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Posts tagged ‘Mitch McConnell’

Police Laud Senate for Rejecting ‘Cop Killer’ Justice Nominee.


Image: Police Laud Senate for Rejecting 'Cop Killer' Justice Nominee Debo Adegbile

By Todd Beamon

Police organizations on Wednesday praised the Senate — and the Democrats who broke ranks — for blocking President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division after strong lobbying against Debo Adegbile, who once helped overturn the death sentence of a convicted “cop killer.”

“We were most gratified,” Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, told Newsmax. “We’re ecstatic – and we’re very grateful to the Democratic senators who voted ‘no’ on this nomination.”

The vote was 47-52, with eight Democrats joining Republicans to end debate on Adegbile’s nomination and send it to a full floor vote.

With 51 votes needed to proceed with the nomination, the move represented the Democrats’ first major defeat since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked “the nuclear option” regarding presidential appointees in November.

“There’s a whole bunch of other things that he can do well,” Johnson said of Adegbile. “There are a ton of other men and women who are very well qualified who can serve as the assistant attorney general for civil rights who don’t have this baggage of having defended a cop killer.”

Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he was “very proud and pleased that a majority of the Senate agreed with the FOP and other law-enforcement organizations on this nominee.”

“Many of our closest allies and champions . . . were conflicted between their belief that the president should be allowed to have his choice lead the civil rights division and the nearly unanimous opposition from the law-enforcement community,” he said.

“But I was very pleased and heartened that all of our allies, regardless of their vote today, listened to our earnest arguments and objections.”

Adegbile, 46, was working for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund when the organization intervened on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in 1981 and sentenced to death by a Pennsylvania court for brutally killing Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner after Abu-Jamal’s brother had been stopped by police.

The organization first became involved in the case in 2006, filing a court brief on Abu-Jamal’s behalf. Adegbile argued the case as the Legal Defense Fund’s head of litigation in 2011.

The death sentence was vacated by a federal court in a ruling that was later upheld by an appellate court and then allowed to stand by the U.S. Supreme Court. Abu-Jamal is now serving life in prison.

The fund’s actions were strongly opposed by dozens of local and national police organizations — though they attracted such Hollywood celebrities as Ed Asner, Whoopi Goldberg, and Martin Sheen.

The slain officer’s widow, Maureen Faulkner, cheered Wednesday’s vote.

“I am very relieved that the Senate vote turned out the way it did,” she said in a posting on a website devoted to keeping her late husband’s memory alive. The headline on the statement read, “We Won.”

“I want to thank all of the senators that listened to their conscience and voted to block this nomination,” she said. “While this is a great result for my family, the law enforcement community and myself included, we know that we need to remain vigilant to ensure that this decision is not reconsidered.”

Seven Democrats broke ranks to vote with the Republicans. They were Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, John Walsh of Montana, and Chris Coons of Delaware.

Reid, who represents Nevada, then cast the eighth vote, which allows him to bring Adegbile’s nomination back for reconsideration. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination last month on a 10-8, party-line vote.

Adegbile is senior counsel to the committee’s chairman, Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Even though White House officials hinted that Adegbile’s nomination might be withdrawn, President Barack Obama quickly condemned the vote, calling it a “travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.”

Republicans hit the ground running in the Senate floor debate, with Pennsylvania’s other senator, Pat Toomey, reading a letter from Maureen Faulkner.

“Today, as my husband lies 33 years in his grave, his killer has become a wealthy celebrity,” the GOP legislator read.

“Old wounds have once again been ripped open, and additional insult is brought upon our law enforcement community in this country by President Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile,” Toomey read.

Other senators charged that Adegbile’s connection to the Abu-Jamal case disqualified him from holding higher office and that his appointment would lead him to “politicize” the civil rights division.

“Everyone deserves a fair trial and a zealous legal defense,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said before the vote. “Lawyers aren’t personally responsible for the actions of their clients. But lawyers are responsible for their own actions.

“In this case, the nominee inserted his office in an effort to turn reality on its head, impugn honorable and selfless law-enforcement officers, and glorify an unrepentant cop killer,” the Kentucky Republican added. “This is not required by our legal system. On the contrary, it is noxious to it.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, noted that Adegbile’s nomination was opposed by Seth Williams, a Democrat who is Philadelphia’s district attorney.

He added that Adegbile had “a long history of advocating legal positions far outside the mainstream.”

“It’s a record that demonstrates he is simply too deeply committed to these liberal causes to be an effective and fair leader of the civil rights division,” Grassley said.

