Who Has the Last Word When It Comes to Redistricting?

The Supreme Court heard a vigorous debate today over who ultimately has the constitutional authority to determine where the boundary lines are drawn for congressional districts.

Paul Clement, former solicitor general under the George W. Bush administration, argued on behalf of Arizona state legislators in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. He was up against another former solicitor general, Seth Waxman, who served in the Clinton administration, as well as a representative from the current solicitor general’s office.

At issue is the meaning of the 44 words contained in Art. I, Sec. 4, Cl. 1 of the Constitution. That provision, known as the Elections Clause, provides that:

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

In 2000, Arizona voters approved a proposition that “permanently divests” the authority of the state legislature to engage in redistricting as Clement told the Court, and transferred it to an independent redistricting commission with five members. The only participation in the redistricting process that was left to the legislature was the ability to pick four of its five commissioners, but only from a list prepared by a nominating committee composed of state judges, and to comment on the maps produced by the commission (comments with no legal effect).

This case revolves around the definition of “Legislature” in the Elections Clause. The Constitution gives the authority to the “Legislature” of “each State” to determine the time, place and manner of congressional elections, unless Congress itself steps in to impose its own regulations.  The Arizona state legislature argued in its brief that the term “Legislature” is “clear and explicit and has an unambiguous meaning repeatedly recognized by the Framers and this Court: the representative lawmaking body of a State.”

Thus, a referendum cannot constitutionally deprive a state legislature of all of its authority over redistricting, although the legislators took the more nuanced position that voters can still make decisions on the redistricting process though referenda – they just can’t completely cut out the legislature’s involvement.

This case revolves around the definition of “Legislature” in the Elections Clause.

The redistricting commission argued in its brief that the term “Legislature” does not mean only the state’s legislative body but “signifies the state-level lawmaking process that is closest to the People, and that has always been left to them to structure as they see fit.”

A second issue is whether the legislature has standing to file suit.  That is, did they suffer a concrete, recognizable injury? The redistricting commission argues that state legislators have no standing to challenge the voters of Arizona and the decision they made on the allocation of lawmaking authority.

Today, Clement told the Court that “this avowed effort to redelegate” the authority over redistricting “to an unelected and unaccountable commission is plainly repugnant to the Constitution’s vesting of that authority in the legislatures of the States.”

Justice Antonin Scalia wanted to know whether it would be constitutional if the legislature itself “established this commission?”  Clement said that would be an allowable “delegation of authority.”

The Obama administration filed an amicus brief in the case on the side of the redistricting commission and was given time this morning to present its arguments to the Court.  However, some of the justices seemed to find the administration’s arguments a bit hard to swallow.  For example, Assistant Solicitor General Eric Feigin claimed that the state legislature didn’t have standing to sue because nothing prevented the legislature from “passing a bill that would redistrict the state,” even though he acknowledged that such a law would not be enforceable. As Chief Justice John Roberts said, “So you want the legislature to pass a law that’s not enforceable and suggest they don’t have standing to challenge what the referendum has done in this case until they go through that process?”

In fact, Feigin went even further, claiming the legislature doesn’t have “an interest in the enforcement of the laws that they pass,” thus taking the astonishing position that the legislature would have no ability to ever appear in court to contest this referendum. Even Justice Sonia Sotomayor seemed surprised by Feigin’s answer, saying that didn’t the legislature “have an interest in the constitutional powers they have?” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy also were clearly concerned over the arguments being asserted by the Justice Department over standing.

Waxman asserted that Arizona defines its legislature to include “the People,” and thus the referendum process, and that the term “Legislature” in the Elections Clause cannot “ignore a State’s definition of its own legislature.” Justice Scalia interrupted Waxman and challenged him to give Scalia “one provision of the Constitution that uses the term ‘legislature’ that clearly was not meant to apply to the body of representatives of the people that makes the laws.” Waxman was unable to answer that question and Scalia admonished him that Scalia had looked through the Constitution and there wasn’t a single provision that “clearly” had the meaning Waxman was trying to subscribe to it.

Kennedy added that “history works very much against” Waxman’s argument on the definition of legislature, citing the 17th Amendment, which changed the Constitution’s original provision that senators were chosen by the legislature. As Kennedy pointed out, “there was no suggestion that this could be displaced” by a state prior to the 17th Amendment.

This is an important case given the move in some states to hand over redistricting authority to independent commissions.  The decision will answer the question, as Clement put it in his rebuttal at the end of the argument, whether “there is a fundamental difference between the legislature and the people.”

The post Who Has the Last Word When It Comes to Redistricting? appeared first on Daily Signal.


