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Tags: Congressional Democrats

Coming Soon to Syria: Some Sort of U.S. Military Action Against ISIS



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Do we do covert surveillance anymore? Do we really need somebody to announce every step we take to keep an eye on the bad guys?

U.S. surveillance flights over Syria have started with President Obama’s go ahead, a step that will provide potential targets if airstrikes against Islamic State militants are approved.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that an unnamed U.S. official said the flights had begun. USA TODAY reported Monday that the flights will provide information on potential targets for strikes in Syria if Obama approves.

What next, a formal announcement?

Dear ISIS,

You are cordially invited to air strikes on Syrian territory beginning Friday, September 29, just after dusk. Please keep all personnel, vehicles, command posts, artillery, and stockpiles of weapons in place until that time. Your cooperation is appreciated.

Courtesy, the United States of America

Meanwhile, the editorial board of the Washington Post calls for U.S. “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Syria:

No serious approach to the group can focus only on Iraq, as the United States has done thus far. The extremists treat Iraq and Syria as one area of operations, and the United States must do the same. In that theater, as Mr. Obama has said, the United States must find partners: Kurds in Iraq and Syria, Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq, the Iraqi government if it can become more inclusive, what is left of the Free Syrian Army. Aiding them does not require a U.S. invasion, but it will need “boots on the ground,” as Mr. Obama already has acknowledged by sending close to 1,000 special forces back to Iraq. They will be needed for training, to assist in air targeting and perhaps more. As The Post’s Greg Miller reported Sunday, the United States suffers from “persistent intelligence gaps” in Syria; these can be filled only with a human presence in the region, not by drones or satellite technology alone.

Peggy Noonan offered a wise thought that will probably be ignored by the administration: “Go to Congress for authorization of force, showing the world we have gained at least some semblance of unity.”

If President Obama asked Congress for authorization for expanded operations against ISIS, would congressional Republicans vote “yes”?

If President Obama asked Congress for authorization for expanded operations against ISIS, would congressional Democrats vote “yes”?

For President Obama, the easiest option, thought not the wisest, is to go ahead with any operations he deems necessary and ignore congressional complaints about the War Powers Act.

Tags: Syria , ISIS , Congressional Democrats , Congressional Republicans , President Obama

‘How Do You Defend Inaction in the Face of a Crisis?’ You Don’t, Sir.



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Also in today’s Jolt . . . 

Congressional Democrat Assesses Obama on Border Crisis: ‘How Do You Defend Inaction in the Face of a Crisis?’

Oh, good. The Democratic party is suddenly awakening to the fact that just maybe Americans aren’t comfortable with an unsecure border and mass illegal immigration.

Until now, the politics of immigration have been seen as a no-lose proposition for President Obama and the Democrats. If they could get a comprehensive overhaul passed, they would win. And if Republicans blocked it, the GOP would further alienate crucial Hispanic and moderate voters.

But with the current crisis on the Southwest border, where authorities have apprehended tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children since October, that calculus may be shifting.

The president’s own party is deeply divided over what must be done now — particularly on the sensitive question of deporting children who have traveled thousands of miles and turned themselves in to U.S. authorities to escape from the desperate situations they faced in countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

The emergency has also renewed questions about the administration’s competence, reminiscent of those raised during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, last year’s botched rollout of the health-care law and more recent revelations of mismanagement that jeopardized care of patients at veterans hospitals.

I believe the technical term used by political scientists that best expresses the moment of revelation within this phenomenon is “DUH!”

Elsewhere in that article, we see congressional Democrats tearing into the president in a way that would have been unthinkable in his first term. Welcome to the life of a lame duck, Mr. President.

“The numbers have spiked recently, but this is not a new development,” said Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.). “It seems to me that the administration just wasn’t paying close attention and could have acted sooner.”

But Rep. Pete Gallego, a Texas Democrat whose district includes more than 40 percent of the U.S.-Mexico border, said he was less concerned about Obama skipping a Rio Grande Valley photo opportunity than he is about a lack of engagement in Washington.

“Rather than going to the border, I’d rather he invite some people over and start a conversation about how we are going forward,” Gallego said in an interview. “How do you defend inaction in the face of crisis? How is that defensible for anybody?”

Oh, and NBC’s Ron Allen checked in with an immigration court to see how it’s handling children who cross the border. The results will not surprise you:

Based on a day spent observing an immigration court in New York City, most of them can breathe a little easier: No one appears to be ordered out of the country any time soon . . . 

