Why Conservatives Should Think Twice About the Death Penalty

His torso had deep lacerations, his arteries, organs, and skin cut and sliced, his body was badly burned and riddled with shrapnel, and his spine was nearly severed. This is how the medical examiner who testified in the sentencing trial for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev described the autopsy results for the youngest victim of the Boston Marathon bombings, 8-year-old Martin Richards. Lingzi Lu and Krystle Campbell suffered similar fates that day, he explained; and more than 160 others were badly maimed.

The gruesome details from the Boston Marathon bombing were meant to drive one point home to the jurors: He deserves to die for what he did.

Tsarnaev is “America’s worst nightmare,” the prosecutor would go on to say, and an unrepentant one at that. Moreover, no doubt remains over whether or not he’s guilty.

On an emotional level, many would agree with the prosecution in the Tsarnaev case and for perpetrators of other heinous crimes, especially when the case evidence is as clear as this. But as a policy, should conservatives support the death penalty?

If we believe in limited government, fiscal responsibility and pro-life policies unilaterally, it’s time to give capital punishment a second thought. And on a state-by-state basis, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, a national “network of political and social conservatives who question the alignment of capital punishment with conservative principle and values,” is leading the charge.

Fiscally Irresponsible

While capital punishment may seem like the most fiscally prudent form of justice for state, local, and the federal government, the reality is that the cost to taxpayers is much higher than a sentence where the death penalty is not sought. In Washington, for example, capital punishment cases cost on average $1 million more than similar cases where it was not sought, a Seattle University study found—a trend that’s seen nationwide.

"It’s the fiscal aspect of the death penalty that presents one of the strongest cases against capital punishment," Marc Hyden, national advocacy coordinator for CCATD, told Townhall.

“I can point to Richardson County, Nebraska, [where] they tried to execute two people and when they ran out money they decided to mortgage all their ambulances,” he explained.

“I know in Lincoln County, Georgia, they ran out of money, they raised taxes multiple times and eventually the county commissioner said ‘we’re not paying any more on this death penalty program’ and the judge said ‘you can’t renege on your debts’ and they threw the whole county commission in jail until they approved appropriations,” he continued. “It’s causing tax increases, it’s millions of more dollars per case than life without parole, that’s really what made me start to question the death penalty and whether or not it represents conservative principles.”

Could the cost be justified if it served as a major deterrent? Perhaps, but the truth is it doesn’t.

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology found that 81 percent of the nation’s top criminologists do not believe capital punishment serves as a deterrent to murder. Moreover, as a Forbes article notes, “States which impose the death penalty continue to report the highest murder rates in the country with only three states without the death penalty ranked in the top twenty five (Michigan, New York and Alaska).”

Is a policy that has exorbitant costs, producing dubious returns really one worth fighting for?

Big Government At Its Worst

Being in favor of limited government is one of the hallmarks of conservatism, yet capital punishment represents Big Government at its worst.

Since 1973, there have been 152 exonerations from death row, the most recent of which was just last month.

And many others on death row, Hyden noted, have been executed when there’s been serious doubt regarding the veracity of their verdict.

“There’s a compelling case out there that perhaps some people may deserve to die for some of their crimes but it’s whether you trust the government to exercise the authority involved in capital punishment fairly and efficiently with proper efficacy,” he said. “This is the same government that many don’t trust to shovel snow, fill potholes, or create a website for Obamacare.”

By giving the government this much power, how much collateral damage are we willing to accept?

The answer for many pro-lifers is zero.

A Consistent Pro-Life Stance

“I don’t think there’s anything more important than life,” Hyden expressed, “so for a lot of my fellow conservatives that are also prolife, this is a big issue, we don’t want to see innocent U.S. citizens being killed by the state, we know there’s a risk because humans and governments are fallible, so when you give them the power to kill people, guilty people, inevitably innocent people will fall through the cracks.”

And from a religious perspective, more and more Evangelicals are beginning to realize supporting the death penalty is incongruent with their religious beliefs, CCATDP national advocacy coordinator Heather Beaudoin, whose outreach background includes working with Evangelicals and law enforcement, told Townhall.

“I think 10 years ago it would’ve been hard to find a group of Evangelical folks who were against the death penalty … but we are seeing a real shift in that now,” she said. “What resonates with them is redemption—that if we believe that God can transform any person and that he is created in God’s image, we can’t support a system that takes away life, even from a person that commits a terrible crime.”

