IRS Commissioner To House Committee Chairman: ‘Whenever We Can, We Follow The Law’ (Video)

IRS Chief: ‘Whenever We Can, We Follow The Law’- The Hill

During another grueling hearing on the ObamaCare rollout, the head of the IRS tried to offer lawmakers an assurance about the soon-to-open enrollment period.

“Whenever we can, we follow the law,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told the House Ways and Means subcommittee on health on Wednesday.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who leads the subcommittee, immediately expressed his concern with the remarks.

“I encourage you to follow the law in all instances,” Brady said.

Koskinen, who was confirmed as head of IRS last December, has repeatedly faced lawmakers’ ire over the agency’s targeting of conservative groups.

Lawmakers spent a majority of Wednesday’s hearing grilling Koskinen and Andy Slavitt, HealthCare.gov’s fix-it man, on how they would verify that consumers were providing correct income information as they signed up for insurance subsidies.

Koskinen, who said he’s been meeting with tech and business staff every two weeks since January, said things are “on track” to verify income for all new enrollees.

Still, Slavitt acknowledged that the administration faces a “trust gap” in ObamaCare’s second year of implementation.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) cautioned against what he described as unchecked power given to the IRS under the healthcare law. He demanded to know how the Obama administration would prevent a “Lois Lerner 2.0 situation.”

“It seems to me that the IRS is just poised to go swimming in a big pool of money,” Roskam said. “Are these the same IT people that can’t find Lois Lerner’s emails or deal with her hard drives?”

Koskinen was asked if he defended Lerner, to which he replied, “No, I don’t know her.”

It was Slavitt’s first public appearance since the federal government announced last week that HealthCare.gov had been hacked in July. But just one lawmaker, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), prodded Slavitt about the security breach.

Price questioned why insurance company leaders told him they had learned about the hack from media reports. Slavitt disputed the claim, saying he had personally informed a representative from the insurance association about the breach.

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Click HERE to watch the entire hearing via C-SPAN.

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House Oversight Chairman Issa Subpoenas 28 Years Of Lois Lerner’s Emails

Issa Expands Investigation; Subpoenas 28 Years Of Lois Lerner Emails – Gateway Pundit

Lois Lerner, the controversial director of the tax-exempt organizations division at the Internal Revenue Service, has a long sordid history of targeting conservatives.

Under the direction of Lois Lerner, the Federal Election Commission sued the Christian Coalition in the 1990s. She harassed the Christian Coalition for three election cycles. Eventually, she lost her case. At one point Lerner even asked a targeted conservative if Pat Robertson prayed over him. (Sound familiar?)

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In 1996, while at the FEC, Lois Lerner harassed Republican Senate candidate Al Salvi and made him this outrageous offer, “Promise me you will never run for office again, and we’ll drop this case.”

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Today House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) turned up the heat on Lois Lerner and subpoenaed 28 years of Lerner’s emails from 1986 until the present day.

Political Ticker reported:

Expanding his IRS investigation by more than two decades, House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-California, has sent a subpoena to the Federal Elections Commission for all communications involving former IRS administrator Lois Lerner from January 1, 1986 to the present day.

This new search is the broadest-yet for records in a year-long investigation by Issa and congressional Republicans, who are trying to assess why the agency targeted tea party and other political groups for extra scrutiny.

Issa issued the subpoena to Lee Goodman, head of the Federal Election Commission, on Tuesday for communications involving Lerner, who is seen as a central figure in the controversy because she ran the division that executed the targeting.

She resigned last year after the Treasury Department’s inspector general found those working under her used “inappropriate” criteria to scrutinize certain groups. Since then, Lerner has refused to testify before Congress, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. This has added to the Republican push to find any documents related to Lerner and her time in government.

In the on-going, determined GOP effort, Republicans are now reaching back to her career before the IRS.

Lerner joined the FEC in 1981, first working in the general counsel’s office. Issa subpoena focuses on her work after 1986, when Lerner became the head of the FEC’s enforcement division.

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Revealed: The Lois Lerner Emails That Weren’t Lost – The Blaze

House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said Wednesday that former IRS official Lois Lerner suggested investigating Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) before she was forced to leave her position due to the IRS targeting scandal.

According to documents unearthed by Camp, Lerner received an invitation to speak at an event that was intended for Grassley.

