RNC Chairman Unveils 11 GOP Principles at GWU

What does the Republican Party stand for and why should voters support it?

These are important and timely questions. And this morning at George Washington University, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus sought to answer them by outlining the GOP's "Principles for American Renewal."

They are as follows:

1. CONSTITUTION: Our constitution should be preserved, valued and honored.

2. ECONOMY: We need to start growing America’s economy instead of Washington’s economy so that working Americans see better wages and more opportunity.

3. BUDGET/DEBT: We need to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, make government more efficient, and leave the next generation with opportunity, not debt.

4. HEALTHCARE: We need to start over with real healthcare reform that puts patients and their doctors in charge, not unelected bureaucrats in Washington.

5. VETERANS: Our veterans have earned our respect and gratitude, and no veteran should have to wait in line for months or years just to see a doctor.

6. SECURITY: Keeping America safe and strong requires a strong military, growing the economy, energy independence, and secure borders.

7. EDUCATION: Every child should have an equal opportunity to get a great education; no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing school.

8. POVERTY: The best anti-poverty program is a strong family and a good job, so our focus should be on getting people out of poverty by lifting up all people and helping them find work.

9. VALUES: Our country should value the traditions of family, life, religious liberty, and hard work.

10. ENERGY: We should make America energy independent by encouraging investment in domestic energy, lowering prices, and creating jobs at home.

11. IMMIGRATION: We need an immigration system that secures our borders, upholds the law, and boosts our economy.

A thriving economy, a Balanced Budget Amendment, repealing Obamacare, and reforming the VA are only some of the issues that the Republican Party stands for. Through this framework, the RNC hopes, voters will gain a deeper understanding of what principles guide the party -- and of course, what unites it.

Appearing on the Hugh Hewitt Show yesterday, Priebus added "95 percent of Republicans and conservatives and everyone in between" can support this platform. He also called the initiative "bold," but necessary:

Report: Obama to Take Unilateral Action on Immigration One Week After Midterm Elections?

We've been talking about this inevitability for weeks now, so the only 'newsy' item in this Buzzfeed story is the alleged timeline, which the White House is disputing.  President Obama has every intention of expanding his DREAM Act-style power grab to millions of adults who entered the country illegally -- he just knows that doing so before voters go to the polls would further endanger a bunch of Democrats up for re-election.  Solution: Don't rethink the unpopular idea; delay it until the opportunity for an electoral backlash passes.  That political Rubicon looms in 34 days.  If reporter Adrian Carrasquillo's sources are correct, Obama will drop his decision on the country less than a week later:

A source tells BuzzFeed News a much-anticipated speech at the Congressional Hispanic Institute Gala by the president will tell Latinos to wait 40 more days until after the election on long-awaited executive actions on immigration.  President Obama will reaffirm his promise of administrative actions to slow record deportations before the end of the year during a high-profile speech to Latinos and Hispanic officials on Thursday, BuzzFeed News has learned. His speech at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) gala — his first there since 2011 — comes as activists have expressed anger and frustration over repeated delays on executive actions. Obama will tell Latinos in attendance that he understands their frustration but will also call on them to stick with him and wait 40 more days, until after the election, according to a source who viewed the president’s prepared remarks.

In an update to the story, "a White House official told BuzzFeed News that the president’s remarks do not include a reference to waiting '40 days.'"  So the precise time frame remains hazy, even if the president's cynical game is crystal clear. Obama's wink-and-nod act won't stop a group of 'amnesty now' protesters from picketing the event, but Congressional Democrats must be awfully grateful for the temporary reprieve.  The president's explanation for the postponement is insulting:  “What I’m saying is that I’m going to act because it’s the right thing for the country. But it’s going to be more sustainable and more effective if the public understands what the facts are on immigration,” he said in early September, abandoning a previous pledge to pull the trigger by summer's end.  The idea that the American people will 'get the facts' during a noisy election season is laughable.  Obama's fig leaf is transparent.  In reality, the White House ran a cost-benefit analysis through its overworked political calculation machine and determined that far fewer votes would be jeopardized by aggravating a handful of lefty activists than by announcing Obama's policy weeks before a national election.  So a key element of the base will have to wait.  They'll get their way, of course, just not immediately.  There are ordinary Americans to fool in the interim, and that takes priority.

Meanwhile, the unaccompanied minor border crisis stands unresolved.  Though the flow of children across the southern border has abated somewhat, tens of thousands of these kids remain in temporary housing.  The House of Representatives passed legislation to deal with the complex problem; Harry Reid's Senate has failed to act.  It is an objective fact that Obama's 2012 pre-election 'amnesty' gambit for a subset of illegal immigrants brought into the country as children (which was much more politically palatable) contributed heavily to the subsequent crisis.  Causes, effects, etc.  What is likely to happen if the 'temporary deportation relief' regime is extended to an untold number of illegal immigrant adults?  A bigger, more powerful magnet.  The Washington Post reported in July that the administration was made aware of the growing border issues two years ago, but dismissed it as a "local issue."  The American people strongly oppose Obama's plan, with fewer than one-quarter of respondents to a September IBD/TIPP poll endorsing the president "sidestep[ping] Congress and act[ing] on his own using executive orders”  Hence the delay.  I'm on the record as a supporter of immigration reform, but the White House's calculated maneuvering is disgraceful.  This is terrible, harmful policy, deliberately detonated after Americans have their say in early November.  Oh, and enacting it by executive fiat is beyond Barack Obama's legitimate Constitutional authority, according to...Barack Obama:

Obama may have undermined his case because he has insisted time and again that he's the president, not the king, and "can't just make the laws up by myself." In a 2012 interview with Telemundo, Obama defended his decision to defer deportations for children but said he couldn't go any bigger. "If we start broadening that, then essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally. So that's not an option," he said then.

But wait, he placed similar constraints on himself vis-a-vis the DREAM action, then shed those shackles when he decided it was within his political interests to do so.  Royal prerogatives, and such. It's good to be King.  I'll leave you with this:

An official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement revealed that about 70 percent of immigrant families the Obama administration had released into the U.S. never showed up weeks later for follow up appointments. The ICE official made the disclosure in a confidential meeting at its Washington headquarters with immigration advocates participating in a federal working group on detention and enforcement policies. The Associated Press obtained an audio recording of Wednesday’s meeting and separately interviewed participants.

As Allahpundit noted last week, the administration has been withholding this relevant information from the public for months now.  Instead, they're leaking it to activists behind closed doors -- assuring them that the federal government isn't really taking the whole "enforcement" thing terribly seriously while spinning the opposite tale to the public at large.  These people are the veritable definition of bad faith actors, which is why I'm increasingly sympathetic to conservatives who refuse to give one inch on this issue, certainly at this juncture.  This administration simply cannot be trusted.

Judicial Watch Sues DHS For Information Surrounding Release of 36,000 Criminal Aliens

Government watchdog Judicial Watch has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security for information surrounding the release of 36,000 criminal aliens into American communities earlier this year. The lawsuit comes after DHS officials failed to respond to a May 15, 2014 FOIA request in the amount of time required by law. 

In the lawsuit, Judicial Watch is seeking "Any and all records of communications including, but not limited to, emails and memoranda, to or from personnel in the office of the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (including its component offices, such as the Office of Public Affairs), from May 1 to May 15, 2014, concerning, regarding, or related to the report published by the Center for Immigrations Studies concerning the release of 36,000 criminal aliens."

The initial FOIA request came after a report from the Center for Immigration Studies showed tens-of-thousands of violent criminal aliens, including those with convictions of rape, murder, kidnapping, aggravated assault, drunk driving, vehicle theft and more, were set free. 

“How many Americans will be killed, maimed, or victimized by the Obama administration’s release of aliens convicted of violent crimes?” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement about the lawsuit. “Under President Obama, the Department of Homeland Security has turned from a law enforcement agency into one that undermines and violates our nation’s immigration laws in a way that threatens the public safety. And now Homeland Security is in cover-up mode and violating federal law to keep documents about its mass release of criminals away from the American people.” 

