Freedom Caucus Move on Health Insurance Assailed
This week the "repeal and replace" health insurance bill crafted by the Republican leadership failed to garner enough support to be put to a vote. Rep. Tom Garret (R-VA), along with other Freedom Caucus members, said he will file a discharge petition that would put a clean repeal of Obamacare up for a House vote.
"This is the same bill both the House and Senate passed that was vetoed by President Obama in 2015," Garret said. "It would undo the conceit that the government is competent to dictate the health insurance choices every American must make. It will allow everyone the freedom to buy the insurance they want rather than being forced to buy what the government bureaucrats say they should."
Garret's bill is expected to face tough sledding due to anticipated opposition from three key GOP senators: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), both of whom voted for the 2015 bill, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
Murkowski acknowledged that her vote for the bill in 2015 "was solely for the purpose of winning my race for reelection in 2016. Voters didn't like Obamacare. It was that simple." She called Garret's action "a betrayal. I was promised that I could vote for repeal because President Obama would veto whatever we passed. Since Trump won't veto what we pass the deal is off."
Capito insisted that her 2015 vote "was a 'show vote' in compliance with the wishes of the Majority Leader. I was a brand new senator taking my cues from an old hand. In truth, I think the idea that people should be free to buy any old insurance they want is daft. They will use individualistic and selfish motives in making their choices. The genius of Obamacare is that it takes the decision out of the hands of the selfish and puts it into the hands of government experts. I understand that the guy paying $10,000 a year in premiums for coverage that comes with a $5,000 annual deductible will feel he isn't getting good value for his money. However, the more important question is whether society as a whole isn't better served by forcing him to subsidize the needs of others."
Collins concurred with her West Virginia colleague asserting that "the kinds of policies many people would freely choose cover only major catastrophic expenses in the thousands of dollars range. They'd leave themselves vulnerable to having to pay for office visits and prescriptions that might amount to only a few hundred dollars. Granted, they'd still be out-of-pocket for the first $5,000 of these smaller expenses under Obamacare, but amounts in excess of the deductible could be partially reimbursed."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken) called the health insurance standoff "a real dilemma. The compulsory nature of Obamacare has brought a surge of revenue to insurers and health care professionals. Obviously, if people are free to buy or not buy insurance some will not buy. That mean less money for insurers. People without coverage or with 'bare-bones' policies are less likely to seek professional medical care as often. Granted, even doctors admit that 90% of people get better without professional intervention, but doctors, nurses, hospitals need the income that the more robustly insured bring their way. What we need is a program that is nominally not Obamacare, yet still retains the muscle to direct a larger share of the nation's income to the health sector."
Congresswoman Negotiating Whether to Cooperate with Investigation
Former Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (Fla) is in the midst of deciding whether or not to cooperate with DC police investigating possible violations of national security laws by her former top information technology (IT) aide, Imran Awan. Awan and several of his relatives are accused of abusing access granted by their Democratic Party employers to obtain and sell classified information.
Thus far, Wasserman-Schultz has been refusing to turnover computers used by Awan so police can examine them. She has claimed exemption from law enforcement saying that "according to the Constitution, members of congress are privileged from arrest. I am not some ordinary bumpkin who can be compelled to undergo police investigation. I'm part of the government. I have superior rights."
The clause she cited may not be as broad an exemption as she imagines, though. The privilege from arrest applies only to attendance at a congressional session and the trip to and from that session. Further, there is no privilege in cases of "treason, felony, and breach of the peace." Inasmuch as hiring ITs who purloin classified information and sell it might reasonably constitute both treason and felony offenses, Wasserman-Schultz's obstruction of the investigation into these crimes would not seem to be privileged.
"Regardless of the nuances of the law, the computers are in my possession," the Congresswoman boasted. "Secretary Clinton was allowed to delete part of her emails and smash all her phones rather than be subjected to the kind of invasion of privacy they're trying to impose on me. As I see it, if they want to see these devices I need a non-revocable grant of full immunity. Then maybe I'll turn them over."
In related news, a new report released by the Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration found that the IRS destroyed laptops containing critical records—even when those records were requested for use in pending litigation or criminal investigations. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen brushed off the findings as "old news. The expectation that the IRS could or should keep meticulous records is unwarranted. The volume of information is huge. The motivation to do quality work is nonexistent. The temptation to shirk and slack off is irresistible. The tax code is insanely complex. If Congress had any sense they'd repeal the whole damned mess."
Hillary Says Poll Unfair
This week a Bloomberg poll found that former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is viewed favorably by 39% of poll respondents. This is less than President Donald Trump's 41%. She is viewed unfavorably by 58%. Trump is viewed unfavorably by 55%.
