Conn Carroll - Obama's Budget Busts Spending Caps
Posted: 1/15/2015 8:00:00 PM EST

President Obama's fiscal 2016 budget will call for a seven percent discretionary spending increase, busting the budget spending caps Democrats and Republicans agreed to in 2011.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest all but confirmed a Thursday Bloomberg story reporting that Obama's next budget, to be released February 2nd, will ask Congress to spend $68 billion more than the current budget limit agreement allows.

Asked if Obama new budget would hike spending, Earnest replied, "The President has been pretty clear about the fact over the last two weeks that now is exactly the right time for us start making some policy decisions that will invest in middle class families."

Thanks to a slowly recovering economy, the federal budget deficit has shrunk from $1.4 trillion in Obama's first year in office, when he passed a trillion dollar stimulus, to just $506 billion today, a figure still higher than any year President Bush was in office.

And according to the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit will continue to fall in 2015, sinking to $469 billion. But thanks to exploding mandatory programs, including Obamacare, the deficit will then begin to rise again, hitting $556 billion when Obama leaves office and reaching $737 billion by 2020.

It is unclear if Obama's new budget will have any new policies that address the deficit explosion set to detonate after he leaves office.

Greg Hengler - It's Not About the Cartoon
Posted: 1/15/2015 7:39:00 PM EST

On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:

Dennis Prager on Obama's absence from the Paris rally. Michael Medved on the Paris rally. Bill Bennett and Alan Dershowitz on France's Muslim problem. Prager on Muslim students in France not standing during the moment of silence. Bennett and Michael Rubin on how the fight has changed since the War on Terror began. Michael Medved on the Atlanta fire chief getting fired for writing a book that discloses his Christian beliefs. Hewitt and Fred Barnes on '16 election. Bennett Kristol on the '16 election. Hugh Hewitt and company describe the GOP candidates and their NASCAR driver counterparts.

Daniel Doherty - 2016 Rumblings: Walker Gently Suggests Romney Is a Candidate 'From the Past'
Posted: 1/15/2015 7:00:00 PM EST

Not unlike the response Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) gave the other day regarding another impending Romney run, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) suggested to Politico yesterday that Republicans need, well, a fresh face to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday that the reemergence of Mitt Romney in the 2016 presidential field could offset the Republicans’ greatest advantage against Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate: making the case for change.

“I think the best way to counter something from the past is with something new,” Walker, the second-term governor mulling a presidential campaign, said in a phone interview. “[Americans] don’t want the worn-out, tired views of the past.”

In fairness, Romney’s views aren’t all that different from other candidates presumed to be entering the race. Perhaps what Walker meant to say, then, is that Americans are “worn out” from the same old candidates "of the past." If and when Romney announces he’s in, it will be the third time he’s run for president since ‘08. In order to keep conservatives happy, and broaden the party’s growing appeal, Walker implies, it’s finally time for the former Massachusetts governor to step aside.

Of course, all the ambitious candidates weighing presidential runs have a vested interest in seeing Romney sidelined. Not only did he win the Republican nomination in 2012 (and garner some 61 million votes shortly thereafter) but he also has the infrastructure and experience to be a force to be reckoned with early in the primaries. Still, infrastructure and experience may not be enough to win in a vastly changing political landscape, as The New York Times pointed out  this week:

...[I]nterviews with more than two dozen Republican activists, elected officials and contributors around the country reveal little appetite for another Romney candidacy. Beyond his enthusiasts — a formidable constituency given that many are donors — opinions range from indifference to open hostility.

Some party leaders are still angry about the former venture capitalist’s struggles to fend off the inevitable attacks on his business background, his awkward demeanor, and his inability to connect with working-class and minority voters. While political circumstances change between campaign cycles, Mr. Romney’s vulnerabilities, they say, are a constant.

Jonah Goldberg expanded on this theme in his column yesterday:

As I’ve been saying for years, Romney has an authentic inauthenticity problem; he seems fake, but that’s actually him. Not only does he look like the picture that came with the frame, he talks like a 1920s college president. Maybe it speaks ill of America that voters put so much stock in empathy and authenticity, but they do.