After the vote, Coons, the Delaware Democrat, called his vote “one of the most difficult I have taken since joining the Senate, but I believe it to be right for the people I represent.”

He said he supported the nomination at the committee level because it “should be debated and considered by the full Senate. As a lawyer, I understand the importance of having legal advocates willing to fight for even the most despicable clients, and I embrace the proposition that an attorney is not responsible for the actions of their client.”

“The decades-long public campaign by others, however, to elevate a heinous, cold-blooded killer to the status of a political prisoner and folk hero has caused tremendous pain to the widow of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and shown great disrespect for law-enforcement officers and families throughout our region,” Coons said.

Toomey said the vote represented “a good day for Pennsylvania, for America, and for those who believe in justice. It was a hard-fought victory to the end.”

“Today, the Senate affirmed that our criminal justice system must never be abused to propagate a dishonest, radical agenda,” Toomey said. “The American people, especially law enforcement and Maureen Faulkner, deserve better.”

Casey’s office released no statement on Wednesday’s vote, but the senator said on his website last week that he would not support Adegbile’s nomination.

“The vicious murder of Officer Faulkner in the line of duty and the events that followed in the 30 years since his death have left open wounds for Maureen Faulkner and her family as well as the city of Philadelphia,” Casey said.

Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus even hinted strongly that the vote would factor into this fall’s congressional elections.

Priebus called Adegbile “a convicted cop-killer’s most ardent defender,” and noted that several Democrats seeking new terms in swing states had voted to advance the nomination.

One such vulnerable Democrat, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, declined to comment on her vote for Adegbile, Politico reports.

Two other “red-state” Democrats facing tough challenges this fall, Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Begich of Alaska, also voted for the nomination.

Besides Coons, two other Democrats on the ballot this fall, Pryor in Arkansas and Walsh in Montana, voted against Adegbile’s nomination.

In a statement to Newsmax later Wedneday, McConnell slammed the nomination as an example of Reid’s abuse of the Senate rules when he invoked “the nuclear option” last year.

The move lowered the number of votes needed to end filibusters on presidential nominees from 60 to a simple majority.

“This particular nominee would likely not have been nominated at all but for the majority leader breaking the rules of the Senate last November,” McConnell said. “This nominee was so unfit that even seven Democrats couldn’t support it.

“You begin to get the picture here: part of the reason for lowering the threshold was so that the president could send up anybody he wanted to, and presumably get them confirmed,” McConnell added. “He was too difficult for even seven Democrats to swallow.”

In sizing up the Senate vote to Newsmax, NAPO’s Johnson echoed McConnell.

“We figured that Sen. Casey would vote ‘no’ because Officer Faulkner was from Philadelphia, but we were really wondering which Democrats would come around.

“The bottom line was that this was just a poorly-thought-out nomination,” Johnson said. “Some of the most sensitive cases out there fall within his purview at the Department of Justice.

“It really just demands the highest level of implicit trust — both ways, between law enforcement and the attorneys at the Justice Department — in order to prosecute these cases.”

Based in Alexandria, Va., NAPO represents more than 250,000 sworn police officers.

“It really could have saved a lot of energy and heartache for the family and coworkers of Officer Faulkner” if Adegbile had not been nominated, Johnson told Newsmax. “To have this case dragged through the press again and again, it never ends.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Boehner Snub at CPAC Highlights Party Rift.


Image: Boehner Snub at CPAC Highlights Party Rift

By Elliot Jager

The absence of an invitation to House Speaker John Boehner to take part in this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference reflects a rift between “movement ” and “establishment” conservatives, The Washington Times reported.

The conference, which takes place in Maryland on March 6-8, will hear from establishment figures such as Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, among others.

Boehner, though, seems to symbolize the rift between movement and government conservatives who are increasingly divided over tactics for promoting the conservative agenda, according to the Times.

He last addressed the gathering in 2010.

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Tea party activist Jenny Beth Martin has initiated a “Fire the Speaker” petition that has garnered 93,000 signatures.

Party strategist Ford O’Connell said, “There are not enough curse words in the English language to describe how movement conservatives think of John Boehner.” He added, “They see him as only slightly better than President Obama.

“John Boehner is wise not to attend CPAC because he does not want to become a distraction and fodder for the news media by highlighting the rift between establishment conservatives and the movement conservatives,” O’Connell said.

Republican strategist Mike McKenna said Boehner’s opponents are overwrought.

