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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his allies are gamely continuing the fight for a vote on permanent extension of the internet tax moratorium.Ã‚Â It's a smart move, since majorities in both chambers support a permanent extension but leadership is denying a vote.Ã‚Â Details at Sen. McConnell's web site.
The basic principle behind the rule of law is that all laws must apply to all citizens equally. Unfortunately, Congress is trying to subvert this principle with regards to Obamacare.
FreedomWorks members are being told that Congressmen, Senators, and their staffers can keep their federal health insurance subsidies. Several concerned citizens have received similar letters back from their legislators about this issue.
One such response says the Office of Personnel Management’s regulations “clarify that, like other large employers under the [health care] law, the federal government must continue to make the same contribution to congressional employee premiums as they do now, regardless of whether the employees are enrolled in [the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program] or receive their insurance through the marketplace [i.e. the Obamacare exchange].”
This is misleading. Other large employers are allowed to contribute to their employees’ health care plans…unless the employee bought their plan from the Obamacare exchange. Since all members of Congress and their staffers are required to buy insurance from the exchange, they should not be entitled to an employer contribution. If Congress is allowed to keep their taxpayer-funded subsidies, then they will be cutting themselves a deal that no other citizen can receive.
While the best solution would be to exempt all Americans from Obamacare, the next best option is the Vitter-DeSantis bill. The purpose of this bill is to make sure that Congress receives the same kinds of subsidies as everyone else. In addition to upholding the rule of law, it will force Congress to experience the same hardships that other Americans must endure under the Affordable Care Act, which will make them more likely to seriously reform the law.
The basic principle behind the rule of law is that all laws must apply to all citizens equally. Unfortunately, Congress is trying to subvert this principle with regards to Obamacare.FreedomWorks members are being told that Congressmen, Senators, and their staffers can keep their federal health insurance subsidies. Several concerned citizens have received similar letters back from their legislators about this issue.
Fox News, CNN and other news organizations are reporting that a deal has been reached in the Senate to resolve the shutdown and debt ceiling battle that has been raging for the past couple weeks.
The framework on the Senate side would raise the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, and include a spending bill meant to last through Jan. 15. The plan would not include any provision relating to the ObamaCare medical device tax, as prior plans did; instead it would include a single provision meant to verify the income of those receiving ObamaCare subsidies. It would also instruct a bipartisan budget committee to report back on a broader plan by mid-December.
Reports also indicate that House Speaker John Boehner would allow a vote on the Senate bill. If he allows this, it would signal a surrender from the GOP and a defeat for Boehner, as the bill is likely not to include any substantial changes to Obamacare, and may not get the support of a majority of Republicans on the floor. To pass the deal Boehner may need substantial support from House Democrats.
"Boehner will need Pelosi votes," said one senior Democratic aide, familiar with what he described as the cross-party negotiations that have been occurring Wednesday morning.
"Not sure she'll give them, but I imagine she will."
Full details on the Senate compromise will be announced this afternoon. A vote will likely follow and is anticipated to pass with enough support that the final bill will be sent to the House.
Fox News, CNN and other news organizations are reporting that a deal has been reached in the Senate to resolve the shutdown and debt ceiling battle that has been raging for the past couple weeks.
The fight to defund Obamacare has been heating up quite a bit recently. As the battle over the current Continuing Resolution to fund the government comes to a head, the Democrats in the Senate have lobbed many serious accusations against conservatives. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called Americans who want to stop the implementation of this law “fanatics” and “anarchists.” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said that trying to defund Obamacare is an insane policy and that Republicans have taken the country hostage.
Democrats claim that, if a deal is not reached by October 1, the Republicans will be responsible for the impending government shutdown. This claim is absolutely ridiculous.
The Democrats have conveniently forgotten the fact that Congress wouldn’t even have to vote on a Continuing Resolution if the Senate had passed a realistic budget this year. Rather than proposing a serious budget that would lower the deficit and encourage economic growth, Senator Patty Murray’s (D-WA) bill was a liberal wish-list of spending and tax increases. To top it all off, her plan would never balance the budget. Prior to the Senate’s symbolic vote to approve the Murray budget this year, they had not even passed a budget since April 29, 2009.
