Lamar Alexander Fishing for Distraction from Amnesty Vote

Friday, July 5th, 2013 by and is filed under Blog, Immigration, News

What happens when you bring a Lamar Alexander to a Chuck Schumer fight?  He turns around and becomes a weapon for Chuck Schumer and his allies, albeit an ineffective one.

In 2007, before running for a second term, Alexander rightfully noted that “to regain the public’s confidence, we ought to scale it back and fix the problem step-by-step by absolutely securing our borders first, then enforcing our laws without amnesty.”  Now, after years of voting for more spending, higher taxes, more debt, expanded government healthcare, massive energy regulations and subsidies, and liberal judicial nominees, the former third ranking Senate Republican has become a Chuck Schumer Republican.  He led the fight, along with Bob Corker, to push a fledgling amnesty-first bill across the finish line.

Naturally, his constituents in Tennessee  – a state where Obama lost 91 of 95 counties – are not too happy with him.  So he’s going up on the air with a $180,000 media campaign featuring Rand Paul.  What is he touting?  His fishing bill:

In an apparent effort to boost conservative support, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has launched his first TV ad campaign of the 2014 cycle with a spot featuring footage of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that touts a measure Alexander spearheaded to protect fishing access.

“We don’t want a government that’s strong enough to make our lives risk-free. We can do that for ourselves,” says Alexander in the ad, which touts his work to pass a measure that placed a two-year moratorium on efforts to restrict fishing access in certain areas in the state.

The spot includes footage of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who co-sponsored the measure, saying: “Nobody wants to say no to Lamar Alexander.”

Fish?  Really?  After voting for mass amnesty and new red tape on ICE agents with the hollow promise of enforcement 10 years from now, I don’t think we will have to worry about free fishing.  The entire country will be voting like California, and fishing will be the least of our problems.

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Mitch McConnell, Student Loans, and What’s Wrong With Republicans

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 by and is filed under Blog, Issues, News

Here’s your daily dose of pale pastel politics from GOP leaders.

In 2007, the Nancy Pelosi Congress passed a bill to slash the rate of interest on government-subsidized Stafford loans from 6.8% to 3.4%, at a cost of $6 billion.  But as we noted last week, the market distorting effect of government-subsidization of Big Ed is worse than the $6 billion cost to taxpayers.  The cost of higher education has risen at almost the same pace as the government subsidies.  One would expect Republicans to use the expiration of this Pelosi program as an opportunity to bury this bad policy and identify the true culprit of price inflation – the collusion of Big Gov and Big Ed.

Instead of harnessing the opportunity to explain limited government and free markets, Republican leaders are pandering and trying to out-left the Democrats on their own proposals.  They are decrying the inaction of Congress in extending the subsidized rates.  Here is Mitch McConnell’s rare take on a policy issue in the form of an op-ed in a local Kentucky paper:

Students in Kentucky pursuing higher education have enough to worry about as it is—like passing their exams, or finding a job after graduation. They don’t need the added worry of increasing interest rates for their student loans.

And yet, if Congress does not act before July 1, the interest rate on subsidized federal Stafford loans, given to eligible students to defray the costs of a four-year college or university, community college, or trade, career, or technical school, will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

What’s next?  Are we going to decry the delay of Obamacare implementation?

Amazingly, McConnell recognizes that the effect of the rate increase to students would be negligible, even as its cost to taxpayers and the free market is profound:

Since the doubling of the interest rate would only impact 40 percent of new student loans and lead to students only paying on average $6 more a month for any new loan, some ask why this is a compelling issue

Yet, he proceeds to explain why the expiration of a Pelosi bubble-inducing subsidy is a terribly consequential thing:

But in this Obama economy, too many college graduates are already having difficulty finding jobs.

I’m not even sure what that non-sequitur means.

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Making the Right Argument on Student Loans

Friday, June 28th, 2013 by and is filed under Blog, News

Last July, as part of the highway omnibus bill, Congress passed a one-year extension of the 2007 law that reduced interest on government subsidized Stafford loans from 6.8% to 3.4%.  The total cost was $6 billion.  As we have seen with things like unemployment extension, the new fad in Washington is to temporarily extend market-distorting big government programs, with the full intention of making them permanent by creating artificial “cliffs” through expiration deadlines.  The rate cut is set to expire on July 1, setting off another bipartisan pandering fest to outbid each other on inflating an already bloated asset bubble.

