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- 12/17/14--09:23: _GOP Rep: Court's 'U...
- 12/17/14--09:32: _Obama To Critics Of...
- 12/17/14--09:48: _Obama: More Money S...
- 12/17/14--09:54: _Senate Dem.: Obama ...
- 12/17/14--10:08: _Speaker John Boehne...
- 12/17/14--10:19: _AZ: Martha McSally ...
- 12/17/14--11:01: _Complete Repudiatio...
- 12/17/14--11:14: _Cuba-Born GOP Rep: ...
- 12/17/14--11:56: _DOJ Argues Exec Amn...
- 12/17/14--12:17: _Michael Moore: 'Tha...
- 12/17/14--12:18: _Jeb Bush: 'I Have N...
- 12/17/14--12:20: _White House: Obama ...
- 12/17/14--12:26: _Wall Street Journal...
- 12/17/14--12:40: _Chamber of Commerce...
- 12/17/14--13:50: _Iraq War Vet Accuse...
- 12/17/14--14:07: _Alabama's Sessions ...
- 12/17/14--14:09: _Cruz on Cuba: Anoth...
- 12/17/14--14:17: _Goodlatte: Court's ...
- 12/17/14--16:22: _New York to Ban Fra...
- 12/17/14--16:36: _MN State Rep Wants ...
- 12/17/14--09:32: Obama To Critics Of Cuba Policy: 'I Respect Your Passion'
- 12/17/14--09:48: Obama: More Money Should Be Sent To Cuba
- 12/17/14--12:17: Michael Moore: 'Thank U Obama' For Backing Down On Cuba
- 12/17/14--12:26: Wall Street Journal to Jeb: Don't Budge on Amnesty, Common Core
- 12/17/14--12:40: Chamber of Commerce 'Welcomes' Obama Cuba Announcement
- 12/17/14--13:50: Iraq War Vet Accused of Multiple Murders Found Dead with Cell Video
- 12/17/14--14:09: Cruz on Cuba: Another Obama 'Very, Very Bad Deal'
- 12/17/14--16:22: New York to Ban Fracking; Environmentalists Cheer
A Pennsylvania district court’s ruling that President Obama’s actions are “unconstitutional” is a positive development and likely the first of many court rebukes, according to Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA).
"Though this is the first of presumably many court rulings on the President's unilateral executive amnesty, it is encouraging to see a federal court agree with what I have been saying all along,” the Pennsylvania lawmaker said in a statement reacting to the decision.
Tuesday, Pennsylvania U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Schwab issued an opinion — dealing with a criminal case — declaring that portions of Obama’s executive amnesty go “beyond prosecutorial discretion” to actually legislating.
“President Obama’s unilateral legislative action violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution as well as the Take Care Clause, and therefore, is unconstitutional,” Schwab wrote in his opinion.
The Justice Department quickly pushed back against the opinion, saying that Schwab did not have a basis to rule on Obama’s executive actions on immigration and that the analysis “is flatly wrong”
“The decision is unfounded and the court had no basis to issue such an order," a Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement to media outlets. "No party in the case challenged the constitutionality of the immigration-related executive actions and the department’s filing made it clear that the executive actions did not apply to the criminal matter before the court.”
According to Barletta, however, the administration's argument against the court decision is incorrect and ironic. He said:
It is clear that the president has overstepped his authority by creating new laws and granting sweeping amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, the administration is already defending its unlawful actions by telling federal courts that they don't have the authority to block the amnesty plan because of the constitutional separation of powers. The irony could not be richer.
Schwab is the first judge to rule on the constitutionality of Obama’s executive amnesty. There are other cases against the actions currently pending, including a challenge to the actions by 24 states.
I still support a federal lawsuit against the administration for their own violation of the separation of powers. I also will be working closely with House leadership on defunding the president's executive amnesty program once the new Congress, with the new Senate majority, is sworn in.
President Obama says he respects the opinion of the many people who oppose his dramatic change in policy toward Cuba. “To those who oppose the steps I’m announcing today, let me say that I respect your passion and share your commitment to liberty and democracy,” Obama said.
But Obama says it's time to change the policy. He says it was obvious to him that it hadn’t made a difference in changing the status of democracy in Cuba.
“I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result,” he said, “Moreover, it does not serve America's interests or the Cuban people to try to push Cuba towards collapse.”
Obama urged Cubans who were concerned about America’s attempt to “colonize” the country to put their grievances behind them.
