHS



Boehner Plans Vote on Homeland Security Funding Bill

House Speaker says measure won’t include language blocking Obama’s immigration actions



Speaker John Boehner caves in shutdown showdown, sets vote on ‘clean’ homeland security bill

“House Speaker John Boehner has announced that the House will vote Tuesday on a homeland security funding bill without restrictions on President Obama’s deportation amnesty, ending the shutdown showdown by conceding to Democrats’ demands for a clean bill. In a closed-door meeting with the House Republicans, Mr. Boehner explained that the party should not shut down the Homeland Security Department amid ever-present terrorist threats and blamed Senate Republicans for failing to find a way to win the standoff. “As you’ve heard me say a number of times, the House has done its job by passing legislation to fund DHS and block the president’s executive actions on immigration. Unfortunately, the fight was never won in the other chamber,” said Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, according to a source in the room. “Democrats stayed united and blocked our bill, and our Republican colleagues in the Senate never found a way to win this fight. The three-week CR we offered would have kept this fight going and allowed us to continue to put pressure on Senate Democrats to do the right thing,” he said. “Unfortunately, that plan was rejected.” The announcement will put Mr. Boehner at odds with conservatives who make up a large faction of House Republicans, who were committed to sustaining the fight against the president’s executive action on immigration, which attempts to grant legal status, work permits and Social Security numbers to more than 4 million illegal immigrants…”



Cave: House to strip out provisions opposing executive amnesty, vote on clean long-term funding bill for DHS

“DHS is funded through the end of the week, so Boehner didn’t have to make his move today. But with most of the media focused on Bibi Netanyahu’s speech, he probably decided to use the distraction to try to bury the news of his capitulation. That’s appropriate. A fiasco this total should end with an air of shame around it. After months of indecision and strife, Boehner told GOP lawmakers he plans to allow a vote as early as Tuesday on a clean bill to fund the Homeland Security Department through the rest of the fiscal year, dashing the hopes of conservatives who want to tie the money to language clocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration… “So he just caved in there,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp said of Boehner, adding: “Guess he forgot that a number of us had recommended that this was a poor strategy back in December.”… “As you’ve heard me say a number of times, the House has done its job by passing legislation to fund DHS and block the president’s executive actions on immigration,” Boehner said, according to the source. “Unfortunately, the fight was never won in the other chamber. Democrats stayed united and blocked our bill, and our Republican colleagues in the Senate never found a way to win this fight. The three-week CR we offered would have kept this fight going and allowed us to continue to put pressure on Senate Democrats to do the right thing. Unfortunately, that plan was rejected.” The most charitable theory I can come up with for why Boehner and McConnell thought this goony standoff might work is that they honestly didn’t know how the Senate’s few remaining centrist Democrats would react to the GOP midterm tsunami last year. Maybe Joe Manchin and Claire McCaskill and Heidi Heitkamp and the remaining purple-state survivors would be so spooked by back-to-back Republican waves, knowing that their own seats will be up in 2018, that they’d panic and vote for the House bill tying DHS funding to blocking Obama’s executive amnesty. If that had happened and the bill had passed, it would have been a cannon shot at the White House: Not only did Republicans have control of Congress, it would have showed O, but they’ve got a bunch of jittery Dems willing to make their challenges to the administration bipartisan. In the end, Boehner and McConnell lost their bet as centrist Dems stayed loyal to Obama and Reid…”



Boehner: Pass Clean DHS Bill Today

“House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) announced that the House will vote on a clean Department of Homeland Security funding bill, which marks the conclusion of the Republican attempt to block funding for President Obama’s executive amnesty orders. Boehner told the Republican conference that the bill will get a vote on Tuesday. “He said Pelosi could [force a vote] but he hoped it would be done by a GOP appropriator,” a Republican congressman in the meeting tells National Review Online.  The GOP lawmaker is referring to a little-known rule, known as Rule 22, that allows any House member to force a vote on a bill if the Senate refuses to create a conference committee. Senate Democrats filibustered the creation of a conference committee on Monday evening, thwarting the process by which the House and Senate might have ironed out the differences between the DHS appropriations bills passed by the two chambers. The original House bill blocked funding for the implementation of Obama’s 2012 and 2014 executive orders on immigration. The Senate bill did not block funding for the president’s amnesty. In Tuesday morning’s conference meeting, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) reiterated his belief that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) should have used the nuclear option to eliminate the filibuster in response to the Democratic votes to block debate on the House-passed DHS bill.”



House Nears Passage of Homeland Bill Without Conditions

In a major victory for President Barack Obama, the Republican-led House overcame last-minute opposition from GOP critics on Tuesday and moved toward final passage of legislation to fund the Homeland Security Department without restrictions on immigration. The bill’s approval was assured after Republicans demanding the bill include constraints on Obama’s immigration policy were turned back on a test vote of 140-278. Obama’s signature was assured on the measure, which cleared the Senate last week. Without it, short-term funding for the department would expire on Friday at midnight. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said he, too, opposes Obama’s policy directives that eased the threat of deportation for millions of immigrants living in the country illegally. Yet he also said the “security of the homeland is one of our highest priorities,” and added that Congress could continue to oppose the president without forcing a partial agency shutdown that loomed for Friday. Not all opponents of the bill were ready to yield. “If we’re not going to fight now, when are we going to fight?” asked Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz. The maneuvering on the House floor came after Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told members of his rank-and-file at a closed-door meeting that the time had come to concede defeat after a months-long struggle with the White House and Democrats. “I am as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this president,” Boehner told the meeting, according to aides. “I believe this decision — considering where we are — is the right one for this team, and the right one for this country.” He added, “Imagine if, God forbid, another terrorist attack hits the United States.” A federal judge has blocked implementation of the president’s immigration policies, although the administration has appealed and a final result of the legal challenge is unknown. Conservatives had demanded that the funding bill roll back Obama’s immigration directives from last fall that spared millions of immigrants from deportation. Democrats had insisted on legislation to fund the department, which shares responsibility for anti-terrorism operations, without any conditions. The GOP leadership’s decision to bow to Democratic demands angered several conservatives. “This is the signal of capitulation,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. “The mood of this thing is such that to bring it back from the abyss is very difficult.” But more pragmatic Republicans welcomed Boehner’s move.”



