As New House Leadership Team Steps Up, Legislative Chaos Ensues

Today was former Majority Leader of the House Eric Cantor’s last day.

California Representative and former House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy and RSC Chairman and Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise officially took their respective posts as Majority Leader and Majority Whip Thursday evening – although, the positions had essentially been run de-facto since the results of the leadership election on June 19.

At the time of the announcement that Cantor had lost his re-elect in a shocking primary defeat and would be stepping down from his post on July 31, it seemed likely that the new leadership team would quietly assume their roles and take over a chamber with very little left of significance on the legislative agenda for the calendar year.

But, as Fox News' Senior Producer for Capitol Hill Chad Pergram likes to say, “Beware the Ides of August.”

In this case, troubles have come a day early in the form of a beleaguered border security bill that GOP leadership had pulled early Thursday for lack of votes. Then, shortly after 4 p.m. eastern time, word spread that the House would stay in session until a vote took place.

The Hill reports:

But just as it appeared the conference would leave town for a five-week recess having done nothing to respond to the crisis, Republicans held a closed-door conference meeting and emerged staying they would extend their workweek to try to get something done.

“We'll stay until we vote,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said after the meeting.

House votes adjourned Thursday evening with no set schedule for Friday votes; although, a legislative aide gave Townhall a run-down of what tomorrow would look like.

Members will meet Friday morning for a special conference committee in which they may get a “take it or leave it plan” from GOP leadership or hash out competing proposals for the border security legislation. They’ll then head to the Floor, debate the rule (more on that below), vote on the rule and then – theoretically – debate and take a vote on some form of border security legislation.

Before leaving Thursday night, the House Rules Committee passed a same-day provision, which would allow the House to suspend the rules and consider last-minute border legislation on Friday.

As lawmakers and aides scramble to get a plan together, both supporting and opposing forces are pressuring the House in either direction. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is on record saying that Congress should not leave until action is taken on the border issue. Senators Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions have been vocal opponents of the House bill.

The new leadership team (John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers) issued the following joint statement on the legislation:

“This situation shows the intense concern within our conference – and among the American people – about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president’s refusal to faithfully execute our laws. There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries. For the past month, the House has been engaged in intensive efforts to pass legislation that would compel the president to do his job and ensure it can be done as quickly and compassionately as possible. Through an inclusive process, a border bill was built by listening to members and the American people that has the support not just of a majority of the majority in the House, but most of the House Republican Conference. We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country.”

Spectators, like Guy Benson, think this is the time for GOP leadership to shine.

Let’s hope so. We’ll soon see.

Will House Republicans Lead or Melt Down on Border Crisis Bill?

Mission Accomplished, Harry Reid -- for now. The fractious House Republican caucus is once again teetering on the brink of embarrassing its leadership and handing a political win to Democrats and critics who say the GOP is too radical and irresponsible to govern. This has become a self-defeating tradition. The payroll tax flop of Christmas 2011. The fiscal cliff mess of 2012. The shutdown debacle of 2013. In each case, purists managed to derail legislation or leadership-backed compromises "on principle," with no viable alternative. The result: Democratic victory, featuring less desirable policy outcomes, fewer (if any) concessions from the other side, relying on Democrats for votes, and gaping public relations wounds. Yesterday afternoon, it appeared as though House Republicans were intent on adding "the border crisis fail of 2014" to the list. Evidently, though, enough members are angry about the prospect of going home for the summer recess without having voted on anything that they're going to give this thing one more shot tomorrow:

A few thoughts:

(1) Politically speaking, it would be malpractice to skip town having done nothing on this issue -- which everyone agrees is an acute, urgent crisis. Conservatives have not been bashful about labeling it as such, and for good reason. So Republicans' table-pounding about the problem, and endless demands that President Obama go to the border to survey the situation, all looks like cynical, empty point-scoring if they then proceed to do literally nothing about it before heading home for a month. Members will be asked about this crisis over the break. Republicans need an answer to give beyond, "Obama and the Democrats are terrible, and this situation is intolerable." They need to be able to say, "we've passed X bill that accomplishes Y and Z to alleviate the unacceptable status quo" -- and then pivot to nailing Obama and the Democrats, etc. etc. Passing nothing would also led Reid off the hook for his shameless obstructionism, rather than applying appropriate pressure via passed legislation. There's a reason why Reid has been doing everything within his power to derail Boehner's bill, including floating theories explicitly designed to turn House Republicans against each other. Sprinting into his trap -- again! -- would be unfathomably stupid.

(2) On principle, Republicans (at least nominally) hold one of Congress' two chambers. They're asking voters to give them control of the other one, too. Yes, it's true that Harry Reid has promised to kill the House proposal in the Senate and that Obama has issued a veto threat. In other words, even if the House passes something, it won't become law. Shame on the Democrats for playing such myopic and cynical games. But that is not an excuse for Republicans to abandon attempts to govern. Complaining about the other side's intransigence rings uniquely hollow when your own side can't get its act together in support of any solution. If Republicans believe the border situation is a genuine and immediate crisis, they have an obligation to act.

(3) On policy, I am not a member of the reactionary "do something!" crowd. Doing something harmful is worse than doing nothing, which is part of the reason why I opposed the Senate-passed 'gang of eight' comprehensive immigration reform package (even as I'm not broadly opposed to meaningful reform). I'm not here to tell you that the House proposal under consideration is perfect because it's not. Conn has listed a number of conservative objections to the bill, some of which have been disputed by Speaker Boehner's office. Sen. Ted Cruz (update: and Sen. Jeff Sessions) have intervened by convincing a number of representatives that it's imperative to pass legislation aimed at blocking the president from extending his DREAM-style (DACA) executive order to illegal immigrants beyond the cut-offs he established in 2012. Unless you move to shut off the magnet, Cruz argues, the problem can't possibly be resolved. This is a valuable critique of the House bill, and it induced Boehner to offer a compromise: He'd call for a vote on the underlying bill first, then immediately move to a vote on legislation addressing Cruz's point if the first bill passed. The goal was to pressure recalcitrant members into supporting the leadership's offering in exchange for a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote on Cruz's idea. Enough conservatives decided that this was insufficient, and balked -- on behalf of this "principle." Thus, garnering 218 votes became impossible, with Nancy Pelosi whipping hard against the bill. (Think about that for a moment: Obama, Reid and Pelosi all detest this bill. Surely it can't be a total "sellout"). In spite of its flaws -- real and imagined -- here are three things the House bill does:

(a) It changes the 2008 law that forces our border control agencies to treat illegal immigrants from central America differently from unlawful entrants from Mexico and Canada. This would make newly-arriving illegal immigrants eligible for immediate repatriation without a mandatory deportation hearing.

(b) It provides funding to facilitate an accelerated adjudication process for the minors who are currently being warehoused by the federal government at taxpayer expense. Let's differentiate between legitimate refugees and everyone else as soon as possible, and send the latter group home. The bill entails repatriation appropriations, too. These expenses are offset (at least in theory) with other cuts, and spend far less than the Senate's version, which de-emphasizes enforcement. The Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that the proposal would make it easier to repatriate illegal immigrants.

(c) It allocates money to treat these kids humanely -- food, shelter, etc -- in the interim. It is not a conservatives principle to oppose humanitarianism. As we deal with this crisis, we're not going to let the kids starve. That's not controversial.

(d) In addition to those three points, the bill's passage would guarantee a DACA vote, which Cruz et al have been insisting upon.

