Commentary Magazine


Topic: finance committee

Blowing Up ReidCare

It’s out. It was in, and everyone tried to keep a straight face for several days. But Sens. Joe Lieberman, Bill Nelson, and Ben Nelson would not play along. So the Medicare buy-in may is getting yanked as quickly as it was inserted into the madcap race for a health-care deal, any deal. The New York Times reports:

After a tense 90-minute meeting on Monday evening, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, was asked if Democrats were likely to jettison the Medicare proposal. “It’s looking like that’s the case,” Mr. Baucus said, indicating that the provision might be scrapped as a way of “getting support from 60 senators.”

So another harebrained Harry Reid scheme implodes. But what do they want to pass now? After all “not the public option” and “not Medicare buy-in” are not exactly the stuff of legislation. They need, because a few centrists insist on it, something that is semi-coherent and that actually might allow the Democrats to face the voters, who currently disfavor ObamaCare by a huge margin.

Really, what’s left after they take out the public option and the Medicare buy-in? A GOP leadership aide put it this way: “$500 billion in Medicare cuts, $400 billion in tax increases, raises premiums, raises costs, onerous regulations, individual mandates, employer mandate,  and expensive subsidies.” So what’s not to like? Well, just about everything. Perhaps, in a moment of clarity, everyone will go home, think this through clearly, and come back with a list of a few discrete reforms that will have bipartisan support. Then they can declare victory. Makes too much sense. Instead the Democratic leadership seems hell-bent on coming up with the umpteenth version of ObamaCare no matter how unpopular it may be with the public and making vulnerable members walk the plank. Seems crazy, huh? It is.

It’s out. It was in, and everyone tried to keep a straight face for several days. But Sens. Joe Lieberman, Bill Nelson, and Ben Nelson would not play along. So the Medicare buy-in may is getting yanked as quickly as it was inserted into the madcap race for a health-care deal, any deal. The New York Times reports:

After a tense 90-minute meeting on Monday evening, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, was asked if Democrats were likely to jettison the Medicare proposal. “It’s looking like that’s the case,” Mr. Baucus said, indicating that the provision might be scrapped as a way of “getting support from 60 senators.”

So another harebrained Harry Reid scheme implodes. But what do they want to pass now? After all “not the public option” and “not Medicare buy-in” are not exactly the stuff of legislation. They need, because a few centrists insist on it, something that is semi-coherent and that actually might allow the Democrats to face the voters, who currently disfavor ObamaCare by a huge margin.

Really, what’s left after they take out the public option and the Medicare buy-in? A GOP leadership aide put it this way: “$500 billion in Medicare cuts, $400 billion in tax increases, raises premiums, raises costs, onerous regulations, individual mandates, employer mandate,  and expensive subsidies.” So what’s not to like? Well, just about everything. Perhaps, in a moment of clarity, everyone will go home, think this through clearly, and come back with a list of a few discrete reforms that will have bipartisan support. Then they can declare victory. Makes too much sense. Instead the Democratic leadership seems hell-bent on coming up with the umpteenth version of ObamaCare no matter how unpopular it may be with the public and making vulnerable members walk the plank. Seems crazy, huh? It is.

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Remember December 3

Remember December 3. It’s a date that will pop up in many campaign ads next year when they roll those votes (Sen. Bill # 9999) with the date (in this case December 3) to show voters that the candidate’s opponent really did cast a vote on a given day. The vote yesterday was to cut $500B from Medicare. To be more exact, as Politico reports:

The Senate voted to keep nearly $500 billion in Medicare spending cuts in the bill, rejecting an amendment from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to send the legislation back to the Finance Committee with orders to strip it out. The measure would have eliminated the major funding source for the bill. All 40 Republicans joined Ben Nelson and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) to support the McCain amendment, which failed 42-58.

That’s right: 58 Democrats voted to slash half a trillion from Medicare. And those who are up for re-election next year will hear about it over and over again.

What’s more, two Democrats bolted. What’s that mean? A Senate source replied with his own question: “They couldn’t get Ben Nelson and Jim Webb on this, so will they be there at the end to vote for $500 billion in Medicare cuts?” Hmm. We don’t know. And before we get there, as Politico notes, “the public option, abortion and financing the plan remained serious obstacles to negotiating a final bill.”

For now, the greatest deliberative body in the world continues to deliberate. And the ad makers will be making notes.

Remember December 3. It’s a date that will pop up in many campaign ads next year when they roll those votes (Sen. Bill # 9999) with the date (in this case December 3) to show voters that the candidate’s opponent really did cast a vote on a given day. The vote yesterday was to cut $500B from Medicare. To be more exact, as Politico reports:

The Senate voted to keep nearly $500 billion in Medicare spending cuts in the bill, rejecting an amendment from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to send the legislation back to the Finance Committee with orders to strip it out. The measure would have eliminated the major funding source for the bill. All 40 Republicans joined Ben Nelson and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) to support the McCain amendment, which failed 42-58.

That’s right: 58 Democrats voted to slash half a trillion from Medicare. And those who are up for re-election next year will hear about it over and over again.

