Carol Platt Liebau - Reid & Schumer Took Koch Money, Too
Posted: 4/8/2014 8:18:00 PM EST

Wow. This has got to be embarrassing. As Daniel Doherty reported earlier, Harry Reid came forward with this tweet:

Perhaps he -- or someone on his staff -- should have done some homework first. As it turns out, Harry Reid himself has received his own bit of Koch cash, from a lobbyist.

But he's not the only one. His Democrat second-in-command, Charles Schumer, actually sent quite athe touching thank-you note to KOCHPAC after getting his own contribution:

Makes him look a little churlish for endorsing the anti-Koch strategy now, doesn't it?

Actually, both Reid and Schumer look much worse than churlish. Not only are they hypocrites, they're cynical hypocrites. And if anyone is "un-American," it isn't those who are simply participating legally in the political process. Rather, it's the public officials who would seek to punish generous, successful, law-abiding Americans for exercising their First Amendment rights just because they disagree with those citizens' views -- after having accepted their money.

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Cortney O'Brien - Flashback: Dem Congresswoman Slams Her Own State, Brags About Helping to Craft Obamacare
Posted: 4/8/2014 7:35:00 PM EST

Forty-two seconds of pure Sinema. The National Republican Congressional Committee has uncovered a painfully embarrassing video clip of Arizona Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9)from 2009, in which she criticizes her own state and claims that higher taxes equals better quality health care.

Based on her comments, Sinema, who was part of a task force that helped to craft Obamacare, seemed to enjoy her time in the White House more than The Grand Canyon State. Among her remarks:

So um we were at the White House this week on Wednesday and Thursday – which was pretty exciting. Um and basically we spent a lot of time talking about what kind of health reform is needed. So one thing that we did was we shared kind of best practices from around the states. I didn’t have much to share, so I thought, so I just took notes. Um, I was like oh you guys do that, damn liberals in Connecticut. You know, you know it’s true like Maine and Connecticut and Wisconsin and Washington were all like bragging about these great things they had. And then I was like, what am I doing here?

Even when someone in the crowd offered her a chance to compliment one of Arizona's policies, yelling, "We have lower taxes!," Sinema promptly dismissed it, suggesting lower taxes do nothing to improve health care.

NRCC spokesman Matt Gorman suggested why the congresswoman was so eager for more taxes:

“It’s really not surprising Kyrsten Sinema believes you need higher taxes for quality healthcare. I guess that’s why ObamaCare—the law she helped craft—is filled with them.”

I wonder if Sinema would still be so quick to discuss the merits of Obamacare after reading a new Rasmussen poll that reveals just 23 percent of people deem the law a success. Grab the popcorn and watch how Congresswoman Sinema chooses to represent a disastrous health care bill over her own state:

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Sarah Jean Seman - Kansas Abortion Clinic Celebrates: We've Killed 1,200 Babies in Only One Year
Posted: 4/8/2014 5:26:00 PM EST

Congratulations South Wind Women’s Center, you succeeded in killing more than three people every day for an entire year. Be proud.

The clinic opened one year ago in the same building late-tem abortionist George Tiller operated prior to being murdered in 2009. It is the first and only operating abortion clinic in Wichita, Kansas.

South Wind said it has seen a total of about 1,500 patients for reproductive care, including abortions up to 14 weeks. Patients have come from across the state and from a few other states, such as Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

Patient numbers are “right in line with our projections,” said Julie Burkhart, founder of Trust Women, which raised money to open the clinic April 3, 2013. “I feel, of course, positive about that. We have women coming to see us.”

Anti-abortion groups worked to close South Wind before it opened, asking the Wichita City Council to rezone the property near Oliver and Kellogg, and questioning Trust Women’s finances.

“I feel that in this line of work, with the legislation that’s become law and the political climate, our work at times feels tenuous at best,” Burkhart said at the clinic recently. “It’s disconcerting feeling like another shoe could drop.”

Burkhart founded Trust Women to carry out the “vision that Dr. George Tiller had for women of the world.” The clinic is still paying off debt from opening however, and even has to fly doctors in because no one in the region seems willing to “come forward,” Burkhart explained.

