Alaskan Congressman Don Young Says Wolves Could Solve Homelessness

Rep. Don Young of Alaska suggested this week that wolves might be a way to solve homelessness, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Young, a Republican, was speaking during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on Thursday and objecting to members of Congress asking for the gray wolf to be a protected species, according to The Washington Post.

“…(W)e get 79 congressmen sending you a letter, they haven’t got a damn wolf in their whole district,” he said, supposedly aiming his comments at Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

“I’d like to introduce them in your district,” Young stated.  “I’d introduce them to your district and you wouldn’t have a homeless problem anymore.”

Young also once said to a political opponent during a political campaign, “The last guy who touched me ended up on the ground dead.’”  The website CQ Roll Call asked him about it, to which he responded, “There’s some truth to that.”

There was another incident where Congressman Young grabbed the hand of a congressional staffer at the Capitol who was in charge of watching the entrance.  It wasn’t protocol for anyone to be let in the entrance.  After squeezing his hand for several moments, Young let go and walked through the entrance.

Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma: “There Has Not Been A Unified Republican Position” On How To Replace Obamacare

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday to repeal the Affordable Care Act for the first time in the new Congress, according to the New York Times.

Democrats said it was the 56th time since 2011 that the House had voted to repeal or undermine some or all of the law, which was passed in 2010 without any Republican votes.

However, it was the first time any Republican in Congress has ever voted against the total repeal of Obamacare.  Three Republicans Tuesday voted against the GOP’s latest effort to fully repeal the law.

The measure passed 239-186, a margin that largely followed the outcome of House Republicans’ three previous bills. This time, however, the party hopes to offer a replacement within the next six months.

Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, acknowledged that “there has not been a unified Republican position” on how to replace the law.

Yet according to Politico, it was the three dissenters who attracted the most attention late Tuesday afternoon.  They were: John Katko of New York, Bruce Poliquin of Maine and Robert Dold of Illinois. All are in seats held last-term by Democrats and likely to be contested hard in 2016.

Both Katko and Poliquin said in statements Tuesday that while they did not support the Affordable Care Act, they couldn’t support its repeal without something immediately ready to replace it.

No Democrat crossed party lines to support the legislation.

In the end, the latest vote will remain largely symbolic.

Republicans in the Senate are expected to address Obamacare within the next several months, but a full-scale repeal bill has little chance of clearing that chamber’s 60-vote threshold. President Barack Obama has also made it clear he will veto any repeal or significant roll-back of his signature health legislation.

“In addition to taking away Americans’ health care security, the bill would increase the deficit, [and] remove policies that have helped slow health care cost growth and improve the quality of care patients receive,” the administration said in a statement. “The last thing the Congress should do is re-fight old political battles and take a massive step backward by repealing basic protections that provide security for the middle class.”

The question still remains, if the bill increases healthcare security and reduces the deficit, why would any Congresspeople be against it?


Federal Government Budget Bill

According to the Washington Post, the $1.01 trillion spending bill unveiled late Tuesday will keep most of the federal government funded through next September.  It’s packed with hundreds of policy instructions, known on Capitol Hill as “riders,” that will upset or excite politicians and special interest groups.

Big changes are proposed for campaign finance – to allow even more money in politics

The bill again bans using federal funding to perform most abortions.  Republicans say that there’s also new language to ensure that consumers shopping for health-care coverage on the federal exchange can tell whether a plan covers abortion services.

The law is still funded, but there’s no new money for it.

Congress withholds funding for the Afghan government “until certain conditions are met,” including implementing the bilateral security agreement with the United States.

The bill would dramatically expand the amount of money that wealthy political donors could inject into the national parties, drastically undercutting the 2002 landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance overhaul. Bottom line: A donor who gave the maximum $32,400 this year to the Democratic National Committee or Republican National Committee would be able to donate another $291,600 on top of that to the party’s additional arms — a total of $324,000, ten times the current limit.

The agency would get more than $6.9 billion, an increase of about $42.7 million. The nation’s leading disease-fighters also get $30 million to help fight Ebola (see below).

In a win for Republicans, the spending bill blocks the Environmental Protection Agency from applying the law to certain farm ponds and irrigation ditches — a move that the GOP says would benefit farmers.

