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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.

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.

Ryan: ‘Pleasantly Surprised’ by Landslide Budget Vote.


Image: Ryan: 'Pleasantly Surprised' by Landslide Budget Vote

House budget boss Rep. Paul Ryan says he was “surprised” at the landslide passage Thursday night of the two-year deal he helped craft.

“It was much higher than I expected, I was pleasantly surprised,” the Wisconsin Republican remarked afterward, The Hill reported. “I think people are hungry to get things done around here.”

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

The 332-94 win is an undisputed victory for Ryan, as House Budget Committee chairman, who negotiated the deal with Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray.

It could also figure in his deliberations on whether to join the 2016 GOP chase for the White House.

And he did it all with notable calm, The Hill noted.

“That’s the key: try to understand each other, get to know each other and talk things out,” he said of the deal that came together and got passed in the House a day before the Friday deadline.

“We always kept things calm, kept things professional, just talked a lot,” Ryan said. “I think my colleagues are going home excited to come back in 2014 because they can start afresh to do the things that they came here to do in the first place.”

But Ryan is heading home with a laudable career victory as well, USA Today noted.

“I think he has unquestionably been our intellectual leader, not just in the House of Representatives on our side of the aisle but in the Republican Party on these types of issues,” Republican Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole told the newspaper Wednesday, after announcement of the bipartisan budget deal.

“So he really is the smartest guy we have who has shaped our thinking, and he’s come back and said, ‘This is a good deal.'”

Even conservative groups, which are openly battling with House Speaker John Boehner,
found it hard to find fault with Ryan, Republican Louisiana Rep. John Fleming told the newspaper.

“I do think there is a high regard for Paul,” added Tennessee’s Republican Rep. Diane Black. “He is the budget guru and I think he does bring a lot of credibility with it.”

Ryan is mentioned as a potential future contender for House speaker, the National Journal noted.  And, according to USA Today, he also has his sights on the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, whose current chairman, Republican Michigan Rep. Dave Camp, is term-limited at the end of this Congress.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Proposed IRS Rule Change Splits Leaders of Key House Panel.


Image: Proposed IRS Rule Change Splits Leaders of Key House Panel

By Todd Beamon

Proposed changes in how the IRS evaluates the political activity of 501(c)(4)social welfare” groups have split the top two members of the House Ways and Means Committee — and they represent the same state.

The committee chairman, Republican Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, said on Tuesday that the Obama administration should not issue the new guidelines, Roll Call reports.

“This smacks of the administration trying to shut down potential critics,” Camp said.

He was referring to those who have attacked the IRS for singling out tea party, conservative, and religious groups for special scrutiny in their applications for 501(c)(4) status.

The status allows the organizations to keep their donors private. Such groups spent “tens of millions” of dollars in the last election, Roll Call reports.

“There continues to be an ongoing investigation, with many documents yet to be uncovered, into how the IRS systematically targeted and abused conservative-leaning groups,” Camp said, according to Roll Call.

“Before rushing forward with new rules, especially ones that appear to make it harder to engage in public debate, I would hope Treasury would let all the facts come out first — something they could achieve by fully cooperating with Congress in the investigation.”

But the panel’s ranking Democrat, Sandy Levin, who also represents the Wolverine State, called the proposed rules “a good first step,” Roll Call reports.

“As we plainly saw in the investigations into the failings within the IRS tax-exempt division, the lack of clear guidance on defining and measuring political activities under current law led to mismanagement and delays in the processing of exemption applications from progressive and conservative organizations,” Levin told Roll Call.

“The proposal for a ‘candidate-related political activity’ is a reasonable starting place, but the details will be important, for example, in an area as critical as voter registration drives,” Levin said.

At issue is whether an organization may obtain tax-exempt status through promoting the “social welfare.”

Political groups have loosely interpreted the IRS rules to participate in a wide range of political activities, ranging from educating voters to coaching potential candidates for office, Roll Call reports.

The proposed new guidelines, however, would bar organizations seeking the exempt status from “candidate-related political activity.”

Levin called the work of 501(c)(4) groups “vital in communities across the country,” adding that it was “important that there be clear guidelines between promoting social welfare and engaging in political activity for organizations seeking this tax exemption.”

The Democrat said the proposed changes would help remove the “ambiguity” from the current IRS evaluation system, Roll Call reports.

Acknowledging that “gross mismanagement of the tax-exempt division” had occurred, Levin said clearer guidelines were needed to prevent future mistakes, Roll Call reports.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Camp Slams White House Claim That Sequester Cost Jobs.


Image: Camp Slams White House Claim That Sequester Cost Jobs

By John Gizzi

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp has lashed out at the government’s chief economic adviser for claiming spending cuts under the sequester have harmed job creation.

Instead, “the continued failure of the administration’s policies to promote the job growth Americans need has forced the administration to repeatedly try to place the blame elsewhere,” the Michigan Republican told Newsmax.

“The fact is nearly half of the Federal Reserve regional banks say that Obamacare is contributing to reduced hiring and continued economic uncertainty.”

“Given the drag it is having on our economy, it is clear that Obamacare is where we should be focusing our attention,” he said.

Camp’s comments came after White House Council of Economic Advisers chairman Jason Furman spelled out the administration’s case that the recent government shutdown was a “self-inflicted wound” that cost the economy jobs.

