tipsheet
Conn Carroll - 9 Fights You'll See In Washington Next Year
Posted: 12/26/2014 11:56:00 AM EST

Now that Republicans control the Senate, President Obama can no longer hide behind Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). He is going to have to start vetoing some bills in order to protect his existing government expansions. But he can't veto everything. 

There are at least six must pass items that Obama and Republicans must come to an agreement on in 2015. And there are at least three other fights the will be simmering through out year but are unlikely to reach any resolution. So, in chronological order, here are the nine biggest fights you can expect to see between Obama and Republicans in 2015:

1. Tax Extenders: On December 19th, Obama signed the Tax Increase Prevention Act, which retroactively extended more than 50 tax credit programs worth almost $42 billion from January 1, 2014 through December 2014. The credits will again expire on New Year's Day 2015, so there will be some pressure on Congress to renew them again right away. 

However, Congress has routinely retroactively extended these tax breaks before, and the Internal Revenue Service continues to operate as though they will do so again for 2015, so there will not be a lot of pressure to get this done right away.

2. Department of Homeland Security: The CRomnibus, signed by Obama, on December 16th, funds every agency of the federal government, except the DHS, through September 30th, 2015. But the bill only funds the DHS through February 28th. 

House Republican leaders have promised conservatives that they will attach a rider to the DHS funding bill, that will prevent the agency responsible for carrying out Obama's amnesty, the office of United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services, from issuing the work permits Obama promised illegal immigrants. Obama has promised to veto any DHS spending bill that has such a provision. Someone will have to cave.

3. Debt Limit: On February 15th, 2014, Obama signed the Temporary Debt Limit Extension Act, which raised the Treasury Department's borrowing limit through March 15, 2015. The Treasury Department is usually able to fudge some accounts and extend debt limit deadlines, and experts say they should be able to extend this deadline too, possibly all the way through August. 

However, considering that Republicans got virtually nothing from Democrats when the debt limit was raised in February, it is highly unlikely Republicans will get anything from Obama in 2015.

4. Doc Fix: The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 created a cost saving mechanism for Medicare called the Sustainable Growth Rate. The law was designed to slow Medicare spending growth by cutting the payments doctor's receive from Medicare. But Congress has routinely undone these cuts and the latest Doc Fix prevented a 25 percent cut in doctor Medicare payments for 2014 at a cost of $21 billion. These cuts are scheduled to, again, take place starting March 31, 2015.

But just like the IRS ignores the expiration of certain tax extenders, the Health and Human Services Department has continued paying doctor's their expected rate despite inaction from Congress. But HHS can only do this for so long. Sometime around the end of March Republicans will have to find a way to pay for another Doc Fix. Since Congress and Obama would need to agree on a pay-for, either through a spending cut or a tax hike, a long-term fix to the problem is highly unlikely.

5. Budget: Congress is obligated by law to pass a budget by April 15th and, thanks to the most recent Obamacare challenge to reach the Supreme Court, King v. Burwell, this year's battle will be particularly dramatic. If the Court sides with plaintiffs, and finds Obamace insurance subsidies to citizens of states that did not establish health exchanges unlawful, then millions of Americans, mostly in red states, will have to pay full price for expensive Obamacare insurance.

Republicans will want to have a bill ready to fix this problem, and they will want to avoid a Democratic filibuster in the process. They can do this by including instructions in the budget directing one or more committees to pass legislation that changes tax or entitlement programs (like Obamacare) to meet the budget's tax and spending targets. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would then be allowed to pass changes to Obamacare by a bare majority. None of this guarantees Obama would sign Republican changes to Obamacare, but it does neutralize Democrats in the Senate.

6. Highway Bill: The ten month extension to the Highway Trust Fund signed in August 2014, is set to expire at the end of May 2015. Republicans say they want to find a long-term solution to the HTF's funding problem, but finding a pay-for will be difficult. Democrats want to raise the federal gas tax and they may be emboldened by falling gas prices to force the issue on Republicans. Republicans will fight any effort to raise taxes at the federal level and will instead look to cut non-highway spending out of the HTF which current spends billions on mass transit programs which do not pay into the program. Cuts could also come from other areas of the federal government as they did in 2014 when the deal was funded by "pension smoothing" for federal workers, a one-time gimmick. 

