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February 26th, 2015 at 8:23 pm
Treasury Dept. Approves $3 Billion Transfer to Insurance Companies that Congress Denied

A letter from House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) demands an explanation from the Treasury Department on why it allowed $3 billion in payments to ObamaCare insurance companies that Congress never approved.

In a well-documented piece, Philip Klein gives a disturbing summary of the Obama administration deliberately refusing to follow the law.

“At issue are payments to insurers known as cost-sharing subsidies,” writes Klein. “These payments come about because President Obama’s healthcare law forces insurers to limit out-of-pocket costs for certain low income individuals by capping consumer expenses, such as deductibles and co-payments, in insurance plans. In exchange for capping these charges, insurers are supposed to receive compensation.”

Here’s the rub.

“What’s tricky is that Congress never authorized any money to make such payments to insurers in its annual appropriations, but the Department of Health and Human Services, with the cooperation of the U.S. Treasury, made them anyway,” says Klein.

As proof, Klein cites a $4 billion funding request for the cost-sharing subsidies program in 2014 that was not fulfilled by Congress. It’s now 2015, the bills are coming due, and the Obama administration effectively said, “Never mind.”

Whether the domain is immigration or ObamaCare, the default setting for this administration seems to be that if it can’t get what it wants the legal way, it’s just as good to go around the law.

February 26th, 2015 at 1:44 pm
Boehner Stands Firm on Tying DHS Funding to Amnesty Ban

Kudos to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for declining the Senate GOP’s offer to cave to Democrats’ demand for a so-called “clean” funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security.

As I discuss in my column this week, some Senate Republican leaders are getting gun shy about following through with the party’s promise to condition funding for DHS on new legislative language that specifically prohibits immigration agencies from implementing President Barack Obama’s unilateral amnesty program. They warn that Republicans will be blamed for the shutdown that would start on Sunday when the DHS budget ends, if no new bill is passed. Better, they argue, to appropriate the money now and hope the federal judiciary holds Obama accountable in the future.

At a press conference today, Boehner reminded everyone that – at least publicly – “All Republicans agree that we need to fund the Department of Homeland Security and we want to stop the president’s actions in response to immigration.”

Ever the politician, Boehner “would not say whether he would back a Senate funding bill without provisions that would defund President Obama’s executive actions on immigration,” reports National Journal.

Still, it’s encouraging to hear the Speaker of the House sound resolute in defense of the rule of law when so much of the political class is aching to cut a deal.

February 24th, 2015 at 4:26 pm
Fed Regs May Level Playing Field between California & Texas

Texas has long been held up as the free market alternative to California’s regulation-heavy approach to public policy. Companies like Raytheon and Toyota have relocated because of the cheaper price of doing business, as have thousands of individuals.

But the competitive advantage that Texas enjoys over California could come to a screeching halt if the federal government imposes California-style regulations on the states.

The description of a March 12 event in Houston explains the threat.

“California’s tough environmental rules and planning represent the wave of the future to many planners and pundits, as well as to large parts of the federal government,” says the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. “The goal is to rein in ‘sprawl,’ based largely on questionable environmental and urban design considerations. California consciously seeks to impose a high-density, transit-focused future on the residents of the state.”

It continues, “But California’s policies do not just affect Californians. Many federal agencies, including the EPA and US Fish and Wildlife Service, have embraced the Golden State’s regulations on climate change, wetland and endangered species protections, as role models to be adopted nationally. As California-style regulations diffuse through the federal government, Texas business could soon be subject to many of the same programs and policies.”

This is a good reminder that vigilance at the federal level is necessary to protect economic freedom back home.

February 24th, 2015 at 2:26 pm
Is Obama’s Diva Status a Reason to Accelerate Amnesty Lawsuit?

Consider the following as an example of how much President Barack Obama and his administration think the rule of law should bend to suit their political calculations.

The Justice Department asked a federal court on Monday to reverse its decision to halt the president’s unilateral amnesty directive within 48 hours so that Obama could assure activists attending a town hall in Miami on Wednesday that deportation waivers and work permits would be in the mail.

