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Posts tagged ‘Washington Times’

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

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Ted Cruz Hints He Might Vote for ‘Terrific’ Rick Perry in 2016.


Image: Ted Cruz Hints He Might Vote for 'Terrific' Rick Perry in 2016

By Lisa Barron

Sen. Ted Cruz says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is “terrific,” despite the Republican governor’s past swipes at the state’s junior senator for his involvement in the government shutdown, among other things.

Cruz told the Dallas Morning News in a recent interview that under Perry, the Lone Star State‘s economy has been “remarkable.” He even suggested he might vote for Perry in the GOP primary should the governor decide to repeat his 2012 bid for the White House in 2016.

“Rick Perry’s been a terrific governor,” he said, adding: “I can tell you this: as a voter, the person for whom I intend to vote in the 2016 Republican primary is whoever is standing up and leading, effectively fighting for free-market principles and the Constitution.”

Perry, who has not announced whether he will seek the presidency again, has insulted Cruz in recent months. During a trip to Israel and England in October, he called the government shutdown in October that was championed by his fellow Republican “political theater” and told the Washington Times that the senator’s name had not been mentioned overseas.

Cruz has also been mentioned as a possible 2016 GOP presidential candidate, but a November survey by Public Policy Polling found both good and bad news for the tea party favorite.

While he is by far the top choice of Texas Republicans to be the party’s presidential candidate in 2016, 50 percent of all Texans say Cruz has been bad for the state’s reputation, compared to 37 percent who think he’s been good for it.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Howard Dean: Obamacare Mandate Not Needed, Has Hurt President.


 Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean says the Obamacare mandate that all Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine is not only unpopular — it’s totally unnecessary.

Dean told CNBC Monday that the number of young, healthy people signing up for President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, broadening the risk pool for everyone buying their insurance in the Obamacare insurance marketplace, “doesn’t really matter that much,” the Washington Times reported.

“This is about the individual mandate,” the former Vermont governor and onetime presidential candidate said. “The individual mandate was not necessary, and it’s probably a big political thing, and that is going to hurt the Democrats because people don’t like to be told what to do by the government no matter what party they’re in.”

“But the truth is, that wasn’t necessary, and the insurance companies like it because it does bring young, healthy people who aren’t likely to get sick into the system,” he said.

A recent poll showed that a majority of Americans don’t like the individual mandate. The Rasmussen poll, released Dec. 17, shows that 58 percent of those surveyed opposed the requirement.

Dean argued as much more than a year ago, warning, prophetically, that the mandate would hurt the president.

As the Supreme Court of the United States was deliberating the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, Dean said it wouldn’t matter even if the high court struck down the mandate.

“The mandate is something that’s not really necessary, first of all,” Dean told Fox News Sunday on April 1, 2012. “If the justices strike it down, it might actually help the president, because the people don’t like the mandate. But if the rest of the bill stays intact, I think it will ultimately be seen as a victory for the president.”

The Supreme Court in June 2012 upheld the 2010 law.

On Monday, Dean said that for young people under 18 in Vermont, “the individual mandate is really not that necessary, and the actual data does not lead to the conclusion that you’re going to have huge cost overruns for the insurance companies.”

Still, Dean is now predicting the law itself will eventually work.

“I think there are going to be some more bumps, but I do think ultimately this is going to get better, not worse,” he said. “We’re not out of the woods, but I think by March we will be, and a lot more people will have insurance.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Cathy Burke

GAO Report: Social Security Doesn’t Know Who’.


The Social Security Administration doesn’t verify all its death reports, a new government report says, leading to problems when it comes to paying survivors’ benefits.

“SSA’s methods for processing death reports may result in inaccurate, incomplete or untimely information for users of its death data,” says the Government Accountability Office in its report.

“Consequently, this could lead to improper payments if benefit-paying agencies rely on this data.”

The SSA is responsible for cross-matching data on dead people, so that federal agencies can avoid paying out benefits to people who are no longer alive, reports The Washington Times, and so that they can pay accurate benefits for surviving family members.

The agency also maintains a “Death Master File” that is available to the public, but the data may not be entirely accurate, the GAO report indicates.

Auditors said SSA verifies death reports from several places, including state records, families, funeral directors, the post office, banks, and other places it considers accurate.

“Because SSA does not verify death reports from sources it considers most accurate, the agency risks having erroneous information in its death data, such as including living individuals or not including deceased individuals,” the GAO report said.

The SSA is also inconsistent in how it shares its data, the auditors revealed. Some agencies share with the SSA, but it does not always share back.

The GAO recommended that SSA develop better plans for verifying death reports and sharing them with other government agencies.

