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Posts tagged ‘Lindsey Graham’

Graham: Iran Sanctions ‘Crumbling’.


The nuclear arms agreement between the U.S. and Iran that eased some economic sanctions is “crumbling,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said Thursday, calling on Congress to impose new sanctions against Tehran.

“The sanctions are crumbling,” Graham told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.” “I want to put sanctions back on the table to let the Western world know that we’re serious about sanctions. And, let the Iranians know that the pressure is not off.”

Graham said he had 59 co-sponsors for a bill to reimpose sanctions against Iran. He said Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid wouldn’t allow it to come to the Senate for a vote, and was “making the mistake of a lifetime by not putting sanctions back in place before they crumble.”

“Harry Reid is following [President] Barack Obama’s dictate. Barack Obama’s running the United States Senate,” the South Carolina Republican said.

The U.S. and six world powers agreed with Iran late last year to ease certain economic sanctions on Iran for six months, in exchange for a freeze on some of its nuclear activities.

The sanctions are “collapsing,” Graham said, as indicators showed Iran’s economy was improving dramatically. He said the agreement was doing “nothing to dismantle their nuclear program.”

“The value of the Iranian currency is going up by about 30 percent. Their inflation rate has been dramatically lowered. Over 100 foreign delegations have visited Iran, lining up to do business. Their sales of oil to India have doubled. Their economy is resurging,” he said.

Graham said he was attempting to “reset this before it’s too late,” and pledged to “keep doing this until we get it successful.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Wanda Carruthers

Graham: Karzai ‘Empowers’ Taliban By Freeing Afghan Thugs.


Sen. Lindsey Graham has accused Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai of “empowering” Taliban terrorists by releasing 65 dangerous Afghan “thugs” from jail.

The South Carolina Republican, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, condemned Karzai for freeing the prisoners who pose an immediate threat to U.S., Afghan, and allied forces in the war-torn country, McClatchy reports.

“Karzai is doing a lot of damage to his country and to the relationship between us and Afghanistan,” said Graham, who once traded jokes with Karzai over dinners at his presidential palace in Kabul.

“He’s undercutting a relationship (with the U.S.) that most Afghans want and empowering the Taliban…

“The Taliban look at something like this (the release of prisoners), and they’ve got to be encouraged. I’ve been to that prison dozens of times, and it makes my blood boil to see these thugs walk out of there.”

Graham said he’s been unable to confirm reports that Karzai has held secret talks with the Taliban, Muslim fanatics who ruled the country and imposed strict Islamic laws there until the U.S. invasion in October 2001.

Although the Taliban have recently launched a new offensive in the region, Graham said, “(Karzai) doesn’t treat the Taliban as an insurgency. He calls them ‘wayward brothers’ rather than thugs that are killing people.”

“I’ve known Karzai for 10 years, but he’s getting completely irrational. He’s totally detached from the reality about what’s going on in his own country.”

Graham, who has made several trips to Afghanistan as a senator and as an Air Force Reserve colonel, even met with Karzai in Kabul last month, along with Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and pleaded with him to keep the “thugs” behind bars, McClatchy reported.

But Karzai dismissed them, saying that the national detention center in Parwan that housed the inmates and was built with U.S. funds was “a black hole.” Although the jail is guarded by U.S. troops, the Karzai government has authority over the handling of prisoners and claims the 65 detainees were being held without cause.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of U.S troops in Afghanistan, attacked Karzai’s decision because he believes that some of the freed prisoners will join forces with the Taliban insurgency.

“They have killed Afghan men, women and children,” Dunford said, noting that two dozen inmates were tied to roadside bombs, the number one killer of Afghan citizens. “We believe some of the individuals previously released have already returned to the fight.”

Now a furious Graham is fighting back by demanding that Congress cuts off U.S. reconstruction aid to Afghanistan, and he’s enlisted the support of House Speaker John Boehner.

“After years of fighting alongside our Afghan partners — who have sustained serious casualties themselves from common enemies — this decision is especially egregious,” said Boehner.

The tense relations between Afghanistan and the U.S. have sunk to an all-time low, with U.S. officials claiming that Karzai has gone back on a bilateral agreement to keep a small military contingent in the country after the remaining 34,000 U.S. troops pull out by the end of the year.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House may now wait until Karzai leaves office in April before attempting to sign a new pact with the next government to keep peace-keeping troops on the ground there.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Drew MacKenzie

Graham: Obama Not ‘Trustworthy Fellow’ on IRS Scandal.