The expedited timeline is being objected to by Texas and the 20+ other states suing to require the Obama administration to follow federal law and give advance notice and a comment period to the public, reports the LA Times.

Fairness suggests that if the Justice Department took a week to file its request to reverse, Texas and its fellow challengers should get at least as much time to defend their position.

The Justice Department’s self-serving request highlights the central problem driving this litigation – Obama is a diva whose political calculations trump the rule of law.

The federal courts should slap down that dangerous misconception, early and often.

February 23rd, 2015 at 6:36 pm
Gov. Abbott: 20,000 Crossed Texas Border Since January 1

It looks like the surge of illegal immigration across the southern border isn’t getting any better.

“Already this calendar year, since January 1, we have had more than 20,000 people come across the border, apprehended, unauthorized. And so we have an ongoing problem on the border that Congress must step up and solve,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, said while appearing on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday.

Abbott said that to stem the tide he is posting an additional 500 Texas Rangers near the border. The cost for the expanded presence will come from the state’s budget, even though responsibility for securing the border belongs to the federal government.

Abbott was on the show to discuss the Texas-led lawsuit he initiated challenging President Barack Obama’s unilateral amnesty program because it failed to follow federal law granting the public a notice and comment period before being implemented. Last week a federal district judge agreed with the challengers and granted a temporary injunction to halt Obama’s program.

Barely a month into office, Abbott is proving himself to be a conservative leader who knows how to get results in the courtroom and the court of public opinion.

February 20th, 2015 at 2:36 pm
Feds Send Out 800,000 Incorrect ObamaCare Tax Forms

First Uncle Bear, now Uncle Sam.

“The Obama administration says it sent about 800,000 HealthCare.gov customers the wrong tax information, and officials are asking those consumers to delay filing their 2014 taxes,” reports CNBC.

The massive blunder comes on the heels of a similar admission by California officials that the state sent out approximately 100,000 error-laden tax forms to residents using the state’s ObamaCare exchange, Covered California.

No timeline was apparent on when revised forms would be sent out, or whether early tax filers would be penalized by the Internal Revenue Service for submitting unknowingly false information.

Another item in the CNBC report may foreshadow the next move. Due to concerns that some people will be angered for being penalized for not buying insurance to comply with ObamaCare’s coverage mandate, the Obama administration is creating another sign-up extension.

Perhaps the IRS will get similar instructions from on high and bump back the filing deadline.

If so, expect to hear the millions of non-ObamaCare customers clamor, “Me too!”

February 18th, 2015 at 5:12 pm
Obama’s Amnesty Program Halted for Failure to Follow the Rules

President Barack Obama seemingly loves to invite controversy and criticism for using executive discretion to rewrite or ignore federal law. He and his allies apparently believe that when critics say his actions violate the Constitution, most people assume the dispute is too complex to understand or simply motivated by ideology.

So perhaps what’s needed to focus the public’s attention is a straightforward line of argument that shows Obama deliberately disregarding a bright line rule.

If so, Judge Andrew Hanen may have found it.

On Tuesday, Hanen granted a temporary injunction to Texas and more than twenty other states suing to stop Obama’s unilateral amnesty from going into effect. The reason is simple. By announcing the plan without any advance notice, Obama violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

The APA is a very important but little known federal law that tries to rein in the administrative state by requiring agencies to give notice and accept comments before implementing changes in policy. Because Obama did not comply with this very simple rule, his amnesty plan is, in effect, illegal.

The Obama administration is already working on an appeal to the Fifth Circuit, and time will tell whether this very straightforward application of the law to the facts is undone somehow with lawyerly sleight-of-hand.

In the meantime, critics of the Obama administration’s disregard for the rule of law can enjoy the fact that, for the moment at least, the most activist president in modern times is being stymied by the very Act that makes governmental activism possible.

February 17th, 2015 at 7:58 pm
California ObamaCare Exchange Sends Out Nearly 100,000 Error-Laden Tax Forms

The CBS affiliate in San Francisco is reporting on a massive failure by the state’s ObamaCare exchange to correctly reconcile information on customers with health insurance providers.

