Morning Action: Our Thoughts and Prayers Go Out to Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the Oklahoma tornado, which caused heartbreaking damage in Moore, the southern part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area:

At least 51 people — including at least 20 children — were killed when a massive tornado struck an area outside Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon, officials said.

Seven of those children were killed at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, according to a police official.

Early Tuesday, emergency personnel continued to scour the school’s rubble — a scene of twisted I-beams and crumbled cinder blocks.

OBAMACARE.  President Obama no longer enjoys the public support of many labor unions for his health care law:

Months after the president’s reelection, a variety of unions are publicly balking at how the administration plans to implement the landmark law. They warn that unless there are changes, the results could be catastrophic.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) — a 1.3 million-member labor group that twice endorsed Obama for president — is very worried about how the reform law will affect its members’ healthcare plans. 

Last month, the president of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers released a statement calling “for repeal or complete reform of the Affordable Care Act.”

UNITE HERE, a prominent hotel workers’ union, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are also pushing for changes. 

Republicans have long attacked Obama’s promise that “nothing in this plan will require you to change your coverage or your doctor.” But the fact that unions are now noting it as well is a clear sign that supporters of the law are growing anxious about the law’s implementation. 

FARM BILL.  The Senate is working on completing the farm and food stamp bill this week, and there a myriad of amendments they are considering.  The Obama administration has already expressed support for the passage of the five-year farm bill.  They called for more cuts to crop insurance programs but did not address the issue of food stamps (sub. req’d):

Managers of the Senate farm bill face a still-to-be determined number of amendments on related issues ranging from repealing a provision in appropriations law that allows planting of genetically modified crops to changing federal subsidies for crop insurance.

The federally subsidized crop insurance program is another area expected to attract attention in both chambers. On average, the federal government pays 62 percent of a farmer’s premium and also provides additional subsidies to the private insurance companies that write and service the policies.

The administration did not directly address the $4 billion in spending cuts over 10 years to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), once known as food stamps.

The White House “strongly supports the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a cornerstone of our nation’s food assistance safety net, which is why it was not subject to cuts in the president’s budget,” the SAP said.

It is unsurprising that the federal government would want to lump together farm and food stamp policy for political reason; however, doing so is harmful to taxpayers, as Heritage explains:

It has become the norm that Congress lumps billions—even trillions—of dollars in taxpayer-funded programs together into huge bills. This allows them to sneak in plenty of special-interest pork.

Each of these programs deserves to be evaluated on its own, and taxpayers deserve transparency from Congress about how it plans to spend our money.

IMMIGRATION.  Heritage’s James Sherk explains that the Gang of Eight immigration bill would make the H-1B program unworkable:

Supporters of the Gang of Eight immigration bill argue they want to make immigrating legally simpler, but their bill would make the H-1B system for highly skilled workers almost unworkable.

H-1B visas allow U.S. companies to hire highly educated foreign workers for occupations requiring specialized skills and knowledge. Employers must pay H-1B workers the “prevailing wage” and certify that their employment will not adversely affect other employees. This allows companies to expand and create jobs more for American workers as well.

Section 4211 of the Gang of Eight bill guts the H-1B program by imposing heavy new restrictions.

Forcing businesses to pay H-1B workers above-market wages as well as other restrictions which he describes in detail in his blog would “create a bureaucratic nightmare for employers and put them in legal jeopardy.”

He advises Congress not to make the H1-B system for highly skilled immigrants “nearly unmanageable,” which is what the Gang of Eight bill does.

IRS SCANDAL.  In the case of the IRS’s federal audits that put improper focus on conservative groups, the President was apparently left in the dark:

Senior White House officials were briefed about a federal audit of the IRS’s improper focus on conservatives, but they decided not to tell President Obama about it, press secretary Jay Carney claimed Monday.

White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler learned about the report in April and made the decision not to tell the president, even as other senior staffers got wind of the audit by Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, Carney said.

Denis McDonough, White House chief of staff, was among those told about the nature of the report, which found that Tea Party and other small-government advocates seeking tax-exempt status were tagged for special screening because of their names.

Carney defended the decision to keep the president out of the loop, saying conclusions often change in the final stages of inspector general reports. It also would’ve been inappropriate, Carney added, for the White House to involve itself in an ongoing investigation.

Still, Carney’s comments underscored how the administration has shifted its explanation about what senior White House staffers knew of the situation and when they knew it. 

Republicans pointed to the changes in the White House story as proof that comprehensive investigations are necessary. 

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