Ted Cruz Accuses Obama of Staging ‘Economic Boycott on Israel’ With Flight Ban

Rob Bluey /

The Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to temporarily ban U.S. flights to Israel escalated into a political showdown today between the Obama administration and Sen. Ted Cruz.

Following the FAA’s decision to extend the ban for a second day, the Texas Republican accused President Obama of using the federal agency to “launch an economic boycott on Israel” as the country fights a war against Hamas.

Late Wednesday, the FAA canceled the flight ban after two days of travel restrictions to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. When a rocket landed within a mile of the airport Tuesday, U.S. flights were prohibited from landing or taking off.

Seeking answers on the FAA’s temporary ban, Cruz asked the agency to respond to five questions, including any political discussions that may have taken place with the White House. He also asked why the FAA still was allowing flights over Ukraine in the wake of the Malaysian Airlines attack that killed 298 people last week.

“The facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands,” Cruz said.

Cruz’s five questions prompted an angry response from the State Department later in the day. “It’s ridiculous and offensive, quite frankly,” spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Cruz is now threatening to block all State Department nominees until his questions are answered. He said:

Serious questions were asked about the nature of a decision that handed Hamas a public relations victory and will cost Israel billions of dollars. The only thing ‘offensive’ about this situation is how the Obama Administration is spurning our allies to embolden our enemies; the only thing ‘ridiculous’ is the administration’s response to basic questions.

The Heritage Foundation’s Nile Gardiner said Hamas views the flight ban as “big victory” because it leaves Israel increasingly isolated. Gardiner, who considers Obama to have contempt for Israel,  said Cruz was right to question the decision.

“Far too often, the Obama administration behaves as an imperial presidency when anyone questions its authority,” said Gardiner, who directs Heritage’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom. “President Obama has shown contempt for the Israeli government. He has been no friend to Israel.”

Cruz wasn’t the only politician to voice alarm at the Obama administration’s actions Wednesday. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is visiting Israel, released a statement criticizing the decision:

Halting flights here—when the airport is safe—hurts Israel and rewards Hamas for attacking Israel. Hamas wants to shut down the airport; we can’t let that happen. I’m a pilot—and I’ve always believed the FAA does a great job—and still do. But on this issue, I think the agency got it wrong.

In a statement issued late Wednesday, the FAA said it had lifted the ban effective at 11:45 p.m. ET after assessing the security situation in Israel.

Newt Gingrich: ‘Absolutely’ Send Unaccompanied Children Home - Daily Signal

Newt Gingrich: ‘Absolutely’ Send Unaccompanied Children Home

Rob Bluey / Kelsey Harkness /

The United States should “absolutely” send unaccompanied children back home, said Newt Gingrich in an exclusive interview with The Daily Signal. Accusing the Obama administration of encouraging illegal immigrants to enter the United States, the former House speaker endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to activate the National Guard and said the children should stop being used as an “excuse” to maintain an open border.

Monica Sanchez co-produced this video.

What’s Right and What’s Wrong About Republicans’ New Border Crisis Policy Proposal - Daily Signal

What’s Right and What’s Wrong About Republicans’ New Border Crisis Policy Proposal

Rob Bluey / Kelsey Harkness / David Inserra /

House Speaker John Boehner’s Border Crisis Working Group released Wednesday its recommendations on what should be done on the border crisis. The group, which is chaired by Rep. Kay Granger, R-Tex., announced 12 policy ideas for how to solve the influx of unaccompanied alien children on the border. Some of their ideas are good, some are bad, and some important policies are missing entirely.

The Missing Ideas:

Strikingly, the report doesn’t even mention the way immigration law is being enforced. President Obama’s anti-enforcement policies such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) encourage illegal immigration and undermine the rule of law. Without addressing the magnet of amnesty and de-facto amnesty through the non-enforcement of immigration laws, even the best border security improvements will be ineffective.

