Landrieu already had her chance to avoid insurance cancellations

Since the White House admitted that President Obama lied when he made a central promise about his healthcare reform law, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has been in a panic because it could hurt her chances for re-election.

Landrieu, a red state Democrat, is trying to pretend that she didn’t know that Americans would lose their health insurance coverage. Speaking from the Senate floor on Monday, she announced that she would file legislation to “clarify” Obamacare’s grandfather regulations to partially end the flood of cancellation letters that the law has caused.

“One of the important components of that bill that many of us talked about was the fact that if someone had individual insurance on the market, they could keep it,” Landrieu told her colleagues. “What is happening now, unfortunately, because of the grandfather provision in the Affordable Care Act, in my view — this may not be shared by everyone on the floor — it was not written as tightly as it should have been, as clearly as it should have been.”

“The bill I am introducing today, Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act, will clarify this grandfather clause in the Affordable Care Act so that it will clearly say that if a person has an insurance plan they like, if it is what they want and can afford, they can keep it,” she said. “This bill, if it passes, will help anywhere from 5 to 7 million people who are getting notices in the mail every day like the one I will read into the record, which was sent to someone in my state.”

Legislation filed to make NSA Inspector General post subject to confirmation

The controversy surrounding the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection of innocent Americans phone and Internet record has led to a tremendous backlash in Congress. Not only have there been several pieces of legislation filed to end the agency’s spying, Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) has introduced a measure — H.R. 3436, The National Security Agency Inspector General Act of 2013 — that would subject the NSA’s inspector general to Senate confirmation.

“With information continuing to drip out regarding activities at the NSA that at best raise questions about the legality of their conduct and at worst are in direct violation of the Constitution, [last Wednesday] I introduced legislation to help correct this behavior, by making the NSA Inspector General (IG) position a presidential appointment, to be confirmed by the Senate,” said Sanford in a press statement from his office.

Inspectors general have a duty of reporting rule violations and transparency issues to senior officials and/or members of Congress. For example, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) confirmed that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has wittingly targeted conservative and Tea Party groups attempting to apply for tax-exempt status.

Though the TIGTA isn’t subject to Senate confirmation, inspectors general at the CIA, Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security are, Sanford noted, and with the controversy surrounding the NSA, a measure of independence from high-level officials is needed.

Some Hill staffers will avoid Obamacare exchanges

Not only will congressional staffers get to keep their hefty subsidy for health insurance, it turns out that at least some will be able to avoid a provision of Obamacare requiring them to purchase coverage on D.C.’s health insurance exchange and, instead, keep their current plan:

In what members of both parties said was a surprise, guidance on Tuesday from the chief administrative officer of the House said lawmakers could privately designate personal office aides as not “official,” meaning they do not have to go on the exchange and could keep their current plan. Similarly, House lawmakers can decide that their committee and leadership staffers need to go on D.C.’s exchanges.
Similar guidance was distributed in the Senate last week, where at least one senator not in committee or party leadership was looking at using a “liberal” interpretation of the rules to exempt aides from the exchanges, sources said. But it will be difficult for rank-and-file senators to escape public scrutiny if they choose to keep their aides off the exchanges, given senators’ more prominent stature and fewer numbers than House members.

Some House lawmakers are saying that in the face of vague rules, they will make their own determination about what to do.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says he’ll declare his entire staff — including aides in his personal office — not “official.” They can then keep their current plan, which they bought under the FEHBP.

Harry Reid attempting to push through unnecessary court nominees

An important battle is brewing in the Senate that could send shockwaves through the United States’ judicial system. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is trying to push through three of President Barack Obama’s nominees to fill vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

While this issue hasn’t received a lot of attention as other political fights over Obamacare and NSA spying are currently raging in Washington, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is one of the most influential courts in the country, holding the responsibility of reviewing regulations and rules written by federal agencies.

Rand Paul to place hold on Fed chair nominee

Janet Yellen

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has informed Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) of his intention to place a hold on Federal Reserve chair nominee, Dr. Janet Yellen, until the chamber votes on S. 209, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act.

“I am writing to convey my objection to floor consideration of the nomination of Dr. Janet Yellen to Chair the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve without also considering legislation to bring much-needed transparency to the Fed,” wrote Paul in a letter to Reid, delivering on a threat he made last week.

Democratic Party consultant: “Dem Party is f****d” because of Obamacare

The panic inside the Democratic Party over Obamacare is really beginning to set in as the Obama Administration continues to deal with the fallout of an embarrassing rollout of the glitchy federal health insurance exchange website,, and seemingly endless reports of Americans losing their health insurance coverage or being hit with more expensive plans.