House approves Homeland Security funding in 257-167 vote

“The House voted Tuesday to fund the Department of Homeland Security, ending a monthslong impasse over President Obama’s immigration policies and averting a weekend shutdown at the agency. The vote highlighted the rift in the GOP over the measure, as all of the 167 no votes came from Republicans — more than twice as many as the 75 who supported the bill.

It cleared the House on a 257-167 vote only because of the unanimous support of the House’s Democrats. Out of 21 House GOP committee chairmen, 12 broke with leadership and voted “no” on the clean funding bill. Nine voted “yes.” The vote allows Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to finally turn the page on an ugly chapter in his leadership that consumed the opening months of the new Republican-controlled Congress. The $40 billion spending bill keeps DHS funded through the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, but is stripped of GOP-favored provisions aimed at halting Obama’s controversial executive actions on immigration. The so-called “clean” funding bill had passed the Senate earlier; it now goes to Obama, who has already vowed to sign it. Supporters cheered the move, saying it would finally let the GOP move on to its agenda. “I’ve said all along we need to govern responsibly, and this is an important step,” said freshman Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who had spent weeks urging his former House colleagues to back a “clean” funding bill. The DHS fight exposed deep fissures between House Republicans, who wanted to take a more aggressive stance, and Senate Republicans, who argued early on that Obama had a stronger hand in the standoff and would ultimately prevail. Centrist and conservative Republicans also had openly quarreled over the best strategy to combat Obama’s immigration moves, with the debate descending into insults and name-calling. It also highlighted once again the tenuous power Boehner enjoys over his conference. Conservatives said they weren’t surprised Boehner capitulated to Democrats. But they still voiced disappointment that GOP leaders hadn’t put up a stronger fight in Congress. “I believe this is a sad day for America,” Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) said on the House floor during a vigorous debate before the vote. “If we aren’t going to fight now, when are we going to fight?”



Congress sends ‘clean’ Homeland bill to Obama

“The shutdown showdown over President Obama’s deportation amnesty ended Tuesday with a surrender by House Republican leaders and the passage of a “clean” homeland security bill that Democrats demanded. The bill passed 257-167, with Republicans casting all of the no votes in a rebuke to House Speaker John A. Boehner’s decision to cave in and give up the standoff. The bill, which provides $40 billion to fund the Homeland Security Department and Mr. Obama’s amnesty program for the rest of the fiscal year, garnered support from 75 Republicans and all 182 Democrats. The defeat for House Republicans reflected a profound break between the party leadership and rank-and-file conservative members, who view Mr. Obama’s actions as a violation of the U.S. Constitution and believe they have a duty to continue the fight at any cost. Rank-and-file Republicans blasted the decision to surrender the fight over Mr. Obama’s actions, which seek to grant legal resident status, work permits and Social Security numbers to more than 4 million illegal immigrants. “It’s never easy to stand up for freedom,” Rep. Matt Salmon, Arizona Republican, said during the floor debate. “If we are not going to fight now, when are we going to fight?”



GOP Leaders Allow Obama’s Amnesty



Here Are the 75 House Republicans Who Conceded the Immigration Fight

“The House on Tuesday admitted defeat after a month-long effort to defund President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, and passed a Department of Homeland Security funding bill that leaves Obama’s plan intact. The vote came after dozens of House Republicans fought to the bitter end to reject the “clean” DHS bill, in an effort to oppose what they see as an unconstitutional action from Obama. The House passed the bill 257-167, and sending it to the White House for Obama’s signature into law. In the end, 167 Republicans voted against the Senate’s version of the bill. But because the bill was supported by every Democrat, only 30 or so Republicans had to support it to ensure it’s passage, and 75 GOP members voted for it. The vote marks the end of a bitter fight over Obama’s immigration action that saw Senate Democrats dictate the terms of the dispute throughout the entire process. The House was able to easily pass a bill defunding Obama’s immigration plan, but when it got to the Senate, Democrats refused to provide the six or so votes needed to advance the legislation…”



House passes clean DHS funding bill — with more than two-thirds of Republicans voting no

“The “Hastert Rule” says that a Speaker shouldn’t let any bill reach the floor unless a majority of his own caucus supports it. In the end, when the Great Executive Amnesty Sellout reached its final act, a supermajority of Boehner’s caucus opposed it. He passed the bill anyway — with all members of the minority party voting yes. John Boehner, Democratic Speaker of the House. It ended up 257-167. Here’s the roll, but don’t get too caught up in the 75 Republicans who voted yes. If 100 Democrats had switched their votes to no at the last second, I assume Boehner would have had little trouble replacing them with squishier members from his own side. Dozens of GOPers voted no here, no doubt, simply because their votes weren’t needed and a “nay” on authorizing executive amnesty will help them avoid primary challenges next year. There are probably 50-60 House conservatives who opposed the bill on the merits, because they’d rather endure a very limited shutdown of DHS to pressure Obama on immigration than throw in the towel now….”



Less than half of House Republicans vote for clean DHS funding

“Only 75 House Republicans joined Democrats on Tuesday to approve legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security without provisions to undo President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The 75 Republicans who voted with all 182 Democrats in the 257-167 vote are mostly centrists, appropriators or lawmakers in tough reelection races next year.  All the top members of the House GOP leadership team voted in favor of the measure. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who typically only reserves voting for major legislation or close tallies, cast a vote in support. So did House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.).

