Greg Corombos of Radio America and Daniel Foster of National Review Online are glad to see GOP leaders like Mitch McConnell embrace rising stars like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. They also reject the finger-in-the-wind strategy on gay marriage by a growing number of Republicans, including Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, and they explain why caving in on the issue will not result in more votes. And they wonder how soft the NFL will go now that it’s proposing to ban running backs from initiating contact with their helmets in the open field.
Archives for March 2013
President Obama says the long hours that some voters spent waiting to cast ballots in November require changes in the system, but a former Justice Department elections expert says the facts show there really isn’t a problem.
J. Christian Adams worked in the Justice Department’s civil rights division and has been a vocal critic of what he sees as imbalanced enforcement of voting rights laws by the Obama administration. Adams is now an editor at Pajamas Media and author of “Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama White House”.
Adams says the horror stories mentioned by Obama were rare and misleading.
“M.I.T. did a study and found that the average wait for Americans was 13 minutes on Election Day.So the stories that you’re hearing about – six, seven, eight-hour waits – are usually coming from places where people actually decided to vote early,” said Adams. “Early voting is a worse experience than voting on Election Day because there’s fewer places to vote. The lady that the president talked about, Desiline Victor, went to early voting on the very first day of early voting, which is the absolute worst choice that you could ever make. That’s exactly why she had a long line, including the fact that they had a bunch of ballot questions in Miami-Dade County (Florida). So the president chose a real outlier example when he did the State of the Union.”
Adams says there are ways to tweak the system for the better, including encouraging people to vote on Election Day, limiting the number of ballot initiatives to help speed up the lines and moving to a digital check-in process that would also shorten the wait.
“There’s ways to do this without the federal government getting involved. There’s local solutions to what is a local problem,” said Adams. “The federal government, we all know, never has the solution to most problems, so this isn’t any different.”
According to Adams, the push for national reforms is wrongheaded in a number of ways. In addition to his belief that major reforms aren’t necessary, he says changes should not be coming from Washington.
“This is, in fact, a solution in search of a problem because the federal government just doesn’t have an answer. They are not in the position to fix it like local officials who are closer to the voters who know the problems,” said Adams. “For example, Atlanta was a mess. Places around Baltimore were a mess. These are local solutions. Sadly, in many cases in Democrat areas. It’s kind of ironic to hear the president complain about it when the people who are causing the problem by and large were Democrats.”
Another factor that may be at work in the Obama agenda, however, may be efforts to help boost Democratic turnout. Adams says there’s a long history of policy changes designed to get certain demographics to the ballot box.
“This administration knows that the process rules of elections have partisan outcomes. If you can tinker with the rules of the game, you can help your side. This president recognizes that to his credit. He knows that once he gets involved in election reforms, you can bet that those reforms are probably going to help Democrats. It comes with the territory,” said Adams, who outlined several ways Democrats have boosted their numbers in the past.
“You have Section 7 of ‘Motor Voter’, welfare agency voter registration in 1993, where people in heroin treatment facilities and food stamp offices are required to be offered the opportunity to register to vote. If you look at the list in the law, it skews overwhelmingly Democrat,” said Adams.
In the end, Adams is not overly worried about this effort to change the voting process and says it will probably never make it to the implementation stage.
“I think it’s probably going to get stalled along the side of the road. Frankly, the agenda of the commission is primarily to make a best practices recommendation, so let’s hope they stick to that agenda and don’t meddle in a state and local affair,” said Adams.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Daniel Foster of National Review Online cheer Republicans for continuing to push for the end of Obamacare – even though they don’t have the votes. They also roll their eyes as the first Democratic budget in four years is just more taxes and spending. And they relish the pathetic and ever-changing White House explanation for cancelling White House tours.
The House Republican budget plan assumes the repeal of Obamacare, and while the political votes may be hard to find, a leading health care scholar says the flaws of the system could lead to its implosion in the near term.
Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute and one of the leading policy-based critics of the Obama health law.
She says House Republicans are right to keep pushing for the repeal of Obamacare because of the myriad ways it afflicts our nation’s fiscal health.
“When you look at the overall impact of this law on the economy, we know that it’s hugely important in depressing job creation. It’s forcing companies to put people on part-time when they need full-time workers. The incredible number of new taxes, a trillion dollars in new taxes in this law just in its own right,” said Turner. “It is one of the major factors that is depressing economic growth. When you have economic growth depressed, you don’t have the tax revenue that you need.”
