Category Archives: President Obama

Stop delaying decision on Keystone pipeline

keystoneprotestThe U.S. State Department said it is delaying a decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline because of a Nebraska court case about the pipeline route. But many others, including some Democratic lawmakers, see it as another stall tactic aimed at putting off the controversial decision until after the November elections. “I am frankly appalled at the continued foot-dragging by this administration on the Keystone project,” complained Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska. Many environmentalists oppose the pipeline, but 65 percent of Americans think it should be approved, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll.

Encouraging deficit news, but debts still mounting

BudgetDeficitThe federal budget deficit is projected to fall to $492 billion this fiscal year, or 2.8 percent of the gross domestic product, according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office. That’s lower than the 3.1 percent average of the past 40 years, and almost 32 percent lower than last fiscal year. “This will be the fifth consecutive year in which the deficit has declined as a share of GDP since peaking at 9.8 percent in 2009,” the CBO report said. But lawmakers and President Obama shouldn’t stop being concerned. Though the deficit is expected to drop again next year, it is projected to rise sharply after that. And even when the deficit is declining, it is still adding to the national debt, which now totals more than $17.5 trillion.

Sebelius’ resignation inspires late-night jokes

Sebelius State of the Union DemocratsSome late-night comedy shows have gleefully noted Kathleen Sebelius’ exit from President Obama’s Cabinet. “After handling the bumpy rollout of the Obamacare site, Kathleen Sebelius announced today that she is resigning. Which explains why being thrown under a bus is now covered by Obamacare,” said Jimmy Fallon. “It’s no secret that the Obamacare website had some problems, but I think you could tell all those glitches and mistakes are behind Sebelius,” he said, introducing the clip of Sebelius realizing her prepared remarks were missing a page. “How do you botch your farewell speech?” Fallon concluded. And “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live” included this, delivered by Cecily Strong: “It was announced Thursday that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw the troubled launch of the Affordable Care Act, is resigning from office. Sebelius says she’s stepping down because she has so many more things she wants to barely accomplish.”

Some relief for Kansans in seeing Sebelius go

sebeliustestifyFor Kansans who felt some guilt by association during the worst of the passage and rollout of the Affordable Care Act, there is some relief in seeing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius step down. The former Kansas governor was a smart choice for the key Cabinet post in 2009 because of her experience and her passion for health care policymaking and commitment to covering the uninsured. And Sebelius exits with ACA enrollment at 7.5 million – more than the target. But what an ordeal, including that appalling initial flop of the HealthCare.gov website. Any benefit for Kansas from her status was lost to partisanship, as Republican Gov. Sam Brownback wanted nothing to do with the ACA. Sebelius’ resume is now tarnished and her political career is surely over. Perhaps she will write a book about her experience at the center of the biggest political storm of the Obama presidency. It’s hard to believe now that Sebelius, as governor, had approval ratings in Kansas as high as 70 percent back in 2007.

Pro-con: Does Sebelius leave a positive legacy?

sebeliuslaughingImplementing Obamacare was never going to be easy. And Kathleen Sebelius never had the kind of control a chief executive officer would. She was always dealing with a host of other players. And that’s to say nothing of her war with the congressional Republicans, who were trying actively to sabotage the law through repeal votes, funding cuts, and intimidation of would-be allies. More important, the law seems to be working, despite all of the early problems. Of course, Sebelius can’t take all or even most of the credit for the Affordable Care Act’s improved performance, any more than she should take all or most of the blame for the law’s troubles. Any accounting of her tenure must include such achievements (and others, like improvements to Head Start and stronger regulations on child care safety). To take one obvious example, Sebelius worked extensively with Republican governors who wanted to expand Medicaid in states with hostile conservative constituencies. The memories of Obamacare’s difficult start will certainly linger. But to the millions of people around the country who now have access to affordable medical care, I’m not sure that really matters. – Jonathan Cohn, the New Republic

