Jason Pye

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NE Senate: FreedomWorks reverses course, endorses Ben Sasse

Citing input from conservative activists in the state, FreedomWorks PAC announced this afternoon that it had decided to withdraw its support of Shane Osborn and endorse Ben Sasse in the race for Nebraska open U.S. Senate seat.

“Both Osborn and Sasse are great people, and this was not a decision taken lightly,” said FreedomWorks PAC President Matt Kibbe in a statement. “The question at the heart of this decision is, who would caucus with the Freedom Caucus, and who would fall in line with the establishment?”

“At this point, it is clear that Shane Osborn formed allegiances with Mitch McConnell and the K Street lobbying class. For us, that progression away from the grassroots has tipped the balance. FreedomWorks PAC has a responsibility to endorse the most reliable candidate for liberty, and after following the evolution of this primary, it’s clear that Ben Sasse is the man for the job,” he added.

The organization endorsed Osborn in November, saying in a statement that “Shane’s dedication to constitutional principles and a return to fiscal sanity is beyond reproach.”

FreedomWorks had previously published commentary taking aim at Sasse on the healthcare issue, stating that he “support[ed] the basic principles of Obamacare” and and accused the candidate of backing “something akin to Romneycare” as a replacement.

Bill Clinton questions Obama administration move ceding Internet oversight

Bill Clinton wonders whether the Obama administration’s move to cede the United States’ last remaining oversight of the Internet could hurt online freedom should countries with a history of censorship claim a stake in its future.

The former president, speaking last week on a panel at event hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative, said the Internet has “flourished in freedom” under U.S. control, though he favors the theory of a “multi-stakeholder process” that would have oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

“Whatever you believe about what the NSA has done, what the proposals the president’s made to change it, whatever, the Internet has flourished in freedom, and people have had access to it,” said Clinton. “And whether it was trying to keep access open in Iran after their disputed election with the Green Revolution, whether it’s trying to make sure you could use it and people could follow your struggles in driving. We’ve been there on that. Whatever you think is wrong.”

“And all I’m saying is, I understand in theory why we would like to have a multi-stakeholder process, I favor that, I just know that a lot of these so-called multi-stakeholders are really governments that want to gag people and restrict access to the Internet,” he added.

Mulvaney to seek Republican Study Committee chairmanship

Mick Mulvaney

There’s already some jockeying for position for important roles in the next Congress. The National Journal reports that Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) will seek the chairmanship of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a caucus that has historically advanced fiscally conservative causes in the House:

Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina will seek the chairmanship of the Republican Study Committee in the 114th Congress, National Journal has learned, the first significant measure of internal campaigning amid a season marked by quiet, cautious jostling for positions in the next session.
[…]
Mulvaney, a sophomore lawmaker known for his sharp tongue and quick wit, has long been viewed as a favorite to succeed Scalise—partly because of his relationship with some of the founders, including Hensarling and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. Mulvaney’s path to the chairmanship could be complicated, however, if the group’s bylaws are changed.

According to several sources with direct knowledge of the deliberations, the founders are considering a new system under which they would vet candidates and recommend certain people to be included in a caucus-wide vote—without endorsing anyone. Nothing has been finalized, sources cautioned, but the goal would be to avoid having the group’s leaders taking sides in divisive runoff elections.

OK Senate: Senate Conservatives Fund backs T.W. Shannon

T.W. Shannon

Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) may not be in for a cakewalk in his bid to serve the remaining two years of Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) term. His conservative primary opponent, former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, is gaining momentum.

Early polls indicated that Lankford was the odds on favorite to win the June 24 Republican Senate primary. An early February poll conducted by Harper Polling, for example, found Lankford with a 27-point lead over Shannon.

But the race looks like its shifting. Sarah Palin endorsed Shannon in mid-March and a poll from an outside group backing the insurgent conservative’s campaign showed that he had narrowed the gap to single digits.

Senate Conservatives Fund is hoping that it can keep the momentum in Shannon’s corner. The organization, known for challenging the status quo, announced on Thursday it is backing Shannon in the Republican primary.

“T.W. Shannon is a constitutional conservative who will fight to stop the massive spending and debt that are bankrupting our country,” said Matt Hoskins, executive director of Senate Conservatives Fund. “T.W. Shannon believes in the principles of freedom that make this country great and will stand up to the big spenders in both parties to balance the budget and stop Obamacare.”

Enrollment extension could cause headaches for insurers

The Obama administration’s extension of the Obamacare open enrollment period past the original March 31 deadline could be a headache for insurance companies participating on the exchanges. Insurers are supposed to begin submitting their rates for 2015 in a couple of months, and the extended enrollment period is adding to the uncertainty created by the law:

Insurers fear that past-deadline enrollees could complicate efforts to calculate premiums for next year, which will be filed with regulators from this spring. Health plans want to know who has signed up this year and their medical needs, so they can gauge what to charge in 2015.

“The more information that’s coming in that we can’t use for our [rate] filing because of the time frame, the less accurate and predictive we will be,” said Patrick Getzen, chief actuary at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Insurers have also pushed for enrollment periods to be tightly restricted, to avoid the prospect of healthy people waiting until they have an accident or illness to obtain coverage now that health plans can no longer bar people based on their medical condition. “The special enrollment period needs to be limited to a clear period of time,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group.

