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Posts tagged ‘Obama administration’

McCain Blasts Hagel for ‘Massive Failure’ of Intel on Ukraine.


Image: McCain Blasts Hagel for 'Massive Failure' of Intel on UkraineSen. John McCain is flanked by Sen. James Inhofe while questioning Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on March 5.

By Cathy Burke

Sen. John McCain tore into Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday for a “massive failure” of U.S. military intelligence in the days before Russian troops marched into Crimea, reports said.

Defense News reported that in a testy, nearly five-minute exchange during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, McCain and Hagel bickered over whether the Obama administration and European allies were aware that Russian President Vladimir Putin was about to invade the Crimean Peninsula.

The Obama administration had a “total misreading of the intentions of Vladimir Putin,”NBC News reports McCain said.

But Hagel shot back: “I don’t get into the specifics in an open hearing.”

Still, he insisted, “early last week we were well aware of the threats” posed by Russian troops to Ukraine — and that he’d met with NATO officials and Ukrainian defense officials last week to talk about it, NBC News reported.

“This wasn’t sudden or new,” Hagel said.

GOP senators also hammered Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey for a spending plan they charged would hamper the military.

Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, noted that the $496 billion defense budget represents a funding level equal to that of 2013 and 2014 — and more than $30 billion below the Pentagon’s funding in 2012, Defense News reported.

McCain sarcastically told Hagel “your timing is exquisite” in submitting the bare-bones budget plan “at a time when the world is probably more unsettled than it has been since the end of World War II,” noting tensions in Crimea, the collapse of Syrian peace talks, “China more and more aggressive,” North Korea test-firing missiles, “and the list goes on,” Defense News reported.

McCain also noted that China has just announced a 12.2 percent increase in its military budget, NBC News reported.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe also criticized President Barack Obama for spending $125 billion on his “energy and environment agenda” — money, Inhofe said, that could have been used to buy more than 1,000 F-35s, Defense News reported.

Hagel told the committee he had worked within the limits Congress set in its 2011 Budget Control Act and this year’s bipartisan budget accord.

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‘Growing Crescendo’ in GOP to Hold Lerner in Contempt


There’s a “growing crescendo” to hold retired IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for her repeated refusal to testify about the tax agency’s targeted scrutiny of tea party groups, one House Oversight Committee member said Wednesday.

In the wake of a contentious less-than-10-minute hearing where Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination — triggering an angry exchange between committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa and ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings — North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows said “The American people … want to hold those people accountable.. and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“There is a growing crescendo that they should hold her in contempt of Congress and the American people get what they deserve,” Meadows told Fox News.

Among the GOP chorus calling for a contempt charge is House Speaker John Boehner.

“She has to testify or she should be held in contempt,” the Ohio Republican said after the hearing, saying he’d wait for a report from Issa.

A contempt vote could lead to a criminal prosecution — and fan the controversy that erupted last year when the agency’s extra scrutiny of tea party-backed nonprofits came to light.

Issa’s committee since then has held five hearings, issued three subpoenas for documents and interviewed IRS officials.

Democrats howled after the hearing, where Cummings had demanded he be given a right to speak before adjournment — but instead had his microphone turned off.

“I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America,” Cummings yelled as Issa dismissed the meeting and cut of microphones. “I am tired of this.

“We have members over here, each who represent 700,000 people. You cannot just have a one-sided investigation. There is absolutely something wrong with that. And, it’s absolutely un-American,” Cummings yelled.

“We had a hearing. We are adjourned. I gave you an opportunity to ask a question. You had no questions,” Issa, a Republican from California, responded.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, slammed Issa for conducting a “witch hunt.”

“What we’re seeing in the House today is a sign of larger dysfunction and partisanship on behalf of Republicans,” Van Hollen told MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown,” according to Politico.

“Darrell Issa has been conducting this political witch hunt for a long time now. He’s frustrated because he hasn’t been able to come up with any evidence of intentional political wrongdoing on the part of the Obama administration, and so he’s getting frustrated and making stuff up.”

Democratic National Committee chair, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, called Issa’s conduct at the Wednesday hearing comparable to oppression in Ukraine and Venezuela, according to Politico, saying she was “stunned” that Issa would try to silence Cummings by cutting off his mic.

Cummings continued speaking for about 10 minutes; Lerner remained seated.

Issa said he’ll decide by next week whether his committee will seek to hold Lerner in contempt.

