Obama administration

Obamacare train wreck continues: States are trying to figure out how to pay for their exchanges

States that opted to create their own Obamacare exchanges aren’t going to be able to rely on funding from the Obama administration to operate their health insurance websites in 2015 as well as future open enrollment periods, leaving them to looking for other ways to keep the costly systems up and running smoothly.

Sarah Kliff at Vox explains that the 15 states that plan to operate exchanges when the next open enrollment period opens later this fall will have to find a way to find the websites, including levying a tax on health insurers and/or dipping into their general funds:

Most state exchanges plan to rely, in least in part, on charging health insurers a fee for selling coverage. So far, the fees set for 2015 range from 1 percent of the monthly premium in the District of Columbia and Vermont to 3.5 percent in Minnesota. Some states also charged fees in 2014, in order to begin generating revenue further in advance, while others are implementing them for the first time.

Figuring out the right level for the fee is a difficult task that involves a lot of predictions about what Obamacare will look like in 2015.

“It’s not just anticipating how many people will enroll but also how much premiums are going to be,” Avalere’s Carpenter says. “The question of long-term sustainability is certainly going to take some time to figure out.”
Some states are turning to their legislature to help foot the bill for the new insurance exchange. New York State of Health, for example, will rely completely on appropriations from the state to finance its web portal.

Obama’s NSA completely missed the rise of Islamic militants in Iraq

Americans have been endlessly told by President Barack Obama, intelligence officials, and a number of politicians from both parties that the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance programs are absolutely necessary to protect the United States’ from acts of terrorism both in the homeland and abroad. Well, that’s the talking point, at least.

But the deteriorating situation in Iraq, where brutal Islamic militants taken control of swaths of the country, seemingly unnoticed by the Obama administration until a couple of weeks ago. That’s something Conor Friedersdorf mentioned yesterday over at The Atlantic:

Without presuming to speak for any individual, the typical “NSA-hater” would love nothing more than for the NSA to focus its intelligence capabilities on war zones where anti-American fighters plausibly threaten the lives of soldiers or diplomatic personnel, and away from Angela Merkel and every cell-phone call Americans make. Spying on ISIS, however intrusively, is fine by me.

That said, events in Iraq seem to have taken us by surprise, despite the fact that the NSA is totally unencumbered, both legally and politically, in the intelligence it can gather there. And even if the seeming surprise is an illusion, even if the NSA anticipated the fall of cities to Islamic militants, knowing didn’t stop it. That isn’t a knock on the NSA. It’s a statement about the limits of signals intelligence. The NSA didn’t stop the underwear bomber or the Times Square bomber or the shoe bomber either. That’s not a knock on the NSA. They can’t know everything. And if they could, that would be a lot more dangerous than terrorism.

Republicans have a responsibility to take on Barack Obama if he illegally bails out health insurance companies

There could be a legal complication for health insurance companies relying on a bailout from the Obama administration in the (likely) event that they lose money because of Obamacare. Peter Suderman recently explained that Congress hasn’t appropriated any money to pay for this bailout:

Last month, buried in a 435-page regulatory filing from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Obama administration attempted to reassure the health insurance industry that, if necessary, federal officials would find money to make payments for Obamacare’s “risk corridors”—the temporary shared-risk financing system built into the health law that has been dubbed a bailout of the health insurance industry.

The regulatory filing reiterated the administration’s position that the program would likely be revenue neutral. But in the event that it’s not, it seemed designed to suggest that insurers shouldn’t worry.
The complication comes from the final phrase: “subject to the availability of appropriations.”

That could be a problem. Because according to a January memo from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), there do not appear to be appropriations available to make the payments. Although the health law does direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make risk corridor payments, the CRS memo explains that the legislation “does not specify a source from which those payments are to be made.”

Today in Liberty: Liberty Republican Raul Labrador considering a run for House Majority Leader, Obamacare heads back to court

“We must have government, but we must watch them like a hawk.” — Millicent Fenwick

— House Republican leadership race update: It looks like Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is close to sealing up the nod for House Majority Leader. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) decided not to run for the post. Rep. Jeff Sessions (R-TX) also bowed out. Word is that Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), who is part of the libertarian-conservative faction in the chamber, is considering a run against McCarthy. “Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said in a brief interview Thursday night that he is considering running for majority leader and hopes to make a decision on Friday,” the Washington Post reports. “Labrador said many of his colleagues were urging him to run on Thursday and that he is doing his due diligence to weigh the pros and cons of a bid challenging McCarthy.” Labrador would be the better choice, from a limited government perspective, but he faces an uphill battle.

Obama’s false Benghazi narrative continues to crumble: CIA listened to terrorists talk to leaders on State Department phones

There’s been a stunning new revelation about the 2012 terrorist attack on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. The CIA listened in on the night of the deadly attack as terrorists used State Department cell phones seized after they stormed the compound to contact leaders to report their success (emphasis added):

Eric Stahl, who recently retired as a major in the U.S. Air Force, served as commander and pilot of the C-17 aircraft that was used to transport the corpses of the four casualties from the Benghazi attacks – then-U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, information officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods – as well as the assault’s survivors from Tripoli to the safety of an American military base in Ramstein, Germany.

