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Posts tagged ‘United States Treasury Department’

House GOP Ties Votes on Debt Limit to Defunding Obamacare.


Image: House GOP Ties Votes on Debt Limit to Defunding Obamacare

By Lisa Barron

House Republicans appear to be moving closer to tying an increase in the debt ceiling to a repeal of the insurance company bailout clause in Obamacare.

After another meeting of members Tuesday, aides indicated that removing the “risk corridor” provision in the healthcare law seemed to have more support than a plan to link the debt limit to approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, reports The Hill.

“Listen, the goal here is to increase the debt ceiling. No one wants to default on our debt,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters after the meeting. “But while we’re doing this, we should do something either about jobs or the economy, about the drivers of our debt. And so we’re talking to our members, and when we have a decision, we’ll let you know.”

But it is still not clear that either proposal will gain the necessary votes for the House to pass its own bill to raise the limit by the late-February deadline set by the Treasury Department.

And some GOP legislators have indicated they would not oppose the approval of an increase in the debt ceiling without any conditions.

“A clean debt-ceiling [bill] would not garner my vote, but if the House leadership chooses to go that route and believes that’s in the best interest of the country and they don’t need my vote to accomplish that, I’m OK with that,” Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming told The Hill.

Conservatives say they are also wary of another showdown four months after an impasse over the debt ceiling led to a government shutdown that damaged the GOP’s image.

“There is an understanding by conservatives in light of history and the trajectory that we’re on right now, that you cannot make all the demands that we would like to make,” Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey told the publication.

House aides say they expect the legislators to reach a conclusion by the end of this week,reports The Washington Post. 

Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma told the newspaper that Boehner would spend the week “looking for a sweet spot.”

“We’re in the process of sorting it out.” He said. “The number one question is: how do we get to 218 votes?”

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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

US Approves Export of Mobile Phones, Software to Iran.


Image: US Approves Export of Mobile Phones, Software to Iran

By Melanie Batley

The Treasury and State departments have authorized the sale of mobile phones and other communications devices, software, and services to Iranians in a lifting of restrictions intended to “empower the Iranian people as their government intensifies its efforts to stifle their access to information.”

The shift marks the first time Apple’s iPhone can be exported legally to Iran, according to the BBC.

“As the Iranian government attempts to silence its people by cutting off their communication with each other and the rest of the world, the United States will continue to take action to help the Iranian people exercise their universal human rights, including the right to freedom of expression,” the U.S. Treasury Department said in a press release.

“The people of Iran should be able to communicate and access information without being subject to reprisals by their government.”

The general sales license, however, would not authorize the export of any equipment to the Iranian government or to any individual on the Specially Designated Nationals list which includes those who have “used communications technology to silence and intimidate the Iranian people.”

Joshua Lamel, executive director of Foundation for Innovation and Internet Freedom, welcomed the move.

“Information and communications technology has played a critical role in enabling openness and freedom globally. The Arab Spring has taught us the important role these technologies can play, and this is a step in the right direction by the U.S. to foster a free and open Iran,” said Lamel.

The move comes just ahead of the June 14 elections in Iran. Social media played a prominent role in the disputed 2009 elections that returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. Green Movement opposition protesters used social media extensively to organize street demonstrations, according to BBC News.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Ros-Lehtinen: Cuba Wrong Place for Beyoncé Vacation.


Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen slammed singer Beyoncé and her rapper husband, Jay-Z, for their vacation to Cuba, saying it doesn’t “send the right message to the suffering Cuban people.”

“They want freedom, and Beyoncé and Jay-Z are there to have a good time. They should go somewhere else,” the Republican representative said on CNN Tuesday.

Story continues below.

 

The celebrity couple had permission from the Treasury Department to travel to the Caribbean island, long under embargo by the United States, as a cultural and educational trip, White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a press conference.

“Under this administration, we have eased the ability to travel to Cuba for those purposes but the decisions at the individual level are made at the Treasury Department,” Carney said.

Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Cuba, said although there are legal ways to visit the island, the couple should have chosen somewhere else to spend their fifth wedding anniversary.

“There are a lot of better places they could go where they’re not feeding a monstrous regime.”

