A nonpartisan group focused on reducing spending and the national debt has blasted Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) for having a “short-sighted view of the nation’s spending crisis” and “hypocrisy” for not putting defense spending under the same scrutiny as other parts of the federal budget.
Ryan penned an op-ed this week for Real Clear Defense in which he decried President Barack Obama and administration official’s “cuts” to the Defense Department and the military. The Wisconsin Republican argued that his budget “would change course,” spending “$274 billion more than the President’s request.”
Jonathan Bydlak, president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, says that Ryan’s criticism is off the mark, offering it as an example of why Republicans lack credibility to claim that they can deal with the United States’ fiscal woes.
“With his Wednesday statements, Rep. Paul Ryan offers a stunningly shortsighted view of the nation’s spending crisis and shows clearly why so many Republicans have no credibility on the spending issue,” said Bydlak in a press release.
“Ryan seems to be working from the clichéd and dubious assumption that President Obama is ‘gutting’ the military,” he said. “President Obama and Defense Sec. Hagel have a different approach to military funds, to be sure. But Pentagon-budget slashers they are most certainly not.”
Don’t feel sorry for the conservative groups wrongly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service. Nope. The “influence of outside money” is the real controversy, says Alex Wagner. In fact, the hosted declared, the real victim of this scandal is the powerful tax agency itself.
“Really, so much of the actual story here has gotten buried under the morass of Darrell Issa’s insanity,” Wagner said yesterday on her show. “But there is a controversy here. I think that controversy is a) the undo, unprecedented, and historic influence of outside money in our political system. And b) how little we have in the way of stop gaps in the way of oversight, in the way of, sort of, clear marching orders for the IRS for these groups seeking to influence our political system.”
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has led the most notable investigation into the IRS scandal. His committee has twice brought Lois Lerner, the disgraced agency official at the center of inquiries, only to hear her invoke her Fifth Amendment rights.
The committee vote yesterday to find Lerner in contempt of Congress, a matter that will eventually come before the full House for a vote, likely after the two-week recess.
Earlier this week, baseball legend Hank Aaron was honored on the 40th anniversary of home run #715, breaking the record long held by Babe Ruth. Aaron earned that record the old fashioned way, through hard work, dedication to his craft, and most of all, endurance. Aaron’s achievement was marked by perseverance rather than the stain of steroid use. He hit thirteen home runs his first year in Major League Baseball, as few as ten home runs his final season, with a high of 47 home runs in 1971.
“Hammerin’ Hank” was the consummate professional, enduring the hatred and racism of past generations who hurled vitriol and racial epithets at him. He went about his work with a quiet dignity and grace that was laudable considering the mistreatment he endured. I was but a boy of four when he completed his MLB career, but as a lifelong Braves fan who grew up watching them play every night from spring to fall on TBS, I was immersed in the legend that was Hank Aaron. Yes, this includes the dark days of the mid-to-late 1980’s when the Braves were so bad you could buy nose-bleed seats for $5 and walk down and sit behind the dugout by the third inning because the stadium was so empty. If they were getting beat badly enough, they may grab you out of the stands and throw a jersey on you and send you into the game.
Rumors of a conservative rebellion in the House of Representatives are beginning to get more attention. The Atlantic reports that 40 to 50 Republican members are ready to oust Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and replace him with someone willing to work with conservatives in the ranks:
The conservatives’ exasperation with leadership is well known. And now, in discreet dinners at the Capitol Hill Club and in winding, hypothetical-laced email chains, they’re trying to figure out what to do about it. Some say it’s enough to coalesce behind—and start whipping votes for—a single conservative leadership candidate. Others want to cut a deal with Majority Leader Eric Cantor: We’ll back you for speaker if you promise to bring aboard a conservative lieutenant.
But there’s a more audacious option on the table, according to conservatives involved in the deliberations. They say between 40 and 50 members have already committed verbally to electing a new speaker. If those numbers hold, organizers say, they could force Boehner to step aside as speaker in late November, when the incoming GOP conference meets for the first time, by showing him that he won’t have the votes to be reelected in January.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) did something yesterday that no House Democrat would dare do. The South Carolina conservative presented President Barack Obama’s tax and spend FY 2015 budget for a floor vote.
The budget unveiled by President Obama last month relies upon $3.5 trillion in higher than expected revenues to the federal government over the next 10 years. The increased revenues rely on rosy economic growth scenarios as well as $1 trillion in new taxes to finance a budget that never comes into balance.
The White House’s budget, however, failed to gain any real support when it was presented on the House floor. It was defeated by a 2 to 413 vote. The two votes came from Reps. Mary Kaptur (D-OH) and Jim Moran (D-VA).
President Obama’s budget was just one of several offered as amendments on the floor yesterday before the final vote on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) “Path to Prosperity.”
