News Briefing for Wednesday, May 27


GOP Praises Court Halting Amnesty: ‘Impatient Presidents Don’t Get to Change the Law’

 “…Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, declared, “on to the Supreme Court.” “The U.S. Constitution vests the Congress with authority over immigration and naturalization. And as U.S. District Judge Hanen pointed out, President Obama simply treated Congress — and Article 2 — as if they didn’t exist.  “We are a Constitutional Republic, not a banana republic,” Martin added. “Our Constitution, with its three co-equal branches, is the roadmap for the governing process. “As much as this would-be imperial president wishes it were otherwise, we are a nation of laws, not of his arbitrary whims,” Martin said…”



‘ObamaCare is penalizing me for pursuing my dreams!’

“In a Midtown specialist’s office, I confessed the secret that’s been weighing on my mind.

“My health insurance expires at the end of May,” I told the doctor. I had a lot of questions for him: How much does an uninsured visit cost? What is the fewest number of follow-ups we can do this year? Do you have payment plans available to patients paying cash? I’ve been down the uninsured path before, having spent my post-college years waiting tables and freelance writing. I know the risks involved, but I also know what information I need to make sure I’m relatively safe and mostly healthy. My doctor looked confused. “Well, you’re required to have it now, right? So you’ll be covered?” If only it were that simple. ObamaCare has hit people like me the hardest. I left a desk job at The Post to dedicate my time to teaching yoga and developing a career in health and wellness (the irony of sacrificing my health insurance for this is not lost on me). I’m teaching on a freelance basis. My husband is also a full-time freelancer, or a “perma-lance,” if you will. Our household income puts us just barely in the lower-middle-class bracket.

And we will end up paying top dollar to have any type of insurance. So we’ve decided we’re just going to pay the Affordable Care Act’s individual-mandate penalty: 2 percent of household income or $325 per person, whichever is more (of course)…”

Sticker Shock for Some Obamacare Customers

“So the proposed 2016 Obamacare rates have been filed in many states, and in many states, the numbers are eye-popping. Market leaders are requesting double-digit increases in a lot of places. Some of the biggest are really double-digit: 51 percent in New Mexico, 36 percent in Tennessee, 30 percent in Maryland, 25 percent in Oregon. The reason? They say that with a full year of claims data under their belt for the first time since Obamacare went into effect, they’re finding the insurance pool was considerably older and sicker than expected. Don’t panic, says Kevin Drum. This is just the opening bid in a regulatory dance that will end up somewhere very different: “A few months from now, the real rate increases — the ones approved by state and federal authorities — will begin to trickle out. They’ll mostly be in single digits, with a few in the low teens. The average for the entire country will end up being something like 4-8 percent.”

He’s right, of course, that the proposed rates will not end up being the final rate. Regulators are going to push back on these rates as hard as they can, with some success. But in the case of the companies cited by the Wall Street Journal, I’d bet they’re not going to go down to 4-8 percent. As it turns out, the insurer filings are public information, available on state websites. And in the three cases where I could see supporting data about premium revenue and losses, those losses appear to be large. Moda of Oregon says that its claims were 139 percent of revenue, making for a margin of -61 percent. If I am reading their somewhat confusing table right, Health Service Corporation of New Mexico says it lost $23 million on revenue of $121 million. CareFirst of Maryland says that claims were 120 percent of revenue, which if we add in some money to pay for overhead, amounts to … less than or equal to what they’re asking from regulators. I can’t find claims experience data for Tennessee, but that state told the Wall Street Journal that it lost $141 million on exchange plans last year. Now, this is not the whole story. These are only the biggest insurers in some states. Smaller insurers may price lower in an attempt to grow their business (though if their claims experience matches the biggest insurers, that’s going to be a recipe for a quick bankruptcy). And the median request on a list of the biggest insurers in 12 states was more on the order of 10-15 percent, and three states — Maine, Connecticut and Indiana — had insurers ask for increases in the low single digits. That’s only 12 states, of course, and none of the biggest-population ones. But even if we assume that the regulators cut the increases in half, that’s a median increase of 5-6 percent, with a mean considerably higher than that. Even if you weight by population — well, actually population-weighting makes that worse, not better, because the states with the lowest rate requests are disproportionately sparse. Moreover, significant rate increases are what I would broadly expect, because these rates are the first ones set with a full year of claims data, and what we know about the pool is that it is poorer and older — which would also mean sicker — than was projected. Initially, HHS was saying that it needed about 40 percent of the exchange policies to be purchased by people age 18-35 to keep the exchanges financially stable. It was 28 percent in both 2014 and 2015, according to HHS data. The CBO had projected about 85 percent of exchange enrollees to be subsidized, falling toward 80 percent as enrollment grew; instead, that number is 87 percent and actually rose slightly from 2014. It would be pretty surprising if rates weren’t increasing faster than inflation, or even than general health care cost inflation…”

Bad news for Obamacare?


“Major insurers in some states are proposing up to 51 percent premium increases for health plans sold under the Affordable Healthcare and Patient Protection Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. Despite single digit increases for 2015, insurance companies are seeing their costs jump and are demanding to be compensated with dramatically higher rates. When Insurance plans proposed 2015 rates last summer, they had only a little information about the health of the new customers they expected to sign up during the fall Obamacare expansion. Big insurers tended to ask for increases of less than 10%, while some smaller insurers tried to under-cut pricing by the major’s to take market share, according to the Wall Street Journal. Under Obamacare, insurers must file proposed premium rates with their local state regulator and the federal government by June. But some states have already started publicly disclosing the premium requests. Due to the high utilization costs from people newly enrolled under Obamacare, the 2016 insurance premiums are about to skyrocket. According to states that have released rate requests, New Mexico’s market leader Health Care Service Corp. is asking for an average premium spike of 51.6 percent; Tennessee’s top insurer BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee wants an average spike of 36.3%; Maryland’s market leader CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield is requesting an average spike of 30.4%; and Oregon’s top insurer, Moda Health, is seeking a 25% spike. The Obama Administration’s only legal power regarding healthcare premiums is the right to ask insurers seeking increases of 10% or more to explain themselves. There is no federal power to force rate cuts. State insurance regulators can force carriers to scale back requests they believe are not justified, but the carriers can drop coverage and cause a crisis. Obamacare supposedly sought to fix two problems: coverage and cost. To extend coverage, the law made it compulsory for Americans to have health insurance, or pay a fine. It also offered subsidies for those who could not afford it and barred insurance firms from charging people more if they have “pre-existing conditions.” Before the exchanges arrived in 2013, some 41.3 million Americans lacked health insurance. That number fell to 30 million, but only because 48% of Obamacare subscribers received “premium assistance.”…”

Employers say 2016 will be costliest year yet for Obamacare compliance: Survey

“The majority of employers in the United States believe the largest cost increases related to the Affordable Care Act are yet to come, according to a recent survey by the Brookfield-based International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. One-third of employers surveyed expect the greatest cost increase from ACA implementation will happen in 2016. Twenty percent believe the biggest increases will hit in 2018 when the so-called ACA “Cadillac tax” is scheduled to take effect. Most employers — 71 percent — think the costliest years are yet to come, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t already feeling a financial impact. The impact of the law this year is adding 1 percent to 6 percent to cost increases, according to most survey respondents.

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans said it conducted the survey in March on how single-employer plans are being affected by the Affordable Care Act. The foundation received responses from 598 human resources and benefits professionals who represent employers from nearly 20 industries that range in size from fewer than 50 employees to more than 10,000. “Interestingly, we have seen a trend of employers continually anticipating the worst, where each upcoming year looms with the largest costs,” said Julie Stich, research director at the International Foundation. “In 2014, the majority felt 2015 would bring the largest costs. In 2015, 2016 seems to be the worst.”…”

Ignoring the Penalty for Not Buying Health Insurance

“Obamacare’s big stick doesn’t seem to be scaring many people into buying health insurance. The health law includes many inducements for people to obtain health insurance — including free Medicaid coverage for many low-income Americans and subsidies for those with moderate incomes. But it also includes the notorious “individual mandate,” a fine for those who can afford insurance but don’t buy it. Because the law, and the fine, are new, many policy experts expected that some people would decline to sign up for insurance until they were hit with a penalty at tax time. Forecasters have estimated a big bump in marketplace enrollment next year, the first sign-up period after people have been fined. The Congressional Budget Office, for example, estimates 10 million more people will have Obamacare plans next year. The law’s structure relies on even healthy and otherwise disinclined consumers to enter insurance markets to help stabilize prices.  Certainly, some people who might otherwise go uninsured have been persuaded by the penalty. Polls have shown that it is a well-known provision of the law. And studies of the uninsured have shown that mentioning the penalty changes some people’s thinking about health insurance. At the end of the normal enrollment period in February, about 11.7 million people had selected marketplace health plans or renewed their plans from 2014, according to the federal government….”

Obamacare’s Big Gamble on Hospital Productivity

“Can hospitals provide better care for less money? The assumption that they can is baked into the Affordable Care Act. Historically, hospital productivity has grown much more slowly than the overall economy, if at all. That’s true of health care in general. Productivity — in this case the provision of care per dollar and the improvements in health to which it leads — has never grown as quickly as would be required for hospitals to keep pace with scheduled cuts to reimbursements from Medicare. But to finance coverage expansion, the Affordable Care Act made a big bet that hospitals could provide better care for less money from Medicare. Hospitals that cannot become more productive quickly enough will be forced to cut back. If the past is any guide, they may do so in ways that harm patients. The Obamacare gamble that hospitals can become much more productive conflicts with a famous theory of why health care costs rise. William Baumol, a New York University economist, called it the “cost disease.” (He wrote a book about it by that title; I blogged on it as I read it if you’d like to quickly get the gist.) This theory asserts that productivity growth in health care is inherently low for the same reason it is in education: Productivity-enhancing technologies cannot easily replace human doctors or teachers. In contrast with, say, manufacturing — a sector in which machines have rapidly taken over functions that workers used to do, and have done them better and more cheaply — there are, at least for the time being, far fewer machines that can step in and outperform doctors, nurses or other health sector jobs. But a new study casts doubt on that theory and suggests Obamacare’s bet may indeed pay off. The study, published in Health Affairs by John Romley, Dana Goldman and Neeraj Sood, found that hospitals’ productivity has grown more rapidly in recent years than in prior ones. Hospitals are providing better care at a faster rate than growth in the payments they receive from Medicare, according to the study….”

States Band Together To Keep Obamacare Afloat

“A handful of states struggling to finance their Obamacare health exchanges are considering teaming up with other states to keep their insurance portals sustainable as federal funds run out this year. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government gave states a collective $4.8 billion to set up and customize their own exchanges for their own state residents. The idea was that the federal government would help prop up the exchanges, and then states would have to make them self-sustainable by this year. However, a number of states including California and Oregon are having trouble financing their exchanges now that federal funding is drying up. Covered California, for example, is running a deficit of $80 million. To save on costs, California is reportedly in talks with Oregon, another state struggling to afford its exchange, to merge their exchanges, The Hill first reported. They’re not alone. Other states are contemplating building similar multi-state exchanges. New York and Connecticut are also discussing the plan, though both are in the very preliminary stages. Though it’s unclear what a merge would entail, it’s likely that states would be able to share call centers and websites to keep expenses low. Of course, there are plenty of issues that would need to be hammered out, like how insurance markets would be regulated between the two (or more states)…”


“Covered California, the Golden State’s exchange for Obamacare, has announced that it will cap the price of prescription drugs for the 2.2 million Californians who have bought individual insurance plans. “Starting in 2016, most people will only have to pay a maximum of $150 or $250 per prescription, per month. These caps are for Covered California’s so-called silver and platinum plans. Bronze plans will have caps of $500,” NPR reports. But the effect on premium prices is unclear. The California exchange, so frequently held up by Obamacare’s advocates as a model, has run into budget and enrollment problems. The enrollment numbers for 2015 have been disappointing, and Covered California is slashing its own budget 15% as a result, while repairing its balance sheet with $100 million in federal funds, which critics charge is illegal. The program also faces charges of cronyism after $184 million in no-bid contracts were awarded to well-connected companies. Most California media outlets reported the proposed caps in glowing terms, noting that the state legislature is considering similar caps for those with insurance through their employers. But these outlets also tend to ignore the effect on premiums, as well as the problem with lowering prices for drugs that require heavy investments to produce. Major pharmaceutical companies had been among Obamacare’s major proponents, largely because drug prices remained unaffected by the law…”

Obamacare advocates seek to fix problem they made worse

“Back in 2009, when Congress was debating the Affordable Care Act, many liberal Democrats felt it did not go far enough — that it should be even more sweeping, even more expansive, even more costly. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, one of the Senate’s most liberal Democrats and a veteran of many legislative battles, urged his colleagues on the Left to go ahead and pass the bill. “The key to this is that this modest home, we can put additions onto it in the future,” Harkin told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in December 2009. “But if we don’t have the starter home, we’re never going to be able to put those additions on.” Harkin’s view prevailed, and many Democrats came to view Obamacare as a starter home. Now, even though the Affordable Care Act still faces an uncertain future in the courts, they want to start building the additions. The first addition is the result of a problem Obamacare itself made worse….”