In May, the House passed a bill to allow the interest rates on subsidized Stafford student loans to rise with the 10-year Treasury note when the reduced rate is set to expire next month.  The bill, H.R. 1911, would require interest rates for all federal student loans to be pegged to the 10-year Treasury note plus 2.5 percent for undergraduate degrees and 4.5 percent for graduate degrees.  With current rates hovering around 2.5%, the student loan interest rates would rise modestly to 5%, still well below the 6.8% level that they were offered for many years before the Pelosi Congress cut them in half.

On the Senate side, they were so consumed with passing amnesty that they left no time to deal with the student loan increase.  This provides conservatives with a teachable moment to demonstrate why the government should get out of the monopoly over student loans.  Instead of debating how to adjust the rate of interest, Republicans should articulate the case for phasing out this unlimited subsidization of higher education.

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Time To “Document” House Members on Illegal Immigration

Thursday, June 27th, 2013 by and is filed under Blog, Immigration, News

It is quite clear that an overwhelming majority of the Senate couldn’t care less what the people think on illegal immigration.  These people live and die by polling, but when it comes to polling on an issue that will create a permanent Democrat majority, they will never listen to us.  According to the latest FoxNews poll, Obama is completely under water on the immigration issue – white voters disapprove of his job on the issue by 60-32, Independents disapprove by 59-32, and non-college educated disapprove by 56-36.  Yet, Republicans are hell-bent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, especially at a time when Obama is stewing in a heaping pile of scandals.

They might not vote for amnesty personally, but Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are undocumented supporters of immigration deform.  McConnell’s duplicity has been well documented by now.  He lobbies hard for it in private meetings, but refuses to vote for it.  John Boehner has long said that he wants to pass “comprehensive immigration reform.”  Radical nutcase Luis Gutierrez seems to think Boehner is an ally in his fight to radically transform this country.  They are convinced that this political winner is actually a political loser, and they want to unload this issue immediately.  They will never see the light on the politics of this issue, unless they somehow fire all their consultants and hire Sean Trende.

To that end, the members of leadership will do everything in their power to make this happen on some level.  Whenever they feel something is a political liability, irrespective of the veracity of that estimation, they act out erratically.

Here are my concerns and here is how I see this playing out.

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A Roundup of Farm Bill Votes

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 by and is filed under Blog, News

As promised, here is a review of some of the major amendments offered during debate over the farm bill in the House.  You can click here to see the color-coded spreadsheet of how each Republican voted on the amendments and final passage.  The bill failed 195-234 with 62 Republicans voting no.

Here is a synopsis of some of the major amendments with the vote tallies:

  • Foxx, R-N.C., amendment that would cap the total amount of price loss coverage payments and revenue loss coverage payments during fiscal 2014 through fiscal 2020 at $17 million. It would require producer agreements to specifically state that payments made under these programs be reduced as necessary to comply with the cap. [Passed 267-156 : R 183-48; D 84-108…CQ]
  • Broun, R-Ga., amendment that would repeal permanent price support authority for milk. [Failed 112-309 : R 109-122; D 3-187…CQ]
  • Chabot, R-Ohio, amendment that would eliminate the Market Access Program, which grants corporate welfare to U.S. producers, exporters, private companies and other trade organizations to finance promotional activities for U.S. agricultural products.  In the past, taxpayers have funded reality TV shows in India and wine tasting in Japan. [Failed 98-322 : R 89-142; D 9-180]
  • Brooks, R-Ala., amendment that would terminate the Emerging Markets Program, which promotes exports of U.S. agricultural commodities and products in certain emerging global markets, after Sept. 30, 2013. [Failed 103-322 : R 101-129; D 2-193…CQ]
  • McClintock, R-Calif., amendment that would strike a provision in the bill that would authorize $10 million per year from fiscal 2014 through 2018 for a program to expand domestic farmers’ markets, roadside stands and community-supported agriculture programs. [Failed 156-269 : R 155-76; D 1-193…CQ]
  • Huelskamp, R-Kan., amendment that would allow states to create a work activation program that would require able-bodied individuals receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to complete two days of supervised job search at the program site each month. While in the program recipients may not refuse offers of employment or refuse to provide information on employment status without good cause. It would suspend SNAP benefits for individuals who fail to comply with the requirements. It also would repeal the nutrition education and obesity prevention grant program. [Failed 175-250 : R 175-57; D 0-193…CQ]
  • Kind, D-Wis., amendment that would limit federal crop insurance premium subsidies to producers with adjusted gross income of less than $250,000, limit per-person premium subsidies to $50,000, cap crop insurance providers’ reimbursement of administrative and operating expenses in 2013 at $900 million and reduce their rate of return to 12 percent of the retained premium. [Failed 208-217 : R 74-157; D 134-60…CQ]
  • Pitts, R-Pa., amendment that would direct the Agriculture secretary to lower loan rates for domestic sugar cane producers to 18 cents per pound for raw cane sugar for each crop year 2014 through 2018. It would require the Agriculture secretary to revise trade tariffs to lower the sugar stocks-to-use ratio to 15.5 percent. The department would be required to administer marketing allotments to ensure sugar supplies, be authorized to suspend or modify any marketing allotment provision and exercise discretion in administering the import quota to provide for adequate sugar supplies at “reasonable prices.” It also would repeal the sugar-to-ethanol program. [Failed 206-221 : R 137-95; D 69-126]

