|6:33 PM, Dec 12, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
On Thursday evening, House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the budget deal crafted by Republican congressman Paul Ryan and Democratic senator Patty Murray, chairs of their respective budget committees.
The resolution passed with 332 votes for it and 94 votes against it. Sixty-two Republicans voted against the bill, which had the support of House leadership.
Looks like it.5:45 PM, Dec 12, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services released a set of "additional steps" designed to "help" Americans get health insurance before the start of the new year. Philip Klein discusses those guidelines over at the Washington Examiner, reporting that HHS is "encouraging" health insurers to accept late and partial payments for insurance plans for the month of January.
"It is requiring insurers to accept payments until Dec. 31 for coverage starting on Jan. 1," Klein writes. "It is also 'urging' insurers to give individuals more time beyond that to pay for coverage. In other words, if somebody pays for coverage in the middle of January, HHS is asking insurers to retroactively make that person's coverage effective as of Jan. 1. HHS is also asking insurers to cover individuals who offer a 'down payment,' even if that payment only covers part of the first month's premiums."
Klein notes that it looks like the Obama administration is anticipating more Americans losing their current coverage or unable to get coverage under Obamacare:
On a conference call, an HHS spokeswoman emphasized: “We are just proposing it as an option and we’re encouraging issuers. There is no requirement.”
Translation: HHS has a huge mess on its hands and it hopes that by getting ahead of this news, it can foist the blame for the problems on insurers.
Of course, for insurers who have spent years designing plans to comply with the law, this would present huge and unreasonable logistical hurdles.
The Tampa Bay Times's Politifact, meanwhile, has named Obama's promise that "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it" under Obamacare its "Lie of the Year" for 2013--four years after the president first began making that promise.
Hosted by Michael Graham.5:15 PM, Dec 12, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior writer Stephen F. Hayes on the recent budget fight and how dragging out the debate about the Ryan-Murray budget deal hampers the ability of conservatives to press forward on the failures of Obamacare.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
3:36 PM, Dec 12, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Iranians are saying the nuclear deal means the beginning of the end of sanctions. At least that's what a foreign ministry spokeswoman told the Iranian press.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham blasted the US officials for their new sanctions threats against Tehran, and said such remarks are meant to cover up Washington’s failure in preventing the collapse of sanctions structure.
“We think that based on the negotiations (held between Iran and the world powers) and the Joint Plan of Action (agreed by them) the structure of sanctions has cracked and its collapse has started,” Afkham told reporters in Tehran on Tuesday.
She referred to some news reports saying that 90% of the way for approving the US Congress’s new sanctions against Iran have been paved, and said, “Mentioning percentage in this regard is an effort to poison the atmosphere and create a psychological atmosphere around different issues.”
30 members support the House Resolution calling for civil action.1:49 PM, Dec 12, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Congressman Tom Rice of South Carolina, a Republican, is sponsoring a resolution in the House of Representatives that would, if adopted, direct the legislative body "to bring a civil action for declaratory or injunctive relief to challenge certain policies and actions taken by the executive branch." In other words, Rep. Rice wants to take President Obama to court for not faithfully executing the laws.
"President Obama has adopted a practice of picking and choosing which laws he wants to enforce. In most cases, his laws of choice conveniently coincide with his Administration’s political agenda. Our Founding Fathers created the Executive Branch to implement and enforce the laws written by Congress and vested this power in the President. However, President Obama has chosen to ignore some of the laws written by Congress and implemented by preceding Presidents," Rice wrote in a letter to fellow House members to ask them to co-sponsor this resolution.
"This resolution allows the House of Representatives to bring legal action against the Executive Branch and challenge recent actions, inactions, and policies."
The "legal action against the President" would be, according to an aide for Rep. Rice, "for ignoring Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution." Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution states,
He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.
The resolution alleges that President Obama and his administration have abused executive power and failed to execute the laws of the United States faithfully.
