- A federal judge has dismissed two lawsuits filed against the Internal Revenue Service and Lois Lerner by forty conservative organizations that claim they were harassed by the government over applications for tax-exempt status because of their political leanings, but one leader of this legal fight says the battle is really just beginning and it may not even be fought in a courtroom.
On Thursday, federal District Judge Reggie Walton, a George W. Bush appointee, dismissed suits suing the IRS for improper intrusion into the sensitive donor information and private communications within the groups. Walton also rejected efforts to collect damages from the IRS for all the legal and accounting fees piled up by the organizations as they tried to comply with the unlawful scrutiny. In the end, Walton concluded there was "no harm done" since the groups ultimately received their tax-exempt status.
One of the groups leading the charge against the IRS is True the Vote, an organization dedicated to clean elections through updating voter rolls and tougher voter identification laws. True the Vote Communications Director Logan Churchwell says that logic was new to his group.
"It's a fascinating sign of the times when you see that because the judge can reason and he can justify that the ultimate remedy that the court could have offered under the law itself would have been our tax status, which they gave us only after we decided to sue them. A question we'll never know is if we hadn't filed a lawsuit and we just sat there and took it, would we have actually gotten this tax status?" said Churchwell, who says the fate of the tax-exempt application is not the biggest issue in this case.
"Anyone that's ever dealt with the IRS or any federal agency knows that the process is worse than the actual outcome. It doesn't matter whether you have a fine or any kind of penalty at the end. It's dealing with the process. It's having to lawyer up, get more accountants, collect all of your receipts, whatever is required of that. That can really cause problems," said Churchwell.
"In our case, we had trouble fundraising. We had trouble organizing and gathering volunteers because every time we felt like we were getting something going when it came to our actual mission statement, we were having to go and find more Washington attorneys to help us defend ourselves against the IRS," he said.
Churchwell says as aggravating as the process was for True the Vote, it could muster the resources to fight back while others could not.
"True the Vote was fortunate. We had enough support. We had the wherewithal to actually bring the fight to the IRS and force our application to be approved. There are dozens if not hundreds of other little tea party groups or any other group that decided, 'Hey, we just want to organize. We want to do so legitimately under the tax code. If we can't afford to fight this battle to use our first amendment rights, we're going to mail it in. We're done,'" Churchwell explained.
True the Vote acknowledges Judge Walton's decision but strongly disagrees with the logic behind it given the questionable revelations that have unfolded since the story first came to light a year-and-a-half ago. At that time, the IRS apologized for the targeting, blamed low-level staffers in Cincinnati for the improper actions and vowed it would never happen again. Churchwell says a lot has happened since then to throw cold water on that narrative.
"To get from there to where we are today with lost emails and learned to what extent people were targeted and how wide of a scheme this really was, all to find out that you had to have an internal report to force the story into the open. Otherwise it probably never would have seen the light of day and anyone that said otherwise would probably be called a crackpot for even thinking the IRS would do such a thing," said Churchwell.
"Today, we learned just how wide of a scandal this turned out to be and every avenue that's been taken to try to seek justice ends in this same place. 'Well, the IRS admitted their wrongdoing. They've said they've changed their ways. Let's just move on,'" he said.
For True the Vote, Thursday was not a good day but it's far from the end of this saga.
"It's a setback. Based on how we've seen the IRS play out, we've come to expect the unexpected. But we continue to look at all of our options. This isn't where the story ends. You might even say this is where the true story actually begins," he said.
But what exactly is beginning?
"We're coming to a breaking point in this country, True the Vote believes, where American citizens just aren't going to put up with it anymore. Our founder, Catherine Englebrecht, put out a statement that said if citizens really want to make a difference on this, then we need to stop relying on the inspector generals of the bureaucratic departments of the executive branch and we need to start doing some of their work for them," said Churchwell.
