Saturday, January 20, 2018

Democrats shut government down, but they're still struggling to explain why

By Thomas Binion


 © Greg Nash

While they may not be able to admit it publicly (or even to themselves), it’s clear that the Democrats have deliberately manufactured a government shutdown.

Banking on a complicit media and a confused electorate, they have now fully embraced a political tactic they decried for eight years under President Obama.

Charges that this shutdown is the fault of Republicans, or that Democrats haven’t been part of the negotiations leading to the spending bill they rejected, are not true. 

Instead what’s obvious is that Democrats methodically engineered a situation where the government could shut down over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Here are the steps they employed to get us here.

Step one: Democrats have yet to agree to a long-term spending deal that would allow Congress to appropriate funds on an annual basis instead of passing short-term continuing resolutions. 

This fiscal year began three and half months ago, and under ordinary circumstances the funding question would have been resolved long ago, and the opportunity to shut down the government wouldn’t even exist.

However, Democrats blocked a necessary increase in Pentagon funding in a naked attempt to leverage national security to win more funding for domestic programs. 

For that reason, Congress passed three short-term bills. Democrats blocked passage of the fourth.

Step two: Democrats rejected numerous offers to get just want they want, which is a permanent solution for DACA. 

While DACA is not in any way related to government spending, the Democrats have taken spending hostage in an attempt to force Republicans to deal on DACA.

There’s just one problem: Republicans are perfectly willing to deal on DACA. 

Trump and even the most conservative Republican leaders have proposed a true compromise and even written legislation that reflects it. Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas) proposed legislation that grants permanent amnesty to DACA recipients, in addition to common-sense border security and enforcement provisions. 

Having rejected this proposal, Democrats are claiming they’ll block government funding until a more favorable compromise to them emerges.

Step three: The Democrats distracted from the reality of the negotiations by creating a media circus around a comment that President Trump allegedly made during a private meeting — a comment the president denies.

Step four: The Democrats have used the alleged comment to confuse people, charging that the president is a racist rather admitting the truth, which is that he sincerely wants a DACA deal. Otherwise, their manufactured shutdown wouldn’t make any sense at all in the face of a president who wants to give them what they want.

Step five: Having refused a long-term deal (step one), the Democrats then turned to refusing a short-term stopgap. 

This is the step that really brings the shutdown into play. The House proposed and passed a four-week continuing resolution that would have kept the government running while the two parties continued to hash out DACA and the long-term spending bill. Instead, Democrats rejected that offer of more time and instead opted to all discretionary spending lapse.

Step six: Democrats have cranked up the blame machine. Republicans have majorities in the House and in the Senate. This is a fact that Democrats believe makes them blameless in the Senate, but anyone who buys this line is ignorant of the Senate’s rules. 

Any spending bill must have 60 votes to pass the Senate. That means that while Republicans enjoy the majority, they don’t control the outcome by themselves.

Almost every Republican senator is ready to support a short-term spending bill. It is only the Democrat senators that are blocking its passage. If Republicans really did “control” the Senate, as Democrats are saying, the government would have remained open.

As has been the case in each and every policy debate so far, compromise between the parties has been elusive. A quick review of the facts reveals exactly why. 

Democrats, exerting the leverage they have over what can pass the Senate, will block any compromise.

While feigning interest in a compromise, they continue to block any proposal that doesn’t give them exactly what they want and only what they want.

In short order, we’ll all find out whether the American people are clued in to this brand of brinksmanship.

Thomas Binion is the director of Congressional and Executive Branch Relations at The Heritage Foundation.


Friday, January 19, 2018

USA Or KGB? Bombshell Memo Details FISA Abuses So Serious It Could Bring Changes To The FBI/DOJ



With shutdown theater in high gear, some stories get buried. 

The government runs out of money at midnight tonight, but there was another story that was trending on social media last night. 

