Twenty conservative groups: SB 127 would have ‘chilling effect on free speech in Georgia’

“Leaders of 20 national and local conservative action groups have signed onto a letter protesting an amended SB 127, which they said would “have a chilling effect on free speech in Georgia by restricting the ability of nonprofit organizations to engage in public debates and political discourse.” Signers include Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots, Erick Erickson of Redstate.com, and Jason Pye of FreedomWorks. The AJC’s Chris Joyner has your background at myAJC.com. A taste:…”



Fox News Poll: More families feel worse than better as a result of ObamaCare

“More voters say their family is worse off than better off under ObamaCare. In addition, most of those who had to change their insurance coverage because of the health care law say it cost them money. That’s according to a Fox News poll released Thursday. Overall, 42 percent say the country is worse off under the 2010 health care law. Some 44 percent felt that way last year (June 2014).  At the same time, the number that feels the country is better off is up a bit: 33 percent now say things are better under ObamaCare. It was 29 percent in 2014.  About one in five says the law hasn’t made much of a difference to the country (22 percent). Clearly partisanship plays a role: 73 percent of Republicans say the country is worse off under Obamacare, while just 12 percent of Democrats feel that way.  Has the law helped families? Not many. Fifteen percent say they are better off under the law, while 26 percent say their family is worse off. Insurance plans under ObamaCare took effect January 1, 2014.  A 57-percent majority says ObamaCare hasn’t made much of a difference to them. Feelings about whether they are better or worse off are mostly the same for people under age 35 as they are for those ages 65 and over. Those in lower income households are 10 percentage points more likely than those with higher incomes to say their family is better off under ObamaCare. Nearly a third of voters overall say they had to make changes to their coverage because of the law, and most of them — 77 percent — say it made their health insurance more expensive. Only 12 percent say it reduced their insurance costs…”


Some Obamacare customers may get hefty tax bill

“Tax Day may be a rude awakening for some Obamacare customers who get subsidies as they could pay more in taxes this year, according to a new study. Some Obamacare customers get advanced tax credits based on projected income. However, if actual income is higher than estimated, then they will have to repay part or all of their subsidies when they file their tax returns through a process called reconciliation, according to a new study released Wednesday from the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of think tanks the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution. Lower-income taxpayers likely will not have to pay more but could get a smaller refund, according to the study. Obamacare subsidies are delivered as tax credits based on the taxpayer’s income when he files his return. However, most participating households receive their credits in advance through a reduction in an insurance premium they would otherwise pay, the study said. It is those advanced tax credits that taxpayers would have to repay through reconciliation, but the amount depends on the income of the family or individual. Researchers used Census data to determine the average tax refund by income group compared with the tax credit for purchasers of the second-most-expensive silver plan, one of three Obamacare plans. The study found that a person whose earns less than $23,000 will get an average refund of $1,397 but have to pay a reconciliation payment of $300. A person who earns up to $47,000 will get a $1,700 refund but have to pay a $1,250 reconciliation payment….”


WH economist admits Obamacare deductibles a problem

“Even the strongest Obamacare supporters admit one thing: Americans are still being charged troublingly high deductibles in their health plans. But even if the healthcare law hasn’t helped that situation, at least it hasn’t made things worse, argues top White House economist Jason Furman. “The important thing about this is it’s no worse,” Furman said Thursday in a speech at the liberal Center for American Progress. The second year of enrollment in the health law’s new insurance marketplaces is over — although people facing a penalty for being uninsured have until the end of April to sign up — and the Obama administration has been pointing to evidence that it is extending coverage to millions of Americans who previously lacked coverage. It’s still too early to definitively say how the Affordable Care Act has affected the economy overall or whether it will drive historically high healthcare spending down in the long run. But Furman made a broader case Thursday along those themes, arguing that the law is helping the economy. “In summary, expanding coverage is helping the U.S. economy, slowing the growth of costs is helping the U.S. economy,” said Furman, who is chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Politicians and policy experts have hotly contested how the healthcare law would affect the price of health insurance — both in the monthly premiums consumers pay and the annual deductible they must pay before full benefits kick in. Premiums and deductibles were soaring for years before the health law was passed. Research by groups including the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation has found premiums in the new, state-based insurance marketplaces grew only modestly this year, although there’s wide variance by county…”


New Poll Confirms Voters Don’t Want State Obamacare Exchanges

“Last week, the Foundation for Government Accountability released a groundbreaking poll of voters in federal exchange states that provides valuable insight into how voters want policymakers to respond to the pending King v. Burwell Supreme Court ruling. In short, voters don’t want their state legislators to rescue Obamacare should the Supreme Court rule that health insurance subsidies cannot flow through HealthCare.gov. They blame Congress for a poorly written law and don’t want or expect states to clean up Washington’s mess. In fact, they’re prepared to vote against state lawmakers who try to set up Obamacare exchanges. Voters Don’t Want To Live in An Obamacare State – If the Supreme Court strikes down subsidies in federal exchange states, voters don’t want their state legislators to rescue Obamacare. They see the issues presented in the King v. Burwell case as a problem created by Congress and the IRS; they don’t think states should bail them out. Obamacare supporters and special interest groups are already urging state legislators to establish exchanges, just in case the Supreme Court rules that the IRS has been illegally doling out taxpayer-funded subsidies in 34 states. But just 22 percent of those surveyed want states to set up Obamacare exchanges. Most voters want their lawmakers to urge Congress to make changes to Obamacare. They want those changes to make the law better for everyone by providing families with more choices and greater flexibility…”


Trying To Better Yourself? Obamacare Will End That

Obamacare creates another, more powerful incentive for avoiding a higher income: you might not end up losing your subsidies, but paying them back, too.

