News Briefing for Wednesday, May 6


Tea Party’s Jenny Beth Martin Sizes Up Fiorina, Carson, Huckabee

“With three new entrants into the Republican presidential field this week, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin gave her thoughts to Newsmax TV on Monday about how each would fare with the tea party wing. “Any of them are going to be better than what we will get with Hillary Clinton,” Martin said on “Newsmax Prime.”  “She is from the past, and it’s time for someone who’s going to be looking towards the future.” If former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina wins the nomination, it will allow for a focus on economic issues, which are important to the tea party, Martin told host J.D. Hayworth. Americans must elect candidates willing to do what it takes to balance the federal budget and begin paying down the debt, she said. “Fiorina will work on this,” Martin told Newsmax TV…”


States wasting millions by keeping ineligible recipients on ObamaCare’s Medicaid rolls, critics say

“States are wasting millions of taxpayer dollars under ObamaCare’s massive Medicaid expansion by failing to regularly check the eligibility of program recipients, critics charge. Under the Affordable Care Act, millions of people were enrolled in the expanded Medicaid, a jointly run state and federal program that primarily provides free or low-cost health care to low-income people, the elderly and disabled. Federal law requires that states annually verify the eligibility of recipients — but some are not, and that means tens of thousands of ineligible people are receiving benefits.  Arkansas, for instance, has failed to comply with the law, and internal emails from the Arkansas Department of Human Services reveal officials have yet to begin what’s known as a “redetermination.” “We’re trying to hold the DHS accountable for the promises they made, and make sure that the people who are on the program actually qualify for it,” said state Sen. Bryan King. According to emails between King and Arkansas DHS Director John Selig, the state applied for and was issued two waivers from the federal government granting extensions for their “redetermination” deadline. But the delay is costing taxpayers money. Selig estimated in a report to a Joint Budget Committee that an eligibility review could remove up to 40,000 people from the state’s Medicaid system — saving taxpayers up to $20 million a month.  “The fact that they aren’t doing this already in a program riddled with cost overruns shows their lack of regard for taxpayer dollars funded by hardworking Americans,” said Charles Siler, director of media relations for the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA). A similar situation — stemming from problems launching ObamaCare websites — exists in Massachusetts, Siler said, but fiscal watchdogs also blame the federal government for allowing states to miss their deadlines.  “What Arkansas and Massachusetts tell us is that the Obama administration doesn’t care about being responsible with the billions of taxpayer dollars being wasted by ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion,” FGA senior fellow Josh Archambault said. “In truth, we have yet to uncover how many other states the feds are allowing to sidestep the law, and these states may simply be the tip of the iceberg.” In Arkansas, the first DHS waiver extended the review deadline to March, from Dec. 31, 2014, but Selig testified as late as April 20 that his department had been issued another waiver pushing the deadline to September…”

Obamacare’s ‘risk’ program may shake up insurance prices

“When this Obamacare bill comes due, will there be nearly enough money to pay it? An important tool meant to limit the financial risk of Obamacare insurers is expected to be grossly underfunded and “may make the U.S. insurance market less stable, not more,” a new analysis warns. The amount of money that profitable insurers expect to pay into the program was less than an estimated 10 percent what is expected to be paid out to unprofitable insurers, the Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services report found. The analysis assumes Congress will continue mandating that the program must be self-sustaining from insurers’ payments, and not tap government funds. As a result, some insurers may have a tougher time covering their costs—and Obamacare customers in some areas of the country may face higher premium prices in 2016…”

Because Of Obamacare, 123-Year-Old Major Health Insurance Provider Set To Close Its Doors

“After expanding to accommodate the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) last year, a Wisconsin-based health insurance provider, founded in 1892, announced it will be closing its doors. Assurant Health opted not to participate in the first Obamacare enrollment period in 2013; however, in November of that year, the company announced it would be selling plans in 16 states in 2014. The company and industry watchers blamed its losses directly on the impact of Obamacare. Following implementation of the requirements to participate in the ACA exchanges, Assurant lost $63.7 million in 2014. The insurer raised its rates by 20 percent in 2015, in hopes of returning to profitability, but lost between $80 to $90 million during the first quarter of this year. Assurant currently provides plans for approximately 1 million people, with a revenue of about $2 billion. “In a letter to its shareholders, [the company] said it lost money because of a reduction in recoveries under Obamacare’s risk mitigation programs and increased claims on the health care law’s 2015 policies,” the Daily Signal reports…”

Dems call for crackdown on insurers over birth control mandate

“Senate Democrats are urging the Department of Health and Human Services to take action against health insurance companies that are ignoring an ObamaCare provision that guarantees free or low-cost birth control, which they call a “troubling nationwide trend.” A group of 38 Democrats sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Tuesday raising alarms that some insurance companies and pharmacies are making it difficult for women to access contraception. “We write with serious concerns that some insurers are failing to uphold the standards set in the Affordable Care Act and as a result leaving women without the health care services they are entitled to under the law,” the letter reads. The senators urge Burwell to better inform insurance companies about the birth control rule and to push states to develop their own “plans of action for compliance.” “The Department of Health and Human Services should be closely monitoring and ensuring compliance with the law, and working with all stakeholders to reach that end,” they wrote…”

U.S. SC vacates another ruling over Obamacare’s contraception mandate

“The U.S. Supreme Court last week returned another federal appeals court’s decision backing the contraception requirement of President Barack Obama’s federal health care law. It is the second time in recent months the nation’s high court has thrown out a lower court’s decision on the matter.”

New ban on abortion coverage easily clears Texas Senate

“Most abortions in Texas could not be covered by insurance purchased through the Affordable Care Act under a bill that has cleared the Republican-controlled Senate. The bill passed Tuesday is the first abortion law to clear the Senate since Wendy Davis temporarily sidetracked sweeping restrictions with a nearly 13-hour filibuster in 2013. The Senate this time was a far different scene. The gallery was mostly empty and the bill quickly passed along party lines after Democrats raised only brief objections. About two dozen states already prohibit abortion coverage under plans purchased through the federal marketplace. Republicans say it prevents other insured Texans from paying for a procedure they believe is morally wrong. Unlike two years ago, abortion has been a relatively quiet issue in Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s first session….”

500 groups urge repeal of ObamaCare cost-cutting panel

“Over 500 organizations are calling on Congress to repeal a Medicare cost-cutting board that is part of ObamaCare. At issue is the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), charged with coming up with ways to cut Medicare spending if it rises above a certain threshold.  The board has not been set up yet, and has faced strong opposition from Republicans who say it would diminish seniors’ access to care. Opponents of the healthcare law condemned the IPAB as a “death panel” during the congressional debate over the law. The 500 groups (which include multiple chapters of the same organization), are largely healthcare providers, and are worried about cuts in payments under the board. The letter to Congress argues that because the board must achieve savings in a one-year timeframe, it will simply cut payments to providers rather than make long-term improvements to the programs efficiency…”

The Medicare Recovery Audit Program Works For Taxpayers

“Among the vast multitude of federal government programs, a rare few have as their mission the protection of the general taxpayer interest. Those that do are typically beset by special interests and the beneficiaries of government largess. An example is the Recovery Audit Program, which identifies and recovers improper Medicare payments, but is now under siege from the hospital industry. The Recovery Audit Program has proven valuable in its few years of operation. Since its implementation in 2010, the program has returned over $9.7 billion to the Medicare Trust Fund, and led to a reduction in improper payments from 10.8 percent in fiscal year 2009 to 8.5 percent in 2012. In 2013 alone it recovered $3 billion. Unfortunately, after the program was hamstrung and certain audits suspended in October 2013, improper payments returned to 12.7 percent by fiscal year 2014. The program works by contracting with companies that are paid to find waste and abuse in Medicare payments. Contractors employ medical professionals to review claims and ensure they are billed according to Medicare policy, and can collect up to 12.5 percent of the monies recovered. This provides a strong incentive to advance the taxpayer interest and find improper payments. Given its success to date the program ought to be expanded if anything, but it has been the target of constant attacks from the hospital industry. Given that most improper payments are recovered directly from the providers that received them, it’s no surprise that they spent $20 million lobbying Congress in 2014 alone in an aggressive effort to tame the program…”

Senators demand better oversight of state ObamaCare spending

“Two Republican committee chairmen are pressing the Obama administration to improve its oversight of how state-run ObamaCare marketplaces use federal dollars, citing an inspector general report on potential violations of law. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote to the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Monday asking for the agency to issue clarifying guidance on how the federal dollars can be spent. State-run ObamaCare marketplaces received federal funds to help set themselves up, but after Jan. 1 of this year, they marketplaces are supposed to be self-sustaining. They are now prohibited by law from using federal funds for “operating expenses.” They can only use the money for “design, development, and implementation.” The problem is that the definition of these two categories can be unclear, as noted by an HHS Inspector General report late last month. The senators want clearer definitions from CMS.  State-based marketplaces (SBMs) “cannot be allowed to use hard-earned taxpayer dollars for expenses that are statutorily prohibited,” the senators write…”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich helps Montana expand Obamacare

“Obamacare supporters were frustrated in their efforts to expand Medicaid in Montana until Ohio Gov. John Kasich came to town. “Kasich contributed, I think in a meaningful way, to passing Medicaid expansion in Montana,” Republican State Sen. Scott Sales told During a January trip to Helena, Kasich accused Obamacare expansion foes of “turning down your money back to Montana on an ideological basis when people can lose their lives.” “It’s about bringing our tax dollars home,” Democrat Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said, borrowing a line from Kasich when an Obamacare expansion bill — sponsored by Republican State Sen. Ed Buttrey — was introduced in March. Bullock signed Buttrey’s Obamacare expansion bill last week, after Montana’s House and Senate approved it. For two years before Kasich’s visit, Republican majorities in both houses of the Montana State Legislature kept Bullock from implementing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. An attack on the expansion’s critics from Kasich, a Republican, helped change that….”

Florida governor plans DC trip to settle ObamaCare funding fight

“Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday he is headed to Washington, D.C., to make another plea for the federal grant money that he believes his state was denied because he chose not to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare. Scott plans to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell on Wednesday to press his case for the $1 billion in federal funding to support Florida hospitals that remain at stake. “We hope HHS will reconsider LIP funding in Florida,” he wrote in a statement. “It’s critical for us to get that information immediately so the Legislature can construct a budget that best meets the needs of low income families during a special session.” The governor will be paying a visit to the Obama administration one week after filing a lawsuit claiming the government’s funding denial was an effort to “coerce” Florida into expanding Medicaid. The governors of Texas and Kansas — also Republicans — filed amicus briefs in the case late Monday…”

Chautauqua Center receives $700,000 through Affordable Care Act

“The Chautauqua Center is one of six health centers in New York to receive new Affordable Care Act funding from the federal Health and Human Services Department. The center, at 319 Central Ave., will receive more than $700,000 to improve delivery of comprehensive primary health care services. It is estimated the new health centers in New York will increase services for nearly 50,233 patients. The funding is part of $101 million awarded nationally to 164 new health center sites in 33 states and two U.S. Territories. The health centers also help New Yorkers sign up for health insurance. Since 2013, health centers assisted more than 273,910 New Yorkers become insured…”


Agency gets $2.2 million for unaccompanied child immigrants

“The federal government is awarding $2.2 million to Lutheran Social Services of Michigan for programs to help immigrant children who are in the U.S. without their parents. Democratic. U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield announced the grant Tuesday. She says the money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will provide housing for “unaccompanied immigrant children.” Lawrence says that the Detroit-based agency is Michigan’s largest refugee resettlement agency and says it supports thousands of families from dozens of countries. Its programs include translation, legal representation, school programs and general child services…”

Trade pact foes: Deal could cause flood of immigrants

GOP leaders and White House officials are working to douse the latest threat to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Opponents of giving the Obama administration broad authority to negotiate a trans-Pacific trade deal, including Republican senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, are pushing a new argument: It could trigger a flood of immigrants into the country.

