The U.S. House of Representatives has passed appropriations for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013 to incorporate the spending cuts in the sequester that will make it difficult to implement Obamacare.
The record vote was 267 to 151, with 214 Republicans and 53 Democrats voting for it. 14 Republicans and 137 Democrats voted against it. 3 Republicans and 10 Democrats did not vote.
The bill continues funding at current levels minus the sequestered amounts. None of the additional funds the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requested to implement Obamacare were approved. Thus, while Obamacare was not de-funded per se, the health care law will now be difficult to implement.
The Hill reported:
Several Democrats, like Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), reiterated that, by locking in the sequester, the bill would cut billions of dollars in programs and lead to possible delays in implementation of the 2010 healthcare law.
"This bill will delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act, scheduled to begin enrolling participants in October," she said. "Without IT [information technology], infrastructure to process enrollments and payments, verify eligibility, and establish call-in centers, health insurance for million of Americans would be further delayed."
The bill, HR 933, also gives the Defense Department more flexibility over exactly what is cut.
Politico reported that a bipartisan coalition in the Senate hopes to amend the bill to give all federal agencies the power to determine where the cuts are made within their agencies.
"Influential House Republicans said Wednesday that they welcomed what the Senate is proposing, and by acting quickly, the House deliberately gave itself three weeks to make such a deal," wrote Politico's David Rogers.
1. Even more troubles are stacking up for Obamacare:
Employer-based health coverage has hit a new low;
Low-income workers are not able to afford the government-mandated insurance;
The IRS is moving to collect Billions in fees from health insurance companies, which will increase the cost of the policies; and
The Obama Administration just issued 700 pages of new regulations to implement the law.
A recent issue of this newsletter reported on a completely different set of serious problems with Obamacare:
Insurance premiums could double for younger workers;
Under-funding of the pool for persons with pre-existing conditions; and
Refusal of half the states to set up health care exchanges.
Another issue of this newsletter documented how Obamacare was causing significant unemployment.
New information from the Gallup Poll found that, since 2008, the percentage of workers with employer-based insurance has declined from 49.2% to 44.5%. The decline is even more dramatic for non-governmental workers, 64.2% to 56.8%. And the decline among some sub-groups is worrisome:
|Less than $36,000||28.6%||22.7%|
Bloomberg reported that, faced with a mandate to buy health insurance which they cannot afford, many low-income workers may opt to pay the Obamacare penalty, at least initially.
1. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will personally meet with President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to discuss the sequester for the first time.
It is hard to see how any good could come out of that meeting. Any agreement to reduce or postpone the sequester, or substitute increased taxes for the spending cuts, would be a defeat for conservatives.
The meeting itself appears to be at least a day late, since the sequester is scheduled to take effect that same day. Zachary Goldfarb in the Washington Post reported that one top GOP congressional aide said, "Someone needs to buy the White House a calendar." But Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, claimed that as long as the sequester commenced some time on March 1, before the day ended at 11:59 PM, they would be in compliance with the law.
But both Reid and McConnell have indicated that the sequester is likely to occur without any changes.
Chris Moody of Yahoo News reported:
Reid would support letting the $85 billion in across-the-board sequestration cuts take effect on Friday if Republicans don't agree to increasing taxes as part of an alternative plan. "Until there's some agreement on revenue, I think we should just go ahead with the sequester," Reid told reporters after a meeting with Senate Democrats.
And in an interview with Ben Shapiro of Breitbart, McConnell said he thought the meeting with Obama would be inconsequential:
Alluding to his recent pledge not to engage in any 11th-hour negotiations with the President or Vice President, McConnell stated, "The sequester is going to happen. There's not going to be any turnoff. There's no impending negotiation with the president over cutting less. It's going to happen."
What, then is the point of McConnell and other Republican leaders going to the White House Friday morning for the President's requested photo-op, after which he will undoubtedly cast Republicans as obstructionists? "There's only one reason to do it," said McConnell. "To deny him the opportunity to say that we wouldn't meet with him. It's that simple."
McConnell added, "When I do meet with him, I will tell him the same thing I'm telling you. The tax issue is resolved permanently. Our view is that the reductions in spending that we promised a year and a half ago need to be met, and if you and the Democrat majority in the Senate have a better idea, why don't you take it up? We'll vote on it."
Neither Boehner nor Pelosi expressed any public comments about what they expected the meeting would achieve, but Boehner wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the "deep spending cuts" in the sequester are "ugly and dangerous" and are the President's fault.