CPAC’s Curiously Skewed Poll and Other Oddities

Nigel Farage - CPAC 2015

Nigel Farage, leader of the UKIP

I attended the annual Conservative Political Action Conference this past weekend, and as usual, it ended with a much hyped but slanted presidential straw poll. Alternative conservative Rand Paul came in first place, followed by Scott Walker, then Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and Jeb Bush. The reason the poll is not reflective of the most popular candidate among GOP faithful is simple: CPAC’s demographics are heavily skewed toward very young people, who do not represent the actual spectrum of registered GOP voters. The 18-to-25-year-old age bracket made up a disproportionate 47 percent of those who voted in the straw poll, and there were many under age 18 who also voted – not old enough to vote in real life. CPAC offers discounts and incentives to students, and consequently the conference was flooded with Millennials. In reality, only four winners of the past 20 CPAC straw polls have gone on to win the GOP nomination for president.

To those who say the young people supporting Rand Paul are emblematic of where the GOP is headed in a few years, I say not so fast. I am from Generation X, and remember how noisy the Ron Paul supporters of my generation were a few years back when he was at the height of his influence. Where are they now? They have grown up, started families, incomes and taxes and subsided into reality. They are no longer the loud, idealistic grassroots activists they used to be. Advocating for legalizing pot is no longer so pressing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually like Rand Paul quite a bit except on foreign policy, and think he has more principles than many of the potential GOP presidential candidates and his fellow members of Congress. However, ISIS has now become the biggest political problem facing the U.S., a bad time to run for office with a non-interventionist foreign policy.

Read the rest of the article at Townhall


Why Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress Is Churchillian

Tomorrow, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress, warning against the military potential of Iran’s nuclear program.

The Israeli leader will do so at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and much to the dismay of the White House, which is close to signing an agreement with Tehran on its nuclear development, which Israel strongly opposes, as do many members of Congress.

Netayahu’s position is reminiscent of nothing so much as that of British statesman Winston Churchill before World War II. In his unprecedented agreement to address Congress against the will of the White House, Netanyahu is placing Israel’s national security above his relationship with the U.S. president, who has shown him little respect in the past.

Unpopular though Netanyahu’s decision may be on Pennsylvania Ave. and in Foggy Bottom, the stakes for Israel justify these extraordinary measures. Netanyahu told a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Monday, “Israel won’t be passive in the face of those who want to annihilate us.”

One is reminded of Winston Churchill’s pre-World War II repeated and unwelcome warnings to the British parliament against Germany’s rearmament (in violation of the Versailles Treaty) following Adolf Hitler’s power grab in 1933. “Germany... fears no one,” Churchill kept hammering. “She is arming in a manner which has never been seen in German history. She is led by a handful of triumphant desperadoes.”

Churchill made himself hugely unpopular with the leadership of his own party, the Conservatives. Meanwhile, Conservative leader Neville Chamberlain went to Munich in 1938 to seal the fate of Czechoslovakia with Adolf Hitler’s emissaries, and secure the fool’s gold of “peace in our time.”

Churchill saw an existential threat to Britain though, and he was right. After invading Poland, Holland, Belgium, France, Denmark and Norway, Germany commenced the Battle of Britain in July of 1940, conducting blitzkrieg with the planes Hitler had been busy building in the 1930s and which Churchill had warned against.

If Netanyahu ever feels depressed about the lack of support he is getting from the White House, he may feel some consolation in the fact that Winston Churchill himself – or at least a bust of Churchill – was returned from the Oval Office by Obama staffers to the British embassy in one of the first diplomatic missteps of the new administration in 2009. When the Israeli leader gets the cold shoulder from the White House, he is in good company.

The post Why Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress Is Churchillian appeared first on Daily Signal.


CAIR Suing Over Fatal FBI Shooting of Friend of Alleged Boston Marathon Bombers

An Islamic group in Florida is filing a lawsuit
over the fatal FBI shooting in May 2013 of Ibragim Todashev during
the investigation of the alleged Boston marathon bombers. The FBI
didn't say anything about the shooting for months. The American
Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
called for an investigation
in July 2013; last year the FBI
ruled the shooting
, saying the agent, who had a
short and troubled history
with the Oakland Police Department,
was attacked by his detainee before fatally shooting him.

reports on the lawsuit

The notice was filed by the Council on American-Islamic
Relations Florida (CAIR-Florida), a civil rights group, on behalf
of Todashev's parents who accused the FBI in a statement on Monday
of killing their son "in cold blood."

Thania Diaz Clevenger, civil rights director for CAIR Florida,
said the group was "seeking answers and justice for someone who was
shot seven times by an FBI agent in his own home after hours of

The FBI said the agent fired after Todashev suddenly attacked
and injured the agent during the interrogation. Investigators
concluded the agent was justified in using deadly force.

