gop-immigration

Republicans support is strong on border security, legal immigration and light on amnesty.  The delicate balance will have an impact on Latino voters.  The GOP will struggle to find the right balance.

Congress has only been in session a few weeks, but fissures within the GOP are already surfacing especially on the immigration front. On January 27th, the House pulled from the floor the border security bill introduced by Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Michael McCaul (Republican- Texas). “Secure Our Borders First” was pulled because of objectives presented by some of the more conservative members of the GOP who did not perceive the bill to be strong enough on border security. The McCaul bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to prevent all illegal border crossings over the next five years. It would also allocate billions of dollars for the purchase of drones, fencing, technology and other equipment. However, conservatives in both the House and Senate criticized the bill for not being strong enough on interior enforcement and for not adequately preventing migrants from crossing the border. The conservative complaints led to a rare situation where Representative McCaul issued a joint statement with Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee conveying their commitment to collaborating on legislation that fully integrates all components of border enforcement.

immigration-reform-cartoonThe GOP was also splintered by the House bill to continue funding for the Department of Homeland Security. While the overall bill passed 236-191, the bill’s deportation amendment revealed a growing divide within the Republican Party as 26 Republicans voted against stopping delayed deportations for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. While Republicans united on the overall bill, the 218-209 vote on halting the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) clearly demonstrated the heat which House members are feeling from their constituents. The 26 Republicans who opposed the amendment included lawmakers from districts with large Hispanic populations including Representative Mark Amodei (Republican-Nevada) and Mario Diaz-Balart (Republican-Florida). Interestingly enough, a Paragon Insights poll released on January 29th revealed that 58 percent of registered voters oppose Obama’s worker amnesty program. Opposition was expectedly strongest among Republicans with 86% opposing the bill and12% supporting it. Among Democrats, opposition was 33%, support 60%, and among Independents opposition was 60%, support 32%. In addition, 53% of registered voters support removing funding for the program with Republicans showing 81% support, Democrats, 29% support and Independents 54% support.

Congress’s chamber leaders have also sparked separation within the GOP with some conservatives dissatisfied with House Leader John Boehner (Republican-Ohio) and newly minted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky). Some Republicans have accused House Speaker Boehner of not effectively managing the expectations of House conservatives. These lawmakers maintain that House Speaker Boehner should have made it clearer to conservatives that repealing the DACA program and the executive action protecting another five million illegal immigrants from deportation has no chance of passing the Senate. Republicans are concerned about creating a scenario where Speaker Boehner repeatedly sends bills to the Senate where there is little chance of them achieving the necessary Democratic votes for passage fueling further frustration within the chambers. Senate Republicans have also specifically addressed concerns that House Speaker Boehner whose leadership was challenged at the onset of 114th Congress is trying to keep conservatives happy at the expense of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Furthermore, Speaker Boehner’s suing President Obama over the executive action promising amnesty for 4.5 million illegal immigrants has also split the party with some members thinking the suit is a pointless action and others thinking that he is not doing enough to counter the President’s executive action which is effectively overstepping the authority of the Executive Office.

Republicans are also displaying waning support for Senate Majority Leader McConnell. Representative. Steve King (Republican- Iowa), is already accusing McConnell of not doing enough to garner the 60 votes needed to pass the House Bill repealing DACA and the protection of the additional five million illegal aliens from deportation. Others think McConnell is doing a good job of pushing legislation through while trying to hold onto a fragile majority. Republicans have 54 seats in the Senate, and will be defending 24 incumbents in 2016.

Right out of the gate, Republicans are facing some difficulty coming together. This situation needs to be effectively managed by the leaders of the chambers or it will be very difficult to pass meaningful legislation. After all “A House Divided against Itself Cannot Stand.”

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obama redline netanyahuThe Senate gave President Barack Obama a brief reprieve on the push for new sanctions against Iran this week when they agreed to not draft a formal sanctions bill until after March 24, the deadline set by international negotiators from Iran and the PS5+1 group which includes the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, for creating an agreement which limits Iran’s nuclear power. However, champions of increased Iran sanctions conveyed that they would restart their efforts, if the current talks are not successful. The pause in the lobby for increased sanctions took place two weeks after President Obama threatened to veto any new Iran sanctions legislation. The concern is that new conditions could collapse talks with Iran and also increase the likelihood of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.