Despite the abortion clinic boasting 1,200 deaths in one year, abortions in Kansas are declining:

A preliminary report from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said 7,479 abortions were performed last year, the second-lowest number since 1987, according to KDHE’s report.

The state has numbers going back to 1971, but reporting did not become mandatory until July 1, 1995. The highest number of abortions in Kansas – 12,612 – occurred in 1973. Numbers have fluctuated over the years, with a decrease since Tiller died.

Now there is a statistic actually worth celebrating.

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Daniel Doherty - Horror in North Korea: Top Official Reportedly Purged With Flamethrower
Posted: 4/8/2014 5:15:00 PM EST

Pardon me for approaching this story with some degree of skepticism; after all, sundry reports that Kim Jong Un fed his traitorous uncle to a pack of wild dogs have almost certainly turned out to be untrue (although, of course, he was still brutally executed as punishment for his disloyalty).

Then again, the Supreme Leader’s appetite for sadism is reportedly well documented, and thus a story like this shouldn’t really surprise any of us, right?

From The Telegraph:

A North Korean official has been executed with a flame-thrower, South Korean media has reported, amid a crackdown on loyalists of Kim Jong-un's purged uncle.

As many as 11 senior party officials with close ties to Jang Song-taek have apparently recently been executed or sent to political prison camps.

Mr Jang was publicly purged in December and executed after being found guilty of corruption and activities that ran counter to the policies of the Workers' Party of Korea. The regime has shut down the department within the Workers' Party that Mr Jang previously headed.

O Sang-hon, a deputy minister at the Ministry of Public Security was "executed by flame-thrower," a source told South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

Mr O was executed because he had followed Mr Jang's instructions to turn the ministry into a personal security division to help safeguard his business dealings, the paper reported.

If true, the Kim regime isn’t just purging their ranks to consolidate and maintain power; they’re executing senior officials in cruel and sickening new ways to send a message. And what message is that exactly? Answer: No one is safe in North Korea, least of all those closest to the Supreme Leader.

The Kim dynasty has always been built on an edifice of fear and violence and propaganda. But now, it seems, Kim Jong Un is happily injecting barbarism into the mix as well.

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Guy Benson - Surprise: Obama Administration Again Delays Obamacare's Medicare Cuts
Posted: 4/8/2014 4:25:00 PM EST

Nobody -- and I mean nobody -- should be surprised by this:

Amid heavy pressure from insurers, lawmaker and advocates, the Obama administration has backed off proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage for the second year in a row. They’ll rise by 0.4 percent in 2015 instead of undergoing the originally proposed 1.9 percent cut....“The changes CMS included in the final rate notice will help mitigate the impact on seniors, but the Medicare Advantage program is still facing a reduction in payment rates next year on top of the 6 percent cut to payments in 2014,” said [AHIP] president Karen Ignagni.

Let's recap the politics:

Step 1 - Democrats pass Obamacare, the funding model for which relied on $716 billion in (double-counted) cuts to Medicare. The original purpose of this actuarial wizardry was to manufacture a favorably low CBO "score" of the bill, providing a fig leaf to reluctant Democrats. An updated CBO score projects Obamacare's costs to exceed $2 trillion over its first decade of implementation.

Step 2 - Republicans object to these Medicare cuts being used to fund a new, unpopular healthcare program, and attempt to repeal the reductions. Democrats kill the GOP's effort.

Step 3 - With the cuts finally set to become reality in a tough election year, anxious Democrats suddenly realize that they oppose them after all, and demand action. These are the same Democrats who voted against the Republican attempts mentioned in step two, and the same Democrats who falsely denied that the scheduled cuts would impact seniors as recently as the 2012 election cycle.

Step 4 - The Obama administration finds a pretext to push off the cuts beyond the next election, thus sparing Democrats yet another Obamacare headache at the polls. This isn't a permanent solution, of course, nor does it erase vulnerable Democrats' votes in favor of the cuts, and against rescinding them.

