|5:43 PM, Mar 11, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Arkansas's Democratic senator Mark Pryor won't say why he believes Tom Cotton, the Republican congressman who is challenging him this year, "gives off" a "sense of entitlement" to the Senate seat because of Cotton's military service. In a recent interview with NBC News, Pryor said, "I think that's part of this sense of entitlement, that he gives off, that almost is like, 'I served my country, therefore let me into the Senate.' That's not the way it works in Arkansas."
Cotton, a first-term congressman, is a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, serving as an Army captain.
THE WEEKLY STANDARD asked Tuesday if Pryor could explain what he meant by "entitlement."
"We've already done a statement on that," Pryor said. He walked away without further comment.
Here's Pryor's official statement:
Of course I’m grateful for Congressman Cotton's service, but this campaign is about two very different records in Congress and it’s Cotton’s irresponsible votes against Medicare, Social Security and affordable student loans that matter most to Arkansas voters. He can play misleading political gotcha games all he wants; I’ll keep working hard for veterans.
A new poll shows Cotton leading Pryor in the race by nine points.
5:07 PM, Mar 11, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
On a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services insisted that March 31 is the firm deadline to sign up for Obamacare. "We have no plans to extend the open enrollment period," HHS official Julie Bataille said. "In fact, we don't actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014."
A reporter followed up, asking why the administration could delay many other parts of the law but not this one. Michael Hash, who directs the Office of Health Reform at HHS, replied that the law states that the HHS secretary must set the open enrollment dates by June 2012, which Secretary Sebelius did. "Once that 2014 open enrollment period has been set, they are set permanently," Hash said. He did not explain why the administration has the authority to ignore other statutory deadlines to implement the employer mandate or cancel private health insurance plans not eligible for "grandfathering."
The president's unilateral delays of various parts of the law has drawn a lot of criticism from Republicans and constitutional experts. "Last week, Obama underlined what this means for our system: The administration unilaterally increased the transition time for individuals to obtain the level of insurance mandated by the Affordable Care Act," George Washington law professor Jonathan Turley wrote in Sunday's issue of the Los Angeles Times. "There is no statutory authority for the change — simply the raw assertion of executive power."
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:38 PM, Mar 11, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD Podcast with staff writer Jay Cost on how the GOP can be competitive in deep-blue regions like New England.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
4:29 PM, Mar 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The White House pool reporter says that President Obama has gone shopping at Gap in New York City:
At 4:08, the motorcade arrived at the Gap store at East 42nd and Third Avenue.
President Obama is doing a little shopping for his wife and daughters. More details to come shortly.
From a White House official:
In his State of the Union address, the President called for businesses to raise workers’ wages, and today the President will visit a Gap store to show his support for Gap Inc.’s decision to increase wages for their US based employees.
Mark Knoller has more:
UPDATE: More here:
Upon arriving at the nearly empty Gap store at East 42nd and Third Avenue, President Obama told a sales associate that he was doing some shopping for his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha. The employee offered a quick tour of some of the options, pointing out stacks of sweaters and some new spring arrivals.
Eventually, Obama and the sales associate delved into sweaters in a rainbow of colors, holding up each choice and assessing what his daughters might like. The employee recommended a V-neck sweater, but the president gravitated toward the slightly more modest round-neck options, saying, "I'm worried the V-neck is going to slip." Eventually, he settled on a gray and white striped sweater and a bright coral sweater for his daughters.
The sales associate suggested that perhaps the first lady might like a hoodie, but the president said she seldom wears hoodies. He said she would like athletic gear and quickly picked out a blue workout jacket.
"I think the ladies will be impressed by my style sense," Obama said.
"Who's going to ring me up?" he asked as he approached the counter.
A longtime Gap named Sonia volunteered, saying, "He's better looking in person."
Although the employees tried to sell Obama on signing up for a Gap card -- which would have made him eligible for a discount -- the president declined. "I've got one card," he said as he presented his credit card.
Obama said he doesn't always carry his wallet but made sure to bring it for this excursion. When Sonya told him that he could swipe his own card on the countertop card reader, Obama quipped, "Oh wow. So, you can sign the machine?" As the reporters in the pool started scribbling, he said he was teasing, adding, "They had these around the last time I shopped."
