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Posts Tagged ‘Congress’
September 30th, 2014 at 7:25 pm
HHS’ Burwell Caught Low-Balling Congress on Cost of Healthcare.gov

A new report by Bloomberg Government indicates that Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), gave a potentially misleading answer when she told Congress that Healthcare.gov – the federal government’s ObamaCare portal – cost taxpayers $834 million to build.

Nicole Kaeding at the CATO Institute teases out some of the unstated, but related, costs that balloon the overall price tag to $2.14 billion, far north of Burwell’s testimony.

I’ve summarized them here as bullet points:

  • $300 million contract to process paper applications to serve as backups to electronic files
  • $387 million for real-time interfacing between the IRS and Healthcare.gov to verify income and family size for insurance subsidy calculations
  • $400 million in accounting tricks HHS used to pay for creating Healthcare.gov when 26 states refused to take federal start-up grants to build their own. Congress made no appropriations to build Healthcare.gov, so HHS shifted money from other units to fund the project.
  • $255 million in spending between February 2014 – the end of Burwell’s timeline – and August 20, 2014, the most recent information available. Bloomberg also included projected spending at current levels through September 30, 2014, the end of the fiscal year.

These are the kinds of expenses that Members of Congress would expect the HHS Secretary to include when testifying about full cost of a program. The fact that Burwell gave a low-ball estimate when these figures were easily accessible to her or her staff weakens her credibility as an honest broker of information. As her departing colleague Eric Holder knows, once Congress loses its ability to trust a Cabinet official, the gloves come off.

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 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 14th, 2014 at 3:25 pm
Like IRS, CMS Emails Go Missing

It looks like Lois Lerner – the former IRS manager at the center of the scandal targeting conservative groups – isn’t the only Obama administration official who lost emails subpoenaed by Congress.

Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is now believed to have deleted emails sought by congressional investigators trying to understand why Healthcare.gov had such a horrendous rollout.

“In order to stay below the agency’s Microsoft Outlook email size limit, Tavenner would regularly delete emails after copying or forwarding them to her staff for retention,” says the MSNBC report that broke the story. “However, Tavenner didn’t follow that procedure every time, meaning some emails never made it to her staff for safekeeping before being deleted.”

That could turn out to be a costly oversight for Tavenner.

As Jillian Kay Melchior points out, “Federal law tasks heads of all federal agencies with ‘mak[ing] and preserv[ing] records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency and designed to furnish the information necessary to protect the legal and financial rights of the Government and of persons directly affected by the agency’s activities.’”

Unlike Lerner who claims her IRS computer crashed taking with it unrecoverable emails – a claim disputed by IT experts inside and outside the tax-gathering agency – Tavenner, at best, is pleading that she’s too busy to follow the law. At worst, she’s the latest Obama administration official caught skirting her legal obligations to hide inconvenient truths.

To my knowledge, Tavenner isn’t considered an overt Obama loyalist, so it’s possible that the missing emails are a genuine oversight by a busy administrator. The trouble is, Tavenner works in an administration seemingly filled with people who are unwilling to comply with the kind of document sharing necessary for the people – through Congress – to understand and judge what unelected bureaucrats are doing. One of the tragedies of bad behavior by some is the suspicion it casts on everyone else on the team.

So be it.

Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has already pledged to hold hearings on alleged wrongdoing by agency heads when Congress returns from its August recess.

Don’t be surprised to see a hearing scheduled to get the truth about Tavenner’s missing emails.

August 11th, 2014 at 2:24 pm
HHS to Fund Coming ObamaCare Bailout of Insurance Companies

What makes conservatives so sure that the Obama administration will bailout insurance companies losing money under ObamaCare?

“According to a recent investigation conducted by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Darrell Issa, insurers widely expect to receive funds from the bailout program,” writes U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). “One large insurer recently filed financial statements claiming they expect part of their revenue to come from American taxpayers via the ObamaCare bailout ‘fund.’”

Thwarted by the GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives who refuse to appropriate money for this part of ObamaCare, the Department of Health and Human Services “figured out a way to use general funds available through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to pay off health insurers,” says Rubio. “The effect is to circumvent Congress’ power of the purse for the purpose of bailing out health insurers with taxpayer funds.”

Whether it’s the CIA lying about spying on congressional investigators or IRS officials conveniently losing potentially damaging emails, executive branch officials in the Obama administration are destroying the ability of anybody outside their clique from being able to trust anything they say.

