UPDATE: Border Security Bill Fails in Senate, Passes in House

Update - 8:50 p.m. ET: House passes H.R. 5230 with 223 yeas, 189 nays. $694 million was approved by the House for border security. Members are currently debating H.R. 5272, which would limit the President's ability to implement and expand his Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program to children involved in the border crisis.

Update - 9:05 p.m. ET: Next vote series in the House expected to start within half hour.

Update - 9:30 p.m. ET: GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers releases statement following passage of House funding bill for border security:

“We face a grave humanitarian and national security crisis at the border – and Americans all across this country are asking for leadership. They’re asking for solutions. And that’s what our legislation does: it provides a serious solution to a serious problem. Our plan reallocates $694 million to secure the border, provide emergency care, and prevent future arrivals. This will ensure that children are reunited with families in their home countries. Our solution addresses the problem humanely, effectively, and expeditiously. The crisis at the border demands our attention. It demands our action. And it demands our immediate and unwavering leadership.”

Update - 9:57 p.m. ET: House passes H.R. 5272 in 216-192 vote. House considers Israel's Iron Dome vote next.

Update – 10:04 p.m. ET: House agrees to Senate amendment to H.J.Res.76, which provides $225 million in emergency funds for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

Votes are concluded for the evening. At this time, no additional votes are scheduled. Members leave D.C. for five-week August recess.

-- Original Post Below --

Thursday night, the Senate failed to pass its own version of the border security bill, S.2648, which would have provided $2.7 billion in emergency funds for the border crisis and an additional $800 million for fighting wildfires and supporting Israel’s missile defense system.

S.2648 failed 50-44 in a procedural vote in which 60 votes were needed to move the legislation. Every Republican and two Democrats, Sens. Mary Landrieu (LA) and Joe Manchin (W.VA), voted nay.

The Senate is scheduled to depart for August recess with no set plans to take further action.

GOP conference is currently working on a revised plan, although details are still unclear. Bill language has not yet been posted or considered by the Rules Committee.

The latest on the possibilities comes from Pergram, reporting from Capitol Hill:

Members are expected to vote around 11:30 a.m. on a rule for same-day consideration of the border security legislation. As of Friday morning, there was no set time for a final passage vote on the legislation, although it is expected to occur later Friday afternoon.

Stay tuned for updates.

Ginsburg: Fellow Justices Don’t Understand Hobby Lobby Case Since They’re Male, or Something

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Katie Couric yesterday to discuss everything from her retirement plans (or lack thereof) to her fashionable collar collection. While addressing the controversial Hobby Lobby v. Burwell case, Ginsburg made an eyebrow-raising comment about five of her fellow justices.

In the highly anticipated decision, the high court ruled that closely held for-profit corporations would not be forced to provide contraceptive coverage that conflicts with their religious beliefs. Although Hobby Lobby was willing to provide 16 of the 20 birth control methods required under the mandate, those who spoke out against the business asserted that Hobby Lobby’s faith was infringing on their employees.

Couric asked, “All three women justices were in the minority in the Hobby Lobby decision. Do you believe that the five male justices truly understood the ramifications of their decision?”

“I would have to say no,” Ginsburg replied. “But justices continue to think and can change. So I am ever hopeful that if the court has a blind spot today, its eyes will be opened tomorrow.”

Couric pressed, “But you do, in fact, feel these five justices had a bit of a blind spot?” to which Ginsburg responded, “In Hobby Lobby, yes.”

Granted, Katie Couric asked a leading question but Justice Ginsburg’s response still stands. The five justices in the majority happened to be male while three of the four dissenters were female. Could this not possibly be because those who ruled in favor were appointed by Republican presidents and tend to vote more conservatively? Likewise, the remaining four were appointed by Democrat presidents and tend to vote more liberally.

Does Justice Ginsburg truly believe that it's impossible for male judges to see past their “blind spot” of being male in order to understand a case and uphold the Constitution? Imagine the national outrage that would occur if a male justice assumed the same of his female counterpart.

Parting thought: The legal team for Hobby Lobby was entirely comprised of women. Chew on that.

Watch the interview here:

Abandoned Baby With Downs Syndrome Highlights Dark Side of Surrogacy in Thailand

A surrogate mother in Bangkok is facing unexpected parenthood after she refused to abort a surrogate baby after he was prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome. Pattharamom Janbua was paid the equivalent of $10,000 to carry a set of twins for an Australian couple. Following the Down syndrome diagnosis of Gammy, the male twin, the couple refused to parent him and instead took only the healthy female twin. A fund has been set up to assist Pattharamom with the medical costs associated with raising a special needs child.

The Telegraph reports on this tragic story:

Pattharamon Janbua, 21, was left to care for her critically ill son after the Australian couple who could not have a baby paid her about £6,400 to be a surrogate mother.

The son, named Gammy, was separated from his twin sister, who is healthy and was taken by the Australians.

Mrs Pattharamon, who is married, said she became pregnant via IVF and four months later learnt that one of her children had Down's syndrome. Doctors told the Australian parents of the baby's condition, and they then said they wanted her to have an abortion.

Pattharamom, a Buddhist, said that abortion violated her religious convictions. She had never met the couple who paid her for her surrogacy, and was set up through an agency. Commercial surrogacy is illegal in Australia.

This situation is equal parts heartbreaking and infuriating. Pattharamom reportedly did not even fully understand how the process of IVF worked, but desperately needed money. The per capita gross national income of Thailand is 5,370 USD, and it's completely understandable how tempting an offer of 10,000 USD would be to an impoverished woman. Additionally, having a baby shouldn't be like picking out a car. Every child has a unique set of abilities and challenges. Although the Australian couple surely did not anticipate or desire a child with Down syndrome, it was quite cowardly and selfish of them to demand Pattharamom have an abortion. Using a woman for her womb should be an outrage, and commercial surrogacy needs to be better regulated to protect everyone involved.

Suites, Hair Salons, All-You-Can-Eat Meals: Illegal Immigrants Get Top-Notch Treatment at Texas Detention Center

At the Karnes City “detention” center in Texas, illegal immigrants will hardly be living a detainee’s life. No, at this newly renovated facility for women and children, they’ll be referred to as “residents” and surrounded by comforts that many American citizens don’t even have: suites with bunk beds, flat screen TV sets, play tables for kids, stuffed animals, a landline phone, and new clothes.

