Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Tea Party vs The Surrender Caucus

Championing an effort that is long overdue, Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) are leading a fight to put teeth into the cause of dismantling Obamacare. An effort that is ostensibly backed by every GOP member of Congress given the thirty odd votes the House of Representatives has taken to repeal Obamacare, Senators Cruz and Lee are exerting the only leverage available to Members of Congress, especially those whose party holds the majority in only one House of Congress: the power of the purse.

What is striking is the resistance Senators Cruz and Lee have received, not from Democrats, but from Republicans. Self-described budget hawk Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) declared the campaign to defund Obamacare to be “dishonest” and “hype”. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) called the effort “silly” and lacking “courage”. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) likened the effort to defund Obamacare to a “temper tantrum” and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) suggested that such an effort was the “dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” Sen. Burr’s comment is truly ironic because his spokesman reminds journalists of the several stand-alone bills the Senator has co-sponsored seeking to repeal Obamacare, bills that have never and will never receive a vote in a Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate. Senate Minority Whip and former National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-TX) was an original signatory to Sen. Lee’s letter pledging not to vote for a spending bill that continues to fund Obamacare. However, Sen. Cornyn has since removed his name from the letter despite claiming to support the full repeal of Obamacare on his campaign re-election website and hiring a grassroots Tea Party activist to run his re-election campaign.

One reason proffered for why defunding Obamacare is a fool's errand is that the continuing resolution re-authorizing government spending at the end of September contains proportionally little spending on Obamacare. Perhaps. However, as Erick Erickson notes in RedState, there is nothing preventing Congress from attaching a rider to a continuing resolution rescinding subsidies for state exchanges and rescinding funding for Medicaid expansion. Further, there are considerable administrative and implementation costs yet to be incurred at the IRS and HHS that can be curtailed.

A second reason proffered is that President Obama will never sign a law curtailing his signature legislative accomplishment. Again, perhaps. However, with more Americans continuing to look disfavorably on Obamacare than ever before, it is incumbent upon Republicans to continue to make the case for why it should be repealed or curtailed. As Senator Cruz has said, Republicans “will lose 100% of the battles they begin by surrendering.” Further as Senator Lee points out, even President Obama has admitted that Obamacare is not ready for “prime time” by illegally delaying the employer mandate and choosing to selectively enforce the law. Consequently, since this selective enforcement benefits large businesses at the expense of individual consumers, Senator Lee argues that Congress should not reward this inequity by continuing to fund the implementation of the law.

Prominent Republican operatives like Karl Rove remain unconvinced by these arguments. Therefore the question remains, where do they draw the line? In National Review Online and on The Freedomcast, John Fund details the potential horrors of the new Federal Data Hub meant to combine the databases of several federal government agencies in order to help implement Obamacare. This data hub will be accessed by tens of thousands of Obama’s community activist supporters who will be permitted to view the confidential health and financial information of millions of Americans. If you are concerned about the abuses resulting from the recent IRS scandal, the Federal Data Hub has the potential to create abuses of that magnitude on steroids! Remember 2010 Delaware Republican U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell? Her tax records were accessed improperly by an unknown Delaware state official during a heated campaign season. Get ready for much more of that during the next election cycle.

Further, John Fund notes that contractors will not be subject to criminal background checks or be required to have earned high school diplomas. I imagine Karl Rove has confidence that President Obama will prevent felons convicted of fraud and identity theft from abusing their access to his confidential financial information or groups like Wikileaks from posting his confidential health records on the internet for all the world to see. If Republicans are unwilling to draw a line in the sand and defund the entirety of Obamacare, perhaps they might at least draw a line in the sand and defund the Federal Data Hub. Surely Congressional Republicans are able to articulate the inherent horrors of the Federal Data Hub and force President Obama and Congressional Democrats to explain their willingness to shut down the federal government over their insistence to fund this program.

As Senators Cruz and Lee have explained, the travesty of Obamacare is not just its effect on our health insurance market and our health care delivery system but on the broader economy. Obamacare is responsible for the largest expansion of part-time employment at the expense of full-time employment in our nation’s history and our lowest employment participation rate in decades. Even an Obamacare information call center in California is being staffed with part-time employees so as to avoid the requirement of having to provide these individuals with health insurance. Bankrupt cities like Detroit and near bankrupt municipalities across the nation are contemplating easing their financial burdens by dumping their employees into the health insurance exchanges thereby forcing federal taxpayers to subsidize the poor financial management of states and municipalities. Surely, Congressional Republicans can defend their decision to defund Obamacare by explaining how the law has contributed to persistently high unemployment.

The question remains, why are Congressional Republicans who claim to oppose Obamacare unwilling to stand tall and support this effort to defund the law? Perhaps the answer lies in a letter signed by over one hundred GOP donors urging Congress to pass so-called comprehensive immigration reform. Congressional Republicans seem so concerned that the possibility of a protracted fight with the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats over the budget might upset the possibility of passing a legislative priority for their donor base, that they have ignored the outcry from their voter base.

As Senator Cruz explained, this may be the last best chance to defund Obamacare before it goes into effect as President Obama’s strategy is to enroll as many people as possible getting them “addicted to the sugar” of subsidies. In fact, the Obama administration has announced that it will not verify income and rely on the honor system when determining whether new enrollees qualify for subsidies.

Americans need to let their voices be heard by calling their Members of Congress 202-224-3121, attending their townhall meetings and signing the petition not to fund Obamacare As of this writing, the petition has nearly 200,000 signatures!