Beyond the politicking, Reason's Peter Suderman explains why this whole episode underscores how hard it is to actually cut Medicare:

This is not the first time that Medicare Advantage cuts have conveniently transformed into increases. Last year, CMS initially proposed a 2.2 percent cut—which, over the course of a few months, evolved into a 3.3 percent hike. In both years, what happened between the initial proposal and the final was the same: an intense lobbying campaign by insurers who get paid by the program, as well as heavy political pressure from both sides of the aisle. Insurers began their campaign in January this year, before the proposed cuts were even formally announced. A bipartisan group of 40 senators, led by Sen. Mike Crapo (D-Idaho) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), sent a letter to CMS head Marilyn Tavenner expressing concern about the cuts. "Given the impact that payment policies could have on our constituents," the letter said, "we ask that you prioritize beneficiaries’ experience and minimize disruption in maintaining payment levels for 2015."

Question: Now that a significant funding stream for Obamacare has been temporarily shut off (and may never be turned back on), how does that impact the law's fiscal health and healthcare-related deficits?

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Posted: 4/8/2014 4:03:00 PM EST

In an apparent "act of love" for illegal immigration, California is preparing to give 1.4 million illegal immigrants driver’s licenses. Starting January 1st of next year, thanks to Governor Jerry Brown (D-Calif.), all of California’s undocumented immigrants will be able to apply at their local DMV to drive legally. In anticipation of a surge of applications, the state DMV "is opening five centers and hiring 1,000 employees" in the hope of signing up as many people as possible. "Study, practice, and prepare" is the mantra given to the millions of illegals who will inevitably show up to acquire what is, or at least used to be, a privilege.

The whole notion that immigrants who break the law deserve every protection, right, and privilege legal citizens have is Jeb Bush logic. It ignores the rule of law in favor of emotional appeals to "love" and "family."

And while Jeb Bush is singing "Somos el Mundo", American taxpayers suffer. The cost of California’s appeal to illegal immigrant drivers "is estimated at $140 million to $220 million for the first three years."

Even President Obama, in a 2007 Democratic primary debate, seems unwilling to outrightly support driver’s licenses for illegals (although he eventually caves in):

As we draw deeper into 2014 and immigration reform (including border security) seems pointlessly stuck in a well American citizens demand, and deserve, answers. How many "acts of love" can we spare for illegal immigrants?

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Katie Pavlich - Gohmert to Holder Over Fast and Furious: I Don't Need a Lecture From You About Contempt!
Posted: 4/8/2014 3:17:00 PM EST

During a hearing today on Capitol Hill, an exchange between Attorney General Eric Holder and Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert became heated over Operation Fast and Furious and contempt of Congress charges. Holder, who is still in contempt for refusing to provide documents related to the lethal operation, became offended when Gohmert implied he didn't think contempt charges were "a big deal." Holder told Gohmert he "didn't want to go there" and said he believed the contempt vote taken against him by Democrats and Republicans in June 2012 was unjust. Holder also slammed the "gun lobby." Gohmert, who served three terms as a District Judge in Texas, shot back by saying there has been no indication he thought contempt charges were a problem considering the Department still hasn't complied with major document requests and that he didn't need a lecture from someone currently in contempt, about contempt.

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Daniel Doherty - Poll: Brown 49; Shaheen: 44
Posted: 4/8/2014 2:30:00 PM EST

After the slightly embarrassing mishap last week (a Brown staffer evidently forgot to check the ‘Republican’ box when filling out paperwork so his/her boss could legally run for Senate in New Hampshire), things are starting to look up. In a recent poll acquired exclusively by the Weekly Standard, the ex-Massachusetts Senator is perhaps polling higher than many of us expected:

Republican Scott Brown leads incumbent Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire by five points in a recent poll obtained by THE WEEKLY STANDARD. The poll, commissioned by the Republican Governor's Association, was conducted on March 19 and 20 and asked 600 likely voters in New Hampshire who they would vote for in the U.S. Senate election. Respondents were given both Brown and Shaheen's names and their respective parties.