7. Export-Import Bank: Conservatives have been trying to kill the Export-Import Bank for generations, including President Reagan who proposed shrinking the corporate welfare program by a third. The bank was due to expire this past fall and corporate lobbyists desperately tried to attach a long-term authorization to the mast-pass government funding bill set to expire at the same time. House Republicans punted on that fight, however, reauthorizing the bank only through the end of June, while funding the federal government through the end of September. 

Now corporate welfare advocates must either find another vehicle to attach Export-Import Bank reauthorization to (the Highway Trust Fund, Doc Fix, and DHS funding bills are all strong possibilities) or reauthorize the program by itself.

8. Appropriations/Continuing Resolution: Since taking over the House in 2010, Republicans have tried to pass all 12 appropriations bills needed to keep the federal government running, but they have never quite gotten the job done. But now that a Republican controlled Senate may actually take up their work, the exercise is no longer symbolic. It will be a heavy lift, but Republican controlled committees could get their work done before the September 30th deadline. If they don't Obama and congressional Republicans will have to agree on another continuing resolution or omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2016.

9. Tax Reform: There is no deadline attached to the issue, but both Republicans and Obama have repeatedly said there is an opportunity to pass tax reform in 2015. The sticking point, as always, will be revenues. Obama is still insisting on higher revenues from both corporate and individual tax reform to pay for higher spending, specifically he wants higher revenues from corporate tax reform to pay for higher infrastructure spending. As long as Republicans stick to their pledges not to raise taxes, any compromise on this front remains unlikely. 

Leah Barkoukis - Pizza Industry Vows to Continue Fight Against Obamacare’s Onerous Menu Labeling Regulation
Posted: 12/26/2014 8:30:00 AM EST

It’s been a month since the Food and Drug Administration announced its final rule for menu labeling, a regulation that’s already proving to be a nightmare for the major chain restaurants and retail food establishments that must comply by Dec. 1, 2015, or face a stiff penalty.

“It got much worse in the final rule,” Lynn Liddle, chairperson of the American Pizza Community and executive VP of communications and investor relations for Domino’s Pizza, told Townhall. “I was surprised, disappointed, and befuddled because there’s all this new stuff in there where I go, ‘I don’t know how we’re gonna do this.’ … We’re gonna need a lot more time to untangle this mess, which I don’t think is viable or workable.”

While the regulation is bad for all industries, pizza has been hit particularly hard. For one, it’s a food industry unlike any other—90 percent of customers get their food delivered, making the idea of in-store displays of calorie information unnecessary and costly, not to mention extremely difficult since it’s such a customizable food.

Liddle said a concession was made on labeling by the slice rather than the whole pizza, but the rule is still disastrous for small businesses across America.

“[W]hat [FDA] did in these final rules is they expanded their definition of a menu and said ‘we’re gonna look at it and say anything a consumer will think of at that moment as a menu,’ so it’s very squishy right now because nobody really understands this thing because they’re saying if you have a picture or a name of a product, along with a price, were gonna call that a menu, so if you take it to the ridiculous that could include television advertising, because in the restaurant industry you always have a picture of product and a price, that’s how the restaurant industry advertises,” she explained.

“We went to [the FDA] with a proposed solution; we didn’t say ‘we want to get out of it,’ we said, ‘we have a better way’ … and that better way was primarily doing this electronically, which by the way we already do voluntarily, so it was a really workable solution … and basically they’ve ignored it,” she said.

While Domino’s is a major pizza chain across the country, the vast majority of stores are franchises, meaning the burden of implementation falls squarely on the backs of small business owners. And failure to have the appropriate signage or serving food that’s outside of the labeled calorie range can carry civil and criminal penalties, Liddle said, but specificity over how it will be policed and what the penalties are remains unclear.

Meanwhile, studies continue to show that menu labeling has little to no effect on consumers’ purchasing habits. In other words, despite the cost to small business owners across the country, menu labeling will have no significant impact on obesity in America, the purported benefit the FDA used to justify the law as part of the Affordable Care Act to begin with.

