Friday, March 31, 2017

Russian Cyberattack Targeted Rubio Staff As Recently As This Week

Russian cyber-attacks and hacking attempts were not limited to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the past election. Cybersecurity experts testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee said that several prominent Republicans including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) were targeted by “coordinated social media attacks” that apparently originated in Russia per CNN.

Senator Rubio testified that members of his campaign staff were targeted at least twice. “Former members of my presidential campaign team who had access to the internal information of my presidential campaign were targeted by IP addresses with an unknown location within Russia,” Rubio said Thursday. “That effort was unsuccessful. I would also inform the committee within the last 24 hours, at 10:45 a.m. yesterday, [Wednesday, March 29] a second attempt was made, again, against former members of my presidential campaign team who had access to our internal information -- again targeted from an IP address from an unknown location in Russia. And that effort was also unsuccessful.”

Clinton Watts, a former FBI agent and Senior Fellow at the George Washington Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, said that the attacks were not limited Rubio, but that all Republican candidates, with the exception of Donald Trump, were targeted by the Russians.

Watts noted that the attacks were ongoing. “This past week we observed social media campaigns targeting speaker of the House Paul Ryan hoping to foment further unrest amongst US democratic institutions,” he said.

Watts said later on CNN that Trump and his advisors, either knowingly or unknowingly, espoused Russian propaganda stories during the campaign. “What we can’t tell is whether President Trump realized he was actually citing Russian propaganda at times, which did happen. What did happen was his campaign manager [Paul Manafort] cited Russian propaganda seven days after it had been debunked in August 2016,” Watts said. “We see lots of lines that are pushed by the Kremlin that are fed into information briefings.”

“The other part is the coordination,” he continued. “We see hacks, we see leaks and those are very synchronized or come out very quickly with the campaign back in August, September, October. And that tends to lead to the belief that there was coordination.”

“The ultimate objective [of Putin] is to destroy democracies from the inside out,” Watts told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

When asked during the Senate hearing by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.) how the Intelligence Committee could track the cyberattacks to their source, Watts said that investigators should follow the money trail to determine who is bankrolling the many “fake news outlets, conspiratorial websites” run from Eastern Europe. Watts said that his best guess was that the outlets were funded by “some Russian intel asset.”

Watts also said that investigators should “Follow the trail of dead Russians.” He continued, “There have been more dead Russians in the past three months that are tied to this investigation, who have assets in banks all over the world. They are dropping dead even in western countries.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

DNC to Every Staffer: 'You're Fired'

If there was any doubt that the election of Donald Trump presented the Democratic Party with an existential crisis, the dire state of the liberal political party is evident by a report that Tom Perez, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has requested the resignation of all DNC staffers. The request may signal that Perez intends to move the Democrats away from the influence of the Clintons and their ties to Wall Street.

NBC News reports that Leah Daughtry, an advisor to outgoing DNC chair and Clinton ally Donna Brazile, asked that all staffers submit a resignation letter dated April 15 after the selection of Perez in February. Perez will have the option of accepting or rejecting the resignations and asking some staffers to stay on under his administration.

The DNC insisted that there was nothing unusual about the request. “This is longstanding precedent at the DNC and has happened during multiple Chair transitions,” said spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa. “The process was started before the election of the new Chair. From the beginning, Tom has been adamant that we structure the DNC for future campaigns.”

Perez previously assembled a committee of 30 Democrats to aid in selecting and interviewing new staff at the DNC per NBC. The committee includes Democrats from a variety of backgrounds including Bernie Sanders supporter Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Black Lives Matters activist Deray McKesson, immigration activist Astrid Silva, Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), former South Carolina Gov. and DNC Chair Don Fowler, and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Perez, who served as the Secretary of Labor under Barack Obama, bested Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) for the DNC chairmanship in February. Ellison had the backing of Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) while Perez, who was endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden, was seen as a candidate of the Democratic establishment.

Clues to the new direction of the Democratic Party can be seen in Perez’s promise to not accept money from lobbyists and his realization that the Democrats are out of touch with rural voters in traditional Democrat strongholds. “One of the reasons we lost in places like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania is we're not speaking to rural voters,” he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in February.

The new DNC chair has two difficult tasks ahead. First, he must bring the varied factions of the party together after the bitter primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. There is some evidence that enough Democrat voters disillusioned with Clintonian corruption voted third party to make a difference in swing states.

Second, the Democrats must repair the damage that the Obama Administration did to their appeal to working class voters. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones pointed out that Clinton lost 14 points among white working class voters and eight points among Hispanic working class voters compared with 2012.

“This strongly suggests that the working class was primarily motivated by economic concerns and only secondarily by racial issues,” Drum writes.

The economic stagnation in Rust Belt states, many of which are led by Democrats, arguably pushed many blue-collar voters toward Donald Trump. After eight years of Barack Obama’s various wars on business and coal, the Democrats have much to do to regain their footing in some states that were deep blue in the near past.

Perez’s task is made all the more difficult by the fact that state and local Democrats took heavy losses in the Obama era. Republican wave elections ended the careers of many promising Democrats in 2010 and 2014. In all, Democrats lost more than 1,000 seats under President Obama according to Fox News.

Given these challenges, it is unsurprising that Perez might want to start with a clean slate as he rebuilds the DNC from scratch. “What we're trying to do is culture change,” he told NBC News. “We're repairing a plane at 20,000 feet. You can't land the plane, shut it down, and close it until further notice.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

More states consider Medicaid expansion after health bill fail

The failure of the American Health Care Act may have an unintended consequence that will make it harder to dislodge Obamacare’s entitlements in the future. After Speaker Paul Ryan’s admission that “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” several red states are considering Medicaid expansions under the Affordable Care Act.

The Wall Street Journal reports that 19 states, most of which are reliably Republican, rejected the ACA’s Medicaid expansion to cover low-income families after the Supreme Court struck down the mandatory expansion of Medicaid and made it optional for the states. Federal funding for the expanded program was covered at 100 percent for three years and would reduce to 90 percent in 2020. The federal government typically pays about 60 percent of Medicaid spending.

“The thing that held states back was that they were going to end Medicaid expansion,” Adam Searing, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families, told the Journal. “Now when you have the House speaker saying this is going to stay, it’s like, ‘We may get the money, why not explore it?”

