Daniel Doherty - Confirmed: 2016 RNC Convention Slated for Late July
Posted: 1/15/2015 11:30:00 AM EST

The Republican National Committee (RNC) announced last summer that the 2016 RNC Convention would be held in Cleveland, Ohio. Thursday night, however, they blasted out official dates:

The Republican National Committee has selected July 18-21 as the official dates for the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

"I'm pleased to announce the 2016 Republican National Convention will kick off on July 18," said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. "A convention in July is a historic success for our party and future nominee. The convention will be held significantly earlier than previous election cycles, allowing access to crucial general election funds earlier than ever before to give our nominee a strong advantage heading into Election Day.

“We're excited to continue working with our partners in Cleveland and we look forward to showcasing everything the city has to offer to our delegates and the world in 2016.”

This will likely be hailed as an across-the-board smart decision. In 2012, for example, the convention wasn’t convened until almost September, which made it annoyingly difficult for the nominee to spend precious funds on the general election when doing so would have been most effective.

Meanwhile, the RNC will likely hold somewhere between six and 12 presidential primary debates -- cutting the total number of debates roughly in half from 2012.

This is good news all around.

Matt Vespa - Rep. Jeff Denham: 'We Will Pass A DHS Bill'
Posted: 1/15/2015 11:25:00 AM EST

At the GOP’s joint retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania where House and Senate Republicans are laying out their 2015 game plan, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) decided to jump into the press pool to discuss immigration. Like vultures, media figures swarmed the California Republican who declared that a DHS bill will pass, and that Republicans wouldn’t shut down that part of the government.

“We will pass a DHS bill,” said the congressman. “It will be passed on time; we will not shut down this part of the government, he added.

But, when asked if a clean DHS bill can pass without Democratic support, he said he “was not prepared to answer” that just yet. After all, we still don’t know what will come out of the Senate.

The Senate bill will be part of the policy discussions held throughout the day.

Denham said the House bill, which was passed yesterday, is heading over for debate. What are their concerns? We don’t know; “we’ve not had that discussion yet,” he said.

Asked if he spoke to Senate Republicans about it, Denham said yes. When pressed about what they had to say, the congressman simply said, “They have concern.”

He also mentioned his activities within his working group, which “for quite some time” has been discussing a comprehensive immigration bill, along with one that followed a more piecemeal approach. He also said he’s hopeful that a “real” bipartisan immigration bill will come out of the House, but “it’s going to take several months to get there.”

Katie Pavlich - Mexican Government Making It Easier For Illegal Immigrants to Take Advantage of Obama's Executive Amnesty
Posted: 1/15/2015 10:30:00 AM EST

The Mexican government is making it easier for those living illegally inside the United States to obtain documentation necessary to take advantage of President Obama's executive amnesty. Details from AP

The Mexican government on Thursday will start issuing birth certificates to its citizens at consulates in the United States, seeking to make it easier for them to apply for U.S. work permits, driver's licenses and protection from deportation.

Until now, Mexico has required citizens to get birth certificates at government offices in Mexico. Many of those living in the U.S. ask friends and relatives back home to retrieve them, which can delay their applications for immigration or other programs.

Now, even as Republicans in Congress try to quash President Barack Obama's reprieve to millions of immigrants living illegally in the U.S., Mexico is trying to help them apply for programs that would allow them to remain temporarily in the country and continue sending money back to relatives across the border.

In December 2014 the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced 1000 new job openings, many of them permanent and at the top tier of the federal pay scale, to process paperwork and approve applications for Obama's amnesty program.

As Conn reported yesterday, the House voted to defund Obama's executive action on illegal immigration by stripping funding for the program.

The House of Representatives passed a Department of Homeland Security spending bill Wednesday that effectively defunds President Obama's November 2014 executive amnesty program.

