Dobbs To Ryan – Get With President Trump’s Agenda Or Get Out Of The Way

By Rick Wells

Lou Dobbs offers his “few thoughts on now on House leadership and the deep darkness that has descended on Capitol Hill when it comes to Obamacare, it’s repeal and replacement. The Republicans choking off now light and truth while secreting the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.”

Dobbs continues, “Speaker Ryan today joining Vice President Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, WI, where he vowed an Obamacare replacement is coming soon. The Speaker also responded to some criticism that the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare is being done in the dark behind closed doors.”

He plays a clip of Ryan “getting defensive” on the Bret Baier program just a few moments earlier, when his methods were compared to the way Democrats shove things down the throats of the American people in the dark of night. Ryan said, indignantly, “Are you kidding me, Bret? Give me a break. Seriously?”

Dobbs has his take on that selective feigned outrage, asking, “Are you kidding me, Mr. Speaker? Yet one member of the committee that decided to require lawmakers go to a designated room to see the bill, Congressman Michael Burgess, said he would have chosen against the cloak and dagger approach.”

He says, “And as for Ryan’s so-called better way, yes, we heard it again from Speaker Ryan instead of the President’s agenda, this fiction that exists in his mind principally, and not on the Internet in a profound way. Republicans in both the House and the Senate are disgusted with Ryan’s fascistic refusal to follow regular order, to hold public hearings that are relevant and timely, to provide for debate and amendment in both the Senate and the House.”

Dobbs point out, “Ryan’s conditions are more suitable for growing mushrooms than crafting legislation in the public interest.” He goes on to highlight the growing dissent and bubbling rebellion in Congress, saying, “House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows earlier this week told me Americans didn’t vote for a partial repeal and Congressman Jim Jordan also slamming the GOP leadership’s proposal.”

“The Chairman of the Republican Study Committee,” notes Dobbs, “Congressman Mark Walker also slamming the dark proceedings and Ryancare or, if you will, Obamacare lite, saying he would vote against the proposal.”

Dobbs says, “Speaker Ryan may be pleasing his masters on “K” Street and, oh yes, “H” Street as well, but he is without question arrogantly defying his conference, the Senate and yes, the President of the United States. After all, he does represent, the President does, the will of the American people. “

Dobbs adds, “If I may suggest to the Speaker, get on with the President’s agenda or get out of the way.”

 

LAWSUIT: OBAMA ROBBED PRIVATE INVESTORS TO FUND OBAMACARE

Private investments seized to save Obamacare

| Infowars.com – FEBRUARY 28, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two lawsuits proceeding through the federal courts threaten to expose and disrupt a scheme the Obama administration concocted in 2012 to confiscate all the profits from Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac – the government’s two mortgage giants – with a plan to divert billions of dollars to pay essential Obamacare insurance subsidies that Congress had refused to fund.

On July 9, 2013, Fairholme Funds, Inc., a mutual fund that held preferred stock issued by the Federal National Mortgage Association, commonly known as “Fannie Mae,” and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, commonly known as “Freddie Mac,” filed suit against the U.S. government in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, seeking “just compensation” under the Fifth Amendment for their property when the Obama administration, in the so-called “Net Worth Sweep” of 2012, confiscated all Fannie and Freddie profits.

In 2008, when the economy went into recession over the collapse of the subprime mortgage market, Congress passed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, HERA, to save Fannie and Freddie by a federal bailout that placed the two Government Sponsored Entities, GSEs, into government conservatorship, with the U.S. Treasury recapitalizing Fannie and Freddie by issuing to the GSEs $187.5 billion in senior preferred stock with a 10% dividend designed to repay the U.S. Treasury over time.

But in 2012, when Fannie and Freddie became profitable, as the mortgage market returned with rigorous credit underwriting and a zero-interest rate environment maintained by the Federal Reserve, the Obama administration initiated a “Net Worth Sweep,” designed to confiscate 100% of the profits generated by Fannie and Freddie.

The result was that private shareholders like Fairholme Funds were paid nothing on their Fannie and Freddie stock.

In August 2012, the Obama administration engineered an amendment to the Senior Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements creating a variable dividend that allowed the U.S. Treasury to grab all Fannie and Freddie profits, regardless how large Fannie and Freddie’s earnings might be.

In 2016, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, in the case U.S. House of Representatives v. Burwell, ruled the Department of Health and Human Services could not use taxpayer dollars to pay Obamacare insurance subsidies Congress refused to fund.

