Guy and Katie have been covering the fiasco regarding MIT professor Jonathan Gruber who said repeatedly that Obamacare’s passage relied on “the stupidity of the American voter” and a “lack of transparency” to get it through Congress.
As the firestorm grew, Democrats began to distance themselves, or outright deny ever knowing Gruber, like Nancy Pelosi did, in order to prevent what’s quickly becoming a public relations nightmare.
At the conclusion of the G20 Summit in Australia, President Obama commented on the controversy by saying, “The fact that an adviser who was never on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with in terms of the voters is not a reflection on the actual process that was run."
OK, Gruber wasn’t on staff, but he certainly was an architect of the law (via Reason):
Yes, Gruber was an adviser, as Obama describes him, but that significantly understates his role. In addition to the nearly $400,000 he received from the administration (more than Obama's senior staff earns annually), his work was cited repeatedly by the administration as evidence for the law, and Gruber participated in high-level discussions with the president himself about what policies the law should include.
When the bill was being scored by the Congressional Budget Office, Gruber was one of just three outside economists summoned to an Oval Office meeting with the president and CBO director Douglas Elmendorf to look for ways to adjust the law in order to receive a better score, according to The Washington Post. That discussion, Gruber later said in a 2012 PBS documentary on the creation of the law, "became the genesis of what is called the Cadillac tax in the health care bill." Gruber also visited with senior administration officials at the White House on several other occasions, according to visitor logs.
The White House relied on Gruber not only to help determine policy, but to make the case for why it would work. In November of 2009, as Obamacare was being debated, the White House touted a report produced by Gruber as an "objective" analysis of the law—failing to mention that he had been paid by the administration.
And then there was the time in 2006 when, as a senator, Obama said he’d "stolen ideas" from Jonathan Gruber—in Obama's words, "liberally."
And, he did spend quite a bit of time at the White House when Democrats were drafting the new law (via WSJ):
Jonathan Gruber, the economist at the heart of a fresh debate about the Affordable Care Act, has had more than a dozen appointments to visit the White House since Democrats began drafting the health law in 2009, records show.
The visits included at least one group meeting with President Barack Obama, as well as appointments with senior administration officials who helped shape the 2010 law that expanded health insurance to millions of Americans.
Mr. Gruber went to the White House at least six times in 2009, according to a review of visitor logs. He met with the president on July 20, 2009, and was joined by other economists. Some of the other meetings were held with Jeanne Lambrew, deputy assistant to the president for health policy, and Peter Orszag, former director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Mr. Gruber visited the White House at least twice in 2010 and met with Jason Furman, who is now chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers. Mr. Gruber meet with Ms. Lambrew at least twice this year and was at the White House as recently as June, the records show. For five of the meetings, visitor records don’t show when Mr. Gruber arrived or departed, making it unclear whether the appointments were kept.
Mr. Gruber wrote a 2011 cartoon book called “Health Care Reform” that aimed to explain the federal law. A note about the author says Mr. Gruber “consulted extensively with the Obama administration and Congress during the development” of the law.
For a random adviser, Gruber sure spent a lot of time hanging out in Obama's highly restricted neighborhood. pic.twitter.com/cQWnEGsdQU— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) November 19, 2014
Last note on the attempted distancing, here’s a video that pretty much makes that liberal maneuver virtually impossible:
Earlier this year when President Obama nominated cop killer advocate Debo Adegbile to head up the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, Attorney General Eric Holder applauded the move. Because of Adegbile's voluntary work on behalf of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu Jamal, who brutally murdered Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in cold blood back in 1981, his nomination was voted down in the filibuster proof, Democrat controlled Senate 52-47. In 2011 under Adegbile's leadership at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the death penalty sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal was overturned despite thirty years of multiple courts upholding the his murder conviction. Major law enforcement groups representing hundreds of thousands of officers from across the country sent letters directly to President Obama strongly condemning the nomination and worked with Senators to block Adegbile from working in DOJ.
“I’m very disappointed in the Senate’s vote. At a time when significant voting rights cases and other consequential matters are pending, it is more critical than ever to have a confirmed leader for the Civil Rights Division. Mr. Adegbile is a uniquely qualified nominee and an exceptional lawyer. He deserved to have his nomination considered wholly on the merits. His record was either misunderstood, or intentionally misrepresented for the sake of politics," Holder said when Adegbile's nomination was blocked.