The House Intelligence Committee voted to release a four-page memo on FISA abuses that have disturbed lawmakers to their core. Some were saying the actions described were akin to the KGB. 

The vote to release the memo to all members was along party lines, and House Republicans seem adamant that the information should be released to the public. 

The consequences of these abuses have some members of Congress commenting that deep, structural changes could be coming to the Department of Justice and the FBI (via Fox News):

A four-page memo circulating in Congress that reveals alleged United States government surveillance abuses is being described by lawmakers as “shocking,” “troubling” and “alarming,” with one congressman likening the details to KGB activity in Russia.

Speaking with Fox News, the lawmakers said they could not yet discuss the contents of the memo they reviewed on Thursday after it was released to members by the House Intelligence Committee. But they say the memo should be immediately made public.

“It is so alarming the American people have to see this,” Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan said.

“It's troubling. It is shocking,” North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows said. “Part of me wishes that I didn't read it because I don’t want to believe that those kinds of things could be happening in this country that I call home and love so much.”

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz said he believed people could lose their jobs after the memo is released.

“I believe the consequence of its release will be major changes in people currently working at the FBI and the Department of Justice,” he said, referencing DOJ officials Rod Rosenstein and Bruce Ohr.

The DOJ and FBI have been subjected to increased scrutiny by Congress and some in the media over the allegation that the Trump dossier may have been (and by saying that, I mean most likely) was the spark that prompted wiretaps for Paul Manafort and Carter Page, two aides to then-candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 election. 

It’s an allegation that will continue to fester since the FBI refuses to turn over documents related to the file, which was a Democrat-funded opposition research project executed by research firm Fusion GPS, who hired a former MI6 operative to collect information. The Hillary Clinton campaign retained Fusion for this purpose. 

Bruce Ohr's wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion and he met with the firm and tried to conceal those meetings. He was then demoted once this fact became known.

Release the memo on the alleged FISA abuses and allow Congress to go through the FBI files on the dossier. 

It’s about time since the Russian collusion narrative has decayed into a rotting corpse of baseless claims. 

There is still no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to tilt the 2016 election. 

There seems to be something more concerning the FBI, DOJ, and apparently now how FISA is used by the intelligence community. 

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) says it raises more questions about the upper crust of the Russia probe headed by Robert Muller. 


Schumer Shutdown: Senate Democrats Brag About Having Votes to Shut Down Government via Filibuster



There was a time, in the very recent past, when Democrats insisted that a partial government shutdown would usher in the apocalypse -- overwrought framing they promiscuously apply to numerous political debates -- and any attempt to extract policy concessions during a shutdown showdown was extreme recklessness.

Obama White House officials likened lawmakers seeking to leverage fiscal "cliff" scenarios for ideological gain to hostage takers, kidnappers, arsonists and suicide bombers.

There was also a time, in the very recent past, when Democrats demanded an extension of CHIP, a healthcare program for children (proposals to do just that they voted against, over funding mechanism disagreements).

More than a dozen upper chamber Democrats also lined up to vote with Republicans against the implementation of Obamacare's harmful, job-killing and innovation-stifling medical device tax.

Last night, House Republicans overcame internal divisions and passed a government funding bill that would keep the lights on for another month, would allocate money to keep CHIP running for six years, and would further delay a handful of unpopular Obamacare taxes.

Nearly every lower chamber Democrat voted no.  Or as Democrats would likely put it if the roles were reversed, nearly every House Democrat voted against the children and the troops, and in favor of shutdown chaos.  Monsters.

Attention now shifts to the Senate, where Democrats are boasting to reporters that they've marshaled the requisite votes to block GOP attempts to keep the federal government open, via a filibuster.

Even if every Senate Republican voted for the House-passed plan (Mitch McConnell's caucus has a few members who've vowed to vote no), 60 votes are required to overcome a potential minority filibuster.

And Democrats are stating, quite openly, that they're ready to filibuster the GOP spending bill and force a shutdown unless they get their way on immigration.