Democrats agreed to make some of the biggest changes yet to the 2010 financial regulatory reforms that were enacted after the financial crisis of 2007-2008.  In a deal sought by Republicans, the bill would reverse Dodd-Frank requirements that banks “push out” some of derivatives trading into separate entities not backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporations. Ever since being enacted, banks have been pushing to reverse the change. Now, the rules would go back to the way they used to be. But in exchange, Democrats say they secured more money for the enforcement budgets at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Roughly $5.4 billion is provided across several agencies to combat the spread of the disease in the United States and around the world. The president had requested $6 billion.

The country gets $1.3 billion in military aid and $150 million in economic aid, but the money is subject to “democracy and human rights conditions.”

There’s $5.4 billion for security at U.S. embassies worldwide, $46 million more than Obama requested. The total includes new money to “implement recommendations” from the “Benghazi Accountability Review Board.”

The agency gets $8.1 billion, down $60 million from the last fiscal year. The agency’s budget has been slashed by $2.2 billion, or 21 percent, since fiscal 2010, according to GOP aides. The cuts mean that EPA will have to reduce its staffing to the lowest levels since 1989.

The bill allows a 1 percent pay raise ordered by Obama to take effect in January.

There’s $2.589 billion for the Food and Drug Administration, a $37 million increase from last year. There’s $27 million in new funding for the Food Safety Modernization Act. The Food Safety and Inspection Service would receive $1.016 billion, a $5 million increase.

Congress agreed to provide $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Act, which authorizes new federally-funded pediatric research. The bill was paid for by slashing federal funding for political conventions.

Once again the Obama administration is banned from transferring terrorism detainees to the United States from the U.S. military facility in Cuba. There’s also a ban on building or buying any facility in the U.S. to house detainees.  The bill allows for the ongoing transfer of detainees to other countries.

The bill only funds the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees most immigration policy, until February. But negotiators gave new money for immigration programs at other federal agencies. There’s $948 million for the Department of Health and Human Service’s unaccompanied children program — an $80 million increase. The program provides health and education services to the young migrants. The department also gets $14 million to help school districts absorbing new immigrant students.  The State Department would get $260 million for working with Central American countries.

One of the GOP’s favorite targets will see its budget slashed by $345.6 million.

There’s $3.1 billion in total aid for the country plus $619.8 million in defense aid.

The legislation again enacts a pay freeze for the vice president “and senior political appointees.”

The country cannot receive any U.S. aid until the secretary of state confirms the country is cooperating with ongoing investigations into the September 2012 attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

The Arab kingdom would receive $1 billion in economic and military aid, in addition to U.S. humanitarian aid for millions of Syrian refugees.

The bill once again prohibits new standards that would ban the use of cheaper, less energy efficient incandescent bulbs. The proposal was first introduced and set in motion by the Bush administration, but the Obama White House allowed the change to continue.

The District of Columbia will be prohibited from legalizing marijuana for the much of the coming year. The development — upending a voter-approved initiative — shocked elected D.C. leaders, advocates for marijuana legalization and civil liberties groups. The bill also would block the Justice Department from interfering with state-level medical marijuana measures and prohibits the Drug Enforcement Agency from interfering with industrial hemp production.

$10.9 billion is to go to transit programs nationwide, including the construction of new rail and rapid bus projects in California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina and Texas.  The bill has no new federal funding for high-speed rail projects, including the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco routes envisioned by California Democrats.

Military service members will receive a 1 percent pay increase next year.  There’s a pay freeze for generals and flag officers. The bill also ends a five percent discount on tobacco and tobacco-related products sold at military exchanges.

The agreement includes $24 million to complete the federal government’s contribution to the museum, which is being built on the Mall.

The nation’s premier medical research agency would receive $30.3 billion, a $150 million overall increase.

There’s $1.3 billion for a new Counterterrorism Partnership Fund; $5 billion for military operations to combat the Islamic State, including $1.6 billion to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces; $500 million for a Pentagon-led program to train and equip vetted Syrian opposition fighters; $810 million for ongoing military operations in Europe, including requirements that at least $175 million is spent in support of Ukraine and Baltic nations.

The bill stops assistance to the Palestinian Authority if it becomes a member of the United Nations or UN agencies without an agreement with Israel. It also prohibits funds for Hamas.

The benefits of current retirees could be severely cut. The change would alter 40 years of federal law and could affect millions of workers, many of them part of a shrinking corps of middle-income employees in businesses such as trucking, construction and supermarkets.

The bill requires the mail service to continue six-day deliveries, despite a years-long attempt to cut service on Saturdays to save money.