The Bad Ideas:

These policies seem to be drawn from past, similar bills such as H.R. 1417 that call for various strategies, plans, metrics, and reports from DHS. While such proposals correctly don’t throw money at the problem, the strategies, plans, and metrics end up being empty words on paper if not properly administered and financed. As Heritage research pointed out, “even where metrics can be reliably established today, they may be meaningless tomorrow. The same is true regarding any attempt to certify that the border is secure.”

Importantly, such language is similar to the S. 744, the Senate’s flawed immigration bill, and could be a vehicle for going to a conference committee, where harmful policies and compromises are the likely outcome.

While this is a great goal, it is unclear how this would be actualized. Enforcement policies must change, and not just the Trafficking Victims Protections Reauthorization Act to meet this goal. Given the way President Obama enforces current law, a mere goal or suggestion by Congress to rapidly process and remove individuals will do little.

The Good Ideas:

If used correctly, this is a good temporary step, but Congress should understand that the National Guard is not a cost-effective solution in the long run.

This is a a welcome change: Border Patrol agents should be allowed to patrol the entire border. Restrictions because of bureaucratic turf wars or environmental reasons are not justified and should be done away with.

TVPRA should be reformed to make it clear that DHS can return these children to their home countries in a safe and judicious, but expedited, manner.

After families or children are release from custody, many abscond. Indeed as many as 46 percent of unaccompanied minors do not show up to their court date. Ending this “catch and release” will ensure that more unlawful immigrants are removed from the U.S.

ISIS Continues to Force Christians Out of Iraq - Daily Signal

ISIS Continues to Force Christians Out of Iraq

Rob Bluey / Kelsey Harkness / David Inserra / Natalie Johnson /

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ultimatum that Christians leave Mosul to avoid purge expired Friday at noon, driving a reported 2,000 Assyrian families out of the area.

Many of these families sought refuge in Qaraqosh, a historic Christian city outside of Mosul—though according to Bloomberg Businessweek, even this “formidable” Kurdish-protected area is falling into the grips of ISIS.

The terrorist group has cut off the area’s main water supply in an effort to further drive Christians out of the region they’ve inhabited for 2,000 years.

Katherine Gorka, president of the Council on Global Security, cited a conversation with the Syrian Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Moshe, saying he had reported that ISIS is now just 2 kilometers outside of Qaraqosh, sparking grave concern of a potential Christian genocide.

“ISIS is using water as a weapon,” Gorka says. “Christians are being eradicated. ISIS’ goal is to push the Christians out of the land that they claim as the caliphate.”

Christians fled Friday with little choice under the strict ISIS demand: Leave immediately, convert to Islam or be killed. Those who fled were robbed of all possessions with the exception of the “clothing on their backs,” according to CNN.

“Iraqi Christians tragically have been the biggest losers in Iraq’s recent meltdown,” says Jim Phillips, senior research fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at The Heritage Foundation. “Christians face a sectarian pogrom and a humanitarian nightmare.”

The number of Christians in Iraq has severely dropped since the U.S. invasion in 2003, dropping from 1.5 million to 400,000 over the last ten years according to the Washington Post.

Many of the abandoned Christian homes now have “property of ISIS” scribbled in black on the walls along with a red Arabic “n” signifying the Arabic word for “Christian,” marking a blatant branding all too reminiscent of previous genocides.

ISIS has also taken control of the 30 churches and monasteries in the city, according to the Assyrian International News Agency. The group removed all crosses from the churches, converting many of them into mosques or ISIS centers. Others have been looted, destroyed or burned to the ground.

Phillips said the U.S. should work with Iraq and Turkey along with Kurdistan’s regional government to ease the Christian and minority suffering. While concerted efforts by these governments to move refugees to safe areas in Iraq and protect Christians against ISIS aggression are necessary, Phillips doesn’t see these actions as permanent solutions.

“The crisis will continue as long as the Islamic state survives to enforce its harsh and brutal version of Islamic law,” Phillips said. “The U.S. must help the Iraqi government defeat [the Islamic State] militarily. [We must] Moderate Sunni Iraqi rebel groups and chip away at [ISIS’] power in Syria by supporting rival Syrian rebel groups that already are fighting it there.”

