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Posts tagged ‘Orrin Hatch’

Cruz: Debt Ceiling ‘Trickery’ Shows Why Americans Hate Congress.


Senators and their “trickery” on last week’s vote on the debt ceiling was “a perfect illustration of everything that is wrong in Washington,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says.

“Republican leadership said, we want this to pass but if every senator affirmatively consents to doing it on 51 votes, then we can all cast a vote ‘no’ and we can go home to our constituents and say we opposed it,” the Republican freshman senator told CNN’s Dana Bash on Thursday.

That “show vote,” Cruz continued, is the “sort of trickery to the constituents [which] is why Congress has a 13 percent approval rating.”

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Story continues below video.

The Senate last week approved the “clean” debt-ceiling bill, but two key Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas voted to end Cruz’s filibuster on the legislation.

Cruz had called for a 60-vote threshold to end debate on the measure, but after discussions among GOP senators on the floor of the chamber, McConnell and Cornyn came forward to cast “aye” votes to end debate — a move called “cloture.”

A total of 12 Republican senators voted to invoke cloture, joining with 53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with Democrats. The bill then advanced to the floor and was approved 55-43 on a straight party-line vote.

Besides McConnell and Cornyn, the other Republicans voting against Cruz were Sens. John Barrasso, Wyoming; Susan Collins, Maine; Bob Corker, Tennessee; Jeff Flake, Arizona; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Mike Johanns, Nebraska; Mark Kirk, Illinois; John McCain, Arizona; Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; and John Thune, South Dakota.

Cruz told Bash that he likes Cornyn and has agreed with him on many issues, but disagrees with him on the debt ceiling vote.

“What I said at the outset was that I am not going to affirmatively consent to giving [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid the authority to do this,” Cruz said. “It’s irresponsible, and it’s sending our nation’s future down the road.”

But he denies criticism that he “threw five Republicans under the bus.”

“My response is, I don’t want to throw any Republicans under the bus,” Cruz said. “I want to see all 45 Republicans stand together and actually do what we tell our constituents we are going to do.”

Overall, Cruz said, lawmakers need to be honest with their constituents.

“Last week, what it was all about was truth and transparency,” he said.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

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 Cools on Immigration Reform:


Image: McConnell Cools on Immigration Reform

By Elliot Jager

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said that differences between the House and Senate on immigration reform are too big to bridge in 2014, The Hill reported.

The Senate passed a comprehensive bipartisan immigration bill in June that would set a path to citizenship for the approximately 11 million people now in the U.S. illegally.

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McConnell said the differences between the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-led House are “irresolvable,” the Hill reported.

“I don’t see how you get to an outcome this year with the two bodies in such a different place,” said McConnell.

McConnell is facing off against tea party opponent Matt Bevin in Kentucky’s GOP primary. Bevin has taken a hard-nosed anti-immigration stance.

Republican strategists including William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, and Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief of RedState, have argued that this is not the time to tackle immigration. Doing so, they say, would call attention to divisions within the party and take attention away from the failures of President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act.

House Republican leaders led by Speaker John Boehner had issued a statement of principles on immigration, in conjunction with the recent House retreat, that would revamp the country’s immigration laws a little at a time and in a way that non-tea party conservatives could live with.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who helped to craft the principles, said he does not know if an immigration law can be passed. “That is clearly in doubt,” he told ABC’s “This Week” and depends on whether Democrats were willing to “secure the border,” and “agree to not having an amnesty,” The Hill reported.

Republican Rep. Jeff Denham of California who supports immigration reform, said that the House leadership has not given up,  according to Breitbart. 

“I think leadership’s focus and my focus is to get [immigration] done as early as possible. It’s part of our conference agenda right now. It doesn’t go on the agenda without scheduling bills and scheduling time on the floor,” Denham said.

Meanwhile, Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, who backed the Senate immigration bill, said that McConnell was probably right about prospects for immigration reform.

“The Democrats want amnesty and the Republicans would like to solve this problem, but in the House they’re not about to give amnesty,” he said.

Editor’s Note: 5 Reasons Stocks Will Collapse . . . 

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Proposed IRS Regs Threaten GOP’s 2014 Senate Push.


Proposed new IRS regulations, combined with the intense ongoing scrutiny of grass-roots conservative groups, could suppress their get-out-the-vote activity enough to hand Democrats the one or two races they need to keep control of the Senate, conservative leaders warn.

