Amanda Muñoz - As New House Leadership Team Steps Up, Legislative Chaos Ensues
Posted: 7/31/2014 8:05:00 PM EST

Today was former Majority Leader of the House Eric Cantor’s last day.

California Representative and former House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy and RSC Chairman and Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise officially took their respective posts as Majority Leader and Majority Whip Thursday evening – although, the positions had essentially been run de-facto since the results of the leadership election on June 19.

At the time of the announcement that Cantor had lost his re-elect in a shocking primary defeat and would be stepping down from his post on July 31, it seemed likely that the new leadership team would quietly assume their roles and take over a chamber with very little left of significance on the legislative agenda for the calendar year.

But, as Fox News' Senior Producer for Capitol Hill Chad Pergram likes to say, “Beware the Ides of August.”

In this case, troubles have come a day early in the form of a beleaguered border security bill that GOP leadership had pulled early Thursday for lack of votes. Then, shortly after 4 p.m. eastern time, word spread that the House would stay in session until a vote took place.

The Hill reports:

But just as it appeared the conference would leave town for a five-week recess having done nothing to respond to the crisis, Republicans held a closed-door conference meeting and emerged staying they would extend their workweek to try to get something done.

“We'll stay until we vote,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said after the meeting.

House votes adjourned Thursday evening with no set schedule for Friday votes; although, a legislative aide gave Townhall a run-down of what tomorrow would look like.

Members will meet Friday morning for a special conference committee in which they may get a “take it or leave it plan” from GOP leadership or hash out competing proposals for the border security legislation. They’ll then head to the Floor, debate the rule (more on that below), vote on the rule and then – theoretically – debate and take a vote on some form of border security legislation.

Before leaving Thursday night, the House Rules Committee passed a same-day provision, which would allow the House to suspend the rules and consider last-minute border legislation on Friday.

As lawmakers and aides scramble to get a plan together, both supporting and opposing forces are pressuring the House in either direction. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is on record saying that Congress should not leave until action is taken on the border issue. Senators Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions have been vocal opponents of the House bill.

The new leadership team (John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers) issued the following joint statement on the legislation:

“This situation shows the intense concern within our conference – and among the American people – about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president’s refusal to faithfully execute our laws. There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries. For the past month, the House has been engaged in intensive efforts to pass legislation that would compel the president to do his job and ensure it can be done as quickly and compassionately as possible. Through an inclusive process, a border bill was built by listening to members and the American people that has the support not just of a majority of the majority in the House, but most of the House Republican Conference. We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country.”

Spectators, like Guy Benson, think this is the time for GOP leadership to shine.

Let’s hope so. We’ll soon see.

Guy Benson - Will House Republicans Lead or Melt Down on Border Crisis Bill?
Posted: 7/31/2014 6:09:00 PM EST

Mission Accomplished, Harry Reid -- for now. The fractious House Republican caucus is once again teetering on the brink of embarrassing its leadership and handing a political win to Democrats and critics who say the GOP is too radical and irresponsible to govern. This has become a self-defeating tradition. The payroll tax flop of Christmas 2011. The fiscal cliff mess of 2012. The shutdown debacle of 2013. In each case, purists managed to derail legislation or leadership-backed compromises "on principle," with no viable alternative. The result: Democratic victory, featuring less desirable policy outcomes, fewer (if any) concessions from the other side, relying on Democrats for votes, and gaping public relations wounds. Yesterday afternoon, it appeared as though House Republicans were intent on adding "the border crisis fail of 2014" to the list. Evidently, though, enough members are angry about the prospect of going home for the summer recess without having voted on anything that they're going to give this thing one more shot tomorrow:

A few thoughts:

(1) Politically speaking, it would be malpractice to skip town having done nothing on this issue -- which everyone agrees is an acute, urgent crisis. Conservatives have not been bashful about labeling it as such, and for good reason. So Republicans' table-pounding about the problem, and endless demands that President Obama go to the border to survey the situation, all looks like cynical, empty point-scoring if they then proceed to do literally nothing about it before heading home for a month. Members will be asked about this crisis over the break. Republicans need an answer to give beyond, "Obama and the Democrats are terrible, and this situation is intolerable." They need to be able to say, "we've passed X bill that accomplishes Y and Z to alleviate the unacceptable status quo" -- and then pivot to nailing Obama and the Democrats, etc. etc. Passing nothing would also led Reid off the hook for his shameless obstructionism, rather than applying appropriate pressure via passed legislation. There's a reason why Reid has been doing everything within his power to derail Boehner's bill, including floating theories explicitly designed to turn House Republicans against each other. Sprinting into his trap -- again! -- would be unfathomably stupid.