Thus, the resolution calls for "CIVIL ACTION.—The House of Representatives shall bring a civil action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for declaratory or injunctive relief to challenge any of the following policies or actions:
(1) The policy of the Department of Health and Human Services that, with respect to health insurance coverage that is renewed for a policy year during the period beginning January 1, 2014, and ending October 1, 2014, health insurance issuers may continue to offer coverage that would otherwise be terminated or cancelled for being out of compliance with various requirements of title XXVII of the Public Health Service Act and corresponding portions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as announced by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services on November 14, 2013.
(2) The 1-year delay in the application of the reporting requirements of sections 6055 and 6056 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (and related requirements of section 4980H of such Code), as provided under Department of the Treasury Notice 2013–45, as announced by the Department of the Treasury on July 2, 2013.
12:37 PM, Dec 12, 2013 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Senate Democrats have taken advantage of the nuclear option to confirm one of President Obama's most extreme judicial nominees.
All fifty-five Democratic senators and one Republican voted Wednesday night to cut off debate on the nomination of Cornelia Pillard to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. And at 12:52 a.m. on Thursday, 51 senators, all Democrats, voted to confirm Pillard to the country's second most important court.
Pillard revealed her extreme hostility to religious liberty in 2011 remarks on the case Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC, which had not yet been decided by the Supreme Court and involved the right of the Lutheran Church to determine who qualified as a Lutheran minister.
"The Lutheran Church’s position here is a substantial threat to the American rule of law," Pillard said at a press conference. "It would effectively empower any religion to create its own autonomous Vatican City-style regime for employment-law purposes, a sovereign unto itself over which the federal courts lack civil rights jurisdiction."
"It is hard to see the Supreme Court deciding that that is what the First Amendment law requires," Pillard added. A few months later, all nine Supreme Court justices ruled in favor of the Lutheran Church.
As legal expert Edward Whelan noted at the time:
In its unanimous ruling today in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC, the Supreme Court held that the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause bar ministers from invoking the employment-discrimination laws against the religious organizations that employ them.
Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion on behalf of the entire Court affirms that the so-called “ministerial exception” to employment-discrimination laws is firmly rooted in the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses, including the Court’s decisions establishing that “it is impermissible for the government to contradict a church’s determination of who can act as its ministers.” The opinion thus rejects the remarkably hostile contentions of the Obama administration that there is no general ministerial exception and that religious organizations are limited to the right to freedom of association that labor unions and social clubs enjoy.
12:20 PM, Dec 12, 2013 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
Sometimes a handshake is more than just a handshake. When President Obama warmly embraced the late Hugo Chávez at the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, he lent respectability to a brutal autocrat who had crippled Venezuelan democracy, terrorized his political opponents, and supported both the Iranian theocracy and the Colombian FARC. When then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hugged Ecuadorean leader Rafael Correa during a visit to Quito in 2010, she made Correa seem like a normal democratic president, rather than a thuggish Chávez acolyte who had persecuted independent journalists and gravely weakened his country’s public institutions.
Likewise, when a smiling Obama shook hands with Raúl Castro at Nelson Mandela’s South African memorial service, he conferred on Castro a measure of legitimacy that no Communist dictator deserves, least of all one whose government continues to hold an American hostage.
The hostage’s name is Alan Gross, and he’s a 64-year-old humanitarian worker who went to Cuba several times in 2009 on behalf of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). His chief mission was to help the island’s tiny Jewish population—estimated at fewer than 1,500 people, in a nation of roughly 11.3 million—obtain Internet access. Upon completing his fifth trip, Gross was preparing to fly home, when he was arrested by Cuban authorities and accused of conducting espionage. It was a ludicrous allegation, but in March 2011 the Communist regime sentenced Gross to 15 years in prison.
He remains incarcerated today, and his health has deteriorated considerably. In a recent letter to President Obama, in which he pleaded for the president to help secure his release, Gross reported that he is “confined 23 hours a day to a small cell with two fellow inmates. I spend my one hour outside each day in a tiny enclosed courtyard. I don’t sleep much, between my arthritis and the lights in my cell, which are kept on 24 hours a day. With the exception of a few phone calls and visits, I am completely isolated from the outside world.”
