House of Representatives
House Republicans are planning an onslaught of legislation aimed at the Internal Revenue Service, a powerful agency that is currently considering regulations that would ostensibly legitimatize and institutionalize its targeting of conservative groups, and to promote transparency in how taxpayer dollars are spent:
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) is the author of two of the bills to be considered next week, both of which respond to the targeting scandal.
One of his bills is the Taxpayer Transparency and Efficient Audit Act, H.R. 2530. This bill would require the IRS to tell taxpayers when it shares their tax information with another government agency, and limits the time people can be subjected to an IRS audit to one year.
Republicans are wary that the IRS will improperly share personal tax information with other agencies as it tries to implement ObamaCare and make determinations about who may qualify for tax credits when buying health insurance.
Another bill from Roskam up next week is the Protecting Taxpayers from Intrusive IRS Requests Act, H.R. 2531. This bill would prevent the IRS from asking about people’s religious or political beliefs.
The House will also look at two other suspension bills mean to ensure taxpayers know how their money, once collected by the IRS, is being spent.
President Barack Obama has said that he will continue to take action into own hands when he can — what has been referred to as the “pen and phone” strategy — if Congress doesn’t act on contentious policy issues.
The White House and the administration has already defied the constitutionally-defined separation of powers, using executive orders and administration actions already on several different occasions. The most recent examples of his the illegal delay of Obamacare’s employer mandate and the minimum wage increase on federal contractors.
Interestingly, this legally questionable approach to policy-making is something that then-candidate Obama decried in 2008. “I taught constitutional law for ten years. I take the Constitution very seriously,” he said on the campaign trail. “The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all and that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America.”
It seems that Americans agree more with candidate Obama on separation of powers than President Obama, who has continued the trend of concentrating power in the executive branch.
Just hours after DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) conceded that Democrats aren’t likely to win control of the House of Representatives this fall, Politico ran a story noting that many high-dollar donors are shifting their focus to the Senate races in which vulnerable Democrats are running:
With Democrats’ grasp on the Senate increasingly tenuous — and the House all but beyond reach — some top party donors and strategists are moving to do something in the midterm election as painful as it is coldblooded: Admit the House can’t be won and go all in to save the Senate.
Their calculation is uncomplicated. With only so much money to go around in an election year that is tilting the GOP’s way, Democrats need to concentrate resources on preserving the chamber they have now. Losing the Senate, they know, could doom whatever hopes Barack Obama has of salvaging the final years of his presidency.
Some Democratic operatives think a big chunk of that money should be going to Senate contests instead — and they’re beginning to make that case to wealthy contributors. One senior Democratic strategist who is involved in a number of Senate races said conversations with many of the party’s biggest donors about shifting their giving away from the House and toward the Senate had begun and that, “it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing the results.”
“After the health care rollout and with the start of the new year, Democratic donors are starting to focus on a critical choice they have to make: Donate money to pick up a small handful of House races or defend the Senate majority at all costs so that the president can get something — anything — done,” the strategist said.
Two more House Democrats — Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) — announced their retirements yesterday, giving Republicans an opportunity to pick-up the two seats later this year:
North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre and New York Rep. Carolyn McCarthy will not seek reelection this year, according to multiple Democratic sources familiar with their plans – marking a blow to Democratic efforts to win control of the House.
The 57-year-old McIntyre, who was elected in 1996 to the Wilmington-area congressional seat, narrowly defeated Republican state Sen. David Rouzer in 2012 and was poised to face him in a 2014 rematch. His retirement from the heavily Republican district will further thin the ranks of Blue Dog Democrats. It comes less than a month after another Blue Dog, Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, said his current term would be his last.
The 70-year-old McCarthy, who also was elected in 1996, announced in June that she was undergoing treatment for lung cancer. She arrived in Congress after her husband and son were both shot in a December 1993 incident on the Long Island Rail Road. McCarthy’s husband, Dennis, was killed, while her son survived. She has been a key proponent of gun control during her time in office.
As noted above, McIntyre’s district, NC-07, has a strong Republican tilt, according to The Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index (PVI). Roll Call has already moved the race from “Pure Tossup” to “Currently Safe for Republicans.” So, put yet another seat in the GOP column for 2014.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) wants to serve as the next chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the powerful tax-writing committee, when the next Congress is seated in 2015, according to Politico:
Paul Ryan will seek to become the next chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, a move that would bring instant star power to the cause of tax reform while complicating his presidential ambitions.
The House Budget Committee chairman intends to replace Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) when term-limit restrictions force Camp to step down in 2015, Ryan told The Wall Street Journal.
“That is my plan,” he said in an interview with the newspaper.