In other words, on top of his obvious flaws as a candidate – his perceived wooden personality, his wealth, and his widely panned "47 percent" remark -- he may not be all that likeable or relatable. Plus, as the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza posits, his public persona has already been defined:

There's no question that Romney feels a call to service and believes that he is uniquely able to solve the problems of the GOP and the country at the moment. But, the assumption that he can pluck the good things from his past candidacies while wiping away -- "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"-style -- all the bad stuff from voters' minds is a deeply flawed reading of how politics works. And it's why it makes little sense for Romney to run again.

But apparently he is. I’ll leave you with this:

Mitt Romney is beginning to assemble a campaign team, and is turning to a former aide with ties to Chris Christie to work as a liaison with the media as the 2012 GOP presidential nominee takes steps to once again run for the White House.

2016, here we come.

Cortney O'Brien - FOIA Reveals Maryland NARAL’s Strategies to Close a Pro-life Pregnancy Center
Posted: 1/15/2015 6:00:00 PM EST

A Freedom of Information Act request in Maryland has provided undeniable proof that some pro-abortion organizations are determined to shutter pro-life pregnancy centers across the country. Emails procured by Dustin Siggins of, which have just been authenticated by a Montgomery County official, have exposed the Maryland chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America's collaboration with state officials to try and close a local pro-life pregnancy center. 

The business under attack, Centro Tepeyac Silver Spring Women’s Center, had been required by Montgomery County to post signs stating that it did not have doctors on staff, in an effort to turn women away. The ordinance was soon dropped, however, after a judge sensed a certain pro-choice bias against the center.

The emails obtained by Siggins show how NARAL had a hand in the case, and just what the chapter’s president, Jodi Finkelstein, thought of these "obviously fake abortion clinics":

The emails obtained by LifeSiteNews reveal that, unbeknownst to the public, Montgomery County dropped the case after conferring with NARAL. The county stopped defending the law the month after NARAL recommended that very action in a March 14, 2014 letter, sent a week after the judge permanently blocked the law.

“It is our hope that the Montgomery County Council (Council) will once again partner with us to ensure Montgomery Council citizens are aware of the misleading tactics used by crisis pregnancy centers," Maryland's NARAL chapter president, Jodi Finkelstein, wrote.

Although the court battle didn’t go their way, NARAL is still determined to make life hard for Centro Tepeyac. A closer look at those infamous emails reveals their strategies for doing so, such as restricting these pro-life centers' advertising rights, and instructing county officials not to refer women to crisis pregnancy centers for ultrasounds, a procedure which often convinces mothers to reject abortion.

Pro-life activists have also done their fair share to shut down abortion clinics, with over a dozen shuttered in Texas last year alone, thanks to the pro-life law HB 2. Yet, there's a major difference. Fewer abortion clinics means more mothers choosing life for their children, whereas, fewer pregnancy centers means fewer opportunities to find the care and encouragement they need to carry their child to term. The difference is life and death.

For more information on this misleading pro-abortion strategy, take a look at this piece I wrote in November of 2012, entitled, “The Unconstitutional Attack on Pro-life Pregnancy Centers.”

Sarah Jean Seman - Pope Says Free Speech Must Be Limited When it Comes to "Faith"
Posted: 1/15/2015 5:00:00 PM EST

Even free speech has its limits when it comes to religion, according to Pope Francis.

The Roman Catholic Pontiff made the assertion Thursday when he discussed the recent Islamic-fueled terrorist attacks in Paris. While the Pope condemned all violence under the name of God as an "aberration," he didn't exactly evoke confidence in the Western World. 

Not only did he suggest that free speech is not always free, but he also indicated that provocation naturally results in violence. From the AP:

“If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others….

There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others. They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.”

While the Vatican’s goal might have been to insight respect for religion, this analogy goes too far. The Pope suggests that if you insult someone you “can expect a punch.”

This goes against the very purpose of free speech. Ideas and thoughts should not be limited. What is regulated (for the public's safety) is what you do with those ideas and how you react to other people.

As Danish newspaper editor Flemming Rose noted: “No one has the right not to be offended.”  We do, on the other hand, have the right not to be murdered. 

Conn Carroll - Obama to Business: I Know How To Run Your Company Better Than You Do
Posted: 1/15/2015 4:00:00 PM EST

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said today that President Obama knows how to run small businesses better than small business owners.