To solve this problem, the Obama administration defied the District Court by diverting profits confiscated from Fannie and Freddie to pay the Obamacare insurance subsidies Congress had refused to fund.

To block the progress of the Fairholme lawsuit, the Obama administration asserted executive privilege, seeking to withhold some 77,945 documents from the public view, including some 12,251 documents the government wanted completely withheld (even from the federal court).

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit asserted the government’s purpose in seeking to keep the documents secret was to conceal the government’s motives in seizing from private and institutional shareholders their stock dividends in Fannie and Freddie the government wanted to seize.

“The government has asserted the information could be ‘disruptive to markets.’ However, it is difficult to imagine how discussions by officials as far back as eight years ago and emails on matters as mundane as daily press clips could impact today’s markets, which, by definition operate on the very latest information,” wrote constitutional law scholar John Yoo. “Executive privilege is available for presidents to use in highly sensitive matters, and its use is constrained by specific procedures.”

“In the pending litigation on the Net Worth Sweep, the government has applied this privilege in an overly broad and unjustified manner,” Yoo continued. “Either federal officials are trying to cover up something they know is illegal, or we are witnessing an unprecedented and disturbing obsession with secrecy.”

On Oct. 4, 2016, Judge Margaret M. Sweeney of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., gave her first order demanding the release of some of the documents that the government sought to withhold – documents the New York Times reported reached “the highest levels of the Obama administration.”

The New York Times further reported the government initially had argued that in seizing Fannie and Freddie, it had acted to protect taxpayers from future losses because the companies were in “a death spiral” and taxpayers needed protection from future losses.

But documents Judge Sweeney forced to be released made clear the government moved to seize all earnings of Fannie and Freddie just before the two mortgage giants were about to become profitable.

Fairholme and the other plaintiffs in the case had asked Judge Sweeney to review a sample of 56 documents in the case to determine if the government had a legitimate argument to seal the documents.

After her review, Judge Sweeney ruled that the documents should be released because Fairholme had an “overwhelming” need for the documents and no other source of available evidence “would similarly inform their understanding” of the events surrounding the profit sweep.

On Jan. 30, 2017  a three-judge panel for of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the federal circuit ruled unanimously that 48 of the 56 documents were not privileged, but should be released to the plaintiffs.

In writing their order, the three-judge panel expressed sympathy for the plaintiffs’ argument that the documents the government sought to seal would reveal (if made public) that Fannie and Freddie were not in a threat of a “death spiral” to insolvency when the Net Worth Sweep was ordered by the government in 2012.

Instead, the three-judge panel suggested the respondents should have access to the 48 documents in their attempt to prove the GSEs were reporting substantial profits at the time that were more than sufficient to cover the Treasury’s original 10% dividend guarantee and potentially to pay dividends to the other shareholders as well.

At issue was the plaintiff’s argument the Treasury appropriated the stock held by private investors to generate what the Treasury knew would be a massive return on the investment to the government.

FannieFreddieSecrets.org, a website created to make easily readable the documents Judge Sweeney through a series of rulings starting in October 2016, has revealed public archives and a deposition from Susan McFarland, Fannie’s former chief financial officer, from July 2015.

In her deposition, McFarland refuted projections made by Grant Thornton, the accounting firm the government had hired to do a financial analysis on Fannie and Freddie, speculating that Fannie Mae was going to lose $13 billion in 2012, the year in which the Obama administration decided to start confiscating Fannie and Freddie earnings.

McFarland revealed in the deposition that she had told high-level officials at the Treasury on Aug. 8, 2012, that the company (Fannie Mae) was “now in a sustainable profitability, that we would be able to deliver sustainable profits over time.”  McFarland added that while Fannie was “not there yet,” she as financial officer “could see positive things occurring.”

A letter from then Secretary of the Treasury Jacob L. Lew, addressed to then House Speaker John Boehner dated May 17, 2013, also rejects the government contention the Fannie and Freddy were in “a death spiral” at the time of government confiscation.

In the letter, written at a time when the Treasury was preparing to engage in “extraordinary measures” because Congress had not yet authorized an increase in the statutory debt limit, Lew explained to then-House Speaker Boehner that Treasury had just learned “last week” that it was anticipating a payment of $60 billion from Fannie Mae to be delivered on June 28, 2013.

In another document unsealed by Judge Sweeney, a Grant Thornton, purportedly showing Freddie Mac’s deteriorating financial condition, contained a marginal note handwritten by an unidentified Grant Thornton employee, saying: “3 yrs. of cum. profits, you start to think about releasing the valuation allow. The valuation allow. When probably 2013, 2014.”