Sessions’ argument – essentially, that the administration could use the authority to expand immigration – was dismissed as an “urban legend” by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, whose panel oversees trade. But with extremely close votes expected in both the House and possibly the Senate on whether to grant President Barack Obama increased powers in trade talks, leading Republicans and members of the administration are taking the threat seriously and working overtime to debunk it, knowing the potency of the immigration issue among Republican voters and elected officials…”

Little GOP appetite for immigration fight on homeland bill

Last year’s bid to undo Obama’s immigration actions deemed a failure, time to move on to other priorities.

“Hill Republicans have all but surrendered the fight against President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. A handful of GOP firebrands are still agitating to use Congress’ power of the purse to reverse Obama’s move to shield millions of immigrants here illegally from deportations. But top Republicans say they’re not about to go there again: They tried that earlier this year with the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill but were forced to capitulate on the eve of a department shutdown, having won no concessions on immigration. Better to let the issue play out in the courts, the GOP reasoning goes, especially since a judge has already halted the president’s November executive actions — at least for now.

“The avenue that we took last time was a losing battle, and we knew it was a losing battle going into it,” said Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), the man writing this year’s DHS funding bill. “There might be other things we can figure out. We’re putting our heads together on that — but it won’t be what we did last time because what we did last time won’t win.”…”

Dreamers demand White House hopefuls end deportations, halt arrests

“Any presidential candidate who wants to win Hispanic votes next year will need to pledge to take unilateral action to halt deportations, to break the links that allow local police to help enforce immigration laws and to stop prosecuting rank-and-file illegal immigrants at the border, a group of Dreamers said in a new policy paper Tuesday. The Dream Action Coalition — activist young adult illegal immigrants who are in the country under color of President Obama’s 2012 deportation amnesty — issued an open letter to the presidential candidates saying Congress is unlikely to break its gridlock, so they are looking to the next White House occupant to continue the unilateral path President Obama laid out. “While Congress is still re-learning to tie its shoes, the country needs an executive who will protect our families, that our broken immigration system, and equally broken Congress, have failed,” the coalition said. That means expanding Mr. Obama’s policies to include more illegal immigrants, and offering those who have already been approved for the tentative deportation amnesty a chance to join the U.S. military. Along with the open letter, the coalition issued a policy paper laying out changes in both interior and border enforcement. The Dreamers said agent brutality is a growing problem, comparing it to recent high-profile police shootings. And the activists said the government’s policies are too geared toward arresting, detaining and prosecuting rank-and-file illegal immigrants. The open letter came just hours before Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to speak on immigration in Las Vegas. Mrs. Clinton is expected to call for Congress to approve a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but the Dreamers insist she and other candidates must go further and vow to make use of presidential powers on their own…”

States Respond to US Appeal in Immigration Lawsuit

“States fighting President Barack Obama’s plan to spare millions of immigrants from deportation say they agree with a Texas judge who has temporarily blocked the president’s action. Texas is leading a coalition of states that filed a lawsuit opposing Obama’s move that could spare as many as 5 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally from deportation. In documents filed Monday with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the states reiterated their argument that Obama’s action would force local governments to invest more in law enforcement, health care and education. The appeals court is considering a request from the U.S. Department of Justice to reverse a Texas judge’s decision to put Obama’s plan on hold during the court fight. Oral arguments are scheduled for the week of July 6…”

Obama uses Cinco de Mayo to push immigration reform

“President Obama used a Cinco de Mayo party on Tuesday to plug comprehensive immigration reform even though the issue appears all but dead in this Congress. Lawmakers have expressed little interest in tackling immigration reform this year, but Obama said “we’re not just going to stop now” in attempting to fix the nation’s immigration laws. “Congress still needs to step up and ultimately pass comprehensive immigration reform,” he told a group of Hispanic leaders and activists assembled at the White House.  He said passing a bill is “the right thing to do.” The Senate approved a sweeping bill in 2013 that would have offered a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants while boosting border security. But the proposal never picked up traction in the House and Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) effort to convince Republicans to pass their own bill fell on deaf ears in 2014, a midterm election year.  Obama issued a series of executive actions last fall that would have provided deportation relief and work permits to millions of immigrants living in the U.S. legally, including parents of U.S. citizens. The orders also expanded eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that Obama set up in 2012.  The president’s newest programs, however, have been frozen by a lawsuit that is pending in federal court.  Obama said the actions he took were “within my legal authority to make our immigration system fairer, smarter and more just.” The president tried to give the crowd encouragement despite the obstacles that have dogged his immigration agenda. “Progress is not always a straight line. Sometimes we have to take this turn or that turn,” he said. “The good news is the American people are with us.”…”

Obama: Progress on immigration ‘not always a straight line’

“President Barack Obama says that when it comes to achieving a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws progress is ‘not always a straight line.’ He says that despite his executive actions on immigration, Congress still needs to pass legislation to make more permanent changes. Obama reflected Tuesday during a large Cinco de Mayo gathering at the White House on the obstacles that have impeded his efforts to allow immigrants illegally in the United States to stay under certain conditions. Obama took action in November that could spare up more than 4 million immigrants from deportation. The effort has been held up by federal court order. He said: “Sometimes you have to take this turn and that turn, go over this mountain and that valley.”..”

DOJ seeks long stay, putting child migrant rights on hold

“The Justice Department is asking a federal judge in Seattle to stay all further court action on the due process claims of child migrants while it appeals his decision last month to take up the question of whether juveniles have a right to counsel under the Constitution. Papers filed late last week spell out the government’s strategy. But immigrant rights attorneys said any such stay would be damaging to the children by needlessly prolonging the litigation for at least another year while more child migrants face the threat of deportation. At issue is an April 13 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly, who at the time denied Justice’s demands that he dismiss all elements of a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s decision last summer to rush thousands of children from Central America into deportation hearings without legal representation. While agreeing with Justice on some portions, Zilly said the right-to-counsel claim raised in the suit was too important to be put off. Since the suit is still pending, the government needs Zilly’s permission to appeal that piece up the ladder in the 9th Circuit. But it is Justice’s request for the stay pending that appeal which is more important at this stage going forward…”

Immigration battle moves to the military

“A battle is brewing in the Republican Party over whether illegal immigrants granted deferred deportation by President Obama should be eligible to serve in the military. Anti-immigration hard-liners and vulnerable Republicans who represent districts with large Hispanic populations are battling over provisions in the annual Defense authorization bill, which is set to come to the House floor next week. The fight underscores the GOP’s difficulty in wrestling with Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows qualified illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to obtain temporary work permits. GOP presidential candidates are split over the issue, with staunch conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) arguing it should be done away with. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) have criticized Obama’s executive actions but have also called for workers living in the U.S. illegally to be given a path to legal status. Obama’s 2012 actions have won some bipartisan support, while an expansion of the program announced after last year’s midterm elections has been more controversial. A federal appeals court is set to consider the legality of the 2014 actions. The defense bill is the latest unlikely battleground on immigration because of the House Armed Services Committee’s adoption of two Democratic amendments that edge toward allowing young illegal immigrants to serve in the military. One provision encourages the secretary of Defense to review allowing DACA recipients to serve in the armed forces; the other directs the Pentagon to evaluate how DACA recipients could expand the number of potential recruits and affect military readiness.  The first amendment, offered by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), attracted the votes of six Republicans, including vulnerable Reps. Mike Coffman (Colo.) and Martha McSally (Ariz.). It narrowly passed on a vote of 33-30. Seven Republicans crossed the aisle to support the second amendment, sponsored by Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas). It was approved in a 34-29 committee vote. Coffman, a Marine Corps combat veteran who will be a top Democratic target in the next election cycle, argued that so-called “Dreamers” who grew up in the U.S. and are part of the American workforce should be given a chance to enlist. “I will fight to make sure our effort to encourage military service among Dreamers remains part of the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act],” he said. “These kids grew up in this country, went to school here and often know of no other country. I want to give them the same opportunity I had to serve this country.” Immigration hard-liner Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) promised a “major fight” when the bill hits the floor next week. He suggested that anyone who supports the provisions is voting to “expand the president’s amnesty agenda.” “It is the wrong policy on the wrong bill at the worst time,” King said in a statement. “This will bring about a major fight among those of us who have given our oath to support and defend the Constitution and mean it, and those who simply gave their oath…”

Senate OKs bill allowing teacher license for more immigrants

“A bill that would make it easier for immigrants with temporary legal status to get a Nevada teaching license has passed the Senate. Senators voted 19-0 on Wednesday to approve AB27, which already passed the Assembly. It’s expected to arrive at the governor’s desk soon. The bill affects immigrants including those who have work permits through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA recipients or DREAMers. Existing law allows the state superintendent to give a teaching license to someone who is not a citizen but has a work permit only if there’s a teacher shortage for a subject the person can teach. The bill would allow those immigrants to get a teaching license if a district has a teacher shortage of any kind…”

Health care: Illegal immigrants would get Medi-Cal under California bill

“The backbreaking work in California’s chili pepper fields and cherry orchards wasn’t so noticeable when farmworker Antolin Gonzalez was young. But the 49-year-old south Santa Clara County farmworker now suffers from dizziness, allergies from dust and pesticides, swollen feet and throbbing backaches — even eyesight problems from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light. Like many of the state’s 2.5 million illegal immigrants, Gonzalez does not have health insurance because he can’t afford it. If he gets sick, he seeks treatment at a public health clinic. Anything more serious means a trip to the hospital emergency room…”

Judge: Dreamers can get in-state tuition in Arizona

“Young immigrants granted deferred deportation status by the Obama administration are eligible for in-state college tuition, a Maricopa County judge ruled Tuesday. The decision from Superior Court Judge Arthur Anderson comes in a lawsuit filed by former Attorney General Tom Horne against the Maricopa County Community College District. Horne contended that so-called “dreamers” offered deferred action status were not legally present in the U.S and could not get state benefits because of a 2006 voter-enacted law known as Proposition 300. But Anderson’s ruling said Proposition 300 doesn’t bar public benefits for immigrants lawfully in the U.S., and the federal government considers deferred action recipients lawfully present. Thus, they can get lower in-state tuition, he ruled. “Federal law, not state law, determines who is lawfully present in the U.S.,” Anderson wrote. “The state cannot establish subcategories of ‘lawful presence,’ picking and choosing when it will consider DACA recipients lawfully present and when it will not.” President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program in 2012 for young people who had been brought to the United States illegally as children. The community college district began offering lower in-state tuition to DACA recipients shortly after Obama’s action, and Horne challenged it in court. A spokeswoman for current Attorney General Mark Brnovich and a spokesman for the college district were working to get comment on the ruling…”

Missouri lawmakers OK limiting scholarships for immigrants

“A measure that would block immigrants who are illegally in the U.S. from receiving money under Missouri’s A+ scholarship program is headed to Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk. The Missouri House gave final approval Tuesday, 108-38, to the bill supporters say is meant to limit the number of people receiving scholarships in order to preserve them for Missouri residents. Democratic opponents and advocates for immigrants say it would cause financial hardship for hardworking students seeking to get a college education and contribute to society. Democratic Rep. Lauren Arthur, of Kansas City, says students brought to the U.S. as children should not be punished because legislators have created a funding problem for the scholarship program….”

GOP chair touts Hispanic outreach in Colorado

“The chairman of the Republican National Committee came to Denver on Tuesday to tout Colorado as a model for how his party is reaching out to Hispanics and winning increasingly Hispanic districts without fully embracing an immigration overhaul. Reince Priebus addressed a lunch of his party’s Hispanic Advisory Council at a Denver restaurant, saying the GOP has changed from a party that used to address Hispanics only for a couple of months in election years. “One of the things we said we were going to do differently as a national party is we weren’t going to pack up after November,” Priebus told the group. “We’ve had some success in Colorado. We’ve shown that just by being in the community we can make a difference.” Joining Priebus was Rep. Mike Coffman, who easily won re-election in his 20 percent Hispanic district in November. Once a supporter of more hard-line immigration measures, Coffman has shifted to the center and learned Spanish. He and his challenger — an Anglo Democrat who is fluent in Spanish — held a Spanish-language debate in October. After that debate, Coffman said, Hispanic wait-staff approached him at hotels and say he had won their vote. “They saw that out of respect for the community that I had made the effort to reach out,” Coffman said. But Coffman never embraced a sweeping immigration bill that would eventually provide citizenship to many of the 11 million in the country illegally, a key goal of Hispanic activists and an issue that a Republican National Committee report singled out as imperative to appealing to the growing Hispanic electorate. Democrats on Tuesday tried to remind voters of that. “This is the same Republican Party that opposes increasing the minimum wage, opposes equal pay for equal work, and has for years blocked bipartisan immigration reform from seeing the floor of the House of Representatives,” Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio said in a statement. “The problem isn’t their messaging or outreach efforts, it’s the Republican Party platform and the issues they advocate.” Priebus said Republicans agree on the need for a widespread change to the nation’s immigration laws, but “the question is: ‘What does immigration reform mean to you?’ ” That question, he said, will be hashed out in the party’s presidential primary….”