After paying for his purchases, the president spoke about the importance of raising the minimum wage and praised Gap for taking the initiative to bump up employees' salaries. He said he would continue to push Congress to take action, but the Gap already was helping thousands of employees by raising salaries.
"It's not only good for them and their families, it's also good for the entire economy," he said. "I want to congratulate the Gap for doing the right thing."
4:10 PM, Mar 11, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Harry Reid claims that recent bad weather is more evidence climate change exists and needs a response from the federal government. Reid's comments today come just after the Senate's all-night "talkathon," during which several Democratic senators spoke back-to-back about climate change.
"Every day that goes by, every week that goes, every month that goes by, every year that goes by ... there’s more evidence of the dangers of climate change," Reid said Tuesday afternoon, in response to a question from THE WEEKLY STANDARD. "The more climate changes, the more extreme the weather gets, and we’ve seen that in spades."
Asked about Democrats' inaction on climate change legislation when the party had a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate early in the Obama administration, Reid said Democrats were busy with other legislation, including Obamacare.
"We didn’t have sixty votes [but] for only a very short period of time. We had a number of other things we were working on, including the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank, so I think it’s appropriate people understand, which we’re trying to explain to everyone how difficult things are with the weather," he said.
Reid also criticized those who don't say climate change is a problem requiring federal action are "deniers."
"These deniers are, as each day as the weather gets worse, are becoming less credible," Reid said today in the Capitol.
The temperature in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday was a mild 67 degrees, with partly cloudy skies.
Many of the Democrats who stayed up all night to speak in the talk-a-thon also attended a high-dollar fundraising event last month with environmentalist donor Tom Steyer, including Reid, Sheldon Whitehouse, Patrick Leahy, Ben Cardin, Jeanne Shaheen, Mark Udall, and Jeff Merkley. Steyer plans to spend $100 million on behalf of Democrats in the upcoming elections.
3:02 PM, Mar 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
NBC reporter Chuck Todd shouted a question to President Obama about whether he still has confidence in the CIA director. The president refused to answer the question.
Via the pool report:
POTUS walked out of the White House at about 2:25 pm on a warm but overcast afternoon, then strolled over to Marine One.
He waved in the direction of the cameras -- but didn't answer shouted questions from NBC's Chuck Todd about whether he still had confidence in John Brennan as CIA director after Sen. Feinstein's speech on the CIA/Senate story.
Valerie Jarrett, David Simas, Alyssa Mastromonaco, Eric Schultz, and Marvin Nicholson then walked out together.
There were more than 100 interns who also gathered to watch the lift-off.
Marine One was up and off to start the NYC trip by about 2:29.
But earlier today White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama had "great confidence" in the CIA director. Via NBC:
White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to weigh in Tuesday on the accuracy of allegations that the CIA may have illegally spied on Senate staff members, but he said that the president has “great confidence” in the CIA director and agrees with his call to “get to the bottom” of the claim if inappropriate activity occurred.
“You saw the CIA director say today that if there was any inappropriate activity by CIA or by [Senate Intelligence Committee] staff, he would of course want to get to the bottom of it and certainly the president would agree with that,” Carney told reporters.
Carney added that the White House supports declassification of the Senate panel's findings on enhanced interrogation techniques. He said the White House takes Senate Intelligence Committee chief Dianne Feinstein's allegations "very seriously."
But blocked an Iranian information campaign.2:10 PM, Mar 11, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
If Israel believed that exposing an Iranian arms transfer to terrorists in Gaza was a public relations coup that might make the White House think twice about making a deal with the regime in Tehran over its nuclear weapons program, then Jerusalem has fundamentally misread the Obama administration. Perhaps just as ominously, it shows that the government of Israel doesn’t understand the new media environment.
Last week Israeli naval commandos boarded the Panamanian-flagged Klos C in the Red Sea to interdict the transfer of medium-ranger rockets that may have constituted, in the words of one Israeli journalist, a “tie-breaker.” The weapons, wrote Ron Ben-Yishai, were intended to overload and neutralize Israel’s rocket and missile defense system in the event Iran initiates a “high-trajectory offensive on Israel through its messengers: Hezbollah, Syria and the Gazans.”
In other words, the Klos C affair wasn’t just about moving arms to terrorists. Rather it’s part of the strategic missile campaign that Iran embarked on after Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel. In arming its clients on Israel’s borders (Hamas, Hezbollah, the Assad regime), Tehran seeks to change the balance of regional power by deterring Israel from striking its nuclear weapons facilities.
