ObamaCare: Testing America's Patients
There may be a chill in the air -- but there's plenty of heat on Capitol Hill. Down to seven days of government cash flow, members of both parties woke up this week in a budget pressure cooker that's bringing Congress to the brink -- again. Republicans argue that the House's continuing resolution (CR), a political hot potato that landed in the Senate's lap last Friday, would force the one shutdown most people can agree on: ObamaCare's. As part of the bargain, conservatives are offering to float the government for three months at a cool $986 billion. "Our message to the United States Senate is real simple," said Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). "The American people don't want the government shut down, and they don't want ObamaCare."
Someone had better explain that to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who's plowing ahead with a vote to strip the House's language on defunding ObamaCare no matter what the GOP throws his way. While Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) head to their battle stations, Democrats insist their cause is a lost one. Don't tell that to conservatives, who -- spurred on by the energy in the grassroots -- are ready to fight with whatever procedural weapons they have to stop Harry Reid from gutting the House's bill.
Even the President tried to throw cold water on the GOP's strategy. "[Defunding ObamaCare] is not going to happen... We're not going to allow anyone to inflict economic pain, on millions of our own people just to make an ideological point." (This from a man who's inflicted more economic pain on the nation than the first 41 presidents combined).
In an ironic twist, the President threatened to shut down Washington himself if Congress doesn't open its wallet wider. Tired of the spending caps from sequestration, the White House and key Democrats are issuing their own threat to load down the CR with millions more dollars. Considering that 58% of Americans support a budget that cuts spending, this may be the subplot to watch as the budget drama unfolds. House conservatives were already planning to take the ObamaCare fight to the debt ceiling if Harry Reid torpedoed their CR strategy. But this new wrinkle -- which could pit liberals against more frugal Americans -- could change everything.
Meanwhile, with seven days until the first wave of ObamaCare kicks in, the headlines are packed with reasons to stymie the law's implementation. This morning's New York Times warns of a shrinking network of doctors, longer patient waiting times, higher out-of-pocket expense, and just general inconvenience. Forbes paints an even gloomier picture. ObamaCare, they write, is "killing traditional employer-sponsored health insurance" -- a fact that hundreds of thousands of workers have seen borne out as companies either drop their coverage altogether or dump employees onto the state-run exchanges. And speaking of those state-run exchanges, the Wall Street Journal is already cautioning readers that the policy's costs are far from universal. "Your prices, your consumer experience will differ dramatically across states or even regions in states," said one health expert.
Even the Obama administration is doubtful the program is ready for primetime. And if the government isn't ready, why should taxpayers be? It all makes a pretty compelling case for conservatives, who are doing their best to spare the nation from ObamaCare's October 1st debut. You can help by contacting both of your senators and urging them not to vote for any CR that includes ObamaCare funding!
Labor and Delivery of Benefits
In the four months since the Supreme Court's ruling on marriage, the Obama administration is still trying to do what the justices did not: create a sweeping redefinition of America's unions. From the IRS to the Defense Department, agencies seem intent on reading between the lines of the Court's decision and inventing interpretations the justices never intended. Last week, the Department of Labor was the latest agency to push the envelope on the Court's ruling, joining other offices in the administration that are trying to force the most expansive reading of the opinion possible. Under DOL's latest guidance, the federal government is asking officials to ignore 37 states' marriage laws and launch same-sex benefits in all 50 states. In its notice, Labor officials instruct government workers to treat homosexual partners as "spouses" for the purposes of pensions, 401Ks, health plans, and other benefits -- steamrolling the will of voters in three-quarters of America where leaders have consistently upheld the definition of marriage as the union of a man and woman.
Although FRC experts are still analyzing DOL's rule, it does raise the possibility that same-sex "marriage" could be forced on private employers through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA. If that's the case, then the administration's lawlessness has reached new heights. And based on five years of scandals and corruption, that's saying something. Either way, it certainly gives Congress even more motivation to get behind Rep. Raul Labrador's (R-Idaho) Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which orders the government to respect the First Amendment rights of Americans on issues like marriage. Who would have guessed that we'd ever get to a point where Congress needed to pass laws ordering the government to respect its own Constitution?
Visions of Violence, Pleas for Peace
Americans were busy memorializing their own terror victims this weekend when a wave of violence swept through Africa and the Middle East. The world looked on in horror as Islamic extremists launched a gruesome attack on innocent people in a busy shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing 69. Those who did escape reportedly described a nightmarish scene, with gunmen telling the hostages that their lives would be spared if they converted to Islam.
The petrifying scene served as a bloody backdrop to another attack -- this time on a Christian church in Pakistan. A double suicide bomb detonated during a service at All Saints Church, massacring 72 and wounding more than 100 more. The small Christian population has been the target of discrimination for years -- but never has there been a more violent expression of hatred against believers in the region. And this is all on top of a terrifying scene in Nigeria earlier last week, where Islamic terrorists killed an estimated 142. With the persecution at its peak in Syria, Iraq, and now Pakistan, Christians were already fleeing for their lives.
Meanwhile, the West, whose leaders reacted in outrage and astonishment at this weekend's violence, finally has an opportunity to do something about it. Last week, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) introduced and passed a plea for the State Department to appoint a special envoy to speak out for religious liberty in regions like these, where the suffering and torture are greatest. In a landslide vote, members threw their support behind a position dedicated solely to defending the rights of orthodox Christians and non-Muslims in the Middle East. If there was ever any doubt that such an envoy was needed, this weekend's events should have made believers out of the skeptics.
For now, a half a world away, we lift up an anguished Church and ask God to touch the scores of families whose loved ones are never coming home. 'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.