"The House defended its constitutional authority to make the law of the land in today’s vote to oppose President Obama’s unconstitutional executive actions on immigration," Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) said after the vote. "I am hopeful the Senate will do its job and reassert the duty of Congress to make immigration law."

An amendment offered by Rep. Rob Aderholt (R-AL) forbidding DHS from spending any money implementing Obama's Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program passed 237 to 190. The amendment specified that the spending restrictions applied to fees collected by the agency and applied to four other memos written prior to November 20.

The White House is threatening to veto that legislation. Keep in mind that the funding for Obama's executive action is coming through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a fee, not tax based agency under the jurisdiction of Homeland Security. As I wrote last month:

Who is paying these fees? Millions of legal immigrants are paying these fees, which are now being reallocated by the executive branch to legalize millions of illegal immigrants who have been living in the United States for years while failing to go through proper and long established legal channels to obtain citizenship or other legal status.

While Mexico helps facilitate Obama's executive amnesty, thousands of legal immigrants are getting screwed with longer wait times and through their fees being used to fund the lawless. All in the name of "fairness," I'm sure. 

Guy Benson - Video: British Network Cuts Away, Apologizes After Charlie Hebdo Writer Displays New Cover On Air
Posted: 1/15/2015 10:22:00 AM EST

As Parisians gobble up copies of Charlie Hebdo's first post-massacre edition by the millions, many Western news organizations are censoring the cover art out of "sensitivity" to Muslim readers and viewers. This exceptionally newsworthy image is too hot to handle, evidently:

That would be a weeping Prophet Mohammad, holding an "I am Charlie" placard, with the words "all is forgiven" appearing over his head.  The drawing has been condemned by an influential Sunni cleric, denounced by Iran, and banned by a court in Turkey (where some journalists have received death threats).  A large number of media organizations in supposedly freedom loving societies didn't need a court order to kill the cover; they've done so voluntarily.  As we've been reminded recently, many in the press apparently consider themselves in the "don't offend certain people" business. And by "certain people," they mean "Muslims who might get violent," of course, though they lack the integrity to admit as much.  We mustn't be honest about that issue, either.  Sensibilities must be protected.  And so after days of covering the French people's "inspiring" defiance and unity -- while plastering "Je Suis Charlie" slogans all over their front pages and airwaves -- many in the media remain sufficiently terrorized as to doggedly shield their audiences from seeing relevant content.  The content that people were literally murdered for defending.  Which brings us to the following pitiful display from Britain's Sky News.  It has, depressingly enough, come to this:

What a stomach-turning spectacle. Here we have a grieving colleague of the slain Charlie Hebdo victims courageously standing up for the principle of free expression, knowing full well that she's putting her personal safety on the line by extending a proverbial middle finger to those who seek to police "provocative" speech via vigilante death squads.  Her reward?  A major news station in the UK silences her by quickly panning away mid-interview and abruptly cutting to a scandalized anchor, who chides her guest and apologizes profusely to the audience. As if they'd just been accidentally subjected to grisly video of a beheading or a rape. Noah nails it:

They want to applaud and exploit her bravery for ratings, but they also want to ensure the barbarians know that they shouldn't be targeted for any future free speech-related reprisals.  All dressed up as "editorial guidelines."  I linked it above, but click through to Buzzfeed's useful list of who is, and isn't, censoring the new cover (condensed version: NPR, NBC, CNN, NYT -- no;  USA Today, Wall Street Journal, CBS, Fox News, WaPo -- yes).  Those outlets embracing censorship are wrapping themselves in the cloak of propriety and sensitivity, but in reality, they're capitulating to the zealots and succumbing to abject fear.  It's not complicated, really.  And it's the very form of fear they'd likely righteously condemn as 'Islamophobia' if articulated by others.  Instead, they're living it.  Pathetic.

Cortney O'Brien - In Middle of Fox News Blackout, Docs Reveal Dish Chairman Donated Thousands to Dems
Posted: 1/15/2015 10:00:00 AM EST

One look at the political history of Dish Network founder and Chairman Charles Ergen places the idea that the network dropped Fox News over a simple contract dispute in serious doubt.

