White House

Boehner on employer mandate delay: “We need fairness for all”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) struck a populist tone in a very pointed response to the Obama administration’s latest delay of the employer mandate.

“Once again, the president is giving a break to corporations while individuals and families are still stuck under the mandates of his health care law. And, once again, the president is rewriting law on a whim,” Boehner said in a statement.

The employer mandate is a provision of Obamacare that originally required businesses with 50 or more full-time employees, defined as someone who works at least 30 hours a week, to offer health insurance benefits or face a punitive, $2,000 per worker tax. The administration delayed enforcement of the provision last year, citing concerns from the business community.

The administration announced late yesterday afternoon that delay will enforcement of the provision for businesses with 50 to 99 full-time employees until the beginning of 2016.

The individual mandate coerces Americans to purchase coverage or face a tax. Those who fail to purchase health insurance by March 31, 2014 will face a tax of $95 or 1% of their gross taxable income, which ever is greater. The individual mandate tax will increase to $695 or 2.5% of gross income by 2016.

NY Times: 2.5 million fewer full-time jobs is totes cool

It seems that The New York Times is pulling directly from White House talking points about Obamacare. In response to the devastating CBO budget report released yesterday, the paper’s editorial board says that 2.5 million fewer full-time workers in the labor force by 2024 is actually a good thing (emphasis added):

The Congressional Budget Office estimated on Tuesday that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the number of full-time workers by 2.5 million over the next decade. That is mostly a good thing, a liberating result of the law. Of course, Republicans immediately tried to brand the findings as “devastating” and stark evidence of President Obama’s health care reform as a failure and a job killer. It is no such thing.
The new law will free people, young and old, to pursue careers or retirement without having to worry about health coverage. Workers can seek positions they are most qualified for and will no longer need to feel locked into a job they don’t like because they need insurance for themselves or their families. It is hard to view this as any kind of disaster.

Uh. What? Obamacare incentivizes people not to work so that they can gain greater subsidies for insurance coverage, thus reducing their productivity. How can that be considered a good thing in the mind of any rational person?

Keystone XL alternatives would bring higher carbon emissions

In a report released on Friday, the State Department determined that the northern part of the Keystone XL pipeline would have little impact on the environment. The finding was expected and not at all dissimilar from previous draft and final environmental reports.

The media can’t help but ignore the findings of the report. There is bipartisan support for Keystone XL in Congress and polling shows the public backs its construction. President Barack Obama, however, is ambivalent to the pipeline, which may be a generous way to describe some of his public statements about it.

President Obama has slammed Republicans for their support of Keystone XL and downplayed the number of jobs it would create. Perhaps the most important angle he’s discussed is the pipeline’s impact on climate change.

“[A]llowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” President Obama said in June 2013 in a speech at Georgetown University. “The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.”

Jay Carney: Obamacare “absolutely worth it” even if Dems lose the Senate

Facing the very real prospect of losing control of the Senate in this year’s mid-term election, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the passing Obamacare is “absolutely” worth the political costs Democrats may pay in the upcoming mid-term election.

“[T]he answer is, it is absolutely worth it, no matter what happens politically,” Carney told Jonathan Karl on ABC’s This Week. “I just disagree that Republicans are going to have a winning issue on this, if they decide to run on it, because they’ve got to explain what repeal means.”

President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats have been resistant to any attempts by Republicans to alter or delay parts of the law, even proposals as basic as codifying the administration’s delay of the employer mandate provision and ensuring the security of Healthcare.gov users’ personal information.

AZ-09: Vulnerable Dem says fundamentals of Obamacare are good

Kyrsten Sinema

In 2008, at the height of the recession, then-Republican presidential nominee John McCain tried to ease Americans concerns, proclaiming that the “still the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”

Though his campaign was an uphill battle to begin with, in retrospect, the statement was, arguably, a turning point in that election. Barack Obama and his subordinates hammered away at McCain, using it as evidence that he was out of touch with “ordinary Americans.”

More than five years later, the economy is still recovering from the recession and Americans are uncertain about how key parts of President Obama’s agenda will effect them.

One of the main concerns being Obamacare, which caused health insurance premiums to rise and, through its regulations, millions of health plans to be canceled. But worry not, says Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), the “fundamentals of the law are good.”

During an interview last weekend with a Phoenix-based NBC affiliate, Sinema, one of several vulnerable House Democrats up for reelection this year, tried to downplay problems with Obamacare and the federal exchange website, Healthcare.gov.