CAIR accused the FBI of "careless hiring practices" involving
FBI agent Aaron McFarlane, who fired the fatal bullets, as well as
a lax internal review that cleared him in Todashev's death.

"During his time serving with the Oakland Police Department, he
was involved in two police brutality lawsuits, four internal
affairs investigations, regarding violently beating up suspects and
witnesses and allegedly falsified police reports," CAIR said in a

Since 1993 the FBI has shot at least 150 people, 70 fatally,
ruling every shooting


CPS Decision in Maryland Parents Case: They Are ‘Responsible’ For ‘Unsubstantiated Neglect.’ Huh?

The long-awaited decision from Montgomery County Child
Protective Services has arrived at the home of Danielle and Alex
Meitiv, and it finds them "responsible" for "unsubstantiated child
neglect" for letting their kids walk outside, unsupervised. If that
decision makes no sense to you, either—how can parents be
responsible for something that is unsubstantiated?—welcome to the
place where common sense crashes into bureaucratic craziness.

It's a mess.

Although the investigation is "closed," Donna St. George at the
Washington Post
 reports that:

CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years and
leaves open the question of what happens if the Meitiv children —
ages 10 and 6 — get reported again for walking without adult

Why keep a file on a family that was not found negligent? That
just doesn't sound closed enough for my liking. Especially since
the walk was only a crime in the Law & Order-addled
minds of the authorities.

"Shots will be fired!"

You'll recall
that on a
December day in Silver Spring
, MD, the Meitivs allowed their
children, ages 6 and 10, to walk a mile home from the park. A
busybody spied the unaccompanied kids and called 911. The cops
scooped up the kids, drove them home, and threatened the dad that
"shots will be fired!" if he didn't comply with their demand to see
his ID.

Later, when a Child Protective Services rep came to the home,
the dad was threatened again: Sign this safety plan for your kids
or they will be taken away. (He signed.)

Guess where the kids are NOW!

The mom was out of town while this transpired but she and her
husband are on the same page—even though this was the
second time the Meitiv kids were stopped for walking
outside. (Here's my
story about the first time
—reported only here at Reason!) But
as Danielle just wrote to me in an email:

"Allowing kids to be Free-Range is critical for their
development. In spite of this ruling we will continue
to let our kids roam (they're at the park right
 Thankfully, CPS harassment like this is NOT
common. The best way to make sure it doesn't happen is to make
Free-Ranging as common as it was when we were kids."



The New York City Teachers Union Opened its Own Charter School. Disaster Ensued.

"This school is an oasis," then-New York City teachers union
boss Randi Weingarten
The New York Sun in 2005, while sitting in a
classroom at a brand new charter school in Brooklyn run by the
United Federation of Teachers (UFT). Why would the teachers union
open a charter? To prove that these publicly funded, privately
operated schools could be staffed by unionized teachers
and be highly successful. "This kind of effort, this kind
of potential, is what we should be unleashing on the school system
every single day," Weingarten
The Sun.Randi Weingarten |||

Let's hope not. A decade later, the union is closing the school.
Capital New York
has the details

 [T]he U.F.T. charter has consistently been one of the
lowest performing schools—charter or otherwise—in the city and has
received stern warnings from its authorizer, the SUNY Charter
School Institute, about its viability.

Last year, SUNY issued a report on the U.F.T. Charter School in
which it documented instability in leadership, low test scores
particularly in middle school grades, lack of resources and
disciplinary issues. 

The school has been an embarrassment for the union from the
get-go, starting with an unfortunate 2005 incident in which its
principal ordered two boys to clean up another student's feces off
the bathroom floor, which, of course,
made the tabloids
. Since then
the school has been plagued
by principal turnover, textbook and
material shortages, and fiscal problems. There have been 10
reported incidents of corporal punishment.

Perhaps most embarrassing for the union, the school has had an
unusually high student attrition rate. Ironically, the UFT has long
claimed that New York's charters have generally outperformed
traditional public schools because they push out failing students,
but a recent report by the Independent Budget Office found
that charters actually have lower rates of attrition
Apparently, the UFT school was an exception.

Is the takeaway here that a unionized charter can never be
successful? No, it's that nobody can predict whether a school, or
any organization for that matter, will succeed when it's just
getting started, which is one of many reasons it should be easier
to shutdown failing schools. It's a shame it took a decade to close
the doors on this one.

