“California government entities and their unions are panicking because Obamacare’s punitive 40% “Cadillac Tax” beginning in 2018 will directly hit the low-deductible and broad-provider network type of “platinum” healthcare coverage that public employees have enjoyed under the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS). With the Cadillac Tax estimated at $770 million, public employees face a radical change to “narrow networks” and up to 1,000 percent increase in annual healthcare deductibles. California public employee unions and CalPERS took a leadership role in lobbying for the design, passage and regulatory implementation of “Obamacare,” officially known as Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. According to a celebratory report titled, Compliance Accomplishments of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) for the period from January 1, 2011, through July 30, 2012: CalPERS also provided support to lawmakers, in the form of comments on regulations associated with federal healthcare and financial market reform. Additionally, staff provided executive support for the Pension Reform Dialogue and Joint Legislative Conference Committee Hearings and provided comments on regulations associated with federal healthcare. However, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini warned that three factors in Obamacare’s design essentially made inexpensive health insurance illegal: 1) Obamacare required that insurance on an actuarial basis cover at least 60% of healthcare costs. Previously, over half of Americans bought individual coverage below 50%. 2) Obamacare imposed 21 new taxes and fees that added 5% in additional costs. Aetna passed through over $1 billion of these taxes and fees to its policyholders last year. 3) Obamacare requires insurance companies to provide subsidized coverage to those already sick and provide coverage for such personal choice electives such as abortion and gender re-assignment. A Kaiser Family Foundation study released in January reported that 48% of uninsured Americans say they will remain uninsured because Obamacare prices are too high. That also explains why the Kaiser Foundation estimates Obamacare will cost $2.6 trillion over the next 10 years, and why the U.S. Treasury Department estimates that 6 million Americans who lack healthcare coverage will be forced to pay the Obamacare tax penalty for 2014…”


ObamaCare Mandate: Buy Plan That May Wreck Finances

“HealthCare.gov signed up most people earning up to 150% of the poverty level during the second enrollment period for the federal exchange. But with the exception of this near-poor group, ObamaCare exchange plans have been a pretty tough sell, a new study shows.

Among individuals eligible for exchange coverage with income ranging from 151% to 200% of the poverty level, just 41% signed up for coverage, an analysis from the Avalere Health consultancy found. That drops to a mere 30% for those with incomes from 201% to 250% of poverty. By comparison, 76% of eligible individuals with income from 100% to 150% of the poverty level signed up for an exchange plan. Beyond the lowest-income group, for whom ObamaCare’s generously subsidized coverage so clearly outweighs its minimal cost, “tax credits do not appear to be enough to entice participation,” said Caroline Pearson, senior vice president at Avalere. “So greater emphasis on individual mandate penalties may be needed to help increase enrollment among low- and middle-income individuals.” The first takeaway is that many of these households with earnings above 150% of the poverty level aren’t finding plans via HealthCare.gov that they can afford or that they deem worth buying, and it’s pretty easy to understand why. Going Bronze To Avoid ObamaCare Penalty Consider individuals earning 175% of the single poverty level, about $20,400 a year. If they can’t come up with the $1,058 a year to buy a silver-level plan with a deductible somewhere around $1,000, that leaves a bronze plan, which typically has a deductible of $5,000 to $6,000 — more than enough to ruin their finances, possibly for a few years to come, if they land in the hospital. For two years now, an apparent majority of households in this income range have been asking themselves, “Why bother buying bronze?” But before long, the answer will be obvious: Many low-income households will face individual mandate penalties that are in the same ballpark as the cost of a bronze plan, if not higher. A 30-year-old earning $20,400 would pay about $386 this year for a low-cost bronze plan, only slightly more than the $325 penalty for not buying coverage and far less than the $695 penalty for going uninsured in 2016, the Kaiser Family Foundation health subsidy calculator shows. Their choice, then, will really be between buying a bronze plan they’ve already rejected as being of little use and throwing away money. In practice, the role of the ObamaCare individual mandate is something that never entered into any debates leading up to the law’s passage: It’s forcing modest-income households to buy very-high-deductible plans that won’t prevent their finances from being wrecked if they get sick.

This is a far cry from the way the individual mandate worked in Massachusetts in the years leading up to the passage of ObamaCare. When Massachusetts began imposing the individual mandate in 2007, RomneyCare policies carried no deductible for those earning up to 300% of the poverty level….”