On site, however, there are even more amenities: basketball courts, ping-pong tables, a weight room, a soccer field, a future playground, and access to a dentist, health care, education, a library, Internet, a hair salon, and a cafeteria, which will serve “residents” three all-you-can-eat meals per day.

The newly refurbished facility can house 532 illegal immigrants at an estimated $74,000 per day. And the average stay for a detainee is 23 days; Lucero told reporters they will do their best to maintain that average.

“While they are getting their due process and going through the proceedings, we will provide a safe environment for them,” ICE San Antonio Field Office Director Enrique Lucero told media during a tour of the facility on Thursday.

While it’s encouraging to see our government treating these migrants more humanely than locking them in overcrowded cages, they have undoubtedly overcompensated with “resident centers” such as these. It is terrible to think about the homeless, the hungry, and many veterans in this country who, despite their citizenship (and in the case of veterans, their sacrifices), are not provided this level of attention and care—especially given that this is at the taxpayer’s expense.

Polls: Obama, Obamacare Hit New Lows


Happy Friday, Mr. President. Overall disapproval:



We ran through the immigration numbers yesterday. And now, foreign policy:


Foreign policy used to be a bright spot in Americans’ dimming opinion of President Barack Obama. Not anymore. Associated Press-GfK polling found a spring and summer of discontent with the president’s handling of world events. Obama’s consistently low marks across crises such as the fighting in Ukraine and the conflict between Israel and Hamas could benefit Republicans aiming to win control Congress in the fall…Asked about world trouble spots:

—42 percent say the conflict between Israel and Hamas is “very” or “extremely” important to them; 60 percent disapprove of the way Obama has handled it.

—40 percent consider the situation in Afghanistan highly important; 60 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of it.

—38 percent give high importance to the conflict in Ukraine; 57 percent disapprove of what Obama has done about that.

—38 percent find the situation in Iraq of pressing importance; 57 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of it.


Now let's turn our attention to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation Obamacare poll, which Conn mentioned earlier:




Even after survey after survey has recently shown a major drop in the nation’s uninsured rate, Obamacare just had its worst month in a key health-care poll. Kaiser Family Foundation, which has done arguably the best and most consistent polling on the health-care law in the past four-plus years, found that public opinion on the law sank to a record low in July. More people than ever (53 percent) last month said they viewed the law unfavorably, an increase of 8 percentage points since June — one of the biggest opinion swings ever.


As Ed Morrissey notes, "The Kaiser series has been one of the friendliest polls to ObamaCare since 2010." He also posits that the entrenched opposition (reflected in other polls, as well) could be driven by people starting to see their new bills and trying to actually use the coverage they've obtained -- access struggles and all. Obamacare has also endured a number of ugly headlines in the last week or so, although it's unlikely that those would have impacted this survey. The administration is warning consumers to brace for more problems, too. There's also the fact that many more people have been negatively impacted by the law than who've benefited from it. I'll leave you with my Twitter summary of the state of play in DC:



Let's see what House Republicans do later this afternoon.

WATCH: People Respond to DC's Recognition of Concealed Carry Rights

Handguns will soon be legal to carry in Washington D.C. A federal judge struct down the District's ban on carrying the weapons in late July. Townhall's Sarah Jean Seman and Kara Jones visited the National Mall to find out how people feel about the ruling.

Kaiser Family #Fail

The Kaiser Family Foundation, the entity that runs the Kaiser Health Tracking poll, has long been a prominent cheerleader for Obamacare. As a result, the Kaiser Health Tracking poll questions are always horribly biased towards the Left, and the "gotcha" question included in this month's poll is no different.

Kaiser asked respondents: "As far as you know, did people who got new health insurance under the health care law (have a choice between private health plans) or did they (enroll in a single government health plan)?"

The correct answer, according to Kaiser, is that "people who got new health insurance under the health care law" had a "a choice between private health plans." Kaiser writes up the results:

Previous tracking polls have found that misperceptions about the ACA are common among the public, and more than four years after the law’s passage this continues to be the case. The July poll finds that fewer than four in ten Americans (37 percent) are aware that people who got new health insurance under the ACA had a choice between private health plans, while about a quarter (26 percent) think the newly insured were enrolled in a single government plan and about four in ten (38 percent) say they don’t know enough to answer the question.

The survey also finds differences in perceptions on this question by political party identification and other demographic characteristics. For example, Republicans (34 percent) are less likely than Democrats (43 percent) to say that enrollees had a choice of private health plans. Other groups that are less likely to be aware of this fact include those with an unfavorable view of the law (32 percent), self-described conservatives (31 percent), people ages 65 and older (29 percent), and the uninsured (29 percent).

Unfortunately the liberal activists who run Kaiser's poll have their facts wrong.

Yes, millions of wealthier Americans who gained coverage through Obamacare did have a choice of heavily regulated "private" plans. But millions of lower-income Americans who were also forced to buy health insurance did not qualify for private insurance under Obamacare. They were all enrolled in "a single government health plan" (aka Medicaid).

In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, more than half of all people who were supposed to gain health insurance in 2014 (14 million) were projected to do it through Medicaid (8 million).

And according to a Rand Corp. analysis of those that did actually gain insurance through Obamacare (9.5 million), almost half of them (4.5 million) did so through Medicaid.

So the Republicans queried by Kaiser are right and Kaiser is dead wrong: for many, if not most, of those who gained health insurance through Obamacare, they had no choice but "a single government plan."

A Land on the Edge

In the August issue of Townhall Magazine, where this article originally appeared, Frank Dowse explains why the U.S. should care about what happens in Ukraine.


In the afterglow of the February Sochi Olympics, with the entire world watching, tens of thousands of “little green men” began pouring into sovereign Ukrainian territory from the Russian border.

These SPETSNAZ (a broad Russian term for “special purpose forces”) are first seen in Crimea, and by April, are seen throughout several major eastern Ukrainian cities. They began conducting massive covert political instability operations and clandestine military maneuvers designed to undermine Ukrainian federal government control.

By March 21, these elite Russian soldiers and their imported thug counterparts had secured the annexation of the Crimean peninsula. To date, scores of Ukrainian troops, ethnic Russian-Ukrainian militants, Russian military personnel, and civilians have been killed or wounded. Confrontations between Russian and Ukrainian forces continue inside many eastern parts of Ukraine to this day.

