A second federal court has ruled against granting Obamacare subsidies for plans purchased through the federally run HealthCare.gov exchange website:
The United States District Court in Oklahoma ruled Tuesday in Pruitt v. Burwell that the IRS rule extending health insurance tax credits to Obamacare exchange customers in states that chose not to build their own exchange are illegal.
The Obama administration’s rule is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or other not in accordance with law,” according to federal district Judge Ronald White.
The question comes down to the repeated instruction in the text of the Affordable Care Act that advanced premium tax credits are to go only to customers of exchanges “established by the state.” The plaintiff in this case, Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, argues that Congress’ text says customers in Oklahoma, which doesn’t run its own exchange, aren’t eligible for the subsidies.
A panel of three judges in the D.C. Circuit Court also ruled against subsidies granted through the federal exchange in Halbig vs. Burwell. Unfortunately, the Department of Justice was granted an en banc re-hearing before the entire panel of judges, which is majority liberal. However, the Oklahoma ruling could increase the chance that the issue will be brought to the Supreme Court:
But Pruitt’s victory in Oklahoma paves the way for another court split in the future. The Department of Justice will presumably appeal the district court’s decision to a United States appeals court, and if the Obama administration loses again, the Supreme Court will once again be presented with a split decision by two equal courts below it. That may prompt the justices to take the decision into their own hands.
This fight is clearly far from over.
According to a recent Gallup survey, the number of uninsured Americans dropped to 13.4% in the second quarter of 2014, which is lower than 2008 levels. However, there is one big exception. Despite the passage of Obamacare, the uninsured rate among Americans ages 26 to 34 — the demographic that the health care law was supposed to help the most — remains 1.6% above the 2008 uninsured level.
That being said, how well is Obamacare working for Americans ages 26 to 34? Not very well, according to Matthew Lazenka. Lazenka has provided an honest account of his last year living with Obamacare, and it’s not been pretty to say the least:
The honest truth is that this law has only caused our healthcare system to become more burdensome without addressing the problem that supposedly justified its existence. I just showed how the law has failed to help my age cohort, the ones just starting their careers. Further, when the employer mandate is enforced, I, like many others in my age cohort, will have to completely give up health insurance or rely on employers to pay for overpriced health insurance. When it comes to jobs and health insurance, employers would rather “share” workers than be burdened by the ACA. Right now, I receive heavily subsidized insurance because the full law was not implemented.
According to a Monday Politico report, Barack Obama is seriously considering naming Labor Secretary Tom Perez as Attorney General Eric Holder’s successor. The problem? Perez, who worked previously at the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, is just as controversial and unpopular as Holder, and government watchdogs are crying foul on his potential nomination:
“Perez fits all the qualities that Eric Holder had: A lack of ethics, disrespect for the rule of the law, and placing ideology first,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
Perez played a part in one of the first controversies that ensnared Holder when the Civil Rights division dropped voter intimidation charges against two members of the New Black Panther Party who brandished weapons outside of a Philadelphia polling place in 2008.
Perez’s division chose not to pursue charges over the objections of the attorneys in charge of the investigation. The DOJ’s handling of the case led the inspector general to review its operations, according to Fitton.
“Tom Perez was one of the reasons we need civil rights investigation at the civil rights division,” Fitton said. “He was the point man in terms of enforcing law in racially biased manner.”
Perez faced additional scrutiny when Obama nominated him to succeed former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in 2013.
An inspector general’s report at the Civil Rights Division revealed that Perez thought voter protection laws “did not cover white citizens.” A House Oversight Committee investigation found that Perez used his private email account to conduct government business, a practice that can be used to dodge transparency laws.
What’s more, Perez isn’t liked in his current role, either:
Ryan Williams of Worker Center Watch said that the labor secretary’s brief stint at the Labor Department has been defined by divisiveness and political ideology, rather than effective leadership or unbiased regulation. He pointed to the department’s funding of union front groups known as worker centers as an example of his bias.
“Perez has been charged with enforcing existing labor law. Unfortunately, he’s chosen only to enforce the law when it applies to employers, not to the Administration’s union allies,” Williams said in a release. “While the politicization of federal agencies is running critique of the Obama administration, the Justice Department is the one agency that should remain above the fray of politics, and Perez has demonstrated that he is incapable of serving as a neutral arbiter of the law.”
Patrick Semmens, a spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation, also commented, saying, “If Perez is allowed to operate the Department of Justice the way he has run the Labor Department, he will consistently put the priorities of the president’s key political backers ahead of the rights of regular Americans.”
Sounds like exactly what Obama wants.
How’s this for impeccable timing? Twenty-four hours after a 60 Minutes interview aired in which Barack Obama made controversial comments blaming the U.S. intelligence community for “underestimating” the threat of ISIS, the Government Accountability Institute released a report revealing that, in the 2,079 days of his presidency through Sept. 29, 2014, Obama has attended a mere 42.1% of daily intelligence briefings.
