Republican Congressman Urges House Leadership to Use Reconciliation to Repeal Obamacare

Melissa Quinn /

Rep. John Fleming, R-La., is emboldening House leadership to embrace a budget tactic that would lower the threshold of votes needed to rollback provisions of Obamacare.

“We all say that we want to repeal Obamacare, and we would all love a clean, full repeal,” Fleming said in an interview with The Daily Signal. “But the truth is, sometimes it’s kind of like making sausage. You have to do it one step at a time. You’ve got to approach it from the standpoint that you make substantial gains today, and then the next opportunity, you make more.”

“Sometimes it’s kind of like making sausage. You have to do it one step at a time,” @RepFleming said of repealing Obamacare

Fleming is circulating a letter among Republican colleagues that calls on House leadership to use budget reconciliation to repeal the Affordable Care Act. So far, 20 lawmakers have signed the letter, and Fleming hopes to get 80 more of his colleagues to add their names before sending it to House Speaker John Boehner.

“Mr. Speaker, our constituents are hurting from the consequences of Obamacare, and we urge you to include reconciliation instructions that will repeal all reconcilable aspects of Obamacare in the fiscal year 2016 budget resolution,” the letter to Boehner said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not yet said whether he will pursue budget reconciliation to repeal Obamacare, though his office previously said he would be willing to attempt it.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said in a floor speech earlier this month he expects the Senate to use a variety of procedural mechanisms.

“We’re going to use every tool that is out there, including reconciliation,” he said.

Fleming said he’s confident reconciliation can successfully be used to repeal Obamacare, but contended that leadership needs to engage with members on it.

Some leadership aides have dismissed the idea of pushing for budget reconciliation and argue it’s a tool only used in the Senate. Fleming, though, said the process requires collaboration from both chambers.

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“Now that we have the Senate and the House fully controlled by Republicans, we need to be working together,” Fleming said. “For them to repeal parts of Obamacare through reconciliation would require some preparatory work on our part. The budget begins in the House, so we would need to begin to format the budget in a way that would make it easier for the Senate to do a budget reconciliation.”

The tactic would not fully repeal the law, but Fleming said reconciliation would dismantle it to severely limit its functionality.

Congress created reconciliation in 1974 with the Budget Act, and it’s a tool at lawmakers’ disposal to balance the budget. The process includes the drafting of “instructions” in a budget resolution that call on House and Senate committees to craft legislation reconciling the law with the budget.

When a reconciliation bill goes before the Senate, it cannot be filibustered, and just 51 votes—a majority—are needed to advance and pass the legislation.

Democrats used the move in 2009 when Congress voted on the Affordable Care Act. Now, almost six years later, Republicans are debating whether to employ the same tactic to push back against the health care law.

GOP leaders have placed a repeal of Obamacare at the top of their priority list now that Republicans control both the House and Senate, though it’s unclear how they plan to do so.

Despite Republicans’ goals, the president threatened to veto any legislation repealing his signature health care law, and budget reconciliation is subject to a veto.

Still, Fleming said the GOP shouldn’t rule out using reconciliation, even if it does get struck down by Obama.

“That’s how you win these battles over long periods of time. You continue to fight. You continue to bring it up. You continue to message it to your constituents and to America in general,” he said. “And when they see that the other side, in this case President Obama, continues to reject what are good ideas, that’s how you build a groundswell of support and finally push it across the finish line.”

>>> 5 Takeways from the CBO’s Report on Obamacare

Rep. Fleming Letter to John Boehner by The Heritage Foundation

Rep. John Fleming's Letter to GOP Colleagues by The Heritage Foundation

Find Out How Your Senators Voted on the Keystone XL Pipeline - Daily Signal

Find Out How Your Senators Voted on the Keystone XL Pipeline

Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon /

The Senate approved legislation on Thursday authorizing construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, despite threats from the White House to veto it.

The legislation was passed in a 62-36 vote.

Supporters of the pipeline contend that it would create jobs and boost economic growth, and opponents worry about potential environmental ramifications.