Concern for Victims’ Families

All these reasons aside, debates about the death penalty must also include thoughtful consideration for the families of the victims, who, like Bill and Denise Richards, do not wish to relive the horrific events of the day their son was murdered and daughter maimed.

In an op-ed published in The Boston Globe, the Richards’ explain why they are in favor of the government taking the death penalty off the table for Tsarnaev in exchange for life in prison without parole.

“We understand all too well the heinousness and brutality of the crimes committed. We were there. We lived it,” they wrote. “The defendant murdered our 8-year-old son, maimed our 7-year-old daughter, and stole part of our soul. We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives. We hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring.”

Is the Time Ripe?

There’s no denying an overwhelming percentage of Republicans still favor the death penalty. That does not mean, however, that attitudes aren’t shifting. According to Gallup’s most recent survey on the issue, 76 percent of Republicans favor the practice for convicted murderers. But compared to when polling firm asked the same question 20 years ago, Republican support is down 9 points.

What’s happening in Nebraska, where Republican lawmakers are pushing to end the death penalty, is also a good indication support for the broken government program may be waning. If the death penalty is repealed in The Cornhusker State, it would become the first “red” state in more than 40 years to do so.

“If any other system in our government was as ineffective and inefficient as is our death penalty, we conservatives would have gotten rid of it a long, long time ago,” said Sen. Colby Coash, a Republican from Lincoln, reports The Wall Street Journal.

While Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts has vowed to veto the measure, the effort led by Republicans signals change, across America, may be coming.

“We have a lot of conservatives in our camp who still do believe that [if you kill someone you should forfeit your life], they believe it in principle, they believe the philosophy behind the death penalty,” Beaudoin explained, “however, they’ve been willing to take a look and they agree that it’s just not worth it anymore, so I think when you look at the system and the way it’s functioning I think you come to a different conclusion.”

Good News: IRS Sent Billions in Education Credits to People Who Aren't Qualified to Receive Them

According to a new report from Treasury Inspector General J Russell George, the IRS paid out $5.6 billion in education credits to more than 3 million people who aren't qualified to receive them. 

First, some background

The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 created two permanent education tax credits, the Hope Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 temporarily replaced the Hope Credit with a refundable tax credit known as the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). The AOTC was initially set to expire at the end of Calendar Year 2010 but has since been extended through Calendar Year 2017.

Education tax credits help taxpayers offset the costs of higher education and have become an increasingly important component of Federal higher education policy. The amount of education credits individuals claim each year has increased from more than $3 billion for Tax Year 1998 to almost $19 billion for Tax Year 2012. Figure 1 shows the amount of education credits taxpayers claimed for Tax Years 2009 through 2012.

The problem according to the report:

Based on our analysis of education credits claimed and received on Tax Year 2012 tax returns, we estimate more than 3.6 million taxpayers (claiming more than 3.8 million students) received more than $5.6 billion ($2.5 billion in refundable credits and $3.1 billion in nonrefundable credits) in potentially erroneous education credits.

So how did this happen? First, you can thank the stimulus package of 2009. Second, the IRS hasn't taken the advice and recommendations from the inspector general to fix this problem in the past and therefore the agency is still paying out billions in bogus claims. 

"Prior TGTA audits have reported that taxpayers have claimed billions of dollars of erroneous education credits. TIGTA has made a number of recommendations to the IRS to help reduce the number of these erroneous claims. This audit was initiated to assess the IRS's efforts to improve the detection and prevention of questionable education credit claims," the report states. "The IRS still does not have effective processes to identify erroneous claims for education credits. Although the IRS has taken steps to address some of our recommendations, many of the deficiencies TIGTA previously identified still exist. As a result, taxpayers to continue to receive billions of dollars in potentially erroneous educations credits."

Keep working America.

Huckabee: Actually No, I'm Not a Big Government Conservative

Former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee isn’t the first GOP hopeful to speak with Megyn Kelly shortly after announcing his campaign for president. Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Sen. Rand Paul did as well. And while Ms. Kelly didn’t lob softball questions at any of them, all four were given the opportunity to test their message and begin courting center-right voters.