Earlier this year, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was aware of reports about the release of criminal aliens and was looking into the details about what exactly happened. Those details have still not been provided.

Bill Clinton Appears in Ad for Alison Lundergan Grimes

A new campaign ad for Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes featuring former President Bill Clinton is set to begin airing today, reports WHAS11. This is the first Senate campaign ad to feature Clinton in 2014.

The advertisement touts, among other things, Grimes' commitment to the middle class and jobs, while subtly bashing incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell.

While Grimes' use of Clinton may on the surface appear odd, the former president is viewed much more favorably among Kentucky residents than President Obama. Obama currently has a minus 28 approval rating in the state, whereas 53 percent of Kentuckians have a favorable view of Clinton. Clinton and Grimes are longtime family friends.

"I am a Clinton Democrat!" Grimes shouted at Clinton's appearance with her in Lexington in August.

Last month, Grimes released an ad distancing herself from Obama.

Polls show McConnell with a four-point lead.

RNC, NRSC Roll Out Ads In Support Of Tillis, While Slick Willy Drops In For Hagan

The Republican National Committee released their new ad for North Carolina’s Senate race in their “Road To Six” campaign. The spot slams Sen. Kay Hagan as nothing more than a vote for the Obama agenda. It cited how she votes with the president 95 percent of the time, despite slamming her predecessor Sen. Elizabeth Dole for voting with then-President Bush 92 percent of the time. She remarked that Dole hasn’t done much in the Senate, but in six years; the RNC claims she has yet to introduce a bill that has become law.

The RNC Chairman said:

I find it ironic that in 2008 Kay Hagan campaigned on the idea that North Carolinians don’t approve of voting with the president all of the time. Clearly, Senator Hagan does not practice what she preaches: she has voted with President Obama 95 percent of the time…Kay Hagan has never introduced a bill that became law and does not chair any of the Senate full committees. In other words, she’s just a rubber stamp for the Obama agenda. For these reasons, and many more, North Carolina can’t afford to have Kay Hagan in the Senate for six more years, and that is why come November, North Carolina will ‘Stop Obama, Fire Reid, and Defeat Hagan.’”

At the same time, the National Republican Senatorial Committee released this ad, which cited the ineffectiveness of Hagan as a senator and her lack of accomplishments. As a result, she has not earned re-election.

Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton stopped by North Carolina last Tuesday to attend a fundraiser for Sen. Hagan. Last week, the Democratic senator, who is leading in the polls, told a group of supporters that they will be “kicking Tillis out,” but that may be a bit premature.

As the 2014 election cycle has become more concerned about ISIS and terrorism, the focus of the debate leans in the Republicans’ court; the GOP is way ahead of Democrats concerning who voters trust on national security. The Tillis campaign has already hit Hagan for missing classified ISIS hearings last February.

Tillis has a major deficit with women voters–and was getting hammered for reportedly overseeing $500 million in cuts to education in the state legislature. It’s a claim that’s been labeled as half true.

The shift in national security matters gives Tillis, who still has room to grow, a buffer from the onslaught in ads from Democrats over education and opens a new GOP-friendly front in this highly contested senate race. Also, harping on his working class family upbringing helps tap into the neo-populist sentiment that's starting to gain traction with voters; they like candidates who are authentic, seen as approachable, and have experienced and triumphed over financial struggle.

Hagan’s campaign narrative also could be in peril. I’ve mentioned in previous posts about Hagan’s “sins of Raleigh” strategy, which was aptly noted by a North Carolina GOP strategist; and try to make those greater than the ones coming out of Washington. After all, Tillis is unpopular, right?

The truth is there are very few polls that asked about Mr. Tillis directly. The CNN poll did, as did the Civitas Institute. While a previous Civitas Institute poll had Tillis coming in with poor favorable/unfavorable numbers, there was also a substantial amount of voters who didn’t have an opinion. The CNN poll found that he has made considerable improvements, with 47 percent of North Carolina voters viewing him favorably and 47 to 40 unfavorably. Here’s the "nugget" (via NYT):

If there were more surveys showing Mr. Tillis as unpopular as the conventional view, then perhaps we could discount the CNN/ORC poll as an outlier. But in the absence of more evidence to the contrary, one should at least be open to the possibility that Mr. Tillis is more popular than was thought.

That opens the door to a different view of the race: that Mr. Tillis is poised to narrow or eliminate Ms. Hagan’s lead behind undecided voters who view him favorably and who view Ms. Hagan and President Obama unfavorably.

Mr. Tillis might also benefit from the inevitable decline in the support of Sean Haugh, a libertarian candidate who attracted 7 percent of the vote in the CNN/ORC poll.

David Freddoso also wrote that:

In RCP’s poll average, Hagan has dropped from a 4-point lead to 3 points in just one week. And while that a small drop, it demonstrates that despite that $27 million has already been in the race, she has been unable to extend the lead beyond the margin of error.

As many analysts have predicted as well, should the turnout among Republican voters be as high as expected, Hagan could be defeated anyway.

Finally, we have NC Spin, which describes itself as “balanced debate in the Old North State,” posting this post from John Davis, a 20+ year veteran in North Carolina politics, who lists his reasons why Tillis is poised to upset Hagan:

MIDTERM TURNOUT: Since 1992, the average midterm election year turnout is about 22 points lower than presidential election years. In 2008, statewide turnout in the North Carolina General Election was 70%. In 2010, statewide General Election turnout was 43.8%.

EARLY VOTING TURNOUT: When you take a look at the early voting turnout in 2008, the presidential election year in which Hagan won, as compared to the 2010 midterm election year, you can readily see that Hagan’s biggest challenge is yet to come.

In 2008, when Hagan won, 48% of all registered Democrats voted early; 52% of all registered African-American voters voted early

In 2010, a midterm election year, only 16.1% of all registered Democrats voted early; only 14.9% of all registered African-Americans voted early

STRAIGHT PARTY VOTERS: You see a similar shift in the partisan advantage of straight party voters from presidential election years to midterm election years.

In 2008, 1,283,486. Democrats voted straight party; 59% of all straight party voters

In 2010, 599,985, Democrats voted straight party; 51% of all straight party voters

NEW ELECTION LAWS: The elimination of straight party voting is one of the new election laws passed by the Republican General Assembly scheduled to take effect this fall. Today, September 25, 2014, a three-judge federal panel is convening in Charlotte to hear arguments on whether enforcement of the new election laws should be delayed.

If the three-judge panel rules next week that the new election laws can stand, Democrats will face an even tougher turnout challenge. Under the new rules, early voting days are reduced from 17 to 10. There will be no same-day registrations and no straight party voting.

TURNOUT OPERATIONS: In 2012, the Obama camp in Chicago invested $100 million during the 18 months before Election Day in a digital voter contact and turnout operation called Narwhal. They defied the odds and turned out African-Americans and young voters in key swing states in numbers even higher than their historic 2008 accomplishments. That’s why Obama won.

Meanwhile, in Boston, the Romney camp invested an inadequate amount of resources in a digital voter contact and turnout operation called Orca. Orca crashed on Election Day.

Following the loss of the presidential race of 2012, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus directed a self-assessment that became a scathing critique titled the Growth & Opportunity Project. Republicans were their own worst critics on matters like communications with minorities and women and mobilizing voters through digital communications. They were determined to improve.

Democrats laughed at Republicans for admitting their weaknesses in their communication with women and minorities. If my January 10 conclusions are on target, and if Republicans do neutralize the Democrats’ digital voter turnout advantage, then Democrats won’t be laughing on Election Day.

There is a little bit of a wrinkle about the election law; parts of it have been blocked (via Time):

A federal appeals court on Wednesday blocked parts of a sweeping North Carolina voting law from taking hold ahead of this year’s midterm elections.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision to allow provisions of the law that eliminate same-day-registration and the casting of out-of-precinct ballots. The appeals court on Wednesday still allowed other portions of the law to stand, including the cut of seven early voting days. But in a 69-page opinion Wednesday, the appeals court said an August decision by the lower district court to allow the full law was flawed.

