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Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Abuse of Power and Intimidation Not Limited To The Administration; Is Being Promoted By Senate Democrats.

Today in Washington, D.C. - May 22, 2013
Lois G. Lerner, the IRS official who was over the department that targeted conservative groups, appeared this morning before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  After insisting that she did nothing wrong, she claimed her 5th Amendment rights not to answer any questions. Learner said, "I have not done anything wrong." She claimed, "I have not broken any laws, I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee. And while I would very much like to answer the committee’s questions today, I have been advised by my counsel not to."

The Senate reconvened and resumed consideration of S. 954, the farm bill. At noon, the Senate rejected an amendment to the farm bill from Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), which would have converted the food stamp program into a block grant program for the states by a vote of 36-60.

At 4 PM, the Senate will take up S. Res. 65, the Iran sanctions resolution. At 5 PM, the Senate will vote on passage of S. Res. 65. Votes on other amendments to the farm bill are also possible today.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on the nomination of Srikanth Srinivasan to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, setting up a Thursday cloture vote. When Republicans offered Reid an up-or-down vote on the nomination a few days from now to allow all senators to review his record, Reid objected.

Yesterday, the Senate voted for an amendment to the farm bill from Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and voted down amendments from Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Today the House is considering:
HR 3 — Northern Route Approval Act
HR 271 — Resolving Environmental and Grid Reliability Contracts Act of 2013.
HR 1949 — Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act.

Yesterday, The House passed the following five bills:
H.R. 570 (voice vote) — "To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for annual cost-of-living adjustments to be made automatically by law each year in the rates of disability compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors of certain service-connected disabled veterans."
S. 982 (voice vote) — "To prohibit the Corps of Engineers from taking certain actions to establish a restricted area prohibiting public access to waters downstream of a dam, and for other purposes."
H.R. 1412 (416-0)— "To improve and increase the availability of on-job training and apprenticeship programs carried out by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes."
H.R. 324 (415-0)— "To grant the Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the First Special Service Force, in recognition of its superior service during World War II."
H.R. 1344 (413-0) — "To amend title 49, United States Code, to direct the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security (Transportation Security Administration) to provide expedited air passenger screening to severely injured or disabled members of the Armed Forces and severely injured or disabled veterans, and for other purposes."

In the latest development on the IRS scandal today, The Washington Post reports, “The head of the Internal Revenue Service’s tax-exempt organizations office, faced with allegations of improper targeting of conservative groups, told a House committee Wednesday that she has done nothing wrong but declined to answer questions, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Lois G. Lerner told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in an opening statement that members of the panel have already accused her of providing false information to Congress. . . . Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), the committee chairman, asked her to reconsider, to no avail, then dismissed her and her attorney from the hearing room. . . . The House hearing was the latest in a series of Capitol Hill grillings of officials in connection with an audit by George’s office, which reported last week that it found inappropriate targeting of groups applying for tax-exempt status based on terms such as ‘tea party’ or ‘patriot’ in their case files.”

The Post adds, “Appearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, [former IRS Commissioner Douglas] Shulman said he was ‘saddened’ by some of the agency’s actions regarding applications for tax-exempt status during his tenure. . . . Asked at one point by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) whether he would apologize to Cornyn’s constituents who were unfairly targeted by the IRS, Shulman said that he was not sure what occurred specifically with Texas-based groups and announced his regret that the wrongdoing occurred on his watch. ‘Well, I don’t think that qualifies as an apology,’ Cornyn said. . . . Shulman refused several times to take personal responsibility for the situation or to explicitly apologize.”

Meanwhile, Fox 19 in Cincinnati reports, “The claim that the ongoing IRS scandal is limited to low level employees is falling apart. . . . When an application for tax exempt status comes into the IRS, agents have 270 days to work through that application.  If the application is not processed within those 270 days it automatically triggers flags in the system.  When that happens, individual agents are required to input a status update on that individual case once a month, every month until the case is resolved. Keep in mind, at least 300 groups were targeted out of Cincinnati alone.  Those applications spent anywhere from 18 months to nearly 3 years in the system and some still don't have their non-profit status.  300 groups multiplied by at least 18 months for each group, means thousands of red flags would have been generated in the system. So who in the chain of command would have received all these flags?  The answer, according to the IRS directory, one woman in Cincinnati, Cindy Thomas, the Program Manager of the Tax Exempt Division.  Because all six of our IRS workers have different individual and territory managers, Cindy Thomas is one manager they all have common.”

Adding to the reported shenanigans by the administration, Senate Democrats are advancing intimidation in an effort to aid the White House. There is a possibility that Democrats in the Senate will deploy the so-called “nuclear option” and eliminate the filibuster in order to force through controversial Obama nominees.

During a conference call on Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Tim Scott argued the “nuclear option” should be off the table. “The Democrats keep threatening us with the nuclear option…and you can’t keep threatening the entire body.” And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell today listed the threat of the “nuclear option” as just one part in a culture of political intimidation in Washington along with, among other things, the blossoming IRS scandal.

The Washington Free Beacon reports, "Some Democrats fear that Republicans could block Obama’s appointees for secretary of labor and the National Labor Relations Board after Scott and his GOP colleagues on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) grilled the nominees during a hearing last week.

In the HELP hearing last week, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, proposed using the nuclear option if the Democrats were unable to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to confirm the nominees.

“We will not get 60 votes…[so] I think we should change the rules and take a majority vote to not only see that these people are seated so that they can do their job but that other nominees who have been clearly obstructed also have a chance to do their job,” he said to committee Republicans. 'You guys just happen to be in the way right now . . .'"