On this morning, most appearances lasted only a matter of minutes. After some brief judicial banter, and official business, Schoppert instructed just about every defendant to try to find a lawyer, and report back to court in February. He essentially put the “removal process,” on hold, and allowed these young migrants to get on with their new lives in America.

Diego’s attorney Merrill Clark was optimistic about his future. “He’s going to be legalized,” Clark insisted. “I haven’t lost a case like this one yet.”

If you can enter the country illegally and stay as long as you like without consequence, we don’t have an immigration system.

Tags: Immigration , Illegal Immigration , Barack Obama , Congressional Democrats

Congressional Democrats Agonize Over Which Course Will Best Prove They Matter



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Congressional Democrats Agonize Over Which Course Will Best Prove They Matter

There’s a certain sweetness in watching a cynical, ruthless political opposition frozen in indecision because they can’t decide which option is more politically advantageous:

House Democrats on Sunday made it clear that they do not expect fair proceedings from the Republican-led panel newly tasked with investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, but offered no definitive answer on whether they would appoint any of their own members to participate.

It doesn’t really matter. The Democrats seem to think that their participation comes with some sort of nebulous sense of “validity” stapled to it, and that their participation is a bargaining chip that the Republicans greatly desire. They also seem convinced that they can somehow strong-arm special committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. into giving them the power to veto subpoenas in exchange for this nebulous sense of “validity.”

Congressional Democrats greatly overestimate the value of their presence, both in this particular example and as a general rule.

Still, with or without Democrats, the House panel faces the steepest of uphill climbs because it’s trying to reintroduce a concept that this administration rejects on a cellular level: accountability. This is the administration where Kathleen Sebelius stays on the job after she blind-sides the president on the condition of Healthcare.gov, IRS employees retire early and go on paid administrative leave, and the four State Department officials most directly responsible for not acting on Ambassador Chris Stevens’ warnings were put on paid administrative leave. For a while. Then they were reinstated. This is an administration where it is commonplace for Cabinet secretaries and other high-profile officials to conduct official business on “alternative” e-mail accounts that somehow never get included in responses to Freedom of Information Act requests. This administration collectively shrugs when they learn that the president spent enormous political capital – and $10.5 billion in taxpayer money – to save a car company that made cars that killed people if their key chains were too heavy.

If there were any pulse left in the idealistic guy who ran for president in 2008, who promised a vastly improved federal government to the American people, the president would be saying something like this:

When the uprising against Qaddafi began in Libya, it was clear to me that it was in our national interest to stand with the people against an autocratic ruler who had sponsored terrorism against Americans in the past and whose long history of irrational and brutal rule meant he could never be a reliable U.S. ally. Our effort to help the Libyans build a decent and just form of government was spearheaded by one of the very best of our diplomatic corps, Chris Stevens. Chris and his team, along with our intelligence community, had a separate, difficult and dangerous mission: securing the now-loose weapons of Qaddafi’s arsenal, rapidly flowing to the wrong hands in and out of Libya. We knew that during Libya’s civil war, our Qatari allies had sent anti-aircraft weapons to help the rebels – and those weapons could lead to a massacre if they ended up in the hands of a terrorist. I know many Americans feel like we’ve already spent too much blood and treasure trying to help these far-off corners of the world turn the corner from bloody chaos to order and peace. But this was a danger we felt we needed to address, because someday it might threaten the lives of Americans  – and that meant we had to have Americans on the ground in dangerous places like Benghazi.

We now know our State Department underestimated the threat, and did not take the warnings from the staff on the ground seriously enough. Our military took the first steps to mobilizing forces for a rescue that night, but our efforts didn’t move nearly quickly enough as our brave men and women in harm’s way have a right to expect. And our explanation to the American people in the days afterwards blurred the lines between a protest in Egypt and what clearly was an opportunistic, barbaric attack by terrorists, hell-bent on killing Americans.  The suddenness of the attack, and the challenges of geography and the murky, shifting alliances in far-off lands with little functioning government are factors, but not an excuse. The American people deserve better, and we must perform better in the future.

We’ll never get anything resembling that speech from President Obama. He’s just not capable of it. 

Tags: Benghazi , Congressional Democrats , Barack Obama

Obamacare’s Never-Ending Dance of Delays



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From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Obamacare’s Never-Ending Dance of Delays

How the Obamacare discussion has progressed, in short-play form:

Congressional Republicans: Obamacare’s new rules are eliminating plans that people like.

President Obama: That’s not true. We said, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

People: Hey, our insurance plan just got canceled!

President Obama:I am sorry that [you] are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances [you] got from me.”