“In the ongoing debate over the Affordable Care Act, it is important to keep certain elemental truths front and center: namely, that it is a terrible law, it was designed poorly and without much thought, its execution has been a disaster, and it will probably continue to haunt the country for as long as it is extant. Most prominent among the law’s negative and disastrous effects is the slipshod and pernicious way it handles subsidies—and in particular, the way in which it takes the subsidies back. Exhibit A are the Campbells, a couple in Sacramento who signed up for health insurance through California’s exchange when Roberta Campbell was unemployed and her husband, Curtis, was working part-time. They qualified for a subsidy of $1,000 per month. Halfway through the year, both Roberta and Curtis found full-time employment with insurance, so cancelled their Obamacare plan and the tax credit along with it (subsidies are not available for employer-provided insurance). However, their year-end salary for 2014 totaled too much to qualify for subsidies for that year—so the Campbells had to pay back the $6,000 in insurance subsidies they had received, even though they had qualified for the subsidies when they received them and had cancelled them when they became ineligible. Exhibit B is Christa Avampato, a woman in New York who purchased an insurance plan through New York’s exchange. Avampato’s income level meant she qualified for a $177 monthly subsidy to help pay for her insurance. However, “a big check from a client at the end of last year” meant her income for 2014 was higher than she’d estimated in the exchange, so she had to pay back $750 of the subsidies she’d received—again, even though she had been perfectly eligible for the subsidies at the time she received them….”


Are People Getting More Care Or Better Care Under Obamacare? No

“By one estimate, 14 million people are newly insured because of the Affordable Care Act. In addition millions of others have more generous insurance, promising new benefits. So you might expect that doctors’ offices would be flooded with a host of new patients seeking more care than they had before. It’s not happening. To avoid the effects of the 2008 financial crisis, the recession, and the slow recovery, John Graham compared the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with their survey from a decade ago. The result: “The proportion of people of all ages with a “usual place to go for medical care” was 87.8 percent last year, the same as it was in 2002-2003. Further, 5.7 percent reported that they failed to obtain needed medical care due to cost last year, the same as it was in 2003-2004.” [A possible explanation (noted by Graham) is that the percent of the population that is uninsured is not much different than it was a decade ago.] Another study focuses on what happened last year – the first year of access to expanded Medicaid and the health insurance exchanges. New data from 16,000 providers across the country, collected by AthenaHealth, shows that requests for new appointments just barely edged upward in 2014. The proportion of new patient visits to primary care doctors increased from 22.6 percent in 2013 to 22.9 percent in 2014. (See the graph.)…”


White House economist: Obamacare claims are ‘nonsensical’

“President Obama’s top economist is hitting back against the “nonsensical” things he believes Obamacare opponents have said about the law. Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, spoke Thursday at the Center for American Progress on why he believes the healthcare law is improving the economy. But first, he responded to some of the biggest Republican complaints about the Affordable Care Act — that it would harm jobs, lead to more part-time jobs, increase the deficit and push health care costs higher. “People said the Affordable Care Act would kill jobs,” Furman said. “We’ve had 60 consecutive months of private-sector job growth, longest streak we’ve ever seen in this country.” Furman also pointed to data showing the ratio of part-time jobs to full-time jobs has fallen since the health law was passed and noted that the Congressional Budget Office has downgraded its estimate of how much the law’s coverage provisions would cost. “People said it would bust the budget,” Furman said. The law has expanded health coverage coverage to millions of previously uninsured Americans. But it’s not clear how much of the country’s economic improvements can be attributed to the law, considering its main provisions have been in place only for about a year and a half. But Furman, who was appointed by President Obama to head the economic council, insisted the law has done more than just expand coverage. It has actively helped the economy, he said. “We can do a whole lot better than ‘our policies didn’t hurt the economy’ while doing all these great things, in fact they actively helped the economy,” he said.”