And the world has done virtually nothing to stop this.

How did we get here?

A STRATEGIC PRIZE

For many Americans, the only place they have ever heard about Ukraine was on the Parker Brothers strategy board game, Risk. But for centuries, many of Europe’s most influential personalities recognized Ukraine’s grand-strategic preeminence, including: the Phoenicians, the Romans, Ivan the Terrible, Peter and Catherine the Great, the Scandinavian and Baltic Kingdoms, the Ottoman Sultans, Napoleon, the British Monarchs, the Germanic Kaisers, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Churchill, and Khrushchev.

Not only is Kiev, the present day capital of Ukraine, recognized as the birthplace of Slavic culture, but from the ninth century on, many influential regional powers have waged bloody wars over the region. This included the Crimean War, which, during the Battle of Balaclava in 1854, inspired Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”

Realpolitik strategists schemed over Ukraine, the natural bridge between Europe and the Eurasian hinterlands, which also possesses premier maritime real estate in Crimea, providing vital access to the Black Sea, Bosporus Straits, and the Mediterranean Sea. Even the name, Ukrainya, means “on the edge,” where again it finds itself in today’s increasingly volatile events.

A DECADES-OLD CONFLICT

When the Soviet Union fell apart Ukraine was one of the first former republics to call for immediate independence. It promptly turned toward the West for political and governing examples as it struggled to strip the lingering shackles of the post-Soviet economic morass.

At the time of independence, Ukraine had the potential to become a strong global citizen. Sadly, its post-Soviet trajectory became mired in selfish robber baron-esque oligarchical meddling and persistent and pervasive Russian-backed (tacit and direct) destabilization efforts.

But despite the fact that the Ukrainian and Russian people share a great deal of history, culture, philology, tradition, religion, and outlooks, Ukraine, more than any other former Soviet republic, has a deep national, cultural, and ethnic pride that often transcends the similarities between the two.

The Ukrainian dusha—its spirit—rejects Russia’s propensity of casting it as the “younger, smaller” Slavic brother. And this feeling feeds Ukrainian resistance to any perceived or real Russian/ Soviet overtures to dominate, oppress, or influence Ukraine.

Post-revolutionary Russian Bolsheviks knew this all too well and swiftly punished any signs of Ukrainian independence. When Ukrainians rejected Stalin’s centralized agrarian policies in the 1930s, the Soviets responded by starving the entire region. Millions died over the course of two years and Ukrainians still refer to the tragedy as the Holodomor—death by hunger—today. This single event remains paramount in the scorched psyche that many Ukrainians project onto any revitalizing of Russian imperialism.

Less than a decade after the Holodomor, many Ukrainians greeted the Nazis as liberators from Soviet oppression when they invaded in 1941.

That arrangement didn’t last long.

German forces began widespread deportation, imprisonment, and extermination of hundreds of thousands of “noncompliant” Ukrainian undesirables, including Ukraine’s large Jewish population. As the Germans retreated, the charismatic but brutal Ukrainian leader Stepan Bandera led an anti-Soviet insurgency that killed tens of thousands of Soviet troops and political figures lasting well into the mid-1950s.

This is the raison d’e^tre behind the current Russian state-fueled propaganda and incendiary charges of neo-Nazism aimed at the Kiev-based Ukrainian government and the fiery Maidan uprising that ousted President Victor Yanukovych. Vladimir Putin himself, along with senior Russian officials, references this very conflict as proof-positive of Ukrainian “Nazi” roots.

However, it is Stalin’s sinister legacy at the root of much of the instability seen on the post-Soviet periphery as witnessed in Nagorno-Karabakh, Georgia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Transdniester, the Baltic region, and Ukraine.

Stalin’s infamous secret police organization deported huge swathes of Ukrainians and other ethnics, including Crimean Tatars, from their ancestral lands, and implemented “Russification” of much of eastern Ukraine and Crimea. After Stalin’s death, his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, “returned” Crimea to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954. In doing so, Khrushchev, an ethnic Ukrainian, alienated millions of ethnic Russians in Crimea and throughout eastern Ukraine.

This Soviet legacy transaction is at the heart of why both regions play such an important role nationalistically and geo-strategically for Russia. The annexation of Crimea, and the de facto Russian-sponsored irregular war raging against Ukraine in the east, has apparently been sparked by a jingoistic neo-fascist ideology fueled by Putin’s aspirations of former Tsarist and Soviet hegemonic glory.

A POST-COLD WAR PROMISE

President Reagan’s epoch shifting “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech marked the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. By December of 1991, Ukraine was recognized internationally as an independent nation.

But the Soviet Union had the largest conventional arsenal in the world and much of it resided within newly independent Ukraine. This included a massive strategic and tactical land, air, and sea-based nuclear arsenal with all the command and control measures intact.

As a nascent state desperate to be accepted and supported by the international community, Ukraine understood its precarious situation. While holding on to the weapons might have been impressive to neighbors, they knew it would also be geo-strategically destabilizing.

With the Cold War over, the general consensus was that an independent and cooperative Ukraine seeking democracy and goodwill neither wanted nor could sustain a massive nuclear arsenal.

There were pragmatic concerns of “loose-nuke” scenarios and Ukraine’s inability to properly guard, maintain, and dismantle its immense nuclear infrastructure. To assist with this burden, and to sooth Ukrainian fears of any future encroachment on its security, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, and Ukraine agreed to dismantle Ukraine’s gargantuan strategic and tactical nuclear arsenals.

In 1994, in exchange for Ukraine’s acquiescence as the fourth largest nuclear force in the world, Ukraine would be guaranteed by the other signatories its territorial integrity as defined and recognized by international law. This was to become what is known as the Budapest Agreement. Of particular note is Article One, which reads as follows:

“The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine ... to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”

And that promise lasted almost 20 years until Putin ordered his special forces into the Crimean peninsula.

PUTIN’S PLAN

One cannot overestimate the national pride “gut-punch” Russia felt after the Soviet Union fell. Nearly every single nation that was formerly under the Soviet sphere within the Warsaw Pact construct—from the Baltic nations to the north, all the way to Bulgaria in the south—sought NATO membership as soon as they could. Especially wound- ing to Russian pride was the first round acceptance into NATO of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—three former Soviet states. Russian strategic planners saw this as a perceived windfall for NATO.