The sequester spending cuts that are scheduled to go into effect on March 1 are very mild and not at all the Doomsday Machine (pictured) that is being portrayed by the Obama Administration and their liberal allies in much of the news media.
The sequester is a slight across-the-board reduction in most spending programs, amounting to only $85 Billion in cuts in this year's $3.6 Trillion budget.
CBS News explained that Social Security, Medicaid, supplemental security income (SSI), refundable tax credits, the children's health insurance program, the food stamp program, veterans benefits, and active duty military personnel are exempt from the cuts.
Excellent articles by George Will in the Washington Post, by former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, and by political analyst Dick Morris totally refute the absurd over-the-top liberal claims of devastation the sequester will supposedly cause.
When Congress passed the Budget Control Act in August 2011, it created a Super Committee with responsibility to come up with $1.2 Trillion in deficit reductions over the next 10 years. The law provided that, if the Committee failed to come up with the required plan, the sequester would then automatically do it each year over a decade.
Of course, the members of the Super Committee never came close to agreeing to a plan, so the sequester was supposed to take effect on January 1 of this year. Instead, Congress (in the "fiscal cliff" deal) postponed it for 2 months until March 1.
Nothing further needs to be done for the sequester to go into effect. It is in the law. To repeal, replace, or postpone it again would take a law passed by both the House and Senate and signed by the President.
As this is written, there appears to be no serious effort in either the House or Senate to derail the sequester.
ConservativeHQ.com Chairman Richard A. Viguerie announced that he is sponsoring "The Liberty Prize," a $10,000 contest for grassroots conservatives to submit a plan or ideas to take over the Republican Party, win the November 2016 elections, and govern America by 2017.
Viguerie (pictured) said the most important political battle in America is not between Republicans and Democrats or between conservatives and liberals.
"It is the battle for control of the Republican Party between establishment big government Republicans and limited government, constitutional conservatives. It has become clear that establishment Republican and Democratic politicians have failed America because they have both accepted big government as the solution to every problem," he said.
"The urgency of this effort cannot be overstated," noted Viguerie:
With big government establishment Republicans, led by Karl Rove, launching a multi-million dollar PAC to control Republican Primary elections, and the changes to the Republican Party rules rammed through the 2012 Republican Convention by Mitt Romney's inside-the-Beltway allies, conservatives must have a well-organized and well-thought-out plan to take control of the GOP from the grassroots up.
Otherwise, the Republican Party will continue its slow creep away from the conservative principles that elected Ronald Reagan in 1980, the Contract With America Congress in 1994, and the Tea Party wave Congress in 2010.
In asking for ideas on how to "help save our country," Viguerie said he named the $10,000 prize "The Liberty Prize" because he wants to encourage the grassroots conservatives of the GOP to liberate the Party from the control of the Beltway insiders who are pushing the Party away from the conservative principles that win elections for Republicans.
The entire $10,000 could go to one person who writes a great plan or it could be divided among persons who submit specific ideas to advance the project.
Big troubles continue with the implementation of Obamacare.
The supporters of the President's health care law like to call it the Affordable Care Act—which is not its official name—but there are indications it may greatly increase the cost of health insurance for many people.
The Washington Post reported that "premiums for plans sold to individuals could rise as much as 50 percent on average and could more than double for particular groups such as the young and healthy."
The article noted that the skyrocking rate increases would not affect plans by large employers but would hit hard those sold to small businesses and individuals.
This hyper-increase in the cost of health insurance will intersect with Obamacare's requirement that each person purchase health insurance. However, the federal penalty for not having insurance may end up costing less than the high cost of a policy.
Another article in the Washington Post stated:
Tens of thousands of Americans who can't get health insurance due to pre-existing medical problems will be blocked from a program designed to help them because funding for the measure is running low…
From the start, analysts questioned whether the $5 billion that Congress appropriated for the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan — as the program is called — was sufficient.
Gary Cohen (pictured), Director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said, "What we've really learned through the course of this program is that this is really not a sensible way for the health-care system to be run."
President Obama's assessment of the State of the Union (SOTU) was starkly different from the Republican response by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and the Tea Party response by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
The complete text of Obama's speech in the Washington Post is at http://tinyurl.com/b5yj8fx
The complete text of Rubio's speech in both English and Spanish, since he delivered it in each language, in Politico is at http://tinyurl.com/btlu9e9.