“Constructing Keystone would pump billions into our economy,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the floor before the vote. “It would support thousands of good American jobs and as the president’s own State Department has indicated, it would do this with minimal environmental impact.”

President Obama reiterated his opposition to the project in his State of the Union address.

“Let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline,” he said.

The proposed 1,179-mile pipeline would stretch from Canada to Nebraska where it would meet with existing pipelines, carrying oil to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

So how did your senators vote?

No Republicans voted to block the legislation, and eight Democrats voted to approve it.

Those voting “nay” include potential presidential contenders Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., did not vote.

See the full list of how each senator voted here.

U.S. Senate  Roll Call Vote

With Bill to Ease Travel, Some Republicans Want to ‘Modernize’ US-Cuba Relationship - Daily Signal

With Bill to Ease Travel, Some Republicans Want to ‘Modernize’ US-Cuba Relationship

Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Josh Siegel /

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation today that would end the travel ban between the U.S. and Cuba.

The bill has an equal number of Democratic and Republican co-sponsors, showing how the Cuba issue defies normal party lines.

“We’ve tried this current policy that we have prohibiting travel for about 50 years, and it hasn’t worked, so it’s time for something new,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., one of the sponsors of the bill. “It’s time to allow Americans to travel freely to Cuba.”

Proud to be part of emerging coalition of #GOP senators seeking to expand #trade & travel between US & #Cuba http://t.co/acBEzZHtqt

— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) January 29, 2015

Earlier this month, the White House acted on its own to loosen decades-old restrictions on travel, trade, investment and remittances.

>>>What You Need to Know About Obama’s New Cuba Policy

The eased restrictions for travel from the U.S. to Cuba apply to 12 categories of people, including Americans with family in Cuba, employees on official business for the U.S. and foreign governments, and journalists.

General tourist travel is still prohibited.

The new legislation would repeal all restrictions on U.S. citizens’ travel to Cuba. It would also relax restrictions on related banking transactions.

Though the bill has Republican support, it’s questionable if the bill will ultimately be voted on in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been critical of the administration’s Cuba policy, as has Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Cuban-American leading the opposition effort.

Critics of Obama’s new Cuba policy say it empowers the Castro regime.

Also today, Sens. Flake and Rand Paul of Kentucky wrote a letter backed by seven GOP senators to President Obama encouraging the “modernization” of relations with Cuba — and that Congress plays a role in doing so.

“Our hope is that changes to the current trade and travel relationship will advance our goal of bolstering the vulnerable private sector and increasing entrepreneurship while decreasing the role of state-controlled enterprises,” wrote the Republican senators.

“With the significance of your recent announcements related to Cuba, we look forward to Congress turning its attention toward modernizing U.S.-Cuba policy to the benefit of U.S. citizens and the Cuban people alike. Congress must play an integral role in reforming our policy toward Cuba.”

Atlanta Fire Chief Fired Over Views of Homosexuality Files Discrimination Complaint - Daily Signal

Atlanta Fire Chief Fired Over Views of Homosexuality Files Discrimination Complaint

Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Josh Siegel / Kate Scanlon /

Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran has filed a federal complaint that he is a victim of religious discrimination after losing his job after his writing about his views on homosexuality attracted attention.

Cochran, who is also a deacon at Elizabeth Baptist Church, was terminated after controversial passages about homosexuality were discovered in his book, “Who Told You You Are Naked?” self-published in 2013.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Cochran was fired by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed after his objection to Cochran’s description of homosexuality as “vile, vulgar and inappropriate at work.”

The complaint was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Cochran by his attorney, Jonathan Crumly, who alleges that Cochran’s termination is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Americans are guaranteed the freedom to live without fear of losing their jobs because of their beliefs and thoughts. We are continuing to evaluate all available legal options to vindicate Chief Cochran after his unjust termination,” Crumly told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Crumly is affiliated with Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that defends freedom of religion.

The Constitution reports that Cochran was told by city investigators that though they found “zero” examples of discrimination by Cochran, because he said “my faith influenced my leadership style,” he had to be fired.

City of Atlanta spokeswoman Anne Torres told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the city would defend the mayor’s decision “whether through the EEOC administrative process or in any other appropriate forum.”