August 4th, 2014 at 2:21 pm
Obama’s CIA Caught Spying on Congress

Obama’s CIA Director was caught lying to Congress about spying on a Senate investigative committee, and so far it looks like his only punishment will be an apology tour.

In March, CIA Director John Brennan took issue with a line of questioning by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) alleging that the agency had hacked into a computer system used by Senate investigators. “Nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, we wouldn’t do that,” he said.

His cover blown, Brennan is facing bipartisan calls for his resignation. Despite his earlier claim, the embattled director is hoping his apology will quiet the critics and spare him the same fate as David Petraeus, his predecessor who was hounded from office by revelations of an extra-marital affair.

I’m no fan of firing people to make a point, but one does wonder what Congress could and should do now that the CIA – an executive branch agency – has been shown to be spying on a portion of the legislative branch.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds provides some answers.

“Congress can, of course, charge Brennan with contempt of Congress, or refer him for prosecution under the False Statements Act. But in both cases, the decision to prosecute would be made by Attorney General Eric Holder, who seems to see his role not as administering justice, but as running interference for the Obama administration and protecting its officials from consequences.”

Perhaps better, then, to make the agency as a whole feel the brunt of punishment for acting badly. “Probably the best that Congress can do is to punish the entire CIA by using its budgetary power to make employees’ lives worse: Cutting back on bonuses, raises, conferences, and other perks.”

None of these answers are completely satisfying. Punishing everyone for the misdeeds of a few can be precisely as unjust as the initial bad act. The truth is we want and need competent, honest public servants whose tenure in office won’t trigger massive expenditures of time and money cleaning up their messes. Until the man in the Oval Office sets a better example for following the rule of law, we’ll likely continue to see his subordinates faithlessly executing their duties.

April 26th, 2014 at 5:57 pm
Bad News: Holder Says He’s Staying

Any hopes the GOP had that Kathleen Sebelius’ resignation as HHS Secretary might convince fellow Obama Cabinet member Eric Holder to do the same were quashed on Friday.

“The Attorney General does not plan to leave before the mid-terms,” said a Justice Department official. “That does not mean that he is definitely leaving after the mid-terms, just that he is at least staying through that time.”

Prior to Sebelius taking the fall for ObamaCare’s disastrous rollout, it was Holder who was the face of bureaucratic scandal. Though voted in Contempt of Congress by the House of Representatives, Holder continues to stonewall investigators on details surrounding the “Fast and Furious” program that led to the deaths of at least one American and dozens of Mexicans.

Credit Sebelius with this much – At least the department she ran wasn’t responsible for killing anyone on her watch.

February 7th, 2014 at 4:55 pm
The Case for Expanding the House
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Here in Southern California, the biggest development in recent weeks has been the announcement that hyper-liberal congressman Henry Waxman — who’s held a House seat from the Los Angeles area for 40 years — is finally stepping down at the end of the current session.

Given how long Waxman has dominated the politics of the area, it’s no surprise that there’s a long list of candidates lining up to succeed him. There’s another reason, however, for the glut of competition: this is an enormous district of wildly divergent communities. In my weekly column for the Orange County Register, I argue that this stems from a mistake in how we’ve organized the lower chamber for the past 85 years:

The physical distance between the northwestern edge of Waxman’s 33rd District, in Malibu, and its southeastern terminus, in San Pedro, is more than 40 miles. The cultural difference can only be measured in light years. The South Bay, the Westside, the Conejo Valley, and the coastal refuges of Pacific Palisades and Malibu are all worlds unto themselves, populated by citizens who view themselves as distinct from one another. The idea that they should all be represented by one person in Congress makes a mockery of the notion that House districts represent discrete, coherent communities.

That sort of absurdity is inevitable, however, given the fact that the House was severed from its original purpose 85 years ago, when Congress passed the Reapportionment Act of 1929. That law fixed the number of seats in the House of Representatives at 435, dictating that the available seats would be redistributed among the states based on population changes in each census, instead of adding new ones, which had been the historical practice (the House had grown to 435 from its original number of only 65). As a result, the average House district now consists of over 700,000 people – a far cry from the original system, where there was one representative for approximately 33,000 souls.

Whoever inherits Waxman’s seat will represent more people than the U.S. senators from the states of Wyoming or Vermont. Were the ratios employed by the founders still in use today, California’s 33rd Congressional District would actually be split into 21 discrete House seats.