The Kansas Senate voted to approve the Medicaid expansion on Tuesday, two working days after the Republican health bill failed. CNN reports that the Kansas House had passed the bill earlier this year. The bill now goes to Gov. Sam Brownback (R) who is not expected to sign it into law.

“To expand Obamacare, when the program is in a death spiral, is not responsible policy,” Gov. Brownback said.

The Journal reports that several other states are expected to reconsider the Medicaid expansion since the ACA now appears to have survived the Republican challenge. These include Idaho, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Utah and Wyoming.

North Carolina’s Democrat governor, Roy Cooper, initiated the Medicaid expansion process after taking office in January. The Winston-Salem Journal said that the expansion was a top priority for Gov. Cooper, but he has met resistance from Republicans in the General Assembly.

Ironically, a Republican administration may make it more likely that red states buy into the Medicaid expansion. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price has the power to issue regulations that affect how Medicaid money is spent. A more conservative approach that includes work requirements and more leeway on how states spend Medicaid money may entice Republican state governments to opt in.

If more states enact the expanded Medicaid entitlement, it will be even harder to kill Obamacare in the future. The AHCA was derailed by Freedom Caucus members who, among other things, objected to the way the bill handled the expansion. The AHCA’s slow phase out of the Medicaid expansion was made necessary by four Republican Senators (Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Corey Gardner of Colorado, Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia) whose states elected to buy into Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. If more states expand Medicaid, it is likely that more Republican congressmen will decide to protect the federal Medicaid money flowing to their states.

Some popular Republican governors are already resisting the repeal of the Medicaid expansion as well. John Kasich (R-Ohio), who finished third in the 2016 Republican primary, called the Republican plan to repeal the expansion “a very, very bad idea” according to CNN.

The Trump Administration denies that the effort to repeal Obamacare is over, but there seem to be no plans to move forward. “Have we had some discussions and listened to ideas? Yes,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the Journal. “Are we actively planning an immediate strategy? Not at this time.”

As more states and taxpayers receive federal Obamacare money, the law will be harder and harder to repeal. Government money has the power to make addicts of both individuals and states. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It's time to stage an intervention for Republicans

When I was growing up, a frequent trope on television sit-coms was to stage an intervention for characters whose destructive behavior was getting them into trouble. The episode would involve other members of the cast gathering together to show the character with the problem how they were destroying their life with the hope of convincing them to change their ways. This week, as the prospects for repeal and replacement of Obamacare grow ever dimmer, it is time for an intervention for Republicans.

Obamacare cannot be repealed.

There. I’ve said it.

As a popular meme series might put it, “Stop trying to make full repeal happen. It’s not going to happen.” At least for now, this is the hard truth for conservatives.

The truth is that Republicans don’t have the votes to repeal Obamacare. The Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act with 60 votes, enough to end the Republican filibuster two days before Christmas in 2009. Republicans also need 60 votes to stop a Democrat filibuster of a repeal bill. There are 52 Republicans in the Senate. You do the math.

Repealing Obamacare is not mathematically possible without at least eight Democrats crossing the aisle. Reforming Obamacare is possible through a budget reconciliation. That should be our goal. We should be talking about health care reform instead of repeal.

Ted Cruz (R-Texas) advocates the 2015 repeal bill that was vetoed by President Obama, noting that “Virtually every Republican in Congress voted for that language, and the parliamentarian has already ruled it as permissible.” This bill is also unattainable, however. Cruz fails to note that four Republicans who voted for the 2015 bill now refuse to vote for a bill without a phase out of the Medicaid expansion. The 2015 bill was also not a full repeal.

Otto von Bismarck said that “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.”

That is what Republicans should focus on: What is possible, attainable, and the next best thing to full repeal that can actually pass. That is going to involve the ugly art of compromise. Any bill that can pass is not going to be everything that the conservative and moderate Republicans have on their respective wish lists.

The question for Republicans is this: Is a compromise that reforms Obamacare but falls short of repeal better than leaving the current monstrosity in place in its entirety? The answer should be a resounding “yes!”

Repeal is the ultimate goal, but it is not going to happen within the next two years. The current, short-term goal should be to take baby steps toward fixing the health care mess that Obamacare created. If Republicans can create a policy compromise that makes things better for most Americans, then hopefully voters will trust them with a larger majority in 2018.

Even then, it probably won’t be a slam dunk. Sixty-seat supermajorities don’t come along often. This is especially true for the Republicans who last had 60 seats in 1911. As long as there is a filibuster, compromise and forging bipartisan majorities is going to be necessary to advance conservative legislation.

Conversely, the more dysfunctional the party acts, the less likely voters are to give Republicans more power.

Since the defeat of the AHCA, President Trump has realized that he needs some Democrat votes and has started reaching across the aisle. The question is whether conservative Republicans will be left behind in the new reality or whether they will use their influence to craft the best, most conservative bill that can pass. If conservatives don’t play ball with the “nonpartisan” president, they may well find a new reform law passing that is even less likeable than the AHCA.

There is no honor for Republicans in insisting on a perfect bill that will never become law. There is no honor in killing imperfect bills that can improve the lives of hardworking Americans. The honor for Republicans will be found in coming together and building a bill that both conservatives and moderates can say “yes” to.

Voters did not send Republicans to Washington with a blank checkbook. For better or worse, Republicans were given a slim majority and a president who is not a conservative. No one faction of the party can enforce its will on the others. To accomplish anything, Republicans must learn to work together and get beyond the “just say ‘no’” mentality.

Voters did send Republicans to Congress to fix the Obamacare mess. If the ACA cannot be repealed, then it should be reformed where possible. Republicans should roll up their sleeves and get to work doing just that. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Gov. Moonbeam to Trump: Act Christian

California’s Governor Moonbeam has called upon President Trump to do the “Christian thing” and halt the deportation of illegal immigrants. According to the Daily Wire, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Cal.) went on to call the president “Mr. Religious Fellow” and said, “I  thought we had to treat the least of these as we would treat the Lord. So I hope he would reconnect with some of his conservative evangelicals and they’ll tell him that these are human beings and they’re children of God, they should be treated that way.”

A common trope among liberals is to suddenly get religion when it suits their policy views. In recent weeks, Democrats have also attacked the proposed Trump budget as “immoral” because it cuts federal funding for programs for the poor and the arts.