“About 100,000 or 12 percent of the forms generated by Covered California have inaccuracies,” says the report. The forms are needed by California ObamaCare users to claim tax refunds and verify subsidy amounts with the IRS.

A spokesperson for Covered California said the inaccuracies are due in large part to discrepancies between the state’s records and what the insurance companies have. Despite this, the exchange sent out the forms anyway to beat the February 2 deadline.

Corrected forms are scheduled to go out later this month, but it’s unclear whether all of the 100,000 or so recipients of the inaccurate forms know they are bad. If not, they could be submitting false information to the IRS, an issue that could cause considerable problems down the road.

Expect this to add to the ire already forming ahead of Tax Day.

February 17th, 2015 at 12:53 pm
Congressional Democrats Want to Delay ObamaCare Penalties

It looks like having the courage of one’s convictions about the imperative of ObamaCare doesn’t include making good on the Democrats’ promise to “pay-as-you-go.”

Once upon a time when Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was Speaker of the House, Democrats in Congress made a lot of noise about PAYGO, the fiscal policy that essentially requires new spending to be paid for with spending cuts, tax increases, or some combination of the two.

But now that ObamaCare’s IRS-imposed penalties are coming due, those same Democrats are singing a different tune.

“Three senior House members told the Associated Press that they plan to strongly urge the administration to grant a special sign-up opportunity for uninsured taxpayers who will be facing fines under the law for the first time this year,” the AP reports.

Interestingly, the three House members – Michigan’s Sander Levin, Washington’s Jim McDermott and Texas’ Lloyd Dogget – “[a]ll worked to help steer Obama’s law through rancorous congressional debates from 2009-2010.”

And now that the price of non-compliance with ObamaCare’s tax-raising mandates is becoming obvious, all three want to avoid a predictable constituent backlash.

Sorry fellas, if spending at least $684 million annually to educate the public about ObamaCare isn’t enough to adequately inoculate against angry voters, perhaps there’s a fatal flaw in the law.

At any rate, it’s time the American public got the version of health reform you voted for.

February 13th, 2015 at 6:05 pm
The ObamaCare Tax Even Democrats Want to Repeal

Nice things cost money, and so too does so-called affordable health insurance.

“More than one-third of all House members have signed onto legislation that would repeal ObamaCare’s tax on insurance companies, which even some Democrats agree is leading to high insurance costs for millions of American families,” reports The Blaze.

People familiar with the logic of doing business understand that private firms don’t pay taxes, people do. So when ObamaCare imposes a tax on health insurance providers, that amount gets passed on to consumers as higher premiums.

With ObamaCare’s second enrollment cycle about to end, many people are experiencing this economic rule up-close-and-personal.

“I hear every day from individuals, families, and businesses in Arizona about the cost of health care,” Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is quoted as saying. “This common sense fix [i.e. repeal] will help lower out of pocket costs for hardworking Arizonans. By working together, we can provide relief for individuals, families, and employers while increasing access to quality affordable health care.”

That’s highly unlikely because ObamaCare’s regulations increase the cost of providing health care, and its complex web of subsidies is designed to hide some of that increase. Repealing a source for subsidies without also repealing the regulations that make them necessary leaves the elevated cost without a means to pay for it.

Still, it’s good to see at least some Democrats in Congress supporting the repeal of at least some part of ObamaCare. Remove enough supports, and eventually the whole architecture crumbles.

February 12th, 2015 at 7:35 pm
Obama Demagogues Staples Over Part-Time Worker Policy

Apparently, the president who has time to share his Final Four picks on national television can also squeeze in space on his schedule to erroneously charge Staples with oppressing its own workforce.

Earlier this week, Barack Obama was interviewed by BuzzFeed, an online news site. BuzzFeed claimed to have evidence that Staples, the office supply giant, threatens to fire part-time employees who work more than 25 hours a week. The reason – anything more could qualify the worker for employer-sponsored health insurance under ObamaCare. (30 hours per week is the threshold.)

Asked to respond, Obama unleashed his inner community organizer.

“I haven’t looked at Staples stock lately or what the compensation of the CEO is, but I suspect that they could well afford to treat their workers favorably and give them some basic financial security,” Obama replied. “…when I hear large corporations that make billions of dollars in profits trying to blame our interest in providing health insurance as an excuse for cutting back workers’ wages, shame on them.”