Congressional Republicans: You have to repeal the law. The law is what’s causing these plan cancellations.

President Obama: No, it isn’t. And no, we don’t have to repeal it. We’re not going back.

Congressional Democrats: Yeah, what he said. It’s. The. Law. We’re not going back. We’re all united behind Obamacare as is it currently written!

Red State Democrats: Whoa, whoa, whoa. What’s all this “we” stuff?

President Obama: Besides, this only impacts a very small number of people on the individual market.

Congressional Republicans: That’s several million people. The whole point of this thing was to cover the uninsured, and your law, passed without any of our votes, is creating more uninsured.

[Red State Democrats attempt to quietly slink out of the room]

President Obama: This is not a big problem.

[The people get angrier.]

President Obama: Okay, fine. I’m reinstating the old plans for a year.

Insurance companies: What, do you think we have these things hooked up to light switches? We can’t just flick them back on.

State Insurance Commissioners: Ahem, Mr. President, I think you’ll need our approval for this.

President Obama: Okay. If you liked your old plan, and if the insurance companies decide to offer it again, and if the state insurance commissioner signs off, you can keep your old plan.

People: Gee, thanks a heap, champ.

Congressional Republicans: The employer mandate isn’t going to work!

President Obama: Yes, it will! Yes, we can!

Congressional Democrats: They’re just nay-saying because they’re bitter, and hate the president, and they want sick people to die quickly.

(looks around)

Hey, where did the Red State Democrats go?

[The deadline for the employer mandate gets closer.]

Business community: These rules are unworkable.

President Obama: Due to unforeseen problems no one saw coming, I have instructed Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to delay the employer mandate until after the midterm elections.

Congressional Republicans: What do you mean, unforeseen? We told you it isn’t going to work! And you don’t have the authority to just unilaterally decide some parts of the law are delayed!

President Obama: Yes, I do. Yes, we can!

Congressional Democrats: Why are you complaining about him doing this? You were the ones complaining about the employer mandate before.

Congressional Republicans: The delay doesn’t change much. The employer mandate still isn’t going to work!

President Obama: Yes, it will! Yes, we can!

[Time passes.]

Business community: These rules are still unworkable. All you’ve done is give us more time to deal with a set of rules that make things more complicated and more expensive, and create perverse incentives to eliminate our existing coverage for employees, pay the fines instead, and tell our employees to buy insurance on the exchanges.

President Obama: Due to unforeseen problems no one saw coming, I have instructed Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to delay the employer mandate until 2016.

Congressional Republicans: Here we go again.

Congressional Democrats: What are you complaining about? He’s giving you what you wanted!

(looking around)

And where the heck did our red-state guys go?

Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.V.): “There’s bipartisan support for legislation postponing the implementation of the entirety of the Affordable Care Act until 2015.”

Fox News counts 28 major delays in Obamacare so far.

Tags: Obamacare , President Obama , Congressional Democrats , Congressional Republicans

Why the Debt Won’t — and Shouldn’t! — Go Away as a Campaign Issue



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A few posts below, you’ll see that Republican representative Steve Daines of Montana, running for Senate, pledges he’s “fighting for more jobs and less government,” and he touts his bill that says if members of Congress can’t balance the budget, they won’t get paid.

On the trail in the coming year, incumbent Democrats will probably brag, “we’ve cut the deficit in half!” hoping that enough people mix up the terms “deficit” and “debt” in their heads. Deficit measures how much more we spend than we take in each year; debt represents everything the U.S. government owes, and that sum goes up, year in, year out. We had a surplus during the late-1990s dot-com boom, eliminating the deficit, but the debt still increased a bit each year, because the excess funds were “invested in interest-bearing securities backed by the full faith and credit of the United States” as required by law. (More on this here.)

The new numbers:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects the 2014 ”baseline” federal budget deficit will be $514 billion, $166 billion lower than in 2013 ($680 billion). If the 2014 deficit projection is achieved, it would mark the fifth straight year of deficit declines since the deficit reached $1.4 trillion in 2009.

Democrats will hope that reducing the federal government’s annual deficit from the worst-ever to sixth-worst-ever counts as a major achievement in the electorate’s mind.

If Republicans want to remind the electorate of the consequences of ever-increasing debt on the here and now, perhaps they can emphasize the amount of money the federal government pays in interest on that debt:

In fiscal 2013, which ended Sept. 30, net interest payments on the debt totaled $222.75 billion, or 6.23% of all federal outlays. (The government paid out an estimated $420.6 billion in interest, but that included interest credited to Social Security and other government trust funds, as well as a relatively small amount of offsetting investment income.)

