Monthly Archives: September 2013

Does The Defund Language In The House CR Shutdown The Entitlement Spending In ObamaCare? Answer: It Seems So

Gabe says no, the tax credits are in a part of the code that the CR doesn’t touch.

Of course he’d say that, he’s a damn dirty RINO and a lawyer. Me? I’m not a RINO because I’m not a Republican.

But for fun, let’s look at the laws.

First, here’s the defund language from the recently passed CR.

crdefund

That’s from page 17 of the House CR (pdf).

Now let’s look at the law Gabe references….

(a) Necessary amounts are appropriated to the Secretary of the Treasury for refunding internal revenue collections as provided by law, including payment of—
(1) claims for prior fiscal years; and
(2) accounts arising under—
(A) “Allowance or drawback (Internal Revenue)”;
(B) “Redemption of stamps (Internal Revenue)”;
(C) “Refunding legacy taxes, Act of March 30, 1928”;
(D) “Repayment of taxes on distilled spirits destroyed by casualty”; and
(E) “Refunds and payments of processing and related taxes”.
(b) Disbursements may be made from the appropriation made by this section only for—
(1) refunds to the limit of liability of an individual tax account; and
(2) refunds due from credit provisions of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 U.S.C. 1 et seq.) enacted before January 1, 1978, or enacted by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, or from section 25A, 35, 36, 36A, 36B, 168(k)(4)(F), 53(e), 54B(h), 6428, or 6431, of such Code, or due under section 3081(b)(2) of the Housing Assistance Tax Act of 2008.

I’m not a lawyer but here’s how I read that…the law Gabe references is the provision for how tax credits are handled by the Treasury Department. And he’s right, they happen automatically and a CR has nothing to do with that. Where I think he’s wrong is that provision just explains how they are dealt with not their actual existence. There are lots of tax credits (mortgage deduction, children, etc) and this section authorizes the Treasury to pay on them when a taxpayer makes a claim under an existing credit.

BUT…

What the CR does is repeal the existence of the ACA’s tax credits. Notice in the CR that “title I and subtitle B 6 of title II of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation 7 Act of 2010 (Public Law 111–152) are taken out of effect.

What’s that look like? Here’s the bills Table of Contents (pdf):

acereconcilliation

That’s where the ObamaCare subsidies and credits were created. If the CR becomes law as it is, it’s as if they don’t exist. If they don’t exist the part of the law that tells you how to administer them is irrelevant.

In short, if they don’t exist, it doesn’t matter that there’s another provision of law that allows the Treasury to pay other kinds credits. If you repealed the Earned Income Tax Credit, parents cold still claim the child tax credit.

Heritage Action says basically the same thing in their defund fact sheet (pdf):

. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the IRS, “will incur substantial administrative costs to implement the law’s private insurance reforms and its changes to the federal health care programs.” And whileObamacare provided $1 billion in mandatory implementation funding when it was enacted, HHS projects that this is largely spent. According to CRS, Obamacare “administrative costs will have to be funded through the annual
discretionary appropriations.” Furthermore, annual appropriations bills routinely carry funding limitations to block all sorts of activities (for example, the Hyde Amendment), as well make changes to mandatory spending. These latter provisions are called “changes in mandatory program spending” (CHIMPS). Even if these riders were not so common-place, the stakes of so many provisions of
Obamacare scheduled to take effect would present grounds for an exception.

What wouldn’t stop ObamaCare subsidies is a simple shutdown. In that case all current law stays the same in terms of entitlements. Of course no one is arguing a shutdown is going to stop ObamaCare, only a CR with defunding language will.

You can said this bad politics or that it won’t ever pass but I think saying that defunding doesn’t stop the ACA dead in its tracks (at least for 3 months, that’s all this CR is good for) is mistaken.

If I’m wrong, I’m sure I’ll hear about it.

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Jennifer Rubin: Don’t Reward The Defunder Nut Jobs With Donations. John Boehner: Hey We’re Going To Defund ObamaCare, How About Throwing Us Some Coin?

