Early line: 3-man race for 2016 GOP nomination

“Much of who’s ahead and who’s not at this stage “is based on who’s known and who’s not known,” said Fergus Cullen, another former New Hampshire Republican chairman. Cullen hosted a reception at his home for Bush last week. What’s lacking in the top tier is a hardcore conservative or tea party favorite. Tea party loyalists are sympathetic to Walker, for example, but still have some doubts. At a Tea Party Patriots telephone town hall meeting this week, some questioned whether he has shifted his position on government help for ethanol over the years. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, is popular in Iowa, but memories are fresh of how his support all but evaporated after winning the 2008 caucus. Rick Santorum did well early in 2012, but the former Pennsylvania senator lacked money and wider appeal once the campaign moved to bigger states…”


Early line: 3-man race for 2016 GOP nomination


Walker courts conservatives, religious in South Carolina

“…Walker has been positioning himself as someone who can appeal to his party’s conservative and moderate wings. He pointed to his success in Wisconsin, where he has won election three times in four years even though the state — as he noted in both speeches — hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since 1984. “To win the center, you don’t have to go to the center, you have to lead,” Walker told conservatives Monday in a “tele-town hall” sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots…”


DeMint to speak at conservative summit in Greenville

“…The summit, which will also include appearances by at least nine potential Republican presidential candidates, is free for South Carolina conservatives and includes a free lunch, courtesy of the Tea Party Patriots, a national coalition of tea party groups…”


Area Tea Party gets legislative overview (mention of Maria Acosta)

“The fight over immigration has not gone away was the message Maria Acosta, the Texas representative for Tea Party Patriots and the president of the Central Texas 9-12 Project, gave to the members of the Central Texas Tea Party at their Tuesday night meeting, attended by about 30 people. The group invited Acosta to provide an overview of bills pending in Congress that have drawn the attention of conservative groups…”


Former Breitbart editor thinking about Schock race

“…The Tea Party Patriots announced today the addition of Michael Flynn to serve as Political Director of a newly formed Super PAC – Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund. With years of campaign and political experience, Flynn will lead the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund’s efforts to grow the Tea Party’s presence in Congress as it continues its fight against the Washington establishment. “Michael Flynn brings more than 20 years of experience in policy development, legislative affairs, media relations, political campaigns, and crisis communications to the team and we are thrilled to have him,” said Jenny Beth Martin, Chairman of the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund. “His immeasurable expertise will help us achieve our goal of electing candidates who are fighting to secure the economic future of our country.” Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon said, “Mike Flynn was a trusted adviser to Andrew Breitbart and understands the nature of the fight ahead. With his detailed knowledge of the Tea Party and political campaigns he is the perfect choice for the Tea Party Patriots. Breitbart News looks forward to having Mike continue as a contributor on our pages.”…”



GOP Senate Finance: At least $5.7B wasted on ObamaCare so far

“Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee say they have found at least $5.7 billion in wasted ObamaCare spending from the last five years. Panel Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said his staff have tallied the costs of five programs that have failed or “added no value,” from the dysfunctional HealthCare.gov website to the national sign-up navigator program. “That is $5.7 billion down the drain,” Hatch said during a hearing Thursday to mark the fifth anniversary of ObamaCare’s passage. The federal government’s HealthCare.gov, which broke down in the fall of 2013, has been one of the most criticized components of ObamaCare’s rollout. Some estimates have put the cost of the botched launch and the series of tweaks to fix the website at $2 billion, a figure that Hatch’s staff cited Thursday. The analysis includes $1.3 billion spent on now-defunct state exchanges: Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oregon and Maryland. These systems, all in blue states, were plagued by technical issues and eventually scrapped or majorly reformed. Republicans have frequently pushed federal health officials to recoup the costs of the exchanges…”


HealthCare.gov still fixing tax-form blunder

Remaining 80K will get correct data next week

“The administration said Friday it still had to send corrected tax forms to 80,000 of the 820,000 HealthCare.gov customers who received erroneous information from the federal Obamacare exchange earlier this year. Marketplace CEO Kevin Counihan said the “overwhelming majority” of affected customers — 740,000 — had received amended forms that list the correct benchmark plan by which their Obamacare subsides are calculated. The rest of the forms will be in the mail next week. The error was an embarrassing misstep for the administration, which had been celebrating a relatively hiccup-free signup season that stretched from mid-November to Feb. 15. Administrative stumbles in the marketplace were inevitable, Mr. Counihan said Friday, and in this case, a flaw in computer code resulted in the incorrect forms. “We have a responsibility to identify these issues quickly,” he told reporters. “It doesn’t matter if it impacts 800,000 consumers or one.” Officials said anyone who does not receive a corrected form should contact the federal exchange, as the tax-filing deadline is less than 30 days away…”


