An estimated 200 retired generals and admirals put pen to paper and sent a letter to Congress to advise them to reject the nuclear deal pressed by President Obama, saying the world will become a more dangerous place if it’s approved.
“The agreement will enable Iran to become far more dangerous, render the Mideast still more unstable and introduce new threats to American interests as well as our allies,” the letter stated.
It was addressed to House Majority Leader John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The writers say the “agreement as constructed does not ‘cut off every pathway’ for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons,” an apparent reference to the terminology President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry used to tout the benefits of the deal.
“To the contrary,” it continues, “it actually provides Iran with a legitimate path to doing that simply by abiding the deal.”
The generals and admirals say the agreement will let Iran enrich uranium, develop centrifuges and keep up work on its heavy-water plutonium reactor at Arak.
And also of concern, they write: “The agreement is unverifiable. Under the terms of the [agreement] and a secret side deal (to which the United States is not privy), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be responsible for inspectiOns under such severe limitations as to prEvent them from reliably detecting Iranian cheating.”
The letter references the widely reported 24-day delay that was given Iran to keep out inspectors, under the terms of the forged deal. And it also mentions the facet of the agreement that “requires inspectors to inform Iran in writing as to the basis for its concerns about an undeclared site,” and says such allowances are inappropriate and dangerous.
“While failing to assure prevention of Iran’s nuclear weapons development capabilities, the agreement provides by some estimated $150 billion… or more to Iran in the form of sanctions relief,” the letter states.
And their conclusions?
“As military officers, we find it unconscionable that such a windfall could be given to a regime that even the Obama administration has acknowledged will use a portion of such funds to continue to support terrorism in Israel, throughout the Middle East and globally,” they wrote, summarizing the agreement is a danger to the world.
“Accordingly, we urge the Congress to reject this defective accord,” the letter wraps.
Among the signers: Admiral David Architzel, U.S. Navy, retired; Admiral Stanley Arthur, U.S. Navy, retired; General Alfred Hansen, U.S. Air Force, retired; Admiral James Hoggs, U.S. Navy, retired; and General Ronald Yates, U.S. Air Force, retired.
Secretary of State John Kerry defended the Obama administration’s decision to take the Iran deal to the United Nations before the U.S. Congress votes on it. Kerry made the remarks in an interview this morning on ABC News:
The ABC reporter, Jon Karl, asked, “But the bottom line, the UN is going to vote on this before Congress gets to vote on this?”
“Well, they have a right to do that, honestly. It is presumptuous of some people to say that France, Russia, China, Germany, Britain ought to do what the Congress tells them to do,” said Kerry. “They have a right to have a vote. But we prevailed on them to delay the implementation of that vote out of respect of our Congress.”
The rumors began trickling in about a week before the scheduled vote on April 23: Republican leadership was quietly pushing senators to pull support for subpoenaing Congress’s fraudulent application to the District of Columbia’s health exchange – the document that facilitated Congress’s “exemption” from Obamacare by allowing lawmakers and staffers to keep their employer subsidies.
The application said Congress employed just 45 people. Names were faked; one employee was listed as “First Last,” another simply as “Congress.” To Small Business Committee chairman David Vitter, who has fought for years against the Obamacare exemption, it was clear that someone in Congress had falsified the document in order to make lawmakers and their staff eligible for taxpayer subsidies provided under the exchange for small-business employees.
But until Vitter got a green light from the Small Business Committee to subpoena the unredacted application from the District of Columbia health exchange, it would be impossible to determine who in Congress gave it a stamp of approval. When Vitter asked Republicans on his committee to approve the subpoena, however, he was unexpectedly stonewalled.
With nine Democrats on the committee lined up against the proposal, the chairman needed the support of all ten Republicans to issue the subpoena. But, though it seems an issue tailor-made for the tea-party star and Republican presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) refused to lend his support. And when the Louisiana senator set a public vote for April 23, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his allies got involved.