For some perspective, here are five things to help you remember just how long ago that was:
1. LeBron James was still a Cleveland Cavalier
2. “Hannah Montana: The Movie” had just been released in theaters
3. The Black Eyed Peas “Boom Boom Pow” was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list
4. Michael Jackson was still rehearsing for his “This Is It” tour
5. The final episode of “ER” had just been aired
By contrast, the House of Representatives has passed a workable budget every year since 2011, when the Republicans took control. These budget resolutions are normally how the process of funding the government gets started. However, because the Democrats in the Senate refuse to pass a realistic budget, government agencies have to live paycheck to paycheck with these Continuing Resolutions.
And that’s how we’ve arrived at where we are today. The United States of America is one week away from a government shutdown. It’s about time the American people understand who is really to blame.
The fight to defund Obamacare has been heating up quite a bit recently. As the battle over the current Continuing Resolution to fund the government comes to a head, the Democrats in the Senate have lobbed many serious accusations against conservatives.
Many outside Oregon have written off the state as a perennial loss for conservatives, owing to its deep blue liberal reputation. This reputation is brilliantly depicted in the IFC show Portlandia, which many Oregon natives view more as a documentary than a comedy. But the politics of Oregon are a much more complex stew of several influences, including a deep libertarian streak and strong conservative values - especially outside the Portland metro area. Indeed, it's only been since 2008 since we had a Republican Senator - Gordon Smith, who was defeated by Portland liberal Democrat Jeff Merkley.
Since Merkley's election, he's been almost invisible except for the perennial questions surrounding whether he really represents the whole state, or just Portlandia. He's started to publicly surface in 2013, however, as he attempts to gear up for reelection for the first time as a US Senator. For instance, he's tried to increase his relevance by taking a prominent stance in the NSA domestic spying controversy - a stance that has met with, shall we say, mixed results. He's also tried to portray himself as a champion of the people in the IRS scandal - although it's questionable whether he's done more harm than good.
So it's safe to say that, at best, Merkley's statements have been all over the map as he tries to position himself as relevant and as an advocate of the people. And that also applies to his stance on Obamacare. As the implementation of Obamacare hits some unexpected snags, Merkley continues to be on the side of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama.
The National Republican Senatorial Committe (NRSC), along with Oregonians across the state, are all noticing:
- “I think it's important for us to recognize and acknowledge this is working the way it's supposed to.” (President Barack Obama, 6/7/2013)
- “The implementation of this is fabulous." (Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, 6/27/2013)
- "ObamaCare has been wonderful for America." (Majority Leader Harry Reid, 7/14/2013)
- Merkley said, "overall [ObamaCare] ‘allows you to control your own future, and that’s as American as apple pie.’” (Justin Much, “Merkley Talks Health Care, Taxes,” [Salem, OR] Statesman Journal, 3/20/2011)
- A report published by the non-partisan Society of Actuaries shows that ObamaCare will increase the costs of medical claims in Oregon by more than 14%. (Society of Actuaries, Cost of the Newly Insured Under the Affordable Care Act, 3/26/2013)
"The fact is that ObamaCare raises health care costs, increases taxes, and is forcing employers to cut back on jobs without achieving its stated objective of insuring all Americans - and Jeff Merkley promised otherwise," said NRSC Press Secretary Brook Hougesen. "Jeff Merkley proudly stood with Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and made promises about the law that have been broken, but he still refuses to listen to millions of Oregon women, workers and families who want ObamaCare permanently delayed and dismantled so that the rising cost of health care can finally be properly addressed."
A quick search for the term "merkley obamacare" produces a constituent letter that typifies the effects of Obamacare on the average Oregonian family:
March 13, 2013
The Tax increases on Passive income in ObamaCare cost me my job. My Employers will have to pay the tax instead of being able to employ me. My In-Laws are not rich, and wish they could continue to employ me, but thanks to the tax increases, that is not an option.
BALANCE THE BUDGET!
STOP WASTING MONEY!