Chuck and Nancy are banking on two dynamics here: First, that the public will be inclined to blame any shutdown on the party that is intrinsically more hostile toward government (not a bad bet), and second, that the press will help them blame Republicans -- or at least muddy the waters (also a decent wager).
  
But the dynamics are so clear on this one that the media has had less room for obfuscation.  I'm not sure Democrats were counting on headlines like this:
_____________




BREAKING: Senior Democratic aide tells NBC News that Democrats have enough votes to block the spending bill in the Senate and prevent Republicans from keeping the government up and running
______________

It's hard to spin that as anything other than a 'Schumer Shutdown,' as Republicans are aptly labeling it on social media.  Why is the Senate Minority Leader promising to kill a bill that would keep the government open and give years-long stability to a healthcare program he believes is vital?  Because of pressure from his left-wing base over DACA.

Put bluntly, Senate Democrats are prepared to shut down the government on behalf of illegal immigrants.  I've made clear that I favor a DREAM Act compromise and support ongoing negotiations to that end (though initial drafts of a potential agreement are far too weak on border security and enforcement).

But the DACA deadline is about a month-and-a-half away, with good-faith bipartisan talks still underway.  Needlessly tying a specific DREAM Act outcome to keeping the government funded, especially while eschewing a CHIP extension, looks foolish and unreasonable.  But it's what the base wants. Thus, whiplash.

A senior aide to House Speaker Paul Ryan laid things out clearly and effectively in a tweet storm last evening.

But that's what Republicans did under Obama, critics will object.  Yes, although the GOP had at least won back some power on the promise of stopping the Obama agenda by that point, which they were exerting.  Either way, it didn't work out especially well for the party, even if it didn't end up hurting them in the following national election.

And Democrats condemned those tactics in the most hyperbolic of terms, blasting the GOP as unconscionably irresponsible.

Now Democrats find themselves out of power, so they're eagerly "taking hostages."  It seems as though political parties radically alter their own positions and rhetoric when their electoral fates change.  What a surprise.  I'll leave you with my analysis from this morning on the Schumer Shutdown, and why the Democrats' spin is weak.

Keep the government open, and keep the DACA talks open, too.  The latter an important goal, but there's still time to address and achieve it.  Two issues, two tracks.  By the way, if Democrats do force a (partial) shutdown, I'll highlight this thought experiment from last year.

How they could play it: "We regret that Democrats have decided to shut down the government on behalf of illegal immigrants whose ordeal we also support resolving.  This is unwise, in our view, and we are eager to reopen the government as soon as possible.  But as long as Democrats insist that it remain closed, the Trump administration -- unlike previous Democratic administrations -- will do everything in its power to make this partial government shutdown as unobtrusive and painless as possible for the American people."  

A teachable moment, perhaps?  

By the way, how can someone like Dianne Feinstein say this, then vote against a reasonable CR?


Feinstein: People Will Die if Government Shuts Down But I Might Vote to Shut It Down Anyway



Yesterday Democrats admitted their goal is to shut down the government in an effort to use the move against Republicans for the 2018-midterm elections.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein issued a dire warning Thursday evening that a government shutdown will lead to people dying (not true) and other terrible things.

"Shutting down the government is a very serious thing. People die, accidents happen. You don't know. Necessary functions can cease," Feinstein told CNN. "There is no specific list you can look at and make a judgment: 'Well everything is going to be just fine.' You can't make that judgment. So, I think it's a last resort. And I'm really hopeful we don't get to it."

That claim is interesting, considering she doesn't know yet whether she will vote to keep the government open

“I don’t know how I would vote right now on a CR, OK?” she said in the same interview. 

If people really are going to die as a result of the pending shutdown, you'd think she'd know by now how important her decision is. Instead, her politically motivated posturing and demagoguery on the issue just became extremely transparent.  

