Surprise, surprise: Obama is threatening to veto the Working Families Flexibility Act, which passed the House this week, because of what the WSJ describes as the White House’s “fealty to unions.” The bill, sponsored by Alabama Rep. Martha Roby, would reform the 75-year-old Fair Labor Standards Act to “allow employees to swap overtime pay for compensatory time off.” In other words, the flex time bill would give working parents the ability to more easily balance work and family responsibilities. Roby’s message about the bill in the GOP’s weekly address is simple: They ‘want to get Washington out of the way of how you use your time.’
“This week the House passed my bill, the Working Families Flexibility Act, which will remove an outdated and unnecessary restriction on private sector employees accruing comp time, or paid time off, in exchange for overtime.
This bill provides options for working moms and dads who need more time to take care of family responsibilities. It also demonstrates how applying conservative principles can help working Americans in their everyday lives.
What this bill doesn’t do is change the 40-hour work week or how overtime pay is calculated. The same protections that have been a part of labor law for decades remain, and we’ve added additional protections against coercion or unfair treatment. This bill also doesn’t add government regulation to the workplace - we have enough red tape as is.
A more flexible workplace isn’t a new concept. In fact, many employees in the public sector enjoy this benefit right now. That’s because in 1985 Congress passed a law allowing local and state governments to offer their employees the option of comp time.
So, why should the rules be different for employees in the private sector? Why should government workers have more freedom in the workplace than everybody else? And why is Washington restricting employers from offering certain benefits that government itself is free to offer?”
The White House’s opposition can only be understood in terms of the bill’s implications for the unions. And if you haven't figured it out by now, the AFL-CIO absolutely loathes the flex time bill and has been actively lobbying against it. WSJ’s scathing editorial on the matter breaks it down:
The politics at play here is White House fealty to unions. The only way for many private workers to obtain flex-time is if a union negotiates it as part of a collective-bargaining agreement. Unions routinely tout their ability to win such flexibility in their organizing drives, though pay raises and pension benefits are always higher priorities. But if workers can negotiate overtime pay for flexible work hours on their own, they have one less reason to join a union and pay the dues that fund Democratic campaigns.
With other major news like IRS targeting and Benghazi taking center stage, it will be difficult for this bill to get the attention it deserves, especially by liberal media. But modernizing the labor law to give working families more flexibility is something Republicans should fight hard for. And as the WSJ editorial states, “If Democrats intend to keep waging a war against flexible hours for women in the workplace, voters ought to know about it.”
"I want to wish Hillary a Happy Mother's Day. She has her child. I don't have mine because of her."
If this scandal had occurred under a Republican president, Pat Smith would be a household name, a la Cindy Sheehan, with "absolute moral authority" to slam the White House. The difference, of course, is that Sheehan's son volunteered to take up arms and fight, and the Bush administration never misled anyone about the circumstances of his death. Smith's bitterness and lasting pain is difficult to watch. Her frustration over being lied to by numerous administration officials -- "nose-to-nose," as she put it in another interview -- is palpable. Like the rest of the American people, Smith still lacks satisfactory answers. Indeed, during his mendacious Friday press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney stretched, strained and violated the truth on numerous occasions:
In response to a question about why he and others at the White House repeatedly pointed to a YouTube video as the cause of the attacks in Benghazi, Carney claimed that he was working from the same talking points as U.N. ambassador Susan Rice. But the video was not mentioned in any of the dozen drafts of talking points. Carney also claimed that Rice devoted some of her time on five Sunday shows September 16 talking “about the possibility that al Qaeda might be involved or other al Qaeda affiliates might be involved or non-al Qaeda Libyan extremists.” But as BuzzFeed notes, that’s not really true. “Outside of a brief mention on CBS’s Face the Nation, Rice mostly did not discuss the involvement of al Qaeda or al Qaeda affiliates.” Carney claimed that there was no hard evidence before Susan Rice’s television appearances on September 16 that terrorists linked to al Qaeda were involved in the attacks. That’s simply not true. Beth Jones, acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs at the State Department, sent an email on September 12 reporting “the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al Sharia, is affiliated with Islamic terrorists.” Within 48 hours, the U.S. government had multiple streams of intelligence indicating that Ansar al Sharia was involved...
