Obama administration

Harry Reid’s dictatorial Senate rule kills Keystone XL

It looks like the Keystone XL oil pipeline is may be dead until next year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Republicans in the chamber failed to reach a deal on the Shaheen-Portman energy bill in an advance of an unsuccessful procedural vote earlier this week that could have setup a binding vote on the pipeline:

The failure to reach a deal pushes the issue firmly back into the hands of the administration, which is unlikely to make a decision until at least the end of the year.

The State Department has said it will not complete its review until litigation over the pipeline’s route becomes more clear in Nebraska, a process that could put off an administration decision indefinitely.


As a result, the Senate standoff left green groups confident that Keystone would not be approved this year, and that it was dead for the rest of the Obama era.
Even supporters of Keystone acknowledged Monday’s vote was a blow.

Reid has offered a binding vote on Keystone XL in exchange for enough Republican support to invoke cloture and set the stage for final passage. Republicans, however, wanted votes on amendments to the bill. Reid refused, the latest example of the majority leader blocking GOP-backed amendments for fear that they would pass:

What difference does it make?: Clinton refused to designate al-Qaeda-connected group as a terrorist organization

The kidnapping of more than 270 Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group, has sparked condemnation and action the United States. The Obama administration announced this week that it will send technical support to the African country to help search for the girls.

While most Americans have never heard of Boko Haram, the al-Qaeda-connected group has carried out a number of attacks over the last few years, including the 2011 assassination of an Islamic cleric who criticized violent groups and the bombing of a United Nations building in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, that same year.

The kidnappings have led to a round of “hashtag diplomacy” on Twitter. Many users are have tweeted their thoughts about the situation using #BringBackOurGirls, among them is Hillary Clinton. The former Secretary of State tweeted this late last week:

Ted Cruz slams Obama’s “pattern of lawlessness”

Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has taken aim at President Barack Obama’s “lawlessness” in a four-part series documenting instances in which his administration has defied constitutional limitations on executive power.

Cruz, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the first part of the series, entitled The Legal Limit, in April 2013. The inaugural report slammed the Justice Department’s “radical theory of sweeping federal power,” outlining nine court cases in which the Supreme Court rejected the administration’s overreach.

The second report, released in December, highlighted the administration’s unilateral, unlawful enforcement delays of Obamacare provisions. Cruz also notes that Obamacare violates the Constitution’s Origination Clause, a requirement that tax bills originate in the House, and expansion of the employer mandate outside of the text of the law.

Cruz’s office released the third report in February. Its focus is on the administration’s “assault on Texas,” pointing to various federal laws and regulations that infringe upon the state’s sovereignty.

Emails reveal Google executives’ creepy man crush on NSA official

Leading American tech firms were silent after the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs were exposed last summer. As more disclosures came out and their bottom lines were put at risk, these firms finally broke their silence and began urging President Obama and members of Congress to enact reforms to restore Americans civil liberties.

Google was among the tech firms that had been unusually silent about the NSA before joining a coalition of Silicon Valley-based giants to launch a campaign to end the controversial domestic spying programs.

Some speculated that the hesitance to criticize the NSA was due to fear of retribution. But emails obtained by al-Jazeera show that Google executives, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt, and former NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander had pretty cozy, almost BFF-style relationship:

On the morning of June 28, 2012, an email from Alexander invited Schmidt to attend a four-hour-long “classified threat briefing” on Aug. 8 at a “secure facility in proximity to the San Jose, CA airport.”

Obama administration creates yet another Obamacare “hardship exemption”

individual mandate

The Department of Health and Human Services has delayed Obamacare’s individual mandate by a month, creating yet another new “hardship exemption” that pushes the deadline for Americans to purchase health insurance coverage back to May 1 from March 31:

People who obtained health plans off the marketplaces after March 31 will not automatically face a penalty under the individual mandate, the Obama administration said Friday.

In a bulletin, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) created a temporary hardship exemption for people who purchased coverage that was effective on Thursday of this week or beforehand.

The move essentially nullifies the month of April for the purposes of enforcing the mandate.
The CMS reasoned Friday that people seeking health plans outside the exchanges are “similarly situated” to people inside the system and might have been confused by the shifting deadlines.

This is the second time the administration has delayed the effective day of the individual mandate, the most controversial, most unpopular provision of Obamacare. The first delay was moving the deadline to avoid the individual mandate tax from February 15 to March 31, which brought it in line with the end of the open enrollment period.