The decision comes just weeks before the early voting period is set to begin in the Tar Heel State on Oct. 23. “The right to vote is fundamental,” Judge James Wynn wrote in the majority opinion. “And a tight timeframe before an election does not diminish that right.”

Special Agent and Whistleblower Vince Cefalu's Trial Against ATF For Retaliation Starts Monday

After eight years of constant government stonewalling and mistreatment, including an unexplained firing in a Denny's parking lot, Special Agent and whistleblower Vince Cefalu's trial against the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives for retaliation and unlawful termination is set to start Monday. 

In 2005, Cefalu exposed ATF corruption and illegal wiretapping. Prior to becoming a whistleblower, he put dozens of hard criminals in prison and received promotions in addition to consistently positive evaluations. In 2009, he launched the website CleanUpATF.org in order for agents within ATF to blow the whistle on corrupt behavior anonymously due to the agency's history of retaliation against those who "jump their chain of command." His website is where bloggers and news reporters first saw allegations of gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious. The site is heavily monitored by the Department of Justice.

In the February 2012 issue of Townhall Magazine, Cefalu detailed the ATF corruption leading up to Fast and Furious and his retaliation case from inside the bureau. When ATF managers fired him without explanation, again in a Denny's parking lot, the following was posted on CleanUpATF.org.

It's well-known that ATF management and their viciously corrupt counsel are, for the most part, brutally self-serving and mean-spirited. But this Cefalu termination is nevertheless surprising in its utter incomprehensibility under the circumstances, from purely legal and elemental federal labor law standpoints. If they had any prayer of making the action stick, they had to do it more than a year ago, before so many additional events have transpired that will render the termination plainly unlawful and inescapably untenable. It's just plain moronic no matter how you slice it.

It seems apparent that ATF's leadership at all levels has degenerated to a pathetic state of paroxysmal, shoot-from-the-hip incompetence. They can't even do the wrong thing right.

Cefalu's trial will take place in U.S. District Court Northern District of California in San Francisco.

Obamacare's Job Killing Employer Mandate

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the October issue of Townhall Magazine. 

Panola Pepper Corporation was started for all the right reasons. Located in the town of Lake Providence in Louisiana’s East Carroll Parish, the hot sauce company has been providing employment to those who live in one of the nation’s poorest areas. Year after year, East Carroll Parish ranks among the top 10 U.S. counties with the highest poverty rates. Time magazine once named the town of Lake Providence the “poorest place in America.”

Founded in 1983, Panola Pepper began as a wintertime business to give farm workers income during the three-month gap between the planting and harvest seasons. Employees would produce, bottle, and label hot sauce so they would not have to go on government assistance to make it through the winter. Fortunately, the product was so well received that the business became full-time. Thirty-one years later, Panola Pepper employs 35 people and continues to grow.

One major roadblock stands in the way of that growth, however. The employer mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, imposes new regulations that make it difficult for Panola Pepper to continue operating in the way it always has. In fact, Obamacare has put undue burden on small businesses and large corporations alike, impeding growth and increasing costs across the board.

Small Business Staying Small

The employer mandate will require that all American businesses with 50 or more full-time employees (defined as working 30 or more hours per week) provide health insurance or else pay a penalty. Businesses that do not comply will receive a steep fine of $2,000 for each full-time employee beginning with the 51st person. After being delayed twice since 2012, the mandate is expected to go into effect in 2016.

In the case of Panola Pepper Corporation, President and CEO Mike Coullard explains that his small business simply can neither afford to accommodate the mandate (by providing insurance for all employees) nor pay the penalty fines. While operating within a very small profit margin in this impoverished area of the country, Panola Pepper must now consider machinery options to replace employees.

“Now that we’re looking at getting close to that number of 50 employees, we are starting to look at automated machinery instead of people as a viable option to meet our growth needs,” Coullard tells Townhall. “And they’re certainly out there. You can buy faster equipment to eliminate people from virtually every position on our assembly line. It takes about 13 people to run the line and we could spend half a million dollars on better equipment and eliminate about eight of those people. We are not doing this because it’s not part of our culture, but if we are forced to provide health insurance to our employees, then that half a million dollars seems a whole lot easier to spend.”

Another option is to cut employee hours so they are no longer considered full-time. “These are the tough decisions that we face,” Coullard explains. “Our options are limited. Keep doing business the way we always have and be forced to go out of business because we can’t afford to pay anyone, or make some of these tough decisions that the government is putting on small businesses.”

Coullard stresses that the company’s objective is to employ as many people as possible, turning any profit back into the development of new products so they can hire more people. “When limits by government are put on your ability to grow and continue to do things the same way,” he says, “unfortunately, people are affected.”

Big Businesses Facing Higher Costs

Small businesses like Panolo Pepper are more willing to tell the truth about plans to mitigate Obamacare’s high costs than large corporations that fear boycotts and bad press from progressive activists. For example, the media chastised Darden Restaurants, the owner of Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse, in 2012 after announcing plans to limit the number of full-time employees per restaurant. Large companies are still finding ways to deal with Obamacare’s costs; they just aren’t making any public statements about it. 

But by exactly how much are costs rising as a direct result of Obamacare? Since the law passed, chief human resource officers are becoming increasingly attuned to the health care aspect of their overall job. Dr. Patrick Wright of the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business conducted a survey of top CHROs across the country, focusing on their company’s response to the employer mandate. The results revealed that a whopping 78 percent of respondents reported health insurance cost increases by an average of 7.73 percent. Additionally, 37 percent indicated that labor costs have increased by an average of 5.6 percent. Only 19 percent experienced no net change in costs.

The shift to high-deductible consumer-directed health plans is also becoming more commonplace as a means to reduce costs. Employers hope that by putting more responsibility into the hands of the employee, fewer services will be used. But Wright notes there are downsides, too.

“On the plus side, the move to CDHPs will increasingly introduce market mechanisms into the health care market. On the negative side, however, it will be a difficult transition in terms of a change of mindset for both employees and health care providers. Employees will have to take more responsibility for choosing lower cost providers and providers will have to become significantly more transparent in their prices.”

Wright also found that 73 percent of respondents plan to, or already have, moved employees to consumer-directed plans, and 71 percent have raised or will raise employee contributions toward health insurance. Nearly a quarter said they will more rigorously ensure part-time workers stay beneath the 30-hour limit.

A Logistical Nightmare

It’s no secret that Obamacare is unpopular among CHROs. In a survey by the HR Policy Association, only 10 percent said the law would help their companies more effectively control health care costs. Forty-eight percent predicted costs would increase by 0 to 5 percent. Thirty-seven percent predicted costs would increase by 6 to 10 percent. Five percent predicted costs would increase by more than 10 percent.

Eighty-five percent of respondents reported they find it troubling that the law has increased access to the health care system without making significant improvements in the efficiency and affordability of that system. And shockingly, 68 percent said that if other large employers decide to no longer offer health care coverage, their companies might give serious consideration to doing the same. 

Christine Cunneen, CEO of Hire Image LLC, a company that performs background screenings and drug tests, has seen an 86 percent increase in health care premiums over the last seven years. Her employees’ $500 deductible has now quadrupled to $2,000.

“Two people under my plan have had to pay $2,000 out of pocket, whereas in the past, they typically didn’t get to the deductible unless they were getting care out of plan or out of network,” Cunneen explains. “Now, they go for blood work and are charged $150 for a draw fee. There are a lot of underlying costs that no one is really talking about.”

“I think there should be some type of solution, a lot of it is falling on the backs of the individuals who have been covered in the past,” she notes. “It’s quite expensive for us to stay competitive in the job market if you’re keeping good staff.”

As a perk, Cunneen covers 75 percent of health care premiums for her employees and will continue to do so for now.

Similarly, John Overton, owner and CFO of IT company Turn Key Solutions, generously covers 80 percent of his employees’ health benefit package.

“For professional positions, such as the caliber of IT professionals we seek to hire, quality benefits are high on the priority list of potential candidates,” Overton explains. “In the past we could say, ‘In addition to competitive salary, we offer the same great health care benefits as most Fortune 500 companies.’ Now, instead of highlighting premium health care benefits, we highlight that we pay 80 percent of the employee’s basic health care benefit package.”

