Congress

More evidence that gridlock, not Obama policy, is fixing the economy

Washington Gridlock

From the 2012 election to the recent State of the Union Address, President Obama has claimed responsibility for the growing economy and job creation. His dutiful praetorian guard in the press has defended his claims. But there’s just one problem: The Republican House majority elected just two years into his first term kept most of Obama’s policies from being implemented. A new study released this month provides even more evidence that the failure of Obama policies to be passed has improved the economy, not the policies themselves.

The study, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, measured employment changes across the states over 2014 after unemployment benefit extensions were not reauthorized by Congress in the late 2013 budget deal. The extensions were opposed by Republicans but supported by Democrats and were ultimately left out of the deal that Obama signed.

As common sense and Econ101 would suggest, the study found that when you stop paying people not to work, they tend to go back to work.

In levels, 1.8 million additional jobs were created in 2014 due to the benefit cut. Almost 1 million of these jobs were filled by workers from out of the labor force who would not have participated in the labor market had benefit extensions been reauthorized.

The Lame Duck Threat Online Consumers and Small Businesses Should Fear

Heritage Action Internet Sales Tax

It’s 2014, and American consumers are increasingly making purchases online. This trend shows no signs of changing. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and his ideological allies are scheming to throw a wrench in the works. Online shoppers who enjoy the benefits of tax free online shopping may no longer be able to do that if Sen. Reid gets his way. Small online businesses are currently taxed on sales only where they have a physical presence and therefore political representation. If the Internet sales tax becomes law, they will no longer have that freedom, which is a violation of federalism.

Reid announced in September that he will do whatever it takes to pass an Internet sales tax bill, the misleadingly named the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA), after the midterm election.  The bill would place burdensome regulations on small online businesses and would entail a massive expansion of state taxing authority. Because only 35 percent of Americans support Internet sales tax legislation, he plans to attach it to a very popular ban on Internet use taxes known as the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA).

Well, this is an awful idea: There’s a push on the Hill to require Congress to work five days a week

It might sound like a good idea, but the latest call to make Congress work more probably is the most dangerous piece of legislation we’ve seen since the “you’ve got to pass it to know what’s in it” ObamaCare atrocity. Sure, the logic is that the taxpayers are paying lawmakers a (more than) fair amount of money yearly, considering wages, benefits and perks. The problem is that unlike other professions, getting “more bang for the buck” definitely should not include forcing longer work hours, at least not on the Hill.

TheHill.com reports:

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) plans to introduce a bill that would require the House and Senate to work five days a week.

Congress is on a five-week August recess, which prevents Nolan from introducing his bill until the House comes back into session on Sept. 8.

The House and Senate rarely work five days a week in Washington. Each chamber typically is only in session for two full days and two half days per week, and lawmakers often spend the remaining half of the week back home in their districts.

Beyond requiring longer working hours, this bill would require open debate on all bills. While that might be a good idea, forcing longer sessions on the Hill definitely wouldn’t be a good idea. Our problem now is that we have far too many laws, so solutions to our problems do not include encouraging lawmakers to create more of them. Otherwise, it’s at least a little amusing to consider the irony that this bill hasn’t been introduced because Congress is in summer recess.

Don’t feel sorry for Eric Cantor: Ex-House leader stands to do well working as a lobbyist

Former House leader Eric Cantor couldn’t wait to quit Congress after the 11 years he spent in the leadership were unpredictably brought to a close after his loss to economics professor Dave Brat.

He couldn’t wait to get his hands on the money the private sector wanted to offer for his expertise, either. At least that’s now former colleagues and aides have been suggesting.

According to Politico, the move to simply quit Congress four months short of his official departure plays well into a possible shift into the private sector. By leaving now, Cantor doesn’t have to offer any details to the public on what companies he’s been considering to work for.

Close allies and friends claim he was ready to move on the day after his loss.

Sadly for us, people like Cantor often move out of Congress to continue to work on shaping policy, but from the outside. Whereas in 1974, about 3 percent of retiring Senators found a job with some lobbying firm, about 50 percent of Senators today are able to successfully quit Congress to become lobbyists.

The presence of a Senator in a firm’s lobbying team is valuable because, over time, former lawmakers are able to use their contacts, meaning more access to means of tilting policies toward what the firm’s clients have in mind.

House Republicans plan to sue Barack Obama over illegal executive actions

The House of Representatives is getting pretty tired of President Barack Obama going around the Constitution to enact laws through executive and regulatory fiat as well as ignoring laws passed by Congress. Roll Call reports that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is preparing a lawsuit against the White House over executive overreach:

The lawsuit could set up a significant test of constitutional checks and balances, with the legislative branch suing the executive branch for ignoring its mandates, and the judiciary branch deciding the outcome.

Boehner told the House Republican Conference during a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning that he has been consulting with legal scholars and plans to unveil his next steps this week or next, according to sources in the room.
[…]
Boehner’s legal theory is based on work by Washington, D.C., attorney David Rivkin of Baker Hostetler LLP and Elizabeth Price Foley, a professor of law at Florida International University College of Law.

Rivkin said in an interview that in addition to proving institutional injury, the House would have to prove that as an institution, it has authorized the lawsuit. A vote by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group would do so.

The suit would also have to prove that no other private plaintiff has standing to challenge the particular suspension of executive action and that there are no other opportunities for meaningful political remedies by Congress, for instance by repeal of the underlying law.

The potential remedies the legislative branch has to deal with executive overreach are limited, and not all of them are politically viable.

