Archives for News

Lowered deficit forecasts also lowers drive for budget deal

The chances of a deal between Democratic and Republican lawmakers that would overhaul the tax system, trim government spending and reform safety net spending programs appear to be fading. A sudden improvement in the outlook for the government deficit over the next decade has alleviated some of the pressure on lawmakers to act. And a spate of scandals, involving the Internal Revenue Service, security for the U.S. mission in Benghazi and the seizure of phone records from the Associated Press news agency, has distracted Congress and the White House. For those who believe there needs to be radical reform to
Read More

Tea Party hopes IRS debacle will give a needed boost

Is the tea party getting its groove back? Shouts of vindication from around the country suggest the movement’s leaders certainly think so. They say the IRS acknowledgement that it had targeted their groups for extra scrutiny — a claim that tea party activists had made for years — is helping pump new energy into the coalition. And they are trying to use that development, along with the ongoing controversy over the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attacks and the Justice Department’s secret seizure of journalists’ phone records, to recruit new activists incensed about government overreach. “This is the defining moment to say
Read More

Marines screw the pooch by failing to report water threat

A simple test could have alerted officials that the drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated, long before authorities determined that as many as a million Marines and their families were exposed to a witch’s brew of cancer-causing chemicals. But no one responsible for the lab at the base can recall that the procedure — mandated by the Navy — was ever conducted. The U.S. Marine Corps maintains that the carbon chloroform extract (CCE) test would not have uncovered the carcinogens that fouled the southeastern North Carolina base’s water system from at least the mid-1950s until wells were capped in
Read More

Obama”s budget: Higher, then lower deficits?

Near-term U.S. deficits under President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget plan would be higher than those forecast by the Congressional Budget Office this week but would be $1.1 trillion lower over the coming decade, CBO said on Friday. The non-partisan congressional budget referee agency said that due to proposed spending increases, Obama’s budget proposal would lead to a $669 billion deficit for fiscal 2013 and a $675 billion deficit for fiscal 2014 year starting October 1. That was a combined $142 billion higher than the CBO estimates for those years based on current tax and spending laws. Obama’s budget plan has
Read More

Obama seems to be weathering scandals, controversies

Despite Democratic fears, predictions of the demise of President Barack Obama’s agenda appear exaggerated after a week of cascading controversies, political triage by the administration and party leaders in Congress and lack of evidence to date of wrongdoing close to the Oval Office. “Absolutely not,” Steven Miller, the recently resigned acting head of the Internal Revenue Service, responded Friday when asked if he had any contact with the White House about targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for special treatment. The president’s re-election campaign?” persisted Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. “No,” said Miller. The hearing took place at the end of
Read More

Will White House scandals hurt Obamacare?

Political scandals have strange ways of causing collateral damage, and Republicans are hoping the furor over federal tax enforcers singling out conservative groups will ensnare their biggest target: President Barack Obama’s health care law. But no one appears to have connected the factual dots yet, and it’s unclear whether they will. The Internal Revenue Service has a major role in carrying out the health care law, because financial assistance to help the uninsured afford coverage will be funneled through the tax system. At the same time, the IRS is also responsible for penalties on individuals and employers who fail to
Read More

Budget official tapped to run troubled IRS

President Barack Obama picked a senior White House budget official to become the acting head of the Internal Revenue Service on Thursday, the same day another top official announced plans to leave the agency amid the controversy over agents targeting tea party groups. Obama named longtime civil servant Daniel Werfel as the acting IRS commissioner. Werfel, 42, currently serves as controller of the Office of Management and Budget, making him a key player in implementing recent automatic spending cuts known as the sequester. “Throughout his career working in both Democratic and Republican administrations, Danny has proven an effective leader who
Read More

Ousted IRS boss stonewalls Congressional committee

The outgoing head of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service angered Republican lawmakers on Friday by resisting their demands that he identify who at the tax-collection agency had inappropriately targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny. But during the first hearing into a growing IRS scandal that could preoccupy Washington for months, Republicans did learn that a top official in President Barack Obama’s administration knew that the IRS was looking into targeting by the tax agency nearly a year ago. That detail could encourage Republicans’ efforts to link the scandal to the White House as the administration faces a series of setbacks
Read More

Immigration deal reached in House

Prospects for passage of a major immigration bill improved on Thursday when a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives declared they had reached a tentative deal, resolving disputes that had threatened to torpedo negotiations. The breakthrough came at the end of a two-hour private meeting of seven Republican and Democratic negotiators. The eighth negotiator in this so-called House Gang of Eight was unavailable after undergoing surgery on Wednesday. The final sticking point, according to congressional sources, was over whether illegal immigrants now in the United States who gain legal status under the bill could participate in the
Read More

Arizona’s immigration law a monumental failure

The immigration debate in Arizona reached a boiling point in 2007 when the state passed a groundbreaking law targeting those often blamed with fueling the nation’s border woes: Employers who hire immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. The law marked a bold step by a state into an area that had long been the domain of the federal government, and it paved the way for Arizona’s landmark 2010 immigration law. It also represented a key moment in the immigration battles that continue today as Congress mulls a proposed overhaul of the immigration system. But an examination of the law by
Read More