To compensate for the more basic health insurance plan, Overton has increased the starting pay for new positions by as much as 20 percent.

“It is disappointing not being able to offer my employees premium health care plans that are affordable, but we are trying to make up for it by paying more,” he says. “We’re growing and hiring, but health care options and rates have become more and more of an impediment to growth rather than the improvements that the [Obama] administration promised.”

Government Picking Winners and Losers

The American Health Policy Institute recently calculated the costs of Obamacare over a 10-year period. “We ... found that the marginal costs of the ACA for larger corporations are about $5,000 per employee over a 10-year period,” says Dr. Tevi Troy, AHPI’s president, former-deputy secretary of Health and Human Services, and former-senior White House aide in the George W. Bush administration. “That is just ACA-related hikes; that does not include health care inflation or the aging work force.”

“For the average of one of these large corporations (i.e. 10,000-plus employees), we would see costs in the $160 to $200 million dollar range over that 10-year period. Again, this is just marginal ACA costs,” he continues. “Every large company is making changes in their health care system, it’s just the fact. ... There are about 170 million people in employer-sponsored care right now and they are all looking at the system saying, ‘What are we going to do differently over the next 10 years?’ We don’t know the extent of all the changes.”

Compared to small businesses, huge corporations have infrastructures that make it easier to absorb and redistribute costs. A large sum of the increases can be made up for by passing it along to employees through higher premiums.

“Large companies have such large employee bases that they’re not concerned about one marginal hiring decision changing the entire scope of how they deal with health care. They’re more interested in the marginal cost per employee than what the overall costs are of hiring,” Troy explains.

“The people who get subsidies will see benefits and the people who don’t will see higher costs, I mean it’s always been the case that there will be winners and losers in this law,” he adds.

Raising the Costs of Job Creation

Randy Bradley, owner of a Burger King franchise through Kadina Corporation, tells Townhall he might have to drop employee retirement plans and cut hours to offset the new health insurance regulations.

“We have to look at a number of solutions because if the cost of insurance per employee is more than my profit, which it will be, that will drive me out of business unless I take other actions. There will be a combination of having to reduce other employment costs. For instance, my employees have a retirement plan available that will probably end because I can’t afford to provide both health care and retirement.”

It’s tricky business in the fast food world when one must raise prices to make up for increased costs. 

“There is only a certain amount of elasticity in the market,” he explains. “If I go beyond a certain point in raising prices, customers are going to come less often because they can’t afford to come at the new prices. We have very difficult decisions to make. What costs do we cut, what prices do we raise, how much do we raise them by, and how do we comply with all of this regulation? There are a lot of very difficult decisions involved here.”

Bradley explains: “They have defined large business by the number of employees you have, but the number of employees you have does not give any indication as to whether health insurance is affordable. If you’re making $1,000 per year per employee and the insurance will be $3,000 per employee, it does not matter if you have five employees or 500 employees, the profit per employee dictates whether or not you can afford insurance.

“It is absolutely going to cost more to hire people and that also means we are going to be able to give less in the way of wage increases,” he continues. “Within a business, you have a certain amount of money for each type of expense: utilities, insurance, food costs, paper costs, etc. Those things don’t go away, so I only have a certain percentage of the money I get from my customers to spend on labor costs. If they force me to put more money into health insurance, I’m going to have to reduce the number of labor hours I can spend. It’s a limited pool. If I can only spend, say, 18 percent on my crew members’ hours spent working, I am still only going to be able to spend 18 percent. If the cost is going up per person, I’m going to have to cut hours.”

These are not isolated cases. According to surveys from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 17 percent of businesses reported that they are reducing the number of workers they employ and 22 percent said they are reducing wages and salaries of those employees. Twenty-five percent said they are increasing consumer prices to help mitigate costs. Sixty-nine percent of businesses plan to increase employee contributions by means of higher copays, deductibles, and premiums.

This is simply not sustainable. Obamacare was sold to the American people as a budget-neutral law that would even save the average family $2,500. Instead, Obamacare has raised health care costs, forced millions of Americans to buy more health care than they wanted, and killed countless jobs in the process.

If one thing is certain, it is that Obamacare has been effective in redistributing the wealth from those who previously had employer-based insurance to those who did not. With the Congressional Budget Office predicting that 30 million people will still be uncovered by the end of the decade, Americans continue to ask if this was really worth it. • 

Unrepentant Convicted Cop-Killer Mumia to Speak at Commencement Ceremony

In 1982, former black panther Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of murdering Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. He stood over Faulkner after a traffic stop and shot him multiple times, including in the face as he laid dying on the ground. Abu-Jamal never denied the killing during his trial. He, and his supporters, are still unapologetic for Faulkner's death. The far-Left has turned Abu-Jamal into a hero and so-called political prisoner. He even has a street named after him in France. 

Although he still sits in prison carrying out a life-sentence (his death penalty sentence was overturned by the work of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and by President Obama's former DOJ Civil Rights Division nominee Debo Adegbile in 2011), Abu-Jamal has been invited to give the commencement address for Vermont's Goddard College this weekend. The worst part? He was handpicked by the students. More from the Washington Times:

The college said Abu-Jamal’s speech has been prerecorded by Prison Radio.

“As a reflection of Goddard’s individualized and transformational educational model, our commencements are intimate affairs where each student serves as her or his own valedictorian, and each class chooses its own speaker,” Goddard College Interim President Bob Kenny said in a statement. “Choosing Mumia as their commencement speaker, to me, shows how this newest group of Goddard graduates expresses their freedom to engage and think radically and critically in a world that often sets up barriers to do just that.”

The college said Abu-Jamal received a bachelor of arts degree from the school in 1996, completing his coursework by mail.

Maureen Faulkner, the widow of Officer Daniel Faulkner, recently went on the Kelly File to respond.

"I am absolutely outraged that they would have such an absolutely hate-filled murderer on as a commencement speaker. I mean this man, he murdered my husband with malice and premeditation. He is evil. What does he have to offer?" Faulkner said. "All I can say is he's a murderer and he lost his voice when he put a bullet between my husband's eyes. And I still do not understand this justice system and why they are allowing him to speak."

The college is justifying the invitation by pointing out Abu-Jamal is "an award winning journalist who chronicles the human condition" and that standard policy is to allow whoever the students invite to speak. 

Pentagon: Despite 310 Airstrikes, ISIS "Remains a Very Potent Force"

After more than 300 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said this week that the group “remains a very potent force.”

"Yes, they've changed some of their tactics, there's absolutely no question about that, in response to the pressure that we put them under, but that doesn't make them less dangerous or less potent over time," Kirby said.

"Yes, they're blending in more. Yes, they're dispersing, and yes, they aren't communicating quite as openly or as boldly as they once were. That's a good thing, because if they aren't operating as freely, then they aren't as free to achieve their goals.

"That doesn't mean ISIL doesn't still pose a threat. It doesn't mean they aren't still trying and in some cases succeeding at taking and holding ground. No one said this would be easy or quick, and no one should be lulled into a false sense of security by accurate airstrikes. We will not, we cannot bomb them into obscurity."

We’ve heard countless times by now that airstrikes alone will not defeat and destroy the group—a point even Kirby emphasized.

"This is going to be a long struggle," he said, urging "a sense of strategic patience about this entire effort."

"This group will adapt, and we're going to have to adapt right along with them. And air strikes alone, you're just not going to bomb them away. It's not going to happen like that."

He continued: “We've been pretty honest about the fact that military action alone will not win this effort, but that shouldn't be taken as an admission of ineffectiveness, and one of the ways we know we're having an effect is precisely because the terrorists have had to change their tactics and their communications and their command and control."

Surprise: Another Senate Democrat Shirks Televised Debate

This is starting to become a familiar trend, isn’t it?

Meet the Press host Chuck Todd has been pushing and pushing Mark Pryor and Tom Cotton to debate each other one-on-one in Arkansas. He even pledged to make the trip down to the Natural State himself to serve as moderator. Cotton, for his part, has accepted. His opponent ... has not.