The move would give Ryan, his party’s 2012 vice presidential candidate and perhaps the most popular Republican in Congress, a prime perch to pursue his long-standing interest in tax and entitlement reform. That could bring a jolt of energy to the push to overhaul the tax code for the first time in a generation, an effort led by Camp that has foundered amid widespread ambivalence among rank-and-file lawmakers.
If Ryan takes on tax reform in earnest, the move may also signal Ryan is not planning on running for president in 2016.
Ryan was term-limited from serving as chairman of the Budget Committee after the last Congress, but he was given a waiver that allowed him to stick around for one more term.
Americans have been inundated with stories about the Obamacare meltdown, there has been some news about the NSA and domestic surveillance programs in the last few days, and none of it is good.
TechDirt reported on Tuesday that Justice Department is fighting a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) order to release the government’s secret interpretation of the USA PATRIOT Act.
Section 215 of the 2001 anti-terrorism law has been used to justify domestic spying programs employed by the NSA, despite a clear limitation on whom the government can collect information. At some point since its passage, however, the government came up with its own interpretation that says something entirely different.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who sponsored the law, contends that the NSA is defying congressional intent as the provision only allows intelligence agencies to seize records related to an actual investigation into terrorist activity.
“The phone records of innocent Americans do not relate to terrorism, whatsoever; and they are not reasonably likely to lead to information that relates to terrorism,” said Sensenbrenner in a speech last month at the Cato Institute. “Put simply, the phone calls we make to our friends, our families, and business associates are private and have nothing to do with terrorism or the government’s efforts to stop it.”
In a 261-257 vote, the House of Representatives passed the Keep Your Health Plan Act, which would allow insurers to extend the policies that had been canceled because they didn’t comply with the mandates and provisions of Obamacare.
The Keep Your Health Plan Act, sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), would permit insurers to let consumers keep health plans in effect before January 1, 2013 through 2014. It wouldn’t force insurers to offer the plans, but it would give these plans “grandfathered status,” meaning that they wouldn’t have to compliant with Obamacare’s minimum mandates.
“The president broke his word, had a chance to fix the problem, and only did more damage to his credibility,” said Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) after the passage of the measure. “Today, the House made a big, bipartisan statement about the need to make things right.”
“The Keep Your Health Plan Act represents an important step toward providing relief to those who have lost their plans and face much higher premiums, but the real solution is to scrap the president’s fundamentally-flawed health care law and focus on effective, patient-centered reforms that will protect all Americans from this train wreck,” he added.
The measure would also allow insurers to extend coverage under these plans to new customers, which Democrats complained would undercut the Obamacare.
Thirty-nine House Democrats broke with President Obama and party leaders and supported the measure. Four Republicans voted against it, one of whom was Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), who explained his vote on his Facebook page.
Just days before the House of Representatives prepares to vote on the Keep Your Health Plan Act, Bill Clinton is urging President Barack Obama to get behind a change that would keep the promise he made to Americans.
Clinton insists that Obamacare is better off now than before, which is a line that the White House touted yesterday. He also defended the issues with federal exchange website, Healthcare.gov, comparing it to the launch of Medicare Part D in 2006, though this defense doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
But Clinton touched on the insurance cancellations of that millions of Americans are experiencing, using a conversation he had with a young person who is paying more for coverage than before Obamacare as an example.
Third problem is for young people — most, but not all young — who are in the individual market hose incomes are above 400% of the poverty level. They were the ones who heard the promise — if you like what you have you can keep it,” former President Clinton, a Democrat who served from 1993 to 2001, told OZY.com.
“I met a young man this week who has a family, two children, bought in the individual marketplace. His policy was cancelled and one was substituted for it, and it doubled his premium,” he recalled. “Now, I asked him, I said, Same coverage? He said yeah. But I asked, are your co-pays and deductibles the same? He said they were much, much lower.”
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has announced that the House of Representatives will vote next week on a measure that would allow Americans to keep their health insurance coverage amid a flood millions of cancellation notices.
“Next week, the House will consider the Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013, sponsored by @RepFredUpton,” Cantor tweeted on Wednesday, later promoting a tweet from the House Energy and Commerce Committee that said the measure “will allow health care plans currently being offered to continue next year, providing choices [and] peace of mind.”
The Keep Your Health Plan Act, H.R. 3350, seeks to stem the insurance cancellations that many Americans are now experiencing because the plans weren’t compliant with the Obamacare’s very strict “grandfathered plan” regulations. The bill currently has 88 co-sponsors, all of whom are Republicans.
The problems with the federal Obamacare exchange website have driven even more Americans to back a one year delay of the individual mandate, a controversial provision of the law that requires virtually all Americans to purchase health insurance coverage.