“For whatever reason, leadership decided they wanted that vote to be 5-5, all Republicans, to give Senator Paul cover,” one high-ranking committee staffer tells National Review. “So they worked at a member level to change the votes of otherwise supportive senators.” Four Republicans – senators Mike Enzi, James Risch, Kelly Ayotte, and Deb Fischer – had promised to support Vitter, but that would soon change.
Senate staffers, according to a top committee aide, reported seeing Missouri senator Roy Blunt make calls to at least two Republican committee members, lobbying them, at McConnell’s behest, to vote no on subpoenaing the exchange. By the time the committee was called to quorum, Enzi, Risch, Ayotte, and Fischer voted no.
To many observers, it was curious that any Republican would move to put the brakes on an investigation into Obamacare fraud, and particularly curious that they would pull back in an instance where the federal government was actually defrauding itself, one that so clearly illustrates Obamacare’s flaws by exposing the bureaucratic jujitsu and outright dishonesty required of federal employees themselves to navigate the law.
Conservative health-care experts can’t understand the reasoning behind the GOP senators’ opposition. They see politics and self-interest at play, and they allege that Republican leaders are as invested as their Democratic counterparts in maintaining their subsidies, fraudulently obtained, while avoiding scrutiny from an overwhelmingly disapproving American public.
“We deserve to know who signed that application, because they are robbing taxpayers,” says Michael Cannon, director of health-policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. The staffers who signed the fraudulent application, he says, “know who was directing them to do this. And so we have to follow the trail of breadcrumbs. This is the next breadcrumb, and whoever is farther up the trail wants to stop Vitter right here.”
The story of the ill-fated subpoena can be traced back to the debate over the Affordable Care Act, when Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) insisted that lawmakers and congressional staff join a health-care exchange set up under the bill. For government employees, that meant giving up government-subsidized health-care contributions of between $5,000 and $10,000 per person. The White House scrambled to find a way to allow congressional employees to keep those subsidies. In Washington, D.C., only the small-business exchange allowed them to do so. After secret meetings with House speaker John Boehner in 2013, President Obama instructed the Office of Personnel Management to allow Congress to file for classification as a small business, despite the fact that the law defines a small business as having no more than 50 employees and the House and Senate together employ tens of thousands.
When Vitter’s staffers tracked down the application and discovered obvious signs of fraud, Vitter requested approval to subpoena an unredacted copy of the application. The value of that document, says Cannon, is that it would reveal the name of the person who filed it. “Now you’ve got someone to call to testify,” he says, predicting that testimony would precipitate a congressional vote on whether to end the congressional exemption altogether.
“I think it makes sense to find out what happened,” says Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs, a noted conservative health-care voice and a National Review contributor. “It would be pretty interesting to see whose name is on the forms,” he says. “It has to go beyond mid-level staffers.”
But some congressional Republicans, it seems, are also resistant to getting to the bottom of the mystery – or, at the very least, they are content to let sleeping dogs lie.
Committee rules for a subpoena require either the consent of the ranking member or a majority of the group’s 19 senators. Because Democrats quickly made their opposition clear, Vitter needed the approval of all ten Republicans. Nine of them quickly consented via e-mail; one senator was strangely unresponsive.
Senior committee aides say that Rand Paul’s staff didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail requesting the senator’s consent and, when they did, they refused to provide it. When Vitter attempted to set up a member-to-member meeting, his overtures were ignored or put off. Paul’s policy staff refused to take a meeting. When Vitter tried to confront Paul on the Senate floor, they say, the Kentucky senator skirted the issue.
It wasn’t until after the vote that Paul shared his reasoning. “Senator Paul opposes allowing Congress to exempt themselves from any legislation,” an aide told the Conservative Review. “To that end, yesterday, he reintroduced his proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit Congress from passing any law that exempts themselves. Senator Paul prefers this option over a partisan cross-examination of Congressional staff.”
But a constitutional amendment is a longshot that would take years, and it hardly precluded an investigation of congressional corruption here and now.