“Everything else is happening in this race. Plenty of TV ads, plenty of attacks going on back and forth…let’s see them sit down and have a debate,” Todd said in an interview with KARK 4 News last week. “I think you owe it to the viewers.”

It’s worth repeating and reiterating that the Pryor campaign has already accepted two debate invitations (one of which Cotton has so far declined). So it’s inaccurate to portray Mark Pryor as a debate dodger in the same sense Mark Udall is. Nonetheless, like Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, he's not exactly sanguine about the prospects of adding more one-on-one debates to his calendar.

As Todd notes, this is a disservice to Arkansans who are unfairly bombarded with misleading attack ads that distort and slander candidates’ positions. One would think, therefore, that both candidates would relish the opportunity to debate one another in public as often as they could. Apparently not.

I'll leave you with two recent attack ads: One hits Pryor for voting for Obamacare; the other hits Cotton for not protecting women, or something:

House Republican: If Tahmooressi Isn’t Released, Mexico Will No Longer Be Treated as our Friend

2014 – April 5: “Mom. I am not going to make it through the night. There are hit men in the cell with me and they told me they are going to kill me. Whatever you do, do not come down to ask questions or investigate because they are going to kill you, too. Change your bank accounts and go underground. Your life is in danger.”

2014 - April 14: “Mom. I tried to kill myself because the guards and the inmates were going to rape, torture and eventually execute me for information.”

2014 - May 1: “Mom. I have been chained by 4 points, strapped spread eagle to the bed in the infirmary for 25 days.”

- Jill Marie Taahmooressi, recalling quotes from her son, Sgt. Andew Paul Tahmooressi, before the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere - October 1, 2014


Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee headed back to D.C. on Wednesday for a hearing to examine the case of Marine Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi, who was arrested earlier this year on charges of weapons and ammunition possession in Mexico.

Townhall’s Katie Pavlich sums up his run-in at the border here:

Tahmooressi was arrested in Mexico after admittedly making a wrong turn at the border. It was a mistake. When he was pulled over by military officers, he said he was lost and declared firearms legal in the United States were in the vehicle. Instead of turning him around back to the U.S., soldiers arrested him.

Appearing before the committee were Tahmooressi’s mother, Jill Tahmooressi; Lieutenant Commander Montel B. Williams, USN, Retired; Sergeant Robert Buchanan, USMC, Retired; and Chief Executive Officer for Concerned Veterans for America Mr. Pete Hegseth. All testified on behalf of Sgt. Tahmooressi, speaking on his character and imploring immediate action from Congress and the White House for his release.

Sgt. Buchanan, a Purple Heart recipient, made the following comments about being deployed with Tahmooressi:

“He was truly one of the best junior marines and machine gunners I’ve ever served with. This was a Marine who received a combat meritorious promotion. This alone speaks volumes to what kind of individual Andrew is, and contests to his character. To be promoted meritoriously in combat is truly an honor amongst Marines and is not given lightly.

"On Andrew’s last deployment he saved the life of a fellow marine by securing tourniquets on him after he stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) causing him to lose both of his legs. It’s in these moments that a man’s true character is tested.”

Sgt. Tahmooressi has been detained for just over six months, and has been diagnosed, by multiple doctors, as suffering from PTSD.

“The San Diego Veterans Affairs hospital diagnosed Andrew with combat PTSD less than ten days prior to his arrest at the Mexican border. Andrew’s PTSD has resulted in hyper-vigilance, memory and cognition lapses, and depression,” Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) told the committee.

Since learning of his condition and incarceration, House members took action in whatever ways they could. Chairman Royce and Subcommittee Chairman Matt Salmon (R-CA) visited Tahmooressi at La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana. Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) introduced H.Res 620, which calls for “the Government of Mexico [to] immediately release United States Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi and provide for his swift return to the United States” for medical treatment. The resolution, which mainly serves as a symbolic expression of the House (and Senate, if passed) and has no real enforcement mechanism, currently has 81 bipartisan co-sponsors. Additionally, Representative Tom Marino (R-PA) wrote a letter to the Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. questioning the international partnership and has yet to receive a response.

“You, your son, and veterans deserve more, have a right to more, and we need to see that that is accomplished,” Marino told Jill Tahmooressi during the hearing. “I apologize for how inappropriately you have been treated, and I apologize for the inappropriate level of concern by the White House…I’m disappointed that you have to be here today, ma’am. And I’m disappointed that vets have not received the appropriate care that they should be receiving in this country.”

All of the witnesses spoke with concern for the general welfare of returning veterans, citing the backlog of patients waiting to be treated by the VA and the daily suicides of troubled troops.

Lt. Cdr. Williams adamantly said, “No ifs, ands, or buts, our veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan often feel absolutely abandoned by our government, and I believe they have a reason to feel so…We know for a fact that Sgt. Tahmooressi’s time in this prison has been worse than his time in both combat situations…How dare we, how dare we, as a nation, hesitate to get that young man back.”

And in what seemed to be a unanimous sentiment, members of the committee blasted the Obama Administration for its lack of response. Tahmooressi’s mother testified that she had yet to receive a call from the President. In addition, the State Department provided very little help to her in securing an attorney. The first, which was obtained through a website referred by the Department, had to be replaced for lying to the Mexican court.

“My son has faults, but lying isn’t one of them…We could not proceed with the lies,” she said.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) quipped that Ms. Tahmooressi should go play a few rounds of golf, so that she could secure some of the president’s attention. Royce made clear that he had notified Vice President Biden of the situation, but still had heard nothing from the White House.

This is the world we live in: The President of the United States negotiates with terrorists, releases five of them, and secures the return of a deserter who cost the lives of his fellow soldiers. He then hosts the family in the Rose Garden. The president makes phone calls to the U.S. men’s soccer team and to the San Antonio Spurs, but he cannot take 30 seconds to call the desperate mother of a war hero trapped and abused in a dirty, Mexican jail cell.

This is the world we live in.

Critics from the left say that it is hypocritical for members of Congress to demand that the Mexican judiciary system be circumvented to expedite Tahmooressi’s release. During the hearing, members of the committee reiterated their respect for and friendship with the Mexican government, but warned that this issue must be resolved soon.

“We define ourselves in a time of crisis. Andrew defined himself in a time of war: he became a marine,” Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) emotionally told the committee. “Mexico is defining itself to us today.” He continued by saying that if the issue is not resolved soon, “we can no longer treat Mexico as our friend.”

Subcommittee Chairman Salmon concluded the hearing by saying he was hopeful for a quick and positive change of events; however, he promised to work with House leadership on immediate legislative action if Sgt. Tahmooressi was still in custody when Congress returns after elections.

Politico: Sarah Palin’s Neighbors Might Hold the Senate’s Fate in Their Hands

It’s no secret that Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) is in trouble. He votes with the president too often for many Alaskans’ liking, he’s too absent in Congress, and the Democratic candidate for governor has even declined to endorse him.

Politico’s Amanda Coyne, however, apparently thinks Begich’s opponent, Dan Sullivan, is more fun to criticize. Among her jabs: Sullivan’s speeches are too predictable, he has only lived in Alaska for 12 years, and he doesn’t know when to pause during speeches. For shame!

Coyne saved a bit of mockery for the “Rally for the Valley” held near former Governor Sarah Palin’s house in the Matanuska Valley, home to a large chunk of the state’s conservatives. Here's how she described that crowd:

There’s the scruffy guy who sees Muslim terrorists everywhere, the frazzled woman who dreams in prophesy, the mayoral candidate who recently got ratted out to Homeland Security for his weird talk of guns, anarchy and riots in movie theaters. The camo-clad hunters just in from a moose kill.

Coyne explained what this group’s votes could mean, not just for Alaska, but for the whole country:

Considering that races in Alaska are sometimes won by single-digit votes—and that Sen. Mark Begich won by about 4,000 votes against Sen. Ted Stevens in 2008—that’s a coveted block. Sarah Palin’s neighbors, in other words, might very well hold the fate of the U.S. Senate in their hands, a thought that could make more than a few Beltway denizens choke on their chardonnays.