The problem for a hack like Jennifer Rubin is she occasionally tries to think for herself instead of waiting for the approved talking points from the people she is so eager to please. This sometimes creates trouble because she’s not very bright.

Jennifer Rubin this morning:

You have to laugh at the brazen greed of outside groups egging the Republicans toward a suicidal leap.

Heritage Action, following today’s House vote, sent out –surprise, surprise–a fundraising e-mail imploring conservatives to send them money. “Moments ago, the U.S. House voted to permanently defund Obamacare and simultaneously fund the government. Today’s vote is a victory for the American people, who made their voices heard during the August recess. . . .Thank you for standing up to the big-government special interests who are profiting off Obamacare.” Oh, and DONATE says the big red button below that. You can imagine that those donations may go to vilifying or even to primary any Republican who steps out of line.

The reality is that not even a majority of Senate Republicans are willing to shut down the government and there are only about two dozen hard-core cranks in the House who have not been able to figure out what is going on. It is the army of self-interested self-interest groups and gadflies like Cruz trying to drive the GOP bus over the cliff.

The way to stop this? Donors: Stop donating to them. Members: Stop listening to them. And conservative and mainstream media: Report accurately what they are up to. Then the GOP might get off suicide watch and move a conservative agenda.

She also called out Freedom Works and the Senate Conservative Fund for fundraising while driving the GOP to suicide.

That’s when things get….awkward.

nrccdefund

They are even buying Google Ads for it.

RNCC google Ad

Rubin used to be more careful and waited for instructions.

Lesson learned: Check you inbox Jen before hitting “publish”.

Terrorist Supporting REPUBLICAN Congressman Isn’t A Fan Of Ted Cruz

Peter King, Republican from Long Island thinks Ted Cruz “is a fraud” when it comes to the ObamaCare CR fight. He’s also running for the GOP nomination for President.

Here’s something you should know about King and factor it in evaluating anyone who would quote him approvingly: He’s an unapologetic supporter of terrorists. This is King talking about the IRA.

“We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry,” Mr. King told a pro-I.R.A. rally on Long Island, where he was serving as Nassau County comptroller, in 1982. Three years later he declared, “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it.”

In between that first statement in 1982 and the second one three years later King’s friends in the IRA tried to kill Margret Thatcher. 

I’m Irish too, don’t fall for King’s blarney.

The Fecklessness Of The GOP House Leadership

The House GOP leadership, led by House Speaker John Boehner, finally announced a decision on how his caucus would deal with the looming fight over full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare).

As is par for the course with this gang, it’s a day late and a dollar short.

The manner in which Boehner made the announcement and promptly dumped responsibility for it’s success or failure in the lap of the Senate GOP caucus. You know, the one in the minority that can’t actually force Majority Leader Harry Reid to do anything.

This is dishonest at best. The House standing firm was always going to be the pressure point in this fight. Ultimately the Senate and House will have to reach a deal. Having the Speaker pawn his responsibility for enabling the House to get the best deal it can from the Senate majority off on the Senate minority is not fighting for a cause, it’s avoiding blame. Quite the profile in courage.

The bigger problem was the timing of the decision. We are less than two weeks away from the end of the fiscal year. This fight was always going to be about creating popular support for undoing as much of the ACA as possible. Polls constantly show the public opposes the bill and there’s been plenty of bad news that could be used to create public pressure. Unfortunately, conservatives committed to undoing ObamaCare have been fighting not with Obama for the past year or so but with Boehner and Cantor over the strategy to pursue. Having wasted valuable months (including the August recess) avoiding a decision Boehner has decided to send in his back up quarterback in to the game with 2 seconds left, down by 17 points and told him, “go win the game or the responsibility for the loss is on you”.

Earlier this year Boehner promised to follow “regular order“. Of course Boehner says lots of things that never happen.  Yet instead of passing a CR early enough to go to conference with the Senate and buy time to build the anti-ACA case with the public, we’re back to a last second, backroom deal that leaves no time to build support. Of course it was impossible to avoid a CR because the House couldn’t muster the courage to pass any appropriations bills that actually cut spending as required by the Ryan Plan.