President Barack Obama is “not a very trustworthy fellow,” in light of his claim there wasn’t a “smidgen of corruption” in the Internal Revenue Service scandal and the revelation Thursday of an email chain by agency officials that pointed to a strategy to target conservative groups, Sen. Lindsey Graham said.

“I hate to say this about the president but he’s not a very trustworthy fellow when it comes to scandals in his own backyard,” the South Carolina Republican told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” Thursday.

Jay Sekulow, attorney for 41 targeted conservative groups, testified during a hearing about the IRS scandal on Capitol Hill Thursday. He revealed an email among IRS officials outlining a strategy for applicants seeking nonprofit status. According to Sekulow, IRS employees wrote they would work “off plan to devise rules to curtail the activities of 501C-4 organizations.”

Story continues below video.

The email chain was important, Graham indicated, because it showed targeting by the IRS was not limited to a “rogue” group of employees in Cincinnati, as the administration had maintained.

“Now you have this e-mail chain talking about a plan to go after people,” Graham said. “I hope people are beginning to put the puzzle together that President Obama himself is not a very reliable person to talk to about mistakes on his watch.”

Graham maintained if that email chain “doesn’t wake up the Justice Department to criminal activity, nothing will.”

“You’ve got interaction between government officials in charge of overseeing these tax-exempt groups that are talking about a strategy. And, to me, that lends itself to a conspiracy between people in Cincinnati and other places,” he said.

Graham explained that was why former IRS official Lois Lerner pled the Fifth Amendment when testifying before a House committee in May on the issue.

“That is why she took the Fifth Amendment, because she has literally exposed herself to illegal behavior here,” he said.

President Obama repeatedly has promised that his administration would get to the bottom of scandals, including the IRS activity and the bombing of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Graham dismissed that by saying of the president that the bottom was “very shallow in his world.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Wanda Carruthers

Cleta Mitchell: IRS Targeting of Conservatives Continues.


Image: Cleta Mitchell: IRS Targeting of Conservatives ContinuesCleta Mitchell testifies on Capitol Hill on Feb. 6. On the panel with Mitchell are, from left, Catherine Engelbrecht, Founder of King Street Patriots, Becky Gerritson, Founder and President Wetumpka Tea Party, Inc., and Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel American Center for Law and Justice.

By David A. Patten

Explosive testimony lit up a House hearing on the IRS targeting scandal Thursday, as GOP super lawyer Cleta Mitchell told representatives that the systematic effort to delay the processing of grass-roots groups applications for nonprofit status continues to occur.

Mitchell represents several grass-roots conservative organizations whose applications under sections 501C3 and 501C4 of the internal revenue code were delayed for years in the run-up to the 2012 election. She said that targeting had not stopped.

Editor’s Note: Govt Prohibited From Helping Seniors (Shocking) 

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Fox News on Thursday that the effort to suppress conservative voices was “almost Nixonian,” noting President Obama said in a recent interview that there was “not even a smidgeon” of corruption involved in the apparent IRS effort to chill conservative groups after the tea party movement emerged in February 2009.

“How could you possibly say that when Lois Lerner in charge of tax-exempt groups pled the fifth?” Graham asked.

Also testifying Monday was Jay Sekulow, head of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). ACLJ officials also contend the IRS targeting continues to this day.

There were 41 grassroots groups named as plaintiffs in the ACLJ lawsuit alleging widespread abuses of the First Amendment rights of assembly and free speech by the Obama administration and the IRS. Of those, 13 still have not yet received adjudication of their request for non-profit status.

The oldest of those 13 pending applications for nonprofit status dates back to December 2009, French says. That would mean at least one group has been sidelined through two election cycles, with a third rapidly approaching.

Of the 13 groups in limbo, two sought 501c3 non-profit status and the other 11 sought 501c4 status as “social welfare” organizations, French said.

According to the ACLJ, five other groups joined the lawsuit after withdrawing their nonprofit applications due to frustration over the IRS approval process. Also, two of the plaintiffs refused to answer IRS questions that they considered unconstitutional, which led to the IRS closing their nonprofit applications without further consideration.

The proposed new IRS regulations seek to limit 501c4 groups’ activities. Conservative activists say the rules have exacerbated their sense of uncertainty and intimidation.

