The Obama administration got a rare piece of good news today when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to…
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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…[more]

March 30, 2015 • 07:23 pm

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Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary: The Best Conservatives Can Hope For? Print
By Ashton Ellis
Wednesday, December 19 2012
It may be more prudent to let the Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee...put Hagel on the record about his principles as Defense Secretary.

This week the White House let the press know that President Barack Obama is considering Chuck Hagel, the former Republican Senator from Nebraska, to be the next Secretary of Defense.  The trial balloon touched off an interesting debate among conservatives and libertarians about whether to support the choice. 

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, is cheering on Obama to pick Hagel because of the Vietnam veteran’s skepticism over foreign interventions, and openness to “paring down” the Pentagon’s budget. 

In a speech to the non-partisan Atlantic Council which he currently leads, Hagel argued for more use of so-called “soft power” in foreign relations, such as a greater emphasis on engagement through diplomacy. 

Hagel’s principles may make him appealing to the Ron Paul wing of the Republican Party, who would like to see less military involvement in foreign affairs, and a unilateral reduction in federal spending.

But some others on the Right aren’t nearly so excited.  The Washington Free Beacon quotes William Kristol of the Weekly Standard as saying, “If Chuck Hagel has his way, Iran will get nuclear weapons and Israel will be thrown under the bus.”  Kristol was referencing Hagel’s past statements in favor of unconditional direct negotiations with Iran, and a tougher line on Israel’s relationship with Palestinians. 

Kristol and others raise some good points about Hagel that should be examined in more detail.  A future Defense Secretary should be made to articulate his understanding of America’s role in the Middle East; especially his stance toward Israel, the United States’ most consistent ally in the region.  That’s what Senate confirmation hearings are for.  But if nominated, hopefully Hagel will also get a chance to elaborate on a statement he made last year in an interview posted by the Council on Foreign Relations:

“Our Defense Department budget, it is not a jobs program.  It’s not an economic development program for my state or any district.”

Hagel is right on this point.  National defense spending should be premised on securing Americans’ safety, not necessarily on creating American jobs.  Defense spending is still the government spending taxpayer money, so if the primary justification for a Pentagon budget item is that it creates jobs or otherwise economically stimulates a specific region or industry, fiscal conservatives should be wary. 

Newt Gingrich is fond of saying that there’s enough waste and missed efficiencies in the Pentagon’s budget to turn it into a “Triangle” without jeopardizing America’s security posture.  Whether the real shape is a triangle or a square, it’s likely that any major deal on long-term spending reforms will have to include some reduced share of federal tax receipts going to the Defense Department. 

The question is how much.  During his first term, President Obama sliced $500 billion out of the military’s budget.  If the federal government goes over the fiscal cliff this January, the automatic spending cuts poised to hit the Defense Department are estimated to total another $500 billion.  While $1 trillion in cuts in less than four years would certainly trim at least one of the Pentagon’s corners, it’s hard to imagine that there is $1 trillion in wasteful or inefficient spending to pare down in such a short timeframe. 

All of which brings us back to a possible Hagel nomination.  Conservatives who resist the idea of Hagel as Defense Secretary might want to consider what scuttling his nomination would produce in the way of an alternative.  U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice’s proposed nomination to be the new Secretary of State crashed on the shoals of the Benghazi scandal.  Her replacement might be Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.  If Hagel goes down without a chance at confirmation hearings, is it likely President Obama will nominate someone more conservative? 

It may be more prudent to let the Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee – John McCain (R-AZ) chief among them – put Hagel on the record about his principles as Defense Secretary.  While conservatives might not like everything he says, it’s almost certain that another nominee would be even worse. 

Question of the Week   
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), the first major political candidate to formally announce his 2016 candidacy for President of the United States, was born in which of the following?
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Quote of the Day   
 
"Recent statements from United Nations officials, that Iran is already blocking their existing efforts to keep track of what is going on in their nuclear program, should tell anyone who does not already know it that any agreement with Iran will be utterly worthless in practice. It doesn't matter what the terms of the agreement are, if Iran can cheat. It is amazing -- indeed, staggering -- that so…[more]
 
 
—Thomas Sowell, Economist, Author and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow
— Thomas Sowell, Economist, Author and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow
 
Liberty Poll   

If convicted of charges of desertion and misbehaving before the enemy, what should be the appropriate level of punishment for Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who spent 5 years in Taliban captivity?