White House

Today in Liberty: Senate Dems outline Obamacare “fixes,” growth not keeping up with projections

“The American founders often referred to a ‘Liberty Tree.’ Our generation didn’t plant that tree - we didn’t grow that tree - we were simply handed it by the generations of Americans who came before us….Let us highly resolve not to rest until we have delivered to our sons and daughters a Liberty Tree that is just as healthy, a Constitution that is just as strong; and a nation that is just as free as those that our fathers and mothers gave to us.” — Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA)

— Senate Dems finally rollout Obamacare fixes: After months of talking about the need for fixes to the law, six Senate Democrats have finally offered some specifics on how they plan to address at least some of Americans’ concerns. The biggest proposal is the introduction of a “Copper Plan,” which, they write at Politico Magazine, “will give consumers more control over their own coverage, spur competition and, most importantly, increase affordability.” Two of the Democrats, Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Mark Begich (D-AK), are up for reelection this year and are thought to be among the chamber’s most vulnerable members. Despite the push for fixes, the Heritage Foundation notes that most of the six “didn’t have strong initial reservations about the massive bill when Obama signed it into law in March 2010.”

Rand Paul offers Obama a “settlement” on NSA lawsuit

Though he claims some credit on President Barack Obama’s proposal to end the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) says that legislation isn’t needed to address the controversy.

Paul and FreedomWorks, a conservative grassroots group, filed a lawsuit last month challenging the NSA domestic surveillance program. The lawsuit argues that the program is an invasion of privacy because metadata collection can reveal a wealth of information about individuals. Researchers at Stanford University have backed up that suggestion.

“If the White House is serious, they don’t need to wait for legislation from Congress. They can act today to settle this matter. They should stop collecting phone data,” said Paul in a statement from RandPAC. “They should acknowledge they need a warrant to access such information in the future and they should accept that this data is protected by our Fourth Amendment rights.”

Paul and FreedomWorks outlined the terms of the settlement to the Justice Department through their lawyer, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The proposed settlement (below) includes an end to the bulk data collection program as well as the purging of all defendants’ metadata.

Obama to call for an end to NSA bulk data collection

The New York Times reported late yesterday evening that President Barack Obama will supposedly call for an end to the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program, leaving data in the hands of phone companies:

The Obama administration is preparing to unveil a legislative proposal for a far-reaching overhaul of the National Security Agency’s once-secret bulk phone records program in a way that — if approved by Congress — would end the aspect that has most alarmed privacy advocates since its existence was leaked last year, according to senior administration officials.

Under the proposal, they said, the N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of  court order.
The new type of surveillance court orders envisioned by the administration would require phone companies to swiftly provide records in a technologically compatible data format, including making available, on a continuing basis, data about any new calls placed or received after the order is received, the officials said.

They would also allow the government to swiftly seek related records for callers up to two phone calls, or “hops,” removed from the number that has come under suspicion, even if those callers are customers of other companies.

Administration may extend Obamacare enrollment deadline for some

The White House has hinted that it may extended the Obamacare enrollment deadline for Americans who experienced technical problems on the state and federal exchanges, much like the administration did in December for those who wanted to sign up for health insurance coverage at the beginning of the year.

“March 31 was the deadline, as was the case for the December deadline, we’re going to want to make sure that people who are already in line can finish their enrollment,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Friday, pointing them to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for further explanation.

“We want to make sure, as we did in December, on that deadline, that folks who have begun the process are able to complete it,” said Carney. “We certainly expect, naysayers notwithstanding, that there’s going to be continued interest right up to the deadline, and that interest will probably increase as we approach the deadline.”

White House admits Obamacare “enrollment” numbers are inflated

The Obama administration boasted on Monday that 5 million Americans have enrolled in health plans through the Obamacare exchanges, putting the White House within reach of a revised CBO estimate with around two weeks to go before the end of the open enrollment period.

But when asked whether the number of enrollments being reported was accurate, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney admitted that the administration doesn’t know how many people have actually made a premium payment.

“[Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] is working to provide more detailed data on who has already paid their premiums — what percentage of the population of enrollees that includes,” Carney said cautiously. “We can point you to major insurers who have placed that figure at 80%, give or take, depending on the insurer.”

“But we don’t have specific data that is, you know, in a reliable enough form to provide,” he added.