“Of course that has a chilling effect,” says French. “And until it is decisively and emphatically stopped through public, legal accountability, that chilling effect is likely to linger.”

Mitchell, who represents grass-roots conservative activists not included in the ACLJ lawsuit, recently echoed the view that conservative groups continue to be singled out in the run-up to the 2014 elections.

“The IRS is still, very deliberately targeting conservative organizations and subjecting them to additional intense and burdensome scrutiny — and this has not stopped,” she said. “This is still ongoing.”

According to House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan, the new proposed IRS regulations, which were first unveiled in November, appear to single out as political activity the precise sorts of programs tea party organizations typically run: Candidate forums, voter registration drives, and distributions of voter guides.

In a column published in the February edition of Newsmax Magazine, the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley A. Strassel contends that conservative groups are much more likely to become ensnared in the new proposed limitations.

She notes that neither unions, which conduct most of their activities as 501c5 groups, nor 501c3 organizations such as the liberal League of Women Voters Education Fund, are affected. That’s because the rules were not written to apply to those types of nonprofits.

The reaction of conservative activists has grown increasingly strident. Everett Wilkinson, chairman of the grass-roots National Liberty Federation organization, tells Newsmax:

“Never before have we seen such attitudes and actions taken in America by an administration or government body.

“They are intentionally trying to silence the voices of millions of Americans, who all they want is to be heard.”

Wilkinson said his organization is closely following nine critical Senate races that could flip either way. But the fear of some that they could become targets of the IRS is having an impact, he says.

“Through this intimidation a lot of people have said, ‘I don’t know if I want to risk the IRS or the Treasury Department or whoever they’re going to send after me,’” he says.

Recent remarks by Democrats appear to have exacerbated conservatives’ concern that the IRS has been politicized.

In January, New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer urged the IRS to “redouble [its] efforts immediately” to constrain the tea parties.

Urgent: Is Obama Telling the Truth on IRS, Benghazi Scandals? 

During his Super Bowl interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, President Obama said there was “not even a smidgeon of corruption” involved. This despite the fact that the FBI has yet to release the findings of its investigation.

Such remarks appear aimed at energizing a Democratic base that has seen tea party nonprofits as fair game ever since the Citizens United ruling made it easier for corporations to get involved in politics.

Curiously, the IRS targeting has had relatively little impact on the major activist groups that raise millions of dollars each year.

A recent New York Times story reported that four major conservative organizations — FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots, the Club for Growth Action Fund, and the Senate Conservatives Fund — are actually outraising their more establishment GOP counterparts such as Crossroads GPS.

But unlike the big groups that can afford to “lawyer up,” it is the smaller activist organizations all over the country — with names like Linchpins of Liberty, Colorado 9/12 Project, First State Patriots, Mid-South Tea Party, and American Patriots Against Government Excess — who have been ensnared by the long arm of the IRS.

Those smaller organizations are believed to play a key role in getting out the vote in local neighborhoods.

Wilkinson praises the myriad local tea parties as “the most effective system out there, compared to the Republican consulting groups that get millions of dollars in TV ads and radio ads.

“They put every dollar they have in, and their heart and soul. They’re getting people to the polls for maybe pennies on the dollar.”

How those groups will fare as the tax laws they must comply with grow increasingly complex and demanding is open to question.

French says the proposed IRS rules will mean “an enormous amount of activity undertaken on the basis of issues, is now re-characterized as political, and now subject to limits.

“That essentially takes a group’s ability to engage in issue advocacy and then completely neuters it in the days and the weeks leading up to an election, by defining political activity so very broadly,” he adds.

When the targeting controversy first broke last May, President Obama said the IRS targeting was “inexcusable,” and added: “I’m angry about it.”

The “social welfare” and issue-advocacy 501c4 organizations have received special attention in part because their donors’ names generally do not have to be disclosed.

The controversy over IRS targeting dates back to May 2013. That’s when former IRS executive Lois Lerner revealed that IRS personnel had acted in what she called an “absolutely inappropriate” way by holding up the non-profit applications of groups with the terms “tea party,” “patriot,” or “9/12” in their names.

The IRS asked the targeted groups to answer intrusive questionnaires regarding their activities — ranging from information on their members’ employers, donors lists, and even in one case how much time a particular organization spent “on prayer groups.”

