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September 2nd, 2014 at 7:28 pm
Tennessee Opts Into ObamaCare Medicaid Expansion

Another news cycle, another Republican governor decides to expand Medicaid with ObamaCare dollars.

Last Friday, Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Haslam joined Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett, Indiana’s Mike Pence and others in trying to carve out a middle ground between a straight yes or no on expansion.

Haslam hasn’t committed himself to specifics, saying only that “sometime this fall” his administration will submit an alternative plan to federal regulators.

States like Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Iowa have won various levels of approval to use ObamaCare’s increased Medicaid funding to provide subsidized health insurance plans to some of the poorest members of their populations.

Expanding Medicaid is a tempting offer because the federal government pays for about half of every dollar spent on the state’s program. ObamaCare makes taking the plunge almost irresistible since it pays for every dollar of expansion until 2017, and 90 percent of all new spending until 2020.  For sitting governors with term limits, that translates into an opportunity to get lots of credit for helping poor people before most of the bill comes due.

The politics of ObamaCare are constantly evolving, and the lesson for conservatives about the law’s Medicaid expansion is this: Unless there is a credible alternative to growing government, many politicians will opt for good press and worry about the policy implications later.

Heading into the 2016 presidential cycle, there needs to be a way to determine which ideas adhere to constitutional principles, preserve the free market and bolster human flourishing – which includes access to health care.

The sooner, the better.

September 1st, 2014 at 6:54 pm
Marco Rubio Evolving on Immigration

If at first you don’t succeed, pivot to the next best alternative.

That seems to be the strategy used by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) as he positions himself for a potential White House run in 2016.

Rubio, once the darling of conservatives and a top GOP presidential contender, quickly fell out of favor with the grassroots when he supported a version of comprehensive immigration reform championed by the Obama administration and some of the most liberal members of Congress.

After the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” bill was pronounced dead-on-arrival in the House of Representatives, Rubio has since modified his position on how to pursue immigration reform. Unsurprisingly, it now aligns with what conservatives have said all along: secure the border first, build trust in the federal government’s commitment to the rule of law and national sovereignty, and only then discuss how to integrate illegal immigrants into American society.

Last week, Rubio sent a letter to President Barack Obama warning against a unilateral executive action that would grant some kind of legal status to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants. In Rubio’s words, such an act “will increase the perception of ambiguity in our laws, incentivize more people to immigrate here illegally, and significantly set back the prospects of real reform.”

It’s too early to tell whether Rubio’s repositioning will be enough to convince conservatives that he’s changed his principles instead of just his tactics. Until he can give a convincing explanation of why next time will be different, skepticism about his true beliefs will remain.

August 29th, 2014 at 6:09 pm
Pennsylvania Governor Says Yes to ObamaCare Medicaid Expansion

After years of rebuffing calls to participate in ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett is changing his mind.

Sort of.

While the announcement comes as a bit of a surprise, it doesn’t appear to be a total loss for fiscal conservatives. (Others may disagree, of course.)

According to the terms of the agreement between Gov. Corbett’s office and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, Pennsylvania won’t simply be expanding its Medicaid program. Instead, it will use the extra dollars made available under ObamaCare to pay for (i.e. subsidize) private health insurance plans for newly eligible state Medicaid beneficiaries.

The agreement stipulates that Corbett’s alternative is being allowed as a five-year “demonstration project,” meaning that its future is not assured. Much will depend on how the project’s measurements are defined, if the reforms Corbett supports are to survive.

For now, Pennsylvania joins the ranks of Indiana, Arkansas and Iowa as states that are attempting to use ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion to decrease their uninsured population – without, of course, breaking the bank.

It’s hard to see how that will happen, but we now have at least four states offering themselves as very costly social science experiments. It should be interesting to see what the results will show.

August 29th, 2014 at 5:56 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Tax King
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

August 28th, 2014 at 4:04 pm
Podcast: U.S. Foreign Policy
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Chris Griffin, Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative, discusses some of America’s most pressing foreign policy concerns, including ISIS and Iraq, Israel and Hamas, and Russia and Ukraine, and why it is imperative for the United States to improve its credibility in foreign policy.

Listen to the interview here.

August 27th, 2014 at 6:59 pm
IRS Erased Lois Lerner’s Blackberry AFTER Investigation Began

It’s been a rough five days for the Internal Revenue Service.

Last Friday attorneys at Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, said Department of Justice lawyers revealed a second back-up system that stores all government emails.

Presumably, this includes the emails to and from former IRS manager Lois Lerner’s account; emails that are sought by investigators on the House Oversight Committee because of Lerner’s connection to the potentially illegal targeting of conservative advocacy groups.

If true – DOJ officials are disputing Judicial Watch’s account of the conversation – this casts a serious shadow on the IRS’s credibility, since Commissioner John Koskinen told Congress under oath that the emails had been lost in a hard drive crash.