Liddle sees the rule as a way for its proponents to feel like they’ve done something that will be good for Americans. “I’ve seen a number of article and commentary from people … saying we need to tell people what to eat,” she said. “I think there’s this belief that … Americans can’t or won’t ever help themselves.”

“I don’t think slapping calorie ranges on a pizza menu board that no one looks at is gonna be any kind of a solution [for reducing obesity],” she continued.

It’s been a long road fighting against the rule since it first came out as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, and Liddle says she isn’t done yet.

“I don’t think I have the luxury to stop fighting against this because it’s hurting my small business franchisees … and it’s hurting the [entire] pizza industry with an additional cost their customers haven’t asked for,” she said.

“We’re going to keep pushing for solutions we think are most viable, and we’re encouraged because we have nearly 100 members of Congress that have supported our past legislation, so I think we have a lot of people with a lot of common sense on our side.”

Townhall Magazine - RedState: Our Christmas Wish For You and Yours
Posted: 12/25/2014 7:00:00 PM EST

In the December issue of Townhall Magazine, where this article originally appeared, RedState’s Bryan Pruitt offers a few thoughts on the New Year.

As the year winds down and our focus turns toward time with family and friends, our thoughts at RedState are on you, our readers. Whether we reach you through this magazine, online at RedState.com, via Erick’s ubiquitous Morning Briefing, or on our Twitter feed or Facebook page, we value you and your interaction with us. RedState has one of the most dynamic, engaged readerships in the political world. We are only effective because you so often answer the call and hold your elected officials accountable throughout the year, and especially at the ballot box.

The following are some thoughts we have from this year and looking forward to the next. Happy Holidays.

Setbacks and steps forward

Anyone following politics knows the conservative movement has had a few setbacks in this election cycle. Be not afraid. Less covered in the media are our significant steps forward, the elections won with good strategy and great candidates. There will be more of this to come. Keep the faith and stay tuned.

RedState Gathering

Please give some serious thought to making time in your summer schedule to attend the RedState Gathering in Atlanta from August 6-9. If you are an alum of previous Gatherings and have already registered, we are deeply grateful. We anticipate most if not all of the 2016 presidential aspirants will attend. They want your early support and we are working to ensure they earn it.

2015…we mean 2016

Speaking of aspirants for that highest office, there are elements that are frustrating about the fact that our presidential politics begin so much earlier these days. President Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy less than a year before he was elected. President Obama declared almost two years prior. You can expect that candidates for the Republican nomination will begin announcing their intentions soon after the New Year, perhaps even immediately after the midterm election results are known.

There will be plenty of candidates in the field. This is a good thing. Do not believe the mainstream media and liberal pundits when they tell you that competition will weaken the eventual candidate against the Hillary Clinton coronation machine. Pay close attention to the candidates’ positions on issues. Use social media to promote the candidate who inspires you. If you happen to live in a state that doesn’t get a lot of media attention, anywhere outside Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, raise your voice even louder. Every state matters when electing a president.

Run, RedStater, run

There is an often-quoted line (used throughout the television show “The West Wing”), “Decisions are made by those who show up.”

This is usually interpreted to mean showing up to vote. Certainly being an informed voter is part of our civic duty. But as a RedState conservative, we also hope you will take the next step and consider running for office someday. Sure, our democracy can survive with leaders who stay in power for endless amounts of time. But it truly thrives when average citizens take that big step, throw their hat in the ring by putting their name on the ballot, and standing in front of their fellow citizens with fresh ideas and a new face for leadership.

Whether running for dogcatcher or Congress, you can make a difference. You never know when the right opportunity might present itself to challenge an old, entrenched incumbent dedicated only to their D.C. lobbyist friends. Representatives should always represent their constituents, not special interests.

And finally…the things that matter

We wish you the happiest of Christmas seasons. Have a great time! We never really cared for those conservative commentators who take to lecturing the public on the commercialization of a religious holiday. Kids love gifts and Santa Claus is kind of cool in a weird way.

But as they say, be sure to remembering in your own way the reason for the season. Donate anonymously to a charity, give support to those struggling, say a prayer of thanks for the abundant blessing that is the United States of America.