Gov. Brown is himself a lapsed Catholic who doesn’t “want it to be understood that I’m ready to underwrite” the “whole train of [Catholic] doctrines and beliefs” notes the Sacramento Bee. Many Christians would consider Brown, who studied Zen Buddhism in Japan and India under a former Jesuit priest who blended Christianity with Buddhism, to be an apostate.

When considering Brown’s view of what is “Christian,” it must be noted that Brown’s policies as governor of California were hostile to Catholics and Christians who oppose abortion. Brown’s administration changed state policy to require that health insurance companies pay for elective abortions, a decision that the president of the Catholic League told the Mercury News was in “direct conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church.” Brown also signed a California law that requires crisis pregnancy centers to refer patients to abortion clinics.

The Bible refers to the life of unborn babies in the womb as a creation of God (Psalm 139:13-16). “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13) is a core verse of the Ten Commandments.

While it can be galling when liberals hold conservative Christians to Biblical standards, it is not inappropriate. If Christians profess to adhere to a higher moral standard, it is fair game for the left to call them out when their actions fail to live up to their words.

The bigger problem is when non-Christians read policy prescriptions into the Bible that are not there. One of the largest myths from the religious left is that the Bible commands us to create a government welfare state to help “the least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46). A closer examination of the Biblical text reveals an individual commandment to help the sick and the poor. There is no option to have the government fund charity through tax dollars.

The leftist argument also assumes that government programs actually help the poor. Many studies have shown the destructive effects of government entitlements on the poor with unintended consequences from undermining personal responsibility to increased out-of-wedlock births and reducing upward mobility out of poverty. Second Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,’ is conveniently ignored by the big government Christians.

What of Jerry Brown’s contention that illegal immigration should be allowed to continue because it is the “Christian” thing to do? Jesus’s admonition to “render unto Caesar” (Matthew 20:21) and Paul’s advice to “obey the laws” (Romans 13:5) argue that Christians should not abet people in breaking the law except in the extreme case that man’s law contradicts God’s law (Isaiah 10:1-2, Acts 5:29).

Brown’s position on abortion contradicts the Biblical commandment not to murder, but the immigration system, thought broken and badly in need of reform, does not require Christians of conscience to break God’s law. Christian health care workers in California who are being compelled to aid in the murder of unborn babies have a better case for civil disobedience than federal immigration officers.

If Gov. Brown believes that the immigration system is unjust, as a majority of Americans do, he should work to change it, not tell people to ignore it. And while he’s at it, he should change California’s abortion policies to reduce the killings of unborn babies. It would be the Christian thing to do. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Trump pivots towards Democrats after health bill disaster

The White House issued a warning to Republicans yesterday. In the wake of the failure of the president’s health care reform bill, the Trump Administration signaled that it is willing to reach out to Democrats to advance its agenda if it can’t win support from the various Republican factions.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus underscored the potential shift in strategy on “Fox News Sunday” (quoted in the Wall Street Journal). “This president is not going to be a partisan president,” Priebus said. “I think it's time for our folks to come together, and I also think it's time to potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board as well.”

When asked if President Trump would move on from health care reform and allow the implosion of Obamacare to run its course as he threatened in a tweet, Politico notes that Priebus answered, “I don't think the president is closing the door on anything.”

“It's more or less a warning shot that we are willing to talk to anyone. We always have been,” he said in Time. “I think more so now than ever, it's time for both parties to come together and get to real reforms in this country.”

Since the decision to remove the AHCA bill from consideration on Friday, President Trump has alternately blamed the Democrats, blamed the House Freedom Caucus and reached out to Democrats.

The Washington Times reports that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was receptive to Trump’s overtures. “We Democrats, provided our Republican colleagues drop [repeal and replace] and stop undermining the ACA, are willing to work with our Republican friends — as long as they say no more repeal,” Mr. Schumer said. Schumer added in Time that, “if he changes, he could have a different presidency.”

With Republicans holding 52 seats in the Senate, virtually all reform legislation is subject to Democrat filibusters. A minimum of eight Democrats must cross over to kill the filibuster and allow a vote on any individual bill.

The Resurgent speculated in January that President Trump might forge a bipartisan coalition of moderate Democrats and Republicans on a number of issues where the president’s platform is at odds with traditional Republican principles. During the campaign, Mr. Trump said that he wouldn’t mind being a “free agent” in his dealings with Congress.

The price for dealing with the Democrats on health care would be giving up the full repeal of Obamacare. Republicans currently don’t have enough votes for repeal, but many, including those in the House Freedom Caucus, would refuse to vote for anything less. The price of bringing Democrats on board other items in the Republican agenda, from tax reform to immigration, is likely to be just as unpalatable. The more the president moves to the left to appeal to Democrats, the more Republicans he will lose. The question is whether he can find a workable majority in the middle.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Where does Obamacare repeal go from here?

The American Health Care Act is dead… at least for now. Next week House conservatives may wake up to the fact that they sided with Democrats to kill a bill that repealed a large part of the Affordable Care Act and defunded Planned Parenthood.  Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the failure of the AHCA is that no better or more realistic alternative for repealing and replacing Obamacare has been offered by the party’s dissidents.

The fundamental problem faced by the GOP is a mathematical one. The Affordable Care Act was passed with 60 Democrat votes in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster. It was then amended by a reconciliation bill that only required a simple majority. In 2010, Democrats had 60 seats in the Senate. Today, the Republicans have 52 and five of those are not reliable for a clean repeal. The numbers are just not there for a clean repeal so where does the Republican repeal and replace effort go from here?

Perhaps nowhere. If President Trump stands by his ultimatum that if the AHCA failed that he would bypass Obamacare and move on to other issues, the repeal effort may be dead in the water for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, while President Trump may not be committed to a repeal of Obamacare, many other Republicans are. However, without the bully pulpit of the presidency backing them, repeal is even more difficult than before.

Republicans face two giant hurdles in their quest to repeal and replace Obamacare. The first is finding a consensus between moderate and conservative Republicans on health policy. The differences range from what to do about the Medicaid expansion to how to treat tax credits for health insurance premiums to defunding Planned Parenthood (Susan Collins, I’m glaring in your direction.) The second problem is finding 60 votes to defeat the Democrat filibuster that is certain to come with any repeal or reform legislation other than a budget reconciliation.