However many back-up systems there are – and whether Koskinen knew the number – the Commissioner has another integrity crisis brewing.

“Thomas Kane, Deputy Assistant Chief Counsel for the IRS, wrote in a declaration, part of a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch against the IRS, that [Lois Lerner’s] BlackBerry was ‘removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012,” reports Fox News.

The date is significant because congressional staff members had already interviewed Lerner about her role in the targeting operation. Deleting messages from her government-owned smartphone after that meeting – but before preserving the contents– looks like a thinly veiled attempt to destroy evidence.

The House Oversight Committee will have its hands full when Congress returns from its August recess.

Expect to see some high-profile hearings.

August 26th, 2014 at 7:57 pm
DOJ: We Have Lois Lerner’s “Lost” Emails

Apparently, you can lie to Congress but not to Judicial Watch.

The conservative watchdog organization is publicizing an admission by the Department of Justice that government officials can access emails reportedly lost in a hard drive crash.

The messages – correspondence to and from former IRS manager Lois Lerner – have been sought by congressional investigators seeking more information about the agency’s targeting of conservative advocacy groups filing for tax-exempt status.

In sworn testimony, IRS officials have told members of Congress that thousands of emails sent from Lerner’s government account could not be retrieved because a back-up system had also been erased.

But now attorneys at the DOJ are singing a different tune.

“Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said Justice Department lawyers informed him that the federal government keeps a back-up copy of every email and record in the event of a government-wide catastrophe,” reports the Washington Examiner.

That includes Lerner’s IRS emails.

But don’t expect them to be produced anytime soon. The DOJ is claiming that the newly revealed back-up system would be “too onerous to search,” but did say that Treasury Department inspectors are looking into it.

While the litigators wrangle, we’re left with yet more evidence that the Obama administration doesn’t mind playing fast and loose with the truth – even under oath.

The House of Representatives already voted back in May to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify; making her the second administration official after Attorney General Eric Holder to receive such a dishonor.

If it’s true that top IRS brass lied under oath to Congress about the whereabouts of Lerner’s potentially damaging emails, one wonders what message House leadership would send to this latest act of executive defiance.

August 25th, 2014 at 7:06 pm
Pro-Amnesty Congressman: ‘Get Ready’ for Obama Executive Order

One of Congress’ biggest amnesty boosters is telling allies to “get ready” for a presidential announcement that could shield as many as 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), an amnesty supporter who called on fellow Hispanics to “sign up to vote and punish those who speak ill and criminalize children who come to our border,” expects to hear very soon that President Barack Obama will issue an executive order to effectively legalize half of the United States’ illegal immigrant population.

“It’s music to my ears that someone would have a source at the White House that say it’s 5 million,” Gutierrez said on MSNBC today. “Let me just say, tomorrow, the next day, and all of this week we’re getting ready.”

By “getting ready,” Gutierrez means preparing to process 5 million quasi-legal residents into semi-permanent status. The problem is, Gutierrez has no idea what those structures will look like – or how they’ll be funded – because Congress has refused to pass any type of immigration reform that includes amnesty or anything like it.

Perhaps President Obama will opt for the complex “Registered Provisional Immigrant” status outlined in the Senate Gang of Eight bill that died in the House of Representatives. After all, Gutierrez and other amnesty supporters have “urged Obama to legalize all of the illegal immigrants that would have qualified under the Senate’s amnesty bill,” reports Breitbart News. If Obama can achieve the same policy goal as Congress, why can’t he do it using the same policy means?

Besides, just because the legislative branch won’t pass a law doesn’t prohibit the executive from doing whatever he wants, right?

Today, Gutierrez may be gleeful at the prospect of Obama violating the Constitution to benefit his pet issue, but he should remember: Once you brush aside the separation-of-powers, there’s no check on tyranny. Tomorrow, you lose.

August 25th, 2014 at 5:19 pm
Obama: ‘My Thoughts Are With You…’
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

August 25th, 2014 at 3:57 pm
This Week’s “Your Turn” Radio Lineup
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CDT to 6:00 p.m. CDT (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.”  Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 CDT/5:00 pm EDT:  Phil Kerpen, President of American Commitment — Halbig Decision as Major Legal Challenge to ObamaCare;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:  Brad Smith, Chairman and Founder of Center for Competitive Politics — DISCLOSE Act of 2014;

4:45 CDT/5:45 pm EDT:  Robert Knight, Senior Fellow and Policy Expert at The American Civil Rights Union — Rock the Vote’s Liberal Designs;

5:00 CST/6:00 pm EDT:  Chris Griffin, Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative — Iraq Crisis; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Bart Hinkle, Editor and Columnist with the Richmond Times-Dispatch — The Democratic Shift to the Left.