White House scoffs at ObamaCare ‘doomsday prophecies’

“President Obama’s chief economist on Thursday delivered a fierce rebuttal to what he called “nonsensical” claims from conservatives that the Affordable Care Act would be the end of the U.S. economy. “To put it mildly, these doomsday prophecies have not come to pass,” Jason Furman, the chief of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, said Thursday at a panel hosted by the Center for American Progress. Five years after the law’s passage, Furman said the law did not become a “job killer” or a “budget buster,” and it did not create a “part-time economy.” Instead, he painted a picture of a healthcare industry — and an economy, in general — that has seen broad benefits from the law. With the law’s recent five-year anniversary, the administration has taken a victory lap by pointing to data that shows a healthcare cost slowdown and a massive drop in the uninsured rate…”


Enrollment In ObamaCare Dominated By Those With Lowest Incomes, Study Finds

“Former senior White House adviser Doug Badger has analyzed the latest ObamaCare enrollment numbers and finds “only the poorest among the uninsured have so far signed up” because those in higher income categories find the coverage is just not worth the price. In his blog post, “Obamacare: The More You Pay, The Less You Get,” Badger says the results of the Obamacare open season, which ended February 15, look encouraging on the surface: “Nearly 11.7 million people selected a plan this year, compared with just more than 8 million during the 2014 open season.” But enrollment skews older as healthy young people are refusing the pay disproportionately high premiums that the exchanges try to extract from them. And the uninsured in middle-income categories also are largely uninterested in expensive ObamaCare insurance. The result:  “Enrollment has been dominated by those with the lowest incomes.  HHS reports that 83 percent of people who have selected plans have incomes between 100 percent ($11,770) and 250 percent ($29,425) of the federal poverty level (FPL). “Medicaid, meanwhile, has grown by nearly 20 percent since Obamacare was launched, swelling its ranks to 70 million. Roughly 22 percent of the U.S. population is now on Medicaid, despite the refusal of 22 states to expand their programs.” Badger cites a recent Avalere study reinforcing his findings, showing that ObamaCare has “attracted the poor and near poor and holds little appeal for uninsured middle income people.” He explains that the design of ObamaCare’s subsidies is the reason: “as premiums rise, the value of insurance coverage falls.”…”


Obamacare Awaits a Verdict

“Is Obamacare enrollment stalling? That’s the suggestion of a recent New York Times article that basically looks at the enrollment differences between the Affordable Care Act’s state and federal exchanges. Many states that had good enrollment for the 2014 season saw little increase in 2015. The federal exchanges did better — but that might just be catch-up as they enroll folks they would have picked up earlier had the exchanges not melted down. If this true, Bob Laszewski argues that it will have pretty serious implications for the long-term health of the exchanges. Remember, the prices we’re seeing right now don’t necessarily reflect what the price will be over the long term, because there are all sorts of temporary cross-subsidies that will expire at the end of 2016. The future path of prices will depend on a lot of things, but one very important factor is the size of the insurance pool.  The magic of statistics tells us that larger insurance pools makes for more stable outcomes, because the larger the population in the pools, the more that random variances in outcomes will tend to average out. If your market only has a few thousand people in it, it’s easier to get a few more cancer patients than you expected, whacking you with big, unexpected costs. The more people you add, the larger the number of people it will take to make your outcomes measurably different from actuarial expectations … and so the less likely this becomes. Even worse, the smaller the pool, the more likely it is that you’re getting adverse selection. Who is most likely to go without insurance? That’s right: people who aren’t spending very much on health care right now. A few of those people deciding to forgo insurance doesn’t matter much. But if you only end up enrolling 50 percent of the eligible population, it’s a fairly safe bet that the missing 50 percent are disproportionately healthy, and that number is large enough to throw off your projections. This is potentially a recipe for the dreaded “death spiral,” in which the healthiest people drop out, raising the average cost of health care for the remaining sick people, forcing insurers to raise prices, so the healthier folks decide to drop out … a mess. So if the fears expressed in the Times are correct, it’s potentially a very big deal. But that still leaves us with the question: Are they correct? One potential piece of supporting evidence: A new report from consultancy Avalere says the exchanges are struggling to sign up the middle class. People with incomes close to the poverty line and who can buy exchange policies for just a few dollars a month are eagerly snapping up the product. More than three-quarters of the eligible folks making less than 150 percent of the federal poverty line have enrolled. But as you get north of 150 percent of the poverty line, the numbers start rapidly declining: Less than half the eligibles between 150 and 200 percent have enrolled, and by the time you get to 400 percent of the poverty line (about $47,000 for an individual), only 2 percent of those eligible have signed up. Avalere says that 83 percent of 2015 enrollees make less than 250 percent of the federal poverty line, which equates to less than $30,000 a year for a single individual….”


