Recent Posts From Jason Pye
Today in Liberty: February jobs report, Rand Paul to speak at CPAC today, House passes $1 billion Ukraine aid package
“There can be no liberty unless there is economic liberty.” — Margaret Thatcher
— February jobs numbers above expectations: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 175,000 jobs were added in February, which is above expectations. The unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 6.7%. The labor force participation rate remained steady an anemic 63%. The December and January numbers were revised upward by a total of 25,000 jobs.
Energy issues will play a role in four key states that could decide control of the Senate in the 2014 mid-term election, according to a new poll. Specifically, President Barack Obama’s decision on the Keystone XL pipeline will weigh on voters’ minds.
The poll, conducted by Hickman Analytics on behalf of Consumer Energy Alliance, found that more than three-quarters of likely voters in four states — Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, and North Carolina — “said they will consider a candidate’s position on energy issues, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline, before deciding whom they will support.”
More than two-thirds of likely voters in these four states support building the Keystone XL pipeline. Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AR), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Kay Hagan (D-NC) support construction of the oil pipeline. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), however, does not.
Whether or not these Senate Democrats support Keystone XL may prove irrelevant depending on what action President Obama takes. The poll found that voters in these four states would be less likely to support a Democratic incumbent if the White House rejects the proposed oil pipeline:
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) has endorsed Dr. Greg Brannon in the North Carolina Republican Senate primary and plans to campaign for the conservative candidate in the Tar Heel state later this month.
In a statement released this morning by Brannon’s campaign, Lee called 2014 a “critical year for conservatives,” noting that North Carolina will play an important role in this year’s mid-term election. He stressed the importance of electing candidates that will “work to restor[e] the proper role of government” and “forward positive, specific policy proposals to get America back on track.”
“Greg Brannon is dedicated to enacting a conservative reform agenda in Congress. He is willing to challenge the status quo and entrenched special interests,” said Lee in the statement. “And he has pledged to work alongside myself, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and others in the Senate to change the way Washington works.”
Lee, a Tea Party favorite, has put forward a number of reform proposals in recent months, including pro-family tax reform and policies that would strengthen the middle class as well as create opportunity for the poor.
“Greg Brannon will be a strong voice for the people in the Senate and I am proud to endorse him,” Lee added.
The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) released a study earlier this week finding that Americans looking to purchase health insurance on the state and federal Obamacare exchanges would find higher premiums and less choice than plans available last year on private exchanges.
The findings in the study aren’t surprising given that Obamacare mandates a number of changes to health insurance, including minimum benefits and actuarial requirements, all of which result increase the cost of coverage. Though the NCPPR offered some insight into the higher costs consumers face, it didn’t offer much in real dollars being spent on health insurance coverage compared to 2013 plans.
eHealthInsurance.com (eHealth), however, has released data that does provide some insight into how much consumers are paying for off-exchange health plans compared to a year ago. Despite a multitude of promises that Obamacare would make health coverage more affordable, the eHealth study proves otherwise.
“As of February 24, 2014, the average premium for an individual health plan selected through eHealth without a subsidy was $274 per month,” the nation’s first and largest private exchange noted in a recent press release, ”a 39% increase from the average individual premium for pre-Obamacare coverage.”
The United States Senate rejected the controversial nomination of Debo Adegbile, President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, largely due to his defense of a convicted cop killer.
Adegbile is a controversial nominee because he filed a brief at the Supreme Court on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who killed a Philadelphia police officer in 1981, when he worked for the NAACP. The brief argued that Abu-Jamal’s conviction was invalid, according to the Washington Post, “because of racial discrimination in jury selection.”
Though the Senate did reject Adegbile’s nomination by a 47 to 52 vote, three vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection this year backed the controversial choice: Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK), Kay Hagan (D-NC), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).
While it’s true that everyone is entitled to legal representation, even cop killers, this trio’s votes for Adegbile’s nomination may not play well back home.
One reason is because it shows their almost unquestioning support of President Obama. The other is because they cast a vote in conflict with the National Fraternal Order of Police (NFOP), which opposed Adegbile because of his defense of Abu-Jamal.
Already facing a difficult path to reelection in a red state, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) handed his opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), a soundbite that is likely to be played on the airwaves from now until voters head to the polls in November.
In an interview with NBC News, Pryor criticized Cotton for a “sense of entitlement” because of his military service.