Many GOP members of the House Appropriations Committee, including its chairman, Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), voted “yes.” They include Reps. John Carter (Texas), who chairs the subcommittee overseeing DHS and wrote the underlying bill; Charlie Dent (Pa.), a critic of the strategy of tying funding to stopping the executive actions; Tom Cole (Okla.); Kay Granger (Texas); David Jolly (Fla.); Mario Díaz-Balart (Fla.) and Mike Simpson (Idaho). Appropriators tend to vote for funding bills that come out of their committee. Lawmakers likely to face competitive reelection races that voted in favor of the measure include Reps. Martha McSally (Ariz.), Frank Guinta (N.H.), Bob Dold (Ill.), Mike Bost (Ill.), Rodney Davis (Ill.), Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), Bruce Poliquin (Maine) and Will Hurd (Texas).  Nine committee chairmen also voted yes: Rogers, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.), Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (Minn.), Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.), Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (Calif.), Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (Texas), Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (Calif.) and Administration Chairwoman Candice Miller (Mich.). Dent, a centrist and appropriator, is also the House Ethics Committee chairman. More than half of House Republicans voted against the measure, thereby breaking the so-called “Hastert rule” that all bills pass with a majority of the majority. The rule is named after former Speaker Denny Hastert (R-Ill.). In total, all 167 votes in opposition came from Republicans. Below is a list of all the House Republicans who voted yes:..”






House approves DHS funding bill, ending immigration standoff



Congress passes DHS spending bill without immigration riders



House votes to fund Department of Homeland Security through September



House passes bill fully funding the Department of Homeland Security



House Leaders Surrender on DHS Funding

“The House has passed a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security in its entirety through the remainder of the fiscal year, ending with a whimper, not a bang, a weeks-long standoff over House Republicans’ efforts to defund President Obama’s executive amnesty. That cannot come as much surprise. Republican leaders never showed much commitment to making a sustained public case against the president’s executive amnesty, and their public lack of enthusiasm was bound to create suspicions among, and exacerbate tensions with, grassroots conservatives infuriated by the president’s distaste for constitutional limits on executive power. This lack of interest was compounded by tactical errors. House Republicans’ nearly unanimous approval of amendments tying DHS funding to undoing three years of President Obama’s immigration policies was an implausible strategy when, unfortunately, some of those policies are popular or well entrenched. It always made more sense to focus on the latest and starkest constitutional outrage, last year’s executive amnesty. The congressional GOP also seemed to leap from plan to plan, at times even suggesting that mounting their own new lawsuit against the president would be just the trick — as if Congress itself doesn’t have a duty to police the constitutional order. (A lawsuit from objecting states has resulted in a stay of the executive amnesty, but, alas, it seems unlikely to stand.) Hysteria from some of the usual GOP suspects in the Senate about the effects of a DHS “shutdown” was unhelpful and, as a national-security matter, flat-out wrong, given how many DHS employees are deemed “essential.” A better legislative strategy would have been to split the DHS bill in two, with one measure funding the department except for its immigration bureaucracy, and another one funding that bureaucracy but blocking it from implementing amnesty. Senate Democrats would have little reason to block, or the president to veto, the first measure. They would have balked at the second, likely leading to an impasse. Even without an appropriation, the amnesty would go through — the relevant bureaucracy is funded largely by fees, collected independently of congressional financing — but at least Republicans would have avoided any formal complicity in the president’s lawlessness…”



Boehner Betrays GOP Base On Obama Amnesty

“House Speaker John Boehner has decided to let the Democratic minority push a toothless budget bill through Congress that doesn’t block President Barack Obama’s unpopular and legally questionable unilateral amnesty. The vote will be a huge victory for Obama’s alliance of progressives, media professionals and business interests over the many Republican voters in November who elected large GOP majorities in the House and Senate. Nearly 90 percent of the GOP’s base opposes Obama’s amnesty, which was recently blocked temporarily by a Texas judge. The House’s complex debating rules allow members to force a floor vote on a budget bill that is rejected by the Senate. On Tuesday morning, Boehner announced that he wouldn’t block that maneuver, according to media reports. His decision allows either a GOP or a Democratic member to force the vote on Tuesday or Wednesday…”



Boehner: Executive Amnesty ‘Will Continue To Be Litigated In The Courts’

“House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) told the GOP conference that they needed to pass a clean Department of Homeland Security funding bill because Senate Republicans “never found a way to win this fight” and because some House conservatives killed a three-week DHS funding measure last week. “I am as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this president,” Boehner told House Republicans during a conference meeting Tuesday morning, according to a source in the room. “I believe this decision – considering where we are – is the right one for this team, and the right one for this country. The good news is that the president’s executive action has been stopped, for now. This matter will continue to be litigated in the courts, where we have our best chance of winning this fight.” Boehner also said that Senate Republicans couldn’t break a Democratic filibuster of the House-passed DHS funding bill, which denied funding for the implementation of Obama’s executive amnesty orders.  “As you’ve heard me say a number of times, the House has done its job by passing legislation to fund DHS and block the president’s executive actions on immigration,” he reminded the conference. “Unfortunately, the fight was never won in the other chamber. Democrats stayed united and blocked our bill, and our Republican colleagues in the Senate never found a way to win this fight. The three-week CR we offered would have kept this fight going and allowed us to continue to put pressure on Senate Democrats to do the right thing. Unfortunately, that plan was rejected.”






