tipsheet
Conn Carroll - McConnell's Gambit Solves Nothing
Posted: 2/24/2015 10:20:00 AM EST

Republican leaders in the House and Senate face a simple choice: either stick to their guns and demand Democrats offer amendments to the existing House-passed Department of Homeland Security bill, or introduce a new DHS bill that fully funds President Obama's amnesty.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) new plan to offer a separate bill that would eliminate Obama's Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program in no way solves this problem.

Let's say McConnell introduces his bill. Democrats are just as likely to block this new bill as they are to block the current DHS funding bill. Even if they do allow debate to begin on McConnell's new bill, they will definitely filibuster final passage. Nothing will be different. We'll just be closer to a DHS shutdown.

McConnell's choices will then be exactly the same as they are today: either stick to your guns and demand Democrats offer amendments to the existing House-passed Department of Homeland Security bill, or introduce a new DHS bill that fully funds Obama's amnesty.

As I pointed out before, there is no easy way out for Republican leaders.

Conn Carroll - Senate Homeland Security Chairman: "Obama, Democrats are holding our Homeland Security hostage"
Posted: 2/24/2015 9:55:00 AM EST

Tuesday on Morning Joe, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) accused President Obama and the Democrats of holding Homeland Security hostage for their favored amnesty program:

JOHNSON: Let's look at what we agree on. We agree on funding the essential and authorized and legal parts. There's disagreement. There's an area of dispute here. And let's face it, the courts have certainly lent credence to the argument that what President Obama has done in immigration -- and, by the way, it's President Obama that’s put immigration reform and law into this debate on funding Homeland Security.

BARNICLE: All right.

JOHNSON: Basically President Obama, Democrats are holding our Homeland Security hostage for their form of immigration reform.

BARNICLE: OK, Senator.

JOHNSON: We have disagreements on that. Let's concentrate on the areas of agreement. Let’s fund the essential, authorized, and legal part of Homeland Security. Isn’t that the easy way of doing it?

Authorization for funding for the Department of Homeland Security is set to expire this Friday. At that point, almost all DHS workers, like airport security screeners and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, would still have to go to work, but they would not be paid.

The House has already passed a bill that fully funds the Department of Homeland Security and prevents Obama from implementing his new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program which illegally gives work permits, Social Security numbers, and drivers licenses to millions of illegal immigrants.

The Senate could take up the House bill, vote on amendments to the bill, and come to a compromise on the matter, but Senate Democrats are filibustering the bill, thus preventing any amendments from even being offered.

Last Monday, a federal court issued an injunction blocking Obama's amnesty program from being implemented, but Obama and the Democrats are still insisting on a DHS funding bill that would allow the program to continue if a higher court reverses the trial judges ruling.

You can watch the entire segment here.

Katie Pavlich - Dozens of House Republicans to the Senate: Block AG Nominee Loretta Lynch
Posted: 2/24/2015 8:45:00 AM EST
In a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, dozens of House Republicans are urging members to block the confirmation of attorney general nominee and U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. 

"We respectfully ask that you refuse to vote Ms. Lynch out of the committee, and that you return her nomination to the President," the letter, signed by 51 House Republicans, states.

"We appreciate Ms. Lynch for her many years of outstanding service to our nation. Nonetheless, having observed her nomination hearing testimony, we can only conclude that she has no intention of departing in any meaningful way from the policies of Attorney General Eric Holder, who has politicized the Department of Justice and done considerable harm to the administration of justice," the letter continues. "Our larger concern in with Ms. Lynch's apparent unwillingness to stand up to the President and his unconstitutional efforts to circumvent Congress and enlarge the powers of his office."

Earlier this month Lynch testified in front of the Committee as part of her confirmation process. During her testimony, she tried to distance herself from Attorney General Eric Holder but embraced President Obama's recent executive action on illegal immigration. Lynch also argued that anyone who is in the United States, regardless of how they got there, has a right to work.

“The top law enforcement official in the land must be willing to enforce the law, independent of administration politics,” Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine, who spearheaded the letter, said in a statement. “The testimony of Loretta Lynch demonstrated an unwillingness to depart from the politicization of justice we have seen from Eric Holder. The Senate has a constitutional obligation not to confirm her. This starts in the Senate Judiciary Committee.” 