Lerner first appeared before the committee last May, when she also invoked the Fifth Amendment after maintaining that she was innocent of wrongdoing. The committee determined the following month that Lerner waived her right against self-incrimination by making that statement.

A Treasury inspector general’s report has since determined the IRS had used inappropriate criteria to scrutinize groups, though it found no evidence of a political motivation.

The Justice Department is involved in a criminal probe of the matter.

The IRS has since proposed new rules for handling social welfare groups engaged in political activity, though conservative groups have called them too restrictive.

Bloomberg news contributed to this report

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Wanda Carruthers and Cathy Burke

US Pledges $1 Billion in Aid to Ukraine.


The Obama administration has pledged $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine as Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the strife-torn country, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The financial assistance was seen as an attempt by the United States to show solidarity with Ukraine, which has had its Crimea region invaded by Russian forces following the overthrow last month of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said, “The United States is prepared to work with its bilateral and multilateral partners to provide as much support as Ukraine needs to restore financial stability and return to economic growth if the new government implements the necessary reforms.”

The money was expected to shore up the country’s troubled economy and to help Ukraine finance purchases of energy imports while the former Soviet republic seeks a larger bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

A senior administration official with Kerry told the Journal, “You’re seeing already a response from the United States that is isolating Russia politically and diplomatically and offering strong support for the new Ukrainian government.”

American technical experts will be sent to Ukraine to help sort out the country’s growing financial and energy problems, sources said. U.S. advisers will also help Kiev uncover assets believed to have been stolen by Yanukovych’s government.

The Journal also reported that experts will also be sent to help Ukraine prepare for its May 25 general elections.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Drew MacKenzie

Obama to Delay Obamacare Again to Help Democrats in Midterms.


Image: Obama to Delay Obamacare Again to Help Democrats in Midterms

By Melanie Batley

The Obama administration is expected to announce another delay to the implementation of Affordable Care Act to allow insurers to continue offering health plans that do not meet Obamacare’s minimum coverage requirements.

The move would prolong the one-year “keep your plan fix” so as to avoid another wave of health policy cancellations which could hurt Democrats just weeks before the November midterm elections,The Hill reports.

“The cancellations would have created a firestorm for Democratic candidates in the last, crucial weeks before Election Day,” The Hill said. “The White House is intent on protecting its allies in the Senate, where Democrats face a battle to keep control of the chamber.”

The fix had been put in place late last year after an uproar erupted when millions of people discovered their existing plans were being cancelled under Obamacare despite the president’s repeated assurances otherwise.

The administration has yet to confirm the policy change, but insurance sources told The Hill that a public announcement would be “imminent.” The newspaper reports that it is unclear how long the extension would be, but one source believed it could last until the end of Obama’s second term and possibly beyond.

This latest move would follow numerous other delays unilaterally decided by the president.

In July, the president announced a one-year delay until 2015 of the employer mandate which would have required businesses to provide health insurance to employees by Jan. 2014 or face a tax penalty.

In February, Obama changed the deadline again, moving it to 2016. The move provoked widespread criticism among Republicans who renewed their criticism that the healthcare law is a “train wreck.” 

Veteran GOP strategist Karl Rove commented at the time that the decision was a politically calculated strategy to save Democrats in the run-up to the elections.

“The president didn’t want another avalanche of cancellations before this fall’s midterm election,” Rove said, adding that if millions lose their insurance plans shortly before the election, “the consequences would be disastrous for the president’s popularity, and that of the congressional Democrats who loyally voted for the Affordable Care Act, sight and text unread.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Big Medicaid Changes in 2014 Under Obamacare.


Millions of Americans who consider themselves able-bodied and middle class will in 2014 find themselves covered by a remodeled Medicaid program that previously had the image of serving the poor and disabled.

People who live in the District of Columbia and the 25 states which have expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act will see Medicaid taking on a wider role in providing healthcare, The Washington Post reported.

From Wednesday, anyone in those places with an individual income of less than $15,856 a year, including childless adults, as well as families with earnings below $32,499 will be eligible for Medicaid coverage. Among those likely to seek Medicaid will be the unemployed, lower-paid workers, those just entering the job market and retirees who do not yet qualify for Medicare.

In states where Medicaid has not been expanded it will cover its usual catchment of children and those with very-low incomes as well as the elderly poor and handicapped.

The Supreme Court ruled in the summer of 2013 that the Obama administration could not compel states to expand their Medicaid services. The original plan was to use Medicaid expansion as part of a comprehensive Obamacare effort to provide all Americans with health coverage.