In the second case, originally filed as Perry Capital LLC vs. Lew (now, Perry Capital LLC, for and on behalf of Investment Funds for which it acts as investment manager, Appellant v. Steven T. Mncuhin, in his official capacity as the Secretary of the Department of the Treasury, Et Al., Appellees) the investment manager Perry Capital LLC sued the Treasury Department over the decision made in the “Net Worth Sweep” of 2012, and specifically the decision made on August 17, 2012, through which the Obama administration succeeded in engineering an amendment to the Senior Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements that resulted in the private and institutional shareholders of Fannie and Freddie being shut off from receiving future dividends on their Fannie and Freddie stock.

On Feb. 21, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled the Obama administration had acted within its authority under HERA.

While this decision was widely viewed as a victory for the government, the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals was very narrow, arguing only that the statutory claims of Perry Capital LLC were barred by the Recovery Act’s strict limitation on judicial review.

Instead of dismissing the plaintiffs’ claims, the Circuit Court remanded the case to the lower District Court to litigate contract-based claims regarding their rights as shareholders to have received Fannie and Freddie dividends.

Translated into ordinary English, the Circuit Court punted, sending the case back to the District Court where the Perry’s contractual claims regarding the rights of shareholders to receive dividends could be properly litigated at trial.

In what has become a complicated case, legal analysts still maintain that at the District Court level, Perry LLC stands an excellent chance to force the Treasury “to return the money, which it had no right to receive in the first place.”

EXCLUSIVE: OBAMA ILLEGALLY ROBBED FANNIE, FREDDIE TO FUND OBAMACARE

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Obama diverted money from low-income housing to keep Obamacare alive

Jerome R. Corsi | Infowars.com – FEBRUARY 27, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Will this be the final nail in the coffin for the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare?”

Federal court litigation provides evidence the Obama administration illegally diverted taxpayer funds that had not been appropriated by Congress in an unconstitutional scheme to keep Obamacare from imploding.

In 2016, a U.S. District judge caught the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services Department acting unconstitutionally and therefore put an end to the illegal diversion of taxpayer funds, but the Obama administration didn’t stop there.

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The Obama administration instead turned to the nation’s two government-sponsored mortgage giants – the Federal National Mortgage Association, commonly known as “Fannie Mae,” and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, commonly known as “Freddie Mac” – to invent a new diversion of funds in a desperate attempt to keep Obamacare from collapsing.

A key date is May 12, 2016. That was the day when U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, in the case U.S. House of Representatives v. Burwell, (130 F. Supp. 3d 53, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia), ruled against Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell.

Judge Collyer decided HHS Secretary Burwell had no constitutional authority to divert funds Congress appropriated to one section of the ACA to fund Obamacare subsidy payments to insurers under another section of the ACA, Section 1402 – the clause defining the insurer subsidies – when Congress specifically declined to appropriate any funds to Section 1402 for paying the insurance subsidy.

“Paying out Section 1402 reimbursements without an appropriation thus violates the Constitution,” Judge Collyer concluded. “Congress authorized reduced cost sharing but did not appropriate monies for it, in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget or since.”

“Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one.”

The U.S. District court in this ruling entered judgment in favor of the House of Representatives, barring HHS from using unappropriated money to pay insurers under Section 1402.

What was at issue in Section 1402 was the Obamacare provision that capped the amount of federal subsidies under Section 1402 that lower-income families could use to pay for insurance purchased on state insurance exchanges, particularly the difference between the capped maximum based on a person or family’s income in relation to the federal poverty level.

Congress had refused to pass an appropriation to fund Section 1402 – the section of the ACA that called for making the insurance subsidy payments.

In a report issued in March 2016, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the cost for providing Section 1402 subsidies over the next ten years (2016-2026) was estimated to be $130 billion.

Forbidden by Judge Collyer’s decision from diverting money Congress appropriated for other ACA provisions to pay Section 1402 subsidies, the Obama administration faced the prospect that the government could not pay subsidies to permit lower-income persons and families to buy the amount of health insurance Obamacare was written to provide them.

Either this, or insurers would be forced to charge middle and high income-persons and families such outrageous amounts for their insurance coverage (to subsidize the poor under ACA) that only the wealthiest could afford to buy health insurance.