Turner applauds House Republicans for pushing the case for repeal and Senate Republicans for trying to defund Obamacare in the upcoming continuing resolution even though the effort fell short. Any repeal effort that survived Congress would face a sure veto from President Obama, but Turner says the American people are determined to defeat Obamacare, including a decent percentage of voters who backed President Obama for other reasons.
“Somehow or another this is going to shake out. All of the predictable routes to getting rid of Obamacare seem to have been closed, except the American people don’t like this law. Some of them hate it. They’re going to figure out a way to not lose our freedom, to have it not ruin our economy,” said Turner.
Turner is still optimistic that state rejection of Obamacare will help bring about it’s demise. She says only 17 states have agreed to the exchanges and some state legislatures may overrule their own governors on expansion of Medicaid. Turner also notes that even liberal states like California and Connecticut are pleading with the federal government to stop the stream of new regulations that may well prevent exchanges from opening on time in those states.
The bureaucracy is not only impacting state governments but individuals as well. Americans used to a couple of pages worth of paperwork to enroll in a health plan are now forced to fill out dozens of pages to comply with the government requirements to join the exchanges. Turner says the amount of federal prying could turn off many people from this program.
“The law is very specific about what information the government has to have to find out whether or not you’re eligible for the subsidies in these exchanges. They have to know your income, your family size, where you work, the tax identification number of your employer, the technical name of the plan that your employer offers that would qualify as a qualifying Obamacare health plan. People need help with this. California alone believes it needs 20,000 people just to help people fill out the form. The one I’ve seen is 21 pages. It looks like a tax form,” said Turner.
“I think that’s one of the reasons that people say, ‘I’m not doing this. They have to sell me insurance if I get sick at the same price as if I’d been having health insurance all along. I’m just going to pay the fine too.’ We’re seeing employers saying, ‘We’re going to pay the fine, not comply,'” said Turner.
“I think the next wave is individuals doing the same thing, both because they see the high cost of the coverage in these exchanges, which is going to be much more expensive than the coverage that they’ve had. Young people are going to be hit the hardest because they’re forced to pay more so that older people can pay less. They’re not going to comply with all this paperwork. They’re just going to walk and that means that these exchanges are just not going to work,” she said.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review applaud Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling for deciding not to launch an independent bid for governor that would have given Dems a big edge. They shake their heads as Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigns as connections to gambling scandal come to light. And they enjoy watching President Obama claim that the White House had nothing to do with cancelling White House tours.
House Republicans unveiled their budget plan Tuesday, calling for a balanced budget within ten years and relying on major tax reform and a full repeal of the Obama health laws to do it.
“The economy is going to grow faster than federal spending and it will get us to a balanced budget,” said South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice, a member of the House Budget Committee and chairman of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access.
The first key to the House GOP plan making ends meet in a decade is for Congress to approve sweeping tax reform.
“Our budget assumes that there will be tax reform,” said Rice. “We sit here and handicap our companies with the highest corporate tax rate in the world and with among the highest regulatory burdens in the world.”
Rice points out that the House Ways & Means Committee is in charge of tax policy and not the members of the budget panel, but he says the budget numbers were based on a few assumptions about what reform would include.
“We’re all looking for a flatter tax system with lower rates and less exclusions. And that would be on the individual and the corporate tax side,” said Rice.
Clarity in the code is another priority. Rice says more than 75 percent of businesses do not pay the corporate tax rate because they are not corporations and pay at the individual rate, which has jumped from 35 percent to as high as 44 percent for some business owners since the fiscal cliff deal at the start of the year.
The congressman also says this process shouldn’t be about either cutting taxes or raising taxes, the latter of which Senate Democrats are reportedly proposing.
“We’re not proposing cutting taxes overall or raising taxes, what we’re talking about is changing the rate. So what we have to look at is what exemptions we’re going to remove and see how much rate lowering that will buy us,” said Rice.
The House Republican budget also assumes a full repeal of the Obama health laws, a move that seems all but impossible to achieve legislatively over the next four years. Rice admits it will be tough and that the budget won’t be balanced in a decade without eliminating the costs associated with Obamacare.
“If we don’t get them, obviously the budget won’t balance in 10 years. What I would say to the Senate Democrats, and the president particularly, is if you don’t like the proposal we’ve made let’s see your proposal. I think everybody wants to see the country on a sound financial path,” said Rice. “We’ve put forward our proposal. We don’t think we can afford Obamacare. Even if we didn’t repeal it at this point, we think it’s going to implode on itself.”
Senate Democrats are putting together a budget proposal that is not yet complete. Leaked bits of the plan suggest it will call for a trillion dollars in new taxes and will not balance down the line. Nonetheless, Rice is optimistic the two sides can get something done, noting that President Obama and congressional Republicans see tax reform as an urgent, major priority.