Putin wants nothing more than to reverse history. And not just back to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Not only does Putin have his eyes set on all of the former-Soviet states, but he also has made comments suggesting interest in lands previously held by the Russian Empire, including Poland, Finland, and parts of Asia.

Ukraine is just the latest step in Putin’s campaign to revive Russia’s past glory. And he has been laying the groundwork for this incursion for years.

Over the past decade, Putin has extended political, economic, and social control in Kiev, weakening the country’s core civic institutions. Russian control is even stronger in many of the major Russian-leaning, eastern industrial-based cities such as Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk.

But Putin’s puppet in Kiev, former-President Victor Yanokovych, miscalculated when he decided not to allow Ukraine to participate in funding arrangements with the European Union this spring. A violent, fiery display of Ukrainian defiance in Kiev, dubbed Euromaidan, reverberated to Moscow.

Putin, the former KGB colonel and self-crafted Tsar-like figure, was not going to idle while Ukraine was slipping further into the perceived clutches of Western economic influence and prosperity.

Once the Russian president de facto seized Crimea with virtually no significant military, diplomatic, or economic counters from the U.S., NATO, or EU, he was emboldened to continue his adventurism into Ukraine proper.

He knows Berlin is economically tethered to Russian gas, and London is financially tethered to Russian investment. Without direct German or British support for real economic sanctions, Russia is free to proceed knowing very little will be done to stop them.

WHAT CAN AMERICA DO?

The de facto abdication of Crimea by the U.S. and NATO, and the ongoing destabilizing insurgency from irregular Russian forces and surrogate elements raging in eastern Ukraine, is already seen by Ukrainians as a betrayal by NATO, and, most notably, the U.S.

Both U.S. allies and belligerents are watching. Neither the White House nor the American people are prepared to risk open war with Russia over Ukraine.

The parallels drawn from the unwillingness by Germany and Britain to implement real punishing and effective sanctions on Russia remind many security observers and historians of the specter of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact between Hitler and Stalin and the subsequent invasion of Poland in 1939.

Feckless gestures and meaningless and ineffective “sanctions” without U.S. leadership and EU buy-in only appear to empower the new Russian neo- imperialists. This is reminiscent of an earlier momentous lapse in international security fortitude: the 1938 Munich Agreement with “peace for our time.”

America’s most important geo-strategic relationship is our Atlantic relationship as codified in NATO. As Gov. Romney rightfully argued, Russia now threatens that very nature of our most important security alliance.

U.S. policy toward Ukraine over the last 20 years has been an ineffectual tight rope act. The U.S., and NATO, while diplomatically espousing greater cooperation leading to more meaningful economic and broader security arrange- ments with Ukraine, in reality placated the country resulting in the now abysmally recognized “reset” with Moscow. At no time have Russian hegemons demonstrated any intent to cooperate on their real political, economic, and security designs for Ukraine.

We cannot continue to support the Ukrainian people with only teleprompter-deep rhetoric. If the U.S. fails to lead here and now, it places our NATO relationship in further disrepute and could possibly strain our bilateral constructs with those nations closest to the emerging threat.

Specifically, the reactions and perceptions of NATO allies Poland, Hungary, the Baltic nations, and the Czech Republic should play into any immediate calculus. They, like Ukraine, have been on this “edge” before. Soviet aggression and oppression is fresh in their psyches as well, and they empathize with their Slavic and regional brothers and sisters as to the real and present danger a neo-imperial Russia presents to European stability and security.

Regurgitated exercises and conferences with all the protocol trappings and cordial diplomatic puffery betray real progress. What Ukraine needs right now is a strategic U.S.-led concerted military, intelligence, and logistical support plan that empowers the key NATO players identified above to take the operational lead that know, share, and understand the immediate needs of the Ukrainian government against greater Russian military incursion. Viewed by some as possibly provocative itself, Putin has aptly demonstrated that doing nothing is perhaps more provocative, and we see what that has wrought thus far.

NATO must increase militarily viable activity. Lighting fires around the enemy to make them think they are surrounded in the form of tourist-style ship visits and militarily insignificant engagement activities cannot continue. NATO has received a wake-up call in the form of a bellowing Russian growl just down the canyon. The U.S. must re-engage with the NATO Council to force a gut check of members to meet their percentage of GNP military budget goals.

At no time has NATO had a greater pre-kinetic and unpredictable threat to its stated purpose: collective defense. A serious analysis of potential aspirant invitations could be considered to dem- onstrate NATO’s commitment to that collective defense; offering member aspirant status to Moldova, Armenia, Georgia, or Azerbaijan could be considered, for example. Sweden has made recent diplomatic overtures in consideration of a NATO seat.

A FINAL WILD CARD

While Ukraine clearly remains “on the edge” of perhaps a regional or pan-European conflagration with Russia, the U.S., NATO, and the EU cannot remain on the sidelines. The closest NATO ally in this current crisis is in fact the Turks. They are no doubt keeping a keen eye on the events with their Turkic brethren in Crimea, and increased Russian naval and land-based deployments just 250 miles across the Black Sea.

Given the military and political history between both Russia and Turkey that’s steeped in suspicion and hegemonic rivalry, the U.S., or NATO writ large for that matter, may not get the choice to remain on the sidelines if a collective response is triggered between a potential hostile military engagement between them. At that point, no one gets to just sit on the edge. •

Frank Dowse is a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer currently working with Naval Special Warfare Command (SEALs).

Heritage Action's New Populist Agenda

Better known for their voting scorecard, Heritage Action, the political arm of The Heritage Foundation, released a new "Conservative Policy Agenda" yesterday, subtitled, "Opportunity for All, Favoritism for None."

The 20-page briefing book, distributed to House and Senate offices Thursday, is often vague on specific policy proposals, leaving the details to the think tank's many policy papers. But both the content and tone of the agenda reflect a populist turn for the decades old non-profit.

“The conservative movement is thriving and specific policy solutions are readily available from Heritage and many others," Heritage Action Communications Director Dan Holler told Townhall. "The Heritage Action agenda, in broad strokes, emphasizes the importance of all three legs of the conservative stool while infusing the populist message that is so crucial to the future of our movement. We’re trying to interject the theme of opportunity for all but favoritism to none into the political bloodstream, and this document represents the first of many steps to achieve that."

