ObamaCare penalty could be too low, analysis finds

“A new analysis highlights that it is often cheaper for people to pay ObamaCare’s penalty for not having health insurance than to buy coverage, meaning the penalty might be too low to spur middle-income people to get covered.  The analysis from the consulting firm Avalere Health finds that for people making less than 200 percent of the poverty line, or about $23,000, purchasing insurance is usually cheaper because of income-based subsidies under the law. The penalty for not having health insurance in 2015 is $325 or 2 percent of income, whichever is greater. But for healthy middle-income people, for whom the subsidies are lower, paying the penalty and forgoing insurance is often cheaper, it finds.  So, the analysis notes, the penalty could fail to push people to buy insurance. It found the special ObamaCare sign-up period for people who discovered the mandate penalty while filing their taxes has so far signed up a “lackluster” 68,000 people. Up to 6 million people are estimated to owe the penalty. In the same vein, previous data from Avalere showed much higher sign-up rates for lower-income people. HealthCare.gov signed up 76 percent of people with incomes from 100 percent to 150 percent of the poverty line. But for people with incomes from 300 percent to 400 percent, only 16 percent signed up, even though they are still eligible for a subsidy. The analysis released Friday provides the example of a 27-year-old with income at 300 percent of the poverty level. That person would pay around $2,000 for the lowest-cost subsidized insurance, compared with a penalty of just $345. “Individuals earning more than double the poverty level may continue to forgo coverage since paying the fine is still much more affordable than purchasing insurance,” said Caroline Pearson, senior vice president at Avalere.”


Customers opt for penalty rather than Obamacare

“Some consumers are willing to pay the penalty for not having health insurance because it is cheaper than getting coverage, according to a new analysis. The analysis from research firm Avalere Health details one reason why the administration has done so poorly in a special enrollment period for Obamacare. So far only 68,000 people have signed up for the period that ends April 30. This is the period set aside for people who are getting hit by the law’s new tax on Americans who do not have health insurance packages. Affected taxpayers must still pay the 2014 penalty but could avoid the higher 2015 penalty by getting coverage by the deadline. But it turns out many uninsured workers would rather pay the tax, because it will cost less than buying insurance…”


Will Senate Republicans Put Lobbyists Ahead Of Hometown Voters?

“Senate Republicans who won a majority because of Obamacare anger now seem ready put business lobbyists ahead of voters in tackling the Affordable Care Act. Medical device makers have put millions into lobbying for ACA tax relief. But putting the pleas of medical device makers for Obamacare tax relief ahead of the pleas of the voters who returned Republicans to a Senate majority would be a mistake. A big one. The mid-term elections saw more Obamacare themed ads than any other issue. Voters responded by giving Republicans back the Senate. Taken together with voluntary departures, half the Senators who voted for Obamacare didn’t return this session. But will voters’ judgment now translate into legislative relief? While most agree that full repeal will have to wait on a new president, many believe that chastened Democrats might cross the aisle to eliminate or simply delay some wildly unpopular parts of Obamacare. At the top of the list for average Americans who are paying more and getting less is the individual mandate along with its tax penalties and the federal requirement to buy expensive coverage. But a determined push by business lobbyists has produced a stand-alone Senate budget measure to not just delay a tax on medical device makers, which would make sense, but to repeal it in its entirety. This singular treatment by Senate budget drafters to repeal an Obamacare tax on one business concern would seem to move medical device-makers to the front of the anti-Obamacare line. Now the industry that never fought against Obamacare’s passage is poised to get the first legislative relief from the law while voters who remain angry that they are paying the price have to wait…”


Republicans debate keeping ObamaCare subsidies until 2017

“Congressional Republicans are locked in a debate about whether to temporarily keep in place the ObamaCare subsidies that are at risk of being struck down at the Supreme Court. More than a half-dozen competing plans have already been put forward in response to the King v. Burwell case, and Republicans are anxious to unify behind one before the ruling comes down in June. The stakes are high, as a ruling against the healthcare law could strip federal aid from an estimated 7.5 million people ahead of the 2016 elections — people in Republican-leaning states would be hit particularly hard. But the push to find a “backup plan” for ObamaCare is meeting resistance on the right, with conservative groups viewing it as a capitulation to a law that they want to repeal root and branch. Still, Republicans in Congress broadly agree that they need to have a plan ready if the high court strikes down the ObamaCare subsidies, though they have yet to determine exactly what it will be. “I think it will be extraordinarily difficult,” said Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), a deputy majority whip, about the party reaching a final plan. “That’s why I’m glad I’m just a humble appropriator.” A new proposal put forward this week by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who is up for reelection in 2016, would allow people to keep their ObamaCare plans and subsidies until 2017, when the party hopes a Republican president will be able to enact more sweeping changes from the White House. That approach runs counter to a plan from Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) that would help people who lose subsidies by giving them new tax credits that diminish over time. Sasse says his plan would not “resuscitate” ObamaCare because it wouldn’t keep the old subsidies in place. Asked why his plan is better than Sasse’s, Johnson told reporters Thursday, “It’s just simpler,” arguing it does not require a new system of tax credits. “It wasn’t without risk, going out there and just by myself laying out a plan that doesn’t completely repeal ObamaCare,” Johnson said. But he added the plan has gotten a surprisingly high 30 co-sponsors, including members of Senate leadership. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) supports both Sasse’s plan and Johnson’s plan, spokesman Don Stewart said. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who leads the Senate’s working group on King v. Burwell, has also signed on to multiple competing plans. He is a co-sponsor of Johnson’s bill, as well as a separate bill from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that focuses on repealing much of ObamaCare. “There are a number of different proposals out there, but all of them say … we want to protect those people for a period of time until we can get the decision to be made at the state level,” Barrasso said in an interview Thursday, while downplaying the party’s internal debate about whether to extend ObamaCare subsidies. “I think you can define it how you want, but we want to make sure those people are protected as we transition away from the healthcare law,” Barrasso said…”



