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Say What? Allen West Wants to Stop Wasting Time Defunding Obamacare

From The Blaze:

He‘s Glenn Beck’s pick for president. He’s loved by the Tea Party. And he’s not afraid to stand up to hecklers. But what you might not know about Rep. Allen West (R-FL), he’s also bucking his party on Obamacare. For example, he just voted against defunding it.

“What?” some just cried out audibly. It’s true. West not only was one of only four Republicans to vote against a measure that week that would strip $100 million in funding for the construction of school-based health centers.

And it wasn’t a mistake, slip of the finger, or accidental oversight. According to his office, he‘s questioning the GOP’s strategy.

He “believes there are bigger funding issues to be focusing on right now including the numerous developments in the Middle East, concerning Pakistan and whether there is a link to [Osama bin Laden] and the recent unity agreement with the [Palestinian Authority] and Fatah and Hamas,” West spokeswoman Angela Sachitano told The Hill in an e-mail.

“He voted to repeal Obamacare, and it was dead on arrival in the Senate,” she added. “He questions what the goal is of chipping away like this if it’s almost certain that the Senate is not going to take it up.”

But according to The Hill, West hasn’t been completely opposed to all defunding efforts. A day before voting against defunding the school-based health centers, he did vote to strip funds from the state-based insurance exchanges created by Obamacare. The Hill says Sachitano declined to explain why he voted for one measure and not the other.

Earlier this year, West did vote to repeal the entire bill, and explained his decision in an interview:

While Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey can understand (slightly) what West is talking about, he sees a lot of problems with the Tea Party leader’s position. The biggest one? It could get him voted out of office.

“Tea Party activists warned that they would focus their ire on Republicans who got elected and then attempted to moderate their positions on ObamaCare, spending, and taxes,” Morrissey writes. “I wonder if anyone thought that one of the first they’d have to address would be Col. West?”

GOP going after AARP?

From Hot Air:

The era of transparency has been taking some tricky twists and turns lately, and not all of the focus has been on the federal government. Unions, public broadcasting and others have come under scrutiny. The next subject of investigation, if certain Republicans have their way at least, will be AARP.

House Republican tax-writers want the IRS to investigate whether AARP should lose its tax-exempt status.

In a letter sent to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman Friday, Reps. Wally Herger (R-Calif.), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Charles Boustany (R-La.) say a recent congressional probe “gave rise to a number of serious concerns regarding AARP’s organizational structure and activities, and it raised questions about whether AARP continues to qualify as a tax-exempt organization under Internal Revenue Service Code (IRC) 501(c)4.”

A 40-page report recently released by the trio of lawmakers accuses AARP of refusing to provide information about its practices.

We can either dance around what we’re supposed to say when politicians get up to activities such as this or we can refuse to pull any punches and just tell it like it is. On the surface, every organization in the nation has to follow the existing rules regarding taxation. If you find tax exempt groups skirting those regulations they need to be brought into line or have their status changed.

But that’s not what’s really going on here, is it?

AARP is huge, with nearly 36 million members, and they’ve been around for so long they’re practically an institution. (Full disclosure: Yes, I’m a member. Yes, I think they provide some terrific services and programs.) And they’re operating pretty much as they always have. But a number of prominent Republican leaders are still upset that AARP supported Obamacare. And it’s been made clear already that AARP isn’t going to sign on for any major cuts or restructuring in Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security if seniors view it as endangering the benefits they receive or those still to come to their grandchildren. So now the GOP is considering taking the whip to them.

AARP is probably a lot more leery of playing ball on any entitlement changes this year. The last time they endorsed a move to make changes to one of the programs nearly 50,000 of their members quit in protest and they were left to deal with the backlash. It’s not just a “third rail” for politicians.

This is one tactic which the Republicans should look long and hard at before moving forward. If they wish to ride the white stallion of purity and say they simply want all non-profits to follow the law, then fine. It’s a noble sentiment, but they had better be ready to pay the price. Politically it looks like a suicide play. In case the leadership needs reminding, seniors vote at a more consistent rate than any other age group, and they are also the demographic group most likely to skew conservative and vote Republican. And for the most part, they like AARP.

A Republican attack on AARP for blatantly obvious partisan, political reasons could blow up in their faces. And doing this would probably just open the door for their opponents to begin calling for similar “purity driven” investigations of other non-profit groups who Republicans might not be so excited to go after, such as the Chamber of Commerce. Oh, wait… it’s already happening.

Coming up: a Senate vote on ObamaCare

From Hot Air:

One of the more intriguing parts of the budget deal announced late last night was a commitment from Harry Reid to allow two floor votes on Republican legislative priorities, both of which would never have otherwise seen in the Senate chamber before 2013.  The first is the effort to defund Planned Parenthood, a rider that got stripped out of last night’s final compromise, which would have an uncertain future in the Senate anyway.   The second, though, holds a great deal more promise, and a great deal of political risk for Democrats:

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, agreed to remove the Planned Parenthood provision in exchange for an agreement that would allow Congress to take up the funding issue separately.The Republicans also won inclusion of a provision that will require the Senate to vote on a bill to de-fund the health care reform law.