Since Dec. 20, when the Dish network dropped Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, the former has lost about 90,000 subscribers.

The Media Research Center’s Dan Joseph decided to take a look at OpenSecrets documents revealing Ergen’s political donations from last year, which immediately raised some red flags. Ergen donated a total of $64,000 to the Democratic Senatorial campaign Committee, according to the report.

As Joseph writes, Ergen’s donating record obviously doesn’t prove he is intentionally blocking Fox out of spite for his political preferences. But, that’s not all:

In 2012, a federal complaint was filed against Ergen in which several company executives alleged that he had intimidated them into making contributions to specific candidates, the majority of which were Democrats.

The claim was filed by an unnamed company insider who accused Ergen of "forcing" Dish Network’s Chief Operating Officer Bernard Han to donate to a Democratic Party candidate in the 2009/2010 election cycle.

The complaint also claimed that Han was “encouraged" to attend Democratic functions and fundraisers and that other Dish employees were strong-armed by Ergen in a similar way.

Hm, now you have to admit that is a little suspicious.

Fox News has consistently come out on top in the ratings battle, and Americans continue to choose it as the most trusted news source on TV.

Dish contract or not, I’ll think they’ll be just fine.

Katie Pavlich - Actor Who Is Violent With Guns in Movies Says Private Gun Ownership in America is a "Disgrace"
Posted: 1/15/2015 8:45:00 AM EST

Meet Liam Neeson, another entitled Hollywood actor who is perfectly fine with getting paid millions of dollars to use firearms violently in movies, while decrying their ownership for the rest of us. 

"There are just too many f*cking guns out there," Neeson told Gulf News during a premiere of his latest film Taken 3 in Dubai. "Especially in America. I think the population is like, 320 million? There’s over 300 million guns. Privately owned, in America. I think it’s a f*cking disgrace."

Neeson's hypocrisy on the issue is a disgrace, not the private firearms ownership of millions of law abiding Americans. Further, aren't there just too many Liam Neeson movies out there? The answer is yes.

Rambo star Sylvester Stallone made similar comments about the need for more gun control in America last year.

H/T Fox Entertainment

Katie Pavlich - Obama Administration Releases Five GITMO Detainees Originally From Yemen
Posted: 1/15/2015 8:15:00 AM EST

Late last night the Defense Department announced five more detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay prison have been released. 

The Department of Defense announced Wednesday that five Yemeni terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay had been transferred out of the facility, despite renewed concerns from lawmakers about the risks of releasing detainees.

The newly transferred prisoners had been held for more than a dozen years. The men had been cleared for release since at least 2009, but the U.S. has balked at repatriating Guantanamo prisoners back to Yemen, where the government is battling an Al Qaeda insurgency.

All five were captured in Pakistan and detained by the U.S. as suspected Al Qaeda fighters.

This release comes six months after the Obama administration's decision to swap the infamous "Taliban Five" for Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl. The Administration's GITMO strategy of releasing prisoners, many of whom are deemed high-risk, is a back-door way to shut it down. Only 122 prisoners remain.

Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte is planning to introduce legislation by the end of the week that would require the adminstration to go through Congress in order to get permission to release additional detainees.

"What is damaging is the 30 percent of Guantanamo detainees that have been released that are suspected or have actually gotten back into the battle against our soldiers and our allies. Because I think the worst thing is that our men and women in uniform ever have to confront someone we had captured before," Ayotte said in an interview with The Kelly File earlier this week. "The detainees that are being released by the administration, many of them were designated high risk. That means high risk for reengagement for terrorism. That's where the focus needs to be, not in the president trying to fulfill a campaign promise. It has to be on protecting the American people, and our troops and our allies."

