The House on Wednesday handily rejected a GOP budget alternative based on President Obama's 2015 spending blueprint. It was defeated 2-413, following a pattern seen in recent years in House votes to overwhelmingly reject Obama's budget proposals. Today's vote is just slightly better than the unanimous vote against Obama's budget in 2012. The two "yes" votes came from Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Jim Moran (D-Va.), who is retiring...An Obama administration official agreed with House Democrats that the GOP substitute was not an accurate reflection of Obama's budget plan. "The Administration would welcome votes on the actual provisions of President's Budget," said Office of Management and Budget spokesman Steve Posner. "That is not what this amendment represents, and a vote for or against this amendment is not a vote for or against the President's policies." But Republicans rejected these complaints, and defended the idea of consider Obama's latest proposal as a way to let the House consider all budget options. "Any time the president of the United States takes the time to produce a budget, it merits a debate," Mulvaney said. "I think it's a valid discussion we should have every year." Mulvaney also offered the president's budget as a mock alternative in 2012, which was rejected 0-414. Republicans could not offer it last year because the president's budget was submitted late — instead, Mulvaney tried to offer a blank sheet of paper to represent Obama's budget, but it was not made in order.
I must have missed Mulvaney's blank page budget gambit last year, which deserves points for being amusing and for highlighting the fact that the Obama White House can't be bothered to meet statutory budget deadlines. He might try the same thing as a proxy for Senate Democrats' FY 2015 proposal, which does not and will not exist. Harry Reid's caucus has declined to participate in the legally-mandated budgeting process for the fourth time in five years. The White House and House Democrats can claim that the GOP's version of Obama's budget wasn't an "accurate reflection" of the original document, but it essentially lifted Obama's entire vision and dropped it into legislative language. In reality, all but two Democrats -- one of whom was this guy -- chose not to attach themselves to the president's plan, which calls for the following:
President Obama's 2015 Budget Proposal:
(1) Never balances. Ever.
(2) Increases spending, ballooning the national debt by $8.3 trillion over the budget window -- $1 trillion beyond than the unsustainable current trajectory. Under Obama's plan, the red ink on the above chart would be steeper, sooner.
(3) Raises taxes by an additional $1.8 trillion (and again, never balances).
To their credit, and unlike their Senate colleagues, House Democrats will offer an alternative budget of their own. But Phil Kerpen notices that it's missing something:
The section on Obamacare ends with this defiant statement of policy: “the law of the land should support making affordable health care coverage available to every American family, and therefore the Affordable Care Act should not be repealed.” And that’s it. Don’t repeal it. Don’t acknowledge any of the problems. Don’t do anything to help any of the people whose lives have been thrown into disarray. And certainly don’t do anything to “fix it.” It couldn’t be clearer: members who vote for this budget think Obamacare does not need to be fixed. Indeed it’s hard to read the Democratic budget as anything but a celebration of Obamacare exactly as it is – and that adds insult to the many Americans who have been injured by the law.
In other words, House Democrats' budget reflects the opinion of those six percent of Americans who believe Obamacare is working well as is. For all their public assurances about "fixing Obamacare" (which didn't pay dividends for them in Florida), Democrats oppose one of the most popular fixes to the law, their party chairwoman can't think of a single change she'd make, and their governing document offers zero fixes. Seems legit.
CBS News announced today that Stephen Colbert will officially replace "Late Night" host David Letterman when he retires in 2015. Colbert signed a five year agreement:
Stephen Colbert, the host, writer and executive producer of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning “The Colbert Report,” will succeed David Letterman as the host of CBS’ “Late Show”, the company announced Thursday.
The move will be effective when Letterman retires from the broadcast, according to CBS Television Network officials.
The five-year agreement between CBS and Colbert was announced by Leslie Moonves, President and CEO, CBS Corporation, and Nina Tassler, Chairman of CBS Entertainment.
Letterman, the legendary, critically acclaimed host of the CBS late night series for 21 years, announced his retirement on his April 3 broadcast. Colbert’s premiere date as host of “The Late Show” will be announced after Mr. Lettermen determines a timetable for his final broadcasts in 2015.
Colbert, of course, is stoked:
“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” said Colbert. “I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth,” he added.
It’s up for debate whether or not Colbert will host the “Late Show” from New York City, or tape on the West Coast. The network will release that information “at a later date.” Colbert, however, is bringing his team of writers with him wherever he goes. So perhaps we can look forward to more of this:
We'll see. But my hunch is Mr. Colbert won't be using the same material as late-night comic Jay Leno, either.