Ryan Anderson, the William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society at The Heritage Foundation, said that “ordinary Americans—both those in favor of gay marriage and those who oppose gay marriage—understand that public servants shouldn’t be punished for their speech as private citizens.”

“This case,” Anderson added, “is another example of how some activists are pushing to blacklist those with traditional beliefs. Most Americans don’t like this—only the ideologues do. So while some activists push for this, ordinary citizens, whether they’re for or against gay marriage, do not want the government punishing people over their beliefs about marriage.”

Volunteer Group Wants to Help Elderly, Disabled With Snow Removal - Daily Signal

Volunteer Group Wants to Help Elderly, Disabled With Snow Removal

Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Josh Siegel / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon /

While Winter Storm Juno might not have brought as much snow as some forecasters were predicting, parts of New England weren’t spared, with some locations suffering power outages and blizzard conditions. Elderly and disabled residents are struggling with snow removal, and one volunteer group wants to help them.

Serve Rhode Island, a community service organization, is seeking volunteers to shovel and plow snow for those in need. They promise they will help as many people as they have volunteers to serve.

Those who volunteer to plow and shovel snow must pass a background check and sign a liability waiver.

We have received over 600 calls! More volunteers are needed to shovel elderly and disabled residents. Register: https://t.co/XZWXZ4ZFIY

— Serve Rhode Island (@Serve_RI) January 28, 2015

The Times Union reports that parts of Rhode Island received up to two feet of snow in Tuesday’s storm.

Bernard Beaudreau, the executive director of Serve Rhode Island, wrote that volunteerism has many benefits not just for Rhode Island, but for the nation.

“Increasing our volunteer spirit and civic engagement will also create a more informed public, with greater awareness of the needs in the community,” he wrote.

According to NECN, Serve Rhode Island was able to help 150 people with snow removal last winter.

Want to help? Find out how to volunteer here.

Hezbollah Attacks Israel: Latest Chapter in a Long Shadow War Between Israel and Iran - Daily Signal

Hezbollah Attacks Israel: Latest Chapter in a Long Shadow War Between Israel and Iran

Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Josh Siegel / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon / James Phillips /

The long shadow war between Israel and Iran erupted in a high-profile clash yesterday, as Iran’s surrogate Hezbollah attacked an Israeli military convoy, killing two Israeli soldiers and wounding seven. The attack was a long-anticipated reprisal for the Jan. 18 Israeli airstrike on a Hezbollah convoy in Syria that killed six Hezbollah militants and an Iranian general deployed to Syria as part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force.

The death of the Iranian general prompted the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen.Mohammad Ali Jafari, to threaten Israel with “ruinous thunderbolts.” Hezbollah also sought vengeance for the strike, which also killed Jihad Mugniyah, a rising star who was the son of the notorious Hezbollah leader Imad Mugniyah, who plotted the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

Imad Mugniyah was assassinated in a mysterious bombing in Syria in 2008 that Hezbollah blamed on Israel. After his death, his son Jihad was reportedly adopted by Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the powerful leader of the Quds Force.

Hezbollah has become increasingly involved in the Syrian civil war under Iran’s direction to prop up the Assad regime. Approximately 5,000 Hezbollah fighters have been deployed inside Syria, along with other Iran-backed Shiite militias from Iraq and Afghanistan, in addition to hundreds of Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Israel has officially remained neutral in the Syrian civil war, but has warned that it would take military action to prevent Iran or Syria from transferring chemical weapons or advanced military technologies to Hezbollah. Israel backed up these warnings with limited air strikes, including a major strike last month against warehouses at Damascus airport that reportedly contained Iranian missile systems destined for Hezbollah.

Iran and Hezbollah have strong reasons to prevent the current tit-for-tat military strikes from expanding into a full-fledged war. Hezbollah is spread thin and has its hands full in waging the brutal war in Syria. Iran, for its part, wants to preserve Hezbollah’s military forces as a deterrent to a possible Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

But both Iran and Hezbollah are likely to shift the conflict from the military arena, where Israel has the advantage, to terrorist operations, their strong suit. Already, there is a report that Iran’s official Fars news agency and a website linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have published articles calling for the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s children.