According to numerous members of the intelligence community, Obama seems strangely adverse to receiving his Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) in person:
On Monday, others in the intelligence community similarly blasted Obama and said he’s shown longstanding disinterest in receiving live, in-person PDBs that allow the Commander-in-Chief the chance for critical followup, feedback, questions, and the challenging of flawed intelligence assumptions.
“It’s pretty well-known that the president hasn’t taken in-person intelligence briefings with any regularity since the early days of 2009,” an Obama national security staffer told the Daily Mail on Monday. “He gets them in writing.”
The Obama security staffer said the president’s PDBs have contained detailed threat warnings about the Islamic State dating back to before the 2012 presidential election.
“Unless someone very senior has been shredding the president’s daily briefings and telling him that the dog ate them, highly accurate predictions about ISIL have been showing up in the Oval Office since before the 2012 election,” the Obama security staffer told the Daily Mail.
Of course, PDB reports showing up at the Oval Office is very different from Obama actually reading and discussing them in-person with intelligence officials.
It seems Barry is the one to blame, after all.
How can Americans possibly be on board with Obamacare if they don’t even understand it? According to a new poll from The Associated Press and GfK, 75 percent of respondents said that the law is difficult to understand:
The Affordable Care Act ranked as the most complicated out of 10 issues surveyed, edging out long-term financing of Social Security, the Federal Reserve’s interest rates and data collection by the National Security Agency.
Only 5 percent of people called the law “very easy” to understand.
But hey, why should everyday Americans be required to understand the law when a lot of lawmakers haven’t even read what they passed?:
Former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), then-chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, acknowledged in 2010 that he did not read all of the legislation, which he said was work for “experts” hired by Congress.
“I don’t think you want me to waste my time to read every page of the healthcare bill,” Baucus said.
No, by all means — don’t waste your time reading the entirety of a law that literally affects all of America.
Hopefully the next Congress will give Americans a bit more common courtesy.
A roundup of the three major election forecasting models — Washington Post’s Election Lab; Leo, the New York Times model; and FiveThirtyEight — shows that Republicans’ odds of winning the six required seats to take back the Senate majority increased slightly over the past week. Overall, Election Lab gives the GOP a 76 percent chance of taking the majority; Leo a 67 percent chance; and FiveThirtyEight a 60 percent chance. This is all an increase from 65 percent, 55 percent, and just under 55 percent a week ago, respectively.
The uptick is largely due to the GOP’s strengthening chances in Alaska, Colorado, and Iowa:
Of the rest of the competitive seats, Alaska is the biggest mover in all three models from a week ago. At that time, the models disagreed — Election Lab (81 percent chance) and Leo (62 percent) gave Democrats the edge while FiveThirtyEight had Republicans at a 56 percent probability of winning. Today all three models align; Leo gives former state attorney general Dan Sullivan (R) a 72 percent chance of winning while Election Lab puts it at 71 percent and FiveThirty Eight at 68 percent. A series of polls released over the last week have shown Sullivan moving ahead of Sen. Mark Begich (D).
The other big change in Republicans’ favor is in Colorado. Seven days ago , FiveThirtyEight’s model called the state a true 50-50 tossup while Leo gave Sen. Mark Udall (D) a 55 percent chance of winning and Election Lab was even more optimistic for Udall at 67 percent. All three models today agree that Rep. Cory Gardner (R) is a (slight) favorite; FiveThirtyEight says Gardner has a 56 percent probability of winning while Leo is at 61 percent and Election Lab 66 percent. Like Alaska, several new surveys have show movement in Gardner’s direction.
The models are also now in agreement — unlike last week — that Iowa’s open seat tilts in state Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R) favor albeit narrowly. Election Lab shows Ernst with an 83 percent probability of winning but that looks like the outlier as Leo has it at 61 percent and FiveThirtyEight at 56 percent. (The Real Clear Politics poll of polls has Ernst up by two points over Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley.)
All models also give the Republicans strong odds of taking the open seats in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia, as well as defeating Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AK) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). It looks like November will be the month of the elephant.
Well, it looks like Rand Paul will have a fight on his hands to earn the Republican presidential nomination. An adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told National Journal, “At this point it’s 90/10 he’s in. And honestly, 90 is lowballing it.”
Cruz’s camp expects an end-of-the-year announcement from the senator. Reportedly, his strategy is to focus his campaign on foreign policy, something for which Paul has come up against a lot of criticism:
Cruz’s foreign policy approach starts with soft power—pushing tougher sanctions on Iran and Russia, for instance, and using fierce rhetoric to undermine the legitimacy of unfriendly governments. Cruz, whose office features an enormous painting of Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate, says rhetoric should be paramount in American foreign policy. “It’s a critical responsibility of the president of the United States to speak out as a clarion voice for freedom,” Cruz said.