“[T]he fundamentals of the law are good,” said Sinema, who was tapped by the White House in 2009 to help craft Obamacare. “When the law is implemented appropriately, it will help more Americans get greater access to cheaper coverage,” adding that she supports changes to Obamacare to “make it more workable.”

Obama to take metadata collection out of NSA hands

President Barack Obama will make a speech this morning outlining the changes to the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic surveillance programs. One major change the White House is expected to announce is taking the controversial phone metadata program out of the hands of the intelligence agency, according to Politico:

Obama “will order a transition that will end the Section 215 telephone metadata program as it currently exists, and move to a program that preserves the needed capabilities without the government holding this data,” one official said. Intelligence officials use the data bank in terrorism investigations to search for certain contacts of suspected terrorists.

“The President believes that the 215 program addresses important capabilities that allow us to counter-terrorism, but that we can and should be able to preserve those capabilities while addressing the privacy and civil liberties concerns that are raised by the government holding this meta-data,” the official added.
The president will ask Attorney General Eric Holder and intelligence officials to come up with a detailed plan by March 28 that will lead to keeping the data in private hands, officials said. In the meantime, Obama will move “immediately” to require judicial approval before the data can be queried, the officials added.

Report: al-Qaeda elements involved in Benghazi attack

The claims recently made by The New York Times about the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack continues to crumble. Just last month the “paper of record” stated that there was “no evidence” that suggested al-Qaeda was involved in the attack on the American outpost in the Libyan city.

But a declassified, bipartisan report released this morning by the Senate Intelligence Committee lays waste to that claim by implicating regional affiliates of al-Qaeda —including Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — in the attack:

The administration initially claimed the attack sprung out of a protest, but has since given a more complicated assessment. Still, administration officials all along have downplayed Al Qaeda involvement, recently seizing on a New York Times report that supported those claims.

While the report does not implicate Al Qaeda “core” — the leadership believed to be in the Pakistan region — it does blame some of the most influential Al Qaeda branches, including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

“Individuals affiliated with terrorist groups, including AQIM, Ansar al-Sharia, AQAP, and the Mohammad Jamal Network, participated in the September 11, 2012, attacks,” the report said. The militant Ansar al-Sharia was, separately, labeled by the State Department as a terror group last week, in part over its alleged involvement in the Benghazi strike.

Obama to announce NSA reforms on Friday

The White House is ready to take some action on the recommendations made by the panel that reviewed controversial the NSA bulk data collect program. President Barack Obama will announce reforms in a speech on Friday, though the extent of the changes is not yet clear.

The NSA has lobbying hard to maintain its vast surveillance power and influence, hoping that the White House’s reforms won’t be sweeping. Civil libertarians on Capitol Hill, however, want President Obama to go big on the reforms, even urging him to institute the changes on his own.

But it appears that President Obama, whose dive in the polls began with the NSA domestic surveillance controversy, will lean heavily on Congress to enact his proposed reforms, which could mean a tumultuous road ahead:

Many of the key reforms he’s expected to endorse — including changes to the National Security Agency’s practice of gathering information on telephone calls made to, from or within the U.S. — will require congressional action. Like the public — and seemingly the president himself — lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are divided on what needs fixing and how to do it.

WaPo: Get ready for another round of health plan cancellations

Coming off a political firestorm over millions of canceled health plans caused by Obamacare regulations, the Obama Administration could have another headache on its hands with yet another round termination letters that are slated to be sent out later this year.

Debunking the narrative that the health plan cancellations that have occurred affect only the small number of Americans who buy coverage on the individual market, Washington Post noted yesterday that this next round of cancellations will impact Americans who have coverage through a small business:

While some cancellation notices already have gone out, insurers say the bulk of the letters will be sent in October, shortly before the next open-enrollment period begins. The timing — right before the midterm elections — could be difficult for Democrats who are already fending off Republican attacks about the Affordable Care Act and its troubled rollout.

Rand Paul seeks to repeal Iraq War authorization

Despite an al-Qaeda resurgence in Iraq, just 25% of voters favor military action in the Middle Eastern country if Islamic radicals take control. That is an example of how much a war weary nation has changed.

Some like, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have used the escalating violence in Iraq to slam President Barack Obama’s 2011 decision to withdraw from Iraq, which was based on a timeline set by his predecessor, George W. Bush. Others, however, like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), say that it’s time to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq:

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., plans to introduce legislation Friday to repeal the law that green-lighted the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and which remains on the books two years after President Barack Obama declared that war over, Paul’s office said Wednesday.

Paul’s announcement came one day after Yahoo News reported the White House now favors scrapping the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq, signed into law in late 2002 by then-President George W. Bush.

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