Meanwhile, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney called Democrats on their bluff this morning at the White House and President Trump has asked Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for a meeting this afternoon. 

"OMB is preparing for what we're calling the Schumer Shutdown.

"It still surprises me, and I've been through some of these before, that Democrats are opposing a bill they don't oppose. 

"They are for clean CRs, they are for the extension of the CHIP program. They don't oppose anything in the bill, but they are opposing the bill," Mulvaney said. "We do not want a shutdown, but if Mr. Schumer wants this, he is in a position to inflict this on the American people."


List of Tax Reform Good News

By John Kartch


Below is a list of examples of good news -- pay raises, bonuses, expansions, 401(k) increases -- arising from tax reform.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The list of 217 companies goes from A to Z and takes up 71 pages! We've posted only the first few. Click here to see the entire list.]

AAON   (Tulsa, Oklahoma) – this heating and cooling firm gave $1,000 bonus checks to 2,000 employees:

“We are very appreciative of all AAON employees and want to commemorate the passing of this historic, economy-stimulating tax reform law. While most employees are shareholders of the company and benefit as a result of the new tax law, we felt it appropriate to provide a more direct recognition of their importance to AAON’s future success.” -- CEO Norman H. Asbjornson in a Jan. 2, 2018 AAON press release

AccuWeather (State College, Pennsylvania) – year-end bonuses to all employees. (Approx. 450 – 500 employees)

“The bonuses are possible due to the company's robust financial performance in 2017 and strong confidence in the growing U.S. and global economy now that the Tax Bill has passed.” – Dec. 26, 2017 AccuWeather press release

Advance Financial (Tennessee) – increase in 401(k) match; increase in profit sharing; increase in charitable donations:

“Because we believed the new administration was committed to doing what it takes to get America’s economy back on track, we are already ahead of the curve this year in terms of capital investments. We dramatically sped up our plans to open new locations – we’re opening the 85th one this morning in Jackson – and hire more employees – we are bringing on 100 new people in January. We have also exponentially expanded our reach outside of Tennessee. In 2017, for the first time, we began offering our services outside the state via the Internet and today we are in 10 states other than Tennessee.“ – Tina Hodges, CEO and chief experience officer for Advance Financial, in a Jan. 5, 2018 Advance Financial press release

Advanced Sciences and Technologies, LLC (Berlin, New Jersey) – increased 401(k) match for employees.

Aflac – increase 401(k) match from 50% to 100% on the first 4% of compensation plus one-time $500 contribution to every employee’s 401(k); $250 million increase in overall U.S. investment.

"We are pleased that these tax reforms provide Aflac with an opportunity to increase our investments in initiatives that reflect our company values; providing for our employees in the long and short term, ensuring future growth for our company and giving back to the community." -- Aflac Chairman and CEO Dan Amos

Alaska Airlines -- $1,000 bonuses for 22,000 employees

Amarillo National Bank – $1,000 salary increases for over 300 employees:

Christmas came early for more than 300 employees at Amarillo National Bank when they found out they'd be getting a $1,000 pay raise.  

The bosses at ANB are saying the pay increase is because of the GOP's tax reform bill.

The raises are the highest salary and wage increases in the bank's history.

313 of the bank's 600 full-time, non-salaried employees will get an immediate raise of $1,000. 

ANB says they also plan on investing another $2.5 million into its downtown properties.

Executive Vice President William Ware says the bank will be saving a ton of money with the new tax bill so they're investing those savings back into their most valuable asset, their employees. 

Executive Vice President William Ware said, "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we know with the savings from the tax reform bill, we want to reinvest that back into our bank and the first place we are going to put it is into our employees. That's our most important asset and we feel like that's a great thing to do." 