Therefore, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is right to think the seizure is a big deal. But his narrative is wrong. "The goal of seizing the arms ship was to expose Iran's true face," Netanyahu said over the weekend. He called out EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton who was visiting Tehran. "I wish to ask her whether she asked her hosts about the shipment of weapons to terrorist organizations."
Clearly it had no effect on Brussels, or more importantly on the White House. Obama administration officials explained that they’re not happy about the Iranian action, but it’s not changing any minds about engaging Tehran. “It’s entirely appropriate to continue to pursue the possibility of reaching a resolution on the nuclear program,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
1:19 PM, Mar 11, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
On May 18, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, will be Barnard College's commencement speaker and will receive the Barnard medal of distinction, the college’s highest honor.
In an email to students last week, Barnard president Debora Spar and Barnard dean Avis Hinkson, announced the decision by praising Richards. "Throughout her career, Cecile Richards has advocated for civic engagement and public participation as essential components of law-making and the political process,” the email reads. “Now, as head of Planned Parenthood, she is at the center of the ongoing national dialogue on women’s rights and health. Her extraordinary insight and experience will inspire our graduates, whose own lives and careers will contribute to the future of these critically important issues for women everywhere.”
Left unmentioned was that Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest abortion provider, and the organization's legislative agenda is far outside the American mainstream. In February, Richards stirred controversy when she was asked during a televised interview, "When does life start? When does a human being become a human being?" Richards responded, contra biology, "I'm a mother of three children. For me, life began when I delivered them. They've probably been the most important thing in my life ever since. But that's my own personal decision, right?"
Last year, Richards was criticized for being unable to explain the difference between the actions of murderous abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who killed children outside the womb, and late-term abortion.
Planned Parenthood has been waging a high-profile lobbying battle against late-term abortion, despite the fact that the U.S. is one of only 7 countries that allow the practice, and the majority women support a ban on late-term abortions.
Already Barnard students are speaking out against the selection of Richards. In an op-ed for the Columbia Spectator, Barnard senior Kate Christensen decried the college for choosing such a divisive commencement speaker:
By choosing such a controversial figure, Barnard implies that students who take deep offense to this choice do not have valid concerns, and their beliefs do not matter. Choosing a speaker of such moral and political controversy seems to assume that the opposing minority will be shamed into silence for their beliefs and will take this decision more or less sitting down. Perhaps Barnard, in whatever calculus it is doing, does not care about offending and isolating students like me, families in attendance like mine, or beliefs like the ones I hold.
12:48 PM, Mar 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The top referrer to Healthcare.gov right now is the website Funny or Die. That's according to White House senior communications advisor Tara McGuinness.
McGuinness tweeted, "http://FunnyorDie.com is the #1 source of referrals to http://HealthCare.gov right now."
The traffic claim comes after President Obama did an interview with Zach Galifianakis on his Between Two Ferns.
Meanwhile, out in flyover country.
12:09 PM, Mar 11, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
In Wisconsin, as Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
“Senate Republicans Tuesday narrowly passed Gov. Scott Walker's $541 million tax cut proposal in a vote that guaranteed the cuts will become law.”
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this story is that it is no unique, on-time occurrence. It is, in fact “the third round of cuts by Republicans in less than a year.”
And the state has a surplus as a result.
“With growing tax collections now expected to give the state a $1billion budget surplus in June 2015, Walker's bill will cut property and income taxes for families and businesses, and zero out all income taxes for manufacturers in the state,” reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Tax cuts? Budget surpluses? Those rubes are capable of anything.
11:06 AM, Mar 11, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper is disputing the conventional wisdom on Russian incursion into the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine. In an interview with WTOP Radio that is also posted on the DNI's website, Clapper insisted that the intelligence community's reading of the situation prior to Russia's military intervention was "not a failure by any stretch":
"I have lived through some genuine intelligence failures in my career and this was not a failure by any stretch," Clapper said. "We tracked (the situation in Ukraine) pretty carefully and portrayed what the possibilities were and certainly portrayed the difficulties we'd have, because of the movements of Russian troops and provided anticipatory warning of their incursion into Crimea," Clapper added.
During an expansive interview in his office, Clapper pointed out that, "We were following closely the political and economic developments in Ukraine. We spoke to it in our statement for the record at the time and as the situation unfolded with the Russians."