“In about two years, folks on the right are going to be complaining about whoever the next speaker is and remembering Boehner fondly. They are angry at the world. For some reason, they have focused some of this anger at Boehner. I have no clue why.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Rep. Hastings Announces Retirement In Wake of Debt-Ceiling Vote.


Image: Rep. Hastings Announces Retirement In Wake of Debt-Ceiling Vote

 

By Todd Beamon

Rep. Doc Hastings on Thursday became the latest House Republican to announce his retirement — two days after he was part of a critical coalition of House leaders, made up of retiring GOP members and representatives primarily from Northeastern states, that backed a controversial bill to raise America’s debt ceiling without restrictions.

“Last Friday, I celebrated my 73rd birthday, and while I have the ability and seniority to continue serving central Washington, it is time for the voters to choose a new person with new energy to represent them in the people’s House,” Hastings said in a statement.

First elected in 1995, Hastings is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and recently called for overhauling the Endangered Species Act, charging that the 40-year-old law has been abused by environmental groups seeking to restrict development in the name of species protection.

The announcement came a day after GOP Rep. Gary Miller, 66, of California said that he was retiring after more than 15 years in the House because of family issues.

Hastings is now the 24th member of Congress to say that this year would be his last. He joins 13 Republicans and 11 Democrats to disclose their impending departures from Capitol Hill.

In the House, he is the 11th Republican and 18th member overall to announce his retirement.

But on Tuesday, Hastings and Miller joined with Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and 23 other House Republicans to support a one-year extension of the nation’s borrowing authority — agreeing to President Barack Obama’s demands for a debt-limit increase without any conditions.

Boehner backed the legislation, which won on a 221-201 vote. Two Democrats, John Barrow of Georgia and Jim Matheson of Utah, joined the GOP in rejecting it.

Besides splitting the House leadership — the No. 4 Republican, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, the highest-ranking House GOP woman, was among the leaders to vote “no” — the vote rankled conservatives, tea party supporters and rank-and-file Republicans.

The Senate Conservatives Fund even charged that Boehner should be replaced as speaker.

These groups were further outraged the next day when the Senate voted — after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, and Minority Whip John Cornyn, of Texas, led an assault on a filibuster by Sen. Ted Cruz — to pass a similar debt bill on a straight 55-43 party-line vote.

In the House, the 28 Republicans voting for the measure included six who are retiring at the end of the year. Besides Hastings and Miller, they are Howard Coble, N.C.; Buck McKeon, Calif.; Jon Runyan, N.J.; and Frank Wolf, Va.

“You’ve got retirees, the leadership and Republicans in safe districts with a Northeastern bias,” political analyst and pollster Doug Schoen explained to Newsmax on Thursday.

“Basically, the votes they gave were enough to get it passed — and they didn’t want to put anyone at risk,” he added. “It was retirees, leadership, and Northeastern moderate Republicans who could take the vote without a problem.”

Others in the top House leadership who supported the debt ceiling bill included Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, Mich.; Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, Calif.; Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, Ky.; and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, Calif.

Those Northeastern Republicans on board included four from New York — Reps. Chris Collins, Michael Grimm, Richard Hanna, Peter King — as well as three each from neighboring New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Seven California House members backed the measure.

“Put it another way: For the Republican base, this is toxic — and the way the process was organized was to insulate the party and its grass-roots as much as possible to avoid any political problems,” Schoen told Newsmax.

The primary problem was avoiding another federal government shutdown, similar to the partial one that lasted 16 days in October and cost taxpayers $1.4 billion — especially when the GOP could possibly retake the Senate in this fall’s congressional elections.

“It goes back to their basis thesis: We get through this. We don’t fight on an issue we can’t win because, ultimately, this election is moving in our direction — and we don’t need to have a problem like the problem we had with the government shutdown.”

Political strategist Dick Morris described the House skirmishing on Thursday as “phony” and “fraudulent.”

“Boehner went to his caucus and said: ‘Hey guys, let’s approve the debt limit in return for pretty-good spending cuts or other restorations,'” Morris told John Bachman on “America’s Forum” on Newsmax TV. “The House Republicans said, or enough of them said: ‘We’re not going to vote for a debt-limit increase under any circumstance. You could balance the whole budget and we’re not going to go for it.’

“He didn’t have his 218 votes to pass it — and he couldn’t get any Democratic votes if there were cuts,” Morris said of Boehner.

The Ohio Republican then put together the GOP coalition to support the clean bill.

