Thursday, December 12, 2013

Issa Charges Sebelius with Criminal Obstruction of HealthCare.gov Investigation!

Nextgov ^ | 12/11/2013 | Joseph Marks 

The lead congressman investigating HealthCare.gov’s dismal performance during its first two months online ratcheted up the executive-congressional conflict on Wednesday, accusing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of criminal obstruction of his investigation.
The dispute centers around a letter the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent to a contractor that worked on the online health insurance marketplace, directing it not to turn over correspondence and other documents to congressional investigators and stating CMS would manage any congressional inquiries.
That letter amounted to “criminal obstruction” of a congressional investigation,” according to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
“Obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime,” Issa said in a statement. “The federal obstruction laws reflect the fact that Congress’ right of access to information is constitutionally based and critical to the integrity and effectiveness of our oversight and investigative activities.”
HHS Spokeswoman Joanne Peters responded that the department is attempting to comply with Issa’s investigation while ensuring it doesn’t reveal any private consumer information or technology secrets.
“We have worked to accommodate the committee's oversight interests in a number of ways, including by allowing the committee to review unredacted copies of the requested documents in person,” she said in a statement. “The committee already has copies of the requested documents that have been redacted to protect sensitive security information.”
The department plans to respond directly to Issa later, Peters said.
Issa issued a subpoena in October to compel Sebelius to turn over documents related to HealthCare.gov’s troubled launch.
His charges come on the same day Sebelius asked her department’s inspector general to launch his own investigation into HealthCare.gov’s failures. She also asked CMS, which led the Obamacare implementation, to appoint a chief risk officer to investigate why risks weren’t identified during the building of HealthCare.gov and how the agency can avoid such failures in the future.
Issa’s committee has uncovered evidence of significant doubts among contractors that HealthCare.gov would be successful upon launch. He has also charged government officials with forcing last minute changes to the site for political reasons that may have contributed to its troubles after launch.
The oversight committee’s Democratic leaders did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Issa’s charges.
HealthCare.gov has been operating generally well since Nov. 30 following a “tech surge” by the government and contractors that included 400 bug fixes, increased server capacity and a new management structure.
About 137,000 people enrolled in new health insurance plans through the marketplace during its first two months online. An additional 227,000 people enrolled through state-run online marketplaces.
The government hopes to enroll 7 million people in new insurance plans by the end of March. Some experts worry the slow start to enrollment may deter young and healthy people from enrolling in plans through the site, leading to unsustainably high premiums for people who do purchase the plans.

Obama says we should raise the minimum wage, but barackobama.com advertises for “unpaid” interns!

wordpress ^ | December 12, 2013 | Dan from Squirrel Hill 

In February 2013, Obama said:
“Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.”
However, barackobama.com advertises for “unpaid” interns.
https://my.barackobama.com/page/s/organizing-for-action-hq-internship—chicago
HQ Internship Opportunity:
OFA is now accepting applications for full-time and part-time HQ Interns for the Spring 2014 and Summer 2014 HQ Internship Programs in Chicago, IL. HQ Interns will have the unique opportunity to work closely with staff in advancing the President’s agenda. Departmental placements available include Grassroots Organizing, Training, Issue Campaigns, Digital, Press and Finance. Please include your departmental placement preferences in your cover letter. Accepted HQ Interns will be paired with departments based on their stated interest, qualifications and availability. This is a 14-week, unpaid internship program.
Please note that our Washington, D.C. location is not our primary location and has a limited number of staff and, accordingly, internship positions available. As a result, we are no longer considering candidates for this location.
The ideal candidate is a highly motivated individual with a strong desire to learn and a deep commitment to OFA’s mission. Requirements of the candidate include:
Excellent interpersonal and written communication skills
Strong desire to learn and work in the field of public service, grassroots organizing, and political engagement
Strong project management skills
Detail oriented, thinking critically and creatively
Ability to work efficiently and effectively in a fast-paced environment
Strong commitment to changing the world
Spring Program Dates: January 2014 – May 2014
Summer Program Dates: May 2014 – August 2014
If you are interested in volunteering in your state, consider applying to the Organizing for Action Organizing Fellowship Program.
Organizing for Action is an equal opportunity employer.

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Tom Coburn Slams Ryan/Murray Budget Deal

Political Realities ^ | 12/12/13 | LD Jackson 

If there is one person I respect in Congress, it is Senator Tom Coburn, R-OK. Yes, he is one of my Senators and I voted for him gladly. That's not saying I haven't disagreed with him on issues before, but most of the time, I find myself in complete agreement. He is now being very vocal in his opposition to the budget deal worked out between Paul Ryan and Patty Murray. And unlike a lot of his colleagues in Washington, Tom Coburn is willing to highlight how government spending really works. He has consistently fought against wasteful government spending and the fraud that is so rampant. His has been a loud voice in a din of voices trying to shout him down.
Newsmax - Coburn said Ryan and Murray "two very well-meaning individuals" who "hammered out an agreement to get past a political event [the 2014 election]. But he said their proposal affirms that the Washington establishment is more interested in keeping the status quo on budget issues."We're going to raise spending back up, because the political powers that be want to spend more money, rather than be responsible with what we know needs to be done up here — which is hard work eliminating all the stupidity, fraud, duplication that's going on," he said.
"I'm sure it's the best Paul (Ryan) could get. But, it's not anything I can support," the senator added.
Wasteful government spending is ignored in the Ryan-Murray measure, Coburn maintained. He said Congress has failed to be "responsible" once again and noted that he plans to release his annual wasteful spending book again soon that contains "$25 billion in stupid spending" in 2013.
"None of that's addressed in this. None of the waste, the duplication, the fraud. None of it," he stressed.
Tom CoburnMany of his fellow Republicans are not willing to admit just how close to home Coburn's remarks really are. He pointed out on Morning Joe that this agreement was designed to get the government past the 2014 elections. He also pointed out that he does not care about the elections. Paraphrasing here, he said the Republicans were always rationalizing about how they were going to do things right when they were finally in charge. He said the country was going down the tubes and the budget deal worked out between Paul Ryan and Patty Murray does nothing but add to that.
I could not agree more with Tom Coburn's thinking on this. The Republican leadership is trying to sell us a bill of goods to get us past the 2014 elections. I have seen commentary all over the Internet from both sides of this argument. Some are saying we need to look at the long game and how this budget deal will put us into a place where we can make more gains. Once again, when the Republicans are in full control of Congress. If that really happens. I would remind us that there is no guarantee that we will win enough seats in the Senate to wrest control from Harry Reid and his liberal Democrats.
I would contend that we need to do the right thing now. Not wait until we have full control. No compromises for compromise's sake. If we do the right thing now, will that not translate into the right thing, if and when we do gain control of Congress, in 2014, and the White House, in 2016?
The trouble with the Republican leadership is simple. They are not interested in doing the right thing. They are, instead, more worried about retaining their hold on the power they have now. Until that mindset changes, I'm not sure we will see a dime's worth of change happening in the way our government operates.