Republican Leadership Would Rather Negotiate with Democrats than Conservatives on Obamacare

Within hours of SwampCare being pulled by Speaker Ryan, Republican leaders in the senate were signaling full retreat on any conservative plan to repeal Obamacare. Both Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) stated openly that the response to conservatives stopping SwampCare was for House and Senate leadership to work with democrats to craft a new bill…not stand with conservative members who are working to fulfill the promise of full repeal:

Many commentators and Republican members have claimed that conservatives allowed ‘the perfect to become the enemy of the good’ or that conservatives are unwilling to negotiate. The insidious nature of these lies can be found when the bill is examined and the process understood. While Speaker Ryan may claim that his bill gave conservatives “80%” of what they want, non-partisan analysis of the bill from groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Heritage Foundation have detailed the yuge flaws in the ACHA.

TPPF’s Chip Roy (Sen. Ted Cruz’s former Chief of Staff) released a statement following the bill’s death sheds light on the conservative reforms necessary in a true repeal bill.

While the Freedom Caucus has been lambasted by leadership as unwilling to negotiate, the truth of the matter is that Rep. Meadows and his colleagues worked at every turn to amend the bill into one they could in good conscience support. These attempts were thwarted by House leadership at every turn. Furthermore, moderate Republicans like Reps Frelinghuysen and Comstock (not members of the Freedom Caucus) who refused to support the bill and lent the final death knell.

While Senate leadership may be looking to their left for help, we do have a small cadre of conservatives who stand by their promise of full repeal. They’re under no illusion that it will be an easy process but their promises of the last 7 years have been sincere. They know the importance of repeal in many cases because it was the passage of Obamacare that catalyzed their election:

Thursday afternoon, Sen. Mike Lee summed up the reasons that the bill failed and the path forward for repeal. Watch the video below:

Grassley Puts Comey Back in the Line of Fire

Like a pebble rolling downhill and starting an avalanche, it really does seem as if a single tweet can rock Washington to its very foundations.  In the unlikely event that you missed it:

This naturally set the usual anti-Trump doofuses to “shredding” his claim, and got them licking their chops yet again about impeachment (what would the news cycle be without them?).  What really grabbed my attention, however, was FBI director James Comey taking the highly unusual step of admonishing the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump’s claims.  This is just the latest move in a crazy dance that Comey has been doing ever since he declined to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton for her email hijinks–one which had him re-open that investigation just a couple of weeks before the election, only to close it again when it revealed nothing new.  So what gives?

Well, turns out there’s a new development that puts things into a little more perspective.  Last week, the Wahsgington Post ran a story that detailed The FBI’s cozier-than-it-should-have-been relationship with British ex-spook Christopher Steele, the guy who created the “dossier” that detailed Donald Trump’s supposed escapades with Russian hookers:

The former British spy who authored a controversial dossier on behalf of Donald Trump’s political opponents alleging ties between Trump and Russia reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work, according to several people familiar with the arrangement.

 

Ultimately, the FBI did not pay Steele. Communications between the bureau and the former spy were interrupted as Steele’s now-famous dossier became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials, according to the people familiar with the arrangement, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

At the time Steele had gathered this information, he was in the employ of Fusion GPS, a firm that was doing opposition research on Trump for the Democrats.  Most reasonable people might consider that to be a whopping conflict of interest–which is probably why the FBI severed its ties with Steele when that inconvenient fact came to light.

But this kind of stink has a way of sticking around, which brings us to a letter that Senator Chuck Grassley just dispatched to Director Comey:

The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for President in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends. It is additionally troubling that the FBI reportedly agreed to such an arrangement given that, in January of 2017, then-Director Clapper issued a statement stating that “the IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions.”

Furthermore, the letter goes on to demand that the FBI provide information to Grassley’s investigative committee, including:

Has the FBI relied on or otherwise referenced the memos or any information in the memos in seeking a FISA warrant, other search warrant, or any other judicial process?

And suddenly, Comey’s panicked request to the DOJ makes sense.  If the FBI had used information gathered from Democrat oppo research in seeking a FISA warrant against Trump and his campaign associates, that would be bad.  Like worse-than-Watergate bad.  Like the Obama administration used the FBI and the DOJ to dig up dirt to smear a political opponent during a presidential campaign.  It only makes sense that Comey would want to head off any investigation that would reveal such a thing.

