Biggest Stories of 2013: The Republican Surrender Act of 2013

Throughout New Year’s Eve, we’ll be going through the 10 biggest political stories of 2013 as selected by United Liberty’s contributors. Don’t forget to chime in on the biggest stories of the year on our Facebook page.

Republicans won a hard fought debt ceiling battle in 2011, getting $1.2 trillion in reductions in spending over the course of 10 years. The spending cuts were hailed by supporters as one of the biggest achievements for fiscal conservatives in several years.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) passed both the House of Representatives and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, including votes from Pelosi and Reid, and was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

But before those bipartisan cuts even kicked in, Republicans began retreating from them, and, in the process, blew their messaging on the need for lower spending and deficit reduction. Why? They wanted to restore some of the defense spending cuts mandated by the BCA, because they wanted to protect crony contractors from cutbacks.

Moody’s worried about insurers’ financial health

The shifting Obamacare deadlines — caused by poorly designed, still glitchy website and millions of insurance cancellations — have led to concern from Moody’s, one of the major credit rating agencies, that insurers participating in the health insurance exchanges could be at fiscal risk:

Moody’s, an agency that rates business’ credit worthiness, warned today that the Obama administration’s constantly changing rules and deadlines for the Affordable Care Act could negatively impact business for health insurance companies.

In the last few weeks, the Obama administration has changed the rules to let people keep their existing health insurance longer, delayed the open enrollment period for 2015 by one month, and extended the 2013 deadline for when individuals would have to enroll in order have health insurance by Jan. 1, 2014.

All of those, Moody’s warned in their bi-weekly credit outlook statement today, are “credit negative” for health insurance companies and could “expose the sector to additional financial and operational risks.”

Steve Zaharuk, senior vice president of the U.S. Insurance team for Moody’s, told ABC News that over the next year, the uncertainty posed by last minute changes from the Obama administration could expose insurance companies to higher administrative costs and uncertainty about the effects of the changes on the composition of healthy and sick people they insure.

Rubio wants repeal of Obamacare’s bailout for insurance companies

There is a provision in Obamacare that was key to getting insurers to back the law that protects them from financial losses they may incur if too many sick and unhealthy people end up in the risk pool.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) plans to introduce legislation, likely this week, that would repeal the “risk corridor” provision of the law, which would get taxpayers off the hook for a bailout in the event that insurers faces losses:

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the provision could amount to a bailout of the insurance industry, which stands to lose if the troubled Obamacare exchanges fail to enroll enough people to make the system financially viable. Obamacare enrollment has already been stymied by glitches at the sign-up site and it could be dampened again under an administrative fix President Obama proposed this week to resolve problems with millions of cancelled policies.

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said the Tea Party-aligned senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate is concerned that the fix Obama proposed would increase the likelihood that insurance companies would need a federal bailout. And the existing law would effectively give Obama a blank check to deal with it, he said.

“We need to protect taxpayers from having to bail out anyone as a consequence of Obamacare,” Conant said in an email exchange with the Washington Examiner. “Rubio’s bill will fully repeal the ‘risk corridor’ provision in Obamacare, preventing a bailout.”

Taxpayers lose billions on GM bailout

General Motors

President Barack Obama staked his re-election bid partly on the notion that he rescued struggling automakers through expensive bailouts and, thus, saved Detroit. But what was one of America’s great cities has plunged into bankruptcy and taxpayers have been left on the hook for billions of dollars as the federal government seeks to unload its stake in General Motors (GM).

The Treasury Department has quietly revealed this week that taxpayers lost $9.7 billion in the Obama Administration’s bailout of GM, which was more of a bailout for the auto manufacturer’s labor unions that support President Obama than anything else:

Emails show IRS, White House illegally disclosed taxpayer information

Discussions between the Internal Revenue and the White House over a lawsuit pertaining ObamaCare’s contraception mandate led to the disclosure of confidential taxpayer information, according to The Daily Caller, which obtained emails between the parties from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee:

Top Internal Revenue Service Obamacare official Sarah Hall Ingram discussed confidential taxpayer information with senior Obama White House officials, according to 2012 emails obtained by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and provided to The Daily Caller.

Lois Lerner, then head of the IRS Tax Exempt Organizations division, also received an email alongside White House officials that contained confidential information.

Ingram attempted to counsel the White House on a lawsuit from religious organizations opposing Obamacare’s contraception mandate. Email exchanges involving Ingram and White House officials — including White House health policy advisor Ellen Montz and deputy assistant to the president for health policy Jeanne Lambrew — contained confidential taxpayer information, according to Oversight.

The emails provided to Oversight investigators by the IRS had numerous redactions with the signifier “6103.”