Coyne’s satirical tone aside, there is truth to what she writes. Alaska is a key swing state and, if the midterms come down to this election, Sarah Palin’s conservative "neighbors" may be the bloc that ultimately takes the Senate away from Democrats’ hands.

Here's where the two Senate candidates currently stand in the polls:

Tax and Spending Cuts Happening in Europe

While the world's attention is focused on ISIS (and rightly so), two European leaders have been making some unexpected economic moves. 

In 2012, Francois Hollande came sweeping into the French presidency with an "eat the rich" attitude. Upon immediately taking office, he proposed a 75 percent tax on top earners. He promised to provide the citizenry with the social programs and wages they demand by redistributing wealth. Now, things are looking different. Although Hollande's socialist views still remain in place, his government is cutting spending.

France's Socialist government has detailed a 21 billion-euro ($26.5 billion) cost-cutting plan, the biggest in the country's modern history, saying it will focus on trimming welfare benefits.

Presenting the 2015 budget on Wednesday, Finance Minister Michel Sapin said the measures show the government is serious about reining in its budget deficit, which is above European Union limits.

Meanwhile over in the UK, which almost broke apart earlier this month, David Cameron is promising tax cuts. The move from Cameron isn't totally unexpected, but none-the-less a promising proposal. 

Squeezed between insurgent anti-Europeans, a skittish party and suspicious voters, Britain's prime minister promised a tough stance on the EU and tax cuts for millions in a bid to bolster support for his Conservative Party before a national election next year.

David Cameron closed the Conservatives' fall conference in the central English city of Birmingham Wednesday by arguing that four years of austerity under his government had restored Britain to economic health after the Great Recession.

He said that if re-elected he would reduce income taxes for middle-income earners and eliminate them for minimum-wage workers. At the same time, he said, his government would continue to cut public spending, trimming 25 billion pounds ($40 billion) in the two years after the election.

White House Punts Concern For Sgt. Tahmooressi to State Department

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked by Fox News' Ed Henry about the level of concern the White House had for Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi , who is being held in a Mexican prison under inhumane conditions and living with a severe case of untreated PTSD. 

"There was another report and hearing today on Capitol Hill about Sgt. Tahmooressi, the U.S. Marine who's been in a Mexican jail. The reason why it's important among other reasons is that various lawmakers as well as various veterans have come forward and said he has PTSD which this president has said is a very serious issue that he cares deeply about. How concerned is this White House that he is still in a Mexican jail, had PTSD according to VA doctors and hasn't gotten treatment in several months," Henry asked.

"I can tell you that my colleagues at the State Department are very focused on this issue and so I'd refer you to them for their efforts to work with the Mexican government," Earnest said. 

"Republican Ed Royce said today that he asked Vice President Joe Biden recently to ask Preident Obama to call the president of Mexico directly and get him [Tahmooressi] out of jail and he said that didn't happen. Why not?" Henry followed up. 

"I don't believe it has and that's because this is an issue that is being handled by the State Department," Earnest said.

Clearly the White House is so concerned, they couldn't bother to comment or come up with a general statement showing they at least care about the situation. Pathetic. What happened to "no man left behind?" That concept must only apply to deserters and Taliban sympathizers named Bowe Bergdahl.

Earlier today Sgt. Tahmooressi's mother, Jill Tahmooressi, testified in front of Congress about the condition of her son and detailed the horrifying conditions in which he is being detained. She also said President Obama hasn't called her, despite media attention and a WhiteHouse.gov petition receiving 134,000 signatures asking for him to pursue her son's release.

New Ad Urging Marijuana Legalization Debuts in Oregon

The Yes on 91 campaign to legalize recreational marijuana for adults in Oregon has released a new video ad, depicting a 33-year police veteran detailing his rationale for legalizing the drug in the state:

Oregon, along with Alaska, is voting this November to join Washington and Colorado as states that have legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes.

Tutmark makes very good points in the ad. Prison space and police time is a zero-sum game. Time and other resources spent arresting marijuana users is time and resources spent not solving other serious crimes.

In 2004, there were over 44,000 people in prison for marijuana-related drug-law violations. That number is more than double the population of my hometown, and that's a lot of people in jail for what is effectively a victimless crime.

Many of the fears related to marijuana legalization in Colorado have simply failed to materialize. High drivers? Nope. Tourism is booming, and tax revenues are coming in strong.

This ad is right. It's about time that the police stop concerning themselves with the activities of adults.

Polling has shown narrow support for the passage of Measure 91.

White House: No, We Don't Think We Should Ban Flights From Ebola Countries

Speaking from the White House Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest dodged questions about why flights from countries with Ebola outbreaks are still being accepted to the United States. He did not detail any future plans to stop flights from those countries, or to track connections through Europe to those countries, despite the first case of Ebola showing up in the U.S. after a Liberian man went to a funeral in West Africa and then returned home to Dallas. 

In his justification of the administration continuing to allow flights, Earnest argued that because people carrying Ebola don't have symptoms when they get on planes, there isn't a need to limit travel.

Earnest said Ebola will be handled through "rigorously applying medical procedures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control." 

Everything is under control...

FLASHBACK: U.S. Bans Flights to Israel

Gov. Walker Up 5 in Latest Wisconsin Poll

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has taken a firm 50 - 45 percent lead among likely voters over Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, according to the latest Marquette Law School Poll.

Walker's five-point lead in the latest Marquette poll, conducted September 25-28, is a marked improvement over the last Marquette poll, conducted September 11-14, which only showed Walker up by three points, 49 percent to 46 percent.

Voter opinions of Walker haven't budged over the past two weeks, with both Walker's job approval rating (51/47) and favorable rating (52/46) now at nearly identical levels (52/47 job approval, 52/46 favorable).

But voter perceptions of Burke have fallen sharply. Earlier this month Burke enjoyed a modest net favorability rating at 41/39. But now Burke is underwater with 44 percent of likely voters telling Marquette they have an unfavorable opinion of Burke, and just 40 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of her.

Burke's plagiarized jobs plan appears to be a big reason voters are abandoning her. More than 63 percent of respondents heard about Burke's plagiarized jobs plan, and almost a fifth of respondents said the incident made them less likely to vote for Burke.

The Marquette Law School Poll has a stellar reputation in Wisconsin, correctly predicting Walker's 2012 recall win.

Marilinda Garcia Plans Five Town Hall Events, While Kuster Stays In The Bunker

Earlier this week, New Hampshire State Rep. Marilinda Garcia had a debate with incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Annie Kuster on the radio. Okay, Rep. Kuster declined, but her Republican opponent showed up. Kuster has yet to hold one town hall event since she her 2012 election win–and it seems she isn’t going to hold any in the last weeks of the the 2014 cycle.

Recently, the Garcia campaign has launched a timeline called “When Annie Met Obama,” which documents her greatest hits from announcing that she is one of the president’s strongest supporters in Congress to her recent snags over her property taxes.

Rep. Garcia also took a tour of Atlas PyroVision Productions, which makes fireworks (via The Keene Sentinel):

Atlas CEO Stephen D. Pelkey did most of the talking, showing Garcia the equipment and electronics the company uses to make the fireworks they display at venues from the Cheshire Fairgrounds in North Swanzey to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

About 10 of the company’s employees accompanied them on the tour.

Pelkey said he supports Garcia because he’s frustrated with Democratic lawmakers who he said ignore the interests of small businesses.

Several years ago, Atlas was at risk of losing its license to transport its fireworks over what Pelkey said were violations incorrectly cited under the federal Hazardous Materials Safety Permit Program.

At the time, Pelkey attempted to get help from Democratic Rep. Ann M. Kuster, the incumbent defending her 2nd Congressional District seat against Garcia in the Nov. 4 election.

Pelkey said he didn’t get an answer from Kuster, leading him to place his faith in Republican candidates.

“It was as if small business in New Hampshire didn’t exist, or wasn’t important.”

