Posts Tagged ‘law’
December 27th, 2013 at 2:56 pm
NSA Program Upheld in NY After Losing in DC

Earlier today a federal judge in New York ruled that the National Security Agency’s warrantless phone record collections are constitutional.

Because the decision conflicts with a previous ruling from the District of Columbia, today’s ruling makes it much more likely that the United States Supreme Court will eventually weigh in.

As always, the outcome will depend heavily on which frame the Court adopts.

In the D.C. case, Judge Richard Leon emphasized the extent to which the NSA’s program violated fundamental norms of privacy, and pronounced it unconstitutional. “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval,” wrote Leon.

However in New York, Judge William Pauley took a more sympathetic view of the government’s argument. To him the program “significantly increases the NSA’s capability to detect the faintest patterns left behind by individuals affiliated with foreign terrorist organizations. Armed with all the metadata, NSA can draw connections it might otherwise never be able to find.”

Though my inclination is to side with Judge Leon’s disapproval, I’m withholding judgment while Congress deliberates. As Judge Pauley correctly notes, “The question for this court is whether the government’s bulk telephony metadata program is lawful. This court finds that it is. But the question of whether that program should be conducted is for the other two coordinate branches of government to decide.”

It’s a debate we can’t afford to take lightly.

September 12th, 2013 at 7:46 pm
Delay ObamaCare, Spend Savings on Sequester?

House Republican conservatives are considering an alternative to using the upcoming budget fight as an attempt to defund ObamaCare. In its place, the GOP would vote to delay all of ObamaCare for a year and use the money saved to restore budget cuts caused by the sequester, reports the Washington Examiner.

To entice Democrats, the proposal would also raise the government’s debt ceiling, which is estimated to be reached sometime in late October.

On the plus side, the one-year delay puts President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats on the defensive. After delaying the employer mandate and income eligibility requirements, it would be difficult to justify opposing the whole scale delay of a law that is turning into a “train wreck” to implement.

Shifting the money saved on ObamaCare implementation also lets Republicans take credit for restoring budget cuts, but here the plan starts to look less favorable. Conservatives want to restore funding to the military, but liberals are likely to demand restoration across the board – including budget items that Republicans would otherwise like to see shrink or eliminated.

Besides, if at the end of the year the sequester gets “paid for,” what was the point of going through all the downsizing? Angling for praise for restoring spending in a budget that doesn’t balance seems like an odd goal for fiscal conservatives.

Finally, there’s the debt ceiling issue. Between the White House, Senate Democrats and House Republican leadership there appears to be agreement that the debt ceiling should be raised. While that’s certainly the politically correct thing to do, it too seems contrary to the fiscal instincts of conservatives.

And yet, this trial balloon proposal might be attractive to House conservatives, also known as the best hope for imposing any kind of spending discipline in Washington. If this is the best they think they can do, then it means momentum inside Congress for defunding ObamaCare is dead.

If that’s true, let’s hope they can get a full and complete delay. Otherwise, capitulating on those terms will lead to more spending, more debt and more regulations. Not exactly a win for conservativsm.

August 26th, 2013 at 5:06 pm
HHS Hires 86 Cops, 2 Consumer Safety Officers under ObamaCare

How’s this for a snapshot of ObamaCare’s priorities?

Since the controversial health law passed in March 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has hired 1,684 new employees.

Of those, 86 are criminal investigators while only two are consumer safety officers.

The numbers come from HHS data extracted by a Freedom of Information Request by The Daily Mail, a British newspaper.

Bear in mind, HHS’s health cops are in addition to the estimated 16,500 new agents the Internal Revenue Service is seeking to fulfill its ObamaCare policing mandate.

There are, of course, better, much less intrusive ways to do health reform.

“People would voluntarily purchase the health insurance of their choice with basic subsidies. Additional special assistance could be targeted to help those with low incomes and/or high risk-based premium costs in purchasing health insurance,” according to Thomas Miller of the American Enterprise Institute.