Right around the same time that the UFT school opened, Randi
Weingarten's old nemesis, Eva Moskowitz, was preparing
to open her own charter school in New York—and things turnd out
quite differently for that venture. To learn more, watch Nick
Gillespie's interview with Moskowitz, which I produced:


California Supreme Court Overturns Sex Offender Residence Restrictions

Today the California Supreme Court
unanimously ruled
that the residence restrictions automatically imposed on sex
offenders by state law are unconstitutional, violating fundamental
rights protected by the 14th Amendment. At issue was the Sexual
Predator Punishment and Control Act (a.k.a. Jessica's Law), which
was approved by voters as Proposition 83 in 2006. The law prohibits
registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school
or park, without regard to the nature of the crimes they committed
or the threat they currently pose. Four sex offenders on parole in
San Diego challenged that rule, arguing that it makes finding a
legal residence nearly impossible and cannot be justified on public
safety grounds.

The state Supreme Court agreed, noting that the 2,000-foot rule
excludes 97 percent of the land zoned for multifamily housing in
San Diego County. Writing for the court, Justice Marvin Baxter said
such an onerous burden, imposed without individual evaluation,
cannot be justified even under the highly deferential "rational
basis" test, which requires only that a law be rationally related
to a legitimate government interest:

Blanket enforcement of the residency restrictions against these
parolees has severely restricted their ability to find housing in
compliance with the statute, greatly increased the incidence of
homelessness among them, and hindered their access to medical
treatment, drug and alcohol dependency services, psychological
counseling and other rehabilitative social services available to
all parolees, while further hampering the efforts of parole
authorities and law enforcement officials to monitor, supervise,
and rehabilitate them in the interests of public safety. It thus
has infringed their liberty and privacy interests, however limited,
while bearing no rational relationship to advancing the state's
legitimate goal of protecting children from sexual predators, and
has violated their basic constitutional right to be free of
unreasonable, arbitrary, and oppressive official action.

The court said residence restrictions are still permissible as a
condition of parole, "as long as they are based on the specific
circumstances of each individual parolee."

This decision is a welcome repudiation of
residence restrictions
that voters and legislators have imposed
on sex offenders with little or no regard to their fairness or
practical impact. Such restrictions, which often apply even if an
offender's crime had nothing to do with children, can be so
extensive that entire cities are effectively off limits. In Miami
local residence restrictions gave rise to a
of more than 70 sex offenders who lived under the Julia
Tuttle Causeway, a bridge that crosses Biscayne Bay.

Iowa's 2,000-foot rule was so restrictive that the state
legislator who proposed it later
that "if you draw a map, pretty soon you can make
it so no area in town is available to live in." In 2007 Georgia's
residence restrictions, which mandated the relocation of sex
offenders dying in nursing homes and forced repeated moves as
formerly legal homes became illegal, were unanimously overturned
by the state Supreme Court, which observed that "there is no place
in Georgia where a registered sex offender can live without being
continually at risk of being ejected." New York's Sexual Assault
Reform Act has led to



Ira Stoll on Warren Buffett’s Economic Contradictions

In the 50 years since Warren Buffett took over
Berkshire Hathaway, the per-share market value has increased
1,826,163 percent, or a compounded annual gain of 21.6 percent,
Buffett reports in his annual letter to shareholders, which was
released over the weekend.

It’s a remarkable record, writes Ira Stoll, and reason enough to
give Buffett’s annual letter a careful read. It can tell us
something about how Buffett got so rich, and it might even yield
some insights into his cosy relationship with big government.

View this article.


Sen. Mikulski to Retire, Nebraska’s Gay Marriage Ban Blocked, DOJ Sees Racist Enforcement in Ferguson: P.M. Links

Follow us on Facebook
and Twitter,
and don’t forget to
 for Reason’s daily updates for more


Could Sports Gambling Beat Marijuana to National Legalization?

Sportsbook/flickrMarijuana is making serious
legalization headway in the U.S., with Alaska recently
becoming the third state to legalize the drug. Sports gambling, on
the other hand, hasn't made any legalization progress in more than
20 years, when Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports
Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), formally legalizing sports
lotteries in Delaware, Montana, and Oregon and individual game
betting in Nevada. In 2015, those same four states remain the only
ones in which any form of sports betting can legally take

Yet while marijuana gets all the headlines these days, gambling
industry experts believe sports betting will beat pot to nationwide
legalization, and in relatively short order too—by the end of the

At the 2015 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference over the
weekend, ESPN The Magazine editor in chief Chad
Millman moderated a session covering legalization efforts. Rounding
out the panel were David Purdum, a journalist for ESPN; Ryan
Rodenberg, an assistant professor at Florida State University; Dan
Spillane, the vice president and assistant general counsel to the
National Basketball Association (NBA); and Jeff Ma, the subject of
the bestselling book Bringing Down the House. All the
panelists seemed to believe nationwide gambling legalization
was inevitable, with Purdum and Rodenberg expecting it as soon as
4–5 years.