STOP COSTING PEOPLE THEIR JOBS!
Hillsboro , OR
It remains to be seen if a truly conservative and competitive candidate can be recruited to run against Merkley in 2014, and whether the NRSC can deliver the goods in terms of support and proper messaging to appeal to Oregon's unique voters. One thing is clear, however - Jeff Merkley is out of touch with those voters of Oregon who aren't tofu eating hipsters wandering the Pearl District of Portland in search of their next wheat grass smoothie.
Many outside Oregon have written off the state as a perennial loss for conservatives, owing to its deep blue liberal reputation. This reputation is brilliantly depicted in the IFC show Portlandia, which many Oregon natives view more as a documentary than a comedy. But the politics of Oregon are a much more complex stew of several influences, including a deep libertarian streak and strong conservative values - especially outside the Portland metro area.
In March, I reported on the first signs of new life from the National Republican Senatorial Committee after the disastrous 2012 election cycle, in which conservatives lost ground in the US Senate despite expectations of actually taking over that chamber of congress. Given the rise of new media and the stagnation of legacy media, the NRSC has taken the initiative to facilitate communications by creating a new blogger outreach position. Now, it appears that this initiative is starting to include other new marketing efforts.
Yesterday, the NRSC released the following web ad, clearly designed to improve and repair the Republican brand:
The tone of the ad is undeniably positive, and strikes a chord. This is what they have to say in describing their new tone:
Republicans are sometimes criticized as being the party of No.
That's not actually the case. We say YES a lot.
But too often our ads focus on winning the Washington argument, but we forget to speak to the average American and define that we ARE about helping people.
That's why we created the 'Yes' campaign. We say YES on liberty, jobs and opportunity for ALL Americans.
But the unresolved question is whether the NRSC will apply the same self-critical analysis when choosing candidates to back. Too many times, it seems, the wrong horse has been pushed onto the track. Will this new makeover include candidates who will stand on principle, or will we be given another round of compromisers who govern based more on polling data than doing what's right for the limited government movement?
And this leads me to a consistent gripe I've had with many issue and candidate campaigns for the past several years, both on a local and national level. Too often the consultant class has settled for a campaign-in-a-box style of message that is stale, stilted and disconnected from the target audience. How many commercials have we seen that had no connection to the issues you and I care about? How much negative advertising must we slog through in the run-up to Election Day? And how many candidates won't take a stand on issues for fear of upsetting someone? When the consultants are more interested with their own egos than connecting with voters, they've already lost.
The question remains, however: is this merely an effort to change surface appearances, or will this lead to a more coordinated and comprehensive attempt to fundamentally change the Republican message? Web ads can be very powerful, and can really deliver a strong message - but all that can be completely undone by a tin-eared candidate who doesn't really understand how to listen to his or her potential constituency.
And to be fair, video ads alone find easier success when focused on a single issue - a ballot initiative, say, or a recruitment drive. When meant to back up candidates, they can backfire if the voters perceive that the candidate doesn't match the rhetoric of the organization backing him.
All in all, this is an intriguing new approach, and the message is undeniably attractive. Now let's go find some conservative Senate candidates who can take this and put it into their own words to attract voters to their cause - and not let this effort backfire. Because if the candidates don't match the rhetoric, the Republican Party will find itself in the unenviable position of being even less trusted by the voters.
In March, I reported on the first signs of new life from the National Republican Senatorial Committee after the disastrous 2012 election cycle, in which conservatives lost ground in the US Senate despite expectations of actually taking over that chamber of congress. Given the rise of new media and the stagnation of legacy media, the NRSC has taken the initiative to facilitate communications by creating a new blogger outreach position.
This week, the Republican National Committee released an "autopsy" on how the GOP lost the election in 2012 and where it can improve its branding going forward. William Jacobsen of Legal Insurrection noted that the 100 page report failed to mention New Media and bloggers as an opportunity to improve communications. However, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has seen the power of New Media and has decided to take a more proactive approach. The NRSC recently hired Bill Murphy to direct blogger outreach.