Now, Holder has sided with a new set of alleged cop killers in Virginia by taking the death penalty out of consideration for four gang members who kidnapped and murdered Police Officer Kevin Quick.
Four gang members who were charged with the murder of a reserve Virginia police officer, Kevin Quick, will not be facing the death penalty, federal prosecutors told reporters Friday.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has taken the death penalty off the table, but the co-defendants will face the possibility of life in prison for their alleged role in killing Quick, 45. He was reported missing on Feb. 1 and his body was found several days later.
The suspects -- Daniel Lamont Mathis, Shantai Monique Shelton, Mersadies Lachalle Shelton and Travis Leon Bell, also known as Kweli Uhuru -- were charged in May, according to The Associated Press.
Indictments released in May allege that the suspects who carjacked, kidnapped and killed Quick were members of the Virginia street gang, 99 Goon Syndikat, which reportedly has ties to the Bloods from Los Angeles.
Quick leaves behind a four month old daughter.
Last week former Assistant FBI Director Ron Hosko, who now leads the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, sent a scathing letter to President Obama about the broken relationship between DOJ and law enforcement across the country under Holder's leadership and used the situation in Ferguson, Missouri as an example.
"As we move forward with the selection and confirmation of a new attorney general, I ask that you personally reengage with the law enforcement community of dedicated and valiant men and women across the country, serving at every level of government. With two years remaining in your presidency, you have an urgent responsibility to correct damage inflicted upon law enforcement and help mend the rift between police and those they protect. The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund will be happy to support any such discussions," Hosko wrote. "The hyper-politicization of justice issues has made it immeasurably more difficult for police officers to simply do their jobs. The growing divide between the police and the people – perhaps best characterized by protesters in Ferguson, Mo., who angrily chanted, “It’s not black or white. It’s blue!” – only benefits of members of a political class seeking to vilify law enforcement for other societal failures. This puts our communities at greater risk, especially the most vulnerable among us."
"Your attorney general, Eric Holder, is chief among the antagonists. During his tenure as the head of the Department of Justice, Mr. Holder claims to have investigated twice as many police and police departments as any of his predecessors. Of course, this includes his ill-timed decision to launch a full investigation into the Ferguson Police Department at the height of racial tensions in that community, throwing gasoline on a fire that was already burning. Many officers were disgusted by such a transparent political maneuver at a time when presidential and attorney general leadership could have calmed a truly chaotic situation," Hosko continued.
Holder announced his resignation after six years at DOJ in September. Brooklyn Prosecutor Loretta Lynch has been nominated by President Obama to replace him. Confirmation hearing for Lynch will likely happen after the new Congress takes their seats in January.
As Dan wrote earlier this evening, the Keystone Pipeline vote went down in flames. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s Hail Mary ended in disaster; she fell one vote shy to invoke cloture on a bill that probably would not have saved her from defeat in her state’s upcoming runoff election on Dec. 6 against Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy.
Additionally, a bill to reform the National Security Agency post-Snowden also fell two votes shy of cloture; incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spearheaded the bill’s opposition. Yet, both bills are expected to return to the Senate floor next year. Keystone will probably pass, but the changes in the NSA bill will be quite different under a Republican Senate (via NYT):
[T]he vote only put off a fractious debate over security and personal liberties until next year. While a Republican-controlled Senate is less likely to go along with the kinds of changes that were in the bill, which would have ended the N.S.A.'s ability to collect bulk phone call data, the debate could further expose rifts between the party’s interventionist and more libertarian-leaning wings.
Under the bill, which grew out of the disclosures in June 2013 by Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor, the N.S.A. would have gotten out of the business of collecting Americans’ phone records in bulk. Instead, most of the records would have stayed in the hands of the phone companies. Analysts would still have been able to perform contact chaining, but they would be required to use a new kind of court order to swiftly obtain only those records that were linked, up to two layers away, to a suspect — even when held by different phone companies.
The bill would not have required phone companies to hold on to the records any longer than they already do for normal business purposes, which in some cases is 18 months.
With the bill’s defeat, the Senate faces a hard deadline for new legislation since the legal basis for the phone records program, a provision of the Patriot Act, expires in June.
Here's the roll call vote on the USA Freedom Act (NSA Reform Bill) courtesy of the Associated Press:
Voting yes were 52 Democrats, 4 Republicans and 2 independents.