Now conservatives wanted this fight so they will have to make the best of it but let’s not pretend Boehener’s last second decision, his instant pawning off of responsibility and public signaling he thinks this is a bad move has really given the supporters of the CR fight the best chance to win.

On ObamaCare Defunding, Conservatives Are The Dog That Caught The Car. Now What?

“What do we do now?”

That’s the famous last line from The Candidate, a movie about a candidate selected to run because no one thought the incumbent could be beat. Only in the end the upstart is successful but hasn’t thought at all about what would happen beyond the election.

Well, much like the fictional Bill McKay, those of us supporting the defund through the continuing resolution we won (sort of, it’s only a 3 month CR). So, what do we do now?

Ideally we would have had a year to plan for this but the grassroots have spent the last year fighting with leadership to even get in the game. Having said that, we are the proverbial dog who has the caught the car so let’s figure out what comes next.

Recognize this will be a messaging war. More importantly recognize that the GOP’s messaging efforts haven’t been, shall we say, great to date.

Let’s get what we shouldn’t be talking about out of the way:

1-Barack Obama.
2-Barack Obama.
3-Barack Obama

This isn’t about him. This isn’t about “Obama the socialist”. It isn’t about “Obama just wants to give free stuff to people who depend on government” (it’s not about them either).

Barack Obama isn’t going to be on another ballot ever again. Move on.

This fight also isn’t about: “job creators”, “people on food stamps”, or even Democrats in general. It’s not about abstract notions of “freedom”, “self-reliance” or even the Constitution.

We’ve tried that stuff. You might note it doesn’t work.

Who and what this is about is…actual Americans you can stand next to.

It’s about:

-Keeping the government funded. Nothing that the government already does will stop, it’s just that t won’t be able to do new things with ObamaCare.

-It’s about the tens of millions of Americans who were so outraged about the partisan bill shoved down the country’s throat on Christmas Eve in 2009 that they sent Republicans to the House of Representatives in 2010 to stop and undo this unwanted and disliked law. The GOP is now doing what they were told do then and in 2012.

-“Peggy” who is a single mom who because of ObamaCare is having her hours cut back to part-time because her employer can’t afford the mandates in the bill. She doesn’t want subsidies or food stamps to make up the difference. She wants her job back.

-“Bob” who is alive thanks to cutting edge technology made by a company that is going out of business because of the medical device tax in ObamaCare. It’s also about Bob’s young daughter “Susan” who shares the same genetic problem as her dad and is worried that if it shows up later in life like it did for her dad, the technology to save her life won’t be there because that company is gone.

-It’s about “Jim and Lucy and their kids”. Doctor Adam has taken care of them for years but because Jim and Lucy’s employers stopped providing health insurance, Jim and Lucy now have to get their insurance from an ObamCare exchange. Yeah, the cost is about the same in their case (though it’s more expensive for others) but Doctor Adam isn’t in that plan so now they have to see a different doctor.

-It’s about “Doctor Adam” who though he can no longer see Jim, Lucy and their kids but has so many new patients and new paperwork he can’t spend enough time with each of them to provide the best care possible.

-It’s about Carlos who wanted to sign up for insurance but he’s already been the victim of identity theft and sees how these exchanges will be run he’s afraid it will happen to him again. He doesn’t want his life ruined twice.

-It’s about “Claire”, a manager at a local supermarket is losing her health insurance and being forced to go on an exchange plan, while “Kenny”, the guy who works for the local Congressman gets a waiver and gets to keep his tax payer funded plan.

You see where I’m going with this. We need to have a few key bullet points and humanize them. We can’t make this about numbers or abstract constructs. We aren’t doing this to get back at Obama, we don’t care about him. We aren’t against him or ObamaCare we are for Americans who have made it clear they don’t want this law and this plan. This is what the GOP was sent to DC to do. You’re welcome America.

The challenge in a fight like this is there are hundreds of GOP voices and some will be saying stupid things. The media will find them and highlight them. Meanwhile the administration will speak with more or less one voice and the media will cover up when they go off script.