Murphy, Director of BlogBash, appeared at a blogger's briefing at CPAC this past weekend and said, "They get it now. Their whole team is fired up and ready to reach out to all the conservative online activists and all the bloggers. You (bloggers) will start getting a lot of emails from us, and if you have any comments or any kind of criticism, we will appreciate hearing from you." Murphy previously served in a similar capacity on the Romney campaign.
It will be interesting to see if they reach out to bloggers and activists that are aligned with groups such as FreedomWorks where there has been pushback against the incumbent protection machines. Will they make a concerted effort to strengthen the party by choosing many voices instead of one? Many believed that the RNC report served as a roadmap for centralizing power at the top, instead of allowing the grassroots to help craft new election strategies. The true power of the decentralized media is the ability to have many voices and perspectives. Time will tell if the NRSC will embrace the democratization of media, or will rather seek to homogenize the message.
With the decline of traditional media and the decline of access to actual news in those mainstream media outlets, digital media is poised to become the dominant force in news dissemination. The annual report from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism on The State of the News Media says, in part,
[Increasingly] newsmakers and others with information they want to put into the public arena have become more adept at using digital technology and social media to do so on their own, without any filter by the traditional media. They are also seeing more success in getting their message into the traditional media narrative.
We saw what the Obama campaign was able to do when it combined astonishingly detailed data analysis with online outreach and digital media. The NRSC seems to have taken that lesson to heart. As traditional news outlets slowly die out, it will be more important than ever for Conservatives to own the digital arena and properly leverage their advantages.
We no longer live in an age of passive participation in politics.
This week, the Republican National Committee released an "autopsy" on how the GOP lost the election in 2012 and where it can improve its branding going forward. William Jacobsen of Legal Insurrection noted that the 100 page report failed to mention New Media and bloggers as an opportunity to improve communications.
Congressional Democrats have finally gotten around to proposing a federal budget - the first one in four years - and you can probably imagine what it includes. According to The Hill,
The first budget from Senate Democrats in four years includes nearly $1 trillion in new taxes but would not balance the budget.
The blueprint unveiled by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Tuesday to her Democratic colleagues would also turn off the next nine years of the sequester and replace those spending cuts with a 50-50 mix of tax increases and spending cuts.
The Hill also notes that Senator Murray's claims of $1.85 Trillion in cuts over ten years rely on some pretty funny math: when the sequester cuts are turned off, only about $800 Billion is cut (per the CBO). The funny math doesn't end there either, as these "cuts" also include $240 billion in savings from the end of the Afghanistan war and $242 billion in reduced interest payments:
Republicans have criticized Democrats in the past for counting these as spending cuts, and [Paul] Ryan made a point in his budget [earlier this week] of producing a different baseline that did not count CBO’s projected savings from war and disaster spending.
This budget is being met with predictable skepticism by Senate Republicans. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, delivered the Weekly Republican Address this past weekend, and said,
Government spends trillions on poverty programs, but poverty continues to grow. Isn’t a better goal to help more Americans find good-paying jobs, to have the pride and self-respect that comes from that? Isn’t this a superior form of compassion that has a more solid moral foundation? Yet every time lawmakers try to reform the bureaucracy to accomplish these goals, they meet with the same response: President Obama attacks the reformers, saying such ideas aren’t compassionate or fair. But what is truly unfair and lacking in compassion is to protect a federal bureaucracy that is failing those who need our help the most.
He also had pointed comments about our national debt, which appears not to be sufficiently addressed in Senator Murray's budget outline:
Debt is slowing the economy and depressing wages, and that balancing the budget and ending the deficit – the great challenge of our time – can be achieved by holding annual spending growth to 3.4 percent annually. But I fear the Democrat proposal will fail this defining test and will never achieve balance. I fear it will crush American workers and our economy with trillions in new taxes, spending and debt. I fear Chairman Murray will follow the President’s lead: raising taxes to enrich the bureaucracy at the expense of the people.
This pie in the sky budget proposal, which fails to reform DC bureaucracy, does nothing to address poverty except to advance the status quo, uses funny accounting tricks to simulate spending cuts, raises taxes to maintain our current reckless levels of spending, and which does virtually nothing to reduce our public debt, has fiscal conservatives chanting: Four More Years! Four More Years!