Asked what the White House message to small business owners who are concerned Obama's proposed new mandatory paid sick leave policy could hurt their bottom line, Earnest replied, "I think the president would have a different view which is to say that this is good business and I think there are any number of examples I can cite for you where businesses have chosen to put in place these policies and it's served to reduce the turnover associated with their employees, but also increase their employees productivity."

In his State of the Union next Tuesday, Obama will call on Congress to pass new legislation mandating that all employers give all employees seven paid sick days a year.

Also on Thursday, Obama also signed a Presidential Memoranda, directing all federal agencies to give federal workers six weeks of paid paternal leave for parents with a new child. Obama's own Council of Economic Advisers estimates that this policy will cost taxpayers at least $250 million in just the first year

Obama also will call on Congress to pass similar legislation forcing all American companies to offer the same six weeks of paid paternal leave, although the White House did not say how much money this would cost the nation's employers.

Obama's humble view of his own skills at running other people's businesses is perfectly in line with his assessment of his political skills. Obama famously told his speechwriter Patrick Gaspard in 2008, "I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director."

Daniel Doherty - France's National Hero To Be Awarded Greatest Gift of All: Citizenship
Posted: 1/15/2015 3:45:00 PM EST

Not surprisingly, signatures began pouring in for a petition to bestow French citizenship upon one Lassana Bathily shortly after a gun-wielding terrorist was killed infiltrating a kosher grocery store where he worked last week. The Muslim immigrant is credited with saving countless French lives by assisting civilians away from the gunman and into hiding. As of this writing, the petition has already garnered more than 300,000 signatures. As a result the French government has agreed to honor the request:

A Malian Muslim who hid shoppers from an Islamist gunman during an attack on a Jewish supermarket in Paris will be given French nationality, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday.

After the gunman had already killed people during a hostage taking in the store on Friday, 24-year old shop attendant Lassana Bathily hid several people in the store's freezer, turned off the light and told them to stay calm.

He then escaped to look for help. After initially being suspected of being an accomplice, he was able to tell police what was happening inside the store, where four Jewish hostages were killed before police shot gunman Amedy Coulibaly, a Frenchman of Malian origin.

Watch Bathily explain in his own words what happened:

I’m struck by how calm he sounds. After all, I suspect if the gunman had seen him when he went upstairs, he would have been summarily executed. Nevertheless, his actions reportedly saved every person trapped in that grocery store. So if you're wondering why more hostages weren't killed that terrible day, it's largely because of this man.

Bathily will become a French citizen on January 20.

Christine Rousselle - Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) to Give Response to State of the Union
Posted: 1/15/2015 3:20:00 PM EST

Freshman Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) has been selected to give the Republican response to the president's State of the Union address on January 20. Ernst, the first woman elected to federal office in the history of Iowa, is also the first female combat veteran to serve in the Senate.

The announcement was made this afternoon at the GOP's legislative retreat in Hershey, PA.

Speaker of the House John Boehner said that Ernst's election to the Senate was a perfect example of an "only-in-America" story.

“Sen. Ernst’s life is a quintessential ‘only-in-America’ story. She built a campaign by listening to the people of Iowa and focusing on their priorities, especially jobs and our still-struggling economy. She knows that our federal government is too big, our spending is too high, and our tax code is broken. And, she knows first-hand the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make to keep us all safe in a dangerous world,”

Last year's response to the State of the Union was delivered by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). In 2013, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered the GOP response, and the sip of water he took mid-speech was dubbed "water bottle-gate." Rubio posted congratulations to Ernst on his Instagram today, and warned her to stay hydrated before her speech.

Matt Vespa - Thune, Rodgers: Hershey Retreat Is About Unveiling ‘America’s New Congress’
Posted: 1/15/2015 3:15:00 PM EST

Around 11:45am, South Dakota Sen. John Thune and House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State stated that this is the time to unveil “America’s new Congress;” one that pushes policies that builds a “healthy economy from the bottom up.” Economic growth, expansion of opportunities, and reinvigorating entrepreneurism seem to be some of the main themes at this retreat, along with immigration.