The Democrats thought they could use their Russians-hacked-the-election meme to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency–but if the above proves true, they may live to regret that tactic.

Flushing Your Tax Dollars Down The Drain

Yesterday, two Republican Senators released a report showing that $87 billion could be cut from the federal budget if Inspector General reports were taken more seriously by federal agencies.

Via McClatchy, some highlights from Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin:

Among the ignored recommendations are 2,000 for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), according to its inspector general – including some that had not been implemented for up to 15 years.

The Pentagon inspector general reported that the Department of Defense could save $33 billion if it heeded all recommendations, the report said.

“The numbers show that the Executive Branch would likely improve the effectiveness of its operations – and save taxpayer money – by implementing recommendations made by the IG community,” the report said.

The report, which was based on the responses of 72 inspectors general, said eight inspectors general are stymied by their agencies who refuse to give them the documents they request for audits or investigations.

This should surprise nobody. In 2012, then-Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) released a report examining $70 billion out of about $700 billion in federal grants and other spending he said was appropriated but left unspent. From my interview with Coburn at the time:

Senator Coburn: I can’t tell you the full amount, but I can tell you that money from the 1996 Olympics is still locked in, for example. And that was 16 years ago.

The importance of this report is that it highlights just how bad oversight and accountability are in Washington. For example, $7.5 billion in earmark transportation funding that is never going to be spent has been appropriated. It shows the incompetence of Congress, the incompetence of the process, and the incompetence of the bureaucracy. The federal government is so big it doesn’t know what it’s doing. People may have right intentions, but we’re incompetent because it’s so big.

Coburn also brought duplication in the budget, which he said could save at least $200 billion annually if eliminated, into the limelight during his time as Senator.

Earlier this year, I examined how the federal government’s official estimate of $136 billion lost to “improper payments” almost certainly undercounts the total. And the federal government’s health care and Pentagon spending is vastly oversized, thanks to incompetence and a blind eye to reforms.

Clearly, the federal government needs to keep a better eye on taxpayer resources. This level of incompetence ought to be criminal.

This leads to an important question, however: Is it even possible to properly oversee trillions of dollars in scores of separate programs, many of which have sub-programs? I agree with Coburn; the answer is no.

It’s long past time for Democrats and Republicans to stand up for taxpayers by slashing the federal budget itself — by reforming health care spending, eliminating corporate welfare, reforming food stamps and other programs for the poor, and making sure the Department of Defense’s budget serves the public instead of contractors.

Only a smaller government can be truly transparent, and effectively held accountable. Until then, reports like Johnson’s and Grassley’s, and the “Federal Fumbles” report by Senator James Lankford (R-OK), will gain headlines…but do little else.

The Chamber Of Failure Never Fails To Accomplish Nothing

After grandstanding and shouts of “do something!” the Senate had four gun control options on which to vote Monday night. This was part of the brokered deal to end Sen. Chris Murphy’s filibuster following the Orlando [omitted, now restored] terror shooting.

None of them passed. Absolutely nothing was accomplished. As per usual, the Senate is back to square zero. The good news: At least the Democrats didn’t get their way.

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R) measure to add funding to the FBI’s existing National Criminal Instant Background Check System (NICS): FAILED 53 to 47 (needed 60 votes).
  • Sen. Chris Murphy’s expanded background checks and requirement for private sales in gun show parking lots to be subject to the checks (what Democrats call the “gun show loophole” and everyone else calls “private property” or “de-facto gun registration”): FAILED 44 to 56.
  • Sen. John Cornyn’s (R) eminently reasonable and commonsense plan to delay gun sales when a buyer pops up on a terror “watchlist” and allow prosecutors to show probable cause before a judge to block the sale (aka “The Sixth Amendment”): FAILED 53 to 47.
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s reanimated zombie from 2015 that would summarily block gun purchases for buyers who pop up on whatever “watchlist” the government chooses (aka “Due Process–fuhgetaboutit”): FAILED 47 to 53.