The Amnesty Ship Sets Sail

Monday, June 24th, 2013 by and is filed under Blog, Immigration, News

The outcome of today’s amnesty vote was a forgone conclusion.  The cloture motion on the Corker-Hoeven substitute amendment easily passed 67-27.  Every last Democrat voted for this, including the red state Democrats.  15 Republicans also supported the amendment:

  • Alexander
  • Ayotte
  • Rubio
  • Flake
  • McCain
  • Corker
  • Graham
  • Kirk
  • Murkowski
  • Collins
  • Hoeven
  • Hatch
  • Heller
  • Wicker
  • Chiesa

The amazing thing is that most of these members will either never stand for reelection again or not for several more years.  Roger Wicker (MS) was just reelected from a state that opposes this nonsense by a huge margin.  Orrin Hatch would have never won reelection had he campaign on amnesty.  It’s a shame he didn’t have the courage to stand before his people and tell them the truth.   The only members who are in cycle are Lindsey Graham and Lamar Alexander.

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Conservatives Must Use Immigration Deform Like Obamacare in 2014

Monday, June 24th, 2013 by and is filed under Blog, Immigration, News

For quite some time, I’ve deemed the Senate a lost cause.  In recent years, Democrats have shown a remarkable sense of discipline, getting every member – even those from red states – to vote for the most radical pieces of legislation.  Moreover, roughly half the GOP conference is worthless and couldn’t care less about their constituents, and there is certainly no leadership from Mitch McConnell.  The fix was in a long time ago on the bill.  That’s why we must work on forming a backstop in the House.

In order to strengthen the resolve of conservatives in the House, we need to begin focusing on the source of this capricious pursuit of amnesty-first at all costs.  These people don’t care about good policy, so all we can do is blow up the irrational political argument that is fueling this political suicide.

In addition to lacking any core principles, the GOP consultant class is completely tone deaf to the electoral tea leaves of their own politically-motivated positions.  In their alternative universe, if the Senate passes an amnesty bill, Republicans in the House are in deep trouble with 8.5% of the electorate.  In the real universe, it’s the Democrats who should be in trouble with 91.5% of the electorate – if Republicans would only take the initiative to campaign against them on this issue.

The grave error of the indolent consultant class is rooted in their misreading of the 2012 election.  As Sean Trende noted last week, the real story of last November was the number of white voters, particularly working class, who failed to turn out and vote for Romney, even though they have been completely disenchanted with the Democrat Party.  Although Romney offered some parsimonious tough talk on immigration when pressed about it during the primary debate season, he refused to campaign on the issue during the general election.

In fact, when Obama issued the illegal administrative amnesty in middle of the presidential race, Romney showed weakness by ostensibly agreeing to the premise of amnesty.  Romney failed to run a single TV ad on this issue during the campaign.  He should have been in Youngstown, Ohio inveighing against this out-of-touch end-run around Congress, while promising to stand with the American worker.  But, alas, Romney said nothing about the issue, and in fact, evinced an image much closer to that of a Zuckerberg corporatist than a conservative populist.

Hence, in pursuit of voters who are largely out of reach, Republicans are leaving millions of white working class voters on the table – voters who are eminently within reach.  Additionally, all the recent polling has shown that Blacks are against this amnesty bill. [Remember, a majority of Blacks voted for Prop 187 in California.] Were Republicans to go on offense and actually embrace a conversation on illegal immigration and enforcement-first during the 2014 midterms, they can drive a wedge between some black voters and the Dems, while crushing them with white working class voters.  Poll after poll shows that Independent voters favor enforcement-first by a wide margin.