In other words, Obamacare was dead in the water if the Obama administration could not find a way to circumvent the District Court’s decision U.S. House of Representatives v. Burwell to fund Section 1402 despite the fact Congress had refused to do so.

Determined to keep Obamacare alive, the Obama administration decided to find a way around Judge Collyer’s ruling.

The fix involved the Obama administration redefining the terms of the 2008 conservatorship agreements which advanced funds to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from a 10% dividend on moneys borrowed to the federal government’s confiscation of 100% of the future and imminent profits of these Government Sponsored Entities, or GSEs.

Miraculously, the Freddie and Fannie “pot of gold” turned out to be almost exactly the amount the Obama administration needed to meet the anticipated insurance company subsidies required to keep Section 1402 in business.

So, how did Fannie and Freddie get this pot of gold, given that only a few years earlier both GSEs were bankrupt?

In 2008, in the midst of the financial crisis caused in part by the collapse of the subprime mortgage market, the federal government decided to seize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which at the time were two shareholder-owned companies.

In passing the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA), the U.S. Congress had fixed the regulatory issues at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, creating a mechanism for them to be placed into conservatorship at federal government’s discretion AND providing up to $187.5 billion in funds that could be advanced to the GSEs through a purchase of senior preferred stock paying a ten percent dividend.

In deciding to bail them out, the federal government took control of the two giant mortgage GSEs, with Fannie and Freddie effectively put into government “conservatorship.”

As part of the conservatorship, the federal government effectively acquired warrants, convertible at a nominal price, which allowed the federal government to acquire 79% of the GSE’s common stock.

This resulted in causing dilution in the percentage of Fannie and Freddie common stock ownership that was left in the hands of private and institutional investors.

Congress’ intent was that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would pay back the Treasury as the mortgage giants returned to profitability.

But after the Treasury was paid back, the terms of HERA anticipated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would pay appropriate dividends to stockholders, including the federal government, leaving enough funds within Freddie and Fannie to “conserve and preserve” the assets of the two GSEs, anticipating their eventual return to a “safe and solvent” operating condition.

In 2012, the Obama administration unilaterally decided to change the terms of HERA by sweeping all the profits of Fannie and Freddie into the Treasury’s general fund.

The Obama administration took this action, the so-called “Net Worth Sweep,” without any Congressional authority to do so.

The result was that the U.S. Treasury “found” a way to sweep 100% of Fannie and Freddie profits into the Treasury’s “general fund,” leaving the giant mortgage GSEs vulnerable to the need for another government bailout should another disruption occur in the nation’s economy.

Because of this decision, the Obama administration on its own authority simply decided to discontinue paying dividends to private and institutional owners of Fannie and Freddie common and preferred stock.

Congress, in passing HERA, never anticipated the Obama administration would take over Fannie and Freddie and strip the agencies of all profits – a move that left private and institutional shareholders in the cold.

Leading up to the decision to sweep Fannie and Freddie’s profits, the GSEs return to imminent profitability was known only by a few government officials and their consultants.

Their own internal forecasts, uncovered in unsealed court documents, showed that Fannie and Freddie’s profitability would soon dramatically outperform the amount of the allowable 10% dividend that the Treasury would receive under the existing Senior Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements.

On August 17, 2012, these same officials and consultants succeeded in engineering with the Federal Housing Financial Agency, FHFA, and the Department of Treasury an amendment to the Senior Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements that allowed the U.S. Treasury to grab ALL Fannie and Freddie profits – regardless how large Fannie and Freddie’s earnings might be.

Between 2012, when the Obama administration began its policy of confiscating all Fannie and Freddie profits and now, Fannie and Freddie have paid the U.S. Treasury general fund more than $240 billion in dividends.

The point is that after May 12, 2016, when U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled that HHS had to stop diverting ACA funds to pay Obamacare subsidies, the Obama administration realized that HHS somehow had to fund the estimated $130 billion the HHS would need in un‐appropriated monies to pay health insurers the ACA subsidies required to keep Obamacare alive in Fiscal Year 2013.

Plaintiffs litigating against the Obama administration’s confiscation of Freddie and Fannie earnings have challenged in court whether the Obama administration’s decision to amend the Preferred Stock Purchase Agreement in August 2012 and sweep GSE profits of $130 billion in 2013 ($82.4 billion from Fannie Mae, and $47.6 billion from Freddie Mac) was an attempt to circumvent Congress on the single most important policy priority of the White House.

The timing was particularly interesting given that September 2012 marked the beginning of the sequestration discussions.