This codicil didn’t even get a mention in other news reports, but could be one of the more significant aspects of the agreement.  The House has already worked on a bill to repeal ObamaCare, which before now had absolutely no chance of consideration while Harry Reid ran the Senate.  As we repeatedly pointed out during the election, repeal of ObamaCare will be impossible until at least 2013, when we have an opportunity to elect and install a new President who will sign such a bill, even had we won control of the Senate.

So this isn’t important because it holds some new hope for a quicker repeal.  Rather, it forces Democrats to defend the massive government expansion of control yet again, this time closer to the 2012 election.  Democrats didn’t run on ObamaCare in 2010, except in reliably liberal districts for House races, and the last thing they need in an already-difficult cycle is another reminder to voters of the unpopular program.  By forcing a floor vote in this agreement, Reid will have to get his caucus — now reduced to 53 rather than 59 — to entirely back ObamaCare in a new vote.

Read the rest at Hot Air.

The whydunit of AARP’s support for ObamaCare

From Hot Air:

Greg Hengler at Townhall puts together this stylized, noir-detective look at the “mystery” of AARP’s political support for ObamaCare.  Call it The Mystery of the Senior Swindle if you will, or How To Make A Billion Dollars Without Really Trying. All you need to do is get Congress to create a market for you by swinging a lobbying hammer around Washington DC, and let the Democrats do your dirty work for you:

Interestingly, the Left erupted in outrage when GE’s tax breaks became public (and inaccurately reported by the New York Times). Where’s the outrage over AARP pushing a massive government expansion over the health-care market that puts a billion dollars into their pockets? Forget it, Jake; it’s Leftytown.

The Alliance for Retirement Prosperity warned about this back in November:

Because of the way Medicare is structured, seniors have to purchase an insurance policy that fills the gap between what Medicare covers and what it doesn’t. Bigger gap, less coverage; less coverage, greater need to purchase Medicare Supplemental insurance; greater need for Medicare Supplemental Insurance, bigger AARP profits.

For years, AARP made a fortune selling Medigap insurance to fill in those gaps.  Then, Congress created Medicare Advantage, an alternative to the Medicare Supplemental Medigap policies sold by AARP.  That cut into AARP’s Medigap business.

If ObamaCare is allowed to undermine Medicare Advantage plans, as the Congressional Budget Office confirms it will, AARP stands to benefit enormously as seniors are forced to return in droves to purchase AARP’s Medigap Supplemental plans.

There you have it.  While no one can read the mind of AARP executives to know their motivations in joining forces with the White House to jam ObamaCare into law, the observable indicators are unambiguously clear:  AARP appears to have betrayed its members to feather its own corporate nest.

If it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

Expect to hear more about this in the weeks ahead.

AARP’s Billion Dollar ObamaCare Windfall

From Big Government:

Ever since the passage of ObamaCare, I’ve been perplexed by a lingering question: Why did AARP so aggressively lobby for passage of the law? After all, the plan was built on $500 billion in cuts to Medicare. Even in Washington, half a trillion dollars is still a ton of money. Medicare is sacrosanct among America’s senior citizens. It was unfathomable to me that the nation’s largest membership association of seniors would, not just not oppose the cuts, but would actively lobby for them. It didn’t make any sense.

Mostly, I just chalked up AARP’s actions to its general leftist, partisan leanings. Medicare cuts by Republicans are bad, but cuts by Democrats to increase government involvement in health care are okay. Boy, was I wrong.

According to this blockbuster report, released today by the House Ways and Means Committee, AARP’s support of ObamaCare and, specifically, the Medicare cuts was entirely rational and self-serving. The Committee found, after an 18 month investigation, that AARP stands to reap an extra billion dollars in profits from ObamaCare. (Yes, that is billion with a B.) Worse, this extra profit is largely BECAUSE of the Medicare cuts.

AARP’s members may face uncertainty over their future health care because of the cuts, but AARP faces certain windfall profits for itself.

Read the rest at Big Government.

Stutzman Votes to End Burdensome ObamaCare-1099 Debacle

This is a press release from the office of Marlin Stutzman:

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Stutzman (IN-03) voted to end the burdensome 1099 provision of ObamaCare.  H.R. 4 the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act of 2011 was Cosponsored by 273 Members including Congressman Stutzman.  This repeal found strong bipartisan support and passed 314-112.  The repeal will remove regulations on business and individuals that incur business expenses in excess of $600, saving time, energy and money that can be better used in this tough economy.