In an exclusive interview on Fox News’ “Special Report,” Stahl said members of a CIA-trained Global Response Staff who raced to the scene of the attacks were “confused” by the administration’s repeated implication of the video as a trigger for the attacks, because “they knew during the attack…who was doing the attacking.” Asked how, Stahl told anchor Bret Baier: “Right after they left the consulate in Benghazi and went to the [CIA] safehouse, they were getting reports that cell phones, consulate cell phones, were being used to make calls to the attackers’ higher ups.”

What?!: House Democrat absurdly says it’s “not necessarily accurate” to call the Taliban “terrorists”

Jackie Speier

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) took issue with Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) suggestion that the Obama administration violated the long-standing policy that the United States doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.

“Let me underscore the term terrorist. The Taliban is a part of the fabric of Afghanistan. They were part of the leadership of that country before we engaged there,” Speier told MSNBC. “We are now actively attempting to get the Taliban to negotiate with President Karzai and the Afghanistani government, because there will be some cooperation, some level of coordination between the two if that country is going to survive and move forward.

“So, to say that they are terrorists at this point is not necessarily accurate,” she added.

Though the Taliban isn’t on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, it was added to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists in July 2002 by then-President George W. Bush.

How does she still have job?: Susan Rice tries and fails to defend the White House’s Bergdahl narrative

Nearly a week after she appeared on ABC News’ This Week to try to frame the narrative on the Obama administration’s deal with the Taliban, Susan Rice defended her characterization of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by telling CNN that she meant something entirely different than what she actually said:

Speaking to CNN’s Jim Acosta from the 70th anniversary event to mark D-Day in Normandy, France, Rice said her remark about Bergdahl was describing his decision to enter the military in war time.

“I realize there has been a lot of discussion and controversy around this,” Rice said to CNN about that remark. “What I was referring to is the fact that this was a young man who volunteered to serve his country in uniform at a time of war. That in itself is a very honorable thing.”

“But ‘honor and distinction?’” Acosta asked.

“Jim, really,” Rice said. “This is a young man whose circumstances we are still going to learn about.”
“He is, as all Americans, innocent until proven guilty,” Rice said. “He is now being tried in the court of public opinion after having gone through enormously traumatic five years of captivity. His parents, the same.”

Oh, whatever. Rice said, in no uncertain terms, that Bergdahl “served the United States with honor and distinction,” and this was in the context of, as George Stephanopoulos put it, “questions about how he originally was captured and whether or not he had deserted, had left his post.”

Today in Liberty: Clinton dismisses Benghazi as a “political slugfest,” Amash leads establishment challenger by 30 points

“Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government.” — Thomas Jefferson

— Hillary Clinton won’t participate in Benghazi “political slugfest”: The former Secretary of State is basically daring the Select Committee on Benghazi to subpoena her as a witness. Clinton dedicated an entire chapter in her forthcoming book, Hard Choices, to the 2012 terrorist attack. “I will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans. It’s just plain wrong, and it’s unworthy of our great country,” Clinton writes in her new book, according to Politico. “Those who insist on politicizing the tragedy will have to do so without me.” Because answers are so overrated. House Democrats are participating in the select committee at the urging of Clinton allies to insulate her from attacks that could hurt a 2016 presidential bid.

Scandals as far as the eye can see: Obama’s epic incompetence, staggering failures

Obama FAIL

Barack Obama’s presidency has been one massive failure and one massive scandal after another, as Peter Wehner explains at Commentary:

The last eight months have battered the Obama administration. From the botched rollout of the health-care website to the VA scandal, events are now cementing certain impressions about Mr. Obama. Among the most damaging is this: He is unusually, even epically, incompetent. That is not news to some of us, but it seems to be a conclusion more and more people are drawing.

The emerging narrative of Barack Obama, the one that actually comports to reality, is that he is a rare political talent but a disaster when it comes to actually governing. The list of his failures is nothing short of staggering, from shovel-ready jobs that weren’t so shovel ready to the failures of healthcare.gov to the VA debacle. But it also includes the president’s failure to tame the debt, lower poverty, decrease income inequality, and increase job creation. He promised to close Guantanamo Bay and didn’t. His administration promised to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before a civilian jury in New York  but they were forced to retreat because of outrage in his own party. Early on in his administration Mr. Obama put his prestige on the line to secure the Olympics for Chicago in 2016 and he failed.

Obama anti-gun agenda rejected by Americans, White House switches to regulatory tricks

The Obama administration is quietly taking a new angle to impose its anti-gun agenda. Though the FDIC and the Justice Department, federal regulators are pressuring financial institutions and payment processors to end business relationship with gun retailers, labeling them as “high-risk,” according to The Washington Times:

Since 2011, regulators have increased scrutiny on banks’ customers. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in 2011 urged banks to better manage the risks of their merchant customers who employ payment processors, such as PayPal, for credit card transactions. The FDIC listed gun retailers as “high risk” along with porn stores and drug paraphernalia shops.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has launched Operation Choke Point, a credit card fraud probe focusing on banks and payment processors. The threat of enforcement has prompted some banks to cut ties with online gun retailers, even if those companies have valid licenses and good credit histories.

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