80,000 ObamaCare tax forms on hold

“The Obama administration announced Friday that 80,000 corrected tax forms for people on plans through ObamaCare have still not gone out. It’s unclear how many people will be affected by the delay, but the administration said people who have not received the corrected forms do not have to wait to file their taxes and will not have to pay any additional tax due to the effort. The issues stem from the announcement last month that 800,000 people on insurance plans through ObamaCare received incorrect tax information. At the time, the administration said forms with corrected information would be sent out in the first week of March. Republicans pounced on the news, arguing it showed the burdens the Affordable Care Act is placing on families during tax season. They also said it showed the administration was having trouble administering its own law…”


Nearly 100,000 waiting on correct Obamacare tax forms

“Roughly 80,000 Obamacare customers still need to get their new tax forms to replace botched forms previously distributed by the Obama administration, with Tax Day just a few weeks away. The administration accidentally sent an incorrect tax form to 820,000 customers of Obamacare. Of those, 741,000 have received corrected forms and the rest will get a new form either electronically or in the mail in the next week, officials said in a call with reporters Friday. Taxpayers affected by the botched forms will not get an extension to file their returns beyond the April 15 deadline, said Mark Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy at Treasury on the call. He did note that the administration could change its mind closer to the deadline. Taxpayers can get an automatic six-month extension to filing their income tax return, but they must turn in paperwork before April 15 to do so…”


Obama Admin Still Hasn’t Corrected Almost 100K Obamacare Tax Forms


HealthCare.gov sending out corrected tax forms


IRS gives break to Obamacare filers who got wrong info

“The Internal Revenue Service on Friday expanded relief to Obamacare customers who are filing tax returns based on incorrect information about their health plans.

The relief came in reaction to the disclosure by federal health official there were more errors on tax-related forms sent to Obamacare enrollees beyond the 820,000 forms identified as having problems last month. Between 3 and 4 percent of customers of HealthCare.gov, the federal Obamacare marketplace, have some kind of errors on 1095-A tax forms related to their account, according to marketplace CEO Kevin Counihan. The errors could affect the amount of money a taxpayer owes the IRS, or is owed by the agency to the taxpayer…”


IRS Releases Final Forms and Instructions for Affordable Care Act Reporting


CBO: Obamacare to Hit Only 65 Percent of 2015 Coverage Target

“Given that Obamacare’s supporters like to take the Congressional Budget Office’s overly optimistic scoring of the president’s signature legislation as gospel, it’s fun to look at how poorly Obamacare is actually doing in relation to earlier CBO projections.  When the Democrats rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2010 without a single Republican vote, the CBO said that the unpopular overhaul would lead to a net increase of 26 million people with health insurance by 2015 (15 million through Medicaid plus 13 million through the Obamacare exchanges minus 2 million who would otherwise have had private insurance but wouldn’t because of Obamacare). Fast-forwarding five years, the CBO now says that Obamacare’s tally for 2015 will actually be a net increase of just 17 million people (10 million through Medicaid plus 11 million through the Obamacare exchanges minus 4 million who would otherwise have had private insurance but won’t, or don’t, because of Obamacare).  In other words, Obamacare is now slated to hit only 65 percent of the CBO’s original coverage projection for 2015. Obamacare’s under-publicized failure on this key point is attributable to a variety of factors, including but not limited to the following:  People aren’t thrilled with Obamacare-compliant insurance’s high cost and limited doctor networks, and some would even rather pay a fine for refusing to buy such insurance than pay its premiums; the Supreme Court ruled that part of Obamacare was unconstitutional, thereby giving states more freedom not to help expand it; and HealthCare.gov has been more reminiscent of DMV.org than of Expedia.com….”


11 million gained Medicaid coverage under ObamaCare

“More than 11 million more people have health insurance under Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) compared to when the core of ObamaCare took effect in 2013, according to data the administration released Friday. The data show that through the end of January, 11.2 million more people were enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP compared to before ObamaCare’s coverage expansion began, about a 19 percent increase. About 400,000 more people were enrolled in the programs compared to the end of December.

The 28 states that chose to expand Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor, under ObamaCare have seen larger enrollment increases than the states that did not. Some Republican-led states have accepted the expansion, but negotiated with the Obama administration to put a conservative twist on the program. Other Republicans declined it outright, often citing costs. In the states that expanded Medicaid, enrollment grew by 26 percent compared to 2013, while states that did not expand it saw about an 8 percent increase.”


Shades of HealthCare.gov? IRS shifting customer service online to IRS.gov

“They may not be getting help on the phones, but taxpayers this year are increasingly making use of IRS.gov, the tax agency’s website, to answer their questions. Visits are up by 11 percent over last year, including 15 million in the past week alone, the agency said Friday. Most of the inquiries are going to the IRS’s “Where’s my refund?” tool, which tracks where in the process a taxpayer’s refund is. The IRS also said taxpayers can now get return information online, rather than having to order it by phone and wait up to 10 days for it to arrive. The push to send customers online is not an accident. Even as the IRS is preparing for record-bad customer service in answering phones, Commissioner John Koskinen told Congress this week that they realize they need to move beyond phones anyway. “People ought to be able to have an efficient way in the digital economy and the digital world ‘to deal’ with us the way they deal with their banks, with their financial institutions today,” Mr. Koskinen said…”