Senate GOP prepared to replace Obamacare subsidies

If the Supreme Court strikes down current subsidies, some Republicans are wary of booting millions off healthcare rolls.

“Preparing for a Supreme Court decision that could strike down Obamacare’s subsidies for nearly 7.5 million people this summer, Senate Republicans are coalescing around a plan to resurrect them — at a steep price for the White House. With several Senate Republicans facing tough reelections, and control of the chamber up for grabs, 31 senators have signed on to a bill written by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that would restore the subsidies for current Obamacare enrollees through September 2017. But the administration would have to pay a heavy price — the bill would also repeal Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates and insurance coverage requirements. “In that moment of what could be political chaos, we’re offering such a reasonable proposal that solves a mess,” Johnson said. “It fixes a mess caused by a sloppily written law, unlawfully implemented. All we’re asking for is a little bit of freedom back, which would be, I think. pretty popular,” Johnson said. Even Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is backing Johnson’s measure, along with the rest of the chamber’s GOP leaders. Johnson, who’s got a tight race in 2016, says the legislation would be a bridge to ensure that consumers can keep the insurance they have — a promise that President Barack Obama was widely criticized for breaking in 2014. But even if Johnson could somehow persuade Obama and Senate Democrats to accept his plan — a herculean task — the bigger problem will be his Republican colleagues in the House. The growing divide between the two chambers leaves the GOP in an awkward spot. The court could gut Obamacare in June, handing Republicans a long-sought victory they couldn’t achieve legislatively. But without a backup plan that the whole party supports, the GOP has no way to blunt the political damage if millions of Americans lose the ability to pay for their health insurance. When asked about Johnson’s bill, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), said only “Eerrrrrrntt!” in imitation of a game show buzzer, and gave a thumbs down…”

Texas Torn Apart by Storms; Will SCOTUS Tear Apart Obamacare?

ObamaCare fallout? Supreme Court ruling sets up potential Obama, GOP battle

“The upcoming Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act could wipe out insurance for millions of people covered by the president’s health care plan, leaving states that didn’t set up their own health care markets scrambling to subsidize coverage for those left uninsured. Twenty-six of the 34 states that would be hardest hit by the ruling have GOP governors. Twenty-two of the 24 Senate seats that are up for re-election in 2016 are currently held by Republicans. What that means is that it’s the GOP – and not the White House –that’s working on damage control. President Obama’s landmark legislation offers subsidized private insurance to those without access to it on the job. In the Supreme Court case, opponents of the law argue that its literal wording allows the government to subsidize coverage only in states that set up their own health insurance markets. The justices will determine whether the law makes people in all 50 states eligible for federal tax subsidies — or just those who live in states that created their own health insurance marketplaces. The question matters because about three dozen states opted against their own marketplace, or exchange, and instead rely on the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s If the court rules against the Obama administration, insurance subsidies for people in those states would be in jeopardy. If the court invalidates the subsidies in those states, the results would be “ugly,” former Kansas insurance commissioner Sandy Praeger told The Associated Press. “People who are reasonably healthy would just drop coverage,” she said. “Only the unhealthy would keep buying health care. It would really exacerbate the problem of the cost of health insurance.” Praeger, a Republican who retired this year, called it “a classic death spiral,” using a term for market collapse. In March, the Supreme Court appeared divided along ideological lines after hearing the challenge that, if struck down, could affect up to 8 million policy holders. If the subsidies survive, the ACA will look like settled law to all but a few passionate opponents. However, if they are overturned, the shock could carry into next year’s elections…”

Fallout from Supreme Court case on Obamacare could be ‘ugly’

“A Supreme Court ruling due in a few weeks could wipe out health insurance for millions of people covered by President Barack Obama’s health care law. But it’s Republicans — not White House officials — who have been talking about damage control. A likely reason: Twenty-six of the 34 states that would be most affected by the ruling have Republican governors, and 22 of the 24 GOP Senate seats up in 2016 are in those states. Obama’s law offers subsidized private insurance to people without access to it on the job. In the court case, opponents of the law argue that its literal wording allows the federal government to subsidize coverage only in states that set up their own health insurance markets. Most states have not done so, because of the intense partisanship over “Obamacare” and in some cases because of technical problems. Instead, they rely on the federal website. If the court invalidates the subsidies in those states, an estimated 8 million people could lose coverage. The results would be “ugly,” said Sandy Praeger, a former Kansas insurance commissioner…”

Four Words That Imperil Health Care Law Were All a Mistake, Writers Now Say

“They are only four words in a 900-page law: “established by the state.” But it is in the ambiguity of those four words in the Affordable Care Act that opponents found a path to challenge the law, all the way to the Supreme Court. How those words became the most contentious part of President Obama’s signature domestic accomplishment has been a mystery. Who wrote them, and why? Were they really intended, as the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell claim, to make the tax subsidies in the law available only in states that established their own health insurance marketplaces, and not in the three dozen states with federal exchanges? The answer, from interviews with more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans involved in writing the law, is that the words were a product of shifting politics and a sloppy merging of different versions. Some described the words as “inadvertent,” “inartful” or “a drafting error.” But none supported the contention of the plaintiffs, who are from Virginia. “I don’t ever recall any distinction between federal and state exchanges in terms of the availability of subsidies,” said Olympia J. Snowe, a former Republican senator from Maine who helped write the Finance Committee version of the bill. “It was never part of our conversations at any point,” said Ms. Snowe, who voted against the final version of the Senate bill. “Why would we have wanted to deny people subsidies? It was not their fault if their state did not set up an exchange.” The four words, she said, were perhaps “inadvertent language,” adding, “I don’t know how else to explain it.” Former Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, said there may have been “some sloppiness in the drafting” of the bill. Mr. Bingaman, who was a member of both committees that developed the measure, said he was surprised that the lawsuit had reached the Supreme Court because the words in dispute appeared to be a “drafting error.” “As far as I know, it escaped everyone’s attention, or it would have been deleted, because it clearly contradicted the main purpose of the legislation,” Mr. Bingaman said. He added, “In all the discussion in the committees and on the floor, I didn’t ever hear anybody suggest that this kind of distinction between federal and state exchanges was in the bill.” When the Supreme Court offers its judgment, it could affect more than 7.5 million people now receiving subsidies through the federal exchange and a health care industry that accounts for 17 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product….”

Lawmakers: We didn’t interpret Obamacare as lawsuit claims

“In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court could rule that only customers in state-run Obamacare marketplaces are eligible for federal subsidies. If the court does agree with the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, it could make the health care coverage unaffordable for millions. The ruling could effectively upend the entire health care law, creating an even bigger rift between the mostly-blue states that have embraced aspects of Obamacare and the red states that haven’t. However, more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans told the New York Times that this is never what they intended. “It was never part of our conversations at any point,” said former Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican who helped draft the law as part of the Senate Finance Committee. “Why would we have wanted to deny people subsidies?” The King v. Burwell case rests on the interpretation of one sentence in the Affordable Care Act: Section 1311 of the law says the federal government will give subsidies to eligible consumers who buy insurance from an exchange “established by the State.” The conservative plaintiffs argue that Congress explicitly denied subsidies to any customers who buy insurance on the federally-run marketplace. If that’s case, as many as 7.5 million Americans could lose access to subsidies…”

ObamaCare drafters: We never intended to limit federal subsidies to state exchanges

Crucial Omission in NYT Obamacare Story

“So, the New York Times has a big front-page story today about how nobody believed that subsidies would be unavailable to people in states without their own exchanges. And they run the story without even mentioning that Obamacare “architect” Jonathan Gruber once said the opposite and has been backpedaling furiously ever since. Any story claiming that the wording of the law was all just an unfortunate mistake has to at least deal with the Gruber embarrassment. Pretending he isn’t there won’t make him go away. How can we trust the New York Times’ stories when they so often leave out crucial facts that run contra to the desired narrative? Short answer: We can’t.”

Jonathan Gruber Glaringly Absent From NYT Article on Obamacare Wording ‘Mistake’

“New York Times writer Robert Pear  knows his name but he didn’t say it in his article about how four words in the Obamacare law was simply a mistake. Pear quotes a number of people involved in the law’s writing process but fails to mention the one who was acknowledged as the architect of Obamacare…until it became politically inconvenient to do so—Jonathan Gruber. And the reason why Gruber’s name went unmentioned in the article is because of his claim, recorded for all eternity on video, that only state established health exchanges would be eligible for subsidies…”

Obamacare’s Assumptions

“As Wesley Smith notes below, the New York Times is flagging a story about the drafting of Obamacare that supposedly undermines the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell and related cases. Author Robert Pear sees it that way, too, noting that nobody with whom he spoke intended to restrict subsidies to state-established exchanges as a way to make the states establish them. But the story he tells seems broadly consistent with the plaintiffs’ case. Here’s the crucial passage from Pear: At the Finance Committee, which thrashed out its version of the bill in September and October 2009, senators initially assumed that all states would set up exchanges, so they added a section to the Internal Revenue Code to provide subsidies, in the form of tax credits, for insurance purchased through an exchange. But senators and staff lawyers came to believe that some states — “five or 10 at the most” — would choose not to set up exchanges, said Christopher E. Condeluci, who was a staff lawyer for Republicans on the Finance Committee. At that point, senators authorized a backup plan to allow the federal government to establish an exchange in any state that did not have its own, but they failed to include that language in the section of the tax code providing subsidies. “We failed to include a cross-reference to the federal exchange,” Mr. Condeluci said. “In my opinion, due to a drafting error, we overlooked it. It was an oversight. Congress, in my experience, always intended for the federal exchange to deliver subsidies.” Russ Sullivan, the staff director for Democrats on the Finance Committee, gave a similar account. The language in the law providing tax credits through state exchanges was “a holdover from what we had in the Finance Committee,” which originally assumed that “every state was going to set up an exchange,” Mr. Sullivan said. The idea of a federal backstop came later, he said, when people started asking what would happen if some states did not set up an exchange. . . .  It appears that the four words now being challenged were based on the initial premise and were carelessly left in place as the legislation evolved…”

The New York Times Inadvertently Makes a Strict Constructionist Case for Halbig/King

“In today’s New York Times, Robert Pear has a piece on the impending King v. Burwell decision. And, as Ramesh notes below, it is inadvertently far more supportive of the challengers’ position than of the Obama administration’s. At first blush, the Times appears to be following the government’s line of argument: They are only four words in a 900-page law: “established by the state.” But it is in the ambiguity of those four words in the Affordable Care Act that opponents found a path to challenge the law, all the way to the Supreme Court. This idea — that the text of the statute is “ambiguous,” and that it should thus be resolved in favor of the federal government and not of the plaintiffs — is the one that the government’s lawyers have taken before the Supreme Court. Why? Well, because convincing a judge that a piece of plain text is the product of a good old-fashioned screw-up is extremely difficult in America — especially when the legislative history shows that the contested phrase was changed between drafts. Not being stupid, the Obama administration knows that it has a shot at winning an ambiguity-based case but that it has pretty much no chance of winning a this-was-a-typo case. So, smartly, it has elected to try the former. For two paragraphs at least, so did the New York Times. But then it didn’t. Indeed, when you dig into the legislative history, the Times concluded, you will see no textual “ambiguity” at all. Rather, the problem at hand is that the statute is not what the drafters had hoped for. Per Pear, the drafting error went down like this: The idea of denying subsidies to people who bought insurance through the federal exchange “was never discussed,” said Charles M. Clapton, a lawyer who worked on both committees for Senator Michael B. Enzi, Republican of Wyoming. Mr. Clapton said he had difficulty accepting the argument advanced by the plaintiffs because it was “so contrary to the intent” of those who had written the legislation. At the Finance Committee, which thrashed out its version of the bill in September and October 2009, senators initially assumed that all states would set up exchanges, so they added a section to the Internal Revenue Code to provide subsidies, in the form of tax credits, for insurance purchased through an exchange….”