UPDATE: Some food for thought:
After five hours of debate, the House Oversight Committee has voted along party lines 21-12 to hold former IRS Director of Tax Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress.The charges come after Lerner failed to answer questions about the IRS targeting of conservative groups and after failure to cooperate with the Committee investigation into the targeting.
Before the vote, Democrats repeatedly defended the rights of Lois Lerner, arguing she did not waive her Fifth Amendment rights even though she made a statement before declaring she would not answer questions last year and again in early 2014. Republicans argued Lerner did in fact waive her Fifth Amendment rights due to making a statement and defended the rights of taxpayers who were targeted by her organization.
The contempt charge will now go to the full House for a vote. A date for when that vote will happen has not been set. If the House votes to hold her in contempt, the charge will then go to the court system. Yesterday the House Ways and Means Committee referred Lerner to the Department of Justice for criminal charges.
“Today, the Oversight Committee upheld its obligation to pursue the truth about the IRS targeting of Americans because of their political beliefs,” Chairman Darrell Issa said. “Our investigation has found that former IRS Exempt Organizations division Director Lois Lerner played a central role in the targeting scandal and then failed to meet her legal obligations to answer questions after she waived her right not to testify. In demanding answers and holding a powerful government official accountable for her failure to meet her legal obligations, this Committee did its job. If the House takes up and passes the resolution, the matter will be referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which statute requires he take to a grand jury.”
The American Center For Law and Justice, representing 41 tea party and conservative groups that were targeted by the IRS under Lerner's watch, is calling the contempt vote "justified."
“The decision to hold Lois Lerner in contempt comes 11 months to the day since she revealed this unlawful scheme with a question she planted at an ABA meeting,” ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said in a statement. “From the very beginning, she has ignored a Congressional subpoena – refused to answer questions on two occasions by pleading the Fifth Amendment. We believe – as many others do – that she waived her constitutional right to remain silent because she invoked it after she publicly proclaimed her innocence. Lerner has misled the American people and Congress from the very start. Contempt is justified and the appropriate sanction in this case.”
Lerner now joins Attorney General Eric Holder, who was held in contempt of Congress in June 2012.
This post has been updated.
In a not so surprising mistake, the latest ad from the Senate Majority PAC is missing a few things. The PAC, which is run by former aides to Harry Reid, has put out a new ad in Louisiana in an effort to help Mary Landrieu win the senate seat against the republican challenger, Bill Cassidy.
The voiceover in the new ad states,
“We’ve been battered by hurricanes, lost everything to floods. And for thousands of Louisianans, flood insurance and hurricane relief are our only protection. But the out-of-state billionaire Koch brothers funded the fight to let flood insurance premiums soar, helping the insurance companies and cut off hurricane relief for Louisiana families. Now they’re spending millions to buy a Senate seat for Bill Cassidy so he can fight for them. If the Kochs and Cassidy win, Louisiana loses.”
Not only are the claims in this ad extremely exaggerated (they earned 4 pinocchios from the Washington Post), but it seems the PAC didn’t do their research before putting this advertisement together.
According to a recent Politico investigation into the Koch brothers and how they spend their money, it appears that the Kochs don’t just give to Republicans, like so many people believe, and in fact have given money to Senator Mary Landrieu. They found that since 2000, Ms. Landrieu has accepted $55,000 from the KochPAC.
Gee, that doesn’t seem like the best strategy to make their point. The point is supposed to be that the Kochs are evil and that Landrieu is above taking their money. Hmmm.
The Washington Post brought about a great argument when it comes to looking at these political ads; although the individual lines may be correct, the overall impression it gives voters is not correct. So not only do we have an ad that misleads voters in terms of information provided in the ad about the competitor, but we are also seeing information withheld from voters. Perhaps the Senate Majority PAC should look at their strategy again.
Alvin Holmes, a Democrat in the Alabama House of Representatives from Montgomery, has been in hot water lately for his blatantly racist comments about Clarence Thomas, abortion, and adoption. Holmes referred to Thomas as an "Uncle Tom," said that his white Republican colleagues in the House would force their daughters to abort a mixed-race grandchild in spite of their pro-life views, and that whites in Alabama do not adopt black children.