Well, Pelkey, and other New Hampshire voters in the second congressional district, will have their chance to voice their concerns about the issues that matter to them most with Rep. Garcia. She’s planning five town halls in five weeks, according to her communications director Ken Cunningham:

“In honoring a New Hampshire tradition and the expectations of integrity and openness from our candidates, Marilinda Garcia will host 5 townhall meetings in New Hampshire’s Second District before Election Day, starting on October 7th, in Littleton. These townhall meetings will offer voters an honest opportunity to interact one-on-one with Marilinda and discuss with her the important issues facing our state and our nation.”

“Although Ann Kuster has yet to respond to our request to participate in a townhall forum, we would like to renew our invitation to her, and urge her to attend any of the below townhall meetings. We see no reason for her to miss these valuable opportunities to meet with the people of New Hampshire, and thus we will be prepared for her participation in every forum.”

“Additionally, we have provided directions to each meeting for Ann Kuster, and we are more than willing to facilitate her travel arrangements so that she is finally able to participate in a townhall meeting. Ann Kuster has never held a townhall meeting and her constituents deserve the opportunity to share their concerns and views with their representative to Congress.”

The tour begins October 9 in Littleton, NH. The subject of this town hall will be health care.

On October 15, John Bolton, former U.N. Ambassador under the Bush Administration, will be a guest in a town hall devoted to national security in Hanover.

Taxes and regulations will be the focus for the Keene town hall on October 21, while Concord will delve into government spending on the 29th.

The last town hall event will be held in Nashua to discuss jobs and the economy on November 3, the day before Election Day.

BREAKING: Pierson Resigns As Secret Service Director

One might say we saw this coming.

Moments ago, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned:

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned Wednesday, a day after bitingly critical questioning by Congress about a White House security breach. There had been increasing calls for her departure during the day.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said she offered her resignation and he accepted it.

Stay tuned for updates.

UPDATE: “Director Pierson offered her resignation because she believed it was in the best interest of the agency which she had dedicated her career,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said shortly after the news broke. “In light of recent and accumulating reports I think there were legitimate questions [raised] in the minds of the secretary [DHS] and the president.”

UPDATE: The following is Secretary Johnson's full statement about the shake-up at the Secret Service:

Today Julia Pierson, the Director of the United States Secret Service, offered her resignation, and I accepted it. I salute her 30 years of distinguished service to the Secret Service and the Nation.

As an interim Acting Director of the Secret Service, I am appointing Joseph Clancy, formerly Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protective Division of the Secret Service. Mr. Clancy retired from the Secret Service in 2011. I appreciate his willingness to leave his position in the private sector on very short notice and return to public service for a period.

Today, I have also asked the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, aided by this Department’s General Counsel, to assume control and direction of the ongoing inquiry by the Secret Service of the fence jumping incident at the White House on September 19. Deputy Secretary Mayorkas should complete that review and submit findings to me by November 1, 2014.

Finally, I have also determined that scrutiny by a distinguished panel of independent experts of the September 19 incident and related issues concerning the Secret Service is warranted. The Panelists will be named shortly. By December 15, 2014, this panel will submit to me its own assessment and recommendations concerning security of the White House compound. I will also invite the panel to submit to me recommendations for potential new directors of the Secret Service, to include recommendations of individuals who come from outside the Secret Service. I will also request that the panel advise me about whether it believes, given the series of recent events, there should be a review of broader issues concerning the Secret Service. The security of the White House compound should be the panel’s primary and immediate priority.

It is worth repeating that the Secret Service is one of the finest official protection services in the world, consisting of men and women who are highly trained and skilled professionals prepared to put their own lives on the line in a second’s notice for the people they protect. Last week, the Secret Service was responsible for the protection of the President as well as 140 visiting heads of state or government as they convened at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Likewise, in August the Secret Service handled the protection of 60 world leaders as they convened in Washington, D.C. for the African Summit. As usual, the Secret Service executed these highly complex and demanding assignments without incident. There is no other protection service in the world that could have done this.

UPDATE: On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the president "retains full confidence in the men and women of the Secret Service to do their very important work." If so, why did the Secretary Johnson (presumably at the behest of his boss) accept Pierson's resignation today?

Editor's note: This post has been updated.

One Year Ago: The Obamacare Rollout

On October 1, 2013, the 'Affordable' Care Act opened for business. What played out over the ensuing months will go down as one of the most catastrophic Washington failures in US history. The program's buggy, broken website crashed repeatedly. Obamacare's under-vetted navigators turned customers away in droves. Consumers were sent to nonexistent brick-and-mortar enrollment locations. Millions of Americans' existing plans have been canceled, as required by the law's new coverage mandates (with millions more in the pipeline). Costs, both in terms of premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, have soared for many. Major pieces of the law have since been unilaterally altered and delayed, while multiple states have abandoned their proprietary exchanges, flushing away hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars in the process. In spite of the administration's triumphal spin, enrollment figures have fallen far short of expectations, with risk pools looking older and sicker than projected. The nation's healthcare tab is still growing.  Access to preferred doctors and hospitals has been curtailed.  And Healthcare.gov, dogged by data security concerns, remains under construction and won't be fully functional for November's second open enrollment period.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.  President Obama and Democratic acolytes insisted that Obamacare would be an effective legislative panacea. Tens of millions would be welcomed into the ranks of the insured, costs would fall across the board, healthcare-related deficits would be reduced, Medicare's benefits would be untouched and its solvency strengthened, lives would be saved -- and every single person who was satisfied with his or her healthcare arrangement would be entirely unaffected.  The law would produce no losers and contain no trade-offs -- and its critics were heartless, ideological liars.  The NRSC is out with a new video reminding the American people who really lied:

Public opinion on Obamacare has been upside-down by double digits for years now, dragged under by serial betrayals of its central promises.  Its defenders can assert its 'success' til they're blue in the face; their tendentious protestations will not change reality.  The incomplete roster of flaws and failures enumerated above keeps growing.  More cancellation notices:

Thousands of Americans will see their health plans cancelled before the November elections in a development that could boost critics of ObamaCare.  The Morning Consult, a Washington-based policy publication, reported that nearly 50,000 people will lose their current health coverage in the coming weeks.  Further cancellations this fall will arrive because state regulators only allowed the "keep your plan" fix to last one year or because insurers decided to stop offering the old policies on their own.

In New Mexico alone:

A trend toward high up-front, out of pocket costs for hospital patients:

Get ready to whip out your credit card before you are wheeled into the operating room or undergo an MRI. Hospitals are increasingly asking patients to pay for procedures either upfront or before they are discharged. That's because Americans are shouldering a greater portion of their health care bills, and medical centers don't want to get stuck with patients that can't pay...Starting the cost conversation early is especially important now because patients are facing higher deductibles and larger payments for services. Some are surprised to find out that they have to fork over thousands of dollars before their insurance even kicks in, hospital administrators said. The policies available on the Obamacare exchanges are hastening this trend. Many enrollees are opting for the bronze and silver plans, which often carry deductibles upwards of $5,000 and $2,000, respectively. "The bronze plans are scaring a lot of administrators because the patient liability is so large," said Debra Lowe, administrative director of revenue cycle at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center. "Patients are unaware they have this high deductible."

Disappearing coverage and subsidies for ineligible beneficiaries, many of whom are in for some unpleasant surprises as a result of ongoing 'back end' discrepancies:

Hundreds of thousands of Americans face a Tuesday deadline to verify their income and are at risk of losing or having to pay back their federal health-insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. The need for people to pay back the government could become a headache during next year's tax season, when Americans are expected to pay back any subsidies they weren't eligible for. The Obama administration has told more than 300,000 individuals who obtained coverage through the federal HealthCare.gov site that they may lose some or all of the subsidies if they don't provide additional income information that jibes with Internal Revenue Service data. That information includes tax returns, wages and tax statements, pay stubs and letters from employers. Hundreds of thousands of people who obtained health coverage through state exchanges also have documentation issues and could potentially be getting subsidies they aren't eligible for.

And another adverse judicial ruling on the issue of subsidies in the states, stemming from the law's explicit verbiage:

A federal judge has sided with Oklahoma in its lawsuit challenging some subsidies offered to people who buy insurance under the health care law. U.S. District Judge Ronald White is the latest to weigh in on regulations that allow health insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act in all 50 states...Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt sued in 2011, claiming that the law didn't explicitly allow subsidies for people who bought insurance in states, like Oklahoma, that didn't set up their own insurance exchanges. In a ruling Tuesday, White agreed, saying the regulation was "an abuse of discretion."