“That’s absurd,” says Robert Moffit, the director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “You don’t need a constitutional amendment to get a subpoena… I don’t know where he’s coming from.”
“The answers he has given do not make sense,” Cannon says of Paul. “And when someone with his principles does something that is so obviously against his principles, and does not give an adequate explanation, you begin to think that politics is afoot. It would have to be someone very powerful that made him a powerful pitch – or threat – to keep him from doing this.”
Paul’s press secretary tells National Review that the senator “examines every opportunity to [oppose Obamacare] individually, and does not base his vote on requests made by other senators, including the majority leader.”
Asked whether McConnell pushed Paul or any other senator on the subpoena, a spokesman for McConnell says the majority leader “didn’t make any announcements when that committee voted.”
The flip-flopping Republicans justified their change of heart. Risch said in the April 23 committee meeting that legal wrangling with the D.C. exchange could take time away from the committee’s small-business work. Enzi said he saw little wrong with the application as is.
“Each of us has our own budget, each of us has our own staff,” he said. “I don’t know about everybody else, but I’m way under 50 [employees]. So my staff qualifies as a small business.”
Enzi was one of the original sponsors of Vitter’s 2013 amendment to end the congressional Obamacare exemption, but his press secretary tells National Review he felt the probe “could inadvertently target staff who simply completed paperwork as part of their job.” He insists that Enzi “made up his own mind.” Risch, Ayotte, and Fischer declined to comment.
A spokesman for South Carolina senator Tim Scott, who voted for the subpoena, says that nobody lobbied him one way or the other, while a spokesman for Florida senator Marco Rubio, who also voted in favor of the measure, declined to comment.
Health-care experts dismiss Enzi’s claim that each member’s office is its own small business, and not just because the health exchange application was filed for Congress as a whole. “These congressional offices that think they’re small businesses, are they LLCs?” Cannon asks. “Are they S-Corps? Are they shareholder-owned? Are they privately held? What is the ownership structure of this small business that you’re running, senator? It’s just utterly ridiculous.”
“They’re transparently absurd,” says Moffit of Senate Republicans claiming small-business status. “Who made the determination that Congress is a small business and is therefore eligible for subsidies that do not legally exist? How did that happen?”
No one quite knows what’s behind leadership’s apparent push to kill the subpoena. The move baffled some committee staffers. “The amount of blood that McConnell and Paul spilled to prevent [the subpoena] from happening makes me wonder [if] maybe that isn’t all that there is to it,” the high-ranking staffer says. “Maybe other people signed it… They’re clearly afraid of something bigger than a person’s name getting out there.”
Others, however, think the motives behind GOP leadership’s apparent obfuscation are clear. “If there’s one thing that absolutely drives Americans fundamentally crazy, it’s the idea that Congress can set one set of rules for themselves and another for everybody else,” says Moffit. “That’s political poison, and that’s why they have been so desperate to avoid the issue.”
“The most powerful interest group in Washington D.C., is not the Chamber or the unions or anyone else,” Cannon says. “It is members of Congress and their staffs. And when it comes to their benefits, they are all members of the same party.”
“Agents who repeatedly reported groups larger than twenty faced retribution.”
Border patrol agent Chris Cabrera testified to Congress this past week. Cabrera said border patrol agents who regularly reported groups of illegals larger than twenty were taken out of the field and assigned them to processing detainees. Or else the agents were assigned to low volume areas as punishment.
30,558 illegal alien criminals were released on the streets in America in 2013.
John Gihon, former senior ICE attorney, went on FOX and Friends Saturday to discuss this disturbing development.
“If their bosses are telling them to lie about the number of people crossing our border, this has to stop immediately. This is a national security issue.”
FULL HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE HEARING ON SECURING THE SOUTHWEST BORDER
Months after the Veterans Administration scandal exploded in the headlines, top officials are still lying and hiding information from Congress, and President Obama is actively trying to roll back the freedom of veterans to seek health care outside of the government system.
