Capital Briefs November 23, 2009

REID BILL’S TRUE COST: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released its estimate of the costs of the Obamacare bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) and the numbers are shocking. Although supporters note that this bill costs $849 billion over the first 10 years, the CBO report reveals that the true cost of this bill is $2.5 trillion over 10 years of full implementation (2014-2023). Furthermore, taxes will go up $493.6 billion and, despite AARP’s support, its members will be disturbed to learn Medicare will be cut $464.6 billion. The 2,074-page bill permits the use of accounting gimmicks that will allow federal dollars to go to plans covering abortion. The bill includes a government-run plan that will have premiums that are somewhat higher than private plans and a $28 billion new tax on employers who do not provide government-approved healthcare plans.  

HAMILTON FIGHT OVER, CHEN UP NEXT: To no one’s surprise, the move by Majority Leader Reid to impose cloture and thus permit the Senate to vote on President Obama’s nomination of controversial jurist David Hamilton to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals passed resoundingly by a vote of 70-to-29 last week. Hamilton’s radical record including associations with ACORN and the ACLU made him a conservative target. One pleasant surprise was that Sen. Lindsay Graham (R.-SC), who often disappoints conservatives, voted against cloture on Hamilton. Senate sources say the next major “judge war” will be over the President’s nomination of Edward Chen to the U.S. District Court in Northern California. An ACLU member and now U.S. magistrate judge in San Francisco, Chen has a long history of provocative statements on race and civil liberties. Ten days after 9/11, he voiced worries that America would revert to “irresistible forces of racism, nativism, and scapegoating.” In a speech on May 4, 2006, Chen referred to “secret surveillance of Americans without a judicial warrant, secret no-fly lists [and] secret detention of nearly a thousand American residents held without charges.” He offered no proof of this wholesale detention.  

LIEBERMAN UP: At a time when leading Connecticut Democrats are publicly are making it clear that Sen. Joe Lieberman is not welcome back in the party that rejected him in ’06, the senator who was then re-elected as an independent that year is growing in popularity. A just-completed Quinnipiac Poll showed that voters statewide approve of Lieberman’s performance 49% to 44%. Among Republicans the approval is 74% to 20% and independents 52% to 40%. But Democrats registered disapproval of their 2000 vice presidential nominee by 62% to 31%. The latest figures come as Lieberman has joined with Senate Republicans to oppose any health care plan with public option.   

PROBE CAIR, LAWMAKERS ASK IRS: Six Republican members of Congress last week called on the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the 501c(3) non-profit status of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). In charging that CAIR is in violation of the U.S. Tax Code and of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 by its failure to register as a federal lobbying organization, the lawmakers cited the group’s “Policy-net” to alert congressional staffers about key issues, its own admission it had lobbied Congress on the Patriot Act in 2005, its annual expenditure of $25,000 on a “lobby day on the Hill;” and the “E-Mail Action Alert” through which its chapters ask the public to contact members of Congress to support or oppose legislation. Along with Sen. Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.), the signers of the letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman were Republican Representatives John Shadegg (Ariz.), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Sue Myrick (N.C.), Paul Broun (Ga.), and Patrick McHenry (N.C.).  

REID FLIP-FLOPS ON GITMO FUNDS: Just over three years after he voted to support the policy that Guantanamo inmates “should not be transferred stateside into facilities in American communities,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) reversed himself last week when he voted to make funds available to construct new facilities or modify existing ones for the Gitmo prisoners soon to be on U.S. soil. By a vote of 57 to 43 on November 17, the Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R.-Okla.) that would have prohibited the use of taxpayers for this purpose. In voting against the Inhofe measure, Reid not only flip-flopped on his vote six months ago for an amendment to the war supplemental that banned the use of federal funds for transferring to or incarcerating prisoners from Guantanamo in the U.S., but also reversed his vote on July 19, 2007, to support the policy of not transferring the detainees. Among Democratic senators who joined Reid in voting for that proposal in ’07 were Joe Biden (Del.), Hillary Clinton (N.Y.), and Ken Salazar (Colo.), now secretary of the Interior.

SARAH’S VALUES ARE OURS, SAYS GOP: For all of the network polls last week showing a majority of American voters don’t think Sarah Palin is qualified to be President, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee’s positions are apparently very much in tune with those of the voters in her party. According to a just-completed Rasmussen poll, 59% of Republicans nationwide say Palin shares their values and only 21% say that she does not. This is in striking contrast to Rasmussen’s survey on Congress, which showed that 74% of GOP voters say their party’s representatives in Congress don’t represent their views. The same poll showed that only 18% of Republican voters believe their elected officials have done a good job representing the party’s base.