Congressional Democrats have finally gotten around to proposing a federal budget - the first one in four years - and you can probably imagine what it includes. According to The Hill,The first budget from Senate Democrats in four years includes nearly $1 trillion in new taxes but would not balance the budget.
In the constant stream of pixels, ions, electrons and hot air that passes by at a constant and overwhelming rate that is akin to the speed of light, two articles caught my attention on Wednesday. The latest waste of attention is on the looming sequester cuts that are set to hit on Friday, that would have the 'devastating' effect of cutting $85 Billion in budget increases from a non-budget that is already over a trillion in the hole. The first article that caused me to pause and ponder was rather a large bombshell from Politico:
Days before the March 1 deadline, Senate Republicans are circulating a draft bill that would cancel $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts and instead turn over authority to President Barack Obama to achieve the same level of savings under a plan to be filed by March 8.
The five- page document, which has the tacit support of Senate GOP leaders, represents a remarkable shift for the party. Having railed against Senate Democrats for not passing a budget, Republicans are now proposing that Congress surrender an important piece of its Constitutional “power of the purse” for the last seven months of this fiscal year.
The sweep .... is striking. If Congress were to follow this course, significant power would be shifted to the president, an unusual maneuver that even Obama himself and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have scoffed at. But the plan appears to have the backing of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and is being advanced by conservative Republicans who don’t want the White House to continue using the sequester as a public relations hammer.
This strikes me as not exactly the reason we elected Republicans to the Senate.
The other article that caught my eye was short and sweet, over at Breitbart:
Romney lost because conservative voters failed to turn out.
Conservative voters failed to turn out for many reasons--poor technology being one of them--but also because they are tired of being betrayed by Republican candidates, and they sensed Romney was a betrayal-in-waiting.
Case in point: Chris Christie, newest beneficiary of Obamacare.
Christie's acceptance of expanded Medicaid funding puts him on the opposite side of the table from the GOP in Congress, which needs to reform entitlements to make federal ends meet. Obama has vowed he will not cut Medicaid (he has already cut Medicare Advantage, however). Christie is now firmly in Obama's corner.
I don't see how Republicans are going to recover from things like this. The party may truly be over.
I'm certain these articles bear no relation to one another. Merely a coincidence.
In the constant stream of pixels, ions, electrons and hot air that passes by at a constant and overwhelming rate that is akin to the speed of light, two articles caught my attention on Wednesday. The latest waste of attention is on the looming sequester cuts that are set to hit on Friday, that would have the 'devastating' effect of cutting $85 Billion in budget increases from a non-budget that is already over a trillion in the hole.
It has been widely reported this week that President Obama will nominate Jack Lew today for Secretary of the Treasury, replacing Timothy Geithner, expected to step down next month. It takes a special kind of crazy only found in Washington DC for someone who has failed so spectacularly to be nominated to head up our nation's treasury (see also: Geithner, Timothy). After all, Lew is the gentleman who, as the head of the Office of Management and Budget, was the architect of the Obama budgets that famously received zero votes in the Senate in 2011 and 2012 - not even his Democrat allies thought his bugets were realistic.
According to CBS News,
Lew is Mr. Obama's current chief of staff but has served in numerous government roles. Prior to his current post, which has given him direct access to the president, the 57-year-old was the director of the Office of Management and Budget. In that position he worked closely with Congress and federal agencies to oversee the budget of the entire federal government. That is a position he also held during the Clinton administration from 1998 to 2001. In the 1980s he was a senior adviser for former House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, D-Mass., and worked with former President Reagan's White House on Social Security reform and tax reform. And between his Clinton and Obama administration stints, he worked in the private sector, including three years as a hedge fund manager for Citigroup.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is vowing to fight this nomination. Yesterday, The Hill reported that he has prepared a statement saying "Jack Lew must never be Secretary of Treasury."
Sessions expects that the Lew nomination will fail in the Senate, an aide said.