On the contrary, shame on the President of the United States.

“Unfortunately, the president appears not to have all the facts,” a Staples spokesman told CNN Money. The cap on part-time work hours has been in place for a decade, and the company has many opportunities for hourly employees to move into full-time positions.

It’s striking that a man who doesn’t blink at proposing a federal budget more than $472 billion in the red next year thinks himself capable of lecturing a private business on how it should spend its profits.

Maybe he should stick with basketball brackets, and let the professionals manage the books.

February 12th, 2015 at 6:36 pm
GOP Senators: Obama Admin Officials “Evading” Whether Backup Plan Exists If Supremes Strike Down Subsidies

Does the Obama administration have a backup plan if the Supreme Court interprets ObamaCare according to its terms and prohibits federal subsidies to Americans in 36 states?

If so, top administrators at Health and Human Services, the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury aren’t sharing.

That lack of transparency – and the havoc it could wreck on millions of mandatory ObamaCare users – angers a group of powerful Senate Republicans.

“I want to make certain that the government has notified people who have signed up through the HHS insurance exchange – including the thousands of Georgians who were forced to enroll after ObamaCare cancelled their health plans – of the potential consequences of the Court ruling against the government, especially given the fact that the cost of the program could be significantly increased,” Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) said in a statement.

“The Obama administration needs to be forthcoming about its backup plans so my constituents can make their own backup plans.”

Isakson and other Republicans serving on the Senate Finance Committee sent a strongly worded letter to several government agencies demanding details of any contingency plans. In it they charge HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen with “lack of candor” and “evad[ing] the issue when it was raised at hearings before the Committee this week.”

Consider this another unfulfilled promise of “the most transparent administration in history.

February 11th, 2015 at 7:55 pm
Big Insurance Lines Up Behind ObamaCare

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and then fight like hell to save them.

That’s essentially the health insurance industry’s strategy when it comes to ObamaCare.

Unable to derail the Democrats’ health reform train in 2009 and 2010, most of the biggest players in the health insurance industry agreed to make peace with the Obama administration.

For their troubles the insurance companies won policy concessions like the individual mandate to ensure a captive market for their products, and a complicated bailout scheme to subsidize losses.

Then along came King v. Burwell, one of the cases challenging the legality of federal subsidies necessary to make ObamaCare plans affordable. (Necessary, but not, according to ObamaCare’s text, permitted in states that rely on the federal government’s insurance portal.)

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments this spring, and many entities have submitted amicus or friend-of-the-court briefs to persuade the justices their way.

“Among those filing amicus briefs defending health reform are HCA, the American Hospital Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the National Alliance of State Health Co-ops, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the American Cancer Society, and the National Association of Community Health Centers,” reports Bloomberg Business. “The insurance and medical industries share the administration’s goal of seeing millions more people covered because that translates into millions more customers seeking the services of carriers, hospitals, and doctors.”

If given a choice, many established businesses would prefer a guaranteed arrangement with the government rather than rely exclusively on the volatility of the market. It’s easy to see why. But discomfort to the health insurance industry should not trump the rule of law. If the IRS can rewrite ObamaCare to make money available where it has been prohibited, then perhaps another agency hence can also decide to cancel spending that is legally required.

No businessman wants to be on the wrong side of a one-way contract. Yet that’s precisely what will happen if the federal bureaucracy gets to change the terms of ObamaCare whenever it sees fit.

February 11th, 2015 at 12:48 pm
Gallup: Obama on Track to be Most Polarizing President Ever

President Barack Obama is on pace to have the most polarized approval ratings in history, according to a new Gallup poll.

Polarized approval ratings mean the gap between those in a president’s party that approve of him compared to those in the opposition party that don’t. “So far in his presidency, there has been an average party gap of 70 points in Obama’s approval ratings, which, if it continues, would be easily the highest for a president to date,” says the Gallup summary.

For context, former President George W. Bush “is second with a 61-point gap throughout his presidency, followed by Clinton (56) and Reagan (52). The other presidents [going back to Eisenhower] had party gaps of no more than 41 points.”