So the months-long misinformation campaign continues apace. Another frequent Carney assertion was that despite 12 separate revisions to the talking points, the final product still reflected the "best assessment" of the intelligence community. This is patently untrue, as re-confirmed by ABC News this morning. In fact, the White House's desired talking points were so "useless" that the CIA director personally rejected them the day before Susan Rice made her infamous talk show rounds:
RADDATZ: About those. How about CIA Director David Petraeus? How did he respond to these talking points? And I know you have new information on that.
KARL: Yeah, this is fascinating. Because Mike Morrell, who was the deputy director, was the one that ultimately signed off on this one. Petraeus finally saw the final version of the talking points. This is the Saturday afternoon before Susan Rice’s appearances on the Sunday shows. He looks at these and says they’re essentially useless. And direct quote from his e-mail. He says, I would just as soon not use them. But it’s their call, meaning the White House’s call.
RADDATZ: And they got the talking points out there.
It’s a cliché, of course, but it really is true: in Washington, every scandal has a crime and a coverup. The ongoing debate about the attack on the United States facility in Benghazi where four Americans were killed, and the Obama Administration’s response to it, is no exception. For a long time, it seemed like the idea of a coverup was just a Republican obsession. But now there is something to it...the mere existence of the edits—whatever the motivation for them—seriously undermines the White House’s credibility on this issue. This past November (after Election Day), White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that “The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility’ because ‘consulate’ was inaccurate.” Remarkably, Carney is sticking with that line even now...This is an incredible thing for Carney to be saying.
After much heated debate in the Democrat-controlled legislature, Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper signed sweeping new gun laws in March—exactly eight months after the mass shooting in Aurora. The bills failed to attract a single Republican vote, however, and GOP lawmakers warned Democrats that ‘voters would make Democrats pay’—and polls at the time seemed to suggest as much:
“Importantly, Colorado voters do not believe these sweeping gun control measures will make them any safer. Two out three Coloradans (65%) say these new gun control laws won’t reduce crime or make the state any safer, while just a third say they will (32%).”
And there “very well could be political repercussions for supporting this legislation, as well. Nearly half (48%) of voters say they would be less likely to vote for their State Senator in the next election if he or she supports these gun control bills (40% more likely). There is strong intensity behind this as well – thirty-seven percent (37%) of voters overall say they would be much less likely to vote for him or her.”
Well, the time has come. Several Democratic lawmakers who played an influential role in helping pass the anti-gun laws are now the targets of recall efforts. Via Fox News:
Two groups are targeting state Rep. Mike McLachlan and state Sens. Angela Giron, Evie Hudak and John Morse. […]
Morse, the Senate president, pushed a more far-reaching proposal that called for holding owners, sellers and makers of assault-type weapons liable for havoc inflicted by their guns.
He pulled the bill upon realizing he didn’t have enough votes. But his efforts have still drawn the ire of the groups.
The petition drives are being organized by the organizations Pueblo Freedom and Rights Group. They will need signatures from 25 percent of the vote in each lawmaker’s district to trigger a special election.
Hudak, remember, drew the ire of gun-rights advocates after she lectured rape survivor Amanda Collins (who had a concealed weapons permit but was not carrying due to her college’s gun-free zone policy) during one of the hearings about rape statistics. She told Collins that even if she had had a gun, it wouldn’t have helped her because “chances are” he would have been able to get the gun from her and possible use it against her. Katie reported on the full exchange here.
The deadline for signatures is May 21.
"We're going to damn sure deal with these politicians here, if not with the recalls then in 2014. ... This momentum will carry us into 2014 and beyond, this legislation in Colorado has been so overreaching," Dave Saleh, who is working on recall efforts for McLachlan, told ABC News. Morse, Hudak and McLachlan won their seats by a slim margin.
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms. We appreciate you!
The IRS “apologized” on Friday for flagging conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election cycle. IRS official Lois Lerner insisted, however, that the practice of singling out organizations with the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications was not politically motivated. She also said the “inappropriate” practice was initiated by “low-level” workers in Cincinnati, Ohio, unbeknownst to high-level officials. Yeah, or not:
Senior Internal Revenue Service officials knew agents were targeting tea party groups as early as 2011, according to a draft of an inspector general's report obtained by The Associated Press that seemingly contradicts public statements by the IRS commissioner.
The IRS apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was "inappropriate" targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status. The agency blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware.
But on June 29, 2011, Lois G. Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, learned at a meeting that groups were being targeted, according to the watchdog's report. At the meeting, she was told that groups with "Tea Party," ''Patriot" or "9/12 Project" in their names were being flagged for additional and often burdensome scrutiny, the report says.