The Obamacare Employer Mandate Could Die in Some States - Daily Signal

The Obamacare Employer Mandate Could Die in Some States

Rob Bluey / Kelsey Harkness / David Inserra / Natalie Johnson / Nina Owcharenko /

Tuesday’s D.C. Circuit and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rulings raise new doubts over the future of Obamacare. At the heart of these conflicting decisions is whether or not the Internal Revenue Service overstepped its authority in its interpretation of the Affordable Care Act.

The statute clearly states that subsidies are available only through exchanges established by a state, yet the IRS, in its interpretation, expanded the availability of subsidies to all exchanges – state and federal.

Should the D.C. Circuit decision (ruling against the IRS) be upheld, the impact would have a ripple effect on the health care law. First, only individuals purchasing coverage through a state exchange would be eligibility for federal subsidies. Those individuals in the federal exchanges would likely face costly premiums and many as a result may be exempt from the individual mandate. Second, since the employer mandate penalties are linked to the availability of the subsidies, employers would not be subject to the penalty in those states that did not establish a state exchange.

According to the D.C. Circuit, only 14 states (and the District of Columbia) set up state exchanges. In many cases, it has been a bumpy ride for the states. Some states are even looking to hand the exchanges back to the federal government.

Aside from amending the law through normal legislative processes, one obvious quick fix would be to get more states to set up state exchanges. But that may a heavy lift. Many states opted to not establish an exchange in part because by 2015 states are required by law to fund the operating expenses of the exchanges on their own. Furthermore, grant funding that was originally included in the law to help states establish state exchanges is gone, and it is highly unlikely Congress would be willing to appropriate additional funds toward this endeavor.


National Guard Would Be Waste of Resources, Border Patrol Agents Say - Daily Signal

National Guard Would Be Waste of Resources, Border Patrol Agents Say

Rob Bluey / Kelsey Harkness / David Inserra / Natalie Johnson / Nina Owcharenko / Josh Siegel /

As Texas Gov. Rick Perry activates troops to help manage a surge of immigrants entering his state through Mexico, Border Patrol agents responsible for apprehending the illegal crossers say they do not want assistance from the National Guard to secure the border.

Perry announced Monday he would deploy up to 1,000 National Guard troops to help manage a crisis on Texas’ southwest border with Mexico.

House leaders also favor summoning troops to the border to stem the tide of Central American children illegally crossing there.

A group of mostly border-state Republicans released a plan Wednesday that would deploy the National Guard “to assist Border Patrol in the humanitarian care and needs of the unaccompanied minors, which will free up the Border Patrol to focus on their primary mission,” the group’s leader, Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, said in a statement.

But Border Patrol agents, and leaders from their union, argue that the National Guard would not augment existing manpower because troops are limited in what they can actually do.

Shawn Moran, vice president for the National Border Patrol Council, says when troops were deployed to border states in 2006-2008 for Operation Jump Start, they could not “make contact with illegal aliens,” let alone arrest them.

The troops were also unarmed.

“They were mostly line-watching with binoculars on mountains and helping use surveillance cameras,” said Moran, speaking at a Border Patrol event Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

Moran said Border Patrol would have to assign agents to stand side-by-side with troops, diverting resources from arresting people.

“The theory is that it [the National Guard] frees up agents to do patrols,” Moran said. “But it takes a lot of training and experience to put agents in the right places. There’s no net gain in manpower. The National Guard is good at building infrastructure, like border fences and all-weather roads. They’re the best in the world at that. But I have serious concerns about how they will be utilized. We have to see what the governor has in store.”

Perry messaged his decision to deploy troops to the border as a way to help the Texas Department of Public Safety combat criminal activity, such as drug and human smuggling.

“The action I am ordering will tackle this crisis head-on by multiplying our efforts to combat the cartel activity, human traffickers and individual criminals who threaten the safety of people across Texas and America,” Perry said Monday.

The governor said troop deployment would support Operation Strong Surge, a Perry initiative approved last month that sent state troopers to the border to assist local law enforcement.

Texas state and local law enforcement officers cannot enforce federal immigration law, meaning they cannot detain people based solely on their immigration status.