 

There is ample support in both the House and the Senate for legislation imposing new sanctions against Iran to over-ride a veto. The Kirk-Menendez bill which was authored by Senator Mark Kirk (Republican- Illinois) and Senator Robert Menendez (Democrat-New Jersey) of the Senate Banking Committee has garnered a lot of support. At least ten Democratic senators have already professed their support for the bill. The draft of the Kirk-Menendez bill stipulates that if no agreement is reached by the June 30, 2015 deadline, the sanctions which had been lifted as a result of the interim agreement would be reinstated. Furthermore, new sanctions would be implemented including restrictions on market access for Iran’s oil. The bill would prohibit any new waivers of sanctions until Congress has the time to review the bill for 30 legislative days which translates to two-three months in actual calendar time.

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President Obama’s stance on Iran has generated more bipartisan negative reaction and spawned more legislative activity. Senator Bob Corker (Republican-Tennessee), the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, credits President Obama’s “irresponsible” manner of interacting with Congress for House Leader John Boehner’s “going around the White House” to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress in March. Senator Corker is currently working on a bill with Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) which would require congressional oversight over any new agreement with Iran. Senator Rand Paul (Republican-Kentucky) and soon to retire Senator Barbara Boxer (Democrat-California) have announced their collaboration on legislation which takes a more moderate approach to sanctions than the Kirk-Menendez bill. The Boxer-Paul legislation proposes new sanctions on Iran only if Iran is found to be in violation of its existing agreements. According to Senator Boxer pushing for new sanctions while negotiations are ongoing “does not strengthen us, doesn’t strengthen our position at all.”

The plethora of legislation calling for more sanctions against Iran demonstrates that Republican and Democrats are united in the view point that President Obama’s approach towards Iran is weak and naïve. He is not facing Iran with strength and conviction. He needs to put his fingerprints on an agreement which binds Iran to ironclad requirements. More importantly, he needs to demonstrate that if Iran violates this agreement in any manner, they will suffer the consequences diplomatically and economically. We'll see what happens on March 24.

time-clockPresident Barack Obama used the January 22 State of the Union address to tout the 7.1 million people who have signed up for 2015 health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Furthermore, the Obama Administration expects enrollments in Obamacare to reach 9.1 million by the end of 2015. While President Obama has publically stated over and over again that he will veto any legislation that imposes restrictions on Obamacare, the Republican controlled congress is not backing down on their efforts to reign in the program, passing four bills in less than three weeks.

The House introduced three bills which specifically imposed constraints on the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate which requires that employers with 50 or more employees provide health care insurance to their full time employees. Right out of the gate, the House introduced two bills which received bipartisan support. The first bill of the year, a measure which exempts veterans who already have health care from the Defense or Veterans Affairs Departments from the employer mandate, was passed 412-0 on January 6. Lawmakers advocated for the bill by emphasizing that companies would have more incentive to hire veterans if they already had health insurance. The same bill passed the House last year 406-1, but died in the Senate. Additionally, the House passed 401-0 legislation which would exempt fire fighters from the employer mandate. Lawmakers argued that fire fighters should be exempt from the employer mandate because they often have work hours which exceed 30 hours a week. According to Representative Lou Barletta (Republican- Pennsylvania), the bill’s sponsor “Some fire companies would be forced to pay for the volunteers' health insurance or pay a fine, driving many fire departments out of business."

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On the other hand, the House incited controversy with a “40 hour full time work week” bill which effectively “voted down Obama’s 30 hour full time work week” by waiving fees on businesses which do not provide health insurance to employees working less than 40 hours a week. The bill which has been identified as a top priority by new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican- Kentucky) passed the House 252-172 with only 12 Democrats supporting it. The bill which currently has only two Democratic sponsors within the Senate, Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, is going to face an uphill battle in the Senate. And the White House has also threatened to veto it. Democrats are against the 40 hour work week because they perceive it as a way for the government to restrict employee access to health care. Proponents argue that keeping the work week at 30 hours a week gives employers an incentive to limit workers hours to below 30 hours which effectively limits wages. The House also passed additional controversial legislation with the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”. The bill which passed 242-179, blocks abortions from being covered by insurance plans offered by the federal government’s healthcare.gov.