(2) On principle, Republicans (at least nominally) hold one of Congress' two chambers. They're asking voters to give them control of the other one, too. Yes, it's true that Harry Reid has promised to kill the House proposal in the Senate and that Obama has issued a veto threat. In other words, even if the House passes something, it won't become law. Shame on the Democrats for playing such myopic and cynical games. But that is not an excuse for Republicans to abandon attempts to govern. Complaining about the other side's intransigence rings uniquely hollow when your own side can't get its act together in support of any solution. If Republicans believe the border situation is a genuine and immediate crisis, they have an obligation to act.

(3) On policy, I am not a member of the reactionary "do something!" crowd. Doing something harmful is worse than doing nothing, which is part of the reason why I opposed the Senate-passed 'gang of eight' comprehensive immigration reform package (even as I'm not broadly opposed to meaningful reform). I'm not here to tell you that the House proposal under consideration is perfect because it's not. Conn has listed a number of conservative objections to the bill, some of which have been disputed by Speaker Boehner's office. Sen. Ted Cruz (update: and Sen. Jeff Sessions) have intervened by convincing a number of representatives that it's imperative to pass legislation aimed at blocking the president from extending his DREAM-style (DACA) executive order to illegal immigrants beyond the cut-offs he established in 2012. Unless you move to shut off the magnet, Cruz argues, the problem can't possibly be resolved. This is a valuable critique of the House bill, and it induced Boehner to offer a compromise: He'd call for a vote on the underlying bill first, then immediately move to a vote on legislation addressing Cruz's point if the first bill passed. The goal was to pressure recalcitrant members into supporting the leadership's offering in exchange for a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote on Cruz's idea. Enough conservatives decided that this was insufficient, and balked -- on behalf of this "principle." Thus, garnering 218 votes became impossible, with Nancy Pelosi whipping hard against the bill. (Think about that for a moment: Obama, Reid and Pelosi all detest this bill. Surely it can't be a total "sellout"). In spite of its flaws -- real and imagined -- here are three things the House bill does:

(a) It changes the 2008 law that forces our border control agencies to treat illegal immigrants from central America differently from unlawful entrants from Mexico and Canada. This would make newly-arriving illegal immigrants eligible for immediate repatriation without a mandatory deportation hearing.

(b) It provides funding to facilitate an accelerated adjudication process for the minors who are currently being warehoused by the federal government at taxpayer expense. Let's differentiate between legitimate refugees and everyone else as soon as possible, and send the latter group home. The bill entails repatriation appropriations, too. These expenses are offset (at least in theory) with other cuts, and spend far less than the Senate's version, which de-emphasizes enforcement. The Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that the proposal would make it easier to repatriate illegal immigrants.

(c) It allocates money to treat these kids humanely -- food, shelter, etc -- in the interim. It is not a conservatives principle to oppose humanitarianism. As we deal with this crisis, we're not going to let the kids starve. That's not controversial.

(d) In addition to those three points, the bill's passage would guarantee a DACA vote, which Cruz et al have been insisting upon.

So, no, this legislative package cannot be accused of "doing nothing" to address at least some of the root causes of the present crisis. It is not worse than inaction. If conservative opponents have additional ideas that can improve the bill and tighten up problematic language prior to a vote, let's incorporate them. But passage requires 218 votes. That's a political reality and it cannot be discarded as an afterthought. Political realities and cold hard facts are always central considerations, unless you choose to inhabit a fictional universe. Finally, conservatives routinely inveigh against Obama's executive overreach (they're suing him over it, in fact), and they lambaste Boehner for relying on Democratic votes to pass certain items. While GOP dysfunction does not justify presidential lawlessness, it makes it easier for Democrats to defend politically. That matters. Also, making concessions to Nancy Pelosi in order to peel off Democratic votes only becomes necessary in cases like these if a relatively small number of Republican members make it so. (Technically, seeking Democratic votes would not violate the so-called 'Hastert Rule' in this case because a majority of the majority caucus appears to back Boehner's plan). It is not un-conservative to engage in serious, good faith efforts at governance. Enough of the unforced errors. These pathetic moves by Harry "the border is secure" Reid have provided House Republicans with an opportunity to lead:

They should seize it.