Returning to that standard may be overkill; it would swell the ranks of the House of Representatives to over 9,500 members. Some expansion, however, is surely justified to create House districts small enough to actually represent something like the will of a coherent community. Until such changes are made, the notion of the House as the “people’s chamber” will be little more than a touch of historical nostalgia.

I’ll also note that having an enlarged House would (A) make it harder for special interests to capture critical masses of legislators and (b) have the practical effect of making it cheaper to run for Congress and allowing more true citizen-legislators to emerge. In short, it would make it harder to consolidate power in Congress—which is precisely why most sitting lawmakers won’t support it…and why it’s the right thing to do.

January 14th, 2014 at 6:10 pm
Obama’s “Pen-and-Phone” Strategy

Get ready for more presidential overreach.

Today, Barack Obama convened his first Cabinet meeting of the year. Unwilling to negotiate with Republicans in Congress, the President threatened to bypass the legislative process in order to impose his preferred policies through executive orders.

“I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” CBS’ DC affiliate quotes the President telling Cabinet members. “And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.”

Quick, grab the pen and unplug the phone!

What Obama is promising is to intervene in every stage of an American worker’s lifecycle, without any input from the 535 people elected to represent their diverse interests in Congress. Instead, he will rely on the accumulated wisdom of the bureaucratic and trade association elites to impose change in a centralized, top-down fashion.

It’s as if after five years of running annual trillion dollar deficits, destabilizing the health insurance market, destroying the coal industry and presiding over the largest increase in food stamp use in history the President thinks he needs to increase his influence over the nation’s economy.

It would be better if instead of rushing to issue a flurry of short-lived orders President Obama instead took the remainder of his lame duck tenure for what it is: An opportunity to see the big picture and exercise some humility.

Republicans are interested in talking about poverty reduction. Obama – whose upcoming State of the Union speech is rumored to include a section on income inequality – should meet them half way. Have a real conversation. In private and in public. Elevate thoughtful opponents like Paul Ryan so that the American people see two powerful intellects engaging a serious issue in a respectful way. In short, dabble in statesmanship.

Obama’s executive orders will expire the moment he leaves office. They will also incite partisan opposition, and rightly so since each will represent an end-run around the lawmaking process.

Mr. President, you can do a lot better than your so-called “pen-and-phone” strategy. America deserves it.

January 1st, 2014 at 2:14 pm
Lack of Expertise May Doom Obamacare’s Viability

According to management experts, there are three pretty obvious reasons why the Obama administration was ill-prepared to make Heathcare.gov work.

“The heart of the issue, many of these people say, is that Obama and his inner circle had scant executive experience prior to arriving in the West Wing, and dim appreciation of the myriad ways the federal bureaucracy can frustrate an ambitious president,” reports Politico. “And above all, they had little apparent interest in the kind of organizational and motivational concepts that typically are the preoccupation of the most celebrated modern managers.”

In other words, no one in an Obamacare leadership position had relevant experience in this area. Worse, the President himself doesn’t appear to think this glaring deficiency matters.

It’s hard to fathom how a program so central to Obama’s legacy could be quarterbacked so poorly for so long, but here we are. The President thought that simply passing Obamacare would be enough to cement his status as one of the nation’s all-time greats. But if Republicans unite around an alternative and win back Congress this year, he’ll be lucky to leave office with anything resembling a workable program.

December 17th, 2013 at 6:53 pm
GOP to Strike Back on Debt Limit?

If you’re disappointed by Paul Ryan’s budget deal to avoid another government shutdown, the House Budget Chairman has a message for you.

Wait till February.

That’s when the debt limit will be reached and, according to Ryan, when Republicans in Congress will try to extract some meaningful concessions from Democrats.

Of course, Ryan didn’t divulge any specifics about what kind of concessions would qualify, likely because he’s waiting for the results from a GOP confab in the New Year to settle on a strategy.

I’m skeptical. Ryan’s budget deal takes most of the obvious targets off the table until 2015 – that is, after the midterm elections – making it hard to see what leverage he and other Republicans in Congress can exert on Democrats and President Barack Obama to curb their spending habits.

If recent history is any guide, the most likely scenario is that Republicans continue to fracture over fiscal issues while the Democrats get an assist from the mainstream media in raising the debt limit.