According to the poll, 36 percent said they would "definitely" vote for Brown, the former senator from Massachusetts, while 13 percent said they would "probably" vote for him, bringing his total support to 49 percent. The same poll found 37 percent said they would "definitely" vote for Shaheen with 6 percent saying they would "probably" vote for her, with a total of 44 percent in support of the incumbent Democrat. Seven percent said they did not know who they would vote for.

There are a few issues with the sample, naturally. For starters, my headline is perhaps a bit deceptive. Yes, a higher percentage of total respondents said they’ll either “definitely” or “probably” vote for Scott Brown -- which gives him that top-line “49 percent” number you see above -- but that doesn’t necessarily mean all of them will. In fact, more voters actually said they would “definitely” vote for Shaheen than would “definitely” vote for Brown. So that’s something to keep in mind.

Secondly, the poll was conducted by the Republican Governors Association; therefore one could reasonably assume the poll is heavily skewed in favor of the GOP candidate. But alas there’s no way to tell: if one dives into the survey itself, there’s no data explaining the D/R/I breakdown -- an important measurement we often use to sniff out partisan bias. Sure, we know 600 likely voters filled out the survey, but what political parties did they belong to or “lean” towards? How many respondents were non-affiliated likely voters? We don’t know. Still, the question must be asked: is this survey an outlier, or evidence the race has swung in Brown’s favor after trailing in the polls for so long?

We’ll need to see much more polling data to answer that question. And Brown still needs to officially declare, of course. But suffice it to say this is going to be a competitive race after Brown wins the Republican primary.

That is, if he does.

Nothing in politics is certain.

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Christine Rousselle - Report: No Progressive Groups Targeted by IRS
Posted: 4/8/2014 2:25:00 PM EST

When the IRS auditing scandal emerged last year, many were quick to claim that progressive groups had been targeted for audits or had also faced increased scrutiny. However, according to documents obtained by the Daily Caller, the only groups targeted by the IRS specifically for political reasons were conservative in nature.

IRS agents testified before Oversight that ACORN groups were scrutinized because the agency thought they were old organizations applying as new ones. Emerge America was scrutinized for potential “improper private benefit.” No evidence exists that the IRS requested additional information from any Occupy Wall Street group.

“Only seven applications in the IRS backlog contained the word ‘progressive,’ all of which were then approved by the IRS, while Tea Party groups received unprecedented review and experienced years-long delays. While some liberal-oriented groups were singled out for scrutiny, evidence shows it was due to non-political reasons,” according to the Oversight staff report, which was obtained by The Daily Caller.

Is anyone surprised?

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Conn Carroll - Repealing Obamacare One Provision at a Time
Posted: 4/8/2014 2:15:00 PM EST

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) came under fire this weekend after the Drudge Report linked to an Associated Press article using the headline "Republicans expand Obamacare."

And reading the AP article, one can see why Drudge used that headline. Under the header "GOP seeks coverage choices in health law they hate," AP writer David Espo reported:

At the prodding of business organizations, House Republicans quietly secured a recent change in President Barack Obama's health law to expand coverage choices, a striking, one-of-a-kind departure from dozens of high-decibel attempts to repeal or dismember it.

Unfortunately Espo's reporting is just plain false. There was nothing one-of-a-kind about the "recent change" House Republicans passed on Obamacare. In fact, not only did the law shrink the size and scope of the federal government by repealing a specific portion of Obamacare, it fits into a long line of previous House Republican measures that have done the same.

And all have been signed by President Obama.

But first, here are the specifics of last weeks change according to the AP:

The provision itself was relatively minor. It eliminated a cap on deductibles for small group policies offered inside the law's health care exchanges as well as outside; the cap was set at $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families.

Republicans said they sought it so small businesses can offer high-deductible plans that could be purchased by individuals who also have health savings accounts. These tax-preferred accounts are a long-time favorite of many Republicans, who say they give consumers greater control over their own health care.

The health law contains no deductible caps for individual plans or those offered by large employers, and the Department of Health and Human Services already had waived them for small businesses through 2015. The legislation means they will never go into effect.

So the change in question: 1) repealed part of Obamacare; 2) reduced federal government health care regulations; 3) made the health care market more market orientated; and 4) will lower health premiums for small business. Why would any conservative not vote for this?