“Once caught red-handed,” American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) Senior Counsel David French said, “the administration didn’t change its goal [of] suppressing the free speech of these conservative groups.

”It’s just shifted methods. The ends are the same, only the means have changed,” he says.

Of the 41 grassroots groups named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) — a case alleging widespread abuses of the First Amendment rights of assembly and free speech by the Obama administration and the IRS — 13 still have not yet received an adjudication on their request for non-profit status.

The oldest of those 13 pending applications to the IRS 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.”

Washington GOP super lawyer Cleta 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.

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.”

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By David A. Patten

Sen. Hatch: GOP Health Plan Makes Financial Sense.


The GOP health plan proposal “makes sense from the financial standpoint” as an alternative to Obamacare, a law that will eventually run the country into bankruptcy, Sen. Orrin Hatch said Thursday.

“We’ve got to come up with a consumer-based approach that really gets rid of Obamacare, but also makes sense from the financial standpoint,” the Utah Republican told MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown.”

“What people don’t realize is, the Obamacare is going to run us right into bankruptcy. We won’t be able to pay for it,” he added.

Story continues below video.

The GOP alternative, called the Patient Choice Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment Act, or CARE, was introduced by Hatch and co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Richard Burr of North Carolina. He said his bill would keep some of the more popular aspects of Obamacare, including health coverage for pre-existing conditions and children being able to stay on their parents’ health plan through age 26.

Hatch said the bill takes out the costly mandates, taxes, and regulations in Obamacare, and shifts the management of healthcare to the states. He described it as a “consumer-based program” that saves money because it gets “rid of the bureaucrats … in Washington, and all of the government processes that just eat up funds right and left.”

Obamacare was “not going to work,” Hatch said, and explained one problem with the law was that it pushed costs into Medicaid. He said the GOP bill would “reform Medicaid and make it work again.”

“In the future, [Medicaid] is going to be unfunded, and we’ve got to find some way of … completely rehabilitating Medicaid. And we do that in our bill,” he said.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Wanda Carruthers

GOP Sens. Burr, Coburn and Hatch Offer Obamacare Alternative.


Image: GOP Sens. Burr, Coburn and Hatch Offer Obamacare AlternativeFrom left: Sens. Richard Burr, Tom Coburn and Orrin Hatch

Three prominent Republican senators on Monday called for replacing Obamacare with a package of election-year proposals intended to lower health insurance costs while retaining some elements of President Barack Obama’s health reform law.Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Orrin Hatch of Utah released a legislative blueprint that analysts say could help the Republican Party offer a much-needed vision for healthcare ahead of November’s mid-term congressional elections, voting that will determine which party controls Congress in the final two years of the Obama presidency.

The proposals came a day before Obama is scheduled to defend his top domestic policy in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

“The American people have found out what is in Obamacare – broken promises in the form of increased healthcare costs, costly mandates and government bureaucracy. They don’t like it and don’t want to keep it,” Burr said in a statement.

Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has extended health coverage to millions of people, despite a botched October rollout. The administration says 6.3 million people have signed up for private insurance as a result of implementation. A similar number have been determined eligible for Medicaid coverage.

The Republican alternative – dubbed the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment Act, or CARE Act – would repeal Obamacare’s mandates, taxes and fees and replace the law with what aides called “common-sense, patient-centered” reforms intended to lower costs.

As with earlier Republican initiatives, the approach would address costs by making consumers responsible for more of their medical bills, with assistance from health savings accounts funded with pre-tax dollars that could be used to pay for insurance premiums as well as healthcare services.

The plan would keep in place two popular Obamacare provisions by banning lifetime limits on insurance benefits and allowing adult children to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26. It would scale back Obamacare subsidies to help lower-income people buy private insurance, allow insurers to charge older people more and protect the sick against insurance market discrimination only if they remain continuously insured.

Medicaid, the program for the poor, which Obamacare would expand to Americans with incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, would be limited to mothers, children and the frail. Federal payments would be capped but states would receive greater flexibility to run their own Medicaid programs.

Funding for the CARE Act would come mainly from new federal taxes on employer-sponsored health plans, which are currently excluded from taxation. The Republican proposal would make 35 percent of a plan’s value taxable for employees but keep employer tax deductions unchanged.