Hillary Clinton rejects Bill’s immigration crackdown, vows lenient approach

“Bill Clinton was the strictest president in modern political times when it comes to immigration, signing bills cracking down on both legal and illegal immigrants — but it’s unlikely that record will infect his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has promised a more lenient approach as she makes a push for Hispanic voters in her presidential bid. The former first lady and secretary of state already earns relatively high ratings from Hispanics and is moving quickly to head off problems, with her team reaching out to Latino leaders to take the temperature of the community. On Tuesday Mrs. Clinton will be in Las Vegas to talk immigration with young voters her campaign says are “personally affected” by the issue — a signal, coming this early in the campaign, that she is determined to capitalize on an issue that could produce tremendous payoff in a general election matchup. “Things have gotten much better for Hispanics when Democrats have been in power and much worse when Republicans have been in power. Shaking that is going to be very hard for the GOP,” said Simon Rosenberg, founder of NDN, a think tank that focuses on immigration and demographics. Mrs. Clinton starts in a position of strength, having won about two-thirds of Hispanic voters in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, where she built one of the most sophisticated Latino outreach operations in political history. Early polling in the 2016 contest also holds good news for Mrs. Clinton, who matches well against Republicans, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — arguably the best positioned within the GOP. According to an ABC/Washington Post polling, Mrs. Clinton tops Mr. Bush by nearly a 3-1 margin. Still, immigrant rights activists say there are plenty of questions Mrs. Clinton must answer as well. Advocates were furious last year, during the surge of children and families from Central America who jumped the border, when Mrs. Clinton said they should be “sent back.”…”

Clinton to urge ‘full and equal path to citizenship’ for undocumented immigrants

“Hillary Rodham Clinton will say Tuesday that any overhaul of the immigration system must include a way for undocumented immigrants to gain full citizenship. “The standard for a true solution is nothing less than a full and equal path to citizenship,” Clinton’s campaign said in a preview of remarks she is expected to give during a visit to a largely Hispanic high school here. “She will say that we cannot settle for proposals that provide hard-working people with merely a second-class status,” the campaign said. The position draws a sharp distinction with most likely Republican contenders and puts Clinton on the left side of her own party. Her campaign did not spell out how Clinton would get to the goal of a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States. Clinton’s reference to second-class status appears to be an effort to contrast herself most directly with former Florida governor Jeb Bush. The fluent Spanish speaker, whose wife is  Mexican-born, supports “earned legal status” for undocumented immigrants, although he has suggested he might support some citizenship options. Clinton has focused on immigration and citizenship issues early in her three-week-old campaign, and with a frequency unusual for past Democratic candidates. Hispanics have voted largely Democratic for years, but concern that Clinton could be vulnerable to Bush among Hispanics may be part of the reason for the emphasis. She is making Nevada, where about one in four residents is Hispanic, her third campaign stop after Iowa and New Hampshire. The May 5 date — Cinco de Mayo – is not a coincidence. Like Iowa and New Hampshire, Nevada holds one of the early presidential selection contests. The Nevada primary in 2016 will pose the first test of Clinton’s strength among Hispanic voters and her ability to re-create the winning Obama coalition of young people and minorities…”

Echoes of an Obama third term: Hillary to call for citizenship path for all illegals

“Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton will call for a full path to citizenship for illegal immigrants at an event Tuesday in Nevada, as she goes all-in on the issue in pursuit of Hispanic votes. Mrs. Clinton is expected to say in her remarks that a “true solution” to the country’s immigration problems would include “nothing less than a full and equal path to citizenship,” according to a campaign advisory provided to Reuters. She will stress during a stop at a Las Vegas high school that any proposal that stops short of opening a route to citizenship is “merely a ‘second-class’ status,” said the advisory…”

Hillary Clinton May Push Envelope on Immigration Reform

“She is the presumed favorite of Latino voters and, today in Las Vegas, Hillary Clinton is expected to double down on what is seen as a gateway issue for that voting bloc. A Clinton official has told ABC News she plans to focus on a path to citizenship as part of comprehensive immigration reform. At a campaign event today, her third since announcing she’s running for president, Clinton will make immigration reform a defining issue, according to a source — and on Cinco de Mayo, no less. Latino leaders consulting her campaign have told ABC News that Clinton is looking for a way to clearly contrast herself with Republican presidential candidates by embracing the full path to citizenship rather than proposing a second class of Americans who can work in the United States but not enjoy the protection of citizenship. “She will say that the standard for a true solution is nothing less than a full and equal path to citizenship,” the official said. “She will say that we cannot settle for proposals that provide hard-working people with merely a ‘second-class’ status.” Clinton will be speaking at Rancho High School in Las Vegas, where 70 percent of students are Hispanic. Last November, President Obama chose a Las Vegas high school to lay out his plans for immigration reform. Clinton is also expected to promise to extend the DREAMer program to undocumented parents of children born in the United States (as President Obama’s proposed DAPA program would do) and is being pushed to expand protections to parents of DREAMers. While Clinton has tweeted her support for President Obama’s expanded DACA And DAPA programs, activists want her to take it further. And while it’s expected she will outline her support for a comprehensive immigration reform plan, the question immigration groups want answered is whether, as president, she would support expanding presidential executive action if reform is held up in Congress….”

Hillary to call for “full and equal” path to citizenship for illegals today

“If she were anyone else, I’d assume it was just a coincidence that she’s rolling out her immigration platform on Cinco de Mayo. Hillary being Hillary, though, it’s got to be deliberate. It reeks of trying too hard to connect with people, just like her dopey “average Joe” van trip to Iowa. What better way to show Latinos she really cares than by waiting until a Mexican holiday to talk about amnesty? That … sort of makes sense, right? Kudos to CNN, incidentally, for reminding us that Hillary supported a “path to legalization” in 2008, the same position now adopted by every Republican presidential candidate but one which is far, far too moderate for the left following Obama’s landslide over Romney among Latinos three years ago. Just as she’s “evolved” on gay marriage and the need to “topple” the one percent, she’s now a true blue amnesty devotee. A number of Clinton’s campaign aides feel immigration will be a wedge issue in the 2016 general election and are encouraged by the fact that Clinton has performed better than most Democrats — including President Barack Obama in 2008 — with Hispanic voters. Clinton will say Tuesday “that we cannot settle for proposals that provide hard-working people with merely a second-class status,” the aide said, noting a subtle knock against Republican hopefuls — like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — who have backed legalization efforts but not full citizenship… “Whoever the Republican nominee is, they will have to go through the primary,” said one Clinton aide. “And at best, they will have to support second class status for immigrants in order to get through that primary, which is a position that will be untenable in a general election.” Yup, that’s the playbook. It’s also why any Republican effort to move left on immigration will earn them nothing politically unless they move as far left as the left itself. No one’s demanding “self-deportation” this time, so the new unacceptably harsh right-wing position that’ll be demagogued relentlessly next year by Democrats is … the Clinton 2008 prescription of legalization without citizenship. That’s Jim Crow for illegals, Hillary will say; without a route to becoming citizens, you’re consigning them perpetually to a labor class without full rights…”

Hillary flips for amnesty

Hillary Clinton backs path to citizenship in immigration overhaul

A Path to Citizenship, Clinton Says, ‘Is at Its Heart a Family Issue’


“She is the presumed favorite of the Latino vote and today in Las Vegas Hillary Clinton is expected to double down on this gateway issue for Hispanic voters, ABC’s JIM AVILA and SERENA MARSHALL note. A Clinton official tells ABC News she plans to focus on a path to citizenship as part of comprehensive immigration reform. Latino leaders consulting her campaign tell ABC News Clinton is looking for a way to clearly contrast herself from Republican candidates for president by embracing the full path to citizenship rather than proposing a second class of Americans who can work in the United States but not enjoy the protection of citizenship. Clinton is also expected to promise to extend the dreamer program to undocumented parents of children born in the United States. Latino groups will be listening today for a timetable for implementation of these changes. President Obama has been faulted with moving too slowly during his first term when he had a Democratic majority and failed to pass immigration reform. Latino groups also say they will listen for consistency in Hillary Clinton’s campaign, concerned that what happens in Vegas today on immigration doesn’t just stay in Vegas but is promised in Iowa and other primary states…”

Hillary Clinton vows to expand Obama amnesty to more illegals

“Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton vowed Tuesday that if elected, she would try to expand President Obama’s deportation amnesty to more illegal immigrants, saying this administration has left out a number of aliens who deserve to be granted legal status. Speaking in Las Vegas at a Cinco de Mayo meeting focused on immigration, Mrs. Clinton also called for granting attorneys to illegal immigrants facing the complex immigration system, and said she would like to re-examine detention to ensure more illegal immigrants are released as they await deportation. Mrs. Clinton delivered on just about every question from immigrant rights activists, who had been pressing her to reject Mr. Obama’s detention policies and go beyond his amnesty…”

Hillary Clinton: If Congress Refuses To Act on Immigration I’ll “Go Even Further”

Hillary Clinton Vows to Push Past Obama on Immigration

Clinton speaks forcefully for path to citizenship for illegal immigrants

Hillary Goes Aggressive On Immigration, Floats Idea Of Executive Amnesty

Clinton takes on Nevada as controversial book debuts

“As Clinton tries to frame her campaign around issues like immigration reform, her message has been muddled by a series of distractions, including “Clinton Cash” which officially hits bookshelves Tuesday. The book questions the Clinton family’s finances and the donations their foundation has received. Julianna Goldman reports on how the Clintons are trying to break through the noise…”


Our economic ‘slow-rolling crisis’

Obama policies have cost families thousands and the nation trillions

“Are the alarm bells finally clanging at the White House and in Congress? They should be. This week’s pitiful economic growth scorecard of 0.2 percent economic growth for the first quarter of this year means the Obama slow-growth machine grinds onward. It’s the slowest recovery in a half-century. The “Summer of Recovery” Joe Biden promised back in 2009 still hasn’t arrived — six years later. This is a national crisis, not any less significant than the burning of Baltimore last week. Actually, the two may be tied together. Economist Arthur Laffer shows that racial rioting in big cities is negatively associated with an economic growth rate. In the late 1960s and 1970s, cities become war zones, but the rioting almost entirely disappeared in the high-flying 1980s and 1990s, when incomes were rising and job growth surged. Under President Obama’s slow-growth economy, urban unrest is bubbling over. The attached figure compares the growth rate for this recovery versus those over the past 50 years. We are $1.6 trillion lower on current gross domestic product than we should be. Even more amazing: With a Reagan-style recovery, we’d have $2.5 trillion more output and income today. On average, every family in America would have $20,000 more annual income. That’s the crisis that has Americans feeling so angry. It is, to borrow a phrase from Mr. Obama about the Baltimore riots, “a slow-rolling crisis.” He could have meant the economy. One finding in this latest GDP report is especially worrisome. Business “nonresidential fixed investment” — which is spending by companies on plant, equipment, facilities and technology fell by 3.4 percent. Spending on structures fell by an astounding 23 percent. This business spending statistic is a fairly good leading indicator of where the economy is headed. Business investment in this recovery has been slow, and that may be a result of the business bashing that goes on in Washington month after month. The Obama tax increases on capital gains and dividends — which are direct taxes on the returns from business investment — haven’t helped, either. When we get bad news like this, there’s always some excuse from the White House. The weather. The labor strike at the ports this winter. Ebola. The euro-crisis. George W. Bush. Maybe next they can blame Herbert Hoover. Some economists on the left such as Paul Krugman of The New York Times are blaming fiscal and monetary “austerity” in America and Europe. Austerity? The U.S. government has borrowed $7 trillion in six years. The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has expanded by $3.5 trillion. This is austerity?…”

Poll: Views on economy, ISIS more negative

“Americans continue to say the economy and jobs are the most important problem facing the country. But after three months of positive assessments of the economy, more Americans now say the economy is bad (53 percent ) than say it is good (45 percent ). While these views are more negative than the last few months, they are similar to views of a year ago….”