“On Wednesday in the California State Assembly Rules Committee, Democrats defeated a bill that would have dropped state legislators from their taxpayer-funded premium healthcare plans and prodded them into Covered California, the state Obamacare exchange. The bill, authored by Assemblyman Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita), was defeated on a party-line vote–even though it would have reimbursed them for the cost of their new California Health Benefit Exchange plans. All seven of the committee’s Democrats opposed the bill, and all four Republicans supported it. Breitbart News spoke with Assemblyman Wilk, who said, “I have heard from many of my constituents, having problems with Covered California–ranging from enrollment problems to actual difficulties with use of the plan. “It seems to me that if we all, as legislators, were on a Covered California plan, we would have a better perspective and stronger interest in figuring out how to help those having trouble.” “I was disappointed today that my Democratic colleagues rejected this common-sense bill,” he said…”


A Better Way to Roll Back Obamacare

“Senator Ron Johnson (R., Wisc.) has a plan in case the Supreme Court strikes down the Obama administration’s illegal subsidies for insurance plans in 37 states. He has gotten 31 of his Senate Republicans to join him in sponsoring his bill. He deserves credit on both points: Republicans will need to present a united front in the event the Court rules that way. But we fear that the Senate Republicans are setting their sights too low. The Obamacare law authorized subsidies to offset the price of health-insurance plans offered on health exchanges established by the states. Most states refused to establish exchanges, surprising the administration, which decided to hand out subsidies in all the states. If the Court rules that it has to stop doing that, several million people will find their insurance bills rising, or their policies canceled….”


Obama Isn’t Trying to Strong Arm Just One Red State into Expanding Obamacare — He’s Got His Eye on Four

“Florida governor Rick Scott filed suit against the Obama administration last week on the grounds that the feds are trying to coerce his state into expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The bludgeon of choice: threatening not to renew billions of dollars in funding to pay hospitals for providing care to low-income uninsured patients. It so happens that there are three other states that get this particular kind of funding that haven’t already expanded Medicaid: Kansas, Tennessee, and Texas. And what do you know, Obama is now going to use it against them, too. Kaiser Health News: Add Tennessee and Kansas to the list of states that have been warned by the Obama administration that failing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act could jeopardize special funding to pay hospitals and doctors for treating the poor. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services confirmed Tuesday that it gave officials in those states the same message that had been delivered to Texas and Florida about the risk to funding for so-called “uncompensated care pools” — Medicaid money that helps pay the cost of care for the uninsured. CMS officials said they reached out to all nine states that get such funds, including those that expanded Medicaid, about how the agency will decide future requests. . . . The Texas funding is scheduled to end in September 2016. Officials there have also expressed indignation at what they perceive to be coercive pressure and talked about joining Scott’s lawsuit. As you’ll remember, the Supreme Court struck down Obamacare’s original structure of holding all Medicaid funding contingent on states’ accepting the expansion, because it was deemed to be federal coercion of state governments. Now, the Obama administration is threatening to hold a much smaller slice of Medicaid funding hostage. Whatever the result of the political battle, it’s clear that the Obama administration is doing all it can to get states to sign onto expanding Medicaid before he leaves office.”