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The GOP is promising more legislation. Senator Orin Hatch (Republican-Utah) along with Senator Lamar Alexander (Republican-Texas) are actively lobbying support for a bill which will undue the individual mandate to carry health insurance. Twelve additional senators have joined their effort. Repealing the individual mandate would turn Obamacare on its knees. In 2014, the penalty for not having health care was $95 per adult ($47.50 per child under 18) or 1% of your income whichever was higher. In 2015, the penalty will skyrocket to $325 per person per year ($162.50 per child under 18) or 2% of your income, whichever is higher. Repealing the individual mandate is the hit to the jugular on Obamacare. For this action would call out Obamacare for what it is, a “nanny state” directive which requires people to purchase something which they do not want and then penalizes them for not purchasing it.

Senator Hatch and other Republicans are also pushing for a repeal of the 2.3% tax on medical device manufacturers, a measure which has garnered support among both Republicans and Democrats. The tax which is anticipated to generate $28 billion in revenue over ten years was initially included in the Affordable Care Act as a way to fund the law’s requirements. Opponents of the tax perceive it as harmful to business in that its’ cost requirements result in the elimination of jobs and organizations moving outside of the US to avoid the tax.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has conveyed repeatedly that he is committing to “revisiting Obamacare” which he has described as “a gigantic, unworkable law that hurts hardworking Americans”. More bills are coming. Stay tuned!

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Forty-two years after the historic passage of Roe versus Wade, the case which decriminalized abortion, abortion legislation is once again front and center. First, many GOP leaders were stunned to learn that a House bill banning abortions after 20 weeks, was pulled from the House floor on January 21. Many assumed that this bill would have no difficulty obtaining support as most members of the GOP oppose late term abortions. Furthermore, a similar bill had passed the House two years ago. So the bill’s key sponsors who included Senator Lindsay Graham (Republican-South Carolina) and Representative Trent Franks (Republican-Arizona) thought that they would have no difficulty obtaining the votes needed for passage. The bill was derailed by a provision which limited exemptions for victims of rape or incest to individuals who had reported the incidents to the authorities. A number of Republican women opposed the provision claiming that it would unfairly pressure women who may be experiencing feelings of shame or fear of retaliation into reporting the incidents. The opposition to the bill was championed by Representative Renee Ellers, (Republican-North Carolina) who described the bill as making the GOP look “harsh and judgmental”. She attributed the bill’s splintering the GOP to “growing pains” within the party. The House’s pulling of the bill disappointed anti-abortion groups including the Susan B. Anthony List, the March for Life Education and Defense Fund and the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, but these groups were encouraged by the House’s commitment to continuing to push towards developing a comparable bill.

The GOP successfully passed legislation which blocked abortions from being covered by plans offered by the federal government’s healthcare.gov. The "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which passed 242-179 in the House was virtually identical to a bill that passed last year in the House, but then failed to gain the necessary votes in the Senate. The bill which was sponsored by Representative Chris Smith (Republican-New Jersey) would make it illegal to use the Affordable Care Act’s insurance subsidies to buy health insurance plans that cover abortion services through the exchanges. Many states have currently already passed legislation limiting the use of the exchanges for abortion services. However, this legislation would be nationwide and would also perhaps serve as a deterrent from the insurance carriers on the exchanges from offering any form of abortion coverage. Democrats responded to the bill by calling it an “assault on women’s health” and by claiming that it limits healthcare access to women especially poor women for whom Obamacare may be their only option. Republicans countered by saying that most Americans are opposed to “tax payer funded abortion”. The White House has threatened to veto the bill with the argument that tax payers do not fund abortion, insurance carriers do. And further stated that “Longstanding federal policy prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered."

The backstory behind these two abortion bills clearly demonstrates that abortion continues to be a highly polarizing topic which not only continues to pit Republicans against Democrats but also creates philosophical divides within the GOP. Forty-two years after Roe vs. Wade, we are still grappling with how to balance the question of “when life begins” with a “woman’s right to choose” what happens to her own body.