A confirmation vote for Lynch has been delayed in the Committee as a result of written questions not being returned to Senators on time.

Editor's note: A previous version of this post stated, "Lynch also argued that anyone who is in the United States, regardless of how they got there, has a right to vote." That is incorrect. Lynch argued that anyone who is in the United States, regardless of how they got there, has a right to work. I apologize for the error.

Katie Pavlich - Veterans Affairs Head Robert McDonald Lied About Serving in Special Forces
Posted: 2/24/2015 7:50:00 AM EST

The head of the Department of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald is under fire today after admitting to the Huffington Post that he lied about serving in the Special Forces. 

Robert McDonald, the secretary of veterans affairs, wrongly claimed in a videotaped comment earlier this year that he served in special operations forces, the most elite units in the armed forces, when his military service of five years was spent almost entirely with the 82nd Airborne Division during the late 1970s.

U.S. special operations forces (SOF) are composed of exhaustively trained and highly capable troops from each military service, including the Green Berets, Army Rangers, Delta Force and Navy SEALs -- but not the 82nd Airborne. They are certified to undertake the most dangerous and delicate missions, including, famously, the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Special operators are a close-knit community deeply hostile to outsiders who try to claim the coveted mantle of special operations.

“Special forces? What years? I was in special forces!” McDonald told the homeless man. That exchange was broadcast in a Jan. 30 CBS News story about the VA’s efforts to find and house homeless veterans.

In fact, McDonald never served in special forces. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1975, completed Army Ranger training and took courses in jungle, arctic and desert warfare. He qualified as a senior parachutist and airborne jumpmaster, and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division until he retired from military service in 1980. While he earned a Ranger tab designating him as a graduate of Ranger School, he never served in a Ranger battalion or any other special operations unit.

“I have no excuse,” McDonald told The Huffington Post, when contacted to explain his claim. “I was not in special forces.”

In June 2014 McDonald was appointed by President Obama to clean up the VA system after it was revealed dozens of veterans had died as result of long, covered up wait times. 

Since assuming his position at the VA, McDonald has claimed 900 people have been fired and held accountable for the VA scandal. That also isn't true.

Amanda Muñoz - Exciting News Out of Salem Media Group
Posted: 2/24/2015 6:00:00 AM EST

Salem Media Group will announce this morning that their radio division will partner with CNN to broadcast and facilitate three presidential primary debates during the 2016 cycle.

From today's press release:

Salem Media Group will team up with CNN as the exclusive radio outlet to broadcast three GOP presidential primary debates, sanctioned by the Republican National Committee. Salem will air the debates live with special pre- and post-debate coverage on the Salem Radio Network, the company's NewsTalk stations, and conservative news and opinion websites.

"We are pleased to be working with CNN," said David Santrella, President of Broadcast Media at Salem. “I am confident that both the access to our audiences and the incorporation of Salem talent will make the debates more accessible for the American electorate.”

The first of the three debates will take place September 16th at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Salem’s nationally syndicated radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt will join in the Q&A of this debate. Hewitt is a 25-year veteran of radio and broadcast journalism.

Hewitt will also broadcast special editions of his program pre- and post-debate. At the conclusion of the debate, candidates will be invited to join Hewitt to talk candidly about the event and the pressing issues facing the nation.

"I am delighted to be included with journalists posing questions as part of one of America's finest political traditions --the presidential debate," said Hewitt. "These debates come at a critical time, and good questions will allow Republican primary voters the opportunity to see and hear their would be nominees provide answers to issues that genuinely concern them. Any reporter who is also a political junkie welcomes the chance to be on such a panel, which of course I do."

Additional Salem national radio hosts will be announced later as leading participants in future debate coverage.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus stated, "I'm thrilled that Salem will partner with three of our Republican primary debates aired on CNN. When we set out to improve the debates, I promised conservative media would be part of the process. Salem will help the Republican Party have meaningful debates about new ideas for the future, while Democrats simply coronate Hillary Clinton."

The debates will also be extensively covered by Salem Media Group's news and opinion outlets, including SRN News and the Townhall Media web properties. Stay tuned!