“If we can focus on the areas we agree and work on those and then try to find some kind of common ground on the areas where we don’t, let’s make some progress,” said Rice. “I’ve had countless people tell me, ‘Gosh, you’re going to Washington at a tough time.’ Shoot, I think this is the best time. Washington has kicked the can down the road so many times I think pretty much everybody realizes it can’t be kicked a whole lot more. So I’m very, very optimistic that we will have some positive reform coming out of Washington this year.”
The House GOP budget slows the rate of spending increases over the next decade from five percent to 3.4 percent. Even if the tax reform and Obamacare repeal were to happen, economic growth needs to be robust to balance the books by 2023. Rice says a lack of certainty is the biggest hurdle to that growth taking off.
“They want a clear path first and foremost. They want to know what the rules are. We keep kicking the can down the road. We keep doing all these temporary measures. Nobody can rely on what the rules are going to be to make investment decisions. That’s from big company to small, and I promise you that hurts hiring and that hurts job growth. So we need to come up with a long-term plan and stop these short-term band-aids,” said Rice, who also blasted the regulatory red tape facing business owners.
“Seems to me we’re doing everything we can to hold up progress, where it takes five to ten years to get a permit to build a road or it takes ten years to get approval to build a power plant. We’re our own worst enemy. We hold up progress here while other countries are passing us by,” said Rice.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review are pleased to see a judge strike down New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s giant soda ban as “arbitrary and capricious”. They also groan as the Marine Corps commandant orders troops to conserve ammunition and gasoline while the government has no problem funding frivolous programs. And they react to Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill’s revulsion after being subjected to a thorough pat-down by the TSA.
Former Ohio Rep. Bob Ney admits he broke the law and deserved to be sent to prison, but he says the corrupt political system he succumbed to desperately needs changing and House Speaker John Boehner is part of the problem.
Ney resigned from Congress in 2006 and pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges in connection to the scandal surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He subsequently spent 30 months behind bars and is now the author of “Sideswiped: Lessons Learned Courtesy of the Hit Men on Capitol Hill.”
He says the thirst for political donations began almost instantly after Republicans won the House in 1994.
“It was very clear we had to keep this revolution going in 1996, this Republican Revolution. We needed money to do it. We had to raise money. You had to get on the telephones, etc., etc., etc.,” said Ney, who said that focus included government trips, countless receptions and fundraisers, donors getting access to lawmakers and more.
“From day one, the way Washington works was the way it worked. Crossing the line, eventually on my part, came a little bit later,” said Ney.
Crossing the line in the Abramoff scandal evolved organically, as Ney says he drifted from playing the Washington game to committing crimes to help Abramoff accomplish his clients’ goals.
“People were eating and drinking for free on both sides of the aisle. There were times I would have to try to shove Bush White House staffers away from Jack Abramoff’s bar to try to get a drink. That’s a fact,” said Ney. “That morphed into a trip to Scotland. That morphed into doing things, signing things, SunCruz (Florida casino boat scandal). I mean a guy got shot in a phone booth down there during that SunCruz fiasco. Jack Abramoff lied on his forms. I was part of pressuring (SunCruz founder) Gus Boulis, who was eventually murdered by somebody down there. I was part of pressuring that guy to get out of the boat business, and that’s what Jack Abramoff has wanted,” said Ney. “I didn’t realize the full repercussions, but I should have said, ‘Why am I writing this? No, I’m not going to write it. Why are we being offered all the free food we want and my staff’s being offered. No, not going to do it.’ So I crossed that line, knowingly and stupidly.”
Ney’s disdain for Boehner is both personal and professional. In his book, Ney contends that when then-House Majority Leader Boehner asked him to drop his 2006 re-election bid while he was under tight federal scrutiny in exchange for assistance in getting Ney’s legal bills paid and helping him find new employment at similar compensation. Ney writes that Boehner reneged on those promises, but he says Boehner was far from impressive beyond that personal slight.
“I’ve known John Boehner for over two-and-a-half decades. I don’t hate John Boehner. Was I angry at John Boehner in 2006? You better believe it. I make no bones about that. But John Boehner has always been, and this is my opinion but I think the opinion of many, on the lazy side in the sense that he’s a get-along guy. He doesn’t like a lot of controversy. He’s always enjoyed the golfing. I would have to term it an addiction for John Boehner, said Ney.
“I’m not calling anyone an alcoholic, being a recovering alcoholic, but I’ve got to tell you John Boehner is a constant drinker of wine. He’s been seen with lobbyists for decades on a nightly basis and drinking. I’m not judging him but I think it’s part of the story.
