February 21, 2014

Ted Cruz: GOP leadership used 'trickery' on debt limit vote

Sen. Ted Cruz said he doesn't regret bucking his Republican Party leaders while trying to block a vote last week to raise the nation's borrowing limit, accusing leadership of "trickery" and caving to Democratic demands.

In an interview with CNN's Dana Bash that aired Thursday, the Texas Republican said leadership abandoned the party's fiscal conservative principles when it agreed not to filibuster the Democrats' debt limit bill to allow the measure to pass on a simple majority vote in the 100-member chamber.

The deal would have allowed all 45 Republicans to vote against the measure while still ensuring its passage — a move that Cruz said is a "perfect illustration of everything that’s wrong with Washington."

"Republican leadership said is we want this to pass, but if every senator affirmatively consents to doing it on 51 votes, then we can all cast a vote no and we can go home to our constituents and say we opposed it," Cruz told CNN. "That sort of show vote, that sort of trickery to the constituents is why Congress has a 13 percent approval rating."

Senate Republicans initially were opposed to raising the nation's borrowing limit without also securing spending cuts from Democrats. But with the federal government poised to hit its debt ceiling by late February — a scenario economists say could trigger a recession or worse — GOP leaders were fearful of engaging in a protracted political fight they eventually would lose.

Cruz then demanded a 60-vote threshold to move ahead on the measure -- an unilateral right all senators posses -- in the hope of extracting concessions from Democrats. The move resulted in a dramatic floor scramble for votes, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and his top lieutenant, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, reluctantly having to switch their "nay" votes to "yea" in order to ensure passage.

A handful of other Republicans also switched their votes to support the bill in a move to provide political cover to McConnell and Cornyn, who are facing substantial primary challenges this year.

Cruz said that while he considers his Cornyn a friend, "I disagree with him on this."

Many Senate Republicans privately are furious with Cruz, characterizing his move as a political stunt that put himself -- and his public Image as a leading Tea Party figure -- ahead of nation's best interests.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was openly critical of Cruz, suggesting the Texan's failed block of the debt limit bill was an attempt to bolster his campaign war chest by endearing himself with his Tea Party base.

"That's what this was all about. And everyone understood that," Corker said. "There was no game plan."

But Cruz and other Tea Party advocates said the federal government instead should significantly cut spending as a way of reducing its ballooning debt.

"What I said at the outset was I am not going to affirmatively consent to giving [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid the authority to do this because it's irresponsible, it is selling our nation's future down the road," he said.

Cruz also denies intentionally "throwing under the bus" McConnell, Cornyn and his other party colleagues who switched their votes to support the debt limit bill.

"I would like to see all 45 Republicans stand together and actually do what we tell our constituents," he said.

When asked if it "stings" when his party colleagues criticism him, Cruz told CNN that "as a human being, I can't control what they say, how they behave."

But "I can control what I do," he said. "Every interaction that I have with every senator, Republican or Democrat, is consistently civil, courteous, respectful, treating them with the dignity that they deserve."

February 20, 2014

Surpeme Court asked to decide on three gun cases

The Supreme Court on Friday will consider whether to wade into a growing legal brawl over the scope of the Second Amendment and how far the Constitution goes in protecting Americans’ self-defense rights outside of their homes, with the justices deciding whether to take up three pending gun cases.

Six years ago, in the landmark Heller case, the court established that the Constitution guarantees a personal right to bear arms, but states — and lower federal courts — have made different judgments about what that means.

Now, in the key case, the National Rifle Association has asked the justices to take up a Texas challenge that questions whether states can impose restrictions on guns that the NRA says would be “unimaginable” if it were for free speech or privacy rights.

One of the other two cases involves a separate NRA lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, challenging whether federal law can require handgun buyers to be at least 21 rather than 18. The third case questions a 1968 federal law that prevents anyone without a federal firearms license from receiving or processing handguns bought or brought in from out of state.

“These cases present vital questions for gun policy: where you can carry a gun and who can have one,” said Adam Winkler, a specialist in constitutional law at the UCLA School of Law. “It’s only a matter of time before the Supreme Court has to answer these questions.”

Still, the Supreme Court has denied petitions to hear cases stemming from two federal appeals courts and could refuse to hear the latest challenges as well.

In the Texas case, state law prevents those younger than 21 from buying handguns and prohibits them from obtaining permits to carry concealed guns in public.

Several plaintiffs, who were ages 18 to 21 at the time, sued. They argued that the bans violate the Second Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Texas law, but other courts have ruled differently on questions about the public’s right to carry concealed firearms.

Most recently, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a law in San Diego County that requires applicants for concealed-carry permits to demonstrate “good cause” as to why they need guns for personal safety.

The 7th Circuit ruled against a concealed-carry law enacted in Illinois, and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th circuit courts upheld regulations approved in New York, New Jersey and Maryland, respectively.