At the same time, it would leave in place as estimated $700 million in reduced payments to Medicare, while lawmakers seek a separate bipartisan agreement on how to reform the program for the elderly and disabled.

The White House was dismissive. “This looks very much like just another repeal proposal, another attempt to raise taxes on the middle class, to keep uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions locked out of the market, to raise costs on seniors and to take away Medicaid from the millions of Americans,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told a briefing.

But analysts said the proposal could help Republicans in the coming months.

“It gives them an opportunity to talk about these things in a more positive way than just repeal and replace,” said Joseph Antos of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank.

Republicans have already made Obamacare a major campaign issue in hopes of leveraging the law’s unpopularity into active voter support in November. Republicans voted to repeal, defund or dismantle the law more than 40 times in the House of Representatives.

Of likely U.S. voters, 43 percent view Obamacare at least somewhat favorably, while 52 percent have an unfavorable view, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released on Monday.

But there is no consensus on how to replace the law and party leaders believe it important enough to offer a positive vision that House Republicans have made it a major topic for their annual retreat this week.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Senate Republicans Make New Jobless Benefits Offer.


Prospects of 1.4 million unemployed Americans getting their federal jobless benefits back soon brightened on Monday when U.S. Senate Republican negotiators offered a new plan to extend the emergency relief for three months.

Senate Democrats and Republicans planned to meet privately on Tuesday to evaluate the proposal. A vote on it could occur within days.

Long-term unemployment benefits expired on Dec. 28, and President Barack Obama and his Democrats in Congress have since pressed for an unpaid extension of up to one year.

Republicans have insisted on a shorter extension while also demanding that the $6.5 billion cost of extending benefits for three months be covered by government savings elsewhere.

According to a senior aides, the Republican offer would pay for the jobless benefits by extending across-the-board spending cuts, known as “sequestration,” for another year – into 2024.

The measure also would clamp down on some unemployment benefits to people who also collect federal disability payments.

“We continue to negotiate in good faith, and we are all encouraged that we are making progress on a package that could pass with bipartisan support,” said eight Republican senators who have taken the lead in trying to reach a deal.

The senators said in a statement the proposal included repeal of the recent cuts in the military retiree cost-of-living adjustment included in December’s budget agreement and offsets to pay for the unemployment extension and restoring military retiree benefits within the budget window.

If the Democratic-led Senate approves the proposal, it would have to be passed by the Republican-led House of Representatives before it could go to Obama to sign into law.

Since the Senate began wrangling over a possible extension last week, the number of long-term jobless, generally defined as those who have been out of work for at least six months, has grown to 1.4 million from 1.3 million.

“I can’t automatically agree to it,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, declared in announcing that Republican negotiators had offered a three-month deal.

Assistant Senate Republican Leader John Cornyn declined to make a prediction, saying, “At this point, we don’t even know if Democrats will back it. … I’m not optimistic.”

Senator Orrin Hatch, senior Republican on the Finance Committee, which oversees jobless benefits, said he would support a bill if it is “done on a bipartisan basis.”

Senator John Thune, a member of Republican leadership, told Reuters that he expected the measure, if put to a vote, would garner enough votes to pass, even if most Republicans oppose it.

“I don’t know if there will be the votes for it … probably not mine,” Republican Senator Jeff Flake told Reuters, saying that paying for the program 10 years from now was “a gimmick.”

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.comOrrin Hatch

Judge Allows Gay Marriage in Utah to Continue.


A federal judge said Monday he will allow gay marriage in Utah to continue, denying a request from the state to halt same-sex weddings until the appeals process plays out.

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby‘s decision came three days after he overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, ruling it is unconstitutional. Utah lawyers are expected to ask a higher court to put the process on hold.

The county clerk in Salt Lake City immediately began issuing licenses after Shelby’s ruling Friday, and hundreds more gay couples were lined up Monday to get married.

The ruling has drawn attention given Utah’s long-standing opposition to gay marriage and its position as headquarters for the Mormon church.

Lawyers for the state waged a legal battle on several fronts as they sought to stop the same-sex weddings.

On Sunday, a federal appeals court rejected the state’s emergency request to stay the ruling, saying it couldn’t rule on a stay since Shelby had not yet acted on the motion before him. The court quickly rejected a second request from Utah on Monday.