“Let us leave behind the legacy of both colonization and communism, the tyranny of drug cartels, dictators and sham elections,” he said. “A future of greater peace, security and democratic development is possible if we work together. Not to maintain power, not to secure vested interests but instead to advance the dreams of our citizens.”
As President Obama announced his dramatic changes to US relations with Cuba, he explained to Americans that they'll be able to send more money to the country in the future.
“I also believe that more resources should be able to reach the Cuban people,” he said. “So we're significantly increasing the amount of money that can be sent to Cuba and removing limits on remittences that support humanitarian projects, the Cuban people and the emerging Cuban private sector,” he said.
Obama said that increased commerce between the two countries would help its citizens, and explained that Americans would now be able to use their credit and debit cards on the island.
He also revealed that U.S. financial institutions would be allowed to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions.
“Nobody represents America’s values better than the American people and I believe this contact will ultimately do more to empower the Cuban people” than sanctions have, he assured the nation.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) slammed the Obama administration for exchanging imprisoned aid worker Alan Gross with Cuba for three Cuban spies. Menendez calls it a dangerous precedent and one that absolves the Castro regime’s behavior.
“Let's be clear, this was not a ‘humanitarian’ act by the Castro regime. It was a swap of convicted spies for an innocent American,” the New Jersey Democrat said in a statement. “President Obama's actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government.”
Menendez — whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba — stressed that there is no “equivalence” between Gross and the spies who were released in exchange for his return.
“One spy was also convicted of conspiracy to murder for his role in the 1996 tragedy in which the Cuban military shot down two U.S. civilian planes, killing several American citizens,” he said.
Wednesday the Obama administration announced the release of Gross and an unnamed intelligence source in exchange for three Cuban spies and the reestablishment of an official relationship with Cuba.
While Menendez noted that Gross’ release is a relief for his family, the senator said it also will serve as an enticement for other dictators to use Americans as “bargaining chips.”
“Trading Mr. Gross for three convicted criminals sets an extremely dangerous precedent,” he said. “It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips. I fear that today’s actions will put at risk the thousands of Americans that work overseas to support civil society, advocate for access to information, provide humanitarian services, and promote democratic reforms.”
He concluded saying that the uptick in trade will also serve to “invite further belligerence toward Cuba's opposition movement” and tighten the Castro regime’s hold on the Cuban people.
“Let us all remind ourselves that an untold number of ordinary people yearning for democracy remain imprisoned by the exact same tormentors that have punished Alan Gross and they, along with all Cubans, deserve a free and liberated Cuba,” Menendez said.
House Speaker John Boehner slammed President Obama’s changes to the policies between Cuba and the United States, criticizing the president for conceding to the “dictatorship” of the Castro regime.
“There is no ‘new course’ here, only another in a long line of mindless concessions to a dictatorship that brutalizes its people and schemes with our enemies,” he said in a statement after Obama’s remarks.
Boehner said that Obama’s actions would embolden “all state sponsors of terrorism,” thanks to his change in diplomatic policy.
“They now have an even better idea of what the president meant when he once told Russian leaders he would have ‘more flexibility’ after his re-election,” he said. “We have seen this before, and I fear we will see it again.”
Boehner did not react to Obama’s request for Congress to work with him to change many of the laws barring travel and trade to Cuba. He did, however, welcome the release of political prisoner Alan Gross from Cuba.
“Despite these reservations about the president’s changes in our policy toward this communist regime, we all feel great joy and relief for Alan Gross and his family,” he said.
Republican Martha McSally beat Democratic incumbent Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ) on Wednesday after an election recount confirmed the GOP'er had a 167 vote edge over Barber.
According to the AP, the GOP will now have the largest majority ever, with 247 seats, which has not been seen since the 1929-31 term, when Republicans held 270 seats during President Herbert Hoover's administration.
The McSally-Barber race was declared 43 days after the November 4 election, and the recount was triggered because the margin between the two candidates after December 1 certification and canvass was less than 200 votes.
According to Arizona Public Media, McSally has already gone through congressional freshman orientation sessions and met with Republican Party leaders. This is McSally's second freshman orientation. The retired Air Force colonel and fighter pilot, APM reports, went through the orientation two years ago when the outcome of her 2012 race against Barber was still undetermined. She lost to Barber by a 2,400 vote margin.