UPDATE - Nope. Kill the bill, argues Bill Kristol.
Matt Vespa - UN: Hamas, Israel Agree To 72-Hour Ceasefire
Posted: 7/31/2014 5:49:00 PM EST

The UN is reporting that Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire staring Friday morning, according to the Associated Press.

A joint statement from the UN Secretary-General and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said:

This humanitarian ceasefire will commence at 8 am local time on Friday, August 1, 2014. It will last for a period of 72 hours unless extended. During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place.

We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the ceasefire.

This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence. During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured and restocking food supplies. Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period.

Israeli and Palestinian delegations will immediately be going to Cairo for negotiations with the Government of Egypt, at the invitation of Egypt, aimed at reaching a durable ceasefire. The parties will be able to raise all issues of concern in these negotiations.

We thank key regional stakeholders for their vital support of this process, and count on a continued collaborative international effort to assist Egypt and the parties reach a durable ceasefire as soon as possible.

Let’s see how long this one lasts.

Kara Jones - Pavlich Destroys the Left's "Female Empowerment" Movement at D.C. Conference
Posted: 7/31/2014 5:00:00 PM EST

Townhall’s Katie Pavlich is tired of the way the Left repeatedly defines women “by the pills they take, by their body parts, and as victims of their gender.” Yesterday, Pavlich spoke at the National Conservative Student Conference in Washington, D.C. to dispel a few myths about the Left and the political agenda behind their "female empowerment" movement.

Myth number one is that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is beneficial for women. Remember last year when the Left accused opponents of the mandate of “waging an assault on critical health care services for women?” Being a woman was described as a “pre-existing condition” since women pay significantly more for health care than men do. This is true, but not because health insurance companies are sexist. Statistically, women simply visit the doctor more often, purchase more prescription medications, and take part in more preventative medical services than men. Oh, and women also give birth to babies. Men do not. Therefore, women’s health related costs are greater because they consume more services and require more care.

Barack Obama’s re-election campaign targeted women voters in swing states who listed health care as their number-one concern. However, instead of the Affordable Care Act making services more affordable to women, many watched their health costs rise dramatically. As Pavlich explained, “According to the Manhattan Institute, Obamacare is increasing women’s rates by 62 percent nationally, and depending on the state, some women could see their premiums triple. In addition, millions of women have received letters stating their insurance plans are being canceled because they do not comply with the Affordable Care Act.”

Hypocrisy check: President Obama specifically and repeatedly said, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period.”

Health care aside, Pavlich noted that Barack Obama has repeatedly used women to get himself and other Democrats re-elected, though he hasn’t done much to get women back to work. “There are nearly a million fewer women in the work force today than when President Obama took office in 2009. Joblessness for women under his watch has jumped 15.5 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

Another myth: conservatives are against equal work for equal pay. “Continuing the theme of victimhood,” Pavlich said, “Democratic campaigns often capitalize on the argument that women get paid less than men for the same work and that conservatives are okay with that. We’ve all seen the headlines: Women earn 76 cents for every dollar men make. ... Despite liberals repeatedly hitting the campaign trail with a platform of equal pay for women, the United States has had equal pay laws on the books since 1963 when the Equal Pay Act was passed. In 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act banned gender-based wage discrimination. Both of these pieces of legislation were further bolstered in 1972 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Act.”

Do you want to know the real reason women get paid less than men? Many factors are involved, but a main factor is choice. Men tend to choose more lucrative career paths than women, pursuing engineering and business degrees at a much higher rate. On the other hand, lower-paying jobs in social work and the humanities are women-dominated fields. Additionally, women more often take time off to raise children, they work fewer hours, and they work less consecutive years than men. All of these are contributing factors to why women earn less money over a lifespan than their male counterparts.

Hypocrisy check: If we take a look at the wage gap in the White House under Barack Obama, women are paid significantly less since he took office in 2009. It seems President Obama should first begin fighting the gender wage war right at home.