Our family tradition is to read the Christmas story (Luke 2: 1-20) before opening presents on Christmas morning. It’s the best way to start the day if you ask me.

God bless and Happy New Year, the future is bright.

Matt Vespa - New Documentary Puts You 'Beneath The Helmet' Of The Israeli Military
Posted: 12/25/2014 5:00:00 PM EST

What’s it like to be in the Israeli military? For a nation with no strategic depth, the law requires that all Israeli citizens–men and women–to serve once they turn 18 years of age. A new documentary Beneath The Helmet, examines the lives of five members of the Israeli Defense Forces as they go from high-school student to soldiers serving in one of the best-trained militaries in the world.

The film is from the creators of the PBS documentary, Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference. According to their website, the film not only shows the training these young men and women experience in preparation for the defense of their country, it also delves into “the values of peace, equality, opportunity, democracy, religious tolerance and women’s rights.”

Israel is one of the few nations where women can serve in combat roles, sometimes alongside men. Israel has the mixed Caracal Battalion and is currently recruiting women for their second unisex “Lions of the Jordan” battalion, which will be responsible, amongst other things, for making sure the West Bank remains secure.

In a press release, First Lt. (Res.) Aviv Regev, who’s in the film, said, “Beneath the Helmet shows how young Israelis, serving in the army just out of high school, face enormous struggles with their identity and their responsibilities as soldiers.” It brings a face to a military that while praised, is also vilified and misunderstood by much of the world.

So, while you flock to see American Sniper on Christmas Day, make sure to check out Beneath The Helmet as well.

Christine Rousselle - Bill Gates Plays Internet Secret Santa, Gives Charitable Gift
Posted: 12/25/2014 3:00:00 PM EST

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and one of the richest men in the world, joined over 200,000 members of the website "Reddit" to participate in their annual Secret Santa gift exchange. (Full disclosure: I also participated.) In Reddit's Secret Santa, participants are matched to a random "giftee," and the "gifter" can choose whether or not to share their identity. Gates was matched to a 25-year-old woman named Cali, and gave her a Loki helmet (from the movie Thor), a book of pictures of Africa, and a donation in her name to Shot@Life, a charity that provides vaccinations to children in poor countries.

From Business Insider:

For the last four years, thousands of Redditors have participated in a Reddit Secret Santa gift exchange. A whopping 212,894 users signed up this year, including — for the second year running — Bill Gates.

His gift ended up being incredibly thoughtful. User Calid7, a 25-year-old woman named Cali, writes that she was in shock when she discovered that Gates was her Santa.

Not only did he send her a Loki helmet she had listed as her "pie in the sky wish," but he also gifted her a book of gorgeous pictures of Africa (a place she says she desperately wants to visit), a stuffed polio virus microbe, and a donation in her name to Shot@Life, a program that provides vaccines to kids in poor countries who need them.

This is pretty cool, and it's a decently thoughtful gift from Gates. It's cool to see that even someone as rich and powerful as Gates would be willing to sign up to make a random stranger's Christmas, and at the same time help protect children from dangerous diseases. I just feel bad for the person who got Bill Gates as his giftee--what on earth could you possibly get him?!

Guy Benson - Video: 'The 12 Days of Christmas'
Posted: 12/25/2014 12:30:00 PM EST

I always enjoy sharing this performance by Indiana University's Straight No Chaser a cappella group around this time each year. Merry Christmas!


"Five golden rings!"

Conn Carroll - More And More Americans Are Choosing A Sunshine Christmas
Posted: 12/25/2014 11:00:00 AM EST

As most of New York faces a possible Christmas snow storm this week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced Tuesday that Florida has officially passed the Empire State as the country's third most populous state.

"By adding an average of 803 new residents each day between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014, Florida passed New York to become the nation’s third most populous state," a Census Bureau press release read.

California is still the nation's most populous state with 38.8 million residents, and Texas retained second on the list with 27 million. Six states actually lost population in 2014, and all of them have colder winters, including: Illinois, West Virginia, Connecticut, New Mexico, Alaska, and Vermont. 

North Carolina, a warmer southern state, also outgrew Michigan to take over the ninth spot on the most populous state list.