Also of note, while Heritage Action's "Conservative Policy Agenda" does strongly condemn Obamacare and identify reforms that would greatly improve our nation's health care system, the word "repeal" does not appear in the document. Instead, the it reads:

The left and the right have competing approaches to health reform. The left’s vision is to put government in the driver’s seat of health care decisions through command and control. The pre-Obamacare system, the left posits, exemplified all of the worst excesses of capitalism: a messy competition for margins in which individual insurers’ uncoordinated efforts could generate healthy profits only through deception and gouging of consumers. Obamacare is built on the assumption that profit-seeking corporations can deliver affordable care to all Americans, but only if private motivations are subordinated to common interest through heavy regulation.

In effect, the government has turned insurance companies into public utilities, promising them a comfortable existence in exchange for eliminating competition. They cannot set their own prices; they cannot choose the services they provide; they cannot select their customers; they cannot create innovative business models or products that might “game” the system and undermine competitors.

The law provides massive incentives to insurers for cooperation. It offers them a steady stream of customers through its requirement that all Americans purchase their products. It provides bailouts for companies that cannot bear the costs imposed by its regulations. Most important, its regulatory hurdles eliminate the potential for disruptive business models that could threaten the standing of the strongest players in the market. Insurance executives, the left hopes, can be trusted to give consumers a fair deal and reduce costs—so long as they are guaranteed comfortable annual returns and insulated from threats in the marketplace.

A better alternative for health care reform would give individuals choice and control of their health care dollars and decisions. This vision stems from an alternative view of the state of the pre-Obamacare system. Properly understood, there was no patient centered market for individuals. Rather, our health care system has long been among the most segmented and least market-driven sectors of our economy. A large portion of the country receives government-controlled health care from Medicare and Medicaid. Meanwhile, market mechanisms have long been impeded in the private sector by the tax code’s arbitrary preference for employer provided care, which serves to prevent consumers from choosing the plans best suited to their needs.

The result of all these distortions is unsurprising: an individual market that has long lacked an adequate consumer base on which to thrive. In such circumstances, it’s no wonder that the industry could not provide the market signals that exist in most other sectors of the economy and serve to drive prices to affordable levels.

Obamacare’s solution to the health care problem is to regulate “bad” plans in the individual and group markets out of existence and drive individuals toward government-approved and taxpayer subsidized health plans. A conservative solution to health care would do the opposite: It would give individuals and families the freedom to choose the plan that best suits their needs from a marketplace in which insurers and providers have the flexibility to compete to provide better care at lower cost.

To get there, Congress should guarantee fair tax treatment that allows each individual to buy insurance with tax benefits that are similar to the tax benefits available for those with employer based coverage. Individuals who like their company-provided insurance should not be forced out by government overreach like Obamacare, but by the same token, Americans should not feel locked into employer-provided insurance due to unfair tax treatment of individually purchased plans.

Furthermore, there is no reason why Americans in government run health care—Medicaid and Medicare recipients—should be locked out of the benefits of choice and competition. Reform of these programs would introduce the same kinds of market mechanisms that can better address patient needs while driving down costs for consumers and taxpayers alike.

Progressive Group Labels GOP 'Child Welfare Act' Homophobic

David Christensen, the Vice President of Governmental Affairs for the Family Research Council, sent an urgent email to supporters Thursday morning asking them to call their legislators to co-sponsor the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014. The legislation, spearheaded by Representatives Mike Enzi (R-Wy.) and Mike Kelly (R-PA) would prevent government from withholding funds for child welfare service providers simply because they believe in traditional marriage.

From Christensen's email:

In California, Massachusetts, Illinois, and D.C. religious adoption and foster care providers have had their government funding pulled and have been forced to end services, simply because they continue to believe in the importance of a child having a mom and a dad.

It's a sad sign of the times that some states have preferred to sever longstanding partnerships with faith-based providers rather than allow them to continue caring for and placing children informed by traditional moral beliefs about the family.

Since its introduction, progressive groups have decried this legislation as homophobic. They label it a “political tool to oppose marriage equality or civil unions for same-sex couples”:

The bill would force the government to continue to contracting with any organization that provides services to children, regardless of how their religious tenets affect the way they provide those services. Though the text doesn’t mention “same-sex” anywhere, it specifically references “some States, including Massachusetts, California, Illinois, and the District of Columbia,” four places where recognition of same-sex unions conflicted with Catholic Charities, which refused to provide adoption services to those couples.

Rep. Kelly responded to these charges:

"Nothing in the Inclusion Act prevents any child welfare service provider from participating in child welfare services," Kelly told Townhall.

"Nothing. It simply ensures that a provider will not be excluded in any manner from participating in such services on the basis of its religious and moral beliefs, which is one reason the Act is called the Inclusion Act."

Kelly also emphasized it's supposed to be about the children:

"The essence of this bill is 100 percent inclusive and child-focused. We live in a time when children throughout our nation are relying on adoption and foster care services to ensure they have the love, stability, and protection that a family offers. Squeezing faith-based child welfare providers out of communities in need because they don’t have the “right” beliefs does not help children—it only hurts them. While we all have our own unique political and social views, the well-being of our children must always transcend them. To ensure a positive outcome for as many children as possible, tolerance in this space is required."

This bill is not about denying couples rights, but providing safe homes for children. Adoption and foster care are wonderful, lifesaving alternatives for young moms dealing with unplanned pregnancies who may be considering abortion.

Here is the full text of the legislation. Maybe I’m not the best at interpretation, but I’ve yet to find the section on hate crime. With liberal progressives trying to cut welfare providers' funding just because of their religious beliefs, it's easy to see where the real discrimination lies.

Video: NBC Covers Hamas' Terror Tunnels into Israel


UPDATE - As Katie noted earlier, Hamas violated the 72-hour ceasefire almost immediately today, allegedly using a tunnel attack to kill to IDF soldiers and claiming to have captured a third. Israel has confirmed the abduction.