The Left also endlessly promotes the idea that gun control protects women. Pavlich said it best: “Before women had a right to vote, they had a right to own a firearm. God may have made man and woman, but as the old saying goes, Sam Colt made them equal.” Why then, are feminist groups not teaching their members how to properly use and carry a firearm? Pavlich points out that “nearly 300,000 women use handguns every year to defend themselves against a sexual assault,” yet liberals “completely dismiss one of the greatest equalizers of all.”

Liberals claim they want all women involved in politics. The targeting scandal at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under Barack Obama speaks otherwise. Pavlich reminded us that Tea Party leaders were asked to “identify volunteers, to provide content of speeches, educational forums, names of speeches, names of minors attending events, copies of written communications to legislators, and more.” Guess who made up the majority of the leaders of these Tea Party groups? Women.

Pavlich also exposed the myth that only conservatives can be sexist. Let’s all take a moment to remember the Obama reelection campaign’s “Life of Julia” advertisement. This ad disgustingly promoted the perpetuation of the federal nanny state under the guise of women’s equality. The “Life of Julia” portrayed one woman’s life of government dependency from cradle to grave. If “Julia” voted for the Democratic Party, her health care, housing, education, and child care would all be subsidized thanks to Obama’s pro-women policies. Does making women dependent on government sound empowering to you?

Hypocrisy check: Notice how there was no “Life of John” equivalent, implying that women are the weaker gender and in greater need of assistance.

Pavlich says, “This is the true war to make women dependent on the political success of the Democratic Party and radical liberals. It’s a two-part war – a war waged to make all women subscribe to certain social behavior, involving complete sexual ‘liberation’ and ‘independence,’ and a war waged to convince women that the Left would give them everything they needed to achieve that narrow-minded view on life – if they pledge their political allegiance.”

To find out more about the Left deceives women, check out Katie Pavlich’s new book, “Assault and Flattery: The Truth About the Left and Their War on Women.”

Greg Hengler - Israel vs. Hamas...and the Media, and Hollywood, and Europe, and...
Posted: 7/31/2014 4:51:00 PM EST

On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:

Dennis Prager comments on Israel's U.S. ambassador's (Ron Dermer) take-down of CNN's Israel/Hamas reporting while being interviewed on their network. Dermer made an appearance on Michael Medved's show to discuss. Prager on John Kerry's moral equivalency approach to the Israel/Hamas fight. Mike Gallagher and Newt Gingrich on the FAA cutting off U.S. flights to Israel. Sarah Palin called-in to Michael Medved's show to disagree with his stance on immigration. Bill Bennett and Gordon Chang on Putin's quest for more territory under the cover of the Middle East battles. Prager debunks the "crime is the result of poverty" myth.
Katie Pavlich - BREAKING: Judge Orders DOJ to Release Fast and Furious Documents Withheld From Congress Under Obama Executive Privilege Claim
Posted: 7/31/2014 4:20:00 PM EST

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit pursued against the Department of Justice by government watchdog Judicial Watch, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled documents being withheld from Congress under President Obama's claim of executive privilege must be turned over. Obama made the claim on the same day Attorney General Eric Holder was voted in criminal and civil contempt of Congress in June 2012.

"This order forces the Obama DOJ, for the first time, to provide a detailed listing of all documents that it has withheld from Congress and the American people for years about the deadly Fast and Furious gun running scandal," Judicial Watch released in a statement.

The FOIA lawsuit has been ongoing for 16-months and is now proceeding after a lengthy delay. The Justice Department originally asked the court for an indefinite hold on a FOIA request from Judicial Watch, citing executive privilege and an ongoing investigation. That indefinite hold request was shot down more than a year ago.

The documentation DOJ is required to now turn over is a "Vaughn index" of "all requested Fast and Furious materials from a June 2012 Judicial Watch FOIA request."

A Vaughn index must: (1) identify each document withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption." In ordering the DOJ to provide Judicial Watch the Vaughn index, the Court ruled, “In this circuit, when an agency is withholding documents under exemption claims, courts require that the agency provide a Vaughn index so that the FOIA requester – at a distinct informational disadvantage – may test the agency’s claims.”