To summarize, Huckabee made several arguments justifying his candidacy. First, he argued that he didn’t just win evangelicals during his ill-fated run for president in 2008, clearing up the misinformation. “That narrative isn’t exactly accurate,” he said. On the contrary, he claims that he won a broad coalition of working and middle class voters who were disenchanted with the status quo—and felt like they were being squeezed by the policies and enablers of Big Government.

It is for these devoted supporters, he argued, that he felt compelled to run again.

Huckabee, for his part, also challenged the notion—propagated by the Cato Institute and others—that he is a so-called “Big Government conservative.”

“State government actually grew only a half a percent [per year] during the 10 and half years that I was governor in the most Democratic state in America,” he said. “I didn’t have a Republican legislature that walked in every day saying ‘Governor, what would you like us to do to make you look good?’”

“It’s a miracle I got elected, even greater miracle I got re-elected, and the greatest miracle of all was that I never got less than 90 percent of my legislative package passed against all the headwinds,” he added.

Finally, and perhaps most convincingly, he argued that unlike many other Republican hopefuls in the race he knows how to make divided government work.

“Bill Clinton was governor for 12 years [before me],” he reminded the audience. “When I came into office—first as lieutenant governor and then as governor—every agency was populated with the people he had hired and appointed.”

“I would get on an elevator and people would get off,” he added, explaining how every single day he felt like a persona non grata inside the state capitol. “It was brutal. But I learned how to govern.”

Watch the full clip of the interview below:

Carly Fiorina Perfectly Handles Website Gaffe on Late Night With Seth Meyers

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina jumped in to the 2016 ring on Monday, and it quickly became clear that her team neglected to buy every possible domain for the campaign--including CarlyFiorina.org, which was purchased by someone who is decidedly not a Fiorina supporter. While it's kind of head-scratching that someone with an extensive tech background would fail to register every domain name for her campaign, these things do happen.

Anyhow, addressing this gaffe on Late Night with Seth Meyers last night, Fiorina revealed that until earlier that evening, SethMeyers.org was up for grabs, and she had purchased the domain in the green room ("It was really cheap, Seth") prior to her appearance on the show. SethMeyers.org now redirects to Carly Fiorina's official campaign site.

To sum that exchange up in a gif:

Other candidates, take note. That is how you handle an awkward situation.

With Moore’s Funeral Approaching, JetBlue Offers Free Flights To Visiting Police Officers

As the NYPD plans to lay fallen Officer Brian Moore to rest, visiting police officers that plan to attend the funeral will have their airfare covered by JetBlue. The service is set to be held on Friday. JetBlue did the same courtesy for when NYPD Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were gunned down last December (via Newsweek):

Moore, 25, had been with the NYPD for five years and came from a police family. His funeral will be held on Friday and all law enforcement who wish to attend will be able to do so for free, thanks to JetBlue.

JetBlue is providing free airfare for officers who wish to show their support for Moore’s family and the NYPD by attending the funeral. In December, JetBlue provided free airfare to the families of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were shot in their police car.

“We are honored to help now just as we have in the past,” a spokesman told Newsweek. “We have a long history of supporting public service professionals in our hometown of New York as well as the many other places JetBlue crewmembers live and work.”

On Monday, Officer Moore succumbed to his injuries he sustained last weekend. Demetrius Blackwell shot Officer Moore as he, along with his partner, approached Mr. Blackwell on the suspicion that he had a weapon. Blackwell, who has since been arrested and will now be charged with first-degree murder, opened fire on the officers, striking Moore in the face.

JetBlue should be praised for providing this service to traveling police officers from across the country planning to attend the funeral.

Surprise: ER Visits Still Going Up Despite Promises Obamacare Would Bring Them Down

When Obamacare was being debated years ago, proponents of the legislation argued that if passed, the bill would decrease emergency room visits due to more people having health insurance and going to regular doctors instead. Since Obamacare was passed in 2010, we've seen an increase, not a decrease in ER visits and according to a new poll, the problem is getting worse. More from the Washington Times

Doctors say emergency room visits have increased since the advent of Obamacare, undercutting one of the key selling points of President Obama’s health care law, which was supposed to ensure a healthier population by pushing consumers to rely on their primary physicians rather than emergency trips to the hospital.

Three out of four ER doctors said they have seen a rise in the number of patients since January 2014, when Obamacare fully kicked in, according to a survey conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians. More than a quarter of the doctors said they have seen a major surge, and 47 percent said the rise has been slight.