It is noteworthy that Rubio (pictured) included a pro-life statement in his speech: "America is exceptional because we believe that every life, at every stage, is precious, and that everyone everywhere has a God-given right to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them."
LifeNews.com reported that Rubio later told David Brody of CBN News: "This is about protecting people, human beings who maybe can't speak yet and haven't been born, perhaps don't have a name or a social security number but they're fully human nonetheless. They're valuable and they're precious and they deserve to be protected."
The complete text of Paul's speech in Politico is at http://tinyurl.com/a8ymtz3
According to Politico, Obama's speech was seen by 33.5 million people, which was the second-lowest rated SOTU address since Nielsen began recording viewership in 1993.
Audience interest in Obama's SOTU presentations has been in steady decline:
2009 52.4 million
2010 48.0 million
2011 42.8 million
2012 37.8 million
2013 33.5 million
Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and 178 cosponsors have introduced HR 523, to repeal the $30 Billion medical device tax in Obamacare.
A Senate companion bill, S 232, has been introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and 7 cosponsors.
The Hill reported that a similar bill passed the House 270-146 in 2012 but was never considered in the Senate.
Paulsen (pictured) said in a statement that there are more than 8,000 medical device companies in the U.S., which employ nearly half a million workers.
The January 15, 2013 issue of this newsletter documented how the medical device tax was causing serious unemployment:
Fox News reported that, as a result of the medical device tax contained in Obamacare, Stryker medical supply cut 1,170 jobs.
Newsmax found that other medical device manufacturers, including Boston Scientific, Dana Holding Corporation, Welch Allyn, Medtronic, Kinetic Concepts, and Smith & Nephew have each forecast the need to cut hundreds of jobs as a result of Obamacare.
In a statement, Hatch said that the tax is putting 43,000 jobs at risk.
Paulsen said the medical device tax is "not only costing our country jobs and deterring innovation, but more importantly, it will reduce patient access to cutting edge medical products and treatments that save lives."
Both conservatives and liberals have condemned the Obama Administration policy of using drones to kill American citizens who are suspected of engaging in activities that pose a threat.
NBC News obtained a confidential memo from the Department of Justice (DOJ) that concludes the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens—"even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S."
The memo states, "The condition that an operational leader present an 'imminent' threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future."
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told NBC, "This is a chilling document. Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extra-judicial killing of an American citizen."
The Associated Press stated that the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), expressed concern about the deadly operations.
And House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said the Obama policy "deserves a serious look at how we make the decisions in government to take out, kill, eliminate, whatever word you want to use, not just American citizens, but other citizens as well."
The New York Times reported that a spokesman for Amnesty International said there was increasing evidence that the practices were "unlawful, violating the fundamental human right not to be arbitrarily deprived of one's life."
If this kind of activity had surfaced during the previous administration, it is certain President Bush would have been denounced very harshly.
A proposed revision to the Obamacare regulation requiring health insurers to provide coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients is being praised by liberals and condemned by conservatives.
The only good part of the proposal, which will now have 60 days for public comment, is that it slightly enlarges the original narrow definition of a house of worship to include those that provide charitable assistance to all persons regardless of their religious affiliation. The previous definition did not exempt a church from being covered if, for instance, it operated a soup kitchen that provided food to anyone in need.
But the new regulation does two things that upset many religious leaders.
First, the Obama Administration explicitly rejected an exemption for private companies owned by persons who have moral objections to contraception, sterilization, or abortifacients.
Furthermore, Brian Burch of CatholicVote points out that neither secular pro-life organizations, schools, charities, nor individual polices are exempt.
Second, it provides that non-profit institutions with direct ties to a religious body can provide health insurance that doesn't include coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients--but all employees would automatically be enrolled in a separate policy provided by an insurance company at no additional cost to the institution.
Emily Belz in World Magazine observed that reporters immediately recognized this as a gimmick. "Who is paying for it?" one asked. "Who is subsidizing this?"
Robert Pear in the New York Times said the Obama Administration's initial answer was that insurers would bear the cost, but would save money in the long run because they would "experience lower costs from improvements in women's health and fewer childbirths."
Sam Baker in The Hill wrote that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) later said that "insurance companies will now get a rebate from the federal government to offset the cost of providing coverage."
As could be expected, liberal groups are enthusiastic over the new regulations.