The House of Representatives voted 228 to 196 on Tuesday evening to pass a bill that prohibits most abortions later than 22 weeks in pregnancy (20 weeks after conception), the point by which some infants can survive long-term if born and the point by which medical science indicates they can feel pain. The bill contains exceptions for late-term abortions in the cases of rape, incest, or when a physical health condition puts the life of the mother at risk.
It was mostly a party-line vote, with six Democrats voting for the bill and six Republicans voting against it. The White House issued a veto threat against the bill on Monday night. The vote comes in response to the trial of Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murder for severing the spines of three infants moments after they were born.
At least for now (although a statewide referendum may be pending), Arizona governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, has succeeded in her efforts to implement a key part of Obamacare in her state. Brewer has very aggressively — and entirely voluntarily — spearheaded the charge to implement Obamacare’s massive Medicaid expansion on her watch. She now claims, however, that she’s not really implementing Obamacare — or at least not any significant portion of it. In a recent interview reported by the Associated Press, Brewer said, “This business that this is Obamacare is a little bit interesting.” She added, “It is a very, very, very tiny portion of the Obama health care.”
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that what Brewer calls a “very, very, very tiny portion” of the health care overhaul will result in an estimated 11 million new people being dumped into Medicaid under Obamacare, where they’ll receive subpar care at taxpayer expense. Of the net 30 million that the CBO projects will become newly insured under Obamacare, those dumped into Medicaid will account for more than a third. (The CBO projects that, even after ten years of Obamacare, another 30 million people will remain uninsured.) Some of these 11 million people have employer-sponsored insurance today, but the CBO projects that roughly 4 million people will lose such coverage under Obamacare.
Brewer was under absolutely no legal obligation to implement this key aspect of Obamacare. As A.P. writes, “Brewer was an early critic of [Obamacare] and among a group of governors who lost the Supreme Court case that fought it, so it was a surprise when she announced she supported [its] Medicaid expansion.” In fact, it was the Obamacare Supreme Court case that gave Brewer and her state the choice to opt out of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. The Court struck down the Obamacare provision that threatened states with the loss of their existing Medicaid funding if they refused to implement the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.
So Brewer sued and won — at least on this point. But instead of subsequently working to repeal Obamacare, she has instead worked to implement it. She fought the Republican-controlled state legislature and succeeded in converting a few Republicans to her — and the Democrat’s — side. Rather unrepentantly, she now says, “I've led the charge from Arizona to oppose it [Obamacare] — sued, we lost, they won, it’s the law of the land.”
The CBO projects that Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion will cost federal taxpayers about $750 billion over the next decade (2014 to 2023).
At the other end of the spectrum of Republican gubernatorial leadership, late last night, Maine governor Paul LePage vetoed an effort by both houses of the Maine legislature to implement Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in the Pine Tree State.
... at $7.48 a share, on 59,000 shares ... that he’d been granted for serving on the Cupertino, California-based company’s board since 2003. On paper, it was about a $30 million payday based on the company’s share price on the day he claimed the options.
Making Mr. Gore rich enough to enjoy his role as self-appointed scold to the world.
On Tuesday, National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden moderated a conference call with two unnamed senior administration officials to provide background for reporters on today's transition in Afghanistan handing over the lead on security in the country to the Afghan National Security Forces. One reporter inquired about how the recently reported peace talks with the Taliban came about, and what conditions were met or will need to be met in order for those talk to move ahead. While following up, the reporter asked about Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the only U.S. soldier held captive by the Taliban. In the course of answering the question, one of the unnamed administration officials characterized Bergdahl's time in Taliban captivity as having been "away from us for four years":
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would just add to that, as my colleague mentioned earlier, that we obviously have an interest in the safe return of Sergeant Bergdahl who’s been [now] away from us for four years.
Sergeant Bergdahl has been held by the Taliban since 2009 and has been the subject of prisoner exchange negotiations that so far have not borne fruit. Over the years, the Taliban have released at least five videos of Bergdahl and have demanded $1 million ransom in exchange for his freedom.
President Obama and other world leaders at the G-8 summit Tuesday agreed in calling for an end to the two-year civil war in Syria, but the U.S. and its allies could not convince Russia to unite behind a call for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
As expected, Russian President Vladimir Putin would not explicitly endorse an agreement to force Assad, his longtime ally, to step down from power. In other words, the gathering of leaders from the largest industrial nations produced no major breakthrough on a civil war in Syria that has amassed more than 93,000 deaths and counting.
Instead of putting heightened pressure on Assad, the leaders chose to keep the focus on the atrocities in Syria.