Charles J. Cooper, the attorney for the NRA in the Texas case, said he was “hopeful and optimistic” that the court will take up the issue, particularly with the 9th Circuit ruling.

“It widens the conflict within the circuits on the issue,” he said, describing the ruling as “carefully obedient to the Supreme Court’s [ruling] in the Heller case, unlike the 5th Circuit and, quite frankly, other courts.”

The Obama administration has argued that age restrictions are not undue burdens on the exercise of the Second Amendment and said Congress has used evidence linking younger people to handgun-related crime to effectively tailor laws.

Nelson Lund, a constitutional law professor at the George Mason University School of Law, said the justices, who will meet in their regular private conference Friday to decide what cases to hear, could decline to take up any of the three.

“There’s been a lot of action in the lower courts, and the Supreme Court in situations like this often waits for what it thinks is a pretty good case,” Mr. Lund said. “They’re very rarely in a hurry to get these things decided. I don’t think the chances are real high.”

He said it’s more likely that the justices will wait for a case that presents big issues about carrying guns in public — possibly a lawsuit over states that give themselves leeway to judge whether someone needs to carry a concealed weapon.

Those states are known as “may carry” jurisdictions, while other states that presume a person eligible unless they are discounted by dint of criminal record or mental problems are considered “shall carry.”

Edward Leddy, a former director of the Center for the Study of Firearms and Public Policy, said a challenge to a “may carry” law would present stark Second Amendment questions that the court could settle.

He said that as a parole officer for two decades in New York, he handled plenty of cases involving murderers and even three serial killers and would have reason to fear retribution. But when he applied for a concealed-carry permit, his need for a gun was questioned.

“May issue and shall issue is a lot more important distinction than people realize,” Mr. Leddy said. “It certainly is always an issue and will continue to be.”

The justices have the option of granting petitions, known as writs of certiorari, on any or all of the cases; denying them; or taking no action.

But, Mr. Winkler said, “I think the court will have to deal with ‘may issue’ sooner rather than later.”


February 19, 2014

Issues of corruption, fraud in investor-visa program date back two decades

An investor-visa program Congress wants to permanently extend was rife with fraud and corruption from its start more than two decades ago, with hundreds of millions of dollars improperly diverted as government officials lamented a persistent lack of oversight and an inability to investigate or prosecute the perpetrators.

Internal documents obtained by The Washington Times about the EB-5 investor visa program called for investigations into a handful of companies that appeared to be abusing the system — though only one of those companies seems to have been prosecuted. One memo said a plan to launch a full investigation was derailed by a lack of resources and by the perpetrators’ efforts to thwart it.

In a March 2002 Immigration and Naturalization Service memo, Senior Special Agent Elizabeth M. Goyer said the EB-5 program was dominated by a handful of private companies, most of them run by or closely associated with former high-ranking INS and State Department officials who were making money from being the middlemen on the visas.

“At least two of these companies were owned and operated by convicted felons who engaged such former officials to promote their fraudulent EB-5 schemes,” Ms. Goyer’s memo read, recommending that a task force be formed to conduct a full investigation and clean up the program.

More than a decade later, the EB-5 program is again under scrutiny after reports that high-ranking Democrats pressured U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, one of the agencies into which the INS split, to approve visas over the objections of career officers who deemed the applications to be unqualified.

The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general is investigating the program and the former director of USCIS, Alejandro Mayorkas, whom President Obama has since promoted to be deputy secretary of Homeland Security.

The EB-5 program was designed to spur investment by rewarding rich foreigners who commit to at least $1 million in job-creating U.S. businesses — $500,000 in economically depressed areas — with green cards, signifying lawful permanent residency.

Applications associated with the EB-5 program traditionally have a low denial rate, meaning the government accepts most people who make claims based on the investor program.

Repeated warnings

As of the 2002 memo, Ms. Goyer said just one EB-5 promoter, Interbank, had been the subject of a full criminal investigation. Company leaders eventually were convicted on charges of immigration fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

The Homeland Security Department said none of the foreign investors was complicit in the fraud, however, and in fact some lost the funds they invested and were denied green cards.

There is no evidence that any of the other companies Ms. Goyer and others thought should be investigated ever faced that sort of scrutiny.

A 2004 memo from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, another of the agencies that INS broke into after the Homeland Security Department was created, acknowledged that the previous effort had been sidetracked.

“Two years ago, the INS proposed an investigative initiative targeting six of the largest EB-5 promoters,” the memo said. “Efforts to implement the plan were hampered by a lack of resources, by competing priorities, by the complexity and scope of these schemes, and by the continuous efforts by the EB-5 promoters and others to force the former INS (and then HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT) to abandon attempts to restore integrity to the program.”

ICE “has been attempting to preserve the viability of these investigations by trying to ensure that legislative and regulatory changes, civil litigation, and policy decisions do not effectively render immaterial the misrepresentations in the EB-5 petitions of the targeted promoters,” the memo said.