NYT Shows No One Buys Government’s ‘Term of Art’ Argument in King v. Burwell

“The Supreme Court is likely to rule on King v. Burwell by the end of June. The King plaintiffs are four Virginia taxpayers. They claim the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not authorize the Internal Revenue Service to issue certain subsidies or impose certain taxes in states like Virginia, whose health-insurance “Exchanges” were established by the federal government rather than the state itself. The challengers argue Congress intentionally authorized those taxes and subsidies only—as the ACA says—“through an Exchange established by the State.” A win for the challengers means: more than 57 million Americans in up to 38 states will be freed from the ACA’s individual and employer mandates, with considerable economic benefits; and perhaps 8 million consumers will see the full cost of their ACA plans. The Obama administration, on behalf of the IRS, argued before the Supreme Court that the statutory phrase “through an Exchange established by the State” is actually “a term of art that includes an Exchange established for the State by HHS.”…”

On the origins of ‘established by the State’ in the Affordable Care Act

President Obama’s legacy is increasingly in legal jeopardy

“President Obama’s second-term agenda, it seems, is in the hands of the courts. Same-sex marriage. Obamacare. Climate change. And now immigration. And in many cases, there is significant doubt about whether his signature initiatives will stand legal scrutiny. The latest blow to Obama’s second-term plans came Tuesday when a federal appeals court in New Orleans denied the administration’s request to move forward with implementing his expanded executive action on immigration to defer deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants….”

Charles Krauthammer Breaks Down Why Court’s Immigration Ruling Might Be a ‘Problem’ for Republicans

“Conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer on Tuesday explained why he thinks a court ruling that upheld an injunction against parts of President Barack Obama’s executive immigration action might be a “problem” for Republicans. The syndicated-columnist contended that if the measure “goes up the chain” to the Supreme Court, it will ultimately be defeated. “For the Republicans it’s a problem,” he said. “It’s like the case going forward on ObamaCare and the thing about the exchanges and the subsidies. The problem is what happens if you win? Because if you win then the issue gets thrown back into the political arena.”…”

Feds unveil long-awaited overhaul of Medicaid managed care

“The federal government on Tuesday unveiled a long-awaited regulatory package intended to modernize contracts under Medicaid that contains the biggest changes to the program in more than a decade. The nearly 700-page rule, which has been described by some groups as an “uber rule,” contains long-awaited instructions about contracts between state Medicaid programs and managed care groups, which are hired to handle long-term care for the elderly and disabled. Managed care organizations — known for their sometimes-controversial pay-for-performance structure — have exploded in popularity since the 1970s. Thirty-nine states, representing 90 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries, now have contracts with managed care groups. More than $120 billion in Medicaid premium payments were paid to managed care organizations in fiscal year 2013 alone, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Under the managed care model, states pay the managed care groups a fixed monthly premium – also known as a “capitation rate” for each patient – instead of the more traditional fee-for-service model. Doctors are offered incentives to limit costs, which often means that individuals are kept in their homes rather than in more expensive nursing home facilities. The federal government has not released rules on managed care since 2003. Nearly 30 million people are now enrolled through managed care, which amounts to about two-thirds of people with Medicaid. That’s up from just 2.7 million people with managed care in 1991…”

Medicare Part D saves money and lives

“Federal officials recently set off budgetary alarm bells with new data on Medicare prescription drug spending. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pegged Medicare Part D’s 2013 price tag at $103 billion. That’s a large number — and largely misleading. A closer look at Part D reveals a program that is working very well at delivering essential services while keeping costs down. The key to the success of Part D has been its ability to harness market forces for the benefit of participants and taxpayers alike. Implemented in 2006, Part D gives seniors and the disabled access to prescription drugs, which Medicare previously didn’t cover. Today, 36 million Americans can afford essential medications thanks to this program. Part D has cost less than expected year after year, making it nearly unique among government programs. From 2004 to 2013 Part D cost $349 billion — 45 percent less than originally predicted. In 2014, the Congressional Budget Office lowered its projection for total Part D spending by $56 billion….”

What Veterans Affairs won’t pay for: Chance for the wounded to have kids

“After Army Staff Sgt. Alex Dillmann was paralyzed from the abdomen down in a bomb blast in Afghanistan, the Department of Veterans Affairs paid to retrofit his Chevrolet Silverado truck so he could drive it and bought him a handcycle so he could exercise. But the agency that cares for former troops won’t pay for what the onetime squad leader and his wife, Holly, ache for most: a chance to have children. VA will not pick up the bill for in vitro fertilization, which fertility experts say offers those with spinal cord and genital injuries the best hope for a biological child. Under a 23-year-old law, VA is prohibited from covering IVF. Congress adopted the ban as the result of conservative opposition to assisted reproduction and concern that some fertilized embryos might be discarded. Now, however, veterans and lawmakers from both parties are pushing to overturn the ban. They argue that it is outdated and that IVF is widely accepted and performed worldwide…”


Obama amnesty helps guest-workers and their spouses over laid-off tech workers

Court rules no direct competition with immigration policy

“Technology workers who say they lost their jobs to immigrant workers lost their bid to halt President Obama’s latest guest-worker program after a court ruled Sunday evening that they couldn’t prove the new workers would specifically compete with them. Federal District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan’s ruling means Mr. Obama’s controversial program can go into effect Tuesday as planned. Under the program, legal guest-workers’ spouses, who now are generally barred from working, will be allowed to apply for work permits, giving them the chance to win jobs. Judge Chutkan wrote in the 12-page ruling that the damage to the technology workers, organized as Save Jobs USA, was “highly speculative.” “Save Jobs does not explain how many IT jobs may be taken by H-4 visa holders, how many of those jobs its members may have sought themselves, what pay or benefits its members risk losing while the case is pending, or what other harm its members may face,” the judge wrote. “The court is left to speculate as to the magnitude of the injury, and speculation is not enough to turn economic loss into irreparable harm.” The H-4 visa is given to dependents of H-1B visa holders, who are sought-after high-skilled workers…”


“The Department of Homeland Security is now accepting employment authorization applications for certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders. In February, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director León Rodríguez announced that, come May, the Obama administration would be extending employment authorization eligibility to a category of immigrant previously ineligible to work in the U.S. — dependent spouses of H-1B immigrants. DHS began accepting applications under the new H-4 employment rule — which was part of the executive actions on immigration President Obama put in motion on November 20 — Tuesday. When the Obama administration announced the expansion in February, it anticipated that the number of individuals eligible to apply for work permits under the rule could be 179,600 in the first year and 55,000 for each subsequent year. Last month, a group of former Southern California Edison employees — displaced by H-1B visa holders — sued the administration over the new H-4 rule, arguing that it negatively impacts their job prospects. “DHS’s H-4 Rule, which grants work authorization to H-4 visa holders, injures Save Jobs USA’s members by (1) depriving them of statutory protections from foreign labor…(2) by increasing the number of economic competitors; and (3) by conferring benefits to their economic competitors on H-1B visas,” the lawsuit read…”

Court won’t lift hold on Obama immigration action

“A federal appeals court refused Tuesday to lift a temporary hold on President Barack Obama’s executive action that could shield as many as 5 million immigrants illegally living in the U.S. from deportation. The U.S. Justice Department had asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a Texas judge who agreed to temporarily block the president’s plan in February, after 26 states filed a lawsuit alleging Obama’s action was unconstitutional. But two out of three judges on a court panel voted to deny the government’s request. It wasn’t immediately clear if the government would appeal, either to the full appeals court in New Orleans or to the U.S. Supreme Court. The states suing to block the plan, led by Texas, argue that Obama acted outside his authority and that the changes would force them to invest more in law enforcement, health care and education. But the White House has said the president acted within his powers to fix a “broken immigration system.” U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen sided with the states and, from his court in Brownsville, Texas, issued a temporary injunction on Feb. 16 to block the plan from taking effect while the lawsuit works its way through the courts. Justice Department lawyers sought a stay while they appealed the injunction. They argued that keeping the temporary hold interfered with the Homeland Security Department’s ability to protect the U.S. and secure the nation’s borders. They also said immigration policy is a domain of the federal government, not the states…”

Appeals court refuses to lift hold on Obama immigration action

“A federal appeals court refused Tuesday to allow the implementation, for now, of President Obama’s executive action that could shield from deportation as many as 5 million illegal immigrants. The U.S. Justice Department had asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s earlier decision temporarily halting the administration’s plan. Hanen issued the temporary hold in February, after 26 states filed a lawsuit alleging Obama’s action was unconstitutional. Two out of the three judges on a court panel, though, voted Tuesday to deny the government’s request, as the underlying case is argued. The majority opinion reasoned that lifting the temporary hold — known in judicial parlance as issuing a “stay” — could cause serious problems for states should they ultimately win their challenge. It said the states have shown that “issuance of the stay will substantially injure” them. It continued: “A stay would enable DAPA beneficiaries to apply for driver’s licenses and other benefits, and it would be difficult for the states to retract those benefits or recoup their costs even if they won on the merits. That is particularly true in light of the district court’s findings regarding the large number of potential beneficiaries, including at least 500,000 in Texas alone.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised Tuesday’s decision. “The separation of powers and check and balances remain the law of the land, and this decision is a victory for those committed to preserving the rule of law in America,” he said in a written statement.  The White House has said the program is intended to primarily help immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and those with children who are U.S. citizens.  It wasn’t immediately clear if the government would appeal, either to the full appeals court in New Orleans or to the U.S. Supreme Court. The states suing to block the plan, led by Texas, argue that Obama acted outside his authority and that the changes would force them to invest more in law enforcement, health care and education…”

Appeals Court Keeps Block of Obama Immigration Plan

Decision preserves lower-court hold on White House plan to shield millions from deportation

“A federal appellate court on Tuesday sided with states challenging the Obama administration’s plan to defer deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants. The administration had appealed a February ruling by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, which temporarily blocked it from proceeding with the president’s plan, announced in November, to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to apply to stay in the U.S. Judge Hanen, based in Brownsville, Texas, sided with officials from 26 largely Republican states who contend that President Obama overstepped his authority when he unilaterally implemented a program that would allow more than four million people in the country illegally to apply for deferred deportation and work authorizations, among other benefits. Under the president’s plan, immigrants would have to meet certain criteria, including not posing a security threat and having a child who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans declined the administration’s request to stay the lower-court injunction and to begin implementing the immigration action while the two sides battle it out in court. “Because the government is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its appeal of the injunction, we deny the motion for stay,” the court ruled. The Justice Department, which defends suits against the administration, didn’t immediately return a call for comment. In a brief filed earlier with the Fifth Circuit, the Obama administration said Judge Hanen’s injunction had undermined the federal government’s authority to prioritize which undocumented immigrants to deport. “The Constitution does not entitle states to intrude into the uniquely federal domain of immigration enforcement,” the administration said. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the suit by the states, commended the ruling on Tuesday…”

Obama Loses Second Bid to Implement Overhaul of Immigration

“President Barack Obama’s bid to make overhauling immigration policy a second-term victory was dealt a serious blow as federal judges ruled the effort must remain on hold while 26 states sue to overturn it. Obama’s executive action, which would allow 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the country, must be delayed until the lawsuit is resolved, the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled. The case has drawn sometimes furious opposition from members of Congress, and more than a few presidential contenders. For years, Congress has been unable to agree on a revised law to address an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Obama said he acted because the House has refused to take up a bipartisan measure passed by the Senate in 2013 that would create a path to citizenship for many of those immigrants. To qualify under his deferral program, undocumented immigrants must have been in the U.S. for at least five years and have a child who is a citizen, or have been brought here as children themselves. They must also pass a criminal background check.

