Republicans who whine about unconstitutional power grabs are going to let Obama go to war without congressional authorization

Back in July, before members adjourned for its summer recess, the House of Representatives passed a Republican-backed resolution authorizing Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to file a lawsuit against President Barack Obama over his abuses of executive power.

The lawsuit is largely viewed as an alternative to impeachment and could be used to inform Americans on what the administration is going to get around Congress as well as its failure to enforce laws as they’re written. In an op-ed at CNN, Boehner defended the coming lawsuit amid criticism from White House and Democrats and expressed disappointment at President Obama’s “flippant dismissal of the Constitution.”

Unfortunately, it looks like Republican leaders aren’t going to take a similar stand for the Constitution, which puts the question of war solely in the hands of Congress. The Daily Beast reports that the legislative branch may cede its power to the White House by allowing President Obama to use military force against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) without congressional authorization:

Another Brutally Disturbing Example of Government-Run Healthcare from the United Kingdom

Obama can’t say he wasn’t warned: Oh, look, the federal Obamacare exchange website was hacked in July

It may not be as headline grabbing as nude photos of celebrities that were lifted from Apple’s iCloud service, but a breach of Healthcare.gov, the federal Obamacare exchange, brings serious concerns about the security of the system as the Obama administration approaches the next open enrollment period.

The New York Times reports that, in July, hackers uploaded malware to a test server, one connected to Healthcare.gov, though they didn’t steal any information belonging to consumers:

The administration informed Congress of the violation, which it described as “an intrusion on a test server” supporting the website.

“Our review indicates that the server did not contain consumer personal information, data was not transmitted outside the agency and the website was not specifically targeted,” said Aaron Albright, a spokesman at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the website. “We have taken measures to further strengthen security.”

Mr. Albright said the hacking was made possible by several security weaknesses. The test server should not have been connected to the Internet, he said, and it came from the manufacturer with a default password that had not been changed.

In addition, he said, the server was not subject to regular security scans as it should have been.

Keep the Internet tax-free: Conservatives urge the Senate to permanently extend the Internet tax moratorium

A coalition of more than 40 conservative and libertarian organizations and entities have written a letter to members of the United States Senate urging them to pass S. 1431, the Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act, a measure sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and John Thune (R-SD) that would permanent extend the tax moratorium on Internet access.

In July, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3086, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, to ensure that access to the Internet will never be subject to local, state, and/or federal taxes. Unfortunately, the measure has been stalled in the Senate, where some members, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), are trying to attach the so-called “Marketplace Fairness Act” to it.

The Marketplace Fairness Act is, basically, the Internet sales tax. The legislation, backed by brick-and-mortar retailers, would allow states to tax Internet purchases from businesses without a physical presence within their borders. Needless to say, attaching this measure to another one that promotes tax freedom makes no sense. But, well, we’re talking about Washington.

The coalition* — which includes Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Phil Kerpen of American Commitment, and Norman Singleton of Campaign for Liberty — urges senators to pass a clean version of the Internet tax moratorium.

IRS inappropriately asked for conservative groups’ donor lists for a so-called “secret research project”

There’s a long-standing legal precedent that prevents the federal government from accessing information that belongs to private organizations. In 1958, the Supreme Court, ruled that the State of Alabama violated the rights of NAACP members when it demanded information from the civil rights organization, including its membership list.

“Effective advocacy of both public and private points of view, particularly controversial ones, is undeniably enhanced by group association,” wrote Justice John Harlan in the unanimous opinion. “It is beyond debate that freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the ‘liberty’ assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which embraces freedom of speech.”

The Internal Revenue Service, however, doesn’t care. Or, at the very least, the powerful tax agency didn’t care when it was scrutinizing nonprofit organizations, the bulk of which had conservative leanings. Judicial Watch has obtained emails through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in October 2013 in which IRS officials say that donor lists were needed for a unexplained “secret research project”:

Stuck in the Senate: House-passed government funding measures stalled by Harry Reid

“One of my great frustrations with Congress is the chaos,” said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) before members of the Carrollton Rotary Club on August 27. “I think we need a change in Washington, D.C., but when you get there you realize why there is so much inertia and how hard it is to change things when you get there.”

