orrin hatch

Sequestering ObamaCare’s Employer Mandate

Last week, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced the American Job Protection Act to repeal the ObamaCare employer mandate (a.k.a. the pay or play rules, or the employer “shared responsibility” rules).  Companion legislation was also introduced in the House on the same day.  Full text of the bill is available here.

As FreedomWorks reignites the movement to defund ObamCare in the House as we near the end of the CR on March 27, the American Job Protection Act offers a strong second front against one of ObamaCare’s most damaging provisions.  Sadly, full repeal is not politically feasible right now.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep trying to chip away at its more unpopular provisions through bills like this.

It’s Been Done Already
Let’s not forget that we’ve already repealed some of the nastier programs and mandates in prior legislation.  As nicely summarized in this post on Forbes by Grace-Marie Turner, the law’s government takeover of the long-term care industry called the CLASS Act, a major piece in the original legislation, is now history.  Other chunks now out for scrap include the burdensome $600 1099 reporting requirement and the odd employee free choice voucher, which would have allowed certain employees to apply their employer health plan contribution to the cost of coverage on the ObamaCare exchange.

Congress must reform high-skilled worker visa system


The renewed debate over immigration reform has led to some very strong opinions, but one particular issue that has been lost in the mix is the need for more high-skilled workers in the United States.

The visa system for high-skilled workers — known as H-1B visas or STEM visas — is in dire need of modernization. This system allows businesses to temorarily employ foreign workers who have college degrees in various fields, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The system, however, limits the number of workers who can obtain these visas to 65,000 per year, meaning that many high-skilled workers see employment in other countries instead of waiting to come to the United States.

Along with a number of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) recently introduced legislation — the Immigration Innovation Act (also known as the I-Squared Act) — that would bring a much needed overhaul to the H-1B visa system and more economic benefit to the United States.

The Immigration Innovation Act would increase the annual cap on high-skilled workers who can obtain H-1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000 and also provide a manner of flexibility that would allow the cap to be raised even higher to meet labor demand inside the United States. The legislation would also remove the cap for high-skilled workers with advanced degrees, which is currently limited to 20,000 per year.

A coalition of freedom-minded groups — including the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute — have endorsed the plan.

SOPA/PIPA opponents score a victory

While former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and other supporters of SOPA and PIPA have lashed out at companies and websites that participated in yesterday’s “blackout,” it certainly seems as though opponents of the two bills carried the day:

Members of the Senate are rushing for the exits in the wake of the Internet’s unprecedented protest of the Protect IP Act (PIPA). At least 13 members of the upper chamber announced their opposition on Wednesday. In a particularly severe blow from Hollywood, at least five of the newly-opposed Senators were previously sponsors of the Protect IP Act.

The newly-opposed Senators are skewed strongly to the Republican side of the aisle. An Ars Technica survey of Senators’ positions on PIPA turned up only two Democrats, Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who announced their opposition on Wednesday. The other 11 Senators who announced their opposition on Wednesday were all Republicans. These 13 join a handful of others, including Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR), who have already announced their opposition.

Marco Rubio, a freshman Republican Senator from Florida who some consider to be a rising star, withdrew his sponsorship of the bill, citing “legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government’s power to impact the Internet.” He urged the Senate to “avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences.”

What? The new Republican majority wants to keep the Democrat-appointed CBO Director

CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf

Since I’ve accused the Congressional Budget Office of “witch doctor economics and gypsy forecasting,” it’s obvious I’m not a big fan of the organization’s approach to fiscal analysis.

I’ve even argued that Republicans shouldn’t cite CBO when the bureaucrats reach correct conclusions on policy (at least when such findings are based on bad Keynesian methodology).

So nobody should be surprised that I think the incoming Republican majority should install new leadership at CBO (and the Joint Committee on Taxation as well).

So why, then, are some advocates of smaller government – such as Greg Mankiw,Keith HennesseyAlan Viard, and Michael Strain – arguing that Republicans should keep the current Director, Doug Elmendorf, who was appointed by the Democrats back in 2009?

Senate likely to push through Ryan-Murray budget deal

There were some news reports over the weekend featuring which suggested that there were not the votes in the Senate to pass the budget deal reached between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). But The New York Times reported yesterday that enough Republicans will vote to advance deal past a procedural hurdle, setting the stage for final passage (emphasis added):

Support for a compromise two-year budget deal grew on Monday ahead of a Tuesday vote in the Senate as Republicans concluded that a measure that achieved overwhelming bipartisan support in the House could not die in Congress’s upper chamber.

Club for Growth on sequestration, Mitt Romney, and Lindsey Graham

Chris Chocola -- Club for Growth

Over the last several years, the Club for Growth has made its presence known in the GOP, supporting insurgent, fiscally conservative primary challengers over establishment-backed incumbents and candidates. Their message has been simple — Congress needs to cut spending, keep taxes low, and reduce regulations that are roadblock to a vibrant and prosperous economy.

Yesterday, Chris Chocola, President of the Club for Growth, weighed on a few different issues during a meeting with reporters. With the budget deficit over $1 trillion for the fourth consecutive year, Chocola said that his organization is welcoming sequestration, which is part of the debt deal reached by Congress last year:

“We don’t care where they get the cuts,” Chocola said at a Thursday breakfast with reporters. “We just think there’s a number they said they would save and they should do it.”