It’s been quite a year for the former Kansas governor. October brought the failed launch of the HealthCare.gov website, which Sebelius initially characterized as simply the result of surging consumer demand for Obamacare and a “great problem to have.” December brought more embarrassing news as Sebelius waived the law’s individual mandate to buy insurance by categorizing Obamacare itself as a hardship worthy of exemption. This was just one of many on-the-fly rewrites the administration claimed the authority to make under a law passed by Congress and signed by the president. Though she is leaving now, her legacy is secure, as her name adorns several of the most consequential federal cases resulting from the law. Her resignation doesn’t change the fact that Democrats will remain politically accountable for a law sold on a fraudulent promise from President Obama. But this latest news does mean that not even the secretary of health and human services will get to keep her insurance plan. – James Freeman, Wall Street Journal

Now even harder for GOP to repeal Obamacare

healthcaregovpageThe more than 7 million Americans who signed up for Obamacare (along with millions more who gained insurance through their parents or through expanded Medicaid) make “it highly unlikely that Republicans will be able to deliver on their promise to repeal the law,” columnist Doyle McManus wrote. It would be very hard to take insurance away from that many people. But, McManus wrote, “that doesn’t mean Obamacare is guaranteed to succeed. The program still faces a series of difficult tests – most important, keeping costs under control so insurance premiums don’t soar in coming years.”

ACA working despite efforts of ‘haters’

healthcaregovpage“It has been obvious for some time now that the great fear among these politicians and conservative pundits was not that Obamacare would fail but that it would succeed,” wrote columnist Bob Ray Sanders. “I can only imagine how they must feel after watching people line up around the country Monday in an attempt to register for health care on the last day of enrollment, and to see the number of participants swell over the 7 million mark.”

Legislature doesn’t want ACA to work in Kansas

healthcarereformEven after its disastrous rollout, the Affordable Care Act exceeded projections and enrolled 7.1 million Americans in private insurance plans by Monday’s deadline. This is on top of the more than 3 million adults younger than 26 who were added to their parents’ insurance plans, and on top of the millions who gained coverage through Medicaid expansion. “It’s working. It’s helping people from coast to coast,” President Obama said. But state GOP legislators are still determined to keep the ACA from helping low-income Kansans. The Kansas Senate voted last week to prohibit the state from expanding Medicaid unless the Legislature approves. And the House approved a bill to remove Kansas from the ACA (and potentially Medicare) and join a multistate compact.

Obama wants to give America a raise

obamalibyaPresident Obama had a commentary in The Eagle Sunday arguing in favor of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. “Its effect would raise wages not just for minimum-wage workers, but for nearly 314,700 people in Kansas and 28 million Americans across our country,” Obama wrote. “It would lift millions out of poverty immediately, and help millions more work their way out of poverty, without requiring any new taxes or spending. It will give businesses more customers with more money to spend. It will grow the economy for everyone. That’s why nearly 3 in 4 Americans support raising the minimum wage.”

ACA saving seniors on prescription drugs

drugsSince enactment of the Affordable Care Act four years ago, Kansas seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare have saved nearly $94 million on prescription drugs, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Closing the “doughnut hole” in Medicare Part D has saved about 40,500 Kansans nearly $32.5 million, for an average savings of $800. Nationally, ACA has saved seniors $9.9 billion on prescription drugs, according to HHS.

Obama should fly his big plane to Wichita

obamaaf1During a recent White House event to announce advanced manufacturing hubs in Detroit and Chicago, President Obama punctuated a statement about his administration’s efforts to promote 3-D printing and other high-tech advances with this: “These are all ambitious goals, but this is America – that’s what we do, we’re ambitious. We don’t make small planes.” Really? That would be news to a general aviation hub such as Wichita. And it was an unfortunate choice of words for a president who recently signed the Small Airplane Revitalization Act sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita.

More bad polling results for Brownback

thumbsdownOnly 33 percent of Kansans approve of Gov. Sam Brownback’s job performance and 51 percent disapprove, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling. What’s more, only 46 percent of Republicans approve of the job Brownback is doing. In comparison, 34 percent of Kansans approve of President Obama’s job performance (though 60 percent disapprove). Brownback’s high disapproval rating is likely why he slightly trails House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, in a head-to-head matchup. Davis leads 42 percent to Brownback’s 40 percent, even though 59 percent of the people surveyed weren’t sure what they thought of Davis.