The doctors said they fear a spike in visits could overwhelm their resources: Seven out of 10 said their departments aren’t prepared for a significant increase in patient volume.

So why is there a surge in emergency room visits as more people obtain health insurance? Because Obamacare is wiping out the primary care doctor industry, once again proving "if you like your doctor, you can keep you doctor" was a big lie.

The biggest cause is a lack of primary care doctors to treat the increased number of patients with health care coverage, so the patients are turning to the emergency room instead — exactly what wasn’t supposed to happen.

“Just because people have health insurance does not mean they have access to timely medical care,” said Michael Gerardi, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

A 2013 Deloitte Center For Health Solutions Survey found 60 percent of doctors plan to retire early due to Obamacare. This is just the beginning of the ER room crunch, but opponents of Obamacare have been warning about this problem for years.

Of Course, Hillary Plans To Support A Pathway To Citizenship For Illegal Immigrants

Is this smart politics or just pandering? Hillary Clinton announced today that she supports a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. On the other side, Republican Jeb Bush has supported a pathway to citizenship, calling it the “grown up” plan on immigration. Mrs. Clinton plans to make the announcement in Nevada (via NYT):

Mrs. Clinton on Tuesday will call for a path to citizenship for immigrants who are living in the country illegally, an apparent attempt to set a clear contrast with Republicans while appealing to a crucial bloc of Hispanic voters.

Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, will make the call in a round-table discussion at a Las Vegas high school that her campaign said has a roughly 70 percent Hispanic student body.

The students include “Dream Act-eligible young Nevadans who are personally affected by our broken immigration system,” a campaign official wrote in a memo briefing reporters.

Mrs. Clinton will endorse border protections, but will “say that the standard for a true solution is nothing less than a full and equal path to citizenship,” the campaign official said.

Though Mrs. Clinton did better with Hispanics in 2008 than Barack Obama, the immigration issue has been fraught for her. In an October 2007 Democratic presidential debate, she was tripped up on the subject of providing driver’s licenses for immigrants who are living in the country illegally.

Last September, Hillary dodged questions about immigration at then-Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) annual steak fry in Iowa.

As Clinton walked slowly by signing autographs after speaking at the gathering in Indianola, which is named after outgoing Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, one of the activists told her that she’s an Iowa DREAMer, one of many young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children.

Yay!” Clinton replied, holding a thumbs up.

Also, it’s not 2008 anymore. Hispanic activists are irked that Obama hasn’t delivered on immigration, and they’re skeptical that Hillary would be any different if she were elected president in 2016. In fact, some are describing the Democratic attacks blaming Republicans the impasse on immigration as old news, or a piece of “stale bread” (via WaPo):

Cesar Vargas has a message for Hillary Rodham Clinton as she blames Republicans for a broken immigration system and seeks Hispanic support: We’ve heard it all before.

President Obama promised an immigration overhaul that hasn’t come, said Vargas, co-director of Dream Action Coalition, an advocacy group for young Latinos. And while Obama has made some progress on slowing deportations and other issues, he said, Clinton will have to show how she will get farther.

“That type of rhetoric is already stale, especially to the Latino community,” Vargas said. “It’s like a piece of stale bread.”

Vargas was among several activists and Hispanic leaders who spoke to Clinton political director Amanda Renteria ahead of Clinton’s trip to Nevada. His organization was also included on a conference call that Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta held with Hispanic leaders shortly after she announced her campaign last month.

“We saw President Obama, who promised the world to us and had a record number of deportations — more than any other president in history,” Vargas said. “If a timid President Obama won’t do it, what would a bold Hillary Clinton do?”

Over at Hot Air, Allahpundit noted that Hillary might be open to expanding Obama's executive orders on immigration if Congress fails to act. Yet, he did mention how Bush and Rubio fare better than Romney with Hispanics; a point the Rubio crowd will surely play up on as 2016 begins to pick up steam.

Yet, all of this falls into the whole Hispanic voter monomania on both sides. Is it in Republicans’ best interest to go after Hispanic voters? Yes, in general, they should go after every voting bloc, but as I’ve mentioned before from others in previous posts; the lion’s share of Hispanic voters live in states that aren’t competitive in national elections. Moreover, Hispanic voters were just 10 percent of the 2012 electorate. On average, whites will make up, as they do in many elections prior, around 75 percent of the electorate in 2016. So, yes, Republicans should inject steroids into their minority inclusion operations for Hispanics–and Asians (they’re now the largest demographic of new immigrants), but let’s not forget that it’s policy that matters.