While the chorus urging an alternative to the cuts slated for next year grows louder by the day, Chocola and his conservative organization join a small group of voices advocating that Congress stick to its guns.
“Sequestration is really hard, but [Congress] said they’d do it,” Chocola said. “And they made a promise to the American people that if we raise the debt ceiling we’ll achieve these savings and we just think they need to do that.”

This isn’t surprising given the Club’s principled stances on spending, but it puts the group at odds with Republicans in Congress, including many they’ve endorsed in the past and even this year.

Dan Liljenquist to debate a cardboard cutout of Orrin Hatch

What should you do if you’re running for office against a politician that won’t show up for a debate? If you’re Dan Liljenquist, who is running to unseat Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), you debate a cardboard cut out:

Senate hopeful Dan Liljenquist intends to debate a cardboard cutout of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on Thursday night.

Liljenquist’s campaign manager, Holly Richardson, confirmed to the Daily Herald on Monday that Liljenquist plans on holding a debate at the Sons of Utah Pioneers Museum in Salt Lake City on Thursday evening where he will debate the cardboard representation of Utah’s senior senator.

“We are going to have a large TV screen there and play Sen. Hatch’s answers,” said Richardson, noting that Hatch’s voice will still be heard at the debate.

Richardson claimed the move is not new to Utah politics as she said Hatch also held debates against cardboard cutouts of his primary opponent when he ran for the Senate in 1976. Richardson stated that Hatch said at his cardboard debate that his opponent seemed like he had decided he doesn’t have to run a race. She called Hatch’s past statement ironic.

Hatch’s campaign manager Dave Hansen called the Thursday night debate a gimmick by the Liljenquist team to try to drum up press coverage for their candidate.

“They are trying to do everything with bells and whistles to get some attention,” Hansen said. “The senator is trying to get out and listen to the voters and talk with them.”

Sarah Palin backs a big government Republican

Facing perhaps the biggest fight of his political career, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) managed to get to endorsements last year from prominent conservative talk show hosts, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin. The hope was that the 35-year Senator could build up enough support to avoid a primary challenger from the right.

Political pressure kept Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) from running, but State Sen. Dan Liljenquist managed to push Hatch into a primary last month after the latter was unable to gain enough support at the Utah GOP convention. Hatch knows he has an advantage, which is why he’s been avoiding debates with Liljenquist — a point Glenn Beck brought up recently on his show, offering to host a forum for the two.

Based on what I’ve heard from friends in DC, they’re managing expectations, choosing instead to focus their efforts on Ted Cruz in Texas and elsewhere. This may have been brought home yesterday when Sarah Palin endorsed Hatch over Liljenquist:

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has endorsed Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who is facing a Tea Party challenge from former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist (R).

“I want him to win. I join Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and other conservatives who would like to see Mr. Balanced Budget return to Washington,” Palin said on Fox News on Tuesday night. “He wants to apply that common-sense economic principle of balanced-budget fiscal responsibility, and I want to see him reelected.”

Conservatives divided in Nebraska GOP Senate primary

Conservatives and Tea Party groups have been working recently in several states to influence Republican Senate primaries. You know that Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) was recently defeated by Richard Mourdock. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) could face a similar fate at the hands of Dan Liljenquist, though that’s less likely. And with more money being sent to help Ted Cruz in Texas, they could see another huge victory there.

However, conservatives are divided in Nebraska. Jon Bruning, who was once seen as the frontrunner in the GOP Senate primary in the Cornhusker State, has been beaten and battered, but thanks to endorsements by prominent figures and grassroots groups, the conservative vote has been split, leading Matt Lewis to conclude that they may have missed an opportunity:

Things were so much simpler just one week ago, when Sen. Dick Lugar was the obvious villain and Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock was the conservative alternative. One short week later, with no squishy incumbent to oust, all three Nebraska Republicans are vying to occupy the conservative mantle.

And thanks to the seemingly schizophrenic endorsements of prominent national conservatives, the waters are thoroughly muddied.

FreedomWorks backs Dan Liljenquist in Utah

Given that FreedomWorks had targeted Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) so heavily in the lead up to the Utah GOP convention last week — pointing out his atrocious voting record, which includes voting for half of the national debt during his time in Washington, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that the group’s PAC has endorsed Dan Liljenquist, who will square off against Hatch in the June primary:

FreedomWorks for America announced today its endorsement of Dan Liljenquist, candidate for United States Senate representing Utah. Liljenquist won 40.8 percent of the delegate vote at last Saturday’s Utah GOP Convention, denying incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch the 60 percent necessary to avoid a June primary.

“Dan Liljenquist is an energetic fiscal conservative who will take a leading role in spending cuts and the repeal of ObamaCare from day one,” commented Russ Walker, National Political Director for FreedomWorks for America.

“We have been working with Utah conservatives since last May to elect the strongest and most consistent advocate for conservative economic policy, and Dan has proven himself to be the man for the job. He will be a great addition to support fellow Utah Senator Mike Lee expanding the conservative coalition in the Senate.”

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