Vermont’s Got A Plan To Move Its Obamacare Exchange To HealthCare.gov

“The number of state-run Obamacare exchanges may fall even lower next year as yet another state is considering handing the reins over to the federal government. Friday, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, said that his administration is considering closing the state exchange, Vermont Health Connect, and having the federal government take over. Vermont’s exchange is still suffering from technological problems, even after the second open enrollment period, and has been more expensive than estimated. Currently, customers are not able to update their data once they’ve applied for coverage. Shumlin is giving Vermont’s new contractor, Optum, until early October to have the exchange up and running for next year’s enrollment period. He said the website is on track to be ready, but the state will have a contingency plan for the feds to take over and form a “federally-supported state-based marketplace” if Vermont’s system still isn’t working properly. “We now have a vendor with a proven delivery record to finish the job,” Shumlin said in a statement. “Ideally Vermonters will continue to benefit from the Vermont-focused health insurance marketplace that we all envisioned…but if our system can’t deliver for Vermonters by next fall, we’ll need to take action to move permanently to a system that can.” The state exchange was supposed to last just until 2017, while Vermont prepped the country’s first single-payer health system, but Shumlin’s administration was forced to abandon those plans in December due to out-of-control costs…”


Half of Americans unaware of Obamacare penalty

“Tax Day is less than a month away, but many Americans are unaware Obamacare’s tax penalty goes into effect this year — or that they have extra time to sign up for coverage. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Thursday found that while slightly more than half of respondents were aware the penalty kicks in this year, one in five think it goes into effect next year, roughly one in six say they don’t know when it goes into effect, and one in 10 believe it was rolled out last year. If people are penalized, it’s because they lacked health coverage last year and didn’t qualify for an exemption from the healthcare law’s requirement to buy insurance. Even if they buy coverage this year, that wouldn’t erase the penalty they’d have to pay for lacking coverage last year. The Obama administration is still providing them with an extra signup period that started on Sunday and lasts until April 15. But officials have acknowledged there are challenges in getting that key demographic to sign up…”


Lure of Obamacare repeal may help pass House budget

“House Republican leaders are hoping they can cobble together enough GOP support to pass a $3.8 trillion spending blueprint next week by luring in opponents with a provision that could be used to repeal Obamacare. Conservatives tell the Washington Examiner it’s a plan that could work, even though they oppose the likely addition of $20 billion in defense spending that would add to the deficit. They are attracted to budget language that calls for repeal of the Affordable Care Act under the budget reconciliation process, which requires only 51 votes to pass in the Senate and would thus prevent Democrats from blocking Obamacare’s repeal with a filibuster. “We have a golden opportunity to basically make really, really positive changes to our healthcare law,” Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., an Obamacare opponent, said. “While there are parts of the budget that really give me heartburn, I’m trying to keep the end goal in sight.”…”


House Republicans Should Break The Obamacare Mold On Doctor Pay

“The Republican leadership on Capitol Hill is negotiating with House Democrats over a permanent fix to the way Medicare pays physicians. If this “doc fix” passes in its current form, it will represent a profound and enduring triumph of Obamacare’s creeping regulation of the American practice of medicine. Congress has an opportunity to chart a much different course. But the bill they’re considering will consolidate a lot of the payment reforms pioneered in Obamacare, while doing nothing to change the underlying price-fixing mechanism that is at the heart of Medicare’s woes. Consumers deserve a system that preserves their relationship with private doctors, and maintains some aspect of entrepreneurism in the delivery of medical care. For the deficit cost that this bill will consume, we should be able to buy a transformation in how Medicare pays for services. Obamacare required a consolidation of doctors into salaried roles, mostly as employees of hospitals and hospital owned health systems. This was crucial because Obamacare assumed that the chief way to control healthcare utilization and spending was to transfer onto doctors the fiscal burden of providing medical care. This is supposed to give doctors an economic incentive to constrain their use of medical services. In turn, the only way that doctors would be able to shoulder this economic liability was to make sure that they were part of bigger health systems that could backstop some of the economic risk that these arrangements imposed. Doctor groups can’t offload or finance the risk on their own (perhaps by securitizing it). So they need to partner with a health plan or hospital that has a balance sheet. Twenty years ago, during the heyday of narrow network HMOs, these provisions were referred to as “capitation”. Today, they are termed “payment reform”…”


Turkey’s President Takes Credit For Obamacare

“In public remarks made on Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed he helped advise President Barack Obama on the creation of the Affordable Care Act. Erdoğan, speaking at the opening of a health complex, told a story about meeting a group of tourists in Istanbul who were impressed by the Turkish medical system’s effectiveness. According to Hurriyet Daily News, he said some of the tourists “knew that I would be visiting the United States the following week. They asked me how we could be so successful in healthcare and wanted me to tell about it to Obama.” The president blamed a “negative reflex” in America for Obamacare’s failure, saying that as a result Obama “could only solve the problem partly.” He also claimed that European leaders have visited Turkey in attempts to replicate the magic of the country’s health system: “they try to take us as a model and build similar systems in their country.” Erdoğan was previously prime minister of Turkey, a post he held from 2003 to 2014. His terms as prime minister included a series of health care policy reforms under his Islamist-leaning AKP party. The overhauls included an expansion of the private health market as an alternative to the country’s existing state-funded medical system…”


An ObamaCare Plan Beats No Plan

How Republicans should respond if the Justices toss out subsidies.