That’s the conclusion of Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
Last May, the VA was rocked by reports that veterans were forced to wait months for routine medical appointments and that some officials were doctoring hospital and medical records to cover up the failure to provide care. In response, Veterans Affairs Secretary Gen. Eric Shinseki resigned and Congress approved legislation giving future secretaries more freedom to remove ineffective personnel. Former Procter & Gamble Chairman Robert McDonald was eventually confirmed to succeed Shinseki and lead major reform efforts.
Are there signs of improvement?
On Monday evening, the House Veterans Affairs Committee grilled VA General Counsel Leigh Bradley over why more than 100 separate requests for information from the committee have gone unanswered for months and why the information that is given is often found to be false.
“The news only gets worse and worse,” Huelskamp said.
According to Associated Press reports on the hearing, committee chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., expressed deep frustration with the VA’s lack of cooperation on key facts, including wait times for veterans at the Phoenix hospital where the scandal began.
“Let there be no mistake or misunderstanding: When this committee requests documents, I expect production to be timely, complete and accurate,” Miller said.
Huelskamp is particularly incensed at the falsehoods coming out of the VA, including one stated by Secretary McDonald on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“They have falsified information, and it is not just lying to members of Congress; it’s lying to the American people,” he said. “We even had the secretary about a month ago lie on national television and claim that he had fired 60 employees that made up, falsified, cooked the books on wait times for our vulnerable veterans.”
The real number was nowhere near that high.
“He only fired four,” Huelskamp said. “There’s a big difference between four and 60, so there’s a lack of trust there. But this is, more importantly, a lack of trust between veterans who deserve their care and whether they’re getting in on time and whether they’re getting the proper care.”
And the congressman said the lies don’t stop there.
“The VA claimed that at the (Los Angeles) veterans facility, the wait was only four days,” he said. “We found out later, according to a CNN report, that it’s more than 30 days. Who do you believe? Who I believe is the veteran. If the veteran says they’ve been waiting, that’s what happens.”
Huelskamp said when Congress tries to separate fact from fiction, the massive VA bureaucracy grinds investigations to a halt.
“We’ve had, I think, three secretaries of the VA in my four years here,” he said. “For secretary after secretary and undersecretary after undersecretary, I didn’t know that had that many undersecretaries. They always send a new one over, and the answer is always, ‘We’ll get back to you. We’ll get that answer to you.’
“We have documented where they have lied to the committee, where they have falsified information,” he said.
If anything good came out of the VA scandal, Huelskamp believes it is the provision within last year’s reform bill that allows veterans to access care outside of the government system to shorten how long they wait for care. The congressman said expanded choice is working well for veterans and no longer forces many of them to travel hundreds of miles to approved doctors and facilities. He said that change is further proof the less government is involved in our health care, the better that care will be.
“That’s the best government health care you can get, and what we saw in Phoenix and around the country is that it’s been an abysmal failure,” Huelskamp said.
While the expanded health-care choices may be popular with veterans, Huelskamp said the Obama administration is actively trying to eliminate it.
“When the administration came in and asked to end the Veterans Choice Program, that sent shock waves through Congress because most Democrats and Republicans agree we need to improve the system and give veterans more choice in their health care,” he said.
“There’s a pushback from the administration, but the secretary has agreed – maybe not the president but the secretary has agreed – veterans deserve to keep their choice,” he said. “We’re trying to push the VA in a different direction than Obamacare is taking the rest of the health-care system. I think, at the end of the day, the better model is putting Americans in charge of their health care, not Washington, D.C.”
When will Congress get timely answers and the VA operate more efficiently? Huelskamp said a big part of the problem is a massive government bureaucracy that takes a long time to straighten out.
“There’s a culture of non-accountability, a culture of attacks on whistleblowers. That’s been going on for decades. It’s difficult to change that. That takes years,” said Huelskamp, who estimates some 330,000 bureaucrats are involved in VA operations.