Sessions: ‘Only the Beginning’ of Immigration Fight

“Below is a statement from Senator Jeff Sessions (R, Ala.) on the Republican leadership’s decision to allow the president’s executive amnesty to proceed unchallenged:  “The Democratic Party has been completely unified in its defense of the President’s amnesty in the face of overwhelming public opposition—and in the face of the President’s own repeated declaration that his conduct was illegal. “They voted in unison, messaged in unison, and their outside allies have launched third-party attacks against Republicans. “As a result, our Constitution continues to be eroded, our immigration system continues to slide into anarchy, and our constituents continue to suffer the debilitating loss of their jobs and wages. “Essential to any sovereign nation is the enforcement of its borders, the application of uniform rules for entry and exit, and the delivery of consequences for individuals who violate our laws. President Obama has nullified those laws, rules, and borders, and replaced those consequences with rewards. “The President’s decree provides illegal immigrants with work permits, trillions in Social Security and Medicare payments, and billions in free cash tax credits—all benefits explicitly rejected by Congress. This takes jobs, benefits, and work opportunities directly from struggling and forgotten workers. “The will of the American people cannot be forever denied. Republicans will have to come to realize that it falls on their shoulders to give voice to the just demands of the American people for a lawful system of immigration that serves their interests, defends their jobs, protects their security. “Nor can we allow the President to dismantle the constitutional powers of Congress, ceding our status as a coequal branch, on the hope the Judiciary intervenes to restore some fraction of that lost authority. When it comes to defending our sovereignty there is no ‘moving on.’  Now is not the time for recrimination; now is the time for renewed determination. What motivates and excites a small group of open-borders billionaires has no connection to the hearts and lives of the working people of this country. They have been silenced for too long. Those who think this fight is over could not be more mistaken; it is only beginning. When the power of the American people is finally leveraged, people will be astonished by the results.”



After immigration defeat, House conservatives set sights on McConnell, not Boehner

“Conservatives said Tuesday there are no plans to attempt to overthrow House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, despite the passage of a $40 billion Homeland Security Funding measure that does not curb President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Instead, their focus is on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “There is no discussion about deposing the Speaker,” Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said. “We elect a new speaker every two years and as far as we are concerned he is going to be our speaker for the rest of this term.” Fleming is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a faction of about 35 lawmakers who are conservative and tend to buck GOP leaders on legislation they believe veers too far to the middle. Fleming said the group met this week, and throwing out Boehner is not on the agenda, even though the speaker allowed the Homeland funding bill to pass with mostly Democratic support and the bill does not defund any of Obama’s executive actions…”






DCCC Robocalls Target GOP on DHS Funding



Immigrants, advocates urge lawmakers to reject welfare cuts

“Immigrants and advocates are asking Maine lawmakers to dismiss Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed cuts to welfare. LePage’s administration is proposing that the state no longer provide certain welfare benefits, like food stamps and general assistance, to non-citizens, like refugees and people seeking asylum. It’s part of the governor’s more than $6 billion budget plan. Sebastien Bukuru (Boo-KOO-roo), who’s from Burundi, told the Appropriations Committee Tuesday that without state assistance that he and his wife use to pay for rent, electricity and food, they would be out on the street. Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew says that Maine’s welfare programs are more generous than most states and that it must prioritize its services to help the neediest residents. The move is expected to save more than $4 million…”



Deadline looms for states to respond in immigration suit

“A deadline neared for a coalition of states suing to stop President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration to respond to a request by the U.S. government to lift a temporary hold of Obama’s orders. The states have until Tuesday to submit court documents detailing why U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas should not lift a preliminary injunction. Hanen issued the injunction on Feb. 16 that halted Obama’s order, which could spare as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally from deportation. Texas leads the 26-state coalition that sought the injunction, arguing that Obama’s executive action was unconstitutional. The U.S. government has asked Hanen to stay his injunction while it appeals to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans…”



States ask judge not to lift stay in immigration lawsuit

“A coalition of states suing to stop President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration asked a federal judge Tuesday not to lift a temporary hold on the directives. The 26-state coalition, led by Texas, said in a 22-page court filing to U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, that “there is no emergency need to institute this sweeping new program.” “It is not in the public interest to allow (the U.S. government) to effect a breathtaking expansion of executive power, all before the courts have had a full opportunity to consider its legality,” the states said in their motion. Hanen issued a preliminary injunction on Feb. 16 that halted Obama’s action, which could spare from deportation as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally. The states sought the injunction, arguing that Obama’s executive action was unconstitutional. The U.S. government on Feb. 23 asked Hanen to lift his injunction while it appeals his ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Justice Department attorneys have said a stay of Hanen’s ruling is needed “to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security is able to most effectively protect national security, public safety, and the integrity of the border.” The states argued the preliminary injunction does not impair Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s “ability to marshal his assets or deploy the resources of” his agency. The states also said lifting the stay would irreversibly harm them as they would spend millions of dollars in government benefits for individuals that they would not recover if they win their lawsuit. The first of Obama’s orders — to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — had been set to take effect Feb. 18. The other major part, extending deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years, was not expected to begin until May 19. Obama announced the executive action in November, saying a lack of action by Congress forced him to make sweeping changes to immigration rules on his own…”



Stop Caving on Immigration, 2016 Contenders

“The Republican presidential field is united in its opposition to President Obama’s executive amnesty, and also united in a lazy consensus on immigration policy. The range of opinion among prospective GOP candidates is astonishingly narrow, and the proposed measures unsatisfactory. Jeb Bush has been loudly criticized for encouraging legal status, and in some cases even citizenship, for illegal immigrants. But Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal have endorsed the same view, while Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have embraced offering legal status, if not citizenship. Scott Walker has made Bush-like statements as recently as 2013. Additionally, Republican candidates are basically unanimous in their support for a guest-worker program and higher levels of legal immigration. There is no political need for such uniformity. A recent Gallup poll showed that 39 percent of Americans want less immigration, while only 7 percent want more. Republican candidates have thoughtlessly and needlessly associated themselves with a view that has very little public support. They would do well to emphasize the need for enforcement first. Ted Cruz, to his credit, has done this, and Scott Walker is moving in that direction. “First and foremost, you’ve got to secure that border, or none of these plans make sense,” Walker said on Fox News Sunday last weekend, noting that he has made opposition to amnesty “a firm position” because of “the way this president has handled the issue.” At CPAC, Marco Rubio enunciated an enforcement-first position. Bush may be migrating rightward as well. He declared at CPAC that “enforc[ing] borders for national-security purposes, public-health purposes, and the rule of law” should be our “first and foremost” priority. These are promising developments. But enforcement of immigration laws must go beyond the border. It has to include a system to prevent visa over-stayers, and a way of enforcing immigration laws at the point of employment. As long as employers can hire illegal immigrants easily and with few repercussions if caught, immigrants who are uninterested in enduring the slog of our legal immigration system have a strong incentive to enter the country illegally. Candidates cannot neglect these other crucial components of enforcement — or the need, in pursuing them, to rebuild the relationships between state and local authorities and immigration officials that have been strained under the current administration. Successfully enforcing existing laws would enable the Congress and a willing administration to turn their attention to the problem of illegal immigrants who have lived here long enough to become embedded in their communities. Our first priority is to build a working system for enforcement that ensures amnesty won’t become a magnet for new illegal immigration. Once that is in place, the legalization of some portion of the illegal population in exchange for reforms in the legal immigration system — including a reduction in levels — becomes possible. For some time, a political elite out of step with the general public has cudgeled Republicans with cries of racism and nativism when they have sought to oppose permissive immigration policies. And Republican business interests always favor an ever-growing supply of low-skilled labor. But more restrictive immigration policies, combined with actual border security and the enforcement of America’s immigration laws, would be much better for the economic and social health of the country in the long term. It would aid in assimilation, foreclose the creation of a new illegal-immigrant problem, and avoid suppressing wages of low-skilled workers, among other things…”