“Liberals are lobbying the Supreme Court to uphold ObamaCare’s illegal subsidies by claiming Republicans won’t fix any resulting problems. This claim is political, not legal, but it is also likely wrong. In recent months the GOP has made more intellectual progress on health care than any period since ObamaCare passed. The question is whether the GOP can cohere around a reform alternative before the High Court rules in June, or repeat its recent dysfunction. Political necessity is often the mother of policy invention….”


Survey shows most people unaware of Obamacare subsidies case

“A pivotal Supreme Court case that could strip health insurance subsidies for more than 7 million people is not on the radar for a majority of Americans, according to a new survey. 53 percent of respondents to a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey released Thursday knew little or nothing about the case King v. Burwell. The survey also showed people are not confident Congress can pass an alternative to help those who will lose subsidies. It appears that media attention surrounding the case’s oral arguments on March 4 did little to inform more of the public. Kaiser’s January poll found 56 percent of those surveyed knew little or nothing about the case. The case will determine whether the federal government has the authority to dole out subsidies in the 36 states that didn’t set up their own health exchange. Plaintiffs argue that only residents in the 14 states that set up their own exchange can receive subsidies. A decision is expected this summer…”


Obama official urges GOP to show details on health policy

“Senior White House adviser Brian Deese on Friday challenged Republicans in the House and Senate to say precisely how they would change Medicare and Medicaid. Deese’s comments come after Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a senior member of the Senate Budget panel, said earlier this week that Republicans should put the baseline figures allocated to the programs in the budget and not list the reforms. “We do not subscribe to the Chuck Grassley theory that the right way to do budgets is to have as few words and as few details as possible,” Deese said at a Washington forum hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. “[For] ours, it’s all there for people to see,” Deese said. “We’ve done this several times, and they know where this play ends.” Grassley earlier this week argued it’s better to keep such details out of a budget….”


Let the states fix Obamacare

“The Affordable Care Act (ACA), like President Clinton’s health plan in the 1990s, made the mistake of trying to achieve coast-to-coast health care coverage with a system that essentially looks the same everywhere. That approach was always going to be a challenge. US health care is an enormous and complex economy in its own right. If the US health system were a separate national economy, for instance, it would be the fifth largest economy in the world – larger than the entire economy of France or of Britain. The idea that a single piece of legislation could successfully reorganize the world’s fifth largest economy was a fantasy, especially when the bill had to go through the congressional sausage-making machine. It’s true that the ACA gave Americans a choice of plan on federal or state-run exchanges. But the ACA still sought a template for insurance rules, benefits and other structural features that would be the same from Vermont to Texas and Florida to Alaska. That was unwise. The continuous political warfare since the enactment of the legislation reflects the fact that different parts of the country have very different views of how health care should be organized. On this fifth anniversary of the ACA, both proponents and opponents of the program should pause to consider what we actually mean by an “American” health care system.  Much like we think of an American K-12 education system, we really mean this: a set of national values and goals about health coverage and services that characterizes healthcare for all Americans, but a variety of pathways for reaching those objectives…”


Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act Decision Might Prove A Buying Opportunity

Morningstar analysts say that investors should not worry about the court’s impending decision.

“Should investors be worried about King v. Burwell, the case in which the Supreme Court could decide to invalidate a major provision of the Affordable Care Act? Probably not. Morningstar’s analysts say the court’s decision will likely be a nonevent–and might even produce a buying opportunity for long-term investors. First, what is at stake? King v. Burwell pertains to the federally run exchange on which some individuals have purchased health insurance to meet the ACA’s individual mandate. Although many states established their own insurance exchanges, others elected to rely upon the federal government’s exchange, HealthCare.gov. At issue in the court case is a phrase in the legislation indicating that subsidies are available to those who bought their insurance on “an Exchange established by the State.” The plaintiffs claim that language precludes the payment of subsidies to individuals using the federal exchange. If they prevail, subsidies might at least temporarily be unavailable for individuals in the 37 states using HealthCare.gov. Removal of the Obamacare subsidies therefore could affect a lot of people. The White House estimates that about 8.8 million people have signed up for health-insurance coverage on the federal exchange. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, about 87% of people using the federal exchange have received a subsidy for their health-insurance premiums, averaging $268 per month. Some proponents of the ACA fear that an adverse Supreme Court decision would prompt a “death spiral” for the federal exchange, in which many people would be unable to afford their insurance or would simply balk at paying higher premiums. Relatively healthy people would be particularly likely to drop unsubsidized coverage, leaving a sicker pool of insured individuals. This would likely prompt significant premium hikes, which in turn would induce additional people to drop insurance. At the end of this process, ACA proponents fear, the federal exchange would provide coverage for a relatively small number of individuals in poor health…”


The President Cannot Bypass the Courts

A New York Times op-ed makes an ingenious but frightening argument.