Rand Paul vs. Congressional Transparency

“Why are Republican senators, including self-proclaimed uber-reformer Rand Paul of Kentucky, working to shield Congress from transparency about its own Obamacare subsidies? Senator David Vitter of (R., La.) has made it his mission – a very admirable one — to force Congress to live under the same Obamacare rules everyone else does. Most recently, as chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Vitter has pushed for his committee to subpoena documents from Washington, D.C.’s Obamacare exchange as part of an investigation into whether members of Congress or staff falsified documents in order to receive Obamacare subsidies for which they would otherwise be ineligible. Judicial Watch had obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information request, but important information had been redacted — so Vitter wanted to subpoena the unredacted documents. Congress employs 13,700 people who are enrolled in the health plans, yet it certified itself as a small business, with under 50 employees, in order for its employees to qualify for the subsidies. Vitter says this amounts to yet another way for Congress to exempt itself from rules that pertain to everybody else. But when he called for a vote to subpoena the documents, not only did committee Democrats oppose him, but so did half the committee’s Republicans: Jim Risch (Idaho), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, along with Paul. In a press release, Vitter said: “The message [sent by his colleagues] is clear: Congress should be able to lie so that members can get a special Obamacare subsidy unavailable to anyone else at that income level. Designating the House and Senate as ’small businesses’ with 45 employees is not right. And we owe it to our constituents to find out how this was permitted to happen.” Conservative group American Commitment is particularly exercised about this dodge. “One of the only good provisions in the Obamacare law was the provision that forced Congress and its staff into Obamacare,” said Phil Kerpen, the group’s president. “But they are using a secret, corrupt deal to avoid complying with its terms. Chairman Vitter has bravely taken the lead on this, and it’s extremely disappointing to see Republicans join Democrats in obstructing his investigation.” Of the five Republicans who voted against Vitter, the most firmly opposed, according to multiple reports, was Paul. This is the guy running for president under the slogan “Defeat the Washington Machine.”


Obamacare Sign-Up Stats


Florida’s Medicaid suit against Obama an uphill battle

“It’s going to be tough for Rick Scott to successfully argue the Obama administration is bullying him on Medicaid. The administration is dangling a pot of funds used to cover the costs of the uninsured as bait for Florida and other states to accept Obamcare’s Medicaid expansion — a move that has prompted the Republican governor to plot a lawsuit, insisting he’s being coerced into accepting a major part of the Affordable Care Act that’s supposed to be optional. “It is appalling that President Obama would cut off federal health care dollars to Florida in an effort to force our state further into Obamacare,” Scott said on April 16. Opponents of the 2010 health care law already won part of one major court battle using a coercion argument. Three years ago, in NFIB v. Sebelius, a case challenging the law’s constitutionality led by Florida, the Supreme Court agreed that the administration can’t withhold all of a state’s Medicaid funds if it refuses to expand the program. That led to nearly half the states opting out of it…”


Obama uses hospital funds to push Medicaid expansion

“The Obama administration is dialing up the pressure on a handful of states that have resisted expanding coverage for their low-income residents under the federal health care overhaul. The leverage comes from a little-known federal fund that helps states and hospitals recoup some of the costs of providing care for uninsured patients. The administration says states wouldn’t need as much extra help with costs for the uninsured if they expanded Medicaid. The top two targets so far are Florida and Texas, states with large numbers of uninsured residents that have received several billion dollars in recent years from Washington under the so-called low income pool. Florida’s hospital funding is the first of the nine states to expire, in June. But officials in Tennessee, California, Massachusetts, Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas and New Mexico are watching closely…”


John Kasich’s Mysterious Plan to Repeal Obamacare but Save the Medicaid Expansion

“The presidential flirtations of Ohio Governor John Kasich provide yet more proof that Jeb Bush cannot clear the Republican primary field. It’s one thing to say a candidate like Kasich starts in “single digits.” It’s something else if Bush, who has received the coverage of a presidential frontrunner, is in single digits himself. (His 9 percent showing in the new Fox News national poll is five points below the lowest Mitt Romney ever pulled in that poll.)  “Of all the people thinking about it, I am the most experienced,” Kasich said at a conference Thursday in Washington, according to a story by Bloomberg’s Kim Chipman. He sounded more like a candidate than the Balanced Budget Amendment troubadour he had been for most of the year. Yet conservatives shudder at some of Kasich’s experience. He is one of the still-rare Republican governors who accepted the Medicaid expansion offered by the Affordable Care Act, after the Supreme Court allowed states to skip it. In the Washington Examiner, Managing Editor Phil Klein wrote that Kasich should be “punished” for his cave-in, his rationale being “built on a mountain of lies” about how the expansion was funded…”


VA expands veterans’ access to private care

The Department of Veterans Affairs is making a change to its Veterans Choice Program, which will double the number of veterans eligible to seek private care if a VA hospital can’t accommodate them immediately. The program allows veterans to receive private healthcare if they are unable to schedule an appointment at a VA clinic within 40 miles of their home within 30 days. The 40-mile distance was calculated by a straight line, or “as the crow flies.” But in many cases, the clinics where veterans had to seek care turned out to be further than 40 miles away by driving distance. The new change, announced Friday and going into effect immediately, relies on driving distance instead of a straight-line calculation. “VA is pleased to announce the distance calculation change from straight-line to driving distance for the Veterans Choice Program,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald said. “This update to the program will allow more Veterans to access care when and where they want it. “We look forward to continued dialogue with Veterans and our partners to help us ensure continued improvements for Veterans’ access to care.” He added…”


VA says Denver hospital investigation will now have a construction expert

“The team investigating who is responsible for cost overruns and mistakes inside the still unfinished $1.73 billion Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in suburban Denver will now have a construction expert after criticism over the makeup of the panel, VA announced. Joanna Krause, who heads the medical facilities design office at the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command headquarters, will take part in the agency investigation of cost overruns at the medical center, which is $1 billion over budget and years behind schedule. It was reported earlier this week that the VA had been trying to “nail down” Krause’s appointment to the investigative board since February, but was awaiting approval from the Navy. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) called the announcement, “too little, too late.” He called for an independent investigation and “the VA [to get] out of the construction business.” Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said it is “unfortunate that it often takes negative press coverage or congressional scrutiny just to get this administration to take VA’s problems seriously.” VA’s administrative investigation board is expected to report in the next few weeks on what went wrong with a project that began with a $604 million construction budget, which now is the most expensive hospital construction in VA history…”