An unhappy birthday for the ACA

“As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) celebrated its fifth birthday on March 23, supporters had a lot to crow about: According to the Obama administration, 16.4 million uninsured people gained health insurance coverage since October 2013, resulting in a 35 percent reduction in the number of uninsured — the largest drop since Medicare and Medicaid were enacted in 1965. As a result, fewer adults delayed getting needed care and almost 10 million fewer Americans reported having difficulties paying their medical bills. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the projected costs of the president’s signature health reform legislation had dropped one-third from initial estimates in 2010. To top off the good news, hospitals that incur uncompensated costs for treating the uninsured saw their losses fall by over 20 percent last year, with over $1 billion saved in bad debt. With all these glad tidings, why does ObamaCare remain so unpopular? Public sentiment about the ACA is stagnant: Eighty-three percent of Americans still hold the same opinion since the law’s passage five years ago, and generally, that view is more negative than positive. More recently, however, poll numbers have improved slightly, and favorable versus unfavorable views are running neck and neck. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s March 2015 Health Tracking Poll reported that 41 percent of Americans now favor the law and 43 percent oppose it. In a convoluted way of thinking, that is good news for ObamaCare since 57 percent of Americans found it to be distasteful as recently as last July. Fewer now disfavor the ACA, but a plurality of Americans still do not support it, even as almost three in five Americans say they have not been affected by the law at all, and over 50 percent are unaware of the current Supreme Court challenge that would disqualify tax credits for 7 million people purchasing health insurance in the federal marketplace. What does all this mean? At the most basic level, it means that the Obama administration needs to do a better job of communicating the value of the ACA if it hopes to garner more support from the public. Simply proclaiming how many more Americans now have health coverage doesn’t bring around support from the majority of Americans who already have health insurance. For them, it needs to be more personal. The cost and availability of their own health coverage is more important than facts about the bigger societal picture, and the disjuncture between the two leads to suspicion and misperceptions. For example, more than four in 10 Americans think that the overall cost of the ACA has increased when, as mentioned above, it has actually decreased, and insurance premiums have for the most part been stable since the implementation of the ACA. However, for some individuals, the cost of their own health insurance has gone up or has become less comprehensive as a result of employer decisions to reduce the generosity of employer-sponsored coverage so as to avoid the upcoming 2018 “Cadillac tax” assessment on high-end insurance plans. Although it is unclear how many plans may be subject to the tax, some suggest it may be as few as 20 percent of workers. Nevertheless, the specter of a future tax sparks fear in many employers, and by extension, their workers, as they are asked to have a little more financial “skin in the game.” It is little solace that these and other ACA-enabled actions may slow national health spending over time or that millions of Americans can now purchase insurance without regard for health status, gender or where they work. Understandably, most Americans see larger policy decisions in terms of how they play out in their personal lives. Is it any wonder then that public opinion continues to be tepid about ObamaCare? Six out of 10 Americans do not understand how the ACA affects them and most get overwhelmed trying to understand the law. The real and perceived effects of the ACA are fraught with confusing half-truths: Yes, some employers are cutting back on employees’ hours so they can avoid the employer mandate, but this is not happening overall; and no, the ACA is not a cure-all, despite offering many Americans health coverage, as too many still struggle with high deductibles and out-of-pocket spending. While this variability in outcome is not unexpected from a large piece of social policy, it nevertheless subjects it to exquisite ideological partisanship and politicization from those who both support it as well as oppose it. Overly simplistic media sound bites heralding the success or failure of ObamaCare just increase mistrust of the law. Until the Obama administration is better able to communicate the value of the ACA in the lives of most Americans, the uncertain prospect for smoothing the law’s future makes for a very bittersweet half-decade commemoration of its passage…”


Oregon’s Failed ObamaCare Exchange Is A Warning For Other States

“Governors in 37 states are weighing their options should the Supreme Court conclude the IRS acted illegally in allowing their citizens to receive tax subsidies for health insurance through the federal government’s healthcare.gov website. The Supreme Court will decide, likely by late June, in King v Burwell whether the subsidies are allowed through exchanges established by the federal government after the states either declined or failed to create their own state portals. Some states are considering setting up their own exchanges so billions of dollars in tax subsidies can continue to flow to their citizens, even though leaders in Congress have pledged to provide them other options. These states might want to study Oregon’s experience with its state exchange before taking further action to establish an exchange. Oregon, under then-Gov. John Kitzhaber, aspired to create a shining model for other ObamaCare exchanges, but instead, it became its poster child of dysfunction. After spending more than $300 million in federal taxpayer dollars, Oregon pulled the plug last year and decided to default to the federal exchange. The state is now embroiled in lawsuits with its primary vendor, Oracle, and current and former Oregon officials are the subject of congressional and other federal investigations. Depending upon the outcome of those investigations, Congress could demand that the state to pay back the $300 million it spent on a project that numerous reports show was fraught with mismanagement and political maneuverings. Oregon began with an ambitious agenda: Flush with federal grants, it not only planned to create its own state health care exchange – the “Cover Oregon” portal through which people could shop for and purchase subsidized health insurance – but also to fully modernize the information technology infrastructure for all of its health care programs. But the scope of the management project overwhelmed state officials from the beginning. Partly to blame: The Kitzhaber administration put health policy experts rather than IT specialists in charge of the complex technology project. Further, there were poisonous internal bureaucratic battles over control of the high-profile project…”


