Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev) move to eliminate the rule that required a 60 vote majority to end debate has “grievously irked” his GOP counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken).
“Harry promised he would never use this so-called 'nuclear option,'” McConnell complained. “When you put this together with the false promises of 'if you like your insurance you can keep it' that have been made by the President and virtually every Democrat over the past three years we see a pattern of deception that has destroyed the Government's credibility. I'm fighting mad.”
McConnell says he places most of the blame on “Tea Party bullies who have undermined the collegiality I have worked so hard to build with Democratic members of the Senate. They let us keep the filibuster with the understanding that we wouldn't use it to impede the important work of the Senate. But Paul, Cruz and Lee broke this agreement and now we see this long standing Senate tradition swept aside.”
The Minority Leader has told friends that he “will 'cold cock' these guys with a punch to the nose when they least expect it.” McConnell said he expects his personal version of the “knock-out game” will “serve the dual purpose of showing these guys who's boss and curry favor with younger voters.”
Obamacare Prices Bite Congressional Staffers
Even though Congressional staffers were illegally granted subsidies they aren't qualified to receive under the Affordable Care Act regulations many are finding that the cost for health insurance is far higher than expected.
“In a shock to the system, the older staff in my office have now found out their personal health insurance costs have gone up 3-4 times what they were paying before,” Minh Ta, chief of staff to Representative Gwen Moore (D-Wis) complained. “The coverage is worse. The cost is higher. This is simply unacceptable.”
That the deal is even worse for members of the general public who do not receive subsidies didn't seem to faze Representative Moore. “I thought that the President's granting a subsidy would enable my staff to escape the hardships they otherwise would've faced under the Act,” Moore observed. “My people are loyal and essential functionaries of the Government. They need to be rewarded for their contributions, not thrown into the same unprotected pool with those we govern.”
Disastrous Roll Out of Obamacare Inspires Action
While Republicans like Senator Ted Cruz (Texas) continue to harp upon the damage being done to Americans who are losing their health care insurance, losing their jobs, or seeing their work hours cut in response to rules laid down by the Affordable Care Act, the Administration has taken action to deal with the crisis. The date by which employers with 50 or more workers must begin to comply with the Act's requirements has been pushed back to November 15, 2014.
“Republicans may think that they can bully us into rescinding the entire plan to transform the way we provide health insurance,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said. “They are wrong. They may think that the millions of cancellation notices that those currently covered by employer-provided insurance will start getting next Fall will hurt Democrats in the November elections. They are wrong. The cancellation notices won't be mailed until after November 15. Most of those affected won't know they can't keep their policies until after they've already cast their votes.”
“Another thing the GOP is overlooking is that even though the websites aren't getting many enrolled in health insurance they are registering a lot of new voters,” Sebelius added. “Our navigators, people like Christopher Tarango, will ensure that these voters are contacted by Organizing for Action and educated on how to vote long before the next wave of bad news about canceled policies and soaring premium costs hits in mid-November.”
Whether the Secretary's optimism is warranted was called into question by a CBS poll showing that only 7% of those queried want to see Obamacare continue, as is. The rest want “repeal” or “major changes.”
FEC Rules against Tea Party
The Federal Election Commission ruled that “fear of harassment” is an insufficient reason for Tea Party affiliated groups to conceal the names, addresses, and places of employment of those who donate to their cause.
FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub rejected Tea Party arguments citing protections against disclosure granted to organizations like the NAACP and Socialist Workers Party. “The Socialist Workers Party has never been an effective organization,” Weintraub pointed out. “None of their candidates have ever been elected. The same cannot be said for the Tea Party.”
“The NAACP is working for the advancement of a racial minority,” Weintraub continued. “They need protection from harassment by a racist majority. The Tea Party arose, in part, to oppose the policies of a minority President. For them to try to claim the same protections would be a travesty.”
Weintraub dismissed revelations of Government spying by the NSA and harassment by the IRS of Tea Party groups as evidence of a real threat to freedom of speech. “There is no question that the values, views, and actions of Tea Party groups are out-of-sync with those of the federal government,” she declared. “It would seem that the Government has good reason to want to keep close tabs on them. Exposing the identities of the shadowy figures who are bankrolling these anti-government activists is our first line of defense against them.”
Is Obama Stupid or Distracted?
President Obama's assertion that “I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity a week before the Web site opens if I thought that it wasn’t going to work” was called into doubt when it was revealed that he and top aides, including Kathleen Sebelius, were briefed on the website's deficiencies last March.
“The notion that this implies that the President might be stupid is out-of-context and unfair,” Press Secretary Jay Carney contended. “As everyone well knows, the President is an avid basketball fan. The briefing everyone is now citing took place in the midst of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The President had put his basketball acumen on the line with his bracket forecast. It should be understandable that he might have been distracted and not paying close attention during that briefing.”
Carney's effort to deflect blame from the President was labeled “ridiculous” by Obamacare critic Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex). “Is it too much to ask that the President of the United States focus on his job?” Cruz wondered. “If he can't pay attention when his signature legislation is being discussed why is he even in the room?”
“He was in and out of the room multiple times during the briefing,” Carney argued. “He could have easily missed the part where the failure of the website was covered. The others present may not have noticed. Since he didn't specifically say the roll out should be delayed everyone assumed it was still full speed ahead.”
In related news, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo) insisted that forcing people to buy health insurance they don't want “is the free market option. Everyone is free to chose from the array of policies that conform to the President's vision of health care. Only those who refuse to cooperate are assessed a fine. It's not like the government took over the health care industry. Although, we may have to consider that if Obamacare fails.”
Feds May Increase Vehicle Surveillance
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is drafting regulations that would require all new cars to be equipped with tracking devices that constantly broadcast the car’s location, direction, speed and, possibly, even the number of passengers it is carrying.
As NHTSA Administrator David Strickland explains, “we constantly admonish parents to watch their children at all times. Well, this would build on that same principle. How can the Government assure the safety and well-being of Americans if we don't know where they are or what they're doing at all times?”
Strickland granted that “the proposed new regulation is only a partial solution. It only deals with when people are in their cars. But it's still a step forward. We would know if the vehicle is speeding. We might be able to tell if a vehicle was in a location it shouldn't be. We certainly would have the capability to dispatch police to interdict a vehicle and, if necessary, arrest the occupants.”
“A more comprehensive program that would obtain this type of information in situations outside of vehicular travel is something we can work toward,” Strickland envisioned. “Maybe each individual could be implanted with a miniature tracking device. Then everyone could feel confident that their government could find them and take care of them on a 24/7 basis. No one would have to fear that they might be abandoned and alone. Meanwhile, the NHTSA is proud to be an innovator toward this new era.”
In related news, in a series of random stops in Texas, the NHTSA forced motorists to participate in a study aimed at detecting the percentage of impaired drivers on the road. While civil libertarians characterized these stops as “unwarranted invasions of privacy without probable cause,” the NHTSA defended them as “necessary to ensure a random sample of drivers.”