McSally was the first woman to serve as a combat pilot, as well as the first woman to command a fighter unit, the 354th Fighter Squadron of A-10s at Tucson's Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
In 2001, she won a lawsuit against the Pentagon that ended the requirement for U.S. servicewomen to wear traditional Islamic clothing when off base in Saudi Arabia.
On December 17, pro-Second Amendment candidate Martha McSally (R) was officially declared the winner in the race for Arizona's second congressional district over pro-gun control Representative Ron Barber (D-AZ-2.)
Arizona's second district is gun control proponent Gabby Giffords' former seat and the contest she campaigned hardest for during the months prior to the November 4 mid-term elections.
According to Roll Call, McSally won the election by "167 votes." Barber released a statement congratulating her and "wishing her well in serving southern Arizonans."
Breibart News previously reported that Barber was trying to get re-elected on a gun control platform, while McSally was running as a pro-Second Amendment candidate. On September 20, Breitbart News reported that Giffords ads against McSally were filled with such vitriol that The Arizona Republic described them as "base and vile," and said Giffords was harming Barber and her own image more than she was hurting McSally.
McSally's win gives the GOP a historic majority in the House.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Obama administration’s exchange of American aid worker Alan Gross for three Cuban spies poses a threat to national security and is a “slap in the face” to the families of the men they killed, according to Cuba-born Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).
“President Obama has unilaterally released three convicted Cuban spies who were responsible for the deaths of three American citizens and one U.S. resident: Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales, whose planes were unjustly shot down over international waters on direct orders of the Castro brothers,” she said.
Ros-Lehtinen, a former chairwomen of theHouse Foreign Affairs Committee, stressed that the agreement the Obama administration reached ignores the Cuban people and argued that since the Obama administration began easing restrictions on the dictatorship the situation for the Cuban people has “gotten worse.”
She noted that the Obama administration’s attempts to normalize relations with the dictatorship will only serve to enrich the Castro brothers.
“The liberalization policies aimed at easing trade and remittances to Cuba is another propaganda coup for the Castro brothers, who will now fill their coffers with more money at the expense of the Cuban people,” she said.
The Florida lawmaker also says she believes that Obama’s unilateral actions could be a violation of U.S. law, specifically: the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996, Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, and the Trading with the Enemy Act.
“The White House attempts to normalize relationships with Cuba without the approval of Congress may be in direct violation of Helms-Burton that specifically states that all political prisoners must be released and free and fair elections must be held before establishing a diplomatic relationship,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “This misguided action by President Obama will embolden the Castro regime to continue its illicit activities, trample on fundamental freedoms, and disregard democratic principles.”
In asking a federal judge to dismiss Sheriff Joe Arpaio's lawsuit asking for an injunction on President Barack Obama's executive amnesty, the Justice Department claimed that President Barack Obama's executive amnesty will not attract more illegal immigrants and is not even amnesty.
In its Monday evening filing, the Justice Department argued that Arpaio's claim that "deferred action serves as a magnet for more illegal entries by aliens who will then commit crimes within his county and thus burden his law enforcement resources" is a "theory" that is "speculative and unsubstantiated."
The Arizona (Maricopa County) sheriff filed his lawsuit hours after Obama enacted his executive amnesty, arguing that Obama's executive amnesty “fundamentally transforms the definition of key terms to create a radically new and different regime of immigration law and regulation.”
In addition, the Department of Justice claimed that Obama's executive amnesty is not actually "amnesty" for illegal immigrants because it "does not grant legal status to any alien. Rather, it authorizes a temporary exercise of prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis for certain individuals who have been in the United States since 2010 and have deep ties to the community, while making work authorization available under existing statutory authority."
The Justice Department told the court that Obama's executive amnesty serves to "enhance DHS’s capacity to focus limited resources on threats to national security, border security, and public safety" and "to recognize family ties and other humanitarian concerns under" the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA). Justice Department lawyers also accused Arpaio of ignoring "the reality that these initiatives promote border security and prevent crime."
A U.S. District Court judge (Beryl Howell), whom Obama appointed, will hear the case on December 22 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Howell granted Arpaio an expedited hearing on the matter.
Twenty-four states have also sued the Obama administration over Obama's executive amnesty, while another federal judge ruled Obama's executive amnesty was unconstitutional this week.
Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore congratulated Cuba this afternoon for “winning” in its ongoing struggle with the United States.
“Cuba 1, USA 0,” he wrote on Twitter. “Congrats on winning the longest game on record.”
Moore suggested that critics of President Obama’s new policy were being disingenuous.