"We need to be building a resource where, if you have a problem with a federal bureaucracy or you feel you were being treated unfairly, then citizens need a resource to call upon and have a variety of options available to them. True the Vote's founding leadership is more than happy to help see that kind of movement grow up out of this news and offer any insight that it can," he said.
- New reporting shows the Obama administration released illegal immigrants accused of violent crimes including murder despite various officials repeatedly insisting only those with very minor infractions were set free while they waited for deportation or for their cases to be resolved in court, and Rep. Louie Gohmert says it's time for the president to tell the truth and for Americans to be protected.
The congressman is also seething over reports from earlier this week that the administration seems to be ramping up to legalize a massive number of people in the U.S. unlawfully.
Obama administration officials ranging from former Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton to former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney assured lawmakers, reporters and the public that the 2,200 illegal immigrants released from detention last year either had no other crimes on their records or were extremely minor. On Thursday, USA Today reported on records it discovered showing illegal immigrants accused of kidnapping, sexual assault, drug trafficking and even homicide
"It is the first obligation of the federal government to provide for the common defense, and that's against all enemies foreign and domestic. If everybody in the world loved Americans, we'd be great. If everybody in America loved America, we'd be great. But that's not the case. We owe the American people better and this administration and this White House has got to stop lying," said Gohmert.
According to Gohmert, officials in Texas long disputed the official immigration numbers offered by the federal government. He says this latest revelation is more proof that suspicion is well-founded.
"We've been reporting for months now, just based on Texas numbers, that the federal immigration numbers were a lie. They were just absolutely a lie. We knew in Texas there were tens of thousands more than [Citizenship and Immigration Services] was admitting. So this really documents that Texas was right all along and that the American public had been lied to," he said, asserting that repeated lies from the government greatly damage the foundation of a country.
"Unfortunately, when you have an administration who's been caught in one lie after another, it just destroys the faith that people might have in the government," said Gohmert.
While deeply disappointed, Gohmert says he is not at all surprised because the forces tasked with holding the administration accountable refuse to do their jobs.
"This is what happens when you have a Congress that protects the president from being questioned about lies, protection from being brought and made accountable for lost lives and lies about those lost lives," said Gohmert.
"That's what we've had in (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid. No matter what we've demanded, what we've voted for, what we've passed in the House, Harry Reid has stood in defiance and protected the president. Then we have a Supreme Court that has a majority that really doesn't want to deal with the president when it comes to things he's been dishonest about," he said.
However, Gohmert says stories like these also put the burden on the American people to demand better of their government.
"I keep bringing up the old age that is eminently true that democracy ensures a people are governed no better than they deserve. So if people in the United States want better government, they have got to get Harry Reid out of the way as majority leader. You do that by going and voting and get Republicans in the Senate, give us more authority, get us people that will elect strong leaders in the House and Senate. Then we can use the Constitution to stop the illegality that's going on in the executive branch," said Gohmert.
According to the USA Today story, government officials contend they never intended to allow illegal immigrants charged with violent crimes to walk free. They say much of it happened because of funding issues that were largely out of their control.
Gohmert strongly denounces the idea that more money was all that was needed to stop dangerous people from being released. He says it is factually and politically disingenuous.
"They have not wanted a lot of money to spend on deporting people because they don't want to deport them. They've got plenty of money to do their job," he said, pointing out how the administration has defied the clear demands of Congress when it comes to spending on immigration enforcement.
"Under the Bush administration, there was four billion dollars appropriated for part of the fence (real and virtual) and (former Homeland Security Secretary) Janet Napolitano said, 'You know what, we've decided we don't want to do that. We'll use the money somewhere else,'" said Gohmert, noting again that key allies of Obama stand in the way of true accountability.
"They refuse to follow the law. They refuse to spend money where it's dictated. They do what they want and with Harry Reid standing in the way of enforcing the law and Eric Holder providing the president the biggest criminal defense firm in America, he's been able to get away with it. This administration has. It's got to stop," he said.
