Morning Action: How’s Bending the Truth Working for You, Mr. Prez?
President Obama and top administration officials are struggling with accuracy in explaining the impact of billions in federal budget cuts known as sequester that kicked in Saturday morning – even getting called out by a Capitol Hill superintendent about furloughs for support staffers.
The President said the day before the sequester:
Starting tomorrow everybody here, all the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol. Now that Congress has left, somebody’s going to be vacuuming and cleaning those floors and throwing out the garbage. They’re going to have less pay. The janitors, the security guards, they just got a pay cut, and they’ve got to figure out how to manage that. That’s real.
This emotional but inaccurate statement, of course, was describing the cuts the President had himself proposed. Oh the irony!
OBAMA. Apparently, the President has become emboldened in his second term:
The first months of President Obama’s second term are being built around a simple premise: No caving.
From the sequester to immigration reform to the broader debate about the role of government in American life, Obama is in an ultra-assertive mood, practically daring Republicans to defy his wishes.
It is a clear change for a president who, during his first term, faced criticism from his left flank for being too conciliatory toward the GOP on healthcare reform and, later, during deficit battles. Liberal voices argued that Obama was mistaken in thinking the Republicans had any real interest in finding common ground.
Interesting analysis. Generally speaking, this should serve as a warning to conservative-leaning lawmakers. Any deal struck with the Obama administration will more than likely be a complete capitulation of conservative principles.
Farm bills passed by the Senate and a House committee last year would save far less money than previously thought, according to a new estimate released Friday.
A report from the Congressional Budget Office says a Senate-passed farm bill would save $1.3 billion annually, as opposed to the $2.3 billion per year in savings estimated last year. A bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee would save $2.7 billion a year instead of $3.5 billion.
While the amounts may seem small in comparison to the bills’ $100 billion-a-year cost, the estimates are another roadblock for the embattled legislation and the farm-state lawmakers who have fruitlessly tried to convince House leadership to move forward on it.
The budget office said it lowered the estimates because savings in cuts to the food stamp program were lower than previously thought. The estimates also changed because of fluctuating crop prices.
HEALTH. The Obama administration thinks micromanaging is good for your health, and thanks to Obamacare, the Left can unleash their repressive policies with a vengeance:
The Obama administration says it will require health insurance companies to report all price increases, no matter how small, to the federal government so officials can monitor the impact of the new health care law and insurers’ compliance with it.
Under current rules, the federal government requires insurers to report information on rate increases of 10 percent or more. New rules being issued by the administration will extend this requirement to all rate increases for all health plans sold to individuals, families and small businesses — a total of 60 million people.
Federal health officials said they needed the additional data to monitor trends in premiums as major provisions of the law take effect and more people buy insurance.
What about occasions where the states aren’t sufficiently micromanaged for the feds’ liking?
Carmen L. Balber, the director of the Washington office of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit advocacy group, said: “We applaud the administration for the new reporting requirements. This is a huge step forward.” But she added: “There’s a loophole. In 10 to 15 states, insurance commissioners have no power to reject unreasonable rate increases.”
Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, said she would introduce a bill to provide the secretary of health and human services with power to deny or modify rate increases found to be excessive or unjustified.
GUT-BUSTING. Ever wonder where Senators make their deals? Sometimes, it’s early in the morning in the gym.
Behind a discreet set of keypad-entry double doors on the first floor of the Russell Senate Office Building lies one of the last oases of what was once the world’s greatest good-old-boys club: the Senate’s members-only gym.
Senators start trickling in at 5:30 a.m. in various states of dress, without the benefit of sunlight or staff, toting gym bags, newspapers and even to-go venti coffees as custodians above loudly buff the marble floors of Russell’s rotunda. In the era of modern travel and constant campaigning, the mysterious gym — where staffers and security details are barred — has grown into one of the few places where members can just be themselves without fear of repercussions.
Of course, there is some legislative gain to be made. At the gym, Durbin helped recruit Rubio to join a working group on immigration policy. And he and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., struck a final deal on the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 — which reduced the disparity in sentences for powder and crack cocaine — in the locker room.
“We were both getting dressed after working out, and we came up with a number and agreed on it right there, and it became law,” Durbin said, of what might be the only Senate-gym-induced law on the books to date.