“I didn’t just pick on John Boehner in this book. He was part of the whole Abramoff scenario and it’s kind of a complicated scenario within the book,” said Ney, who also hit Boehner over his handling of recent fiscal debates in Congress.
“I think part of this whole sequestration and the fiscal cliff is just John Boehner’s general attitude, and he has been in the throes of lobbyists and money and giving checks out on the floor of the House as many people on both sides of the aisle have. He has a chance as the Speaker of the House to clean this whole mess up because I had an addiction to a substance they are still addicted to today on both sides of the aisle – to campaign contributions,” said Ney.
Once a vigorous opponent of publicly financed elections, Ney is now an ardent supporter of the idea. He has no use for the McCain-Feingold approach, which Ney says only made the problem worse because of it’s loopholes. He says the new laws would need to respect constitutional speech freedoms, but he insists the status quo is unacceptable.
“I would again say the perfect solution is public financing, if they can find a way to do it and to fir through the Constitution. There are other ways. I even had it in writing. They charge you, both parties. You want to be chairman of a committee? You want to be chairman of appropriations? Half a million dollars. You want to be chairman of House Admnistration, which I chaired, it was $150,000. The leaders can take endless amounts of money. That all needs to be taken away it needs to be curtailed on the leaders in both parties who can pressure people for votes when whatever group comes in to spend a fortune,” said Ney.
The ex-congressman also wants to see restrictions on lawmakers becoming lobbyists after they retire from politics.
“The other thing that can be done is stop the absolutely stop the complete revolving door. You want to be a member of Congress? You want to be a staffer? You’re not going to be a lobbyist. I’m not against lobbyists and advocacy groups. They educate, but this whole access deal has got to be curtailed,” said Ney.
During the interview, Ney also said his time in prison helped him break free from his alcohol addiction and he plans to advocate for prison reforms.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review enjoy hearing Democratic congressional hopefuls call President Obama their greatest obstacle in winning Republican-held House seats. Greg and Jim also shake their heads as the diplomatic and security situations in Afghanistan continue to deteriorate. And they react to Jeb Bush saying their would be no political baggage attacked to his last name if he runs in 2016.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul made headlines this week, as his nearly 13-hour filibuster shed light on the question of whether a president can target An American on American soil with a drone strike if they don’t pose an imminent security risk.
The filibuster triggered a response from Attorney General Eric Holder, who stated the government does not have that power under the Constitution, but an accomplished prosecutor of terrorists disagrees.
Andrew C. McCarthy led the government’s prosecution of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and other conspirators behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. He says while Sen. Paul is well-intentioned, the Constitution is not on his side.
“The Constitution does not bar attacks on American citizens on American soil. I think it’s safe to say that in this conflict, we shouldn’t be having attacks on Americans on American soil because 12 years after 9-11, we know what the enemy’s capabilities are. We know how the enemy operates,” said McCarthy. “There would be no problem amending the authorization for the use of military force to ban attacks on Americans on American soil and leave the Constitution to the side.”
McCarthy says those looking for the courts to rule the Constitution upholds Sen. Paul’s position in this debate could well be in for a shock.
“The constitutional cases that we’ve had over the years have held that American citizens who join with the enemy can be detained without trial, subjected to military commissions, executed after military commissions, interrogated without counsel, the whole nine yards,” he said. “It doesn’t make any rational sense to say that you can treat an American citizen who joins with the enemy exactly as you treat the enemy in every single particular except death.”
“The Constitution is there to give broad latitude to the government in the event that whatever power is needed to be marshaled to quell not just the threat that’s posed by the conflict we’re in now, but any conceivable threat. I can easily imagine several scenarios where we would have enemies invading the United States, attacking the United States, who are joined by people who happen to be American citizens in the United States, where we might have a conflict where it’s very conceivable that you would be attacking American citizens,” said McCarthy. “Once you say the Constitution forbids American citizens from being attacked on American soil, the next thing is what about American citizens on foreign soil and then what about foreign citizens on American soil? If it’s the Constitution that’s the basis of all this, rather than sensible legislation with respect to the authorization for military force, you’re basically rolling out a gold mine for our enemies – a gold mine of constitutional protections.”
But doesn’t being an American citizen carry greater constitutional protections than for a non-citizen? Not as much as you might think according to McCarthy.
“I think it’s a useful populist tool for Sen. Paul and it will be of legal insignificance to the court,” said McCarthy, who says that court’s won’t likely approve protecting citizens and not protecting non-citizens.