Government documents leave little doubt profits from Fannie and Freddie confiscated by the U.S. Treasury have been used by the Obama administration to pay Obamacare subsidies and other items not appropriated by Congress, in complete and illegal circumvention of the District Court’s ruling and the Constitution’s determination that only the Congress shall have the power to tax and spend.

For instance, Chapter 3 of the Congressional Budget Office publication “The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2015 to 2025” notes on page 63 that the major contributors to mandatory U.S. government spending include “… outlays for Medicaid, subsidies for health insurance purchases through exchanges, and the government’s transactions with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

Why Fannie and Freddie are specified in this context, when Fannie and Freddie have had sufficient earnings to operate without government subsidies since 2008 is made clear a few pages later.

On page 65, in Table 3-2, the CBO report notes “mandatory outlays projected in CBO’s baseline” from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for 2014 is -$74 billion and for 2015 a total of -$26 billion.

The figures are “negative dollar amounts” because instead of paying out to Freddie and Fannie, the U.S. Treasury is collecting from Freddie and Fannie, with the proceeds going into the U.S. Treasury general fund to pay “mandatory outlays,” including evidently continued subsidies to insurers, as specified by ACA Section 1402.

In footnote 14 on page 8 of that CBO report lets the cat out of the bag, noting the Obama administration considers payments from Freddie and Fannie “to be outside of the federal government for budgetary purposes,” recording cash payments from Freddie and Fannie to the Treasury as “federal receipts.”

The Obama administration evidently considered this all-too-convenient redefinition of terms allowed the government to argue the use of Fannie and Freddie profits to pay Obamacare Section 1402 subsidies was not in violation of the District Court ruling.

Why? Evidently because Fannie and Freddie profits were not taxpayer-generated, but were profit payments generated by Government Sponsored Entities that still had some common and preferred stock private and institutional shareholder ownership.

In the same footnote, the CBO takes exception with the Obama administration, commenting the CBO considers profit payments to the Treasury made by Fannie and Freddie to be “intragovernmental” receipts going into the same Treasury general fund pot, to be mixed indistinguishably with taxpayer revenue, not distinct public/private GSE “receipts” separately accounted for in the Treasury general fund as distinguishable from taxpayer revenue.

If the federal courts conclude Fannie and Freddie GSE “receipts” to Treasury still need Congressional appropriation to be spent legitimately by the executive branch of government, the Obama administration will have been exposed as having operated outside the Constitution in its desperate attempt to keep the ACA from imploding.

What should be outrageous to progressives understanding the Obama administration subterfuge to keep the ACA alive is that by confiscating Fannie/Freddie profits to keep Obamacare alive, Obama ignored core members of the Democratic Party’s core constituency – affordable housing advocates and minority groups – with little explanation.

COULTER: House passed SIX Obamacare repeals when Obama was president! Now NOTHING…

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Let’s compare what President Trump has accomplished since the inauguration (with that enormous crowd!) with what congressional Republicans have done.

In the past three weeks, Trump has: staffed the White House, sent a dozen Cabinet nominees to the Senate, browbeat Boeing into cutting its price on a government contract, harangued American CEOs into keeping their plants in the United States, imposed a terrorist travel ban, met with foreign leaders and nominated a Supreme Court justice, among many other things.

(And still our hero finds time to torment the media with his tweets!)

What have congressional Republicans been doing? Scrapbooking?

More than 90 percent of congressional Republicans kept their jobs after the 2016 election, so you can cross “staffing an entire branch of government” off the list. Only the Senate confirms nominees, which they’ve been doing at a snail’s pace, so they’ve got loads of free time — and the House has no excuse at all.

Where’s the Obamacare repeal? Where are the hearings featuring middle-class Americans with no health insurance because it was made illegal by Obamacare?

The House passed six Obamacare repeals when Obama was president and there was no chance of them being signed into law. Back then, Republicans were full of vim and vigor! But the moment Trump became president, the repeals came to a screeching halt.

After the inauguration (gigantic!), House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put out a plan for repealing Obamacare … in 200 days. They actually gave their legislative agenda this inspiring title: “The Two Hundred Day Plan.”

TWO HUNDRED DAYS!

What was in the last six Obamacare repeals? If we looked, would we find “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” carefully typed out 1 million times? Seriously, what does Paul Ryan’s day look like?

This is the Silence of the Lambs Congress. They’re utterly silent, emerging from the House gym or their three-hour lunches only to scream to the press about Trump.