As Tim explained in his column last week, it’s no surprise that people concerned about the country’s fiscal future disapprove of Obama’s job performance. Economic growth is in a nine-year rut, the percentage of the U.S. population with jobs is as low as when Jimmy Carter was in office, and the median income has actually declined since Obama’s economic “recovery” was announced.

The real question after reading through the Gallup results isn’t, What’s the matter with Republicans? It’s, How in the world can Democrats see the current president as worthy of such lofty praise?

February 6th, 2015 at 4:43 pm
Avik Roy Weighs In on the GOP’s Patient CARE Act

Avik Roy, a conservative health policy expert, penned a very helpful primer on the latest GOP ObamaCare alternative.

The plan – the Patient CARE Act – is an updated version of similar reform concepts presented last year by three leading Republican members of Congress.

Along with other intriguing ideas, the Patient CARE Act replaces ObamaCare’s restrictive subsidy system – i.e. the money can only be spent on federally-approved insurance plans – with “a means-tested tax credit that individuals could use to buy a far broader range of insurance products, or deposit the funds in a health savings account.”

As a tremendous service to readers, Roy also summarizes how the Patient CARE Act compares to other conservative health reform alternatives: his Transcending ObamaCare and one championed by the 2017 Project. All three are serious proposals and deserve attention.

More on these and other ObamaCare alternatives as they develop…

February 5th, 2015 at 8:27 pm
New GOP ObamaCare Alternative

Here’s a look at the newest Republican alternative to ObamaCare.

According to the plan’s authors – Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, plus Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina and Orrin Hatch of Utah – the plan would rein in Medicaid’s burgeoning costs by turning it into a block grant.

That’s not all.

Among other things, the Patient CARE Act would:

  • Enact medical malpractice reforms to reduce frivolous lawsuits
  • Require basic price transparency to inform and empower patients
  • Cap the exclusion of an employee’s employer-provided health coverage
  • Create a targeted tax credit to help buy health care

Billed as a “Bicameral Republican Blueprint,” this proposal has support from three powerful members of the GOP in Congress. Once they produce more details, then we’ll see how many votes they can muster.

February 4th, 2015 at 1:11 pm
IRS Delays Enforcement of ObamaCare “Clawback”

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome another politically-motivated ObamaCare delay to the stage!

Megan McArdle sums up the IRS’ decision to let those who received too much in ObamaCare subsidies last year get extra time to pay back the difference (called the law’s “clawback” provision).

“It’s not relieving you of the obligation to repay; it’s just saying that you won’t be liable for a penalty if you don’t repay by the deadline,” explains McArdle. “Interest will continue to accrue, but the interest rates that the IRS charges are actually pretty reasonable (and probably much better than what your credit card company charges). It’s the failure-to-pay penalties it layers on top – half a percentage point a month, with even stiffer penalties for failing to file – that really make your tax bill add up fast.”

That is, if the Obama IRS ever gets around to enforcing the parts of laws it doesn’t like. McArdle writes, “The IRS emphasizes that this is a one-time deal, just for 2014. But I’m not sure if you should believe it. This emphasizes one of the problems we’ve spoken about a lot in this space: The political will to impose the costs of the Affordable Care Act is a lot less strong than the will to distribute the benefits.”

The Republican establishment was once derided as the tax collector for the welfare state. If Obama and the Democratic Party can’t be bothered to administer both the costs and the benefits of their so-called health reform law, the GOP shouldn’t shoulder the burden of balancing its books.

Every politically-motivated delay in enforcing an aspect of ObamaCare is a tacit admission by its supporters that the law is unworkable in practice. Republicans should acknowledge the obvious and start afresh.

February 3rd, 2015 at 7:36 pm
Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats Vote to Shut Down DHS; Time for GOP to Play Hardball

Harry Reid (D-NV) and his Senate Democrats voted to shut down the Department of Homeland Security today.

The piece of legislation they voted down was a Republican bill to fund DHS for the rest of the fiscal year with the caveat that no funds could be spent implementing President Barack Obama’s unilateral immigration amnesty. Currently, the DHS budget is set to expire at the end of February.