Along with the shutdown, sequestration cuts that automatically kicked in last spring were harming job creation, claimed Furman. His remarks came as the administration announced that 146,000 jobs, a disappointing total, were added to the economy in September.

“Do you have hard evidence that the cuts in sequestration are a negative effect on the recent jobs situation that you described and are causing a diminished job creation in the private sector?” Newsmax asked Furman at the briefing.

Furman replied, “I think a reasonable estimate comes from the Congressional Budget Office, and they said that the sequester would cost us 750,000 jobs over the course of a year. That works out to be about 60,000 fewer jobs per month.

“Think how different this month’s report would have been if you had had an extra 60,000 jobs.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has testified, referring to similar numbers for the impact of sequester,” Furman said, “and a number of private-sector forecasters have seen that as well.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Paul Ryan: Obama Can Use Stalemate to Reform Tax Code, Entitlements.


Image: Paul Ryan: Obama Can Use Stalemate to Reform Tax Code, Entitlements

By Elliot Jager

A way out of the deadlock between the White House and Congress that emphasizes common ground was offered Tuesday by Rep. Paul Ryan in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. 

Barack Obama can turn the current crisis into a breakthrough opportunity by agreeing to structural reforms of the country’s entitlement programs and tax code, Ryan writes.

Democrats and Republicans can agree on ways to “provide relief from the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act,” an issue that most concerns Democrats, in exchange for structural reforms to entitlement programs sought by Republicans.

Both camps already agree that sudden, arbitrary cuts are undesirable, Ryan writes.

Ryan offered several ideas to jumpstart negotiations. “We could ask the better off to pay higher premiums for Medicare. We could reform Medigap plans to encourage efficiency and reduce costs. And we could ask federal employees to contribute more to their own retirement” — all ideas that Obama has embraced, Ryan points out.

Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Budget Committee, notes that Rep. Dave Camp, R., Mich., and Sen. Max Baucus, D., Mont., have been cooperating on a bipartisan plan to reform the tax code. Their collaboration is rooted in agreement that the tax base must be broadened, rates lowered and the code simplified. These, too, are ideas which the president supports, Ryan writes.

The House Budget Committee chairman is not proposing a grand bargain. “For that, we need a complete rethinking of government’s approach to helping the most vulnerable, and a complete rethinking of government’s approach to health care.”

For now he writes, “We need to find common ground. We need to open the federal government. We need to pay our bills today – and make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow.”

The truth, writes Ryan, is that many presidents have negotiated on the debt ceiling. Ronald Reagan signed a debt-ceiling deal with congressional Democrats in 1985. In 1997, Bill Clinton reached an arrangement with congressional Republicans to raise the debt ceiling.

And Obama himself, two years ago, signed the Budget Control Act which traded spending cuts for a debt-ceiling hike.

“If we don’t make the tough decisions now,” Ryan writes “we’ll face only tougher decisions later. We can work together. We can do some good. All it takes is leadership – and for the president to come to the table.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

GOP Rep. Camp Set to Rewrite Tax Code.


The U.S. Congress‘ top Republican on tax policy is drawing up a plan to rewrite the tax code and is likely to recommend repeal of a popular and costly federal tax deduction for state and local taxes paid, congressional aides said.

House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, who is expected to unveil his plan soon, is pushing forward with the idea of a tax code overhaul despite expectations that this Congress is too fractured to take on such a big project.

The provision, available only to the roughly one-third of federal taxpayers who itemize, allows taxpayers to deduct from their income the value of state and local property tax paid, as well as state and local income or sales tax paid.

Claimed by 46.6 million Americans in 2011, the deduction reduced U.S. tax revenues that year by an estimated $42 billion, making it one of the largest tax breaks in the code.

With lawmakers faced off across a deep partisan fiscal divide, Camp’s determination to proceed reflects a personal conviction that the tax code badly needs work.

Future discussions on tax policy could begin with the plan Camp hatches and the lawmaker has said nothing is off-limits.

“Everything is on the table means everything is on the table,” said Michelle Dimarob, a committee spokesperson.

Several bipartisan deficit-cutting panels have urged repeal of the deduction for state and local taxes paid, including the Simpson-Bowles commission appointed by President Barack Obama and Congress. “It is hard to go into (tax) reform and not go there,” a top Senate Republican tax aide said.

The deduction will be significantly curtailed or axed in any proposal put forward by Camp, said an aide who works for him.

PAYING FOR LOWER RATES

Camp, like most Republicans, wants to slash tax rates. The cuts he envisions would sharply reduce U.S. tax revenues. Those reductions would have to be offset, at least in part, by new revenues, which could be found by ending some tax breaks.

The one for payment of state and local taxes tends to disproportionately benefit wealthy people in Democratic stronghold states. More than 30 percent of the total value of the deduction in 2011 was claimed by New Yorkers and Californians, according to congressional estimates.

If he targets the deduction, Camp will face stiff opposition from Democrats who control the Senate.

Lobbyists, particularly those for state and local governments, are not letting their guard down either.

Repealing the deduction “would fundamentally change a basic tenet of federalism in the United States – the notion that different levels of government don’t tax each other,” said Lars Etzkorn, a lobbyist with the National League of Cities.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: NEWSmax.com

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