That’s $223 billion that could have been spent on anything else the federal government does: schools, fighter jets, veterans’ benefits, border security, Interstate highway repair, medical research. Or it could have been returned to taxpayers! For perspective, $223 billion represented the total sum of all individual contributions to charity in the United States in 2012. You could build 17 new aircraft carriers with that sum. Every penny the U.S. pays in interest on the debt is a penny not spent on actual, tangible stuff that even the lowest of low-information voters appreciates.

The amount the federal government will spend on interest on the debt will look much worse if interest rates go up. Here’s what the CBO projected on that front:

We pay for our borrowing, which is why we have to spend less.

Tags: Debt , Deficit , Steve Daines , Congressional Republicans , Congressional Democrats

Shocker: 58 Percent Say They Trust GOP More on Handling Health Care



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The lead in today’s Morning Jolt:

Shocker: 58% Say They Trust Republicans More on Handling Health Care

A new poll arrived in my e-mailbox this morning, indicating how quickly the conventional wisdom about the issue of health care has been turned upside down:

Loyalty prevails among partisans, but among independents, 42 percent trust the Democratic Party more when it comes to handling healthcare compared with 58 percent who trust the Republican Party more. . . . 

Forty one percent of registered voters approve of the law compared with 53 percent who disapprove. . . . 

Since September, Democrats have shifted 11 points away from let the law take effect as is, Independents have moved 10 points away from let the law take effect as is, and Republicans are 10 points more likely to support repealing law. . . . 

One in five registered voters have or know someone who has received an insurance cancellation notice. . . . 

Sixty-five percent are more likely to agree with a statement that cancellation notices show President Obama has broken his promise that Americans can keep their current insurance, while 35 percent say the notices will improve policies by requiring them to meet minimum standards.

(Notice this pollster doesn’t allow the option of “don’t know.” Interesting what happens when you push people off the fence.)

Twelve percent of voters say these notices are the single most important issue in their 2014 vote, 57 percent say it’s one of the most important.

This figure is pretty stunning: Among Democrats, 22 percent say Obama deserves “a lot” of the blame for insurance cancellations, 45 percent say “some,” and 33 percent say “none.” Among Republicans it splits 80 percent “a lot”, 18 percent “some”, and 3 percent “none” — yes, it comes to 101 percent, so I presume some figure is rounded up. Among independents, 59 percent say Obama deserves “a lot” of the blame, 30 percent say “some,” and only 11 percent say “none.”

Obama gets the most blame for the cancellations, then Congressional Democrats, then insurance companies, and Congressional Republicans get the least blame:

Today’s Jolt also includes the three discussions that the country always has about John F. Kennedy, and a short summary of last night’s fun here in Boston.

Tags: Obamacare , Congressional Republicans , Congressional Democrats , Barack Obama

Conventional Wisdom Completely Reverses Within 48 Hours



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From the Thursday editon of the Morning Jolt:

That Extreme, Reckless, Unserious GOP Idea Is Now Absolutely Necessary

I know about the death spiral, in regard to health insurance. You know about the death spiral.

Is it possible that most congressional Democrats don’t know about the death spiral? Or that they don’t really understand the death spiral? Or that they somehow don’t believe in it? Are they convinced you can add a lot of sick, elderly people requiring expensive care to existing insurance plans, and the insurance companies won’t suddenly need a lot more money? The insurance companies will raise premiums on their healthy customers, who will in some cases drop coverage, which will exacerbate the financial pressure . . . and the cycle continues until way too few healthy people are paying for the care of way too many sick people, and the insurance company goes under.

Is it that most Democrats just think health insurance companies have access to Uncle Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin and can always find more money from somewhere when they need it?

Think about it. Republicans in Congress were willing to go through with a shutdown in an effort to force a delay in the individual mandate specifically because it would greatly increase the odds of the whole thing collapsing within a year. And now, three weeks after Democrats fought through the shutdown and declared, “Over my dead body!” . . . it’s looking extremely likely. Maybe by the time this e-mail reaches you, maybe the delay will be official.

We have a delay in the sign-up period, but not a delay in the individual mandate deadline . . . so far.

The White House is delaying the deadline to buy health insurance by six weeks amid growing House Democratic concerns that the ObamaCare enrollment site’s botched rollout will prevent them from winning the House in 2014.

ObamaCare requires people to have health insurance by March 31, 2014. To guarantee the coverage, people must begin the process of applying for insurance no later than Feb. 15.