And what about the Hispanic vote?  To the extent that there is a large portion of them who are within reach, it certainly won’t occur with the brand of stuffed-shirt Republicanism that is peddled by the consultant class, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.  It will be through Tea Party populism.

Arizona provides a great example of a favorable outcome for Republicans when they actually choose to engage on a wedge issue and return fire.  In Arizona, there is no ambiguity about the Republican position on immigration.  After all of the GOP-backed enforcement laws, every voter knows where they stand on the issue.  Even John McCain and Jeff Flake are forced to lie to the voters during election years.

So what happened in 2012?

Despite the fact that Hispanics comprised 18% of the electorate (more than Florida and Colorado), Romney outperformed McCain’s 2008 showing in the state.  He received 25% of the Hispanic vote, only slightly below his national average.  Incidentally, Jan Brewer received 28% in 2010.  But here’s the kicker:  Romney blew out the white vote by a whopping 34 points!  There wasn’t even much of a gender gap; he won the white women vote by 30.  He won 12% of Democrats and 51% of Independents.  Indys comprise a larger share of the electorate than either party in the state.

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The Worst Piece of Legislation in American History

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 by and is filed under Blog, Immigration, News

Cross-posted from RedState.com

As we noted on Friday, even though Schumer completely repackaged the amnesty bill with only 3 days to comb through 1190 pages, the fix is in.  Every Democrat is prepared to vote for this bill, and at least 10-12 Republicans couldn’t care less about their constituents.  They have the votes.  They don’t care about the American people.  Amazingly, there is a supermajority of Senators who are more in tune with the whims of foreign lobbies than with the security needs of the American people.

I have no plans to reread this entire bill in order to ascertain all the changes and shenanigans in the bill.  But here are some of the highlights:

  • Immediate Amnesty; Security Never: The 2006 Secure Fence Act spelled out every mile of fencing and required immediate construction.  Ninety-five percent of the fence was never built.  This bill grants immediate amnesty, and doesn’t require the surge in border agents until 2017.  That will never happen.  As for the fence, here is what Senator Sessions noted over the weekend, “the fencing language in Corker-Hoeven is ineffectual and unenforceable.  The underlying bill still says that nothing in this provision shall be interpreted as requiring the Secretary to construct fencing.  Also, it is weaker than the 2006 law which requires double-layer, reinforced fencing.  The amendment establishes a ten-year deadline for completing the fence but retains the waiver authority for DHS not to build fencing.  Under their proposal, the fence will never be completed.”  See page 35, as reported by Breitbart.
  • Permanent Defacto amnesty: Throughout the process, we’ve noted that the most pernicious part of the bill is that it permanently ties the hands of border agents, and in conjunction with the requirement that every alien be afforded reasonable opportunity to stand for legal status, this bill will void out all deportations.  The substitute amendment takes this further by granting those who are caught overstaying their visas in the future an opportunity to stay on the path to citizenship.  This is literally a bill that takes the worst elements of a supposed broken immigration system and blows the holes wide open.
  • Visa Pork: Much like Obamacare, this bill contains earmarks in the form of “visa pork” to buy off votes.  Section 4407 (Page 983) expands the J-Visa Summer Work Travel Program to seafood processing positions in Alaska, in order to buy off Murkowski and Begich.  It also includes a provision in the new low-skilled W-visa guest worker program, exempting jobs in the Alaskan seafood processing industry from the annual cap.  Page 52 of the bill extends the Travel Promotion Act, which is something the Nevada tourist industry has been pushing.  It’s a carve out for Dean Heller.
  • Triggers:  Obviously, the triggers 10 years from now mean nothing because the illegals will enjoy immediate legal status with social Security numbers and drivers’ licenses.  But even the triggers before the citizenship aren’t triggers.  The legal waivers in the underlying bill will allow the issuance of green cards to proceed if the security measures are blocked due to the inevitable lawsuits.  Also, the language of the amendment only requires the Secretary of DHS to “consult” with the Attorney General and other department heads before going ahead with green cards.
  • Stimulus: It provides $1.5 billion in stimulus to “create” jobs for the youth.

Oh, and it still retains almost all of the several dozen fatal flaws in the underlying bill.