GOP should go to court to restrain Obama

obamasotu13Republicans must do more than issue strong statements about President Obama circumventing Congress and the rule of law, columnist Cal Thomas argued. “The GOP should use the courts to at least restrain him,” Thomas wrote. “The founders foresaw the danger when a president behaves like a king.”

Pompeo: Obama directive hurts intelligence capabilities

spyingliberty1Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and former White House attorney David B. Rivkin Jr. argued in a Wall Street Journal commentary that President Obama’s recent intelligence directive “undermines our intelligence capabilities in service of a novel cause: foreign privacy interests.” They especially criticized Obama for extending the “same privacy protections to foreigners that now apply to data regarding ‘U.S. persons’” and called on Congress to “hold him accountable for a directive that will hobble our foreign-intelligence capabilities, even as the world spies on us and threats to Americans multiply.”

Why does Schmidt care about Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan?

schmidtWhy did Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt file a brief this month opposing an agreement to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, which is a thousand miles from Kansas? Because agriculture interests are worried that the Environmental Protection Agency will next want to clean up the Mississippi River basin. “The issue is whether EPA can reach beyond the plain language of the Clean Water Act and micromanage how states meet federal water-quality standards,” Schmidt wrote in the brief on behalf of Kansas and 20 other states, mostly in the Midwest and South. A federal District Court ruled last fall that the EPA didn’t exceed its authority. The ruling also noted that the cleanup plan was developed with the participation of all states in the watershed over a period of years. Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, doesn’t appreciate the intervention by Schmidt and others. “Don’t tell us how to restore clean water in our backyard,” he said.

Boehner, GOP to blame for failure on immigration reform

illegalimmigrationHouse Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says the reason the House won’t approve immigration reform is because Republicans don’t trust President Obama. No, it’s not. The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan immigration reform bill. The same bill could pass the House if Boehner would allow a vote. But he is being cowed by members of his party who oppose immigration reform. It’s also worth noting that the Obama administration has deported almost 2 million illegal immigrants in the past five years, nearly as many as the George W. Bush administration deported in eight years.

Pro-con: Is Obama overreaching on executive orders?

Inaugural Swearing InFact is, U.S. presidents do have vast powers under Article II of the Constitution, especially when it comes to waging war and protecting national security. But “vast” isn’t the same as “unlimited.” Too many presidents – Republican and Democrat – have stretched the interpretation of their powers to the limit, and sometimes beyond. In that sense, President Obama is no different from past presidents. But in crucial ways, he has used and abused his powers in ways his predecessors could only fantasize about. Unilaterally raising the federal minimum wage for government contractors may have Republicans in Congress pulling their hair out, but that’s among the least of this president’s usurpations of their lawmaking authority. Committing American airpower in 2011 to help overthrow Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi without so much as consulting Congress was a milestone in presidential overreach. Obama decided in 2012 that Congress wasn’t doing enough to reform U.S. immigration laws, so he signed an executive order barring the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service from deporting minors and relatives of U.S. service members living in the United States illegally. When the president decided to delay his health care law’s “employer mandate,” he engaged in nothing less than wholesale lawlessness. Congress has for too long delegated far too much of its power to the executive branch. It’s past time the legislative branch used its authority to hold this president to account. – Ben Boychuk, City Journal

Two words: “Unitary executive.” You might not remember those words – Republicans in Congress certainly don’t seem to. They were the name of a theory, advocated by Dick Cheney in particular, under which the George W. Bush administration unilaterally chose to ignore Congress and its legal obligations, pretty much whenever it chose. A law against warrantless wiretapping? Ignore it. Treaties against torture? Ignore them. Don’t like the new law Congress passed? Don’t veto it – sign it, but add a “signing statement” explaining why you won’t actually obey it. All of this happened with the near-total acquiescence of congressional Republicans throughout the Bush administration. Much as it did its love of fiscal austerity and the filibuster, the GOP rediscovered its fidelity to the rule of law with alacrity in 2009, when President Obama took office. It’s clear what’s going on here: Republicans don’t believe in a constrained, limited presidency. They believe in constraining and limiting Democrats. It’s not the same thing, and observers can be forgiven for rolling their eyes at the crocodile tears of self-styled defenders of the Constitution. If Republicans want to limit the presidency, let them prove it when one of their own is in the White House. – Joel Mathis, Philadelphia Magazine

Will House act on immigration reform?