To the delight of the media, these frightened little lambs are appalled by nearly everything Trump does. They’ve been especially throaty about Trump’s temporary travel ban from seven terrorist nations — as designated by the Obama administration (and by everybody else who hasn’t been in a deep freeze in a Finnish crevasse for the past decade).

Just like the six Obamacare repeals, a refugee ban was already written and passed by one house of Congress. Then suddenly: the Silence of the Lambs. McConnell and Ryan are hiding under their desks, as Trump is being attacked from every side.

Way, way back, 15 long months ago, congressional Republicans didn’t have a problem with a total ban on Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Not for a mere three months like Trump’s order — but permanently, unless the director of the FBI, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and the director of national intelligence personally certified that a particular refugee posed no danger to the U.S.

That bill passed the House with an overwhelming, veto-proof majority, including 47 Democrats. Then it went to the Senate to die.

But when President Trump imposed a comparatively mild three-month ban on immigrants from Syria, Iraq and five other terrorist nations, the same Republicans who had voted for a limitless ban on refugees whiled away their days calling reporters to denounce Trump.

A little more than a year ago, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, bragged in a press release that he had introduced the House’s refugee ban, calling it a bill that would “protect Americans from ISIS.”

But when it came to Trump’s three-month pause, McCaul told the Post that Trump’s order “went too far.”

I guess that ISIS problem just sort of faded away. (Or maybe we should check with Mrs. McCaul, inasmuch as it’s her family money that makes Rep. McCaul one of the richest members of Congress.)

Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., who voted for the House’s permanent refugee ban, demanded that Trump immediately rescind his travel ban, babbling on about the “many, many nuances of immigration policy” — which he must have learned about on one of his congressional jaunts to a Las Vegas casino.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said that Trump’s order “overreaches and undermines our constitutional system.” Evidently, he was suddenly struck by the realization that it’s “not lawful to ban immigrants on the basis of nationality,” despite having voted to ban refugees on the basis of nationality just 15 months earlier. (I’m OK with this, provided the Syrians, Somalis and Yemenis are sent to live on Justin’s street after being told about his support for gay marriage.)

Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Ben Sasse, R-Neb., both rushed to The Washington Post with this refreshingly original point: NOT ALL MUSLIMS ARE TERRORISTS! Why, thank you, senators! Where would the GOP be without you?

The Post also quoted spokesmen — spokesmen! — for Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Rob Portman of Ohio and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina complaining about not having been briefed on Trump’s order. The senators themselves were far too busy to talk to the press because they were — wait, what were they doing again? Words With Friends? Decoupage?

Since the election, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., has been mostly occupied polishing his anti-Trump quotations to get a pat on the head from an admiring media. He complained about Trump’s order, saying it was “poorly implemented” and that he had to find out about it from reporters. (I wonder why.)

This is the moment we’ve been waiting for our entire lives, but Republicans in Congress refuse to do the people’s will. Their sole, driving obsession is to see Trump fail.

I am not presently calling for these useless, narcissistic, Trump-bashing Republicans to be defeated in their re-election bids, but they’re on my Watch List. To be cleared, they can start by getting off the phone with The Washington Post and passing one of those six Obamacare repeal bills.

 

Blow to Obamacare Mandate: IRS Won’t Reject Tax Returns That Don’t Answer Health Insurance Question…

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By Peter Suderman

How much difference does a single line on a tax form make? For Obamacare’s individual mandate, the answer might be quite a lot.

Following President Donald Trump‘s executive order instructing agencies to provide relief from the health law, the Internal Revenue Service appears to be taking a more lax approach to the coverage requirement.

The health law’s individual mandate requires everyone to either maintain qualifying health coverage or pay a tax penalty, known as a “shared responsibility payment.” The IRS was set to require filers to indicate whether they had maintained coverage in 2016 or paid the penalty by filling out line 61 on their form 1040s. Alternatively, they could claim exemption from the mandate by filing a form 8965.

For most filers, filling out line 61 would be mandatory. The IRS would not accept 1040s unless the coverage box was checked, or the shared responsibility payment noted, or the exemption form included. Otherwise they would be labeled “silent returns” and rejected.

Instead, however, filling out that line will be optional.

Earlier this month, the IRS quietly altered its rules to allow the submission of 1040s with nothing on line 61. The IRS says it still maintains the option to follow up with those who elect not to indicate their coverage status, although it’s not clear what circumstances might trigger a follow up.