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President Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union address went off pretty much as expected. The content of the speech offered no surprises with exception to it being the first time that a president mentioned the word "transgender" in a State of the Union speech. The President focused on how he has improved the economy with 11 million new jobs, healthcare for 10 million more Americans, the lowest oil prices in years, a robust stock market etc. He also emphasized that American education levels have dramatically improved with high school graduation rates at an all-time high and more Americans attending college ever than before. As anticipated, he used the speech like a campaign stump effort where he discussed how he was going to help low and middle income Americans increase their income levels and improve their quality of life with

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Beware that Obama will credit himself that his economic policies have been a great success, warn you that his work is not done, argue that we all need to share our prosperity and that the rich need to pay more, and promise to raise your taxes, and offer gifts of social welfare with free money & food, free cell phones, free college, free healthcare and free immigration all in an effort to expand his socialist empire, spit at a feckless Congress, and secure the young, Hispanic, Black and Women voter blocks.

Obama-Spread-the-WealthTonight President Barack Obama‘s State of the Union Address will highlight his proposal to raise $320 billion in new tax revenue over ten years to benefit middle and lower income workers by providing them with additional tax breaks including a tripling of the child tax credit to $3000 per child, a second household earner tax credit of $500 and an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program, a refundable tax credit for low to moderate income workers. And of course, the tax revenue will also be financing the Obama Administration’s latest give away “free community college”. Once again, we have the panderer-in-chief releasing yet another misguided Robin Hood policy which proposes to put more money in the pockets of everyday people by making the top 1% of individual tax payers “pay their fair share” and by sticking it to the fat cat corporations. The plan is never going to get past the new Republican controlled congress. So why is President Obama delivering this plan and using the State of the Union platform to promote it to the American people? This is just another ploy to play to the lower income voter base while endeavoring to distract attention from the bad optics which the President is currently experiencing on all other fronts including radical Islamic terrorism (He can’t even speak the words.), national security, race relations, immigration, and Obamacare. As usual, the funny math doesn’t make any sense. President Obama’s plan is going to once again hurt the middle class not help them. And when Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst offers the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, she is sure to come out swinging when she highlights the “holes” in President Obama’s tax plan.

The plan proposes raising the capital gains tax from 23.8% to 28% on couples earning more than $500,000 which would make it LiveLeak-dot-com-2dab63a0d64b-obama-spread-your-wealth-around-poster.jpg.resizednearly double the 15% it was when President Obama assumed office. The tax plan also calls for changes in the way inheritance taxes are levied which would effectively raise the inheritance taxes collected from 40% to 60% and create a second tax scenario. First the recipient pays an inheritance tax on the property he inherited. Then, if he later sells the property, he is assessed a capital gains tax if the property goes up in value. An individual could conceivably be paying the top “death tax rate” of 40% on his inheritance and then later pay a 28% capital gains tax on remaining funds for an effective integrated tax rate of 60%.

Obama’s plan also includes a .07% tax on the liabilities of large banks which have assets over $50 billion. Once again, while Obama may be selling this as the big bad banks paying their fair share, the reality is that the banks are going to have to fund this tax. And that will inevitably involve passing the cost onto the bank’s customers and their employees. Customers will pay higher fees for services and employees will see reductions in benefits.

And while Obama is out on his tour promoting his plans for “free community college” which carries a price tag of $60 billion in federal spending and $20 billion in state level spending over a ten year period, he has said nothing about how he plans to hit families saving for college by using a 529 plan with a new withdrawal tax. Under current law 529 plans are savings instruments where distributions are tax free as long as the funds distributed are used to pay for college. Obama plans to now tax all distributions including those used to finance a college education. Ouch.

President Obama is also requiring employers with more than ten employees who don’t already have a 401(K) type savings program to set up a payroll deduction traditional IRA for their employees. Obama’s program also mandates that part time employees who have been with the organization a substantial amount of time have access to this savings benefit. Again, while encouraging employees to save is a good thing, the Obama Administration should not be mandating that firms implement these programs particularly if they are not organizationally set up to appropriately manage them. Interestingly enough, while President Obama is forcing employers to implement payroll deduction savings programs for their employees, he is at the same time imposing caps on retirement savings levels. According to the new proposal, individuals will be subject to $3.4 million aggregate of all IRA and 401K accounts or a $210,000 annual retirement payout. So in other words, President Obama has proclaimed that $210,000 a year is enough to live on for anyone. What happened to the America where hard work is rewarded and earning potential is unlimited? Or are we once again being forced into “shared prosperity”?