So, no, this legislative package cannot be accused of "doing nothing" to address at least some of the root causes of the present crisis. It is not worse than inaction. If conservative opponents have additional ideas that can improve the bill and tighten up problematic language prior to a vote, let's incorporate them. But passage requires 218 votes. That's a political reality and it cannot be discarded as an afterthought. Political realities and cold hard facts are always central considerations, unless you choose to inhabit a fictional universe. Finally, conservatives routinely inveigh against Obama's executive overreach (they're suing him over it, in fact), and they lambaste Boehner for relying on Democratic votes to pass certain items. While GOP dysfunction does not justify presidential lawlessness, it makes it easier for Democrats to defend politically. That matters. Also, making concessions to Nancy Pelosi in order to peel off Democratic votes only becomes necessary in cases like these if a relatively small number of Republican members make it so. (Technically, seeking Democratic votes would not violate the so-called 'Hastert Rule' in this case because a majority of the majority caucus appears to back Boehner's plan). It is not un-conservative to engage in serious, good faith efforts at governance. Enough of the unforced errors. These pathetic moves by Harry "the border is secure" Reid have provided House Republicans with an opportunity to lead:

They should seize it.

UPDATE - Nope. Kill the bill, argues Bill Kristol.

UN: Hamas, Israel Agree To 72-Hour Ceasefire

The UN is reporting that Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire staring Friday morning, according to the Associated Press.

A joint statement from the UN Secretary-General and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said:

This humanitarian ceasefire will commence at 8 am local time on Friday, August 1, 2014. It will last for a period of 72 hours unless extended. During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place.

We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the ceasefire.

This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence. During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured and restocking food supplies. Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period.

Israeli and Palestinian delegations will immediately be going to Cairo for negotiations with the Government of Egypt, at the invitation of Egypt, aimed at reaching a durable ceasefire. The parties will be able to raise all issues of concern in these negotiations.

We thank key regional stakeholders for their vital support of this process, and count on a continued collaborative international effort to assist Egypt and the parties reach a durable ceasefire as soon as possible.

Let’s see how long this one lasts.

Pavlich Destroys the Left's "Female Empowerment" Movement at D.C. Conference

Townhall’s Katie Pavlich is tired of the way the Left repeatedly defines women “by the pills they take, by their body parts, and as victims of their gender.” Yesterday, Pavlich spoke at the National Conservative Student Conference in Washington, D.C. to dispel a few myths about the Left and the political agenda behind their "female empowerment" movement.

Myth number one is that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is beneficial for women. Remember last year when the Left accused opponents of the mandate of “waging an assault on critical health care services for women?” Being a woman was described as a “pre-existing condition” since women pay significantly more for health care than men do. This is true, but not because health insurance companies are sexist. Statistically, women simply visit the doctor more often, purchase more prescription medications, and take part in more preventative medical services than men. Oh, and women also give birth to babies. Men do not. Therefore, women’s health related costs are greater because they consume more services and require more care.

Barack Obama’s re-election campaign targeted women voters in swing states who listed health care as their number-one concern. However, instead of the Affordable Care Act making services more affordable to women, many watched their health costs rise dramatically. As Pavlich explained, “According to the Manhattan Institute, Obamacare is increasing women’s rates by 62 percent nationally, and depending on the state, some women could see their premiums triple. In addition, millions of women have received letters stating their insurance plans are being canceled because they do not comply with the Affordable Care Act.”

Hypocrisy check: President Obama specifically and repeatedly said, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period.”

Health care aside, Pavlich noted that Barack Obama has repeatedly used women to get himself and other Democrats re-elected, though he hasn’t done much to get women back to work. “There are nearly a million fewer women in the work force today than when President Obama took office in 2009. Joblessness for women under his watch has jumped 15.5 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

Another myth: conservatives are against equal work for equal pay. “Continuing the theme of victimhood,” Pavlich said, “Democratic campaigns often capitalize on the argument that women get paid less than men for the same work and that conservatives are okay with that. We’ve all seen the headlines: Women earn 76 cents for every dollar men make. ... Despite liberals repeatedly hitting the campaign trail with a platform of equal pay for women, the United States has had equal pay laws on the books since 1963 when the Equal Pay Act was passed. In 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act banned gender-based wage discrimination. Both of these pieces of legislation were further bolstered in 1972 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Act.”

Do you want to know the real reason women get paid less than men? Many factors are involved, but a main factor is choice. Men tend to choose more lucrative career paths than women, pursuing engineering and business degrees at a much higher rate. On the other hand, lower-paying jobs in social work and the humanities are women-dominated fields. Additionally, women more often take time off to raise children, they work fewer hours, and they work less consecutive years than men. All of these are contributing factors to why women earn less money over a lifespan than their male counterparts.

Hypocrisy check: If we take a look at the wage gap in the White House under Barack Obama, women are paid significantly less since he took office in 2009. It seems President Obama should first begin fighting the gender wage war right at home.

The Left also endlessly promotes the idea that gun control protects women. Pavlich said it best: “Before women had a right to vote, they had a right to own a firearm. God may have made man and woman, but as the old saying goes, Sam Colt made them equal.” Why then, are feminist groups not teaching their members how to properly use and carry a firearm? Pavlich points out that “nearly 300,000 women use handguns every year to defend themselves against a sexual assault,” yet liberals “completely dismiss one of the greatest equalizers of all.”

Liberals claim they want all women involved in politics. The targeting scandal at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under Barack Obama speaks otherwise. Pavlich reminded us that Tea Party leaders were asked to “identify volunteers, to provide content of speeches, educational forums, names of speeches, names of minors attending events, copies of written communications to legislators, and more.” Guess who made up the majority of the leaders of these Tea Party groups? Women.

Pavlich also exposed the myth that only conservatives can be sexist. Let’s all take a moment to remember the Obama reelection campaign’s “Life of Julia” advertisement. This ad disgustingly promoted the perpetuation of the federal nanny state under the guise of women’s equality. The “Life of Julia” portrayed one woman’s life of government dependency from cradle to grave. If “Julia” voted for the Democratic Party, her health care, housing, education, and child care would all be subsidized thanks to Obama’s pro-women policies. Does making women dependent on government sound empowering to you?

Hypocrisy check: Notice how there was no “Life of John” equivalent, implying that women are the weaker gender and in greater need of assistance.

Pavlich says, “This is the true war to make women dependent on the political success of the Democratic Party and radical liberals. It’s a two-part war – a war waged to make all women subscribe to certain social behavior, involving complete sexual ‘liberation’ and ‘independence,’ and a war waged to convince women that the Left would give them everything they needed to achieve that narrow-minded view on life – if they pledge their political allegiance.”

To find out more about the Left deceives women, check out Katie Pavlich’s new book, “Assault and Flattery: The Truth About the Left and Their War on Women.”

Israel vs. Hamas...and the Media, and Hollywood, and Europe, and...

On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:

Dennis Prager comments on Israel's U.S. ambassador's (Ron Dermer) take-down of CNN's Israel/Hamas reporting while being interviewed on their network. Dermer made an appearance on Michael Medved's show to discuss. Prager on John Kerry's moral equivalency approach to the Israel/Hamas fight. Mike Gallagher and Newt Gingrich on the FAA cutting off U.S. flights to Israel. Sarah Palin called-in to Michael Medved's show to disagree with his stance on immigration. Bill Bennett and Gordon Chang on Putin's quest for more territory under the cover of the Middle East battles. Prager debunks the "crime is the result of poverty" myth.