More importantly, this is not the first time House Republicans have managed to get Obama to sign a partial repeal of his signature domestic accomplishment. As the list partially prepared by Boehner's office below shows, Republicans have now successfully repealed or defunded parts of Obamacare eight times:

  1. H.R. 4: Repealed the small business paperwork (“1099”) mandate: The paperwork mandate was called “one of Washington’s dumbest ideas” – it would have destroyed jobs and “hit start-ups hardest, not to mention farms, charities and churches.” House Republicans kept their Pledge to America and repealed it. H.R. 4 also reduced exchange subsidy overpayments by $25 billion.
  2. H.R. 1473: Cut $2.2 billion from a “stealth public plan” and froze the IRS budget: H.R. 1473 undermined ObamaCare by cutting $2.2 billion from the “Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan” (CO-OP) program – a “stealth public plan.” It saved $400 million by eliminating “Free Choice Vouchers,” which The Hill warned “could lead young, healthy workers to opt out” of their employer plans, “driving up costs for everybody else.” And it ensured the IRS wouldn’t receive additional funding for new agents to enforce the president’s health care law.
  3. H.R. 674: Saved taxpayers $13 billion by adjusting eligibility for ObamaCare programs: This bill not only repealed a devastating IRS withholding tax – it saved taxpayers $13 billion by changing how the eligibility for certain programs is calculated under ObamaCare. Without the change, a couple earning as much as much as $64,000 could still qualify for Medicaid.
  4. H.R. 2055: Made more cuts to CO-OPs, IPAB, IRS: This bill shaved another $400 million off the CO-OPs; cut another $305 million from the IRS to hamper its ability to enforce the law’s tax hikes and mandates; and rescinded $10 million from the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) of bureaucrats, to which Republican leaders are declining to recommend appointments.
  5. H.R. 3630: Slashed billions from ObamaCare slush funds: Republicans fought for another $11.6 billion in savings, saving taxpayers $5 billion from the Prevention & Public Health slush fund, $2.5 billion from ObamaCare’s “Louisiana Purchase,” and more.
  6. H.R. 4348: Saved another $670 million from the “Louisiana Purchase”: This saved another $670 million by further adjusting a drafting error that made the “Louisiana Purchase” even costlier.
  7. H.R. 8: Repealed the unsustainable CLASS program: H.R. 8 saved $6.5 billion by repealing the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program, an unsustainable entitlement program whose phony “savings” were used by Democrats to mask the true cost of ObamaCare.
  8. H.R. 2995: Repealed the cap on deductibles for health plans in the small group market. Repealing this provision will give employers more flexibility over the type of health care options they can offer their employees, and will expand the use of high-deductible plans paired with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

None of these are full repeals of Obamacare. But they all shrink the size and scope of the federal government while improving, marginally, our nation's health care system. If anything, Republicans should be more ambitious in pushing partial repeals.

While the House has approved delays of the employer and individual mandates, they have never voted on full repeal of either measure.

According to the CBO, a one-year delay in the individual mandate would cut Obamacare spending by $28 billion, which could easily pay for a one-year delay in the employer mandate, which would reduce taxes on hiring by $10 billion. That is $10 billion more employers could spend hiring more Americans right there.

These CBO figures are for just one-year delays. Full repeals would garner much higher spending cuts and free up far more money for businesses to hire new people.

House Republicans should at least pass full repeals of the individual and employer mandates out of committee so we could get a full CBO score on what the benefits would be.

There would also be some costs too, however. Delaying the individual and employer mandates for a year would increase the number of uninsured by 2.5 million and raise insurance premiums. But most of the people that would lose health care from such a repeal (2 million) would be those who did not want to buy it in the first place! And Republicans could further cut premiums by repealing the essential benefits packages that are driving up the cost of health care nation wide.

Obama would never sign full repeals of the individual and employer mandates. But by forcing votes on the issue, and getting CBO scores of the repeals, Republicans can show Americans that Obamacare can be rolled back in a way that lowers health care costs and increases employment.

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