Most politics-watchers call this “gridlock” along party lines. But for the Senate, it’s what the military has for years referred to as SNAFU. Everything is copacetic on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, another ISIS terrorist is getting ready to buy a gun–somewhere–and the FBI can’t do anything because to the Obama administration, [omitted] isn’t considered important, only gun control.

Let’s Take Merrick Garland Off The Table, He’s Souter 2.0

President Obama’s pick to fill the late Justice Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court started making his rounds on Capitol Hill Thursday. Judge Merrick Garland met with Minority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Patrick Leahy (Bernie Sanders’ colleague from Vermont).

Garland is said to be a genuinely nice guy, a lawyer that other lawyers like to like.

“He and I were both trial lawyers. I was able to talk about some of my cases, and we had a good time just visiting about the law,” Reid said.

With cracks already beginning to form in the GOP’s opposition to any Obama nomination, it may simply be a matter of time and a few face-to-face meetings between Garland and Republican senators that kicks off the confirmation process.

Let’s get this out there: the nomination should be completely taken off the table. Judge Garland would be a disaster for the pro-life movement and a gift for every liberal cause with a matter coming before the Supreme Court.

Planned Parenthood endorsed Garland. NARAL endorsed Garland. President Obama chose Garland because he’s someone who can appear very “neutral” in the legal sphere (per SCOTUSblog).

Judge Garland’s record demonstrates that he is essentially the model, neutral judge. He is acknowledged by all to be brilliant. His opinions avoid unnecessary, sweeping pronouncements.

But Judge Garland, most certainly, is liberal in his interpretation of the Constitution, and the prescriptive rulings that would flow from that view. Obama doesn’t need someone to write sweeping pronouncements. He has Justice Sotomayor and Justice Ginsburg to do that.

Conservatives lost their best, most brilliant and articulate voice on the Court in Justice Scalia. In fact, he’s probably irreplaceable. But to allow President Obama to replace him with another version of Justice Souter–to get a Souter 2.0–is foolish. Souter was appointed in 1990 by President Bush (41) and turned out to be not very conservative at all. Souter was replaced by Obama with Sotomayer, a hard-core liberal.

Sen. Grassley needs to stand for conservatives, not for putting the capstone on a brilliant lawyer’s career. Maybe Judge Garland’s long legal career qualifies him for the Court–it should be an honor to be nominated. But that doesn’t mean he serves conservative values. The Senate should not be a lawyer’s club because ideas have consequences and elections (should, at least) have consequences.

Let’s take Garland off the table. We don’t need a Souter 2.0.

Reason No. 7,375 Why Ted Cruz Should Never Apologize To The Senate

A group of senators want Ted Cruz to make nice with his fellow legislators, or they won’t be his friends. They’re not his friends anyway (with a few exceptions like Mike Lee), and have done everything they can to stop him, almost handing the nomination to Donald Trump–and the election to Hillary.

Here’s another reason Cruz should never apologize.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a man noted for his calm and stoic demeanor, delivered an impassioned speech on the Senate floor reiterating the point he made mere hours after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month — that the next president should have say over who filled Scalia’s chair.

“The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be,” McConnell said. He said he repeated that point to Garland in a phone conversation on Wednesday.

As McConnell spoke, he was flanked by members of his leadership team, Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas and Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming, as well as Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Senate President Pro Tempore Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, a former Judiciary chairman himself.

Sen. Cornyn was the chief messenger to Cruz that he needs to kiss McConnell’s ring.

Worse still, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa wouldn’t rule out “a conversation.” Grassley, on Feb. 14, said “it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice.” Two days later, he backtracked. “”I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions.” And now, Grassley “hasn’t ruled out” meeting with Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

Grassley, as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has nearly single-handed authority to block the nomination, or to allow hearings to begin. Once hearings begin, as they say, the camel’s nose is in the tent.

This is just another in a long string of betrayals from our Republican congress. Ted Cruz shouldn’t apologize. The GOP-controlled senate would rather have Donald Trump lose in a landslide to Hillary than put Cruz in the White House. It is they who should apologize to voters, and when Trump destroys the GOP and they’re at home lamenting their losses, they’ll learn.