11:11 AM, Dec 12, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Certain employees of the government are being told not to trust their employer. As Jonathan Easley reports for the Hill:
Capitol Hill staffers who signed up for ObamaCare through the District’s exchange are being told to confirm their enrollments in person. An email from the Senate Disbursing Office, obtained by The Hill, warns Capitol Hill staffers they shouldn’t trust the information provided to them by the DC Health Link (DCHL) site.
They probably shouldn’t worry too much, however. No doubt they will get a waiver, an exemption, a get-out-of-jail-free card … something. We can’t have these people worrying about whether or not they are covered when they have so much important work to do.
Like, er, fixing health care.
9:40 AM, Dec 12, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Let me add a word to my comments from Tuesday night supporting the budget deal.
I continue to believe that, as a matter of policy, the defense increase—which at least begins to undo the very considerable damage from a wildly and disproportionately anti-defense sequester—swamps in importance everything else in the deal. Everything else is basically a wash. The defense increase is a real plus.
I continue to believe that, as a matter of politics, the deal is very good for Republicans. If passed, it takes another government shutdown off the table, and allows Republicans to focus on fighting President Obama rather than each other. In particular, it allows Republicans to focus on Obamacare.
And so I believe this is a good deal for conservatives. Let me put it this way: Even if you're a conservative who cares less than I do about defense and doesn't give much of a hoot about helping out the GOP as a whole, you should support or acquiesce in this deal. Building support for the delay, dismantling, and repeal of Obamacare is the most important domestic policy item on the conservative agenda. If conservatives defeat this deal, they're ensuring that at least for the next month—but maybe for longer—they'll be helping the administration in its desperate effort to distract from Obamacare and will be allowing the media, and to some degree the nation, to talk instead about a potential government shutdown and GOP infighting.
So, to my fellow conservatives: This may not have been the deal you'd have negotiated. But it now serves the cause of conservatism to approve it, move on, and re-focus on Obamacare.
9:07 AM, Dec 12, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's agency announced grants of $58 million to 1,157 community health centers to allow them to "expand their enrollment assistance efforts as more Americans enroll in affordable health insurance coverage." These grants come on top of $150 million previously given to such health centers to "support outreach and enrollment activities" for Obamacare.
Yeseterday, Sebelius testified before Congress about the troubled Obamacare website, Healthcare.gov, and the improvements being made to it.
From the press release:
“Today’s awards build upon the efforts of health centers across the country as uninsured Americans gain health insurance coverage,” Secretary Sebelius said. “This investment means that health centers can provide expanded assistance for people in communities nationwide looking for resources to help them understand their insurance options and enroll in affordable coverage.”
With these awards, health centers will be able to meet immediate needs, including expanding the hours of existing outreach and enrollment assistance workers, and hiring new or temporary outreach and enrollment assistance workers. Today, health centers operate more than 9,000 service delivery sites nationwide and serve more than 21 million patients annually.
“Having more opportunities for face-to-face enrollment assistance from trusted resources at local health centers means that more people will get the help they need to sign up by the end of the open enrollment period on March 31, 2014,” said Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Administrator Mary Wakefield, Ph.D, R.N.
These awards, issued by HRSA, complement and align with other federal efforts to help Americans get access to affordable health insurance coverage. Today’s awards also build upon earlier health center program investments of $150 million to support outreach and enrollment activities.
8:56 AM, Dec 12, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Initial jobless claims rose 68,000 to 368,000 as per this morning’s figures. This:
… was the largest weekly increase since November 2012. Claims for the prior week were revised to show 2,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Comes unexpectedly, of course, and now, the same people who didn’t expect it will get busy and start explaining it. When they are finished, the thing will appear to have been utterly predictable. And, either a big deal or no deal at all.
Safe to say that it is not unalloyed good news. What it means for “tapering, Hillary’s chances in 2016, and the likelihood of snow at the Super Bowl … the experts will soon let us know.