**Original Post**


NBC News has come under sharp criticism from Israeli officials this week after one of its reporters falsely reported that attacks on a hospital and a refugee camp in Gaza came from Israeli drones. In fact, the shells were (mis)fired by Hamas, and were intended for Israeli civilians. The terrorist organization's incompetence killed their own people. The international media is also running Israel through the ringer over a terrible incident involving the shelling of a UN school, killing children. Israel's ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, eloquently explained his country's position on the attack to Megyn Kelly last night, responding to the White House's statement that it was "totally indefensible." Dermer explained that no one has the full context of the incident yet, while readily conceding that the deaths of children is "heart-wrenching." He correctly and repeatedly returned his focus to the question of who is responsible for the violence and the ongoing war. He also noted that Hamas rockets have been discovered in UN-administered schools on three occasions over the last two weeks. A building marked as a UN-run health clinic was also discovered to have housed the entrance to one of Hamas' tunnels. When IDF soldiers arrived to clear and destroy the tunnel, it was booby-trapped and three Israelis were killed, according to the Times of Israel. As Hamas has been busy executing accused "collaborators," shooting Palestinian anti-war protesters, and threatening journalists, Israel has been shipping hundreds of tons of humanitarian supplies into the Gaza strip:


The Israeli Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, announced on Twitter that Israel has sent into Gaza more than 4 million liters of diesel for the power station, 3 million liters of fuel and 800,000 liters of benzene for transportation, and 1.6 tons of gas for domestic use during the conflict. Forty-three trucks “carrying over 750 tons of food, medicine & supplies” entered Gaza Wednesday from Israel, the ministry said. It provided information on how people can donate humanitarian supplies, and a contact at the Palestinian Customs Agency.


A highly ineffective "genocide," no? Fuel is desperately needed in Gaza, as Israeli attacks took out the region's lone power plant, and Hamas rockets have knocked out a number of the strip's electricity lines into Israel. (That's right, Israel provides electricity to Gaza). As a three-day ceasefire begins, the world prays that a more lasting peace might be achieved. One non-negotiable principle for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu entering the talks is his country's right to eradicate Hamas' so-called terror tunnels. The terrorist group allegedly uses international aid and child labor to construct secret underground passageways that burrow under the border, allowing their fighters to infiltrate Israel. The tunnels have been used in several lethal attacks during the current conflict; a separate murder and kidnapping spree was detected and neutralized by Israeli forces. Captured Hamas fighters have also reportedly revealed plans for a massacre scheduled for an upcoming Jewish high holy day, in which the perpetrators were to enter Israel via the tunnel network. A different NBC correspondent filed a report on last night's national telecast that gave viewers an extraordinary look inside one of the passages, and a glimpse into the fear the tunnels instills in ordinary Israelis. Captivating:



This terrorist threat is real, terrifying and intolerable. Astoundingly, the leader of a "human rights" organization opined this week that Hamas' use of these tunnels is justified as an avenue for killing IDF soldiers. This gentleman evidently hasn't studied the rules of war very carefully, which stipulate the difference between lawful and unlawful combatants -- such as uniformed military troops and terrorists, respectively. Public polling shows that Israelis are overwhelmingly opposed to a ceasefire at this stage in the fight. The next 72 hours will be scrutinized very carefully, as will any agreement that may emerge from the Cairo talks.

The RNC's Birthday Present to Obama: A Constitution

President Obama's birthday is on August 4th, and the Republican National Committee is sending him a copy of the Constitution. You know, for review purposes.

President Obama was, in a previous life, a professor of constitutional law. That's what makes his blatant disregard for the Constitution so much more unfortunate. Not that ivory tower academics would be the best judges for the interpretation of the Constitution, but one would hope he'd have some base-level awareness of how it limits government powers.

Unfortunately, he's shown that not to be the case.

As the RNC will write to its members:

Unfortunately, President Obama has done irreversible damage to America. He has undermined our standing in the world, shaped our nation to be dependent on government handouts and created a nanny state where centralized power dictates our lives.

Monday is President Obama’s birthday. And we are going to send him the reminder he needs

We will NOT stand for Obama’s constitutional overreach.

President Obama has worn out his last ounce of good will with Republicans on Capitol Hill as he's time and again stretched the limits of what executive power means. Surely he's actually read the Constitution; he just has never shown any interest in actually abiding by it.

Jobs Report: Economy Adds 209,000 Jobs, Unemployment Rate Ticks Up

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is out today with its estimate of how many jobs the economy added in July - and it's 209,000. It's down from the huge gains in June but still relatively good news - it's the sixth straight month with jobs gains over 200,000.

The unemployment rate, however, actually ticked up in July, to 6.2%. It's a result of a few different things - the labor force participation rate ticked slightly up by a tenth of a percentage point, for example. The broader, seasonally-adjusted U-6 measure of unemployment also ticked up, by one tenth of a percentage point, to 12.2%. U-6 takes into account discouraged and underemployed workers, which means those people who may have long been looking for a job but left the labor force are counted.

The jobs number narrowly missed expections. ADP, the nationwide payroll firm, estimated that there would be 218,000 jobs this month.

Many indicators were unchanged this month. What's interesting to note is that all of these indicators are much better than where we were a year ago:

In July, 2.2 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down by 236,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. (See table A-16.)

Among the marginally attached, there were 741,000 discouraged workers in July, down by 247,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.4 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in July had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities. (See table A-16.)

This report follows heartening news on the economic front: this week, government economists estimated that the economy grew at a 4% rate in the second quarter of 2014, which was a huge improvement after a contraction in the first quarter.

Rand Paul vs Marco Rubio

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the August issue of Townhall Magazine.

On March 6, 2013, Sen. Rand Paul (R- KY) rose to take the floor and speak on the subject of Presi- dent Obama’s nomination of John Brennan for CIA director. Brennan was the architect of Obama’s drone program, which the White House had been using to assassinate terrorists overseas.

Over the course of the next 13 hours, Paul made his objections widely known. From his discomfort with the broad unilateral authority that Obama claimed, to the controversy surrounding targeted killings of American citizens overseas, to the scary potential that military-style drones might be brought to American shores.

Paul’s skepticism when it comes to expansive foreign policy is and was well-known. But his half-day filibuster,the second-longest in history, vaulted him into the national conversation and sparked interest across party lines. What was also surprising was the cadre of senators who joined in, and one in particular: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Rubio and Paul have offered divergent views of American foreign policy ever since they were both elected to the Senate in 2010. Their disagreements are cordial and their offices maintain a good working relationship. But there is nonetheless an ideological battle occurring, not only on Capitol Hill, but throughout the Republican Party and across the country.

A new crop of Republicans have comprehensive ideas for how security policy should evolve in the 21st century, and while they by and large are conducting these debates jovially, they are nonetheless fighting for nothing less than the soul of the Republican Party.