The former Secretary of State contended that the poll was an unfair comparison. "Every time I turn on the news it's all about Trump," she complained. "That's a lot of free publicity. Even if most of it is negative, when you consider the sources—CNN, MSNBC, New York Times—it can't help but boost his ratings. Being repeatedly attacked by media the general public doesn't trust is driving people over to his side."
Clinton urged the media to take a more balanced approach to its coverage. "I had a health care plan that failed long before Trump's did," she reminded. "I had dealings with the Russians. A lot of people don't know it, but I helped sell 25% of America's uranium to them. And that whole 'reset' thing was a big fiasco. And I helped craft policies that did more to disrupt world peace than anything Trump has yet conceived. If CNN and the others could start bashing me like they bash Trump I think I could narrow the gap."
Judge Levies Fine for Exposing Planned Parenthood Crimes
Judge William Orrick levied a fine of $137,000 against David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) for violating his "gag" order in the case against them related to their undercover investigative report on Planned Parenthood (PP). Dalieden and the CMP produced a number of covertly recorded videos of PP officials engaging in illegal sales of aborted baby parts.
"Mr. Daleiden may imagine himself a journalist going undercover to snare criminals," Orrick said. "However, he is not a recognized member of any established journalistic outlet—neither TV, radio, print nor electronic. He is, to all intents, just a private citizen invading territory that belongs to outlets like CNN and the Washington Post. There is no constitutional protection for the eavesdropping he and his confederates did."
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is currently prosecuting Daleiden and others on 15 counts of "felony eavesdropping," called CMP's video evidence of crimes committed by PP officials "irrelevant. Even if we were to concede that selling baby parts is illegal, CMP's videos were obtained through illegal means and are, thus, inadmissible. CMP personnel portrayed themselves as fellow criminals in their interactions with PP personnel to negotiate the sales of baby parts. As such, PP had a reasonable expectation of confidentiality. CMP's publication of the videos breached the implied criminal compact and unfairly exposed PP to negative publicity. The damages could easily run into the billions. That cannot be allowed to go unpunished."
The money from Judge Orrick's $137,000 fine was turned over to the National Abortion Federation as compensation for attorney's costs incurred in defense of PP, including "an exhaustive search of the Internet for all traces of CMP's scurrilous videos."
Mayor Apologizes for Police Shooting
This week Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor shot Justine Damond to death. Damond was unarmed and in her pajamas at the time of the slaying. The incident occurred after, Damond made a 911 call reporting a possible rape in progress outside her home. She was killed as she spoke to Noor's police partner through the open window of the patrol car.
Whether Noor should have been employed as a cop seems more of a triumph of "diversity" than good sense. Those who know him have used words like "extremely nervous," "jumpy," and "the least little thing can set him off." He has gained a reputation for angry outbursts at kids playing in his neighborhood. Police Chief Janee Harteau characterized the shooting as "not in compliance with either the training or the performance expectations we have for our officers." Harteau was later fired by Mayor Betsy Hodges for these "insensitive remarks denigrating a fellow officer."
Hodges asked that "we show some compassion for Officer Noor in his time of trouble. Coming from a very violent Somalia where the least hesitation could be fatal, it should not be surprising that he would shoot first and ask questions later. A lot has been made of the fact that a 40-year-old woman clad in pajamas and carrying a cell phone would not normally be considered dangerous. Well, Officer Noor says it was too dark for him to make out any of these details before he fired his weapon. Even if he had seen more, let's not forget that women do commit some crimes and that cell phones are often the trigger for improvised explosive devices."
"Neither should it matter that the other officer on the scene didn't perceive a need to draw his weapon," Hodges added. "Officer Harrity was raised in this country and has a better grasp of what is going on. For all he knew, though, Officer Noor could have been saving both their lives. That neither officer incurred any injuries is something we may have to thank Officer Noor's quick reaction for or not. Maybe there never was a real threat."
In a bid to calm tensions, Hodges issued an immediate apology to the City's Muslim community to reassure them that "this incomprehensible tragedy will not divert us from our goal of putting more armed Muslims on the streets as members of our police force. Sad as Ms. Damond's fate may have been, it is essential that we not allow this tragedy to wreak even greater havoc on our quest for an inclusive and diverse city workforce."
In related news, Sweden's National Police Commissioner, Dan Eliasson, went on national TV to plead for help as the hordes of Muslim refugees allowed to live in the country have "made it impossible for police alone to uphold the law." While it is not clear what type of help a mostly disarmed Swedish population might render, official policy recommends that "everyone stay indoors, not engage in any unnecessary travel, and make sure your life and fire insurance is up-to-date."