“Once again, Judicial Watch has beat Congress to the punch in getting key information about another Obama scandal – this time, the Fast and Furious outrage,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “A federal court has ordered the Obama administration to produce information that could, for the first time, provide specific details who in the administration is responsible for Fast and Furious lies to Congress and the American people. This is a battle that put Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, saw Nixonian assertions of executive privilege by Barack Obama, and a hapless Congress in face of all this lawlessness. Finally, we may get some accountability for Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the countless others murdered as a result of the insanely reckless Obama administration program.”

This is a huge step forward.

Matt Vespa - Great Moments In Government: NY Governor, GOP Opponent Under Investigation For Ethics Violations
Posted: 7/31/2014 3:15:00 PM EST

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is certainly taking some heat for torpedoing his own commission that was set up to investigate ethics violations and other felonious activities in state government. But there was a problem: the commission was looking into his friends. His office allegedly ran interference on some of the investigations conducted by the Moreland Commission, which was already marred by intra-office politics, especially between its executive director and its chief of investigations.

Now, New York’s U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is warning Governor Cuomo that his office could become subjected to an investigation over witness tampering and obstruction of justice. According to the New York Times, Mr. Bharara’s office has been looking into the reasons for Mr. Cuomo’s premature dissolution of his ethics commission:

In an escalation of the confrontation between the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo over the governor’s cancellation of his own anticorruption commission, Mr. Bharara has threatened to investigate the Cuomo administration for possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering.

The warning, in a sharply worded letter from Mr. Bharara’s office, came after several members of the panel issued public statements defending the governor’s handling of the panel, known as the Moreland Commission, which Mr. Cuomo created last year with promises of cleaning up corruption in state politics but shut down abruptly in March.

Mr. Bharara’s office has been investigating the shutdown of the commission, and pursuing its unfinished corruption cases, since April.

The letter from prosecutors, which was read to The New York Times, says, “We have reason to believe a number of commissioners recently have been contacted about the commission’s work, and some commissioners have been asked to issue public statements characterizing events and facts regarding the commission’s operation.”

“To the extent anyone attempts to influence or tamper with a witness’s recollection of events relevant to our investigation, including the recollection of a commissioner or one of the commission’s employees, we request that you advise our office immediately, as we must consider whether such actions constitute obstruction of justice or tampering with witnesses that violate federal law.”

The Times noted that William J. Fitzpatrick, one of the commission’s co-chairs, said that no such interference occurred, which contradicts what he wrote in his emails when the commission was active.

News of the governor hobbling his own crusade to wipe out corruption in the Empire State has only brought media scrutiny, which resulted in Cuomo throwing a temper tantrum. And giving a rather puerile response to the allegations that was read on MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier this week.

Cuomo, who’s running for re-election, isn’t the only one facing legal matters. Rob Astorino, his Republican opponent, is also the subject of an investigation. Allegedly, Mr. Astorino strong-armed staffers, family members, and friends to change registration to the Independence Party during his re-election bid for his Westchester County executive seat, according to Politico:

A New York prosecutor’s office is reviewing a request for an investigation of GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino over a messy lawsuit relating to a minor party and allegations that he made threats over an endorsement he didn’t get.

A spokesman for the Westchester County district attorney’s office told POLITICO officials are “reviewing” a request sent by lawyer Peter Tilem two months ago in relation to a civil racketeering case filed against Astorino by officials with the Independence Party over the 2013 endorsement process for Astorino’s ultimately-successful reelection effort.

The suit claims that Astorino tried to get friends and relatives to switch their registration to the Independence Party as part of an effort to secure their nomination in last year’s county-executive race, which ultimately went to his Democratic opponent. Astorino did not seek the IP’s endorsement in the gubernatorial race; the party has endorsed Cuomo.

New York permits fusion tickets, in which major party candidates can boost their margins by securing minor party ballot lines.

The complaint alleges that Astorino “coerced dozens of staff members, political associates, friends and family members” to change their party registration to the Independence Party. The Astorino-controlled county government allegedly back-dated registration forms and accepted documents after legal deadlines, a summary of the complaint contends.

Daily Kos Elections asked the following:

In a word: chaos. But, it’s the entertaining, popcorn-filled kind.

