Congress

Does the Administration Dream of ObamaCare Sheep?

Bladerunner

Keep dreaming, the flock is scattered.  We’re less than one month away now from the supposed grand opening of the ObamaCare exchanges, and yet 44% of Americans aren’t even sure whether ObamaCare is still a law.

Which begs the question: Is ObamaCare a law?

This 44% shocker from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s August Health Tracking Poll reveals America’s collective “wtf?” when it comes to ObamaCare’s legal status.  Some appear to think that the House’s two symbolic full repeal attempts were actually successful (wishful thinking), others believe it was overturned by Chief Justice John Roberts and company (perhaps they read the advance copies before he went the “tax” route?).  But most (31%) just can’t figure out what the heck is going on with this law.  Can you blame them?

- Is it a law when President Obama spends years telling you that his signature legislation will let you can keep your plan and your doctor if you like them, but you’re now facing the reality of potentially losing both come 2014?

Obama goes to skeptical Congress for Syria intervention

Barack Obama

In what was a welcome development, President Barack Obama announced on Saturday that he would make the case to a skeptical Congress to authorize military intervention in Syria, following an example set late last week by UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

“I’m confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors. I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable,” said President Obama in the White House Rose Garden.

“As a consequence, many people have advised against taking this decision to Congress, and undoubtedly, they were impacted by what we saw happen in the United Kingdom this week when the Parliament of our closest ally failed to pass a resolution with a similar goal, even as the Prime Minister supported taking action,” he continued, referencing the failed vote that took place on Thursday in Parliament.

“Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective,” he added. “We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual. And this morning, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell agreed that this is the right thing to do for our democracy.”

House members seek congressional authorization for Syria intervention

UPDATE: Rigell’s office now reports that 140 House members have signed the letter. An update copy of it can be found below. The story has been updated to reflect the current number of signatories.

Scores of members of the House of Representatives are urging President Barack Obama to seek congressional authorization for any military action that his administration plans to take in Syria.

The White House has said that President Obama will consult leaders in Congress about the planned air strikes against Bashar Assad’s regime, which is the administration’s response to the alleged use of chemical weapons against his own citizens. But that’s not enough for House members who note that a president is legally required to seek authorization from Congress before using force overseas.

“We strongly urge you to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria. Your responsibility to do so is prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973,” wrote Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA), who has circulated the letter to his colleagues in the House, gathering 140 signatories from members of both parties.

Rigell noted that the Founders gave the executive branch the power to take action during emergencies, but he pointed out that Syria doesn’t represent a direct threat to the security of the United States.

Congressional ObamaCare Exemption Also Illegally Tax-Free

Congress's ObamaCare exemption

President Obama intervened earlier this month to ensure that his administration’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) would, through its rulemaking process, preserve Congress’s and its staff’s 72% average employer contribution on the impending ObamaCare exchanges.  The legality of the OPM proposed regulations that shift the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP) contributions to the exchanges has already been the subject of significant controversy, particularly because it appears to contradict the intent of Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) amendment to PPACA (Section 1312) to require that Congress/staff live by the same rules as the rest of us.

But there’s another level to OPM’s rulemaking that directly violates PPACA: Congress/staff’s payments for ObamaCare coverage will be illegally offered on a tax-free basis. PPACA has specific provisions designed to ensure that employees are taxed on ObamaCare exchange coverage.  The OPM rulemaking openly disregards those requirements.

Employer Notice of Exchange Highlights Loss of Employer Contribution and Tax-Free Payment

House Conservatives: Government shutdown in President Obama’s hands

Members of Congress are back in their districts this month where they’ll be hearing from constituents about various issues that face the country and their local communities. But in case you haven’t heard, there is a pretty big fight brewing between congressional Republicans over whether or not to fund ObamaCare.

With the current fiscal year expiring at the end of September, there is going to be an extraordinary amount of pressure in Congress to pass a Continuing Resolution to keep the government running. But there is a wrinkle as many conservative members, empowered by the delay of ObamaCare’s employer mandate, are pushing leadership to defund the law.

Democrats in both chambers of Congress and the media are quick to point out that defunding ObamaCare will embroil Republicans in a budget showdown with the White House, the likely result of which would be a government shutdown.

But conservative members of Congress are quick to say that don’t want to shutdown the federal government. They note that they want to pass appropriations measures or a Continuing Resolution to keep the government running, they just don’t want to fund a law that Americans consistantly reject and want repealed.

Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), who has introduced legislation to defund ObamaCare, recently told United Liberty that this effort is about getting rid of a law that harms Americans, not shutting down the government.

Defunding Obamacare is the Right Strategy

Congressman Jim Bridenstine represents Oklahoma’s First Congressional District. He was first elected in 2012. You can connect with him online via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Not a single Senator or Representative is “threatening to shut down the federal government.”  Not one.

Contrary to recent commentaries and news reports, no Senators or Representatives are planning to hold up the continuing resolution needed to maintain federal appropriations after September 30.