The bill cuts funding for Obama’s signature education initiative, according to The Post.  Overall, the Education Department would take a slight hit in funding; at $70.5 billion, down $133 million below the fiscal year 2014, but special education grants to states would get $25 million more than last year, up to $11.5 billion.

Among other things, there’s $3 million to expand inspections along the roughly 14,000 miles of track used by trains hauling oil tankers.

The bill would ban the Fish and Wildlife Service from adding the rare bird found in several Western states to the Endangered Species List.  There is, however, a $15 million for the Bureau of Land Management to conserve sage-grouse habitats.

The bill allows more flexibility to school districts to implement new whole grain nutrition standards “if the school can demonstrate a hardship” when buying whole grain products, according to Republicans. The bill also relaxes new sodium standards.

There’s $257 million for the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response programs, including $25 million more to expand the Sexual Assault Victims’ Counsel program.

The bill blocks new Transportation Department regulations requiring truckers to get two nights of sleep before starting a new work week.

The ban on providing money for the ongoing renovation of U.N. Headquarters in New York remains intact.

There’s $21 million to continue restoring the cast-iron Capitol Dome. And $348 million for the U.S. Capitol Police (a force with 1,775 officers).

Lawmakers are making good on promises to provide more money and oversight for the Department of Veterans Affairs.  There’s a total of $159.1 billion in discretionary and mandatory spending. Of that, $209 million was added to address new costs related to the bipartisan veterans’ reform bill passed last summer. The legislation calls for adding medical staff and expanding dozens of facilities. In order to address the “wait list” scandal, the VA’s inspector general is getting a $5 million budget increase to continue investigating lapses in patient care.

In a modest attempt to address a growing crisis with heroin, lawmakers are adding $7 million for a new anti-heroin task force run out of the Justice Department’s COPS Office. The money will be used as part of a program for drug enforcement, including investigations and operations to stop the distribution or sale of the drug, according to Democrats.

The bill includes language ensuring that government contractors are not barred from reporting allegations of waste, fraud or abuse if they sign a confidentiality agreement.

There’s $222 million for executive mansion operations, a $10 million increase. The money pays for the National Security and Homeland Security councils, the Council of Economic Advisers, the vice president’s office and the executive residence. The U.S. Secret Service would be allowed to use some of its funding “to prepare and train for the next presidential election campaign,” Democrats said.

The Women, Infants and Children program that provides food aid to low-income families would receive $6.6 billion, a $93 million cut from the last fiscal year. But the program will be required to ensure that “all varieties of fresh vegetables, including white potatoes, are eligible for purchase” through the program, said Republicans. The change is a victory for the potato lobby, which has long fought to be part of the food assistance program.

There’s no new money for the site, but Republicans say that the bill continues to leave open the possibility that the site could be used someday to store nuclear waste.

House Republicans Move Forward To Sue President Obama Over Healthcare

Cathey Park of Cambridge, Massachusetts wears a cast for her broken wrist with ''I Love Obamacare'' written upon it prior to U.S. President Barack Obama's arrival to speak about health insurance at Faneuil Hall in Boston October 30, 2013.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Court documents state that one day after the President’s decision speech on immigration reform, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives filed a lawsuit challenging the implementation of Obama’s signature healthcare law over employer-based coverage and payments to insurers, apparently as retribution.

Jonathan Turley, the lead counsel for House Republicans, said in a Friday blog post that the president’s actions blurred the lines between branches of government and usurped the ability of Congress to use the “power of purse” during the appropriations process.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday filed the lawsuit challenging the implementation of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law over employer-based coverage and payments to insurers, according to court documents.

Republican officials say the House can still—and very well might—sue Obama over his orders to protect as many as five million immigrants from deportation, but the fact that they chose Friday morning to file their healthcare lawsuit sent a message that they would follow through on their own threats of action.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Washington against the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Treasury, targets a decision to delay implementation of the law’s employer mandate, which requires employers with more than 50 employees to offer healthcare coverage.

House Speaker John Boehner, in a statement, said that Obama had bypassed Congress to take “unilateral actions” when implementing the healthcare law, named The Affordable Care Act, and also known as Obamacare.

538: A Net Gain For Republicans?

According to FiveThirtyEight:

If the polls are right, Republicans will take control of the United States Senate when it reconvenes next year.  They’ll retain the majority of the nation’s governorships, although perhaps with a net loss of one or two seats. FiveThirtyEight hasn’t issued a House projection this year, so here goes nothing: Republicans will keep it. (Want more detail? The Cook Political Report thinks Republicans will gain a few seats, probably a net of 6 to 12, from Democrats.)