IRS wasted $5.6B on bogus Obama stimulus tax credits: Audit

“The IRS doled out more than $5 billion in potentially bogus college aid payments under an Obama stimulus tax credit in 2012, according to a new report Tuesday from the agency’s inspector general that said the administration still doesn’t have a good handle on how to root out erroneous claims. More than 3.8 million students received more than $5.6 billion in questionable tax credits, the audit found — more than half of those never filed their tuition statement, while others were paid tax credits even though the schools they attended weren’t acceptable institutions. Still other students claimed the credit for more than four years…”

Report: IRS issues $5.6 billion in bogus education credits

“The IRS issued $5.6 billion in potentially bogus education tax credits in a single year — more than a quarter of all education credits claimed by taxpayers, a government watchdog said Tuesday. A new report by the agency’s inspector general says the credits were issued to more than 3.6 million taxpayers in 2012. Most of the credits went to students even though the IRS never received a tuition statement from the school. Some students attended schools that weren’t eligible for federal funding while others didn’t take enough classes to qualify for the tax break. “The IRS still does not have effective processes to identify erroneous claims for education credits,” said J. Russell George, Treasury inspector general for tax administration. George said the IRS has taken some steps to better police the credits, but has not addressed all the deficiencies that George’s office identified in a 2011 report. In that report, the inspector general said the IRS issued $3.2 billion in potentially bogus education tax credits in 2010. “As a result, taxpayers continue to receive billions of dollars in potentially erroneous education credits,” George said. The IRS said stepped up enforcement was largely responsible for a steep drop in credits issued in 2012. The amount of education credits issued dropped from $23.6 billion in 2011 to $19.1 billion in 2012. The IRS said Congress could help by simplifying the education tax credits and by giving the IRS more tools to validate student eligibility. Congress could also help by restoring budget cuts, the agency said. “Since 2010, the IRS budget has been reduced by nearly $1.2 billion and we expect to have 16,000 fewer employees by the end of this fiscal year,” said the IRS statement. “We simply do not have enough resources to audit every questionable credit.”…”

Watchdog: IRS wrongly gives billions in education credits

“The IRS is wasting billions of dollars a year by giving tax breaks for education to students who are ineligible or haven’t filed the correct paperwork, a federal watchdog said Tuesday. Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration said that the IRS might have wrongly handed more than $5.6 billion in education incentives in 2012, to some 3.6 million taxpayers. What’s worse, the inspector general said, is that the watchdog had previously warned that billions of dollars on education credits were being mishandled, and the IRS still didn’t have a good system in place. “The IRS still does not have effective processes to identify erroneous claims for education credits,” Russell George, the tax administration inspector general, said in a statement. …”

Senate slated to vote on GOP budget compromise

“The Senate moved ahead Tuesday on a compromise Republican budget that calls for future cuts in spending while immediately boosting Pentagon accounts by an additional $38 billion. The House approved the non-binding blueprint last week, and a final Senate vote on Tuesday afternoon would complete action. First, the chamber voted 53-44 to move forward with the House-Senate compromise. The measure sets a potential path for a balanced budget within a decade, cuts to domestic programs, and the repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. Republicans and many economist say balancing the budget helps the economy in the long run and that it’s better to tackle the long-term financial problems of programs like Medicare and Medicaid sooner rather than later. They also promise to relieve the burden of debt that’s being passed on to future generations. “That’s really unconscionable, to keep spending money and then send the bill to our kids and grandkids and say, ‘You pay it. We had a good time. Good luck,’” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. The budget plan does not go to Obama, who has promised to veto follow-up spending bills that he says will shortchange domestic programs like student aid, highway construction, and scientific research. The measure pleases the GOP faithful by setting up a debate this summer that would permit Republicans to finally pass legislation to repeal Obama’s health care law. That’s because Senate Democrats would be unable to filibuster the repeal bill under fast-track budget rules, though Obama is certain to veto it. But Republicans have no plans to follow up the budget plan’s call for more than $5 trillion in spending cuts with binding legislation that would, for instance, curb Medicare payments to providers, tighten eligibility rules for food stamps, or dump poor and disabled people off of the traditional Medicaid program. Democrats blasted the measure for getting the bulk of its savings from cuts to programs that help the poor and middle class while leaving defending tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, including a proposal to eliminate taxes on multi-million-dollar inheritances. “This is an absolute disaster for the working families of this country,” said liberal Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination. “In fact, one of the problems that I have had in describing the Republican budget is that it is so bad … that people don’t even really believe you when you talk about what is in this budget.”…”

Senate clears way for final passage of Congress’ first budget plan in 6 years

“Congress‘ unified budget cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate Tuesday, setting the stage for final passage of the GOP-authored blueprint later in the day. House members approved the budget days ago, and the upper chamber voted 53-44 to proceed to debate on the resolution. The vote split largely along party lines, although Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican who is running for president, reissued his displeasure with the plan by voting “no.” Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine voted to move the plan forward but will vote against final passage, while Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican and presidential candidate, was absent. Under the GOP plan, spending would be cut by $5 trillion over 10 years, erasing the annual deficit by the end of that period, without raising taxes — though it does make use of some money-shifting that Democrats decried as gimmicks. The budget also instructs Congress to use a fast-track tool, known as “reconciliation,” to try to repeal Obamacare. The last time Congress wrote a full budget was 2009, when Democrats controlled both chambers and President Obama was in his first year in office. Now, with the GOP holding majorities in both chambers, Republican leaders said writing a budget was proof they can govern. “This is something many Americans have been waiting a long time to see,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “It’s something they deserve.” The budget is non-binding and doesn’t require the president’s signature. Yet it will determine how much Congress can spend in the 12 annual appropriations bills that fund the basic operations of government. The White House threatened to veto both appropriations bills already moving through the House, and congressional Democrats railed against the plan as a one-sided bid to put the wealthy over middle class Americans. “The Republican budget is unfair. It’s unbalanced, unwise and, as some said, it’s immoral,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. The GOP boosts defense spending by shifting $38 billion in new funding to an emergency war account, which means it won’t be cut by the automatic sequesters that are still in place from a 2011 spending deal. Democrats say any increase in defense spending should be coupled dollar-for-dollar with increases to domestic spending. The GOP’s budget plan will give Republicans another chance to try to repeal Obamacare through the “reconciliation” process. Under that procedure, committees can write bills that match budget goals, and those bills cannot be filibustered in the Senate. “Because this budget is about embracing the future, it also gives us the tools to leave Obamacare’s broken promises and higher costs where they belong — in the past — in favor of a fresh start, with the opportunity for real health reform,” Mr. McConnell said. Mr. Obama will be able to veto whatever the GOP does on Obamacare, and that veto is unlikely to be overridden….”

Senate adopts GOP budget targeting ObamaCare

“The Senate on Tuesday adopted a GOP budget that paves the way for an assault on President Barack Obama’s health care law this summer and a partisan showdown over spending bills this fall. The Senate passed the nonbinding measure by a nearly party-line 51-48 vote. The House adopted it last week. The measure sets a potential path for a balanced budget within a decade. It promises to cut domestic agencies and safety net programs like Medicaid and food stamps, carve up transportation spending and student aid, and curb tax breaks for the poor. Republicans don’t plan to adhere to most of its cuts in follow-up legislation, however. And in the near term the GOP plan promises a $38 billion, 7 percent increase for the Pentagon that is possible only by padding war accounts. Republicans and many economists say balancing the budget helps the economy in the long run and say it’s better to tackle the long-term financial problems of programs like Medicare and Medicaid sooner rather than later. They also promise to relieve the burden of debt that’s being passed on to future generations. “That’s really unconscionable, to keep spending money and then send the bill to our kids and grandkids and say: ‘You pay it. We had a good time. Good luck,'” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. The budget plan does not go to Obama, who has promised to veto follow-up spending bills that he says will shortchange domestic programs like student aid, highway construction and scientific research. The measure pleases the GOP faithful by setting up a debate this summer that would permit Republicans to finally pass legislation to repeal Obama’s health care law. That’s because Senate Democrats would be unable to filibuster the repeal bill under fast-track budget rules, though Obama is certain to veto it. But Republicans have no plans to follow up the budget document’s call for other spending cuts with binding legislation that would, for instance, curb Medicare payments to providers, tighten eligibility rules for food stamps, or dump poor and disabled people off the traditional Medicaid program….”

Senate Republicans pass budget plan, eye ‘Obamacare’ repeal

“The U.S. Senate on Tuesday narrowly passed a Republican budget plan that prescribes deep domestic spending cuts to eliminate deficits by 2024 and aids the party’s goal of trying to dismantle President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law. The first combined House-Senate budget in six years passed 51-48 with all Senate Democrats and two Republicans voting against it, presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Senator David Vitter, a Republican who is running for Louisiana governor this year, did not cast a vote. The non-binding resolution does not go to Obama’s desk to be signed into law. Instead, it helps guide Congress’ consideration of government agency spending bills and serves as a Republican fiscal policy manifesto that will influence 2016 election campaigns. The blueprint would slash spending on the social safety net, education, infrastructure and other domestic programs by $5.3 trillion over 10 years with no tax increases. At the same time, it boosts defense spending next year by adding about $38 billion to an off-budget war operations account. Senate Republicans hailed it as the first balanced budget plan since a 2001 surplus, hoping to score points among voters worried about mounting U.S. debt levels. “American families know they can’t live on borrowed money, and neither can the federal government,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi. “This balanced budget shows these families that if they can do it, so can we.”…”

Senate passes GOP budget plan that would calls for Obamacare repeal

“The Senate voted Tuesday evening to pass the Republican budget plan for 2016, finishing up a process that Republicans hope is the first step toward a balanced budget after ten years. The Senate passed the budget plan in a 51-48 vote, about a week after the House passed it 226-197. The Senate vote was largely along party lines, although two Republicans, 2016 presidential candidates Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voted against it. Conservative Republicans have said the budget doesn’t do nearly enough to trim spending — earlier in the day, for example, a Paul spokesperson said the plan relies on a “gimmick” to appear to achieve balance after 10 years. Democrats have spent several weeks railing about the plan, which they say would make deep cuts to social programs. It also repeals Obamacare, and includes instructions to several key congressional committees to write legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. The Obamacare language is set up in a way that lets these committees write privileged legislation that would likely be able to pass in the Senate without being filibustered by Democrats. That process, known as “reconciliation,” would still let President Barack Obama veto any repeal bill, but Republicans are interested in moving it through both houses of Congress and forcing Obama to wield his veto pen. Republicans have argued that Democrats have little basis for saying the budget plan “cuts” federal spending. According to the final estimates, federal spending would be $3.87 trillion in 2016, and would fall a bit in 2017, to $3.81 trillion. But after that, spending would steadily increase each to 2025, when spending would rise to just over $5 trillion…”

Senate passes budget agreement

“The Senate on Thursday approved a Republican budget agreement that would balance the federal government’s budget in nine years without raising taxes in a vote that Republican leadership called a demonstration of the party’s ability to govern. With the House having passed the agreement Thursday, both Chambers of Congress have now passed a spending blueprint for the first time since 2009. The Senate voted for the resolution 51-48, with all Democrats opposed. Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky voted against the budget. Both senators are seeking the Republican nomination for the 2016 presidential election. The fiscal 2016 budget resolution includes $5 trillion in planned spending reductions on health care and social insurance programs. By passing it through both chambers, Republicans will be able to follow a special procedure that will allow them to place a bill to repeal Obamacare on President Obama’s desk with only 51 votes in the Senate…”