ANB has 18 branches in Amarillo, Canyon, Borger and Lubbock. – Dec. 21, 2017 MyHighPlains.com article excerpt

Americollect – $300 - $500 bonuses for 250 employees

“Today, Congress passed the tax reform bill; our company will be taxed less because of it. Since we will now be taxed less, I wanted to take this opportunity and utilize this financial benefit to give back to each of you, our teammates, by directly impacting your paycheck in the form of a bonus!” -- Americollect President and CEO Kenlyn T. Gretz

American Airlines -- $1,000 bonuses for every employee (excluding officers). The bonuses will total $130 million. AA had 127,600 employees as of Sept. 2017.

“Recent tax reform has received much publicity. While the company does not yet pay cash taxes due to our enormous losses in the past, there is no doubt that our country’s new tax structure will have positive long-term benefits for American. We will be able to invest even more in aircraft and facilities, and we will be able to do so with even greater confidence about the future. As we analyze those potential future benefits, our leadership team, backed by our Board of Directors, considered how a portion of that positive impact might be directly shared with the very people who produce the profits at American—all of you. 

We are pleased to announce that in light of this new tax structure and in recognition of our outstanding team members, American will distribute $1,000 to each team member (excluding Officers) at our mainline and wholly owned regional carriers. These distributions will total approximately $130 million and will be made in the first quarter of 2018.” – American Airlines press release

American Bank – $1,000 bonuses for 60 employees

“President and CEO Mark W. Jaindl stated, “Beginning in 2018, we expect to see benefits from the recent tax reform due to lower corporate tax rates.  As we celebrate the holiday season and prepare to close out another year of growth at American Bank, the Board of Directors and senior management want to give back to our team members who are directly responsible for our success.”

Mr. Jaindl continued, “We expect the actions taken by Congress and the President will have a material positive impact on growth throughout the country.  As a result, we anticipate our hiring efforts will increase in 2018.” –American Bank press release

American Community Bank & Trust (Woodstock, Illinois) -- $500 bonus to each employee; additional employees will be hired

American Savings Bank – $1,000 bonuses to 1,150 employees; base wage increase from $12.21 to $15.25

AndyMark, Inc. (Kokomo, Indiana) – This mechanical and electrical parts supplier will be able to expand the business and hire more employees thanks to tax reform:

Andy Moser, president and owner of AndyMark, which operates from a facility on North Washington Street and manufactures and distributes mechanical and electrical parts for the competitive robotics market, said savings from the tax cut has accelerated his plans to hire more workers.

He said the company currently employs 25 full-time workers and up to 30 part-time and seasonal workers. Now, Moser anticipates doubling his workforce in the next five to 10 years.

“I think the tax bill is going to accelerate our growth,” he said. “We want more diversity with our business and more vertical integration, which requires more staff, and the tax cut its going to accelerate all that.” – Jan. 14, Kokomo Tribune article excerpt

Anfinson Farm Store (Cushing, Iowa) -- $1,000 bonuses and 5% pay raises for employees

Anfinson Farm Store, a family business in Cushing, Iowa (population 223), has awarded $1,000 bonuses and raised wages 5% for all full-time employees as a result of tax reform. The good news was delivered to employees in person just after Christmas.

In an interview with Americans for Tax Reform, store owner John Anfinson said tax reform will boost “money that will be available for the business overall and I want to use it in the right places.”

Anfinson has helmed the store for about 45 years. His grandfather started the business as a general store in 1918, so they will soon celebrate 100 years of operation. His customers chiefly grow corn, soybeans, and alfalfa.

“For us, we have a small number of employees. I work every day shoulder to shoulder with everyone,” said Anfinson. “When you work every day with a group of people, you know them and their family and you appreciate everything they do. I value them and the interest they take in our customers. They are the most valuable asset in any business.” – Jan. 9, 2018 ATR blog post

Apple (Cupertino, California) -- $2,500 employee bonuses in the form of restricted stock units; $30 billion in additional capital expenditures over five years; 20,000 new employees will be hired; increased support of coding education and science, technology, engineering, arts, and math; increased support for U.S. manufacturing:

     Bonuses:

Apple Inc. told employees Wednesday that it’s issuing a bonus of $2,500 worth of restricted stock units, following the introduction of the new U.S. tax law, according to people familiar with the matter.