What Jeb Bush says about immigration in English, and what he says about it in Spanish

“Presumptive 2016 GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush said on Monday that there were two periods in his life — BC and AC : “Before Columba and after Columba.” That’s a reference to his wife of 41 years, Columba Bush, who he met when he was 17 and on a high school trip to Mexico. The encounter prompted Bush to begin learning Spanish, a language he speaks fluently. I also speak Spanish, and I’ve been tasked with keeping tabs on what the former Florida governor says in English and Spanish on the campaign trail and in interviews with Spanish-language news outlets. (Sadly, covering a candidate in two languages doesn’t mean double the pay. At least so far. But I digress…) As we follow Bush across the country, we’ll occasionally use this space to translate into English what Bush is telling voters or the media in Spanish. It happened here on Monday, when a reporter for a local Spanish-language television station asked Bush about immigration. Here’s a rough translation of the exchange — followed by a similar English-language exchange on the same subject. Question in Spanish, translated: “Focusing on immigration here, talk a little bit about what you think of the executive actions and if you were president, what would you do for immigrants?” Bush in Spanish, translated: “If I was president, I would go to the Congress to talk to them – not dictate to them, not to use power I don’t have, because in the case of the president, he’s used constitutional powers that don’t exist. He should do it the appropriate way, which is to go to Congress, present a plan and work with Democrats and Republicans at the same time and try to create a consensus on how to move ahead with protecting the border and also find a solution for those that are here in the shadows.” Question in Spanish, translated: “But what would be your solution if you were president?” Bush in Spanish, translated: “I wrote a book called Immigration Wars. And in there, we proposed a conservative alternative that would provide protection of the borders and economic growth based on a new system based in the 21st Century. There are solutions to this and it requires leadership.” Bush may fault President Obama for not working with both parties on an immigration plan, but the White House supported a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that was passed by the U.S. Senate in 2013. It faltered in the GOP-controlled House…”





Obama Eyes More Tax Hikes—By Executive Action (continuation of yesterday’s articles)

“In another sign that the gloves have come off for the last 2 years of his term, President Obama suggests he can raise taxes by executive action. That’s the same method he used for his controversial immigration ‘reform.’ The Congressional Budget Office says Mr. Obama’s executive immigration action will increase federal deficits by $8.8 billion over the next ten years. Now, we may see unilateral tax hikes too. The tax gauntlet was tossed down by his White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, who said the President was “very interested” in raising taxes through executive action. Some of the blame goes to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who called upon the President to raise over $100 billion in taxes through IRS executive action. Sen. Sanders sent a letter to Mr. Obama’s Treasury Secretary identifying actions the IRS can take without asking Congress. Up until now, tax laws are passed by Congress and administered by the IRS and Treasury Department. But the precise line between administration of existing taxes and forging new ones can at times be blurred. Sen. Sanders claims the goal would be closing corporate tax loopholes, rather than implementing new taxes. The President seems pleased and seems unlikely to face resistance from the IRS, though the IRS is traditionally reluctant to act by fiat. Sen. Sanders appears to have opened a veritable barn door for the President to act more broadly than is customary. Although the actions recommended by Sen. Sanders target corporations, it is worth noting that the tax hikes included in the President’s budget are numerous. And, they are unlikely to be passed by a Republican-controlled Congress. That means Plan B. According to Press Secretary Earnest, “the president has asked his team to examine the array of executive authorities that are available to him to try to make progress on his goals. So I am not in a position to talk in any detail at this point, but the President is very interested in this avenue generally.” President Obama likes to raise taxes and to enact new ones, as his budget makes clear. Sen. Sanders wants the President to fix “check the box” rules that allow multinational corporations to shield profits from taxation. He also wants to end the tax break for carried interests. But as long as executive action may expand to tax, it is worth asking what else from President Obama’s budget might be considered. For example, of the many tax proposals in his budget, the President wants to increase taxes on retirement savings…”



White House eyes executive action for possible corporate tax hikes



CBO: Debt limit will have to be increased by October or November

“Ready for the next budget crisis? Just as lawmakers were breaking an impasse over homeland security funding, the Congressional Budget Office warned on Tuesday that a much bigger challenge looms: raising the debt limit. Lawmakers will have to lift the legal cap on government borrowing in October and November, the nonpartisan agency said. The Treasury Department will have to begin using its bag of accounting maneuvers known as the “extraordinary measures” to stave off default by the middle of this month. Republicans have no clue what, if anything, they will demand in exchange for raising the debt cap. “These conversations are really in their nascent stage,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), who said he prefers returning to the so-called Boehner rule, requiring spending cuts at least equal in size to any increase in the debt ceiling. “I don’t know what we will ultimately decide.” It will be the first debt hike to face Republicans since they took full control of Congress. Debt increases have been among the toughest votes for House Republicans, and they’ve only had mixed success extracting concessions from Democrats. The automatic budget cuts known as sequestration that continue to hit federal agencies are a legacy of a 2011 debt limit deal. But in the wake of a 2013 budget fight that resulted in a hugely unpopular government shutdown, a chastened GOP allowed a “clean” debt increase to pass without any conditions. The most recent increase, approved in February 2014, suspended the debt cap through March 15, 2015. After that, the ceiling will snap back into place, forcing Treasury to shuffle money among various programs to prevent default.