“In a provocative op-ed in the New York Times, University of Chicago law professor William Baude argues that the president has the power to sidestep the Supreme Court if it rules against him on Obamacare. In King v. Burwell, four Virginians claim they are injured by what they describe as the administration’s illegal payment of Obamacare subsidies. Baude offers an easy way out for the president. “If the administration loses in King,” he suggests, “it can announce that it is complying with the Supreme Court’s judgment — but only with respect to the four plaintiffs who brought the suit.” Baude explains that the Supreme Court’s “formal power” is limited to “order[ing] a remedy only for the four people actually before it.” In offering this “Get Out of Jail Free” card to the Obama administration, Baude notes that “the Constitution supplies a contingency plan, even if the administration doesn’t know it yet.” Alas, the Obama Justice Department is well aware of this stratagem to bypass the federal courts — it has thrice plotted this procedural putsch. In three high-profile cases, two involving Obamacare and one involving immigration, the Justice Department has openly challenged the power of federal courts to issue nationwide injunctions to halt unlawful executive actions. These desperate efforts to interfere with the courts in order to salvage unprecedented assertions of power have flouted the rule of law. First, in January of 2011, a federal judge in Tallahassee, Roger Vinson, found that Obamacare’s individual mandate was unconstitutional, and he invalidated the entire law. Two weeks later, the government filed what is known as a “motion for clarification,” asking the court to explain whether the United States could continue to take steps to implement Obamacare while the case was being appealed. Talk about chutzpah!..”


Three Reasons King v. Burwell Doesn’t Constitute ‘Coercion’ under Existing Precedent

“During this month’s oral arguments in King v. Burwell, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy asked whether the Affordable Care Act effectively coerces states into implementing the law’s health-insurance Exchanges. Insofar as such coercion is unconstitutional, the Court’s decision — and Obamacare’s survival — could hinge on whether it exists in the ACA. Understanding Kennedy’s concerns requires understanding the ACA’s insurance regulations. In the small share (less than 10 percent) of the insurance market where carriers sell directly to consumers, the ACA imposes so-called “community-rating” price controls, which reduce premiums for the old and sick by dramatically increasing premiums for the young and healthy. If young and healthy consumers respond by refusing to buy insurance, what results is a market with few carriers and even higher premiums. In some cases, community-rating price controls can cause insurance markets to collapse. To mitigate these potential harms, the ACA mandates that everyone purchase coverage, and, in that small corner of the market, subsidizes premiums for moderate-income consumers. The ACA authorizes such subsidies “through an Exchange established by the State.” Yet the IRS is dispensing subsidies in all states — including the 38 states that failed to establish Exchanges. Those states’ Exchanges were established by the federal government. The King challengers argue that because those Exchanges were not “established by the State,” it is illegal for the IRS to issue subsidies in those states. Which brings us back to Justice Kennedy. He expressed concern that if the challengers are correct, then withholding subsidies in uncooperative states would make the costs of the ACA’s community-rating price controls transparent to consumers, and those costs might have the effect of coercing states into implementing Exchanges….”


Dick Morris: Red States Thrive If Obamacare Subsidies Nixed

“If the Supreme Court cancels insurance subsidies in the Affordable Care Act, red states that have kept the health insurance law at arm’s length since its passage will have more flexibility than fully invested blue states to address their citizens’ future medical needs, says Republican strategist Dick Morris. Republicans in Congress, in fact, should stay out of the way if the high court rules against the Obama administration and lets the states deal exclusively with the fallout, Morris told “MidPoint” host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV on Friday…”


Poll: ObamaCare approval ticks up

“The public’s approval of ObamaCare has risen slightly, leading to the narrowest gap between favorable and unfavorable opinion since the core of the law came into effect in 2013, according to a new poll.  The poll from the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 41 percent of the public has a favorable view of the law, while 43 percent has an unfavorable view. That is the narrowest divide since the fall of 2012. The law’s unfavorable rating shot up in the fall of 2013, coinciding with major problems on the HealthCare.gov website. In July 2014, the gap widened to 16 points, but that gap has since narrowed to 2 points. ObamaCare faces a major threat from a Supreme Court case, King v. Burwell, that could invalidate subsidies for around 7.5 million people in the roughly three-dozen states using a federally run insurance marketplace. The public is not paying much attention to the case, with half saying they have heard nothing about it and another quarter saying they have heard only a little about it. Still, 62 percent say a ruling to invalidate the subsidies would have a negative impact on the country. There is also strong support for congressional action to restore the subsidies, at 65 percent. Among Republicans, though, 56 percent oppose Congress acting to restore subsidies…”