ACA’s Mandate To Buy Coverage May Be GOP-Friendly

“Whether it’s a penalty to pick a drug plan under Medicare or the new Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act or the President’s health law alone, penalties abound for being uninsured. A new analysis by the Urban Institute said “individual responsibility” requirements akin to the controversial individual mandate included in the Affordable Care Act requiring individuals to buy coverage or face a tax penalty also exist in other health reform proposals and existing health insurance programs. Some, like the Medicare Part D drug coverage for seniors and Medicare Part B’s physician services for the elderly, have been in place for years. Another, a new Republican proposal to replace the ACA, also has its penalties. The so-called “Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment Act” or PCARE, proposed by Republican Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan and GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Richard Burr of North Carolina would “impose strong penalties on the uninsured,” Urban Institute health policy researchers Linda Blumberg and John Holahan wrote in their analysis out this week called, “the New Bipartisan Consensus for an Individual Mandate.” “Specifically, if individuals fail to maintain continuous coverage, they can be medically underwritten or effectively denied insurance in the nongroup market,” the Urban Institute’s authors wrote of the Hatch-Burr-Upton legislation. “Medicare Parts B and D also have provisions that penalize individuals for failing to promptly enroll in coverage for the same reason, yet this approach to an individual mandate has not been controversial.” All of the proposals share the common thread that health insurance, particularly coverage that involves the private insurance market, need an individual responsibility component to ensure healthy people are in the insurance risk pool. Without healthy people buying coverage and paying premiums, claims submitted largely by sick policyholders would lead to soaring health care costs…”


Legislature blocks funding for federal health care law

“The Arizona Legislature has approved a bill blocking state funding for enforcement of the Affordable Care Act. The bill by Mesa Republican Rep. Justin Olson is designed to stop state and local governments from using financial resources to enforce and implement the law. Olson says House Bill 2643 would not affect those enrolled in the program, but it is designed to prevent future legislation that would establish a state exchange. Olson amended the bill to exempt public health programs authorized by the law and to allow state and local governments to use resources to provide employee health insurance benefits. Opponents say the bill violates the Constitution and will result in lawsuits that will cost state taxpayer dollars. The House and the Senate approved the measure Thursday…”


VA to relinquish control of Denver hospital construction


Lawmakers Urge Quick Resolution to Veterans Affairs Review



Communities have little say about the amount of refugees they receive

“The federal resettlement program began 35 years ago, and today includes some 190 sites across the country. In New Hampshire, four cities – Nashua, Manchester, Laconia and Concord – take in refugees, but the numbers are not evenly distributed. Nationally, nearly 70,000 refugees immigrated to the U.S. in the last fiscal year; 373 of those came to New Hampshire, and 189 of those came to Concord. The city of Concord has minimal say, and minimal official responsibilities, over refugee resettlement. State and resettlement officials will typically share the information they receive about resettlement projections with local officials. Concord, in turn, has an opportunity to provide some input on those projections. But as decisions are being made about how many new refugees will resettle here, there’s rarely a discussion – with Concord officials, at least – about the current status of the local economy and what kind of resources are available, according to City Manager Tom Aspell. City employees – who work in public assistance programs, public safety or otherwise – provide help to individual refugees as needed. “We just do what we normally do for anybody else that comes in,” said Jacqueline Whatmough, the city’s human services director. The national refugee resettlement program runs as a partnership between the federal government and nine private resettlement agencies. Ascentria Care Alliance, which oversees resettlement in Concord, is a subsidiary of three of those private agencies. Each year, the State Department announces resettlement projections for the coming fiscal year. States can then comment on those, raising concerns or requesting changes. Barbara Seebart, New Hampshire’s refugee coordinator, said she regularly meets with school officials, health care workers, social service providers, state partners, volunteers, ESL teachers and local resettlement agencies to gather feedback…”


Court Oks New Jersey Medicaid denial for legal immigrants

“New Jersey’s top court says the state may legally deny Medicaid benefits to adult non-citizens who are in the United States legally but have been here less than five years. The state Supreme Court in a split decision released Monday affirmed a lower court ruling allowing the denial. The justices did not issue a new opinion in the case. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner and Justice Barry Albin both voted to reverse the decision. The state started allowing non-residents into its Medicaid program in 2005, reasoning that offering the coverage would result in lower emergency hospital charity care bills. Amid a budget crisis in 2010, the state changed its policy again, denying the coverage. The lower court found that was permissible under a 1996 federal law…”


Mayor, attorney general create task force to aid immigrants

“New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman are announcing the creation of a task force to combat immigration services fraud. The task force was announced Thursday. It will dedicate enforcement resources to stop predators from taking advantage of immigrant communities. It will also conduct a public awareness campaign about President Barack Obama’s actions on immigration reform. Schneiderman said there’s a growing problem of scam artists posing as immigration consultants or lawyers. They prey on people who feel that, due to their immigration status, they can’t go to law enforcement for help. The City Council has also funded programs to provide legal services for immigrants…”


Council Gearing Up to Implement Immigration Executive Order, Despite Court Challenges

“President Barack Obama’s immigration reform executive order may be tied up in federal court—but that hasn’t stopped the New York City Council from getting ready to implement it, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito told the Observer. “We’re just trying to put the wheels in motion and be ready to really roll, fully, once we get the approval—and we believe that court case is going to be overturned, thrown out, whatever—so the executive order can move forward,” Ms. Mark-Viverto said in an interview yesterday at her City Hall office. Mr. Obama’s executive order would expand the existing Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program—and, if enacted, would allow as many as five million undocumented immigrants, who came to this country under the age of 16 or have family who are legally here and have resided in the United States for five years, to register to avoid deportation and to work legally in the country, if they have no criminal record. The city had been gearing up to help immigrants access the program on Feb. 18, when it would have gone into effect—but a federal court judge in Texas has blocked the order from taking effect pending a lawsuit from Republican governors who allege Mr. Obama’s executive action on immigration is unlawful. New York is among more than 30 cities that have filed in the case to support the president…”