In fact, immigration isn’t even a top concern for Hispanics–it’s education followed by jobs and the economy. Moreover, the fact that Hispanics are in the working/lower class provides Republicans with an opportunity to go beyond their usual economic theory of tax cuts to spur economic growth. Granted, it works; the Bush tax cuts saw 52 months of uninterrupted economic growth. Yet, what’s possibly driving working class voters to the Republicans is their anger over Democrats for being so fixated on the “undeserving poor.”

These voters make enough not to be recipients of the welfare state, but have to pay taxes to subsidize those government programs for the “undeserving poor.” What are they getting out of Democratic economic policies? Not much, as indicated by the support of working class whites across the country, who have the same economic anxieties as anyone in that socioeconomic group.

As Reihan Salam wrote in Slate last month:

To win Latinos, GOP candidates can’t just get behind immigration reform and hope for the best. They must speak to the economic anxieties of working- and lower-middle-class Americans of all ethnic backgrounds. If Republicans believe that increasing taxes and public investment are not the best strategies for building a flourishing society [he mentions that Hispanics have leaned this way since the 2008 financial crash] that lifts the economic fortunes of the poor as well as the rich, they need to actually make an affirmative case for a more conservative approach. If Bush fails to do just that, Marco Rubio has an opportunity to steal his thunder.

Rubio’s advantage is that more than almost any other leading Republican, he’s dedicated himself to thinking about and talking about how conservatives can advance middle-class economic interests. Not all of Rubio’s proposals are fully baked. His signature tax reform proposal has been criticized (justifiably) on the grounds that it’s a huge revenue-loser that promises all things to all people. Yet Rubio has pushed a number of promising ideas, like higher wage subsidies for low-income workers, a new child credit to make it easier for middle-income parents to make ends meet, and modest higher education reforms designed to steer students toward high-quality, cost-effective colleges and away from diploma mills that produce more dropouts than graduates.

Yet, Salam noted that before the crash, Hispanics were very receptive to Bush’s idea of an “ownership society” when they were “climbing up the property ladder.”

So, in a sense, the way to win Latinos might not be as fraught with danger as some might think, though the accusations of pandering from the mainstream media would surely be directed at Republicans. That’s not to say that Republicans risk being mocked for having a new list of policies that speak to the concerns of America’s working class–they do. These folks are looking for an economic populist, and I’m not quite sure Clinton has much capital in the authenticity bank. There’s an opportunity here.

Last note: As Allahpundit mentioned, Clinton was probably going to back pathway to citizenship anyway since she supported it in 2008 as well.

No, Mandating Vaccines is Not Like Nazi Germany

A lawmaker in Maine has proposed a bill that would prohibit discrimination by employers, schools, or other entities against people who voluntarily chose not to receive vaccinations. The bill is titled "An Act to Prohibit Discrimination against a Person Who Is Not Vaccinated" and is sponsored by Rep. David Sawicki (R-Auburn).

Maine already permits philosophical exemptions from vaccinations (as opposed to medical or religious exemptions) and has one of the highest opt-out rates in the country.

Sawicki claims that humans are born with an immune system suitable for protection against most disease, and that vaccines have been around for "just a blip" compared to the relative existence of humanity. He also said that children who have been vaccinated have nothing to worry about from unvaccinated peers. (Parents of infants killed by whooping cough before they were old enough to be vaccinated against pertussis were apparently not available for comment.) Then, perhaps most shockingly, Sawicki, who apparently has never heard of Godwin's Law, said that mandating vaccines was reminiscent of "the horrors of Nazi Germany."

From the Bangor Daily News:

He also said the idea that people could be forced to take a vaccine they don’t want conjured visions of “the horrors of Nazi Germany, forced sterilization, interment, execution and involuntary medical experimentation.”

I can't believe I have to write this sentence, but here goes: mandating that someone (who is otherwise medically able to receive a vaccine) be protected against deadly diseases that were decimating a population less than a century ago has virtually no resemblance to the actions taken by the Nazis. None.