2-1 Decision – The appeals court ruled Tuesday in a 2-1 decision that the federal government isn’t likely to win the appeal. It refused to lift a federal judge’s injunction banning the changes from taking effect before the litigation is resolved. The Obama administration had no immediate comment on the ruling. The majority of the court disagreed with the administration’s argument that the states didn’t have a legal right to challenge the policy. Texas, in particular, the judges said would be forced to spend millions of dollars providing drivers’ licenses and other permits to undocumented immigrants. By providing the protected immigrants with eligibility for federal and state benefits, the administration commits actions judges can review, wrote Judge Jerry Smith, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, a Republican. Judge Jennifer Elrod, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush agreed with Smith. The issue should be left to political branches, not courts, to decide, Judge Stephen Higginson, an Obama appointee, wrote in a dissent from the majority…”


“A federal appeals court has upheld a district court’s injunction preventing the Obama administration’s executive amnesty programs from moving forward. In February U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen placed a preliminary injunction on Obama’s executive amnesty programs — expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA)  — keeping the programs from taking effect. Hanen blocked the programs after 26 states led by Texas challenged the executive actions. Justice Department lawyers sought a stay on the injunction from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Tuesday’s ruling from the 5th, refusing to lift the injunction, marks a significant setback for the Obama administration’s executive amnesty effort. According to the Associated Press, the court declined the stay the injunction on a 2-1 vote with 5th Circuit judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod voting for denial and Judge Stephen Higginson dissenting. Texas is leading the 26 state coalition challenging the executive amnesty. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin are joining the Lone Star State in that effort…”

Federal appeals court won’t lift hold on Obama executive action

Obama suffers another defeat on immigration in federal court

Court hands Obama big loss in immigration fight

“A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that President Obama will not be able to implement his plan to allow millions of illegal immigrants to avoid deportation and obtain work permits in the United States while his executive action is being challenged in court. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Tuesday that Obama’s November, 2014 directive on immigration must remain on hold while it is appealed by Texas and 25 other states. It’s a big victory for opponents of the program, who have labeled it “executive amnesty” because it was put in place by Obama over the objections of many, including most Republicans in Congress. The decision means that a lower court ruling blocking millions of illegal immigrants from obtaining work permits and otherwise avoiding deportation will be allowed to stand, delaying the implementation until the court case is resolved. Immigration proponents denounced the ruling. “Immigrant communities have waited long enough,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center…”

Very Big News Out of New Orleans on Immigration

“As Patrick Brennan notes, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals just handed the Obama administration a huge defeat. It denied the government’s request for an emergency stay of a preliminary injunction blocking implementation of President Obama’s immigration amnesty program. This is not a decision on the merits of the lawsuit filed against the administration by the 26 states. But it certainly does not bode well for the administration’s case since in today’s 2-1 decision, the Fifth Circuit concluded that “the government is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its appeal of the injunction.” The panel also denied the government’s request to narrow the nationwide scope of the injunction so that it only applied to Texas and the other states in the lawsuit. The court concluded that “partial implementation of [the president’s program] would undermine the constitutional imperative of ‘a uniform Rule of Naturalization’” contained in Article I of the U.S. Constitution, as well as “Congress’s instruction that ‘the immigration laws of the United States should be enforced vigorously and uniformly’” that is outlined in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986…”

Appeals court rules against Obama on immigration

Lawsuit: officials delay immigrants’ work authorization

“A new lawsuit alleges federal immigration officials routinely delay issuing employment authorization documents to eligible immigrants and fail to issue interim documents, thwarting their ability to work legally. According to the suit, immigrants who are renewing their work authorization are also at risk: They can lose their jobs, benefits and, in some states, their driver’s licenses. As a result, immigrants can’t support themselves and their families while their immigration applications are pending. The lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle. It seeks class action status. Work permits are typically issued to people eligible for asylum, green cards and other types of visas and immigration statuses. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is required to decide most employment authorization applications within 90 days. Initial applications based on pending asylum claims must be reviewed within 30 days. In case of delays, the USCIS is required to issue an interim work authorization document, valid for up to 240 days…”

Appeals Court Refuses To Let Obama’s Amnesty Move Forward

“A federal appeals court Tuesday denied a second request from the Obama administration to allow his executive order granting exemption from deportation and work permits to millions of illegal immigrants. Two of three judges on a New Orleans Appeals Court upheld a March Texas District court ruling that the executive order must not be implemented until a lawsuit filed by 26 states against the Department of Homeland Security is decided. Judge Andrew Hanen stayed Obama’s executive order in February, and denied a March request from the Justice Department to lift the hold. (RELATED: Judge Wants New Judicial Investigation Into Obama’s Secret Amnesty) The appeals court found Texas and the other states bringing the suit do have sufficient legal grounds, and that the Obama administration will not be harmed by the hold on his executive actions…”

Appeals Court Rules With States Challenging Obama’s Immigration Action

Fifth Circuit Denies Stay of Injunction in Texas v. United States

Breaking: Fifth Circuit upholds injunction against executive amnesty

“It’s not a final ruling on the merits of the challenge to executive amnesty, but it’s a decent indication of where the courts will end up on the question. Given the opportunity to lift the temporary injunction against Barack Obama’s executive actions to expand immigration clemency and to allow for work permits, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals instead kept it in place while the lawsuit from 26 states proceeds in district court: A federal appeals court refused Tuesday to lift a temporary hold on President Barack Obama’s executive action that could shield as many as 5 million immigrants illegally living in the U.S. from deportation. The U.S. Justice Department had asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a Texas judge who agreed to temporarily block the president’s plan in February, after 26 states filed a lawsuit alleging Obama’s action was unconstitutional. But two out of three judges on a court panel voted to deny the government’s request. … Justice Department lawyers sought a stay while they appealed the injunction. They argued that keeping the temporary hold interfered with the Homeland Security Department’s ability to protect the U.S. and secure the nation’s borders. They also said immigration policy is a domain of the federal government, not the states. But, in Tuesday’s ruling, 5th Circuit judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod denied the stay, saying in an opinion written by Smith, that the federal government lawyers are unlikely to succeed on the merits of that appeal. Judge Stephen Higginson dissented. That’s bad news for the White House, which had painted this as a common-sense use of executive power and the injunction as unnecessary. They weren’t exactly subtle about their estimation of the Obama administration’s arguments, either:…”


“The White House reacted to the news that the Fifth Circuit court of appeals denied an appeal from the Obama administration to lift a stay on his executive amnesty plan, accusing two judges in the decision of interpreting the law incorrectly. “Today, two judges of the Fifth Circuit chose to misinterpret the facts and the law in denying the government’s request for a stay,” White House spokesperson Brandi Hoffine said in a statement to Breitbart News. The court ruled against Obama administrations appeal with a 2-1 vote. In response Hoffine cited the dissent from Judge Stephen Higginson, who was appointed by President Obama. “As the powerful dissent from Judge Higginson recognizes, President Obama’s immigration executive actions are fully consistent with the law,” she said. Describing Obama’s executive action as an effort to bring “accountability” to the nation’s immigration system, Hoffine insisted that the president had the authority to issue amnesty to a group of illegal immigrants. “They are squarely within the bounds of his authority and they are the right thing to do for the country,” she said…”

White House says Fifth Circuit “misinterpreting the facts” on immigration

“Two judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals “chose to misinterpret the facts and the law in denying the government’s request for a stay” on the temporary hold placed on the president’s immigration executive action, White House Spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said in a statement. Hoffine went on to defend Mr. Obama’s executive actions – intended to shield millions of immigrants from deportation – as “fully consistent with the law,” and she said they were “squarely within the bounds of his authority and they are the right thing to do for the country.” White House sources tell CBS News’ Major Garrett that the Justice Department is reviewing the ruling and weighing options. Its appeal of the preliminary injunction is proceeding on an expedited track within the Fifth Circuit. A federal appeals court earlier Tuesday announced it would not lift a temporary hold on President Barack Obama’s executive action. A 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel issued the 2-1 ruling Tuesday. The U.S. Department of Justice had asked the court to reverse a Texas judge’s decision temporarily blocking the president’s plan, after 26 states filed a lawsuit. It wasn’t immediately clear if the DOJ would appeal…”

White House Slams Court for Immigration Ruling: Judges ‘Chose to Misinterpret the Facts and the Law’

“The White House responded harshly Tuesday to a ruling by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the injunction against parts of President Barack Obama’s executive immigration actions. “Today, two judges of the Fifth Circuit chose to misinterpret the facts and the law in denying the government’s request for a stay,” White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine told TheBlaze. Obama’s executive action shields about 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation. The Justice Department asked the Fifth Circuit Court s to reverse a federal district judge’s ruling that temporarily blocked the president’s plan regarding deportations. Texas and other states challenged Obama’s legal authority to take the actions. Fifth Circuit Judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod voted to deny the stay, saying federal government lawyers are unlikely to succeed on the merits of that appeal. Judge Stephen Higginson dissented arguing that “deferred action has existed for half a century, reflected in longstanding regulations.” “As the powerful dissent from Judge Higginson recognizes, President Obama’s immigration executive actions are fully consistent with the law,” Hoffine said. “The president’s actions were designed to bring greater accountability to our broken immigration system, grow the economy, and keep our communities safe. They are squarely within the bounds of his authority and they are the right thing to do for the country.”….”

Pelosi, Boehner issue dueling responses to immigration ruling

“The top Republican and top Democratic House leaders put aside their recent bipartisanship to issue dueling comments on a court ruling that puts on hold President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit “a disappointing delay of a clear outcome.” Pelosi and other Democrats believe Obama’s move to allow 5 million illegal immigrants to obtain work permits and federal benefits is well within his authority. They point to executive actions by prior presidents on immigration, including George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. But Republicans believe Obama is acting beyond his executive powers. The GOP backed down on a plan to strip money out of a government spending bill so that the executive action could not be implemented. The court case stops the implementation without another spending showdown….”


“The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ refusal to lift the injunction on Presisdnt Obama’s executive amnesty programs is a “victory for the Constitution and the American people,” according to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). “President Obama’s executive overreach on immigration poses a clear and present danger to our Constitution and I am pleased that the President’s actions continue to be halted so that the states’ lawsuit can continue to move forward,” Goodlatte says. Earlier in the day, the court of appeals denied the administration’s requested effort to overturn a lower court’s preliminary injunction on Obama’s executive amnesty programs — expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DAPA) and  Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen halted the programs in February after 26 states, led by Texas, challenged the executive actions. Goodlatte was one of many Republican lawmakers who praised the Tuesday ruling. “By acting unilaterally to rewrite our nation’s immigration laws, President Obama has disregarded the will of the American people and violated the Constitution. Such lawlessness must be stopped so that we preserve the separation of powers in the Constitution and protect individual liberty,” Goodlatte added. Earlier in the month Goodlatte joined Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) 60% as well as Sens. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)61% , and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) 96% to file an amicus brief with the American Center for Law and Justice in support of the continued injunction. According to Goodlatte’s office, 88 Representatives and 25 Senators signed onto the brief…”

Are the Obama Administration’s immigration reforms headed to the High Court?

“Earlier today a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied the federal government’s application for a stay of a district court injunction against implementation of the Obama Administration’s recent immigration reforms.  Put into plain English: The lower court concluded that the plaintiff states were likely to prevail in their challenge to the Administration’s new immigration policies, and two of the three appellate judges who heard the case agreed.  The opinion is available here. This case arises out of a challenge brought by 26 states against the Obama Administration’s controversial immigration reforms.  Although the ruling below focused on procedural administrative law issues – specifically whether the Administration was required to go through an official notice-and-comment rulemaking process before adopting this sort of policy — it certainly suggested that the judge would side with the states on the merits of their claims.  Likewise today’s opinion, while keyed on the procedural questions, appears quite sympathetic to the states’ underlying arguments.  Judge Smith wrote the majority opinion, joined by Judge Elrod. Judge Higgonson dissented, arguing that the case is not justiciable…”

Meet the immigration fixers

“If all had gone according to plan, German Coppola would have been earning $130,000 this year as the senior vice president of sales and marketing at a U.S.-based data-capture company. Instead, the Spaniard’s application for an H-1B visa to work in the U.S. — along with tens of thousands of others’ — wasn’t even considered. And even though Coppola’s sponsoring company had loosely committed to trying again last year, he wasn’t willing to wait out the uncertainty. Believe it or not, the odds of getting into one of the world’s hottest economies just got even slimmer. Following a lull in foreign-worker visa requests between 2009 and 2012, a record 233,000 applications for H-1Bs — reserved for coveted brainiacs and skilled positions — were filed as soon as the yearly flood gates opened in April this year. Not only did all 65,000 available golden tickets go almost immediately, but so did another 20,000 reserved for those with a master’s degree, which is the kind Coppola once had his eyes on. In the end, most applicants put their hopes in a lottery system that preselects lucky candidates, and another 40,000 or so each year squeeze in through academic institutions or nonprofit groups, which are exempt from the government’s quota system…”

Amnesty Advocates Turn On Each Other: The ACLU Versus The U.S. Catholic Bishops

“Immigration-watchers will have marveled at the recent spectacle of the ACLU attacking the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over its failure to provide contraception and abortion referrals to its illegal alien and refugee clients. Both organizations are close comrades when it comes to pushing for open borders. The ACLU is one of the biggest legal advocates for “immigrant rights” while the USCCB is one of the biggest federal contractors of illegal alien “family reunification” and refugee resettlement services. For immigration law enforcement advocates, how this fight pans out isn’t important as it’s long, arduous and as mutually destructive as possible…”