The news on illegal immigrants accused of violent crimes being released from detention follows on the heels of reports earlier in the week, suggesting the president is preparing for a massive extension of work permits to people in the U.S. illegally. Breitbart.com reports that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are bracing for a "surge scenario" of up to nine million work visas in a year. The total contract could possibly legalize anywhere from four to thirty-four million people in the near future.
"I think when we see this kind of request, despite the dishonesty of (White House Press Secretary) Josh Earnest on behalf of the president that obviously this is what they planned to do. They planned to legalize millions of people that are here illegally. They are going to turn this country inside out," said Gohmert, who believes the administration is orchestrating much of what we have seen this year, including the massive influx of illegal immigrants, including many minors across our southern border this past summer.
"At the first of this year, this administration sent out for contracts for people who would be able to transport thousands and thousands of people from the Texas border. Low and behold, it turned out that's exactly what happened in the months ahead. The administration said, 'Gee, we didn't really anticipate this.' Yes they did. It was in their initial request," he said.
Especially galling to Gohmert is what he sees as the president's unconstitutional attempts to unilaterally change immigration policy because Congress won't give him the legislative changes he wants.
"He continues to refuse to do his job (of securing the border) and says, 'Not only am I not going to do my job that's legally required, I'm going to start legislating, which is not my job," he said.
If Republicans gain control of the House and Senate and Obama goes through with executive action on immigration, Gohmert says the Congress will hit the administration hard in the wallet.
"If he does that, we have got to cut off massive billions and billions of dollars to the White House and the executive branch. That is the power of the purse. When the executive branch is acting illegally, then you quit providing any money whatsoever to allow them to continue their illegality," said Gohmert.
- Recent polls suggest former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land is trailing Democratic Rep. Gary Peters in the state's open U.S. Senate race, but Land says she will close the small gap and win because intrusive government is crippling her state and her opponent is nothing more than a "rubber stamp" for Harry Reid and the Obama agenda.
"It's going to go down to Election Day. We always knew that. This is a very close race. This is a close state. We're working hard to talk to the voters, ask for their vote and tell them we'll change the direction of the country," said Land.
Land describes Michigan as a purple state, although voters there have elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate only once since 1972.
The seat is up for grabs in Michigan since six-term Democrat Carl Levin announced he would not seek re-election this year. Land served as a Republican secretary of state from 2003-2011, while Democrats controlled the governor's office and the state legislature. Peters is a three-term congressman from the Detroit suburbs.
If elected, Land says her experience of working with people in both parties would be a benefit to Michigan and to the nation. She says one immediate benefit of her election would be to improve the odds that Republican ideas see the light of day on the Senate floor.
"The biggest hindrance to all of this is Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada). He has not allowed over 400 bills to come up from [the House of Representatives] to vote on in the Senate, everything from energy security and the economy to jobs and all of that. We need to change the direction of the Senate, so that we can vote on these bills up or down and send them to the president," said Land.
She says electing Peters would result in more of the same in Washington.
"Gary Peters would just be another rubber stamp for Sen. Harry Reid. We'd be in the same situation we are today. We need to change the direction of this country. He does not support balancing the budget and cutting and making sure the government works for the people. He's had a history of voting for taxes. He talks about that he supports women but yet he pays women in his office 67 cents on the dollar," said Land, who also accuses Peters of supporting the outsourcing of American jobs through various votes in Congress.
According to Land, the Obama presidency has been bad for Michigan for a number of reasons, but she says the state is especially wounded by a flood of environmental regulations.
"In our state, we have the manufacturing industry, farming and tourism. Now we've got the [Environmental Protection Agency] putting in new regulations that put the pedal to the metal on greenhouse gases and making utility companies up costs. It's going to increase costs for not only manufacturers but also for individuals with their home utilities," said Land.
The GOP nominee also says she is committed to getting the nation's fiscal house in order and says step one in congressional accountability is make members feel the pinch if they don't get their jobs done.