“Sounds like a pretty good night for Republicans? It would be. But there are a few apparent complications.”

Complication No. 1.

Some prominent Republican incumbents are likely to lose. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas is no better than even money to keep his seat against independent Greg Orman. Incumbent Republican governors are underdogs — some by slim margins — in Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Maine and Pennsylvania.  Rick Snyder of Michigan and Scott Walker of Wisconsin are likely but not certain to survive.

Complication No. 2.

Republicans are largely playing on “home turf.” The average Senate race this year is being held in a state where Barack Obama won just 46 percent of the vote in 2012. In the House, meanwhile, the median Congressional district is Republican-leaning. (Democrats tend to be packed into geographically compact, urban areas; this tendency is sometimes enhanced by gerrymandering.) A method of assessing the score probably needs to account for this.

Complication No. 3.

The House, Senate and gubernatorial results seem to tell different stories. Polls project major Republican gains in the Senate but modest ones in the House and perhaps a net loss of Republican governorships. How to reconcile this evidence?

If Obama Were Impeached, What Would He Be Impeached For?

Although many are (coyly) loathe to admit it, the talk of impeachment in some circles is getting louder.  Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) recently said “there’s no doubt” President Obama “has done plenty of things worthy of impeachment.”

But what could Obama be impeached for?

The Christian Science Monitor and others give some “suggestions.”

1. The Affordable Care Act – Employer Mandate Delay

A lawsuit in The House centers on one element of the ACA: the requirement that large employers (those with 50 or more workers) provide health coverage or pay a penalty.

That provision was originally due to go into effect in January 2014, but the Obama administration has delayed that deadline twice, and it is now January 2016.

The rationale for the delay was to allow companies more time to adjust to providing coverage. But Republicans accused the White House of trying to avoid another Obamacare controversy before the November midterms.

And they even argued that individuals should have been given a reprieve.

In some cases, a law is left vague, leaving rule-making up to the relevant government agencies. But in other cases, a law is explicit, and unilateral changes by the administration can spark controversy.

2. The Affordable Care Act – Federal Subsidies

Another controversial element of the ACA is the provision that says only people who enrolled in coverage via their state exchange are eligible for federal subsidies.

After the law passed, the Internal Revenue Service enacted a rule allowing the subsidies for people who enrolled via the federal exchange, Opponents of the law sued and won in one federal circuit court of appeals and lost in another.

The case may go to a higher court.

3.  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

This policy, announced by the Department of Homeland Security in 2012, came via a memorandum that directs authorities to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in dealing with some young undocumented immigrants.

Critics say that waiving deportation laws for more than a million people is not “prosecutorial discretion” – it’s policymaking by “executive fiat,” usurping the role of Congress. Defenders say DACA is an acceptable example of presidential discretion in policymaking.

Ten immigration agents challenged DACA in federal court, saying the policy undermined their duty to enforce the law. In 2013, the judge threw out the ecase on jurisdictional grounds, but suggested that DACA was inherently unlawful.

DACA has sometimes been mistakenly referred to as the Dream Act.  They are two separate entities.  The Dream Act was a bill that didn’t pass both houses and was never signed into law.

The Desert Sun newspaper backs up the idea that DACA and exempting 1 million illegal immigrants from deportation may give reason to impeach.

In an article about immigration reform, Forbes states, “it is hard to imagine that the House Republicans would not feel compelled to press forward with pursuing impeachment proceedings based on Obama overstepping his constitutional authority…”

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said that Congress should weigh impeachment if Obama used executive actions to advance his immigration reform agenda.

4.  Gay Marriage

In 2011, the Justice Department took the unusual step of announcing that it would no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Two years later, the Supreme Court struck down part of the law, but that does not lessen the unusual nature of the action by Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.

5.  Recess appointments

In 2012, Obama made three “recess appointments” to the National Labor Relations Board while the Senate was technically still in session.

In June 2014, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the president had overstepped his bounds, and that only the Senate can determine when it is in session. In a second, landmark decision in the case, the justices ruled 5-4 that the president had broad power to make recess appointments. But it was not as broad as Obama had wanted.

If one were to make an educated judgement, it seems as though the most likely reason the House would vote for impeachment would be on immigration reform.