The Right’s Political Correctness

“Scott Walker insists that when he changes his positions, he is not engaged in “flips.” “A flip would be someone who voted on something and did something different,” the Wisconsin governor explained last week on Fox News. His altered views on immigration don’t count because he is not a legislator. “These are not votes,” he helpfully pointed out. Sheer brilliance! Other than former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Walker’s major rivals at the moment are Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky. They have all cast lots of votes. So Walker can accuse them of flip-flopping while claiming blanket immunity for himself. Unfortunately for the Republican Party and the country, Walker’s careful parsing of shape-shifting counts as one of the cerebral high points of the debate among the party’s 2016 presidential candidates. The shortage of philosophical adventure and the eagerness of GOP hopefuls to alter their positions to make them more conservative have the same cause: a Republican primary electorate that has moved so far right that it brooks no deviationism. What makes it even harder for the candidates to break new ground is that the imperatives of orthodoxy are constraining even the thinkers who are trying to create a new “reform conservatism.” The fall-in-line-or-fall-in-the-polls rule means that Walker has gone from supporting to opposing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, as has Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J. Rubio got much praise for his work in negotiating a bipartisan bill that would have allowed the undocumented to become citizens — and then, faced with hostility from tea partyers, he turned against it. Paul, the most daring of the lot because of his libertarian convictions, deserves kudos for being true to his small-state ideology by standing up — literally, for nearly 11 hours on the Senate floor — against the Patriot Act. But even Paul has recast his foreign policy positions to make them sound more hawkish and thus more in keeping with prevailing Republican views. Accommodating right-wing primary voters poses real risks to the party in next year’s elections. Its candidates’ messages on immigration and gay marriage, could hurt the GOP with, respectively, Latinos and the young…”

Group seeks primary focus on immigration reform

“A new coalition in New Hampshire is urging presidential hopefuls to propose detailed plans for immigration reform. “Granite Staters for Common Sense Immigration Reform” is a mix of local legislators, business people and community leaders. The idea for it took root in a sense that the reform debate was being left on the back-burner so far this primary season, said state Rep. Pam Tucker, R-Greenland, co-chair of the new effort. “These things have to be addressed,” she said in a phone interview. “We can’t say that something has to be done about it. We need concrete answers.” The coalition, which was announced at a press conference at the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Tuesday, is created as a grassroots, volunteer initiative. Organizers say the aim is to be non-partisan. The coalition will neither endorse any proposals, nor endorse any candidates. Reform issues cited include border security, enforcement, what to do with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, and help for businesses with hiring properly documented workers. Steering committee members include DYN CEO Jeremy Hitchcock, state Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, R-Manchester, state Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, Chris Williams, former president/CEO of the Nashua Chamber of Commerce, Windham Selectman Bruce Breton, New England College political science professor Wayne Lesperance, Olaf Zwickau, president of Air Solutions & Balancing, and Ray Boissoneau, CEO and founder of Electropac. NEC hosts candidates in town hall-style formats. Lesperance said candidates at future events would be asked to explain their ideas to fix the immigration system. The coalition also plans to keep the issue at the forefront by holding upcoming forums and roundtable discussions on immigration…”

Despite Border Patrol’s best efforts, our border is still wide open

“It’s a cat-and-mouse game, and the mouse is still winning. In spite of the best efforts of our Border Patrol agents, drugs and humans keep coming across our border with Mexico. I recently returned from my seventh trip to the border. Our Border Patrol agents are trying to do their job, but they are being hampered by bureaucrats and “open border” initiatives put in place by President Barack Obama’s administration. On this trip, I went out with two local groups, the Arizona Border Defenders and Arizona Border Recon, both comprising activist citizens who want to help us secure our borders by augmenting what the Border Patrol does. The Arizona Border Defenders are from Tucson. Their members come down on weekends to service cameras they have placed in the desert that transmit live video images when the camera’s sensors detect movement, which may be cattle, illegal aliens or Border Patrol agents. They see the video images on their cellphones, wherever they may be, and alert the Border Patrol if they see anything suspicious. Arizona Border Recon is a veteran-based organization. Tim Foley, the field operations director, and his communications director, “Spartan,” recently moved permanently to Sasabe, Arizona, less than a half mile from the Sasabe Port of Entry. Foley is a slender, chain-smoking, U.S. Army 82nd Airborne veteran who roams the smuggler trails with a shotgun in one hand and his dog, Rocko, complete with ABR K-9 jacket, close behind. “Spartan” handles communications with law enforcement. On our second day we caught a glimpse of a shadowy figure disappearing down the back of a mountain inside the U.S. border; it was a cartel “scout.” The “scouts” operate on the mountains and monitor the movement of the Border Patrol and let the smugglers know when it is safe to bring across drugs and human cargo. Keep in my mind they operate in the mountains on U.S. soil as far as 100 miles inside our border. Sasabe is in the Tucson Sector, which extends 262 miles from the New Mexico border in the east to the Yuma (Arizona) County line in the west. The Border Patrol apprehended 87,915 illegal aliens in fiscal year 2014 in this sector. In the same fiscal year, 479,371 illegal aliens were apprehended across the whole 1,954-mile length of the Southwest Border. So, how many get through? Chris Cabrera, vice president of National Border Patrol Council #3307, estimates in a recent video that only 30 percent of illegal aliens coming across the border are apprehended. In the time I was there, I noted the whole array of devices used at the border: Border Patrol and Arizona National Guard helicopters, an inspection station on Highway 286, “virtual fence” towers with radar and cameras sweeping the horizon, Border Patrol trucks racing up and down Highway 286 from their base in Tucson, quads on trailers used to go in the desert where other vehicles can’t, drones, sensors. I was thinking about all this on my last day as Foley and I stood beside the 13-foot fence separating the United States from Mexico…”


“The Sinaloa Federation, or its increasingly independent Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion faction, appear to have been using this border city as a staging area to move heroin to northern cities in Ohio and New Jersey. The arrest of a used car dealer in McAllen, Texas, who is identified in court documents as a heroin distributor in the United States, sheds light on the dark world of organized crime on the Texas border where Mexican drug cartels are able to move drugs into metropolitan areas in the northern part of the United States. Federal agents serving a warrant out of Ohio arrested Jose Alejandro Palacio in Texas on heroin trafficking charges. A U.S. Magistrate Judge ordered he be held without bond, pending an identity hearing this week, and his likely transfer to Ohio. Court records obtained by Breitbart Texas reveal that Palacio is believed to have been a longtime heroin supplier in McAllen, who mailed and shipped large quantities of heroin to the northern U.S. and also sold drugs to an associate in Ohio. Federal agents tapped the phone of Efren Vega Sr, a previously convicted drug trafficker who was out on probation, and managed to record his alleged conversations with Palacio regarding the shipment of heroin to Ohio, court records revealed. The conversations also allegedly included negotiations over the price per kilogram once the cocaine reached Vega. The two appear to have agreed on $60,000 per kilogram. Palacio is named in a 2010 New Jersey indictment along with 24 other members of the Sinaloa Cartel, all accused of setting up a drug distribution route from the Mexican state of Jalisco, through McAllen, into Ohio, and then into New Jersey, the Gloucester County Times previously reported. The Sinaloa Cartel members were sending large quantities of drugs north, while moving cash and weapons south. While the New Jersey indictment from 2010 identifies Palacio as a Sinaloa Cartel associate, in recent years the Jalisco faction of that cartel became known as the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), which appears to be acting in an independent fashion, as previously reported by Breitbart Texas…”

Cost To Keep Undocumented Immigrants Out Could Top Half a Trillion Dollars, Study Finds

“One question for the next President will be what to do with the estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. One option discussed is rounding up, processing and deporting them. That would bring a cost of $420-$619 billion, according to a study released by the American Action Forum. “The numbers surprised me, ” said Doug Holtz-Eakin, the president of the group. Holtz-Eakin is a Republican, former director of the Congressional Budget Office and former adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “The main goal (of his study) was not to get the number. Our goal was what’s the order of magnitude is it? A $10 million problem? Is it a $100 million problem? No, it’s a hundreds of billions of dollars problem and that really got my attention,” Holtz-Eakin said. Holtz-Eakin said he isn’t taking an official position on what lawmakers should do to reform immigration policies. But he said with all the talk about the issue, he felt Americans should know the costs involved. Read the full study here: The Budgetary and Economic Costs of Addressing Unauthorized Immigration: Alternative Strategies…”

Ruben Navarrette: On immigration, Hillary vs. Hillary

“On immigration, Hillary Clinton is a work in progress – and has been since she entered politics more than a dozen years ago. Depending on which audience she is trying to please, she assumes one of two conflicting personas: Restrictionist Hillary or Reform Hillary. In 2003, Restrictionist Hillary told conservative radio host John Grambling that she was “adamantly against illegal immigrants” and that “we’ve got to do more at our borders.” In 2006, while serving in the Senate, Restrictionist Hillary told the New York Daily News that she supported more fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border because “a country that cannot control its borders is failing at one of its fundamental obligations.” That same year, she voted for the Secure Fence Act, which directed the Department of Homeland Security to construct 700 miles of double border fencing. In 2008, during a presidential debate with Barack Obama, Restrictionist Hillary tried to woo organized labor by blaming lost jobs on “employers who exploit undocumented workers and drive down wages.” She mentioned an African-American man who had told her: “I used to have a lot of construction jobs, and now it just seems like the only people who get them anymore are people who are here without documentation.” During that debate, Clinton also said that she didn’t agree with “deporting people, rounding them up.” Yet, while serving as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, Restrictionist Hillary was part of an administration that turned that into an art form. And in 2014, as more than 60,000 refugees from Central America – most of them unaccompanied children – crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, Restrictionist Hillary said coldly during a CNN town hall that the kids “should be sent back” because “we have to send a clear message: Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.”

Hillary Clinton’s wisdom on immigration, and more


Pro-trade group tied to Obama begins ad blitz

“A pro-trade group tied to President Obama is running a series of digital ads this week backing senators who voted for a fast-track bill that is vehemently opposed by the left. The ads from the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs (PCAJ), which is advised by former Obama campaign officials, will also run in the districts of House members who have indicated they will support fast-track. “We want our elected leaders to know that we appreciate their support for this critical legislation, we have their backs, and we’ll continue to stand with them as the conversation continues around free and fair trade,” PCAJ Executive Director Chris Wyant said in a statement. The ads come as the White House works to build support among Democrats for Obama’s trade agenda ahead of a likely bruising fight in the House. The group says it is putting six figures behind the ads, which start running Wednesday in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Virginia and Washington, as well as in selected House districts. The Obama administration views fast-track authority as a crucial step to completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping 12-nation trade deal that’s at the top of the president’s second-term agenda. “Thank you … for supporting free and fair trade, American workers, and the environment,” the PCAJ ads read, next to a photo of senators who voted for the fast-track bill last week…”

Obama’s Asia trade deal faces mounting opposition in House

“After a victory in the Senate, President Obama’s push for a huge free-trade deal with Asia faces a higher hurdle in the House, where an unusual coalition of conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats oppose granting him more executive power. While Republican lawmakers have been fighting Mr. Obama’s “power grab” for years, even some members of the president’s own party are now using the argument about executive overreaching to defy his request for special trade-promotion authority. “It’s a harder sell,” said Patrick Griffin, an American University official who ran President Clinton’s legislative affairs office. “It makes what President Obama and [Speaker John] Boehner have to do a lot more challenging.”…”


How Obama could hijack tax reform

“If congressional Republicans offered the president a deal that would make the tax code markedly more progressive, raise more revenue and also fund several of his second-term priorities, would he agree to such a thing? The answer the White House would undoubtedly give would be a guarded “yes” — but that such a deal would never come from the Congress. That is certainly true, but the White House could propose precisely such a deal and come out with an undisputed political and policy victory, regardless of whether Republicans accept the deal. Such a proposal would be a radical tax reform that goes far beyond what’s currently being contemplated by congressional Republicans: Along with reducing the tax break for inherited wealth — an idea already floated by the White House — it would include eliminating the deduction for mortgage interest as well as state and local taxes while also capping the deductibility of charitable contributions and retirement savings. The proposal would also have a much lower cap for the deductibility of employer-provided health insurance than the one coming down the pike and eliminate lower tax rates for carried interest as well. These tax deductions (actually, all tax deductions for that matter) go overwhelmingly to the wealthy. Only 30 percent of all households — the richest 30 percent — actually choose to go the route that allows them to take deductions from their income, and the tax code’s progressivity amplifies the benefits that accrue to the wealthy from these deductions. Someone making $50,000 a year saves only 15 cents for each dollar he deducts, but someone making $500,000 a year saves 40 cents, and has a lot more to deduct as well…”