Freedom…It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

Last week, the Democrats held their Winter Meeting at the Capital Hilton, where Emperor Obama, Slayer of Insurance Companies, Defender of the Poor (and making more every day), the Duke of Deficits, addressed his faithful assembled minions, dispensing tidbits of propaganda like an imperial Pez dispenser, reeling them in with promises of endless supplies of government candy, assuring them it is oh so good for them.

Obama declared that “[a]s Democrats, we’ve let the other side define the word ‘freedom’ for too long…freedom for ordinary Americans to honestly pursue their dreams, that’s what we believe.” He went on to define freedom as the power of government to protect you from any adverse circumstance that may arise in your life, and as the ability for government to provide for your health care, your retirement, food, housing, and so on and so forth.

To quote the inimitable Inigo Montoya, the glorious Spaniard from one of my all time favorite movies, The Princess Bride…Mr. Obama, “You keep using that word [freedom]…I do not think it means what you think it means!’” What Obama is describing is not freedom; it is lifelong dependency on the gargantuan Nanny State, with promises of cradle-to-grave nurturing no matter how irresponsible the decisions you make in your life. Of course, the only way for government to protect you from your own mistakes is by forcing others to pay the price for you. Every action has a consequence, and just because you don’t suffer does not mean that someone does not suffer. Someone has to pay the piper. There is no free lunch.

Congressional Staff Obamacare Coverage Continues to Flaunt Statute

The idea from the start was that Congress and its staff would have to live under the same Obamacare rules as the rest of us.  Senator Grassley’s (R-IA) amendment to PPACA added Section 1312, requiring that they move from the enviable employer-sponsored Federal Employee Health Benefit Program to the sub-par coverage offered on the Obamacare exchanges:

(D) MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN THE EXCHANGE.—…the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are…offered through an Exchange established under this Act….

A good idea indeed, but one that has become a farce in practice.

First, OPM came out with the original exemption for Congress that preserved the 75% employer contribution from the federal government for exchange coverage, rather than the same subsidies available to the rest of us.  Then we learned that this congressional Obamacare exemption would be illegally offered on a tax-free basis.  Harry Reid followed this up by exempting some of his staff from the Obamacare exchange train wreck (earning multiple pinocchios for his explanation).

Obamacare’s Employer Mandate Delays Head-to-Head

“[The President] shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed…” — Article II, Section 3 (The Faithful Execution Clause)

Yesterday’s announcement of additional Obamacare employer mandate delays offers us yet another occasion to turn to actual the law passed by Congress.  When the four statutory Obamacare provisions below are viewed head-to-head against the new Obama Administration/IRS regulatory guidance, it’s clear that one of these things is not like the other.

EXHIBIT I: EFFECTIVE DATE

Statutory Authority - PPACA Section 1513(d):

(d) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013.

Obama Administration/IRS - Preamble to the February 10, 2014 Final Regulations (Page 106):

Section 1513(d) of the Affordable Care Act provides that section 4980H applies to months after December 31, 2013; however, Notice 2013-45, issued on July 9, 2013, provides as transition relief that no assessable payments under section 4980H will apply for 2014…Notice 2013-45 provides that the employer shared responsibility provisions under section 4980H (and the information reporting provisions) will become effective for 2015.

Coburn to Focus Retirement Efforts on Article V Convention

Last month, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) announced that he will retire at the end of 2014, cutting short his second Senate term by two years.  His decision was in part the result of his health struggles related the recent recurrence of prostate cancer.  But Sen. Coburn also cited the dysfunction in Washington D.C., and particularly in the U.S. Senate, in stating: “As a citizen, I am now convinced that I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere.”

John Ward’s HuffPost interview with Sen. Coburn last week sheds some light on exactly how Sen. Coburn intends to shift his focus:

“It’s time for me to go do something else,” Coburn said. “I know me. I’ve made lots of shifts in my life, and I know when it’s time. My faith comes into that. I pay a lot of attention to what I think I’m supposed to be doing. … And it’s just time for me to do something else. So I’m getting ready to walk through whatever door opens.”

“I don’t have any set plans whatsoever,” he said.

There are two exceptions to that statement. He has plans to play golf, a game he loves and has rarely been able to enjoy during his time in Washington. And he is going to lend his support to a growing effort in state legislatures across the country to call a convention to amend the Constitution with the aim of limiting the size and reach of the federal government.

Your Congressman could help pave the way for another Second Amendment victory

Does the Second Amendment protect a citizen’s right to carry a gun outside the home for purposes of self-defense? It may seem like a silly question in light of two landmark United States Supreme Court decisions which established that the right to keep and bear arms is a protected individual liberty.

But, in a radical opinion issued in September, the Third District Court of Appeals held that there is no right to carry a gun for self-defense under the Second Amendment. The court also held that lawmakers can prohibit individuals from exercising their right absent a “justifiable need.”

The case, Drake v. Jerejian, deals with a New Jersey law that strictly regulates the issuance of gun permits to citizens. Essentially, a resident has to prove some compelling reason (“justifiable need”) to a superior court judge in order to obtain a permit, which are rarely granted.

Now, the appellate court recognized the precedent established by the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and incorporated to the states in McDonald v. Chicago (2010), but the majority said that “[i]t remains unsettled whether the individual right to bear arms for the purpose of self-defense extends beyond the home.”

The plaintiffs in the case haven’t given up. In January, the Second Amendment Foundation and Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs filed a certiorari petition asking the Supreme Court to hear Drake, in what is the next big fight for this constitutionally protected civil liberty.


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