Posts Tagged ‘Congress’
May 26th, 2015 at 8:25 pm
Fifth Circuit Maintains Roadblock to Obama Immigration Amnesty

Today the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to lift an injunction prohibiting the Obama administration from implementing an executive amnesty program for millions of illegal immigrants.

Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas who is leading a 26 state lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s amnesty order, applauded the court for stopping “a drastic change in immigration policy” since the program bypassed congressional approval. Texas is alleging significant financial burdens on state taxpayers if the federal government is allowed to proceed.

The Obama administration is now considering whether to appeal the Fifth Circuit’s opinion to the U.S. Supreme Court, a move which could backfire and derail a policy goal long sought by immigration activists.

This much we know: the rule of law has been preserved, at least for today.

H/T: New York Times

May 18th, 2015 at 6:13 pm
CMS Hush-Hush on New ‘Epic’ Medicaid Rules

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services won’t say what’s coming before it announces new rules for long-term managed care, the first in 13 years.

“The number of people enrolled roughly quadrupled, from 105,000 in 2004 to 389,000 in 2012,” reports National Journal. “And overall Medicaid spending on long-term care is projected to balloon from $60 billion annually to more than $100 billion in 2023, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated, as the baby boomers get older and require more care.”

Health care industry leaders are anxiously awaiting the new regulations without any indication of what’s coming. CMS has been working on the updated regulatory scheme for more than a year, and so far is keeping the people most effected in the dark.

“It’s a lot like the recent Mayweather-Pacquiao fight,” a representative of managed care plans is quoted as saying. “There’s lots and lots of hype around it, and it’s either going to be epic or it’s going to kind of fizzle.”

With President Barack Obama’s penchant for going big, it will be shocking if his administration opts for fizzle instead of epic. That nameless bureaucrats have this much control over major policy decisions says a lot about the real do-nothing tendencies of Congress. Rather than debate and deliberate over such a consequential matter, Members of Congress have outsourced their lawmaking function to an executive agency.

That’s not leadership. It’s a dereliction of duty.

May 15th, 2015 at 10:59 am
Video: Congress’ ObamaCare Fraud
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino demands accountability for the apparent fraud that took place enabling Members of Congress and their staff to circumvent clear rules under ObamaCare in order to keep their taxpayer-subsidized health insurance. 

May 14th, 2015 at 9:54 am
Bipartisan Support Growing to Repeal ObamaCare Medical Device Tax

A group of 18 House Democrats sent a letter recently to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) requesting “timely passage” of a bill to repeal perhaps the most unpopular ObamaCare tax.

The medical device tax levies a 2.3 percent fee on medical devices, and is credited with causing increased prices and a decline in jobs within the manufacturing industry. Much of the Democratic support for repeal comes from members representing states with large device making companies in Minnesota and Indiana.

In a divided Congress, repealing the medical device tax may be the best way demonstrate bipartisan opposition to ObamaCare. Last year, 79 Senators voted to repeal this tax though then Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) refused to bring it to a floor vote. With Republicans in control of the chamber, a vote is likely to occur.

Even if President Barack Obama vetoes the measure – which the White House has promised he will do unless Congress imposes another tax to offset the revenue loss – the mounting pressure to get rid of the medical device tax indicates that there are political victories to be had, if congressional leaders will push for them.

May 11th, 2015 at 3:01 pm
Resist the Nanny State with Private Citizen Defense Funds

Charles Murray at AEI has a thought-provoking idea for pushing back against the Nanny State: private citizen defense funds.

“People don’t build tornado-proof houses; they buy house insurance,” Murray explains. “In the case of the regulatory state, let’s buy insurance that reimburses us for any fine that the government levies and that automatically triggers a proactive, tenacious legal defense against the government’s allegation even if – and this is crucial – we are technically guilty.”

Defending the technically guilty is designed to make overzealous regulators think twice before going after someone. The point is to concentrate enforcement resources on the worst offenders – not the weakest targets.

Murray suggests two ways of funding his citizen defense initiative. “The first would be a legal foundation functioning much as the Legal Services Corporation does for the poor, except that its money will come from private donors, not the government. It would be an altruistic endeavor, operating exclusively on behalf of the homeowner or small business being harassed by the regulators. The foundation would pick up all the legal costs of defense and pay the fines when possible.”

But wait, there’s more!