Following Shelby’s surprising ruling Friday afternoon, gay and lesbian couples rushed to a county clerk’s office in Salt Lake City to get marriage licenses. More than 100 couples wed as others cheered them on in what became an impromptu celebration at an office building about 3 miles from the headquarters of the Mormon church.

About 25 couples lined up outside the clerk’s office in Davis County on Monday morning. The first couple showed up around 6 a.m. and married immediately after receiving their license.

For now, a state considered one of the most conservative in the nation has joined the likes of California and New York to become the 18th state where same-sex couples can legally wed. Legal experts have said that even if a judge put a halt to the weddings, the licenses that already have been issued likely will still be valid.

Many Utah residents belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Mormons dominate the state’s legal and political circles.

The Mormon church was one of the leading forces behind California’s short-lived ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, which voters approved in 2008. The church said Friday it stands by its support for “traditional marriage,” and it hopes a higher court validates its belief that marriage is between a man and woman.

In Shelby’s 53-page ruling, he said the constitutional amendment that Utah voters approved in 2004 violates gay and lesbian couples’ rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment. Shelby said the state failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect opposite-sex marriages in any way.

The decision drew a swift and angry reaction from Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, who said he was disappointed in an “activist federal judge attempting to override the will of the people of Utah.” The state quickly took steps to appeal the ruling and halt the process, setting up Monday’s hearing before Shelby.

The ruling has thrust Shelby into the national spotlight. He has been on the bench for less than two years, appointed by President Barack Obama after GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch recommended him in November 2011.

Shelby served in the Utah Army National Guard from 1988 to 1996 and was a combat engineer in Operation Desert Storm. He graduated from the University of Virginia law school in 1998 and clerked for the U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene in Utah, then spent about 12 years in private practice before he became a judge.

 

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Cruz: Democrats Want to Pack D.C. Court To Save Obamacare.


Image: Cruz: Democrats Want to Pack D.C. Court To Save Obamacare

By Drew MacKenzie

The White House is trying to save Obamacare by packing the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., with judges who will rubber stamp its “lawless behavior,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says.

Senate Democrats, according to Cruz, enacted “the nuclear option” to prevent filibusters against appellate court nominees in order to make it difficult for Republicans to repeal the disastrous Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature healthcare legislation, The Hill reported.

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“The heart of this action is directed at packing the D.C. Circuit (court) because that is the court that will review the lawless behavior of the Obama administration implementing Obamacare,” said Cruz, a leading force in the government shutdown last month in a confrontation over the Affordable Care Act.

President Obama and the administration refuse to follow the plain text of the law, and the D.C. Circuit is the court of appeals that has been holding the administration accountable.”

Cruz said the change in the filibuster rule, passed by the Senate on Thursday, was designed purely “to pack that court with judges that they believe will be a rubber stamp” to Democratic policy.

The D.C. court has a quota of 11 seats. Three have been vacant. Of the current judges, four were appointed by Republican presidents and four by Democrats.

Obama has nominated Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard, and Robert Wilkins, but their nominations were being filibustered by Republicans who worried a shifting balance of power.

The court is particularly important because it deals with decisions made by federal agencies and the White House, reports The Washington Post.

Cruz was echoing the sentiments of numerous Republicans, including Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who told Newsmax that the real reason for the “dangerous” ploy was “to create a controversy so they can escape criticism for Obamacare, which is wrecking the country.”

Hatch claimed that Obama will use the D.C. court to pass legislation that he can’t get through Congress.

Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana said that the “nuclear option” was intended by Democrats as a“distraction” from the failed launch of the Affordable Care Act and its website HealthCare.gov.

Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, declared that the fate of Obamacare may rest in the hands of the D.C. court.

“Lawsuits affecting the healthcare law will go through this court, and if the president is able to pack this court, it’s his effort to try to defend a law the American people don’t like and believe they can’t afford,” he said.

Meanwhile, during an appearance on Bloomberg TV Thursday, Cruz suggested that he might use the expected budget crisis in January as a means of having the healthcare law repealed.

There will be plenty of time to worry about the specific text,” he said of the possibility of linking budget legislation to the removal of the Affordable Care Act.

“What I think is critical is that we keep focus on Obamacare and on fixing things. I think what we need to do is repeal in its entirety. I don’t know (if I can do that in January). I hope so.”

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