Menendez pleads not guilty to federal corruption, bribery charges

“New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of corruption and bribery. A Newark grand jury indicted the 61-year-old senator Wednesday on 14 counts of federal corruption in a 68-page indictment. Menendez has been released on his own recognizance but was forced to surrender his personal passport. A status conference has been scheduled for April 23, with a tentative July 13 trial date. Menendez’s friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen, was indicted on 13 counts, including eight bribery charges. Melgen also pleaded not guilty. The case revolves around alleged gifts and favors Melgen did for the senator, who in turn allegedly helped out the wealthy Florida doctor on several occasions. The indictments against Menendez and Melgen will likely result in a drawn-out court battle between them and a team of federal prosecutors who have spent years building their case against the two men. Menendez, who is a powerful Capitol Hill Democrat and a leading critic of the Obama administration’s Cuba and Iran policies, vowed to fight. “At the end of the day, I will be vindicated and they will be exposed,” Menendez said at a Wednesday press conference. “This is not how my political career is going to end. I am angry and ready to fight. I am not going anywhere.” Pricey trips, private planes and young foreign models are all at the heart of a federal criminal case that has Menendez, one of the country’s most powerful Democratic lawmakers, fighting for his political life. Prior to the release of the indictment, what was known about the case centered on favors Menendez allegedly did for Melgen concerning his business dealings…”



“Border Patrol Agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector of the Texas/Mexico border captured a criminal illegal alien child molester who was attempting to cross back into the United States after being deported. The Guatemalan man was captured near Rio Grande City in Starr County. He was initially transported to the McAllen Border Patrol Station for processing where his prior criminal record was discovered. Records revealed the Guatemalan man was arrested in 2012 by the Fairview Police Department in Bergen, New Jersey, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection press release obtained by Breitbart Texas. He was charged with sexual assault of a child. He was later convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. An internet search revealed the Guatemalan man to be Abraham Anibol Chumil, 34. Chumil was arrested in August, 2013 for sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl in the home where he lived with the girl and her family, according to an article in Cliffview Pilot. In at least two incidents, the sexual assaults occurred in the presence of the child’s 6-year-old sister. Chumil was arraigned on January 27, 2014 on charges of “first-degree attempted sexual penetration of a child less than 13; second degree criminal sexual assault of a child; impairing or debauching the morals of a child; and abusing or neglecting a child under 16,” the article stated. Breitbart Texas spoke with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit and notified them Chumil had returned to the United States after they had prosecuted him and he was deported. Investigators advised they would look into the case and determine if New Jersey will need to take any action in regards to his re-entry into the U.S. Bergen County court records reveal Chumil was sentenced on November 14, 2014 to five years in prison by Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi….”



Jobless claims hit lowest level since January

“Jobless claims fell sharply last week as employers maintained their brisk pace of hiring. First-time applications for unemployment benefits plummeted 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 268,000, the lowest level since late January, the Labor Department said Thursday. The less volatile four-week average, which is a better indicator of the labor market’s health, fell 14,750 to 285,500. All signs point to employers remaining bullish on hiring despite slower economic growth during the first three months of the year. Analysts say a combination of severe winter weather, the surging dollar and falling oil prices pushed down economic growth to a 1 percent pace in the January-March quarter.  The slowdown was reflected in a private-sector report that showed employers added only 189,000 jobs in March, ADP said Wednesday.  It was the first time since January 2014 that monthly jobs growth fell below the 200,000 mark. Jobless claims below 300,000 signal a strong labor market expansion and monthly job growth of about 250,000 a month. The government’s unemployment report for March will be released Friday, and could be weaker than expected. Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody’s Analytics, said Wednesday he is now expecting about 200,000 jobs were added in March, down from his initial estimate of 250,000.  But forecasts vary from Zandi’s estimate to a robust 265,000, which is still below the 295,000 added in February. The unemployment rate should hold at about 5.5 percent, which is the lowest level since 2008. The economy added more than 3 million jobs last year — the most since 1999 — and is on track for similar production in 2015, economists estimate.  Average monthly growth came in around 300,000 jobs over the past six months…”


Feds: Highway funding runs out in July

“Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Thursday that the federal government would run out of money for infrastructure projects in July, two months later than expected.   The new deadline comes as lawmakers are scrambling to find a way to pay for an extension of a transportation funding bill that is currently scheduled to expire in May. Foxx said the Transportation Department would have a cushion of about two months if Congress misses the deadline, but after that he said the agency would have to start cutting off payments to state and local governments. “The latest I have is that the extension will run out in May. There will still be funding available through probably late July or early August,” he said of the Transportation Department’s Highway Trust Fund. “But probably in the July timeframe, we would have to start go into cash management,” Foxx continued. “That’s the score as I see it.”…”