Veteran Freezes To Death After Veterans Affairs Hospital Turns Him Away

“An Iraq veteran was founded frozen to death in the woods after a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital turned him away. Richard Miles, 40, decided to check himself into the VA hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, when he realized his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was spiraling out of control. But staff turned him away, electing to give him medication to cope. Miles was found dead five days later in the woods. He froze to death and had a toxic amount of sleeping pills present in his system, CNN reports. “That was his cry for help and it was not taken seriously or received the way it should have been received,” Katie Hopper, Miles’ ex-girlfriend, told CNN. The problems began soon after Miles returned from Iraq in 2004. According to medical records, Miles reported seeing dead bodies and having nightmares which left him angry, sad and very irritable…”


That New VA Hospital in Denver That Was Supposed to Cost $328 Million? Here’s the Real Price Tag.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs admitted Thursday that a new VA hospital planned for Denver, Colorado, that was originally estimated to cost $328 million will now cost at least $1.73 billion to complete. That’s more than five times the original estimate. The VA made this admission at a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing Thursday morning. VA Office of Accountability Review Director Meghan Flanz acknowledged the huge cost overrun while discussing legislation that would authorize up to $1.1 billion to be spent on the hospital, and said that while the VA welcomes that increase, it wouldn’t be enough. “VA estimates that the final cost of the project will total $1.73 billion, which is larger than the amount that would be authorized,” she said. “Therefore, we would like to work with the committee to ensure any enacted authorization address the full estimated cost of the project.” Her request is essentially that Congress authorize another $630 million to complete the project, nearly twice as much as the original estimated cost. But she said the VA is working as hard as it can to finish the job “at the best value to taxpayers.” “VA remains committed to completing the Aurora project for our veterans as soon as practical, at the best value to taxpayers, given where we are today,” she said…”


VA’s Colorado hospital has a ‘shocking’ sticker price: $1.7 billion. Yes, billion



Hearing Set on Allegations in Immigration Lawsuit

“Justice Department attorneys are preparing to answer questions about claims that they misled a judge about when part of President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration was implemented. A Thursday hearing is set in federal court in Brownsville, Texas, related to a lawsuit filed by 26 states against Obama’s plan, which could spare from deportation as many as 5 million people in the U.S. illegally. The immigration action was put on hold last month by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, a move the U.S. government is appealing. At issue Thursday is a claim by the states that the U.S. government told Hanen before his injunction that the immigration action hadn’t been implemented. The Justice Department says 100,000 individuals were granted reprieves before the injunction under guidelines from a separate program…”


Judge: Sanctions possible in Obama immigration court case

“A federal judge who has blocked President Barack Obama’s immigration executive action suggested on Thursday that he could order sanctions against the Justice Department if he rules it misled him about when exactly the administration began implementing one of the measures. During a sometimes testy court hearing, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen went back and forth with the Justice Department over whether it had mislead him into believing that a key part of Obama’s program would not be implemented before he made a ruling on a request for a preliminary injunction. In fact, federal officials had given more than 108,000 people three-year reprieves from deportation before that date and granted them work permits under a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Obama’s executive actions would spare from deportation as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally. Many Republicans oppose the actions, saying only Congress has the right to take such sweeping action. Twenty-six states led by Texas joined together to challenge them as unconstitutional. Hanen on Feb. 16 sided with the states, issuing a preliminary injunction blocking Obama’s actions. Hanen chided Justice Department attorney Kathleen Hartnett on Thursday for telling him at a January hearing before the injunction was issued that nothing would be happening with regard to one key part of Obama’s actions, an expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, until Feb. 18. “Like an idiot I believed that,” Hanen said. A flustered Hartnett repeatedly apologized to Hanen for any confusion related to how the reprieves and work permits were granted…”


‘Like an idiot I believed that’: Judge blasts DOJ over immigration claims, threatens sanctions

“A federal judge sharply scolded a Justice Department attorney at a hearing on President Obama’s immigration executive actions, suggesting that the administration misled him on a key part of the program and that he fell for it, “like an idiot.”  The testy court hearing was held Thursday in Texas by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen. The judge suggested he could order sanctions against the administration if he finds they indeed misrepresented the facts. At issue is whether the DOJ misled the judge into believing that a plank of the Obama program — giving deportation reprieves to young illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children — would not go forward before he made a ruling on a request to halt it. In fact, federal officials had given more than 108,000 people three-year reprieves before that date and granted them work permits under the program.  Obama’s executive actions would spare from deportation as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally. Many Republicans oppose the actions, saying only Congress has the right to take such sweeping action. Twenty-six states led by Texas joined together to challenge them as unconstitutional. Hanen on Feb. 16 sided with the states, issuing a preliminary injunction blocking Obama’s actions. Hanen chided Justice Department attorney Kathleen Hartnett for telling him at a January hearing before the injunction was issued that nothing would be happening with regard to one key part of Obama’s actions, an expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, until Feb. 18.  “Like an idiot I believed that,” Hanen said. A flustered Hartnett repeatedly apologized to Hanen for any confusion related to how the reprieves and work permits were granted. “We strive to be as candid as possible. It truly became clear to us there was confusion on this point,” she said…”


Will the Obama Administration Be Sanctioned for Misleading Judge Hanen?