“Only with more accurate and complete data can these agencies reduce the risk of paying deceased beneficiaries,” auditors said. “However, because SSA has never analyzed the risk posed by errors or processes that could result in errors, it is not fully aware of steps that would be needed to address them.”

The government pays out billions in improper death benefits, according to the Office of Management and Budget. In fiscal year 2012 alone, agencies paid out $108 billion in improper payments, including millions of dollars a year in subsidies to dead farmers after the Agriculture Department did not verify where the money was going, the GAO said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Sen. Lee: Churches Should Not Be Forced to Perform Gay Marriages.


Image: Sen. Lee: Churches Should Not Be Forced to Perform Gay Marriages

By Audrey Hudson

Sen. Mike Lee says a bill he introduced would prevent the Internal Revenue Service from denying tax-exempt status to any person or group that refuses to perform gay marriages.

“What we’re talking about here is the freedom of religious belief, the freedom of a church, for example, to adhere to its own religious doctrine so that it cannot be discriminated against by the government,” the Utah Republican said in an interview with Newsmax.

Lee said the federal government’s failure to protect religious liberty — citing Obamacare mandates for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs — was a key motivation for him to introduce the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act,” which protects clergy from being punished if they refuse to perform gay marriages.

“This is something that the overwhelming majority of Americans would support and the overwhelming majority of Americans would be disappointed if they discovered Congress would be unwilling to pass something like this,” Lee said.

Lee’s bill was introduced before Congress recessed for the holidays. It has the support of Republican Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. A bipartisan companion measure in the House is sponsored by Republican Reps. Raul Labrador of Idaho and Chris Smith of New Jersey, as well as Democrats Dan Lipinski of Illinois and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina.

“It is rare that a month or few weeks go by without me hearing from some religious person or institution that has great concern about the status of religious liberty,” Lee told Newsmax.

“And that’s all the more reason why those of us who believe in religious liberty, whether we are Democrats or Republicans, need to stand up and make clear that there is a good reason why religious liberty receives protection in the Constitution, and there are good reasons why we need to draw protective lines in legislation that we pass that will bolster those protections.”

The Utah Republican said President Barack Obama has shown a significant lack of respect for religious freedoms through his administration’s effort to expand the size and control of the federal government.

He noted, however, that Obama has specifically stated he has no intention of revoking the tax-exempt status of any church that does not recognize gay marriage.

“In light of the fact he said that, I think it’s important that we memorialize that in legislation,” Lee added. “If he in fact feels that way, then he should be just fine with this legislation.”

Lee also said the revelation earlier this year that the IRS had targeted conservative and tea party groups for extra scrutiny over their tax-exempt status was a factor as well in his moving to write the bill.

“That’s why we need to be concerned, but it’s also why we should be in a good position to put those assurances to rest in legislation,” Lee said.

Despite the fact that there is a bipartisan companion bill in the House, Lee said it is difficult to gauge whether the measure will pass both chambers. Endorsements from numerous religious and conservative organizations could help, though. Among those supporting the measure: the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Family Research Council, National Organization For Marriage, Heritage Action, and Concerned Women For America.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, says the protections under Lee’s bill are necessary, Catholic World News reports.

“Increasingly, state laws are being used to target individuals and organizations for discrimination simply because they act on their belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” Cordileone said.

“Such prejudice must not be allowed to spread to the federal government.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Feds Charge Texas Man With Hate Crime in ‘Knockout Game’ Attack.


Eric Holder‘s Justice Department has charged a white suburban Houston man with a federal hate crime for sucker-punching a 79-year-old black man in a “knockout game,” a violent trend that has been sweeping the nation.

“The plan is to see if I were to hit a black person, would this be nationally televised?” Conrad Barrett, 27, allegedly said in a cellphone call that was recorded, the Houston Chronicle reported Thursday, citing court documents.

The sick game is played when one or more youths decide to knock down a stranger, preferably with one punch, as they pass by. The event often is recorded so the proof  can be posted on the Internet.

It’s the first time the Obama administration has taken action on the distressing trend, The Washington Times reported, although unlike most reported “knockout” cases, in this instance the accused is white and the victim black.

According to the complaint in the Texas case, similar incidents occurred as early as 1992, and the Los Angeles Times reported attacks have been reported in St. Louis, New Jersey, New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, among other areas.

An assault attributed to the knockout game reportedly killed a Vietnamese immigrant in 2011 in St. Louis. At least one legislator in Illinois has called for tougher penalties, thTimes said.

Many of the victims in news accounts have been white and their assailants black, but hate-crimes charges have been rare, The Washington Times reported.