BREAKING: Judge Orders DOJ to Release Fast and Furious Documents Withheld From Congress Under Obama Executive Privilege Claim

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit pursued against the Department of Justice by government watchdog Judicial Watch, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled documents being withheld from Congress under President Obama's claim of executive privilege must be turned over. Obama made the claim on the same day Attorney General Eric Holder was voted in criminal and civil contempt of Congress in June 2012.

"This order forces the Obama DOJ, for the first time, to provide a detailed listing of all documents that it has withheld from Congress and the American people for years about the deadly Fast and Furious gun running scandal," Judicial Watch released in a statement.

The FOIA lawsuit has been ongoing for 16-months and is now proceeding after a lengthy delay. The Justice Department originally asked the court for an indefinite hold on a FOIA request from Judicial Watch, citing executive privilege and an ongoing investigation. That indefinite hold request was shot down more than a year ago.

The documentation DOJ is required to now turn over is a "Vaughn index" of "all requested Fast and Furious materials from a June 2012 Judicial Watch FOIA request."

A Vaughn index must: (1) identify each document withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption." In ordering the DOJ to provide Judicial Watch the Vaughn index, the Court ruled, “In this circuit, when an agency is withholding documents under exemption claims, courts require that the agency provide a Vaughn index so that the FOIA requester – at a distinct informational disadvantage – may test the agency’s claims.”

“Once again, Judicial Watch has beat Congress to the punch in getting key information about another Obama scandal – this time, the Fast and Furious outrage,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “A federal court has ordered the Obama administration to produce information that could, for the first time, provide specific details who in the administration is responsible for Fast and Furious lies to Congress and the American people. This is a battle that put Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, saw Nixonian assertions of executive privilege by Barack Obama, and a hapless Congress in face of all this lawlessness. Finally, we may get some accountability for Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the countless others murdered as a result of the insanely reckless Obama administration program.”

This is a huge step forward.

Great Moments In Government: NY Governor, GOP Opponent Under Investigation For Ethics Violations

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is certainly taking some heat for torpedoing his own commission that was set up to investigate ethics violations and other felonious activities in state government. But there was a problem: the commission was looking into his friends. His office allegedly ran interference on some of the investigations conducted by the Moreland Commission, which was already marred by intra-office politics, especially between its executive director and its chief of investigations.

Now, New York’s U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is warning Governor Cuomo that his office could become subjected to an investigation over witness tampering and obstruction of justice. According to the New York Times, Mr. Bharara’s office has been looking into the reasons for Mr. Cuomo’s premature dissolution of his ethics commission:

In an escalation of the confrontation between the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo over the governor’s cancellation of his own anticorruption commission, Mr. Bharara has threatened to investigate the Cuomo administration for possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering.

The warning, in a sharply worded letter from Mr. Bharara’s office, came after several members of the panel issued public statements defending the governor’s handling of the panel, known as the Moreland Commission, which Mr. Cuomo created last year with promises of cleaning up corruption in state politics but shut down abruptly in March.

Mr. Bharara’s office has been investigating the shutdown of the commission, and pursuing its unfinished corruption cases, since April.

The letter from prosecutors, which was read to The New York Times, says, “We have reason to believe a number of commissioners recently have been contacted about the commission’s work, and some commissioners have been asked to issue public statements characterizing events and facts regarding the commission’s operation.”

“To the extent anyone attempts to influence or tamper with a witness’s recollection of events relevant to our investigation, including the recollection of a commissioner or one of the commission’s employees, we request that you advise our office immediately, as we must consider whether such actions constitute obstruction of justice or tampering with witnesses that violate federal law.”

The Times noted that William J. Fitzpatrick, one of the commission’s co-chairs, said that no such interference occurred, which contradicts what he wrote in his emails when the commission was active.

News of the governor hobbling his own crusade to wipe out corruption in the Empire State has only brought media scrutiny, which resulted in Cuomo throwing a temper tantrum. And giving a rather puerile response to the allegations that was read on MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier this week.

Cuomo, who’s running for re-election, isn’t the only one facing legal matters. Rob Astorino, his Republican opponent, is also the subject of an investigation. Allegedly, Mr. Astorino strong-armed staffers, family members, and friends to change registration to the Independence Party during his re-election bid for his Westchester County executive seat, according to Politico:

A New York prosecutor’s office is reviewing a request for an investigation of GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino over a messy lawsuit relating to a minor party and allegations that he made threats over an endorsement he didn’t get.

A spokesman for the Westchester County district attorney’s office told POLITICO officials are “reviewing” a request sent by lawyer Peter Tilem two months ago in relation to a civil racketeering case filed against Astorino by officials with the Independence Party over the 2013 endorsement process for Astorino’s ultimately-successful reelection effort.

The suit claims that Astorino tried to get friends and relatives to switch their registration to the Independence Party as part of an effort to secure their nomination in last year’s county-executive race, which ultimately went to his Democratic opponent. Astorino did not seek the IP’s endorsement in the gubernatorial race; the party has endorsed Cuomo.

New York permits fusion tickets, in which major party candidates can boost their margins by securing minor party ballot lines.

The complaint alleges that Astorino “coerced dozens of staff members, political associates, friends and family members” to change their party registration to the Independence Party. The Astorino-controlled county government allegedly back-dated registration forms and accepted documents after legal deadlines, a summary of the complaint contends.

Daily Kos Elections asked the following:

In a word: chaos. But, it’s the entertaining, popcorn-filled kind.

GAO: Trainwreck Resulted From Obama Admin Incompetence

Well, yeah. Obviously. But to hear the administration tell it, all those migrane-inducing rollout, er, hiccups ought to be laid at the feet of the private contractors who screwed everything up. Remember this?

A week after the contractors who built blamed the Obama administration for the site's failures, the administration is shifting the blame right back. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will tell a House committee tomorrow the site's botched rollout was the result of contractors failing to live up to expectations – not bad management at HHS, as the contractors suggested. "CMS has a track record of successfully overseeing the many contractors our programs depend on to function. Unfortunately, a subset of those contracts for have not met expectations," Sebelius said in prepared testimony for tomorrow's hearing before the Energy and Commerce Committee.

That would be the same disastrous October testimony in which Sebelius claimed had "never crashed." was crashed throughout the duration her testimony. CNN even put up a memorable live split screen. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has been assessing Obamacare's failures and renders a judgment on the administration's culpability amid the blame game:

Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president's new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday. While the administration was publicly assuring consumers that they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start. After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked "effective planning or oversight practices" for the development of, the portal for millions of uninsured Americans. As a result the government incurred "significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality," William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.