Obama administration pumps $32M into solar industry

“The Department of Energy announced a $32 million funding program to support jobs and research in the solar energy sector on Tuesday. Of that funding, $12 million will go toward projects to train solar technicians and provide information about solar power to “other professionals in related fields such as real estate, insurance, finance and fire and safety,” according to the Department of Energy. The funding will go toward the Obama administration’s goal of training 75,000 new solar workers by 2020. The department will also spend $15 million on projects to develop new concentrating solar power (CSP) collectors, which are the most costly component of a solar power system. At least seven projects will split the funding and research ways to bring down those costs in the future.  The rest of the funding will go toward at least three projects to collect and share data on the solar industry, such as power production and financial information. The department said the approach will help increase “transparency and fair pricing” in the market. The funding comes from an Energy Department program called the SunShot Initiative, which is designed to boost solar power in the United States. The program has funded more than 350 projects in the last four years…”

NYT discovers “family-friendly” labor policies oddly not cost-free after all

“The axiom Those who cannot do, teach needs a companion rule: Those who cannot understand, regulate. We saw the outcomes of this in ObamaCare, when people who could not grasp the basics of risk pools took it upon themselves to completely upend the health-insurance market and impose mandates for coverage. The result in that case was a dumbed-down, one-size-fits-none outcome that even its supporters are now beginning to dimly realize doesn’t equate to actual care, but which hiked costs unnecessarily on millions who don’t really need comprehensive insurance at all. For the rest, the need to hold premiums down resulted in gigantic deductibles that anyone who took Econ 101 could have predicted, and which makes these plans nothing more than vastly overpriced catastrophic insurance. The same activists who managed to get risk pools completely wrong have been trying to rework labor policies to be “family friendly.” They argue that because happier employees are better employees, giving workers lots of time off for family events won’t actually cost employers money in the long run. The New York Times finds itself shocked, shocked that imposing those requirements ends up being a War On Women: Family-friendly policies can help parents balance jobs and responsibilities at home, and go a long way toward making it possible for women with children to remain in the work force. But these policies often have unintended consequences. They can end up discouraging employers from hiring women in the first place, because they fear women will leave for long periods or use expensive benefits. “For employers, it becomes much easier to justify discrimination,” said Sarah Jane Glynn, director of women’s economic policy at the Center for American Progress. Unlike many countries, the United States has few federal policies for working parents. One is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which provides workers at companies of a certain size with 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Women are 5 percent more likely to remain employed but 8 percent less likely to get promotions than they were before it became law, according to an unpublished new study by Mallika Thomas, who will be an assistant professor of economics at Cornell University. She attributed this partly to companies that don’t take a chance on investing in the careers of women who might leave. “The problem ends up being that all women, even those who do not anticipate having children or cutting back in hours, may be penalized,” she said…”

Republicans Should Embrace The Gas Tax — After All, They Invented It

“The Highway Trust Fund got a reprieve last week when Congress approved a short-term patch to stave off bankruptcy for a couple of months. This pathetic solution to a manufactured crisis is Washington’s most regular – and predictable – demonstration of failure. Politicians like a little urgency in their deliberations – it can grease the skids of compromise. But it also opens the door to half-measures and short-term thinking. That’s exactly what’s happening now. Supposedly, this weekend’s patch will allow leaders to hammer out a long-term solution. “A short-term extension,” the White House said in a statement of administration policy, “will be necessary in order for the Congress to complete work on a long-term bill that increases investment to meet the Nation’s infrastructure needs.” Maybe so. But if lawmakers use the next eight weeks to craft a sensible, bipartisan compromise, then it will be a dramatic break with tradition. Over the last six years, Congress has approved 32 other “temporary” patches, none of which produced the desired effect. Now we’ve moved onto patch number 33, and I’m not holding my breath. What’s frustrating is that a permanent solution is not complicated: Just raise the gas tax. Lawmakers haven’t increased the levy – which provides most of the money in the trust fund – for more than 20 years. Since lawmakers pegged it at 18.4 cents a gallon in 1993, inflation has made construction more expensive, mileage improvements have reduced the amount of gas that consumers need to buy, and Americans are just driving less. As a result, the tax isn’t raising enough money to support the trust fund. A few brave politicians have suggested raising the gas tax. But Republican leaders have ruled it out. Which is predictable, I guess, given the party’s hostility to any sort of tax increase. It’s also surprising, however, since the gas tax is a Republican tax, invented and perfected by a series of GOP presidents. The first federal gas tax appeared in 1932, and it was not earmarked for roads. Instead, lawmakers used it to help shrink the budget deficit brought on by the Great Depression. Republican President Herbert Hoover signed off on the tax, as did his Treasury secretary, Ogden Mills….”


“Investors anxiously await Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) minutes, like the details of the April 28-29 meeting released Friday. But despite the Fed’s monetary policy purchase of $4 trillion in bonds to drive interest rates to near zero, Fed Chairman Janet Yellen just admitted that consumer demand is so low that American wages have only risen by 2 percent over seven years. James Montier has argued in a new paper that the Fed’s monetary policy cannot drive consumer demand. Coupled with President Barack Obama’s huge 2010 tax increases, he says, U.S. poverty rose and 876,000 jobs were lost. The Treasury’s balance at the Federal Reserve has begun to decline from the all-time-record levels reached in early May as tax payments due on April 15 continued to be processed. The government is now spending the massive tax windfall from Obama’s huge tax rate increase passed in 2010. The ;eft promised that this high tax “fiscal policy” drag on the economy would be more than offset by the Federal Reserve’s ultra-low interest rate “monetary policy.” On Friday, Fed Chair Yellen said that while the official unemployment rate of 5.4% and approaching what many Federal Reserve officials consider to be consistent with “full employment,” the jobless rate “probably does not fully capture the extent of slack in the labor market.” She stated that “the labor market has not fully healed,” since big U.S. companies only raised wages by 2 percent during the improving economy. Montier, a member of the asset allocation team at GMO, argues that investors have become too obsessed with monetary policy. “There is precious little evidence that monetary policy matters for the major components of demand (investment and consumption look pretty immune to the shifts in interest rates over time). Perhaps it is time to recall that we have another tool in our economic kit: fiscal policy,” he writes. Montier is skeptical of the government central planners’ “New Keynesian” views, which dominated the Fed’s policy following the 2008 Great Financial Crisis (GFC). Key to this effort was the embrace of the Fed setting what it referred to as an “equilibrium real interest rate.” But Montier doesn’t believe such a thing exists, and even if it did, he argues, there would not be a “channel” to meaningfully affect aggregate demand…”

U.S. Consumer Confidence Edges Up to 95.4 in May

Households haven’t boosted their spending by much, despite a cash windfall from falling gasoline prices

“Consumers turned slightly more upbeat this month after taking a dimmer view of the economy in April. The better attitude was concentrated in current economic conditions, but households hold a mixed view of the May labor markets. The Conference Board, a private research group, said Tuesday its index of consumer confidence increased to 95.4 from a…”

Democrats introduce proposed $36.3 billion budget for 2016

Under Hillary Clinton, State Dept. Approved $165 Billion in Arms Sales to Countries With One Thing in Common

“Under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.S. State Department approved $165 billion worth of arms sales to 20 nations whose governments donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation, according to an International Business Times investigation. The arms sales “represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term,” the report states…”

Bernie Sanders Wants To Bring Back A 90 Percent Tax Rate

“Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wouldn’t mind hiking taxes to an eye-popping 90 percent for wealthy Americans. The socialist lawmaker — running against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary — told CNBC that he could get behind exploding tax rates back to levels not seen since the 1950s. “[When] radical socialist Dwight D. Eisenhower was president,” Sanders said in an interview with John Harwood, “I think the highest marginal tax rate was something like 90 percent.” “It was 90,” agreed Harwood. “When you think about 90 percent, you don’t think that’s obviously too high?” “No,” Sanders replied. “What I think is obscene, and what frightens me is, again, when you have the top one-tenth of one percent owning almost as much wealth as the bottom 90.” “Does anybody think that is the kind of economy this country should have?”…”

Bernie Sanders: A 90% tax rate sounds fine to me

“This week Vermont Senator and self-avowed socialist Bernie Sanders sat down with CNBC’s John Harwood for an interview on the issues facing all the 2016 candidates. Sanders is technically running for President, and is at least keeping up the public appearance of being serious. (He told Harwood, I think we got a shot to win this thing.) With that in mind, I suppose it’s worth taking a moment to examine some of his answers and remind everyone exactly what’s lurking under the covers of the deep left wing of the Democrats. While it may seem like a bit of a dog bites man story, Democrats are renowned for being in love with higher taxes. How does Bernie measure up on that score?

SANDERS: … If my memory is correct, when radical socialist Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, the highest marginal tax rate was something like 90 percent.

HARWOOD: When you think about 90 percent, you don’t think that’s obviously too high?

SANDERS: No. That’s not 90 percent of your income, you know? That’s the marginal. I’m sure you have some really right-wing nut types, but I’m not sure that every very wealthy person feels that it’s the worst thing in the world for them to pay more in taxes, to be honest with you. I think you’ve got a lot of millionaires saying, “You know what? I’ve made a whole lot of money. I don’t want to see kids go hungry in America. Yeah, I’ll pay my fair share.”

A ninety percent tax rate. Think about that for a moment. Even the worst tax and spenders in the mainstream of the Democrat Party would never say that aloud, but Bernie Sanders at least can boast of the virtue of honesty. He’s willing to have the government come and take ninety cents out of every dollar you earn if you commit the sin of being too successful in modern America. I’m the first to admit that I’ve expressed many doubts about the practical effectiveness of the Laffer Curve in real world economics, but I’m confident that 90% falls pretty far down the starboard side of that one…”

Bernie Sanders takes aim at Wall Street in presidential launch

“Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders sets out to scale a political mountain on Tuesday as he formally jumps into a Democratic primary race dominated by runaway frontrunner Hillary Clinton. The self-described “Democratic socialist” will launch a campaign critical of the power of Wall Street that will spotlight wide gaps between the wealthy and other Americans and vow to tackle global warming and college debt, at an evening rally in Burlington. Hundreds of supporters are expected to join Sanders on the shore of Lake Champlain, at a rally that will feature free helpings of the local “Ben and Jerry’s” ice cream, before he heads off to make a populist case to voters in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire…”


Maryland Gov. Hogan appoints two Common Core supporters to Board of Education

“Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan just named two new members of the state Board of Education — both supporters of the Common Core as well as charter schools. Hogan, a Republican, tapped Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Andy Smarick, partner at Bellwether Education Partners, to take the open seats on the 12-person board created by the departures of Charlene M. Dukes and Donna Hill Staton. Hogan, who was sworn in as Maryland governor in January, had during the campaign characterized the implementation of school reforms in the state as “a train wreck” and said he believed in local control of assessments. In late January, a spokeswoman for Hogan said in an e-mail, “Governor Hogan believes that we need to hit the ‘pause’ button on Common Core and give control back to teachers and parents.”…”



“Thieves used an online service provided by the IRS to gain access to information from more than 100,000 taxpayers, the agency said Tuesday. The information included tax returns and other tax information on file with the IRS. The IRS said the thieves accessed a system called “Get Transcript.” In order to access the information, the thieves cleared a security screen that required knowledge about the taxpayer, including Social Security number, date of birth, tax filing status and street address. “The IRS notes this issue does not involve its main computer system that handles tax filing submission; that system remains secure,” the agency said in a statement. The IRS said thieves targeted the system from February to mid-May. The service has been temporarily shut down. “In all, about 200,000 attempts were made from questionable email domains, with more than 100,000 of those attempts successfully clearing authentication hurdles,” the agency said. “During this filing season, taxpayers successfully and safely downloaded a total of approximately 23 million transcripts.” Tax returns can include a host of personal information that can help someone steal an identity, including Social Security numbers and birthdates of dependents and spouses. However, the IRS said the thieves appeared to already have a lot of personal information about the victims…”

IRS: Taxpayer info hacked

“The Internal Revenue Service Tuesday announced a major security breach involving 100,000 taxpayer accounts that were accessed by criminals. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told reporters in a conference call that the information was gained by “organized” criminals who already had access to personal details, including Social Security numbers, dates of birth and street addresses. “The weren’t getting any data from us, they showed up with information and tried to use it as best they could,” Koskinen said. The announcement comes as the IRS has fallen under increasing scrutiny from Congress over alleged targeting of conservative non-profit groups and the agency’s lackluster customer service and its outdated technology. Koskinen said the IRS has identified 200,000 attempts to access taxpayer data through the agency’s “Get Transcript” program, which has been temporarily suspended….”