“We strongly support the proposal for a conference to reach a political solution to the appalling conflict in Syria through full implementation of the 2012 Geneva Communiqué,” the leaders said in a joint statement. “We will contribute generously to the latest United Nations appeal for humanitarian help. We condemn in the strongest terms any use of chemical weapons and all human rights violations in Syria. We are committed to leading international support for Libya’s security and democratic transition and to urgent work for a lasting peace in the Middle East.”
The Chinese organ Xinhua reports that Ecuador might offer asylum to Edward Snowden.
"Ecuador would consider granting asylum to whistleblower Edward Snowden, the ex-CIA employee who single- handedly disclosed the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA)'s PRISM mass-surveillance program, a top Ecuadorian official said Monday," the outlet claims.
"Mr. Snowden may ask the Ecuadorian government for asylum, if he wants, and of course we will examine his request, as we did with Assange (WikiLeaks founder)," Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino was quoted by local media as saying.
Ecuador "is firmly committed to protecting human rights," said Patino, adding that the WikiLeaks founder, who was granted asylum by Ecuador last June but has been holed up at its embassy in Britain, is prepared to stay at Ecuador's embassy in Britain for five years.
Snowden, 29, exposed the NSA's global spying program, which collects and analyzes Internet data from around the world. The United States has launched a criminal investigation into the disclosure.
There is a lot in the farm bill not to like, which makes it like every farm bill of the last half century. There are also, as Erik Wasson of the Hill reports, the usual absurdities, which opponents will try to carve out of the bill and, no doubt, fail in the attempt. The larger the outrage, the more likely it is to survive. So the government will continue to protect big sugar and non-competitive milk producers, which will result in a loss of American jobs and higher consumer prices.
Some of the bill's smaller absurdities may be at risk. These include spending taxpayer money for:
... wine tastings for foreign journalists and advertising for raisins.
... subsidies for sushi rice.
The most esoteric item up for debate would:
... establish a national standard for egg production [specifying] that larger cages must eventually be used by egg producers.
Who says that Washington's urge to regulate has become pathological?
That is, plainly, just crazy, wingnut, tea party talk.
Senator Claire McCaskill has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 and this is all the buzz (that is the right word, isn't it?) atMorningJoeand other places where the insiders gather and do careful, elaborate dissections of the day's essential news.
This development may have as much to do with the senator's career plans as anything else. Secretary of labor, maybe? Or education. One of those pointless bureaucracies with a multi-billion dollar budget and a car and driver.
But that would be the cynical take. After all, this is not the only high profile endorsement Ms. Clinton has captured in the last week. She received, also, the blessing of Chelsea Clinton (yes, relation) and CNN was quick to report this urgent news.
For others, the real atrocity of the Gosnell clinic wasn't simply its squalor, but the horror of killing babies old enough to "jump" and "scream" when stabbed in the neck with a pair of scissors, regardless of their location.
"[T]here's almost no difference between killing a baby accidentally born alive in a late-term abortion, as Gosnell stands accused of, and killing the same baby in the womb, as more skilled doctors can do," wrote liberal, pro-choice Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson.
"What we need to learn from the Gosnell case is that late-term abortion is infanticide," wrote liberal, pro-life Daily Beast columnist Kirsten Powers. "Legal infanticide."
Though Gosnell was convicted, thousands if not tens of thousand of elective late-term abortions, or legal infanticides, occur every year in America.
In August 2010, police searched a Maryland abortion clinic owned by a man named Steven Brigham after a woman was severely wounded during an abortion procedure. Police officers were shocked when they found a "chest freezer in the facility, which contained approximately 35 late term fetuses," according to a report by the Maryland State Board of Physicians. "The latest fetal age is measured as being 36 weeks."
36 weeks. That's nine months.
"The forms list other later term abortions involving fetal ages of 28, 20, 33 and 35 weeks," the report continued.
The House of Representatives is scheduled Tuesday to consider a bipartisan bill to add new seasonal flu vaccines to the IRS definition of taxable vaccines. The Senate has already reached an agreement to vote on its version of the bill without further debate if the House passes an identical version. If passed into law, all new flu vaccines would become subject to the 75¢ per dose vaccine tax, and also become eligible to be included in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). A summary of the bill provided by the House Republican Conference explains:
The VICP is a federal program designed as a no-fault alternative to traditional tort law for resolving vaccine injury claims arising from covered vaccines. The program is funded through a 75¢ excise tax on each dose of specified vaccines. However, current law only covers “trivalent” (three-strain) vaccines against influenza. Recently, many manufacturers have begun producing more effective “quadrivalent” (four-strain) vaccines, but have held off on bringing the vaccines to market until the statute is updated. H.R. 475 amends the statute to cover all seasonal influenza vaccines under the VICP, ensuring that new, more effective vaccines are made available to the greater public.