Conn Carroll - Sen. Lindsey Graham Is The White House's Favorite Republican For Funding Amnesty
Posted: 2/23/2015 8:50:00 PM EST

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest twice cited Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) support for funding President Obama's executive amnesty program during Monday's White House press briefing.

"I am willing and ready to pass a DHS funding bill and let this play out in court," Graham told ABC News Sunday, referring to U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen's decision last week to issue an injunction blocking Obama's Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program.

House Republicans already passed a bill to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security, but Senate Democrats are filibustering that bill since it would defund the Department of Homeland Security's ability to give work permits to illegal immigrants. DHS funding will expire unless a new bill is passed by Friday.

Graham wants his fellow Republicans to join Senate Democrats and pass a "clean" DHS funding bill that wold allow Obama to give illegal immigrants work permits, Social Security numbers, and drivers licenses.

During the daily White House press briefing Monday, Earnest twice urged Republicans to join with Graham and Democrats to fund Obama's amnesty program.

"Again, Senator Graham, if you listen to his comments -- I think he is somebody who does have a good sense of the way that these politics affect his party -- said that he was confident that his party was going to get blamed," Earnest said referring to the possibility that Obama would choose to prioritize his amnesty program above paying Department of Homeland Security employees. "And that does seem to be where we’re headed, and that’s disappointing."

Vivian Hughbanks  - Biblical Relics Featured in Upcoming CNN Series: "Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery" Premieres March 1
Posted: 2/23/2015 7:00:00 PM EST

Since the first years A.D., billions of people have worshipped, revered and modeled their morals around the teachings and life of Jesus of Nazareth. Yet, very little historical or archeological evidence is available to back up the Biblical narrative of his existence–until now.

Next week, CNN will premiere an original series “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery.” The six-part documentary investigates key artifacts in the story of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, examining their authenticity using scientific techniques and archeological research.

Through images of artifacts from biblical times, the series offers glimpses into the lives of characters in the biblical Gospels.

The first episode centers on the Shroud of Turin -- said to be the burial linen Jesus was wrapped in after his crucifixion. The shroud still contains traces of human remains, evidently showing the story of Jesus’ passion in one image, from the scourging to the spear in his side. Most notably, the cloth provides a negative image of what is apparently the face of Jesus -- as it covered his head in the tomb.

Archaeologists, theologians, scientists and historians from the world’s leading universities like Harvard, Oxford, Princeton and Yale provide insight into the narrative, and connect evidence presented in the artifacts to the biblical story of Jesus’ life.

Also featured in the series are relics such as the gospel of Judas, the burial box of Jesus’ brother James, relics believed to be of John the Baptist, the gospel of Mary Magdalene, and relics venerated as part of the True Cross.

The series will premiere on Sunday, March 1 at 9 p.m. ET.

Kevin Glass - Orrin Hatch Preparing Obamacare Replacement If SCOTUS Strikes It Down
Posted: 2/23/2015 6:49:00 PM EST

Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in King v. Burwell, the case that challenges the legality of subsidies on health exchanges set up by the federal government rather than the individual states. The monumental case would have effects for millions of people nationwide, as more than half of all U.S. states have health exchanges run by the federal government.

It's been argued by some progressives that, no matter the legal merits of the case, it would be irresponsible for the Supreme Court to strike down the exchange subsidies, because so many people would lose health insurance. Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah) is planning on countering that argument with a replacement plan that would address those who are in jeopardy of losing their federal government subsidies. As the Associated Press reports:

Should the court uphold the suit — a decision is expected in June — millions of people could be forced to drop their health coverage because those subsidies make their insurance affordable.

So on Monday, Hatch, R-Utah, told an audience at the conservative Heritage Foundation that he will release "a short-term solution for those Americans that may be affected by the decision" in that case.

Hatch provided no details on what he might propose or when it would be ready. Talking later to reporters, he suggested it might have to last until, he hopes, a Republican moves into the White House in 2017.

GOP support for such a proposal is unclear. One likelihood — negotiations with Democrats in the aftermath of such a verdict would be complex.