At the time, GOP Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, received several complaints. He wrote a letter of inquiry to then-acting IRS Commissioner Stephen T. Miller.

Miller wrote back with assurances that no conservative groups were being targeted. But not long after Lerner’s disclosure, Miller was asked to resign.

The Obama administration has portrayed the IRS affair as a limited imbroglio involving a few rogue agents in the IRS’s Cincinnati office.

But Mitchell says several of her clients were told a final decision on their applications would be handed down from IRS offices in Washington, D.C.

Not every grass-roots leader is concerned that conservative activists’ IRS problems will work to Democrats’ advantage, however. Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer is among those predicting it will backfire.

“When all this came out about the IRS targeting, it made people mad,” she tells Newsmax. “It made them mad as hell.

“…You get these individuals, under whatever local group, they don’t care: They’re going to go out there, and work their hearts and souls out for the cause.”

Editor’s Note: Govt Prohibited From Helping Seniors (Shocking) 

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Huckabee to Newsmax: TV Spot Not Endorsement of Lindsey Graham.


Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Saturday clarified a report that he had endorsed Sen. Lindsey Graham’s re-election bid in a commercial that he taped for the South Carolina Republican last year.

Politico makes it sound as if that spot was taped recently,” Huckabee told Newsmax in an email. “It was actually done many months ago when I was in S.C. for a pro-Israel group.

“That was its purpose: to thank Lindsey for his pro-Israel stance and to help keep the pressure to get to the facts of Benghazi,” Huckabee added. “There wasn’t an endorsement of candidacy.

Story continues below video.

“I like Lindsey and consider him a friend, although we don’t always agree.”

In its report, Politico said the onetime GOP presidential candidate “recently taped a glowing video thanking Sen. Lindsey Graham for his tough positions on national security.”

“But this week,” the report continued, “Huckabee stressed that the spot shouldn’t be viewed as an endorsement for the South Carolina senator, who faces several primary challengers as he seeks reelection this year.”

Politico then quoted from a statement on the website of Huckabee’s PAC saying that the spot did not endorse Graham or any candidate in the upcoming South Carolina primary.

“To be clear, I haven’t endorsed Lindsey Graham for Senate,” the statement said.

Huckabee taped the TV spot for the South Carolina Conservative Action Alliance, urging viewers to call Graham to thank him for “being a conservative champion for peace through strength.”

A Graham campaign spokesman did not offer comment when reached by Politico — but the report quoted David Wilkins, the South Carolina organization’s chairman, as saying, “We agree with Governor Huckabee’s statement that this was not an endorsement.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Todd Beamon

NYT Report: Al-Qaida Not Behind Benghazi Attacks.


Image: NYT Report: Al-Qaida Not Behind Benghazi AttacksAn armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on Sept. 11, 2012. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

By Todd Beamon

Al-Qaida and other international terror groups were not involved in the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans on Sept. 11, 2012, The New York Times reports in a detailed account of events that fateful night in Libya.

“The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against” Col. Moammar Gadhafi, the Times says. “And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”

The lengthy report resulted from months of examination, the Times said, and “centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context.”

The investigation appears to debunk claims by congressional Republicans linking al-Qaida to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, including two former Navy SEALs, and back the Obama administration’s longstanding position that the offensive video fueled the attack.

Republicans — including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee — have long accused the White House of trying to cover up Benghazi, while many others have called for an investigation by a special prosecutor.

Five days after the attacks, Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, went on five Sunday morning talk shows and said that the incident began as a peaceful protest against an anti-Muslim film produced by a California developer that was later “hijacked” by militants.

In her congressional testimony in January, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained that her agency could not obtain reliable information as the assaults were unfolding.

Rice, who is now President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, labeled Benghazi “a false controversy” in a “60 Minutes” interview this week.

According to the Times report, the central figure in the Benghazi attacks was Ahmed Abu Khattala, described as a prime suspect by U.S. officials. Libyans described him to the Times as “an eccentric, malcontent militia leader” — and he was “firmly embedded in the network of Benghazi militias” before and after the assault.

Abu Khattala has denied any role in Benghazi and no militia leaders will turn him over to the United States for prosecution, the Times reports.

Despite his disdain for the United States, Abu Khattala had “no known affiliations with terrorist groups, and he had escaped scrutiny from the 20-person CIA station in Benghazi that was set up to monitor the local situation,” the Times reports.