Senate passes budget despite impasse on spending

McCain rules out immigration language in defense bill

“Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain on Tuesday shot down a proposal that would move toward allowing some illegal immigrants to serve in the military. The Arizona Republican, who is up for reelection in 2016, said there is no way he will accept provisions like those being pushed in the House related to President Obama’s deferred deportation program. “We’re not doing anything on immigration on the NDAA,” McCain told The Hill, referring to legislation that authorizes spending levels for the military. McCain’s opposition could be a death knell for two provisions in the House’s draft of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and could be a sign  he will tack to the right on immigration ahead of his reelection race. The senator, who was the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2008, was given reason to worry on Tuesday after the liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling found that only 21 percent of Arizonans approve of the job McCain is doing, while 71 percent disapprove…”

Republicans pass a budget, flexing power of majority

“Congressional Republicans scored a major legislative victory on Tuesday as the Senate adopted the first bicameral GOP budget agreement in a decade. The 51-48 vote capped weeks of work by Republican leaders in the House and Senate, who shepherded the blueprint through a messy debate over defense spending that at times threatened to split their conferences. The blueprint passed the House last week, and will not require a signature from President Obama. Passing a budget, which is always a heavy lift, was particularly important for Senate Republicans, who are seeking to demonstrate their ability to govern in a difficult 2016 election cycle — they are defending 24 seats. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had ripped Democrats for years over their failure to pass a budget, and said Tuesday’s vote shows his GOP majority is getting the Senate working again. “No budget will ever be perfect, but this is a budget that sensibly addresses the concerns of many different members. It reflects honest compromise from many different members with many different priorities,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor. Still, the budget vote split the Senate’s GOP presidential hopefuls, with Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Ky.) voting against the agreement and Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) voting in favor. Democrats, who voted in unison against the budget in both chambers of Congress, said Republicans would come to regret calling for trillions of dollars in cuts to federal spending. “We know there’s only one bit of good news. Our colleagues, when they’re forced to actually put real numbers to these budget numbers in the appropriations process, won’t be able to do it. They won’t dare do it,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. The non-binding resolution approved Tuesday sets the top-line numbers that appropriators will use to craft 12 bills funding the government in fiscal 2016. The plan calls for balancing the budget in 10 years by cutting more than $5 trillion from spending…”

Tea Party starts to circle Export-Import Bank

“Tea Party groups are increasing pressure on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) not to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, whose charter expires June 30 unless Congress acts. “It would be very disheartening to our members if the largest Republican majority since 1929 was unable to end an outdated New Deal program,” Freedom Partners President Marc Short wrote in a Tuesday letter to Boehner. Freedom Partners and other Tea Party groups like Heritage Action have made the bank’s reauthorization — once a largely nonpartisan issue — into a decisive political wedge issue for Republicans. Tea Partyers and prominent Republicans such as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) argue that the bank is a form of corporate welfare for big businesses. Business community support, however, has emboldened other Republicans, such as Sens. Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and most Democrats in rallying behind support to reauthorize the bank. They say it helps sustain U.S. jobs while financing American businesses overseas that are looking to make inroads in emerging markets…”

Senate barreling toward surveillance standoff

“The Senate isn’t getting any closer to reforming the nation’s spying laws or reauthorizing expiring portions of the Patriot Act with fewer than three legislative weeks left for lawmakers to do so. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would not pledge to take up legislation called the USA Freedom Act, which is expected to gain broad support in the House next week. “We’re going to try to do something to avoid expiration at the end of the month,” he told reporters. “Exactly how that plays out will be determined in part by how much time is left to achieve [a deal].” Instead, McConnell indicated that the starting point for his chamber would be legislation he and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) introduced to make a “clean” extension of the existing law for five years, which he would open up for amendments. “I think, most likely, the outcome is some kind of an extension,” he said. “Chairman Burr and I consulted and we agreed that the underlying bill would be a simple extension but it would be open for amendment, whenever we are able to fully turn to it.”

The recovery is stalling out again. Is the economy actually in … a recession?

“The U.S. economy barely grew at the start of the year, and it’s barely growing any more than that now. It’s bad enough that it’s not completely crazy to wonder whether we’ve somehow slipped back into a mini-recession. It’s only mostly crazy. And even then, it depends on what you mean by “recession.” If you’re talking about the usual rule-of-thumb of two consecutive quarters of negative growth, then, yes, there’s probably a 5 percent chance that we’ve fallen into one. But if you mean an economic decline that actually makes unemployment go up, then, no, we don’t have to worry about the r-word. We just have to worry about a new normal of slow growth that might dip into negative territory every now and then even during the good times. In other words, about turning Japanese. Now, once again, the economy has fallen into a funk that only evokes words like “stall speed” or “anemic” or “disappointing.” The extreme winter weather helped pushed growth down to 0.2 percent in the first quarter, and the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow model only thinks it’s up to 0.9 percent now. That’s even worse than last year, when another polar vortex-induced slump at least gave way to a strong bounce back thereafter. Why is this time different? After all, interest rates are still zero, austerity is still over, and unemployment is still falling. Well, the problem, as Greg Ip points out, is that just talking about tightening is tightening, because people will react as if you already did. So when the Federal Reserve said that it’d like to start raising rates in June, even if weak data is ultimately going to make it wait longer than that, the economy started slowing down. It didn’t help that the rest of the world was cutting interest rates just as we were talking about raising them, which sent the dollar on a historic rally—making our goods less competitive both at home and abroad. Add in the fact that lower oil prices seem to be hurting business investment in new rigs more than it’s helping consumer spending on, say, restaurants, and you’ve got everything you need for a slowdown…”

Reid Threatens to Short-Circuit Trade Bill (Video)

“Does Minority Leader Harry Reid have the votes to throw a monkey wrench into President Barack Obama’s trade agenda? The Nevada Democrat indicated as much to the Huffington Post in an interview published late Monday, though he was not as explicit about his intentions Tuesday morning on the floor of the chamber. “McConnell said he wanted to move to trade in the next two or three weeks, and I’m going to — maybe he can, but I don’t think he’s going to have an easy time doing it, because I will not let him do that. We’re not going to lay over, as I said, until we have some way to move forward on FISA and the surface transportation bill,” Reid said in the Huffington Post interview. “He has some decisions to make and he’s going to have to work around me and the caucus.” The push for a restoration of Trade Promotion Authority puts Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other Senate Republicans squarely on Obama’s side, with Reid providing the most powerful voice of opposition…”

Reid throws brakes on Obama trade push

“Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid is jamming up President Obama’s push for a new comprehensive trade deal, saying he’ll try to block it until the Senate tackles other hot-button issues.  The threat comes just one week after visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe touted the proposed deal in an address to Congress. Both he and Obama are advocating for the 12-nation agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would open markets around the Pacific rim to U.S. exports.  Before completing the deal, however, Obama must win expanded negotiating authority from the U.S. Congress, a difficult task given opposition from liberals and labor unions who say they fear the loss of American jobs. Illustrating this challenge, Reid told The Huffington Post he now wants the Senate to put the trade bid on hold, until the chamber first deals with an infrastructure bill and proposed surveillance reforms. “We have two very complicated issues that I think should have strong consideration before we even deal with trade,” Reid said in the interview. He reportedly said he’s spoken with Democratic colleagues about banding together to ensure those two bills are addressed before moving forward on trade. “I’m not willing to lay over and play dead on trade until we have some commitment from them on surface transportation,” he told The Huffington Post. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, responding to Reid on Tuesday, questioned the notion that the Senate could not tackle all those issues at once. “We’re setting the bar awfully low if we think the Senate can only do one thing over the next month,” Earnest said, while citing the measure’s “strong bipartisan support.” It was no secret that Reid is opposed to Obama’s push for so-called “fast track” authority to get streamlined approval of the trade deal. Reid recently told reporters he’s not just a “no” on that issue, but a “hell no.” But the Nevada senator’s latest comments indicate he’s willing to go a step further, and actively hold up the legislative push — going head-to-head with a big Obama priority…”

Whip List: Dems bucking Obama on trade

“Democrats are bucking President Obama on a trade bill, with 45 House members of his party already lined up against a measure that would speed global agreements through Congress, according to The Hill’s Whip List. In the Senate, 13 Democrats have also said they won’t back trade promotion authority (TPA), also known as fast-track, calling into question White House’s efforts to push for broad trade deals from Latin America to Asia and Europe. That opposition could grow in the House, as trade critics launch a full-court press. Twenty-one Democrats, many of whom previously signaled support, are still holding back on the fast-track bill. While the bill looks to have decent prospects in the Senate — seven Democrats supported the measure in the Senate Finance Committee, likely enough to overcome any procedural hurdles on the floor — the House will probably decide the issue on a very thin margin. So far, eight House Democrats have expressed support, including Reps. Gerry Connolly (Va.), Gregory Meeks (N.Y.) and Mike Quigley (Ill.), all members of the New Democrat Coalition who are stepping up their efforts to get their own party on board…”

Capitol Hill Buzz: Reid sounds resigned on trade fast track

“The Senate’s top Democrat fiercely opposes expanded trade deals, but he signaled Tuesday he won’t stand on the railroad tracks to block them. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada reminded reporters in the Capitol that he consistently has opposed President Barack Obama’s bid for “fast track” authority on trade negotiations. Under fast track — which, in a partisan twist, congressional Republicans generally support, and Democrats generally oppose — presidents can submit trade deals that Congress can endorse or kill, but not amend. The House and Senate plan to vote on fast track legislation this year. Many labor unions and liberal groups hope to defeat it, saying expanded trade deals hurt U.S. jobs. They’d love to see Congress’ Democratic leaders — Reid in the Senate, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in the House — leading the opposition. But neither has flatly rejected the fast track legislation, and Reid sounded a bit resigned Tuesday. “I’m leaving this to my colleagues to parse out what’s good and bad in the bill,” he said. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he hopes to take up the fast track legislation soon. If it passes, Obama is likely to ask Congress to approve a long-negotiated trade agreement with 11 other Pacific-rim nations. Other free-trade deals could follow. Reid said the Senate should handle several non-trade issues before taking up fast track. The White House gently rejected that idea…”

WH takes on Reid over trade

“The White House is criticizing Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid for his promise to block a vote on fast-track trade authority for President Obama. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Senate should be able to move on fast-track quickly, taking issue with the Nevada senator’s call for the chamber to take up other issues first. “We are setting the bar awfully low” if the Senate cannot handle multiple issues at once,” Earnest said. “We should be able to expect the United States Senate to do more than one thing over the next month.” Reid has long opposed fast-track, which would prevent Congress from amending trade deals negotiated by the Obama administration and make those agreements much easier to complete…”

Boehner needs to ‘do his job’ and pass trade authority: White House

“The Obama administration said Tuesday it is the responsibility of House Speaker John Boehner to push trade promotion authority through his chamber, rejecting the notion that President Obama needs other high-profile Democrats such as Hillary Clinton to help nudge the legislation across the finish line. Mr. Boehner on Sunday said Mrs. Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, must come out in favor of trade promotion authority to help get skeptical Democrats on board. The White House shot back that it is up to Mr. Boehner, not Mrs. Clinton, to finish the job. “It is the responsibility of the speaker of the House to do his job and pull together the votes he needs to advance his agenda,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. Mr. Obama is pressing Congress to grant him the authority to negotiate trade deals and then submit them to Congress for an up-or-down vote, rather than allow lawmakers to alter the agreements. Such authority would allow Mr. Obama to pursue the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal with nearly a dozen Pacific Rim nations. Mrs. Clinton largely has remanded mum on the trade debate. Mr. Boehner argues her stamp of approval may be enough to sway some Democrats who currently oppose trade authority. “Hillary Clinton was for trade promotion authority. Hillary Clinton is for the trade bill with the Asians. She just won’t say so. The fact is the president needs her help to get Democratic votes in the House and Senate to get this passed,” Mr. Boehner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program on Sunday. “She can’t sit on the sidelines and let the president swing in the wind here.” Mr. Boehner’s office also hinted that Mrs. Clinton could do a better job of persuading Democrats. “This White House has failed to convince a single Democrat leader in Congress to stand with the president on trade. If Hillary Clinton can do a better job of helping get Democrats to join with Republicans to pass pro-growth trade agreements, the president ought to get her on the phone right now,” said Cory Fritz, spokesman for the speaker…”

McConnell praises Obama, for a change

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered rare words of praise for President Obama Tuesday by complimenting his commitment to free trade despite the opposition of many Democrats. It was a surprising burst of warmth in an icy relationship, something McConnell jokingly acknowledged to reporters. “At the risk of having some of you literally faint, I want to compliment the president for the way he’s handling the trade issue,” he said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “I thought what he did last year in speaking the truth to his base was welcome and shows that he is intent on working with us to get both the Trade Promotion Authority in place and to subsequently approve, hopefully, [the] Trans-Pacific Partnership deal,” he added. McConnell said working closely with the White House on trade legislation has “been almost an out-of-body experience.” “We’re working to get together to try to get it across the finish line,” he said. The relationship between McConnell and Obama has been fraught with tension since Obama became president more than six years ago. McConnell famously said in 2010 “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Obama joked at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in 2013 that he couldn’t imagine having a drink with the GOP leader. “Some folks still don’t think I spend enough time with Congress, ” he cracked. “ ‘Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?’ they ask. “Really? Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?”…”

Republicans Try To Make Gitmo Closure Impossible, Obama Threatens To Kill Defense Budget

“The Obama administration has a history of threatening to veto bills which stand to prevent Guantanamo Bay’s closure. This time around, he may make good on his word by killing the defense budget bill. Obama is far more serious about legislation blocking attempts to shut down the prison facility because of the coming administration change following the election in 2016. Over several years, heavy-handed rhetoric from the White House against defense budget bills sneaking in language to keep Gitmo full of prisoners was part and parcel of the yearly process, resulting in various concessions from Republicans. However, the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC) markup of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) may actually incur Obama’s veto, in an attempt to force Republicans to back down on Gitmo, Defense One reports. “This Administration has repeatedly objected to statutory restrictions that impede our ability to responsibly close the detention facility and pursue appropriate options for the remaining detainees,” White House spokeswoman Jen Friedman said in a statement to Defense One….”