At this year's Sloan conference, which primarily covers the use
of data and analytics in sports and sports performance, nearly
every panel—no matter the topic—in some way touched on legalized
gambling. Participants discussed everything from how betting would
impact the fan experience and sponsorship deals to how data
analysis could be employed by professional bettors. Most
discussions used the word "inevitable" to describe coming
legalization, and one of the research paper finalists was
specifically on baseball betting.

Meanwhile at the Conservative Political Action Conference
(CPAC), which also took place this weekend, the "discussion" around
sports gambling was quite the opposite—it didn't occur whatsoever.
A representative from Sheldon Adelson's Coalition to Stop Internet
Gambling (CSIG) movement, Andy Abboud, didn't show up for a
scheduled debate with Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Executive
Director John Pappas.

Many online poker advocates reportedly thought the no-show
stemmed from Abboud's
fear of being embarrassed again
in a public forum. Abboud made
waves at a December 2013 Congressional hearing in which he was
called out by three subcommittee members for making
hypocritical statements on gambling
. He has also been
criticized for his performance at a debate last March, when he
admitted to being "lost" when it comes to tech issues (despite the
fact that he lobbies Congress on exactly such issues) and resorted
to calling gambling legalization proponents
"Twitter creeps."

The growing confidence that gambling legalization is on the way
comes in spite of a
recent legal battle in New Jersey
 in which the state looks
unlikely to win the right to legalize sports betting. Instead,
legalization is expected to happen at the national level. A
bipartisan team of New Jersey congressmen, Republican Frank Pallone
Jr. and Democrat Frank LoBiondo, introduced
separate bills
in late January both aimed at giving the Garden
State the ability to allow sports betting. Pallone's bill would
exempt New Jersey from PAPSA, while LoBiondo's bill would give
all states a four-year window to legalize sports betting.

Rodenberg expects LoBiondo's bill to gain more traction, though
so far only Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has joined
them in publicly coming out for legalization


EXCLUSIVE: #CPAC2015 Gave Press Credentials to White Supremacist Radio Show “Political Cesspool”

Ah, CPAC -- the conservative movement's primary action conference, attended by most of the major Republican politicians and prospective front runners for the Presidential nomination.

The conservative conference where religious fanatic and overt racist Phil Robertson gets a "First Amendment" award from Breitbart "News."

And the conservative conference that gave press credentials ...


That Time Dr. Seuss Drew Those Vile Anti-Japanese-American Cartoons

March 2 marks what
would have been the 111th birthday of cartoonist and author Theodor
Geisel, better known to everyone as Dr. Seuss. As the Washington
Post reports,

For the last 18 years, Dr. Seuss’s birthday has been the
occasion for the annual “Read Across America
,” an event sponsored by the National Education
Association in partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises. Millions of
students traditionally participate as their schools host Seuss
readings in what
is billed
 by the NEA as the “nation’s largest reading

I don't know of anyone under the age of 60 who isn't extremely
conversant with Seuss's works and whose childhood (and parenting)
hasn't been made easier by them. Yet even as sanctified a figure as
the author of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas! and
Green Eggs & Ham has a few dark chapters in his

You may recall that during his long September 2013 speech
against Obamacare, Sen. Ted Cruz read from Green Eggs &
and was pilloried for doing so. Politico called
up experts on the good doctor to inveigh against Cruz's
appropriation of such a sacred text. As one prof said, "Seuss was a
liberal Democrat and he would not have much patience for people
like Mr. Cruz."

But it's also worth remembering that

Seuss maligned Japanese Americans
in particularly caustic ways
during World War II:

...As a good "liberal Democrat" and FDR fanboy, Seuss was
particularly big on interning citizens of
Japanese-American descent
. And that he liked to draw them with
buckteeth and round glasses - just like Tojo had! - even as he drew
cartoons against other forms of racial prejudice
(read Dr.
Seuss Goes to War
 for more on the topic).

To his credit, Seuss apologized after the war for engaging in
racist hysteria. Horton Hears a Who is widely
read as an apology for his role in stoking anti-Japanese sentiments
and his story about "the Sneetches" is taught in the Southern
Poverty Law Center's "teaching tolerance" curriculum


What Netanyahu Should Say to Congress

What do you get when a foreign prime minister slights the president of the United States by accepting a secret invitation from the speaker of the House to address Congress in an attempt to thwart U.S. policy two weeks prior to an election?