“The other framework would be occupational defense funds. Let’s take advantage of professional expertise and pride of vocation to drive standards of best practice,” says Murray. “For example, the American Dental Association could form Dental Shield, with dentists across America paying a small annual fee. The bargain: Dentists whose practices meet the ADA’s professional standards will be defended when accused of violating a regulation that the ADA has deemed to be pointless, stupid or tyrannical. The same kind of defense fund could be started by truckers, crafts unions, accountants, physicians, farmers or almost any other occupation.”

Though it would be nice if some of the great ideas touching on regulatory reform – for example, the REINS Act – are signed into law someday, the wonderful thing about Murray’s idea is that it could go into effect without any helping hand from government.

You can read the entire article at the Wall Street Journal.

April 29th, 2015 at 5:58 pm
IG Warning: States May be Illegally Using ObamaCare Grants

At least 37 states have received a total of $4.8 billion to implement ObamaCare, but under the terms of the “establishment grants” those monies cannot be used to pay for overhead costs like rent, software maintenance, staffing and utilities.

That hasn’t stopped some states from trying, apparently.

“We have concerns that, without more detailed guidance from [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid], [State-based ObamaCare exchanges] might have used, and might continue to use, establishment grant funds for operating expenses after January 1, 2015, contrary to law,” writes the Inspector General at the Health and Human Services Department.

“In media reports and during our review of [states’] budget information, we have observed that some [states] face uncertain operating revenues in 2015 and future years. Because operating revenues are uncertain, there is a risk that [states] might use establishment grant funds to cover operational expenses,” warns the IG’s letter.

The IG points to evidence that the Rhode Island exchange does not have a dedicated funding source, and the Washington exchange is short $125 million unless the state legislature steps in.

In other words, ObamaCare gave seed money to start expensive new state agencies that are now supposed to be self-sustaining. At least two are not, and the tone of the IG’s letter implies that many more are suspect.

If an enterprising conservative committee chairman wants to protect taxpayers while exposing one of the failures of ObamaCare, following up on the IG’s warning letter with a detailed investigation would be a good strategy.

H/T: The Hill

March 30th, 2015 at 7:23 pm
Supreme Court Declines Challenge to ObamaCare’s IPAB

The Obama administration got a rare piece of good news today when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding part of ObamaCare.

The case, Coons v. Lew, is an Arizona-based challenge to the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), the 15-member group of experts empowered to reduce Medicare spending below a certain threshold.

In declining the plaintiffs’ appeal, the Supremes did not in any way indicate that this case is without merit. Rather, it may have been filed too early. Courts are typically loathe to strike down parts of laws that have yet to go into effect. IPAB won’t be making any decisions until 2019 at the earliest.

As usual, the issue is whether IPAB is constitutional. “Its decisions cannot be overridden by Congress without a super-majority and cannot be challenged in court,” explains a report in Politico. If that sounds like near monarchial power for an unelected bunch of experts, well, this is the Obama administration after all.

For now, IPAB is a dormant legal issue. Time will tell if it becomes a political rallying cry in next year’s presidential election.

March 17th, 2015 at 1:40 pm
New House Budget Solidifies Ryan’s Legacy

New House Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) is picking up right where his predecessor Paul Ryan (R-WI) left off.

Today, Price introduced his first federal budget proposal which borrows heavily from Ryan’s plans, “including a plan that would transform Medicare into a voucher-like ‘premium support’ program for seniors joining Medicare in 2024 or later,” reports Fox News. “They would receive a subsidy to purchase health insurance on the private market.”

Price would also keep Ryan’s idea to convert Medicaid and food stamps into federal block grants that states can spend with more freedom than they do now.

Though this budget stands little chance of passing because Republicans in Congress don’t have the votes to overcome a certain veto by President Barack Obama, retaining the core of Ryan’s reform package sends an important signal that these budget proposals are now the fundamental elements of any conservative spending reduction agenda. Every GOP presidential aspirant will have to weigh in on whether they support this approach and what, if any, changes they would make.

This is deliberative democracy at its best.

March 12th, 2015 at 3:53 pm
Tom Cotton’s Letter Echoes Jesse Helms’ Defense of the Constitution

If the Obama administration thinks U.S. Senator Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) letter is a threat to their negotiations with Iran, they should consider the actions of the late Jesse Helms.

Helms (R-NC) was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the latter part of the Clinton presidency and made no bones about attempts to circumvent Congress so the White House could claim a big foreign policy headline.

In an op-ed published the day Clinton was to engage in talks with Vladimir Putin about reducing missile defense capabilities, Helms declared, “After dragging his feet on missile defense for nearly eight years, Mr. Clinton now fervently hopes that he will be permitted, in his final months in office, to tie the hands of the next President.”