It won’t be easy and honestly the chances of winning are slim. Again ideally we would have had a year to prepare for this and not 3 days but we asked for this fight so we better fight it and fight it smartly.

A Few Stray Thoughts On The Necessity Of The Sequester

An email pal sent along two good pieces on the effects of the sequester relating to the military. I’d urge to read both the Defense News and Information Dissemination articles.

With some minor changes for context, here’s my reply to his email:

 

I hate my position on sequester but it basically comes down to…oh well.
The country can and has survived presidents like Obama, hell we’ve survived worse (think Wilson). It can not long survive an idiotic population. The country has made some disastrous calculations in the last few years (going further back than Obama), it’s time to stop protecting the people from the consequences of their decisions. I hate that the men and women of the US military will bear the brunt of this at first but for the long term sake of the country, it must be done.
I’m all for a smarter way to do sequestration but mostly I’m for an honest set of choices…what kind of country do we want to be? “Charge it” is not a national economic strategy. We can have some things but not all the things. Start picking and start living with the consequences.
The Information Dissemination piece about the CNO is a great analogy for the country writ large. He wanted to pretend this wasn’t happening, that someone would come and save him from the bad man taking away his money. Well….no. Now you’re a year late and you can’t keep pretending that you can run the 5th Fleet like it’s 1997. We aren’t hitting Iran so enough with the two carrier groups already. We fought a 6 year war in Iraq to be able to reduce our presence in that theater, act like it.
Tough choices, doing less with less, welcome to the real world.
We’re discussing this in the context of defense by my real target is entitlements because like banks, that’s where the money is. Until they are on the table, it’s all so much nitpicking. If this gets us to that conversation, it’s worth it.

The More I Think About It, The More The Boehner/Cantor “Delay” Strategy Seems Like A Scam

A couple of things occurred to me after writing this post this morning.

If the debt ceiling is a stronger hammer to use on Obama than the Continuing Resolution, why not use it to push for full repeal?

We haven’t seen the official language yet but people keep talking about “delaying” the Affordable Care Act for “a year”. “A year” is September/October 2014. If the delay plan is supposed to leverage predicted gains in the Senate, what good is delaying it a year? Don’t we really need to delay it more like 18 months? Otherwise it will go into full effect before the hoped for reinforcements come.

How can we be sure that the hike in the debt ceiling will be perfectly timed to allow the GOP to use it again next year/early 2015? Or is that not the plan and the delay plan requires passing a clean CR that will expire at the same time the delay in the ACA expires? And if that’s the case, how can we take them seriously when they say they will pick a CR fight next year after refusing to do so to date (and arguing that it would be disastrous)?

My concern has always been that Obama will yield on a one-year delay in order to try and ensure that the roll out isn’t the disaster it’s shaping up to be. He’ll then spend the next year insisting that Republicans help him fix it, while blaming them for keeping millions of people from getting coverage (or for not having any since so many people are about to be dumped by their employers into exchanges that will be delayed).

I don’t think there’s much chance of getting delay or defund passed but I’d rather have a straight up fight to provide contrast going into 2014 (I’d also try and force Obama to implement the ACA as written by eliminating all the carveouts, side deals and waivers).

The more I think about it, the more it seems Boehner/Cantor are more interested in scamming conservatives than fighting Obama.

Is The Proposed Russian Deal On Syrian Chemical Weapons A Trap For Israel?

Ace wonders whether the John Kerry slip about trading Assad’s chemical weapons to avoid an attack was that or a pre-planned deal. It’s hard to say because Kerry is just so gaffe prone. Either way, it could be a clever trap laid by Obama and Putin.

Follow along with this scenario….

Assad trades his weapons to avoid an attack. Immediately calls begin to capitalize on this historic moment and make the Mideast a Chemical Weapons Free Zone (they can even make up little signs like they do for Gun Free Zones). This would of course mean that Israel would be pressed to give up chemical weapons it may or may not have (of course they do or they could create them in 20 minutes).