It will run out of those accounting tricks, and cash, by October or November, CBO said, though the exact timing is uncertain. But there is more fiscal drama even before the next debt limit hits.

They must first deal with steep cuts in Medicare payments to doctors set to hit at the end of March, and a gaping budget hole in the highway trust fund that will demand attention in the spring. “Those are deadlines before that deadline,” said Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), who sits on the Ways and Means Committee. “We’re dealing with what is in front of us.” It’s a reminder that, after a lull in Washington’s budget wars, a string of fiscal cliffs threaten to soak up much of Congress’ time and energy, leaving little space for more ambitious projects like reforming the tax code…”



64 Unions Sign Letter Opposing Obama On Trade Authority

“Sixty-four labor unions have reaffirmed their opposition to the president’s unilateral trade authority in a letter to Congress dated March 2. “As the leaders of almost 20 million U.S. workers and their families, we share your commitment to strengthening the middle class,” the letter noted. “To rebuild our economy for America’s hardworking families, we ask you to join us in opposition to ‘fast track’ trade promotion authority (also known TPA).” Though labor unions and the president agree on many policy areas, unions have continuously opposed the White House on fast-track authority. Also known as Trade-Promotion Authority (TPA), if granted by Congress, the president would have the authority to make trade deals with other countries without them being amended or filibustered. Leadership from the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, APWU, IBEW, CWA, ILWU and many other unions signed onto the letter to express their opposition. “Fast track trade deals mean fewer jobs, lower wages, and a declining middle class,” the letter went onto argue. “Fast track has been used since the Nixon Administration to advance deals, like NAFTA, that are sold to the American people as job creation measures.”



Marco Rubio tax plan takes aim at big business break

“Sen. Marco Rubio is the first major 2016 presidential hopeful with a detailed tax plan, and the business community is not likely to be pleased. The Florida Republican will formally release his plan with fellow conservative Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Wednesday and, in a somewhat rare move, will detail at least one big break that will be nixed to fund big cuts in individual and corporate tax rates. On the chopping block is a widely used business deduction for interest paid on debt in exchange for eliminating taxes on capital gains and dividends and adding an immediate write off for business investments, according to details shared with POLITICO by the right-leaning Tax Foundation, which ran the numbers on the bill for the lawmakers.

The Tax Foundation found that the plan could raise $94 billion from economic growth after a 10-year transition — in what is known as a “dynamic” estimate based on how people and businesses may react as a result of the policy change. House Republicans recently pushed new rules mandating these estimates, which Democrats call dodgy math. “This is getting away from the income tax and towards a consumption tax in a very abrupt way,” said William McBride, chief economist at the Tax Foundation. “That’s why you see such big growth [in the dynamic model].” When scored with the traditional methods used by congressional score keepers, the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office, McBride said the proposal would mean $414 billion in revenue losses. Democrats are likely to pounce on this figure. Representatives for Rubio did not respond to requests for comment. The blueprint is largely a political document — since Rubio does not even sit on the Senate Finance Committee, which is going through its own process to draw up a proposal scheduled to take months. Most tax experts acknowledge that Washington is too divided on the goals of tax reform for individuals to even touch that side of the code…”



Pro-Growth, Pro-Family Tax Reform

Cut the corporate rate to 25%.For individuals and families, reduce the current seven brackets to two: 15% and 35%.

“Six years after the Great Recession officially ended, most Americans can sense that the U.S. economy is still operating below its full potential. Far too many Americans remain unemployed, underemployed or stuck in jobs with stagnant wages and narrow horizons. Many are beginning to wonder: Is this the new normal? We don’t believe it is. We believe that America’s best days are still ahead. But we also recognize that restoring…”



U.S. CEOs modestly more upbeat on economy, spending -survey



The behind-the-scenes story of how the ‘Downton Abbey’ Congressman got caught

“Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) just can’t stay out of the news these days. Almost a month after The Washington Post’s Ben Terris wrote about his “Downton Abbey”-inspired congressional office, Schock continues to face mounting allegations about billing taxpayers for private air travel. I reached out to Ben to talk about the origins of his first Schock article, how surprised he has been about its staying power and what it’s like to become part of a story you write. Our conversation is below. Fun fact I learned from our conversation: Ben has still never met Schock!”





New Mexico students walk out over Common Core testing



Test Based on Common Core Standards Sees Tech Glitches, Protests: ‘Not Ready for Prime Time’





Obamas to launch ‘Let Girls Learn’ initiative

“The Obama administration is directing a variety of federal agencies to work with other countries to help young girls attend and stay in school. “Sixty-two million girls around the world — half of whom are adolescent — are not in school,” said an administration statement. “These girls have diminished economic opportunities and are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, early and forced marriage, and other forms of violence.” President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will announce the “Let Girls Learn” initiative Tuesday afternoon at the White House. The Peace Corps will play a key role in the plan, the administration said, starting with efforts to promote education in 11 countries: Albania, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Georgia, Ghana, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Togo, and Uganda. Additional countries will be phased in over time. The administration also said that “agencies across the U.S. Government will work together to address the range of challenges confronting adolescent girls around the world. Agencies will increase efforts to build strategic partnerships and enhance diplomatic efforts that will help adolescent girls succeed.” Mrs. Obama will promote the Let Girls Learn initiative during a mid-March trip to Japan and Cambodia. The administration plans to ask Congress for $250 million to help promote the Let Girls Learn program….”