On Jan, 25, 2012, the criteria for flagging suspect groups was changed to, "political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform/movement," the report says.
While this was happening, several committees in Congress were writing numerous letters IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman to express concern because tea party groups were complaining of IRS harassment.
In Shulman's responses, he did not acknowledge targeting of tea party groups. At a congressional hearing March 22, 2012, Shulman was adamant in his denials.
"There's absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people" who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman said at the House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing.
Sen. Orrin Hatch suspects there are whistleblowers ready to come forward, which is why the IRS came out with this now. But the “apology” also came just days before an investigative report on the issue is expected from the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration. House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa issued the request last year after conservative groups complained of IRS harassment. Issa and Rep. Jim Jordan on Friday called the practice of targeting Americans because of their political beliefs “unconscionable” and said the Committee will “aggressively follow up on the IG report and hold responsible officials accountable for this political retaliation.”
After all, an apology won't make an issue of this magnitude just go away. As ABC's Terry Moran noted on Twitter, this is "truly a Nixonian abuse of power by the Obama administration." Ed Morrissey over at Hot Air adds to that point:
Update: How big of a deal is abusing the tax system to gain an advantage over the political opposition? Don’t forget that it was one of the charges in the Watergate articles of impeachment:
Using the powers of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposed of these agencies.
This conduct has included one or more of the following:
1. He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavoured to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposed not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be intitiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.
That doesn’t make Obama guilty of the actions, but it does demonstrate the seriousness of the violation — and the fact that the Obama administration tried to shortstop the IG report with yesterday’s dog-and-pony show also demonstrates just how bad they know this will be.
But from where Attkisson is sitting, there are actually two Goliaths, one of which is almost entirely absent from the Post profile. The second Goliath is CBS News, which has grown increasingly frustrated with Attkisson's Benghazi campaign. CBS News executives see Attkisson wading dangerously close to advocacy on the issue, network sources have told POLITICO. Attkisson can't get some of her stories on the air, and is thus left feeling marginalized and underutilized. That, in part, is why Attkisson is in talks to leave CBS ahead of contract, as POLITICO reported in April. Farhi mentions "internal conflicts" in the final paragraph, though he seems to dismiss them. The "internal conflicts" are indeed real -- Attkisson is still eyeing an exit, according to sources -- and provide important context for today's piece.
My analysis of this report was highly critical of CBS News. The network appears to be penalizing one of its best correspondents because she's doing her job too aggressively. Conservatives quickly imputed a political motive to CBS News' internal drama, but the Daily Caller has uncovered a connection that suggests there's a striking personal angle to this controversy, as well:
The brother of a top Obama administration official is also the president of CBS News, and the network may be days away from dropping one of its top investigative reporters for covering the administration’s scandals too aggressively. CBS News executives have reportedly expressed frustration with their own reporter, Sharyl Attkisson, who has steadily covered the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack in Libya since late last year...On Friday, ABC News reported that the Benghazi talking points went through 12 revisions before they were used on the public. The White House was intimately involved in that process, ABC reported, and the talking points were scrubbed free of their original references to a terror attack. That reporting revealed that President Obama’s deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes — brother of CBS News president David Rhodes — was instrumental in changing the talking points in September 2012. ABC’s reporting revealed that Ben Rhodes, who has a masters in fiction from NYU, called a meeting to discuss the talking points at the White House on September 15, 2012.
The son of a conservative-leaning Episcopalian father from Texas and a more liberal Jewish mother from New York, Mr. Rhodes grew up in a home where even sports loyalties were divided: he and his mother are ardent Mets fans; his father and his older brother, David, root for the Yankees. “No one in that house agreed on anything,” said David Rhodes, who is now the president of CBS News.
America’s veterans are returning home only to fight another battle: collecting their service-related benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to VA documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting, veterans filing their first claim must wait more than 315 days —and in major U.S. cities like New York and Los Angeles they must wait twice as long. It wasn’t always this bad, however.
In 2009, the number of veterans waiting longer than a year for benefits was 11,000. That number reached 245,000 in December—a more than 2000 percent increase—and is expected to top one million this spring. So what’s the problem?
Darin Selnick, retired Air Force captain and former special assistant to the secretary of veterans affairs, says there are two main reasons why the backlog skyrocketed. First, Sec. Eric Shinseki loosened all the rules in 2010 for what a veteran could apply for, which led to a flood of new claims. And secondly, the VA didn’t prepare for it. “One of the things you learn in the military is ‘prior planning prevents poor performance’. He knows that. They knew it was coming. They knew the backlog would start spiking—they didn’t hire staff, they didn’t put in the procedure, they didn’t prepare for it. They just decided to open the floodgates without being able to handle the flood,” Selnick tells Townhall. “The real spike in the backlog is poor leadership, poor management, poor planning.”