Our intent is not to shut down the federal government.  We plan to fund everything except the unaffordable Affordable Care Act.  The group led by Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, plus several Representatives, including myself, are reluctantly ready to pass a continuing resolution (CR) that funds the entire government, excluding Obamacare.

This legislative strategy has been employed successfully for nearly four decades.  It simply prohibits expenditure of taxpayer funds for a specified purpose.

For perfect example, every year since 1976, Congress has enacted the Hyde Amendment, restricting federal funding for abortion coverage in the Medicaid entitlement.  (As an aside, it is an unfortunate fact that ObamaCare sidesteps the Hyde Amendment by compelling businesses and individuals, rather than the government, to pay for health insurance that includes abortions.)

Republican critics argue that the strategy won’t work because Obamacare is mostly “mandatory spending,” while a continuing resolution addresses only “discretionary spending.”  The Hyde Amendment is a restriction on mandatory funding even though the amendment has been attached to discretionary appropriations legislation every year.

Chatting with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY)

Thomas Massie

“[T]he House and the Senate control the purse strings. It’s the only check that we have besides some oversight on the Executive Branch. And so I’m going to be part of that group that goes into this August recess and goes back home and says, ‘I will not vote for a continuing resolution that funds ObamaCare.’” - Rep. Thomas Massie

The last couple of election cycles have led to several interesting, liberty-minded Republicans being sent to Congress. On Tuesday, United Liberty had a chance to chat with one of those Republicans, Rep. Thomas Massie, who represents Kentucky’s Fourth Congressional District.

Elected last year with strong supports from grassroots groups, Massie quickly established his libertarian tendencies by taking strong stands for civil liberties and economic freedom. He’s an approachable guy and very down to Earth.

Along with Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Massie fought hard to get a vote last week on an amendment to the defense appropriations bill to defund the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance of American citizens.

Massie offered an inside baseball account of how a vote on the amendment, which was offered by Amash, came to pass in the face of fierce opposition from President Barack Obama, congressional leaders from both parties and the nation’s security apparatus.

Thomas Massie introduces bill to keep Obama from sending arms to Syria

Thomas Massie

President Barack Obama’s promise to send arms to rebel forces fighting against Bashad al-Assad alongside al-Qaeda operatives in Syria, has been met with much criticism from multiple Senate members. Senators from both sides of the aisle have come together to push legislation that would prohibit the President and the Pentagon from sending rebels any form of aid.

Now, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and nine other House members decided to act by introducing legislation that would challenge the President’s decision by blocking aid that wasn’t previously authorized by Congress.

Co-sponsors include Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX).

The War Powers Protection Act of 2013 would keep the U.S. from sending any military assistance to the rebel forces unless Congress has issued a formal declaration of war.

Rep. Massie has stated that “since our national security interests in Syria are unclear,” risks could be far too great if we choose to aid rebel forces, particularly now that it has been noted that al Qaeda’s Iraqi wing in Syria insists on fighting alongside the Al-Nusra Front.

The Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution states that no war can be declared without Congress’ approval, which doesn’t seem to keep the President from continuing with his plan of aiding the rebels.

Companies working with the NSA could get blanket immunity

National Security Agency HQ

The common American might be at a much more vulnerable spot now that Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the NSA, asked lawmakers for more authority in order to offer liability immunity to companies working closely with the National Security Agency in digital defense programs.

The change in law would allow for mistakes to go unaccounted for in case a company hits the wrong target while attempting to block the home base of a suspicious or seemingly threatening source. While this change in the law seems harmless to some, it could offer protection to companies that act on behalf of the agency, and leave innocent consumers without any access to legal recourse.

Congress was left with the duty of rethinking how private companies are held liable. According to POLITICO, a White House official assured that the Obama administration would be willing to accept a change in the law in order to maintain a company protected while participating in defensive countermeasures online. The source remained anonymous.

While many companies still fight to protect their reputation after news regarding the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs broke, the increased immunity would strip a firm’s only incentive to resist government pressure: its good name.

While certain companies still take their consumers’ privacy into consideration, some fear losing their strong presence in the market, which is why they might be welcoming to the change in the law. Some companies may see this as an opportunity to have their assets protected by avoiding being hit with lawsuits over possible target errors.

Congressional Staff to Feel ObamaCare Pain in 2014

Chuck Grassley

If you can’t beat them, force them to join their own thing.

That may as well have been Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) motto in 2009 when he introduced an amendment to PPACA to force members of Congress and their staff onto the ObamaCare exchanges.  In the private sector, this practice of dropping large employee groups or terminating employer-sponsored group health plans is referred to as “dumping” employees onto the ObamaCare exchange.  Congress and its staff will certainly feel dumped on come January 1, 2014, when they’re left to fend for themselves in the world of government-driven healthcare.

What is the FEHBP?

The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) is the group health plan for federal government employees.  It’s the largest employer-sponsored plan in the country, covering 8 million enrollees.  That’s roughly the size of the entire population of the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.

Why Members of Congress and Staff Lose FEHBP Coverage as of January 1, 2014

PPACA Section 1312 explicitly requires that they go to the ObamaCare exchange:


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