Buoyed by his recently successful “no negotiation” negotiations with Congressional Republicans, President Obama demanded that “the long overdue and urgently imperative legalization of the millions of immigrants who entered our country through irregular processes must be undertaken.”
The President insisted that “I will not take 'no' for an answer. An expeditious pathway to full citizenship is non-negotiable. Once Congress has enacted this pathway I will be happy to sit down with Republican leadership to work out the best procedures for implementing it. There is no good reason why the vast majority of these presently undocumented persons cannot be fully integrated into our society with the complete access to the same benefits of free education, health care, welfare, and voting that are available to every other citizen.”
Obama warned Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “to not let the siren song of the Tea Party divert you from doing what you must to support this step forward for social justice. It cannot be stopped. If need be, I will, like President Lincoln did, issue an emancipation proclamation for these immigrants on my own authority.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) expressed his confidence that “the GOP's failure to stop the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has taught McConnell and Boehner a stern lesson. Resistance is futile. They can cooperate to enact the necessary legislation in time for millions of these new citizens to cast their votes in the November 2014 elections or further blacken their reputation for racism and disloyalty.”
In related news, a petition has been launched on the MoveOn.org website demanding the immediate arrest of Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Speaker of the House John Boehner and other decision-making House Republican leaders for the crimes of seditious conspiracy against the United States of America. As one signer put it, “instead of helping the President these Tea Party guys went out of their way to oppose him. Unless we make an example of them now others will continue to try to disrupt his rule.”
Insurers' Complaints Dismissed
As the new registrants for Obamacare trickle in to the private insurers who are expected to provide coverage complaints about the quality of the registration data are emerging. Executives at more than a dozen health insurance companies say that the information being forwarded to them from the Obamacare Exchanges is riddled with errors.
“We're getting duplicate requests for the same individuals,” said Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini. “In other cases crucial information is missing or incorrect. Some of these errors can be handled by personally phoning those trying to buy insurance, but this is labor-intensive and not cost-effective. If this is how we have to process the applications rates will have to go up even more than they already have.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius dismissed these complaints as “an unwarranted attempt to impose private sector standards on public sector performance. Saying that a private firm with such a poor handling of a new service would be headed for bankruptcy is simply inappropriate. The federal government will not go bankrupt. In fact, Congress has just granted an essentially unlimited authority for the President to authorize new debt. The American people can rest assured that we will make this system work no matter how much it costs.”
As for those whose incomes make them ineligible for healthcare subsidies, Sebelius referred them to advice given by the San Francisco Chronicle: lower your income. “It's not like everything is totally out of your control Sebelius argued. “Luckily, many are being given a helping hand by their employers. Firms that are cutting work hours below 29 per week are making it easier for their employees to qualify for the Act's subsidies. On top of this, a lower income may also make you eligible for the EBT program's food subsidies.”
In related news, another unpleasant feature of the Obamacare Exchanges is that those who register on-line “should have no expectation of privacy.” The warning is buried within the program and may easily be overlooked by those using the website to enroll in Obamacare. And given that website users must first enter their personal data before even getting to where they might see the warning it comes too late to avoid the risk that identity thieves may gain access to personal data they hoped would remain private. Criminals have already set up counterfeit Exchange websites. Others can be expected to hack into the official website.
Senator Says Shutdown Was a Complete Disaster for GOP
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) called the recent 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government “one of the worse things to happen to this country in my lifetime. It pushed this country to the brink of financial default by almost forcing President Obama to make a choice between paying interest to our creditors or funding programs he deems vital for the future of our nation and the world.”
Where the GOP went wrong in Durban's opinion was “their notion that furloughing 800,000 nonessential government employees would go unnoticed. If President Obama had remained passive in the face of this crisis they might have pulled it off. However, by getting out in front and ensuring that access to open spaces that many take for granted would be interdicted, the President made sure that the shutdown would be widely felt.”
The Senator speculated that “Republicans will pay a heavy price in November of 2014. Voter outrage over the disrespect shown to veterans, the inconveniencing of tourists, and having to give back pay to workers idled by the shutdown will cost them at the polls.”
In related news, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) boasted that “we got everything we wanted. They got a 'fig leaf.'” The “fig leaf” was a provision requiring the government to verify Obamacare applicants' income before awarding them subsidies. “The verification process is totally under the Administration's control,” Schumer pointed out. “There's no way for the GOP to check the accuracy or even whether any verification took place.”
Pelosi OK with Pork in Continuing Resolution
As it turns out, the so-called “clean” Continuing Resolution passed this week to reopen the federal government wasn't so clean after all. Included in the fine print was a $2 billion bailout of a troubled dam project on the Ohio River and a payment of a year's salary to the millionaire widow of the deceased Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) said she considers such expenditures “a small price to pay for averting a worse calamity. If $2 billion for a dam in Kentucky is what it takes to buy Senator McConnell's vote, so be it. Let's put things in the proper perspective. The CR included a trillion dollars in new borrowing authority. McConnell's $2 billion dam amounts to less than one percent of the additional money we can spend.”
Senator McConnell contested the characterization of the $2 billion as the “Kentucky Kickback.” “Bringing benefits to the people of Kentucky is job-one in my book,” he said. “At least the people of my state came out of this fracas with a bigger piece of the pie than those of any other state. Isn't 'bringing home the bacon' better than not 'bringing home the bacon?' I'm sure that Kentucky's voters will appreciate what I've done for them.”
NPS Director Defends Aggressive Action to Shut Parks
Called to testify before the House Natural Resources, and Oversight and Government Reform committees, National Parks Service Director Jonathan Jarvis stood by his actions during the shutdown.
The most serious challenge to Jarvis' actions came from Representative Rob Bishop (R-Utah) who accused him of violating the Anti-deficiency Act. This Act prohibits agencies from undertaking additional work during a lapse in funding such as occurred during the recent shutdown.
Jarvis didn't deny that sending Park Rangers to barricade open air monuments and harass tourists violated this statute. “I will grant that the text of the statute would appear to prohibit the actions I authorized,” Jarvis admitted. “However, I discussed this matter with officials at the White House and Secretary Jewell. I was assured that the President's authority superseded a rigid adherence to the statutory text.”
“I was told that if we left the Mall or the World War II Memorial open they wouldn't really be shutdown,” Jarvis continued. “I mean, without the barricades how would the general public even know they were closed? Likewise, if we had allowed tourists to drive through our national parks and take photos it would have diluted the message that these places were closed. It's not enough to just passively lock the doors of the visitors' centers and think we've closed the parks if we let people take a peek from their vehicles while driving.”
An overlooked rationale for aggressively shutting down NPS sites according to Jarvis was the threat of terrorism. “If we left these sites open and unbarricaded they could've easily fallen into the hands of terrorists,” Jarvis contended. “As we saw, octogenarians were able to penetrate the perimeters we tried to establish. Imagine how much worse it could've been if, instead, al-Qaeda had chosen this occasion to seize these sites.”
In related news, President Obama created and awarded a Presidential Medal of Honor to Jarvis “for his heroic actions during the just concluded shutdown crisis. Without Director Jarvis' steadfast leadership in this time of peril unauthorized viewing of some of America's most treasured resources and sacred historic sites might have gone unopposed. In the full knowledge that he might face grievous criticism for actions many would classify as spiteful and vindictive, he did not waver from carrying out my orders.”