But Abu Khattala “was never more than a step removed from the most influential commanders who dominated Benghazi and who befriended the Americans,” according to the report.

As for the actual attacks on Sept. 11, the American consulate had been under surveillance for at least 12 hours before the assaults began — and the violence “also had spontaneous elements,” the Times reports.

“Anger at the video motivated the initial attack,” along with those responding to “fast-spreading false rumors that guards inside the American compound had shot Libyan protesters,” according to interviews with more than a dozen Libyans and with U.S. officials who viewed footage from security cameras.

“Looters and arsonists, without any sign of a plan, were the ones who ravaged the compound after the initial attack,” the Times reports.

The day before, however, the Benghazi CIA officials briefed Stevens and his deputy, David McFarland, about possible violence on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“But the American intelligence efforts in Libya concentrated on the agendas of the biggest militia leaders and the handful of Libyans with suspected ties to al-Qaida,” according to the Times.

None of the sessions, however — “like virtually all briefings over that period” — did not mention Abu Khattala or the video, the Times reports.

During the attacks, embattled Americans at the consulate called on local militia groups for help, but they “proved unreliable, even hostile,” according to the report.

Stevens died of apparent smoke inhalation when he was caught inside the main consulate building, becoming separated from the other fleeing diplomats, including Sean Smith, who also was killed.

The two former Navy SEALS who died in the attacks were Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

President on Obamacare: ‘We Screwed It Up’.


Image: President on Obamacare: 'We Screwed It Up'

President Barack Obama on Friday defended his administration’s decision to delay for some people the requirement to buy medical insurance under his healthcare law, explaining that the rollout of his signature domestic policy is a “messy process” — and admitting “we screwed it up.”

Officials said late Thursday that people whose insurance plans were canceled because of new standards under the law may be able to claim a “hardship exemption” to the requirement that all Americans must have coverage by March 31, or face a penalty.

The sudden change came four days before the deadline to sign up for coverage, which starts on Jan. 1 under Obamacare. It threatened to further dampen enthusiasm for the law, which has suffered a chaotic rollout that has driven Obama’s public approval numbers to historic lows.

Republicans seized on the latest announcement as further proof that Obamacare is unworkable, but Obama said it was just a bump in the road.

“I’ve said before, this is a messy process,” Obama said during a news conference before leaving for Hawaii for the holidays. “When you try to do something this big, affecting this many people, it’s going to be hard.”

Obama also pointed to a surge in enrollment, after the disastrous launch of the glitch-ridden HealthCare.gov website resulted in fewer than 27,000 people signing up through the federal marketplace in October.

Officials said that more than 1 million people have signed up so far for new coverage under Obamacare through state and federal marketplaces.

Still, there are lingering problems. Consumers were unable to access HealthCare.gov for a few hours during the middle of the day Friday, a critical time before the Dec. 23 deadline. Officials said they needed to repair a website error that occurred overnight.

The rocky rollout of the law since Oct. 1 has been embarrassing and politically damaging. Obama again accepted blame, saying: “Since I’m in charge, obviously we screwed it up.”

Part of the recent backlash came when millions of people received policy cancellation notices, forcing Obama to apologize for a promise he made that people who liked their insurance policies could keep them under the reforms.

Officials estimated that fewer than 500,000 people would be affected by this delay in the so-called individual mandate. The mandate is a core part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act that aims to provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.

However, the announcement raises fairness questions, as it gives a subset of Americans relief from the requirement to buy insurance. “It is the beginning of the end of the individual mandate,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Republicans have opposed the healthcare law as an unwarranted expansion of the federal government.

An insurance industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, criticized the change that could divert more consumers away from the new plans offered under Obamacare.

“This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers,” AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni said in a statement.
© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Lindsey Graham Votes ‘No’, Conservative Groups Blast ‘Rip-Off’ Budget Bill.


Image: Lindsey Graham Votes 'No', Conservative Groups Blast 'Rip-Off' Budget Bill

By Todd Beamon

Capitol Hill Republicans and conservative groups blasted the two-year budget proposal approved by the Senate on Wednesday, charging that it would slash military retiree benefits and eliminate spending reductions targeted through sequestration.