Barack ObamaThere isn’t much cause to hope that the current Congress will work together for the common good. But one significant reform that it could accomplish, if House leadership allows it, is immigration reform. The Senate overwhelmingly passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill last year, but GOP leaders haven’t allowed a vote in the House. “Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted,” Obama said in his State of the Union address Tuesday. “I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same.” By not scolding House lawmakers or mentioning specific provisions that must be in the bill, Obama was extending an olive branch. But as Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wrote: “Will/can House Republican leaders – many of whom applauded Obama’s line on immigration – grasp it?”

Is another investigation of Benghazi needed?

clinton,benghaziThough the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a bipartisan report last week on the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya, columnist Cal Thomas wants more investigation. “What is needed is for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to appoint a select committee, modeled after the Senate Watergate Committee, with subpoena powers to question under oath witnesses and those in charge,” Thomas wrote.

Public doesn’t like surveillance, but it’s not a policy priority

eavesdrop4Though 63 percent of Americans don’t like government surveillance of U.S. citizens, only 42 percent consider it an extremely or very important priority for Congress and the president, lower than 15 other priorities, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Why didn’t Gates speak up sooner?

gatesrobertmugWichita native and former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has received some praise but also a lot of criticism for his new book, “Duty.” Many consider it bad form for a Cabinet secretary to publish a tell-all book while the president is still in office (particularly a defense secretary potentially undermining the commander in chief). Sarah Chayes of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace questioned why Gates didn’t raise his concerns while he was the secretary. “In his memoir, Gates emerges as a petulant, inhibited man who ill-served his president and the national interest by keeping his anger and concerns bottled up instead of raising them in person, at the time when it might have done his country some good,” she wrote.

Obama tries to strike balance with new surveillance rules

nsaflag2President Obama likely went too far for some and not far enough for others Friday when he ordered the end to the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. He also barred eavesdropping on leaders of allied countries. “In our rush to respond to very real and novel threats, the risks of government overreach – the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security – became more pronounced,” Obama said.

Roberts applauds rule change on school lunches

schoollunchSen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture for allowing flexibility on maximum caloric limits for meats and grains in school lunches. “This has been a battle for common sense in the cafeteria,” Roberts said in a statement. “These guidelines were leaving students hungry throughout the school day and athletic events.” USDA loosened daily and weekly portion limits in 2012. The new rules make that change permanent. “In the end we were able to convince USDA to listen to reason,” Roberts said.

Sebelius touts Jan. 1 as ‘new day in health care’

sebeliushandsupDespite all the trouble that the Affordable Care Act experienced this year, including the disastrous rollout of its online marketplace, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is upbeat about what the reform law will mean to Americans in 2014. In an Eagle commentary, the former Kansas governor called Jan. 1 “a new day in health care” because, among other changes, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions or impose an annual benefits cap. “Now, not only are there new rights and benefits, we are also seeing the slowest health care price inflation in 50 years,” she wrote. The Obama administration also is touting a December surge in enrollments, though the 2 million total signups between the federal and state exchanges is still far short of the goal of enrolling 7 million by March 31.

ACA hurting Obama’s approval rating

obamajune2011The rocky rollout of the Affordable Care Act hurt President Obama’s approval rating, with a record 54 percent disapproving of his job performance in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed cited ACA as a chief factor in shaping their view of the president this year. “It’s probably fair to say that as goes health care, so goes the Obama presidency for the next year,” Democratic pollster Fred Yang said. The public thinks even less of Congress. “More than half of those polled rated the current Congress as one of the worst ever, by far the most negative verdict going back to 1990,” the Wall Street Journal reported.