What’s more, two Democrats bolted. What’s that mean? A Senate source replied with his own question: “They couldn’t get Ben Nelson and Jim Webb on this, so will they be there at the end to vote for $500 billion in Medicare cuts?” Hmm. We don’t know. And before we get there, as Politico notes, “the public option, abortion and financing the plan remained serious obstacles to negotiating a final bill.”

For now, the greatest deliberative body in the world continues to deliberate. And the ad makers will be making notes.

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Eli Lake on NIAC

Eli Lake has a blockbuster story in the Washington Times concerning the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which made its name as a reliable apologist for the mullahs and has consistently advocated lifting sanctions against the Iranian regime. (Some background is here and here.) NIAC, according to Lake’s report, worked hard to create a media storm over Obama Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, fearing he would advocate a tougher line against the mullahs. Moreover, it turns out NIAC hasn’t played by the rules:

Law enforcement experts who reviewed some of the documents, which were made available to The Times by the defendant in the suit, say e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarif — and an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Act — offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.

Neither Mr. Parsi nor anyone else at NIAC has registered as a lobbyist or filed papers with the Justice Department as a local agent of the Iranian government or Iranian companies. … Mr. Parsi defended his decision to organize NIAC as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and declare on tax forms that his group does not engage in lobbying — a status that enables donors to deduct contributions on their taxes.

Lake also exposes the NIAC claim to represent “the Iranian community” in America — or least many in it — to be, well, laughable. He explains: “The organization has between 2,500 and 3,000 members, according to Mr. Parsi, but had fewer than 500 responses to a membership survey conducted last summer, internal documents show. Yet NIAC asserts that it is the largest such group and represents the majority of the nearly 1 million Iranian Americans.” Five hundred, 1 million, whatever.

Parsi and NIAC have done their best to insulate the Iranian regime from criticism and to oppose any military or economic action against it. Parsi, you may recall, did his anti-anti-Iran routine recently at J Street’s conference. (J Street and NIAC share a common goal: prevention of sanctions against the regime. In addition, Genevieve Lynch, a NIAC board member, is on J Street’s finance committee and gave a cool $10,000 to the J Street gang.) As Jeffrey Goldberg observed, he does “a lot of leg-work” for the mullahs in the U.S. Lake quotes famed Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf as saying, “I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic.”

One other note, John Limbert was a board member of NIAC before recently being named deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran. Lake notes, “Mr. Limbert declined to comment, citing his new position, but has appeared at NIAC conferences in the past and expressed admiration for the organization and for its charismatic leader, Trita Parsi.”

Lake’s bombshell piece will no doubt cause a huge stir among those both within and outside the Obama administration who’ve chosen to cozy up to NIAC, and in turn give the mullahs a helping hand.

Eli Lake has a blockbuster story in the Washington Times concerning the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which made its name as a reliable apologist for the mullahs and has consistently advocated lifting sanctions against the Iranian regime. (Some background is here and here.) NIAC, according to Lake’s report, worked hard to create a media storm over Obama Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, fearing he would advocate a tougher line against the mullahs. Moreover, it turns out NIAC hasn’t played by the rules:

Law enforcement experts who reviewed some of the documents, which were made available to The Times by the defendant in the suit, say e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarif — and an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Act — offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.

Neither Mr. Parsi nor anyone else at NIAC has registered as a lobbyist or filed papers with the Justice Department as a local agent of the Iranian government or Iranian companies. … Mr. Parsi defended his decision to organize NIAC as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and declare on tax forms that his group does not engage in lobbying — a status that enables donors to deduct contributions on their taxes.

Lake also exposes the NIAC claim to represent “the Iranian community” in America — or least many in it — to be, well, laughable. He explains: “The organization has between 2,500 and 3,000 members, according to Mr. Parsi, but had fewer than 500 responses to a membership survey conducted last summer, internal documents show. Yet NIAC asserts that it is the largest such group and represents the majority of the nearly 1 million Iranian Americans.” Five hundred, 1 million, whatever.

Parsi and NIAC have done their best to insulate the Iranian regime from criticism and to oppose any military or economic action against it. Parsi, you may recall, did his anti-anti-Iran routine recently at J Street’s conference. (J Street and NIAC share a common goal: prevention of sanctions against the regime. In addition, Genevieve Lynch, a NIAC board member, is on J Street’s finance committee and gave a cool $10,000 to the J Street gang.) As Jeffrey Goldberg observed, he does “a lot of leg-work” for the mullahs in the U.S. Lake quotes famed Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf as saying, “I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic.”

One other note, John Limbert was a board member of NIAC before recently being named deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran. Lake notes, “Mr. Limbert declined to comment, citing his new position, but has appeared at NIAC conferences in the past and expressed admiration for the organization and for its charismatic leader, Trita Parsi.”

Lake’s bombshell piece will no doubt cause a huge stir among those both within and outside the Obama administration who’ve chosen to cozy up to NIAC, and in turn give the mullahs a helping hand.

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