“As expected, the Justice Department had a very tough time in federal court yesterday. Appearing before Judge Andrew Hanen down in Brownsville, Texas, DOJ attorneys strove mightily to explain away how the Department misled the court in the immigration lawsuit filed by 26 states against President Obama’s amnesty plan. Both the AP and a private source who was in the courtroom say it’s quite possible that Judge Hanen will impose sanctions on the lawyers and/or the administration. The states filed their lawsuit early last December, shortly after President Obama announced his new, post-election immigration policy. For three months while the lawsuit was pending and Judge Hanen was reviewing briefs and holding hearings and conference calls with the parties, DOJ lawyers were telling him that none of the president’s announced new policies were being implemented. The hearing on the injunction requested by the states was held on January 15. Judge Hanen delayed making his decision on the injunction until February 16 based on the repeated assurances from Justice that no part of the president’s new plan would be implemented until February 18 at the earliest. However, on March 3, Justice suddenly filed an “Advisory” notifying the court that the administration had, in fact, issued three-year deferrals to more than 100,000 aliens. Indeed, the deferrals had started flowing back in November, almost as soon as Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, issued an implementing “Directive.” Hanen scheduled yesterday’s hearing for Justice to “fully explain” all of the “circumstances” surrounding the Advisory. My courtroom source reports that Judge Hanen directed a lot of tough questions to the DOJ lawyers and seemed to treat the occasion as almost a “show-cause” hearing on a motion for contempt that hadn’t yet been filed. Judge Hanen asked whether—if DOJ did misrepresent the facts—any financial sanction on the Department of Homeland Security or on specific DOJ attorneys would ultimately be paid with taxpayer funds. The lead DOJ attorney, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kathleen Hartnett, admitted that taxpayer funds would be used to pay such sanctions. The judge even threw out the potential for striking the government’s pleadings with prejudice if he found the government had engaged in willful misrepresentation…”


Video: Federal judge weighs sanctions against DoJ for misleading on Obama executive amnesty


Federal Judge On Obama’s Immigration Program: “Can I Trust What The President Says?”

“A federal judge pointedly asked Department of Justice lawyers Thursday if the court should still trust the Obama administration in light of false information it provided to the court. “Can I trust what the president says? That’s a yes or no question,” U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen asked Deputy Asst. U.S. Atty. Gen. Kathleen R. Hartnett.  “Yes your honor,” Hartnett responded. The questioning of President Obama’s integrity stems from an overlap between the president’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program and his 2014 Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program. Obama’s 2012 DACA program grants certain benefits (including work permits, drivers licenses, and Social Security Numbers) to some illegal immigrants who came to the country before they were adults. But the work permits under Obama’s DACA program were only good for two years. Obama’s 2014 DAPA program, however, gives illegal immigrant parents of U.S. Citizens three year work permits (in addition to drivers licenses and Social Security Numbers) and the program also expanded DACA eligibility to some illegal immigrants who missed age cut offs under Obama’s original DACA program. When 26 states sued to stop Obama’s DAPA program, Judge Hanen asked Obama’s Justice Department when they planned to begin implementing the new DAPA program. DOJ then told Hanen that the new benefit program for illegal immigrant parents wouldn’t begin until May and that the DACA expansion wouldn’t begin until February 18th. Hanen then relied on that February 18th date when he waited until February 16th to issue an injunction preventing the new DAPA program and the DACA extension from starting. The 26 states had asked Hanen to issue an injunction before December 30, 2014…”


‘Like an idiot I believed that’: Judge blasts DOJ over immigration claims, threatens sanctions


GOP to attack immigration order through taxes

“Republicans in Congress have found a new strategy to undermine President Obama’s executive order protecting about 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. They want to prevent those immigrants from becoming retroactively eligible to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit. Their legislation would save the government $2.1 billion, according to the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation. The GOP strategy highlights its arguments that Obama’s executive order, issued in November, will impose a serious financial burden on federal, state and local governments. But the lead author of the bill in the Senate said the measure “is not meant to be part of the immigration debate.” “It’s just part of correcting what the president has put in place when he legalized people through his November action,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa….”


Dems Vote On Behalf Of Illegal Immigrants In Budget Hearing

“Senate Democrats on the budget committee voted unanimously Thursday against an amendment to prevent illegal immigrants from cashing in on tax credits. The amendment, offered by Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, would require tax filers to provide a valid Social Security number in order to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit. Many illegal immigrants are fraudulently collecting billions in direct payments by claiming that credit, the Inspector General for Tax Administration warned. The Internal Revenue Service contends it doesn’t have the money or authority to make the changes necessary to address the problem, which could save $7.6 billion taxpayer dollars, Sessions said during the hearing, so Congress needs to fix it. ”The American working person has no duty to pay direct cash benefits to people in the country unlawfully.” Sessions’ amendment also prevents illegal immigrants who might be awarded working status through President Barack Obama’s executive order from receiving the tax credits. All 10 Democrats on the committee voted against the amendment, but it was still adopted. Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders, the ranking member on the committee, said he would vote against the amendment because those sort of concerns should be addressed through comprehensive immigration reform, not piece by piece. In 2012, illegal workers paid $12 billion into Social Security, and are responsible for 10 percent of the $2.8 trillion trust fund for Social Security…”