“The Obama Administration and its new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert McDonald, loudly claimed that sixty people lost their jobs over the Secret Death List scandal. According to the New York Times, the actual number is: zero. As the Times recalls, soon after the “Sixty heads rolled!” headlines were written, the Department of Veterans Affairs backpedaled and said that only 14 people had actually been removed. That was a lie, too. As so often in the Obama years, it fell to a committee of congressional Republicans to flog the truth out of the Administration, and it took months of effort: The documents given this month to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, which provided them to The New York Times, show that the department punished a total of eight of its 280,000 employees for involvement in the scandal. One was fired, one retired in lieu of termination, one’s termination is pending, and five were reprimanded or suspended for up to two months. The only person fired was the director of the Phoenix hospital, Sharon Helman, who technically was removed not for her role in the manipulation of waiting lists but for receiving “inappropriate gifts,” according to the department. In a statement released Wednesday night, the department did not dispute the numbers released by the committee, but said that more than 100 other employees were facing disciplinary action. “V.A. is committed to holding employees accountable for misconduct,” the statement said. One person fired for other reasons, one pending termination, and one retirement. If the pending termination goes through, and it actually does cite the Secret Death List horror as the reason, that individual will become the only person explicitly fired for it. Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki wasn’t fired, he resigned, and Obama made a big production about how it was Shinseki’s idea to go, not the President’s….”


Senator calls for independent investigation of the vastly over-budget $1.7 billion Denver VA hospital

“As the members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee toured the half-finished VA medical center in Aurora, Colo., Friday, one of them called for an independent investigation of the $1 billion in cost overruns at the $1.7 billion hospital. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (R-Conn.)  suggested the U.S. Department of Justice conduct the investigation instead of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, whose review panel has been criticized. “The people responsible for the financial catastrophe here need to be held accountable,” he said outside the building after a committee tour. The investigation should look into the project’s “disastrous” cost and delays, he said. After the tour of the hospital in the Denver suburb, the committee held a field hearing off site, which at times became tense with Blumenthal and other lawmakers demanding to know who was responsible for the project’s ballooning cost. The hearing grew especially heated when Committee chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) grilled the VA’s deputy secretary, Sloan Gibson,  about why no VA employees involved in any of the four new VA hospitals that are over budget and behind schedule have been fired. Gibson said those responsible for two key decisions on the Aurora project are no longer in their jobs. But he did not name anyone who had been fired…”



Displaced American Workers Sue DHS Over Work Permit Expansion

“American workers who lost their jobs to foreign replacements are suing the federal government over a new rule that will allow more foreign workers into the job market. In a stated effort to encourage guest workers to stick around permanently, the Department of Homeland Security will now grant their spouses work permits in addition to visas. DHS estimates more than 100,000 spouses will be eligible to apply when it begins accepting applications May 26. The complaint, filed by the Immigration Reform Law Institute on behalf of the displaced workers, alleges DHS does not have the authority to make the rule, and that the rule violates federal labor protection law. IRLI is asking the judge to halt implementation of the rule until the case is heard. “The larger implication is that Obama is arguing he has the executive authority to allow anyone to work in the United States,” John Miano, the attorney for the displaced workers, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “[He] started with the children, then the parents, and now the spouses of H-1B workers.”…”


Ousted American workers sue DHS over new guest-worker expansion

“Displaced U.S. workers who were pushed out of their jobs by immigrant replacements are suing the Department of Homeland Security over a new rule that would allow the spouses of guest workers to enter the job market. The complaint, filed Thursday by the Immigration Reform Law Institute on behalf of a group of displaced workers previously employed at Southern California Edison Co., argues that DHS does not have the authority to make such a rule and that it violates federal labor protection laws. “The larger implication is that Obama is arguing he has the executive authority to allow anyone to work in the United States,” John Miano, the attorney for the displaced workers, told The Daily Caller. “[He] started with the children, then the parents, and now the spouses of H-1B workers.” DHS on May 26 will begin accepting applications to grant employment-eligible status to spouses of immigrants with H-1 visas, The Daily Caller reports. Previously, immediate family members were granted an H-4 visa, which allowed them to stay in the country but banned them from gaining lawful employment. The new H-4 rule will add as many as 179,600 new foreign workers in the first year and 55,000 annually in subsequent years, according to DHS. The complaint seeks to delay implementation of the new rule until the case is heard in court…”


Homeland Security Working Overtime to Add ‘New Americans’ by 2016 Election (continuation of previous article)

Sources at the Department of Homeland Security report to PJ Media that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is reallocating significant resources to sending letters to all 9,000,000 green card holders urging them to naturalize prior to the 2016 election.