The report concluded that "contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead jumped around from issue to issue," and that the administration "failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed." The Associated Press' story on the findings repeated the claim that "eight million" consumers signed up through Obamacare's exchanges. This isn't accurate. According to estimates, roughly 15-20 percent of "enrollees" never paid their first premium, and therefore did not initiate their coverage. A health insurance executive said yesterday that an untold number of additional actual enrollees have ceased making payments, voiding their coverage. The "eight million" figure also includes a substantial number of duplicate enrollments, as millions of applications have been impacted by data discrepancies that are expected to end up charging them more, or terminating their plans entirely. The majority of "new" enrollees being touted by the White House already had insurance prior to Obamacare; a large portion of these people represent those whose existing plans were canceled under the new law, in violation of an opt-recited presidential vow. The GAO also just blew the whistle on woefully insufficient eligibility verification procedures, noting that 11 of their 12 fake customers were able to obtain coverage online or over the phone. All of these problems are exacerbated by a federal data hub whose 'back-end' payment systems have still not been built, and aren't expected to go live until sometime in 2015. A separate population of consumers who may like their new plans stand to face sharply higher bills next year after they're automatically re-enrolled in plans with shifting costs. If they don't want to pay more, they'll need to switch coverage -- again, in many cases. Obamacare consumers across the country have been complaining about trouble finding doctors and facilities that accept their plans, and a rash of premium increases have been been announced for the coming year. National Journal reports on how much taxpayers have already sunk into

The Obama administration has spent roughly $840 million on, including more than $150 million just in cost overruns for the version that failed so badly when it launched last year. The Government Accountability Office says cost overruns went hand-in-hand with the management failures that led to the disastrous launch of and the 36 state insurance exchanges it serves...GAO says similar problems could arise again without structural changes in the way the government manages its contracts and spending.

That figure doesn't count the billions spent on state-level exchange websites, including hundreds of millions of dollars flushed away on failed or abandoned exchanges in states like Oregon, Maryland and Massachusetts. Administration officials at first didn't expect to have to build any exchanges, assuming that all 50 states would create their own, as outlined in the law. Most states declined to do so, however, yet Team Obama delayed and hid much of its work on the federal marketplace until after the president had been safely re-elected. The law's plain language states that only consumers who purchase plans through state-based exchanges are eligible to receive taxpayer subsidies, but Obamacare defenders say that was never the intent of the law -- creating a mess of contradictions and dishonesty. The best summary I've seen on the issue is here. Based on conflicting circuit court rulings issued within the last few weeks, the issue seems destined for the Supreme Court. I'll leave you with this, breaking today:

U.S. consumers who purchase private health coverage through the federal Obamacare website are likely to find only modestly higher premiums but may still have technical problems signing up, a top health official said on Thursday. "It won't be perfect," Andrew Slavitt, a newly appointed principal deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), told lawmakers at hearing before a House of Representatives oversight committee. "It's a bumpy process at times," he added. "I think we've got a committed team of people, though, that by and large are doing a very good job. But there will clearly be bumps."

Coming soon: Higher costs, more glitches. That, according to a high-ranking Obama administration official. Current and upcoming premium increases are being held down by bailout-style taxpayer payments to insurers through channels established in the law. The administration unilaterally expanded this hefty assistance at insurers' behest in order to head off even higher cost spikes.

How Will Obama Pay for His Next Unilateral Amnesty?

Speaker John Bohner (R-OH) announced this afternoon that the House will not be voting on his $659 million border bill before adjourning for the August recess.

This is a wise decision since giving President Obama any additional funds for the border would just make it easier for him to enact his next unilateral amnesty.

Supposedly, Obama has the legal authority to grant temporary amnesty (aka "deferred action" or "non priority enforcement" status) to anyone he wants to, whenever he wants to, based on his inherent "prosecutorial discretion" as the nation's chief law enforcement officer.

Congress, this legal theory reasons, has not allocated the funds necessary to deport all 11 million illegal immigrants, so in order to conserve resources Obama must decide which of the 11 million illegal immigrants he will or will not deport. In this sense, true prosecutorial discretion should save the executive branch money.

But Obama's 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is an unprecedented abuse of that prosecutorial discretion. Obama isn't just deciding which illegal immigrants he will or will not pursue. He is also granting those that meet his made up criteria a special new status that also allows them to get work permits, a Social Security number, and a drivers license.

Setting up a new legalization program and adminsitering the many new rules for who does and does not qualify for that program costs a lot of money. But Congress never approved Obama's amnesty and never approved any money for it.

So where did Obama get this money? The New York Times reports:

Many thousands of Americans seeking green cards for foreign spouses or other immediate relatives have been separated from them for a year or more because of swelling bureaucratic delays at a federal immigration agency in recent months.

The long waits came when the agency, Citizenship and Immigration Services, shifted attention and resources to a program President Obama started in 2012 to give deportation deferrals to young undocumented immigrants, according to administration officials and official data. …

Until recently, an American could obtain a green card for a spouse, child or parent — probably the easiest document in the immigration system — in five months or less. But over the past year, waits for approvals of those resident visas stretched to 15 months, and more than 500,000 applications became stuck in the pipeline, playing havoc with international moves and children’s schools and keeping families apart.

(emphasis added) In other words, Obama stole money from legal immigrants who played by the rules, and gave it to the illegal immigrants who benefitted from his DACA program.

If the House had approved Obama's $3.7 billion request for the border crisis he created, he could have just used that windfall to pay for his next unilateral amnesty.

But now that conservatives have blocked Obama's supplemental request, how will Obama pay for his next amnesty?

‘Sharknado 2’ Takes Chainsaw to NYC Gun Control Policy

I never thought I’d praise the filmmakers who brought us ‘Sharknado.’ But, according to the Twitterverse, ‘Sharknado 2: The Second One,’ which premiered Wednesday night on Syfy, took a much-needed jab at New York City’s anti-gun agenda.

To protect themselves from the sharks falling from the sky, the film's protagonists needed weapons. But, a character begrudgingly informed them, there were no gun shops in the city.

Try, if you can, to disregard the ridiculous plot and focus on the point: A machine gun would stop these sharks in their tracks a whole lot quicker than a chainsaw or a baseball bat.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo have been obsessed with wiping out firearms from both Manhattan and the state as a whole. Bloomberg spent millions to create an anti-NRA organization called EveryTown and Cuomo’s poorly named “SAFE Act” has prompted gun companies to flee the state and has essentially turned gun owners into criminals. What they ignore, however, is how guns have often proven to be life saving tools in desperate situations.

Katie recently wrote about Everytown’s new anti-gun ad which showed a woman being attacked by her ex-husband who was trying to take their child. Although the advertisement was trying to prove that we need to enforce more gun control, Katie pointed out that it inadvertently demonstrated how the victimized female could have actually protected herself if she had access to a gun in the home.

It’s not just these fictional characters upset with the Empire State's anti-gun policies. Actual New Yorkers have taken to the streets to give these politicians a piece of their mind. Their message? “Hands off our guns”.

Good to see Hollywood joining these freedom-loving New Yorkers and not being afraid to slam policies that aren’t working.

Click here to read some of last night's best pro-gun, anti-shark tweets.

CIA to Senate Intelligence Committee: Hey, Sorry For Spying on You

The NSA has been getting a whole lot of attention lately for it's spying techniques, but the CIA just stole the spotlight, even if just for a little while.

CIA Director John Brennen is apologizing for improper spying by CIA officials on Senators who sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee. More from the Associated Press:

CIA Director John Brennan is apologizing to Senate intelligence committee leaders after his inspector general found that CIA employees acted improperly when the CIA searched Senate computers earlier this year.

The controversy is centered on an investigation of the CIA’s interrogation and detention practices after the 9/11 attacks.

Chairwoman of the Committee Dianne Feinstein talked about spying allegations back in May. It is unclear if the Department of Justice will prosecute over the hacking.

BREAKING: Border Bill Back On Deck, Members Plan to Take Action Before Recess

Update (Amanda): House leadership announced that members will stay until a vote on border legislation takes place. Currently, there is no set schedule for the vote. It could take place late Thursday or Friday.