Reuters reports that the hip hop power couple is visiting Havana for four days and so far has visited Old Havana, toured an art school, heard Cuban music at an entertainment venue, and enjoyed Havana’s nightlife. They were also treated to a performance by a children’s theater group.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Christiana Lilly

Source: Beyonce, Jay-Z Visited Cuba With US Treasury OK.


A visit by American pop star Beyonce and rapper husband Jay-Z to Havana last week was a cultural trip that was fully licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department, a source familiar with the trip said on Monday.

The longstanding U.S. trade embargo against Cuba prevents most Americans from traveling to the communist-led island without a license granted by the U.S. government.

Two Cuban American members of Congress, both Republicans representing south Florida and supporters of a firm stance on Cuba, had asked the Treasury Department for information on what type of license the couple obtained for their trip.

Beyonce and Jay-Z celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in Havana and were greeted by big crowds as they strolled through the Cuban capital. Cubans recognized the music industry power couple as celebrities despite the past half-century of ideological conflict that separates the two countries.

The source told Reuters that the trip included visits with Cuban artists and musicians, as well as several nightclubs where live music was performed, and some of the city’s best privately run restaurants, known as “paladares.”

The visit was planned as a “people-to-people” cultural visit and involved no meetings with Cuban officials, or typical tourist activity such as trips to the beach, the source said. Even a walk around the Old City of Havana, mobbed by crowds of excited Cuban spectators, was led by Miguel Coyula, one of the city’s leading architects.

Publicists for the couple did not return emails or phone calls seeking comment.

Beyonce and Jay-Z were the latest American stars joining actors Bill Murray, Sean Penn and James Caan who have also visited the Caribbean island in the past few years. But the pair were the first to cause such a stir everywhere they went.

The couple arrived in Havana unannounced for a four-day visit on Wednesday on a flight from Miami. But word of their presence spread like wildfire.

Beyonce, who sang at Obama’s inauguration for his second term in January, was instantly recognized when she and Jay-Z, and their mothers, dined at La Guarida, the city’s top privately run restaurant on their first night.

The next day a crowd of several thousand people swarmed around them in the main square of Old Havana, which prompted their security team to curtail the walk-about.

They also visited a children’s theater group called La Colmenita, where they saw a Cinderella-themed performance accompanied by Beatles songs.

On Thursday night, they visited another Havana venue to hear live Cuban music. On Friday, they toured Cuba’s art school, Instituto Superior de Arte, and met with some young artists, including Yoan Capote, before ending the evening at another nightclub.

U.S. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart questioned the authorization for the couple’s trip arguing that isolating Cuba is the best way to force it to change its one-party political system.

Ros-Lehtinen, long a fierce critic of the Cuban government, called it a racist dictatorship that “harasses, beats, and wantonly jails” its opponents. She said she found it “very disconcerting that these two mega stars would go down to Cuba and vacation as if they were in a tropical paradise and not say one word about the brutality their hosts display against all pro democracy activists.”

Diaz-Balart’s office said on Monday he would not comment further until there was official confirmation of the license for Beyonce and Jay-Z’s trip.

The Cuban government was unaware of the participants on the trip until shortly before they departed for Cuba, the source told Reuters, adding that the Cuban media made no official mention of the pair while they were in Havana.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which handles licenses for travel to Cuba, said it does not comment on individual cases.

OFAC provides licenses to visit Cuba on a case-by-case basis for educational exchanges, and for programs to promote “people-to-people contact” and “contribute to the development of civil society in Cuba,” according to Treasury Department guidelines. Tourism is specifically prohibited by the guidelines, it states.

“It’s hard to imagine a more people-to-people contact visit than the scenes witnessed last week on the streets of Havana with two of the United States biggest music stars wading through crowds of fans they never knew they had,” said John McAuliff, executive director for the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, an organization working to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba.

He described the couple’s itinerary as “characteristic of licensed trips undertaken by thousands of Americans every year.”

While it has kept the embargo in place, President Barack Obama’s administration has eased restrictions on travel to Cuba for academic, religious or cultural programs.

An increasing number of Americans are taking officially sanctioned trips to Cuba, for academic, cultural and religious motives. Only licensed travelers and Cuban Americans visiting relatives on the island are allowed to board special charter planes from Miami for the 50-minute flight to Cuba.

Some U.S. citizens dodge those requirements by traveling to Cuba via third countries. Cuba does not stamp the passports of Americans who visit Cuba making it easy to avoid detection.

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

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