Obamas to announce global focus on the education of girls



Obama hit for filling embassies with political allies, highest in 27 years

“Career diplomats are finding that they can’t advance to top State Department posts such as ambassadorships because President Obama has stuffed political appointees into those jobs, the most ever in his second term. “Yes, it’s a problem,” said Robert Silverman, president of the American Foreign Service Association. “This is an ongoing struggle. We need to maintain the ability for our top people to go straight to the top,” he said. The issue is a big one: While the State Department has a good record for hiring a diverse workforce of diplomats and experts who often take hardship posts to move up the ladder, the Obama White House is keeping way too many of the best jobs for its political allies. Just look at the numbers. Silverman’s group said that 40.6 percent of Obama’s second term ambassadorial positions, the top jobs, have gone to political hacks, with 59.4 to career foreign service careerists. Some Obama picks have been criticized for having no experience in or knowledge of the country they are being sent to…”



White House threatens veto of GOP ‘ambush election’ bill

“President Obama will veto a Republican attempt to overturn a controversial labor regulation, the White House said Tuesday. The Senate will vote Wednesday on a motion of disapproval that would roll back the National Labor Relations Board’s controversial rule speeding up union elections. The GOP is employing the scarcely-used Congressional Review Act in a bid to block what Republicans refer to as the “ambush election” rule. They cleared a procedural hurdle Tuesday and began debate on the issue. Republicans likely have the votes necessary to send the legislation to President Obama’s desk, but the White House says he will veto the bill that essentially overturns his labor policy. White House officials said Tuesday the president “strongly opposes” the legislation. “The National Labor Relations Board’s representation case procedures rule helps to level the playing field for workers,” the White House said. Democrats argue the NLRB’s policy would reduce unnecessary delay tactics they say businesses use to prevent workers from voting to organize. But Republicans say “ambush elections” do not give employers enough time to prepare by speeding up union election to as few as 10 days after a petition is filed. “Why the rush?” asked Sen. Lamar Alexander, one of the Republicans who introduced the motion of disapproval. “Why the push for an ambush election?”



White House threatens veto of EPA ‘secret science’ bill

“The White House on Tuesday threatened to veto a pair of Republican bills aimed at changing the way the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses science to justify regulations. The first bill would attack the EPA’s use of “secret science.” In response to common Republican accusations that the EPA is not transparent enough, it would require the agency to publicly release the details of any scientific research that it uses for regulations. The second bill would reform the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, a panel of independent experts that make recommendations on science, regulations, standards and other subjects to the agency. The White House argued that both of the bills would prevent the EPA from protecting human health and the environment, and said that President Obama’s advisers would recommend that he veto them.”



White House reviews EPA airplane emissions plan

“The White House is reviewing the first step the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to take toward regulating greenhouse gas emissions from airplanes. The filings sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget Monday include the EPA’s craft conclusion of whether or not aircraft pollution harms the environment and what the EPA might do to restrict emissions. The White House’s review is the final step before the EPA can unveil the documents and solicit input from the public. The EPA first said in September that it would undertake the process of determining whether to regulate greenhouse gases from airplane engines. It would extend the EPA’s reach for greenhouse gas restrictions beyond motor vehicles and major buildings, and into the $200 billion a year commercial aviation sector…”



US considers banning type of popular rifle ammunition

“The Obama administration is considering banning a type of ammunition used in one of the most popular types of rifles because it says the bullets can pierce a police officer’s protective vest when fired from a handgun. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is proposing the ban of some types of 5.56 mm rounds – or .223-caliber – used in widely available and popular AR-15-style rifles because the bullets can also be used in some new types of handguns. Other types of 5.56 mm rounds would still be legal to buy, own and fire from guns. The rule change would affect only “M855 green tip” or “SS109” rounds with certain types of metal cores. People who already own the ammunition would be allowed to continue to legally own it, but manufacturers would not be allowed to produce, sell, import or distribute it. In a letter to ATF Director B. Todd Jones last month, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., objected to the rule change, saying it would “interfere with Second Amendment rights by disrupting the market for ammunition that law-abiding Americans use for sporting and other legitimate purposes.” Armor-piercing handgun ammunition has been banned since 1986 as a way to protect police officers under the federal Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act. The rifle bullets now facing a ban were long considered exempt because they were used for sporting purposes, such as target shooting. An ATF spokeswoman, Ginger Colbrun, said Monday the agency is considering eliminating the exemption now because of the production of so-called AR pistols that can fire the same cartridge. The agency is accepting public comment about the proposed change until March 16 at the email address APAComments@atf.gov, by fax or postal mail. Colbrun said a final decision will be made later this year…”



AUDIO: Obama Admin Is ‘Going After’ Gun Dealers [VIDEO]



New regs for Wednesday: Gamblers, airlines, emergency responders



Trey Gowdy Says He’s Going After Hillary Clinton’s Personal Emails on Benghazi

“Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that he will press former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her personal emails related to the 2012 attack in Benghazi that left four Americans dead. Gowdy spoke to reporters less than a day after the New York Times reported that Clinton only used her personal email accounts to do business while secretary, and that several hundred of these emails were recently turned over to Gowdy’s Select Committee on Benghazi. But while the committee has seen those emails, Gowdy said Clinton still controls her own personal email accounts, and even the State Department can’t verify that it has seen all of her emails related to Benghazi. “[T]hey cannot certify that they have produced all of former Secretary Clinton’s emails because they do not have them or control them,” Gowdy said in a prepared statement for reporters. “The Department of State is relying on Secretary Clinton herself and her attorneys and advisors to tell us, to tell you, what emails they think are to be preserved,” he added in that statement. Gowdy said it’s “nothing short of incredible” that any top official would use personal emails while in office, especially given past concerns from both parties about how that practice makes it hard to keep a record of their tenure in office. With State unable to say it has all of Clinton’s emails, Gowdy said his committee has no choice but to press Clinton to turn over those emails…”



Hillary Clinton Used Personal Email Account at State Dept., Possibly Breaking Rules