More Immigration Is Great For Politicians, Says Google Chief

“A large inflow of guest workers and university-trained immigrants would be good for politicians and special interests, says Google chairman Eric Schmidt. “I’ve been trying to figure out, if you could wave a magic wand, what would you wave?” he asked. “And for politicians, it turns out that if you could just create a lot more jobs, most problems are solved, because more jobs means more revenue, which means more taxes,” he said. The extra taxes “means more spending, which is always good for special interests,” he said a Wednesday event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. The extra inflow “is good for politicians, it’s more revenue, more jobs and so forth,” said Schmidt, who is a prominent supporter of President Barack Obama. Even Americans can gain from additional skilled immigration, Schmidt added. ”More jobs also means that people have a greater sense of identity, they have a greater sense of self-worth, they have income, a higher standard of living and so forth and so on,” he said…”


Chastened deportation chief retracts call to override sanctuary cities

“The administration’s deportation chief backtracked Friday, just a day after she pleaded with Congress to pass laws cracking down on so-called “sanctuary” cities and states — a stance that appeared to put her at odds with her boss, President Obama. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldana, who has been on the job less than 90 days, told Congress she would welcome new laws to crack down on states and localities that refuse to cooperate with her agents who are trying to apprehend and deport illegal immigrants. “Thank you, Amen,” she said Thursday when asked if she would support Congress passing a law insisting local officials cooperate. Her remarks drew fire from immigrant-rights advocates, and on Friday she had to issue a new statement saying she does not, in fact, want to see Congress pass any new crackdown laws. “Any effort at federal legislation now to mandate state and local law enforcement’s compliance with ICE detainers will, in our view, be a highly counterproductive step and lead to more resistance and less cooperation in our overall efforts to promote public safety,” she said in an effort to walk back her previous statement to Congress. Sanctuary cities have bedeviled immigration enforcement efforts for years. The Obama administration, while suing states such as Arizona that have tried a crackdown, have ignored states such as California, and locales such as Cook County, Ill., that have enacted policies refusing to cooperate…”


Capitol Hill Buzz: House Judiciary Committee enlists GIFs

“The House Judiciary Committee includes some of President Barack Obama’s fiercest critics on immigration. That doesn’t mean they can’t have fun. The panel took an unusually lighthearted approach to immigration policy this week, posting a Buzzfeed-style listicle comprised of animated GIFs to illustrate the GOP’s opposition to Obama’s executive actions deferring deportations for millions of people in the U.S. illegally. Celebrities including Britney Spears, Jennifer Lawrence, Steve Carrell and Kristen Wiig are featured exclaiming in horror and amazement at captions describing Obama’s moves, and promoting a GOP bill that allows state and local governments to enforce immigration laws. “This is the best!” actress Emma Stone is shown exclaiming over a caption asserting that “By allowing hundreds of thousands of local law enforcement officers to enforce our immigration laws, we keep immigration enforcement up and operating, even when a president tries to unlawfully refuse to enforce our laws.”…”


Immigration data to be mined at upcoming event in Tucson

“Computer programmers, journalists and activists will delve into troves of immigration data during a weekend conference in Tucson. The Arizona Migrahack is similar to hack-a-thons in which participants mine large amounts of raw data to find trends or links. In Tucson, that data will be related specifically to immigration as about 100 people who have signed up work to find impacts of immigration and immigration legislation. “I hope we just have a better understanding of what immigration means and how it affects people’s daily lives thorough the stories and projects that are going to come out of the event,” organizer Celeste Bustamante said. Bustamante, an associate professor at the University of Arizona journalism school, participated in the program in Mexico about a year ago and wanted to bring it to Arizona. She and program founder Claudia Núñez have spent the past several months putting the event together. The weekend includes training on data mining and visualization. Participants will then form groups and work on projects that tackle topics such as how certain laws affect immigrants. For example, a team at a prior event produced a visual project on migrants whose belongings go missing when they are caught by immigration authorities. The event will be held Friday through Sunday at the University of Arizona…”


Human Trafficking Bill Exempts Those Who Help Smuggle Illegal-Immigrant Relatives

“The bipartisan human-trafficking bill being blocked by Senate Democrats contains a loophole that would exempt some enablers of illegal immigration from paying a fine. The “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015,” is designed to increase penalties on human traffickers, but exempts families who help smuggle relatives into the United States from suffering under those same penalties. The bill states: The court shall assess an amount of $5,000 on any non-indigent person or entity convicted under . . . section 274 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1324) (relating to human smuggling), unless the person induced, assisted, abetted, or aided only an individual who at time of such action was the alien’s spouse, parent, son, or daughter (and no other individual) to enter the United States in violation of law. In other words, a parent who ai

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