Obama, House Republicans discussing debt ceiling deal

There has been considerable movement in talks between House Republicans and the White House on the debt ceiling over the last 24 hours. There is no definite deal yet, but the wheels are moving.

House Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), have floated the idea of a six-week debt ceiling increase, which conservative groups have indicated they will not oppose and which the White House has said that President Barack Obama would “likely” sign.

Senate, however, is still pushing forward on a long-term debt ceiling increase. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will hold a vote tomorrow on one-year, $1 trillion dollar increase. Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and other moderate Republicans, are working with some Democrats to repeal ObamaCare’s medical device tax and subsidy verification requirements as part of the debt ceiling deal. This potential deal would also give the Obama Administration flexibility on sequester cuts.

John McCain dismisses Ted Cruz, praises Senate Democrats

John McCain

Shortly after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) ended his 21 hour speech against ObamaCare, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) turned to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to criticize conservatives, as he has so often done in the past.

McCain, who has hinted at retirement, has gone to bat for Reid as he tried to push for onerous gun control measure and push their big spending budget into a conference with the House without a guarantee against a stealth debt limit increase. He defended President Barack Obama’s drones policy, calling opponents “wacko birds.”

This time around, however, McCain gave what was essentially the “Democratic response” to Cruz’s speech, as Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) put it yesterday on Twitter.

“I would like to make sure that my colleagues, especially those who were not here in 2009, understand that there are many of us who are oppose to ‘ObamaCare,’ as its called — the Affordable Care Act,” said McCain, who gestured quotes with his hands, “and the opposition we mounted.”

Ted Cruz: Conservatives embarrassed to vote in 2006, 2008

Ted Cruz

The general consensus from conservatives is that Republicans lost their way during the Bush years as spending and the size of government grew larger and larger. “We deserved to lose” was a frequently heard refrain from fiscally conservative Republicans who hope some time in the political wilderness would bring them back to their limited government roots.

It’s unsurprising that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) reflects upon those years in much the same way, but he takes these comments a step further in a profile in GQ, where the freshman Texas senator explains that conservatives felt “embarrassed” to vote in 2006 and 2008, when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was the Republican Party’s nominee:

For a party in the midst of some serious soul-searching, Cruz offers a simple, reassuring solution: Forget the blather about demographic tidal waves and pleas for modernization; all Republicans need to do is return to their small-government, anti-tax fundamentals. “I don’t know a conservative who didn’t feel embarrassed voting in 2006 or 2008,” Cruz told me—a remark that’s sure to endear him even more to McCain. “I think the Republican Party lost its way. We didn’t stand for the principles we’re supposed to believe in.”

Cruz and McCain haven’t seen eye to eye since the former joined the Senate at the beginning of the year. McCain called the trio of senators — Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Cruz — who protested via filibuster the Obama Administration’s drones policy “wacko birds.”

John McCain may finally retire

John McCain

After 27 long years on Capitol Hill and two failed presidential bids, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) may finally be ready to retire. The Hill picked up on comments that the Arizona senator made during a recent interview:

The 77-year-old’s current term is up in 2016. When asked if this would really be his last term, McCain backtracked a bit.

“Nah, I don’t know,” McCain said. “I was trying to make a point. I have to decide in about two years so I don’t have to make a decision. I don’t want to be one of these old guys that should’ve shoved off.”

McCain made the initial remark about retirement off-the-cuff to a group of Obama supporters who interrupted the interview as he was arguing that television providers should unbundle their channels.

Yes, please?

McCain has long been a thorn in the side of conservatives and libertarians, voting for bloated budgets and pushing unpopular positions on a number of policies. Just this year alone, he opposed Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on drones, backed more onerous gun control measures, and tried to help Senate Democrats push their big spending budget into a conference with the House without a guarantee against a stealth debt limit increase.

Heritage Foundation debunks myths about defunding ObamaCare

Heritage Foundation -- Defund ObamaCare

Next month could bring a fight in Congress as some Republicans in both chambers and conservative organizations mount a push to defund ObamaCare. Talking heads and pundits are pushing back against the idea, listing off a number of various reasons why they believe the push is a bad idea.

But the Heritage Foundation contests some of these reasons. They conservative think tank released a new video that seeks to debunk what they call “myths” about defunding ObamaCare.

Some, including Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), have insisted that Congress can’t defund ObamaCare because most of the spending is mandatory — or “baked in the budgetary cake,” if you will.

“That’s just not true,” asserts Chris Jacobs, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. “Congress defunds mandatory spending on appropriations bills every year. In fact, in 2011, Congress defunded [$2.2 billion] in mandatory spending from the ObamaCare co-op program.”

“That’s a good start. We just think Congress needs to finish the job,” he added.

Jacobs also disputes the notion that Republicans and conservative critics of ObamaCare want to shutdown the government. “The only person threatening to shutdown the federal government is President Obama,” he noted.

“President Obama has threatened to shutdown the government because he wants to replace the sequester spending cuts with more tax increases,” said Jacobs. “Conservatives want to keep the federal government open. We just want to shutdown ObamaCare.”