Ex-White House spokesman botches Benghazi: “Dude, this was like two years ago”

Tommy Vietor

Former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor doesn’t want to be asked tough questions over the false narrative the White House and the Obama administration presented to the American people about the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack.

Vietor appeared on Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier on Thursday to discuss the edits made to the controversial talking points on the Benghazi attack. Those talking points shaped the initial narrative that the attack wasn’t an attack, but a spontaneous protect that spiraled out of control.

“According to the emails and the timelines, the CIA circulates new talking points after they’ve removed the mention of al-Qaeda. And then at 6:21, the White House, you, add a line about the administration warning of September 10 of social media reports calling for demonstrations. True?” Baier asked.

“Uh, I believe so,” Vietor replied.

Baier followed up, asking the former White House official if he personally changed the talking to points to get away hide the involvement from Islamic militants.

“Maybe,” Vietor said, “I don’t really remember.”

“You don’t remember?” Baier asked.

Boehner announces vote to establish select committee on Benghazi

Following disclosures of previously unreleased emails between White House and Obama administration officials, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced early this afternoon that he will establish a select committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack.

The Weekly Standard reported this morning that Boehner was “seriously considering” a select committee due to a previously unreleased email showing that a White House official urged then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice “[t]o underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy” when she appeared on Sunday talk shows following the attack.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the email hadn’t not been released prior to this week because it was “not about Benghazi.” Promos from those Sunday talk shows show that Rice’s appearances on revolved around the attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in the Libyan city.

“Americans learned this week that the Obama Administration is so intent on obstructing the truth about Benghazi that it is even willing to defy subpoenas issued by the standing committees of the People’s House,” Boehner said in a statement. “These revelations compel the House to take every possible action to ensure the American people have the truth about the terrorist attack on our consulate that killed four of our countrymen.

Report: Just 67 percent of federal Obamacare exchange signups have actually paid

A report released yesterday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee finds that just 67 percent of people who signed up for health insurance coverage on the federal Obamacare exchange have actually paid their first month’s premium.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), requested specific enrollment data in March from each of the health insurance companies participating in the federal exchange, including age demographic breakdowns and the number of paid enrollments. The data show that out of the 3.65 signups through the exchange, just 2.45 million (67 percent of all signups) had paid their first month’s premium through April 15.

“In a sad reversal away from its vows of transparency, the Obama administration, from inside the Oval Office on down, has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep basic details of the health law from the public,” Upton said in a press release. “Tired of receiving incomplete pictures of enrollment in the health care law, we went right to the source and found that the administration’s recent declarations of success may be unfounded.”

President Barack Obama declared last month that 8 million people had signed up for coverage through the state and federal Obamacare exchanges in the extended open enrollment period. The administration has not yet released figures to show how many of these purported enrollments have actually been paid.

Today in Liberty: Chinese economy to pass United States, conservative Millennials more likely to vote this fall

Today in Liberty is a daily roundup of recent political news and other interesting stories presented with liberty-minded commentary. We frequently keep tabs on liberty-minded politicians and candidates in these updates. Click here to receive Today in Liberty every weekday morning via email.

— First quarter GDP figure disappoints: Though the stock market finished strong yesterday, the first quarter GDP figure was nothing to be happy about. The economy is still sputtering along, folks. “The Bureau of Economic Analysis released its first report for GDP growth in the first quarter of 2014 today,” the Heritage Foundation notes. “It showed the economy grew at an anemic 0.1 percent from January to March. The more meaningful measure of growth, private-sector GDP, rose by a still meager 0.2 percent.” If healthcare spending hadn’t skyrocketed by almost 10 percent in the first three months of the year, first quarter GDP would have been in the negative. Rick Santelli’s reaction? “Holy cow.”

Oregon to scrap its failed $300 million Obamacare exchange

Actually, the headline doesn’t even do justice in describing how much of an epic fail this is. Oregan received more than $300 million in grants from the Obama administration to set up its Obamacare exchange system, only to experience technical glitches so significant that the website didn’t register a single enrollee.

State officials are likely to scrap the exchange — Cover Oregon, which was once called the “White House’s favorite health exchange” — and join the federal Obamacare exchange system:

Alex Pettit, the state’s chief information officer, recommended to an advisory board Thursday that the state hand the reins to the federal government.

Members of the panel appeared to agree, The Oregonian newspaper reported. The board will meet again on Friday morning to further discuss the issue, and perhaps hold a vote.

Pettit will reportedly travel to Washington, D.C. next week to pursue the transition with federal health officials.
Fixing the site would cost $78 million compared with $4 to 6 million to house the system within HealthCare.gov, the slides said.

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