“There’s a lot of people in the Senate that didn’t serve in the military,” Pryor told NBC News. ”I think it’s part of this sense of entitlement that he gives off is that almost as like ‘I served my country, therefore elect me to the Senate.’ That’s not how it works in Arkansas.”
Speaking of a “sense of entitlement,” Pryor, who never served in the military, currently holds the Senate seat that his father, David Pryor, held from 1979 to 1997. The younger Pryor was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1990 at the age of 27. He ran for and won the state’s Attorney General office in 1998 at 34. He’s served in the Senate seat his father once held since 2003.
House Republicans may not be done with Lois Lerner, the disgraced former IRS official who, for the second time, refused to answer questions about the agency’s targeting of conservative groups. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) indicated that the House could find her in contempt of Congress:
Lerner, former head of the IRS tax-exempt unit and a lightning rod for Republicans in the 9-month-old scandal, invoked her Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer self-incriminating questions at a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing — as she did at a May hearing.
Across the Capitol campus, Speaker John Boehner threatened to hold her in contempt if she continues to refuse to testify.
“I’ll wait for a report from [House Oversight] Chairman [Darrell] Issa about what happened and what will happen, but at some point … she has to testify or she should be held in contempt,” the Ohio Republican said at a news conference after a closed party meeting Wednesday.
If the House votes to hold Lerner in contempt, a court could force her to testify. Theoretically, the House could order her to be arrested and detained pending trial, though this power has not been used in recent decades.
Today in Liberty: CPAC 2014 kicks off today, Crimea to hold secession referendum, NSA chief threatens press
“Sometimes you have to beat the Republicans before you beat the Democrats.” — Matt Kibbe
— Happy Anniversary, Rand Paul!: One year ago today, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made history in the Senate by with a 13-hour talking filibuster against John Brennan’s CIA nomination. Though it didn’t stop Brennan’s confirmation, it did raise awareness to the Obama administration’s drone strikes policy and, almost single-handedly, changed public opinion on the issue. You see our coverage of the filibuster here and here. You can also watch the filibuster, if you have 13 hours to spare, in full via C-SPAN.
— CPAC 2014 begins today: The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the largest annual gathering of conservatives, will begin this morning at 9 am with a speech from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Other speakers today include Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). C-SPAN will air part of today’s events, beginning at 12:40 pm. Politico has a list of things to watch for this weekend.
Nearly an hour after the House of Representatives passed a measure to ostensibly delay enforcement of the individual mandate, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that it would extend the “administrative fix” for canceled health plans through 2016 as well as extended the open enrollment period for 2015:
The Obama administration announced Wednesday it will let people with health insurance plans that don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act standard to keep them into 2017 if their states permit.
The administration also extended Obamacare’s open enrollment for next year by one month—it now will run from Nov. 15, 2014, until Feb. 15, 2015—and gave insurers more financial help in dealing with costs from new ACA enrollees.
The announced rule changes also simplified the paperwork that larger employers will have to file when the rule obliging them to offer affordable health insurance to workers begins in 2015.
Under the new rule, people who maintain those plans, and who renew them as late as Oct. 1, 2016, will be able to keep them until as late as 2017. The administration said the rule will apply to anyone currently in a non-compliant small-group plan, as well as an individual plan, and said it would be up to individual states to allow the extension, and to what extent.
A proposal passed this afternoon by the House of Representatives this week would save taxpayers $9 billion over the next decade, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
H.R. 4118 — Suspending the Individual Mandate Penalty Law Equals Fairness (SIMPLE Fairness) Act — would suspend the controversial individual mandate tax for one-year. The measure is House Republicans’ response to the Obama administration’s most recent delay of the employer mandate.
“CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimate that enacting H.R. 4118 would reduce federal deficits by roughly $10 billion over the 2014-2019 period and by roughly $9 billion over the 2014-2024 period,” the nonpartisan fiscal agency reported. “Pay-as-you-go procedures apply because enacting the legislation would affect direct spending and revenues.”
Those who fail to purchase health insurance by March 31, 2014 will face a tax of $95 or 1% of their gross taxable income, whichever is greater. The individual mandate tax will increase to $695 or 2.5% of gross income by 2016. The SIMPLE Fairness Act would set the tax for 2014 to $0.
The White House pledged to veto the SIMPLE Fairness Act in a statement of administration policy addressed to the House Rules Committee. The measure passed the House of Representatives in a 250 to 160 vote. Twenty-seven Democrats backed the legislation.