Well, you get a plot worthy of “House of Cards.” But those of us who’ve already binged-watched the popular Netflix series know that Season 3 is about Russia, not Israel.

No, this is the real life showdown that will take place on the House floor before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday. It’s the head-to-head of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barak Obama, of Republicans and Democrats, of Israel and Iran, and of the free world and those trying to destroy it.

Few speeches have created such controversy, and few orators could meet the challenge. This is Netanyahu’s moment—a world stage with much at stake. The question is whether his speech will strengthen the U.S.-Israeli partnership or further erode a decades-old friendship.

Here are the audiences he needs to convince and the stumbling blocks to avoid.

The American People

The prime minister has been transparent about the point of Tuesday’s speech. Last week he announced to an Israeli interviewer that his goal is “to try to stop the deal from happening.” The “deal” is President Obama threatening to veto any piece of legislation that further limits Iran.

It’s no secret that Obama and Netanyahu aren’t BFFs. “It’s complicated” is a generous summation of their relationship. To make things more interesting, we’ve never witnessed a foreign dignitary bypassing the office of the president by accepting an invitation from the speaker of the House.

So why is this a problem? If you want the support of the American people, you have to be careful not to snub their president. The prime minister can attack policy, but he cannot disrespect the office of the president no matter how he feels about the person occupying it. It’s a delicate balance.


Between threats of a partial government shutdown and a Republican Party that can’t seem to agree, the 114th Congress has been, well, messy. The secret invitation to Netanyahu from John Boehner further complicates an already rocky start.

Not only will Netanyahu be using the same podium that the president uses for the State of the Union, but he’ll also be asking Congress, including Democrats, to defy their leader. This especially puts Jewish Democrats in a hard position. They’ve asked for a closed-door session with Netanyahu in advance, but no dice. Some Democrats have vowed to boycott, while Republicans welcome the speech. Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, said, “Did anyone tell them not to come? If they choose to sit it out, that’s their problem.”

The prime minister will gain extra points if he can unite the parties. He needs Congress, and instead of making this about the R’s versus the D’s, he should make it about unifying both parties against terrorism.


Timing is everything, and some are suspect of Netanyahu’s timing—Israeli elections are two weeks away. So what’s his motive? House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., went on record to say, “I don’t think that’s appropriate, for any country, that the head of state would come here within two weeks of his own election.”

Even the pro-Israel lobbying group J Street has expressed concern. Their executive director said, “What the prime minister is doing here is simply so egregious that it has more lasting impact on that fundamental underlying relationship.”

But Netanhayu seems undeterred. On Sunday he said, “I will be the messenger of all the people of Israel, including those who agree with me and those who don’t agree with me.”

But if he doesn’t win reelection, this speech will be perceived as an utter failure and the hoped for lasting impact will not remain. He not only needs to convince Congress and Americans to back Israel but also show Israelis why he is still the man for the job. Essentially, it’s an “Iran is really bad” and a “Get Out the Vote” speech all in one. That’s quite a challenge.

So is this prime minister up for the job? No doubt he is a gifted public speaker. The great Winston Churchill is the only other foreign leader that has been invited to speak to Congress three times.

But the stakes are higher than ever before, and this will take more of a Frank Underwood Jedi mind trick. This will take delivering a message that can resonate with the president, Congress, Americans, Israelis and the rest of the free world. And while I’m not a betting woman, I’d put my benjamins on Benjamin any day.


The post What Netanyahu Should Say to Congress appeared first on Daily Signal.


IRS Says Illegal Immigrants Eligible for Tax Credits

Following questions raised by a prominent senator last month, the Internal Revenue Service clarified that illegal immigrants granted deferred action by President Obama are eligible for tax credits.

In a letter IRS Commissioner John Koskinen sent to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, last week, the head of the tax agency confirmed that illegal immigrants authorized to remain in the United States and receive work permits under Obama’s recent executive actions would be able to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit for past years they were not allowed to work in the country.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen Letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley by The Heritage Foundation

Koskinen said that guidance issued by the IRS in 2000, which allows filers with a Social Security number to claim tax credits for up to three previous tax years, would still apply today.

Under the IRS’ measure, those in the country illegally are able to retroactively claim the Earned Income Tax Credit on earnings from as far back as 2011.

“The tax code shouldn’t reward those who broke our immigration laws,” said @ChuckGrassley.

The president’s executive actions would grant roughly 5 million illegal immigrants with Social Security numbers and work permits. However, it’s unknown how many of those remaining in the U.S. would be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

“Given the IRS’ interpretation of tax rules intended to prohibit undocumented workers from qualifying for the EITC, these individuals will be eligible to claim billions of dollars in tax benefits based on earnings from unauthorized work in the United States,” Grassley said in a statement.