“All of these Republican congressmen can now go to their primary opponents from the tea party and say, ‘Hey, I voted against raising the debt limit’ — knowing darn well that they were willing to vote for it if they needed it,” Morris said.

Schoen saw it another way.

“The Republican Party did not want to vote to increase the debt ceiling,” he said. “Because they are in the majority, they had to provide some votes — in this case, 28 — to go along with near-unanimous Democratic support to get it done.

“The leadership understood that it was in their interest, long-term, to increase the debt ceiling without any riders or any possibility of paralyzing the government,” Schoen added. “The vast majority of Republicans, for a variety of reasons, disagree.

“For John Boehner, this became a practical step to avoid more political harakiri.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Dick Morris: Re-Election Worries Fueled McConnell’s Vote on Debt.


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted on Wednesday to end debate on a bill to increase the nation’s debt ceiling because “he didn’t want to have a government shutdown or bill stalling in the Senate because of him when he had a general election that was tough,” political strategist Dick Morris told Newsmax TV on Thursday.

“But in his mind, the villain is Ted Cruz,” Morris told John Bachman on “America’s Forum.” “The Democrats were perfectly prepared to pass this and let all the Republicans vote against it.

“The American people get more and more sophisticated as each of these things happen — and they realize the debt limit is now just a political football” he added. “In 2011, right after the tea party controlled the House, it became very good because we got a trillion dollars in cuts.

Story continues below video.

“Everybody was so scared by the abortive October shutdown that they’re not willing to do it again — and everybody realizes the debt limit is just a symbolic fight that doesn’t mean anything anymore.”

In the run-up to Wednesday’s vote to increase the nation’s borrowing authority, Kentucky Republican McConnell came forward to cast a vote toward ending debate on the bill and sending it to the full Senate floor for a vote.

McConnell’s “aye” vote, along with Minority Whip John Cornyn’s, bucked Cruz’s demand that a 60-vote threshold be in place to end the debate, or to invoke what is called “cloture.”

Ten other Republicans joined McConnell and Cornyn to end Cruz’s filibuster. That final vote was 67-31.

The bill, which suspends the nation’s debt limit through March 15, 2015, later passed the Senate on a 55-43 vote along party lines. It was expected to be quickly signed by President Barack Obama.

Both Cornyn and Cruz are from Texas, and McConnell and Cornyn face tough primary elections this spring against candidates backed by the tea party.

In his Newsmax interview, Morris, who was an aide to President Bill Clinton, said that Republican leaders supported ending debate because “the Senate was a bit chaotic because the Democrats control it, so it was hard for the Republicans to orchestrate.

“Raising the debt limit is unpopular in the United States,” he added. “Borrowing more money without cutting the budget is unpopular.”

Morris explained: “The debt limit is not about borrowing the money for 2013; we’ve already done that. It’s about borrowing the money for ’14 and ’15 and ’16. We haven’t done that yet.

“It’s fully appropriate to make cuts in those out-years, because it’s not a question of the bills coming due. All that’s coming due is your intention to buy it.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Todd Beamon

GOP Senate Leadership Bucks Cruz’s 60-Vote Debt Ceiling Bid.


Image: GOP Senate Leadership Bucks Cruz's 60-Vote Debt Ceiling Bid

After a dramatic Senate tally in which top GOP leaders cast the crucial votes, must-pass legislation to allow the government to borrow money to pay its bills cleared Congress Wednesday for President Barack Obama’s signature.

The Senate approved the measure by a near party-line 55-43 vote. All of the “aye” votes came from Obama’s Democratic allies.

But the vote to pass the measure was anticlimactic after a dramatic 67-31 tally — held open for more than an hour — in which the measure cleared a filibuster hurdle insisted on by tea party Republican Ted Cruz of Texas. The Senate’s top two Republicans — both facing tea party challenges in their GOP primaries this year — provided crucial momentum after a knot of Republicans in the Senate well were clearly unhappy at having to walk the plank.

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After Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Minority Whip John Cornyn, voted “aye” several other Republicans switched their votes in solidarity. Twelve Republicans ultimately voted to help the measure advance but the tally appeared to be in doubt for several anxious minutes.

“A lot of people stepped up and did what they needed to do,” said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who voted to advance the bill, as did Mark Kirk of Illinois, who said: “Members didn’t want to” vote for it.

The 12 Republicans who voted against Cruz’s measure were: John Barrasso, Wyo.; Susan Collins, Maine; Bob Corker, Tenn.; John Cornyn, Texas; Jeff Flake, Ariz.; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Mike Johanns, Neb.; Mark Kirk, Ill.; John McCain, Ariz.; Mitch McConnell, Ky.; Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; John Thune, S.D.