A LONG WAY FROM THE BUSH ERA

In 2001, in the wake of the worst terrorist attack on American soil in the nation’s history, the United States made some monumental changes in how we conducted international affairs.

After 13 years, two formal wars, multiple tertiary conflicts, and two presidents, Americans’ attitudes about national and international security have changed. There is a cold war brewing in the Republican Party over the utility of our security measures and how conservatives should approach the future.

President Bush chose to implement broad security powers in the U.S. and to aggressively pursue terrorists and state- sponsored terrorism abroad. The Republican Party had few dissidents from these policies in the Bush years, but Obama’s conduction of the War on Terror has caused more people to doubt the effectiveness of our post-9/11 security measures.

Opposition to the Iraq War has hovered above 50 percent since early in Bush’s second term and Republican support for the war has steadily fallen. Obama has made winding down the war in Afghanistan a priority as support for our military force there has fallen. Some of the domestic intelligence operations undertaken by Bush and Obama have also come under fire from both Republicans and Democrats.

We’re a long way from 2007, when former-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani put his mark on his bid for president by stamping out the anti-interventionist rhetoric of former- Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). With the shift in partisan control of the White House, more Republicans have become skeptical of broad security powers emanating from the White House. The anti-Washington sentiment that motivated 2010’s midterm electoral victories sent a new wave of Republicans to the Senate who have begun shaping the GOP’s future security vision. People like Rubio, Paul, along with Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) have taken an active role in our security policy.

The only catch is that they’re not always pulling in the same direction.

FROM MCCAIN TO RUBIO

For decades Republicans had dominated Democrats on foreign policy. And Bush’s decisive action in the wake of 9/11 only increased that dominance. Even after the American public turned against the war in Iraq, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) still enjoyed a small lead over Obama on foreign policy issues as he headed for defeat in November.

But Americans initially trusted Obama on foreign affairs, especially after Navy SEALs managed to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011. Since then, however, Obama has lost that edge.

The outbreak of violence throughout the Arab world that culminated in the terrorist attack on the Benghazi consulate shattered Obama’s illusion of competence. He’s trended steadily downward and polling has shown him consistently underwater on foreign policy ever since.

Rubio, who has seen first-hand the damage that illiberal regimes can do to families, has been one of Obama’s harshest critics. In a major foreign policy speech at the American Enterprise Institute, Rubio called Obama’s Syria strategy a “debacle” and went on to say that Obama’s bungling has left us with “a divided Syria, with a pro-Iran dictator in control of part of the country, and radical jihadists in control of much of the rest.” He condemned the president’s belief in “kind words” when it comes to diplomacy and the administration’s overall lack of a consistent foreign policy strategy.

PAUL THE SECOND

Only seven Republicans voted against the Authorization for Use Of Military Force Against Iraq in 2002. Rep. Paul was the highest-profile of these, and went on to run for president in 2008 on an uncompromising, principled libertarian platform that stridently rejected aggressive foreign interventions.

Rep. Paul is retired now, but his son, Rand, is a sitting senator from Kentucky and serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. While sometimes lazily lumped together, Sen. Paul has endeavored to differentiate himself from his outspoken father, but there are certain issues that have certainly emphasized the similarities.

Sen. Paul was the only senator of either party to vote against a resolution affirming an American commitment to keep nuclear capabilities out of Iran’s hands. His proposal to strip Egypt of foreign aid attracted only 13 votes. And harkening back to those anti-Iraq War Republicans, he teamed with Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to introduce a resolution repealing the Iraq AUMF.

This has caused some proponents of a broader use of American power to push back against him. Without naming him specifically, McCain condemned “isolationist” colleagues who “will endanger America.” Rep. Peter King (R-NY) went further, comparing Paul to Hitler’s appeasers in the 1930s and proclaiming his philosophy “disastrous.”

Whereas Rep. Paul characterized the 9/11 attacks as a form of “blowback” for U.S. foreign policy abroad, Sen. Paul has said that Western civilization is indeed locked in an existential struggle with radical Islam. He harkens back to Ronald Reagan, calling himself a “realist” who rejects the false dichotomy of neoconservatism and isolationism, and characterizes both his and Reagan’s policy as “robust but restrained.” At a foreign policy speech at the Heritage Foundation, he rejected isolationism and said that military intervention is a legitimate foreign policy tool, albeit one that should be used very, very sparingly.

Even as Paul endeavors to differentiate himself from his father, he also grows weary of having to answer those kinds of questions. “It doesn’t make for great Thanksgiving conversation,” he told the Washington Post, “if I’m always either separating myself from my father or commending my father.”

THE OTHERS

Paul and Rubio are not the only relative newcomers who are playing a role in foreign policy. The aforementioned Cruz and Lee have both put their mark on this debate, as has Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI). Elected in the 2010 tea party wave, Amash might be Rep. Paul’s closest ideological heir in the House of Representatives.

The intra-party debate is a little more complicated than a one-dimensional spectrum between an aggressive security policy and a skeptical one. None of the participants in the debate break down cleanly along these lines; each Republican is different, with their own motivations and beliefs. These debates are happening in three dimensions, but there are a few pejorative terms thrown around by commentators too lazy to actually get into nuance.

THE LAZY ARGUMENTS

Neoconservatism. Isolationism. These are the names that each side uses to caricature the other. They’re easy. They immediately bring up stereotypes in the public mind. And they’re unfair.

Neoconservatism originated as a wholesale philosophy of government that included both foreign and domestic policy, but in the Bush years, Democrats used the term to describe an aggressive, interventionist foreign policy that fell out of favor with the American public. They twisted it from ideology to slur, as MSNBC liberals like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow relentlessly used the descriptor to the point that it had no meaning at all. Very few people actually think of Irving Kristol, the founder of intellectual neoconservatism, when they hear the term.

On the other extreme, it’s unclear if isolationism has been used in a non-pejorative way in the modern political era at all. With the ascendance of the United States to global superpower in the 20th century, very few politicians have advocated America’s removal from international affairs. More likely, advocates of aggressive American involvement tar any skeptics with the isolationist label.

“Democrats would love for the Republican candidate to be the ‘fringe’ candidate. The ‘dangerous’ candidate,” says James Carafano, vice president of national security and foreign policy at the Heritage Foundation. “It could be ‘dangerous-isolationist’ or ‘dangerous neocon.’ Democrats just want to say they’re the prudent alternative.”

