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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

Ex-CIA Analyst: Snowden Journalist Could Have Blood on Hands.


The journalist who holds a cache of documents stolen by National Security Agency secrets leaker Edward Snowden not only disrupts U.S. intelligence but must ultimately take responsibility for any deadly consequences of the leaked information, former CIA analyst and LIGNET contributor Lisa Ruth said Tuesday.

“There is an absolute direct correlation between leaks and problems on the ground,” Ruth said in an exclusive interview with John Bachman on “America’s Forum” on Newsmax TV.

Former Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald should have “months ago” considered withholding the NSA information in light of killings in 2010 of Afghan tribal leaders after the release of military documents by WikiLeaks, she said.

“I understand journalists believe part of their view is to give information, that’s what they’re trying to do,” she said. “With WikiLeaks, when this information first came out, we know that there were Afghan tribal leaders who were beheaded and killed. These were our sources.”

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She said the WikiLeaks release was responsible for “not only disrupting our intelligence sources, but that journalist, in my opinion, is carrying the weight of those deaths on his shoulders, and at some point there is an ethical decision, what’s right.

“Obviously we can’t decide that for [Greenwald], but I agree that there is a point where the damage they are doing is far greater than any benefit,” she said.

Ruth said the intelligence community thinks it’s “absurd” that the public is debating the issue of how the government conducts drone strikes overseas, particularly how the military and CIA often rely on data from the NSA’s electronic spy program for targeted drone strikes and killings.

“I just can’t get my head around why we’re all debating this,” she said. “We don’t throw out for a referendum, ‘OK, folks, should we go after this guy or not?’ This is a government decision.”

According to a report from a news website launched by Greenwald, NSA documents confirm the agency “played a key supporting role” in the drone strike in September 2011 that killed U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, as well as another American, Samir Khan, in Yemen.

“I have to say that it is horrifying to me that we are talking about this,” she said. “I have to go out and say the fact that this is in the press is completely absurd to the intelligence community — the fact that we’re debating drone strikes.”

She said classified information is paramount “if you’re going to carry out operations.”

“Until yesterday, most Americans didn’t know there was a guy in Pakistan, American citizen, who’s with al-Qaida,” she said. “Did it make them feel more safe to know we’re considering attacking him with a drone? Probably not.

“If you look at overall, it’s about trust in your government, really, trust, and right now perhaps that’s not at its highest peak, and I don’t know how you get that back but in terms of intelligence. I don’t’ believe that’s something that needs to be aired,” she said.

She said the reason the CIA “holds . . . the controls to the drone strikes” is that it can “move quickly.”

“Going through military bureaucracy, as you know, takes time,” she said. “The reason they put it in the hands of the CIA was to get things done quickly . . . So, now we’re in a situation where we’re talking about this American, and again, all over the press, all over the news, and whether NSA information is going to be used. From a CIA officer standpoint, that’s only one piece we would use . . . you need a lot of other pieces of information to target in.”

Ruth noted the United States is not getting the “human intelligence” it used to, partly “because of the drones” and partly because of “the way intelligence is done, and cutbacks.”

“The idea that, oh, we can put a bug somewhere or we can use a listening device. That’s not really accurate,” she said.

“Without human intelligence in many cases we’re operating blind, and keep in mind, if I’m hearing something perhaps from a cellphone or other places, I have no way of knowing how accurate that is . . . as a human, I can sit across from you, I’m evaluating you, I’m spotting, I’m assessing, I’m making these decisions, and it usually provides more targeted information, in conjunction with NSA information, of course.”

Ruth said she hopes debate on the issue spurs change for the good.

“From my perspective and some of my contacts at the intelligence community, the hope is to get back on track . . . and that these kinds of debates can really highlight the importance of human intelligence and why we need that, and particularly with a terrorist threat,” she said.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Cathy Burke

Allen West: New Obamacare Delay Unfair to Individuals.


Image: Allen West: New Obamacare Delay Unfair to Individuals

By Todd Beamon

The latest delay in Obamacare proves that “big government does not work — and we see it happening right here,” former Florida congressman Allen West told Newsmax TV on Tuesday.

