As the CR Turns...
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) may be asleep, but his chamber is anything but. While the GOP's ironman catches a few winks after his 21-hour ObamaCare beat down, the rest of his colleagues are buzzing around, trying to speed up a vote on the government's short-term budget bill. After some debate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is pushing for a Friday morning showdown on the House's legislation to fund the government and defund the health care law.
While the Senate slogs through the procedural rules, the House is behind closed doors plotting its next move in a political chess match that could have enormous implications for the future of America. For now, both sides seem to be leaning toward a shorter continuing resolution (or CR) that would expire a month earlier than December 15.
To get there, Congress may need to buy some time -- about a week -- to hash out details of a broader plan. "We are not going to vote on a clean CR [that funds ObamaCare]," said Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.). "If we can come to some sort of agreement and do a short-term piece while we are working on language fine. But if not, we're stuck." If the House agrees, both chambers could shake hands on a bridge bill -- a seven-day extension that would give the parties a chance to reprioritize. Unfortunately, the rest of America doesn't have a week to regroup. "ObamaCare starts in four days," Rep. Tom Graves warned.
That may be true in other areas, but not in the District of Columbia. According to the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange, even the city that passed the law isn't ready for it! In testing the system, Director Mila Kotman said the city experienced a "high error" rate -- so high that local officials have to postpone key functions of the marketplace.
Elsewhere, customers are hanging on to their wallets for dear life. A new study by Avalere Health surveyed six states and found that the White House wasn't exactly telling the truth when it said that Americans would enjoy lower premiums. That's just a mirage, experts point out, to cover up the higher costs in "co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles -- all layered on top of their monthly premiums." For most people, enrolling in the administration's exchanges will mean at least $6,350 in out-of-pocket costs.
While customers prepare to be squeezed, conservatives are desperately trying to choke off -- or at least put off -- the law. After this morning's House GOP conference meeting, members seemed even more determined to tie ObamaCare to the debt limit bill. When America's bills come due on October 17, conservatives will offer to authorize those payments in exchange for a one-year delay on ObamaCare. What's more, House leaders seem willing to go to the mat for voters' First Amendment rights. In my and our staff's conversations with members, we've been assured that conscience language and religious protections will included in the House's debt ceiling proposal -- a victory almost two and half years in the making.
While conservatives may disagree on how to spare America from the President's biggest mistake, the important thing is that they agree on the why. At the end of the day, most of the country feels like this Republican senator: "I'm for delay, defund, demolish, destroy, whatever the 'd' is, when it comes to ObamaCare, I'm for."
The Comm before the Storm
Tired of the "he said," "she said" debate on religious persecution, Judicial Watch is planning to get to the bottom of the military's policy on open Christianity. In an official Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the group is suing the Pentagon for "all communications" between the Defense Department and atheist zealot Mikey Weinstein.
In May, Weinstein, who heads up the so-called Military Religious Freedom Foundation, sat down with the military's top brass and demanded stiffer penalties for religious expression in the ranks. The meeting, which even raised the Washington Post's eyebrows, triggered a slew of conflicting statements from the Pentagon, including one that suggested Christians would be court-martialed for sharing their faith. After a string of shocking suspensions, reprimands, and threats, it was clear that the relationship between Weinstein and the Pentagon was having a devastating effect on our service members' freedom.
Fortunately, even the Defense Department seems to acknowledge that the Christian crackdown it out of hand. At a meeting with FRC and members of the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition, Air Force officials admitted that there was a problem with certain commanders infringing on troops' freedom, and they were committed to dealing with it. That isn't sitting well with Weinstein, who insisted that the campaign for religious liberty won't succeed.
We'll see about that. With the help of Judicial Watch and FRC's documentation, Congress will have all the evidence it needs to get behind Rep. John Fleming's (R-La.) language to protect the rights of those busy securing ours.
Made of Honor
Apart from justice being served, one of the most positive things to come from last week's Floyd Corkins's sentencing is the renewed attention to Leo Johnson's heroism. In the 13 months since Corkins shot Leo and hoped to kill as many FRC staff as he could, the string of deadly attacks in the Navy Yard, Aurora, and Sandy Hook has been a painful reminder of what could have been were it not for Leo's courage. This week, just a few days after Corkins was sentenced to 25 years in prison, the Anti-Defamation League honored Leo with its prestigious Shield Award, given to those who have exemplified "Service, Honor, Integrity, Excellence, Leadership, and Dedication" and "protected our nation and communities from hate crimes and terrorist threats." After his remarks, more than 300 people gave Leo a standing ovation. Congratulations to Leo, who continues to represent the best of FRC!
** FRC's new Senior Legislative Assistant, Leanna Baumer, tackles the tremendous burden on pro-marriage businessmen in her new blog post, "Private Employers Nationwide Face New Quandry of Conscience." Check it out here.
*** If you missed yesterday's Craig James's interview on "Washington Watch," I encourage you to take a few minutes and listen to his encouraging story! This is one man who isn't taking religious discrimination lying down!
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.