Read the entire article

February 18, 2014

DHS official Marrone used private eye to spy on future Pennsylvania governor Rendell

When his past in a Pennsylvania corruption case surfaced recently, Homeland Security chief of staff Christian Marrone’s defenders insisted he was a victim of a crooked politician who took advantage of his inexperience as a young legislative aide. Some even suggested that Mr. Marrone was a whistleblower for helping prosecutors convict his former boss.

But emails and documents obtained by The Washington Times from court files show Mr. Marrone initiated some of the very activities that captured prosecutors’ interest and led to the downfall of his former boss, state Sen. Vincent Fumo. Some of those activities even personally benefited Mr. Marrone in the process.

For instance, Mr. Marrone accepted $4,000 from a publicly funded nonprofit run by Fumo to pay the cost of his bar review course. The money from the tax-exempt charity was supposed to help revive blighted urban neighborhoods.

While collecting a taxpayer salary, Mr. Marrone also gave Fumo a suggestion to disguise the true source of a proposed political donation from a developer and conceived a plan to spy on Edward G. Rendell to find dirt that could undercut the Philadelphia mayor’s campaign for governor.

“I’d like to snoop around and see if we can dig up some info,” Mr. Marrone wrote in one 2001 email in which he proposed hiring a private investigator to spy on renovations at one of Mr. Rendell’s homes to determine whether he was using nonunion workers. He later asked Fumo for permission to turn over the private eye’s findings to Mr. Rendell’s political rival.

‘Willing participant’

Such activities, gleaned from exhibits in the 2008-09 court case that sent Fumo to prison for 55 months on corruption charges, contrast with Mr. Marrone’s portrayal that he was a unwitting “victim of Vince” who simply carried out orders without knowing what he was doing was wrong, a government watchdog told The Times.

“These emails pretty clearly show he was a willing participant,” said Craig Holman, legislative director at the watchdog group Public Citizen.

He also pointed out that prosecutors nonetheless concluded that Mr. Marrone shouldn’t be charged with crimes.

“There may not be anything illegal about using a private investigator to spy on a political figure, but it smacks of Nixonian-style dirty politics.”

The emails also raise fresh questions about the security background check that cleared Mr. Marrone for his current job. This month, he began overseeing a department with billions of dollars in grant money and access to some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets, security analysts said.

The contrast between Mr. Marrone’s claims and the emails in the corruption case should have raised a red flag when the U.S. government vetted him for a security clearance years later, said Mark Riley, a Maryland lawyer who represents people who have been denied clearances or had them revoked.

“If you’ve been in business with criminals, if you’ve accepted favors from them, that should give any security clearance investigator great concern,” Mr. Riley said. “Pleading ignorance is no excuse — if he walks like a duck, acts like a duck, he’s probably a duck. Investigators should’ve uncovered that.”

The quality of Mr. Marrone’s background check also concerns Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican whose House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security has begun demanding answers from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on why he appointed Mr. Marrone to such a sensitive position.

Mr. Chaffetz began his review after an article in The Times revealed Mr. Marrone’s connections to the Fumo criminal case.

Read the entire article

February 17, 2014

Kathleen Sebelius won't say whether still fundraising to promote Obamacare

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and other department staff may be continuing to solicit private donations to help an outside group promote the president's health care law as the administration works to boost enrollment figures after a troubled fall rollout.

News last May that Sebelius had asked business executives and nonprofit groups to donate to Enroll America, a nonprofit organization formed to help encourage millions of Americans to sign up for the new Obamacare insurance exchanges, provoked an uproar among Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Two GOP-led House committees launched investigations, and several Republican senators called on the Health and Human Services inspector general to investigate Sebelius' fundraising drive, which watchdogs have described as an unethical shakedown for cash.

Eight months after the news broke, Sebelius' spokeswoman last Friday sidestepped questions from the Washington Examiner on whether her boss has continued to solicit funds from outside groups for Enroll America's efforts.

“The secretary has engaged in a sustained, aggressive outreach campaign to reach as many Americans as possible during open enrollment,” HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said in an emailed statement Friday afternoon.

“We're [sic] have been working closely with a range of partners groups across the country to reach the uninsured, and to help get them enrolled in quality, affordable health insurance,” Peters continued.

She did not respond to a follow-up question specifically asking whether Sebelius has continued the fundraising.

Peters made the statement in response to several questions the Washington Examiner posed about the details of emails between Enroll America officials and Health and Human Services aides, including some with staffers from the White House Office of Public Engagement.

The emails, which the Washington Examiner obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveal a close working relationship between top HHS aides, Sebelius, Enroll America and former White House aides on their fundraising efforts.

The Examiner asked whether Sebelius believed the close working relationship is appropriate and whether Sebelius has continued fundraising for Enroll America since news first broke about the solicitations last May.