These latest threats are likely to add a new dimension to Netanyahu’s address to Congress on March 3 on the Iran nuclear issue.

Operation Choke Point: 7 Real Life Stories From Vegas - Daily Signal

Operation Choke Point: 7 Real Life Stories From Vegas

Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Josh Siegel / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon / James Phillips / Kelsey Harkness /

LAS VEGAS — What does the gun industry think of Operation Choke Point?

Last week at the 2015 Shot Show, which is the industry’s largest trade exhibition, The Daily Signal asked attendees what they think of the controversial government initiative. The program, which was designed by the Justice Department in 2012, has been criticized for targeting the firearms industry and driving legal business owners underground.

>>> Ready, Aim Fire: Choke Point Draws Heat From Gun Industry


Larry Keane, senior vice president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation


Ira Goodstat, owner of PistolPay.com


Paul Carlson, firearms safety instructor, Safety Solutions Academy


Kelly McMillian, director of operations for McMillian Gun International


Ed and Lisa Strange, owners of Wicked Grips


Troy Guillotte, executive producer at Trigger Time TV


Steve Ware, outdoors writer

9 Interesting Facts About Lindsey Graham - Daily Signal

9 Interesting Facts About Lindsey Graham

Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Josh Siegel / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon / James Phillips / Kelsey Harkness / Kate Scanlon /

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., announced on Thursday that he is actively exploring the possibility of a presidential run in 2016.

Graham said that his new website, Security Through Strength – marketed as Graham’s version of Reagan’s “peace through strength” philosophy – will help him “test the waters” for “a potential presidential candidacy.”

Here are 9 interesting facts about the senior senator from South Carolina:

1. According to his website, he lives in Seneca, S.C., where he attends the Corinth Baptist Church.

2. Graham has never been married.

3. He served in both the South Carolina House of Representatives and the United States House of Representatives before he was elected United States senator from South Carolina in 2002.

4. According to US News and World Report, Graham was the first member of his family to attend college. He attended both the University of South Carolina and the University of South Carolina School of Law.

5. Graham and his sister Darline grew up in the town of Central, S.C.. Darline credits her older brother with raising her while their parents worked. The Grahams lost their parents while Lindsey was a student at the University of South Carolina and Darline was 13.

“Lindsey assured me that he was going to take care of me, he was going to be there for me. He never let me down. Never. I don’t see how he did it, to take on the responsibility of raising a little sister. That came from within for Lindsey,” said Darline.

6. He served in the Air Force as a lawyer, and remains in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.

7. Graham has been a vocal critic of the Tea Party movement. In 2010, he told The New York Times: “The problem with the Tea Party, I think it’s just unsustainable because they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country. It will die out.”

8. Crowdpac, an organization that ranks candidates based on their voting record and their history of political donations gave Graham a ranking of 4.7C. A Crowdpac ranking of 10C is “most conservative” and 10L is “most liberal.” According to their methodology, a score of 4.7C places Graham to the right of other potential candidates like Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., and to the left of candidates like former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass. Another potential candidate, former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., also received a score of 4.7C from Crowdpac.

9. Graham’s friend Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 GOP nominee for president, told ABC News that he is “strongly encouraging” Graham to seek the White House.

“I know of no one who is better versed and more important on national security policy and defense than Lindsey Graham, and I don’t think these challenges to our security are going away,” said McCain. “He is eminently qualified.”

Obama to Immigration Agents: Ask Illegal Immigrants If They Qualify for Executive Amnesty - Daily Signal

Obama to Immigration Agents: Ask Illegal Immigrants If They Qualify for Executive Amnesty

Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Josh Siegel / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon / James Phillips / Kelsey Harkness / Kate Scanlon / David Inserra /

There’s been a shocking turn in the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.

“The Obama administration has ordered immigration agents to ask immigrants they encounter living in the country illegally whether they might qualify under President Barack Obama’s” executive amnesty, reported the Associated Press Wednesday.