Guy Benson - GAO: Trainwreck Resulted From Obama Admin Incompetence
Posted: 7/31/2014 2:46:00 PM EST

Well, yeah. Obviously. But to hear the administration tell it, all those migrane-inducing rollout, er, hiccups ought to be laid at the feet of the private contractors who screwed everything up. Remember this?

A week after the contractors who built blamed the Obama administration for the site's failures, the administration is shifting the blame right back. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will tell a House committee tomorrow the site's botched rollout was the result of contractors failing to live up to expectations – not bad management at HHS, as the contractors suggested. "CMS has a track record of successfully overseeing the many contractors our programs depend on to function. Unfortunately, a subset of those contracts for have not met expectations," Sebelius said in prepared testimony for tomorrow's hearing before the Energy and Commerce Committee.

That would be the same disastrous October testimony in which Sebelius claimed had "never crashed." was crashed throughout the duration her testimony. CNN even put up a memorable live split screen. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has been assessing Obamacare's failures and renders a judgment on the administration's culpability amid the blame game:

Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president's new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday. While the administration was publicly assuring consumers that they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start. After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked "effective planning or oversight practices" for the development of, the portal for millions of uninsured Americans. As a result the government incurred "significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality," William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.

The report concluded that "contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead jumped around from issue to issue," and that the administration "failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed." The Associated Press' story on the findings repeated the claim that "eight million" consumers signed up through Obamacare's exchanges. This isn't accurate. According to estimates, roughly 15-20 percent of "enrollees" never paid their first premium, and therefore did not initiate their coverage. A health insurance executive said yesterday that an untold number of additional actual enrollees have ceased making payments, voiding their coverage. The "eight million" figure also includes a substantial number of duplicate enrollments, as millions of applications have been impacted by data discrepancies that are expected to end up charging them more, or terminating their plans entirely. The majority of "new" enrollees being touted by the White House already had insurance prior to Obamacare; a large portion of these people represent those whose existing plans were canceled under the new law, in violation of an opt-recited presidential vow. The GAO also just blew the whistle on woefully insufficient eligibility verification procedures, noting that 11 of their 12 fake customers were able to obtain coverage online or over the phone. All of these problems are exacerbated by a federal data hub whose 'back-end' payment systems have still not been built, and aren't expected to go live until sometime in 2015. A separate population of consumers who may like their new plans stand to face sharply higher bills next year after they're automatically re-enrolled in plans with shifting costs. If they don't want to pay more, they'll need to switch coverage -- again, in many cases. Obamacare consumers across the country have been complaining about trouble finding doctors and facilities that accept their plans, and a rash of premium increases have been been announced for the coming year. National Journal reports on how much taxpayers have already sunk into

The Obama administration has spent roughly $840 million on, including more than $150 million just in cost overruns for the version that failed so badly when it launched last year. The Government Accountability Office says cost overruns went hand-in-hand with the management failures that led to the disastrous launch of and the 36 state insurance exchanges it serves...GAO says similar problems could arise again without structural changes in the way the government manages its contracts and spending.

That figure doesn't count the billions spent on state-level exchange websites, including hundreds of millions of dollars flushed away on failed or abandoned exchanges in states like Oregon, Maryland and Massachusetts. Administration officials at first didn't expect to have to build any exchanges, assuming that all 50 states would create their own, as outlined in the law. Most states declined to do so, however, yet Team Obama delayed and hid much of its work on the federal marketplace until after the president had been safely re-elected. The law's plain language states that only consumers who purchase plans through state-based exchanges are eligible to receive taxpayer subsidies, but Obamacare defenders say that was never the intent of the law -- creating a mess of contradictions and dishonesty. The best summary I've seen on the issue is here. Based on conflicting circuit court rulings issued within the last few weeks, the issue seems destined for the Supreme Court. I'll leave you with this, breaking today:

U.S. consumers who purchase private health coverage through the federal Obamacare website are likely to find only modestly higher premiums but may still have technical problems signing up, a top health official said on Thursday. "It won't be perfect," Andrew Slavitt, a newly appointed principal deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), told lawmakers at hearing before a House of Representatives oversight committee. "It's a bumpy process at times," he added. "I think we've got a committed team of people, though, that by and large are doing a very good job. But there will clearly be bumps."