But what would have been a mandatory disclosure will instead be voluntary. Silent returns will no longer be automatically rejected. The change is a direct result of the executive order President Donald Trump issued in January directing the government to provide relief from Obamacare to individuals and insurers, within the boundaries of the law.

“The recent executive order directed federal agencies to exercise authority and discretion available to them to reduce potential burden,” the IRS said in a statement to Reason. “Consistent with that, the IRS has decided to make changes that would continue to allow electronic and paper returns to be accepted for processing in instances where a taxpayer doesn’t indicate their coverage status.”

The tax agency says the change will reduce the health law’s strain on taxpayers. “Processing silent returns means that taxpayer returns are not systemically rejected, allowing them to be processed and minimizing burden on taxpayers, including those expecting a refund,” the IRS statement said.

The change may seem minor. But it makes it clear that following Trump’s executive order, the agency’s trajectory is towards a less strict enforcement process.

Although the new policy leaves Obamacare’s individual mandate on the books, it may make it easier for individuals to go without coverage while avoiding the penalty. Essentially, if not explicitly, it is a weakening of the mandate enforcement mechanism.

“It’s hard to enforce something without information,” says Ryan Ellis, a Senior Fellow at the Conservative Reform Network.

The move has already raised questions about its legality. Federal law gives the administration broad authority to provide exemptions from the mandate. But “it does not allow the administration not to enforce the mandate, which it appears they may be doing here,” says Michael Cannon, health policy director at the libertarian Cato Institute. “Unless the Trump administration maintains the mandate is unconstitutional, the Constitution requires them to enforce it.”

“The mandate can only be weakened by Congress,” says Ellis. “This is a change to how the IRS is choosing to enforce it. They will count on voluntary disclosure of non-coverage rather than asking themselves.”

The IRS notes that taxpayers are still required to pay the mandate penalty, if applicable. “Legislative provisions of the ACA law are still in force until changed by the Congress, and taxpayers remain required to follow the law and pay what they may owe‎,” the agency statement said.

Ellis says the new policy doesn’t fully rise to the level of declining to enforce the law. “If the IRS turns a blind eye to people’s status, that isn’t quite not enforcing it,” he says. “It’s more like the IRS wanting to maintain plausible deniability.”

Tax software companies are already making note of the change. Drake Software, which provides services to tax professionals, recently sent out a notice explaining the change in policy. As of February 3, the notice said, the IRS “will now accept an e-filed return that does not indicate either full-year coverage or an individual shared responsibility payment or does not include an exemption on Form 8965, as required by IRS instructions, Form 1040, line 61.”

The mandate is a key component of Obamacare’s coverage scheme, which is built on what experts sometimes describe as a “three-legged stool.” The law requires health insurers to sell to all comers regardless of health history, and offers subsidies to lower income individuals in order to offset the cost of coverage. In order to prevent people from signing up for coverage only after getting sick, it also requires most individuals to maintain qualifying coverage or face a tax penalty. While defending the health law in court, the Obama administration maintained that the mandate was essential to the structure of the law, designed to make sure that people did not take advantage of its protections.

In a 2012 case challenging the law’s insurance requirement, the Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate was constitutional as a tax penalty. The IRS is in charge of collecting payments.

Some health policy experts have argued that the mandate was already too weak to be effective, as a result of the many exemptions that are included. A 2012 report by the consulting firm Milliman found that the mandate penalty offered only a modest financial incentives for families making 300-400 percent of the federal poverty line. More recently, health insurers have said that individuals signing up for coverage and then quickly dropping it after major health expenses is a key driver of losses, and rising health insurance premiums.

It’s too early to say whether the change will ultimately make any difference. But given the centrality of the mandate to the law’s coverage scheme and the unsteadiness of the law’s health insurance exchanges, with premiums rising and insurers scaling back participation, it is possible that even a marginal weakening of the mandate could cause further dysfunction. Health insurers have said the mandate is a priority, and asked for it to be strengthened. Weaker enforcement of the mandate could cause insurance carriers to further reduce participation in the exchanges. One major insurer, Humana, said today that it would completely exit Obamacare’s exchanges after this year.

It is also possible that congressional Republicans will make it moot by repealing much of the law, including its individual mandate, which, as a tax, can be taken down with just 51 Senate votes.

Regardless of its direct impact, however, the change may signal that the Trump administration intends to water down enforcement of the health law’s most controversial requirement, even if those steps are seemingly small. The Trump administration may not be tearing Obamacare down entirely, but it appears to be taking steps to weaken the law, however subtly, one line at a time.