“OK fellow Americans, let's not be sore losers!” he wrote cheerily on Twitter.
America, he asserted, was a “pissy whiny neighbor” that had finally “grown up” as a result of Obama’s signaled changes.
“Finally, another piece of crazy exits the American Way,” he said. “Cuba's pissy whiny neighbor grows up. Thank u Obama.”
Just hours after he announced his plan "actively explore" a 2016 presidential run on Monday, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said he would have "no problems" pushing for comprehensive immigration reform in a GOP primary.
"We've got to protect the borders, enforce the law, be respectful of the rule of law, and at the same time be able to encourage young aspirational people to come to our county," Bush, who has said that illegal immigration is an "act of love," told a local Miami television station. "It's a win-win; I have no problems advancing that idea."
When NBC 6 mentioned that "a lot of your base disagrees with that" position, Bush replied, "We'll see. If I run, we'll see."
Though he is aware that the conservative base distrusts him because of his support for massive amnesty legislation, which would also increase the number of guest-worker permits for foreigners, and Common Core, Bush seems intent on not backing down from his more moderate positions.
President Obama doesn’t have plans to travel to Cuba, according to the White House, but that doesn’t mean he is ruling it out.
During the White House Press Briefing on Wednesday, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that there was “nothing on the schedule” regarding a trip to Cuba.
When pressed by reporters on the issue, Earnest said that he “certainly wouldn’t rule out a presidential visit” pointing out that Obama has visited countries with questionable human rights records such as Burma and China.
Earnest also acknowledged the attraction that existed for American travelers to Cuba.
“I assume like many Americans he has seen that Cuba is a place where they have a beautiful climate and a lot of fun things to do,” he said. “So if there’s an opportunity for the president to visit I’m sure he wouldn’t turn it down.”
The pro-amnesty and open borders Wall Street Journal wants former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to not back down on Common Core and amnesty, the two issues that may represent the greatest divide between the bipartisan political class and Main Street.
The Journal, which Bush has hailed as his "paper of record," argued that Bush was right when he recently said during a Journal event that a Republican must be willing to "lose the primary to win the general" election.
"Mr. Bush’s two main political liabilities in the primaries are said to be his support for immigration and for Common Core education standards," the Journal opined. "Neither is an insuperable barrier to the nomination."
The Journal declared that Bush "needn’t repudiate his support" for Common Core and "shouldn’t budge in his support" for comprehensive amnesty legislation.
Despite Gallup polls that found illegal immigration is the top concern for Republicans, the Journal claimed that "immigration isn’t the most important issue for most Republicans, beyond countering President Obama ’s recent decree, and Mr. Bush can make a strong case for reform that promotes economic growth and keeps the U.S. a magnet for talent." During the 2008 election cycle, when the Republican party was less conservative than it is today according to Gallup measurements, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) almost lost the nomination because of his support for comprehensive amnesty legislation. McCain's embrace of amnesty caused his fundraising to dry up and forced him to fly in coach class and carry his own bags during trips to New Hampshire town halls.
Denigrating conservatives who want to put American workers and legal immigrants ahead of illegal immigrants as "restrictionists," the Journal urges Bush to "welcome an immigration debate in the primaries that would set him up to win more minority votes in November" even though studies have shown that amnesty legislation will not guarantee that Hispanics will flood to the GOP. In fact, there will be a path to the White House without a massive increase in the Hispanic vote for Republicans potentially even beyond 2016.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it "welcomes" President Barack Obama's announcement that the United States and Cuba will start to normalize relations.
Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue said the "U.S. business community welcomes today’s announcement, and has long supported many of the economic provisions the president touched on in his remarks."
"We deeply believe that an open dialogue and commercial exchange between the U.S. and Cuban private sectors will bring shared benefits, and the steps announced today will go a long way in allowing opportunities for free enterprise to flourish," he added. "In countries around the world, where leaders from across the political spectrum have made a concerted effort to liberalize their economy, we have seen a sharp rise in the quality of life of their citizens."
Obama announced on Wednesday that the United States "will begin to normalize relations between our two countries" and declared that, "it's time for a new approach."
The U.S. will establish an embassy in Cuba and ease restrictions on travel, trade, banking, remittances, exports, and imports. For instance, licensed U.S. travelers will be allowed "to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 can consist of tobacco products and alcohol combined."
Donohue said that "the Chamber and its members stand ready to assist as the Cuban people work to unleash the power of free enterprise to improve their lives."
