With Missouri Republicans gearing up to vote on a veto override Wednesday to ban mandatory union dues, six of their union-backed colleagues are all who stand in their way.
House Bill 116 was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon back in June. The measure would have outlawed mandatory union dues or fees in the state. With seven Republicans opposed to the bill, it is unlikely supporters will be able to override the veto. All but one of the Republicans opposed are heavily endorsed by organized labor.
“All but one received significant support from unions and all representative districts have a union presence,” the Center for Worker Freedom (CWF) noted in an article. “These representatives need to put their own interests to the side and vote to give their citizens’ the freedom they deserve.”The contributors listed include the Teamsters Local 688, the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA), Missouri AFL-CIO, Boilermakers Local 27 and the local chapter of the United Brotherhood Of Carpenters among others.
“Missouri unions are working against job creators and those who would spur the state’s economy by fighting right to work as part of a far left, liberal agenda that supports groups like Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club,” Jeff Bechdel, of Missouri Rising, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. “On both counts, these unions are working against what’s best for Missourians.”
Missouri Rising, a nonprofit affiliate of the Republican super PAC, American Rising, also released a video. The video criticized Missouri union bosses for attempting to block the measure.
CWF found each Republican opposed has received several thousand dollars in union contributions. Some much higher. According to National Institute on Money in State Politics, Ruth has received $10,328 from various public sector unions, Black has accepted over $20,000 from general trade unions alone and Sommer has received over $11,000.
“Our endorsements are based on their views of educational issues,” Mike Wood, director of governmental relations for MSTA, told TheDCNF. “We don’t have a dog in the fight.”
Wood also noted MSTA isn’t technically a union. As an association they engage in union activities like collective bargaining but have a wider scope of responsibilities. MSTA has, he argued, contributed to those lawmakers that share a similar view on education. Meaning policies like right-to-work aren’t a factor.
The Boilermakers also noted it’s about which lawmakers they already share common ground with. A representative for the union told TheDCNF it doesn’t donate to influence lawmakers.
Nixon has also been under suspicion for union contributions as well. A week after the veto, the governor received a $50,000 campaign contribution from the United Automobile Workers (UAW). Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has since urged Nixon to return the money. Nixon has defended his decision to veto the measure, arguing the policy is bad for workers.
“This extreme measure would take our state backward, squeeze the middle-class, lower wages for Missouri families, and subject businesses to criminal and unlimited civil liability,” Nixon declared in a statement from June. “Right-to-Work is wrong for Missouri, it’s wrong for the middle-class – and it must never become the law of the Show-Me State.”
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), however, has stated in a recent report the policy will benefit state residents. The report, titled, “Why Right to Work is Right for Missouri” estimated potential income loss associated with the state not having the policy between 1977 and 2012.
“In states where people have choice over whether to join a labor union or not, economic growth and personal income are demonstrably higher,” Trey Kovacs, a policy analyst for CEI, noted in a statement. “Missourians deserve the right to decide for themselves whether labor unions are meeting their needs.”
The seven Republicans opposed to the measure did not respond to a request for comment from TheDCNF.
The policy, also known as right-to-work, is usually opposed by unions. The union funded Republican opposition includes Kathie Conway, Kevin Corlew, Bart Korman, Becky Ruth, Linda Black and Chrissy Sommer. Rep. Bill Kidd is the only Republican expected to vote against the override that does not receive support from labor unions.
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.”
On Tuesday, the Washington Post revealed a memorandum dated April 26, 2010, sent from the Deputy Undersecretary for Health for Operations and Management (10N) to Network Director (10N1-23). That memo spelled out 17 methods being used by VA hospitals to cover up long wait times. Those tactics included:
* Telling veterans to call back after 30 days so that they would not appear in the records as having waited longer than 30 days;
* Use of a manual logging system;
* Creation and cancellation of new patient visits, marking those cancellations as “cancelled by patient” rather than “cancelled by clinic.”
The list goes on and on.
The White House claimed that it was utterly unaware of the memo, although Dr. Robert Petzel, the top health official at the Veterans Administration, admitted, “It’s absolutely inexcusable.”
So, what did the Obama administration know and when did it know it?
It knew, according to a 2008 briefing memo from the Department of Veterans Affairs, that the waiting times reported from the VA were not reliable: “This is not only a data integrity issue in which [Veterans Health Administration] reports unreliable performance data; it affects quality of care by delaying – and potentially denying – deserving veterans timely care.” Such problems, the document stated, “are systemic throughout the VHA.”