The death of the AHCA does nothing to bridge the gap between the Freedom Caucus and Republican moderates. Like the AHCA, any future bill will have to try to appeal to both wings of the party and, as a result, will probably be reviled by both sides.

Given that the Republicans have only 52 votes available, there are only three viable strategies for repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The Nuclear Option. Republicans can change Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster. The problem is that they still fall short of 51 votes due to probable defections by Susan Collins and the Medicaid Four. Without 51 votes, eliminating the filibuster is pointless and counterproductive. There is a good chance that Republicans will decide to eliminate the filibuster to ram other bills through, but this strategy seems unlikely to help them on Obamacare.

Stall and wait for 60 Senate votes. The Democrats forced the ACA through with a supermajority of 60 votes. Likewise, the GOP could force a repeal if they had 60 votes. The last time that Republicans held a 60-seat majority was the 61st Congress from 1909 through 1911.

Nevertheless, this is not as unlikely as it sounds. There is a chance for a big GOP win in the Senate in 2018 because 10 Democrat seats in red states are vulnerable to Republican challengers.

The downside is that the 2018 elections are almost two years away and a lot can happen. President Trump is not popular and Republican voters are seething at the way the health care bill was handled. Republicans have blown easy Senate races many times before. A big Republican win in 2018 is probably made less likely if the health insurance system implodes on President Trump’s watch.

Compromise. In today’s political environment, compromise is often seen as a dirty word. Nevertheless, it will be necessary to pass repeal and replace legislation any time soon. Not only will Republicans have to compromise among themselves, something the Freedom Caucus has been largely unwilling to do thus far, they will also have to compromise with Democrats. This is likely to be as unappealing as it sounds.

Democrats hold the key to reforming the health care system. Even if large parts of Obamacare can be repealed through reconciliation, much of the health care reform on the Republican agenda will have to pass a Democrat filibuster. With a minimum of eight Democrat votes needed, Republicans will have to learn give-and-take or resign themselves to at least two years of gridlock.

The failure to repeal Obamacare is not about a lack of will among most Republicans. It is about a lack of Republican votes in Congress, even though they hold a slim majority. If Republicans really want to rid the country of Obamacare, they must go beyond “just say ‘no’” to find a realistic legislative pathway to repeal. This will most likely involve compromising on an imperfect bill that can garner a majority.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, March 25, 2017

How Obamacare Was Passed - And Why It Can't Be Repealed By Reconciliation

A common question since President Trump took office is why Republicans can’t simply repeal the entire Affordable Care Act with a budget reconciliation. The Democrats passed it that way, the argument goes, so why should Republicans have to worry about filibusters, cloture votes and the arcane rules of the Senate when they try to repeal Obamacare?

The most obvious reason is that with the four Republican Senators who are holding out to preserve the Medicaid expansion, Republicans don’t even have a simple majority that would vote for a clean repeal. The Medicaid Four, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia, vowed to oppose any repeal and replace bill that did not allow a phase out of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

A more technical reason is that Obamacare was not passed with a budget reconciliation. Not exactly anyway.

At the beginning of the 111th Congress in 2009, Democrats held 58 seats in the Senate. The wave election of 2008 had given them a majority that was just short of filibuster proof. Then the Democrats got two lucky – or at least underhanded – breaks. First, in what is often considered to be a stolen election, Al Franken unseated Republican Norm Coleman in a hotly contested recount. Second, Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) switched his party affiliation to Democrat in April 2009. Suddenly, the Democrats had the 60 votes necessary to stop a Republican filibuster in its tracks.

Specter’s defection set the stage for the Senate to pass the Affordable Care Act. On December 23, 2009, the Senate voted to end debate on the bill. The next day, Christmas Eve, the Senate passed the bill in a strict party line vote with every Republican voting “no.” The bill then went to the House of Representatives.

The next month, the Democrats faced a setback when Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) died suddenly. In a special election widely interpreted to be a referendum on the health care bill, Scott Brown defeated the heavily favored Democrat candidate and broke the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority.

What saved the Democrats was the fact that the House and Senate had negotiated most of their differences prior to the introduction of the bill into the Senate. To win over the final few House Democrats, the Democrat leadership urged them to pass the Senate bill with no changes and then pass a second bill via the reconciliation process. If the Senate bill was passed without changes, it would avoid going to conference and being subjected to a second Republican filibuster attempt before a final vote. The reconciliation bill, although its content would be restricted to tax, spending and debt limit legislation by Senate rules, would also not be subject to a filibuster.

After President Obama signed an Executive Order that purported to ensure that federal funds would not be used for abortion, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and the last few Democrat holdouts signed onto the bill. The promise not to fund abortion was broken almost immediately.

The Affordable Care Act was passed by the House without amendment on March 21, 2010 and went directly to the president’s desk. The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 was passed by both Houses of Congress on March 25, 2010. President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23 and the Health Care Reconciliation Act on March 30.

The bottom line is that Obamacare passed with two bills. One was a reconciliation bill and one was not. The largest part of Obamacare legislation was passed in a normal bill that Republicans did not have the numbers to filibuster. The Republicans cannot pass a clean repeal because they do not have the votes to stop the Democrat filibuster that would be certain to come.

But what about the 2015 repeal bill that was vetoed by President Obama? How could this bill repeal the entirety of Obamacare and get past the Democrat filibuster to the president’s desk if it was limited to the Senate rules on budget reconciliations?

The answer is that the bill, HR 3762, which was assigned the unwieldy name “To provide for reconciliation pursuant to section 2002 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2016,” was not a clean repeal of Obamacare any more than the AHCA was. The 2015 bill, like the AHCA, begins with the statement that the Affordable Care Act is amended, not repealed.

A House Republican fact page about HR 3762 also doesn’t make the claim that the bill would have repealed Obamacare in full. The bill summary on the page says, “HR 3762 repeals the health exchange subsidies and the Medicaid expansion included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), repeals the ‘Obamacare slush fund,’ eliminates federal funding for Planned Parenthood, repeals the individual and employer mandate penalties, and repeals the medical device and ‘Cadillac’ tax, among other provisions.” If you doubt this, you can read the text of the bill for yourself here.