As I've previously written, the United States was home to an outbreak of diphtheria in 1921, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of (mostly) children and teens, including my great aunt. Thanks to incredibly successful vaccination programs, diphtheria has effectively been eradicated from the developed world. These vaccines are invaluable in protecting people against the disease. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia's healthcare system was in tatters and children were not regularly vaccinated against diphtheria--and this has resulted in a resurgance of the disease. While Sawicki is technically correct that vaccines have existed for "a blip" of human existence, this kind of arrogant thinking could potentially cost people their lives.

While it may not seem nice to say, sometimes "discrimination" against the unvaccinated is necessary to preserve the safety of others. A person working in close contact with infants or the immunocompromised should most definitely be vaccinated to avoid spreading diseases to vulnerable populations. Many doctors will refuse to see patients who are not vaccinated in order to protect their sickest patients from catching vaccine-preventable illnesses. This would presumably be considered illegal under the proposed law.

Vaccines are safe. Vaccines save lives. This should not be up for debate.

Harry Reid's Plan To Block Trade Deal Met With Bipartisan Frustration

The debate over renewal of fast track trade authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has caused a rift within the Democratic Party. The Partnership is the latest free trade agreement ten years in the making between the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam–and it received a chilly reception from Democrats at the State of the Union this year. Democratic concerns include giving the president “fast track” authority, which would allow the president to negotiate the deal faster, give it to Congress for approval, but prevents them from amending the deal. That's one of the points of contention. 

It’s a big deal. The nations involved with the agreement constitute 40 percent of the world’s GDP and while large constituencies of the Democratic Party–labor unions, environmentalists, etc.–are against it due to its impact on American workers; the Economist noted that the North American Free Trade Agreement really didn’t impact the labor market–the same goes for TPP. Nevertheless, some of the biggest names on the progressive wing of the party, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), have noted the deal would exacerbate income inequality. Obama has flatly said that she’s “wrong.”

Luckily, a deal over the TPP regarding fast track was made in April, Congress will have more access to the language of the deal, and those who support it received invites to the State Dinner when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Washington D.C. last week.

Yet, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is digging in on his “hell no” opposition to TPP–and it’s beginning to irritate lawmakers on both sides of the aisle (via Politico):

Pro-trade lawmakers in both parties expressed irritation with Sen. Harry Reid on Monday after the Nevada Democrat said he would block any new trade deals until Republicans approve new infrastructure legislation and reform the PATRIOT Act.

The Senate minority leader said in an interview with The Huffington Post that he isn’t “willing to lay over and play dead on trade” until he has assurances that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will deal with deadlines on transportation and surveillance legislation, both of which expire at the end of the month.

“McConnell said he wanted to move to trade in the next two or three weeks … but I don’t think he’s going to have an easy time doing it, because I will not let him do that,” he said in the interview. “He’s going to have to work around me and the caucus.”

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who worked with ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on trade promotion authority legislation that’s drawn some Democratic support, said if Reid follows through on his threat to whip against the measure he will only be hurting President Barack Obama.

Reid will need to keep a tight grip on his caucus to fend off approval of the fast-track trade bill, and not all Democrats are ready to filibuster the measures. Republicans need to pick off at least six Democrats to break a filibuster, possibly against the wishes of Reid’s whipping operation later this month.

“That’s not my preference,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) of Reid’s strategy. He added that he will vote to break a filibuster on the fast-track bill.

Reid had told Politico last year that he’s “not going to stand in the way” of the president in trying to get trade deals sealed.

Yet, it’s still a minefield for the Obama White House, who will owe Republicans a huge favor if this deal is approved. For one, 151 House Democrats–more than half the caucus–signed a letter opposing fast track and the TPP, according to the Washington Post:

The resistance could complicate things for Obama on two fronts. First, any sign of serious opposition in Washington will make countries involved in the talks nervous that the American president can't seal the deal back home. But second -- and more importantly for The Fix's purposes -- Obama has to balance his desire to get a deal with the political needs of congressional Democrats, dozens of whom run the risk of losing their seats in November.

In the Senate, all eyes are on Democratic Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). While theoretically Republicans need six seats, they’re down a few votes on their own side; Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who’s running for re-election in 2016, opposed the bill in committee, according to Politico, citing the possible detrimental impact on the state’s textile industry.

Also, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Al), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-NC) have opposed it before during the Bush administration. The publication noted that Sessions and Graham could vote nay again; Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) has yet to make up her mind. Still, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) is confident that 65 votes will be there for TPP.