Experts: Hillary Broke the Law



Hidden Clinton emails taint Obama transparency vow, boost Benghazi probe

“The revelation Hillary Rodham Clinton used an off-the-books email account during her time as secretary of state reverberated across Washington on Tuesday, further eroding the Obama administration’s claims of transparency, giving new momentum to House Republicans investigating the Benghazi affair and raising fresh questions about Mrs. Clinton’s credibility heading into 2016. While Mrs. Clinton now has turned over roughly 55,000 pages of emails — including about 300 messages related to the deadly September 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi given to House Republicans — it’s unclear whether more emails remain hidden and, if so, how many. Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican and head of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, said the private account has helped Mrs. Clinton avoid answering questions about the terrorist attack that claimed four American lives, as well as the administration’s actions in the aftermath of that attack…”



Hillary Clinton’s use of private email address while secretary of state draws scrutiny



White House Can’t Say if Hillary Clinton Violated the Law

“White House press secretary Josh Earnest refused to say Tuesday whether Hillary Clinton violated the law by conducting government business through her private email during her tenure as secretary of state. Pressed multiple times during the press briefing, Earnest’s only answer each time was that Clinton’s team said she has complied with the law, and that it’s up to the State Department to make that determination. “I know that Secretary Clinton’s team has indicated they have complied with that guideline and that the Department of State has made the request and received what the secretary’s team put together,” Earnest said. “But, it is the responsibility of those two parties to assess whether this is in the guidelines of what is required.” Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s much-anticipated speech to Congress hours earlier, it was Clinton, not U.S.-Israel relations, that dominated the briefing. The revelations that Clinton didn’t use a government email address — and didn’t even have a State Department account — have thrown extra gasoline on the suspicion that Clinton has something to hide, as well as the Obama administration’s much-touted commitment to transparency. They also come on the heels of new questions about foreign government donations to the Clinton Foundation at a time she was leading foreign policy for the U.S. government. The Federal Records Act requires government documents be maintained for archive purposes. Earnest said he was not aware whether any White House staff routinely conduct business through personal email accounts. He referred multiple reporters to the State Department. “The policy as a general matter allows individuals to use personal email address as long as emails are maintained,” Earnest said, and later added. “If you ask Secretary Clinton’s team, that’s what they have completed in the last month or two.”



1996 Called, Wants Its Clinton Fundraising And Document Scandals Back



Moderate Dems to unveil policy agenda

“A group of moderate Democrats will unveil a policy agenda on Wednesday aimed at reshaping the party’s message headed into the 2016 election cycle. Members of the New Democrat Coalition will unveil the proposal, the first of its kind in its nearly 18-year history as an organization, during a press conference Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. on Capitol Hill, said an NDC spokesman. The Hill first reported on Monday that moderates were preparing the proposal.

There is tension between moderates and the Warren-wing about whether to pitch a more centrist or progressive platform to voters in the 2016 cycle. Moderates are raising concerns about Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and her supporters’ rhetoric against big business and Wall Street. Progressives are concerned the party will move too close to business. Adam Green, who co-founded the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), told The Hill the party should follow the Warren wing. “There is a rising economic populist tide in America — and the path to success in 2016 for Democrats is to campaign on a popular Elizabeth Warren-style agenda,” Green said. Green said that “those who refuse to name villains are usually being paid by those villains, and voters can sense it.” “The public wants leaders with the courage to stand up for the little guy while calling out bad actors — like the Wall Street bankers who broke the law, wrecked our economy, and hurt millions of people’s lives,” Green said.  But former-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D), who founded the progressive Democracy For America, told The Hill that Warren is “right on policy, but the rhetoric needs to be toned down.” “Our program cannot be ‘soak the rich’ — that’s a mistake and alienates middle class people. But on substance, the Warren wing is correct,” said Dean…”



Ben Carson forms presidential exploratory committee



Ben Carson files to run for president in 2016



Report: Obama Administration Has Stopped Sharing Intelligence With Israel on Iran’s Nuclear Program

“The Obama administration has “unilaterally” and “completely” stopped sharing intelligence with Israel over Iran’s nuclear development program due to its anger over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Tuesday address to Congress, Israel’s Channel 10 reported. “The U.S. unilaterally stopped all of its joint activity with Israel regarding the nuclearization of Iran,” the news show reported Monday night. This freeze in intelligence sharing was attributed to the “American anger” at Netanyahu…”



Which Democrats shun Netanyahu’s address to Congress

“They each offered different excuses from “We know what he’s going to say” to “I hardly ever attend such speeches” to “It’s a tawdry stunt” to “I am offended.” Other than that, these Obama backers are in full support of Israel, or will be when fundraising time rolls around next year.

But dozens of Democrats, who have long taken Jewish money and votes for granted, have announced they will boycott the address to a joint session of Congress today by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the United States’ closest Middle Eastern ally.

He was invited by House Speaker John Boehner to speak on the issue of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons as Congress considers tougher sanctions on that state sponsor of terrorism. President Obama opposes tougher sanctions. The list of willful absentees includes Vice President Joe Biden, also a Democrat. He’s wandering around in Latin America….”



Boost for Bibi? Widening rift with Obama could propel Netanyahu in upcoming election



Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel: Netanyahu did damage

“Former U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer tells CBSN that it will be hard for President Obama to work with the Israeli Prime Minister if Benjamin Netanyahu gets re-elected following his speech to Congress.”



Bibi speech was an ‘insult’ to America and President Obama, Democrats say



Obama Dismisses Netanyahu’s Speech As ‘Nothing New’ [VIDEO]


Obama: “Nothing new” in Netanyahu’s speech



Netanyahu says U.S. is on verge of ‘bad deal’ with Iran over nuclear program



Several GOP Lawmakers Agree With Bibi: WH Pursuing ‘Bad Deal’ With Iran



Rush Limbaugh: Netanyahu ‘Is Everything Barack Obama Is Not’ [AUDIO]