Recent Posts From Jason Pye
After months of waiting President Barack Obama to stop sitting on his hands, the House passed a resolution last night in a 241 to 175 vote to bypass the White House and approve the northern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline:
The House passed a bill Wednesday that would approve the northern leg of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline by an act of law, and take the decision out of the hands of President Obama.
Members voted 241-175 in favor of H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act. Republican supporters were joined by 19 Democrats, much less than the level of Democratic support in the last Congress.
The House also accepted a lone Republican amendment from Rep. Randy Weber (Texas), which highlights State Department findings that say the Keystone pipeline is environmentally sound. Weber’s language passed 246-168.
President Obama has promised to veto the measure. That generally means that the Senate won’t even bother taking up the measure. But the upper chamber did pass an amendment to its budget back in March that approved Keystone XL.
There has been some squabbling in the Senate over the appointment of members to a conference committee with the House try to iron out the differences between the chambers over their separate version of the FY 2014 budget. Conservative members of the Senate — led by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Mike Lee (R-UT) — have objected to the appointment of conferees over concern that a budget agreement would be used for a backdoor national debt increase.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) once again attacked these fiscal conservatives. “What we’re saying here on this side of the aisle is we don’t trust our colleagues on the other side of the Capitol who are in the majority,” said McCain, according to Bloomberg.
Cruz responded to McCain yesterday on the floor of the Senate, noting that the fiscal mess in which the United States finds itself is the creation of both parties.
“Madam President, [McCain] urged the body to trust the Republicans,” said Cruz. “Let me be clear — I don’t trust the Republicans. And I don’t trust the Democrats. And I think a whole lot of Americans likewise don’t trust the Republicans and the Democrats, because it is leadership in both parties that has gotten us in this mess.”
“You know, my wife and I have two little girls at home, they’re 5 and 2. When Caroline was born, our national debt was $10 trillion,” he noted. “Today, it’s nearly $17 trillion. In her short five years of life, the national debt has grown by over 60%. Madame President, what we are doing to our kids and grandkids, I think, is immoral.”
Watch the full video of Cruz’s response to McCain below:
It appears that Lois Lerner, the embattled director of the IRS’s Tax-Exempt Division, may have put herself in a bit of a pickle. Despite stating her intention to invoke her Fifth Amendment right in advance of the hearing, Lerner gave an opening statement in which she clearly stated that she had done nothing wrong.
“[M]embers of this committee have accused me of providing false information when I responded to questions about the IRS processing of applications for tax exemption,” Lerner told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday. “I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”
“And while I would very much like to answer the committee’s questions today, I’ve been advised by my counsel to assert my Constitutional right not to testify or answer questions related to the subject matter of this hearing,” she added. “After very careful consideration, I’ve decided to follow my counsel’s advice, and not testify or answer any of the questions today. Because I’m asserting my right not to testify, I know that some people will assume that I’ve done something wrong. I have not.”
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) believes that her opening statement, given before she invoked the Fifth Amendment, was tantamount to her waiving her right:
The IRS and DOJ scandals may have taken Benghazi out of the headlines, but that doesn’t mean that Americans aren’t any less concerned. According to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, 55% of Americans believe that the Obama Administration is trying to cover up the facts about the terrorist attack that claimed the lives of four Americans:
Last year’s deadly attack on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya is shaping up as a real political problem for President Obama, with concern extending well beyond the conservative base. More than half of Americans say his administration is trying to cover up the facts of the attack, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Fully 55 percent say the Obama administration is trying to hide the facts, while just 33 percent say it has honestly disclosed what it knows of the incident. It’s not just Republicans crying foul: Six in 10 independents and nearly three in 10 Democrats say the administration is not being forthright.
Here’s a look at the results:
Unfortunately, the White House has been trying to avoid the scandal. And many of President Obama’s apologists treat Benghazi in much the same way former DNC Howard Dean does. In an appearance on CNBC last week, Dean called the concerns over Benghazi a “laughable joke.”
The Internal Revenue Service has given the Tea Party movement just the boost it needed to motivate the grassroots around the country. The movement that pundits had once declared dead is beginning to gain favorability in the aftermath of the scandal, according to a new CNN poll:
And according to a CNN/ORC International survey released Monday, it’s also boosted the favorable rating for the tea party movement. Thirty-seven percent of people questioned said they see the tea party in a favorable light, up nine percentage points from CNN’s March poll. But a plurality still view the movement unfavorably.