THE MAJOR DIFFERENCES

There are real differences that have been teased out by leading Republicans when it comes to decisions about national security. Obama’s time in the White House has been turbulent for the United States and has deservedly come under fire. The issues that have divided Republicans are important, and ones in which GOP legislators will work to right the ship after a disastrous Obama term.

“Having a clear and concise policy goes to the point that in the last five years, national security policies have stirred confusion,” says Catherine Frazier, spokeswoman for Cruz. “Whether you’re looking at Egypt, Syria, or the ‘reset’ with Russia, there has been no clarity as to where the United States stands on the world stage. ... The single greatest threat we face is a nuclear-armed Iran.”

Paul and Rubio came to a head on one issue in particular that’s illustrative of their differences: Georgia’s NATO membership. In 2011, Rubio pushed for a bipartisan piece of legislation that would have backed a plan for Obama to encourage NATO to strengthen ties with the former Soviet republic in order to spread Western influence throughout central Asia. It was an effort supported by Bush and was seen as Western support for a country bordering Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Paul was firmly opposed. Western involvement in Georgia would have constituted an implicit backing of the ex-Soviet state in the face of any military aggression from Russia. And Russia has had an ongoing involvement in the northern Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Paul was able to build a coalition to defeat the measure, and the two offices are still mostly mum on any conflict over the issue. But the disagreement highlights the difference in approach.

Foreign aid to controversial regimes has also been a hot topic on Capitol Hill, and it’s the area that Paul has focused most of his foreign policy critiques. The Middle East and North Africa are hotbeds for terrorism, jihadism, and other extremist elements, and Paul warns about getting into bed with any factions we might not necessarily trust.

In Libya, for example, Paul opposed the decision to aid anti- Ghadafi forces in 2011. “Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi is every bit the madman Ronald Reagan once said he was,” Paul said, “but are the rebels adherents to Jeffersonian democracy or bin Laden’s radical jihad?”

The foreign aid question is one that Paul has raised time and again. On Libya, Egypt, and Syria, Paul has questioned America’s commitment to questionable forces. Foreign aid in general is incredibly unpopular, and Paul has pointed out that we’re not always sure of its utility.

“Foreign aid is an issue that Sen. Paul has raised in the past that we know is extremely unpopular with the American people,” says Christopher Preble, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. “I think people will ask the question of if it’s truly in America’s interests to give aid to countries who are not our allies, who are not our friends, and who do things that conflict with our values or interests.”

On the other side, Rubio has taken a more adventurous approach to protecting America’s interests, applauding Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya, but arguing it didn’t go far enough. Rubio thought regime change should have always been the explicit U.S. goal in Libya. “This resolution should also state that removing Moamar Qadhafi from power is in our national interest and therefore should authorize the President to accomplish this goal,” Rubio wrote at the time.

“There’s a distinction between Paul and Rubio on the issues they’ve chosen to focus on,” Heritage’s Carafano says. “Paul has spent a lot more time focusing on some of the privacy and civil liberties issues, whereas if you listen to Senator Rubio he’s focused a lot more on the geopolitical issues. It’s more a question of focus.”

WHY IT MATTERS

Few elections are actually won or lost on foreign policy. The 2008 Democratic primary was an anomaly, as it was fought almost entirely on the question of the justification for the war in Iraq. It’s unlikely that future GOP battles will rest solely on these questions, but there’s one issue that’s sure to be pressing for candidates in the future: Afghanistan.

Presidential contenders and those vying for the ideological future of the GOP more generally will have to contend with the plans that Obama has for Afghanistan. Obama has explicitly desired a drawdown of troops for a long time, but difficulties that have arisen after U.S. troops have left Iraq may make that a more potent topic.

“Afghanistan will be an issue in 2015 and 2016,” Preble says, “so at some point every person trying to win the Republican nomination is going to have to take a stand. ... It will come down to endorsing or rejecting the withdrawal plan laid down by President Obama. We will draw down troops to 9,800; the question is will we draw down to zero or close to zero.”

These issues matter now, and they will continue to matter into the future. A 2016 Republican standard-bearer will need to articulate a clear and concise foreign and security policy, and leading Republicans will articulate differing visions about some of the most important issues. And while Republicans are much more united on these issues than the media likes to portray them to be, there will be fissures that voters will need to navigate.

The wake of the Bush years and a wave of legislators more skeptical of government power has put the Republican Party at a crossroads. Obama’s disastrous foreign policy has re- established the GOP advantage on the issue and there are different visions on how to exploit that. The 2016 election may not hinge on foreign policy issues alone, but the Republicans vying for the nomination have an incredible opportunity to set the direction of the United States. •

Hamas Violates 72-Hour Cease Fire Agreement With Suicide Bombing

After agreeing to a 72-hour ceasefire less than 24 hours ago, Hamas has once again broken another temporary truce agreed to by both sides. It is believed Hamas has kidnapped an Israeli soldier and the fighting is continuing. More from Fox News:

The Israeli military says one of its soldiers is "feared" captured by Gaza militants.

The suspected kidnapping occurred shortly after a heavy exchange of gunfire erupted in the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Militants reportedly emerged from a tunnel shaft before a suicide bomber detonated himself, one senior Israel Defense Forces source told The Jerusalem Post.

"The incident is ongoing, and the IDF is in the midst of operational and intelligence efforts to track down the soldier," the source told the newspaper.


More from IDF:

The latest kidnapping is exactly why Israel is doing everything to destroy dozens of tunnels Hamas has built.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to get ceasefires to stick are going nowhere.

UPDATE: Hamas broke the ceasefire 90 minutes after agreeing to it. Incredible.

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.

Judge Orders DOJ to Release Fast and Furious a List of 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 a list of 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.

Editor's note: A previous version of this post did not make clear the ruling requires DOJ to turn over a list, a Vaughn index, of documents withheld by DOJ under President Obama's executive privilege claim. The post and headline have been updated to make that clear.

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: Healthcare.gov 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 HealthCare.gov 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 HealthCare.gov 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 Healthcare.gov had "never crashed." Healthcare.gov 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 HealthCare.gov, 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 Healthcare.gov:


The Obama administration has spent roughly $840 million on HealthCare.gov, 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 HealthCare.gov 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 HealthCare.gov 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.