Paraphrasing Martin Luther King, Senator Coburn once said, “Cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right?” Help Congress find its conscience!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Rafael Cruz at an America in Distress Rally

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ted Cruz stands for freedom. What does Obama stand for?

by United States Senator Ted Cruz (R - Texas)

On Sunday, June 30, millions of Egyptians turned out to protest President Mohamed Morsy and his Muslim Brotherhood-dominated regime. Fed up with his disastrous economic mismanagement and systematic disregard for constitutional freedoms, the Egyptian people took to the streets to demand his resignation. "Leave! Leave!" they chanted in what may have been the largest demonstration in the history of the Middle East -- if not the world.

It was a breathtaking scene -- and potentially a watershed moment. Unlike the angry, disaffected youth who raged through the Arab Spring in 2011, these crowds, like those in the recent protests in Turkey, were made up of middle-class citizens protesting against a regime with an unpleasant tendency to trample on the rights of women, Christians, and Jews -- and to stifle the independence of the press and judiciary, ruining the economy in the process. While there has been some unfortunate violence, the Tamarod ("Rebel") movement is also organizing demonstrations, gathering signatures of no confidence in Morsy's government (it has gathered 22 million already), and threatening additional civil disobedience in the form of strikes if Morsy does not step down.

One would expect to find the United States standing firmly with these people. Surely, after our long and lonely search for secular and democratic partners in the Arab world, we could find some common ground with them. Surely, we could see the value of an administration in Egypt that could act as both a southern bulwark for Israel and a much-needed partner in countering the terrorist outposts in the Sinai and Horn of Africa. And surely, we could help support a government that could stand as an example for struggling states like Libya and Iran -- one that proves Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East are not predestined to live in oppressive theocracies.

Tragically, America has been relegated to the sidelines. The number of U.S. Embassy personnel has been reduced, and a travel warning has been issued for Americans in Egypt -- and for good reason. The people protesting in the streets were not only carrying anti-Morsy signs. They were also carrying signs with slogans like "Obama Supports Terrorism" and "Obama Supports Morsy," as well as pictures of the American ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, with a large red "X" through her face. Some of these were set on fire. On Friday, Andrew Driscoll Pochter, an American college student who was in Egypt to teach English to schoolchildren, was stabbed to death as he took pictures of the protesters.

In what has to be one of the most stunning diplomatic failures in recent memory, the United States is -- in both perception and reality -- entrenched as the partner of a repressive, Islamist regime and the enemy of the secular, pro-democracy opposition.

It did not have to be this way.

When Morsy was elected a little more than a year ago, President Barack Obama could have expressed strong reservations about a member of the Muslim Brotherhood taking control of the country. He should have also been more aggressive about using American aid to extract concessions from the Egyptian government on human rights, as well as economic and political reform. Instead, Obama made a personal call to congratulate Morsy, characterized his election as a "milestone" in Egypt's progress toward democracy, and pledged $1 billion in U.S. taxpayer-funded aid. In the ensuing months, Morsy received a steady stream of assistance from the United States in the form of arms sales, unconditional financial aid, and visits from high-level officials such as Secretary of State John Kerry -- all of which enhanced the strength and legitimacy of his regime.

Emboldened by U.S. support, Morsy consolidated his power -- removing the traditionally pro-American military leadership, imposing an Islamist constitution, marginalizing the judiciary, and turning a blind eye to brutal attacks against religious minorities, including Coptic Christians and Shiite Muslims. Morsy also began to agitate for the release of the "blind sheik" Omar Abdel Rahman, who orchestrated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Offensive remarks describing Jews as "bloodsuckers" and "the descendants of apes and pigs" soon came to light. Still, the United States continued to place its resources at his disposal -- apparently on the grounds that a budding Islamist dictator with a healthy hatred of Israel and America was the appropriate recipient of Abrams tanks and B-16 bombers.

More recently, as opposition to Morsy coalesced around the Tamarod movement, the Obama administration missed the opportunity to support its efforts and further the vital interests of the United States without firing a shot. Instead, the sole priority seems to be to defuse the situation and preserve the status quo. Ambassador Patterson has assumed the leading role in implementing this policy, meeting with members of the opposition not to encourage them to pursue a true secular democracy in Egypt but to try to persuade them to tone things down. Patterson has said she is "deeply skeptical" of their movement.

Obama, traveling in Africa on the eve of the protests, offered no words of support. Instead, he admonished the demonstrators to remain peaceful and made the tepid recommendation that Morsy engage in a "constructive conversation" about reform, since the president of the United States could not take a side in this debate.

The president's comments fall into an all-too-familiar pattern. We are witnessing a moment of real opportunity for reform in Egypt right now, just as we witnessed hopeful moments in Iran in 2009 and Syria in early 2011. In both cases, meaningful change might have been encouraged through robust economic and moral support for the protesters and diplomatic pressure on the regime. But in both cases, the United States opted for a policy of strategic silence.

The result? In Iran, we saw the window for change snap shut as the mullahs brutally crushed the protests and accelerated their nuclear weapons program. In Syria, hopes that President Bashar al-Assad would turn out to be a reformer proved groundless and the situation descended into chaos. Today, some 100,000 Syrians have been killed, and both Hezbollah and al Qaeda are engaged in a vicious civil war -- one the president is now dragging the United States into, albeit with no clear purpose or strategy.

Hopefully, we can avoid repeating the same mistake yet again in Egypt. As we prepare to celebrate the 237th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence this week, halfway around the globe Egyptians may witness the birth of their own freedoms. It is a great pity that Obama's policies have provoked so much hostility toward the United States from the very people we should most want to support -- and it would be an even greater pity if his accommodation of the Morsy regime helped the Egyptian leader remain in power. Since the president has refused to act, Congress should move quickly to freeze all aid to Egypt that is supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. We should treat with great caution any proposal to deploy U.S. forces to Egypt in response to these events. And we should find the courage to speak out forcefully on behalf of those advocating secular democratic reforms in Egypt.