Of course Obama, who has a nuclear disarmament fetish, might then up the ante, “Hey, while we’re getting rid of chemical weapons in the Mideast, let’s go all the way and strike a “grand bargain” to get rid of nuclear weapons too”. The deal would be Israel would turnover their undeclared stockpile of nuclear weapons in exchange for an end to Iran’s nuclear program. In exchange, the US would commit to including Israel under a nuclear umbrella like it does with Japan, German and other non-nuclear allies.

That would be…interesting.

Kerry would love it because it’s the kind of a legacy building liberal internationalist would love. Chuck Hagel would love it because he’s a longtime advocate for global nuclear disarmament.

Would it work? Of course not but it would do a number of things.

It would buy Iran more time to develop their nuclear program while they “studied” and “negotiated” this “very interesting and welcome proposal to bring peace and stability to the region”.

It would also have the benefit (from the Russian, Iranian and Obama sides) of making the Israelis the bad guys in America. There’s no way they go for this deal but suddenly they would be the ones standing in the way of “peace in our time” and it would be harder to rally public support in the US for an attack when there’s the chance it could be worked out peacefully.

Am I saying this will happen? No.

Am I saying it could happen? Yeah, I think it could. It even might.

A Scorecard Of What Obama Is Asking You To Believe About His Syria Policy

I’m not in favor of an attack on Syria but if I were open to persuasion, what is President Obama asking me and other Americans to support?

As far as I can tell, we are sending a “limited” but “unbelievably small” “shot across the bow” in response to a moment as serious as Munich was in 1938, that will degrade the Assad regime’s military power without shifting the dynamics of the on-going civil war in order to preserve the world’s (who doesn’t seem very interested in the whole thing) and Congress “credibility” on the prohibition on using chemical weapons but not Obama’s who did but did not set a red line.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a President have his story straight before asking for authority to start a war (but not a “war-war“).

No, Syria Isn’t Iraq. That’s All The More Reason To Oppose It.

One of the talking points of the pro-Syrian interventionist camp is, people are worried about this being Iraq in terms of intelligence on WMD and the scope of the commitment. The Obama administration has been very clear in saying Syria will not be Iraq in either of those ways.

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and British Prime Minister David Cameron all seem intent on proving that any strike against Syria would be different from the 2003 campaign George W. Bush against Saddam Hussein.

In a speech accusing Bashar al-Assad’s regime of using chemical weapons, Kerry said Friday: “Our intelligence community has carefully reviewed and re-reviewed information regarding this attack. And I will tell you it has done so more than mindful of the Iraq experience. We will not repeat that moment.”

Obama said, “In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground, that would involve a long-term campaign, but we are looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act.”

For me the “Syria is not Iraq” argument isn’t reassuring, it’s exactly why we shouldn’t do it.

The WMD intelligence issue was never part of why I supported the Iraq invasion in 2003 (and it wasn’t the only, or even the most important part of the Bush case for the war). I supported the policy because in the aftermath of 9/11 the United States needed to take someone out in the Middle East and change the rules of the game in the region.

September 11th showed that militant Islamists were offering an ideological choice to Muslims who had lived under repressive regimes often backed or allied with the United States. The hardcore jihadis are unalterably opposed to the freedoms and values of the west but in many cases the populations of Muslim dominated countries could be, if not courted as supporters, at least neutralized and made less hostile to the United States. By invading/liberating Iraq and hopefully establishing a moderate government there, the US would create an example for other Muslim countries and demonstrate to Muslims around the world that the US wasn’t simply supporting tyrannical regimes like Mubark’s Egypt.

The Cold War model of backing corrupt authoritarians in order to fight a bigger evil had come to an end and the US needed to offer an alternative to the fundamentalists promise of restoring the ancient caliphate. Was it a perfect strategy? Obviously not but it was pretty much the only one on offer. As a bad plan will always defeat no plan, we went with it. No matter what it looks like at the moment, the results are far from in. It was always going to be a project that once set in motion would take decades to measure.