"We need to balance the budget. I propose that if we don't pass a budget that's balanced that you don't get paid in the Senate until you do," said Land, who says eight years in statewide elected office prepared her for the task.
"As secretary of state, we went through the dark days of Michigan, where Gov. (Jennifer) Granholm and Congressman Peters' (an official in the Granholm administration) policies lost over 800,000 jobs in our state. We said we need to reduce and consolidate every program that we have. So we looked at literally every program, eliminated programs, looked at positions when they came open when people retired or left and went from 2,100 employees down to 1,500 without any layoffs. We reduced our whole operation by over 20 percent and kept out costs down," said Land.
When asked where she would start trimming at the federal level, Land believes there is an obvious candidate for cutting a lot of spending.
"Obviously, the biggest thing is Obamacare. That is a huge cost and it doesn't work. It's been a disaster and that would be the first place to go," she said.
"We need a health care system that works for Michigan and our country, one that's portable and that you can buy with pre-tax dollars, one where the costs are competitive because you can purchase it across state lines and making sure you can keep that doctor-patient relationship," said Land.
The Real Clear Politics average of polls suggests Peters leads by nine points, but pollsters are also stunned by the huge number of still-undecided voters less than two weeks before voters go to the polls. Land says the choice of direction for Michigan couldn't be clearer.
"Whether it's outsourcing, raising taxes or not balancing the budget, that is not good for Michigan and would not put Michigan first. I'm going to go down there and put Michigan first," said Land.
- Idaho State Sen. Steve Vick says one city's efforts to force a Christian wedding chapel to perform same-sex marriages in his state is a blatant violation of the Constitution and he is seriously considering legislation to get the state government out of marriage entirely because he fears churches will be the next target in the aggressive homosexual agenda.
Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled Idaho's constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman was unconstitutional. While that decision was placed on hold during the appeals process, officials in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, informed Hitching Post wedding chapel owners Donald and Evelyn Knapp that they would be required to perform same-sex ceremonies or face jail time and fines if the court's decision stood. Last week, the Supreme Court allowed same-sex marriages to go forward in the state.
The Knapps have operated the Hitching Post since 1989. They are bible-believing Christians who refuse to participate in ceremonies they believe are clearly condemned in scripture. A legal fight is already underway, but Sen. Vick says he and the local community are outraged by the Coeur d'Alene's treatment of the Knapps and anyone else seeking the free exercise of their faith.
"It's very disappointing to me that they would require a Christian business owner to do something that violates their religious convictions, which I believe are protected by the first amendment to the United States Constitution," said Vick. "Most of the reaction that I incurred has been from disappointment to shock that [the city] would do that."
Vick has plans to meet with the Knapps later this week to discuss their ordeal. In the meantime, he expects the state legislature to address the issue. Vick admits there is no concrete legislation in place yet but many lawmakers strongly believe the state needs to take action. The senator is personally investigating two approaches, the second of which may come as a major surprise to other conservatives.
"One is to try to re-establish the standing of those who have deeply-held religious convictions," said Vick. "Another potential avenue that I'm exploring is just eliminating marriage licenses in Idaho."
Vick admits eliminating state sanctioning of marriage would be a big step and he is only beginning to explore that option. Still, he says the response so far is very positive.
"I have discussed it with just a few people. I don't have a bill drafted or anything. I have discussed it at some of the town halls I've been at. It actually seems to be fairly well-received. In my opinion, if we're not allowed to determine the standards for a marriage license, then maybe we should just not issue them," said Vick.
The senator says these are the kind of things states must consider since the will of the voters are being rejected in the federal courts.
"I believe the only way the Supreme Court will hear it is if a different circuit court rules differently. I haven't seen that yet, but if another circuit ruled that a state could keep on their books a constitutional amendment or a statute that says marriage should be between one man and one woman, then I think the Supreme Court would have to hear it. Other than that, I think these rulings will probably stand," said Vick, referring to the high court refusing to hear appeals from multiple states after judges struck down voter-approved constitutional amendments establishing traditional marriage as law.