IRS says thieves stole tax info from 100,000 households

Hackers stole personal information from 104,000 taxpayers, IRS says

Hackers stole data on 100K taxpayers from IRS

IRS Says Online Thieves Stole Info From More Than 100,000 Taxpayers

Thieves Used IRS Website To Steal Info From 100,000 Households

IRS hit by cyberattack, thousands of taxpayers’ information stolen

IRS Leaked Over 100,000 Taxpayers’ Private Info To Criminals: What You Need To Know

Paul Ryan on the IRS hack: ‘We need answers’

“House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., indicated Tuesday he would push hard for an explanation of how thieves were able to break into about 100,000 IRS accounts, an event that will once again draw the eyes of Congress to the embattled tax collection agency. “While the committee is seeking more information about the situation, it’s deeply concerning that taxpayer information has been compromised,” Ryan said. “Protecting the taxpayer is supposed to be the IRS’s top priority, and we need answers from them.” Ryan released his statement shortly after the IRS said that “criminals” were able to gain unauthorized access to about 100,000 taxpayer accounts, using personal data gleaned from outside the IRS. The IRS said it determined last week that “unusual activity” took place on an area of its site called the “Get Transcript” application. “Following an initial review, it appears that access was gained to more than 100,000 accounts through the Get Transcript application,” it said…”

Most Voters In Democrat-Run States Think Government Too Big

“Voters in states run mostly by Democrats are more likely than those in GOP-run states to feel their state government is too big, but all give similar performance reviews to those governments. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 36% of Likely U.S. Voters now rate the job performance of their state government as good or excellent. Twenty-six percent (26%) think their state government does a poor job. (To see survey wording, click here.) … The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on May 21 and 24, 2015 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence…”

Obama urges Senate to renew phone-records program

“President Barack Obama is urging the Senate to renew the government’s power to search Americans’ telephone records, saying public safety demands it. Barring a last-minute compromise when the Senate returns for a rare Sunday session, that specific provision of federal law will sunset at midnight May 31. The Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly passed the White House-backed USA Freedom Act that would end bulk collection of telephone records by the National Security Agency but preserve its ability to search the records held by the phone companies on a case-by-case basis. Senate Republicans blocked that bill before leaving town for Memorial Day. Obama urged Senate lawmakers to work through their weeklong break to “identify a way to get this done.” He commented Tuesday after meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (yehnz STOHL’-tehn-burg)….”

Obama urges Senate to renew surveillance program

“The Senate needs to keep working on counterterrorism surveillance legislation to prevent the government’s authority from expiring next week, President Obama said Tuesday. “This needs to get done,” Obama told reporters after a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that also touched on challenges with the Islamic State, Iraq and Russia. The House of Representatives has passed a new version of the Patriot Act — the “USA Freedom Act” — that intelligence agencies can live with, the president said. But the Senate left on recess without resolving disputes over telephone surveillance tactics and records collection…”

Obama: Senate Must Pass USA Freedom Act, “Strikes An Appropriate Balance”

Obama to Senate: Skip recess, get back to work on Patriot Act reform

“President Obama on Tuesday called on Senate leaders to work through their current recess to ensure key parts of the Patriot Act don’t expire at midnight on Sunday. Speaking in the Oval Office after a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, the president applauded the House for passing the USA Freedom Act, which extends government powers under the Patriot Act. But the legislation rules out bulk data collection, instead limiting the government’s ability to gather data to specific individuals or groups. The president said he supports that specific reform and called on the Senate, which is now on recess, to immediately pass the House bill. “The House of Representatives did its work and came up with what they’ve called the USA Freedom Act. … The Senate did not act. And the problem we have now is those authorities run out at midnight on Sunday. So, I strongly urge the Senate to work through this recess and make sure they identify a way to get this done,” Mr. Obama said. “Keep in mind that the most controversial provision in there, which had to do with the gathering of telephone exchanges in a single government database, that has been reformed in the USA Freedom Act.” The president explicitly said the American people will be less safe if the Senate does not act before midnight Sunday. “This needs to get done, and I would urge folks to work through whatever issues still exist, make sure we don’t have on midnight Sunday night this task still undone because it is necessary to make the American people safe,” he said…”

Obama urges Senate to pass key Patriot Act provisions due to expire


“Speaking in the Oval Office today, President Obama criticized the Senate for failing to pass an extension of the Patriot Act provisions, calling on lawmakers to work through recess to address the important legislation. “I strongly urge the Senate to work through this recess and identify a way to get this done,” Obama told reporters after a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, encouraging them to pass the House version of the USA Freedom Act. The Senate effort to pass the legislation was stalled after Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) 93% filibustered the bill right before the Congressional Memorial Day recess. On Saturday, a vote for the Patriot Act extensions failed by a 45-54 vote. Eight Republican Senators voted against the legislation, while 45 Democrats and one Independent voted against the extensions. McConnell is expected to call senators back from recess on Sunday to attempt to extend the program before it expires next Monday. “This needs to get done,” Obama said, highlighting the importance of the Patriot Act extensions calling them “necessary to keep American people safe and secure.”…”

White House: No ‘Plan B’ if spy authorities lapse

“The Obama administration has no alternative plan for conducting critical surveillance activities outside a decision by Congress to extend or amend authorities in the USA Patriot Act that are due to expire next week, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday. That’s an unsettling prospect for those who support the current authority to collect bulk phone data, since the Senate showed Saturday that there is no agreement to either expand or amend that authority. The Senate returns Sunday, May 31, in an effort to pass some kind of extension. Earnest said if the Senate fails to act on Sunday, “then yes, these programs will lapse.” “I’m not aware of any kind of ‘Plan B’ that exists or is being contemplated,” Earnest said. He also added, “Senate is failing to do its job.” Earnest also appeared to take a jab at Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Tuesday morning, Paul said President Obama was being “disingenuous” on the surveillance authorities because they were put in place by executive order, and that Obama could therefore eliminate them by executive order…”


“White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest suggested that Senate Republicans are putting their own presidential political futures ahead of the importance of extending provisions of the Patriot Act. “At some point the political ambitions of individual members of the United States Senate are going to have to come second to the national security of the United States,” he said. Earnest was likely alluding to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) 93%, who has made opposition to the section 215 provision used by the NSA to collect metadata a central point of his presidential campaign. “Alone among presidential candidates, I am leading the fight to end this unconstitutional program,” he wrote in a Breitbart News op-ed today. “They are threatening our rights, freedoms, and privacy by encouraging the NSA to continue their warrantless tapping of American’s cell phones, and all without good reason.” Paul blocked the Senate from moving forward on the bill, leaving Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)54%

 to schedule a special Senate session for Sunday, ahead of the June 1 deadline. Earnest said that Obama was “ready and willing” to engage with senators on the issue, asserting that every Senate Democrat voted for a compromise to move the legislation forward but declined to read out any specific communication with members of the Senate. On Friday, Earnest criticized Senate Republicans for “playing chicken” with the important legislation…”

Stop Logging Our Phone Calls

“Once in a great while, House Republicans get it right. So let me praise them for leading a bipartisan effort to curtail the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of data on the phone calls of innocent Americans. The USA Freedom Act, which the House passed earlier this month by an overwhelming 338-88 vote, would end the NSA’s vast effort to compile phone call “metadata.” We only learned that the government was keeping a comprehensive record of our calls when fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden spilled the beans; our elected officials, including President Obama, hadn’t bothered to tell us. I agree with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that the bill passed by the House doesn’t go far enough to restore our privacy. But it is light-years better than what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wants, which is to allow the blanket surveillance to continue pretty much as is. This is an issue on which progressives and libertarian-minded conservatives find common ground — and shared passion. Following the 9/11 attacks, our elected officials exchanged a measure of our liberty for the promise, or the illusion, of greater security. It was a hasty and foolish bargain. We ended up with a system that would have strained even Kafka’s imagination. The NSA was allowed to compel telecommunications companies to turn over complete records of their customers’ phone calls. This permission was granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which reinterpreted Section 215 of the Patriot Act — which speaks of requiring firms to surrender business records — to encompass the seizing of domestic phone records. Basically, all of them…”

Rand Paul: Obama ‘disingenuous’ on surveillance

“Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said Tuesday that President Obama is being “disingenuous” on the NSA’s bulk data collection program and that the president could stop the program anytime he wants. “Here’s the thing about the president: He’s disingenuous about this,” the Kentucky Republican said on “CBS This Morning.” “The president started this program through executive order — he could end it anytime.” Mr. Paul, who is running for president in 2016, pointed out a federal appellate panel’s recently ruling the NSA program illegal under the post-9/11 Patriot Act. “Why doesn’t he stop it? What’s he waiting for?” Mr. Paul said. “He [says], ‘Oh, Congress can stop it.’ He started it on his own. He should stop it, and I’ve asked the president repeatedly, ‘Stop the program.’ “Last week, Mr. Paul helped the U.S. Senate block a reauthorization of key sections of the Patriot Act due to expire at the end of the month, including Section 215, which the Bush and Obama administrations have used to justify the NSA’s phone-snooping program. Mr. Obama had previously defended the program but has now embraced changes, and the White House has criticized lawmakers on Capitol Hill for failing to back the USA Freedom Act, which would extend Patriot Act powers but cut out bulk collection under Section 215, or come up with an alternative…”

Sununu: Rand Paul Left of Obama on Security Spending, PATRIOT Act, “Wrapping Himself In The Beauty Of His Record”

“BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS: I want you to listen to Governor Chris Christie as he phrased it over the weekend, then what Senator Paul said this morning on Fox News.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE: This debate we are having about the PATRIOT Act and whether we should have strong intelligence around the world is a very dangerous debate because it’s being done by people who have no experience dealing with what I have dealt with.

SEN, RAND PAUL: That just wasn’t very nice of him. I wouldn’t put it that way. I would say i’m a defender of the Bill of Rights and someone that defends the spirit of the framers of the Constitution.

BILL HEMMER: What Senator Paul would argue is that, in a time of perceived chaos, don’t panic.

JOHN SUNUNU: He’s wrapping himself in the beauty of his rhetoric. The fact is. You can’t have a period of time without the tools in place. Senator Paul is also an advocate of gutting the defense budget. He’s in fact to the left of Obama on both of those issues. If he wants to have a debate he ought to stand up and have the debate and not just block legislation…”

Rand Paul: NSA filibuster not a money-raising tactic

“Sen. Rand Paul disputes his critics who say that a recent 10-hour filibuster in protest of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) sweeping surveillance programs was merely a tactic to raise money, calling it “an unfair characterization.” “[M]ost people who know me and have watched my career would say that if anything I’m very sincere about this issue,” the Kentucky senator said on “CBS This Morning” Tuesday. “Our founding fathers thought it was very important that warrants have an individual’s name on it – that you couldn’t have a warrant that said Verizon on it and collect all the records of all the people in America through one single warrant. So I think I’m right in line with what the founders would have fought for and I’m proud of the fight. I think there will always be naysayers and people who want to snatch at you for different reasons.” Paul added that the GOP often “gets all caught up in the Second Amendment,” but that neither party does enough to protect the Fourth Amendment which guards against unreasonable search and seizure. But the timing of the NSA debate has benefitted Paul, who is also running for president. His new book called, “Taking a Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America,” was published Tuesday. Like many opponents of the NSA surveillance, Paul argues it is not only unconstitutional but not necessary to prevent terror attacks as the government claims. He cited a report from the Justice Department Inspector General released last week that said bulk collection hasn’t been responsible for solving a single case…”

Obama team to issue new rule to regulate water pollution

“The Obama administration is expected to soon issue a new rule giving the federal government the power to regulate pollution in smaller bodies of water. The Environmental Protection Agency has been holding a series of public meetings on the proposed rule that would be issued under the 1972 Clean Water Act, which dealt mostly with larger rivers, lakes, and bays. Officials say the new rule — which may be announced this week — is designed to addressed conflicting court opinions about the government’s authority to regulate smaller streams and wetlands. This rule may well wind up in court as well. While environmentalists welcome the plan, The New York Times reports that it “has attracted fierce opposition from several business interests, including farmers, property developers, fertilizer and pesticide makers, oil and gas producers and a national association of golf course owners. Opponents contend that the rule would stifle economic growth and intrude on property owners’ rights.” The Times adds: “Republicans in Congress point to the rule as another example of what they call executive overreach by the Obama administration. Already, they are advancing legislation on Capitol Hill meant to block or delay the rule.”…”