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-NM) offered the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ alternative budget, which, believe it or not, is worse than the White House’s proposal. That measure did remarkably better — which should tell you exactly how far left the much of Democratic Party has drifted — but still failed, 89 to 327.
“How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.” — Adam Smith
— KathLOLn SebLOLus: In case you haven’t heard, our dear Health and Human Services secretary has called it quits. Sebelius recently submitted to her resignation to President Obama, apparently in early March. He’s expected to, at some point today, appoint OMB Director Sylvia Burwell to succeed Sebelius.
The New York Times reports that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigned her post this week, though she apparently wasn’t forced, and the White House will announce her replacement tomorrow morning:
Mr. Obama accepted Ms. Sebelius’s resignation this week, and on Friday morning he will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace her, officials said.
Officials said Ms. Sebelius, 65, made the decision to resign and was not forced out. But the frustration at the White House over her performance had become increasingly clear, as administration aides worried that the crippling problems at HealthCare.gov, the website set up to enroll Americans in insurance exchanges, would result in lasting damage to the president’s legacy.
Even last week, as Mr. Obama triumphantly announced that enrollments in the exchanges had exceeded seven million, she did not appear next to him for the news conference in the Rose Garden.
The president is hoping that Ms. Burwell, 48, a Harvard- and Oxford-educated West Virginia native with a background in economic policy, will bring an intense focus and management acumen to the department. The budget office, which she has overseen since April of last year, is deeply involved in developing and carrying out health care policy.
Sebelius’ resignation comes less than two weeks after the first Obamacare enrollment period ended. Republicans pushed the White House to hold the HHS secretary for the utter failures of the initial launch of the federal Obamacare exchange, Healthcare.gov.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) isn’t all that fond of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) vicious attacks against Charles and David Koch, billionaire brothers who donate to conservative and libertarian causes.
“It’s us in the middle that have to start making something happen here in Washington to move this country forward. People want jobs. You don’t beat up people,” Manchin said this morning on Fox and Friends. “I don’t agree with their politics or philosophically, but you know, they’re Americans who are paying their taxes. They’re not breaking the law. They’re providing jobs.”
Manchin, who hails from a red state, has frequently bucked from Democratic leadership on big issues, including further energy regulation and certain aspects of Obamacare. Reid, however, has tried to demonize the Koch brothers from the Senate floor, using them as part of the Democratic Party’s election year strategy to change the subject to anything other than the unpopular healthcare law and the still struggling economy.
Sen. Angus King (I-ME), one of two independents in the Senate currently caucusing with Democrats, is openly tossing around the idea of switching sides should Republicans take control of the upper chamber this fall, according to The Hill:
“I’ll make my decision at the time based on what I think is best for Maine,” King told The Hill Wednesday after voting with Republicans to block the Paycheck Fairness Act, a measure at the center for the 2014 Democratic campaign agenda.
King’s remarks are a clear indication that congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle will have to woo the 70-year-old senator in order to recruit him to their side.
The Hill surmises that King’s caucus alignment could be the deciding factor if Republicans wind up evenly splitting seats with Democrats, in which case the tie-breaking vote would go to Vice President Joe Biden.
That’s an unlikely scenario, but if Republican leaders were to sweeten the deal with a plum committee assignment, it could be enough to woo him over and, thus, tip the scales of control of the Senate to the GOP. At the same time, however, Republicans will have to defend several potentially competitive seats in 2016, so that’s something that King will keep in mind as he makes a decision.
But if King does decide to caucus with Senate Republicans, it would be an unlikely relationship. He’s not exactly in lockstep the GOP’s positions. The Maine senator, for example, has been a more reliable vote than some of his colleagues who are actually Democrats.
The IRS might want to change the rules when it comes to social welfare groups to force them to disclose their donors and keep them from engaging in political activities and exercising free speech, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, but when it comes to cracking down on their own employees, who are prohibited from conducting politics while on government time due to the federal Hatch Act, the agency seems to lack in effort.
The Office of Special Counsel has reported that employees at a Dallas IRS office were often seen with pro-Obama campaign buttons while at work. Obama computer screensavers were also often spotted at employees’ monitors during business hours. Agents investigating these allegations say that employees were also spotted encouraging taxpayers to reelect Barack Obama at help lines.
According to the Office of Special Counsel, the employee who may have committed this infraction will face significant disciplinary action as a result of his political activities while working for the government.
These reports follow the release of information concerning a Kentucky IRS employee who agreed to serve a 14-day suspension after he fired several accusations against the Republican Party in a conversation with a taxpayer while on the job.
The current accusations involving IRS employees are being investigated while the House Ways and Means Committee votes to pass a resolution that would hold Lois Lerner, the former IRS tax-exempt division director, in contempt of Congress for failing to testify.