“As we witnessed on our exploratory trip to Havana earlier this year, Cuba has changed some of its economic policies to lessen government control or ownership of Cuban businesses, and subsequently, their private sector is growing," he concluded. "There is still work to do, on both sides of this relationship, but the changes outlined today are a substantive and positive step forward. It is imperative that the Cuban government build on today’s positive steps with a more ambitious economic reform agenda at home, while we continue to push for the end of the embargo here in Washington."
Obama made the announcement after the Cuban government released Alan Gross, a contractor for the United States Agency for for International Development (USAID) who had been in a Cuban prison for the last five years after being accused of espionage. In a separate transaction, a U.S. intelligence asset (a Cuban national) in Cuba who had been jailed for nearly 20 years was released in exchange for three Cuban spies that he helped capture in the 1990s.
An Iraq War veteran accused of murdering his ex-wife and five of her family members was found dead on Tuesday in the back woods nearby his Pennsylvania home.
Bradley Stone died of self-inflicted cutting wounds to the center of his body just one day after he allegedly murdered his ex-wife and her family. According to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman, the same sword or large knife that Stone may have used to kill four generations of his wife’s family was also used to terminate his own life.
According to the Daily Beast, police discovered a cellphone with a video recorded on it nearby Stone’s body, which may provide additional details to the apparent suicide. Police had conducted a massive manhunt to find Stone since the early hours on Monday.
Ironically, on Wednesday the Washington Times reported that a Veterans Affairs psychiatrist cleared the former marine of suicidal or homicidal tendencies one week before his alleged killing spree. A VA statement read that Stone “met with his psychiatrist on December 8th at the Coatesville [Veterans Affairs Medical Center], and the provider noted that at the time of the evaluation, the veteran was without any suicidal or homicidal ideation.”
Stone had received a 100% disability rating at the VA for Post Traumatic Stress disorder, the Times reported. He has been considered disabled since 2010 and receiving $3,000 a month in benefits.
In an article by NBC Philadelphia, one former marine, who served under Stone’s command in the 3rd Battalion 14th Marine regiment based out of Northeast Philadelphia, said that he spent more than a year working with Stone before being deployed to different parts of Iraq in 2008.
He said that while Stone talked about having PTSD, he questioned whether the man actually suffered from the disorder. Perone and other marines cited his short tour of duty and apparent lack of combat action as reasons. “I don’t think he necessarily had PTSD,” Perone said. “It affects everyone differently, though.”
Senate Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) will not chair the U.S. Senate Budget Committee next year when the newly elected GOP majority takes over in Congress’ upper chamber. Instead of Sessions, Wyoming’s Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) will chair the powerful committee.
Sessions has been the ranking member of the prized panel for the last four years, during which Democrats had the majority. Before that, and for the first two years of President Barack Obama’s administration, Sessions served as the ranking member of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. Most in politics considered Sessions a lock for the budget spot after Republicans took the majority in the Senate in November’s midterm elections, but Enzi surprised everyone by announcing he was going to use his seniority in the Senate to challenge Sessions for the spot. The only reason why Enzi has more seniority, since he and Sessions were elected on the same day in the 1990s, is because a coin toss gave him the higher ranking.
Nonetheless, in a show of courtesy to Enzi, Sessions has agreed to let the Wyoming senator chair the panel. Sessions said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon:
My good friend Mike and I have been close since we both entered the Senate together 18 years ago. We will long remain good and close friends. We have talked and I am deferring to his seniority so that he can lead the Budget Committee as its Chairman beginning in 2015. Mike graciously deferred to me two years ago after he timed out on HELP as Ranking Member, and it has been my enormous privilege to serve as the panel’s Ranking Member these last four years, as well as to serve as the Judiciary Ranking Member for the two years before that. The Budget Committee has an exceptional staff and I am proud of what we have accomplished.
Sessions, who will now have a free hand to further his economic populism and anti-amnesty, pro-American worker immigration policies, as the U.S. Senate’s senior conservative statesman, went on to praise Enzi’s background.
“Mike is an accountant and a small businessman who understands the need to balance budgets and tell the truth about the numbers," Sessions said. “He is a man of integrity and principle, respected by all of his Senate colleagues. I am eager to assist him next year, and I hope to tackle the important issue of welfare reform.”
Sessions will remain a senior member of the Senate Budget Committee, and will also serve on four other committees in senior slots.