Al Qaeda in Yemen has taken responsibility for planning, financing and carrying out the attack on newspaper Charlie Hebdo last week and was responsible for a recent truck bomb that killed 30 in a crowded market place.

Daniel Doherty - 2016 Rumblings: Rand Paul is Making Moves
Posted: 1/14/2015 7:00:00 PM EST

The 2014 midterm elections ended well enough and now the 2016 cycle is upon us.

Perhaps not surprisingly, one rumored hopeful -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) -- isn’t wasting any time putting together his campaign team [emphasis mine]:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday announced the hiring of a campaign manager for his likely 2016 presidential bid, part of an aggressive effort to build a national political team as the race for the White House heats up.

The hiring of strategist Chip Englander, who recently guided a gubernatorial candidate to victory in Illinois, marks a clear step forward for the Kentucky Republican as he prepares to transform his cadre of loyalists into a full-scale campaign.

In related news, congressional Republicans are hosting a retreat in Hersey, PA this week to discuss tactics and policy for the new session. Curiously, however, Sen. Paul reportedly won’t be in attendance.

As Politico reports, he has more pressing plans [emphasis mine]:

Jeb Bush is “a Big Government Republican.” Mitt Romney “had his chance.” And Marco Rubio’s recent jabs on foreign policy are “silly” and “childish.”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is back in insurgent mode, lobbing bombs at his potential Republican presidential rivals and looking to take back a political spotlight that Bush and Romney have been hogging lately. Paul is also heading to New Hampshire and Nevada this week, hoping to strike a fire with voters who want a new voice to carry the GOP’s message to the White House.

Not coincidentally, he also chided Mitt Romney yesterday by suggesting he’s past his prime -- a guy who, quite honestly, is looking increasingly like he’s gearing up for another run:

So that was yesterday. Here’s what he said today (via National Journal):

…In an interview with the New Hampshire Journal on Wednesday, Paul got in a potshot at Mitt Romney, who is angling for a potential third presidential run.

"When you do the same thing and expect a different result, it's sort of what Einstein said, that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result," Paul said. "A couple of months ago [Romney] said that he'd had his chance and it was time for somebody new. He was probably right when he said that."

Perhaps. Be that as it may, state law stipulates that Paul, who is up for re-election in 2016, cannot simultaneously run for that office and the presidency. The state attorney general, meanwhile, has made it perfectly “clear” that the law isn’t changing, either.

Even so, he may have some wiggle room to do both -- although it won't be easy. We'll see.

Matt Vespa - All Aboard: House and Senate Republicans Trek To Hershey For A ‘Sweet Retreat’
Posted: 1/14/2015 6:00:00 PM EST

Senate and House Republicans were scheduled to depart for Hershey, Pennsylvania around 11:30 this morning for their first joint "sweet retreat" in ten years. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and comedian Jay Leno are expected to address the lawmakers at the event, which will include two days of policy sessions–all of which are closed to the media and the public. Capitol Police will provide security, which is expected to be high–and Pennsylvania State Police were expected to escort the bus convoy once they crossed the state border (via Penn Live):

Lawmakers are also expected to discuss health care, immigration reform and the budget. They are also expected to discuss the reconciliation process, a controversial and generally partisan process that both Democrats and Republicans have used in the past to pass legislation by a simple Senate majority of 51 votes. Democrats used reconciliation to enact a portion of Obamacare in 2010, and Republicans used it to enact Bush-era tax cuts.

Republicans, for the first time since 2006, control both the House and the Senate, but need several votes from Democrats if they are to override a presidential veto. President Obama has already vowed to veto several GOP-favored bills, including the Keystone XL pipeline project and any dismantling of the Affordable Care Act.

Yet, while policy will be discussed, legislative realism will also be addressed; that being which laws are possible to get through both chambers. Senate Republicans have to deal with 60-vote thresholds on filibusters, unlike their colleagues in the House (via Roll Call):

In a one-on-one conversation aboard one of the Senate's underground trains, Republican Conference Chairman John Thune said one focus of the retreat will be on what's possible given that Senate Republicans are well short of the 60 votes needed to break Democratic filibusters. That is a problem the House leadership does not have.