“The House today voted to end a government regulation and improve job creation by giving employers a sign of stability.”  Stutzman said  “The 1099 provision of the ObamaCare Bill is an example of ‘pass the bill to find out what is in it.’  The purpose was never explained and could be the gateway to a Value Added Tax, which would continue to stifle economic growth.  Business owners, farmers and sole proprietors in Northeast Indiana should not be forced into increased costs due to IRS bureaucracy.  This is an additional stride in recalling the job killing ObamaCare Bill.”

More information on H.R. 4 can be found at: www.Thomas.gov

Congressman Stutzman represents the 3rd Congressional District of Indiana and serves on the House Committee on Agriculture, the House Committee on the Budget and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.  Indiana’s 3rd District contains all of DeKalb, Kosciusko, Lagrange, Noble, Steuben, and Whitley counties; as well as parts of Allen and Elkhart counties.

The Dirty Little Secret About De-Funding Obamacare

From Big Government:

Several members of Congress, like Rep. Denny Rehberg (R, MT) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R.-Wash.) are offering amendments that would prevent any new spending from being used to implement Obamacare.

Good for them.  Those are important additions to the big spending bill pending in Congress.

But here’s the dirty little secret:  Much of Obamacare is being implemented with money that was already appropriated last year.  These billions are already available for bureaucrats to put Obamacare into force.

Denying additional funding for Obamacare does not de-fund the huge amounts it already is using for implementation.  That requires additional action.

Even though the last Congress failed to pass other appropriations bills (creating the need for the currently-pending spending measure), that former Congress DID provide billions to get Obamacare launched.  The money was directly appropriated as part of the health care legislation, rather than included in a separate appropriations bill as is the normal practice.

The details are in a Congressional Research Service report issued last October, “Appropriations and Fund Transfers in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).”  CRS devotes seven pages to describing the billions of dollars already appropriated and which the Obama Administration even now is spending to promote that law.

 Conservatives agree with the American people that Obamacare should be repealed.  Short of outright repeal, leaders from 32 conservative groups in the Conservative Action Project have unitedly stated that the next-best strategy is defunding.  As their report states, “The safest route for legislatively combating Obamacare is to defund it. Now that the statute has been declared unconstitutional, Congress should use the power of the purse to deny funding for the individual mandate, employer mandates, and writing the 100s of regulations need to impose Obamacare. Such legislation will not in any way jeopardize the ongoing litigation efforts.”

It’s good that a federal judge has declared Obamacare unconstitutional, but the White House insists it’s going forward anyway.  It’s good that the House may cut off any new money to implement Obamacare.  But unless Congress deals with the pot of money already provided, we won’t meet the goal of defunding Obamacare.

Alaska Governor Refuses to Implement ObamaCare

From The Blaze:

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Sean Parnell took a defiant stand Thursday against the federal health care overhaul Congress passed last year, declaring that he will refuse to implement a law he views as blatantly unconstitutional.

Parnell is the latest Republican governor to lash out against the law as the courts weigh the constitutionality of the overhaul. More than half of all states, including Alaska, have sued or joined lawsuits against the government over the health care plan pushed by President Barack Obama.

It’s not immediately clear what impact the unusual, rather bold move would have on Alaskans, an estimated 14 percent of whom are uninsured year-round.

Several experts believe Parnell is on shaky legal ground and that his comments are little more than symbolic. The law won’t fully take effect until 2015 – just after his first term will have ended – and the constitutionality question will not get settled until the U.S. Supreme Court decides it.

Until then, in Parnell’s view the decision by a federal judge in Florida, striking down the law as unconstitutional, “is the law of the land, as it pertains to Alaska.”

Alaska was one of 26 states party to that case. In other cases, two federal judges have upheld the law and another judge ruled a provision requiring citizens to buy health insurance or face penalties – a major point of contention in the Florida case – is unconstitutional but did not strike down the rest of the law.

Federal Judge: Obamacare is Void

From The Heritage Foundation:

Today’s decision by Judge Vinson is another stinging defeat for the administration in its defense of Obamacare. Defenders of the health care bill had tried to paint any legal challenge as “frivolous.”  When then-Speaker Pelosi was asked by a reporter “where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate,” Pelosi responded incredulously, “Are you serious? Are you serious?”  To wit, Judge Vinson offered a serious response, striking down not only the mandate, but the whole of the health care bill.

In a 78-page opinion, Judge Vinson dissects the two major claims at issue in this case: whether Obamacare violates the spending clause, particularly the coercion principles announced in South Dakota v. Dole, and whether the mandate to purchase health insurance violates the Commerce Clause.