When asked if House and Senate Republicans would spend political capital to push tax reform, Sen. Thune said that depends on how much capital President Obama is willing to invest in pushing this initiative. Thune noted that there’s a lot of interest with his colleagues, they feel it will spur economic growth, and activity. But, it all depends if the White House wants to take the plunge with Republicans on it.

Rep. Rodgers added that Americans already know that the American tax code is too complicated, costly, and House Republicans are eager on streamlining the process and making it simpler.

Today, President Obama is calling on Congress, cities, and state governments to provide their labor forces with a week of paid sick leave; he will request $2 billion in new spending to pay for the initiative. If this new legislative push is successful, tens of millions of workers are poised to benefit from it (via AP):

Renewing a push for paid leave for workers, President Barack Obama on Thursday will call on Congress, states and cities to pass measures to allow tens of millions of workers to earn up to a week of paid sick time a year, the White House said.

He'll also ask Congress for more than $2 billion in new spending to encourage states to create paid family and medical leave programs.

In addition, Obama will take steps to provide federal employees with up to six weeks of paid sick leave to care for a new child. And he'll propose that Congress pass legislation to give federal workers an additional six weeks of paid parental leave.

Details on how Obama would raise the $2 billion to help states will be in the budget proposal the president releases next month, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said Wednesday.

Obama wants Congress to pass legislation that has been sponsored since 2005 by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., to allow workers to earn up to seven days, or 56 hours, of paid sick leave to care for themselves or a sick family member, obtain preventive care or deal with domestic violence. Under the Healthy Families Act, workers would earn an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work. Employers that already provide paid sick time would not have to change their policies as long as the time earned can be used for the same purposes.

Obama will also call on states and cities to adopt similar legislation; some already have, as the White House noted in a fact sheet.

More than 40 million U.S. private sector workers don't have any type of paid sick leave, Jarrett said, meaning they lose pay if they stay home when sick or to care for someone who is.

Rodgers said they would look at the White House’s proposal. When ABC News’ Jeff Zeleny pressed Rodgers about House Republican support for the measure, Sen. Thune said that they welcome the White House to the debate; commenting that Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Zeleny’s home state, already has a good workplace flexibility bill on the table. He mentioned it was considered in the previous Congress.

NBC’s Luke Russert asked Thune about the prognosis regarding keeping DHS funded and operational. It’s a pervasive issue at this retreat, and Russert noted that Senate Republicans from bluish states might be hesitant to back the bill that came out of the House yesterday.

Thune laughed, and said, “The magic number is 60.” He also noted that after speaking with House Republicans, both chambers believe the president engaged in executive overreach; Senate Republicans will challenge that–the House has already done so. Yet, unlike the House, an appropriation bill from the Senate will be contingent on the 60-vote threshold. This is where legislative realism comes into play, which is said to be on the docket for discussion at this retreat.

In keeping with the DHS line of questioning, Thune and Rodgers were asked about the recent foiling of an ISIS-inspired attack on Capitol Hill. Twenty year-old Christopher Lee Cornell of Ohio was arrested by the FBI after he allegedly told an informant that he planned to detonate pipe bombs in the U.S. Capitol and then shoot members of Congress and their staff.

Rodgers noted that it highlights the threats America faces, her gratitude for the Capitol Police, all security entities that keep them safe, and the need to get the DHS bill funded.

As the two tried to leave the podium, they were asked about the problems the IRS would face come tax season due to cuts to their funding. Thune cited the IRS targeting scandal, noting there’s not much sympathy for agencies that participate in such irresponsible activities. Nevertheless, he noted that the IRS’ function of collecting taxes is important and that resources to carry out that mandate should be met in full.

At the same time, I don’t think the IRS is a government entity that ever had much popularity, even before the targeting fiasco.

As they tried to leave again, they were hit with a question about voting for a clean DHS funding bill. Thune said the discussions will continue, but he wants the opportunity for his colleagues to vote on it, like in the House, but noted that there could be different ways “to get the point across” to the White House over immigration.