“I think many of them do a terrific job, but it’s a system that’s set up based on the 1950s and ’60s, not 2015,” he said. “So it is a cultural shift at the VA, but the president has to provide leadership. I fear in the next two years, he will continue to drift away from any commitments to veterans in terms of reforming the system.”
What about Secretary McDonald? Is he the right man to lead this change?
“We’ll see if the secretary can answer those questions we asked a couple of nights ago,” Huelskamp said. “Some of these questions have been outstanding for months, which will give us insight (into) whether they’re really making the changes that were promised.”
NOTE: THIS LIVE EVENT HAS ENDED.
Click HERE to watch the full speech on video.
A couple of weekends ago, when my entire family was down with illness and rain was pouring outside, the Internet was our best friend. What better to do while sick in bed than catch up on all of my Facebook friends’ lives, find new ebooks to download from Amazon.com, catch up on a backlog of movies over Netflix, and tweet until my fingers were tired? And I don’t just mean myself – the whole family was doing all of that, and more. Watching YouTube videos, posting YouTube videos. Between coughs and sneezes.
Here’s what’s remarkable: According to the FCC our Internet connection, which facilitated all of that activity flawlessly, without a glitch, no longer counts as broadband.
There is literally nothing we want to do on the Internet that our connection can’t handle. And we have a teenager, for a clincher. We’re reasonably early adopters of just about every Internet connected device and service. But our Internet connection no longer meets the FCC’s definition of broadband.
Our connection speed was squarely within the definition of broadband until just a couple of weeks ago, when the FCC retracted previous policy standards and redefined broadband.
How does that make sense? Why would the FCC set a standard that so obviously isn’t true? How does a supposedly “expert agency” get something so wrong?
For political reasons. You see, all the FCC has to do is redefine broadband at a higher speed, and now they can argue that America’s broadband networks are insufficient and thus require greater FCC intervention.
And it’s part of a pattern. This is not the first time that the Obama-era FCC has radically departed from previous established FCC policy. Previously the FCC found that the wireless market is highly competitive. But as soon as an Obama-appointed FCC Chairman took office, the FCC decided that the wireless market was in fact not competitive, and previous FCCs all just got it wrong somehow.
The sad fact is that the FCC, purported to be an expert technical agency, has been thoroughly politicized – it’s now simply a political extension of the Obama administration and thus has been indentured into the administration’s regulatory power grab over the Internet.
Detailed reporting by the Wall Street Journal has revealed that the entire time the FCC was working to craft a more reasonable net neutrality compromise, the White House was engaged in a “secret,” parallel, closed process to craft a different policy that “stunned officials at the FCC.” The White House process was closed to some stakeholders and influenced by conversations with President Obama at a fundraiser. Those meeting with the White House were not required to register as lobbyists and were told to “not discuss the process openly.”
The White House effort “essentially killed the compromise proposed by Mr. Wheeler” and “swept aside more than a decade of light touch regulation of the Internet and months of work by Mr. Wheeler toward a compromise.”
So much for an “independent agency.”
In our constitutional republic, the proper place for public policy to be made is by the elected representatives of the people, through legislation. Congress has stepped up and Senator Thune has introduced legislation that would settle the net neutrality debate once and for all. Congress should be given time to act, but the President and Senate Democrats have made it clear that the Thune legislation is not acceptable: What they wanted all along was heavy federal regulation, not net neutrality. The gig is up.
Because the FCC has forsaken its mandate to be both expert and independent, Congress now has every reason to gut the FCC and radically downsize its regulatory scope and authority.
The FCC could be completely eliminated, and its few key functions distributed among other relevant agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Frankly, many of the FCC’s functions already overlap with the FTC, NTIA, and the Justice Department. In light of the FCC’s grotesque abrogation of its mandate to be expert and independent, a creative Congress could easily eliminate or dramatically scale back the FCC’s power.
Such a reform of the FCC is in fact long overdue, and Chairman Wheeler has set in motion the mechanism of its execution. By sacrificing his agency to President Obama’s radical progressive agenda to put the federal government in regulatory control of communications media, Chairman Wheeler should in fact be the last Chairman of the FCC as we know it.