“President Obama, above everyone else, has the responsibility as commander in chief to take care of those who honorably serve our nation in uniform,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who voted against the bill. “He should not sign this severely flawed legislation into law.

“Instead, he should show leadership and send Congress back to work to fix this problem,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said the legislation “exemplifies what is wrong with Washington. Nothing is getting fixed. No important reforms are being addressed.

“The people get little in return except more debt, more taxes, and no change to the Obamacare disaster,” Cruz added.

Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, said the vote “replaces bipartisan spending limits with gimmicks and empty promises.

“The American people were promised reasonable spending cuts, but are now forced to accept billions more in immediate government spending based on the shaky promise that members of Congress won’t once again go back on their word a decade from now.”

On a 64-36 vote, the Senate passed the spending bill, announced last week by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, who heads the House Budget Committee.

Nine Republicans — including Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, among others — voted with 53 Democrats and two independents to support the budget deal, which sets spending levels for next year and 2015.

The bill will be sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Besides Graham and Cruz, among other Republicans voting against the deal were Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

In addition, the Senate’s top three Republicans — Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference — all voted against the bill.

The House of Representatives passed the legislation last week on a 332-94 vote. Sixty-two Republicans and 32 Democrats broke ranks to oppose the spending plan.

The deal averts a government shutdown on Jan. 15, cuts the budget deficit by $23 billion and restores $63 billion in planned sequester cuts.

The increases would be offset by other spending reductions and increased fees elsewhere in the budget totaling about $85 billion over a decade, leaving enough for a largely symbolic cut of more than $20 billion in the nation’s $17 trillion debt.

Tea party and conservative groups have attacked the proposed bill since it was announced, saying it would bust the spending limits set by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Those sequestration cuts took effect in March — and the Pentagon was targeted for the $63 billion in reductions over the next two years.

House Speaker John Boehner, who supported the bill, attacked the groups for their opposition to the spending plan.

“This budget may be a deal for Democrats and progressive Republicans, but it’s a rip-off for citizens,” FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said on Wednesday. “Congress is once again raising taxes and spending now, for reductions promised later that will never materialize.

“This kind of deal is what happens when your party leadership’s fighting slogan is ‘next time,’ rather than ‘stand up.’”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was widely slammed for blocking Republican efforts to amend the bill to stop the military retiree cuts.

Majority Leader Reid rushed through this closed-door deal without a single amendment,” Sessions, the ranking Republican on the budget committee who was not part of the talks on the deal, said on the Senate floor. “His conference blocked my amendment, for instance, to replace pension cuts for wounded warriors with the closure of a tax welfare loophole.

“We are left with a tax-and-spend plan that also removes a procedural tool to prevent Democrats from exceeding spending limits and raising taxes again in the future.”

“The Senate majority voted to allow Sen. Reid to ignore all Republican amendments,” Cruz said. “Over and over, this is the roughshod style of leadership that characterizes this Senate and underscores why Washington badly needs to listen to the people.”

Graham noted while the budget agreement included cuts to retirement benefits for current and future military retirees, all current civilian federal employees were protected from a scheduled increase in contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System.

Under the budget plan approved, the increase would only apply to new federal employees hired after Jan. 1.

The Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday that the budget deal would also cut retirement benefits of service members who retired for medical reasons, including combat injuries.

“If budgets and legislation reflect our nation’s priorities, what would it say about us if we pass a bill that turns to our veterans and says: ‘Thank you for deploying to war and enduring the hardships of military life, but we are going to need you to sacrifice again and give back $72,000 of the retirement you have earned?’ ” Graham asked.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Obamacare Failures Imperil Hopes for Immigration Reform.


Image: Obamacare Failures Imperil Hopes for Immigration Reform

By Melanie Batley

President Barack Obama’s ambitious and once promising plans to pass a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration system have been sidetracked amid the fallout from the botched implementation of Obamacare, which continues to dog the administration.

According to Politico, the diversion over the troubled healthcare law has enabled House Republicans to avoid divisive debate on the bipartisan immigration bill passed by the Senate in the summer. Doubts, meanwhile, are mounting about the administration’s competence to manage the complexity of a reformed immigration system, given the problems with the healthcare law.

“There’s a loss of confidence in the government’s ability,” former Los Angeles Major Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat and proponent of the immigration reform bill, said at an event this month, according to Politico.