Coming soon: Higher costs, more glitches. That, according to a high-ranking Obama administration official. Current and upcoming premium increases are being held down by bailout-style taxpayer payments to insurers through channels established in the law. The administration unilaterally expanded this hefty assistance at insurers' behest in order to head off even higher cost spikes.

Conn Carroll - How Will Obama Pay for His Next Unilateral Amnesty?
Posted: 7/31/2014 2:40:00 PM EST

Speaker John Bohner (R-OH) announced this afternoon that the House will not be voting on his $659 million border bill before adjourning for the August recess.

This is a wise decision since giving President Obama any additional funds for the border would just make it easier for him to enact his next unilateral amnesty.

Supposedly, Obama has the legal authority to grant temporary amnesty (aka "deferred action" or "non priority enforcement" status) to anyone he wants to, whenever he wants to, based on his inherent "prosecutorial discretion" as the nation's chief law enforcement officer.

Congress, this legal theory reasons, has not allocated the funds necessary to deport all 11 million illegal immigrants, so in order to conserve resources Obama must decide which of the 11 million illegal immigrants he will or will not deport. In this sense, true prosecutorial discretion should save the executive branch money.

But Obama's 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is an unprecedented abuse of that prosecutorial discretion. Obama isn't just deciding which illegal immigrants he will or will not pursue. He is also granting those that meet his made up criteria a special new status that also allows them to get work permits, a Social Security number, and a drivers license.

Setting up a new legalization program and adminsitering the many new rules for who does and does not qualify for that program costs a lot of money. But Congress never approved Obama's amnesty and never approved any money for it.

So where did Obama get this money? The New York Times reports:

Many thousands of Americans seeking green cards for foreign spouses or other immediate relatives have been separated from them for a year or more because of swelling bureaucratic delays at a federal immigration agency in recent months.

The long waits came when the agency, Citizenship and Immigration Services, shifted attention and resources to a program President Obama started in 2012 to give deportation deferrals to young undocumented immigrants, according to administration officials and official data. …

Until recently, an American could obtain a green card for a spouse, child or parent — probably the easiest document in the immigration system — in five months or less. But over the past year, waits for approvals of those resident visas stretched to 15 months, and more than 500,000 applications became stuck in the pipeline, playing havoc with international moves and children’s schools and keeping families apart.

(emphasis added) In other words, Obama stole money from legal immigrants who played by the rules, and gave it to the illegal immigrants who benefitted from his DACA program.

If the House had approved Obama's $3.7 billion request for the border crisis he created, he could have just used that windfall to pay for his next unilateral amnesty.

But now that conservatives have blocked Obama's supplemental request, how will Obama pay for his next amnesty?

Cortney O'Brien - ‘Sharknado 2’ Takes Chainsaw to NYC Gun Control Policy
Posted: 7/31/2014 2:30:00 PM EST

I never thought I’d praise the filmmakers who brought us ‘Sharknado.’ But, according to the Twitterverse, ‘Sharknado 2: The Second One,’ which premiered Wednesday night on Syfy, took a much-needed jab at New York City’s anti-gun agenda.

To protect themselves from the sharks falling from the sky, the film's protagonists needed weapons. But, a character begrudgingly informed them, there were no gun shops in the city.

Try, if you can, to disregard the ridiculous plot and focus on the point: A machine gun would stop these sharks in their tracks a whole lot quicker than a chainsaw or a baseball bat.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo have been obsessed with wiping out firearms from both Manhattan and the state as a whole. Bloomberg spent millions to create an anti-NRA organization called EveryTown and Cuomo’s poorly named “SAFE Act” has prompted gun companies to flee the state and has essentially turned gun owners into criminals. What they ignore, however, is how guns have often proven to be life saving tools in desperate situations.

Katie recently wrote about Everytown’s new anti-gun ad which showed a woman being attacked by her ex-husband who was trying to take their child. Although the advertisement was trying to prove that we need to enforce more gun control, Katie pointed out that it inadvertently demonstrated how the victimized female could have actually protected herself if she had access to a gun in the home.

It’s not just these fictional characters upset with the Empire State's anti-gun policies. Actual New Yorkers have taken to the streets to give these politicians a piece of their mind. Their message? “Hands off our guns”.

Good to see Hollywood joining these freedom-loving New Yorkers and not being afraid to slam policies that aren’t working.

Click here to read some of last night's best pro-gun, anti-shark tweets.