HR 3762 might have been a better bill than the AHCA, but the Republican position in Congress was also better in 2015. Republicans held 54 Senate seats and 246 House seats in the 115th Congress. In the squeaker election of 2016, President Trump’s short coattails reduced those numbers to 52 Senate seats and 241 House seats. There is still a GOP majority in both houses, but a slimmer one with less margin for defections on votes.

HR 3762 passed the Senate by a 52-47 vote. Two Republicans voted against the measure, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine. Mark Kirk lost his reelection bid in 2016, but Susan Collins remains in the Senate as a prospective “no” vote on the AHCA.

The Medicaid Four were all in the Senate in 2015 and all voted for HR 3762. These four Senators switched their positions on the Medicaid expansion and made it necessary to present a weaker bill to Congress. It is ultimately these four Senators, along with Susan Collins, who should be held responsible for the failure of the GOP to repeal Obamacare because, without their votes, not even a reconciliation bill can pass, let alone a cloture vote on a clean repeal bill.

The failure of the Republicans to pass a clean repeal bill is not due to a lack of will on most members of the party. It is due to math. Democrats used the extremely rare and temporary 60 vote majority to force Obamacare through Congress with no Republican support. The current Republican position is much weaker than that of the Democrats in 2010.

If it is the fault of “RINOs” in Congress, it must be noted that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) is not the RINO to blame. Ryan and other Republican leaders worked to provide the strongest bill possible given the electoral realities of their caucus.

The blame lies with a handful of Republican Senators who are holding up the drive for a strong bill to replace Obamacare. Their names are Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Cory Gardner (Col.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Shelly Moore Capito (W. V.) and Susan Collins (Maine).

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Which is worse: Failure or passage of the GOP health bill?

As the American Health Care Act heads toward an uncertain future in the House, there is speculation that Republicans might be better off if the bill is killed quickly in its first vote. With many members of the Freedom Caucus lining up against the bill, Margot Sanger-Katz and Nate Cohn, who respectively cover healthcare and elections for the New York Times opined on which was worse for the GOP, having the bill fail or having it pass.

 “I think there are two big forces behind the progress of this bill,” Cohn said. “One is that no one wants to be responsible for its failure. So I agree that if the House passes something, there will be a lot more pressure for the Senate to figure something out. They might not be able to do it, but they might really try.”

“Two is that the speed is good for the Republicans,” he continued. “It has a better chance of passing if they move quickly, before public opinion turns against it. It’s better for the Republicans if it fails quickly, because they can move on to other things.”

“I think the Republicans are in a tough spot either way, but I think they’re better off if the bill fails,” Cohn continued. “They’ll get bad press, but voters have fairly short memories and I think the Republicans will move on. They’ll still be able to blame problems on Obamacare, even if it will be less credible. If they pass this plan, I have no idea how they intend to defend it. And I think hurting vulnerable Americans would go against the core of Trump’s appeal to the decisive Obama-Trump vote in the Midwest and Northeast, with little benefit. I think the best position for a lot of Republican members is to vote for the bill, but hope it fails. On the other hand, if the bill passes, it will be nice to be among the Republicans who voted against it.”

If the bill does manage to pass the House, it won’t pass the Senate as written. “The Senate has more of a moderate problem than the House, it appears,” said Sanger-Katz. “There are two senators — Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins — who don’t like that the bill defunds Planned Parenthood. There are a few senators from states that expanded Medicaid who are worried about changes to that program. There are also some concerns about the generosity of tax credits, particularly for older Americans.”

If the bill is amended to win the votes of Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Collins (R-Maine), it will face increasing opposition from Senators on the right such as Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Still, the best chance for repeal and replace seems to be to pass versions of the bill in both houses and work to improve it in the conference committee that irons out the differences.

The biggest problem for Republicans is the lack of a clear direction if the AHCA fails. “My sense is that there’s just no policy consensus about health care among Republicans,” Sanger-Katz said. “I think they would need that kind of vision and consensus to get something ready in advance.”

Finding a consensus is easier said than done. Many of the problems with the current bill result from trying to find a consensus where there is none. Conservatives want a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act which is not mathematically possible in the current Congress without Democrat defections. Moderates want to protect citizens of their states that rely on the Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. The resulting standoff makes it unlikely that enough Republicans can be satisfied to pass any bill without compromise from both sides.

The current bill is the result of an “effort to write this bill, in a hurry, with a jumble of provisions, [that] seems to suggest that they are just trying to find something that can pass, as opposed to articulating a clear policy vision for what they want health care to look like in this country,” Sanger-Katz said.

If the current compromise bill, written to get something passed, cannot pass, what is the future of the Republican repeal and replace effort? Amending it to satisfy members of the Freedom Caucus would probably spur moderates to vote “no” and vice versa. If the bill dies, there is no clear path forward.

Failure of the current bill might have the effect of moving healthcare reform to the left. If conservatives cannot be brought on board, President Trump may tack to the left and craft a bill that could pass with a coalition of moderates from both parties.

Failing to repeal Obamacare won’t be good for Republicans. Neither is passing a bill that leaves much of Obamacare intact. Finding a bill that can pass will require walking a tightrope that leaves the GOP vulnerable to attacks from both the left and the right.

 Originally published on The Resurgent

Elmo Gets Fired in Liberal Video Attacking Trump Budget

A new parody video from purports to show what might happen behind the scenes at PBS and the Children’s Television Workshop due to President Trump’s proposed budget. Most of the claims made by the video are off target. Nevertheless, the parody does expose the liberal mindset on the arts, jobs, healthcare and government funding.

In the sketch, Elmo is being laid off because, as his boss says, “the Trump Administration is cutting all arts and education funding from the new congressional budget.” There is truth to this statement. The Trump budget calls for elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Defunding the federal subsidies of the arts would not kill art, Sesame Street or PBS, however. PBS funding was an issue in the 2012 election when Mitt Romney said, “I love Big Bird… but I’m not going to keep on spending money on things that we have to borrow money from China to pay for.”

At the time, PBS CEO Paula Kerger discussed PBS funding on “The Fix.” “Communities treasure their public stations, and it’s individual philanthropy in those communities that actually makes public television work,” Kerger said. “We get about 15 percent — that’s one-five percent — of our funding, in aggregate, from the federal government. That actually goes to our stations, not to me, and that really enables public broadcasting to be seen in communities that may not have the economic means to sustain it. States like Alaska for example, where 50 percent of the funding to maintain that infrastructure comes from the federal government.”