In 2007, then-Senator Obama, running for president, acknowledged massive problems within the VA. “No veteran should have to fill out a 23-page claim to get care, or wait months – even years – to get an appointment at the VA,” he told the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He continued:
When we fail to keep faith with our veterans, the bond between our nation and our nation’s heroes becomes frayed. When a veteran is denied care, we are all dishonored. It’s not enough to lay a wreath on Memorial Day, or to pay tribute to our veterans in speeches. A proud and grateful nation owes more than ceremonial gestures and kind words.
Caring for those who serve – and for their families – is a fundamental responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief.
He concluded, “The VA will also be at the cutting edge of my plan for universal health care.”
But Obama now claims that he was only informed of bureaucratic snafus from the newspapers. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated that the Phoenix falsifications of wait lists were news to Obama:
We learned about them through the reports. I will double check if that is not the case. But that is when we learned about them and that is when I understand Secretary Shinseki learned about them, and he immediately took the action that he has taken.
Apparently he was reading the wrong newspapers. Problems with veteran wait times have been heavily covered by the media for years. In 2010, the Los Angeles Times wrote:
Some veterans wait up to six months to get their initial VA medical appointment. The typical veteran of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars waits 110 days for a disability claim to be processed, with a few waiting up to a year. For all veterans, the average wait is 161 days. The VA says a ruling on an appeal of a disability rating takes more than 600 days on average. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, or IAVA, an advocacy group, says the average delay is 776 days. Up to 17% of veterans’ disability ratings are incorrect, the VA says. Thousands of dollars in disability payments hinge on the ratings, which are determined by the VA. The agency says it hopes to eventually cut the error rate to 2%.
In February 2013, lawmakers accused the VA of covering up five veteran deaths from Legionnaires’ disease, with Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) stating, “This has got the federal government’s footprints all over it. I am stunned at the coordination that took place and that is occurring at the highest levels of government to try and counter the blame.” The VA originally claimed that a minor Legionnaires’ outbreak had killed no one.
In March 2013, a whistleblower told the Daily Beast that the VA “routinely disseminated false information about the health of America’s veterans, withheld research showing a link between nerve gas and Gulf War syndrome, rushed studies out the door without taking recommended fixes by an independent board, and failed to offer crucial care to veterans who came forward as suicidal.” The whistleblower said that his bosses responded by attempting to intimidate and silence him, and that he was even admonished. He said that almost 2,000 suicidal veterans did not receive proper follow-up.
In November 2013, CNN reported:
Military veterans are dying needlessly because of long waits and delayed care at U.S. veterans hospitals… Military veterans are dying needlessly because of long waits and delayed care at U.S. veterans hospitals, a CNN investigation has found. What’s worse, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is aware of the problems and has done almost nothing to effectively prevent veterans dying from delays in care.”
CNN reported at least six patient deaths at just one facility. Money was even given to the VA to fix the problem. It wasn’t fixed. Debra Draper at the Government Accountability Office explained, “Long wait times and a weak scheduling policy and process have been persistent problems for the VA, and both the GAO and the VA’s (inspector general) have been reporting on these issues for more than a decade.”
So, what did President Obama know, and when did he know it? He knew plenty. And he had plenty of time to do something about it. He just didn’t. And crocodile tears now come too little too late.
This actually happened on the Senate floor this afternoon. Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) asked for consent to take up and pass the Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act, a bill that would make it easier/possible for the scandal-plagued department to fire employees based on poor performance. The House overwhelmingly passed the legislation on Wednesday, with a bipartisan vote of 390 to 33. (Only Democrats objected.)
Surely the Senate would follow suit, right? Not exactly. Senator Bernie Sanders, a union-backed socialist from Vermont, objected on behalf of Senate Democrats to Rubio’s request. Instead of taking any action now, Sanders said he is going to hold a hearing – several weeks from now.
Sanders, who chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, has been one of the most outspoken defenders of the VA against allegations of misconduct. When asked about reports of multiple deaths related to long wait times at the VA healthcare system, Sanders told CNN: “People die every day.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) on Thursday offered a lukewarm assessment of the House-passed legislation, describing it as “not unreasonable.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) was not happy. “As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, I am disappointed, and – frankly – shocked that Senate Democratic leaders chose to block legislation that would hold VA managers accountable,” Boehner said in a statement. “As we head home to honor the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedom, it’s fair to ask why Senate Democrats won’t stand up for more accountability?”
The New Republic pushed a photo of Barack Obama shooting on Twitter to prove that he really does shoot skeets.
Via Weekly Standard:
Here’s the photo:
There’s only one problem. It’s an old golf photo.
Nice try, libs.
Your Marxist Moron of the Day! And, if there is a Douchebag Hall of Fame, this pinhead belongs there.