"I will bring you $100,000 cash tomorrow if you show me a whole bunch of whites that adopted blacks in Alabama. I will go down there and mortgage my house and get it cash in 20 dollar bills and bring it to you in a little briefcase," Holmes said.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, white families in Alabama who have adopted black or mixed-raced children were not too pleased with Holmes' rhetoric. A Facebook page "Faces of Families in Alabama" was quickly founded in response and now has over 6,000 "likes." Yesterday, organizers behind the page as well as other adoption advocates and parents rallied outside of the Alabama State House to prove to Holmes that families like theirs do exist in the state.
Despite the horrible nature of Holmes' comments, adoption workers and families hope that a silver lining of increased awareness could come from all of this.
Kai Mumpfield, a regional coordinator for Alabama Pre/Post Adoption Connections, a collaborative effort between the Children's Aid Society and DHR, said race is not a main concern when trying to match a child with adoptive parents. She said the children's needs are considered first. Mumpfield said there are 265 foster children in Alabama's whose parents have had their parental rights terminated and are in need of permanent homes.
"We want this to be an opportunity to recruit more families, more Caucasian, African American and Hispanic families," she said.
Holmes, who has served in the legislature since 1974, stands by his comments. He also claims that "99 percent" of older white Alabamians are racists who are opposed to interracial marriage and adoption.
It has not been reported if he has held up his end of his bet and paid $100,000 to the adoptive families present at the rally yesterday.
Years ago, it seems, progressives crowned Hillary Clinton their party’s heir apparent to the American presidency. They concluded she was “deserving” and “qualified” for that office, in part given her long and distinguished career in public service. Yet when asked a blunt and direct question by the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol today on Morning Joe -- namely, what was her greatest achievement as secretary of state? -- no one on the left-leaning panel had a compelling answer. In fact, no one on the panel had much of an answer at all (via WFB):
For years Hillary Clinton had been touted by the drive-by media as the most qualified Democrat running for president in 2016. Is she? When Joe Scarborough and Bill Kristol pushed backed against that inside-the-beltway bit of conventional wisdom, no panelist readily or convincingly rose to her defense. Perhaps Chuck Todd came the closest, but even he admitted she played a “much more quiet role” on the world stage than her successor during her years at State. Thus, it was somewhat strange watching a progressive journalist scoff at Scarborough for suggesting Claire McCaskill (D-MO) was the strongest Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, even though he provided no evidence for why that wasn’t necessarily the case.
The publication of Hillary Clinton's memoir in June will give her a chance to answer an important question MSNBC journalists evidently cannot. They must be looking forward to it.
The crowd-funding site Kickstarter once agreed to host the film After Tiller, a documentary that follows and sympathizes with the only four remaining late-term abortionists in the country as they face animosity for the work they perform. It seems Kickstarter is not interested, however, in films that sympathize with the real victims: unborn babies. When filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney asked the site for help telling the story of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who is now serving life sentences for murdering thousands in his filthy abortion clinic, Kickstarter refused. That, however, hasn’t stopped the Gosnell Movie campaign from being well on its way to smashing donation records, earning $500,000 in a little over a week.
McAleer and McElhinney are doing the country a service by exposing the Kermit Gosnell tragedy. Among other atrocities, the abortionist kept severed babies’ feet in jars and snipped babies’ spinal cords. These injustices were largely ignored by the mainstream media. One reporter willing to share the truth, however, was USA Today’s Kirsten Powers. In her piece entitled, "Philadelphia abortion clinic horror," she insisted that Gosnell’s ‘House of Horrors’ should be front page news.
Powers is still writing the headlines the rest of the cowardly media won’t. In her new column, “Liberals’ mob rule," Powers accuses Kickstarter of “muzzling” the pro-life filmmakers:
Kickstarter, like too much of the news media, wants only one version of the late-term abortion story told. If Gosnell hadn't killed the babies outside the mothers' body and instead kept them inside as is standard procedure for the After Tiller docs, he would not have been charged with murder. He'd be the hero in a film Kickstarter would happily fund.
Kickstarter explained its reasoning for blocking the movie by writing, "We understand your convictions … however … our Community Guidelines outline that we encourage and enforce a culture of respect and consideration, and we ask that that language specifically be modified."
Powers, however, provided a more accurate excuse:
Mob rule enforcing groupthink is as illiberal as it gets, and yet it was liberals demanding uniformity of thought — or else.