AP poll: Obamacare support falls to record-low 26%

As the White House gloats about the latest Obamacare “enrollment” numbers (hint: they’re not actual enrollment numbers), a new Associated Press/GfK survey finds that support for Obamacare has dropped to its lowest level on record:

Public support for President Barack Obama’s health care law is languishing at its lowest level since passage of the landmark legislation four years ago, according to a new poll.

The Associated Press-GfK survey finds that 26 percent of Americans support the Affordable Care Act. Yet even fewer — 13 percent — think it will be completely repealed. A narrow majority expects the law to be further implemented with minor changes, or as passed.

The lack of support for the law is obviously a big problem for Senate Democrats, who are scrambling to retain their majority in the chamber. That’s why a handful of Democrats — including vulnerable members, Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Mark Begich (D-AK), up for reelection this year — are pushing so-called “fixes” to Obamacare.

But it’s not all good news for opponents of Obamacare. The survey also found that public opposition, though still high, has dropped slightly since the law was passed:

The poll found that much of the slippage for the health care law over the last four years has come from a drop in support, not an increase in opposition.

Amash hints at anti-NSA amendment should proposed reforms fall short

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a fierce critic of NSA, may once again try to push an amendment to end the intelligence agency’s bulk metadata collection program if dueling legislative proposals pushed by the White House and House Intelligence Committee don’t rein in the controversial intelligence agency:

“We don’t have enough information about the administration’s proposal to really understand where they’re going with it,” Amash said Wednesday.

“We’ve seen some of what the House Intelligence Committee has put out. … Based on what I’ve read about it, it appears to expand the NSA’s authority,” he said. “It doesn’t end bulk collection but actually puts more Americans in danger of having their constitutionally protected rights violated.”
[…]
Amash said Wednesday that he is waiting to see what happens with [the USA FREEDOM Act] before deciding whether to push his amendment once again.

“We’ll do it if we need to do it,” Amash said.

“I’d like to see comprehensive legislation like the USA Freedom Act go forward,” he said. “We are certainly willing to consider adding ideas from the Intelligence Committee, from the administration, to that legislation, but if no legislation is going to go forward to protect the rights of Americans, then I’m certainly open to offering further amendments.”

Today in Liberty: Senate Dems outline Obamacare “fixes,” growth not keeping up with projections

“The American founders often referred to a ‘Liberty Tree.’ Our generation didn’t plant that tree - we didn’t grow that tree - we were simply handed it by the generations of Americans who came before us….Let us highly resolve not to rest until we have delivered to our sons and daughters a Liberty Tree that is just as healthy, a Constitution that is just as strong; and a nation that is just as free as those that our fathers and mothers gave to us.” — Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA)

— Senate Dems finally rollout Obamacare fixes: After months of talking about the need for fixes to the law, six Senate Democrats have finally offered some specifics on how they plan to address at least some of Americans’ concerns. The biggest proposal is the introduction of a “Copper Plan,” which, they write at Politico Magazine, “will give consumers more control over their own coverage, spur competition and, most importantly, increase affordability.” Two of the Democrats, Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Mark Begich (D-AK), are up for reelection this year and are thought to be among the chamber’s most vulnerable members. Despite the push for fixes, the Heritage Foundation notes that most of the six “didn’t have strong initial reservations about the massive bill when Obama signed it into law in March 2010.”

CO Senate: Udall would vote for Obamacare again

A recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 51% of Colorado voters disapprove of Obamacare while just 39% support the law. On top of that finding, 58% said that the rollout of the law was unsuccessful.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the poll also found that Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) holds just a 2-point lead over his likely Republican challenger, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO).

Though his approval rating was just barely above water, Udall has been plagued by President Obama’s net-negative approval rating, 43/53, in the state and voter sentiment toward Obamacare.

The Colorado Democrat, however, is doubling down on Obamacare, despite how Colorado voters feel about the law. In an interview with a Denver-based radio station, Udall said that he’d vote for Obamacare again.

“We now have a system that is far from perfect, but my focus is making it work for Coloradans. And that’s the Colorado spirit,” said Udall after hitting all the recent Democratic talking points, including a reference to the Koch brothers. “We can’t go back to a time when if you were a woman the insurance companies could drop your coverage. Too many families went into bankruptcy because of health care costs.”

“So in the end we did the right thing. The law is far from perfect. My focus is making it work for Colorado,” he added.

“So you’d do it again?” the host asked.

“I would do it again, yes, I would,” he said. “I think, look, if I were there I would say here are some things that we should have done differently, here are some things that make more sense.”

Proposed NSA reforms close one loophole while leaving others open

President Barack Obama rolled out a proposal earlier this week that would end the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk phone metadata collection program. The House Intelligence Committee has a proposal of its own purports to achieve the same end.

The proposal pushed by the White House has been received with cautious optimism from civil libertarians, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). They like what they’ve heard, but have explained that the devil is in the details.

Others, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), have pointed out that there’s already a proposal in Congress, the USA FREEDOM Act, that would end bulk data collection. Privacy advocates, however, have panned the House Intelligence Committee’s proposal, which is backed by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

In Wednesday’s Cato Daily Podcast, Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute, discussed and dissected both President Obama and the House Intelligence Committee’s proposal, finding them to be welcome news. But he also pointed out that both measures still leave open the possibility of access to Americans’ personal information.

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