Michelle Obama: Global Warming Is The New Civil Rights Movement

“Fighting global warming is this generation’s “revolution,” according to Michelle Obama, and it’s just like Martin Luther King, Jr.’s civil rights struggle during the 1960s. The first lady told Oberlin College graduates over Memorial Day weekend that issues like global warming, marriage equality and economic inequality were the “revolutions” of our time. She added that newly-minted graduates have a “ responsibility” to promote such causes. “You see, in his speech to those Oberlin graduates 50 years ago, Dr. King urged them,” Obama said, “not to sleep through the civil rights revolution that was raging across this country.” “And, graduates, climate change, economic inequality, human rights, criminal justice -– these are the revolutions of your time,” she said. “And you have as much responsibility and just as much power to wake up and play your part in our great American story. Because it is absolutely still possible to make a difference. The great moments of our history are not decades in our past; they’re happening right now, today, in our lifetimes.”…”

Climate rule would bring power sector’s carbon to historic low

“The Obama administration’s climate rule for the power sector would bring that industry’s carbon dioxide output to its lowest level in decades. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Tuesday that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule would cut power plants’ carbon to about 1,500 million metric tons a year by 2025. That level would be the lowest carbon emissions from the power sector since the early 1980s, the EIA said. Its report is based on a Friday analysis the EIA released about the power and emissions implications of the EPA’s rule, which aims to slash power plants’ carbon 30 percent by 2030. The reductions would amount to up to 35 percent below 2005 levels in 2025, the agency said. But the EIA warned that emissions could creep up after 2025. That’s because states could get credit toward the rule by increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy and not actually cutting plants’ emissions. “Because the emission rate standards stay constant after 2030, coal-fired generation can grow beyond 2030 as long as energy efficiency or renewable generation also grows, and the same average emissions rate is maintained,” it said Tuesday. “By 2040, the corresponding reduction is 30 percent, as continued growth in electricity demand leads to additional generation from fossil fuel-fired sources.”…”

Vitter accuses EPA of ‘colluding’ with environmental groups

“A Republican senator is accusing the EPA of colluding with environmental groups to drum up public support for a controversial drinking water regulation. In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) criticizes the agency for using taxpayer dollars to mount a lobbying campaign for the Waters of the United States rule it proposed last year. Vitter called it “outrageous.” “This news offers yet another example of the EPA’s collusion with far-left environmental groups to promote a policy that would hurt small businesses and substantially harm the American economy,” Vitter wrote. He specifically criticized the EPA for using social media to promote the rule, but the agency defended its use of social media in a recent blog post. “Like almost every government, business or non-profit organization these days, we use social media like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, to stay connected and to inform people across the country about our work,” the agency wrote. “To ensure Americans had the facts directly from us about the proposed rule, the value of protecting streams and wetlands, and the need for clearly defined protections under the Clean Water Act, we used social media.” This comes despite the Department of Justice’s longtime policy that advises federal agencies against lobbying in favor of their own rules, Vitter says. The EPA already regulates large sources of water, but the rule would expand the agency’s jurisdiction to include smaller bodies of water like streams, ponds and ditches. Farmers say this would make it difficult for them to operate under EPA jurisdiction….”

New regs for Wednesday: Airlines, private security contractors, motorcoach drivers

“Wednesday’s edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for motorcoach drivers, maritime facilities, private security contractors, airlines, and veterans hospitals. Here’s what is happening: Veterans: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is proposing new medical regulations for soldiers. The medical regulations would address the transportation of veterans to and from VA facilities for examinations, treatment, and care. The rules would indicate which veterans are eligible for transportation, and how the VA would provide the transportation. The public has 60 days to comment on the proposed rules…”


Kasich: “I’m The Most Experienced” In The Field, “Don’t Count Me Out”

“…KASICH: — closer. Well, look, I mean, we are — we have metrics set internally. I am very pleased with what we have seen over the course of the last month. I’ve been very pleased with what I found out on the ground in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan. I’m in the process of accumulating resources. I hope people will help me, if they like my — sort of my unique voice in this whole thing. And we look at organization. And so within a period of time, I will make a decision and if we meet our metrics, I’m going to move forward. I have to tell you that I’m increasingly optimistic about all of this. And you know, Jon, I’m the most experienced in the field with being an executive, running a big state like Ohio, dealing with problems like Cleveland; at the same time being in Congress, balance the budget. I was the chairman and also serving on the Defense Committee for 18 years. So I’m pretty qualified for this kind of a job…”

Walker suggests he’ll skip Florida primary

“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) suggested Tuesday that he might sit out the 2016 Florida GOP primary, letting likely rivals Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush duke it out in their home state. “If we chose to get in, I don’t think there’s a state out there we wouldn’t play in, other than maybe Florida, where Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, in some of the polls, are essentially tied,” Walker told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. Walker is expected to announce his own 2016 bid soon…”

Dem to challenge McCain for Senate in ’16

“Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) is running for the Senate in 2016, potentially setting a match-up between the swing-district Democrat and incumbent Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “I respect John McCain’s service to our nation,” Kirkpatrick says in an online video posted Tuesday. “I just believe our state is changing and Arizonans should have a real choice who they send to the United States Senate.” Kirkpatrick, a former state lawmaker who is serving her third term in Congress, survived the GOP wave election in 2014, defeating Arizona state House Speaker Andy Tobin (R)….”

Hillary and Bill Clinton Make First Public Appearance Since Start of Campaign

Vermont’s Sanders to kick off 2016 bid from Clinton’s left

“Challenging Hillary Rodham Clinton from the left, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders formally launched his Democratic presidential campaign on Tuesday by vowing to start a “political revolution” to address core economic issues, massive student debt and the role of big money in politics. Already in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sanders was opening his campaign with a kickoff event — complete with free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream — in Burlington, the place where he won his first election by beating a longtime incumbent Democrat by 10 votes to become mayor. “I know what I believe,” Sanders said in a fundraising email hours before his launch that pushed back against “the billionaire class” trying to buy the election. “That’s why today marks the beginning of our political revolution.” Sanders, a self-described “democratic socialist,” is trying to ignite a grassroots fire among left-leaning Democrats wary of Clinton — a group that pined for months for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to get in to race. Some still do. But while Warren remains committed to the Senate, repeatedly saying she won’t run for the White House, Sanders is laying out an agenda in step with the party’s progressive wing and Warren’s platform — reining in Wall Street banks, tackling college debt and creating a government-financed infrastructure jobs program. “Hillary Clinton is a candidate. I am a candidate,” Sanders said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I suspect there will be other candidates. The people in this country will make their choice.” Clinton is in a commanding position by any measure, far in front of both Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is widely expected to get into the race Saturday. Yet Sanders’ supporters in New Hampshire say his local ties and longstanding practice of holding town hall meetings and people-to-people campaigning — a staple in the nation’s first primary state — will serve him well. “Toward the Vermont border it’s like a love-fest for Bernie,” said Jerry Curran, an Amherst, New Hampshire, Democratic activist who has been involved in the draft Warren effort. “He’s not your milquetoast left-winger. He’s kind of a badass left-winger.” Sanders, an independent in the Senate who often votes with the Democrats, has raised more than $4 million since announcing in late April that he would seek the party’s nomination. He suggested in the interview that raising $50 million for the primaries was a possibility. “That would be a goal,” he said. Whether Sanders can tap into the party’s Warren wing and influence Clinton’s policy agenda remains unclear. But he has been on the forefront of liberal causes as Clinton has seemed to be tacking to the left….”

Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign has more support than Graham, Jindal, Fiorina and Kasich combined

“On Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I->D-Vt.) will formally kick off his by-all-accounts-doomed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders hasn’t generated the sort of media interest in his bid that Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie have, for a pretty simple reason: Hillary Clinton leads him by a bajillion points in the polls. A quick comparison of the two fields makes that obvious. The graphs below use the latest Real Clear Politics polling averages for each party’s race, which means that they may not track with the latest, hottest poll. And it means that the Democratic field includes Elizabeth Warren (who has said a bajillion times that she isn’t running) and Vice President Biden (who has offered no indication that he is)….”

Sen. Bernie Sanders Kicks Off Presidential Campaign

“The longest-serving Independent senator in U.S. history, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, kicked-off his presidential campaign for the Democratic nomination today with a colorful and lively event in Burlington. With blue-grass music, tie-dye and free ice cream, the afternoon event felt half like a summer festival and half like a political rally. A self-identified “Democratic Socialist,” Sanders is known on Capitol Hill for speaking about income inequality and higher tax rates for corporations and the nation’s top earners. Sanders wasted little time getting to his favorite issues. “Today, we say clearly enough is enough,” he said. “This great nation and its government belong to all of the people and not just a handful of billionaires.” “There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much as wealth as the bottom 90 percent. This has got to change and, as your president, together we will change it,” Sanders said…”

Bernie Sanders enters 2016 presidential race

Bernard Sanders promises ‘revolution’ in announcing Democratic presidential bid

Socialist stakes out ambitious agenda against ‘the rich’ to take on Hillary Clinton from the left

More evidence for blah Democratic (and perhaps Republican) 2016 turnout

“There’s a bit of substantiation for my column questioning whether Hillary Clinton can reverse the six-year slide in Democratic turnout in this item from my Washington Examiner colleague Paul Bedard’s Washington Secrets. Results from a Reuters/Ipsos poll suggest low levels of interest in the 2016 presidential election. This could be worse news for Democrats than Republicans. The all-but-certain Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is widely known; there is relatively little room for voters to revise their opinions of her. The Republican candidates, in contrast, are lesser known: There is room for enthusiasm for them both to grow and to wither, depending on how they perform in the campaign. Of course the same could be said of Democratic alternatives to Clinton, if their candidacies ever get off the ground….”

The U.S.-Israeli Relationship Is Fraying, but Won’t Fail

Gen. Dempsey’s first fight in Iraq shapes his approach to Islamic State

“In the summer of 2014, President Obama and his senior aides were scrambling to respond to the lightning advance of Islamic State fighters across Iraq and the collapse of local forces in the face of the onslaught. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Obama’s top military adviser, recommended sending U.S. Special Forces troops to take stock of the situation. But Dempsey, unlike other aides who favored an immediate offensive response, also made a case for restraint, arguing that American air power should be unleashed in earnest only after the Iraqis struck a political agreement that would unify the country’s fractious leaders. As the general liked to tell his aides: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” The recommendation underlined Dempsey’s instinct for caution — and belief in the limits of U.S. military power to counteract deep-seated sectarian and political rivalries across the Middle East. That perspective appears to have sat well with Obama, who has been determined to end the costly insurgent wars of the past decade and use force sparingly. As Dempsey prepares to step down this fall after almost four years as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, however, the Obama administration’s deliberative foreign policy remains an object of frustration for critics, including some Democrats. In this view, the failure of the United States to more aggressively employ its military might — an approach Dempsey has played a key role in shaping — has left a power vacuum filled by the Islamic State and Iran…”

White House sidesteps defense secretary’s comments on Iraqi forces

“President Obama on Tuesday didn’t distance himself from Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s claim that Iraqi forces showed “no will to fight” last week when Islamic State terrorist fighters captured the town of Ramadi — but the White House also wouldn’t explicitly endorse the Pentagon chief’s comments. Instead, administration officials said the fall of Ramadi can be attributed to a breakdown of “command and planning” on the part of Iraqi forces. White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that the Iraqi fighters clashing with the Islamic State in and around Ramadi haven’t been trained by the U.S. military, making them less effective on the battlefield. “What the Iraqi government has acknowledged is that the setback that they experienced in Ramadi was at least in part attributable to a breakdown in some military command and planning,” Mr. Earnest said. “What the president has observed is that many of those forces, if not all of the forces, who have been fighting ISIL in Ramadi were not forces that had benefited from the training that the United States and our coalition partners have been engaged in to improve the capacity of Iraqi security forces.” Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Mr. Carter blasted Iraqi forces, saying the U.S. cannot win the war against the Islamic State over the long term. “We can’t sustain the victory,” he said. “Only the Iraqis can do that.” Iraqi forces on Tuesday launched a military offensive to retake Ramadi, and Mr. Earnest said that demonstrates that Iraqi forces do indeed have some will to fight for their country. “And we were pleased to see today that the Iraqi government announced the beginning of the mission to retake Ramadi and to drive ISIL out of Anbar province,” the press secretary said. “I think that is a clear indication of the will of the Iraqi security forces to fight. And the United States and our coalition partners will stand with them as they do so.”…”

Chris Matthews: Hillary Endorses Obama’s Iraq Policy

Fresh from Israel visit, Walker bashes Iran deal

Obama’s Islamic State strategy sparks doubt, resentment among Pentagon officials