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The Path Forward on the Farm Bill

Thursday, June 20th, 2013 by and is filed under Blog, News

Today, GOP leadership suffered a stunning defeat as 62 Republicans voted against the 5-year farm bill (H.R. 1947), which locks in the record baseline of food stamp spending and creates multiple new agriculture subsidy programs.  A handful of them voted against it because it cut too much spending, and others like Bill Shuster voted no because they are facing potential primary challenges (Shuster voted for the 2008 bill).  But this is a strong showing, as it is a dynamic none of us would have ever predicted several years ago.

Some Republicans are complaining that because of the conservative revolt we will now continue on the status quo with direct farm subsidies.  But they fail to understand that the new price support programs and shallow loss coverage that were created by this bill would have been more expensive and represent worse market distortions than direct subsidies.  It’s better to reauthorize the status quo than to pass a long-term bill that creates even more problems and precludes real reforms for another 5 years.

Other Republicans complain that now we will face the so-called milk cliff.  Pursuant to a silly 1949 act of Congress, every time we fail to renew expiring farm programs, the government must begin imposing Soviet-style price controls on milk by decreasing supplies through massive purchases of milk, butter, cheese, and other dairy products.  Under permanent law, the USDA would begin purchasing dairy products at a rate of $38.54 per hundredweight, more than double the current price ($18 per hundredweight).  This market manipulation could double the price of milk, dairy products, and everything else up the food chain.

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Corker-Hoeven: Schumer’s Wimp Brigade Rides to the Rescue

Thursday, June 20th, 2013 by and is filed under Blog, Issues, News

WIMP  (wmp)

n.

A subatomic particle that has a large mass and interacts with other matter primarily through gravitation.

n. Informal.

1. a weak, ineffectual, timid person.

Political

Representing a state like North Dakota and scoring a 47% from Heritage Action while working overtime to save Democrats and pass a dying amnesty bill

Imagine if Democrats elected senators from blue states in the northeast who worked behind closed doors with Ted Cruz to craft national right to work legislation or a compromise plan to privatize Social Security?  That’s about as likely as Lady Gaga joining the Family Research Council.

Yet, we continue to elect Republicans like John Hoeven who work behind the scenes to carry water for the progressives.  They gravitate to one-sided compromises that sell out our Republic like flies on ethanol.

By now, you’re probably asking, John who?

Yes, Hoeven has been awfully quiet since being coronated in 2010.  Aside for the occasional noise about the Keystone Pipeline, he doesn’t do much in the Senate…other than vote to raise the debt ceiling, fund Obamacare, implement an internet sales tax, support earmarks, increase food stamp spending, and vote for every subsidy under the sun.

Now he has taken it upon himself to serve as the less charismatic appendix to Bob Corker in saving Schumer’s dying amnesty bill.  After being outspent exponentially in this fight by the insidious open borders lobby, the truth that We the People have disseminated on this issue is taking its toll on Schumer and his allies.  Nobody in the House wants to touch this bill with a 10-foot pole, and the pathway to 60 votes is diminishing every day.

In come Corker and Hoeven to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and negotiate a poor-man’s Cornyn compromise with the Gang of 8.  In their ineluctable desire to pass an amnesty bill with the requisite window dressing, the new wimp coalition is pushing yet another phony compromise.  Yes, because constituents from states like Tennessee and North Dakota are flooding their offices with calls demanding “give us amnesty or give us death.”  According to Politico, this deal would be a watered-down version of Cornyn’s amendment, which Erick already exposed as pathetic:

The emerging deal would soften Republican requests for a strict requirement that 90 percent of illegal border crossers be apprehended to hit a “trigger” toward a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but would provide an unprecedented increase in border security funding and officers and a guarantee on finishing the fence along the Southern border, sources said.

They also say they will double the border patrol.  But what good is more border agents if the administration ties their hands?  Most importantly, all the triggers in this plan will occur after legalization.  So somehow we are supposed to believe that they will actually implement these enforcement triggers after they already have their amnesty.   Needless to say, Schumer calls their work “really productive.”

Folks, at some point we need to start gaming out red state Senate races far in advance in pursuit of a real Republican instead of reflexively thinking about picking up the state with just any R.  It is that mentality – a lazy tendency to pick the first candidate with high name recognition months in advance – which has saddled us with a bunch of prairie progressives from the red states in the Great Plains.

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