Christine Rousselle - 21 Coptic Christians Beheaded by ISIS Recognized as Martyrs in Church
Posted: 2/23/2015 4:40:00 PM EST

On February 15, ISIS militants released a video titled "A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross." The video depicted the executions of 21 members of the Coptic Orthodox Church on a beach in Egypt, and many of the victims cried out to Jesus before they were beheaded. Now, the Coptic Orthodox Church has recognized the 21 victims as martyrs, and will commemorate their deaths on February 15 of each year. Normally, there is a 50-year waiting period before a person can be recognized in this manner, but the waiting period has been waived.

From Vatican Radio:

The Coptic Orthodox Church has announced that the murder of the 21 Egyptian Christians killed by the so-called Islamic State in Libya will be commemorated in its Church calendar.

Pope Tawadros II announced that the names of the martyrs will be inserted into the Coptic Synaxarium, the Oriental Church’s equivalent to the Roman Martyrology. This procedure is also equivalent to canonization in the Latin Church.

According to terrasanta.net, the martyrdom of the 21 Christians will be commemorated on the 8th Amshir of the Coptic calendar, or February 15th of the Gregorian calendar. The commemoration falls on the feast day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

The Coptic Orthodox Church was founded in the first century A.D. by St. Mark, who authored the Gospel of Mark. The majority of Christians in Egypt identify as members of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The church has about 15 million members.

Matt Vespa - 2014 DNC Autopsy: Yeah, We Need To 'Reclaim' White Southern Voters
Posted: 2/23/2015 4:10:00 PM EST

The Democratic Party has been slowly bleeding at the state and local level. After their 2014 shellacking, they huddled together and released a preliminary autopsy that is a massive…nine-pages long where they show their lack of self-awareness regarding their campaign narratives. The first two pages are dedicated to patting themselves on the back for being Democrats–and how the “national Democratic Party must never allow itself to become a party of Beltway consultants who routinely recommend cookie-cutter campaigns that are detached from the concerns of the people we hope to represent, at the city, state, and federal level.” Uh, did they forget about the whole war on women narrative they conjured in 2012, which ended up cannibalizing some of their 2014 candidates? Yet, one area they might have trouble is with white, southern voters, because Democrats aren’t just struggling with them in the South–it’s everywhere.

Here’s the Democratic butcher’s bill since 2008 [emphasis mine]:

STRENGTHENING THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY

It is clear that Americans overwhelmingly support the people and issues that the Democratic Party ?ghts for every day [The losses below suggests otherwise]. Our work in support of equality in all areas – personal, wage, marriage, justice – was endorsed by Americans when they supported ballot measure after ballot measure that were focused on ensuring that this is a country for all.

We have su?ered devastating losses at all levels of government since 2008 including:

- 69 House Seats

- 13 Senate Seats

- 910 State Legislative Seats

- 30 State Legislative Chambers

- 11 Governorships

It also mentioned that members of the Task Force would meet routinely over the next three months to further analyze and address the issues they feel Democrats need to work on in future elections. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Vice Chairwoman of the DNC Donna Brazile, Google Chair Eric Schmidt, and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear are some of the major Democratic figures on the team.

To curb the rising Republican tide, the team recommends that the Democratic Party get their act together on a “cohesive narrative,” strengthening relationships with the state parties, expanding voting rights, redistricting reform, and building a deeper Democratic bench.

That last one will be a huge obstacle given Republican dominance of governorships and state legislatures. In fact, this could be one of the biggest problems facing the party today, as the new talent usually rises up from the state and local level. There really is no new blood coming in to fill the ranks of the increasingly decrepit Democratic leadership.

Then, there’s white working class voters, a constituency that’s drifted to the Republicans, which Democrats acknowledge they need to win back. They’re mostly rural and feel the Democratic Party has abandoned them. Kevin Drum wrote in the left-leaning Mother Jones that Democrats' focus on the poor—specifically the “underserving poor­”– is what caused white working class voters to shove the donkey’s head into the guillotine and never look back:

Largely, the answer is the poor. In particular, the undeserving poor. Liberals may hate this distinction, but it doesn't matter if we hate it. Lots of ordinary people make this distinction as a matter of simple common sense, and the WWC makes it more than any. That's because they're closer to it. For them, the poor aren't merely a set of statistics or a cause to be championed. They're the folks next door who don't do a lick of work but somehow keep getting government checks paid for by their tax dollars. For a lot of members of the WWC, this is personal in a way it just isn't for the kind of people who read this blog.