Feds to ‘strong arm’ cities into welcoming ‘new Americans’

“What are the signs that your community has been secretly selected for an infusion of refugees from Muslim nations like Syria or Somalia, or migrant workers from Central America? The Obama White House released a report last week on the integration of immigrants and refugees that provides some clues. It could be something as simple as a new billboard along the highway touting the contributions of diverse immigrant populations and refugees. Or maybe you’ll hear a radio spot or see a TV ad delivering the same type of message. Your city council may pass a proclamation “celebrating” and “welcoming” the “cultural diversity” and economic benefits of refugees and other “new Americans.” Your local public library will start hosting “story times” that glorify the role of immigrants and the value of diversity in your community. You may also see a new HUD-backed subsidized housing project rising from the ground. But the biggest sign that new arrivals are on their way, will be the “messaging” sent out through local media and official government offices. Below is an example of the ads circulating in North Carolina sponsored by a group called Welcoming America, which was started in 2010 with seed money from billionaire George Soros and now works with the federal government to influence Americans’ attitudes toward immigration. It’s all part of a strategy, reported on last week by WND, to “water the soil” and “plant seedlings” into host communities, also called “receiving communities.” WND also reported last week how the federal government withholds key information from the public in host communities until right before or after refugees arrive, and how one congressman, Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., is demanding answers to 17 questions about the program. Obama’s ramped-up strategy to integrate new immigrants is about to be unfurled upon unsuspecting cities and counties across the U.S. They will be expected to follow the federal plan to “build welcoming communities” that empower migrants and refugees, turning them into “new Americans.” Once the soil has been prepared, the seedlings will arrive. And the seedlings, according to those planning the changes for your city or town, need to be nurtured and cultivated into healthy communities of their own. They will eventually be fully “integrated,” meaning they are firmly established and able to grow within their host community, eventually overtaking the host. The plans to transform America through immigration, as spelled out in the new White House report, involves almost every government agency working in tandem with community organizers from immigrant-rights groups like National Council for La Raza and the National Partnership for New Americans. The White House task force is headed by Cecilia Munoz, former top executive with La Raza and now Obama’s top domestic policy adviser. The report is chock full of programs, goals, plans and strategies to build welcoming “receiving communities” and give immigrants all they need to prosper economically, linguistically and politically. The document is permeated with Orwellian euphemisms, starting with the title, “Strengthening Communities by Welcoming all Residents,” and continuing with its declaration of the “economic benefits of immigrant and refugee integration.”…”


A report says immigrants will account for 82 percent of U.S. growth by 2060. That’s misleading.


How Is This Immigration Policy Conservative?

“The Census Bureau projects that the foreign-born share of the population will break the previous record eight years from now, amounting to one in seven residents of the country, and continue climbing: (chart) Note that the prior record was followed by a decline, as Congress chose to downsize a government program that was getting out of control. Congress has control over these future trends, too – they’re driven mainly by legal immigration, which runs at about 1 million people a year (double the level when Reagan was elected), not illegal.  And the projections are based on current law; if the increases in legal immigration supported by Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul et al. were to be enacted, the numbers and percentage would grow even more rapidly. At the core of conservatism is the insight that change is necessary, but must be gradual and undertaken prudently. How can our current immigration policy, let alone the revisions proposed by most of the presidential hopefuls, be described as “conservative”?


Immigration roils debate on trade measures

“Groups opposed to mass immigration are the latest organizations to join in the heated debate on Capitol Hill over Trade Promotion Authority, also known as “Fast Track,” arguing the legislation could be a “Trojan horse” for expanding guest worker programs. The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office and the lawmakers sponsoring the legislation have pushed back, saying there is simply no truth to the claim that Fast Track or the administration’s other initiative, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, include provisions that could expand immigration. Critics counter that no one knows what is in the 12-nation Pacific trade deal since the language isn’t public. And for them, the Obama administration has not earned any trust. “We would be very surprised if there are no immigration provisions at all in TPP,” said Dan Stein, president of the restrictionist Federation for American Immigration Reform. “The bottom line is, why should Congress delegate its treaty-making powers when it hasn’t seen the language?” NumbersUSA, another group opposed to immigration, is formally opposing Fast Track and the Pacific trade pact and is warning lawmakers that it will score a vote for it as “a vote against American workers.” Fast Track is a revival of legislation that expired in 2007 that would prohibit Congress from amending any trade deals, limiting it to a strict up-or-down vote. The White House says it needs the power to assure foreign leaders that any deal they negotiate will not be tinkered with. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a 12-nation trade deal the administration concluded earlier this year. The White House is expected to bring it before Congress for approval later this year. Passing Fast Track is widely seen as crucial to the Pacific deal’s chances…”