“I look forward to being active as a senior member on four committees of enormous importance: Armed Services, Budget, Environment and Public Works, and Judiciary,” he said. “I also look forward to serving as Chairman of critical Senate subcommittees. My roles in the Senate will give me the opportunity to focus on important issues such as defense, national security, federal debt, EPA reform, crime, and immigration.”
Sessions will now likely also play, as senior conservative statesman, a leading role in the 2016 presidential process—able to focus much of his time now on influencing the political debate from a position of extraordinary respect among his Senate colleagues. He’ll also be able to focus on helping the Republican Party rebrand itself in a more populist way, as Democrats promote Massachusetts liberal populist Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to the forefront of their party’s political presence.
“Overall, I remain deeply concerned about falling wages and the lack of good jobs for Americans,” Sessions said. “Too many of our citizens are either stuck in place or falling behind, and too often their needs are forgotten. Our new GOP Congress must put the needs of Americans first.”
Sessions is the only member of the U.S. Senate who was re-elected or elected in 2014 without any primary or general election candidate. Sessions, an Alabamian, was re-elected completely unopposed.
While the release of U.S. aid worker Alan Gross is a welcome news, the Obama administration has made the underlying issues with the Castro regime in Cuba “worse,” according to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
“Fidel and Raul Castro have just received both international legitimacy and a badly-needed economic lifeline from President Obama,” Cruz — whose father immigrated to the United States from Cuba — said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“But they remain in control of a totalitarian police state modeled on their old state sponsor, the Soviet Union. Their government can continue to detain individuals like Alan Gross indefinitely without process—as the many political prisoners still languishing in the Castros’ prisons can attest,” he continued, noting the regime has close ties with “hostile” nation including Russia, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela as well as support terrorist groups including FARC, Hezbollah and Hamas.
Earlier in the day, in conjunction with Gross’ release, President Obama announced moves to begin normalizing relations with Cuba. According to Cruz, while Obama spoke of a “new era” for American and Cuban people the plan does “not bode well for either.”
“We have seen how previous Obama administration attempts at rapprochement with rogue regimes like Russia and Iran have worked out, with our influence diminished and our enemies emboldened,” Cruz said. “Now they are revisiting this same disastrous policy with the Castros, blind to the fact that they are being played by brutal dictators whose only goal is maintaining power.”
The Texas lawmaker predicted that, like regimes before them, the Castro regime will manipulate the newly offered olive branch to the detriment of America and the Cuban people.
“[I]f history be our guide, the Castros will exploit that power to undermine America and oppress the Cuban people. First Russia, then Iran, now Cuba – this is one more very, very bad deal brokered by the Obama Administration.”
The recent court opinion declaring portions of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration to be “unconstitutional” bodes well for future litigation against the president’s recent order, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte tells Breitbart News.
Tuesday, District Court Judge Arthur Schwab ruled that aspects of Obama’s executive actions go “beyond prosecutorial discretion” to actually legislating. He made these judgments as part of an opinion dealing with a criminal case.
“President Obama’s unilateral legislative action violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution as well as the Take Care Clause, and therefore, is unconstitutional,” Schwab wrote.
In a statement to Breitbart News, Goodlatte — whose committee has jurisdiction over immigration matters — said he agreed with Schwab’s analysis and expressed optimism about future court challenges to Obama’s executive actions.
"I agree with Judge Schwab that President Obama's unilateral rewriting of our immigration laws violates the separation of powers and the President's duty to enforce the law,” the Virginia lawmaker said. “This ruling is a good sign for the states' lawsuit challenging President Obama's unilateral, unconstitutional actions.”
Goodlatte continued, saying that when Congress returns next year it must look at all options to take on Obama’s executive actions.
“Congress will continue fighting the President's actions early next year and should consider all the tools it has at its disposal, including potential litigation. Additionally, I am hopeful that the states will be successful in their effort to stop the President's actions from being implemented.”
Goodlatte recently signed on to an amicus brief the conservative American Center for Law and Justice submitted Tuesday in support of the recent lawsuit 24 states have filed challenging Obama’s executive amnesty.
“The President’s executive overreach on immigration must be stopped,” he stressed Tuesday in announcing his support of the brief.
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Handing environmentalists a breakthrough victory, New York plans to prohibit fracking for natural gas because of what regulators say are its unexplored health risks and dubious economic benefits.
New York, which overlies part of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation that has led to a drilling boom in Pennsylvania and other nearby states, has banned shale gas development since 2008, when the state began an environmental review of the drilling technique also known as hydraulic fracturing.