In addition to weekly conference calls between Enroll America staffers and key HHS aides, the emails show the nonprofit's efforts to urge HHS aides and Sebelius herself to solicit funds on its behalf.

In one Feb. 26, 2013, email with the subject line “Re: H/R block,” Enroll America President Anne Filipic wrote to Anton Gunn, the former head of HHS's Office of External Affairs, and Sol Ross, the director of business outreach in the department's Intergovernmental and External Affairs Office.

She mentioned a meeting Sebelius had with H&R Block executives ahead of their own meeting scheduled for that day and said she wanted to put the matter “at the top of your inbox” to make sure “we're all on the same page in terms of the asks we will make of them.”

“We are meeting with H&R Block tomorrow and are eager to touch base in advance of that,” Filipic wrote. “I know the secretary met with them yesterday and just want to be sure we're all on the same page in terms of the asks we will make of them.”

Filipic worked for President Barack Obama as deputy director of White House public engagement before helping create Enroll America.

In another email between Filipic and Gunn with the subject “H&R,” Filipic asked whether a call from “KGS is in the works” and urges HHS action to get “that number up” — an apparent reference to a fundraising goal.

“Hey Anton — Martine mentioned that you all have a conversation with Theresa and the H&R team scheduled for today. We're trying to figure out next steps here (really need to get back to them this week) and are wondering if a call from KGS is in the works. Could you share your thoughts after you talk with Theresa?” Filipic wrote.

“We'd really love the help getting that number up but don't want to miss the opportunity here, and they've made clear they are on a quick timeline. I'll be eager for your thoughts!” she concluded.

The Washington Examiner made the FOIA request last June for “any and all [HHS] emails containing the term Enroll America.” The HHS FOIA office partially responded to the request Jan. 30.

The FOIA office located 448 pages of emails and documents shared between Enroll America and HHS, and released 257 pages of them. The office delayed release of another 179 pages of “responsive records” it said were “under review for consultation” and could not provide an estimate for how long the review would take.

In addition, the FOIA office redacted portions of the emails they provided, along with 12 pages in their entirety under an exemption that permits the withholding of records which are “deliberative in nature and per-decisional and contains staff advice, opinion and recommendation.”

The exemption is intended to preserve free and candid internal dialogue leading to decision-making, the office said.

A May 10 Washington Post article said Sebelius had contacted several private entities, including some in the health care industry, and asked them to contribute to Enroll America, which is made up of Obama campaign loyalists and former White House staffers.

The article quoted Ellen Murray, assistant secretary for financial resources at HHS, saying that the fundraising was an effort to “come up with a Plan B” once Congress denied funding to promote the Affordable Care Act's fall enrollment drive.

Under fire for the fundraising, a month later, Sebelius told the House Education and Workforce Committee that she has directly solicited two groups HHS does not regulate — the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and H&R Block. She also said she called three other groups HHS regulates but asked them only for support and didn't request a donation: Kaiser Permanente, Johnson & Johnson, and Ascension Health.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a nonprofit that supports anti-obesity and other health outreach campaigns, last year said it had contributed $14 million to Enroll America. It owns more than $1 billion worth of stock in Johnson & Johnson, which HHS regulates. The Food and Drug Administration, which is part of HHS, regulates Johnson & Johnson's drugs and medical devices.

H&R Block last year said it has doled out $500,000 to the group. As the country's largest tax services provider, the company stands to reap a windfall from new business in advising Americans whether they qualify for Obamacare tax credits or must pay a penalty for failing to buy insurance.

Kaiser Permanente, which has representatives on Enroll America's board, also has donated. As of November of last year, Enroll America officials said the group has raised $27 million so far from entities that include the Ford Foundation, the California Endowment, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Saint Luke's Health Initiatives, the Tennessee Hospital Association and Catholic Health Initiatives.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee and the ranking member of the Senate committee that oversees health policy, has argued that Sebelius' efforts are illegal because Congress has specifically denied funds for the Affordable Care Act's implementation and compared her fundraising to the Iran-Contra scandal.

Alexander and other Republicans in Congress have asked the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, and the HHS inspector general to look into the extent Sebelius and her staff are coordinating with Enroll America and other organizations.

Republicans say the Sebelius fundraising drive violates the federal Anti-Deficiency Act, which prohibits government agencies from accepting voluntary services or donations. But HHS officials contend that a section of the Public Service Act specifically permits the secretary to ask outside companies and entities to write checks to support health programs.

That act does not allow the White House to engage in the same type of solicitation of private entities, and White House officials have said they did not sign off on the fundraising although they were generally aware of the outreach plans.

Sebelius and House Democrats argue that engaging public-private partnerships to help promote the law is similar to what President George W. Bush's administration did to promote the prescription drug benefit in Medicare Part D expansion and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Watchdog and good-government groups disagree over whether Sebelius violated federal laws with the fundraising, but they all say asking private companies to financially support Obamacare's rollout raises serious ethical questions.