You can also contact them via email: email@example.com
And don’t forget to contact your members of Congress about the issue, just for good measure.
Democrats finally get the opportunity to show their true colors for Israel and Netanyahu. They claim this is a partisan effort by Boehner, however it will only be partisan if they don’t show up. Boehner didn’t just invite Netanyahu to speak to Republicans, but all of Congress. Democrats are just miffed because Boehner finally got one on the president:
CNN – Several influential senior Democratic senators said on Wednesday they and other senators are considering boycotting an upcoming speech to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to protest the decision by House Republicans to disregard protocol and invite the foreign leader without the involvement and blessing of the White House.
“Colleagues of mine are very concerned about it and I’m troubled by it. I won’t name names, of course,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat who is also a close ally of President Barack Obama. “It’s a serious mistake by the speaker and the prime minister. The relationship between Israel and the United States has been so strong, so bipartisan.”
Durbin said he hasn’t decided whether to attend the March 3 speech to a joint meeting of Congress. In his address, Netanyahu is expected to criticize the controversial negotiations the Obama administration is spearheading with Iran aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program. Those talks face a critical deadline at the end of March.
“One of my closest friends – one of the strongest supporters of Israel – described this Boehner tactic as a disaster, a terrible disaster for Israel,” Durbin said, referring to Republican House Speaker John Boehner who invited Netanyahu. “I won’t speak for any other members but they’ve been talking to me about what is the right way to react to what could turn out to be a divisive event.”
Asked about a boycott, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who is Jewish and the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said “there are people discussing that.”
She hasn’t decided if she will attend the speech, which will take place in the House chamber. But she is deeply concerned about Netanyahu’s appearance, in part, because it is scheduled just days before the prime minister faces voters in Israeli elections.
“I take it very seriously,” Feinstein said. “My concern is that it is obviously political and it uses the backdrop of the United States House of Representatives and the Senate two weeks before a political campaign and violates all the protocol that’s always existed in terms of working this out with the President and I don’t think that helps Israel.”
Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, said he is still weighing whether to show up.
“I think it’s inappropriate both from in terms of our country and their country,” he said.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, would not say if he would attend.
“One of the most important pillars of the enduring, strong relationship between the United States and Israel is it has always been strongly bipartisan and I am concerned by some of the elements of the timing of the speech,” he said.
It’s not clear how many House and Senate Democrats will skip the speech, but if there is a large number of absences it could be embarrassing to Netanyahu. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said he plans to go but said it should be a “personal decision” by senators as to what they do.
The problem isn’t so much the inter-state and international policies that seem so contentious with Congress. Rather, all the social engineering nonsense brought in by the Progressives.
Go read the rest
Wednesday on Newsmax TV’s “The Steve Malzberg Show,” former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson said the Obama administration is refusing to tell Congress where the ten of thousands of unaccompanied minors who crossed the U.S.-Mexican Border this summer were sent after they were processed though holding centers along the border.
Attkisson said the Obama administration seems to be intentionally stonewalling by not answering letters from members of Congress or reporters questions.
She added the only recourse is a FOIA lawsuit that will take years to go though the system.
A working group of lawmakers appointed by Speaker John Boehner is poised to recommend deploying the National Guard, amending a 2008 law requiring a lengthy deportation process, bringing in temporary judges to reduce a legal backlog and new border security measures to the GOP version of an emergency spending bill planned for floor consideration before the August recess.
Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), the leader of the working group, briefed Republicans at a closed-door meeting Tuesday, reporting on their trip to Guatemala and Honduras over the weekend where they met with each country’s president and from which tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are streaming across the southern U.S. border.
“The presidents of both countries, I met with them, our group met with them, they want their children back,” he said. “They’re saying, ‘please, send our children back!’” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), a member of the working group and a key conservative lawmaker.