Top Republican dismisses Facebook praise for ObamaCare

“A top Republican in the House says praise on her Facebook page for ObamaCare is mainly for parts of the law that have bipartisan support. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’s (R-Wash.) Facebook page has received enormous attention, after her plea for negative stories about the law drew comments from people applauding the law. McMorris Rodgers offered a response to the positive comments to The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash., on Monday. “The stories are largely around pre-existing conditions and those that are getting health insurance up to age 26,” she said, adding that there is “broad, bipartisan support for those provisions.” McMorris Rodgers, the House’s fourth-ranking Republican drew attention, after she put out a call for negative stories about the law. “This week marks the 5th anniversary of #Obamacare being signed into law,” she wrote. “Whether it’s turned your tax filing into a nightmare, you’re facing skyrocketing premiums, or your employer has reduced your work hours, I want to hear about it.” Her page was then flooded with positive comments about the Affordable Care Act. “5 years of not waking up in the middle of the might panicked that my child won’t ever be able to get health insurance thanks to a brain tumor at the age of 2,” wrote a woman named Melissa Kelly. “Thank God for Obamacare.” “I work for cancer care northwest,” wrote a man named Robert Fairfax. “We actually have more patients with insurance and fewer having to choose treatment over bankruptcy. Cathy, I’m a die hard conservative and I’m asking you to stop just slamming Obamacare. Fix it, change it or come up with a better idea! Thanks” McMorris Rodgers and other House Republicans have voted many times to repeal the entire law.  A spokeswoman referred The Hill to another Facebook post by McMorris Rodgers. Three days after the post calling for stories about the healthcare law, she sought to assure her constituents that access to affordable healthcare was a priority. “While the debate over health care continues, I want you to know one thing: your access to quality and affordable health care matters to me,” she wrote. “So I will continue to advance solutions that improve the quality of your care — no matter where you live, how much money you make, or what challenges you face. Your health care is not political — it is personal. And I will continue to fight to make it better.”


Boehner pressured by frosh House members: Repeal Obamacare med-device tax

“A bipartisan group of House freshmen urged Speaker John A. Boehner Tuesday to fast-track a bill to repeal Obamacare’s tax on medical device makers, arguing the levy is shackling a job-creating industry. A letter signed by 39 Republicans and four Democrats says the health law’s 2.3 percent tax on sales of pacemakers, artificial joints and other devices places an unfair burden on a sector that employs 400,000 Americans, so the chamber should take up a repeal bill by Rep. Erik Paulsen, Minnesota Republican. Startup companies are being knee-capped by the tax before they can be profitable, and companies are likely to scale back research and development to offset the tax, they argued. “This undermines the future of the industry, and puts the discovery of new breakthrough medical technologies at risk,” the lawmakers, led by Rep. Elise Stefanik, New York Republican, told Mr. Boehner. They said it’s important to act now, providing immediately relief before the issue is overshadowed by a Supreme Court ruling that could strike down Obamacare’s subsidies in at least 34 states. While many Democrats are loathe to tweak President Obama’s signature health law, the medical device tax is unpopular among liberal members in states where many manufacturers set up shop — among them Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts…”


Have House Republicans Cast Their First Vote For Obamacare?

“Former Speaker of the U.S. Representatives Newt Gingrich said something last week that many feared, but few have been willing to admit: Republicans in Congress have no intention of repealing and replacing Obamacare with patient-centered health reform. Faced with an interviewer who seemed to believe opposition to Obamacare is actually opposition to Barack Obama, and who suggested that after this president leaves office, opposition will soften, Mr. Gingrich accused his former colleagues of misrepresenting their commitment. Now that we are in the twilight of the Obama presidency, and Republicans have majorities in both chambers of Congress, they should be able to put such charges to rest. Unfortunately, last week’s overwhelming bipartisan support in the House of Representatives for a deal to lock in Obamacare’s way of paying doctors sends a terrible signal. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) was secretly negotiated by Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, while House and Senate Republicans debated their budget resolutions in public. Importantly, the House budget resolution embraced the so-called Ryan Medicare reform, which would improve Medicare for those entering the program in 2024 and subsequent years by giving us a much greater choice of health plans. For years, President Obama has consistently attacked this proposal, and this year has been no exception. MACRA also rejects this reform, which explains why President Obama has already indicated his eagerness to sign the new bill. As a consequence, the House budget resolution looks like pantomime, while MACRA is clearly the real deal – adding half a trillion dollars to the debt and confirming the Obamacare vision of Medicare. Consider two statements made on March 25, 2015 by two politicians advocating two different healthcare bills: Statement A: “Right now, Medicare pays doctors for every single treatment they perform — with no regard for the patient’s overall health. It rewards quantity, not quality, of care. And 10,000 baby boomers are joining Medicare every day, so costs are growing out of control.” Statement B: “And, relevant to the topic today, we’re moving Medicare toward a payment model that rewards quality of care instead of quantity of care.  We don’t want the incentives to be skewed so that providers feel obliged to do more tests; we want them to do the right tests. One of those statements was made by Representative Paul Ryan in a newspaper column supporting MACRA. The other was made by President Obama in a speech on the fifth anniversary of his signing the Affordable Care Act…”


Poll: Seniors more satisfied with Medicare Advantage

“Seniors on Medicare Advantage plans are more satisfied with their coverage than those on traditional Medicare, according to a new poll from the Morning Consult. The poll comes as lawmakers from both parties have been pressuring the Obama administration not to make cuts to the Medicare Advantage program, ahead of an announcement of payment rates on Monday.

Satisfaction is high with both traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage, where the government contracts with private insurers to provide coverage. But it is still higher with Medicare Advantage.  The poll finds that 80 percent of seniors are satisfied with the overall cost of MA plans, compared with 68 percent for traditional Medicare. On benefits, 86 percent are satisfied with MA, and 77 percent with traditional Medicare.  Overall, the gap is smaller, with 88 percent satisfied with MA and 85 percent with traditional Medicare….”


Support for the Affordable Care Act Breaks Down Along Racial Lines

Both parties thought health reform would make pro-government liberalism attractive to more white voters. It hasn’t worked that way.