Poll shows support for “defund ObamaCare” push

Defund ObamaCare

As the push to defund ObamaCare gathers steam in both chambers of Congress, establishment Republicans are increasingly worried that, if successful, the inevitable government shutdown would hurt the GOP in next year’s mid-term.

But a new poll commissioned by Heritage Action for America in 10 battleground congressional districts shows strong support for defunding ObamaCare, which casts doubt on claims made by fearmongering Republicans who falsely claim that a government shutdown would hurt the military and other government services.

As it goes there is a contingent in the Republican Party that strongly feels that the defunding ObamaCare in the upcoming Continuing Resolution would be a political loser. Those who are pushing the effort to take on the law want to fund the government, just not ObamaCare, putting the prospect of a government shutdown in President Barack Obama’s hands.

All of the districts are Republican-leaning, but not necessarily “safe” Republican seats. Six of the districts are current held by Republicans, four by Democrats.

The poll, released last week by Heritage Action, found that 77% of likely voters in these 10 districts support either slowing down the implementation of ObamaCare or repeal of the law. Fifty-seven percent (57%) say they support defunding ObamaCare.

Government agencies reduce sequester furloughs

Remember all the complaining about the sequester from the Obama Administration and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle? They presented Americans a doom and gloom scenario in an effort to cancel the very meager spending cuts.

Well, it turns out that government agencies, many of which have seen substantial growth over the years, haven’t experienced that the kind of problems that they claimed they would see. In fact, as Government Executive explains, many have reduced furloughs for government employees:

The earliest examples came from departments that told Congress they would have to furlough employees, but ended up backtracking. The Education and Justice departments fall into this category. The Agriculture, Transportation and Homeland Security departments all received authority to transfer funds between agency accounts, and were therefore able to cancel planned furloughs. The Commerce Department projected furloughs at its National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, only to cancel them in May.

Mike Lee defends push to defund ObamaCare

There has been significant push back in from the Republican establishment over efforts in Congress to defund ObamaCare. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) has been leading the effort in the Senate to cut off funding rather than delay parts of the law, which could lead to a government shut down.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) panned the plan to defund ObamaCare, telling a talk radio host that it’s the “dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.” Karl Rove, who is no fan of fiscal conservatives, recently tried to stoke fear in Republicans, writing in an op-ed that a government shutdown could cost the party the House of Representatives.

In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Lee defended the push by fiscal conservatives in the Senate to defund ObamaCare, noting that it’s “not about liberal or conservative,” but rather “Washington versus everyone else.”

“[W]e always knew ObamaCare was going to be unaffordable. We now also know that it’s going to be unfair. The president has said that he’s not ready to implement this law. And because he’s not ready to implement it, he’s going to selectively enforce it,” Lee told Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday. “He is going to, you know, give a big pass to big business while simultaneously telling hard working Americans, individuals that they have to comply with these laws demands or else they’ll face stiff penalties under federal law.”

In scandal aftermath, IRS wants more agents

Nearly two months after the startling revelations that the IRS had exclusively targeted Tea Party and conservative groups for inappropriate scrutiny, the agency is asking Congress for a 9% increase in its budget so that they can hire additional agents to enforce ObamaCare’s mandates:

Still mired in scandal for its mishandling of nonprofit political groups, the Internal Revenue Service is prepping for a new role: chief enforcement arm of the Affordable Care Act.

That task will require new agents — 6,700, the IRS figures — and more money — about $1 billion more than the current budget.

Confronted with the tax agency’s 9-percent increase in its 2014 budget, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., blasted Deputy IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel at a meeting of the House Committee on Ways and Means Thursday morning.

After reading off a long list of instances of waste, fraud, excess and abuse at the agency over the past several years, Ryan demanded to know how the IRS felt it had the “moral authority” to ask for more money. He actually sounded almost hurt by the request.

Werfel meekly responded that the additional funding was essential to the agency’s expanded enforcement mandate.

The agency’s latest funding boost follows an increase of nearly $1.5 billion and 1,200 agents already dedicated to the implementation of ACA.

Lee, Cruz Challenge Old Guard Republicans on the Debt Ceiling

John McCain

While Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has become a tool for his Democratic colleagues to move the budget into conference committee, Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) continue to express there concerns that these negotiations will be used for a stealth debt ceiling increase.

The issue at hand is that that a conference report could be passed by a majority of the chamber, bypassing a filibuster, as per Senate rules. Sneaking through a debt limit hike, as part of a budget agreement that only requires a majority, is objectionable to these members. And they’re right.

During a speech from the floor on Thursday, Lee explained why he and several other fiscal conservatives in the Senate want assurances from leaders that a debt ceiling hike won’t be part of the conference report on the budget.

“For sixty-one days, several of my colleagues and I have objected to the majority’s request for unanimous consent to circumvent regular order to go to conference with the House on the budget,” said Lee. “They want permission to skip a few steps in the process, and jump straight to the closed-door back-room meetings.”

“There, senior negotiators of the House and Senate will be free to wait until a convenient, artificial deadline and ram through their compromise – un-amended, un-debated and mostly un-read,” he continued. “And with the country backed up against another economic ‘cliff’ crisis, we are concerned they will exploit that opportunity to sneak a debt-limit increase into the budget.”

“We think that’s inappropriate,” he added.

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