"I think that you have to look at in terms of what can we get done, what's realistic, and be very practical about that," the South Dakota Republican said. "And then know that there are some other issues that are just going to be drawing the bright lines and creating the contrast for the next elections."

"I think in the meantime, we want to try and find the areas where there is some common ground where we can actually get some accomplishments," Thune said.

Thune drew a contrast with the more freewheeling House, where debate can be restricted by the Rules Committee to quickly process a wide array of legislation, including the 12 regular spending bills that McConnell has said he wants to bring to the floor.

"It gets pretty hard, in the Senate at least," Thune said. "You don't have the luxury of ... this unlimited amount of time."

Both chambers now are moving on trade initiatives, which Thune said will be a “big thing” at the retreat. The issue is also of interest to another force the conferences will have to consider in their strategy — the president.

There's no shortage of must-do items on the congressional agenda for 2015, ranging from government funding and raising the debt limit to important authorization bills, like a highway bill and a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) told Politico about the upcoming retreat, “There’s not a great understanding in the House about how the Senate moves day to day.”

The retreat will allow House and Senate Republicans to discuss, or clarify, issues where both chambers don’t seem to see eye-to-eye. Immigration and the notion of instituting a gas tax to pay for infrastructure are some examples (via Politico):

Immigration is incredibly tricky for the party and neatly contrasts the chambers’ competing priorities.

The House’s Homeland Security Department funding bill will very likely include language to roll back Obama’s attempts to defer deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants, many of whom are young people.

Moderate Senate Republicans — those lawmakers who will be key to keeping control of the chamber in 2016 — are hesitating at the proposal, which is raising the ire of some House conservatives.

“There’s a number of them — like John McCain, people like that — who are pro-comprehensive immigration reform, amnesty, everything that goes with it,” Louisiana Rep. John Fleming said. “And you really don’t see that high-profile person among House Republicans. So that’s our anxiety in sending this bill we’re going to be sending — the DHS funding bill — many of our Republican colleagues may actually side with Democrats. So it’s yet to be seen. The American people side with us, though.”

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, wish the House kept their politics in mind. The bill has no chance of clearing the Senate.

“Things like that?” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), referring to the DHS funding bill. “It would be helpful to have more coordination.”

In all, it seems the hope for this retreat is that members leave with some clarification of what's legislatively possible–and to show that a unified Republican Congress can govern responsibly. 

Christine Rousselle - Facebook Adding AMBER Alerts to News Feed
Posted: 1/14/2015 5:00:00 PM EST

Facebook announced yesterday that AMBER Alerts containing a picture and information about a missing child will be posted in the News Feeds of users who are in the area where the child was reported missing. Previously, to receive AMBER Alert notifications on one's News Feed, a person had to "like" a specific page. This new policy will automatically push the alerts to a person's feed without any need for action by the Facebook user.

From Facebook:

Here’s how it works:

When local or state police determine that a case qualifies for an AMBER Alert, the alert is issued by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and distributed through the Facebook system with any available information, including a photograph of the missing child, a license plate number, the name and description of the child and suspected abductor.

Law enforcement determines the range of the target area for each alert. The number of alerts people will see depends on how many alerts are issued in their area — some people may see a few each year and many people will likely get no alerts at all. The alerts will appear in News Feed, but will not trigger any notifications to a person’s phone.

Last year, an 11-year-old girl was recovered after someone recognized her picture from an AMBER Alert someone shared on Facebook. The AMBER Alert program has resulted in the safe recovery of more than 700 missing children since its advent in 1996.

This seems like a no-brainer. Like it or not, Facebook is literally everywhere. With more than one billion people around the world using Facebook monthly, it makes perfect sense to push out these potentially lifesaving alerts to as many people as possible.