On the first claim, Judge Vinson sided with the administration.  In the second, he offered a detailed analysis of the law which reads like a treatise.  Rather than picking and choosing his cases, as many proponents of Obamacare like to do, he went through all of the relevant case law at length before concluding that the mandate violated the Commerce Clause.  He correctly observed that “it would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause.”  He then concluded that “the individual mandate and the remaining provisions are all inextricably bound together in purpose and must stand or fall as a single unit. The individual mandate cannot be severed.”  As such, he appropriately struck down the entire law.  Today’s decision should be a major source of concern for the Obama administration for at least five reasons.

 First, the parties involved. This case involves a majority of the states (26), and the National Federation of Independent Business.  If not completely unprecedented, the very fact that more than half the states marched into federal court on behalf of themselves and their citizens to challenge an unconstitutional federal program falls into the category of “beyond any recent memory.”  The sheer magnitude of the parties involved guarantees that the courts on appeal will pay particular attention to this case.

Second, the case creates a very bad trend for the administration.  Those courts which have taken the time to more fully develop the record in the case, and to have more briefing and hearings (Virginia and Florida), have ruled Obamacare unconstitutional.  This is important because, contrary to the White House spin, litigation is not a scoreboard.  It is not enough to say that you have won some and lost some.  Some district court wins “count” more, because they are more indicative of what is likely to come next.  Here, the cases the administration has lost have been better developed, have significant and sophisticated parties, and are in a better position for appeal than the more cursory cases that they have won at more preliminary stages.

Third, the case strikes down the whole of Obamacare based on the unconstitutionality of the mandate.  The administration has tried to have it both ways on this one, with the President and key proponents arguing how essential the mandate is, while the Justice Department arguing at times that it was absolutely essential, and at times that it was severable.  If the DOJ really wanted to keep the bill severable, perhaps they should not have argued in court that removing the mandate while maintaining the remaining requirements of the bill would “inexorably drive [the health insurance] market into extinction.”  Those who would falsely accuse the Judge of overstepping his bounds must recognize both the standards for severability, which he properly applied, and the damning concession made on this point by the Justice Department.

The fourth problem for the Obama DOJ: Judge Vinson’s decision is thorough, well-reasoned, and likely will be very persuasive to appellate judges, and eventually Justices, who review the case.  He was judicious, ruling against the states on the spending clause claim and for them on the Commerce Clause.  The most important document in any appeal is the decision below, and Judge Vinson’s will give the court of appeals much to consider.  Put simply, Vinson has just made the Obama DOJ’s job much more difficult.

The fifth problem, the Judge granted declaratory relief to the parties, which includes 26 states.  Because the entire act was struck down, the future requirements to expand Medicaid programs will be suspended, at least as to these 26 states, and these states will be relieved of their obligation to make plans for such expansion in the immediate future.  At a time when many states face insolvency, the removal of this burden is welcome news.  The Obama administration, rather than fight the relief for these 26 states, should extend it to all 50 until the case is finally resolved.

Obamacare: A Uniquely Vicious Form of Corruption

From Power Line:

If you haven’t already seen it, don’t miss Karl Rove’s column in today’s Wall Street Journal. Rove explains the vicious strategy at the heart of Obamacare: pass terrible legislation, and then collect a toll by exempting your friends–those who pay you lots of money–from that legislation, while your enemies have to live with it. We have had various forms of corruption over the years, but I don’t believe we have had, within memory, anything quite this disgusting. The worst malefactor here, besides President Obama himself, is AARP:

The Obama administration’s behavior to date suggests that it will not hesitate to take care of its friends. The Senate Republican Policy Committee’s health policy analyst, Chris Jacobs, points out that the administration has already given an extravagant gift to the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), a key player in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The AARP provided a big chunk of the $121 million spent on ads supporting the bill’s passage, as well as $21 million on lobbying in 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. HHS’s proposed regulations on Dec. 21 exempted the AARP’s lucrative “Medigap” plans from the rate review and other mandates and requirements. …

The AARP is also exempt from the new law’s $500,000 cap on executive compensation for insurance executives. (The nonprofit’s last CEO received over $1.5 million in compensation in his last full year, 2009.) It won’t pay any of the estimated $14 billion in new taxes on insurance companies, though according to its 2008 consolidated financial statement, it gets more money from its insurance offerings than it does from dues, grants and private contributions combined. Nor will it have to spend at least 85% of its Medigap premium dollars on medical claims, as Medicare Advantage plans must do; the AARP will be held to a far less restrictive 65%.

It’s not hard to connect the dots. The Obama administration is using waivers to reward friends. On the flip side, business executives will be discouraged from contributing to the president’s opponents or from taking any other steps that might upset the White House or its political appointees at HHS.

We’ve heard a lot about “crony capitalism” in recent years, but this is something worse–crony socialism. The Obama administration is running, in effect, a protection racket–nice business you have here, too bad if something should happen to it. We’re passing legislation that may destroy your business, but don’t worry–if you pay us our protection money, we will give you a waiver. By American standards, this is corruption of a uniquely vicious sort

God Bless America

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