Instead of the demanding detailed financial and health information from millions of Americans, Miller proposes treating ObamaCare health insurance subsidies like other income tax issues, so that only “a tiny fraction of taxpayers would be subject to mostly random audits to ensure that their tax subsidies for insurance are being spent appropriately.”

Miller’s solution would nix the need for all the new ObamaCare investigators. Eliminating the 86 new HHS hires would save taxpayers approximately $138.8 million annually.

But that would mean less oversight and control for the federal government, which, as we are seeing with the rise in police-related hiring at HHS and IRS, is not a priority under ObamaCare.

August 15th, 2013 at 6:25 pm
ObamaCare Navigators Could Make $20-48 an Hour Registering Voters

Today, the Obama administration announced $67 million in grants to 105 groups nationwide who will assist people trying to find health insurance on an ObamaCare exchange, according to Politico.

The groups are non-insurance organizations that will in turn employ so-called “navigators” to help insurance seekers fill out an ObamaCare application, obtain insurance, and yes, even register to vote.

Some of the groups receiving grants include Planned Parenthood affiliates and various community organizers and activists. Care to speculate which political party they’ll steer registrants to?

The likely pay isn’t bad either.

In a proposed regulation issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid two weeks ago, it is suggested that the groups employing navigators pay between $20 and $48 an hour. (Navigators are prohibited by law from being paid by insurance companies, so compensation is expected to come from grant recipients.)

You’ve got to hand it to liberals. Not only do they manage to find a way to pay themselves to grow an entitlement, they get to grow their political support too.

What’s that line about democracy lasting only until the people discover they can vote themselves the treasury…?

March 8th, 2012 at 8:11 pm
Sunset Every Federal Law

Philip K. Howard, author of Life Without Lawyers, has a thought-provoking essay in the Atlantic about how to repeal old laws in order to make room for new policies that will unleash American ingenuity and discretion:

Fixing what ails America is impossible, indeed illegal, without a legal spring cleaning. The goal is not mainly to “deregulate” but to restate programs in light of current needs and priorities.

As a practical matter, this requires Congress to authorize special commissions to make proposals, area by area. Using the base closing commission model, these proposals would be submitted to Congress for an up or down vote.

Going forward, Congress should incorporate sunset provisions in all laws with budgetary impact. The goal is not to end good programs but to impose a discipline that is essential for a functioning democracy that must constantly make tough tradeoffs.

Howard’s point about including sunset clauses into all new laws with budgetary impact would be a HUGE step in the right direction.  In Texas government, where I once worked as a legislative staff member, every state agency is subject to elimination pending the outcome of a once-a-decade review.

Each session the legislature is given the option to continue, modify, or eliminate state agencies falling within a policy area (e.g. all agencies having jurisdiction over education).  In practice, very few agencies are eliminated completely, but the many are consolidated and streamlined.  In every case, legislators get a chance to think through issues like whether the agency is meeting its mission; if not, why not; and if so, is there a better way?

There’s a case to be made that reforms that do little more than add to the existing body of law are, in practice, de-forms of public policy.  We don’t need more laws; we need less of the ones we have, and better versions of those.

August 15th, 2011 at 5:27 pm
Obama Waives Legislative Process with New NCLB Deal

Kudos to the Heritage Foundation for drawing attention to this analysis from the Brookings Institution about President Barack Obama’s unprecedented use of the waiver process to bypass Congress and rewrite education law:

It is one thing for an administration to grant waivers to states to respond to unrealistic conditions on the ground or to allow experimentation and innovation. Similar waiver authority has been used to advance welfare and Medicaid reform going back to the Reagan administration, and to allow a few districts and states to experiment at the margins of NCLB in the Bush administration. It is quite another thing to grant state waivers conditional on compliance with a particular reform agenda that is dramatically different from existing law. The NCLB waiver authority does not grant the secretary of education the right to impose any conditions he considers appropriate on states seeking waivers, nor is there any history of such a wholesale executive branch rewrite of federal law through use of the waiver authority.