Rand Paul targets John Roberts’ health insurance subsidies

Rand Paul on

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is introducing a measure that would require that all federal workers to take part in ObamaCare, though he is framing the issue as a matter of Chief Justice John Roberts and others who support the law leading by example.

“I think Congress should never exempt themselves from a law. But then again, John Roberts, you know, he loves so much, he should get it. Right now, he’s getting a federal employee subsidy; he’s not part of ObamaCare,” Paul told Fox and Friends on Monday morning.

“So he makes the rest of America — through, I think, convoluted constitutional logic — he makes us get ObamaCare, but he’s exempt,” he noted. “So I have an amendment that I will introduce that says all the federal government gets ObamaCare, including federal employees…including John Roberts.”

“I’m not excited about doing that to staff or to federal employees,” Paul said in response to concerns over added costs to congressional staffers, many of whom don’t make a lot of money. “But if the President thins ObamaCare is a good idea, if John Roberts thinks that he can twist the Constitution and make ObamaCare constitutional, he ought to get it.”

Justice Department to push criminal justice reforms, save taxpayers money

In a rare bit of good news from the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder announced long overdue federal criminal justice reforms that would avoid mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders:

In a major shift in criminal justice policy, the Obama administration will move on Monday to ease overcrowding in federal prisons by ordering prosecutors to omit listing quantities of illegal substances in indictments for low-level drug cases, sidestepping federal laws that impose strict mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related offenses.
Saying that “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason,” Mr. Holder is planning to justify his policy push in both moral and economic terms.

“Although incarceration has a role to play in our justice system, widespread incarceration at the federal, state and local levels is both ineffective and unsustainable,” Mr. Holder’s speech says. “It imposes a significant economic burden — totaling $80 billion in 2010 alone — and it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate.”
Under a policy memorandum being sent to all United States attorney offices on Monday, according to an administration official, prosecutors will be told that they may not write the specific quantity of drugs when drafting indictments for drug defendants who meet the following four criteria: their conduct did not involve violence, the use of a weapon or sales to minors; they are not leaders of a criminal organization; they have no significant ties to large-scale gangs or cartels; and they have no significant criminal history.

Christie vetoes ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion

After being criticized by many Republicans for his “bromance” with President Barack Obama, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) has taken a shift to the right by vetoing legislation that would expand Medicaid in his state:

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Friday vetoed a bill that attempted to make the state’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility permanent under the healthcare law known as Obamacare, his office said on Friday.

Christie’s office announced he vetoed eight bills that “would add potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to state and local budgets.” He also signed a $32.9 billion budget and three other bills, his office said in a statement.

Among the bills he vetoed was one dealing with Medicaid expansion under the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law known as Obamacare.

This is actually a reversal on his part. Back in February, Christie announced that he would expand Medicaid through ObamaCare, calling it the “smart thing to do for our fiscal and public health.” Christie also slammed Obama on Friday, saying that the President “can’t figure out how to lead.”

IRS to give out $70 million in bonuses to union employees

At a time when the Internal Revenue Service is under fire for targeting Tea Party and conservative groups and its lavish spending at conferences, the embattled agency will soon dole out $70 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses to union employees:

The Internal Revenue Service is about to pay $70 million in employee bonuses despite an Obama administration directive to cancel discretionary bonuses because of automatic spending cuts enacted this year, according to a GOP senator.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa says his office has learned that the IRS is executing an agreement with the employees’ union on Wednesday to pay the bonuses. Grassley says the bonuses should be canceled under an April directive from the White House budget office.
“The IRS always claims to be short on resources,” Grassley said. “But it appears to have $70 million for union bonuses. And it appears to be making an extra effort to give the bonuses despite opportunities to renegotiate with the union and federal instruction to cease discretionary bonuses during sequestration.”

The IRS said it is negotiating with the union over the matter but did not dispute Grassley’s claim that the bonuses are imminent.

Senate Democrat identifies himself as a “Republican”

Mark Begich

Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) seems a litte confused about what party he belongs to. During an appearance on CNBC, the Alaska Democrat tried to distance himself from his the Leftist-wing of his party by telling the hosts that he is a “Rockefeller Republican”:

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) on Monday said he’s closer to being a Rockefeller Republican than a Pelosi Democrat.

“Probably a Rockefeller Republican,” the Alaska senator told CNBC Monday morning when asked whether he was closer to identifying as that or as a Pelosi Democrat.

The comment signifies Begich’s efforts to put some distance between himself and national Democrats in the libertarian-leaning state.

Well, that’s flatly absurd. Begich, who serves on Democratic leadership in the Senate, is no doubt nervous about running for re-election in a state that Mitt Romney won by 14 points. In 2008, he barely defeated then-Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), who was found guilty of lying about gifts he’d received from an oil company (that conviction was reversed last year).

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