Lerner informed the group of the mistake, but then wrote to a colleague: “Looked like they were inappropriately offering to pay for his wife. Perhaps we should refer to Exam?”

That questioned prompted another IRS official to respond that paying for Grassley’s wife to attend is income for Grassley, and is “not prohibited on its face.” The followup email said the proper procedure would be to see if the group files a 1099 form to report the “income” Grassley earned, and see if Grassley reported that income in his annual tax filing.

Lerner replied by saying “thanks,” and added, “Don’t think I want to be on stage with Grassley on this issue.” The emails are redacted and don’t make it clear at what event they both might have spoken.

Camp said it is “shocking” that Lerner would use the email mix-up as a way to attack Grassley.

“At every turn, Lerner was using the IRS as a tool for political purposes in defiance of taxpayer rights,” he said. “We may never know the full extent of the abuse since the IRS conveniently lost two years of Lerner emails, not to mention those of other key figures in this scandal.

“The fact that DOJ refuses to investigate the IRS’s abuses or appoint a special counsel demonstrates, yet again, this administration’s unwillingness to uphold the rule of law.”

Read the Lerner emails here:

Grassley Lerner

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Leftist Nightmare Update: Costs Of ObamaCare Bungles Start To Add Up, With Maryland First At About $30.5M

Costs Of ObamaCare Bungles Start To Add Up, With Maryland First At About $30.5M – Fox News

Maryland could end up spending as much as $30.5 million as a result of a glitch in its ObamaCare website, as the Obama administration steps in to help states with problematic exchanges.

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Because of Maryland’s defective exchange, the state cannot determine whether customers remain eligible for Medicaid, according to a report by state budget analysts released Thursday.

As a result, the state has agreed with the federal government to a six-month delay in determining eligibility, meaning that payments will continue to be made to customers who are not eligible until the system is fixed. The delay will cost the state $17.8 million in fiscal 2014 and $12.7 million in fiscal 2015, the analysts estimated.

On Friday, the Obama administration said it would suspend some Affordable Care Act rules to help the 14 states with their own ObamaCare sites, particularly Maryland, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Oregon, which have had the most problems.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services plan, completed a day earlier, states the federal government will help pay for “qualified” health-insurance plans for customers in those states who because of “exceptional circumstances” had to buy plans outside of ObamaCare exchanges, as reported first by The Washington Post.

The administration made the change before the end-of-March deadline for Americans to enroll in ObamaCare this year.

In Maryland, the exchange cannot convert income data from the existing Medicaid enrollment system into a calculation needed to review whether enrollees are qualified “because of a variety of system architectural flaws,” according to budge analysts.

The exchange has been plagued by computer problems that have made it difficult for people to enroll in private health care plans since its debut Oct. 1.

State officials have decided to stick with the exchange through the open enrollment period that ends March 31 but is evaluating alternatives with an eye toward the next enrollment period that begins in November.

Among the possibilities is adopting technology developed by another state, joining a consortium of other states, partnering with the federal exchange or making major fixes to the existing system.

Thirty-six states use the federal HealthCare.gov site, which crashed and had other major problems in the first two months of enrollment.

The Maryland report said the state may need to develop an interim solution while a long-term solution is being developed. However, that process would likely take at least nine to 12 months, pushing up against the next open-enrollment period.

The report also states the development of the exchange was “a high risk undertaking” from the outset, in large part because of contractors woes, tight deadlines, constantly evolving requirement and its need to interface with work-in-progress federal databases.

The administration changes this week are not the first to ObamaCare, to be sure.

In November, Obama helped Americans about to lose policies because they didn’t meet new minimum requirements by allow the substandard plans to be sold through the end of this year.

And administration officials has twice this year given medium- and large-sized employers more time to offer health insurance to most full-time workers.

However, the change this week is significant because it marks the first time the federal government has agreed to help pay for policies bought outside the new exchanges.

The coverage in the outside policies would have to be comparable to those offered on the exchange. And customers would have to start paying premiums, then get the subsidies after the state exchanges could determine their income eligibility.

Maryland Health Benefit Exchange official told The Post earlier this week that roughly 7,000 applications are stuck in state’s system, but all of them might not need insurance and that officials were still looking over the administration’s offer.

Click HERE For Rest Of Story

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45-State Study: Obamacare Offers Less Choice, Higher Prices, Breaking Another Promise – Washington Examiner

A new and comprehensive comparison of health insurance options offered by Obamacare versus private websites finds that President Obama’s program offers less choice and higher prices than promised by the White House and leading Democrats.