Despite the efforts to quash the Gosnell movie campaign, 6,500 people have already donated to the film. McElhinney is encouraged by the campaign’s quick success:
"This is just fantastic, this is such a strong message from people all over the country voting with their money for the truth. Hollywood and the mainstream media should pay attention, people are angry with them for ignoring the news and the truth. This $500,000 is a strong statement, the people won't wait for Hollywood or the mainstream media, they're fighting back. It's beautiful."
It’s amazing the lengths the media will go to avoid showing abortion in a bad light. It’s always a woman’s “right to choose,” never “murder.”
It's only fair to report that Kickstarter did eventually accept the Gosnell movie proposal – after McAleer and McElhinney withdrew it.
Kickstarter can now consider itself on the wrong side of history.
Remember when the President insisted that there wasn't even a "smidgen" of corruption at the IRS?
To the contrary, yesterday's disclosures demonstrate that, contrary to the President's assurances, there was far more than just a "smidgen." Rather, they confirm the darkest suspicions that the IRS was effectively transformed into a partisan attack dog, intentionally loosed on American citizens Democrats didn't like.
Several appalling pieces of news emerged yesterday -- items that, were they politically harmful to Republicans rather than Democrats, would be front-page in breathless accounts at the Washington Post and The New York Times.
(1) Lois Lerner secretly communicated with Democrat Elijah Cumming's staff (contacts that were undisclosed -- even denied -- until yesterday) about True the Vote, one of the conservative groups most aggressively harassed by the IRS (and other federal agencies).
(2) After personally meeting with two liberal groups, Ms. Lerner obligingly asked the relevant IRS subordinate why Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS had not been audited -- and in fact stated that its application would be denied, even though no one who had actually worked on the case had indicated any such thing.
(3) Early in 2013, Lerner asked for an investigation of five conservative groups designated "controversial" by ProPublica. Thereafter, four of the five were investigated; three were audited. (NOTE: ProPublica is the group that reported, last year, it was given confidential tax-exempt status applications by the IRS).
(4) Although Lerner had told the IG that she had only learned that the key words "tea party" were being used as a way to target certain groups for scrutiny in June 2011, in fact she knew about the targeting in April/May 2010 (just a few weeks after it began). That means the targeting went on -- with her knowledge and without any intervention on her part -- far longer than originally known.
(5) Lerner emailed (perhaps in jest) that maybe she could get the "DC office job" with Organizing for America, the new incarnation of Obama for America.
A couple of observations:
a) With this information, combined with what has been previously released, no reasonable person can possibly believe that the law governing nonprofits was being fairly, neutrally, disinterestedly applied by nonpartisan government officials of integrity.
b) There is abundant evidence that Ms. Lerner sought to manipulate tax laws in a partisan manner, abusing her position of trust to help her party of choice and to hinder groups to which she was ideologically opposed. (Note to the President: This is "corruption.")
c) If Americans are going to find out the truth about what happened at the IRS, it will be necessary to offer Lois Lerner immunity. Otherwise, the contempt matter can (and will) be litigated, time will be lost, and without new disclosures, the Democrats and their friends in the press will unilaterally declare the scandal done (a la Benghazi). Lerner richly deserves prosecution and punishment, but it is more important for Americans to have a full account of what happened and why -- and a comprehensive explanation of how the behavior is inimical to the very idea of the rule of law.
d) Don't expect Democrats to be eager for Lerner to have immunity, even if it means their partisan ally at the IRS will avoid prosecution. The more fully Americans understand the extent of the abuses committed by their tax-collecting agency, the less credibility Democrats' "progressive" model of government -- with supposedly impartial, technocratic elites administering the supposed good works of a supposedly benevolent centralized government -- will ever have.
Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, said yesterday that he may caucus with the Republicans following the midterm elections if the GOP is successful in retaking the Senate. Prior to his election to the Senate, King served two terms as governor of Maine.
King currently has a 13 out of 100 rating from the American Conservative Union. The highest rated Democrat in the Senate is Mark Pryor, who scored a 28, while the lowest rated Republican in the Senate is Maine's other senator, Susan Collins.
As governor, King spearheaded a program that gave a laptop to every seventh and eighth grade student in public schools. He left the state in a financial mess which he partly blamed on the 9/11 terrorist attack.