New York Legislature Turns Down Tax On Obamacare Policies

“The New York legislature voted down Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to tax health insurance policies to fund the state’s Obamacare exchange, calling the fees system used by the Obama administration and other states counterintuitive.  The shrinking number of state-run Obamacare exchanges are facing a new problem this year — how to fund their ongoing operations now that start-up grants from the federal government are running out. In New York, like many other states, Cuomo proposed a tax on health insurance premiums to fund the state-run exchange’s operations. That tactic comes with its own concerns: some states, such as Hawaii, have smaller-than-expected enrollment and the per-policy fees aren’t bringing in enough money. Rhode Island is considering adopting a tax itself, but due to small enrollment in the tiny state, fees per Obamacare enrollee would likely climb higher than $30 every month, according to Modern Healthcare. Even California, which boasted the highest enrollment of any state in 2014 (but has recently been dethroned by Florida), has had to raise its monthly premium tax. But according to the New York Post, members of New York’s state legislature refused the extra tax on premiums because the plan would drive up the cost of health insurance for Obamacare customers, defeating the purpose of the exchange and its often-subsidized coverage…”


Krugman: All of These ‘Imaginary’ Obamacare Horror Stories Are ‘Invented’

“Here we go again. One of the High Priests of the so-called “reality-based community” has for the umpteenth time pronounced Obamacare a great success, asserting that people who believe otherwise (like, for example, the majority of the American people) have either been deceived, or are liars. Paint-by-numbers acerbic Leftist, reactionary smear artist, and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman calls Obamacare horror stories “imaginary disasters,” made up from whole cloth to scare people and undermine a law that’s working and helping people.  We’ve spent quite a lot of time refuting variants of this argument in recent years, producing detailed responses to President Obama, Harry Reid, and two different bloggers at Vox.  Here’s Krugman — in a column declaring Obamacare a success and its opponents discredited, no less — bemoaning our “post-truth politics:” In short, when it comes to the facts, the attack on health reform has come up empty-handed…And the favorable experiences of the roughly 16 million Americans who have gained insurance so far have had little effect on public perceptions. Partly that’s because the Affordable Care Act, by design, has had almost no effect on those who already had good health insurance: Before the act, a large majority of Americans were already covered by their employers, by Medicare or by Medicaid, and they have seen no change in their status. At a deeper level, however, what we’re looking at here is the impact of post-truth politics. We live in an era in which politicians and the supposed experts who serve them never feel obliged to acknowledge uncomfortable facts, in which no argument is ever dropped, no matter how overwhelming the evidence that it’s wrong. And the result is that imaginary disasters can overshadow real successes. Obamacare isn’t perfect, but it has dramatically improved the lives of millions. Someone should tell the voters…”


Palmer on Obamacare: ‘I think this administration needs to take a mulligan’

“Alabama’s U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer said it’s time for Obamacare to go the same way as a bad shot in golf. “I don’t fault anyone who supported Obamacare, but it’s kind of like golf — every once in a while, you need a mulligan. And I think this administration needs to take a mulligan because it’s not working and the cost has gone through the roof,” Palmer said. The new representative for Alabama’s 6th Congressional District who was elected last November addressed a crowd at a breakfast banquet this morning sponsored by the Greater Shelby County, Calera, Hoover and Vestavia Hills chambers of commerce. His concerns with Obamacare came up as he spoke about the House and Senate each approving their budgets last week. “Our objective was to get to a balanced budget. People think you get to a balanced budget in one year,” he said. “Our spending is like a runaway train. You don’t stop a runaway train on a dime. You have to slow its momentum to bring it to a halt,” he said. “That’s what this budget does. We will balance within 10 years. This budget cuts $5.5 trillion” in spending. He said repealing Obamacare is part of the budget goal, but steps exist to replace the president’s healthcare plan with a better option. “What we will be left with is a replacement that will truly allow people to choose their insurance company, choose their doctor, choose their hospital. I think it will create a generational change in thinking about how young people particularly pay for their health care, how they will handle their long-term healthcare needs,” he said. He called the proposal a “patient’s choice plan, it’s a 21st century healthcare plan” that utilizes health savings accounts in which unspent money rolls over each year. “The idea is you create an incentive for people to make smarter use of health care and to live healthier lifestyles. We need to do this with Medicare,” he said. “There’s zero incentive to be cost conscious and zero incentive to live healthier lifestyles” with Medicare. Palmer remained critical of President Obama’s proposed budget, pointing out that the country’s $18 trillion in debt would jump another $6 trillion by 2025 under the spending plan. “The only reason that we’re not in serious, serious trouble right now is because interest rates are so low,” he said. “The interest on the debt alone by 2025 under the president’s budget would be over $850 billion. Every budget decision that we would make would be driven by the interest on the debt.”…”