Listen live on the Internet here.   Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.

August 23rd, 2014 at 5:20 pm
Podcast: Lawsuit Further Exposes IRS Scandal
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Co-founder and President of Z STREET, discusses her organization’s ongoing lawsuit against the IRS, and how an IRS employee informed her that her organization’s tax exempt status application was delayed because the group was “connected with Israel” and expressed opposition to the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.

Listen to the interview here.

August 22nd, 2014 at 11:42 am
Liberty Update
Posted by CFIF Staff Print
August 21st, 2014 at 2:38 pm
Avik Roy Updates His ObamaCare Alternative

Credit Avik Roy for being open-minded.

A week after unveiling his ambitious – and controversial – reform of ObamaCare, Roy, a well-respected health policy expert, is incorporating some of the best criticisms as amendments to his plan.

Most of the changes are highly technical, and not worth delving into in a short blog post. For readers interested in specifics, here is the link to Roy’s updates page.

What’s refreshing about Roy’s response to his fellow conservatives is his willingness to defend his ideas, but not to the point of brushing aside legitimate improvements.

As to the biggest concern – that preserving ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges makes it possible that Democrat congressional majorities in the future might use them as a springboard to a single-payer system – Roy replies, “No health-reform plan can singlehandedly prevent Democrats from doing whatever they want if they ever again have 2009-size, filibuster-proof majorities. But if that’s the standard for constructive GOP reform plans, well, let’s just call it a day.”

Roy’s point is well taken, but it highlights a central tension among conservatives whenever federal policymaking is considered – Which is more important: Market efficiency or federalism?

Policy wonks like Roy tend to favor efficiency as a way to lower spending and improve citizen-customer experiences. Constitutionalists like myself tend to favor federalism and the policy diversity that it affords. Of course, different regulatory regimes produce market inefficiencies. However, that just may be the price of freedom.

Roy should be applauded for trying to make his ObamaCare alternative as strong as possible. Time will tell whether conservatives will come to favor an efficient, federally-regulated national market, or continue to favor a system that lets states and their citizens decide what works best for them.

August 21st, 2014 at 1:38 pm
Judge Orders Release of Fast and Furious Documents

Soon the American people may finally get some clarity about the Fast and Furious scandal.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the Department of Justice must provide a list of documents related to the gun-running scheme that it says are protected by executive privilege. The list will be turned over to investigators at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).

Disclosing the list will allow House investigators to challenge DOJ’s privilege claim for shielding each document, a case-by-case process that will likely result in at least some transparency into the murky program that enabled Mexican drug cartels to kill a U.S. Border Agent and scores of Mexicans.

H/T: National Review Online

August 21st, 2014 at 1:23 pm
Ninth Circuit: IPAB Challenge Must Wait

Uncharacteristically, a three judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has given constitutional conservatives a reason to smile.

The Ninth Circuit, a bastion of liberalism that gets routinely reversed by the Supreme Court, ruled that a constitutional challenge to the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is not yet “ripe” for judicial review. Ripeness is the term judges use to denote when a case has a live issue that a court of law can decide. In the IPAB case, the agency hasn’t yet been created, so any challenges to the harm it might do must wait until they actually occur.

And make no mistake, there is much to fear from a fully functioning IPAB. For example, “IPAB is not dependent upon annual appropriations from Congress, need not follow traditional administrative processes, and is not subject to judicial review. As if that were not enough,” writes Jonathan Adler, “[ObamaCare] provides that Congress may dissolve IPAB only if it follows a specified procedure during a seven-month period in 2017 – a statutory provision even the Obama administration has acknowledged could not hold up in court.”

Each of the characteristics of IPAB cited by Adler above are intentionally designed to separate the agency from legislative, judicial and ultimately public control. This is dangerous because “IPAB is authorized to develop self-executing recommendations for limits on Medicare reimbursement rates and other cost controls should the rate of Medicare spending growth exceed a specified target.” That is, IPAB is empowered to ration care for Medicare beneficiaries without any oversight. If allowed to go into effect, IPAB could very well be the biggest step toward a European-style, centrally controlled nationalized health system.

So, how is a loss today really a win for the future? By dismissing the current challenge to IPAB for lack of ripeness, the Ninth Circuit panel is allowing those opposed to the agency to fight another day. At the trial level where this case began, the district judge was not so kind. He ruled against the challengers on the merits, foreclosing future attacks when IPAB actually gets going.

By allowing the challengers to refile later, the Ninth Circuit – at least for the time being – is leaving the door open to another, perhaps more successful assertion of constitutional principle.

August 20th, 2014 at 12:26 pm
Paul Ryan: Regulations Hurt the Poor

Conservatives typically – and correctly – fault the regulatory state for increasing the cost of doing business and impeding job creation. But what about the argument that businesses don’t pay taxes (or regulatory fees), people do?