McConnell: ‘We clearly have to do an extension on highways’

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that Congress will likely to have to pass a short-term extension of federal transportation funding to prevent an interruption in spending on the nation’s roads and transit systems.  McConnell included passing an extension of the transportation funding measure that is currently scheduled to expire on May 31 on a list of “must-do items before Memorial Day,” “We clearly have to do an extensions on highways and FISA before we leave for Memorial Day. So that’s the agenda that lies ahead for us,” he said after ticking of a list of legislative priorities that included bills dealing with a proposal nuclear deal with Iran and a controversial trade agreement. Transportation advocates have pushed for a long-term extension of the funding, but lawmakers have indicated that it is increasingly likely that they will only be able to pass a temporary extension. “As many of you here know, at the end of this month, authorization for surface transportation programs will expire. A short-term extension is highly likely,” Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) said during Senate hearing on Tuesday that was dedicated to the looming deadline…”

Labor inches forward with overtime regs

“The Obama administration is a step closer to issuing new overtime protections for millions of employees who previously didn’t qualify. The Department of Labor, which is looking to expand the number of workers who qualify for overtime pay, has sent the proposal to the White House for review. “President Obama believes that if you work hard, you should be rewarded for your effort,” Labor Secretary Tom Perez said Tuesday. “That if you’re playing by the rules and taking responsibility, you should be able to provide for yourself and your family.” President Obama last year ordered the Labor Department to update the nation’s overtime rules. They were originally scheduled to be unveiled three months ago, but the agency is running behind schedule. This is the next step in the process. The White House’s Office of Management Budget conducts a formal review before federal agencies proceed with major rulemakings. The White House has three months to review the rules and work with the agency to suggest changes. Once the White House approves, the overtime regulations will be proposed in the Federal Register and available for public comment. At issue is which workers qualify for overtime pay. Salaried workers who are eligible for overtime get paid time and a half when they work more than 40 hours in a week under the Fair Labor Standards Act. But many don’t qualify, under current regulations.  Most employees who make more than $455 a week, or $23,660 a year, are not eligible for overtime pay under the current regulations.  “The rules governing who is eligible for overtime have eroded over the years,” Perez said. “As a result, millions of salaried workers have been left without the guarantee of time and a half pay for the extra hours they spend on the job and away from their families.” The overtime threshold has not been updated to match with inflation in more than a decade, and the Obama administration is looking to raise it so more workers qualify. The question is how high will the Obama administration raise the threshold. Lawmakers have suggested raising it anywhere from $42,000 to $54,000.  The DOL’s proposal will not be available to the public until the White House completes the review…”

Dems bet 2016 on $12 minimum wage

“Democrats are doubling down on their push for a national minimum wage hike ahead of the 2016 presidential election, as they look to make a campaign issue of an effort that met a stinging legislative defeat last year. Party leaders are rallying behind new legislation that would raise the wage to $12 an hour, well beyond the $10.10 effort that failed to pass when Democrats controlled the Senate. While the new bill has little chance to clear the GOP-dominated Congress, Democrats see the issue as a political winner for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — who have announced White House bids — as well as for potential presidential candidates.

Polls show bipartisan support for raising the minimum wage, which has stood at $7.25 an hour since 2009. “I want to hear what the Republican presidential candidates have to say about this as well,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said upon introducing the legislation last week…”


“The Obama administration is offering up to $3.3 million in taxpayer-funded grants to increase the use of food stamps at farmers markets. Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon says the availability of the competitive grants — ranging from $15,000 – $250,000 — to promote Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamp services and use at farmers markets. “We have seen an unprecedented growth in the number of farmers markets accepting SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards in the past six years,” Concannon said in a statement. “These awards support the markets that may need administrative help in implementing and managing EBT service and informing customers that they can use their SNAP benefits at farmers markets,” he added. The grants are part of an ongoing effort by USDA to increase SNAP participants’ access to fresh, healthy food. According to USDA, there are now more than 6,200 farmers markets and direct marketing farmers that accept SNAP, a number the USDA notes is eight times the level it was at the beginning of the Obama administration. Last fiscal year SNAP participants spent some $18.7 million in food stamps at farmers markets, 13 percent more than in 2013…”

Millennials Are Driving The Sharing Economy — And So Is Big Data




The Soccer Mom Revolt Against Common Core

The opt-out movement against taking the tests is growing, and so is the Obama administration’s ire.

“The term “soccer mom”—political shorthand for the upscale suburban women President Clinton courted so successfully in the 1990s—may have fallen out of use with the Beltway set in more recent years, but this swing voting bloc is still around. Just ask Arne Duncan.”


IRS Is Sued For Investigating Churches

“Church and state are supposed to be separate, so how come the IRS gets to decide what is religious and what is not? And why is the IRS investigating churches and other religious organizations? Is the IRS threatening churches on behalf of anti-religious crusaders? To get some answers, Judicial Watch has sued on behalf of the Alliance Defending Freedom for the release of documents regarding the IRS decision to reevaluate criteria for determining whether churches and other nonprofits can claim tax-exempt status. See Alliance Defending Freedom v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:15-cv-00525))….”


The GOP’s issue advantage

“Democrats received some good news in the form of an ABC News/Washington Post poll in late March that showed the president’s party enjoyed a significant advantage over Republicans on the major issues facing the country. From handling the economy, to health care, to immigration matters, to energy policy, to even the tax code; the public said that they placed more trust in Democrats to manage America’s affairs. Only on the issue of the federal budget deficit did Republicans outperform their Democratic colleagues, and few would contend that many voters plan to head to the polls in November of 2016 solely to register their dissatisfaction with the federal government’s profligacy. But there are happy signs that Republicans are not nearly as out of step with the public as this poll would lead its readers to believe. On Tuesday, the political press resumed a familiar, circular pattern of self-reinforcing like think after it was revealed that Hillary Clinton will call for a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s illegal immigrant population. This, many contended, would split the Republican field and hinder the GOP’s ability to augment its candidates’ appeal to Latino voters. But there is reason to think that Clinton’s proposal is not the majoritarian policy prescription the costal media would like to believe…”

Coal-state officials blast Obama climate change plan

“The Obama administration’s far-reaching plan to address climate change would cause job losses and lead to higher electricity prices and even power outages, attorneys general from two energy-producing states said Tuesday.  West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt told a Senate panel that the administration’s plan to cut heat-trapping pollutants from coal-fired power plants would cause existing plants to retire early and prevent new ones from being completed.  “Make no mistake about it: finalizing this proposal would have a devastating impact on my state, other coal-producing states and citizens from across the country who will feel the impact of high electricity prices and reduced reliability of the power grid,” Morrisey told a clean air subcommittee of the Senate Environment Committee. Pruitt called the plan an attempt by President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency to “expand federal bureaucrats’ authority” over the way states produce energy. EPA is attempting to “force states into shuttering coal-fired power plants” in an effort to drive the nation away from fossil fuels and other traditional sources of energy, Pruitt said. Oklahoma and West Virginia are among 15 coal-reliant states that are suing the EPA to block the so-called “Clean Power Plan,” which would require states to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The EPA rule is a centerpiece of Obama’s efforts to reduce the pollution linked to global warming. Power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S., accounting for about a third of the annual emissions that make the U.S. the second-largest contributor to global warming on the planet. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and other administration officials say the plan gives states flexibility to meet broad goals set by the government. “Each state is different, so each goal and each path can be different,” McCarthy said when the plan was proposed last year. But Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said EPA is “dictating to states” and “micromanaging” their energy-policy decisions. “At risk is the ability that states have always had to make decisions about their electricity generation,” she said. Capito, who chaired Tuesday’s subcommittee meeting, said West Virginia has “chosen to rely on coal to provide affordable and reliable electricity” and has one of the lowest electricity rates in the nation….”

States preview arguments against Obama’s climate rule

“Two state attorneys general gave a preview Tuesday of their legal arguments against the Obama administration’s climate rule for power plants on Tuesday. Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia told a Senate panel that Obama’s plan is based on conflicting statutes within the Clean Air Act and promised his state would pursue further legal action after the Environmental Protection Agency approves the rules this summer.  Oklahoma’s Scott Pruitt said the plan is “nothing more than an attempt by the EPA to expand federal bureaucrats’ authority over states’ energy power generation mixes.” Last week, Oklahoma became the first state to announce it would decline to write a strategy to comply with the Clean Power Plan, which sets carbon emission reduction targets for states to meet. The federal government will write a plan for Oklahoma to use instead. The legal implications of the federal government setting emissions standards and writing reduction plans were front and center for the committee. Pruitt said the plan amounted to a “gun to the head” for states and improperly expanded the EPA’s role in emissions regulations. “Why is the EPA presently in the process of developing a uniform federal implementation plan, to put on the shelf to demonstrate to states: unless you act a particular way, unless you act consistent with the rule, this is what you’re going to get?” he said. “This does not sound like cooperation.” But Lisa Heinzerling, a former EPA lawyer and current Georgetown University law professor, defended the plan as a federalist approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “This plan sets out what states are to do, gives them the targets to meet, gives them the flexibility to choose the way they want to meet those targets,” she said. “In this respect, it’s surprising to me that states are already saying that they prefer the federal government set their plans.” Both West Virginia and Oklahoma have sued the EPA over the Clean Power Plan. Morrisey said the plan has no legs, legally, because it seeks to add a state layer of regulations onto emissions that are already regulated federally, something he said is banned by the Clean Air Act…”

Energy-producing states blast Obama climate change plan

“The Obama administration’s far-reaching plan to address climate change would cause job losses and lead to higher electricity prices and even power outages, attorneys general from two energy-producing states said Tuesday. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt told a Senate panel that the administration’s plan to cut heat-trapping pollutants from coal-fired power plants would cause existing plants to retire early and prevent new ones from being completed. “Make no mistake about it: finalizing this proposal would have a devastating impact on my state, other coal-producing states and citizens from across the country who will feel the impact of high electricity prices and reduced reliability of the power grid,” Morrisey told a clean air subcommittee of the Senate Environment Committee. Pruitt called the plan an attempt by President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency to “expand federal bureaucrats’ authority” over the way states produce energy. EPA is attempting to “force states into shuttering coal-fired power plants” in an effort to drive the nation away from fossil fuels and other traditional sources of energy, Pruitt said. Oklahoma and West Virginia are among 15 coal-reliant states that are suing the EPA to block the so-called “Clean Power Plan,” which would require states to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The EPA rule is a centerpiece of Obama’s efforts to reduce the pollution linked to global warming. Power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S., accounting for about a third of the annual emissions that make the U.S. the second-largest contributor to global warming on the planet. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and other administration officials say the plan gives states flexibility to meet broad goals set by the government. “Each state is different, so each goal and each path can be different,” McCarthy said when the plan was proposed last year. But Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said EPA is “dictating to states” and “micromanaging” their energy-policy decisions. “At risk is the ability that states have always had to make decisions about their electricity generation,” she said…”

White House: Prepare for climate change in infrastructure planning

“The Obama administration is convening local and state leaders and experts Tuesday to encourage infrastructure planning to incorporate climate change preparation. The administration is hoping that along with factors like population and economic growth, local and state governments can think of a changing climate when they build highways, bridges, transit and other projects. Jeffrey Zients and Christy Goldfuss, advisers to President Obama on economic and environmental policy respectively, explained the effort in a Tuesday blog post.