As you read this story, bear in mind that this special counsel report exposes conduct that isn't directly related to the IRS targeting scandal. No, these are other bad actors within the agency violating the Hatch Act by abusing their official positions for partisan ends. Add this new information into the Lois Lerner mix (much more on her below), and a very ugly picture of IRS culture emerges. Via the Washington Post:
Internal Revenue Service employees urged callers to vote for President Obama, disparaged Republicans in conversations with taxpayers and wore pro-Obama swag at work during the 2012 election cycle, according to a federal ethics watchdog. The Office of Special Counsel, which reviews whistleblower allegations, highlighted the three cases in an announcement on Wednesday. Federal law, specifically the Hatch Act, prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan campaign activities...OSC said in its announcement that it filed a complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board against an IRS customer-service worker who allegedly encouraged taxpayers to reelect Obama by “repeatedly reciting a chant based on the spelling of [the president's] last name.” “Given the seriousness of the allegations and the employee’s Hatch Act knowledge, OSC is seeking significant disciplinary action,” the watchdog agency said. OSC said an IRS tax-advisory specialist in a separate case will serve a 14-day suspension for promoting partisan political views while assisting a taxpayer during the 2012 election season. The worker admitted to Hatch Act violations after a recorded conversation revealed she had shared anti-Republican opinions with a customer.
So we have one documented case of an IRS worker exhorting customers to re-elect Obama, with another employee dumping on Republicans. It's as if this person were reading off of DNC talking points:
OSC quoted the employee saying: “Republicans already [sic] trying to cap my pension and … they’re trying to take women back 40 years.” The employee added that her mother had always told her voting Republican would hurt the poor and make the rich more wealthy, saying she found the advice to be true, according to OSC. In a third case, the watchdog agency issued “cautionary guidance” to an IRS taxpayer-assistance center in Dallas following allegations that workers wore pro-Obama stickers, buttons and clothing at their jobs and displayed similar screensavers on agency computers. OSC said the items were “commonplace around the office.” Federal employees are not supposed to wear or display partisan items in the workplace, according to OSC.
As unacceptable as the former two examples are, the "commonplace" Obama swag at a major IRS center in Texas is the most indicative of the prevailing atmosphere at the agency. It's no surprise that IRS bureaucrats lean left, but these people have an obligation to serve as apolitical public employees, dispassionately conducting the people's business. What we see instead is a group of vindictive partisans -- from low-level call center operators all the way to the highest echelons of the IRS. Which brings us back to Lois Lerner and crew. Katie wrote extensively about the new email trail strongly suggesting that IRS officials and House Oversight Committee Democrats may have colluded on efforts to harass conservative organization True the Vote in 2012 and 2013. It's unclear whether any private tax information was exchanged, which would be a felony. Such a revelation wouldn't be too far-fetched, though, given that someone at the IRS did precisely that in yet another tentacle of this saga involving a different conservative group. What isn't ambiguous in the emails, however, is that Cummings' strong denials of any contact between his staff and the IRS regarding True the Vote were false. The set of questions Cummings eventually fired off to True the Vote were also strikingly similar to those asked by the IRS. In a devastating and pointed letter to Cummings, Issa wonders if Oversight Committee Democrats' heretofore secret role in the targeting scandal may explain Cummings' relentless obstructionism and pronouncements that the entire episode should be considered over and resolved. Finally, a tranche of emails disclosed by the House Ways and Means Committee shows that shortly after denying conservative outfit Crossroads GPS its tax-exempt status and ordering that it be audited, Lois Lerner seemed interested in OFA, the "independent" group spun out of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. She wasn't interested in targeting OFA, though; she floated the idea of joining them:
I think there's a decent chance that she was joking about her (apparently well-known) Obama fandom, but her close colleagues clearly weren't sure -- hence the "retirement talk?" follow-up. Lerner could perhaps clear this all up if she weren't refusing to testify by invoking her right against self-incrimination. Recall that she initially denied any involvement in the targeting of conservative groups, which was a lie. She also lied about orchestrating the planted question that made the entire outrage public in order to head off the Inspector General's forthcoming report, among other things. I'll leave you with two thoughts: (1) Since it's likely to get dredged up again, remember that Democrats' talking point that left-leaning groups were also targeted by the IRS just isn't true, no matter how they try to spin these numbers. (2) Just a few months ago, President Obama once again blamed all of this on a few "bone-headed" employees at a local IRS branch, assuring Americans that there isn't even a "smidgen" of corruption at the agency. And so, it comes to this:
Congress votes Lerner in contempt of Congress, refers prosecution to Attorney General who Congress voted in contempt of Congress— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) April 9, 2014