So, while there are divisions over this bill, it’s mostly on the Democratic side, it certainly carries a more bipartisan flavor than past bills, and Republicans–overall–are supportive of the deal.

Still, there are some grumbles about environmental policy and transparency (via the Economist):

Other parts of the TPP will irk greens. In recent months America seems to have softened its language on the environment, possibly to win over poorer trading partners.

The TPP might not be so controversial if talks were conducted openly. Jeffrey Schott of the Peterson Institute, a think-tank, argues that although negotiators need input from those who will be affected—including businesses and trade unions—making the negotiations public might make it difficult to balance the demands of competing interest groups. However, secrecy may now be so strict that it ends up irritating everyone. In an attempt to make the plan stick, senior Democrats say that a final trade agreement must be subject to public consultation before Congress votes.

Many Democrats also grumble that the TPP says little about “currency manipulation”, by which countries deliberately hold down their currencies to boost exports. According to a paper from the Peterson Institute, currency manipulation may be responsible for half of America’s “excess unemployment” (joblessness above what economists call “full employment”). Among the countries the paper designates as “currency manipulators” are Japan and Singapore. Some simple, even lax, rules on currency manipulation would appease many of the sceptics, though such manipulation is fiendishly hard to define.

Economists worry that cluttering up trade pacts with rules about labour, greenery and currencies dilutes the benefits of free trade and gives its opponents extra tools to block the deals entirely. However, there is scant chance of getting any deal through Congress without such sweeteners.

Yet, while there might be an argument that free trade and globalization have hamstrung wage increases for the middle/working class, the publication also noted that it has increased Americans’ purchasing power by $10,000, and given us better, cheaper goods.

Congressional Democrats wondered where Hillary stood on TPP.  She has apparently sided with Sen. Warren

Whaddya Know: Dems To Host 2016 Primary Debates After All

Why? Haven’t they already crowned a nominee?

Democrats will announce Tuesday six presidential primary debates, giving long shots a potential opportunity to share the debate stage with frontrunner Hillary Clinton, CNN has learned.

The Democratic National Committee has plans for debates to occur in the early-contest states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The two other locations will be decided at a later date.

If the polls are any indication, my friends, this thing is over. It’s a point we've emphasized in the past. Barring some unexpected entrant into the race—someone, say, not unlike Barack Obama with charisma, charm, and star-quality appeal—Republicans will face Hillary Rodham Clinton in the general election in 2016, period.

But for the sake of appearances, perhaps it’s for the best that the Democrats will keep up formalities and host a half dozen debates this election cycle, even if HRC is contemplating skipping them. Presumably, no one likes a presidential candidate (and likely nominee) who thinks he or she is entitled to the American presidency.

Hosting primary debates, therefore, will give potential ‘challengers’ the opportunity to lay some rhetorical blows against Mrs. Clinton—and inch her more to the Left—without jettisoning tradition. Amazingly, while the Republican nomination remains very much up for grabs, the Democratic presidential primary effectively ended last month.

It was, as they say, fun while it lasted.

White House: No, We Can't Guarantee Money From Iranian Sanctions Relief Won't Go To Funding Terrorism

There are just 57 days days before the June 30 Iranian nuclear deal deadline. Negotiations are ongoing and debate about the lifting or easing of economic sanctions is getting louder. More on that from CSM:

In public statements, Mr. Obama said the sanctions would be phased out after Iran’s steps were verified, while Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said they would be lifted immediately with the signing of the agreement.

Two months before the final deadline for Iran and the so-called P5+1 powers to conclude a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful uses, the detailed “parameters” made public in Lausanne have revealed sensitive negotiating positions and compromises, and left US and Iranian negotiators politically exposed.

Among the most contentious issues: the timing and scale of sanctions relief.

The American document states that US and EU sanctions meant to force Iran to negotiate over its nuclear program will be suspended only after “Iran has taken all” key nuclear steps, which Mr. Kerry has said could take from four months to a year, and could quickly “snap back” if Iran violated the deal.

But Ayatollah Khamenei said the US fact sheet was “wrong about many things” and a further example of the “obstinate and deceitful [and] backstabbing” nature of the other side.

