Legislative intent matters: Democrats removed availability of subsidies through the federal exchange before Obamacare was passed

Obamacare supporters are very worried about last week’s decision in Halbig v. Burwell, in which the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the IRS didn’t have the authority to dole out subsidies to consumers who purchased covered on the federal insurance Exchange.

In light of recently discovered January 2012 comments made by Jonathan Gruber, chief architect of the Obamacare, the Obama administration’s allies are trying to spin the legislative history of the law.

Greg Sargent, who writes at the Washington Post’s PlumLine blog, says that language authorizing the federal Exchange was actually in the version of Obamacare that passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, but was taken out when its version was merged with the Senate Finance Committee’s version:

A reconstruction of the process by which that contested phrase got into the law demonstrates two key facts:

1) The first Senate version of the health law to be passed in 2009 — by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — explicitly stated that subsides would go to people on the federally-established exchange. A committee memo describing the bill circulated at the time spelled this out with total clarity.

Whoa: Disgraced ex-IRS official Lois Lerner really, really hates conservatives

The House Ways and Means Committee is out with a new bombshell revelation in its investigation of disgraced former IRS official Lois Lerner. Turns out that she believes the “our own crazies” are worse than “alien teRrorists” (sic).

The Committee released email correspondence between Lerner and another IRS employee (PDF), whose name has been reacted. What started as a discussion about mundane stuff turned into a rant from the unnamed employee against the “wacko wing of the GOP,” “right wing radio shows” and their “rabid” callers. Lerner lamented that “[m]aybe we are through if there are that many assholes.”

“So we don’t need to worry about alien teRrorists (sic),” Lerner says in one of the emails. “It’s our own crazies that will take us down.”

Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) fired off a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder (PDF) urging that he “begin aggressively investigating” the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups.

“Despite the serious investigation and evidence this Committee has undertaken into the IRS’s targeting of individuals for their beliefs, there is no indication that DOJ is taking this matter seriously,” Camp said in a press release. “In light of this new information, I hope DOJ will aggressively pursue this case and finally appoint a special counsel, so the full truth can be revealed and justice is served.”

Ted Cruz says the new and improved USA FREEDOM Act would end the NSA’s unconstitutional spying program

The new version of the USA FREEDOM Act rolled out on Tuesday by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has picked up the support of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who announced the addition of his name a cosponsor.

The latest version of the USA FREEDOM Act, a compromise Leahy worked out with the White House, would end the National Service Agency’s bulk metadata collection program as well as add a civil liberties panel to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to provide some much-needed oversight.

Cruz hailed the measure a bipartisan approach to ending NSA spying.

“Republicans and Democrats are showing America that the government can respect the privacy rights of law-abiding citizens, while at the same time, giving law enforcement the tools needed to target terrorists,” said Cruz in a press release on Tuesday. “The USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 ends the government’s bulk record collection program and implements other necessary surveillance reforms.”

“Importantly, it also sends a strong signal that a bipartisan coalition in Congress is working to safeguard our privacy rights,” said Cruz. “I am honored to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle toward delivering this bill to the President’s desk for his signature. We need to protect the constitutional rights of every American.”

Harry Reid is why Congress can’t get anything done: Senate leader says House border bill is a vehicle to pass immigration reform

There are 358 House-passed bills collecting dust in the Senate because Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) won’t bring them up for a vote in the upper chamber. Of course, when the two houses of Congress are controlled by competing parties, there’s naturally going to be disagreement on issues facing the country and subsequent legislative gridlock.

But even when there is agreement on an issue, someone tries to take advantage of the situation, only further complicating the legislative process. That’s what Reid did yesterday when he suggested that the House border bill could be used as a vehicle to pass Senate’s immigration reform package:

Reid said the policy changes would give him an opportunity to attach the comprehensive immigration reform bill that the Senate passed last year with the support of 14 Republicans.

“If they pass that, maybe it’s an opening for us to have a conference on our comprehensive immigration reform. If they’re finally sending us something on immigration, maybe we can do that,” Reid told reporters after a lunch meeting with his caucus.

“We’ve been looking for something to do a conference on. Maybe we can do it with that,” Reid said.

Ending the politicization of the IRS: A new House report recommends nixing the tax agency commissioner’s job

More than a year after the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups became public knowledge, a key House committee has made a long list of recommendations to end the politicization of the powerful federal tax agency.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a report, Making Sure Targeting Never Happens: Getting Politics Out of the IRS and Other Solutions, on Tuesday that outlines 15 proposals to reform the IRS, protect Americans’ free speech and privacy rights, and much more.

“As the Committee continues its comprehensive investigation into IRS targeting of Americans for their political beliefs, both immediate and long-term reforms are needed to prevent such targeting from ever happening again,” Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said in a press release. “We must make structural changes to improve internal oversight and get politics out of the IRS. The current imbalance of IRS power over taxpayers must cede to a system that recognizes and protects the rights of taxpayers.”