“Obviously, there’s an appearance problem,” said Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “If she was soliciting for a Girl Scout troop in her neighborhood — something totally unrelated to health care — I don’t think you would have these questions, but she is charged with implementing the most significant health care changes in a generation.”

February 14, 2014

Rand Paul’s team rips ‘completely inaccurate’ reports about NSA lawsuit

A lawyer critical of National Security Agency surveillance is denying reports that Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul lifted a class-action lawsuit from him, according to the senator’s political action committee.

“The Washington Post story is completely inaccurate; in fact, Bruce Fein has come out to dispute the story himself,” Sergio Gor, spokesman for RANDPAC told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Gor provided TheDCNF with an email from Fein, a former Reagan administration official, which read: “Mattie Lolavar was not speaking for me. Her quotes were her own and did not represent my views. I was working on a legal team, and have been paid for my work.”

On Wednesday, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank published a story in which Fein’s ex-wife Mattie, quoted using her married name, accused Paul and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of bilking her ex-husband out of money and proper attribution for his role in helping craft the class-action suit.

“I am aghast and shocked by Ken Cuccinelli’s behavior and his absolute knowledge that this entire complaint was the work product, intellectual property and legal genius of Bruce Fein,” she said, claiming to be her ex-husband’s spokeswoman.

“Ken Cuccinelli stole the suit,” she added, saying Paul “already has one plagiarism issue, now has a lawyer who just takes another lawyer’s work product.”

Last year, Paul was accused of lifting passages for his books and opinion columns from others without citation.

In his article, Milbank cited similarities between the language used by Fein and that of the final draft of the suit, which was filed Wednesday.

“Except for some cuts and minor wording changes, they are clearly the same documents,” Milbank wrote.
Members of Paul’s camp say Fein was a member of the legal team.

The suit alleges that Obama and the NSA are violating U.S. citizens’ rights by collecting phone users’ metadata. Paul and Cuccinelli, who recently ran an unsuccessful Virginia gubernatorial campaign, have teamed up in the past to criticize Obama and the NSA for the surveillance program.

The Washington Post has yet to update Milbank’s article. Other news outlets, such as MSNBC, cited Milbank’s article but later issued corrections.

UPDATE: Late Thursday, The Washington Post published an article by Dana Milbank showing the email exchanges between Fein, his ex-wife, Cuccinelli and Paul’s political team.

The emails show that Fein was frustrated with the announcement of the NSA lawsuit, and that his ex-wife thought that the team had stolen Fein’s intellectual property.

“My name was not on the complaint despite the fact that it was predominantly my work product over several weeks and two hundred hours of research, meetings, and drafting,” wrote Fein, in a complaint to Paul’s chief political advisor on Wednesday.

But Fein indicated in the email that he had no plans to severe ties with the Paul-Cuccinelli dyad. He also never accused the lawsuit team of theft or plagiarism.

“Going forward, I expect complete transparency and inclusion on all non-trivial decisions,” Fein wrote, in an email obtained by Milbank. “My name will be on all future pleadings. Ken and I plan to meet shortly to discuss these matters.”

Paul’s campaign spokesman declined TheDCNF’s request for comment.


February 13, 2014

The Nuclear Option -- 'I can do whatever I want': President Dines on Caviar While Debt Explodes

America’s president — heir to the world’s greatest document of freedom ever drawn up by man — strode across the hallowed grounds of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. With his hands clasped behind his back as a fuehrer surveying his troops or his kingdom, he told a gaggle of onlookers, “That’s the good thing about being president. I can do whatever I want.”

It may have been a lame attempt at despot humor, but it fell terribly flat and reveals a shocking unawareness of himself and what so many American people think of him. As if nobody in the White House grasps what a plague this president has been on our Constitution. He simply ignores laws he doesn’t like, rewrites others more to his liking, and shows complete disdain for the two branches of government designed precisely to keep the president in check.

It is easy to imagine Jefferson’s soul, which lurks around every doorway, in every boxwood bush at Monticello, weeping at President Obama’s words. But more likely, he chuckled — if mournfully. This always is how tyranny hatches, and nobody warned us of it more starkly than Jefferson.

Touring alongside Mr. Obama was French President Francios Hollande, who looks more like a dirty little man in a short trenchcoat than a president.

Oh my, how far we have fallen since Gen. George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette pulled off some of the most improbable battle victories in history to secure for mankind the first divine hope of freedom from millennia of murderous, cruel oppression.

As a politician, Washington carried out his duties with humility, respect, and devotion to the Constitution. Mr. Obama is a serial constitutional adulterer.

Mr. Hollande is simply an adulterer. Of sorts. He is so untrustworthy that he never even married the sad woman whom he successfully inseminated four times.

And then there is all this outrage from the media when the nasty little frog is caught hopping from one girlfriend’s sex lair to another’s all around the Elysee Palace. If only he had been married, none of them would have minded.