During the speech, Rep. Massie highlighted his frustration with the Senate’s lack of enthusiasm for going over the appropriation bills the House has passed so they may pass it before Congress hits the September 30th deadline. According to Massie, the Senate won’t review any of the nine bills that have passed so far:

“They’re not planning on passing any of them in the Senate. They are planning on doing one bill continuing resolution.”

While the House has spent the summer ensuring the bills funding the government for the new fiscal year are passed, Senate members have been reluctant to go over the specifics. The difference between passing several bills and one major bill, Massie explained, is that a continuing resolution will be their last shot at keeping the government functioning once they run out of time, putting the decision in the hands of four people, instead of the whole congressional body.

America’s Ever-Expanding Regulatory Swamp

Maybe I’m biased because I mostly work on fiscal policy, but it certainly seems feasible to come up with rough estimates for the damage caused by onerous taxes and excessive spending.

On a personal level, for instance, we have a decent idea of how much the government takes from us and we know the aggravation of annual tax returns. And we tend to have some exposure to government bureaucracies, so we’re familiar with the concept of wasteful spending.

But how do you quantify the cost of regulation and red tape? Well, here are some very large numbers to digest.

Americans spend 8.8 billion hours every year filling out government forms.

The economy-wide cost of regulation is now $1.75 trillion.

For every bureaucrat at a regulatory agency, 100 jobs are destroyed in the economy’s productive sector.

The Obama Administration added $236 billion of red tape in 2012 alone.

In other words, the regulatory burden is enormous, but I worry that these numbers lack context and that most of us don’t really grasp how we’re hurt by government intervention.

So let’s look at some additional data.

Only Congress can authorize military action: A stronger response against ISIS may be necessary, but Obama must seek approval

The United States’ airstrike campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is prompting some members of Congress from both parties to push for authorization for any further military action that President Barack Obama wants to take.

The situation is not unlike the push in the House of Representatives in August 2013 to put pressure on President Obama to seek congressional authorization against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-VA) penned separate letters to the White House, signed by more than 170 colleagues, in which they encouraged the administration to come to Congress, as the Constitution requires.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) recently told the Associated Press that, in light of the current situation in Iraq, he wants to “destroy ISIS militarily,” but said that such a campaign would need to be approved by Congress. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has also said that President Obama must ask Congress for further action against ISIS, something that has gotten under the skin of his Democratic colleagues.

Get ready for a showdown over free speech: Harry Reid will push partial repeal of the First Amendment next week

When the Senate returns to Washington next week, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is expected to bring up S.J. Res. 19, a constitutional amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) that would effectively repeal political speech protections in the First Amendment.

Reid filed a motion to proceed on the constitutional amendment on August 1, just before the chamber adjourned for its summer recess. Although the original text of the amendment gave Congress the sole power to regulate political speech, including campaign finance regulations, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure with substitute language to allow states to implement their own rules and regulations, in addition to those passed by Congress.

The measure, however, is an attempt to diminish the influence of issue-focused nonprofit organizations and political action committees, which, Senate Democrats say, are often funded by corporate interests. Section 2 of the amendment would allow Congress and state legislatures to prohibit “corporations or other artificial entities created by law…from spending money to influence elections.”

HealthCare.gov CEO: This enrollment period is going to be even more complicated

Things are running far from smoothly at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ headquarters.

According to The Hill, HealthCare.gov’s newly appointed CEO admitted concern when talking about the many challenges the agency will have to face once the enrollment period rolls in.

The former head of Connecticut’s state exchange Kevin Counihan believes the shorter sign-up period, among other issues, will certainly add more anxiety to the enrollment process, creating headaches for government officials and distress to consumers.

It’s not enough to know technical flaws have been linked to one of the most disastrous government-run program launches in history. It’s also not enough to know that the failure is undoubtedly associated with the Obama administration’s faulty managerial skills; now, we are faced with yet another uncomfortable reality, government officials never learn the lesson.

While reporting the exchange website has indeed gone under extensive repairs since the last botched attempt to provide a health care plan marketplace for consumers, The Hill also highlighted Counihan’s remarks regarding his HealthCare.gov concerns:

“In some respects, it’s going to be more complicated. Part of me thinks that this year is going to make last year look like the good old days.”

 


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