Adding to the list of broken health care promises, the study from the National Center for Public Policy Research found that there were more and cheaper options available on websites outside the health insurance exchange in 2013 than on healthcare.gov and state Obamacare exchanges.

The report, “Obamacare Exchanges: Less Choice, Higher Prices,” looked at options available for a 27-year-old single person and a 57-year-old couple in metropolitan areas across 45 states.

The report found that a 27-year-old male had about 10 more policies to choose from on eHealthinsurance.com and finder.healthcare versus the exchange. The older couple had about nine more policy choices.

Ditto for the cost findings, with the 27-year-old male having access to 32 policies that cost less than the cheapest Obamacare offering, and the 57-year-old couple access to 29 cheaper policies.

“In general, consumers had substantially more policies to choose from on private websites such as eHealthinsurance.com and Finder.healthcare.gov than they presently have on the exchanges,” said the study.

“Obamacare supporters, including the president himself and Nancy Pelosi, claimed the exchanges would yield more choice and lower prices,” said the study’s author, David Hogberg. “This study shows those claims do not stand up.”

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, describes itself f as a “non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank.”

Click HERE For Rest Of Story

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House Subcommittee Chairman: Obama Administration Policy Would Eliminate Half Of All Existing Medicare Part D Plans – Daily Caller

The Obama administration’s new proposed rule for Medicare Part D would eliminate half of all Medicare Part D plans and raise prescription drug premiums for millions of seniors by up to 20 percent, according to a U.S. House subcommittee chairman.

“Today, the average senior has 35 different [Medicare Part D] plans to choose from this year. This rule would reduce that choice to two plans. 50% of the plans offered today will be gone, and the health care that seniors like may go with it,” House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee chairman Rep. Joe Pitts said in a statement at a Feb. 26 hearing attended by a top administration health official.

“Limiting seniors’ choices like this will inevitably lead to higher costs. By some estimates, the restriction on the number of plans that can be offered could cause premiums to rise by 10%-20%. Costs to the federal government may increase by $1.2-1.6 billion according to a study by Milliman,” Pitts said. “… I urge Secretary Sebelius and Administrator Tavenner to rescind this rule.”

The study Pitts cited also showed that the new rule would increase out-of-pocket drug costs for 6.9 million seniors who do not qualify for low-income subsidies, and would raise federal taxpayer costs for six million seniors who do qualify.

President Bush signed Medicare Part D into law in 2003 to subsidize prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries.

The Daily Caller reported that the administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of Kathleen Sebelius’ Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), recently introduced a new proposed rule on the Federal Register called “Medicare Program: Contract Year 2015 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs.”

The new rule “would revise the Medicare Advantage (MA) program (Part C) regulations and prescription drug benefit program (Part D) regulations to implement statutory requirements; strengthen beneficiary protections; exclude plans that perform poorly; improve program efficiencies; and clarify program requirements,” according to the Federal Register.

The rule states that it also aims “to implement certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act.”

The new rule’s stated desire to “strengthen our ability to identify strong applicants for Part C and Part D program participation and remove consistently poor performers” would give the Obama administration new authority to limit health insurance and prescription drug providers under the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D programs.

The rule would also violate the Medicare Part D’s law’s “non-interference provision that prohibits the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) from interfering with the negotiations between drug manufacturers and pharmacies and sponsors of prescription drug plans,” according to testimony by American Action Forum president Douglas Holtz-Eakin, violating “congressional intent.”

Rep. Pitts expressed confusion and anger at CMS’ new rule.

“CMS itself says that 96% of the Part D claims it reviewed showed seniors saved money at preferred pharmacies, and nearly 25,500 seniors in my district have chosen Part D plans with a preferred pharmacy network. Yet CMS would take that away from them,” Pitts said.

“The Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit is a government success story. Last year, nearly 39 million beneficiaries were enrolled in a Part D prescription drug plan,” Pitts said.

“Competition and choice have kept premiums stable. In fact, in 2006, the first year the program was in effect, the base beneficiary premium was $32.20 a month. In 2014, the base beneficiary premium is $32.42 – a 22-cent increase over 9 years – and still roughly half of what was originally predicted,” Pitts added. “More than 90% of seniors are satisfied with their Part D drug coverage because of this. African-American and Hispanic seniors report even higher levels of satisfaction, at 95% and 94%, respectively.”