Cruz’s demands irritated Republicans because it forced several of them, particularly McConnell, to cast a difficult vote. McConnell faces a May primary against tea party candidate Matt Bevin, whose supporters adamantly oppose increasing the debt limit.

“In my view, every Republican should stand together against raising the debt ceiling without meaningful structural reforms to rein in our out of control spending,” Cruz said.

After the tally, Cruz said he had no regrets, saying the “Senate has given President Obama a blank check.”

Asked about forcing a difficult vote upon McConnell, Cruz said: “That is ultimately a decision … for the voters of Kentucky.”

The legislation would permit Treasury to borrow normally for another 13 months and then reset the government’s borrowing cap, currently set at $17.2 trillion, after that.

It passed the House Tuesday after Republicans gave up efforts to use the debt ceiling measure to win concessions from Obama on GOP agenda items like winning approval of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay bills like Social Security benefits, federal salaries, and payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers.

Quick action on the debt limit bill stands in contrast to lengthy showdowns in 2012 and last fall when Republicans sought to use the critically necessary measure as leverage to win concessions from Obama. They succeeded in 2011, winning about $2 trillion in spending cuts, but Obama has been unwilling to negotiate over the debt limit since his re-election, and Wednesday’s legislation is the third consecutive debt measure passed without White House concessions.

Republicans have been less confrontational after October’s 16-day partial government shutdown sent GOP poll numbers skidding and chastened the party’s tea party faction. Republicans have instead sought to focus voters’ attention on the implementation and effects of Obama’s health care law.

The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay all of its bills, including Social Security benefits, federal salaries, payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers and interest on the accumulated debt. Congress has never failed to act to prevent a default on U.S. obligations, which most experts say would spook financial markets and spike interest rates.

Most Republicans say any increase in the debt ceiling should be accompanied by cuts to the spiraling costs of costly benefit programs like Medicare.

“We need some reform before we raise the debt ceiling. We need to demonstrate that we are taking steps that will reduce the accumulation of debt in the future,” said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, top Republican on the Budget Committee. “And the president and the Democratic Senate have just flatly refused. So they’ve just said, `We’ll accept no restraint on spending’.”

Some Republicans seemed irked that Cruz wouldn’t let the bill pass without forcing it to clear a 60-vote threshold that required some Republicans to walk the plank and help it advance..

“I’m not going to talk about that,” said Orrin Hatch when asked if Republicans are annoyed with Cruz.

Passage of the debt limit measure without any extraneous issues comes after House GOP leaders tried for weeks to find a formula to pass a version of their own that included Republican agenda items like approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and repeal of an element of the health care law. But a sizable faction of House Republicans simply refuse to vote for any increase in the government’s borrowing abilities, which forced House Speaker John Boehner to turn to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to pass the measure on the strength of Democrats.

The debt measure permits Treasury to borrow regularly through March 15, 2015, putting the issue off until after the November elections and setting it up for the new Congress to handle next year. If Republicans take over the Senate, they’re likely to insist on linking the debt ceiling to spending cuts and other GOP agenda items, but for now at least, the issue is being handled the old fashioned way, with the party of the incumbent president being responsible for supplying the votes to pass it but with the minority party not standing in the way.

“I think we will go back to the responsible way of making sure that our country does not default,” said Democratic Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray.

Senate action Wednesday would safely clear the debt issue off of Washington’s plate weeks in advance of the Feb. 27 deadline set last week by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. The debt limit was reset to $17.2 trillion after a four-month suspension of the prior, $16.7 trillion limit expired last Friday. Lew promptly began employing accounting maneuvers to buy time for Congress to act.

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© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

McConnell Backs Bill to Curb Proposed IRS Rules on Free Speech.


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that new IRS regulations on nonprofit organizations would “entrench and encourage the harassment of groups that dare to speak up and engage in the conversation.”

“Instead of putting safeguards in place to protect our civil liberties, the Obama administration is now dragging the IRS back in the opposite direction,” the Kentucky Republican said in remarks on the Senate floor. “No president of either party should use the power of the federal government to punish his ideological opponents.”

The Internal Revenue Service proposed new regulations the day after Thanksgiving that would prevent groups seeking 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status — allowing them to keep their donors private — from running television ads, organizing get-out-the-vote efforts or voter registration drives, or handing out literature on any political issue.