“Customs and Border Protection has a contingency plan in its 2016 budget request to spend up to $134.5 million “to provide the necessary support activities” in the event of a future influx of unaccompanied illegal immigrant youths. In written testimony for a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the CBP budget request, CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske highlighted last year’s surge in apprehensions of unaccompanied minors and family units illegally entering the U.S. “The surge peaked in June, with over 10,000 [unaccompanied children] encountered by the Border Patrol. By the end of FY 2014, the Border Patrol had encountered 68,631 UCs and 68,684 family units; a dramatic increase compared to FY 2013 when the Border Patrol encountered a total of 38,833 unaccompanied children and 15,056 family units nationwide,” he explained in testimony. The 2014 surge, of largely Central American migrants, strained government resources, resulted in a multi-agency response and saw more than 53,500 undocumented youths released to sponsors in the U.S. According to Kerlikowske’s testimony the $134.5 million will represent a contingency fund to make sure CBP is prepared for a future flow. “The Budget Request provides baseline funding for the care and custody of 58,000 UCs and takes steps to better prepare the Department for a future influx of UCs through a contingency fund which will provide up to $134.5 million to provide the necessary support activities required to apprehend and maintain the health and safety for up to 104,000 UCs once specific threshold levels are met,” it reads…”




Illegal immigration plummets along southwest border: DHS

“The flow of illegal immigrants has dropped to its lowest level in years judging by the number being apprehended along the border, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Friday as he sought to be more transparent about his department’s performance. Mr. Johnson said the drop is coming despite an improving economy, which generally draws more illegal migrants. Instead, the secretary said, a boost in manpower and technology along the southwestern border, coupled with public messages in Latin America discouraging would-be migrants from making the journey have helped turn the tide. Through the first six months of fiscal year 2015, which began Oct. 1, the Border Patrol had caught 151,705 illegal immigrants on the southwestern border, down by 28 percent compared to the previous year. “We are not declaring mission accomplished. we believe that there is more we can and should do when it comes to strengthening border security,” Mr. Johnson said. The number of illegal immigrants caught is thought to be a rough measure of the total flow trying to come, so a drop in apprehensions is seen as an indication that fewer people are successfully entering…”


GOP Immigration Amendment Fell Victim To Trafficking Fight


Why Rubio is running away from the most prominent item on his résumé

“Marco Rubio had changed his mind. It was December 2012. The Senate gym. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) was making the ask. “You ought to be a part of this,” Durbin told Rubio (R-Fla.), as Rubio rode a stationary bike. Durbin and six other senators wanted to rewrite U.S. immigration laws. In the process, they wanted to give illegal immigrants a way to become legal residents and — eventually — citizens. Just two years earlier, Rubio had been against doing that. “It is unfair,” he had said, as a tea party candidate for Senate, “to create an alternative pathway for individuals who entered illegally.” But that morning in the gym, he was open to the idea. He was in. With that, Rubio began the most consequential work he has done in Washington. As part of a bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” he would write and pass an 1,198-page immigration bill through the Senate. For a brief moment, that bill looked like the biggest success of Rubio’s career. Now it looks like failure. It turned out that Rubio had overestimated conservatives’ willingness to accept his hyper-complicated bill — and his own power to change their minds. Ultimately, the bill died in the House, his right-wing allies began to doubt his judgment and both sides of the immigration debate had grown irritated by Rubio’s tendency to change his mind. Instead of a triumph, Rubio’s involvement with the immigration bill became a cautionary tale, about a gifted freshman who miscalculated his capability. Now, as he begins a run for president, Rubio is left trying to run away from the most prominent item on his political résumé. “It’s one of the worst squanderings of political capital I’ve ever witnessed,” said Steve Deace, an Iowa-based conservative radio host whom Rubio tried and failed to persuade. “It was the first time he ever stepped out in public in leadership on an issue, and it was in diametric opposition to the base.”…”


Walker: Prioritize American workers in immigration debate

“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tied the health of the U.S. labor market to permissible levels of immigration on Friday, amplifying a debate he spurred earlier this week. Walker, who is among the leaders in early polling of the Republican presidential race, was in Davenport, meeting privately with supporters and others at the Scott County Republican Party offices. Later, he was headed to Cedar Rapids, then to northwest Iowa. The governor turned heads Monday when he said the country’s policies on legal immigration should prioritize American workers and wages. That was interpreted in some quarters as Walker pushing for more restrictions on the number of people who could come to the U.S. legally. In an interview Friday with the Quad-City Times, Walker said it just makes sense to factor in economic conditions when deciding legal immigration levels. “A couple years ago, when the unemployment rate was at incredibly high levels and labor participation was low, why would we want to flood the market with more workers?” he asked. “So that would be a time when you would have arguably less. As the unemployment rate goes down and labor participation rates go up, the two have to go hand in hand. Then it could be conceivably more than we have today. So it’s not a set number.”…”


What does Scott Walker believe on immigration?