Also of interest, of the nine states with the fastest growing populations, all nine (North Dakota, Nevada, Texas, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, and South Carolina) have Republican governors.

Daniel Doherty - Merry Christmas, Everyone!
Posted: 12/25/2014 9:00:00 AM EST

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.” --Scrooge in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

The complete transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge is, perhaps like most readers, my favorite part of Charles Dickens’ classic novella. After spending a lifetime in isolation, accumulating wealth for its own sake, he realizes, in the end, what truly matters most: His relationships and friendships with other people.

Since it hit the streets of London, this classic work of fiction has reminded readers for generations that material pursuits and acts of selfishness are totally anathema to the spirit of Christmas, and ultimately unfulfilling, too. As his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, laments during his night-time visit:

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

These simple but oft-forgotten lines are why I try to read Dickens’ famous work every year. They remind me how I should strive to live my life, even if I fail or fall short. You are not, after all, defined by what you have, but instead by how you live your life and treat others; and as bad as you might have it, there is always something to be grateful for.

Think of poor Bob Cratchit, whose financial situation is exceedingly bleak, perhaps even perilous. But what he has, in a sense, cannot be measured in earthly terms: a beautiful, loving family with whom to share the joy of Christmas with.

So, my friends, with that being said, I wanted to wish you all a very blessed holiday season with your friends, family and loved ones this year, and a Merry Christmas.

As Tiny Tim might say: “God bless Us, Every One!”

Kevin Glass - The Presidency Can't Stop Obama's "Golf Tradition"
Posted: 12/24/2014 2:43:00 PM EST
George W. Bush was frequently mocked for his leisure trips during his presidency, but President Obama may have taken it to a new level with his golfing trips.

As The Hill reports, President Obama's trip to Hawaii this year is a part of a vacation he's been taking since before he was President - and he hasn't discontinued that while having the office of perhaps the most prestigious, stressful job in the country:

He arrived on Tuesday morning at the golf course at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, according to a pool report. He is playing with his high school friends Greg Orme and Bobby Titcomb, as well as staffer Joe Paulsen.

Titcomb and Orme are part of a group of Obama's friends who reunite in Hawaii every year, a practice that continued even after Obama became president.

Obama also made golf outings, which opponents have criticized throughout his presidency, on Saturday and Sunday, the first two days of the break.

This isn't to say that Presidents can or should never take vacations. But it's to point out that President Obama is almost never criticized for his own refusal to yield on vacations by the mainstream media, while it was a firestorm of controversy for his predecessor.

Kevin Glass - Obama's NLRB Threatens Decades of Precedent To Help Unions
Posted: 12/24/2014 2:41:00 PM EST
NLRB General Counsel Richard Griffin has brought complaints against McDonald's in response to employees alleging that they were unfairly retaliated against for discussing unionization.

The NLRB siding with a union against a corporate parent of a franchise would completely change how business is done in the United States - and tip the balance towards unions. As Diana Furchtgott-Roth explains:

In July Griffin stated (without offering a legal argument) that McDonald’s USA was a joint employer of those workers who are employed by local McDonald’s franchises, but he waited until last week to bring charges against the parent company. Before his appointment as general counsel, Griffin was one of the unconstitutional recess appointees to the NLRB, whose appointment was overturned by the Supreme Court.

This decision to charge both the McDonald’s franchise and the parent company with these violations overturns decades of precedent. For half a century, the local franchise was considered the only employer. The NLRB defined employers as those who controlled workers’ “essential terms of employment,” namely hiring, wage rates, firing, and job description. The franchises were the employers, not the owner of the franchise.

So the NLRB unilaterally changes the law without any notice or public comment, uses the change in the law to sue a major corporation, and tells the general public that the legal reasoning behind the change cannot be revealed. That’s Kafkaesque. And this from a president who stated in a memorandum on January 21, 2009, that “My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.”

As Furchtgott-Roth notes, this would be yet another example of the executive branch stretching its authority to get an outcome it wants. It would transform McDonald's restaurants from small businesses into organizations that must negotiate with a union like a giant corporation. As Furchtgott-Roth notes, only one-half of one percent of all McDonald's restaurants have legitimate complaints - and Obama's NLRB is using that small gap to ram through a tank.