Is it any wonder that most of Obamacare's supposed champions have been unwilling to touch it with a ten foot pole this election year? Democrats' bravado about "running on Obamacare" was just that: Bravado.  I'll leave you with this -- pay special attention, seniors:

Happy anniversary, America. 

New Ad Shows Udall Knows Nothing About ISIS

A recent ad by the National Republican Senatorial Committee slammed Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) for his nonchalant attitude towards the national security threat of ISIS (or, as Obama prefers to call it, ISIL).

“I said last week that ISIL does not present an imminent threat to this nation and it doesn't,” Udall is shown saying in the ad.

“Really?” the narrator responds in disbelief, “Can we take that risk?”

Not only did Udall claim ISIS was not an imminent threat, he alleged that beheaded American journalists Steve Sotloff and James Foley would have encouraged America to use caution when dealing with ISIS:

“I can tell you Steve Sotloff and James Foley would tell us, don’t be impulsive. Horrible and barbarous as those executions were, don’t be impulsive, come up with a plan to knock ISIL back.”

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who is challenging first-term incumbent Udall for his Senate seat, derided Udall for the comment:

“Americans have watched in horror in recent weeks as two of our fellow countrymen have been brutally executed by terrorists, and it’s outrageous that Senator Udall would put words into the mouths of dead Americans. Furthermore, it’s deeply troubling that he views a terrorist organization like ISIL as not an imminent threat to America.”

Polls show that Gardner has closed the gap and is now pulling into the lead over Udall.

Democrats Tuning Out 2014 Elections

If cable television ratings are any indication, and recent elections show that they are, President Obama's base is tuning out the 2014 elections.

While Fox News again dominated primetime this summer, MSNBC's ratings plummeted, barely edging out CNN for second place among all viewers (555,000 to 557,000), and falling to third among they key 25-54 demographic (186,000 to 150,000).

MSNBC's 2014 ratings woes stand in stark contrast to the network's 2012 success. With Obama's presidential campaign spending more than $1 billion to energize Democratic voters, MSNBC soared into second place in 2012, and MSNBC President Phil Griffin boldly predicted his network would eventually beat Fox

But now that Obama's approval ratings are stuck in the low-40s, and his Organizing for Action campaign is all but dead, MSNBC, which The New York Times describes as "the voice of Mr. Obama’s America," is dying too. This summer, reruns of ABC's Shark Tank, which run on CNBC, beat every single MSNBC primetime show

Ernst Blows Out Braley in 3rd Quarter Fundraising

Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst's recent surge in polls against Democratic rival Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) has been matched by a surge in fundraising, the Des Moines Register reports. 

Ernst raised $4.5 million over the last three months her campaign told the paper, more than doubling the $1.78 million she raised over the previous three month period.

Braley also upped his fundraising totals from $1.7 million in the last quarter to $2.8 million this quarter. But Ernst's big take couldn't come at a worse time for Braley who has seen a narrow lead evaporate into a six-point Ernst advantage

Across the country, Democrats looking to survive the 2014 anti-President Obama tide have been saved by substantial financial advantagesDemocrats that are outspending their Republican opponents are doing better than those who are even, or are being outspent themselves

Unless outside groups pony up to vastly outspend Ernst in the final weeks, Braley will likely find himself behind come November 4th.

Mother of Marine Held in Mexico: President Obama Hasn't Called Me

The mother of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, Jill Tahmooressi testified in front of lawmakers Wednesday on Capitol Hill as a personal representative of her son, who has been held captive and tortured in a Mexican prison since April 1, 151 days ago. 

Tahmooressi was arrested in Mexico after admittedly making a wrong turn at the border. It was a mistake. When he was pulled over by military officers, he said he was lost and declared firearms legal in the United States were in the vehicle. Instead of turning him around back to the U.S., soldiers arrested him.

"Arrested on weapon and ammunition possession and now incarcerated in a Mexican prison, Andrew is despondent and desperate to be released back to the USA. His PTSD treatment plan has been aborted as Mexico does not have the ability to provide combat related PTSD expressive group therapy, recognized as standard rehabilitation in the USA," she testified. "As often as possible, Andrew phones home via a collect call to seek hope that soon he will be freed."

Sgt. Tahmooressi  suffers from PTSD after serving overseas in Afghanistan. During his time there, he helped save an fellow marine who nearly bled to death after stepping on an IED. His PTSD has become significantly worse since his time in prison and in April he told his mother, "Mom. I tried to kill myself because the guards and the inmates were going to rape, torture and eventually execute me for information." He also described being strapped and chained to a bed for 25 days straight and said "his time in Mexico imprisonment has been by far worse than the two combat tours in Afghanistan."

During questioning, Ms. Tahmooressi revealed that not only has President Obama failed to call her personally about the situation, but said she has no knowledge he has called the President of Mexico to negotiate for her son's release. 

President of Concerned Veteran's for America Pete Hegseth also testified, drawing a contrast between Obama's efforts to swap deserter Bowe Berghdal for five Taliban terrorists while failing to make a simple phone call to Jill Tahmooressi about her son's status. Hegseth also reminded lawmakers Obama held a Rose Garden event for the parents of Berghdal, but has left Ms. Tahmooressi to fight for the release of her son on her own.

The paradox before this committee, this Congress, and especially this White House, could not be more stark: this administration negotiated with the Taliban, and exchanged five terrorist killers with American blood on their hands, for the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a soldier who deserted his unit on the front lines less than 2 months into his first tour of duty. Yet this administration has invested little-to-no effort negotiating the return, from a neighboring country, of a highly-decorated Marine with two combat tours?" Hegseth said. "Sgt. Bergdahl cost American lives. Sgt. Tahmooressi saved them. Does this not matter? Will we not fight to bring him home?
It is time to bring our Marine home, and give him the care he has earned."

Since April, more than 134,000 people have signed a petition on WhiteHouse.gov urging the Obama administration to address Sgt. Tahmooressi's unjust treatment and imprisonment. They have yet to respond effectively.

But there is good news. According to Fox News' William LaJeunesse, Sgt. Tahmooressi could be released after an evaluation from a Mexican psychiatrist showing the severity of his PTSD.

This post has been updated with an additional quote.

House Democrat: Secret Service Director Should Resign

The Secret Service is made up of dedicated professionals who risk life and limb every single day to protect our president and his family. They deserve our respect and gratitude.

But, by any objective standard, there have been too many close calls as of late. Last month, for example, a knife-touting lunatic ran roughshod around the White House (we didn’t find out until much later what really happened), while at the same time the number of instances the Secret Secret has failed to adequately and effectively deal with a threat is appalling. As Katie noted this morning, at the funeral of Nelson Mandela, a “sign language” professional accused of murder and rape stood no more than a few feet from President Obama.

As a result, Director Julia Pierson faced tough questions on the hot seat about these numerous breaches in security yesterday, and now a prominent Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (R-MD), is already floating the idea that she must go (via The Hill):

Cummings said he came away from the meeting "extremely disappointed."

"I've come to the conclusion that my confidence and my trust in this director, Ms. Pierson, has eroded. And I do not feel comfortable with her in that position," he said on MSNBC. That is a swing from just a day earlier when he told reporters the "jury's still out" on her tenure.

His comments were even more blunt during a radio interview with Roland Martin on Wednesday. "I think this lady has to go," Cummings reportedly said, referring to Pierson.

“Agents tell me it’s a miracle an assassination has not already occurred,” Ronald Kessler writes in the latest issue of POLITICO Magazine. Much like any broken federal agency, he argues, the Secret Service suffers from “a culture that punishes those who point out deficiencies and rewards with promotions those who cover up problems.” Sound familiar?

In the final analysis, there can be no leniency or lowered standards or do-overs when it comes to the safety and security of our commander-in-chief and his family. This is something all of us can and should agree on.

UPDATE: Rep. Cummings isn't the only one who wants Pierson to resign.