“The president always talks about fairness and fair share and inequality,” West told John Bachman on “America’s Forum” on Newsmax TV. “Then, why is he continuing to grant all of these delays and waivers and exemptions to unions, to cronies, to employers, big businesses?

“Why not the same to the individual American citizen, when they see their wages being depressed, they are out of work, they don’t see any future and hope? Mr. President, you talk about fairness. What about fairness to the individual American?”

Story continues below video.

On Monday, the Obama administration delayed another part of the Affordable Care Act, this one affecting companies with 50 to 99 employees. The companies will not face a tax penalty until 2016 for not providing workers with health insurance.

Last July, the employer mandate for Obamacare was delayed until next year, even though individuals face a tax penalty for not having health coverage this year.

The latest delay marked the eighth one-year extension of mandates to President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislation since it was signed into law in 2010, according to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service. The report was provided to Newsmax by the office of GOP Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

West, who is a retired Army lieutenant colonel, is among many Republicans who have long charged that Obamacare is unworkable and should be repealed.

“Is this the law of the land, or it is just some imperial edict that can be changed willy-nilly by the stroke of a pen or the use of a cellphone?” he asked Newsmax. “We continue to see these changes to employer-based mandates. But the one that is most important: Why not a delay for the individual mandate?

“This was truly rammed down the throats of the American people,” West added. “In the world of academics, theory works very well — but when it comes to practical application, now you see things falling apart.”

Republican disunity is keeping the party from taking the lead in the Obamacare debate, he said.

“That’s the problem with the Republican Party: You cannot get them to come out as unified messengers on major policy issues. Right now, the Republican Party needs a singular voice, a true leader.”

That’s not, however, House Speaker John Boehner.

“He’s supposed to be the third in line to the presidency,” West said of the Ohio Republican. “Any time the president gets up and gives a press conference or something like that, John Boehner should be up there giving the counterargument.

“John Boehner should be up there saying: ‘Here’s our plan. The president keeps talking about we don’t have a plan.’ His denial of us not having a plan does not mean that’s true — and he should be able to articulate that plan step by step.

“The key thing is, in a constitutional republic, a law is supposed to be applicable to everyone,” West said. “That’s why I say this is not the law of the land. This is just an edict that can continually be changed and manipulated according to politics.

“That’s a great point to bring up with this president and his administration. This is not applicable to everyone — and we need to have a law that is applicable to everyone.

“If this law cannot be applicable to everyone, then we need to scrap it.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Power Plant Attack Sparks Terror Fears in Three Other Incidents.


A recent report about the terrifying attack on a California power plant last April has raised suspicions about other troubling cases throughout the United States within the past year, Newsmax has learned.

Consider:

  • On Jan. 9, more than 7,000 gallons of methanol leaked into Elk River in Charleston, W.Va., after a spill at a chemical storage plant operated by Freedom Industries. Nearly 300,000 people were left without drinking or bathing water, some for more than a week. A federal grand jury investigation has begun into the spill, CNN reports.
  • The following week, in Manapalan, N.J., a 26-year-old man, Asaf Mohammed, was arrested after being found trapped inside a 20-inch pipe outside a storage tank at a water-treatment plant owned by United Water. The plant supplies drinking water to 40,000 customers in the township, New Jersey.com reports.
  • Within a month after the Boston Marathon bombings last April, seven Muslims — from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore — were arrested in the middle of the night at the Quabbin Reservoir, which provides drinking water to Boston and several other nearby communities, the Boston Herald reports. Three locks had been cut to gain access to the reservoir.

The incidents, two of which received scant media attention at the time, now have authorities and legislators worried about the possibility of terrorist acts’ being committed against the nation’s power grid and other utility operations.

Those attack reports follow a report by The Wall Street Journal that a sniper assault last April 16, a day after the Boston bombings, knocked out an electrical substation near San Jose, Calif. No arrests have been made in that attack.

“It does seem that we have to be awakened by a cataclysmic event before we pay attention,” retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West told John Bachman in an exclusive interview Wednesday on “America’s Forum” on Newsmax TV.

“We have a porous, open border,” said West, a former Florida GOP congressman. “You have some bad actors coming across, but it’s not just that dry-run attack against a power plant. There are also a couple of instances, in [West] Virginia and also in the Boston area, where water-supply plants, people were trying to infiltrate there as well.”