The public comment period on the proposed rules ends Feb. 27.

“The path this administration is embarking on is a dangerous one with the slipperiest of slopes,” McConnell said. “Left-leaning civic groups should be just as alarmed about what these regulations could mean for them in the future as what the rules almost certainly will mean for conservative groups today.”

McConnell joined with Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Pat Roberts of Kansas, and Orrin Hatch of Utah to introduce legislation that would prevent the IRS from establishing rules that “would permit the suppression of First Amendment rights,” he said.

“It aims to return the agency to its mission and get it out of the speech-police business altogether — a goal that should be a bipartisan one.”

He also reiterated his call that new IRS Commissioner John Koskinen resist efforts by the White House to stifle free speech with the proposed new regulations.

Koskinen took over the embattled agency in December after a year of scandals that included the singling out of tea party and conservative groups for special screening in their applications for tax-exempt status and reports of lavish spending on IRS conferences over three years.

“This is something worth fighting for,” McConnell said. “It’s something I hope Commissioner Koskinen will work with us to achieve.

“But if he doesn’t,” the senator warned, “he should know that we are prepared to go to the mat to defend the First Amendment rights of our constituents and neighbors — and that we will continue to do so until those rights are safe once again.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Todd Beamon

McConnell, Boehner to IRS: End ‘Intimidation and Harassment’ of Tea Party Groups.


Top Republicans in the House and the Senate insist the Obama administration is using new proposed IRS rules to continue its “harassment and intimidation” of conservative groups, and they are calling on the new IRS Commissioner to abandon the plans.

In a joint letter issued Wednesday to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also contend that, much like the agency’s targeting of tea party groups which stifled their influence in the last two election cycles, the latest round of rules are a new attempt to silence them in the run-up to the 2014 elections.

The rule, which hasn’t been finalized, could limit spending from outside groups officially classified as non-profit social welfare organizations.

The groups spent more than $310 million over the two-year 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics that tracks campaign finance. Some $265 million of that — about 85 percent — was from organizations that align with Republicans, according to the watchdog group.

“It is our view that finalizing this proposed rule would make intimidation and harassment of the administration’s political opponents the official policy of the IRS and would allow the Obama Administration to use your agency as a partisan tool,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter signed by nine other colleagues.

The new IRS rules would prevent 501(c)(4) tax-exempt groups from running television ads, organizing get-out-the-vote efforts and voter registration drives, and handing out literature on political issues.

The GOP lawmakers contend the new rules amount to an assault by the administration on First Amendment rights.

“You are now left with a simple choice,” they wrote. “Reform the IRS and root out any hint of corruption or targeting of political opponents, starting by withdrawing this proposed rule, or allow the administration to use the agency as a means to infringe on the constitutionally protected right to free speech.”

In the letter the lawmakers also say that congressional investigators have uncovered evidence that the draft rules had been under consideration for at least two years, “suggesting a political motivation well outside the bounds of the agency’s mission.”

The IRS has asked for public comment on whether the same definition should apply to labor unions and business groups. Many Democrats say the IRS should adopt a strict definition that follows the word “exclusively” in the tax code.

Meanwhile, a House Ways and Means Committee investigation is underway this week into the IRS targeting scandal. Koskinen told reporters Wednesday after the hearing that the singling out of conservative organizations for heightened scrutiny would be “intolerable,” and vowed the IRS is not doing so now.

“It won’t happen going forward,” Koskinen said, according to Fox News. “And to the extent that people suffered accordingly, I apologize for that.”

On Thursday, 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.

The proposed rule being discussed would define political activity broadly, including voter registration drives and voter guides. The proposal has drawn more than 22,000 comments so far, mostly opposing the change.

The proposed rule doesn’t say how much political involvement would be enough to disqualify groups from obtaining and keeping social welfare status, and that’s an issue the IRS would have to resolve before it implemented the change.

Koskinen also said he would cooperate with all six separate investigations into the scandal.
President Barack Obama said in an interview Sunday with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that the targeting was inappropriate but insisted there was no corruption in the agency

“There was some boneheaded decisions out of a local office,” Obama said, adding that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption.”

Since the proposed changes were announced in November, conservative groups have been vociferous in their opposition, saying it’s the administration’s latest attempt to silence them.

Mitchell, who represents tea party groups that were targeted by the agency for scrutiny, said last week that the new rules demonstrate that the IRS is a “rogue, lawless agency” and “the enforcement arm for the Democratic Party.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Melanie Batley

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