Wednesday's announcement, though not final, means a ban is all but etched in stone.
"Never before has a state with proven gas reserves banned fracking," said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with Earthjustice, adding that the decision "will give courage to elected leaders throughout the country and world: Fracking is too dangerous and must not continue."
Industry and its supporters expressed outrage at the decision.
"We are very disappointed that it appears the governor is unwilling to be a leader and is going to pass the buck at the expense of New Yorkers," said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute.
"This technology has been used for over 65 years in the United States. It's been demonstrated repeatedly after drilling millions of wells that we're able to do it while protecting the environment and protecting the people."
Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said Wednesday that he is recommending a ban, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, responded that he would defer to Martens and Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker on the decision.
The Department of Environmental Conservation will put out a final environmental impact statement early next year, Martens said, and after that he will issue an order prohibiting fracking.
About 30 anti-fracking activists cheered the decision at a rally outside Cuomo's New York City office, chanting "Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for saving our air!" and "New York banned fracking — and next, United States!"
Zucker and Martens on Wednesday summarized environmental and health reviews that concluded fracking carries risks that haven't been studied enough.
The drilling boom in the Marcellus Shale, which also runs under Ohio and West Virginia, was made possible by high-volume hydraulic fracturing, which releases gas from rock by injecting wells with chemically treated water at high pressure.
The technique has generated tens of billions of dollars in industry profits and landowner royalties, and has reduced energy bills and fuel imports. But it has also brought concerns and sparked protests over air and water pollution, earthquakes, property devaluation and truck traffic.
Zucker said he had identified "significant public health risks" and "red flag" health issues that require long-term studies before fracking can be called safe. He likened fracking to secondhand smoke, which wasn't fully understood as a health risk until many years of scientific study were done.
Martens noted the low price of natural gas, the high local cost of industry oversight, and the large areas that would be off limits to shale gas development because of setback requirements, water supply protections and local prohibitions. Those factors, he said, combine to make fracking less economically beneficial than anticipated.
Even if drilling were allowed in New York, it probably wouldn't take off any time soon because of the uncertainty around regulations and legal challenges and the huge number of promising drilling locations that remain in Pennsylvania, David Spigelmyer, president of the industry group Marcellus Shale Coalition, said last week.
The Marcellus Shale is enticing to energy companies because of its proximity to the major demand centers of New York City and New England, which is paying more for gas because of delivery constraints. But the regulatory uncertainty remains too high to commit to drilling in New York, Spigelmyer said.
In states where fracking is not yet allowed or is happening but is subject to criticism, New York's move excited some anti-drilling activists.
"The more fracking expands, the more opposition grows," said Sharon Wilson, of the group Earthworks, who has organized anti-fracking activists in Texas, California and Colorado. "Industry is its own worst enemy because they continue to deny the impacts."
Fracking supporters decried the New York move. Karen Moreau, executive director of New York's branch of the American Petroleum Institute, said the Cuomo administration is denying landowners the right to develop their mineral resources.
"The secretary of energy, the U.S. EPA administrator and President Obama recognize the benefits of fracking, and yet the Cuomo administration simply did not want to anger their activist base," Moreau said.
Dan Fitzsimmons, president of the Joint Landowners Coalition, which represents leaseholders, accused Cuomo of appeasing "environmental extremists" for political gain.
"Is our health department ignoring impacts of other energy options and suggesting that we continue with our reliance on coal and nuclear energy?" Fitzsimmons said. "Did our health department consider the health effects of poverty and unemployment?"
Cuomo said he is expecting lawsuits will be filed "every which way from Sunday."
In California, energy companies have been using a type of fracking to extract oil for many years and are pushing to expand such drilling. Environmental groups hope the New York decision will influence Gov. Jerry Brown, who has largely supported fracking. A scientific study is due to be released next month.
Californians will ask now, "If it's not safe for New Yorkers, why should we think it's safe for us?" said Charles Margulis, with the California branch of the national Center for Environmental Health, a nonprofit organization.
Associated Press writers Jon Fahey and Jenn Peltz in New York, Emily Schmall in Dallas and Don Thompson in Sacramento contributed to this report.
Minnesota State Representative Greg Davids is calling for embattled MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber, the "architect" of Obamacare, to return all $329,000 he was paid by the state of Minnesota as a subcontractor on a 2011 contract to analyze the state's plan to develop its Obamacare health care exchange, MNSure.
On November 21, Davids sent a letter to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson requesting her to investigate Gruber's work.