GOP Pollster: GOP Nominee Must Have An ACA Replacement In 2016

“A premier Republican pollster is warning his party’s presidential hopefuls that they’ll need to offer a health care plan in the 2016 election because Americans overwhelmingly oppose returning to the pre-Obamacare status quo. “Only 18 percent of Americans want to go back to the system we had before, because they don’t want to go back to some of the problems we had with health insurance before,” Whit Ayres, who has advised many prominent Republicans including potential presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), told reporters at a Washington breakfast hosted Tuesday by the Christian Science Monitor. “And the smart Republicans in this area get that.” The figure was based on polling as of November 2014 by his firm North Star Opinion Research. The good news for Republicans is that Obamacare remains unpopular overall — the poll found that Americans prefer to repeal rather than to keep Obamacare as it is by a margin of 54 to 44 percent. Ayers was confident that the eventual Republican presidential nominee “will have a replacement for Obamacare” that will keep some aspects of Obamacare while ditching some unpopular aspects like the individual mandate. “What you’re going to see is a well-crafted Republican alternative that will take some of those aspects of Obamacare but will ameliorate some of the more negative aspects of it, which have caused it still to have more people who oppose it than support it. And the reason, I think, is the mandate,” he said. Crafting an Obamacare alternative is easier said than done, as evidenced by the fact that the GOP has failed to unify behind a proposal in the five years since the law was enacted, amid struggles to bridge conservative ideological priorities with the tough economic realities of health policy. If the experience of the 2012 election is any indication, it will be a slog for Republicans in 2016, perhaps more so now that upwards of 16 million Americans have gained health coverage since Obamacare passed, according to government figures…”


Obama-Appointed Federal Judge Rules Obamacare Protects Transgenders from Discrimination

“U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, an Obama appointee on the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, ruled earlier this month that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, allows transgender people to sue if they feel they have been discriminated against by a health care provider. “Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the ground of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability under ‘any health program or activity, any part of which is receiving Federal financial assistance … or under any program or activity that is administered by an Executive agency or any entity established under [Title I of ACA],’ the HHS Civil Rights Division states on its website. “Section 1557 is the first Federal civil rights law to prohibit sex discrimination in health care. To ensure equal access to health care, Section 1557 also applies civil rights protections to the newly created Health Insurance Marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act.”…”


Providers can’t sue state Medicaid agencies over rates, Supreme Court rules


The Supreme Court’s next Obamacare case(s)

“On Monday, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Coons v. Lew, a constitutional challenge to provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) creating the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), an independent federal agency charged with responsibility for controlling the growth of health-care costs by constraining the growth of Medicare. IPAB is controversial, and potentially unconstitutional (as even fervent ACA advocates admit). Nonetheless, the denial of certiorari was to be expected. IPAB is not yet operational, so (as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded) a challenge of this sort isn’t ripe. If and when the IPAB is up and running — and begins making changes to Medicare that affect providers or beneficiaries — there will be ample time to consider the constitutionality of Congress’s creation. Alternatively, Congress could repeal or reform IPAB itself, as some have suggested. Given that the text of the ACA expressly limits Congress’s ability to amend these portions of the law, such legislative action could itself prompt litigation and perhaps even High Court review. The Court’s denial of certiorari in the Coons case does not mean the justices won’t revisit the ACA next term. Another cert petition is pending in Mayhew v. Burwell, Maine’s challenge to the constitutionality of the ACA’s maintenance of eligibility requirements for Medicaid. According to Maine (and supporting amici), the federal government’s threat to withhold all Medicaid funding should Maine restrict Medicaid eligibility below pre-existing levels is unconstitutionally coercive and violates the Medicaid holding of NFIB v. Sebelius. If, as oral argument in King v. Burwell suggested, some of the justices are interested in revisiting federalism concerns about the ACA, Mayhew is a potential vehicle. Indeed, although the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found Maine’s arguments unconvincing, Maine’s position would get a boost should the the federal government prevail in King on federalism grounds….”



Report: More Than 2,000 Illegal Immigrant Children Are Arriving Each Month in 2015

“More than 2,000 illegal immigrant children continue to arrive in the U.S. each month, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics compiled by the Center for Immigration Studies. While more illegal immigrant children are entering the country this fiscal year than at this point in fiscal years 2012 and 2013, the number of children crossing the border has not yet surged as it did last year.  The Center for Immigration Studies’ report shows that 84 percent of the children crossing the border are teenagers, most of whom are male. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which takes custody of the illegal immigrant children, has encountered kids from 27 different countries this year alone, according to the report. MORE IMMIGRATION RUBIO: I’M ‘REALISTIC ON IMMIGRATION’ GIVE ME YOUR TIRED ARGUMENTS, YOUR POOR REASONING OBAMA: GIVING IMMIGRANTS WORK PERMITS IS VITAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has attempted to spin earlier reports of the number of unaccompanied alien children to his benefit. “[T]he number of unaccompanied children apprehended at the southern border, month-to-month, are the lowest it has been in several years,” Johnson testified before the House Appropriations Committee last week. “As of March 15, 2015, the total number for the fiscal year is 43 percent less than it was the same time last year.” But the charts Johnson included with his written testimony, do not seem to fully back up his assertion. More unaccompanied alien children crossed during January and February of this year, than did during the same time frame in 2012. Moreover many children still cross as family units, with siblings, parents, or other relatives. Several Border Patrol agents and law enforcement officials at the southern border expect another influx of illegal immigrants will occur again this summer, and have already begun preparing for a second wave of illegal immigrant children from Central America. Whether DHS and other federal departments are prepared to handle any increase in illegal immigration remains to be seen, but CIS claims that fewer than 200 illegal immigrant children are deported by ICE each month…”


Second Wave of Illegal Alien Minors Now Crossing Border (continuation of previous article)