The senator says Lew misrepresented Obama's 2012 budget by claiming that it did not add to the debt.
"His testimony before the Senate Budget Committee less than two years ago was so outrageous and false that it alone disqualifies," according to the Sessions' statement, which was obtained by The Hill in advance.
Sessions says in his statement that Lew, as the president’s budget director told Congress the budget "would not add to the debt of the United States.
Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, has continually grilled Lew on his testimony regarding budget proposals. In February 2011, Sessions nailed Lew for statements on CNN that the budget doesn't add to the debt and actually balances eventually - that is, if you don't count interest payments on our public debt as a budget expenditure.
He continues, showing how interest payments will dwarf the expenditures of 15 federal agencies combined, and chastising Lew for "primary balance theory":
Only in DC could you advance a theory with a straight face that says, in essence, our budget balances if you pick and choose which budget expenditures you're going to count, and ignore the rest. That's like saying, "Once my car gets repoed, my household budget is going to be nothing but smooth sailing."
As if that weren't enough, Jack Lew has repeatedly misled the American public by saying that the Senate needs 60 votes to pass a budget:
That's either gross incompetence or a deliberate falsehood. This implies that budgets can be filibustered; under Senate rules, that is not true. The former OMB director should be aware that budgets are ‘privileged’, meaning they can pass with a simple majority and not subject to a filibuster.
In case you think he misspoke, he repeats the statement again:
It's difficult to believe that someone who's been in DC since he was a staffer for Tip O'Neill wouldn't know the rules of the Senate. Of course we've come to expect an administration full of prevaricators, so Lew's expected nomination would be par for the course. Many conservatives are advocates of a return to zero-based budgeting as a partial solution to our addiction to spending. My hope is that, as a short term goal, we can at least aspire to overcome zero-vote budgeting.
It has been widely reported this week that President Obama will nominate Jack Lew today for Secretary of the Treasury, replacing Timothy Geithner, expected to step down next month. It takes a special kind of crazy only found in Washington DC for someone who has failed so spectacularly to be nominated to head up our nation's treasury (see also: Geithner, Timothy).
The news of the day is, undoubtedly, that Jim DeMint will be leaving the Senate. In January, the Senator will become the next president of The Heritage Foundation, a well known conservative think tank. The exit of DeMint is particualarly difficult following the dismissal of three conservatives from committees by House Speaker John Boehner.
DeMint has been arguably the most powerful voice in the Senate for the Tea Party movement. He has, more often than not, found himself in battle with Democrats and Republicans in his efforts to defend conservative principles and rein in spending on the Hill. In 2010, DeMint was named the Conservative Of The Year by Human Events for his many achievements. He has been a champion against TARP and the individual mandate. Additionally, he has worked hard to recruit other conservatives to serve in Washington through the Senate Conservatives Fund. As is well known, DeMint takes pride in not being a career politician which he noted in his announcement.
My constituents know that being a Senator was never going to be my career. I came to Congress as a citizen legislator and I've always been determined to leave it as citizen legislator. South Carolina has a deep bench of conservative leaders and I know Governor Haley will select a great replacement.
He will be a tough leader to replace. All eyes now turn to Governor Nikki Haley to name a successor for DeMint, to serve until 2014. The rumored favorite is Representative Tim Scott, who currently serves South Carolina's 1st congressional district. His voting record is very much in line with that of DeMint's and he has stood strong in the face of much criticism for his votes. His first vote in the House was to repeal Obamacare and his first bill was to deauthorize and rescind it. He followed up his strong stance against Obamacare with an effort to reform the corporate tax structure. Recently Scott bucked Republican leadership by voting against raising the debt ceiling, yet the establishment doesn't reject him because they are well aware of his bright future. Scott has also been a FreedomWorks for America endorsed candidate.
According to Scott, "the House is training for whatever the good Lord has for me next." The people of South Carolina, and America would benefit from the principles of conservatism shown by this rising star. We should know shortly what lies ahead for Scott.
The news of the day is, undoubtedly, that Jim DeMint will be leaving the Senate. In January, the Senator will become the next president of The Heritage Foundation, a well known conservative think tank.
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