Voting no were 1 Democrat and 41 Republicans.
Sessions (R), No; Shelby (R), No.
Begich (D), Yes; Murkowski (R), Yes.
Flake (R), No; McCain (R), No.
Boozman (R), No; Pryor (D), Yes.
Boxer (D), Yes; Feinstein (D), Yes.
Bennet (D), Yes; Udall (D), Yes.
Blumenthal (D), Yes; Murphy (D), Yes.
Carper (D), Yes; Coons (D), Yes.
Nelson (D), No; Rubio (R), No.
Chambliss (R), No; Isakson (R), No.
Hirono (D), Yes; Schatz (D), Yes.
Crapo (R), No; Risch (R), No.
Durbin (D), Yes; Kirk (R), No.
Coats (R), No; Donnelly (D), Yes.
Grassley (R), No; Harkin (D), Yes.
Moran (R), No; Roberts (R), No.
McConnell (R), No; Paul (R), No.
Landrieu (D), Yes; Vitter (R), No.
Collins (R), No; King (I), Yes.
Cardin (D), Yes; Mikulski (D), Yes.
Markey (D), Yes; Warren (D), Yes.
Levin (D), Yes; Stabenow (D), Yes.
Franken (D), Yes; Klobuchar (D), Yes.
Cochran (R), No; Wicker (R), No.
Blunt (R), No; McCaskill (D), Yes.
Tester (D), Yes; Walsh (D), Yes.
Fischer (R), No; Johanns (R), No.
Heller (R), Yes; Reid (D), Yes.
Ayotte (R), No; Shaheen (D), Yes.
Booker (D), Yes; Menendez (D), Yes.
Heinrich (D), Yes; Udall (D), Yes.
Gillibrand (D), Yes; Schumer (D), Yes.
Burr (R), No; Hagan (D), Yes.
Heitkamp (D), Yes; Hoeven (R), No.
Brown (D), Yes; Portman (R), No.
Coburn (R), No; Inhofe (R), No.
Merkley (D), Yes; Wyden (D), Yes.
Casey (D), Yes; Toomey (R), No.
Reed (D), Yes; Whitehouse (D), Yes.
Graham (R), No; Scott (R), No.
Johnson (D), Yes; Thune (R), No.
Alexander (R), No; Corker (R), No.
Cornyn (R), No; Cruz (R), Yes.
Hatch (R), No; Lee (R), Yes.
Leahy (D), Yes; Sanders (I), Yes.
Kaine (D), Yes; Warner (D), Yes.
Cantwell (D), Yes; Murray (D), Yes.
Manchin (D), Yes; Rockefeller (D), Yes.
Baldwin (D), Yes; Johnson (R), No.
Barrasso (R), No; Enzi (R), No.
“We are now in year six of the permitting process,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) asserted this evening on the Senate floor, expressing his astonishment that the Keystone Pipeline was easily approved in 2008 (and later completed in 2012), but the Keystone XL Pipeline has been stalled in Congress for years.
“It’s certainly past time we complete the Keystone XL Pipeline,” he continued. “You can’t build an energy plan for this country if you don’t build and approve the infrastructure to make it work.”
“Five environmental impact statements [show] there is no environmental impact,” he said. “Let’s make this decision on the merits, let’s make it on the facts.”
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), for her part, later added that oil from Canada is going to be shipped south anyway, and therefore completing the pipeline would be the safest and most environmentally friendly way to transport it. She was a co-sponsor of the bill. By contrast, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) disagreed. She argued the pipeline is terrible for the environment, hazardous to local communities, and of course, a windfall to Big Oil and the Koch Brothers.
Moments ago, however, Keystone supporters experienced a legislative setback: The bill failed to pass the upper chamber by one vote (60 were needed):
Nevertheless, congressional Republicans aren't giving up yet. I'll leave you with these two items:
Breaking News: Mary Landrieu has 18 days left as a Senator.— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) November 18, 2014
GOP should have at least 63 votes for Keystone when it comes up in next Congress. Dems delaying the inevitable at the expense of a colleague— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) November 18, 2014
The American public overwhelming supports the Keystone XL Pipeline, Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) stated from inside the Capitol building last Thursday.
"This is an issue that we've been pushing for quite some time and that we believe there is very strong support for. It's about jobs, it's about energy, [and] it's about building the right kind of energy plan for this country which is important for national security as well," Hoeven explained.