It’s not as though Sec. Shinseki hasn’t been given the resources to properly address the problem, either. The VA’s budget has increased 40 percent in the last four years but the backlog issue has only gotten worse. “They’re using money like it’s going out of style,” Selnick says. “They haven’t done a good job of making sure they’re spending the money wisely and hiring the additional claims examiners to process the claims to get the backlog down.” There’s billions going out in contracts, travel, conferences, construction, IT and staff that are not directly related to the mission, he adds. For example, the documents obtained by CIR show that after spending four years and $537 million on a new computer system, 97 percent of all veterans’ claims are still on paper. At the regional office in Winston-Salem, N.C., the weight of all the paper files actually ‘exceeded the load-bearing capacity of the building itself’, causing the floors to bow.
Shinseki insists the backlog will be clear by 2015, but according to Selnick, this timeline isn’t acceptable. “The VA has the resources to fix this problem. They need to knuckle down and just do it and stop giving excuses,” he says, adding that people need to be held accountable. “Failure is not an option.”
Necessary reform at the VA will not take place if they feel they can get away with the status quo. This is why Selnick urges Americans to become informed and put the pressure on.
More information, videos and a petition are available MillionVetBacklog.com.
Below, Guy lays out the IRS' scandalous admission that it targeted Tea Party groups based on those groups' viewpoints -- a First Amendment constitutional violation if ever there was one. One is tempted to hope that the unjustly-audited groups seek any redress that's available under law -- hopefully, with plenty of discovery -- to complement any other government investigations.
But note that this is not the first time political gamesmanship at the IRS has been detected. The late Robert Novak, writing in 2002, pointed out another IRS admission that it harassed conservative organizations during the Clinton administration.
From this, two observations can be drawn: First, the IRS absues occurred during Democrat presidencies. It doesn't seem to me to be a coincidence that the party of big government has, in recent years, been the party most willing to use that big government for illegitmate purposes. One reason conservatives distrust big government is because it is far too easy for the corrupt and the ruthless to exploit state apparatus for their own partisan purposes.
Second, the quiescence of the press may also explain why it's been Democrat presidencies featuring these abuses in recent years. Compare the coverage of this story -- and the earlier IRS abuse during the Clinton years -- with the holy hell that broke out when Richard Nixon was caught using the IRS for political purposes. It's a sharp contrast. In other words, Republicans know they will pay a steep price for abusing the public trust . . . and the press clearly is more indignant about political audits being inflicted on groups with which they sympathize.
That's how a democratic republic with an adversarial press is supposed to work. But as the Clinton- and Obama-era IRS scandals teach us, apparently some abuses are more equal than others -- especially in the press' eyes. Just imagine that, rather than "Tea Party," the groups singled out for audit had contained the word "abortion" or "reproductive rights." If the press would find credible the employees' explanation that it was an abuse perpetrated by low-level employees -- completely unrelated to politics -- than it should accept the IRS' word in this case. If not, they know how to proceed, from back in the Nixon days.
"This is an effort to accuse the administration of hiding something we did not hide," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Friday at the daily briefing. "All of this is a distraction from key issues."
As ABC News reported early Friday, the White House and State Department edited CIA Benghazi talking points 12 different times and eliminated all references to terrorism and al Qaeda in the process. When questioned, Carney said this was simply a "stylistic" edit and blamed the CIA.
"These were intelligence community talking points," Carney said.
The initial version of unedited talking points were from the CIA and included warnings about terrorism, al Qaeda and a lack of security at the consulate in Benghazi. The best assessment sent from the intelligence community included multiple warnings about the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi. The final talking points with scrubbed references to terrorism and al Qaeda were edited by the State Department after communication and a meeting in the White House. Carney claimed the only editing the White House did of the talking points was replacing the word "consulate" with "facility."
Carney tried to argue that the administration told the public about a demonstration as a result of YouTube video in the "immediate aftermath" of the attacks and then corrected the information once it changed. Carney argued the White House didn't want to "speculate" about what happened and said information about what the administration "knew" was given to the public. These statements are demonstrably false for many reasons.