Obama rails against GOP budget, elimination of death tax

Calls it a giveaway to the rich that should go to job-training programs

“President Obama railed against a proposal by congressional Republicans to repeal the estate tax Thursday, saying it would explode budget deficits and rob middle-class families of needed spending on job training. “We’ve got to stay hungry,” Mr. Obama told employees at a technology company in Louisville. “We can’t prioritize tax cuts for the folks at the very top and sacrifice” job-training efforts for average workers. The House passed a GOP proposal last month that would repeal the estate tax, a move that the White House says will cost the Treasury about $300 billion over 10 years. “There’s going to be a big debate coming up in Congress around the budget,” Mr. Obama said, saying the GOP plan would be “deficit-busting.” “That’s just not the way we’re going to build an economy that strengthens our middle class,” the president said. “Our economy works best when everybody has a stake and everybody’s getting ahead. And by the way, when that happens, businesses do well because they get more customers.” Mr. Obama was several hours late for his visit, due to breaking developments on a framework nuclear accord with Iran. The president apologized for being late and said his national-security duties delayed him, but he didn’t refer specifically to the deal….”


Where the Rubio Tax Plan Falls Short

The child credits and new rates pit groups against one another in a way that across-the-board rate cuts do not.


Ex-senators to 2016 field: Show how you’ll cut the debt

“A pair of former senators on Thursday urged presidential candidates in the 2016 race to focus on developing budget plans that would reverse the nation’s debt. Former Sens. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) spoke about the “First Budget” initiative in New Hampshire, the first state to hold a presidential primary next year. “It is critically important that the upcoming presidential campaign focus on the debt in a serious manner so that our next president comes into office ready to take action,” Gregg, who is a columnist for The Hill, said Thursday at the University of New Hampshire’s School of Law. “New Hampshire residents have always taken seriously their responsibility as the first primary state, and they should press candidates to find out what they will do in their first budget as president to address the debt,” he added….”


Fed’s Yellen says research needed to understand inequality issue

“More research is needed to understand what policies allow people to move up the economic ladder and what holds them back, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Thursday, returning to a controversial topic for the U.S. central bank. Yellen said that research may provide evidence of what allows people to get ahead, and to predict how individual circumstances impact income inequality. “It would also be beneficial to understand whether any policies may hold people back or discourage upward mobility,” Yellen said in prepared remarks for a speech to a Fed research conference here on economic mobility. Yellen tackled the issue of income inequality in a speech in Boston last October, saying she was “greatly concerned” about income disparity in the United States. Republican lawmakers seized on that speech, saying it was a partisan view meant to help Democrats in the November elections, with little relevance to the central bank’s responsibility. That view resurfaced during Yellen’s semi-annual appearance in front of Congress in February, with Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives accusing the Fed chief of using the inequality issue to side with Democrats. Yellen fiercely defended her stance, saying that previous Fed leaders had addressed the issue of wealth inequality and that it remained an important economic view. “I am not making political statements. I am discussing a significant problem that faces America,” Yellen said during the House hearing. On Thursday, she struck a more delicate tone…”


Fed chief seeks studies on economic mobility

“Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen called Thursday for policymakers to research economic mobility, saying that more data is needed to determine which policies will best help Americans climb the ladder. Speaking at a forum in Washington sponsored by the Federal Reserve, Yellen posed a series of questions to economists, challenging them to examine how family structures and geographical location influence someone’s ability to enter a higher class. “Research may be able to provide evidence on which public policies are most helpful in building an economy in which people are poised to get ahead,” she said. “It would also be beneficial to understand whether any policies may hold people back or discourage upward mobility.” Yellen is addressing economic inequality at a time when it has become an important policy discussion in both parties following the 2008 financial crisis. President Obama framed his entire State of the Union address earlier this year around “middle-class economics.” Yellen said that “families are the locus of both opportunities and barriers to economic mobility.”…”


Federal Reserve’s GDP flat lines with 0% growth forecast

“The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s economic meter is registered a flat line as it clocked a 0.0 percent for Gross Domestic Product growth for the first quarter of 2014. This reading will certainly take the wind out of the sails of Fed chief Janet Yellen and her setting the stage for a rate rise for later this year. As Main Street is looking for another strong jobs report Friday, the Wall Street consensus is that the economy’s still too weak to take the zero-rate punch bowl away. On Wednesday, in fact, the GDPNow forecast updated daily by the Atlanta Fed estimated first-quarter growth in the Gross Domestic Product was 0.0 percent. The so-called “nowcast” clawed its way back to 0.1 percent on Thursday, but remains significantly below the 2.0 percent it was predicting in mid-February for first-quarter GDP growth…”



House Chairman: Did The Administration Push Not To Charge Lois Lerner?