On the trip, the group was briefed by U.S. general John Kellly on the Mexico-Guatamala border. While witnessing individuals openly swim across the river border there, Kelly told lawmakers that drug cartels – some involved in financing terrorism operations – were directing and reaping the profits from sophisticated smuggling operations that had advertised the leniency of U.S. laws.
“There’s no doubt that the message went out, go cross the border now, the United States won’t do anything about it,” Granger told reporters after briefing colleagues. “That came, primarily, from the coyotes who were transporting these kids. These coyotes, it’s really something we weren’t prepared from, they sort of advertised – they actually advertise – as social workers. We’re going to help you take your kids out of the poverty and the danger they have in these countries and put ’em in the United States where they will receive an education and be taken care of.”
Granger said she was surprised to learn that in Guatemala coyotes are charging between $6,000-$9,000 per person. Salmon said the group was told one coyote was making $50,000 a week smuggling children into the United States.
Since October more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have been detained illegally crossing the southern border into the U.S. The vast majority of the illegal minors are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Last week President Obama requested $3.7 billion in emergency appropriations to deal with the crisis, but Republicans have rejected the figure and set about crafting their own response.
“In terms of priorities, we’re on different planets,” Salmon said about the president’s border ask.
At a press conference following the meeting, Boehner himself was circumspect about his views on how to address the issue. Asked about his ideas for addressing the crisis, Boehner said “I’ve got lots of them.”
Rep. Hal Rogers, the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee who is in charge of crafting the actual legislation to be considered on the House floor, declined to say how much the GOP bill would spend, but said it would be less than the $3.7 billion the president has asked for.
“Well, we’re trying to put together a bill, first off, that makes sense and we can afford and does the right thing – humanitarian-wise and regarding the border,” Rogers said. “I am hopeful as we go along that this will become a bipartisan effort – and bicameral.”
He noted that the goal is to pass the bill before the August recess.
In the hours before the working group makes its final policy recommendations, the key issue still under discussion are proposals to help secure the border. One option under discussion is language from a bill sponsored by working group member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
The bill has drawn fire from key immigration hawks, including the Heritage Foundation and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
McCaul said the bill was under discussion for inclusion in the proposal.
“Border security is part of this – a big part of this. The McCaul bill is going to be a big factor, that’s all I can tell you,” said Rep. John Carter (R-TX), another member of the working group.
“I think border security issues are going to be part of it,” Salmon said. “Whether it’s going to be that language or some other language remains to be seen.”
On the general approach of the group’s policy recommendations, McCaul said “We want to swiftly and humanely return them to their home. Only until we do that will we stop the flow. So we need a message of deterrence. We need to look at more border security measures. We’re going to need a surge of judges, whether it be retired judges or special masters to process these cases more expeditiously, because it takes four or five years now. We’re looking at all of those components and working with the countries of origin in terms of their capacity to take these kids back, and also with Mexico and Guatemala to help secure their southern border so they can’t make that journey through Mexico.”
He added, that as Boehner and others have pushed, the group will “certainly” be including the deployment of the National Guard in its proposal. Granger said that the National Guard proposal will be an important factor.
“We’ve got border patrol people trying to do a good job but they’re so overwhelmed by the number of people coming across that they’re taking care of children and filling out forms, and so we need National Guard to add more bodies to what’s happening at the border” Grander said, adding that immigration cases need to be adjudicated much more quickly.
“An average case with someone coming across the border illegally, going through the process we have will take between a year and half to as long as five years. Well with 57,000 unaccompanied children, that’s just unacceptable,” she continued. “So we’ve got to change that. Which means, changing not the process so much but adding the people that help with that process – more judges to hear those cases, there’s some – not adding permanent, but often time retired judges. There are different categories that can do that to make sure that that goes faster.”
Salmon reiterated the need to “plug the holes” with the National Guard, where Border Patrol has been moved to deal with children.
“It’s not that you have to have more people to catch them. But the cartels are playing bait and switch,” he said. “Make no mistake, it is the cartels that are basically overseeing these coyotes that are smuggling in the people and they are making a ton of money off of this.”