That’s right. Eighty-five percent of PBS funding comes from sources other than the federal government. According to recent figures from Fortune, the federal government spends only $450 million on PBS and NPR combined. That amount could be easily made up by corporate donations, especially if corporations could improve their bottom lines in other ways, for instance a cut in the corporate tax rate.

The threat of firing Elmo was even too outlandish for the Huffington Post. The liberal site pointed out a recent tweet by Sesame Street that confirms that the show does not receive any funding from PBS or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

So how does Sesame Street get its funding? It is already funded by an (evil?) corporation. Since 2015, HBO has financed the classic children’s show. The partnership with HBO still allows PBS to broadcast Sesame Street episodes at no charge and even allows the show to produce more episodes than while it was funded by PBS. HBO’s partnership with Sesame Street is an example of free markets at work.

Elmo also worries about his insurance and pre-existing conditions in the video. This reflects the liberal belief that jobs are vehicles to provide workers with insurance, a core tenet of Obamacare.

In reality, jobs exist to provide economic benefits to the employer. If a job is not producing benefits for the person or company paying the worker’s salary, then the job is not sustainable. A company cannot pay more in salaries and benefits than it earns in revenues. Jobs that are not producing wealth (or aiding others in producing wealth) should probably be cut for the good of the company.

This is why Obamacare and increases in minimum wage adversely affect the job market. By making it more expensive to hire workers, the workers must produce more to justify their employment. All too often the result is fewer jobs, especially for unskilled, entry level workers.

“Elmo, you’re going to land on your feet,” the boss says. “Don’t worry.”

We know this is true. Elmo is a celebrity who could easily find a job on another children’s show. Elmo could make a lucrative deal licensing himself for toys and other merchandise. Who can forget the Tickle Me Elmo craze of 1996?

If PBS has a product that people want to buy, then it will survive. Elmo and Sesame Street will thrive in the private marketplace. It’s the shows that no one wants to watch -or pay for - that should be worried.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Nunes Statement Does Not Confirm Trump Tweets

Comments made today by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R- Calif.) are being construed by many on the right to confirm President Trump’s tweets alleging that the Obama Administration wiretapped the Trump Tower during the campaign. In reality, Chairman Nunes’s statement falls short of substantiating Trump’s claims, but does allege misbehavior by the intelligence community.

“I have seen intelligence reports that clearly show that the president-elect and his team were, I guess, at least monitored,” Nunes said in Politico. “It looks to me like it was all legally collected, but it was essentially a lot of information on the president-elect and his transition team and what they were doing.”

Nunes described the surveillance as “incidental collection,” which Politico notes “can occur when a person inside the United States communicates with a foreign target of U.S. surveillance. In such cases, the identities of U.S. citizens are supposed to be kept secret — but can be ‘unmasked’ by intelligence officials under certain circumstances.”

Nunes’ statement does not seem to be a revelation. The story that Trump aides were under investigation for their ties to Russia broke before the election. The evidence of Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak came from FBI surveillance of the Russian official. This would fall under the category of “incidental collection.”

Nothing in Chairman Nunes statement indicates that there was any surveillance targeted at Mr. Trump or the Trump Tower. In fact, Nunes reiterated that he had no evidence that any surveillance was conducted in the Trump Tower.

Nunes identified four concerns about the new information. First, that information was “incidentally collected” about members of the Trump transition team. Second, details about members of the transition team “with little or no intelligence value” were widely disseminated in intelligence circles. Third, additional members of the transition were “unmasked” by the surveillance. Finally, Nunes said, “None of this surveillance was related to Russia or the investigation of Russian activities or the Trump team.”

Nunes said that the Intelligence Committee planned to investigate further to determine who was aware of the intelligence collection, why it was not reported to Congress, who requested the additional unmasking, whether there was any direction to focus on the Trump team and whether any laws were broken.

“Investigators are not supposed to ‘brief’ the folks being investigated,” retorted Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.).

On Monday, FBI Director James Comey acknowledged that members of the Trump campaign were under investigation for their ties to Russia, but, at the same time, said that he had “no information” to substantiate Trump’s wiretap claim. Comey also noted that “no individual in the United States can direct electronic surveillance of anyone.”

If Nunes had actually confirmed that President-elect Trump had been under surveillance, then Director Comey would have necessarily been lying. If Comey lied to Congress, especially on an issue in which he conflicted with President Trump, the president would have no choice but to fire him. The fact that Comey has not been dismissed is proof of the lack of evidence for Trump’s claim.

While President Trump told Fox News that he felt “vindicated” by Chairman Nunes’s statement, as commander-in-chief, Trump would have both the access and the authority to present evidence to substantiate his wiretapping claim if any such evidence existed. Numerous Republicans have urged the president to back up his claim with evidence, but nothing has been forthcoming.

Last week, Press Secretary Sean Spicer even attempted to soften the president’s accusations by saying on CNN, “The President used the word wiretaps in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities.” Spicer also said that Trump’s tweets referred to the Obama Administration as a whole rather than the former president individually, even though one tweet called Obama a “Bad (or sick) guy!” [The exclamation is present in the original tweet].

The entire brouhaha over the wiretapping tweet has followed the classic pattern that starts with Donald Trump making an outlandish claim. When asked to withdraw or back up his statement, Trump typically doubles down without providing evidence. At that point, pundits start twisting facts as well as the president’s words to make each match the other.

At this point, there are numerous loose ends to tie up. The FBI investigation of Russian meddling and links to Team Trump is still underway. The House investigation of intelligence dissemination of Team Trump is just getting started. There are many unknowns but one thing seems certain: Obama did not wiretap Trump Tower. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

More guns, fewer crimes

About 20 years ago, criminologist John Lott wrote a book that documented how violent crime decreased in states that passed “shall issue” gun carry permits. Lott’s book, “More Guns, Less Crime,” was a pivotal moment in understanding the harmful effects of gun control laws. The assumption of a positive link between gun control and civic safety was broken. Now, another gun control assumption is being called into question as new data shows that more guns don’t necessarily result in more firearms accidents.

Gun sales have set records several times in recent years. Gun sales as measured by NICS background checks increased after the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and again after his reelection and attempt to impose new gun controls in the aftermath of the Newtown school massacre.

The prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency caused sales to spike even further. Gun sales in 2016 smashed all previous records. At more than 27 million background checks, more than twice as many guns were purchased in 2016 as in 2008.

Liberal dogma would lead one to believe that the vast numbers of new guns in the hands of private citizens would lead to a dramatic increase in rates of violent crime and firearms accidents. Neither assumption is true.

The Washington Examiner reports that a new report by the National Safety Council puts the number of gun-related accidental deaths for 2015, the latest year that statistics are available, at 489. This is the lowest since recordkeeping began and represents a 17 percent drop from 2014.

Gun accidents make up less than one percent of the accidental deaths studied in the report by the nonprofit organization. Guns caused far fewer accidental deaths than automobiles and drug overdoses, which were leading causes of accidental death in various age groups. The odds of accidental gun deaths fell between “pedacyclist incidents” and “air and space transport incidents.”

Likewise, crime rates across the country remain near record lows despite claims by Democrats and President Trump that crime is at critical levels. FBI data from 2014, the most recent year available, shows the US murder rate at its lowest point since 1957.

Some cities did report an uptick in violent crime in 2015, but Politifact notes that the overall trend has been downward. “Snapshots are not trends. And two or three years of data are far too few to establish a trend,” said Richard A. Berk, professor of criminology and statistics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

CNN notes that the uptick in violent crime was due to increases in specific cities, such as Chicago, which doesn’t even make USA Today’s list of the most violent cities in the country when crime rates are adjusted for population, although its suburb of Rockford, Ill. does. None of the cities on the list are known for large illegal immigrant populations, making the president’s claims that illegals are driving the uptick in the crime rate problematic.

Chris Eger at credits the increase in safety programs with the decline in gun accidents. “The basic gun safety rules as advocated by the National Rifle Association are mentioned at least as far back as Jeff Cooper’s ‘The Complete Book of Modern Handgunning’ in 1961,” he writes. “The gun rights group has also backed their Eddie Eagle GunSafe, which they contend has reached more than 28 million children since 1988.” Eger also gives a nod to the 2005 law that required including gun locks with new gun sales and the distribution of gun locks by the National Shooting Sports Foundation as part of Project Childsafe.

“This latest release from the National Safety Council shows that the vast majority of the 100 million American firearms owners meet the serious responsibilities which come with firearms ownership,” said NSSF President and CEO Steve Sanetti. “They store their firearms safely and securely when not in use, and follow the basic rules of firearms safety when handling them.”

Perhaps we should question more liberal dogmas.

Originally published on the Resurgent

Monday, March 20, 2017

Gays On Film Flop Despite Increased Presence

Have you heard of ABC’s epic miniseries, When We Rise? Neither have I, but LifeSiteNews says that the eight-hour show detailing the rise of the gay rights movement was heavily promoted during the Oscars. (Come to think of it that might explain why I missed it.) Nevertheless, the miniseries bombed and placed last among shows on the big four networks and next-to-last overall, coming in just ahead of Jane the Virgin on the CW.

LGBTQ shows were the hot new thing last year. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage across the country, networks bet that the time had come for gay television shows. CNN reported last year that there were more gay and lesbian characters on television than at any time in the past. Overall, 4.8 percent of regular characters fell under the LGBTQ umbrella.

The push for gay characters shows no signs of abating. Earlier this month, Disney introduced its first gay (or at least questioning) character in the new version of Beauty and the Beast. A gay romance has also been confirmed for the new Star Wars movies.

If it seems like homosexuality is more prevalent on television than in real life, you are right. Only 3.8 percent of Americans identify as LGBT per Gallup.

In spite of this, The Advocate bemoans the unpopularity of gay television and movies like When We Rise. Even though Moonlight, another movie that I had never heard of about a gay black boy in Miami, won the Academy Award for best picture in an upset over La La Land, “it had the lowest box-office numbers of all the nominees,” writes Daniel Reynolds.

Reynolds also notes that CBS recently canceled Doubt, “the first network TV show to feature a trans actress (Laverne Cox) in a regular, main-cast trans role.” Reynolds says, “If Doubt were still on the air, viewers on CBS — a network with real red state reach — could have seen Cox’s character, an attorney, strike up a romantic relationship with a cisgender man and help defend a trans victim of violence.” That is not exactly must-see TV for red state viewers.

Polling shows that Americans are increasingly accepting of both homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Pew found that 63 percent now believe that homosexuality should be accepted. Resistance to homosexuality among both Christians and conservative Republicans has declined in recent years. Gallup now shows 61 percent in favor of same-sex marriage with only 37 percent opposed.

How then can we square the flop of gay programming with the increasing acceptance of homosexuality? A clue can be found in Reynold’s lament over the cancellation of Doubt. He seems to view the show as evangelism to red states rather than entertainment.

Americans typically have a live and let live, libertarian attitude to issues like homosexuality. “Let them do what they want behind closed doors if it doesn’t affect me,” seems to be the prevailing attitude. This laissez-faire attitude towards personal sexual relationships does not extend to watching shows and movies about gays that are not entertaining.

There have been two unquestionably successful shows featuring main characters who are gay. Will and Grace, which ran from 1998 through 2006, and Modern Family, which debuted in 2009, were both mainstream hits. These were funny shows that succeeded on their own merits as entertainment and not because they pushed a gay agenda.

With gay viewers representing only a tiny slice of television viewers, producers and writers must be careful not to turn off straight viewers with gay characters and plots. A New York Times list of the most influential gay movies and television shows reveals that most of the entries that were memorable and successful were gay characters and episodes on otherwise straight shows such as the lesbian wedding episode on Friends or the lesbian kiss on Roseanne. Many of the “groundbreaking” shows and movies were notable only as footnotes in gay film history.

Due to the proliferation of cable channels and internet television shows, it is easier than ever before for a show to become successful while appealing to only a small segment of viewers. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a reality show in which gay men gave straight men fashion makeovers, was successful on Bravo for five years. Girls, a series on HBO, catapulted Lena Dunham from obscurity to minor celebrity status. Even a hit show like Modern Family draws only about 8 million viewers each week out of a nation of 350 million. In contrast, I Love Lucy drew 11 million viewers each week when there were only 15 million TV sets in the entire country.