>>> Why Scott Walker ‘Changed’ His View on Immigration

“With the stroke of a pen, the president rewarded those working illegally in the United States with a tax benefit that is designed to encourage low-income individuals to enter the workforce,” he continued.

According to Grassley’s office, the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit available in 2014 is $6,143. In 2012, the average tax credit was $2,300.

“The tax code shouldn’t reward those who broke our immigration laws,” Grassley said.

The Daily Signal has contacted the Treasury Department to learn how much this would cost taxpayers, but has not yet received a response.

To counter the IRS’ policy, Grassley said he plans to introduce legislation that would deny illegal immigrants the ability to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit for years they worked in the U.S. illegally.

Grassley’s office said illegal immigrants would be authorized to claim the tax credit if they were given permission to work in the U.S. for the entire taxable year.

Grassley first asked Koskinen about the tax implications of the president’s policies during a Senate Finance Committee hearing last month.

At the hearing, Koskinen told Grassley that those claiming the tax credits retroactively had to have filed tax returns for the previous three years using an Individual Tax Identification Number. Koskinen also said there’s a statute of limitations on how far back those claiming earned income tax credits can go.

The post IRS Says Illegal Immigrants Eligible for Tax Credits appeared first on Daily Signal.


Newt Gingrich: Choke Point “Is the Beginning of a Real Tyranny in the United States”

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Signal, Newt Gingrich called the Justice Department’s Operation Choke Point, “the beginning of a real tyranny in the United States,” and said the whole program needs to be dismantled.

“I don’t think the average American realizes that the bureaucrats have come up with a model, which could kill any industry, kill any business, and do so even though what it was doing was totally legal,” he said while attending the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday.

“I think that’s very frightening for our future.”

Gingrich, a former speaker of the House and presidential candidate, is an outspoken critic of Operation Choke Point, which was designed in 2012 as a way to reduce mass market consumer fraud by blocking certain industries’ access to bank accounts, payment processors and other financial institutions.

Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce defended the agency’s actions in an email to The Daily Signal, saying it has “no interest in pursuing or discouraging lawful conduct.”

Instead, Pierce said the program—which she did not address by name—aims to “hold accountable banks and payment processors that illegally enable fraudulent businesses to siphon billions of dollars from consumers’ bank accounts in exchange for significant fees.”

But whether intentional or not, The Daily Signal has documented multiple examples where Operation Choke Point affected a range of legal and legitimate industries, including firearms sellers and payday lenders.

>>> Ready, Aim, Fire: Choke Point Draws Heat From Gun Industry

Under Operation Choke Point, federal regulators pressure banks and other financial institutions to not do business with customers operating in what they consider “high risk” industries.

Of that strategy, Gingrich said:

The liberals that come up with this new model—where you’re doing something which is totally legal that they don’t like—they go to your banker and they choke off your money by saying to the banker, ‘You know, that business over there, that’s kind of risky.’ And the bank gets scared because these are their regulators. And so the bank comes to you and says, ‘We’re no longer going to be able to handle your account.’

>>> FDIC Changes Tactics in Response to Operation Choke Point

Gingrich said the program poses a real threat to the American public and that “the whole model needs to be replaced.”

“What you’re doing is totally legal, but they have decided as bureaucrats, that they don’t like it,” he said.

The post Newt Gingrich: Choke Point “Is the Beginning of a Real Tyranny in the United States” appeared first on Daily Signal.


Law, Not Policy, Should Guide Supreme Court in Obamacare Subsidies Case

months now, the Obama administration has been playing a coy game
with the latest Supreme Court challenge to Obamacare, refusing to
say what kind of plans they are making in the event that the High
Court rules against them.

The issue, which the court will hear on Wednesday of this week,
is whether the administration’s decision, through an Internal
Revenue Service rule, to provide subsidies for insurance purchased
through the law’s federally run exchanges is allowed under the text
of the law, which says that subsidies are availably only in
exchanges established by a state. If the court decides against the
administration, subsidies for several million individuals would
quickly be cut off absent any legislative follow-up.

Last week, the administration seemed to go a step further,
suggesting that they have no plans at all. "We know of no
administrative actions that could, and therefore we have no plans
that would, undo the massive damage to our healthcare system that
would be caused by an adverse decision," said Health and Human
Service Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell in a
to Congress.

The language here is slippery. It’s not that the administration
has no backup plans whatsoever. It’s that the administration claims
to have no plans that would fully reverse the result of a court
decision for the challengers. Surely the administration has
prepared in great detail for an adverse ruling—one Republican
at a hearing last week that the White House has put
together a 100-page dossier of potential responses—although what,
exactly, the White House would do remains unclear.