After the House GOP Conference meeting, members of the working group said they were on their way to meet with Department of Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson.
The working groups’ recommendations will come as Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) works with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) on a separate bill to deal with the crisis by, in part, change a 2008 human trafficking law that has made removing unaccompanied minors from Central America very difficult.
The pair’s legislation would, according to Cornyn, “improve the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008, treating all unaccompanied minors equally and ensuring Due Process under the law in a timely, fair manner.”
According to Brady, the bipartisan bill has been “well-received” and many Republicans have pointed to the 2008 law as ripe for tweaks. Indeed, Salmon, one of the most conservative members on the working group, introduced a bill to alter the law last week.
However, the bill is drawing scrutiny from conservative outside groups who are anxious about the details of legislation drafted and enacted in a crisis environment.
Just as the IRS tea party targeting scandal was erupting, Lois G. Lerner warned colleagues to “be cautious” about what information they put in emails because it could end up being turned over to Congress, according to an email message released Wednesday.
The 2013 email exchange between Ms. Lerner and fellow employees at the Internal Revenue Service also says that instant message conversations were probably never stored and weren’t checked during open-records requests – even though they also fell under the law requiring electronic records to be stored.
“I was cautioning folks about email and how we have had several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails — so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails,” Ms. Lerner wrote in an April 9, 2013, message.
She went on to ask whether the instant message communications were stored automatically. When a tech staffer said no but the records could be stored if employees copied them, she replied, “Perfect.”
“Why did it take us this long to get these emails? We’ve been after this for six months,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican who raised the emails with IRS Commissioner John Koskinen at a hearing Wednesday.
Mr. Jordan said the emails were part of a pattern of Ms. Lerner trying to hide her activities, following on the crash of her computer hard drive two years earlier, which erased thousands of messages.
Mr. Koskinen said he hadn’t seen the email before but questioned the connections Mr. Jordan was drawing.
“I don’t see anything in here where Lois Lerner says, ‘Wow, I got rid of my earlier emails and now I’ve got to check on it,’” the commissioner said.
Ms. Lerner’s email warning to colleagues to be careful about what they said in electronic communications issued less than two weeks after the IRS internal auditor shared a draft report with the agency accusing it of targeting tea party and other conservative groups.
A month after the email, Ms. Lerner would plant a question at a conference to reveal the scandal, just before the inspector general’s report was made public.
Ms. Lerner’s email was turned over to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week, more than a year after lawmakers sought it as part of their investigation into the IRS targeting.
Republicans said the email shows Ms. Lerner was aware that Congress was investigating the agency and that she was preparing to intentionally hide agency discussions from lawmakers.
Ms. Lerner’s email record has become a major scandal in and of itself after the IRS revealed that her computer hard drive crashed in 2011, causing the agency to lose thousands of her messages.
The IRS tried to recover some of the messages by asking others on the email chain to dig through their mailboxes, but the agency acknowledged that some messages may be permanently lost.
Some Republicans have questioned whether the IRS took enough steps to try to recover the emails from the hard drive in 2011.
The head of the National Archives testified to Congress that the IRS likely broke federal records laws by not storing Ms. Lerner’s emails properly.
IRS policy was to print out emails that constituted official records, but it’s unclear whether that ever happened.
Mr. Koskinen testified to Congress that he believed Ms. Lerner had printed out some emails. But Ms. Lerner’s attorney, William W. Taylor III, told the Politico online magazine that she didn’t know she was required print out emails and therefore did not do so.
On Wednesday, Mr. Taylor released a statement saying that “is not entirely accurate” and blamed a “misunderstanding.”
“During her tenure as director of Exempt Organizations, she did print out some emails, although not every one of the thousands she sent and received,” Mr. Taylor said.
“The facts are that Ms. Lerner did not destroy any records subject to the Federal Records Act, she did not cause the computer assigned to her to fail, and she made every effort to recover the files on the computer,” the lawyer said.