“It’s not just population and economic growth that will put pressure on U.S. infrastructure,” they wrote. “Climate change will also test the strength and endurance of the highways we drive on, the airports we fly out of, and the dams, reservoirs, canals and water facilities that provide water to our homes, businesses and farms.” The event fits in with a key strategy in Obama’s second-term climate change push: to show Americans how climate change will affect their everyday lives and their backyards, and to either help them cope with the effects or show them the great effort that is necessary to cope with rising sea levels, hotter weather and other changes that scientists are forecasting.”

Obama administration to regulate Christmas lights

“The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a regulation for Christmas lights on Monday, deeming some holiday decorations a “substantial product hazard.” “The Consumer Product Safety Commission … is issuing a final rule to specify that seasonal and decorative lighting products that do not contain any one of three readily observable characteristics (minimum wire size, sufficient strain relief, or overcurrent protection), as addressed in a voluntary standard, are deemed a substantial product hazard under the Consumer Product Safety Act (“CPSA”),” the final rule said. The ruling applies to a variety of Christmas decorations, including “stars, wreathes, candles without shades, light sculptures, blow-molded (plastic) figures, and animated figures.” However, “solar-powered products” are exempt. The CPSC said the regulation is necessary because Christmas lights can be dangerous….”

EPA sends ethanol proposals for final review

“The Obama administration is conducting the last step in its review of proposed annual ethanol blending mandates for three separate years. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent the proposal, which has not been revealed publicly, to the White House Office of Management and Budget, Reuters reported, citing industry sources. The proposal would cover ethanol and biodiesel blending requirements for fuel refiners for 2014, 2015 and 2016 under the renewable fuel standard. The EPA agreed in court last month to propose the levels for 2014 and 2015 by June and to release the final mandates by November. The 2014 level should have been out in November 2013, and the 2015 one a year later. White House review is the final step before the EPA can release the proposals publicly and gather comments from the public on them…”


“Over the weekend Federal Communications Commission (FCC) member Ajit Pai said he anticipates that, as a result of the passage of net neutrality regulations,  federal regulators will attempt to control political websites – such as the Drudge Report – through the FCC or Federal Elections Commission (FEC). As reported by CNS News, Pai, who is one of only two Republican members of the FCC, discussed his own ordeal of harassment as a result of his opposition to net neutrality during the annual “Right Online” conference in Washington, D.C. Saturday. As a panelist, Pai explained to attendees, “I can tell you it has not been an easy couple of months personally. My address has been publicly released. My wife’s name, my kids’ names, my kids’ birthdays, my phone number, all kinds of threats [have come] online.” The new net neutrality regulations, passed by the FCC at the end of February, will take effect on June 12 and will reclassify broadband Internet providers as public utilities. Initially, the new regulations will command broadband companies not to block online traffic, but Pai said he foresees the federal government controlling website content as well in the future. “I could easily see this migrating over to the direction of content… What you’re seeing now is an impulse not just to regulate the roads over which traffic goes, but the traffic itself,” he said…”

New regs for Wednesday: 911, telegraphs, taxes

Obama nominates Marine Commandant Dunford to lead Joint Chiefs

“President Obama on Tuesday nominated Marine Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  “I know Joe, I trust him,” Obama said, calling Dunford a “proven leader” who provides “unvarnished military advice.”  The selection comes at a vital time, with the U.S. military involved in a coalition striking Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, while also monitoring growing unrest in Yemen and winding down the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.  A combat-hardened commander, Dunford led the Afghanistan war coalition during a key transition in 2013-2014 and has served as an infantry officer at all levels.  The move cuts short Dunford’s service as the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, a job he began last October. But the rapid promotion is one of several that have marked Dunford’s fast-tracked military career, which saw him leap from a one-star brigadier general to four stars in about three years. Obama is tapping Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, a pilot and current head of U.S. Transportation Command, to be vice chairman. Dunford has been a leading contender for the chairman’s job, currently held by Gen. Martin Dempsey, for months, and his time in the commandant’s post was critical. Generally, to be considered for the chairman’s job an officer must serve as the head of one of the Pentagon’s combatant commands or as chief of one of the military services. Dunford’s most visible role came in 2013 when he was chosen to take over the job as top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan. During his 18 months there, Dunford oversaw the ongoing drawdown of U.S. troops, the transition to Afghan military lead in combat operations, and the tumultuous Afghan elections that dragged on and stalled efforts to reach an agreement on the U.S. military’s future presence in the country…”

Obama chooses Marine general as Joint Chiefs chairman

“President Barack Obama will nominate Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, choosing a widely respected, combat-hardened commander who led the Afghanistan war coalition during a key transitional period during 2013-14, US officials said Monday. The move cuts short Dunford’s service as the commandant of the US Marine Corps, a job he began last October. But the rapid promotion is one of several that have marked Dunford’s fast-tracked military career, which saw him leap from a one-star general to four stars in about three years. Officials also said Obama is tapping Gen. Paul J. Selva, a top Air Force officer and pilot, to serve as vice chairman. Selva, who has clocked more than 3,100 hours piloting transport and refueling aircraft, is currently the head of US Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. Obama plans to make the announcement at the White House Tuesday, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly ahead of the announcement. Dunford is expected to be easily confirmed by the US Senate and would succeed Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, who will have served four years as chairman. Dunford began his career as an infantry officer and has commanded at all levels. He served nearly two years in Iraq, including as head of the Marines’ 5th Regimental Combat Team during the 2003 invasion, where he earned the nickname “Fighting Joe.” He is well-connected internationally, often meeting with NATO and other coalition leaders, particularly during his Afghanistan command. His selection signals that even as the US puts more focus on Asia and looks ahead to high-tech cyber and space threats, the administration still believes a strong ground force commander is needed to work through the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and across the Middle East and Africa…”

Obama Set To Tap Marine General For Highest-Ranking Military Post


“Five-term incumbent Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) 45% has good reason to fear a primary challenge. Newly released data from liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling shows half of Arizona’s Republican primary voters disapprove of McCain’s job performance, and more than half would prefer a more conservative Senate candidate in 2016. After more than three decades in Washington, McCain earns merely 41 percent approval from Arizona Republicans and 36 percent from general Arizona voters, PPP finds. Just 37 percent reported a willingness to support the Senator in his 2016 re-election bid. In the days leading up to his re-election declaration, McCain and wife Cindy each released letters asking for financial support. Notably, 51 percent of those surveyed in the poll indicated a desire for someone more conservative than Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) 45% as the 2016 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona. The result comes as little surprise, considering that members of McCain’s own party officially censured him on the basis that he has “amassed a long and terrible record of drafting, co-sponsoring and voting for legislation best associated with liberal Democrats, such as Amnesty, funding for ObamaCare, the debt ceiling, assaults on the Constitution and 2nd amendment, and has continued to support liberal nominees.” Since that censure, McCain has accordingly voiced expectation that he will face a primary challenger in 2016….”

Republican Mike Huckabee launches presidential bid with fiery speech

“Republican Mike Huckabee announced a run for his party’s 2016 presidential nomination on Tuesday with a fiery, populist speech aimed at energizing support from the Christian right and blue-collar Americans struggling to make ends meet. The 59-year-old former Arkansas governor and former host of a popular Fox News television show is a long shot in the widening race to represent the Republican Party in the November 2016 election. Huckabee is the sixth Republican to make a formal bid. The former Southern Baptist pastor rode support from social conservatives opposing abortion rights and gay marriage to an early surprise victory in the 2008 White House race. Huckabee will again face competition for those voters. He said that, if elected, he would change government polices to focus more on working-class Americans. “I don’t come from a family dynasty, but a working family. I grew up blue-collar, not blue blood,” he said, in an apparent reference to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Huckabee chose to announce his bid in the small town of Hope, Arkansas, which both he and former Democratic President Bill Clinton call their hometown. At a community college where the event was held, audience members chanted, “We like Mike!” Huckabee spoke of his life in Hope, recalling daily prayers, fishing and hunting. He met his wife at the high school they attended. The candidate said hard-working Americans are being left behind in today’s economy, and blamed Democratic President Barack Obama for U.S. economic woes…”

Mike Huckabee Announces 2016 Presidential Bid

“Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced today he is running for president in 2016, launching his second bid for the White House before a full concert hall in his hometown. “It seems perfectly fitting that it would be here that I announce that I am a candidate for president of the United States of America,” Huckabee, a Republican, told the crowd. His launch event played up his small-town upbringing in Hope, better known as Bill Clinton’s hometown. Screens onstage read “Hope to Higher Ground” (Clinton’s 1992 campaign dubbed Clinton “The Man from Hope”). He jumped into the race amid a slew of campaign announcements by other Republicans. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson launched White House bids Monday, bringing the number of major contenders for the GOP nomination to six. Huckabee’s wife, Janet, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke before Huckabee, and Tony Orlando serenaded the crowd, calling Huckabee “the most trusted man I’ve ever met in my life.” Huckabee previously ran for president in 2008, when he won the Iowa caucuses, but ultimately lost the nomination. His national aspirations follow a climb to the top in Arkansas where he served as governor from 1996 to 2007 and lieutenant governor from 1993 to 1996. A video that played before Huckabee spoke today portrayed him as a fighter against the Clintons. “Every day of my life in politics was a fight, and sometimes it was an intense one,” he said in the video, which was first released last week. “But any drunken redneck can walk into a bar and start a fight. A leader only starts a fight that he’s prepared to finish.”…”

Huckabee Joins Race With Tacit Contrast to Clintons

“Mike Huckabee used his metaphor-rich hometown on Tuesday as a backdrop to launch his second bid for president — the setting drawing contrasts at once with former President Bill Clinton, who also hails from Hope, and President Obama, who ran for office on a platform of “hope” and “change” “We were promised hope, but it was just talk,” said Huckabee, a former Republican governor of Arkansas. “Now we need the kind of change that really can bring America from Hope to higher ground.” In a community college auditorium, Huckabee recalled his upbringing in the town that’s now home to roughly 10,000 people, where he said he “was raised to believe that where a person started didn’t mean that’s where he had to stop,” and where he ran in his first race, for student council in junior high school. “So it seems fitting that it would be here that I announce I am a candidate for president,” Huckabee said to cheers from an enthusiastic, conservative crowd of roughly 2,500, including those in overflow areas. At intervals, supporters chanted, “We like Mike” and waved signs supplied by the campaign. Huckabee, who proved a surprisingly strong candidate when he ran for president in 2008, still commands a substantial following among religious and social conservatives, having since then cultivated a national audience with a weekly show on Fox News and as a prolific author. But Huckabee has expressed frustration at the idea that he only appealed in 2008 to evangelical voters — a “misconception,” he told reporters in Washington last month. On Tuesday, he began in earnest to flirt with working-class voters, using his personal story to shape a narrative of social and economic mobility. “I grew up blue collar, not blue blood,” Huckabee said. Huckabee’s strategy has changed in other ways, too. Whereas he announced his previous bid for president during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” his campaign launch on Tuesday was decidedly less low-key, mimicking the flow of a party convention with multiple introductory speakers, including wife Janet Huckabee, and campaign videos. The program kicked off with a musical performance by the candidate’s friend Tony Orlando, the ’70s singer of “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” fame…”

Mike Huckabee declares bid for 2016 GOP presidential nomination

Mike Huckabee Launches Second White House Bid

“Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced his second campaign for president by taking a shot at President Barack Obama’s famous campaign slogan and tying it to his own hometown of Hope. “The promise of hope was all talk,” Huckabee said. “Now we really need the kind of change to get America from hope to higher ground.”…”

Mike Huckabee Enters Presidential Race Striking A Populist Tone

“Mike Huckabee is officially in the 2016 presidential race. The 59-year-old former Republican governor announced on Tuesday his entry into the campaign during a rally in his native Hope, Ark., the same place where former President Bill Clinton was born. “So it seems perfectly fitting that it would be here that I announce that I am a candidate for president of the United States of America,” Huckabee said. After the crowd broke into chants of, “We want Huck,” the Republican quipped: “Thank you! I’m glad you reacted that way—it would have been a very lonely day.”…”


Kasich to visit New Hampshire

“Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), who is mulling a run for president, will travel to New Hampshire on Wednesday. He will appear at a roundtable in Concord with the New Hampshire House Business Caucus and the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce at noon, then go to Nashua for another event, according to an announcement from the Ohio Republican Party.