While Vick remains concerned for Christian business owners like the Knapps, he believes efforts to force believers into approving and participating in same-sex weddings are already targeting the church itself.
"I believe the next step will be to say that churches themselves cannot discriminate. They cannot discriminate and the church will have to marry same-sex couples and not be allowed to say anything. Clearly they're going after the freedom of the church's speech through the hate speech statutes," said Vick.
For Vick, officials in Coeur d'Alene and elsewhere are guilty of assaulting freedoms that are the cornerstone of our nation.
"I still believe [they] are requiring someone to violate a long-held and well-established religious conviction. It's not like somebody established a new religious conviction to discriminate. This is a well-established belief that's been held by most of the people in the Christian church for over 2,000 years. So, I don't know that the state should be involved in choosing who's rights to violate," said Vick.
- President Obama's new Ebola czar was hired for the purpose of "massaging news" for political purposes much more than he was to coordinate the federal response to the disease appearing on American soil and his involvement in the Solyndra mess is proof, according to former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy.
"It's not a good sign when they bring somebody in to coordinate an effort whose chief talent is massaging bad news for political purposes. Klain, from all accounts, is a very bright guy and he's probably very good at his job. But I don't know that when what the country's worried about is an Ebola outbreak, his particular skill set is what people were looking for in a coordinator," said McCarthy, a New York Times bestselling author, who recently released "Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama's Impeachment."
Since the White House announced Klain as the Ebola response coordinator on Friday, plenty of critics have pointed to Klain's lack of medical experience and his partisan history on matters ranging from the 2000 Florida recount to the Democratic strategy against the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas in 1991. However, McCarthy believes another illuminating chapter of Klain's time in Washington was his handling of the Solyndra controversy in the early years of the Obama administration.
In a piece for National Review Online, McCarthy revisits the story of Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer based in California and he says there are some eerie similarities between Klain's actions as Solyndra was imploding just before the 2010 midterms and what he is likely to do in response to Ebola coming to the U.S.
In October 2010, despite the infusion of $535 million in taxpayer assistance, the company was about to go under. Solyndra officials told the Obama administration it was about to go public about it's financial woes and the need to cut jobs. Klain, serving as chief staff for Vice President Joe Biden, was having none of that just days before the midterm elections.
"It was reported to Klain and Valerie Jarrett among others that around October 28 they were letting 20 percent of their workforce go and closing one of their big plants. The next thing you know, the Department of Energy ends up putting a lot of pressure on Solyndra and they delay the announcement until the day after the election," said McCarthy.
So what is the parallel to Klain's appointment to lead the Ebola response effort?
"I think it's a cautionary tale about what Mr. Klain's real job is here, which is basically to massage news, particularly with a new round of midterm elections on the horizon, to manage when news gets disclosed so it will have the least damaging political impact," said McCarthy.
However, the former prosecutor says the whole Solyndra tale reveals far more than that about Klain and the Obama administration as a whole.
In 2005, President George W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act. Among other things, the law allowed the federal government to engage in venture capitalism with taxpayer dollars with the goal of boosting green energy businesses. Solyndra applied for federal assistance then but was denied.
"Even though the administration was anxious to get on that bandwagon, it shunned Solyndra. The main reason was it's business model was, as one analyst put it, a complete and total disaster. It was hemorrhaging money. It really didn't have any prospects of becoming viable, much less profitable," said McCarthy.
McCarthy says the federal government's attitude toward Solyndra changed drastically in January 2009.
"Within a week of Obama taking office, their application was back in business again. One has to conclude that has something to do with the fact that the backer of Solyndra was the family foundation of a major Obama donor," he said, referring to the family foundation of Obama donor George Kaiser.
This time, with environmental advocates in power and Klain serving as Biden's chief of staff, Solyndra's application was speedily approved, but it didn't change the financial outlook for the company.