But they can refer those they suspect have entered the country illegally to the Border Patrol.

The National Guard might fill a similar role.

John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of the Texas National Guard, said in a briefing with Perry Monday that, “If we were asked to, we could detain people. But we’re not planning on that. We’re planning on referring and deterring.”

With troops’ power limited, Border Patrol leaders question the cost of using the National Guard.

Operation Strong Surge costs $1.3 million a week; the combined operation, with the National Guard deployment, will cost more than $17 million a month. It’s unclear how it will be funded, Perry said.

“Sending troops is much more expensive than any enhanced manpower that would come internally,” said Brandon Judd, president of the Border Patrol union, which represents 16,500 agents. “There’s a reason we don’t put military on the border and have them arrest people. I don’t know how they would have arrest power unless you trained them in immigration law to learn how to enforce those laws. It opens the government up to lawsuits galore.”

In commentary for The Daily Signal, David Inserra, a Heritage Foundation homeland security expert, and Steven Bucci, a foreign policy specialist at the think tank, argued deploying the National Guard could help stem the border surge in the short term, but that the problem requires a stronger solution.

“Border Patrol is right to consider the National Guard as not a cost-effective solution,” Inserra said. “Longterm, we need to have better technology to make existing Border Patrol more effective. We also have to change the enforcement policies that encourage illegal immigration. If our laws are not being enforced, it makes Border Patrol agents jobs more difficult.”

Report: Fictional People Able to Sign Up for Obamacare, Get Subsidies - Daily Signal

Report: Fictional People Able to Sign Up for Obamacare, Get Subsidies

Rob Bluey / Kelsey Harkness / David Inserra / Natalie Johnson / Nina Owcharenko / Josh Siegel / Katrina Trinko /

You don’t even have to be a real person to get Obamacare subsidies.

That’s the takeaway from a report issued Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office. The GAO created 12 imaginary identities, which were used by people who signed up for Obamacare

Eleven of them succeeded in obtaining coverage—and received subsidies.

“The total amount of these credits for the 11 approved applications is about $2,500 monthly or about $30,000 annually. We also obtained cost-sharing reduction subsidies, according to marketplace representatives, in at least nine of the 11 cases,” GAO’s Seth Bagdoyan said, according to NBC News.

Obamacare requires exchanges to assume applicants answered honestly all the questions on their application. Suspicious applicants are supposed to be asked to provide additional documentation to prove their claims. But the GAO found there’s no consistency in how that occurs:

For its 11 approved applications, GAO was directed to submit supporting documents, such as proof of income or citizenship; but, GAO found the document submission and review process to be inconsistent among these applications. As of July 2014, GAO had received notification that portions of the fake documentation sent for two enrollees had been verified. According to CMS, its document processing contractor is not required to authenticate documentation; the contractor told us it does not seek to detect fraud and accepts documents as authentic unless there are obvious alterations. As of July 2014, GAO continues to receive subsidized coverage for the 11 applications, including 3 applications where GAO did not provide any requested supporting documents.

According to a Congressional Budget Office April report, the federal government will spend $36 billion on Obamacare in 2014.

Chile’s New Education Reforms: Less for All - Daily Signal

Chile’s New Education Reforms: Less for All

Rob Bluey / Kelsey Harkness / David Inserra / Natalie Johnson / Nina Owcharenko / Josh Siegel / Katrina Trinko / Ashley Wright / Andrea Rodriguez / George Margulies /

Chile’s new president, Michele Bachelet, is out with her promised education reforms, which are paid for by increased taxes on the corporate sector. But they’re not very smart.

In the 1980s, the Chilean government introduced a voucher system to encourage competition in the school system. This system gives students the option to pay a small fee to attend “voucher schools” (which are distinct from public and private schools), with the bulk of their tuition covered by the government. By 2000, roughly half of Chilean students attended these voucher schools.

All in all, this system produced pretty good outcomes for students. Since 2000, Chilean students have improved steadily on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international test in math, science, and literacy. In fact, Chilean students continued to improve in the most recent PISA test, far outpacing the regional average.