“There’s a good chance that when Scott Walker takes the stage at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Spring Kick-Off on Saturday night, he will mention immigration. What will he say? Given the past few weeks, it’s not exactly clear. Walker’s stances on immigration issues have moved back and forth in recent weeks — moves labeled a subtle evolution by his supporters and flip-flopping by detractors. The shifts underscore how the Wisconsin governor is still solidifying his views on national policy issues, while also trying to please a wide range of Republicans who often don’t agree on issues such as immigration. Two years ago, Walker said that it “makes sense” to grant citizenship to some of the millions of undocumented workers already in the country. By earlier this year, his position had changed, with Walker saying in March: “I don’t believe in amnesty” for those in the country illegally. Later that same month, Walker told New Hampshire business leaders at a private dinner that he did, in fact, support providing some illegal immigrants with a pathway to citizenship, according to those familiar with the discussion. News accounts of the event sparked an outcry from the right, along with immediate denials from his staff. This week, Walker wasn’t just back to a hard-line anti-amnesty stance — he went further than most of the rest of the Republican field by saying legal immigration may need to be curbed to protect U.S. jobs. He also spoke favorably of a proposal from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to reduce the number of legal immigrants, who often are low-wage earners. That’s a stance sure to resonate with conservative primary voters like the hundreds expected to attend the Saturday night speechfest hosted by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, a nonprofit that pushes for “integrity in government, high moral values, constitutional authority, and Christian principles.” Walker has emerged as an early favorite in Iowa, even though he has yet to formally announce he’s running. On Friday night, Walker is the featured speaker at a GOP fundraiser in northwestern Iowa, along with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the loudest critics of illegal immigration in Congress…”


Scott Walker to return to Iowa leading GOP in polls

“Gov. Scott Walker returns to Iowa this weekend, with events planned in three areas of a state where he’s leading the pack of Republican presidential contenders in the polls. It will be the Republican governor’s fourth trip this year to the state that holds the first nominating contest in the 2016 presidential campaign, but Walker has yet to declare his candidacy. During a trip to Iowa earlier this week — Walker met with Iowa state legislators — the governor reiterated to the Des Moines Register what he’s said before: “I’m not going to make any decision about even getting in until after the budget’s done, which will be in June.” Walker will be at a Friday afternoon rally in Cedar Rapids with U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, a fundraiser dinner in Sheldon on Friday night benefiting a handful of county parties in northwestern Iowa, a fundraiser in Urbandale on Saturday morning for Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, and the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition spring kickoff in Waukee on Saturday night. The IFFC event will put Walker in front of Iowa voters alongside eight other presidential hopefuls. It’s the governor’s first major public event in the Hawkeye State since the Iowa Ag Summit in March, where his answers on wind energy and ethanol subsidies set off a line of questioning about the level of consistency among his positions. Iowa has mostly been kind to Walker, though. He shot through the barrier between “sleeper candidate” and “top contender” after a breakout performance at the Jan. 24 Iowa Freedom Summit. And according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis, Walker is now polling in Iowa ahead of where Mitt Romney was at this stage of the 2012 cycle…”


Ted Cruz knocks Scott Walker on immigration

“Sen. Ted Cruz on Friday took a shot at rival presidential contender Scott Walker for comments the Wisconsin governor has made regarding immigration policy. Cruz opposes comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the estimated 11-12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. But the Texan is a big proponent of legal immigration and making adjustments to U.S. law that would facilitate more legal immigration. He criticized Walker for suggesting that he supported limiting legal immigration if it has a negative impact on the wages of American workers. “There is considerable bipartisan agreement outside of Washington that we need to improve and streamline legal immigration so that we can remain a nation that welcomes and celebrates legal immigrants,” Cruz said in an interview with the Washington Examiner during a brief campaign swing through Las Vegas…”



IRS Paid $3 Billion In Tax Credit Mistakes Plus $5.8 Billion In Erroneous Refunds

“The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration is an official Treasury Department watchdog that reports on the IRS. In the last few years, that is a big job. There has been no shortage of scandals, from targeting to lavish spending, to bonuses, and more. This time, the Inspector General has issued a new report revealing some big errors involving tax credits. The report reveals that the IRS doled out $3 billion in erroneous business tax credits to corporations that did not qualify. The tax credits are for business taxpayers, and covered such varied activities as providing childcare for their employees’ children. In 2013, corporations claimed more than $93 billion worth of tax credits, the report reveals. But it turns out many of those credits were wrong. In over 3,000 electronically filed corporate tax returns, there were potentially erroneous credits. In some cases the credits had expired but were claimed anyway. In others, the IRS failed to catch the erroneous credits so allowed them despite the mistakes. “Given the amount of potential tax revenue at risk, it is imperative that the IRS improve its processes to ensure that corporations accurately claim carry-forward general business credits,” Inspector General J. Russell George said in the report…”



“The Inspector General at the Office of Personnel Management discovered $601 million dollars that were paid to federal retirees in 2011, even though the retirees actually had died during one of the prior five years. “Every day, we have hard choices to make on how to spend limited taxpayer dollars. Not spending them on Social Security payments for people who have passed away is an easy choice,” said Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI). More recently, a government hearing last month exposed that 6.5 million individuals with active social security numbers are older than 112-years-old. A “60 Minutes investigation” uncovered identity theft due to the erroneous federal record keeping. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) said, “It’s unacceptable that the federal government spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year in improper payments to deceased people.” A group of bipartisan lawmakers introduced The Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act. Officials say the Social Security Administration holds the official federal database listing deceased individuals, but that other agencies are not updated frequently and that most inspector generals with other government agencies lack access to the list, which leads to a number of federal agencies issuing erroneous payments to dead people. The Act would give all appropriate federal agencies the right to access a complete and current list of deceased individuals…”