"In recent weeks," Davids wrote, "significant concerns have been raised regarding the contract between the State of Minnesota and Dr. Jonathan Gruber entered into in March 2011. In light of troubling remarks by Dr. Gruber and MNsure, I believe that a review of Dr. Gruber’s work, and payments made to him, is necessary."
On December 9, Davids sent a second letter to Swanson.
"Earlier today," Davids wrote, "in testimony before Congressional investigators, Dr. Jonathan Gruber refused to answer questions regarding compensation for his work with state-based insurance exchanges. The evasiveness displayed by Dr. Gruber reinforces my concerns expressed in the previous letter."
"I implore your office to investigate Dr. Gruber’s work and its relationship to MNsure’s fiscal troubles," Davids requested again, "and urge you to explore all possible remedies for recovering the taxpayer funds wasted on his report."
"To date," Davids told Breitbart News in an exclusive statement on Wednesday, "I have received word via phone call that the Attorney General's office was working on a response, but nothing in writing yet."
Davids blasted Gruber's projections for the state of Minnesota about enrollment for the state's health care exchange, MNSure, when it launched.
"MNsure, Dr. Gruber and Governor Dayton's Administration repeatedly guaranteed that the exchange would serve 1.3 million Minnesotans by 2016, including over 600,000 in commercial plans - a financial necessity to avoid a taxpayer bailout," Davids told Breitbart News.
"Those projections were so far off that it has proved absurd," Davids said.
"Instead of 500,000 private enrollees by the end of 2015, MNsure has repeatedly lowered Dr. Gruber's projections and now estimates that fewer than 70,000 will enroll in private plans by the end of next year," Davids added.
"The error rate for Dr. Gruber's work is beyond laughable," Davids stated.
"It is a shame," Davids continued, "that nearly $600,000 in public funds was used for projections that were inaccurate from the moment MNsure opened. The Dayton Administration has essentially used over $150 million in taxpayer money to build a broken IT system for public health programs."
"There has been little to no transparency in Dr. Gruber's work with MNsure," Davids told Breitbart News. "Given that Dr. Gruber missed the deadline to submit his final report by four months - thereby avoiding scrutiny during the legislative process that led to MNsure's creation - it is sadly unsurprising that he may have failed to live up to other aspects of his taxpayer-funded contract," Davids concluded.
A Breitbart investigation into the state of Minnesota's 2011 contract in which Gruber was paid $329,000 as a subcontractor to develop economic projections using his proprietary Gruber Microsimulation Model has uncovered a disturbing pattern of billing practices that indicate a lack of oversight. April Todd-Malmlov, the former executive director of MNSure, the state's Obamacare health exchange, was the official responsible for that oversight.
Breitbart obtained copies of the Gruber invoices, the contract, and the Gruber subcontract in a public records request filed with the state of Minnesota.
Though the contract, which was signed by former executive director Todd-Malmlov, clearly specifies that all Gruber's invoices should be itemized in detail, the invoices submitted by Gruber and paid by the state of Minnesota were notably lacking in itemization.
Gruber's invoices do not specifically tie to deliverables specified in the contract other than to assert vaguely that some of them were delivered. The invoices do not consistently refer to the deliverables specified in the contract, nor, with the exception of the final report, do they specify the dates the deliverables were completed, to whom they were delivered in the state of Minnesota, nor whether they were formally accepted by specific bureaucrats in the state of Minnesota.
Despite these shortcomings, former executive director Todd-Malmov authorized all of Gruber's interim payments as well as his final payment.
Gruber delivered two final reports, one in 2012 and one in 2013, each about 60 pages long. Todd-Malmlov formally certified her acceptance of both these reports.
But records obtained by Breitbart News from the state of Minnesota indicate there is no auditable trail for the work product that resulted in those final reports.
In addition, Gruber's invoices do not track specifically to the deliverables identified in Exhibit B of the contract. The deliverables in that exhibit are labeled Deliverable A, Deliverable B, Deliverable C, and Deliverable D. None of Gruber's invoices refer to Deliverable A, Deliverable B, Deliverable C, or Deliverable D.
The Gruber invoice that potentially aligns with Deliverable B is cryptic at best in describing what was delivered. The Gruber invoice that potentially aligns with Deliverable C actually does not match what is specified as Deliverable C in the contract. Only the final Gruber invoice--which refers to the final report referenced in Deliverable D-- tracks with any degree of specificity to the contract.