But the primary point of the letter wasn’t to clarify what the
administration would or wouldn’t do in the event of an adverse
ruling. Instead, it was to highlight, again, the disruption that
one would cause—and perhaps, in the process, make the court ever so
slightly more reluctant to rule against the administration.

The administration, in other words, wants the Court to believe
that ruling for the challengers would be maximally painful and

Republicans in Congress, in turn, are playing their own version
of the same game. GOP leaders have indicated that various groups on
the Hill are working on contingency plans and Obamacare
alternatives. One plan, an update to an existing proposal by a trio
of Republican senators, has already been released. Various other
ideas about what to do in the event of a ruling for the challengers
have been floated by
and influential
policy experts
on the right. And today, in The Washington
, three GOP senators—Orrin Hatch, Lamar Alexander, and
John Barasso—write
that “Republicans have a plan to create a bridge away from

Their plan would “provide financial assistance to help Americans
keep the coverage they picked for a transitional period,” in order
to minimize the disruption, and it would allow for some federalist
flexibility, giving “states the freedom and flexibility to create
better, more competitive health insurance markets offering more
options and different choices.”

As outlined in the Post, the plan leaves lots of
questions: What sort of financial assistance would be provided, and
for how long? What sorts of flexibility would states have, and
under what legal authority? And are there enough votes in the House
and the Senate to actually pass something—anything—that resembles
what the trio of senators describe?

To the last question, the senators write that “we have had many
discussions with our Senate and House Republican colleagues on this
issue, and there is a great deal of consensus on how to

It’s possible that the House and Senate could unite on a plan
relatively quickly. In an interview with Bloomberg News last
Friday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.)
about the need for Republicans to create a “bridge out
of Obamacare” if the court sided with the challengers. The use of
the same descriptive language suggests that, if nothing else, parts
of the House and the Senate are on the same page when it comes to

But as last Friday’s chaotic House vote on Department of
Homeland Security funding suggests, it’s hard to know whether
Republicans could really get anything like what the three senators
describe to pass. As Ezra Klein, who also raised some of the same
questions about the GOP trio's plan,
, it’s just as likely that Republicans would not be able
to agree on any fallback at all. Certainly, the history suggests
that it would be very hard for Republicans to unite around any
health care plan; years of
promises to repeal and replace Obamacare have produced a number of
, but little consensus. Mostly they have demonstrated
how difficult consensus is to achieve.  

But consensus isn’t really the goal here. Instead, the
Republicans are playing a strategy that is the reverse of the one
employed by the White House: They want to convince the court that
the fallout from a ruling for the challengers would not be too
great, because the GOP has a mitigation strategy at the ready.

What this messaging tug-of-war leaves us with, then, is an odd
dynamic in which the administration insists it has no contingency
plan, even though it (likely) does, and Republicans in Congress
insist they have a backup, even though they don’t.

It is understandable that both sides would take this approach;
after all, as Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett has
, the Supreme Court is more likely to rule against the
administration if Republicans have some alternative in place. By
the same token, the High Court is more likely to rule for the
administration if there is no contingency waiting in the wings.
(And to the extent that it matters, I think Republicans have at
least a somewhat better argument; they don't yet have a plan, but
they are at least working on plans, while the administration is
absurdly attempting to imply that it has no playbook should it

But even though this approach is understandable, and perhaps
even inevitable, it is not ideal.

The question before the court isn’t whether a
ruling against the administration would be disruptive. It’s whether
the administration’s actions are authorized by the statute. To the
extent that a ruling against the administration would be
disruptive, it would only be because the Supreme Court decided that
the administration exceeded its authority in the first place. The
law either authorizes the subsidies or it doesn’t—and if it doesn’t
the subsidies should not have been granted in the first place.
Neither the scale of the disruption nor the readiness of some
alternative render the administration’s actions more or less

Despite the efforts of both sides to influence the court, this
isn’t really controversial. What matters is what the law says.
Indeed, sometimes disruption is required by the law, and when that
happens it doesn't mean the law should be tossed aside. It’s worth
looking back a few weeks to the administration’s announcement that
it would be cutting off coverage through Obamacare for 200,000
people who
failed to verify their legal status in the United States
. This
was, it seems reasonable to assume, tremendously disruptive for a
fairly large number of people. It was also required by law.

Obviously the administration’s position is that, in this case,
federal exchange subsidies are allowed under the law. But
this is the core of the dispute: What is authorized by the law, and
what isn’t? Policymakers in Congress can and should consider the
policy consequences of a ruling against the administration, but the
Supreme Court should be concerned with the law and its limits,
regardless of the consequences.