“House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz said it is “unclear” whether the Obama administration directed a U.S. Attorney not to prosecute Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress. “Today’s announcement is disappointing and exhibits a disregard for the rule of law,” Chaffetz said in a Wednesday statement after Ronald Machen, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, told Speaker John Boehner that Lerner would not be charged for contempt. The House of Representatives voted to hold Lerner in contempt last year. The House could still take it upon itself to arrest Lerner for contempt, but it is unlikely that the legislative body will do so. “Mr. Machen attempted to absolve Ms. Lerner of her actions by substituting his judgment for that of the full House of Representatives,” Chaffetz said. “It is unclear whether the Administration directed Mr. Machen not to prosecute Lois Lerner, or whether he was motivated by an ideological kinship with IRS’s leadership. The Committee will continue to pursue its ongoing investigation into the targeting of American citizens based on their political beliefs.” “Our goal is to ensure that the people responsible, including Lois Lerner, are held accountable, and that appropriate reforms and safeguards are put into place at the IRS to guarantee that the rights of Americans are not trampled on again by overzealous bureaucrats with political agendas.”…”


Judge orders IRS to release list of tea party groups targeted for scrutiny

“A federal judge ordered the IRS this week to turn over the list of 298 groups it targeted for intrusive scrutiny as the agency defends against a potential class-action lawsuit by tea party groups who claim their constitutional rights were violated. The IRS had argued it shouldn’t have to release the names because doing do would violate privacy laws, but Judge Susan J. Dlott, who sits in the Southern District of Ohio, rejected that claim and ordered the tax agency to turn over any lists or spreadsheets detailing the groups that were targeted and when they filed their applications. Judge Dlott also ordered the IRS to say whether a partial list of targeted groups reported by USA Today is authentic as a number of tea party groups try to win certification for a class action lawsuit against the IRS….”



“The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it will not charge former IRS chief Lois Lerner on criminal contempt charges after she refused to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in March of last year. Lerner refused to testify on questions about the IRS targeting conservative groups which came to light in 2013. The chairman of the panel Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) insisted that Lerner waived her 5th Amendment right to refuse to testify by making an opening statement to the committee before she claimed her right to remain silent. But this week, outgoing U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald Machen disagreed with Issa’s assertion. In a statement, Machen said, “Ms. Lerner did not waive her Fifth Amendment privilege by making general claims of innocence. The Constitution would provide Ms. Lerner with an absolute defense if she were prosecuted for contempt.” While this closes the door on action by the Department of Justice, this does not necessarily leave Lerner off the hook. If he has a mind to pursue Lerner, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner still has options. If Boehner has the political will, he can still press contempt proceedings against Lerner through a case in a federal court. Congress can pass a majority resolution authorizing a single member, perhaps someone such as Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), to file a civil suit in federal court on behalf of the full house. This would force Lerner to once again make a choice on how to respond to being summoned to give testimony. Regardless of what Lerner says in such a case, though, House lawyers could point to Lerner’s 2014 statement as a waiver of her Fifth Amendment rights—just as Issa contended last year. A federal judge would then be charged with deciding whether Lerner waived her rights not to testify or maintains her right to stay silent. If it is decided that Lerner did waive her rights and if she still refuses to talk, a federal judge could hold her in criminal contempt of court and possibly jail her until she gives her testimony….”


Why Millenials Are Totally Suited To Work At The IRS

“Are you a young person with no ability to think for yourself? Then the IRS wants you! The same week that the Justice Department announced that it would not charge former IRS official Lois Lerner for targeting conservative groups, IRS commissioner John Koskinen gave a speech at the National Press Club. In the speech, he said that the IRS will encourage millennials — you know, young people born during the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations — to work for the Internal Revenue Service. How fun! The joys of being a mindless government factotum must be endless. Actually, come to think of it, working at the IRS would probably appeal to today’s crop of young Starbucks-drinkers. Here’s why:

–Big Government: Young people love big government. According to the crap they say on the Internet, they want to have the biggest government possible and live in basically an authoritarian state where the government can police everything. Working at the IRS will be a big coup in Progressive Amerikka.

–Targeting Conservatives: Young liberals constantly target conservatives on social media and through other online activism efforts, trolling them on Twitter, sending them hate mail, and leading boycotts against them. If anything, the IRS’ conservative targeting scandal only makes the IRS more attractive to young progressives. Have any creative ideas for who they can target next?

–Lavish Parties: The IRS spent $49 million in three years on lavish conferences for government employees. Hotels and swag? That’s the closest most mediocre young people will ever get to the Vanity Fair After Party.

–Parody Videos: Young people hate working, and would rather spend all day making “Star Trek” and dance reality-show parody videos. As former Daily Caller editor Tim Cavanaugh once remarked, the IRS really took the time to get all the details right in its Star Trek parody video, including the design of the spaceship. Some hardcore Trekkies over there.”