40 Days: Treasury Says Debt Has Been Frozen at $18,112,975,000,000

“According to the Daily Treasury Statement for Wednesday, April 22, which was published by the U.S. Treasury on Thursday, April 23, that portion of the federal debt that is subject to a legal limit set by Congress closed the day at $18,112,975,000,000—for the 40th day in a row. $18,112,975,000,000 is about $25 million below the current legal debt limit of $18,113,000,080,959.35. Table III-C on the Daily Treasury Statement for April 22 shows that the federal debt subject to the legal limit began April at $18,112,975,000,000, began the day of April 22 at $18,112,975,000,000 and closed the day of April 22 at $18,112,975,000,000…”


National Debt Tops $18 Trillion: Guess How Much You Owe?

“The availability of credit in the U.S. was a major catalyst in the economic boom of the twentieth century. However, too much of a good thing can also be a problem. Is the U.S. too reliant on debt? Is the federal government mortgaging the future earnings of an entire generation? In this article, we’ll explore these and other issues as we take a look at the debt cycle in America. The Impact of Debt on Economic Growth –  In the early part of the twentieth century, if people didn’t have the money to purchase an item, they would save for it. With the introduction of credit terms, high-dollar items became much more affordable. It also changed the way we view debt. For example, rather than think of a new car in terms of its total price, we began to focus on the amount of the monthly payment. And, as the use of debt increased, the American standard of living rose with it. Excessive debt was also one of the primary catalysts for the economic boom of the 1980s, 1990s, and part of the 2000s. However, when debt is used in excess, it steals from the future since it must be repaid. This is because a dollar borrowed today necessitates that a dollar plus interest be repaid in the future. This reduces the amount of money available for future spending. If the amount of debt accumulated is significant and the period of accumulation is long, the required debt payments will negatively impact economic growth. What about government debt? How does it impact the future and the economy?…”


Defense, appropriators win in budget deal

“House and Senate budget negotiators have reached a deal that will make defense hawks happy, fiscal conservatives grumble and keep appropriators satisfied — for now.

The two chambers are in the process of inking an agreement that freezes domestic spending, while authorizing a big boost for the Pentagon and granting appropriators the flexibility to spend an extra $20 billion on domestic programs, POLITICO has learned. The accord would keep spending for things like education, transportation and housing below caps set in a 2011 deficit reduction law. Still, GOP lawmakers must be briefed on the specifics and final legislative text is being drafted, so negotiators can still make changes before the deal is officially released early next week, sources following the talks said….”


The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is an abomination

“No, President Obama, Elizabeth Warren isn’t wrong. Obama told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Tuesday that the populist Democratic senator from Massachusetts is in error in opposing a free-trade agreement his administration negotiated with 11 other Pacific nations. Warren is right: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an abomination — not because of the deal itself, and not because free trade in general is a bad idea. The TPP is an abomination because Obama had a chance to protect American workers from the harm that would inevitably come from such a pact, and he didn’t take it, or at least he hasn’t. As bad, Obama’s anointed successor, Hillary Clinton, waffled on the trade pact this week, only offering the banality that “any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages” — which, of course, they all claim to do. Clinton, and Obama, should champion the trade bill — but only after congressional Republicans do what’s needed to protect low-wage American workers from the dislocation that will occur: approving some serious new spending on worker training and infrastructure, to keep the United States in line with the rest of the industrialized world. Now, 21 years after NAFTA and 14 years after China joined the World Trade Organization, there is no real question among economists that expanding trade has been good for the world and has helped to reduce poverty. It has also unquestionably been good for American corporations as they grow their global reach. But there is equally no doubt that trade liberalization has hurt low-skill manufacturing workers and aggravated income inequality, which is now at its worst since the 1920s. The top 1 percent of American earners has seen income grow by 200 percent since the late 1970s, according to the Congressional Budget Office, but the figure is only 48 percent for the bottom 20 percent. And there is really no disputing that at least some of that growing divide between rich and poor has been caused by the regressive effects of trade…”


Elizabeth Warren: Let people see trade deal ‘before we have to grease the skids’

“Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is calling on President Obama to make a proposed trade deal with Pacific Rim nations public before Congress decides whether to press forward on it. Ms. Warren said members of Congress can read the deal but “aren’t allowed to talk about it.” “So now it’s the case that the president says that he wants the American people to judge this deal based on the facts, but to do that, he’s got to make the deal public,” Ms. Warren said this week on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” “Otherwise, the American people can’t judge it on the facts — [you] won’t put the facts out there.” “If it’s a great deal for families, like the president says, or a great deal for workers, then put it out there and let ‘em see it before we have to grease the skids to get the deal done,” she said. Ms. Maddow pointed out that administration has said there will be a public comment period on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and that t

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