The bitter pill for conservatives to swallow is that House Republicans have almost no ability to make substantive changes in law or policy unless and until the party regains control of the Senate. If the upper chamber flips next year then the silver lining to Ryan’s budget deal and the likely debt ceiling capitulation it’s that they might be the last time the GOP negotiates from a position of weakness.

December 16th, 2013 at 7:03 pm
Judge Casts Legal Doubt on NSA Spying

A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction against the National Security Agency (NSA) today, reports Politico.

The 68-page ruling sets up the possibility that some or all of the NSA’s warrantless surveillance practices could be banned as violations of the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unlawful searches and seizures.

Due to U.S. District Judge Richard Leon’s tone, it sounds like he’s leaning toward striking the program down.

“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval,” Leon wrote.

Since Leon seems likely to convert his preliminary order into a permanent injunction, expect to see this case – and perhaps others – arrive on the Supreme Court’s docket soon. Along the way there will be no shortage of arguments about arcane legal precedents and policy disputes over national security.

All of these are important considerations, but – in my view – the most appropriate place for their deliberation is Congress, not the courts. Maybe what NSA is doing can be justified under the Constitution as a legitimate national security measure. Maybe not. Either way, ultimately it should be decided by the branch most responsive – and responsible – to the People.

November 27th, 2013 at 5:08 pm
Another Cowardly Obamacare Delay

The launch of the Obamacare website for small businesses will be delayed until November 2014 – a full year from when it is required by law to go online.

Along with the Obama administration’s inability to create functioning health insurance portals, today’s announcement is yet another craven attempt by Washington liberals to shield themselves from the political consequences of their failures.

By pushing back the federally-run small business exchange (called SHOP) until after the 2014 midterm elections, President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress want to avoid a fresh round of voter anger when the newest website inevitably implodes.

But doing so means that three federal elections will have taken place between the time Obamacare passed into law in 2010 and its full implementation in 2014. That time period will cover half of the Obama presidency. If performance predicts the future, all we have to look forward to in 2014 is more failure.

Republicans should spare Americans the experience and put forward a slate of candidates that run and win on a promise to repeal Obamacare, without delay.

November 26th, 2013 at 5:47 pm
A Way to Win the Filibuster Fallout

Quin has a must-read idea about how to turn Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) filibuster nonsense into a political winner for the Republican Party.

Sketched out as only a savvy former congressional staff member could do, Quin’s idea calls on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to hold a joint press conference to announce:

1)    The role the filibuster has played in Senate deliberations
2)    How Republicans on both sides of the capitol could respond with tactics that would grind legislative business to a halt
3)    Or instead, with a compromise endorsed by 19 current and former Senate Democrats that preserves the filibuster, but in a form more in service to the public good

The proposed change would “turn the group filibuster back into a tool for extended debate – to try to rally public support – rather than a means of permanent obstruction,” writes Quin at NRO. “By serially ratcheting down the number of votes needed to invoke cloture – from 60 to 57 – 54 to 51, on successive attempts – the rule in effect would force opponents of a bill or nomination to show that their arguments are gaining more adherents as time progresses, thus showing that they might actually gain the support of an awakening public.”

For me, the attractiveness of Quin’s idea is its attempt to re-inject much-needed attention on the deliberative process in lawmaking. For the first time in years, the Senate – and especially the Republican bench – boasts a bevy of thoughtful debaters like Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY). Rather than speechmaking marathons where one person must speak until exhausted, America would be better served hearing, for example, Cruz and Tim Kaine (D-VA) debate immigration policy.

The possibilities abound. Imagine a debate between Paul and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on fiscal and monetary policy. Or between Lee and a Democrat-to-be-determined on any clause in the Constitution. By making the filibuster vote threshold drop with every round of voting, opponents of a measure must either win converts or lose the majority. Either way, the legislative process is made better because the senators elected to represent the public are putting their reasons on the record.

My quick summary doesn’t do enough justice to Quin’s piece, which you can read here. At a time when so much of government seems broken, it is refreshing to read a piece that offers a workable solution.

November 13th, 2013 at 6:37 pm
Beware Obamacare ‘Fixes’

Fox News says Democrats in Congress gave the Obama White House an ultimatum today: Fix the Obamacare-caused insurance policy cancellations by Friday, or we’ll vote for Republican measures that do.