The lesson for networks is that while Americans are increasingly tolerant towards gays, they don’t necessarily want to tune in to gay romances or shows that preach a gay political agenda. While movies like Moonlight and When We Rise may achieve critical acclaim, it’s the shows that make us laugh and offer an escape from day-to-day life that get us to tune in. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Comey confirms investigation of Trump campaign ties to Russia

Speaking before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey has confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Director Comey said in his opening statement that the FBI does not usually confirm or deny ongoing investigations, but did so in this case due to the extraordinary public interest.

“As you know, our practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations, especially those investigations that involve classified matters, but, in unusual circumstances when it is in the public interest it may be appropriate to do so, as Justice Department policies recognize,” Comey told the committee. “This is one of those circumstances.”

“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” Comey continued. “That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment as to whether any crimes were committed.”

Comey went on to say that he could not make more specific comments because the investigation was ongoing. He also asked that people avoid speculation based on his inability to give specifics. Director Comey promised to “follow the facts wherever they lead,” but declined to give a timetable for the investigation.

In his opening statement, Director Comey did not address President Trump’s claims that the Obama Administration had “wiretapped” the Trump Tower during the campaign.

Last year, President Trump criticized Director Comey for failing to recommend prosecution for Hillary Clinton last summer, but then reversed himself and praised Comey after his letter to members of Congress detailing the discovery of new Clinton emails prior to the election. President Trump ultimately decided to allow Comey, whose 10-year term began in 2013, to continue in his role as FBI Director.

View Director Comey’s entire statement here.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, March 17, 2017

Tillerson on North Korea: 'Nothing is Off the Table'

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in South Korea and his comments are shaking up the diplomatic status quo on the Korean peninsula. Tillerson, who said earlier that the past 20 years of diplomacy was a “failed approach,” is signaling that a new approach is at hand.

“Let me be very clear — the policy of strategic patience has ended,” the Secretary of State said. “We are exploring a new range of security and diplomatic measures. All options are on the table.”

Tillerson noted that the US has provided North Korea with $1.3 billion in economic aid since the Clinton Administration. “In return North Korea has detonated nuclear weapons and dramatically increased its launches of ballistic missiles to threaten America and our allies,” he said.

In an interview with Fox News, Tillerson said, “Nothing has been taken off the table” when asked about President Trump’s comments during the campaign that proliferation of nuclear weapons in East Asia might be a suitable counter to North Korean weapons programs. Japan has resisted developing nuclear weapons since World War II.

Tillerson was also asked about the possibility of military action against the North. “If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table,” Tillerson replied to NBC News.

“Certainly we do not want for things to get to a military conflict,” he continued. “But obviously if North Korea takes actions that threaten the South Korean forces or our own forces then that would be met with an appropriate response.”

“We have many, many steps we can take before we get to” military action and “we hope that that will persuade North Korea to take a different course of action. That's our desire.” Tillerson added.

In a St. Patrick’s Day tweet, President Trump signaled his support for Tillerson’s shift in policy, saying, “North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!”

North Korea has tested nuclear weapons and missiles with increasingly long ranges over the past two decades. In January, the hermit kingdom threatened to test an intercontinental ballistic missile that could target cities in the contiguous United States. In February, North Korean agents were implicated in the assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother in a Malaysian airport with VX nerve agent.

“Today, North Korea not only threatens its regional neighbors but the United States and other countries,” Tillerson said.

 Originally published on The Resurgent

OMB Director: Trump budget rebuilds military, cuts waste

A big concern for many conservatives has been President Trump’s promises of increased spending in many areas. Trump’s promises of more money for the military and infrastructure have many worried that the increased spending will explode the deficit. However, the director of the Office of Management and Budget pointed out in a new budget blueprint that Trump’s spending increases will be offset by cuts in other areas.

In the Washington Free Beacon, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said, “This is the ‘America First' budget. In fact, we wrote it using the president's own words—we went through his speeches, articles that have been written about his policies, we talked to him, and we wanted to know what his policies were, and we turned those policies into numbers.”

A big winner in the first Trump budget is defense, which is slated for a $54 billion increase split between the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. The Defense Department budget would be increased by nine percent and Homeland Security by seven percent.

“We've worked very closely with the Defense Department to make sure, a couple of things, that this funds their needs but does so in a responsible fashion in terms of what they can actually spend this year,” Mulvaney said. “The Defense Department has told us this is the amount of money they need and can spend effectively this year. We are not throwing money after a problem and claiming that we have fixed it.”

The budget also allocates $4.1 billion over two years for Mr. Trump’s border wall. The figures for the first two years include tests to determine the efficiency and safety of different types of barriers. Mulvaney noted that a 10-year cost projection would accompany the full budget when it is released in May.

Mulvaney pointed out that these spending increases would be offset by cuts in other parts of the budget. “You will see reductions exactly where you would expect it from a president who just ran on an ‘America First’ campaign,” Mulvaney said. “You’ll see reductions in many agencies as he tries to shrink the role of government, drive efficiencies, go after waste, duplicative programs, those types of things.”

“The president ran saying he would spend less money overseas and more money back home,” Mulvaney said. “So when you go to implement that policy you go to things like foreign aid, and those get reduced. If those had been in the Department of Education you'd see a dramatic decrease in education.”

In fact, the Department of Education’s budget was cut overall, but charter school funding and school choice programs saw an increase. Some of the other notable items in the budget blueprint include:
  • ·         Cuts Homeland Security grants to local and state agencies
  • ·         Raises TSA security fees for airline passengers
  • ·         Eliminates funding for 49 National Historic Sites
  • ·         Cuts funding to reimburse state and local governments for detaining illegal immigrants
  • ·         Increases funding and lawyers for illegal immigrant removal
  • ·         Eliminates climate change prevention programs
  • ·         Reduces funding for UN peacekeeping
  • ·         Privatizes the air traffic control system
  • ·         Eliminates funding for many transportation projects
  • ·         Cuts NASA budget by one percent

According to the Washington Post, the big losers in the new budget are the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department, which lose almost a third of their budgets. The Department of Agriculture and the Labor Department also received cuts greater than 20 percent. Other departments on the chopping block with cuts of more than 10 percent included Health and Human Services, Commerce, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Interior.

The full budget will be released in May and will include more detail on the cuts and a 10-year projection for entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicaid. Entitlement and safety net programs make up more than half of the federal budget according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The full budget is subject to approval and amendment by Congress.

Originally published on The Resurgent