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is making a powerful case that the two go together in a way that could reduce the government’s footprint and decrease poverty.

“The regulatory part of Ryan’s anti-poverty plan goes after ‘regressive’ federal rules – those that have an outsize economic impact on low-income households,” reports The Hill. “Supporters of his plan say regulations are ultimately borne by ordinary consumers and households who pay extra when new restrictions are piled on to the products and services they use. The poor end up spending a greater share of their income to cover the added expense.”

The argument that regulations are regressive – that they take a bigger bite out of a poor family’s budget than anyone else’s – is an especially attractive one to liberals such as Cass Sunstein, the former chief of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama White House.

In a recent column, Sunstein said Ryan’s regulatory reforms “point in helpful directions, and they suggest the possibility of bipartisan cooperation on some important questions.” Among these is taking into consideration the human cost of regulations on a segment of society that can least afford it.

To be sure, neither Ryan nor Sunstein advocate eliminating all regulations, and how they would implement such reforms would likely differ substantially. Still, the fact that a well-known, serious conservative and his liberal counterpart see common ground on pulling back government and lifting up the poor is a development worth watching.

August 19th, 2014 at 7:49 pm
Laughable Indictment Could Actually Help Perry in 2016

Today, Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry had to suffer the indignity of turning himself into local law enforcement on absurd charges that he abused his office.

The upshot is that this whole politically motivated affair is very likely about to end without any further dents to Perry’s public image.

In fact, it might even help him.

The water cooler version is that the Democrat who runs the state’s Public Integrity Unit got mad that Perry vetoed funding after she served jail time for drunk driving and refused to resign. Apparently, an Austin-based grand jury thought that was enough to issue two felony indictments for abuse of power.

No serious person who has actually looked at Texas law thinks this will stand up in court. The case is so bad that even liberal pundits are taking the opportunity to defend a staunchly conservative Southern Republican.

As a matter of history, this is at least the third time a sitting Republican official has been the target of a politically motivated criminal prosecution, according to John Fund. The other two – U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay – were both eventually acquitted.

That’s a track record Perry can take comfort in, especially since Texas governors enjoy virtually unlimited discretion to veto appropriations bills. Knowing this, Perry can pledge to “fight this injustice with every fiber of my being” because he knows the prosecution doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on.

When the dust settles and the national media spotlight dissolves, Perry might actually be in a better situation politically than before. Already he’s gained a lot of renewed interest as a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate for his deft handling of the current border crisis. Add this martyr-making moment to the mix, and Perry might be ready to audition for the role of Comeback Kid.

August 19th, 2014 at 9:29 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Caught Between Iraq and a Hard Place
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

August 18th, 2014 at 9:46 am
Hillary Inevitable in 2016? These Numbers Say “Not So Fast”
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Since World War II, only one president has been so successful, his party’s brand name so enhanced during his two presidential terms, that his party’s subsequent nominee won a third consecutive presidency for his party:  Ronald Reagan.

According to the old adage, although history doesn’t always repeat itself, it does tend to rhyme.  Accordingly, that speaks to the steep uphill battle that the Democratic Party faces in winning the 2016 presidential election.  On that note, this morning’s commentary from Bill Kristol highlights a numerical headwind facing Hillary Clinton, whom some consider “inevitable” in 2016 (just as she supposedly was in 2008):

Speaking of 2016, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this summer had a couple of interesting findings on the question of who might be our next president.  The good news is that while 38 percent of respondents say they ‘probably’ or ‘almost certainly’ will vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016, 37 percent say they ‘definitely’ will not vote for her.  This means that Clinton, the candidate with by far the highest name recognition and the longest résumé, starts off at about 50-50.  And while her approval numbers remain decent, they’re falling:   Today, 44 percent view her positively against 37 percent negatively.   Those numbers were once 48 percent positive, and only 32 percent negative.

By contrast, in the sixth year of the Bush administration, John McCain, the frontrunner and eventual nominee of the party in power, had a favorable rating in the mid-50s and an unfavorable number in the mid-20s.  And of course he lost.”

Barack Obama is no Ronald Reagan by any meaningful measure, and there’s a reason that Hillary’s “inevitability” evaporated in 2008.  These numbers suggest that the “inevitability” narrative may prove just as ephemeral in 2016.

August 17th, 2014 at 11:46 am
Why We Shouldn’t Be Blind to the Barriers of Preventative Medicine
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Dr. Sunil Gupta, founder, chairman and chief medical officer of IRIS, discusses how barriers to medical care and access to the latest technologies are delaying preventative screening for Diabetic Retinopathy, a leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States in people 20 to 65 years of age.

Listen to the interview here.