"It's business model was such that it couldn't compete with Chinese companies that were able to deliver solar energy with much more efficiency and for much less money. As a result, this company continued to hemorrhage money," said McCarthy.
When hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars failed to stabilize Solyndra, the next step was to seek market financing by going public and selling shares of the company. That never happened, however, because a legally-mandated audit revealed a fiscal mess that accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers described as a "going concern".
Even with that backdrop, the Obama administration continued to publicly highlight Solyndra as a model for robust American economic growth.
"[The audit] happened a couple of months before President Obama famously came to Solyndra and touted it as a great company that was going to have these wonderful ramifications throughout the economy," said McCarthy.
This is also the time, emails show, that Klain became directly involved in advancing the glowing Solyndra narrative despite the mounting evidence that it was a house of cards. Prior to the speech, presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett saw the financial state of the company and sought counsel from Klain as to whether Obama should still go there.
"Basically, Klain said, 'Look, I'm comfortable with it. The president touted ten of these companies. Chances are a couple of them might go belly-up. That's just what you have to do. You have to take these risks.' It seems to me, when you read the email about it, he was sort of cavalier about the fact you could have massive, catastrophic failures of these companies that are flush with taxpayer funds," said McCarthy.
But the worst part of the story the taxpayers getting shortchanged upon Solyndra's implosion. The Energy Policy Act mandates that if a company receiving taxpayer funds goes under, the taxpayers (the U.S. Treasury) were to be first in line for reimbursements when a company's assets were sold.
"In this instance, what the Obama administration did was to allow that part of the law to be essentially waived. They restructured the deal so that Solyndra backers were able to get priority over the taxpayers," said McCarthy, noting well-connected donors got in line ahead of the public for at least the first $75 million of the reimbursement.
That, says McCarthy, is criminal.
"They went out of their way and beyond the parameters of what federal law wants done in order to protect the backers from the consequences of their horrific investments," he said.
- Louisiana Sen. David Vitter is ripping President Obama's "political" choice to be the administration's Ebola response coordinator and says Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden needs to be fired and the U.S. Congress should be reconvened to pass travel restrictions on people linked to the African nations hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak.
On Friday, just hours after saying he hadn't decided whether to appoint an "Ebola czar", Obama tapped Ron Klain for the job. In that role, Klain will report to National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco.
Klain served as chief of staff to former Vice President Al Gore and held the same position from 2009-2011 for Vice President Joe Biden. Klain may be best known for his role with the Gore campaign during the Florida recount following the 2000 presidential election.
The choice leaves Vitter confused and unimpressed.
"I'm still looking for (his) health care background. Maybe it's there. I'm still looking for that. In terms of a manager, he quite frankly seems more of a political manager than a strong policy manager," said Vitter.
Regardless of the appointment of Klain as the response coordinator, Vitter says it is imperative that Obama relieve Frieden from his position as head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"I think his response to the crisis has been pathetic. I think that was underscored again yesterday with his testimony before the House committee. He didn't have strong, clear answers and he hasn't had strong, clear actions. So he's not the leader we need. President Obama needs to fire him and have a strong, competent leader at the CDC and elsewhere who can lead this effort," said Vitter.
According to Vitter, there are three glaring reasons why Frieden has lost credibility and must be dismissed.
"Number one, the CDC has not been competent and proactive in terms of helping the hospitals involved with adequate protocols. We now know, after all this happy talk about strict protocols, that they weren't in place anywhere near in time that they had to be," he said.
Even worse, says Vitter, was the stunningly bad advice given to Dallas nurse Amber Vinson, who checked in with the CDC before boarding a flight following her work with now-deceased Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan.
"They made horrible mistakes in other cases, like telling the second person who came down with the disease, who had contact with the patient, that she could go on a flight because her fever was only 99.4 (degrees) instead of 100.6. That's ludicrous. Then she went on a flight and was obviously in contact with dozens or hundreds of people who were distributed all around the country," said Vitter, who also faults Frieden for not doing more to keep the threat out of the U.S.