(1) Carney's claim that the administration only pushed information about a YouTube video sparking a protest that led to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi until new information was given, is false. Jay Carney himself specifically said on September 14, 2012 "this was a response to a YouTube video," three days after the attack. The same day, Hillary Clinton stood in front of the flag draped caskets of dead Americans arriving home from Benghazi and blamed a YouTube video. Five days after the Benghazi attack (and five five days after Hillary Clinton was told by Hicks from Libya that this was an attack), UN Ambassador Susan Rice went on five different Sunday shows and claimed this was a situation of a protest raging out of control over a YouTube video. On September 25, 2012, 15 days after the attack, President Obama went to the United Nations and blamed the YouTube video. On January 23, 2013, four months after the attack, Hillary Clinton said, "The fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because a group of guys decided to go for a walk one night and kill some Americans. What difference at this point does it make?" The Obama administration has never directly admitted there was no protest.
(2) Whistleblower and deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya Greg Hicks said in sworn testimony Wednesday that he received a phone call in Benghazi from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at 2 a.m. on September 11, 2012. During this phone call he said "we are under attack." He did not mention a protest nor did he mention a YouTube video. Further, before he was killed and dragged through the streets of Benghazi, Ambassador Chris Stevens called Hicks and said, "We are under attack." Again, no mention of a protest outside of the consulate and no mention of a video. What the administration "knew" was that this was a terrorist attack as it was happening yet told the public for months the incident was a result of a protest getting out of control.
(3) Carney claimed the White House didn't want to speculate about what happened yet immediately blamed a YouTube video, "The Innocence of Muslims," for the attack while armed guards stormed the home of the video's maker in the middle of the night and hauled him off to jail. He's still in jail, by the way.
Throughout the briefing, Carney tried to down play the change in talking points as "just talking points" and not policy. Carney repeatedly blamed Republicans for politicizing the Benghazi tragedy, blamed President Bush and even blamed former GOP President nominee Mitt Romney for releasing a statement about the attack when it happened last year.
When asked whether the Obama administration should have handled Benghazi differently, Carney said, "No."
I'll leave you with this from Greg Hicks:
The White House held an off-the-record briefing with reporters on Friday afternoon to discuss recent revelations about the Benghazi investigation, sources familiar with the meeting tell POLITICO. The meeting began around 12:45 p.m. and postponed the daily, on-the-record White House press briefing to 1:45 p.m. White House press secretary Jay Carney did not respond to a request for confirmation of the meeting. The off-the-record session was announced to reporters in the wake of an ABC News report showing that White House and State Dept. officials were involved in revising the now-discredited CIA talking points about the attack on Benghazi.
Just how "over" is the Benghazi saga? Not very, it seems. Oh boy:
The CIA’s talking points, the ones that went out that Friday evening, were distributed via email to a group of top Obama administration officials. Forty-five minutes after receiving them, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed concerns about their contents, particularly the likelihood that members of Congress would criticize the State Department for “not paying attention to Agency warnings.” CIA officials responded with a new draft, stripped of all references to Ansar al Sharia. In an email a short time later, Nuland wrote that the changes did not “resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership.” She did not specify whom she meant by State Department “building leadership.” Ben Rhodes, a top Obama foreign policy and national security adviser, responded to the group, explaining that Nuland had raised valid concerns and advising that the issues would be resolved at a meeting of the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee the following morning. The Deputies Committee consists of high-ranking officials at the agencies with responsibility for national security?—?including State, Defense, and the CIA?—?as well as senior White House national security staffers.
Credibility: The White House has long maintained that the talking points were drafted almost exclusively by the CIA, a claim that gave cover to both President Obama and his potential successor, Clinton. “Those talking points originated from the intelligence community,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in November, adding that the only editing by the White House or the State Department was to change the word "consulate" to "diplomatic facility." The emails prove him wrong. Significant edits were made to the talking points after a meeting at the White House the day before Rice's appearance on five Sunday shows, said the official familiar with Nuland's thinking, who added that she did not attend the meeting. As I wrote yesterday (“Why Benghazi is a Blow to Obama and Clinton"), Obama has earned the trust of most Americans but credibility is a fragile thing.
Throw Hillary under the bus? In a statement to ABC, Carney notably insulates the West Wing and not the State Department by saying “the only edits made by anyone here at the White House were stylistic and nonsubstantive.” And, with no apparent regard to hypocrisy, Carney criticized the GOP for attempting to “politicize the talking points.”
Drip, drip, drip: There is almost certainly more to come....
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