8:31 AM, Dec 12, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Last night, this 30-second advertisement ran to encourage folks to sign up in the "Health Insurance Marketplace," otherwise known as Obamacare:
"Now, for the first time, you can be covered -- with a quality health plan from the new health insurance marketplace, part of the health care law," says the male announcer.
"It's where brand name companies offer plans you can compare side by side. And it's the place to get lower monthly payments. ... So if you have an accident, get sick, or just need a check-up. Enroll now at the Health Insurance Marketplace at healthcare.gov."
This ad ran on ESPN.
Given the channel and given the nature of the ad, it seems pretty clear the ad was meant specifically to encourage young folks to sign up. Which would make sense, since the Obamacare marketplace needs a fair number of young (that is, healthy) people to balance the risk.
The ad is presumably sponsored by you, the taxpayer, via the Health and Human Services Department.
7:05 AM, Dec 12, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
David Hawkings, at Roll Call, writes almost wistfully of what might have been if Tom Daschle, President Obama’s first choice to be secretary of Health and Human Services, had been confirmed by the Senate where he had been majority leader before his constituents in South Dakota voted him out of office, most likely on the grounds that he had come to represent the interests and values of the Beltway more than those of his home state.
It was five years ago Wednesday that President-elect Barack Obama announced the former majority leader would be returning to government as Health and Human Services secretary, where he would be in charge of drafting legislation overhauling the health care system and then steering it to enactment. The choice seemed an obvious, but astute, way to boost the likelihood that the new president’s top domestic priority would move through Congress relatively smoothly and quickly, and to assure the bureaucracy would then implement the inevitably complicated changes to medical insurance rules with minimal fuss.
Pretty thoughts, indeed. But Daschle couldn’t make it to confirmation, which stalled over some tax issues. So he stuck around Washington where he:
… now embodies the archetype of the Washington elder statesman — out of the limelight, but hardly out of influence. He’s a top rainmaker at the premier lobby law firm DLA Piper, where he’s got sway in the financial services, telecommunications, trade and tax worlds in addition to health care. He’s also on a range of public and private boards. And as a founder of the Bipartisan Policy Center, he is regularly called on to explain the current congressional calcification and to prescribe ways for ending it.
Hawkings’s piece describes, then, the depressingly familiar trajectory of many of those neo-populist Democrats from the prairies (think Dick Gephardt) and would be of only passing interest except for the roll call of former Daschle aides (and, by the way, why do congresspeople need so much help?) who have encysted themselves into the flesh of Washington and government. As Hawkings writes, Daschle had
… been a Hill staffer before his House election, and soon thereafter started cultivating what’s become a legendary staff alumni association. (The network’s influence on public life may only be exceeded by the legions who once worked in the Senate for the late Edward M. Kennedy.)
This is what is meant by the phrases “the political class,” and “the unelected government.” And a tidy description of just how things work in the Imperial City. To the immense satisfaction and enrichment of that same political class.
7:29 PM, Dec 11, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Obama administration is bringing in the "Sexiest Man Alive" to help "boost" Obamacare enrollment numbers.
"The Sexiest Man Alive is being enlisted to spice up Obamacare," Bloomberg reports.
"Pop singer Adam Levine, who won the designation from People magazine last month, is among the celebrities who’ll be promoting enrollment in online health insurance exchanges as part of a social media campaign kicking off tomorrow.
"With enrollment totals behind administration projections after the botched start-up of the federal exchange, 17 state exchanges joined by an advocacy group are drawing on Obama administration allies in entertainment and sports to promote sign-ups, using social media such as Facebook and Twitter."
The goal, according to Bloomberg, is "100 million Internet contacts."
Reprising a tactic President Barack Obama successfully employed in his 2012 re-election, organizers plan to use celebrity promotions and professionally produced videos aimed at inspiring Americans to encourage friends to enroll. The goal is generating 100 million Internet contacts before open enrollment closes March 31.
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