“Clearly, the last few months, our experience with [the] Affordable Care Act does not help when you look at other big things like immigration reform.”

Conservatives may be able to mount a credible case in the public eye against the government’s ability to manage major programs by capitalizing on the widespread skepticism of Obamacare, according to Politico.

The Senate immigration bill would create a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, strengthen border security, and expand the temporary worker program. Those plans are increasingly looking too ambitious to achieve in the current divisive partisan environment.

“It’s going to make it harder to sell big deals” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a lead co-sponsor of the Senate immigration bill, told Politico. “People are now saying, ‘So you’re gonna do immigration. You’re gonna let the same people manage the immigration system that’s managed Obamacare?’”

House Speaker John Boehner‘s spokesman, Brendan Buck, echoed those sentiments, saying that the troubled rollout of Obamacare “validated our warnings against jamming one massive bill that few have read and even fewer fully comprehend.”

“If the Obamacare train wreck has any lesson, it’s that big policy challenges should be addressed deliberatively and one step at a time,” he said.

The Obama administration, however, is trying to sever the link between the two issues, even though it acknowledges that the drop in public confidence over Obamacare may have an effect on its other policy initiatives.

“These are different systems,” White House Press secretary Jay Carney said, according to Politico. “I would point to the extraordinary effort that’s gone into fixing the problems on HealthCare.gov, acknowledging the shortcomings — the serious, significant shortcomings, taking ownership and responsibility for them and acting to fix the problem.

“Because in the end — and this would be true of immigration reform as it is of the HealthCare.gov or the ACA — the issue isn’t in the end how the process is; the process is performed in service of the legislation and the goal. And in this case, in immigration reform, it’s in service of a bill that would provide, when implemented, the benefits that we’ve described and that outside analysts have described.”

Other leading Democrats, meanwhile, say they are hopeful the GOP House leadership will move forward on legislation now that it has shown in the most recent round of budget negotiations that it will not be beholden to the policy agenda of tea party groups.

“I think the chances for immigration reform over the last month or two have only gotten better,” New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer told Politico.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

3 GOP Senators: Ryan-Murray Budget ‘Unfairly Targets’ Military.


By Melissa Clyne

A bipartisan budget deal that has passed the House is facing some Republican opposition because it penalizes members of the military while protecting civilian federal employees, according to three GOP senators.

letter sent to their Senate colleagues by Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi said the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 “unfairly targets” working-age military retirees.

The proposed budget calls for a 1 percent reduction in the annual cost-of-living adjustment for working age military retirees, according to The Washington Post.

The cost-of-living reduction plan would start in December 2015.

The budget “disproportionately and unfairly targets those who have put their lives on the line to defend our country,” argue Ayotte, Graham and Wicker, all of whom sit on the Senate Committee on Armed Forces.

The budget agreement, which would save $6 billion over 10 years, impacts military members’ retirement, but protects all civilian federal employees hired before Jan. 1, 2014,  from an increase in their contribution rate to the Federal Employees Retirement System, according to a news release published on Wicker’s website.

“If budgets and legislation reflect our nation’s priorities, what would it say about us if we pass a bill that turns to our veterans and says ‘thank you for deploying to war and enduring the hardships of military life — but we are going to need you to sacrifice again and give back $72,000 of the retirement you have earned,’” the letter continues.

A 42-year-old sergeant first class retiree who served 20 years would lose approximately $72,000, according to the senators’ calculations.

Ayotte, Graham and Wicker argue that future military retirees should receive equal treatment as current federal employees, who are grandfathered in and thus protected in the budget.

“That is unacceptable and we cannot support legislation that sends such a message to our current military retirees and future retirees currently protecting our country and serving in harm’s way in Afghanistan and around the world,” they write, underscoring that they are willing to work to figure out how to offset the $6 billion provision.

The Air Force Times reports that GOP Sen. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who crafted the bill with Washington Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, defends the provision, saying, “it is only fair that hardworking taxpayers, who pay for the benefits that our federal employees receive, be treated fairly as well.”

The budget deal includes $85 billion in fee hikes and other deficit reduction measures, along with increases in airline passenger fees, resulting in a net deficit reduction of $23 billion over 10 years, according to Fox News.

Passing the budget as it reads currently could result in “a mass exodus of mid-career enlisted and officers because they no longer feel welcome or in control of their military careers,” VFW National Commander William Thien told The Washington Post.

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