“The decline in gang member arrests raises concerns about just how much of a priority for immigration enforcement international gangs are under the Obama administration’s policies, according to Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) expert Jessica Vaughan. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Data that Vaughan recently obtained via a Freedom of Information request reveals that since 2005 ICE has arrested more than 32,200 gang members. Arrests of such violent gang members reached a high in 2012 but then plummeted by more than 25 percent the following year. Such arrests continued to decline in 2014. “This recent record calls into question President Obama’s claim that gang members are among the highest priorities for enforcement,” Vaughan writes in her most recent report. “The administration has been severely criticized for legalizing known illegal alien gang members in the controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, including Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez, who has been arrested in North Carolina for the murder of four people.” Indeed, Rangel-Hernandez has been the subject of congressional interest after the Senate Judiciary Committee this month confirmed that the murder suspect avoided deportation because he was approved for DACA. Vaughan’s report also looked at the countries of origin for gang arrests and concludes that arrests were “disproportionately” from Central American gangs. According to the most recent 2013 data the top four countries of origin of arrested gang members were Mexico (45 percent). Honduras (21 percent),  El Salvador (13 percent), and Guatemala (4 percent). Her report also notes that Texas law enforcement says Border Patrol in south Texas has been encountering an increasing number of MS-13 members since 2011. The south Texas gang phenomena, Vaughan explains, “corresponds with the increase in Central American minors and families arriving illegally. In 2014, 43 percent of all gang members encountered in the Rio Grande Valley sector were affiliated with MS-13. Of these, 11 percent were minors.”…”



“A group of Republican senators say they are aware of allegations of workplace retaliation against Homeland Security personnel who — in conflict with the administration’s immigration policies — are “faithfully discharging the duties of the offices in which they serve.” The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest revealed it is investigating the potential retaliation against DHS employees who have allegedly been punished for not complying with the administration’s enforcement priorities. “[W]e are aware of multiple allegations of targeting and retaliation against DHS personnel who refuse to comply with this Administration’s willful disregard of our immigration laws—such as allegations made in lawsuits filed in federal court by an award-winning ICE attorney and by a group of 10 ICE officers and agents,” the eight Republicans wrote in a Tuesday letter to DHS Sec. Jeh Johnson. The Republicans noted a recent comment from President Obama during a MSNBC/Telemundo town hall discussion in which his indicated that immigration officers would be punished for failing to adhere to his executive amnesty. “There may be individual [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)] officials or Border Patrol who aren’t paying attention to our new directives,” they quoted Obama. “But they’re going to be answerable to the head of the Department of Homeland Security, because he’s been very clear about what our priorities should be… If somebody is working for ICE and there is a policy and they don’t follow the policy, there are going to be consequences to it.” According to the senators — specifically Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Sens. David Vitter (R-LA), David Perdue (R-GA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) — the statement helps explain why moral is so low among DHS personnel…”


The AFL-CIO Is Helping Obama Legalize New Competiton for Its Members

“From USA Today: The AFL-CIO began a nationwide campaign Tuesday to help thousands of undocumented immigrants sign up for President Obama’s programs to protect them from deportation and allow them to work legally in the USA. The massive effort is moving forward despite the fact that two of Obama’s three executive actions on immigration have been put on hold because of court challenges. More than 200 union members from 25 states gathered in a Holiday Inn in Washington for three days of training designed to allow them to return home and begin helping undocumented workers seek legal status. “If anyone asks you why we’re holding this training now, while we wait for a judge to either clear the way or put up another hurdle, tell them this progress can be stalled but it cannot be stopped,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told members of two dozen unions. “We’ve come this far. We’re going forward. We will not be turned back.” I hope it’s not too jingoistic these days to note that the American Federation of Laborers and Congress of Industrial Organizations was once concerned with the prospects of its existing members — which often meant opposing competition from foreign labor — rather than restocking its stagnant membership with formerly illegal workers, who will see their wages rise as already-legal laborers see theirs drop. That, of course, was a while ago, and the AFL-CIO and other big-time labor groups in the U.S. have been solidly in favor of comprehensive immigration reform by any means necessary for some time now.”


Labor Leader: ‘We Will Not Stop’ Fighting For Immigration Reform


Obama’s Other Executive Action on Immigration

“While the president’s amnesty gets all the ink, his plan to flood the U.S. with cheap foreign workers proceeds apace. When President Obama issued a series of executive orders on immigration last November, he unleashed a fierce torrent of criticism for granting millions of undocumented immigrants a de-facto amnesty. Lost in all the attention paid to that fight, however, was a lesser known executive action taken at the same time, one which the administration claimed would “modernize, improve and clarify immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs to grow our economy and create jobs.” Now, the Obama administration has issued guidance clarifying what exactly their modernized, improved visa system will look like, and it’s not pretty: It appears that the president aims to unilaterally overhaul a critical visa program to usher in a flood of cheap foreign labor, crowding thousands of American workers out of their jobs and potentially discouraging many more from reentering the workplace. Analysts say the president’s actions, which have gone largely unnoticed by the public, will bring in thousands of foreign workers on L-1 visas to fill job vacancies in the U.S. The visa program allows an employer to transfer an employee within its organization from a foreign office to an American office. Most notably, many Indian workers come to the U.S. on L-1 visas to fill information-technology positions. The L-1 program is not supposed to replace American workers with foreign nationals. But that’s what’s happening. Michael Emmons, who from 1997 until 2002 worked as an information-technology contractor at Siemens, the multinational engineering giant, was forced to train his foreign replacement when Siemens pushed out its employees in favor of cheaper labor from abroad. (“Forced” is the right word for it, too: The company threatened to withhold severance pay from those outgoing American employees who refused to train their foreign replacements.) The foreign workers were paid far less than the Americans they replaced because the same wage constraints that are in place for the employers of other visa-holders and American workers do not exist for those that use L-1 workers. “It’s just dumbfounding to me, absolutely dumbfounding,” Emmons says. The government, he says, doesn’t “care about us. They don’t care about me, you, our kids. They care about the corporations that line their pockets.”