The new education reforms, however, would disrupt the entire system by preventing voucher schools from charging any additional tuition fees. This would create a price ceiling for voucher schools that would not allow them to pay for, say, better teachers or expanded services.

These moves would hurt Chile’s middle- and lower-income students the most. The privatization and voucher system have opened up private, competitive schools to more lower- and middle-income Chileans. Meanwhile, attendance rates have fallen for public schools. The mobility introduced by the voucher system also created market pressure on failing public schools to improve their services. The effective price ceiling created by Bachelet’s reforms would hurt the most disadvantaged students in the education market.

In addition, Bachelet’s ultimate goal is universal, state-paid college tuition, which would potentially increase the tuition costs paid by the state and reduce the role of private institutions. This would reduce competitive cost-cutting and the quality of learning. It would also expand the public deficit.

Bachelet is certainly allowed to tackle education reform, but reducing competition and eliminating choices is the wrong way to do it. Instead, Bachelet should stick with the competition and economic freedom that has turned the country into the richest, most educated nation in Latin America.

Ashley Wright, Andrea Rodriguez, and George Margulies are currently members of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, pleaseclick here.

Property Rights at Stake in EPA’s Water Power Grab - Daily Signal

Property Rights at Stake in EPA’s Water Power Grab

Rob Bluey / Kelsey Harkness / David Inserra / Natalie Johnson / Nina Owcharenko / Josh Siegel / Katrina Trinko / Ashley Wright / Andrea Rodriguez / George Margulies / Daren Bakst /

Thanks to the federal government, it soon may become far more difficult to use and enjoy private property. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers want to make a water—and land—grab that should scare everyone.

Under the Clean Water Act, the federal government has jurisdiction over “navigable waters,” which the statute further defines as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” Property owners often need to get permits if waters covered under the law will be impacted. Therefore, a critical question is what types of “waters” are covered under the CWA. That’s what the EPA and Corps seek to address with a new proposed rule that would define “the waters of the United States.” As expected, the EPA and the Corps are seeking to expand their authority to cover waters never imagined when the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972.

For example, the new proposed rule would regulate all ditches, except in narrow circumstances. This even includes man-made ditches. The rule would apply to tributaries that have ephemeral flow. This would include depressions in land that are dry most of the year except when there’s heavy rain.

There’s widespread opposition to the proposed rule. Farmers and ranchers are concerned that the rule could affect normal agricultural practices. Homebuilders could face additional development costs that would likely be passed on to buyers. Counties are concerned because of costly new requirements that could impact municipal storm sewer systems, roadside ditches, among other things.

This broad overreach could have significant costs and delays for permit applicants. In Rapanos v. United States (2006), a major CWA case, Justice Antonin Scalia cited a study highlighting the following costs and delays for one of the major types of permits (Section 404 permits), “The average applicant for an individual permit spends 788 days and $271,596 in completing the process, and the average applicant for a nationwide permit spends 313 days and $28,915—not counting costs of mitigation or design changes.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation launched a national campaign to inform people why the Clean Water Act should be 'ditched.' (Photo: American Farm Bureau Federation Facebook)

The American Farm Bureau Federation launched a national campaign to inform people why the Clean Water Act should be ‘ditched.’ (Photo: American Farm Bureau Federation Facebook)

If the EPA and Corps expand their authority over more waters, property owners will have to secure additional permits. They will have to get permission from federal bureaucrats to enjoy and use their property because of waters that were never intended to be regulated under the CWA. If property owners don’t comply with the law, they could face civil penalties as high as $37,500 per day per violation, or even criminal penalties.

In their craving for more power, the EPA and Corps are ignoring a critical aspect of the CWA: cooperative federalism. Both the states and federal government are supposed to play a role in implementation of the law. Yet, this power grab is an attempt by the federal government to push out state and local governments.

At the start of the CWA it states, “It is the policy of the Congress to recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of States to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution, to plan the development and use (including restoration, preservation, and enhancement) of land and water resources…” The EPA and Corps are pretending that this important policy doesn’t exist.