Guy Benson - Chicago Tribune: Higher Costs, Fewer Benefits for Workers Under Obamacare
Posted: 1/15/2015 2:30:00 PM EST

Coverage of the president's signature legislative accomplishment has taken a back seat to other issues and international events in early 2015, but -- as expected -- the law's myriad woes continue to mount.  Central promises employed to help market Obamacare to a skeptical public have fallen like dominoes, and the law is actively hurting many more people than it's helping.  As we've discussed, experts project that premiums will rise faster when certain temporary government price control provisions expire over the next few years (they were supposed to drop substantially), that millions more Americans will lose their existing employer-based coverage, and that the law's tax on "Cadillac" coverage is stealthily designed to ensnare more and more plans in future years.  The Chicago Tribune reminds consumers this week members of the Harvard faculty aren't alone in experiencing unpleasant alterations to their healthcare arrangements as a result of Democrats' massive, expensive experiment:

Although the Affordable Care Act has not led to soaring insurance costs, as many critics claimed it would, the law hasn't provided much relief to American workers either, according to a new study of employer-provided health benefits. Workers continue to be squeezed by rising insurance costs, eroding benefits and stagnant wages, the report from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund found. Nationwide, the average contribution an employee made to an insurance premium in 2013 and the average deductible together represented 9.6% of the median income of American households with members under age 65. That is up from 8.4% in 2010 and nearly double the 5.3% that households were paying for employer-provided health coverage in 2003. "Workers are paying more but getting less protective benefits," the report's authors noted.

First off, contra that opening sentence, premiums have soared by double digits for many consumers. And crippling deductibles, plus access shock, have stymied a large number of "Affordable" Care Act "beneficiaries." (Remember, the number one reason why a giant chunk of uninsured Americans are choosing to eschew purchasing new coverage is that they can't afford the rates).  To the extent that rate increases are relatively modest, a major explanatory factor are those "three R's" gimmicks, including effective bailouts to insurance companies, which are scheduled to sunset in fairly short order.  Also, "slowing" cost increases are still increases -- and have been largely attributed to the lackluster economy, rather than the law. Regardless, the report notes that average people are forking over more of their hard-earned money to pay for their healthcare today than they were when Obamacare passed.  That is an unmitigated failure, based on the whole premise of the law.  Also, national healthcare spending is still increasing, not decreasing. The "cost curve down" pledge was a fantasy. Oh, and have fun this tax season, America. Meanwhile, out in California:

California's budget, which bounced back after years of deficits, is now being squeezed by rising healthcare costs for the poor and for retired state workers. The mountain of medical bills threatens to undermine Gov. Jerry Brown's efforts to strengthen state finances — his central promise of the past four years. Enrollment in the state's healthcare program for the poor, known as Medi-Cal, has exploded by 50% since President Obama's signature law took effect. Although the federal government picks up most of the tab, state costs have also been growing, and faster than expected...Over the next year, total Medi-Cal enrollment is expected to reach 12.2 million, he said — about one-third of the state's population. It was less than 8 million in 2013. Even though costs are increasing, advocates for the poor say the state has not allocated enough money to provide healthcare to those who are still struggling years after the recession. Payments for Medi-Cal services were reduced during years of budget crises, making doctors more reluctant to participate in the program.

Lots of bolded text in that excerpt, and for good reason: It encapsulates many of the huge headaches frequently ignored by advocates of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. In addition to Medicaid not delivering any discernible advantage in health outcomes for its enrollees compared to uninsured people (!), here we see the program's massive expansion crushing one large state's budget. Costs are increasing faster than expected, and reimbursement cuts are scaring off doctors (thus reducing access to care for program participants).  The article mentions that the federal government "picks up most of the tab," but Uncle Sam's generosity "phases down" over time, which will require participating states to scramble to make up the difference.  And despite the exploding costs and obligations, "advocates for the poor" still complain that the government's stretched resources aren't sufficient.  Astoundingly, roughly one in three citizens of America's most populous state is now on the rolls of the state's government-run healthcare program, up dramatically from just two years ago.  More people dependent on government.  More people shunted into a failing program that was already overburdened prior to their arrival.  And fewer doctors willing to accept the paltry government rates.  In what way is this "compassionate"?  I'll leave you with a link to Philip Klein's new book about how to uproot and replace this entire law.  Conn reviewed it earlier this week, and I'll have Phil on my radio program this weekend. Spoiler alert: He thinks a "rebranding" campaign won't cut it.