The decision probably didn’t involve too much deliberation or anguish since Reid & Co. can count on a sympathetic media to frame the result as Republican obstruction, i.e. not letting Obama and the Democratic Party run roughshod over federal law to curry favor with millions of potential future voters.

If anything Reid and his allies probably think they helped Obama save face by shielding him from having to veto common sense legislation for naked political reasons. Now, Obama can blame Congress for not working, even though it’s the members of his own party that are throwing up roadblocks.

One thing that is clear is that Reid never would have whipped his entire caucus in opposition unless Obama had authorized it. So, call this an indirect veto of Republicans’ immigration funding maneuver and we’re right where we would have been had the bill passed and been rejected.

Obama and Reid play on the same team, so Republicans can’t let the media portray this as anything other than what it is – a high stakes dispute over whether policy gets decided according to the rule of law or the whim of one.

If the president wants to start the negotiating process earlier than expected, so be it. Republicans in Congress shouldn’t use this an excuse to cave.

There had to be a strategy to overcome the veto, at least in the court of public opinion. After today’s vote, it’s time to accelerate the time line.

February 2nd, 2015 at 8:03 pm
White House Considering More ObamaCare Exemptions

Here’s everything you need to know about the corrupting tendencies of the modern administrative state.

When the ruling elite’s social engineering policies threaten to weaken its grip on power, the law can be bent in any way that pleases them.

Exhibit A is a news article from the New York Times, which begins, “Obama administration officials and other supporters of the Affordable Care Act say they worry that the tax-filing season will generate new anger as uninsured consumers learn that they must pay tax penalties and as many people struggle with complex forms needed to justify tax credits they received in 2014 to pay for health insurance.”

The solution: “The White House has already granted some exemptions and is considering more to avoid a political firestorm.”

You read that correctly. If lots of people will be angry because ObamaCare is slated to work as designed – by ensuring that the people who received insurance subsidies actually qualified for them – it’s completely permissible to just exempt them from compliance.

This is interest group politics run amuck.

It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating. If Mitt Romney had said during the 2012 presidential campaign that all he needed to repeal ObamaCare was to be elected so he could not enforce the law, the Left would have been up in arms swearing to sue him in court for dereliction of duty. When Barack Obama does the same thing it’s suddenly accepted as executive discretion.

One day liberals may see a conservative reap a policy windfall thanks to Obama’s careless actions. If this is the way it’s going to be in the future, don’t be surprised to see presidents of every partisan stripe erode the rule of law by carving out exemptions for their political base. Today it’s the working poor. Tomorrow it might be trust fund kids who see their capital gains taxes go uncollected.

And then, we’ll be Greece.

January 29th, 2015 at 8:13 pm
Disgraced ObamaCare Contractor Now Working for the IRS

CGI Federal was the primary contractor responsible for building Healthcare.gov – the federal ObamaCare website that glitched its way into bureaucratic infamy.

In the aftermath, CGI was fired by the Department of Health and Human Services and a number of states holding similar contracts.

But like a vampire rising from the dead, CGI Federal is back in the ObamaCare game, and just in time for tax season!

That’s right, a Republican-led House subcommittee discovered that the IRS has hired CGI Federal to a $4.46 million contract. Recall that, under ObamaCare, the IRS must administer a complex income-reporting system to verify which taxpayers received too generous a subsidy.

This news was too much for the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which opined that, “Perhaps CGI is still able to obtain federal business because no one has ever been punished for the worst government technology failures since the Challenger explosion. The political class would prefer to forget, but a new audit from HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson probes what he delicately calls ObamaCare’s ‘inadequacies in contract planning and procurement.’”

“According to the report,” the Journal continues, “HHS rarely obeyed the laws that govern outside hiring, such as competitive bidding and due diligence of past performance. The 33 contractors that contributed to the $800 million website reported to multiple managers and no one at HHS devised an ‘acquisition strategy’ – also required by statute – to integrate the various pieces.”

So if you are confused, frustrated or inappropriately fined by the IRS this tax season, rest assured that CGI Federal is somehow probably responsible – and making millions.