Justice Department appeals federal judge’s hold on Obama’s immigration action (continuation of yesterday’s article)


U.S. Files Appeal of Texas Judge’s Hold on Immigration Action


There is No ‘Hispanic Position’ on Immigration

“More often than not, it seems as though Univision cannot complete the day’s newscast without mention of at least one immigration-related story. This persistent fixation on the heated topic of immigration blatantly ignores the fact that though the Latino community is affected by it, it is not defined by it. In wake of the upcoming 2016 presidential elections, once again immigration is being portrayed as the sole determinant of a candidate’s ability to woo the Latino voter.”


Cesar Chavez marchers call for higher wages, immigration reform


Immigration Reform 2015: Georgia Lawmakers Defeat Driver’s License Ban For Undocumented Immigrants Under Obama Relief

“Georgia legislators rejected a measure Tuesday that would have prohibited undocumented immigrants benefiting under President Barack Obama executive immigration actions from getting a state driver’s license. With a 27-16 vote, the Georgia Senate defeated a Republican floor amendment that aimed to extend an active ban on driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants to those who have received “deferred action” on their status in the country, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported. The Georgia lawmakers then passed an underlying bill that brings driver’s license regulations into compliance with federal law. Sen. Josh McKoon, the Republican who proposed the amendment, said undocumented immigrants were costing Georgia $2.4 billion per year and sought to discourage illegal immigration by imposing a ban on licenses. Democrats in the Georgia Senate who opposed the measure argued that it was unfair to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children by their parents and are now enrolled in school or working and paying taxes…”



“Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Rep. Luis Gutierriez (D-IL) will be keynote speakers for a pro-amnesty Hispanic group’s convention in April. Bush and Gutierrez, both of whom have been vocal about the need for a comprehensive amnesty bill, will headline the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference’s (NHCLC) annual convention, which will be held April 28-30 in Houston. “We are thrilled to have such prestigious speakers join us for this very important gathering,” NHCLC President Rev. Samuel Rodriguez said in a statement. “This convention will bring together influential Christian Hispanic leaders from around the world to address vital issues of our generation from racial reconciliation and Christian persecution to prison and immigration reform.” Rodriguez has also been vocal about the need for comprehensive amnesty legislation. He has said there is a “biblical obligation” to pass such a bill and even warned Republicans that they will suffer in 2016 if they do not support amnesty legislation even though multiple studies have shown that Republicans can win the White House in 2016 and beyond without supporting amnesty legislation…”



“After confirming that he plans to make an announcement about his plans for 2016, Senator Marco Rubio described himself as “realistic” on immigration reform. “I think I’m realistic on immigration,” said Rubio during an interview on the Fox News program “The Five,” pointing out that the current status of the immigration system was “not sustainable.” Rubio pointed to President Obama’s executive orders as problematic to immigration reform, making comprehensive reform impossible. “The American people will not support doing anything further on immigration until first they believe that illegal immigration in the future is under control,” Rubio said. “If that happens, I think that people are willing to be very reasonable about what we do with those here now, that have been here for a long time and have not otherwise violated our laws.” But first, Rubio explained, the United States government has to prove to skeptical Americans that it’s possible to stop future illegal immigration. “Until you can show them, not tell them, until you can show them that you are going to bring future illegal immigration under control, I think it’s impossible to move forward on anything else on immigration,” he said. “That’s just the fact given what has happened over the last couple of years.”



Americans Must Work Jan. 1 Through April 24 Just to Pay Taxes

“Tax Freedom Day will arrive this year on April 24 – 114 days into the year – according to a report from the Tax Foundation. “Tax Freedom Day is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its federal, state, and local tax bill for the year,” explained the Tax Foundation. “Tax Freedom Day takes all federal, state, and local taxes and divides them by the nation’s income. In 2015, Americans will pay $3.28 trillion in federal taxes and $1.57 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total tax bill of $4.85 trillion, or 31 percent of national income. This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 24, or 114 days into the year. “This year, Americans will work the longest to pay federal, state, and local individual income taxes (43 days),” the report stated. “Payroll taxes will take 26 days to pay, followed by sales and excise taxes (15 days), corporate income taxes (12 days), and property taxes (11 days). The remaining 7 days are spent paying estate and inheritance taxes, customs duties, and other taxes. “Tax Freedom Day is a significant date for taxpayers and lawmakers because it represents how long Americans as a whole have to work in order to pay the nation’s tax burden,” explained the Tax Foundation…”