Under the change, people who have signed up for insurance by the end of March will not face a penalty even if they do not actually have the insurance.

White House officials on Wednesday argued this would not be a delay of the individual mandate because the March 31 date for having insurance would remain.

They also noted on Twitter that people would still have to have coverage in the 2014 tax year.

“Individual mandate timing hasn’t changed,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest tweeted. “[The] deadline for having insurance is 3/31. Was true this [morning]. Is true tonight.”

Allahpundit:

Do the Democrats who’ve been championing this law actually know how it works? It’s one thing for someone like Rubio to push the idea of delaying the mandate knowing that his proposal will go nowhere; it’s a crafty way to put Dems on the defensive politically. But now Democrats themselves are murmuring about delaying enrollment, which risks the same too many sick/not enough healthy financial nightmare for insurance companies, as a viable solution. It’s not viable. It’s not even viable if you subscribe to the “liberals designed ObamaCare to fail” theory. Even if that’s true, they wouldn’t design it to fail so badly that it might shake the public’s faith in liberal technocracy; that makes the goal of eventually selling people on single-payer harder, not easier. And they wouldn’t design it to fail immediately, when the public’s still skeptical of ObamaCare. To build support for greater statist control of health care, they need to impress people by showing that their contraption can run smoothly for awhile. Then, years from now, when they have a majority in Congress again, they can start touting single-payer as the key to lowering health-care costs for everyone. A meltdown on the federal exchange right out of the gate followed by skyrocketing premiums nationwide as the industry copes with the death spiral is . . . not helpful to that project. Which brings me back to my question. What are Shaheen, Pascrell, and Wasserman-Schultz doing touting a partial solution that’s apt to lead to the worst-case scenario? If you can’t fix the website immediately, your only option is to delay the law in its entirety so that insurers aren’t stuck figuring out a way to pay for preexisting conditions next year with no new revenue.

Most congressional Democrats see the world in fairly simple terms: Take money from taxpayers and give it to people they like. Maybe they genuinely can’t grasp anything more complicated than that.

The sudden enthusiasm for delaying the individual mandate is a mind-boggling turn of events, considering the administration’s line last month that delaying the individual mandate was the policy equivalent of the Ghostbusters crossing the streams:

Postponing the individual mandate would increase premiums and risk coverage for adults with pre-existing coverage, said David Simas, White House deputy senior adviser for communications.

“A delay of the individual requirement results in fewer people having insurance,” Simas said yesterday at the “Inside Politics with Bill Schneider” breakfast at the Third Way, a Washington research group aligned with Democrats.

Here’s the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities:

Specifically, a one-year delay of the individual mandate would reduce the expected coverage gains under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by nearly 85 percent, relative to current law, according to a recent CBO estimate. Delaying the individual mandate also would raise premiums for health insurance purchased in the individual market in 2014, CBO finds.

Ezra Klein, October 4:

It’s simply too late to delay the mandate. Doing so would mean that every insurer participating in the Obamacare marketplaces would have to pull their product and increase their premiums to account for the fact that there would be more sick people and fewer healthy people signing up. Higher premiums would, of course, make the situation worse, as even more healthy people backed off.

Tags: Obamacare , Barack Obama , Congressional Democrats

Is Delaying the Individual Mandate Obama’s Worst-Case Scenario?



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Back in July:

The vote to delay the individual mandate passed 251-174. Twenty-two Democrats supported the effort in addition to 229 Republicans. Like the vote on the employer mandate, Griffith was the only Republican to vote in opposition to the measure, along with 173 Democrats.

The argument of Democrats was that delaying the individual mandate would increase the likelihood of the “death spiral.” If young people aren’t required to buy health insurance to avoid a 1 percent–of–income fine, they’ll put it off for another year — so insurers end up with a lot of old and sick signups and no young and healthy folks are paying in to keep the system running.

Now several Democrats, including Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Representative Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, and even DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, are saying they’re open to a delay in the individual mandate, or at least an extension of the open-enrollment period.

Many Republicans, like Senator Marco Rubio, are also calling for delaying the individual mandate. Others may wonder whether they should move to mitigate the pain and aggravation of Obamacare or let Americans experience this monstrosity in all its horrific, ill-designed glory.

There’s an argument that the Obama administration wouldn’t need Congress’s approval to make that change. Sebelius

could draft a new rule instructing nonfunctional exchanges — including the federally operated ones — to issue blanket certifications on behalf of all of the uninsured in their states. With those blanket certifications, the penalty would be waived — and all without congressional action.