The balance in the VICP fund as of May 2013 was about $3.4 billion. The fund has paid out only $2.7 billion since it was established in 1988 for cases involving all vaccines; about 17 percent of those cases involved a flu vaccine. At that payout rate, the $3.4 billion balance could last another 25 years with no new revenue. However, in response to initial reports on the legislation in April, Julia Lawless, GOP press secretary of U.S. Senate Finance Committee, issued the following statement:
First off, the Joint Committee on Taxation is clear this bill is not a tax increase. Secondly, the legislation is about ensuring vaccine manufacturers produce vaccines for the next flu season – not past flu seasons. Thirdly, the threat of litigation has been so severe against these manufacturers that this compensation fund had to be created or they would not have produced these vaccines. That threat of litigation still exists and so does the need for vaccines. We need to be careful how that fund is financed, because having it run a deficit could be dangerous when our goal is to ensure the production of safe vaccines.
A representative of the Biotech Industry Organization emailed to weigh in as well, and largely echoed the response of Ms. Lawless, concluding with:
This is an extremely important public health matter.
A corrected transcript just sent out by the White House of deputy national security adviser's Ben Rhodes comments to reporters yesterday includes this:
MR. RHODES: It’s an ironic question because it frequently comes at the other way, that the Europeans are doing more when, in fact, I think on Syria as a general matter we have been a leading provider of humanitarian assistance, on lethal non-lethal assistance, and we’re taking this step to provide support for the military opposition.
The authors of the Senate immigration bill are now openly admitting that citizenship for illegal immigrants — already a bridge too far — is no longer even being linked to strengthening the border. As Byron York writes in the Washington Examiner, Sen. Richard Durbin (D.-Ill.), a member of the Gang of Eight, told National Journal, “We have de-linked a pathway to citizenship and border enforcement.”
This comes on the heels of Sen. Marco Rubio’s recent admission on Univision that illegal immigrants would be legalized before the border is secured (which, in turn, would incentivize even more illegal immigrants to arrive and hence become legalized before the border is secured). Rubio said, “First comes the legalization. Then come the measures to secure the border.”
One can only imagine the reaction to a Republican presidential candidate in the primaries who had backed this legalization-first, border-later, citizenship-for-all (except for felons) approach. In the most recent primaries, Newt Gingrich sensibly proposed granting legalized status — not citizenship — to some well-established illegal immigrants (if they had a local sponsor who was an American citizen and if their application was approved by a community board perhaps modeled after those apparently used during the WWII Selective Services drafts). But Gingrich didn’t support granting citizenship, and he didn’t support granting legal status until after the border was secured.
Then Mitt Romney ran a terrible campaign (complete with infamously advocating “self-deportation”), and the Republican establishment — loathe to admit Romney’s unique political weaknesses or the abysmal failure of his strategy of neglecting Obamacare and nearly everything else of substance — immediately starting pushing the narrative that he (and hence they) were merely the passive victims of shifting demographics.
A growing number of Americans believe that senior White House officials ordered the Internal Revenue Service to target conservative political groups, according to a new national poll.
And a CNN/ORC International survey released Tuesday morning also indicates that a majority of the public says the controversy, which involves increased IRS scrutiny of tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, is very important to the nation.
Republicans argue that the Obama administration used the IRS to intimidate and harass political opponents. Democrats say poor management at the tax agency, rather than political bias, is to blame. Congressional sources on both sides say that interviews with IRS workers so far have found no political conspiracy.
Last month only 37% of the public thought that the IRS controversy led to the White House, with 55% saying that agency officials acted on their own without direct orders from Washington. Now the number who say the White House directed that IRS program has increased 10 points, to 47%, virtually the same as the 49% who believe the IRS agents acted on their own.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Senator Dan Coats accuses his congressional colleagues of "grandstanding" about the NSA:
Last week, Edward Snowden, a National Security Agency contractor, attempted to make a political point by leaking several documents that have seriously harmed America's ability to identify and respond to terrorist threats. As damaging as Mr. Snowden's disclosures are to public safety, I am also troubled by the decision of several members of Congress to mischaracterize this leak to advance their personal and political agendas.
I don't blame citizens for their concern about these secretive NSA programs. Personal privacy and civil liberties are important to all Americans and are protected by the Constitution. Unfortunately, the Obama administration—especially of late—has fueled people's distrust of government, which has made the reaction to Mr. Snowden's leak far worse.
The recent IRS scandal, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's contradictory statements regarding his role in the Justice Department's investigations into journalists, and the administration's inadequate and inconsistent responses to the attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, are just a few examples of how the Obama administration has widened the trust deficit plaguing the country.
Though it is more difficult to quantify than the fiscal deficit, the trust deficit is just as profound, providing plenty of reason for many Americans to believe reports about the NSA's intrusiveness in their private lives. Fortunately, the reports are almost uniformly distorted or false.