“The program has worked so well because it forces prescription drug plans and providers to compete for Medicare beneficiaries – putting seniors, not Washington, in the driver’s seat. Part D should be the model for future reforms to the Medicare program,” Pitts said.

House Energy and Commerce committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton joined with Pitts at the hearing in criticizing the new rule.

“The proposed rule, issued on January 6, 2014, appears to be a direct assault on the competitive structure of the program. It inhibits the ability of plans to obtain discounts for beneficiaries, limits the range of market segments in which they may compete, and usurps the responsibility of states to license those able to prescribe. This 700-page proposal makes numerous changes,” Upton said.

CMS principal deputy administrator Jonathan Blum testified that limiting Part D sponsors to providing only two plans per region will “promote needed clarity of plan choices for beneficiaries.”

Click HERE For Rest Of Story

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Intelligence Committee Chairman Poised To Recall Alleged Lying Sack O’ Crap Ex-CIA Chief Over Benghazi Testimony

Intel Committee Chairman Poised To Recall Ex-CIA Chief Morell Over Benghazi Testimony, Weighing Same For Petraeus – Fox News

Republican allegations that former CIA Acting Director Mike Morell misled Congress over the White House’s role in crafting the flawed Benghazi “talking points” took a dramatic turn Thursday, with the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee telling Fox News it’s likely Morell will be recalled to testify.

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Investigators also are reviewing the testimony of former CIA Director David Petraeus, Morell’s old boss, to assess whether he should be recalled as well.

“We are having some transcript reviews. We’ve been continually doing that through the committee,” Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told Fox News. “We’re looking at Director Petraeus’ transcripts and reviews – looking at what information we have now available. Sometimes that second interview can be equally important and it is likely we will have Director Morell up to testify before the committee.”

The debate continues to focus on why the talking points did not reflect the best available intelligence, and what influence the administration brought to bear on the flawed public narrative of the attack in the days immediately following Sept. 11, 2012 – that narrative initially claimed the attacks sprung out of protests over an anti-Islam film.

Among the allegations, Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee said in a January 2014 Benghazi report that Morell insisted the talking points were sent to the White House for informational purposes, and not for their input – but e-mails, later released by the administration, showed otherwise.

In response to Rogers’ comments, Morell said in an email to Fox News, “I sent him a letter this afternoon saying that I would very much welcome an invitation to testify in open session before the Committee on Benghazi.”

Since retiring from the CIA, Morell has taken on high-profile assignments for the administration, including the NSA review panel and the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. He is now a paid TV commentator for CBS News, has a book deal, and works for Beacon Global Strategies, whose founder Philippe Reines has been described by the New York Times magazine as Hillary Clinton’s “principal gatekeeper.”

Asked if he was leaving the door open for recalling Petraeus, Rogers said: “Absolutely, We’re not going to take any lead off the table. And if there’s some clarifying questions that we can get done that leads to a conclusion, an appropriate conclusion and the finding of fault in this particular event we’ll – everybody is subject to coming back to the committee.”

Immediately after the attack, then-Director Petraeus rankled some lawmakers when they say he characterized Benghazi as consistent with a flash mob, and downplayed the skill needed to fire mortars with deadly accuracy on the CIA annex. CIA personnel on the ground in Benghazi recently testified that five mortars rained down on the annex in under a minute, and three were direct hits, killing former Navy SEALs Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, who were defending the compound. A source close to Petraeus insisted at the time that he knew it was terrorism from day one.

No determination has been made but Rogers said if witnesses are recalled, his preference is for public testimony. “I would prefer to have an open session. I think that would be, I think enlightening to everybody who has concerns about what happened on that September 11th day that took the lives of our Americans.”

Also Thursday, three U.S. senators who met with Morell and then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in late 2012 took to the Senate floor, calling for Rice to testify as well. Rice, who stirred controversy in 2012 for blaming the attack on protests, recently told NBC News the talking points were based on the best-available intelligence. Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., want her back on the Hill.

“We now have facts that she was absolutely wrong. Of course, the question also remains what in the world was Susan Rice doing speaking that morning?” McCain said.

Ayotte added, “We need to have her testimony before the Congress to get to the bottom of why these representations were made. Mr. Morell needs to be brought before the Congress and ultimately we need a select committee.”