Ron Fournier of the National Journal relayed the concerns and indignation of one Democratic Party consultant who put it very simply — they are “f****d”:

Incoming from Democrats:

“Dem Party is F****d.” That was the subject line of an email sent to me Sunday by a senior Democratic consultant with strong ties to the White House and Capitol Hill. The body of the email contained a link to this Los Angeles Times story about Obamacare “sticker shock:”

“These middle-class consumers are staring at hefty increases on their insurance bills as the overhaul remakes the healthcare market. Their rates are rising in large part to help offset the higher costs of covering sicker, poorer people who have been shut out of the system for years.”

“Although recent criticism of the healthcare law has focused on website glitches and early enrollment snags, experts say sharp price increases for individual policies have the greatest potential to erode public support for President Obama’s signature legislation.”

CISPA making a comeback…again

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) could soon be coming back up in Congress thanks to efforts by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).

After quite speculation at the end of last monthMother Jones reported on Monday that Feinstein confirmed that she and Chambliss were working to revive the measure, which is sure to get under the craw of Internet activists and civil liberties groups.

“I am working with Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) on bipartisan legislation to facilitate the sharing of cyber related information among companies and with the government and to provide protection from liability,” Feinstein told Mother Jones. “The legislation will…still maintain necessary privacy protections.”

This is the second attempt this year to move CISPA through Congress. The House of Representatives passed CISPA back in April, over a veto threat from the White House due to a lack of privacy protections. The Senate, however, shelved the measure shortly thereafter.

Shutdown unlikely to be a big factor in 2014 mid-term

Pundits and talking heads have been weighing in on the effects of the 16-day quasi-government shutdown on the Republican Party and the 2014 mid-term election. Many are saying that the electoral consequences could be steep, and could even cost the GOP control of the House of Representatives.

It’s hard to counter arguments and polling data that the Republican Party’s standing with Americans has been hurt by the shutdown. Gallup recently found that just 28% of the public has favorable view of the GOP, the lowest of any party on record. The good news is that Republicans are still favored on the economy. They were also given a gift by the endless problems plaguing the federal ObamaCare exchange.

But the shutdown could help Democrats with fundraising and candidate recruitment, Stu Rothenberg recently wrote, at a time when President Barack Obama’s poll numbers with his own party had been softening.

NC Senate: Rand Paul endorses Greg Brannon

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has endorsed Dr. Greg Brannon, who is seeking Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in North Carolina in what will be one of the key races in next year’s mid-term election.

“I enthusiastically endorse Greg Brannon for U.S. Senate because he’s a true constitutional conservative who will join me in fighting against business as usual in Washington,” said Paul in a release from the North Carolina Republican’s campaign.

Paul called Brannon the “clear choice for conservatives in North Carolina and said that the candidate would “provide vital reinforcements to help reverse out-of-control spending, restore constitutional limitations on our federal government, and fight back against President Obama’s agenda.”

“And as Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and I showed clearly in our campaigns, when you run on principle and excite the grass-roots Republicans, and Independents and even Democrats hungry for a change, you win,” said Paul. “That’s why I support Greg Brannon, and expect him to be North Carolina’s next Senator.”

“I urge conservatives in the state of North Carolina and across the nation to rally around Greg Brannon by contributing generously to his campaign and joining the grassroots volunteer effort to ensure that there is a strong Constitutional conservative Senator from North Carolina,” he added.

Brannon, who makes his career as an obstetrician, is one of several Republicans in field that includes North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis and Baptist preacher Mark Harris. He is running primarily on limited government issues very similar to Paul and other grassroots conservatives.

House GOP leaders unable to gain support for funding, debt ceiling measure

House Republican leadership was dealt an embarrassing blow yesterday when they had to pull their own spending plan and debt ceiling package off the floor because they didn’t have enough votes to pass it.

The day began with House leaders talking about their own bill, despite progress between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The House package would have funded the federal government until January 15 and extended the debt ceiling until February 7, roughly the same dates as the Reid-McConnell deal.

But there were a couple of aspects to the package drew opposition from the White House and Senate Democrats, including the two-year delay of the medical device tax and the ending the special subsidies for members of Congress. The House plan would have also required President Barack Obama to purchase coverage through the ObamaCare exchange.

The House proposal caused Reid and McConnell to postpone their talks, prompting some senators to question House leaders for getting involved when a deal in the Senate was close. Reid blasted Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) from the Senate floor, accusing him and other House leaders of trying to “torpedo bipartisan progress with a bill that can’t pass the Senate and won’t pass.”

“I’m disappointed with John Boehner, who’d, once again, try to preserve his role at the expense of the country,” added Reid.

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