To this day, monuments remain to Marquis de Lafayette for his “unwavering loyalty” at Valley Forge, his brave gallantry in battle, and for brokering the French alliance to defeat the British crown.

Can you imagine the Marquis de Lafayette skulking around in a black motorcycle helmet between sex trysts to hide his shameful face? No, he preferred grand hats, tall with feathers — and he was worthy of them.

Tuesday night, the two presidents toasted each other’s greatness and engorged themselves on American caviar, quail eggs, oysters, and dry-aged beef rib-eye. What did you eat last night? Did you have cake?

Down Pennsylvania Avenue, meanwhile, Congress scurried about trying to squeeze even greater morbid debt out of us debt-sodden taxpayers. No, $17 trillion in immoral and unconscionable debt heaped upon our children and grandchildren is not enough for them. And merely suggesting that these Ponzi artists stop spending our money and start cutting their government will get you branded a reckless lunatic.

Wonder what Gen. Washington and the Marquis would say about that?

In the vicious Valley Forge winter of 1777, Washington and Lafayette bravely led the barefoot, sick, and starving men who suffered, fought, and died for the country and Constitution we inherited. All that misery they suffered so future generations might reap freedom and prosperity.

But today, here in this city, under this leadership, all has been reversed. They reap today all the freedom and prosperity they can conjure up while sowing the seeds of untold misery for future generations.

February 12, 2014

Fractured House approves debt ceiling hike; ‘clean’ bill drops all GOP demands

The House passed a “clean” debt ceiling increase Tuesday granting President Obama power to borrow as much as the government needs for the next 13 months, after House Republican leaders surrendered on their long-standing demand that debt hikes be matched with spending cuts.

Unable to muster his own troops, Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republicans, had to turn to Democrats to provide the necessary votes. The bill, which cleared on a 221-201 vote, now goes to the Senate.

The legislation must be approved by the end of the month, when the Treasury Department says it will run out of borrowing room.

Even as he advanced the bill and voted for it, Mr. Boehner washed his hands of the blame.

“It’s the president driving up the debt and the president wanting to do nothing about the debt that’s occurring,” the speaker said. “So let his party give him the debt-ceiling increase that he wants.”

Democrats hailed the vote as a victory and heaped praise on Mr. Boehner, who they said he put the country ahead of the tea party wing of the GOP by holding the vote.

Just 28 Republicans joined 193 Democrats in voting for the increase. Two Democrats and 199 Republicans voted against it.

“Once again, the Republican Party and their caucus has shown they’re not responsible enough to be ruling and governing here,” said Rep. Joseph Crowley, New York Democrat.

Business groups, worried about the effects of bumping up against the limit, urged Congress to act.

But conservative and tea party groups warned of dire political consequences for Republicans who voted for the increase.

For the past century, Congress has imposed a borrowing limit on the federal government. As the government has run up record deficits under President George W. Bush and Mr. Obama, lawmakers have repeatedly raised the limit — though it’s often been a major battle.

As of Monday, the gross debt stood at $17.259 trillion. It was $10.629 trillion when Mr. Obama was inaugurated in 2009.

Under the new debt policy, the government’s borrowing limit would be suspended until March 15, 2015, meaning whatever debts are incurred until then would be tacked onto the legal limit.

It’s impossible to predict how much debt would accumulate, but the government has added more than $800 billion in gross debt in the past 13 months.

For Republicans, the vote was a major retreat. When he became speaker in 2011, Mr. Boehner vowed to use debt increases as leverage to extract spending cuts. He set a goal of matching debt increases “dollar for dollar” with cuts.

In 2011, during the first debt fight of his tenure, he won a deal that has cut overall spending for two consecutive years — the first time that has been achieved since 1950.

Since that peak, though, Republicans have struggled to win concessions on three successive debt votes and has reversed its push against spending. Indeed, December’s budget deal offset some of the cuts Republicans won in the 2011 budget agreement.

On Tuesday, Republicans said they were left with little choice.

With so many Republicans opposed to any debt increase, leaders were unable to come up with the votes to pass a plan that would halt parts of Obamacare or build the Keystone XL pipeline in exchange for a debt increase.

Most of the 28 Republicans who voted in favor of the clean debt increase were leaders, chairmen of committees or members of the Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican who voted against the debt increase, said Mr. Boehner had no options, but he added that the result of agreeing to a third straight increase with no major cuts attached is that Republicans lose leverage in any future debt negotiations.

“I understood the previous times, but I think we’re slipping into a bad habit,” he said. “I’m not here condemning people for what they did — they’ve done it to try and deal with the immediate situation, but I think long term, we need to rethink how we do it and a lot of Democrats would like to get rid of the whole debt ceiling idea altogether. I think that’s a mistake, personally.”

Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats remained united throughout the battle for a clean debt increase. That left Mr. Boehner with no negotiating partner and no offer of his own.