Of course, this may be the worst-case scenario for the administration. They’ll end up enacting a policy they vehemently fought and opposed during the shutdown, as a result of their own incompetence, that they obliviously denied for months. . . . and enacting a change that sets up the “death spiral” anyway.

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Democrats , Obamacare

Yes, Democrats, You’re Timing Your Obamacare Message Perfectly.



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So . . . in 2014, just as premiums begin to reflect the changes of Obamacare, and in the year where the uninsured must start paying the government $95 or 1 percent of their income (whichever is higher) . . . Democrats have decided they’ll embrace Obamacare and make it a centerpiece of their reelection message.

It will not surprise you that many of the currently uninsured are quite confused about what Obamacare means to them, and that some are saying they’ll just pay the fine because it’s simpler.

The Congressional Budget Office calculated that in 2014, 44 million Americans will lack insurance. But not all of those people will be paying a fine; some will be

exempted from the penalty tax — for example, because they will have income low enough that they are not required to file an income tax return, because they are members of Indian tribes, or because the premium they would have to pay would exceed a specified share of their income (initially 8 percent in 2014 and indexed over time). CBO and JCT estimate that between 18 million and 19 million uninsured people in 2016 will qualify for one or more of those exemptions.

By 2016, that number of uninsured drops to 31 million . . . when the fees are $695 or 2.5 percent of a person’s income.

The point is, starting in 2014, a lot of people who don’t have insurance and find the process of getting insurance immensely confusing and frustrating will suddenly be told they must pay the government for their failure to get insurance. And at that precise moment, Democrats will ask for their vote as an expression of gratitude.

Tags: Obamacare , Congressional Democrats , Uninsured

Scarborough, Todd Wonder Why Democrats Are Shrugging at IRS Scandal



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On MSNBC this morning, Chuck Todd and Joe Scarborough dance around the obvious conclusion:

TODD: Why aren’t there more Democrats jumping on this? This is outrageous no matter what political party you are, that an arm of the government, maybe it’s a set of people just in one office but, mind you, that one office was put in charge of dealing with these 501c4s and things like that.

SCARBOROUGH: Why didn’t the president say something on Friday afternoon?

TODD: I don’t know. Maybe they were distracted by Benghazi. Maybe they made the decision they didn’t want it to be about healthcare. I raised this question — where is the sense of outrage? And the only pushback was, Jay Carney spoke about this at the press briefing and he was pretty strong. I have to say it didn’t sound very strong to me. I don’t know if the White House realizes. I think this story has more legs politically in 2014 than Benghazi.

The obvious conclusion: President Obama, the past and current secretaries of the Treasury, and Democrats on Capitol Hill don’t really care! To them, the use of government resources to harass and impede their political opponents is just how the game is played.

When Obama came to Washington, he brought the Chicago rules with him.

Tags: IRS , Barack Obama , Congressional Democrats

Our Newest National Catastrophe: Obamacare Premium Hikes



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At the conference I’m going to today, one of the topics of discussion will be whether Obamacare will be altered in the coming Congress.

My first instinct is that any reform of Obamacare is unlikely to pass, because the major factions in Washington have completely different priorities. Most Republicans would like to stop it in its tracks, repeal it entirely or almost entirely, and replace it with free-market-oriented reforms and tort reform and so on. As Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said yesterday:

I am proud that Senate Republicans stood united today and voted unanimously to defund Obamacare. While I’m disappointed that the amendment did not pass, we will not give up. And today’s vote demonstrates that the fight to repeal Obamacare is far from over.

There are some Democrats who want to delay or repeal parts of Obamacare, such as the new tax on medical devices. Senator Al Franken (D., Minn.) calls it a “job-killing tax.” But there are probably very few Republicans who are eager to save congressional Democrats from the consequences of their actions. You passed it, guys, now you explain the consequences to your displeased constituents.

Of course, unifying Democrats behind a series of reforms to Obamacare will present its own challenges. There are quite a few who would prefer that any changes to Obamacare bring it closer to single-payer. Last year, all 75 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said they would push for a single-payer system if the Supreme Court struck down Obamacare.

And of course, President Obama would want changes to the bill to be minimal or little-noticed, as each change represents a concession that he and his allies didn’t get it right the first time.

(“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”)

So my conclusion is that it would take some sort of really catastrophic consequence to get all the factions in Washington united on changing Obamacare as is.

Enter a really catastrophic consequence, stage left:

Some Americans could see their insurance bills double next year as the health care overhaul law expands coverage to millions of people. The nation’s big health insurers say they expect premiums — or the cost for insurance coverage — to rise between 20 and 100 percent for millions of people due to changes that will occur when key provisions of the Affordable Care Act roll out in January.