Obama Hints At Support For Downsizing Military Pensions By 20 Percent

“President Barack Obama Monday hinted at support for the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission’s recommendation in January to cut military pensions by 20 percent. After two years looking into compensation and interviewing servicemembers, the commission created a set of 15 recommendations in January to reform health and retirement in the military. Obama has now come out and stated that he believes the recommendations to be “an important step forward,” Military Times reports. However, the White House made clear general approval isn’t wholesale endorsement. One of the suggested reforms is to slash military pensions by 20 percent, and to end Tricare, the existing military healthcare system, replacing it with private insurance. Tricare costs continue to escalate while quality of care continues to decline. Some claim that Tricare is trapped in a “death spiral.” Other recommendations include better child care on military bases, as well as increased support for servicemembers who are often hit with high unemployment rates when transitioning back to civilian life. The report notes that veterans from the 18 to 24 age bracket suffered an unemployment rate of 21.4 percent in 2013, compared to a rate of only 14.3 percent for their nonveteran counterparts. Also included in the report is a call to boost funding for adequate nutrition. That Obama supports the underlying objectives of the report is clear, but it is likely specific proposals will be contextualized or tweaked. Obama will send a finalized list April 30 to Congress. White House support will make a difference when it comes time for Congress to seriously look into reform…”


Energy Department Gives $259 Million ‘Green’ Conditional Loan to Politically Connected Corporation

“The Department of Energy’s disastrous loan program lost taxpayers at least $780 million as companies like Solyndra, Fisker Automotive, and Abound Solar crashed and burned.   But as I write today, after a four-year hiatus, the Energy Department has announced a new fuel-efficient-vehicle loan — a $259 million conditional award to Alcoa. It’s a pretty sweet deal: The Energy Department touts on its website how this loan program “offers attractive financing for U.S. auto industry,” including no application fees, a closing fee of just 0.1 percent, and interest rates estimated at no more than 4 percent. Of course, one might wonder why a company like Alcoa, which brought in $23.9 billion in revenue last year, needs government (read: taxpayer) help. But it turns out Alcoa has major Obama administration ties. One of its top executives was a major Obama bundler; another was recruited by the administration as a counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; and the CEO serves on one of the president’s committees and has also partnered with the Obama administration on a few manufacturing initiatives. Alcoa’s “green” loan is supposed to fund the production of lightweight aluminum automotive bodies. Of course, the Department of Energy fails to note that aluminum is far more carbon-intensive to extract than iron—but that production occurs in Australia, far beyond the reach of U.S. regulations…”


More Taxpayer $$$ to Another ‘Green’ Obama Backer

“Politically connected Alcoa wins a loan to manufacture a product that will . . . increase carbon emissions. The Department of Energy last week announced a conditional loan of $259 million to Alcoa, Inc., supporting the manufacture of lightweight-aluminum auto bodies. The resurrection of the DOE’s controversial fuel-efficient-vehicle loan program is a bad idea in light of the agency’s awful track record on taxpayer-backed green investments. All told, the DOE’s loan programs have lost taxpayers at least $780 million. But Americans should also question why Alcoa, which tallied $23.9 billion in revenue last year, needs a helping hand from taxpayers. Then again, this corporate giant and its leaders have deep ties to the Obama administration. Daniel Cruise — who became Alcoa’s vice president of government and public affairs the same year Obama took office — has been a big Obama bundler, raising between $50,000 and $100,000, according to OpenSecrets.com. He has also donated thousands of dollars to Democrats, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Then there’s Jake Siewert. A former press secretary for Bill Clinton, Siewert worked as an Alcoa executive from 2001 to 2009, when the Obama administration tapped him to serve as a special adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The Obama administration has also repeatedly partnered with Alcoa to promote its manufacturing initiatives. In 2011, the president toured Alcoa’s facilities in Davenport, Iowa, using the plant as a setting for a speech that promoted his half-trillion-dollar Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP). Two years later, President Obama chose Alcoa’s chairman and chief executive officer, Klaus Kleinfeld, to serve on the partnership’s steering committee….”


Abolish the ‘death tax,’ say Senate Republicans

“Senate Republicans are rallying behind legislation from Sen. John Thune that would repeal the federal estate tax. The South Dakota Republican said the tax, which opponents refer to as the “death tax,” is punishing Americans “for a lifetime of hard work.”

“Death should not be a taxable event. For too long the federal government has forced grieving families to pay a tax on their loved one’s life savings that has been built from income already taxed when originally earned,” Thune said in a statement. “This tax punishes farmers and entrepreneurs for a lifetime of hard work.” Twenty-seven Senate Republicans have endorsed Thune’s bill, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.); Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), who is running for president; and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who is expected to launch a White House bid soon. McConnell called the tax “unfair” and “anti-family.”  “It is the federal government’s final insult to tax your family when you have already paid taxes on your property throughout your life,” the Kentucky Republican said. “The thought of having to visit the IRS and the undertaker on the same day is an absolute outrage.” Senators voted last week to include an amendment that backed the repeal of the estate tax in the budget. Every Republican, aside from Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), supported the amendment, which was also from Thune.  While the vote wasn’t binding, it did get senators on the record.  Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said ahead of last week’s vote that repealing the estate tax “is not about family farms or small business. This amendment benefits exclusively the wealthiest 0.3 percent of the families in this country.”  Under current law, a deceased person’s estate or assets have to be worth more than $5.43 million before they are subject to the tax…”

<a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action

Show more