In an interview on “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV on Wednesday, counterterrorism expert Fred Fleitz called the California assault “a trial run for a terrorist attack.”

Fleitz is a former CIA analyst and FBI agent who is now chief analyst for the global intelligence forecaster LIGNET.

“What Americans don’t realize is that we now have something called a smart-grid system, where our electric grid is linked to other grids over the Internet and by computers,” he said. “A major attack on one part of the grid could cause a devastating outage that could put tens of millions of Americans in the dark.”

The 52-minute attack in California occurred at the Pacific Gas & Electric Corp.’s power substation in Metcalf, a community in southern San Jose.

Jon Wellinghoff, who was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the time, said the assault was “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred.”

He told The Journal that the incident may have been a dress rehearsal for a bigger attack.

The FBI said that it was “continuing to sift through the evidence” but that it did not think a terrorist group was behind the incident, The Journal reports.

The attack began at 12:58 a.m., when underground AT&T fiber-optic telecommunications cables were slashed in a vault not far from the Metcalf facility.

Other cables were also cut. At 1:31 a.m., the facility, situated near a freeway, came under sustained rifle fire. AK-47 bullet casings found later had been wiped clean of fingerprints.

The shooters were apparently aiming for the oil-filled cooling systems intended to keep the transformers from overheating, The Journal reported. Though they were riddled with bullet holes and hemorrhaged 52,000 gallons of oil, the transformers did not explode.

The attackers had left the scene by the time sheriff’s deputies arrived.

Seventeen huge power transformers had been disabled. Company officials initially declared the incident vandalism. Cameras were positioned facing inward and did not pick up images of the shooters.

Upon further investigation, it looked more like the handiwork of professionals who had done advance preparation and reconnaissance, The Journal reported.

The substation was brought back online after 27 days as other power plants increased their production of electricity to make up for the loss.

“The FBI is still not prepared to say that this was a terrorist attack, even though this power station was attacked with AK47s,” Fleitz told Malzberg.

“There was a systematic plan to cut the phone lines, the fiber-optic cables in a way that couldn’t be detected or easily repaired.”

Meanwhile, the two women and five men that Massachusetts state troopers found in the middle of the night at the Quabbin Reservoir in Boston last May after the marathon bombings said they were all chemical engineers who simply wanted to check out the facility, the Examiner reports. Three locks had been cut to gain access to the reservoir.

No charges were ever filed against the trespassers — even though the Massachusetts State Police unsuccessfully appealed the decision.

The names of the “chemical engineers” were never released to the public, the Boston Herald reports, and their whereabouts are currently unknown.

According to New Jersey.com, a United Water official said Mohammed was discovered by employees Jan. 17 after they “heard cries for help” inside the 20-inch pipe.

“He must have traversed through a basin and climbed up into a pipe for reasons unknown at this time,” Jim Mastrokalos, the company’s director of operations, told the news website.

The plant is surrounded by barbed wire fences, and the investigation involved determining how Mohammed gained access to the plant without detection.

Mohammed, who police said lived neared the plant, was charged with fourth-degree criminal trespass and was required to pay for the costs of rescuing him from the pipe, local news website 12 New Jersey reports.

In West Virginia, CNN reports, subpoenas have been issued requiring testimony for what one federal official confirmed was a criminal investigation into the chemical spill at the Freedom Industries storage plant.

An independent water test conducted for CNN this week found trace levels of the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM, in both untreated river water and tap water from two homes in Charleston.

Elizabeth Scharman, West Virginia’s poison control director, told CNN that MCHM has not been widely studied.

“We don’t know the safety info, how quickly it goes into air, its boiling point,” Scharman said.

The chemical is used to wash coal before it goes to market to reduce ash, CNN reports. Exposure can cause vomiting, dizziness, headaches, diarrhea, and irritated skin, among other symptoms.

West, the former Florida congressman, told Newsmax that these attempts were “all part of asymmetrical warfare, and if we don’t start to recognize it and put a focus on it, the enemy is always going to look for the gaps by which they can exploit you.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Todd Beamon

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