And who is it that's responsible for this infuriating flow of government money to the shiftless? Democrats. We fight to save food stamps. We fight for WIC. We fight for Medicaid expansion. We fight for Obamacare. We fight to move poor families into nearby housing.

This is a big problem because these are all things that benefit the poor but barely touch the working class. Does it matter that the working class barely pays for most of these programs in the first place, since their federal income taxes tend to be pretty low? Nope. They're still paying taxes, and it seems like they never get anything for it. It's always someone else.

The fact that Democrats consider their white voter problem a southern problem shows they really don’t understand the this obstacle. Remember when they said that they don’t want to be beholden to cookie-cutter politics and strategies from DC-based elites and consultants? Well, saying that their white voter problem is just in the South confirms that lack of self-awareness. Democrats are bleeding white voters everywhere (via New Republic) [emphasis mine]:

The 2012 election showed that a populist appeal is necessary to draw white working class voters, but it's not sufficient to reach the majority who now live outside urban centers or the formerly industrial areas of the Rust Belt. In many Red States, Democrats' populist rhetoric simply doesn't penetrate the local political culture, which is dominated by Fox News and conservative radio. In these areas, Democrats have no alternative except to try to rebuild local political organizations and regain the support that has atrophied for several decades.

Many Democrats would prefer not to have to face this monumental organization challenge, hoping instead that the existing Obama coalition and demographic changes in America will prove sufficient to elect a president in 2016, hold the Senate, and weaken GOP control over the House of Representatives. But the harsh reality for Democrats is that they cannot achieve all three of these objectives without increasing their support among white working class Americans—and if Democrats keep telling themselves that "the problem is just the South," that support may decrease instead.

For now, it seems Democrats aren’t up to that “monumental challenge,” if their 2016 House strategy is any indication. Right now, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer think Democrats can ride the Hillary wave to victory. That's dubious. Additionally, with the resignation of Republican Congressman Michael Grimm over a multitude of criminal charges, including tax fraud, Democrats still have an uphill battle in that special election since their electoral chances have been hamstrung by Bill de Blasio’s unpopularity in Staten Island (via National Journal):

Democrats are publicly proclaiming that they can win back control of the House in 2016. Their own campaign plan suggests they're aiming far lower.

The party needs to pick up 30 seats in 2016 to wrest the majority from the Republicans. But just months into the cycle, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee appears to be writing off races that it would need to win to get there.

The DCCC this month put out a list of the top 16 Republican freshmen it plans to target in the next cycle, and it's not particularly ambitious. Of the districts the party is putting its focus, a dozen favored President Obama in 2012, and none of the 12 gave Obama less than 48 percent of the vote.

By focusing on the more-likely wins, Democrats are charting a safer passage toward making up some of the ground they lost in their 2014 midterm disaster. But that focus also moves resources away from the reach races the party needs to win in order to go nearly undefeated and win a majority.

One early barometer of Democrats' appetite for risky races is the May special election in Staten Island to replace Rep. Michael Grimm, who resigned under mass federal indictment. But despite Grimm's unflattering exit, Democrats appear to be largely punting on the race.

It's a difficult path. In January, a leaked poll commissioned by the DCCC showed state Assemblyman Michael Cusick, then considered the Democrats' best candidate, trailing presumptive Republican nominee Dan Donovan 48 percent to 28 percent. Cusick later decided not to enter the race.

The special election for Grimm's seat does put Democrats in a tough position: Turnout will likely be low, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's severe unpopularity in Staten Island—which was exacerbated by his tension with the city's police force—won't help Democrats.

“In order to win elections, the Democratic Party must reclaim voters that we’ve lost including white Southern voters, excite key constituencies such as African American women and Latinas, and mobilize the broadest coalition of voters possible to not only recapture state houses but also Congress,” reads their preliminary report. But, one demographic seems forever lost, while the other two demographics usually have low turnout rates in races that Democrats desperately need to improve their performance in: state and local elections.

For now, there seems to be a Republican lock on the House for the next generation, and they're prepping for a conservative policy onslaught in their respective states. Nevertheless, nothing is permanent in American elections. Moreover, there are many issues where Democrats can make inroads with working class America.

Democratic Victory Task Force Preliminary Findings by Zeke Miller

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