Reporter Alicia Caldwell wrote that these new policies “mark an unusual change for U.S. immigration enforcement, placing the obligation on the government for identifying immigrants who might qualify for lenient treatment”– aka temporary amnesty and all that goes with it, including work authorization and access to some government entitlement programs.

“It’s akin,” Caldwell continued, “to the Internal Revenue Service calling taxpayers to recommend they should have used certain exemptions or deductions.”

But it’s actually far more twisted than that.

Just imagine the outrage that would follow an announcement by a future president to no longer enforce capital gains tax laws and provide law breakers with an official order of protection from prosecution. Such actions would use the same logic as Obama’s argument for not enforcing U.S. immigration laws. Now imagine that after such an order, that president ordered the IRS to first ask tax evaders if they might qualify to for the president’s order of protection.

And yet that is what the Obama administration has ordered its immigration officers to do. U.S. immigration laws and immigration enforcement agents now exist to serve those who have broken the law, not U.S. citizens and law-abiding immigrants.

Immigration agents, who will be hard pressed to determine who is lying and who is telling the truth, will be even further crippled in their ability to enforce the law. It brings a whole new meaning to the law enforcement mantra “to protect and serve.”

It is such radical lawlessness with which Congress must contend and there is only one real solution: Congress’s power of the purse.

Congress has the power of the purse and the power to make law. Obama is effectively seizing the later, claiming the authority to create law by picking and choosing which laws he likes. Unless Congress wishes to concede its lawmaking authority and see further sections of law undone by the executive, the power of the purse is its only other weapon.

Yes, there are other minor ways Congress can flex its muscles like rejecting cabinet members who support the president’s amnesty or suing the president, but these approaches are unlikely to be effective and have nowhere near the authority of the purse strings.

The House has done its job by passing a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill that denies funding for Obama’s executive amnesty. Now the Senate should consider whether or not it will cede de facto legislative power to the executive and abandon the rule of law.

It’s irrelevant whether senators approve or not of the contents of the president’s policy. All should recognize the travesty it is for the separation of powers.

Yes, the president has promised to veto DHS funding unless it gives him exactly what he wants. That shows just what his priorities are: amnesty over security. The vast majority of DHS will continue to operate without funding, but Obama would rather hold on to his executive amnesty than actually make critical improvements to the department.

Even now we are seeing Obama expand his lawlessness and waste DHS’s time by not only ignoring U.S. immigration laws, but also ordering officers to help those who have broken the law.

Will Congress allow such lawlessness to continue and grow-or will they act to defend their constitutional prerogatives and the rule of law?

Obama Wants to Reverse Sequestration. What You Need to Know. - Daily Signal

Obama Wants to Reverse Sequestration. What You Need to Know.

Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Josh Siegel / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon / James Phillips / Kelsey Harkness / Kate Scanlon / David Inserra / Romina Boccia /

Four years into the Budget Control Act of 2011, President Obama is expected to once again ask Congress to break its commitment to reduce spending.

Congress should stick to it.

Obama’s budget, expected on Monday, will reportedly propose to spend more than is allowed under the statutory, sequester-enforced Budget Control Act spending caps. If Congress followed the president’s request–without reducing other spending starting in 2016–spending would be higher by at least $1 trillion over the next decade.

Under current projections by the Congressional Budget Office, released just last week, spending will grow by three-quarters, from $3.5 trillion to more than $6 trillion over the decade. These projections assume Congress enforces the Budget Control Act and sequestration.

Sequestration is not the budget-slashing mechanism the president makes it out to be. In fact, sequestration merely reduces total spending over the next decade by 2 cents on every federal dollar that would otherwise be spent.

sequesterchart

Congress needs to do much more to reduce spending and put the budget on a path to balance. While entitlement spending reform is absolutely crucial to control spending (entitlements are responsible for 85 percent of the growth in spending over the next decade), there are numerous other ways lawmakers can exercise the power of the purse in a principled manner.

The Defense Department has been underfunded for several years and Congress should increase spending on military capabilities and readiness. In addition to entitlement reform, Congress should address wasteful, inappropriate and outside-the-proper-scope of government spending. The forthcoming Heritage Budget Book will identify 106 important ways to reduce the size and scope of government.