-- Original Post --

House leadership has pulled a border security bill from the floor, which means it will not receive a vote before Congress goes on their August recess tomorrow. The bill was pulled due to a lack of support and the necessary vote threshold could not be met.

Here are details on what the bill would have done from Speaker Boehner's office:

-Makes changes to a 2008 law to expedite the return of unaccompanied minors to their home countries by treating Central American children the same as those from Mexico. President Obama and members of his administration have repeatedly called for such a change, characterizing it as a “bipartisan priority.”

-Prohibits the Interior and Agriculture secretaries from limiting the activities of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents on federal public lands within 100 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Provides funding for National Guard troops at the southern border which, as Speaker Boehner noted in a letter to the president last month, are “uniquely qualified to respond to such humanitarian crises” and will “relieve the border patrol to focus on their primary duty of securing our border.”

-Pares down the president’s $3.7 billion request to $659 million, which is fully offset by cuts and recessions to existing funds, and specifically targets all funding toward addressing the most immediate needs at the border.

-Provides additional resources for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and CBP operations aimed at securing the border, increasing detention space, and expediting the processing and deportation of unaccompanied children and families.

-Increases the number of temporary immigration judges to enhance the capacity of the immigration court system, allowing the courts to process more cases and reduce the lengthy wait periods between detention and removal.

-Prioritizes repatriation assistance to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador from within existing foreign aid funding to facilitate the return and reintegration of children in their home countries.

-Expresses the Sense of the Congress that unauthorized migrants should not be housed on military installations unless certain conditions are met.

Over on the Senate side, Republican Senators Jeff Sessions and Ted Cruz have voiced loud opposition against the House bill.

Stay tuned for updates...

This post has been updated.

It's Over: Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Walker's Collective Bargaining Reforms

He endured massive protests and a contentious 2012 recall election, but Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has been vindicated in his efforts to curb union power in the state. The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld his collective bargaining reforms he enacted in 2011, ruling them constitutional (via Associated Press):

The fight over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's signature policy achievement, a law effectively ending collective bargaining for most public employees, ended Thursday with the state Supreme Court declaring it to be constitutional.

The 5-2 state Supreme Court ruling is another major victory for Walker as he heads into the statewide election. Federal courts twice said the law, which limits public workers to bargaining only over base wage increases no greater than inflation, constitutional.

"No matter the limitations or 'burdens' a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation," Justice Michael Gableman wrote for the court's conservative majority.

The law also requires public employees to contribute more toward their health insurance and pension costs, bars automatic withdrawals from members' paychecks and requires annual elections to see if members want their unions to go on representing them.

In a two-sentence statement issued Thursday, Walker praised the ruling and claimed the law has saved taxpayers more than $3 billion — mostly attributable to schools and local governments saving more money because of the higher contributions.

"Today's ruling is a victory for those hard-working taxpayers," Walker said.

Additionally, the Court upheld Wisconsin’s photo voter ID law, which was also passed in 2011.

It was challenged by the National Association for the Advancement Of Colored People (NAACP) and the League of Women Voters. The NAACP argued that the requirement wouldn’t protect the integrity of the elections and “severely burden a significant number of qualified voters,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

The Journal noted that the League of Women Voters argued that photo Voter ID was an "elector qualification" that violated the state’s constitution. The court ruled 5-2 in the state's favor in the suit brought by the League of Women Voters and 4-3 in the NAACP case:

The rulings in two separate voter ID cases were released Thursday morning among several major decisions issued simultaneously.

The law already was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court judge in Milwaukee this spring, meaning that Thursday's rulings have no immediate effect. That federal court decision is under appeal.

The NAACP, Voces de la Frontera and others had argued in their case that the law was unconstitutional because it would severely burden a significant number of qualified voters and was not necessary to prevent fraud. And the League of Women Voters argued that requiring voter ID was an additional "elector qualification" beyond what was required by the state Constitution.

In the case brought by the League, the law was upheld on a 5-2 vote with Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley dissenting.

In the NAACP case, the law was upheld on a 4-3 vote with Abrahmson, Bradley and justice Patrick Crooks dissenting.

In a scathing dissent in the League's case, Abrahamson wrote, "Today the court follows not James Madison -- for whom Wisconsin's capital city is named -- but rather Jim Crow -- the name typically used to refer to repressive laws used to restrict rights, including the right to vote, of African-Americans."

Again, this isn’t a poll tax, a literacy test, or anything resembling Jim Crow laws, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Right now, Gov. Walker is in the fight for political life. It also didn’t help news media engaged in shoddy reporting and bias (shocker, right?) regarding Gov. Walker’s alleged illegal coordination with outside conservative groups during his recall election.

Partisan Democratic district attorneys, as reported by our own Guy Benson, executed the so-called “John Doe” investigations, which were subsequently gutted by the state and federal courts. But, the media got their hands on a rejected subpoena, so you know, scandal.

Not something you want disseminated in a statistical dead heat with your Democratic opponent, but key legal victories nonetheless.

Bill Clinton Told Businessmen On 9/10/2001 That He Passed On Killing Osama Bin Laden

Newly-discovered audio from a September 10, 2001 meeting in Melbourne confirms that former President Bill Clinton could have killed Osama Bin Laden in the 1990s, but chose not to do so as hundreds of civilians would have also been killed. The audio was forgotten about until recently and was released on Australian television on Wednesday.

Clinton was asked a question about international security, prompting his response about almost killing the head of Al-Qaeda. (emphasis added)

“And I’m just saying, you know, if I were Osama bin Laden — he’s very smart guy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him — and I nearly got him once,” Clinton is heard saying. “I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.”

Hours later a terrorist attack organized by Bin Laden killed thousands of innocent men, women and children, fundamentally transformed the world as we know it and eventually led to two wars in the Middle East.

As my colleague Noah Rothman writes over at Hot Air, it's pretty fair to assume that Clinton would appreciate a do-over in this situation, but there are significant inconsistencies with Clinton's statement. Kandahar, for instance, isn't a small town—it's the second-largest city in the country.

Obviously, nobody in the room had any idea what was about to unfold in a few hours in New York, the District of Columbia, and in a field in Pennsylvania, but the world is still paying the price for Clinton's inaction in the mid-90s.

So, It Looks Like Warren Isn't Running For President

At Netroots, RedState’s Dan Spencer and I looked on as Democratic Senator from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren rallied the troops with her pugnacious brand of liberal populism. “She scares me,” said Spencer as we left the main ballroom, noting her unabashedly progressive leanings. What scares me about Warren, besides her positions on policy, is how she's become where the Democratic base aligns today. So, does this mean a future 2016 candidacy?


Last month, at a campaign stop for Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, Warren said in the strongest terms possible, that she’s not running for president (via Boston Globe):

Warren has said she has no intention of running for president in 2016, which she reiterated in an interview (“I am not running for president. Do you want to put an exclamation point at the end of that?”).

Still, the Washington Examiner’s Byron York wrote a good piece last April making the case for why 2016 is the time for Warren to run. Although, Warren’s donor base is warning her butt out of 2016 and let Hillary Clinton clinch the 2016 nomination; it’s her time, right? They’re also making it known that her candidacy could atomize the base. Then again, not everyone is ready for Hillary (via Daily Beast):

“If Elizabeth called me up and said, ‘I am thinking of running for president,’ I would say, ‘Elizabeth, are you out of your goddamn mind?’” said one New York-based donor who has hosted Warren in his living room. “I really like Elizabeth, but if Hillary is in the race it just makes no sense.”