“We don’t have 218 votes. And when you don’t have 218 votes, you have nothing,” the speaker told reporters ahead of the vote, explaining his lack of leverage.

Just a single Republican — Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan — spoke during the floor debate.

Most Republican lawmakers seemed eager to move on and saw the vote as a way to “clear the decks” of a thorny political problem and resume attacks on Obamacare and Mr. Obama’s other policies.

Democratic leaders were eager to debate the bill. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said it proved that Democrats were the ones interested in upholding the Constitution’s directive that the validity of the debt never be questioned.

“The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not in doubt,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

February 11, 2014

Article V of the Constitution: An Emergency Solution, Hidden in Plain Sight

Some people don’t believe it.

In school, we were taught, along with reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic, how the Constitution is amended: an amendment must go before both houses of Congress and pass a two-thirds vote. Before it becomes a permanent part of the Constitution, three fourths of the state legislatures would have to ratify it.

But there’s another way to change the Constitution, and it’s hidden in plain sight in Article V, one that many of us have never even heard of. Here’s the text of Article V:
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, also as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress…
Did you catch the second way to change the Constitution?

In addition to the way stated above, the founders put a little gift in Article V for us. In fact, George Mason is the one who made sure to include what some have called a “Constitutional Emergency Cord” to be pulled in case of government overreach. Mason urged his fellow founders, “It would be improper to require the consent of the National Legislature, because they may abuse their power, and refuse their consent on that very account.”

The founders paid attention to Mason’s argument and changed Article V to reflect this second way: Congress will call a convention if two thirds of the states petition to call a convention in which they can consider new amendments. In both the first and second scenarios, three fourths of the state legislatures must ratify the amendments before they become permanent.

Therein lies the beauty of Article V. It gives us two ways to change things up when times get challenging. Amending the Constitution isn’t too easy (which would throw society into chaos), and it’s not too hard (which would make the Constitution so rigid that the people might rebel against it).

Since the government has tried to reach into our homes, medical care, and pockets, frustrated citizens have talked of rebelling against the government or even secession. But this extreme reaction ignores the fact that the founders saw this day coming and gave us a Constitutional tool which allows us to restrain the out-of-control federal government. Knowing human nature, the founders knew the federal government would eventually grow like a fungus and try to cover every aspect of our lives. That’s why there’s a modern-day interest in Article V. Mark Levin’s book The Liberty Amendments brought it into the public eye, Glenn Beck has also been promoting it on his show, Hannity and Limbaugh are talking about it, and several well-known leaders – such as Tom Coburn, Michael Farris, Mike Huckabee, and David Barton – have publicly endorsed it.

As President of Citizens for Self-Governance, I’ve been advocating a convention of states since long before the idea reached the general public. We’ve even created a viable strategy to bring a convention to reality.

Many times, people lament how powerful and abusive our federal government has become, without realizing there’s a way to fight it – right there in Article V of the Constitution. So now you know. Now you see.

But we have to do more than just see it.

This week, the Convention of States resolution is pending in multiple state legislatures. Many state legislators are standing up and calling for an Amending Convention under Article V. These brave legislators are fighting to take the power from the federal leviathan and return it to you, the sovereign citizen. But they can’t do it without your help.

And you can help.

If you’re in Florida, Arizona, or Georgia, your self-governance moment is now. Call, fax, and email your representatives. Go to Convention of States and get the details of who is on the relevant committees so that you can reach out to the right people and tell them to vote for the Convention of States resolution.

Now you know it’s there, and now is the time. Article V of the Constitution: a solution as big as the problem.
It is our moral obligation to use it.

February 10, 2014

Schumer to GOP: Implement immigration reform law AFTER Obama leaves office

New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer had a rather novel :compromise” for Republicans claiming they won’t vote for immigration reform because they don’t trust President Obama to enforce it: “Enact the law this year, but simply not let it actually start until 2017 — AFTER President Obama’s term is over.”

After a heady January on Capitol Hill, when Speaker of the House John Boehner all-but-guaranteed Republican support for some type of comprehensive immigration reform, prospects for an immigration bill dimmed substantially. Many congressional Republicans in the House and Senate, while expressing a desire to change the status quo, are loathe to trust Obama to enforce the security measures placed in any law they pass.

So Schumer floated a new plan.

“There’s a simple solution,” he said. “Let’s enact the law this year, but simply not let it actually start until 2017 — AFTER President Obama’s term is over.

“Now I think the rap against him, that he won’t enforce the law, is false,” Schumer continued. “He’s deported more people than any other president. But you can actually have the law start in 2017 without doing much violence to it. You’d simply move the date back from December 31, 2011 to December 31, 2013 as to the deadline for people who can get either legalization or citizenships, so we can go after the new people who come in later. And it would solve the problem.”