The Beacon also reports, "HELP Republicans twice delayed Tom Perez’s nomination to head the Department of Labor, citing his failure to cooperate with a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigation into allegations that he used a private email account to conduct government business on more than 1,000 occasions — a tactic associated with dodging disclosure laws. Perez is also being investigated for an alleged quid pro quo that cost taxpayers up to $200 million.

Perez passed through committee 12-10 on Thursday morning; no Republicans supported the nomination."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in a press release titled Threat of Nuclear Option Is Really a Pretext for Dem Power Grab said, “Recently, we’ve seen troubling signs that there are some in the Executive Branch who would use the power of the federal government to intimidate political opponents. . . .  reports that the IRS targeted conservative citizens’ groups for harassing and discriminatory treatment simply because they sought to exercise their First Amendment rights of association and speech.

“Or during the debate on Obamacare, when the Department of Health and Human Services issued a gag order on insurance plans in an attempt to prevent them from telling their customers about problems with the bill. Now, there are published reports that the same Department is trying to shake down some of those same companies for money so it can try to convince Americans to finally like Obamacare. And over at the FCC, the President’s allies are trying to shut down or make it difficult for people who want to buy advertising to exercise their First Amendment rights to criticize the Administration.

It all points to a culture of political intimidation. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that the culture of intimidation is simply confined to the Executive Branch.

“The Administration’s allies in the Senate are trying to intimidate their political opponents as well. What I’m talking about, is the persistent threat by the Majority to break the rules of the Senate in order to change the Rules of the Senate — in other words, to use the nuclear option — if they don’t get their way.

“For example, Senate Democrats were incensed that Republicans had the temerity to exercise their Advice and Consent responsibility to block a grand total of one — that’s right, one — nominee to the D.C. Circuit. What did our Democrat colleagues do in response? They consulted with the White House and pledged to pack the D.C. Circuit with appointees, quote, ‘one way or the other’ — meaning using the nuclear option.

“They are not doing this because the D.C. Circuit is burdened with cases. Far from it. The D.C. Circuit is one of the least busy courts in the country. No, they want to use the nuclear option to pack the D.C. Circuit so it can rubberstamp the President’s big government agenda—the same big government we’ve seen at the IRS and elsewhere. But that’s not the limit of the culture of intimidation here in the Senate. Let’s look at the NLRB situation.

“Despite the story that the Administration and Senate Democrats want to spin, Senate Republicans did not block the President’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board; rather, it was the President who blocked the nominees to the Republican slots on the NLRB so he could—again—pack a powerful branch of government, in this case the NLRB.

“The Administration sat on one of two Democrat vacancies at the NLRB for four months. It then waited until the middle of December in 2011 to send up both nominees for the Democrat seats on the NLRB, while refusing to send up any of the nominees for the Republican seats. In fact, the Administration sat on the Republican nominees to the NLRB for nine months. Then, with no Republican nominees to the NLRB before the Senate, the President purported to ‘recess appoint’ the two Democrat nominees to the Board when their nominations had been before the Senate for less than three weeks. It was so fast, the Democrat Majority didn’t even have time to schedule a hearing.

Our Democrat colleagues did not defend the Senate from the President’s unprecedented and unconstitutional power grab; Republicans had to do that. And now that the D.C. Circuit has found these purported appointments to be unconstitutional (and other circuit courts are agreeing with its reasoning), what is the Democrat Majority threatening to do? It’s planning to double-down and aid the Administration with this power grab at the NRLB.

“Specifically,
as with their effort to pack the D.C. Circuit, the Majority is threatening to use the nuclear option so they can push through unlawfully appointed board members over the principled objections of Senate Republicans. It doesn’t seem that our Democrat colleagues want to respect the rules of the Senate, or that they want to respect the rulings of our federal courts. It appears they just want to enable the President and organized labor to exercise power at a powerful federal agency without anyone getting in the way. . . . These threats to use the nuclear option because of obstruction are just pretexts for a power grab.

“The Senate has confirmed 19 of the President’s judicial nominees so far this year. By this point in his second term, President Bush had a grand total of four judicial confirmations.

“Moreover, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee just voted unanimously to support the President’s current nomination to the D.C. Circuit. And the Senate Republican Conference agreed yesterday to hold an up and down vote on his nomination, which has only been on the Executive Calendar since Monday, to occur after the Memorial Day Recess. That way, Members who do not serve on the Judiciary Committee could have a week to evaluate this important nomination. Instead, the Majority Leader chose to jam the Minority — he rejected our offer for an up or down vote and filed cloture on the nomination just one day after it appeared on the Executive Calendar.

“This is another example of the Majority manufacturing a crisis to justify heavy-handed behavior. As for the NLRB, Republicans are willing to support nominees who were not unlawfully appointed, and who have not been unlawfully exercising governmental power. And regarding nominees generally, Senate Republicans have been willing to work with the President to get his team in place.

“The Secretary of Energy was confirmed 97 to 0.
“The Secretary of the Interior was confirmed 87 to 11.
“The Secretary of the Treasury was confirmed 71 to 26.
“The Director of the Office of Management and Budget was confirmed 96 to 0.
“And the Secretary of State was confirmed 94 to 3 - just 7 days after the Senate received his nomination.

“So these continued threats to use the nuclear option point to the Majority’s own culture of intimidation here in the Senate.


Tags: Washington, D.C., White House, Senate Democrats, intimidation, abuse of power, nuclear option, NLRB nominations To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 2:28 PM - Post Link

2 Comments:

Anonymous Kevin Pritchett said...

"Not surprising!!"

5/23/2013  
Anonymous Suzanne Everritt said...

I saw a BBC commentary on this. Wouldn't you think that the British would be objective in their reporting? They reported the same basic idea. So this is really putting a damper on what journalists can report or say. 1st Amendment rights?"

5/23/2013  

Post a Comment

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