Starting in 2014, in all states, Medicaid will no longer factor personal savings — except for those in long-term care— in determining eligibility.

Medicaid presently covers more Americans than Medicare. Both programs were created by the Lyndon Johnson administration‘s Great Society legislation in 1965.

Matt Salo, who heads the National Association of Medicaid Directors, noted that “Medicaid — for all the good we think it does, and it does do a lot of good — does have a connotation,” of being a program for the very poor, the Post reported.

Opponents of the expansion say it will encourage dependency on the government. “It is very bad social welfare policy,” said Edmund Haislmaier, of the Heritage Foundation.

“You are taking people who are by and large young, healthy and perfectly capable productive members of society and encouraging them to become dependent on public assistance. This is the very last population you want to do that for.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Elliot Jager

Obamacare Adviser: 7 Million Was Never ‘Magic’ Enrollee Number.


White House healthcare policy adviser Phil Schiliro denies that attracting 7 million enrollees to Obamacare by March was ever the administration’s goal.

That figure was put out by the Congressional Budget Office in March, and was “never our target number,” Schiliro told NBC News Monday.

Story continues below video.

Schiliro, who returned to the Obama administration in December to oversee healthcare policy after he’d been on hiatus for nearly three years, said there is no “magic” significance to signing up 7 million new customers, although that number has widely been seen as the administration’s goal for months.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said in June that the Obama administration was “hopeful that 7 million is a realistic target,” The Washington Times reported.

Further, she said on Sept. 30, the day before the Obamacare website, HealthCare.gov, launched on Oct. 1, that “success looks like at least 7 million people having signed up by the end of March 2014.”

Schiliro, though, said Sebelius was merely citing a figure that came from the CBO, “and it had become an accepted number.”

“There’s no magic to the 7 million.” Schiliro said. “What there is magic to is that in the month of December, a million Americans signed up for insurance not because they had to — they didn’t face a penalty if they didn’t. They signed up because they wanted insurance on Jan. 1.”

The numbers ahead of March 31, which is the last day for open enrollment, aren’t a problem yet, said Marilyn Tavenneradministrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“We are in the middle of a sustained, six-month open enrollment period that we expect to see enrollment ramp up over time, much like other historic implementation efforts we’ve seen in Massachusetts and Medicare Part D,” she said.

About 2 million people have enrolled for insurance so far, which is still lower than the 3.3 million the government had projected by this time.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Trump on NY Times Benghazi Report: ‘A Total Cover Up’.


Image: Trump on NY Times Benghazi Report:  'A Total Cover Up'

By Wanda Carruthers

Donald Trump all but accused The New York Times Monday of participating in a cover up of the 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya by publishing an article claiming al-Qaida was not involved and that an anti-Islam video may have contributed to the deadly assault, as the Obama administration initially claimed.

“It seems to be a total cover up,” the entertainment and real estate billionaire said on “Fox & Friends” about the Times piece published over the weekend. “I read [the article] very closely. It just seems to be at odds with everything else that you’ve read over the last year.”

The Times reported Saturday that the attack on Sept 11, 2012 that left four Americans dead was caused, in part, by an American-made anti-Muslim video that set off an angry crowd initially. The newspaper also reported that no al-Qaida-affiliated or other terrorist groups participated in the attack, which the article claimed was carried out by members of various militia groups that had actually benefited from U.S. and NATO support during their overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Republicans and some people on the ground in Benghazi the night of the attack were critical of the article on Sunday talk shows.

Trump said during his appearance on Fox Monday that “nobody really understands the reason” for the Times story. But he ventured that it could be a “Hillary thing,” suggesting the newspaper was attempting to help pave the way for a possible 2016 run for president by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who Republicans partly blame for security lapses at the Benghazi compound.

Last January, before leaving office, Clinton responded to questioning during a Republican-led hearing on Capitol Hill about how the attack started and who was responsible.

“What difference, at this point, does it make?” she said during one particular testy exchange with the panel.

On the Fox program, Trump wondered why those thought responsible for the attack have not been brought to justice, particularly if U.S. officials have identified some of them.

“We have their identity. We know who they are. We know where they are, and we don’t go in and get them. So what is going on there?” he asked.

“It’s such an amazing story, and such a sad story when you think of what happened. The fact that we were so unguarded and so vulnerable, and to have people killed like this, our ambassador and others killed like this, was terrible,” Trump said, referring to U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans killed in the attack.

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