"Dr. Frieden has been very, very weak on travel restrictions. I think he's letting political correctness trump caution and common sense," he said, clearly frustrated by the entire administration's refusal to impose a temporary travel ban on transportation to and from the African nations hit hardest by Ebola.
"President Obama has to get real and immediately look at travel restrictions. That was a key element of the successful strategy that isolated and then eradicated the Ebola epidemic in Africa in the 1970s. We need to learn from that positive experience," said Vitter.
And the senator is not just talking about flights directly into or out of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
"I think we need to think of it in terms of individual travel restrictions, not just flights. You can end direct flights and still have folks in through Europe or elsewhere. So I think we need to talk about travel restrictions into the U.S. and barring certain folks from certain countries," said Vitter, who is strongly urging congressional leaders to call members back to Washington to pass legislation to restrict travel.
"I've called for that with Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) today. I think we should be back now. I think we should get back as soon as possible. I think we need to talk about these important things , starting with travel restrictions," he said.
Public trust in the federal government was already quite low. Vitters says it may very well plummet further and that would be very understandable given how recent headlines show the government not being up to the job on key issues.
"I think it's adding to an already dismal lack of confidence, and I don't blame the public. They see over and over and over again these huge sprawling bureaucracies which have become incompetent or worse, like the IRS and all of their scandals, like the (Veterans Administration) and the CDC and other federal agencies with Ebola," said Vitter.
However, a new wrinkle to this debate is conservatives wondering if criticizing the competence of the CDC and other federal agencies is a tacit GOP admission that big government is OK so long as the leaders can do their jobs well.
"Though there are fair criticisms of the CDC 19s handling of Ebola, by giving into the temptation to point fingers at Obama, Republicans run the risk of reinforcing the idea that any crisis or perceived crisis can be handled if only there were a better person in charge. And this could cut against many of the arguments that conservatives usually make about the inherent problems with federal bureaucracies," wrote Washington Examiner columnist Philip Klein.
Vitter says there are some things the federal government is supposed to lead on and this is one of them.
"I do think in a national situation like this , CDC as a federal agency is the right entity to have a big role. Certainly, talk about travel restrictions has to come from the federal government. Individual states can't do it. So I don't have a problem with that. I have a problem with how all of this has been decided and executed by the Obama administration," he said.
- There are plenty of issues giving the Obama administration problems these days, from Ebola to ISIS to a rough outlook for the midterm elections. Now there's one more concern: the Secret Service allowing a guy to jump the White House fence and waltz in the front door. The Capitol Steps take us inside the chaos with the an updated version of "Secret Service Man." Steps impressionist Mark Eaton is out guest.
- Virginia Sen. Mark Warner is not the bipartisan lawmaker he promised to be when running for office in 2008 and his recent actions call his ethics into question along with his voting record, according to Republican U.S. Senate nominee Ed Gillespie.
Warner was a very popular governor in the Old Dominion from 2002-2006 and easily won an open Senate seat in 2008. While still the favorite for re-election, Warner's once massive lead is now down to the high single digits according to some recent polls.
Gillespie says it's because voters in a swing state like Virginia expected Warner to follow through on his promises to reach out to all sides and Warner has failed that test. As for the Warner record, Gillespie says voters only need to compare the quality of life in the state to what it was six years ago.
"Since Mark Warner took office, for every net job created, two Virginians have gone on to food stamps. There are 65,000 more women living in poverty today. And as a result of his deciding vote for Obamacare, 250,000 of us will have our insurance plans canceled this year. We can do better. This is the result of bad policies and my policies would turn things around," said Gillespie.
Another challenge for Gillespie and other Republicans in recent years is a heavier Democratic presence in the electorate, especially in the fast-growing Washington, D.C., suburbs and in the Hampton Roads area in the southeast part of the state. After years of GOP domination in Virginia at the presidential level, President Obama carried the commonwealth twice and last year voters selected former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe as governor.