The New York senator stressed that this is the last year an immigration reform bill would be politically possible. “Make no mistake about it, David,” he declared. “This view that we can get this done in 2015, 2016 is false. You’ll have the Republican presidential primaries that will pull people over to the right, Tea Party maximizes — so simple! Let’s say to our Republican colleagues, ‘You don’t trust Obama? Enact a law now, but put it into effect in 2017 [and] we can get something real done for America.’”


February 7, 2014

House Republicans hit wall on immigration reform

House Republican leaders are facing a wave of opposition from their rank and file on a plan to move ahead with immigration reform, prompted in part by lack of trust in the Obama administration, threatening chances of legislation passing in 2014.

Many House Republicans left their annual issues retreat in Cambridge, Md., feeling uncertain about the GOP leadership's new “Standards for Immigration Reform” blueprint, which would boost border security, expand immigration and provide legal status to those living here illegally.

Even those who back the plan say they don’t want to try to implement it right now.

“There is a total lack of trust on the Obama administration,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said. “It’s a very real factor.”

The Republican plan calls for tackling reform in smaller pieces of legislation -- addressing border security first -- rather than the comprehensive bill passed by the Democratic Senate.

Members told the Washington Examiner that even among those who want to address immigration reform, as many as two-thirds of the conference believe that action should be postponed to avoid having to negotiate with Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Republican lawmakers say the two Democrats have double-crossed the GOP on deals in the past, using tactics aimed at gaining political advantage instead of working on real compromise.

Obama has angered the GOP by using executive action to skirt Republican opposition on key issues, including immigration, implementation of his health care law and environmental regulations, they said.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, pointed to an Obama administration decision to release some detained illegal immigrants who they deemed low risk to their community. Jordan said the policy has resulted in thousands of illegal immigrants being freed from jail, including felons.

“When you have an administration that does that,” Jordan said during a conservative conference sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, “it's tough to negotiate with them and get something done.”

If the House manages to pass a series of immigration bills, Republicans say, the Democratically led Senate will try to use a House-Senate negotiating conference to subsume these piecemeal measures into a comprehensive bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for those living here illegally.

“I think we have a sort of irresolvable conflict here,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters. “The Senate insists on comprehensive and the House says it won't go to conference with the Senate on comprehensive and wants to look at it step by step. I don't see how you get to an outcome this year with the two bodies in such a different place.”

GOP Rep. Tom Massie, Ky., said he backs moving forward on an immigration reform plan and supports most of the principles put forward by GOP leaders. But he doesn’t want to take action until next year, at the earliest.

That’s when Senate Republicans may retake control of the upper chamber. At least a half-dozen Senate Democrats are at risk of losing their seats in November, so the GOP believes a takeover is highly possible.
“Now is not the time to do something,” Massie told the Washington Examiner. “If we go to a conference with Harry Reid, there is little to be gained and a lot to be lost and so we should wait for ten months to see what the outcome of the Senate race is.”

In the end, it will be up to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to decide what kind of legislation, if any, to bring to the House floor for a vote.

He’s under pressure from business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to pass legislation that would increase visas for both high- and low-skilled workers. But he knows moving too quickly could risk a rebellion from his right flank and could turn off the Republican voting base ahead of the November election.
“We are going to continue to discuss this issue with our members,” Boehner said.

“But I think the president's going to have to demonstrate to the American people and to my colleagues that he can be trusted to enforce the law as it is written,” the Speaker added, “It's going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”

February 6, 2014

Senate Republicans: No more Common Core ‘coercion’

Senate Republicans will introduce a resolution Wednesday that calls on the federal government to stop coercing states to adopt the Common Core educational standards.

The resolution is sponsored by South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, and is co-sponsored by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, Mississippi Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, and Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi.

The resolution asks the federal government not to use economic or regulatory incentives to persuade states to adopt Common Core. Compliance with the controversial standards should be determined by state and local officials, according to Graham.

“States and local educational agencies should maintain the right and responsibility of determining educational curricula, programs of instruction, and assessments for elementary and secondary education,” the resolution states. “The Federal Government should not incentivize the adoption of common education standards or the creation of a national assessment to align with such standards; and no application process for any Federal grant funds, or for waivers issued by the Secretary under the authority of section 9401 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7861), that occurs after the date of adoption of this resolution should award any additional points, or provide any preference, for the adoption of the Common Core State Standards or any other national common education standards.”

The Common Core education standards were first designed by the National Governors Association, but the Obama administration soon seized on them as a paramount federal policy goal. Through their Race to the Top initiative, President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have made federal grants available to those states that implement provisions of Common Core, the resolution notes. 

“The federal government has essentially bribed states into adopting Common Core,” said Graham in a statement to The Daily Caller. “Our resolution affirms that education belongs in the hands of our parents, local officials and states.”

Common Core implementation is currently underway in most states, though backlash from parents, teachers and conservative activists has led several state legislatures to halt the process. In some states, including New York, it appears that Common Core and its required standardized testing regimen will be delayed for years. 

Other states are simply renaming their standards to something other than Common Core in order to avoid scrutiny.