On February 27, Secretary of State John Kerry was publicly expressing optimism that calm would prevail. The following day, the day of Russia's invasion of Crimea (as the State Department would later refer to it,) State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked about Russia's military intentions towards Crimea:
QUESTION: So talking about reports – sorry. Do you have any independent confirmation yourselves within the Administration that there is yet any Russian intervention in [Crimea]?...
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything – any more details to share with you. We’re concerned about the same reports that you have seen, and obviously, we’re closely watching this internally as well.
QUESTION: So nothing – no independent knowledge of any Russian intervention in Crimea?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any independent information to share with you.
The WTOP report notes that "[d]uring a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday, McCain, a Republican, said it was a "massive failure" that the U.S. intelligence agencies did not predict Russia's activities."
10:39 AM, Mar 11, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The Senate remained in session through Monday night and into this morning. The yield of this all-nighter was … nothing. Which was predictable. There never was any legislative point to the exercise. It was for show. The kindest possible description would be that the senators wanted to raise awareness of global warming/climate change which, of course, has hardly been mentioned at all in the great ongoing public conversation. The least kind description would be that the purpose of the all-nighter was to raise cash.
As Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post reports, Majority Leader Harry Reid said, in his remarks:
“We have the capability and the responsibility to act. But we must do so before it is too late," adding that the issue is "a question of our own survival.”
Curious, then, that Reid hasn’t introduced any climate-related legislation since he and the Democrats took over the Senate. Maybe he just isn’t that in to surviving.
Of course, it is easier being a Democrat speaking out about climate change when you aren’t running for reelection. Which would explain the absence, during the all-nighter, of such conspicuous Senate Democrats as:
Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.),
Still, those who did make it through the night hope their stamina will be rewarded and:
… believe that focusing on the issue will help them. They cite national polling that shows Americans are increasingly concerned with the issue and generally believe that changes in the globe's temperatures and weather patterns are man-made. The party is also receiving an injection of cash being spent by outside groups backed by wealthy environmental activists.
One of those activists, billionaire businessman Thomas Steyer, thanked Democratic senators for hosting "a real conversation on this critical issue."
"The dangers of climate change are real, and our country can no longer afford to be held hostage by politicians who deny basic science."
Steyer has committed $50 million of his own fortune and plans to raise another $50 million to help Democratic candidates in this year's congressional elections -- support that Democrats are eager to have as conservative political groups are already spending millions of dollars attacking them on television in battleground states.
Such, these days, are the ways of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.
9:15 AM, Mar 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Steve Hayes, with Ron Fournier and Charles Krauthammer, last night on Fox News:
8:13 AM, Mar 11, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
For now, the "one-stop shopping" experience at Healthcare.gov repeatedly promised by President Obama is still at least one stop short of the goal. In early January, news reports revealed a glaring shortcoming at Healthcare.gov: no function existed to report "life events," such as the birth of a child or a divorce, which could alter coverage needs or eligibility for tax credits. Although this feature was subsequently added, the site still lacks the ability to report changes to basic contact information to a consumer's insurance company: a new address, email, or phone number.
A new topic at the Obamacare website is entitled, "How do I report life changes to the Marketplace?" Although most life changes can now be reported online at Healthcare.gov or over the phone with a customer service representative, the final paragraph alerts consumers that any changes in contact information must be reported twice [emphasis in original]: "To change your home address, email address, or phone number, update the information on your Marketplace Profile page. Be sure to report address, email, and phone changes to your insurance company too. Otherwise they may not know about your new contact information." Here's a partial screenshot of the page:
The instructions to double-report contact information to both the Marketplace and the insurance company are not just found at Healthcare.gov. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also produces flyers with information about how coverage purchased through the Marketplace is maintained. While most changes are (apparently) passed on to the consumer's insurance company once the information is reported to Healthcare.gov, the contact information curiously seems to fall into a different category that must be reported directly to the provider by the consumer [highlight added]:
Since Healthcare.gov must report changes in coverage or tax credits to insurance companies in order for coverage and billing to be accurate, it is unclear why the Marketplace is unable to communicate simple address, phone, and email changes. The site does not indicate when this capability will be added, so it's up to consumers to do it themselves or face the risk that their insurance company won't know how to reach them.
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