Gillespie believes Virginia is still a swing state and believes it will swing to the right this year.
"That pendulum is swinging back and I see more intensity and enthusiasm among Republicans and independent voters are very frustrated with the direction of the country right now and so are soft Democrats. I believe we're going to get a lot of soft Democrats to vote for me on November 4 as well as a big turnout among Republicans and a majority of independents," said Gillespie.
One issue that could change the dynamics of the race is the growing controversy involving Warner's efforts to persuade a state senator from resigning. Democrat Phil Puckett decided to resign so that his daughter would be eligible for a more prestigious judicial appointment in the state that was not available while he was in office to due to anti-nepotism laws in Virginia.
With the state senate evenly split and Puckett's vote potentially critical in McAuliffe's efforts to expand Medicaid, McAuliffe's chief of staff, Paul Reagan, told Puckett he could have anything he wanted. Warner spoke with Puckett's son and admits "brainstorming" about ways to keep Puckett in office, including the possibility of a presidential appointment for Puckett's daughter to the federal bench.
Puckett ultimately resigned anyway, but Gillespie says Warner's actions are deeply troubling.
"For Mark Warner to get in the middle of that about maybe we can get your daughter a job with a federal contractor or maybe a an appointment to the federal bench (is) very deeply troubling. We know the impact that federal judges have in our lives and in our system," he said.
"There are a lot more answers that remain to be answered and Virginians deserve an answer to these questions before November 4 from Mark Warner," said Gillespie.
As for Gillespie's agenda, repealing and replacing Obamacare is right at the top of his list.
"We all have concerns about Obamacare. I think it was a huge mistake. I said so at the time. I said it would kill jobs, raise our health care costs and hurt our quality of care. I was right about all those things, but I want to replace it with patient-centered, market-oriented reforms that will work," he said.
Gillespie recently released five key principles that should guide health care reform. He advocates tax break for employers and refundable tax credits for individuals to make coverage more affordable. He believes there should continue to be assurance for people with pre-existing conditions that they can get covered, and he calls for shopping for health care insurance across state lines to drive up competition and bring costs down.
"I believe Virginians deserve a choice. I have said from the beginning I'm going to run on these five things. These are the things I will do as our next senator. If I don't do them, hold me accountable. In the same way, I'm saying Mark Warner should be held accountable for not doing the things he said he would do," said Gillespie.
When it comes to jump-starting the economy and restoring fiscal sanity to Washington, Gillespie is pushing a three-pronged approach. He says sparking economic growth would increase revenue and reduce the number of Americans dependent upon government assistance. He would also push hard for entitlement reform and start cutting away at the federal budget.
"Every federal program needs to be subject to scrutiny. We need to eliminate some, phase some out, pare some back and of course there's a lot of wasteful spending that needs to be cut. An inspector general's report found there was six billion dollars in unaccounted for, wasteful spending, nobody can even tell you where it went, at the State Department alone last year. So there's a lot of things we can do," he said.
Gillespie also addressed two divisive issues within the GOP, immigration and the definition of marriage.
On immigration, Gillespie says Obama, like many other issues, has his approach all wrong.
"One of the things that's wrong with the Obama-Warner policies is that the federal government's doing too many things better left to state and local governments and the private sector and failing at too many things the federal government ought to be doing well," said Gillespie.
He says securing the border should be achieved before pursuing any other reforms. Gillespie favors finishing construction of the border fence, which he point out Warner voted against. He also advocates much tougher enforcement of expired visas. However, he says when those things are accomplished he does support issuing new visas to illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. provided they pass criminal background checks, pay back taxes and prove they can support themselves and their families.
On marriage, Gillespie says he favors a federalist approach.
"I believe states are the proper purview for those decisions. But my view has not changed. I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, but I do not support a federal marriage amendment to the Constitution," he said.