A giant increase in the cost of health insurance, driven by the “Affordable Care Act,” might drive a national fury that will make the 2009 and 2010 Tea Party rallies look like . . . well, actual tea parties with little finger sandwiches and cloth napkins.

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Democrats , Congressional Republicans , Obamacare

On the President’s Own To-Do List...



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At the official taxpayer-funded White House Twitter account, Jesse Lee shares the White House’s “To Do” list for Congress: “Reward American jobs, not outsourcing; refinancing for responsible homeowners; tax credits for small business jobs; clean energy manufacturing; veterans jobs corps.”

It’s good to see the president finally sharing House Republicans’ frustration with the obstructionist mentality of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Perhaps Obama could call up his friend Harry and get him to bring to the floor House-passed bills like the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, the Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act, the North American-Made Energy Security Act, the Jobes and Energy Permitting Act of 2011, the Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act, the Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act, the Small Business Tax Cut Act, the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act, the Consumer Financial Protection & Soundness Act, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act, the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, the Regulatory Accountability Act, the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act.

Again, regardless of whether one likes those bills or not, one would think that they deserve at least an up-or-down vote, if not passage.

But the president has some things left on his to-do list, as well. Among them:

  • Come up with a serious plan to reduce the deficit. Maybe he could talk to Alan Simpson or Erskine Bowles more frequently than he talks to, say, his caddie or Jimmy Fallon.
  • Come up with a serious plan to reform entitlements and ensure the long-term stability of Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, instead of scaring seniors and demonizing those who come up with reform plans.
  • Nudge the Senate Democrats to come up with a budget.
  • Build the other half of the Keystone Pipeline, the half that actually requires presidential approval.
  • Get his “all of the above” energy policy to stop eliminating options like ANWR, continental shelf drilling, ensure that the EPA will continue to approve fracking, etc. so that it actually meets the “all of the above” standard.
  • Interview new solicitor general candidates.
  • Cut back on the campaign fund-raisers, because as a famous man once said, “I do think that at a certain point, you’ve made enough money.”

Let’s get cracking!

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Democrats , Congressional Republicans

Politico: The Only Thing the Democrats Misjudged About Obamacare Was Everything



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Politico:

At the two-year mark Friday, nearly everything that Democrats believed about the politics of health care has turned out to be false. And the ramifications for those miscalculations have been huge. They have haunted Obama’s presidency, soured business as usual at the Capitol and upended the conventional wisdom peddled by political strategists, who have rarely been so wrong about something so big.

If professional politicians completely misjudged the politics of the legislation they were passing, think about how well they assessed the policy implications of what they passed!

Of course, some of us are not quite so surprised.

UPDATE: A previous version of this post listed a group of Democrats who were called Pelosi’s “Suicide Squad” before the Obamacare vote. Most of those lawmakers, including Walt Minnick, voted against passage of Obamacare. I regret the error.

Of course, once it passed, none of the lawmakers were willing to sign a discharge petition for either of two bills that would have repealed Obamacare . . . raising the question of whether these lawmakers seriously opposed the legislation, or merely wanted political cover.

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Democrats , Obamacare

Any Real ‘Adult in the Room’ Doesn’t Demand That Title.



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In Mike Allen’s morning newsletter, we read:

Huge three days ahead, with the sharpest intersection of high-stakes politics and government since the midterms: President Obama’s 1:35 p.m. address on his long-term plan for deficits will be covered as the first speech of the 2012 campaign. Team Obama wants the American public to see the president as “the adult in the room,” and views this is a chance for POTUS to steal beyond-the-Beltway momentum from House Republicans.

1. I’m pleased to hear it, but do you remember reading anything recently in the mainstream media about House Republicans having “beyond-the-Beltway momentum”? We heard a great deal of credit to Paul Ryan for having a serious and detailed plan. But somehow, we never hear much about Republican advantages or momentum until the narrative is that Democrats are “making their comeback.”

2. If your staff has to leak that you’re the “adult in the room,” you’re not actually the adult in the room.

3. How revealing is that metaphor? The deficit and debt are huge. Despite the allegedly improving economy, this year’s “deficit is on track to set a new record, with economists at the Congressional Budget Office forecasting an imbalance of $1.5 trillion this year, exceeding the old record of $1.41 trillion in 2009.”