Having endured an electoral beating two weeks ago, and staring at poor-to-horrific polling, some Congressional Democrats may be getting cold feet on President Obama's impending immigration policy upheaval by executive fiat. A liberal blogger at the Washington Post worries that in spite of the fact that most Senate Democrats are locking arms in support of Obama diminishing their Constitutional power, some back-benchers from red and purple states may be nervously eyeing an escape hatch. And liberals are preparing a blitz of pressure to bring any wayward partisans back in line:
What happens if a half dozen Senate Dems defect and side with the GOP against Obama’s executive deportation relief? Immigration advocates are warning that this is a real possibility — one that could have a serious impact on the politics of this fight if and when a government shutdown battle looms — and they are preparing to exert maximum pressure on those Democrats they deem at risk. “We are preparing to pressure them at home and in Washington, to let them know that there will be hell to pay if this happens,” Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, tells me. Among the Democrats believed to be at risk are Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Jon Tester, Claire McCaskill, and Joe Donnelly. Angus King (who is an independent but caucuses with Dems) is also a question mark.
The problem, advocates worry, is that if these Democrats come out against any Obama executive action, it could complicate the political battle to come. Republicans are expected to try to pass legislation rolling back whatever Obama does. Democrats will try to block it. But if Republicans can get 60 votes — which they could do if enough Dems defect — the president would then have to veto it. That could make the politics of this battle worse for Obama: Not only is he acting unilaterally; he’s also facing bipartisan opposition within Congress that is requiring him to protect those unilateral actions with a veto.
Lawrence O’Donnell: No one at the White House has been able to give me the legal justification for the following component of the President’s plan which was leaked to the New York Times. the part where it says… that the President will allow many parents of children who are American citizens or legal residents to obtain legal work documents. Can you tell me and has the White House told you, what is the legal justification for the President to create a new category of beneficiaries for work documents? How can that be done without legislation?
Congressman Peter Welch: You know, Lawrence, I can’t tell you, and I’m not the lawyer who’s going to be litigating this case. So the answer to that would be decided by the courts as you and I know. But here’s what I can tell you…
L.O.: Congressman, so as far as you know, and I don’t mean to badger about this but I’ve been on this for days now. I haven’t heard from a single elected Democrat, not one Democrat in Washington who can answer the question that I just put to you. Have you heard it Have you heard it answered by any Democrats?
P.W: I haven’t. I haven’t.
Today two Palestinian terrorists walked into a synagogue in Jerusalem and brutally murdered four people who were praying. Three of those people were Americans.
Shortly after the news of the attack made its way to the Gaza Strip, where Hamas fired thousands of rockets at Israel this summer, people hit the streets in celebration and calls for more attacks were made. Candy and food were handed out and the men who carried out the murders were held up as heroes.
BREAKING PHOTOS: Hamas terrorists celebration rally right now in Gaza calling on more terror attacks towards Israel. pic.twitter.com/0XDOTdp0qt— Israel News Feed (@IsraelHatzolah) November 18, 2014
Meanwhile, The Media Line reports about the atmosphere in Israel as fears of more violence continue to rise.
The incident on Tuesday morning is the latest in a series of violent confrontations in Jerusalem during the past six weeks. With tension at the highest level it’s been in years, many are asking whether this marks the beginning of a new intifada.
“I hate the word ‘intifada,’ it translates to ‘uprising,’ this is not an uprising, it is targeting innocent civilians,” Mordecai Dzikansky, a retired NYPD detective and author of two books on terrorism, told The Media Line. “This is definitely a concentrated effort which went from cell-oriented terrorism to lone-wolf terrorism, but they are both state-sponsored; the lone-wolf is more dangerous because it's more difficult to obtain information from them,” he said.
Following Tuesday morning’s attack, Jerusalem's streets are noticeably quiet, many apparently afraid to venture into public places, the current venue-of-choice for attackers. Parents are restricting their children’s movements while cafes and restaurants are already reporting a dearth of customers.
Open enrollment for Obamacare plans for 2015 opened on November 15, with comparatively little fanfare to last year's roll-out. Still, plenty of celebrities are decently concerned that people receive coverage under the federal exchange:
While it's nice that millionaire Hollywood actors are jazzed up about Obamacare, it's interesting to note that insurance options available to these people are far more generous and affordable than plans available through Covered California, the healthcare exchange website for the state of California. Plugging in my age (23) and the median salary for someone about my age, the cheapest "bronze" plan offered has premiums of $166 a month with an individual deductible of $5,000. The plan will then pay for 60 percent of most medical costs, but with higher co-pays.