The EPA also had to ignore sound science and proper rulemaking to move forward with its power play. The agency developed a draft report entitled Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence. A Scientific Advisory Board was convened to peer review the study, which when finalized would provide the scientific foundation for implementation of the rule.

Wisconsin farmers fight against the Environmental Protection Agency’s and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 'waters of the U.S.' proposed rule. (Photo: American Farm Bureau Federation via Facebook)

Wisconsin farmers fight against the Environmental Protection Agency’s and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ ‘waters of the U.S.’ proposed rule. (Photo: American Farm Bureau Federation via Facebook)

However, the EPA finalized the proposed rule before the Scientific Advisory Board even met. The EPA defends this action by claiming that the final study will still help inform the final rule. But this is putting the cart before the horse (or the rule before the science). The scientific foundation should inform the proposed rule so that the public can provide informed comments and have a meaningful voice in the process.

The public may be commenting on a proposed rule that seems to be a mere placeholder rather than a real policy proposal, or more likely, a proposal that already reflects the final conclusions of the EPA. The EPA has a strong incentive to avoid making major changes to the draft scientific report and, as a result, the final rule. If major changes are made, the EPA might be forced by law to restart the rulemaking process over.

Congress is taking notice. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed a bill (H.R. 5078) that would prohibit implementation of the proposed rule, and legislation (S. 2496) has been introduced in the Senate to prohibit implementation as well. In addition, the FY 2015 House Interior and Environment appropriations bill that passed out of the appropriations committee includes a provision that withholds funds for implementation of the rule.

Ultimately though, it is the responsibility of Congress to define the term “navigable waters” instead of deferring to the EPA and the Corps. History shows these agencies will continue to seek to expand their authority. As with other laws, Congress needs to reassert its authority and rein in agency overreach. Private property rights are at stake.







Conservatives Derail Democrat’s Bill on Rare Earth Minerals - Daily Signal

Conservatives Derail Democrat’s Bill on Rare Earth Minerals

Rob Bluey / Kelsey Harkness / David Inserra / Natalie Johnson / Nina Owcharenko / Josh Siegel / Katrina Trinko / Ashley Wright / Andrea Rodriguez / George Margulies / Daren Bakst / Philip Wegmann /

Conservatives in the U.S. House revolted yesterday against a taxpayer-funded program on rare earth minerals, defeating a bill that was expected to quickly pass without much debate.

Because the measure came up under suspension of House rules, two-thirds of lawmakers needed to approve it. The bill failed when 142 Republicans and one Democrat voted against it. It received 260 votes; it needed 269.

The defeat dismayed the Democrat sponsor of the Securing Energy Critical Elements and American Jobs Act, which Heritage Foundation economist Nick Loris described in The Daily Signal as a government “handout” and unnecessary.

>>> Rare Earths Bill Should Open Markets, Not Create Government Programs

In a press release, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California, decried “extreme right-wing groups, Heritage Action and Club for Growth” for their opposition.

“This bill was the product of a year’s worth of cooperation between me and Republican leadership,” Swalwell said. “Unfortunately, this hard work was derailed by puppeteering from right-wing groups.”

Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler said, “Conservatives in the House deserve credit for defeating a bill that would have expanded the government’s role in this important industry.”

The bill sought to “address price volatility for rare earth” elements by creating additional programs within the Department of Energy to research and develop new extraction and recycling methods.

Rare earth elements (REEs) can be found in a number of high-tech products from civilian cell phones to advanced military weapons systems. A heavily subsidized Chinese market currently supplies the majority of U.S. demand.

While recognizing the critical importance of the minerals, Heritage Foundation analysts have long rejected government entry into the market.

Derek Scissors, a former Heritage scholar, dismissed fears over the Chinese supply as conflated. The Chinese control stems from their government’s direct involvement in setting prices. Scissors said this dominance “can only last as long as it is willing to offer REEs at below-market prices.”

Loris, the Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow at Heritage, agrees. He noted that the United States controls 13 percent of the world’s supply. Rather than creating subsidies, Loris argued that the “federal government should open access to the 13 states where rare earths are known to lie.”

Without government interference, Loris maintains that the free market would best determine production.