The 37% favorable rating for tea party is just one point shy of their all-time high in CNN polling, which they reached twice in 2010, during the heyday of the movement.
But according to the new poll, 45% of the public continues to hold an unfavorable view of the tea party, with just over one in ten saying they don’t have an opinion. The 45% unfavorable rating for the tea party is down five points from a CNN survey from last November.
The White House just can’t seem to get its story together on the IRS scandal that emerged nearly two weeks ago. While they initially acted as though they’d been blindsided by the admission that the IRS had targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups, Jay Carney admitted yesterday that the White House had conversations with the Treasury Department about the impending Inspector General report:
Just a day after telling reporters that chief of staff Denis McDonough and other senior White House staff learned of the situation nearly a month ago, press secretary Jay Carney revealed Tuesday that White House officials had consulted with the Treasury Department on how to make the findings public.
The conversations “had to do with the timing of the release of the information and the findings of the actual audit,” Carney said, and were led on the White House side by Mark Childress, a deputy chief of staff.
Carney said he hadn’t revealed more information about which officials were aware of the situation and when they were informed in previous briefings because he hadn’t been asked. “I gave you the information in response to the questions, and we have provided an enormous amount of information about the communication we’ve had — who learned what about this and when, the fact that the president was not informed,” he said.
The Justice Department’s already troubling assault on the media just got weirder. Days after it was reported that the DOJ seized phone records from the Associated Press in an attempt to discover a leak from the administration, it was discovered that James Rosen, a Fox News correspondent, was the target of an investigation into a separate leak.
But the story has taken another turn for the worse. It appears that the DOJ also seized phone records from two White House staffers and five additional Fox News reporters:
“The irony is inescapable. Ms. Lerner gets to use her constitutional rights, but then won’t stay and answer questions about Americans being denied their constitutional rights.” — Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)
Earlier this morning, Lois Lerner, the embattled director of the IRS’s Tax-Exempt Division, invoked her Fifth Amendment right before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and refused to answer questions about the agency’s targeting of Tea Party and other conservative organizations:
“I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations,” Lerner, the head of an IRS division overseeing tax-exempt groups that targeted conservative groups, said before the House Oversight Committee.
Lerner then said she was following her counsel’s advice not to testify. “
“I know that some people will assume that I have done something wrong,” she said. “I have not.”
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)asked that she reconsider, but she declined.
Issa then tried to dismiss Lerner, but Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), himself a former prosecutor, said that Lerner had waived her Fifth Amendment rights via her opening statement. Issa eventually did dismiss the IRS official, but said she could be recalled.
Members of Congress are aghast that Apple, makers of Mac and iPhone, used completely legal tax shelters from 2009 to 2012 to avoid paying taxes on $44 billion in international profits. Rather than using the issue as an opportunity to look at the United States’ insanely complicated tax system, a Senate subcommittee brought in Apple for what was basically a show hearing.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee (HSAGC), had strong words for his colleagues. In his prepared remarks, Paul said that he was “offended by the tone and tenor” of the hearing and noted that Apple had not done anything wrong.
“I am offended by the spectacle of dragging in here executives from an American company that is not doing anything illegal. If anyone should be on trial here, it should be Congress,” Paul told members of the committee. “I frankly think the Committee should apologize to Apple. I frankly think Congress should be on trial here for creating a bizarre and byzantine tax code that runs into the tens of thousands of pages, for creating a tax code that simply doesn’t compete with the rest of the world.”
Lois Lerner, the official at the heart of the controversy of the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups, will invoke the Fifth Amendment at this morning’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the scandal:
A top IRS official in the division that reviews nonprofit groups will invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer questions before a House committee investigating the agency’s improper screening of conservative nonprofit groups.
Lois Lerner, the head of the exempt organizations division of the IRS, won’t answer questions about what she knew about the improper screening – or why she didn’t reveal it to Congress, according to a letter from her defense lawyer, William W. Taylor 3rd.
“She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course,” said a letter by Taylor to committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, R-Calif. The letter, sent Monday, was obtained Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times.
Taylor, a criminal defense attorney from the Washington firm of Zuckerman Spaeder, said that the Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation, and that the House committee has asked Lerner to explain why she provided “false or misleading information” to the committee four times last year.
Since Lerner won’t answer questions, Taylor asked that she be excused from appearing, saying that would “have no purpose other than to embarrass or burden her.”