The Committee proposes that the IRS commissioner post, currently held by John Koskinen, be replaced with a multi-member, bipartisan commission, which, the report says, would bring much-needed checks and balances to the agency. The IRS commissioner is currently appointed by the president and subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Today in Liberty: Treasury Department halts Ex-Im deals with Russia, federal court grants D.C. a stay on gun rights ruling

“I am a libertarian with a small ‘l’ and a Republican with a capital ‘R’. And I am a Republican with a capital ‘R’ on grounds of expediency, not on principle.” — Milton Friedman

— Boehner dismisses Democrats’ impeachment “scam”: Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) says that the talk of impeachment is a “scam” being pushed by Democrats to boost their fundraising numbers and motivate their base. “This whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president’s own staff — and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they’re trying to rally their people to give money and show up in this year’s election,” said Boehner, according to the Washington Examiner. “We have no plans to impeach the president; we have no future plans. Listen, it’s all a scam started by Democrats at the White House.” Between Friday and Monday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) sent out at least 19 fundraising emails (see them here and here) referencing either the lawsuit that Boehner plans to file against the White House or impeachment. The DCCC sent four more on Tuesday, including one with “ⓘⓜⓟⓔⓐⓒⓗⓜⓔⓝⓣ” in the subject line. The White House, however, says that it won’t discourage Democrats from fundraising off the completely unserious threat of impeachment.

Cronyism: White House advisor intervened to expand Obamacare’s health insurance bailout to limit dramatic premium increases

Barack Obama and Valerie Jarrett

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has uncovered correspondence between White House advisor Valerie Jarrett and a health insurance company executive after he gave a “heads-up” that the Obamacare bailout wouldn’t be enough to avoid the “unwelcome surprise” of higher than expected premium increases.

Chet Burrell, President and CEO of Care First Blue Cross Blue Shield, reached out to Jarrett on April 4 at 10:20 am to bring the issue to her attention. Katherine Branch, the White House advisor’s assistant, replied less than 30 minutes later to ask if he was available to talk to Jarrett later that afternoon.

Burrell and Jarrett apparently had that little chat. He followed up the next day with a summary of the issue he talked with her about. The document attached in the email expressed concern over the budget neutrality of Obamacare’s “risk corridor” program, known to many as the insurer “bailout.”

The risk corridor program guarantees payments from the from the federal government to insurers if the risk pool isn’t properly balanced with the young and healthy people who are intended to offset the costs of sick and unhealthy consumers. The payments come from a fund into which insurers contribute, and it was originally scored as budget-neutral, meaning that there wouldn’t be any cost to taxpayers.

Given the unlikelihood of many insurers contributing to the program due to unbalanced risk pools, Burrell suggested that insurance premiums would rise, and spark a negative public reaction, unless the administration was willing to “clarify” (read: provide more funding) the bailout rule.

Stop the NSA: There is a new push in Congress to end the NSA’s unconstitutional domestic surveillance programs

There may finally be a passable piece of legislation in Congress to end the National Service Agency’s bulk metadata collection program as well as add some much-needed oversight to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

After working with the White House on compromise language, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) rolled out legislation — a new USA FREEDOM Act — today that would protect Americans’ civil liberties from the NSA’s spying programs:

Leahy’s bill would prevent the possibility of that broad collection by requiring agents use specific terms in their searches.

It also requires the government to disclose the number of people caught up in its searches, declare how many of them were Americans and provides more ways for tech companies to report the number of government requests for information they receive, which firms have said is critical to restoring people’s trust in their products.

Finally, Leahy’s bill would also add a panel of special civil liberties advocates to the secretive court overseeing intelligence operations, which currently only hears arguments from the government.

In announcing the bill, Leahy trumpeted support from tech companies including Apple and Google, which have teamed up with other tech giants in the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, as well as privacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Watch Reason’s absolutely amazing response to the call for a disastrous minimum wage increase

So, last week, Funny or Die released a video featuring actress Kristen Bell as a Mary Poppins who is struggling to work as a nanny on a $7.25 hourly wage. Basically, it’s a nearly 3-minute video making the case for President Barack Obama’s $10.10 minimum wage increase.

“Just a $3 increase can make a living wage,” Bell, star of Disney’s hit animated flick Frozen, sings to the tune of “A Spoonful of Sugar” from the 1964 film, Mary Poppins. “It makes a living wage. It makes a living wage.”

Well, Reason TV respond with its own Mary Poppins-style short. In the video, Remy, a comedian who frequently works with Reason on videos that parody current events and policy in hilarious videos and equally funny songs, plays a chimney-sweeper who explains the unintended consequences of a minimum wage increase.

“Just 3 pages of Econ. And perhaps your mind will change. When free people arrange
Voluntary exchange,” Remy says. “Just 3 pages of Econ. With this talk of ‘living wage,’ tell me, what do you folks pay?”

Watch the video below:

The debate over Ex-Im is a decisive moment for conservatives: Democrats are feverishly working to save the crony Bank

As usual, Washington is trying to play politics instead of looking at the long-term consequences of bad policies, putting what they see as the most appropriate short-term solution ahead of what would, in the long run, provide a more just scenario to business owners across the board, while relieving taxpayers in the process.

The debate surrounding the Export-Import Bank could represent a decisive moment for small-government Republicans who oppose corporate welfare, considering their anti-cronyism positions have been adamantly opposed to what the Democrats consider being “pro-business.”

The two parties have their own solutions to the Ex-Im Bank.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has introduced a proposal legislation that would keep the Export-Import Bank running for five more years. His bill, however, would increase the bank’s borrowing capacities, making it effectively capable of loaning more subsidies to major companies that, obviously, need absolutely no help to do their business abroad, especially if that help comes from hard working taxpayers. The transfer of subsidies, and favoritism games play extremely important roles in the process, and that does not seem to faze the Democrat – or his supporters.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), for an instance, has come out in support of the bank.

 


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