In New York, knockout game attacks have been on the rise since September, according to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. At least one was caught by surveillance cameras in which a 19-year-old Jewish youth carrying a camera was knocked to the ground, a CBS affiliate reported.

Rabbi Yaacov Behrman told the CBS he believes the assaults are part of a disturbing game by some African-American teens.

“They’re playing a game: ‘knockout.’ ‘Knock out the Jew,’ maybe. And they’re going around the neighborhood punching Jews,” Behrman said.

Activist the Rev. Al Sharpton wrote last month of an incident in which a 78-year-old Jewish woman was walking down the street in Brooklyn and was punched in the face.

“These kids are targeting innocent people, and in many cases specifically targeting Jewish folks,” Sharpton wrote. “We would not be silent if it were the other way around, and we will not be silent now. This behavior is racist, period. And we will not tolerate it.”

New York police charged suspect Marajh Amrit with a hate crime in the alleged attack of a white Jewish man as part of a “knockout” game.

According to Texas authorities, Barrett allegedly hit his elderly victim so hard,he immediately tumbled to the ground. Barrett then laughed and said “knockout,” as he ran to his vehicle and fled, according to the allegations.

The elderly black man had two jaw fractures and was hospitalized for several days.

“It is unimaginable in this day and age that one could be drawn to violently attack another based on the color of their skin,” FBI Special Agent Stephen Morris said in a statement.

The attack occurred Nov. 24; the criminal complaint was filed under seal Tuesday and unsealed Thursday, when Barrett was arrested, television station KHOU reported.

Barrett made several videos, one in which he identifies himself and another in which he makes a racial slur and says blacks “haven’t fully experienced the blessing of evolution,” The Washington Times reported.

Barrett allegedly had been working up to playing the knockout game for approximately a week.

If convicted, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cathy Burke

Obama Might Avoid Keystone Pipeline Decision.


Image: Obama Might Avoid Keystone Pipeline DecisionPresident Barack Obama speaks at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 22, 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma.

By Sandy Fitzgerald

The State Department may have to restart its analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline, which could delay a decision on the controversial project until after President Barack Obama leaves office.

According to The Washington Times, some House Democrats are complaining about a suspected conflict of interest involving a contractor hired to work on the environmental study of the project being done under the State Department. If the current analysis has to be scrapped and a new one started it could delay the pipeline project, which would carry crude oil from the tar sands of Canada to Gulf Coast refineries, for perhaps another five years.

“I’ve been of the mind that there’s no way it makes any kind of sense [for the president to avoid a decision on Keystone]. But it’s been well over five years and yet he keeps proving me wrong,” Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the conservative Institute for Energy Research, told the Times. “In my experience, a lot of times what happens is the way that the environmental community works, and the political community aligned with them, they will put all kinds of speed bumps in the way [of a project] and when the car falls apart because it takes one more speed bump they say, ‘Look at that. The car couldn’t make it.'”

State contracted a top consulting firm, Environmental Resources Management (ERM), to conduct an analysis of the $7 billion pipeline. The job of reviewing the project was put under state because the pipeline crosses an international border.

The firm’s preliminary review apparently concluded that the pipeline would not contribute to any increase in greenhouse gas emissions, but would create tens of thousands of jobs, a claim the Obama administration questions as overblown.

Critics of ERM, including environmentalists and House Democrats, say that the firm joined with other companies and groups, including the American Petroleum Institute, to lobby for the pipeline, an action they say taints its supportive review of the project.

According to the Times, the State Department Office of the Inspector General is now to conducting a review to determine whether there was conflict involved on the part of ERM. Until a decision on that question is made, Arizona Rep. Raul M. Grijalva and other Democrats are urging that a final decision on whether to approve the project be delayed while another analysis is conducted.

“It would be unwise and premature for State to release a study prepared by Environmental Resources Management while it remains under investigation for lying to federal officials about its business connections and practices,” Grijalva wrote in a letter, co-signed by two dozen other House Democrats, to President Obama.

TransCanada, the primary company behind the Keystone project, has not commented on the potential of a further delay. The project has already been on hold for five years, and the Canadian government has begun considering other ways to export its crude, including building a pipeline west to the Pacific Coast so oil can be sent to markets in Asia.

If that happens, Kish told the Times, that would also give Obama an out from having to make a decision on the pipeline before he leaves office.

“I’ve seen this over several decades with these environmental battles. First they say you need to study it, to do this and to do that. It delays it, delays it, delays it,” Kish said. “And all of a sudden the project becomes uneconomic or they have sent a political signal to the market that they ought to back out.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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