This conversation was echoed again and again in more than a dozen interviews with big-ticket Democratic donors in Warren’s hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in cities that operate as ATMs for the Democratic money machine, like New York, Washington, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Over and over again, the message was the same: Stay in the Senate, Liz, stay in the Senate.

To be clear, the world of Warren-backers isn’t entirely ready for Hillary, and some are holding out hope that the Massachusetts senator joins the race.

“I think it would be very good if she were the nominee,” said Marc Weiss, a tech entrepreneur who helped fund a nascent Warren for Senate campaign soon after she announced. “She is closer to my views on almost every issue. I would be very enthusiastic if she decided to run.”

Well, it seems as if she has made her decision. Right now, she’s campaigning for her fellow Democrats across the country ahead of the 2014 midterms. That’s her focus, as indicated by the Burlington Free Press last month, where she delivered a few speeches in Vermont; consolidating her reputation as the point of the lance in this renewed populist resurgence.

AP Poll: Immigration Becomes Hot Potato for Democrats

A new national survey conducted by the Associated Press suggests that illegal immigration and the border crisis could be morphing into major political liabilities for Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. Key take-aways:

(1) President Obama's approval/disapproval rating on the issue (considered "extremely" or "very" serious by 67 percent of voters) is underwater by...37 points:


Republicans are now more trusted on handling immigration policy, a 10-point swing since mid-May:


By a nine-point margin (44/53), Americans say the United States government does not have a "moral obligation to offer asylum" to people who come here to "escape violence or political persecution in their home country." The public is split on whether minors who say they're "fleeing gang violence" should be treated as refugees -- with a small majority (46/52) saying "no." A similar majority (51 percent) agree with Republican efforts to change a 2008 law "so that all children entering the country illegally are treated the same as those from Mexico or Canada and can be sent back to their home countries" without a deportation hearing. Only 18 of respondents percent oppose this idea.

The favor/oppose gap on approving of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are already in the country has narrowed to five points (51/46); it was 15 points in January (56/41).

Meanwhile, vulnerable Democrats are anxiously eyeing reports that President Obama is poised to expand his 2012 'DREAM Act'-style deportation delay decree to include millions of illegal immigrant adults. The former executive action has been cited as one of the primary drivers of the current unaccompanied minor crisis. The latter possibility would likely ramp up the amnesty rumor magnet. It would also enrage Republicans. But based on the numbers above, it might also offend much of the electorate, as well. Red and purple state Democrats are therefore urging restraint -- not because they're vigilant guardians of the rule of law, mind you, but because their political careers hang in the balance:

The Senate’s most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, caught in the crosscurrents of immigration reform, are urging President Barack Obama to show restraint in using his executive powers to slow deportations. Obama is locked between a progressive base demanding aggressive action and voters in conservative states that will decide the fate of the Senate and hold outsized importance in shaping the final two years of his presidency. The White House is weighing how far it can go, legally and politically, in delaying deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants. His decision will be announced just weeks before Election Day, and the timing is precarious for Democrats running in conservative states, where any reminder of their ties to the unpopular president is problematic — let alone for a decision as sweeping and controversial as what the White House is considering.

Obama himself has slapped down the idea that he has the legal authority to unilaterally overhaul the federal deportation regime via executive order. Watch how he responded to immigration activist hecklers last year:

"The easy way out is to try to yell and pretend that I can do something by violating our laws. What I'm proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic process."

The problem is that he sketched out a similar vision of self-restraint and adherence to the law prior to his 'DREAM' action: “With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations [of immigrants brought here illegally as children] through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed," he asserted in March of 2011. The next year, he unilaterally imposed a policy of...suspending deportations for many immigrants brought here illegally as children through executive order. I'll leave you with a 'no new amnesty for illegal immigrant adults' monologue from, um, Ed Schultz?

Then again, Ed's been known to get in line and salute mighty abruptly in the past. Oh, one more thing. According to the AP poll, O's approval on immigration is (31/68). How's his overall number looking?

Rep. Eshoo: GOP Should Stop 'Whining' About Obamacare Gutting HealthCare Plans

My colleague Guy Benson previously posted about how Sen. Mark Pryor labeled the Obamacare horror stories as “anecdotal.” He also noted that California premiums are going through the roof.

Well, there’s another Democrat on the Hill that can be added to the list of Obamacare deniers; her name is Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), who said Republicans should stop “whining” about insurance plans cannibalized by Obamacare (via NRO):

“Your plan is whining. Your plan is suing the president and using taxpayer dollars,” Eshoo said to Republicans during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing as lawmakers debated a proposal by Representative Bill Cassidy (R., La.) to allow people to keep purchasing group plans currently available.

“I hope no more Saturday Night Live whining is brought up in legislation because it’s not attractive, it’s not truthful, and it really does not fit with the dignity of the American people,” Eshoo also said, referring to an old SNL sketch.

Eshoo argued that the Obamacare regulations that caused the plans to be cancelled improve on the old policies.

“I think that the benefits that come in the package as a result of reforming the health insurance industry, people care about that,” she said.

Representative Cory Gardner (R., Colo.), who is challenging Senator Mark Udall in the 2014 midterms, reminded Eshoo that “335,000 Coloradans had their health insurance plans cancelled thanks to Obamacare” even though President Obama had promised that people could keep their plans if they liked them.

Well, bravo, Congressman Gardner on that fine rebuttal. Since the Congresswoman is having some trouble remembering, President Obama made a promise to the American people that if they liked their plan, they could keep it – and broke it.

MRCTV Discovers That People Care About Migrant Children...To A Point

As the border crisis continues, migrant children are being relocated to cities all over the country, as they wait on their day in court for immigration processing. Some places simply cannot absorb them.

Earlier this week, MRCTV’s Dan Joseph ventured onto the streets of Alexandria, Virginia to see if compassionate Virginians support having some these unaccompanied minors transferred to the state.

In the video, Joseph has a clipboard with a petition to bring the children here. Some Virginia residents support the idea wholeheartedly, but balked when Joseph offered them another petition asking them to house one of the children in their homes.

One guy said he had to discuss this with his fiancé. Another man said it wouldn’t work because he lives with his mom.

So, when it comes to people supporting a more relaxed immigration policy, they don’t mind if illegal immigrants come to the U.S.; they just don’t want to give them food or shelter.

Ami Horowitz Braves the Streets of Cairo to Hang Out With the Muslim Brotherhood

Our good friend Ami Horowitz, the creator of the important documentary U.N. Me, recently took a trip to Egypt to talk with members of the Muslim Brotherhood about America's role in the world. What he found is scary, but at least he made the experience funny.

Things he found:

-Muslim Brotherhood members think President Obama is weak

-Muslim Brotherhood members think Americans are trying to convert Muslims to Christianity all over the world

-Joking about gays and alcohol in front of the Muslim Brotherhood is frowned upon.

-Osama bin Laden was made in America and paid for by the Jews

"You know my mother, she's part of the sisterhood in her synagogue, so she's got that going for her."
"I am not Muslim so I drink a lot of alcohol, like a ton of alcohol, like I think I have a problem."

Fun fact: Ami once got kicked out of the Geneva Convention on Townhall credentials. Go watch his film, you'll love it.

Son of Hamas Founder Defends Fight Against Terror: "Israel is Doing Them the Biggest Favor"

Mosab Hassan Yousef is the son of Hassan Yousef, the man who founded the terrorist organization Hamas. He describes growing up in Hamas and witnessing "all of the bloodshed" and "dirty politics" surrounding the terrorist organization, which is why he speaks out against the group today.