Ordinarily, I would welcome bipartisan fervor allied against the Obama administration, but the 48 hour deadline has me holding my applause. No good policy or law can result from a two-day cram session overseen by panic-stricken political appointees. We’re much more likely to see a hastily written executive order rather than a carefully targeted proposal.

Because of that, it’s very likely that whatever the Obama White House produces on Friday will – over time – cause more problems than it fixes.

As to the Republican proposals that seek to reinstate canceled insurance plans, I’m not sure that’s a sound strategy either. Republicans didn’t vote for Obamacare, so they have zero responsibility for helping President Barack Obama keep his fallacious promise to let people keep their insurance policies if they want to.

People are losing their insurance plans because Obamacare changes the insurance market. If Republicans want to keep pre-Obamacare insurance plans, they should insist on returning to a pre-Obamacare insurance market. Thus, as ever, the simplest Obamacare ‘fix’ is also the most effective: Complete repeal.

Anything else runs the risk of further distorting an already overregulated part of the health care sector.

November 13th, 2013 at 6:05 pm
Boehner Nixes Immigration Deal on Senate Gang’s Bill

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is pulling the plug on the Senate Gang of Eight’s immigration bill.

“We’ve made it clear that we’re going to move on a common sense, step-by-step approach in terms of how we deal with immigration,” said Boehner, according to the Washington Times. “The idea that we’re going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House. And frankly, I’ll make clear we had no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.”

That last line about having “no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill” might come as a surprise to those who remember the viability of that option prior to freshman Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) unleashing a public and private remonstrance against it.

I’m sure there were a lot of factors that went into Boehner’s decision to put the kibosh on the Senate’s version of immigration; not least of which is politics. Immigration reform splits the GOP to the advantage of Democrats. Focusing on all of Obamacare’s failures unites Republicans ahead of the critical 2014 midterm elections.

Whatever the weight given to individual factors, it’s good to see House Republicans opting for unity over division. On both issues, the conservative perspective wins.

November 11th, 2013 at 8:12 pm
Remember When Veterans Day Was Celebrated in October?

Kudos to the artful dodgers in the public relations office at the Department of Veterans Affairs. While preparing a lesson for my kids this morning on the history and significance of Veterans Day, I came across this delightful tidbit on the politics that motivated a brief change on when the holiday was celebrated.

“The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-963 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day,” says the VA’s website. “It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.”

“The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971,” the entry continues. “It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.”

It’s not hard to understand why so many people were upset. In a previous part of the very same historical write-up, the VA mentions that since 1954, November 11 had been the universally celebrated day Americans celebrated its military veterans. The date is rooted in Armistice Day celebrations that commemorated the end of hostilities in World War I that “went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” I.e. November 11, 1918.

And yet, despite all this, Congress tried to rewrite history so that federal workers could get a few extra guaranteed three-day weekends. I’m glad to see that grassroots opposition to such an inane federal power grab quickly and decisively resulted in a total repeal.

I’m also glad to know that this interesting piece of American history was included on a government website. I give a heartfelt hat tip to the nameless content writer who gave this husband and father hope that the same fighting spirit alluded to can still be summoned for even greater affronts to freedom today.

November 9th, 2013 at 4:02 pm
Latest Obamacare ‘Fix’ Could Cost Billions

Another day, another leaked attempt to make an end-run around Congress.

In the wake of the widespread insurance policy cancellations forcing individuals onto Obamacare exchanges, Obama administration officials are letting it be known that they are working on an “administrative fix” that would somehow provide financial relief for those affected that don’t qualify for federal subsidies to offset the health law’s higher premiums.

This trial balloon seems to be the necessary corollary to President Barack Obama’s promise Thursday night “to work hard to make sure that [people losing their individual policies] know we hear them and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.”

Even if that means rewriting the law without Congress, and exploding the cost of Obamacare.

As written, Obamacare subsidies are capped at 400 percent of the federal poverty line, which translates into an annual income of no more than $46,000 per year for an individual.

But, “In June 2009, the CBO evaluated a draft proposal from the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee that offered subsidies as high as 500 percent of the federal poverty level,” writes Philip Klein.

“In the period from 2014 through 2019 alone, CBO estimated that the exchange subsidies would cost $1.2 trillion.” Dropping the cut-off level to 400 percent of FPL reduced the cost estimate to $458 billion over the same six year period.

If the Obama administration elects to go this route, Klein says expect to see another famous presidential pledge come under fire: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future. I will sign if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period.”