Against that strategic background, WMD or not, a massive invasion of Iraq and the attendant costs was a reasonable effort. Naturally it could have and should have been managed much better after the initial military victory but as in any endeavor the enemy gets a vote.

That maxim, that the enemy gest a vote, is what I keep coming back to when evaluating the proposed Syrian adventure.

There doesn’t seem to be any rationale or strategic aim other than expressing displeasure with Assad’s use of chemical weapons. The underlying assumption seems to be we can measure our military response with such precision that it will accomplish the goals of punishing Assad (while not hurting his ability to fight off the jihadi led rebellion) and to serve as sufficient warning to other tyrants not to use chemical weapons on either their own people or their foreign enemies.

Even assuming such a calibration is possible (and I don’t) it ignores that once the dogs of war have been let loose, the initiator (in this case, the US) doesn’t get to then announce that it is over.

There are three main parties with equities in Syria…the Assad regime, its Iranian patrons (along with their terrorist puppets in Hezbollah) and the Russians (who aside from being a prime arms supplier and longtime ally have a very large interest in maintaining their naval base in Tartus. Keep in mind, access to warm water ports has been a strategic obsession for Russians dating back long before Putin or even the Soviet Union).

To think that any or all of these parties will simply sit back and let an American attack go unanswered is folly.

We’ve already gotten a glimpse of the Iran’s possible response.

The Russians continue to move warships into the eastern Mediterranean. On a less overtly belligerent note, they control a major portion of our supply line into Afghanistan and ship a lot of oil into Europe (Hey, isn’t winter home heating season coming? Why, yes. Yes it is).

As for the Syrians they could respond exactly in the way Obama says he doesn’t want them to…with more chemical weapons attacks.

Then what does the US do?

In short, the enemy gets a vote.

Even if all goes as Obama hopes and there’s no major fallout, what exactly will we have accomplished?

The idea that other despots or non-state actors like al-Qaeda, will be deterred is silly. The lesson they will learn is that if you use chemical weapons Obama will attack you in a way designed not to have all that much impact on you.

Despite what Kerry claims, not striking Assad will not guarantee that chemical weapons will be used again. Was there a rush by rogue regimes to uses these weapons in the two-decades between Saddam Hussein’s use of them in early 80s during the Iran-Iraq war and his eventual overthrow in 2003? No, there wasn’t. The lack of a response by the “world community” meant nothing.

And if the attacks to grow in scope and duration as is now being hinted at, what does that do to the notion that they aren’t designed to turn the tide of the war in Syria? Obama is then lying to America about the scope of the war he is looking to begin. Make no mistake, if you start using bombers to penetrate Syrian airspace (though the bombers could launch weapons from the relative safety of allied airspace, though that would limit their range and effectiveness) and not just missiles launched from ships at sea, you will run the very serious chance of losing an aircraft and its crew. And if you lose them over Syria you need to send in a Combat Search and Rescue team and if one of those birds goes down because unlike bombers they are susceptible to all the shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles floating around the Syrian battlefield, then what?

What if the attacks are so punitive that the Assad regime is weakened to the point that the rebels gain ground or even win? What is Obama’s plan to ensure the supposedly “moderate’ rebels come out on top? We had hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for years and we couldn’t ensure outcomes that reflected our political goals. How are we going to do this from afar?

The idea that Assad, now branded a war criminal, is going to come to the negotiating table is ludicrous. He has long been in what he knows is a fight to victory or death. Hoping that when he dies the person who follows him in the leadership of the government forces will then come to the table is…optimistic in the extreme.

So no, Syria isn’t Iraq. It’s worse from a strategic perspective. Obama isn’t going in with any clear commitment to a goal and has not done the necessary work to build support within the country to see it through, quite the opposite in fact. The bottom line is he is prepping the country for an engagement that under in the best case has almost no upside but the very real potential to spiral out of control all for goals that are nebulous and contradictory.

People may fear the specter of Iraq but at least we went there with a purpose and committed the resources to meet that purpose. If you don’t like how it turned out (and I don’t think anyone does to date) remember it’s because the enemy gets a vote.