He will also tape an appearance on the WMUR program “Conversation with the Candidate.” The show has hosted other people considering a run for the presidency, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who announced her bid Monday. Compared to other Republicans considering making a bid for the White House, Kasich has been relatively quiet about his own decision-making process. He has been traveling around the country to several states with early nominating contests under the auspices of Balanced Budget Forever, a organization led by an ally. But in recent weeks, he has seemed to be moving closer to making a decision. In April, Kasich launched a committee to help support him during the “testing-the-waters” phase of a campaign, which occurs before someone is considered an actual candidate for office. During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” this week, he said the odds of him launching a presidential campaign were “pretty good.”…”

Ben Carson Announces: As President I Will Transform Government Into A Well-Run Business

Democrats planning six presidential primary debates

“The Democratic National Committee will announce Tuesday its plans for six presidential primary debates — Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina are for certain, with the other two locations to be decided at a later date. An increase in presidential primary debates gives opponents more of a chance to duel with the frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The debate process won’t begin until fall, a Democratic official told CNN, because that is when “voters are truly beginning to pay attention.” Any candidate who participates in a debate outside of the DNC’s sanctioning process will be bared from its future debates, the official told CNN. “We’ve always believed that we would have a competitive primary process, and that debates would be an important part of that process,” DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “Our debate schedule will not only give Democratic voters multiple opportunities to size up the candidates for the nomination side-by-side, but will give all Americans a chance to see a unified Democratic vision of economic opportunity and progress — no matter whom our nominee may be.”…”

DNC announces presidential debate schedule

“The Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced that it’s going to sanction six primary Democratic debates beginning this fall. The debates will be sponsored by a combination of state Democratic parties, national and local media companies and civic organizations. Each of the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina will host a DNC debate. DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement that the debates should “give voters ample opportunity to see candidates side-by-side, while remaining manageable for all of the candidates.” The committee says that the schedule of six debates “is consistent with the precedent set” in 2004 and 2008, but this year, the DNC is also implementing an exclusivity requirement, requiring any candidate or debate sponsor interested in participating to do so exclusively, that is, to respect the sanctions set by the DNC…”

The Democratic presidential debates are great news for Hillary Clinton

“Hillary Clinton got some much-needed good news on Tuesday when the Democratic National Committee announced that it would hold six presidential primary debates starting this fall. What?! you say. How can it be a good thing for Clinton to be in a bunch of debates (okay, six) with candidates who will see these skirmishes as their best (and, really, only) chances of knocking her front-runner block off? Sure, the debates will give every Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb and Martin O’Malley an equal-ish platform to Clinton that they could never afford — literally — otherwise. But, viewed broadly, the debates are likely to do Clinton more good than harm. Remember that Clinton and her team want to make sure you and everyone else knows that she is not taking this nomination for granted — despite the fact that the field running against her is not exactly the 1927 Yankees. What better way to show that she is willing to fight for the every vote than to stand on a debate stage six times with the other candidates? That leveling process is a net good thing for Clinton in a way it wouldn’t be for virtually any other candidate. While this would be seen as “punching down” for most well-known candidates, Clinton badly needs to avoid the appearance of a coronation, and a bunch of debates is a very good way to do that. Then there is the fact that Clintonworld would like some positive media coverage during the primary and some credit for winning it…”

Clinton takes hit in new poll

“Hillary Clinton’s unfavorable ratings are rising, as her campaign faces questions over donations to the Clinton family’s foundation, but she still leads in general election match-ups against top possible Republican presidential candidates. Her positive and negative ratings are split at 42 percent in a Wall Street Journal/NBC news poll released Tuesday, with her unfavorables up from 36 percent last month. Over the last year, her numbers on “having high personal standards,” “being compassionate,” and “being honest and straightforward,” have all dipped. But Clinton still leads all of her hypothetical Republican challengers for a general election match-up. And her split favorability rating is better than those of the top likely Republican challengers, whose ratings are underwater. She’s ahead of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) by 6 percentage points each, at 49 percent to 43 percent. She also leads Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by 10 percentage points, at 50 percent to 40 percent. Her tightest margin comes against Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), who only trails her by 3 percentage points, at 47 percent to 44 percent. On the Republican side, Bush leads the group with 23 percent of voters selecting him as their first choice; Rubio comes in second with 18 percent. Walker comes next with 14 percent, followed by Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) at 11 percent….”

5 things to watch as ’16 race unfolds on both sides

“With nine months still to go before actual nominee selection begins, the 2016 presidential field is still unfolding. Today, Mike Huckabee jumps in again, one day after Carly Fiorina joined the GOP contest and after Sen. Don Quixote, er, Bernie Sanders, announced he’s taking on presumptive Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton herself is back in Las Vegas today for another of her patented patent citizen roundtables, this one on immigration. (Watch the Huckabee kickoff from Hope, Arkansas on C-SPAN at 11a.m. and the Clinton Vegas event at 5:45p.m., both Eastern Time.) Perhaps more importantly, though, a new Wall Street Journal / NBC News Poll is out. Most polls this early merely reflect name recognition. But this one provides revealing insights to the evolving thinking of Republicans, Democrats and the most important group of all come fall 2016, independents…”

Civil war: Alan Grayson rips into national Democratic Party ‘bosses’

“There’s new from the front in the civil war that we dare not call by its name. It seems as though the Democratic Party’s campaign committees learned nothing from the tea party backlash against the Republican Party. They appear to be eagerly repeating the GOP’s mistakes. Following Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) decision to leave office after a single term in the upper chamer of Congress, Democrats are gearing up for a competitive race for an open swing state U.S. Senate seat. For weeks, it appeared as though the party was prepared to back moderate Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL) as their Sunshine State senatorial nominee. On Monday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee made it official. “Patrick Murphy is one of our party’s most promising rising stars, and his track record of fighting for Florida’s working families, seniors, and the environment make him the strongest candidate to win the Florida Senate race and flip this seat,” said DSCC Chair Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) in a statement announcing the committee’s decision to back Murphy. That has apparently not dissuaded the outspoken progressive Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) from challenging Murphy in a primary. On Monday, the firebrand liberal House member and his supporters issued a series of blistering condemnations of the DSCC…”

Corker expects ‘overwhelming vote’ on Iran bill Thursday

“Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Tuesday that he expects an “overwhelming vote” on Thursday in favor of legislation that would allow Congress to review a nuclear deal with Iran. Corker also said he believes that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will file cloture on the bill and end debate, which could prevent the Senate from voting on a controversial amendment that would require Iran to recognize Israel as part of the deal. “My sense is that cloture is going to be filed,” Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters. “My sense is that Thursday there’s a very strong chance that we’ll get an overwhelming vote.” The future of the Iran bill was thrown into question last week after Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) used a procedural tactic to try to force a vote on an amendment to the legislation that would require Iran to publicly support Israel’s right to exist as part of a final agreement on its nuclear deal. Democrats argue that amendment would likely pass — but would also kill the bill if it were approved. McConnell has not said whether he’ll allow a vote on the amendment or file cloture on the underlying measure. He’s been working with other senators on a possible deal. The GOP leader told reporters on Tuesday that he would file cloture “very soon,” but added that he continues to look for a path forward to allow for additional amendment votes. “We’re still hoping there’s a way forward that will give some of our members an opportunity to have votes on some of their amendments,” he said. “But we anticipate finishing the Iran bill very soon.” Corker said that he would continue to try to work with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to work on a manager’s package on amendments…”

National security and terrorism should be top priority, GOP voters say

“National security and terrorism should be the top priority for the federal government, according to Republican voters — a dramatic turnaround from this time in the 2012 cycle, when that issue was a distant third to jobs and the economy and the deficit among GOP voters. Twenty-seven percent of GOP primary voters said the top priority for the federal government should be addressing national security and terrorism, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. The deficit and government spending were No. 2 at 24 percent, followed by job creation and economic growth at 21 percent, religious and moral values at 12 percent, and immigration at 8 percent. Combining GOP voters’ first and second choices, national security and terrorism still won out with 53 percent, with the deficit/government spending and job creation/economic growth at 42 percent apiece, immigration at 26 percent, religious and moral values at 17 percent, and health care at 13 percent. GOP presidential hopefuls with Capitol Hill experience like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania have been touting their foreign policy credentials and say such experience will be needed for a Republican presidential candidate to go toe-to-toe with Democrats’ likely nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Among all adults, the top three first-choice priorities were job creation/economic growth at 29 percent, national security and terrorism at 21 percent, and the deficit and government spending at 17 percent. Among Democratic primary voters, the first-choice top issues were job creation/economic growth at 37 percent, health care at 17 percent, climate change at 15 percent and national security/terrorism at 13 percent…”

McConnell Cuts Short Amendment Process on Corker’s Iran Bill

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) is expected to end debate on a bill providing for congressional review of President Obama’s pending deal with Iran, setting the stage for a vote later this week. “We’re going to move quickly,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday. Republican leadership engaged last week in a delicate negotiation with Democrats over which amendments from the hawkish wing of the GOP would receive a vote. After Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) tried to force votes on amendments that would, respectively, require Iran to close its nuclear facilities and recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel, Democrats refused to grant unanimous consent to proceed to vote on any amendments. This put McConnell in a time crunch; the rules of the Senate allow him to call up any amendment after 30 hours of debate, but doing that several times over could consume weeks of legislative time. “It’s just the coin of the realm in the Senate is floor time and we’ve got [a trade promotion authority bill],” Senator John Thune (R., S.D.), the chairman of the Republican conference, tells National Review. “We’ve got the FISA deadline coming up at the end of the month; we’ve got the highway [bill] deadline coming up at the end of the month; there’s just a lot of stuff that we need to try and transact and, you know, you could stay on this thing indefinitely but I’m not sure what that really gets you.” MORE IRAN THE WESTERNIZED ANTI-WESTERNER IN DEFENSE OF THE CORKER BILL THE CORKER BILL WILL NOT BLOCK OBAMA’S IRAN DEAL The need to pass those bills apparently means that not even the hope of embarrassing Democrats who don’t want votes on amendments pertaining to Israel could induce GOP leadership to keep debating the Iran bill. And Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) opposes the trade bill, meaning he has an incentive to slow down the process on the Iran amendments….”

U.S. targets 4 ISIS leaders, offers $20 million in rewards

“The Obama administration is offering rewards of up to $20 million for information leading to the whereabouts of four top leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Through its Rewards for Justice program, the State Department announced Tuesday that it would pay up to $7 million for information on Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, up to $5 million each for Abu Mohammed al-Adnani and Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili and up to $3 million for Tariq Bin-al-Tahar Bin al Falih al-‘Awni al-Harzi. According to the department, Qaduli is a senior ISIS official who originally joined al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, Adnani is an official ISIS spokesman, Batirashvili is a battlefield commander in northern Syria and Harzi is the group’s leader for the border region between Syria and Turkey. According to a State Department release announcing the rewards, Harzi has helped to raise funds from Gulf-based donors for ISIS and has recruited and facilitated the travel of ISIS fighters. As of late 2013, he was overseeing the militant group’s “suicide bomber facilitation pipeline,” the State Department said…”