Timing is everything: Charges for Menendez but not Lerner


Abolishing The IRS Is Impossible? The Surprising Reason Why Koskinen Is Right


Global Warming Skeptics In Gov’t Stay Silent Under Obama

“There are government scientists and researchers who are skeptical of man-made global warming — they just won’t speak up about it, according to two seasoned climate scientists. “There are skeptics in NASA and NOAA, a good number. But they are quiet. They know in this administration, they don’t speak out,” John Christy, a veteran climate scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, told AL.com. “These guys in government are not unbiased and they have pressures from above,” echoed Roy Spencer, also a climate scientist at UAH. “Those organizations, NASA and NOAA, they are part of the executive branch. So the White House has some influence over what direction they go. The heads are political appointees so you have political influence from the top down on scientists. And that’s a problem.” Christy and Spencer sat down with AL.com to discuss their 25 years of using satellites to measure global temperatures, a method of monitoring the climate the two scientists pioneered more than two decades ago. Satellite temperature measures have been crucial to the global warming debate, showing that temperatures have not risen nearly as fast as most climate models predicted. Satellite data also shows that global temperatures have been flat for the last 15 to 20 years. Trumpeting such data, however, has upset politicians and environmental groups and earned Christy and Spencer the label of “climate deniers.”…”


Obama administration’s innovation score hit new low in last worker survey

“The Obama administration earned its worst marks to date for innovation last year in an annual survey of the federal workforce. The Partnership for Public Service said in a report on Wednesday that the government’s overall innovation score in 2014 dropped to 58.9 points out of 100, representing the fourth consecutive year of decline and the lowest total since the index started in 2010. The administration earned 59.4 points in 2013 and 63.3 in 2010. The partnership calculates the scores each year based on data from the federal government’s annual Federal Employee Viewpoints Survey, which measures worker satisfaction in a broad range of categories…”



“Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee is firing back at President Obama for his Federal Communications Commission (FCC) led internet takeover–which the administration bills as “net neutrality” and critics call “net neutering”–saying it can lead to censorship. Still Democrats are backing the President, saying his policies mean equal access for all. The FCC responded to President Obama’s push for Net-Neutrality to regulate the internet with a 3-2 vote over objections from some Republicans. According to Blackburn’s office, the courts have previously rejected the FCC’s attempts to regulate the internet. Net neutrality supporters say the regulations will increase investment in internet based services. The rules prohibit broadband providers from blocking or regulating internet traffic in a selective manner. According to the Tennessee Republican, there is no need for the FCC to be preceding internet service providers because the internet has worked effectively for decades. “The internet is not broken, it does not need the intervention of the FCC,” Blackburn said. “What this in essence does is to give the federal government the right to determine priority and value to content – so they’re ultimately going to be able to censor everything that you have.” Blackburn added. “We don’t need this. It will run up costs and lead to new regulations and new taxes,” But Democratic Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) disagree with Blackburn. Van Hollen said he supports President Obama’s objectives for an open internet. “As the interest develops, if the President doesn’t adopt the policies he has proposed, you would actually slow down easy access to all content on the internet,” he said…”


David Vitter presses Loretta Lynch, AG nominee, on potential Hillary Clinton investigation

“A key Republican senator is questioning whether Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee to be attorney general, will vigorously pursue the investigation into Hillary Rodham Clinton for reportedly using her personal email while she was secretary of state to “shield and destroy” department records. “As a federal attorney, it is your responsibility to uphold our laws,” Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to Ms. Lynch in a letter Thursday. “If you are confirmed as Attorney General Eric Holder’s replacement, will you commit to a vigorous and transparent investigation of the allegations that Clinton used her personal email account and server to shield politically-sensitive material from FOIA requests?” Mrs. Clinton relied on a private email account and server in her New York house to conduct official business during her time at the State Department and then proceeded to delete some of them, a potential violation of federal record-keeping laws, Mr. Vitter said. Keeping a private server allowed Mrs. Clinton — and four of her top aides who were also given email addresses from her private server — to skirt Freedom of Information Act disclosure requests. Furthermore, a House special investigative committee, which wanted access to Mrs. Clinton’s server, revealed last week that Mrs. Clinton had the device wiped clean. Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who chairs the special investigative panel, said Mrs. Clinton’s response to the committee’s subpoena was to retransmit several hundred pages of emails that the State Department had already turned over. “If true, these allegations constitute a shocking violation of federal law and substantially undermine the American public’s faith in the integrity of the federal government,” Mr. Vitter wrote in his letter to Ms. Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York nominated by President Obama late last year…”



“Eight Congressmen are urging their colleagues in the Senate to reject Loretta Lynch’s nomination as Attorney General. Brian Babin, Jeff Duncan, Trent Franks, Vicky Hartzler, Jody Hice, Barry Loudermilk, Gary Palmer and John Ratcliffe write in a National Review article that the Senate has the power and obligation to reject nominees who may be unfit to serve. “We believe that Loretta Lynch, who has been nominated by the president to serve as the nation’s next attorney general, falls in the unfit category,” they write. They said as Congressmen they are required to work with the attorney general, and they think Lynch’s response to questions posed to her at the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing indicate that she has no plans to differentiate herself from the policies and actions of Attorney General Eric Holder, who they argue has “done considerable harm to the administration of justice.” “We expect the nation’s top law-enforcement officer to be committed to the rule of law, not to a political party or an administration. We cannot be certain that Ms. Lynch has such a commitment.”…”


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