Surprise!: Obama administration not even close to living up to transparency promises

Though he once promised that his administration would be the most transparent in American history, the Obama administration has gone to great lengths to keep sunlight from shining, the Associated Press reports:

More often than ever, the administration censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.
The government’s own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that halfway through its second term, the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records. In category after category - except for reducing numbers of old requests and a slight increase in how often it waived copying fees - the government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.

In a year of intense public interest over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, the government cited national security to withhold information a record 8,496 times - a 57 percent increase over a year earlier and more than double Obama’s first year, when it cited that reason 3,658 times. The Defense Department, including the NSA, and the CIA accounted for nearly all those. The Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency cited national security six times, the Environmental Protection Agency did twice and the National Park Service once.

White House official: Obama will be an asset to Democrats

Dan Pfeiffer

The White House is desperately trying to spin numerous reports and poll numbers showing that President Barack Obama will be a drag on Democrats in the 2014 mid-term elections. In fact, Dan Pfeiffer, a White House advisor, appeared on Meet the Press last weekend and did his best Baghdad Bob impression, declaring that President Obama would be an asset.

“There’s no question that it’s a tough map for Democrats. That’s what happens when you win a lot of elections like we did in 2008,” Pfeiffer told host David Gregory. “But the good news is we have a lot of good candidates and, most importantly, we’re on the right side of the issue that matters most to the public — jobs and the economy.”

Actually, that’s not true, if you consider job approval ratings to a measure of what is or isn’t the “right side.” President Obama’s job approval rating on the economy is underwater by 15 points (41/56), according to the recent WSJ/NBC poll.

“Here’s what the President is going to do. He’s going to lay out the terms of the debate in this election as a choice between Democrats who support an agenda of opportunity for all [and] Republicans [who] support an agenda of opportunity for a few,” he said. “And let’s not forget this President wrote the book on running and winning modern campaigns. So we’re going to take all of our resources and help Democrats up and down the ballots.”

Turley blasts Obama’s “uber presidency”

Jonathan Turley continues to be one of the few leftists with a conscience when it comes to the concentration of power in the executive branch. Though he agrees with many of President Barack Obama’s policies, the Georgetown law professor, who recently testified before the House Judiciary Committee, has serious concerns about the means through which he has enacted them.

In a post at his blog on Friday, Turley responded to latest major change in the law, in which the administration ostensibly delayed enforcement of the individual mandate, blasting President Obama for ignoring the Constitution and criticizing Democrats for enabling the administration: (emphasis added):

House Democrats keep members in line on Medicare, individual mandate delay

Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer

House Republicans brought up a measure that would stop planned Medicare payment cuts to doctors, paying for it through a five-year of the individual mandate. Fresh off a disappointing special election defeat in which Medicare cuts and Obamacare played a significant role, House Democratic leaders whipped votes against the bill to try to keep the conference in line:

Democrats are furiously whipping their caucus against a Republican bill that would pay for a bipartisan Medicare fix by delaying ObamaCare’s individual mandate.

That’s a change: Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) did not whip a similar Republican bill earlier this month to remove the penalty for not buying insurance in 2014. The bill passed the House and picked up 27 Democratic votes in the process.

But Democrats desperately need to circle their wagons around the healthcare law after a devastating setback in Florida this week, where their loss in a special election exacerbated worries that ObamaCare will sink the party in this year’s midterm elections.

Look, leadership doesn’t whip a vote unless they think a chunk of their members could break with the party line. In this case, you have politically unpopular, though absolutely necessary, Medicare cuts on the table in exchange for a delay of the individual mandate.

The hypocrisy of Dianne Feinstein

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) spoke out yesterday morning about the accusations that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had accessed committee staffers’ computers. In a 40-plus minute speech, Feinstein accused the agency of removing documents related to its investigation into the agency’s Bush-era detention and interrogation programs and intimidation:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that the situation amounted to an attempted intimidation of congressional investigators, adding: “I am not taking it lightly.”

She confirmed that an internal agency investigation of the action has been referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. And she accused the CIA of violating the Fourth Amendment, various federal laws and a presidential executive order that bars the agency from conducting domestic searches and surveillance.

She has sought an apology and recognition that the CIA search of the committee’s computers was inappropriate, but said: “I have received neither.”

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