So when President Obama starts proclaiming the benefits of his new tax proposal, think about where he is getting the money to fund these benefits. Don’t be fooled by rhetoric that the rich and the corporations are going to fund these programs. The reality is that most of the funding for these benefits is coming out of your pocket.

Tonight's exercise?  Count how many times our president uses the word "BUT" when selling his lame duck agenda.

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The President is on track to set a record number of unilateral orders that include Executive Orders and Memorandas and over-reach his power that will test our Constitution and the power of the Executive Branch while at the same time increase our national debt more than all presidents before him combined.

In the wake of the horrific shootings in Paris last week at the hands of radical Islamic terrorists, the United States is on heightened alert for terrorist activity on our shores. While much has been written about identifying and smoking out the potential terrorists who are already among us, more effort has to go into blocking their entry. If anyone is guilty of leaving the barn door open, it is President Barack Obama who has tested the Constitution with his dangerous abuse of the executive order particularly with regard to illegal immigrant amnesty and Guantanamo prisoner release.

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Where is President Obama?

The eyes of the world were focused on the City of Lights on Sunday as close to 4 million people in France including 1.6 million in Paris alone participated in a march of solidarity for the 17 victims of the horrific killings perpetrated by radical Islamic terrorists this week at the headquarters of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo and a Paris kosher supermarket. Over 40 world leaders were present and the world witnessed French President Francois Hollande linking arms with other leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to show support for not only the victims but also for what they represented: freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. But there was one person missing from the images which cascaded across the newsfeeds. President Barack Obama, the leader of the “free world”, the individual considered to be one of the most powerful political leaders in the world was conspicuously absent. Jane Hartley, the US Ambassador to France, was the chosen to represent the US. And while Ms. Hartley should clearly be present, she should not have been the highest ranking US individual at a tribute for the victims of an event which has been described as “France’s 9/11”.

frenchpolice420x268Said and Cherif Kouachi who perpetrated their fatal attack on Charlie Hebdo that killed more than a dozen people and attempted to silence liberty and freedom of speech were killed along with two other conspirators from the same terrorist cell.  The lead perpetrators of Wednesday’s mass shooting at the Paris based French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo had taken hostages, many of whom were killed in the rescue operation at the printing facility in Dammartin-en-Goel about 22 miles outside Paris. The building had been surrounded by police officers.  The Kouachi brothers got their wish to “die as martyrs” for Islam.

Said, 34, and Cherif, 32, targeted Charlie Hebdo because the publication is well known for its cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The Kouachi brothers were both reportedly on the US “No Fly” list.  Cherif Kouachi has also long been suspected of having terrorist ties. In 2008, he was convicted of terrorism for helping funnel fighters to Iraq with the charge of "criminal association with a terrorist enterprise.” The Eiffel Tower was dimmed Thursday evening to honor the twelve victims which included ten staff members among them editor/cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier and two police officers.  One of the slain police officers was on the premises because he had been serving as a body guard to Charbonnier for the last few years. In September 2013, Inspire Magazine, an Al Qaeda publication published a “wanted’ poster identifying the nine individuals whom Muslims should kill if the opportunity presented itself; Charbonnier was on the list.  Upon leaving the scene, the Kouachi brothers along with eighteen year old Hamyd Mourad who has since given himself up shouted “Allahu Akbar” and   “We have avenged Muhammed. We have killed Charlie Hebdo” .

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Pew Research Center Chart Illustrates increasing divide between Conservative and Liberal ideology.

The holiday season has ended and the 114th Congress is officially in session. For the first time in six decades, we now have a Republican controlled Senate and Republican controlled House of Representatives. But of course, we still have Democratic President Barack Obama who over the course of his six year presidency has moved increasingly more to the left. In the Senate, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who was previously the Senate Minority Leader now becomes the Senate Majority Leader, effectively switching roles with Senator Harry Reid, (D-Nevada) who was previously the Senate Majority Leader. There has been much discussion about the impact of the transfer of the gavel of power from Senator Reid to Senator McConnell on the legislative docket. Harry Reid has been criticized by the right for