Congressional Democrats insist the problem can be dealt with by raising the top tax rate to 47 percent and ending all U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2012, cutting defense by $674 billion over four years. Congressional Republicans are by and large backing the Ryan plan: entitlement reform, repealing Obamacare, simplifying the tax code, replacing the corporate income tax with a business consumption tax, and a binding cap on total federal spending in proportion to GDP. Choices ranging from the politically difficult to the politically impossible. Ideas ranging from the insane to the innovative.

The Obama response? “Oh, you crazy kids. What a mess you’ve made. Don’t worry, Daddy’s here to straighten this all out.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Democrats , Congressional Republicans

Does a Democrat Quack-Up Make Obama the Lamest Duck?



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Over in the last Jolt of the week, a discussion of the House Democrats’ rebellion against Obama’s tax deal:

Earlier in the day at Red State, Dan McLaughlin wondered if Obama was on the verge of becoming “the Lamest Duck“: “The obvious lesson, if the deal collapses, will be that Obama can’t deliver anything — he can be pushed into compromise with GOP priorities, as he wouldn’t before the election, but he can’t bring along his own caucus, which has suffered so many losses for following his lead. Liberals will learn that they are better off striking their own distance from an unpopular and increasingly impotent leader. And heavy liberal opposition to the deal will make it impossible to blame DeMint or Republicans for the collapse, and will encourage conservatives to push for even fewer compromises with Obama in 2011. That calculus of legislative forces will make it hard for Obama to plan for the other leg of the Clinton strategy, a budget battle in which the GOP blinks. Obama can try to use the whole mess to argue that ‘Washington is broken’ and all that, but it’s a hard argument to make from the Rose Garden.”

Dennis the Peasant is left calling the president a genius, sort of: “We await Steve Benen’s (as well as Andrew Sullivan’s) hysterical denunciation of said nihilistic obstructionists in 3, 2, 1 . . . Note: It takes a special sort of political genius to strike the kind of deal that sets in motion the forces that will simultaneously (a) alienate your political base, and (b) tear your political party to pieces.”

Robert Stacy McCain looks over the Democrats fighting the tax cut deal the hardest and finds, “Looking at the list of more than 50 House Democrats who signed the Welch letter, I see several names — including Paul Kanjorski, Jim Oberstar and Alan Grayson — of Democrats who got beat in the mid-term election. Their careers are over and so they’ve got a political free-pass for these lame ducks to take a stand on ‘principle,’ possibly resulting in a no-deal meltdown that results in Americans paying higher taxes next year. And maybe, as Larry Summer warns, pushing the economy into a double-dip recession. Because of hate. Liberals hate rich people, and they don’t care if the rest of us suffer, just so they get to inflict some pain on the rich.”

One of Mickey Kaus’ recurring points is that for a guy who appeared on the national scene and did a Svengali-like job persuading Americans to elect him to the most powerful office in the land, since Obama became president, he’s suddenly turned into the guy who couldn’t persuade Snooki to get into a tanning bed. He gave about a million speeches on health care, and Americans tuned him out after the first thousand. Americans rejected sales pitches for Creigh Deeds, Jon Corzine, Martha Coakley, or a slew of congressional Democrats this year. And now he can’t even persuade Democrats to accept a tax cut for high earners for a few years to avoid a double-dip recession. Then again, this may say more about Congressional Democrats than the guy trying to twist their arms.

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Democrats

Leverage? What Leverage?



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The House Democrats reject the tax deal in a non-binding caucus vote.

This is another sign of Obama’s diminished influence, leverage, and power after the midterms. Several dozen of these House Democrats are out of work in January (and presumably have no interest in being Obama appointees or ambassadors). The White House could threaten that the president won’t campaign for them come 2012, but let’s face it, that didn’t turn out to be so helpful for Creigh Deeds, Jon Corzine, Martha Coakley, or a slew of congressional Democrats this year. And many members of the Democratic caucus are in such safe seats, they’ll never need Obama to come campaign for them. They probably figure he’ll need their help by 2012.

I understand the White House line is that today’s rejection is part of the “normal process.” Really? Is it normal for a majority of the president’s own party to vote against deals he makes?

UPDATE: In light of this . . .

President Obama warned his fellow Democrats on Wednesday that they risk plunging the country into a double-dip recession if they reject his tax-cut deal with Republicans.

. . . we can only conclude one of two things:

A) A majority of congressional Democrats don’t believe the president when he says a particular act is necessary to prevent a double-dip recession. In short, most members of Obama’s own party no longer trust his judgment on economic issues.

B) A majority of congressional Democrats agree, but don’t care, because they’re willing to endure a double-dip recession if that’s what it takes to ensure the rich pay higher taxes.

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Democrats

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