Last night Yousef made an appearance on Hannity to respond to Hamas sympathizers in America and specifically responded to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments over the weekend that Hamas is a "humanitarian organization."

"Hamas movement is not a national movement and it's not a humanitarian organization. Hamas is a terrorist organization with a humanitarian face to it," Yousef said. "Hamas organization is simply a terrorist organization. She simply does not care about the lives of Palestinians, she does not care about the lives of Israelis."

Yousef also called on powers in the region like Qatar and Turkey to stop funding and supporting Hamas, especially since they know their support is used to kill Israeli citizens.

"This is the time to speak against them [Hamas] and to do everything I can to unmask their faces," he said. "Many Palestinians are suffering from Hamas and Israel is doing them the biggest favor by fighting against the Hamas organization."

He also encouraged President Obama to strongly condemn the organization and asks him to show leadership.

"How many Gaza wars are we going to witness in the future if we don't stop Hamas now? Israel is in the middle of the job. Let's help them. Let's support them disarm Hamas. Without disarming Hamas, Hamas will use children as shields, human shields in the future and there will be more wars," he said. "I'm asking the President of the United States of America as the supreme power in this world, we have responsibility, he has a responsibility."

Optimism to Win War on Terror Hits Decade Low

The number of Americans who believe the United States is winning the War on Terror is waning fast. According to a new Rasmussen Reports poll, confidence has deteriorated to its lowest point in ten years.

Just 27% of Likely U.S. Voters now believe the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror. That’s down eight points from 35% in April and 47% a year ago. This figure hit a high of 62% in February 2009 just after President Obama’s inauguration, then steadily deteriorated until the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 when it rebounded into the 50s.

Thirty-six percent (36%) think the terrorists are winning that war, the highest level of doubt since the late Bush years in 2007. Twenty-nine percent (29%) say neither side is winning.

The poll additionally found that 59 percent of likely voters think a global conflict exists between the Muslim and Western worlds. President Obama stated in his 2009 inaugural address that he would seek to soothe the contention and seek “a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”

Kenneth Timmerman, a journalist who worked in the Middle East and the author of “Dark Forces: The Truth About What Happened in Benghazi,” told Townhall that the Obama administration’s policy shifts have only abated Islamic countries:

The shift goes to essentially enhance radical Islamist regimes around the world, or to create them, as happened in Egypt and later in Libya. And that, I think, is what led directly to the Benghazi attacks. It showed weakness, and in the Middle East and the Muslim world, where I’ve been reporting from for the past 35 years, weakness invites attack.

The unrest in the Middle East coupled with Obama's weak foreign policy tactics hardly bode well for the future security of the United States.

Lerner Emails: Conservative 'Crazies' and 'A--holes' will 'Take Down' America

Lois Lerner -- faithful, impartial public servant:

That screen grab comes from an email exchange between retired IRS official Lois Lerner and a colleague just after the 2012 election. Ms. Lerner describes overhearing some women discussing the state of the nation in dire terms, prompting her correspondent to blast "whacko" and "scary" right-wing radio shows. Lerner posits that America may be "through" if "that many a--holes" exist, later adding that the US shouldn't worry about foreign terrorists because "our own crazies" will "take us down." Granted, certain quarters of the conservative radio universe are too conspiratorial and apocalyptic for many people's taste. But the same holds true at the other end of the ideological spectrum. Lerner and her friend weren't talking about the Left, though. They were hand-wringing over, and insulting, conservatives -- whom Lerner clearly despises. A virtuosic juxtaposition from T. Becket Adams:

Lerner was slandering the Right as a bunch of nutty paranoiacs while she was personally presiding over a targeting operation that basically validated conservatives' most febrile persecution complex. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, drawing this newly-released document to the DOJ's attention. He concludes:

While the Committee has not seen any evidence of a serious investigation by your Department, it is my sincere hope that in light of this new, strong evidence that you immediately begin aggressively investigating this matter or appoint a special counsel. The failure to do so will only further erode public trust in not only the IRS, but the Department as well.

I'm sure Eric Holder -- who put an Obama donor in charge of the inquiry, and who loathes conservatives as least as much as Lerner -- will get right on that. Two thoughts on this email chain: First, nobody should be surprised by its contents. Lois Lerner is a committed Statist ideologue, and has been throughout her career. She's pontificated about using government agencies to combat adverse Supreme Court decisions, she was eager to investigate a Republican Senator even when there was no legitimate cause to do so, and she's "joked" about joining left-wing organizations. Her motives for managing the anti-conservative targeting regime (which she initially lied about) aren't mysterious. These new comments merely confirm her aggressive biases in explicit and vulgar terms. Second, I'd wager that Ms. Lerner wishes she'd "scratched" another hard drive or two. One can only imagine what might lurk within the trove of "accidentally" deleted/lost/recoverable/missing emails sent by this contemptible woman of a two-year span.

CA Insurance Commissioner: Individual Premiums 'Skyrocketed' in 2014

Why is a partisan California Democrat making a 'statement against interest' by sounding the alarm over soaring Obamacare premiums? In order to arrogate more price-control power for himself, of course. He wants voters to approve a ballot measure that would hand the government -- and him, specifically -- the power to reject proposed rate increases deemed to be 'excessive.' Insurers oppose the measure, which they (understandably) argue would not solve the problem of higher costs -- not to mention the significant risk of providers pulling out of the market. Nevertheless, state health commissioner Dave Jones' statistics paint a picture of steep 2014 premium hikes in California. Obamacare at work:

The cost of health insurance for individuals skyrocketed this year in California, with some paying almost twice what they did last year, the state's insurance commissioner said...For 2014, consumers purchasing individual policies paid between 22% and 88% more for health insurance than they did last year, depending on age, gender, type of policy and where they lived, Jones said Tuesday. He said he has authorized a study of health insurance rates after receiving numerous complaints about rising costs. "The rate increase from 2013 to 2014, on average, was significantly higher than rate increases in the past," Jones said in a news conference in Sacramento. The hardest-hit were young people, he said. In one region of Los Angeles County, people age 25 paid 52% more for a silver plan than they had for a similar plan the year before, while someone age 55 paid 38% more, according to a report that Jones released Tuesday.

Jones cautions that the 2015 rate bumps will likely be artificially "modest," as insurance companies try to avoid a backlash at the ballot box. Keep in mind that those relatively less painful increases will come on top of 2014's "significantly higher" than usual spikes, caused by Obamacare's costly mandates. Another reason behind the hikes are the law's problematic risk pools, which are sicker and older (and therefore more expensive to cover) than the administration projected. Aetna's CEO spelled this out on CNBC, calling the demographics "worse than we expected:"

He also says that his company is experiencing "some attrition" when it comes to premium payments, meaning that some percentage of enrollees' coverage is lapsing. We've discussed premium non-payment among Obamacare's sign-ups over many months, so that isn't new. But Bertolini isn't talking about people who selected coverage but never initiated it by paying an initial premium; he's talking about people who began by paying premiums, then dropped off. One of the CNBC anchors speculates that young, healthy people have the strongest incentive to kick their plans to the curb. Let's see how this fluidity and instability impacts 2016 premiums. Bertolini also reminds viewers that the "back end operating system of the exchanges is not yet up and running." Recent reports suggest that task isn't even close to completion. Down in Louisiana, the bad news continues to roll in:

The state's largest insurer says close to 45,000 Louisiana policyholders could see the rates for their health coverage jump anywhere from 10 percent to nearly 20 percent next year, and the Affordable Care Act is a major reason. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana accounts for the bulk of those individual policies, which people buy directly from an insurance company rather than through their employer. Blue Cross spokesman John Maginnis said the Affordable Care Act expanded access to health insurance to millions of Americans, regardless of age or health status, and guaranteed richer benefits. He says those things come at a cost.