The iPhone maker will begin issuing stock grants to most employees worldwide in the coming months, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The move comes on the same day Apple said it would bring back most of its cash from overseas and spend $30 billion in the U.S. over the next five years, funding an additional technical support campus, data centers and 20,000 new employees.

Apple confirmed the bonuses in response to a Bloomberg inquiry Wednesday. –Jan. 17, 2018  Bloomberg News article excerpt

     Capital expenditures, etc:

Apple expects to invest over $30 billion in capital expenditures in the US over the next five years and create over 20,000 new jobs through hiring at existing campuses and opening a new one.

Building on the initial success of the Advanced Manufacturing Fund announced last spring, Apple is increasing the size of the fund from $1 billion to $5 billion. The fund was established to support innovation among American manufacturers and help others establish a presence in the US. It is already backing projects with leading manufacturers in Kentucky and rural Texas.

Apple works with over 9,000 American suppliers — large and small businesses in all 50 states — and each of Apple’s core products relies on parts or materials made in the US or provided by US-based suppliers.

Apple, which has a 40-year history in education, also plans to accelerate its efforts across the US in support of coding education as well as programs focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM). – Jan. 17, 2018 Apple press release excerpts

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Bombshell House Intelligence report exposing extensive FISA abuse could lead to the removal of senior government officials


A review of a classified document outlining what is described as extensive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuse was made available to all House members Thursday and the revelations could lead to the removal of senior officials in the FBI and Department of Justice, several sources with knowledge of the document stated. 

These sources say the report is “explosive,” stating they would not be surprised if it leads to the end of Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation into President Trump and his associates.

The House Intelligence Committee passed the motion along party lines Thursday to make the classified report alleging extensive ‘FISA Abuse’ related to the controversial dossier available to all House members. 

The report contains information regarding the dossier that alleges President Trump and members of his team colluded with the Russians in the 2016 presidential election. Some members of the House viewed the document in a secure room Thursday.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., offered the motion on Thursday to make the Republican majority-authored report available to the members.

“The document shows a troubling course of conduct and we need to make the document available, so the public can see it,” said a senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the document.

“Once the public sees it, we can hold the people involved accountable in a number of ways.”

The government official said that after reading the document “some of these people should no longer be in the government.”

The document also apparently outlines “several problematic” issues with how FISA warrants were “packaged, and used” state several sources with knowledge of the report.

Over the past year, whistleblowers in the law enforcement and intelligence community have revealed to Congress what they believe to be extensive abuse with regard to FISA surveillance, as previously reported. 

The dossier was used in part as evidence for a warrant to surveil members of the Trump campaign, according to a story published this month

Former British spy Christopher Steele, who compiled the dossier in 2016, was hired by embattled research firm Fusion GPS. The firm’s founder is Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who has already testified before Congress in relation to the dossier.

In October, The Washington Post revealed for the first time that it was the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC that financed Fusion GPS.

Congressional members are hopeful that the classified information will be declassified and released to the public.

“We probably will get this stuff released by the end of the month,” stated a congressional member, who asked not to be named.

But the government official, who viewed the document said “it will be tough for a lot of people to see this and especially the media, which has been attempting to deemphasize the dossier. It’s going to punch a hole in their collusion narrative.”

The House vote to make the report available to all members is a major step in exposing the long-guarded classified documents obtained by the House Intelligence Committee over the past year. It allows members of the House to view the report and could quickly lead to a motion to declassify the report for the public, numerous House members told this reporter.

“It’s a (House Intelligence) committee document that deals with the assessment on the Department of Justice, FBI and the oversight work that is being conducted by the committee,” said a congressional source, which spoke on condition that they not be named.