Graham said there was ample intelligence in the days after the attack that there was no protest, citing eyewitness accounts from U.S. personnel on the ground in Benghazi. “Why didn’t the CIA pick up the phone and call the FBI agents interviewing the Benghazi survivors in Germany on the 15th, 16th and 17th of September, days after the attack?”

In a November 2012 meeting, Graham said Morell accused the FBI of refusing to share those accounts. “He said – Mike Morell – the FBI basically would not share that information because it is an ongoing criminal investigation. My mouth dropped. When the meeting was over, I ran back to my office. I called the FBI… They also denied that their agents ever withheld information from the CIA.”

In an earlier email to Fox News on Feb. 13, Morell said: “I stand behind what I have said to you and testified to Congress about the talking point issue. Neither the Agency, the analysts, nor I cooked the books in any way.”

When asked specific questions on Feb. 20 about Republican allegations he provided misleading testimony, Morell did not answer the questions, instead referring Fox News to the CIA public affairs office.

Spokesman Dean Boyd provided this statement to Fox News on Feb. 20: “As we have said multiple times, the talking points on Benghazi were written, upon a request from Congress, so that members of Congress could say something preliminary and in an unclassified forum about the attacks. As former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell has stated publicly time and again, the talking points were never meant to be definitive and, in fact, the points themselves noted that the initial assessment may change. He has addressed his role in the talking points numerous times. We don’t have anything further to add to the large body of detail on the talking points that is already in the public domain.”

Fox News also asked Petraeus if he would appear voluntarily if recalled by the House Intelligence Committee, and there was no immediate response.

Click HERE For Rest Of Story

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House Intelligence Subcommittee Chairman: Benghazi Personnel Were Told ‘You’re On Your Own’ (Video)

Benghazi Staffers Told: ‘You Are On Your Own’ – WorldNetDaily

A congressman has revealed a new detail about the 2012 Benghazi attack, disclosing that staff members at the besieged U.S. special mission were told in a directive, “You are on your own.”

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In an interview with CNN yesterday, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., chairman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee, charged the State Department, then run by Hillary Clinton, was culpable in the attack and ensuing cover-up.

While CNN.com focused on a different aspect of Westmoreland’s interview, running the headline “GOP Rep: Benghazi Not A ‘Complete Cover-Up,’” other statements made in the nine-minute sit-down may be more significant.

Westmoreland’s committee recently questioned CIA agents and contractors who were on the ground during the attack.

The lawmaker told CNN his committee learned a directive was issued Aug. 11 – one month before the attack – telling Benghazi staff they were on their own.

“And so we are looking into that directive to find out exactly who put that out,” he stated.

Asked whether he thought the government did its job to protect the facility, Westmoreland replied, “Absolutely not.”

He pointed specifically to the State Department.

“I think this will come back to the State Department,” he said.

Later in the interview, he again pointed to Clinton’s State Department for making what he said were claims contradicted by the intelligence community.

“You had the State Department trying to tell one story, and you had the security – the intelligence community – that may have been trying to sell another story,” he said.

Westmoreland said the Benghazi compound “itself is not set up for protection.”

He stated that when his committee interviewed the people who were on the ground, “they said they were really surprised that the lack of security at the mission facility.”

“They also testified that the people at the facility had been wanting help, requesting help, requesting additional security,” he said.

Westmoreland said “they just couldn’t believe that those guys were over there as unprepared and unequipped as they were.”

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Click HERE For Rest Of Story

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This is why we call the GOP the Stupid Party

Via Vodka Pundit

Oh fer cryin’ out loud:

A proposed amendment to the state’s Republican Party bylaws would allow the removal of the Alabama College Republicans chairwoman, who spoke out in favor of same-sex marriage in June, from the party’s steering committee.

Following the Supreme Court ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act in June, chairwoman and University of Alabama student Stephanie Petelos spoke to AL.com about the generational divide between party leadership and young conservatives on the issue.

She told Buzzfeed the comments reportedly infuriated party leaders, who began attempting then to remove her from the steering committee.

Good Grief! This is the kind of thing that always bugs me. we are not Liberals, we ought to be able to have a difference of opinion on such an issue. As Stephen Green points out this will not help get the youth vote

Sure, the state party can make its own rules and bylaws. That’s its job, after all. But to change those bylaws to target one person for making a personal statement which is pretty much the freakin’ norm for college kids?

BINGO!