Helms would have none of it. “Well I, for one, have a message for the President: Not on my watch. Let’s be clear, to avoid any misunderstandings: Any modified ABM treaty negotiated by this administration will be dead-on-arrival at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee… The Russian government should not be under any illusions whatsoever that any commitments made by this lame-duck Administration, will be binding on the next administration.”

And with that, the talks dissolved.

In this context, Cotton’s letter is tame by comparison. Which isn’t to say that it lacks verve and importance. Cotton and the forty-six other Senators who educated the Iranian leadership on the limitations of Obama’s go-it-alone strategy are guarding against the misimpression that Obama’s dealmaking lasts any longer than his hold on office.

What Helms and Cotton have in common is a clear-eyed view of constitutional procedure, and the difference it makes when shunted aside. If Obama wants a legacy pact with Iran, he can’t do it on the cheap. Congress – and specifically the Senate – needs to be consulted, the sooner the better.

March 10th, 2015 at 5:33 pm
Lessons from Britain in Repealing ObamaCare

Daniel Hannan, a British conservative serving in the European Parliament, warns Americans about the danger of propping up ObamaCare long enough for it to get entrenched in everyday life.

“ObamaCare isn’t a precise copy of the British health system. But there is one parallel on which its exponents are relying, namely the conflation of their healthcare model with the people who work in it,” writes Hannan. “The chairman of the body in charge of overseeing care quality in Britain recently put his finger on the problem: ‘The NHS became too powerful to criticize. When things were going wrong, people didn’t say anything. If you criticized the NHS – the attitude was how dare you?’”

Something similar seems to be happening now. Some states are getting ready to install ObamaCare exchanges if the Supreme Court strikes down the IRS subsidies as unlawfully distributed to people using the federal website.

Others are suggesting the creation of an “off-ramp” from ObamaCare that would keep the subsidies flowing until the 2016 presidential election, but would also extend the health law’s life span.

These kinds of half-measures do nothing to help move health reform in a more sustainable, market-oriented direction. All they do is put a bipartisan face on ObamaCare, albeit in an altered form.

Part of what makes repealing ObamaCare a realistic option is the steadfast resistance from state and federal Republicans in implementing it. If even a significant minority of GOP leaders start to go along with saving ObamaCare – in whatever form – then the United States runs the risk that Hannan in Britain knows all too well.

Socialized medicine will be here to stay.

March 5th, 2015 at 4:58 pm
Congress Would Rather Write Letters than Pass Laws

Reuters is reporting that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and a bipartisan group of House members sent a letter to President Barack Obama this week urging him to send weapons to the Ukrainian government in order to send a message to Russia.

“In the face of Russian aggression, the lack of clarity on our overall strategy thus far has done little to reassure our friends and allies in the region who, understandably, feel vulnerable. This needs to change,” wrote the lawmakers.

But here’s the irony. According to Reuters, “The House and U.S. Senate voted unanimously late last year for a bill authorizing Obama to provide weapons to Kiev but he has yet to decide whether to send any.”

That is, Congress voted to give Obama the discretion whether or not to send weapons to Ukraine. Now, some members are upset that he won’t enact their preferred strategy.

Just like immigration policy, Congress has the ability to limit the president’s options by passing laws that spell out exactly what he can and cannot do. Unlike immigration – where Obama’s amnesty programs are deliberately in conflict with federal law – in the case of Ukraine the president appears to be clearly within his power not to act.

It’s a sad commentary when leading members of Congress are reduced to relying on third-party lawsuits and strongly-worded letters instead of their inherent, constitutional power to create the laws of the land.

No wonder this president ignores them.

March 4th, 2015 at 12:49 pm
GOP Congress Caves on Obama Amnesty

After weeks of failing to pass a bill blocking implementation of President Barack Obama’s unilateral amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants, Republican leaders in Congress called it quits.

A so-called “clean” bill – one without the amnesty prohibition – passed the House of Representatives 257 – 167 yesterday, with all of the no votes coming from Republicans. The bill is expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate quickly.

Though much of the blame is being focused on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), it seems the media is conveniently forgetting that new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) let a presidential attack on constitutional separation-of-powers supersede a Senate debating procedure known as the filibuster. If the roles were reversed it is inconceivable that Harry Reid would let a procedural rule he controls thwart his sense of constitutional propriety.

By elevating a Senate tradition above Congress’ constitutional duty to make the laws, McConnell has effectively neutered his 54 member majority since it lacks the 60 votes it needs to actually govern.

Welcome to the Republican Senate. Its work product looks an awful lot like its Democratic predecessor.

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 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 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.