As for the conditions for use of force, Cruz appears ready to deploy the U.S. military, but not in a nation-building or occupation capacity, a position his team likely calculates as a poll winner, considering Americans’ dissatisfaction with unsuccessful efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“If and when military action is called for, it should be A) with a clearly defined military objective, B) executed with overwhelming force, and C) when we’re done we should get the heck out,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the job of our military to engage in nation-building. It is the job of our military to protect America and to hunt down and kill those who would threaten to murder Americans. It is not the job of our military to occupy countries across the globe and try to turn them into democratic utopias.”
While Cruz and Paul may differ on their opinions of the use of sanctions, they both agree that the U.S. should not become forcefully involved in foreign affairs unless absolutely necessary, and not without first defining a clear plan. No matter who gets the GOP nod in 2016, they will be sure to distance themselves from Obama’s often careless and haphazard foreign policy.
In an interview with 60 Minutes that aired Sunday evening, Barack Obama claimed that U.S. intelligence “underestimated” the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group. Indeed, Obama did what he does best — place blame. This time it’s on Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:
The president was asked by 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft about comments from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has said the U.S. not only underestimated ISIS, it also overestimated the ability and will of the Iraqi military to fight the extremist group.
“That’s true,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s absolutely true.”
“Jim Clappper [sic] has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” he said, blaming the instability of the Syrian civil war for giving extremists space to thrive.
Clapper gave Obama an out, and he ran with it like his pants were on fire. Because they are on fire. As The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake points out, Obama has been aware of ISIS — and the threat it poses — for quite some time:
Nearly eight months ago, some of President Obama’s senior intelligence officials were already warning that ISIS was on the move. In the beginning of 2014, ISIS fighters had defeated Iraqi forces in Fallujah, leading much of the U.S. intelligence community to assess they would try to take more of Iraq.
In prepared testimony before the annual House and Senate intelligence committees’ threat hearings in January and February, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the recently departed director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the group would likely make a grab for land before the end of the year. ISIS “probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria to exhibit its strength in 2014.” Of course, the prediction wasn’t exactly hard to make. By then, Flynn noted, ISIS had taken the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, and the demonstrated an “ability to concurrently maintain multiple safe havens in Syria.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said February 4 that because of areas of Syria that are “beyond the regime’s control or that of the moderate opposition,” a “major concern” was “the establishment of a safe haven, and the real prospect that Syria could become a launching point or way station for terrorists seeking to attack the United States or other nations.”
Even more damning, a former senior Pentagon official has literally called bullshit on Obama’s defense:
Reached by The Daily Beast after Obama’s interview aired, one former senior Pentagon official who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq was flabbergasted. “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting,” the former official said.
Well that’s not at all disconcerting.
In 2009, Barack Obama was named the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” particularly with regard to reaching out to the Muslim world:
Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.
Since accepting the award, Obama has bombed no less than seven countries — all of which are majority Muslim. They include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Syria.
Well that’s awkward. Maybe the Nobel Committee will rescind the award?
New documents revealed Tuesday show that the federal government paid $13.9 million to medical website WebMD to promote Obamacare, a significantly higher amount than what was previously known:
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a “limited source justification” to extend WebMD’s contract through September 2015. The government has obligated a total of $13,932,914 for the “Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Health Care Priorities Educational Initiative” thus far.
The initiative gives funding to the health website WebMD to provide information to doctors and consumers about the “benefits” of the law.
“The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law on March 23, 2010,” the contract document states. “As a result, the Act requires that CMS educate consumers about the benefits now available through that legislation.”
“Health Care Providers (HCPs) are important partners to assist in this outreach as they interact with the patient in the most crucial time for decision making on health care,” it said. “Additionally, CMS handles education on many priority health topics. This task order will allow CMS to reach a broader consumer and HCP audience on the aforementioned topics.”
WebMD was first awarded the contract in September 2011. The document released on Tuesday authorizes the company to receive approximately $650,000 more for the “continued education” of consumers through Sept. 15, 2015.
When the government’s deal with WebMD was first revealed last November, the contract was reportedly worth $4.8 million.
Oh, and per the contract HHS must pre-approve all promotional content that is funded through the contract:
“As with any contract with a government agency, for any funded programs, WebMD must adhere to the federal government’s content clearance policy and requirements,” he said. “In developing funded content for CMS or any other federal agency, WebMD adheres to this policy, which requires government agencies to review and approve materials before they are made available in the public domain.”
So not only will WebMD scare you into believing you have cancer, it will also feed you government-approved information about government health care!