Correction: The IRS did not reject silent returns last year, as this story originally indicated. The plan was to go into effect this year, for 2016 returns, but the IRS reversed course on February 3. Reason regrets the error.

RIP TPP: ‘Obama kept Americans in dark on major trade deal’

We don’t know a lot about it, but Obama pushed it as “the most progressive trade deal in US history,” publisher of Trends Journal Gerald Celente told RT. RT America’s Ed Shultz, and Jack Rasmus, Professor of Political Economy, also provided comments.
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US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. TPP is a free trade agreement between America and the Asia Pacific region.

It was due to cover 800 million people and encompass 40 percent of the global economy. However, the proposed agreement, much of which was negotiated in secret behind closed doors, was met with tremendous public resistance in several countries.

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‘New level of protectionism’

Ed Shultz, RT America host

RT: Why should people care about this decision? Is this a big surprise or not?

Ed Shultz: Well, this underscores what Donald Trump has said all along – that he is going to protect American jobs. This puts the US in a position of a level of protectionism that we haven’t seen for a long time. The fact is that he believed that this was a race to the bottom; that American workers would be competing against workforces in Vietnam and Brunei to the tune of 54 cents an hour.

There has already been a reaction on Capitol Hill – Bernie Sanders has reached out and said that this is a great move, saying that he is glad that this deal is finally dead. This goes against the millions upon millions of dollars that were spent by Wall Street lobbyists to try to get this deal through the Congress, and they couldn’t get it done. People within the Obama party, the Democratic Party were not on board with him: Elizabeth Warren was against it; Chuck Schumer was against it; Bernie Sanders moved Hillary Clinton on this issue, which only emboldened Donald Trump to talk about it more on the campaign trail.

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So this is going to satisfy those old Reagan Democrats, who left the Democrats and voted for Reagan – the same makeup is of those white workers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin that left the Democrats and went to Trump. I can tell you that a lot of union workers in this country are going to very happy that he has made this move this early. No one would have anticipated Hillary Clinton doing this -this early. This is living up to a campaign promise. It goes against Wall Street. Sanders is embracing it; John McCain on the Republican side has said that this is a big mistake. But this now opens the door for Trump to go do these trade deals that he promised the American people he would do. This chapter isn’t done yet. This book isn’t done yet. This is just the first chapter of getting rid of TPP, which I think is a good move for America.

‘US workers suffering from free trade deals’

Jack Rasmus, Professor of Political Economy

RT: Do you think it is fair to say this is a big win for Trump in a sense not only is this popular with the people but also politically? Indeed a fair share of Democrats is on board with it.

Jack Rasmus: Yes, the TPP was not very popular here except for corporate elites, multinational corporations, who were to gain major benefits from this. But people have been tired of free trade agreements because they clearly haven’t produced the results in terms of jobs and incomes, and people are becoming aware of that.

There is a lot of opposition growing against free trade deals and the impact on jobs and income. So he is going to make some points with his base, and probably beyond his base as well here with this particular move. We’re going to see him make a number of other executive orders: repealing the Affordable Care Act and anti-immigration, and so forth.

‘Not so progressive’

Gerald Celente, publisher, Trends Journal

RT: Trump called TPP a disaster, and there were massive protests – what exactly is it about this deal that people object to so much?

Gerald Celente: Well, there is not a lot that we were allowed to know about it. Remember this was done in secrecy for over seven years – from President Obama that came into office and promised to have a very transparent government. We the people don’t know a lot about it, but they pushed it off as he did as “the most progressive trade deal in US history.” That is not very progressive in terms of progressives. However, it is not that much of a trade deal in terms of tariffs – it is more of something that gives multinationals, foreign companies, the right to circumvent governments. That is the big deal of TPP. But again, remember, we the people who are never allowed to see this. So what it does – it drags governments in front of investor state dispute settlement tribunals. It wasn’t really that much about trade because they robbed us of the trade already.

RT: Trump has also been highly critical of NAFTA. Do you expect him to scrap other trade deals that the US is involved in?

GC: He’ll definitely restructure them. Again he has the power, as well. He doesn’t need Congress to do anything with NAFTA. The reality of this is that since 1997 to roughly 2015, we’ve lost over five million manufacturing jobs in America. Then you see again all of a sudden you’re hearing from one company after another – particularly auto companies and others saying that they are going to bring manufacturing back to the US. It was one of the major issues at the Davos meeting last week. So yes, he is going to renegotiate it. I don’t believe he’ll kill it.