Of course they do, but that's not what the president and his Congressional foot soldiers told the American people. They claimed that Obamacare would lower everybody's rates, with reductions saving the average family $2,500. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who cast the deciding vote for Obamacare, slammed conservatives' predictions of higher costs as "a pathetic lie" during the pre-passage debate. Now tens of thousands of her constituents are experiencing that "lie" first hand. The nationwide "summer drumbeat" isn't slowing down. Florida: "State insurance officials are preparing to release figures next week on how much health plans will cost under the Affordable Care Act for 2015, and rate increases seem inevitable as insurers say their new consumers are older and sicker than anticipated. Top executives at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida and Cigna said rate increases are likely, but declined specifics." I'll leave you with a link to Peter Suderman's definitive piece on the wonky Halbig controversy that's been raging for days. We covered the court decision when it broke last week, as well as the humiliating evidence subsequently unearthed against one of Obamacare's most prominent defenders and architects. The Left has been working like mad to recover from this embarrassment, but some of their flailing has inadvertently weakened their case.

The Conservative Case Against Boehner's Border Bill

Capitol Hill conservatives are not happy with Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) $659 million response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis at the Texas-Mexico border. They are circulating a series of memos, including the one pasted below, detailing why the Boehner bill will fail to solve the problem.

From the memo:

  • The bill does not address the cause of the problem – the president’s unlawful policies, particularly DACA.
  • The bill does not actually require the president to do anything – the only thing it guarantees is that the president will get the money he requested.
  • The bill appropriates money through 2015, creating a built-in budget cliff that might require Congress to reauthorize this bill, and tracks the amount of spending ($3.7B) in the president’s request.

Further Complicates Trafficking Law

  • The bill appears to abolish voluntary return for UACs.
  • Under current law, UACs from contiguous countries are subject to voluntary return, which can be accomplished by Border Patrol in as little as one day.
  • Thus, the bill appears to put the majority – if not all – in the new court proceedings, where they are permitted to withdraw their application for admission to the U.S. at any time “in the discretion of the Attorney General.”
  • The bill creates a new seven-day court proceeding for all UACs in which an immigration judge determines whether a UAC has a claim for immigration relief.
  • If the judge determines there is a claim, then the UAC is placed in removal proceedings (issued a Notice to Appear before another immigration judge) or ordered removed – unless the UAC claims asylum.
  • However, the majority of these UACs, who we know have been coached to claim asylum, will claim a fear of persecution or state their intent to apply for asylum. At this point, the immigration judge (in the new proceeding) will simply refer the UAC to an asylum officer in the current flawed asylum system, which remains unchanged by this bill, because the bill fails to strike the initial jurisdiction provisions of the TVPRA. In fact, a UAC could potentially circumvent this entire new process by claiming asylum and going straight to a USCIS asylum officer.
  • This also allows UACs to go before an asylum officer even if an immigration judge (in the new proceeding) did not find that the UAC had a likely claim for immigration relief.
  • In addition, the bill allows UACs to take advantage of the credible fear determination process, which they are not subject to under current law because they are protected by the initial jurisdiction provisions of the TVPRA. In other words, in addition to going to an asylum adjudicator to have their case heard on the merits in a non-adversarial setting (pursuant to the initial jurisdiction provisions), they can claim asylum in another setting.
  • Perhaps most troubling, the House bill states that the DHS Secretary “shall permit” UACs who have received Notices to Appear (issued since Jan. 1, 2013) to appear before an immigration judge in the new proceeding created by the bill, move to have the NTA “replaced,” and apply for admission to the U.S. While the language is not entirely clear, it very well could result in UACs who have been ordered removed or who have failed to appear for removal proceedings and thus are fugitives to get another bite at the apple to remain in the U.S.

Creates More Loopholes in Asylum Law

  • The House bill allows five bites at the apple for those claiming asylum:
  • UACs are screened for credible fear by the Border Patrol;
  • UACs go before an immigration judge in the new court proceeding to determine if they have a claim for relief;
  • UACs are screened by an asylum officer for a credible fear of persecution;
  • UACs then have their asylum case adjudicated by any asylum officer who can only grant relief or refer the case to immigration court; and
  • If a UAC’s case is referred, the immigration judge will hear their case on the merits de novo.
  • The House bill subjects all UACs to credible fear determinations, which is not the case under current law.
  • It should be noted that as soon as a UAC claims credible fear or applies for asylum (which they have been coached to do), they can game the existing loose credible fear and asylum standards.
  • In addition to UACs, as of July 8, 2014, 55,398 family units and 268,493 single adults have been apprehended in the Rio Grande sector alone. Many family units and adults claim a credible fear of persecution to circumvent expedited removal. According to DOJ statistics, in FY13, 74% of all affirmative asylum claims were approved by immigration judges, and 65% of all UAC asylum claims were approved by USCIS asylum officers (the remainder were referred to judges to hear de novo). According to USCIS, in 2013, 92% of credible fear claims were approved on the merits and the number of credible fear claims have increased 586% since 2007.

Does Not Mandate Detention

  • The House bill does not use the word “detention” but rather “custody.” This is an important distinction because “custody” can be satisfied by transferring a UAC to HHS, which places the UAC in a non-secure setting.
  • The bill does not strike the language in current law that requires DHS to transfer custody of UACs to HHS within 72 hours; or that provides that a UAC shall be placed in “the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child;” or that a UAC “shall not be placed in a secure facility absent a determination that the child poses a danger.”
  • The bill does not change current law that requires that USCIS adjudicate claims of asylum for OTM UACs. In practice, individuals who claim asylum are released pending adjudication of their claim. This bill does not change that.
  • Importantly, the bill does not address administration policies that would require ICE to release many of these individuals from custody.
  • In reality, under the bill, those not claiming asylum will be in custody, and even then, only for seven days until the new proceeding created by the bill takes place.

Does Not Deploy the National Guard to the Border

  • The House bill does not deploy the National Guard to the border and does not require the Secretary of Defense to do so. Rather, the bill merely makes funds available for a potential deployment and states that the Guard may “provide assistance with operations on the southern border.”

The House is scheduled to vote on Boehner's border bill this Thursday. With House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) whipping hard against the bill, it is highly uncertain whether it will pass.

Obama Spends 8-Minutes Mocking and Taunting Republicans For "Not Working With Him"

The President was speaking in Kansas City today and outdid his usual self with GOP mockery and taunting, and then asking them to work with long as they agree with his solutions. Here's just a sampling of quotes from this 7-minute clip:

  • "Stop hatin' all the time!"
  • "Stop bein' mad all the time!"
  • "C'mon and help out a little bit!"
  • "C'mon, let's get some work done together!"
  • "I know they're not that happy that I'm president but that's okay. C'mon! HaHa! I only got a couple years left. C'mon! Let's get some work done! Then you can be mad at the next president!"
  • "We act when congress won't."
  • They're trying to sue me! "Don't boo, VOTE!"
  • "They're mad cause I'm doing my job."