In comparison, the plans offered to actors through the Screen Actors Guild are much more attractive than the plans on the exchange. The most expensive plan for an individual offered to Screen Actors Guild members has a $414 quarterly premium. The deductibles for these plans? For in-network care for the Industry Health Network, there is no deductible. For out-of-network healthcare, there's a measly $500 deductible. The out-of-pocket maximum for an individual is $6,600—barely higher than the deductible for a bronze Covered California plan. Additionally, the plan covers 90 percent of most other health treatments, including mental health and substance abuse treatment.
The SAG insurance website even effectively discourages members from signing up for an Affordable Care Act plan, as members who qualify for insurance plans will not qualify for a premium subsidy.
While I'm not going to fault actors for having enviable insurance options—hey, I would absolutely embrace that if I were in their shoes, and they have earned their SAG membership fair and square—but I would be more comfortable with their promotion of Obamacare if the law actually applied to them. It's easy to encourage people to apply for insurance if you've got a Cadillac plan provided by your job for effectively free. With Obamacare driving up costs and canceling plans, things aren't getting much more affordable for the average non-actor Joe Schmoe.
Furthermore, the fact that the main promoters of open enrollment are celebrities simply adds credence to Jonathan Gruber's assertion that the stupidity of the American voter is the only reason the law passed. Clearly, someone higher up thinks that the only way Joe Sixpack will sign up for a healthcare plan is if a pretty actress instructs him to do so.
The numbers, however, speak for themselves. About 100,000 people signed up for a plan during the first weekend of 2014's open enrollment, a number that fits comfortably in Michigan Stadium. The expectations for the number of plan signups is continually ticked downward. It's going to take more than celebrities nagging on Twitter to convince Americans to sign up for a plan.
Either way, a bill approving the Keystone XL Pipeline will be sent to the president. Whether that process begins tonight or sometime during the next legislative session matters not. Sooner or later, the president will have no choice but to make a decision: Either veto the bill or approve it.
Historic Republican gains earlier this month — along with the public’s longstanding insistence that the pipeline finally get underway — leave Team Obama with little wiggle room. They must act eventually.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made this point all but explicit earlier today:
Republican leaders vowed Tuesday to take up and pass a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline in Congress again next year if the Senate fails to advance the measure, or President Barack Obama vetoes it. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will become the majority leader in January, called on Democrats to vote for the bill, which is supported by all 45 Senate Republicans. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., was still searching for the last vote needed to advance the measure, but said on the floor Tuesday she "knew in her heart" she had the 60 votes.
The House passed a bill last week spearheaded by her rival, Louisiana Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, the ninth time that chamber has tried to jumpstart the pipeline's construction. Landrieu faces an uphill fight to hold on to her Senate seat in a Dec. 6 runoff against Cassidy. "I wish the Senate would have followed the lead of Congressman Cassidy and his House colleagues in approving Keystone years ago. It's just common sense," McConnell said. "And if not, a new majority will be taking this matter up and sending it to the president."
The jury is still out whether Sen. Landrieu will garner enough votes to send a Keystone-authorizing bill to the White House later this evening. But we’ll find out shortly after 6:15 PM EST.
For some reason House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) is desperately trying to help President Obama successfully implement his executive amnesty.
Today, at a House Republican Conference meeting, Rogers reportedly pitched his colleagues on a plan to fully fund the federal government, including Obama's amnesty, now, and then pass a separate bill rescinding those funds next year after Obama announces his plan.
“Chairman Rogers just got up and said if we pass an omnibus and then the president does this executive amnesty, he said we can rescind it, and we can rescind it with 218 and 51 and we don't need the president. That's what he just told me. I've never heard that before,” Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) told Breitbart.
One reason Salmon probably never heard that before is that it just plain isn't true. Rescission bills are just like any other bill and must survive a Senate filibuster and be signed by the president. A 2014 Congressional Research Service Report reads: "As budget authority providing the funding must be enacted into law, so too a rescission cancelling the budget authority must be enacted into law."
If Rogers is telling his colleagues they can fully fund Obama's amnesty now, and then defund it later without Obama getting an opportunity to veto, he is, at best, mistaken.