Putting aside the conflict over when sanctions will be lifted, if in fact the sanctions are lifted

or eased, will the deal guarantee an influx of money into the country will not be funneled to terror groups like Hezbollah or Hamas? The answer appears to be no and the White House isn't planning on doing anything about it. (bolding is mine) 

"Most importantly I think it's the hope of the Iranian people that the influx of resources will be devoted to meeting the needs of the population there and to strengthening the economy that has taken a terrible toll on the daily lives of millions of Iranians. We've talked before about how the significant pressure that our sanctions regime has placed on Iran has had a negative impact on their economy and that poorly performing economy has added to some pressure inside of Iran for the Iranian leadership to consider a change in policy and we're gratified by that because it's created an important diplomatic opportunity for us to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," White House Press Secretary told reporters Tuesday in the Briefing Room. "But the fact is, there are two things I would point out. Even while these sanctions have been in place we have not seen Iran significantly scale back their support for terrorism or their destabilization activities in the region. The second thing is the pressure that they are feeling is not primarily rooted in the idea that they need to get rid of the sanctions or at least get the international community to relax these sanctions so that they can invest additional resources in those activities."

"I wouldn't be in a position to predict exactly what the Iranian reaction will be and I'm certainly not going to be in a position to mandate what kinds of economic decisions they'll make," Earnest continued. "A common sense analysis would be that they would use those additional resources to try and relieve that economic pressure [not to fund terrorism] that they're feeling. But again, I'm not going to make any predictions about what they're going to do and certainly I'm not going to be in an position to prescribe what they should do. This is a sovereign country that will make their own decisions.

Iran is the largest state-sponsor of terrorism in the world. Before 9/11/200 Hezbollah, funded and sanctioned by Iran, was responsible for more American deaths than any other terror group in the world. Iran is also a sponsor of Hamas, the same terror group responsible for launching 10,000 rockets into Israel last summer. 

Funding and promoting terrorism is common sense to the Iranian regime. The White House has repeatedly made clear it won't be asking Iran to stop their terrorist activity in return for a nuclear deal.

White House: There Is No Justification For Terrorism Over Expression, Including Muhammed Cartoons

Speaking from the White House Tuesday, press secretary Josh Earnest said there is no justification for terrorism in response to expression. He made a similar statement yesterday in response the terror attack on a Muhammed cartoon exhibit in Texas on Sunday. 

"There is no act of expression, even if it's an offensive expression, that can justify an act of terrorism or even an act of violence," Earnest said. "There is no room in our society, and it certainly doesn't reflect a commitment to universal human rights, to try to use an act of expression to justify an act of terrorism."

"There is no justification for an act of violence and an attempted act of terrorism like the one that we saw," he continued.

The terror attack is being investigated by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Earlier today ISIS publicly took responsibility for the attack.

Yemen: Arab Coalition Puts Boots On The Ground

The Associated Press has reported that Arab coalition troops are on the ground in Yemen to complete a “reconnaissance” mission. Egypt has also admitted for the first time that it had deployed ground forces to the region, as they are expected to be participants in any future ground offensive against the Shiite Houthi rebels that ousted President Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi over the winter (via AP):

With helicopter gunships hovering overhead, at least 20 troops from a Saudi-led Arab coalition came ashore Sunday in the southern port city of Aden on what military officials called a "reconnaissance" mission, as fighting raged between Iranian-backed Shiite rebels and forces loyal to the nation's exiled president.

It was the first ground landing by coalition forces since the start of the Saudi-led air campaign against the rebels and their allies — forces loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh — who have captured most of northern Yemen and marched on southern provinces over the past year.

In Cairo, meanwhile, Egypt, a key coalition member that has been named as a likely participant in any ground offensive in Yemen, acknowledged for the first time that it has deployed troops in the Gulf region and the Red Sea as part of the Saudi-led coalition.

The objective of Sunday's landing was not immediately clear, but Yemeni military officials said the coalition troops would help train forces loyal to the country's internationally recognized leader, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has been in exile since he fled Aden in March. They would also try to identify an area that could serve as a "green zone" from which Hadi and his government could operate when they return to Yemen.

At the top of that list, said the officials, is the al-Bureqah area west of Aden, which stretches for about 15 kilometers (about 10 miles) along the coast and is home to a major oil refinery and large fuel tanks.

The Western-backed Hadi fled to neighboring Saudi Arabia in March, just a few weeks after he fled the capital, Sanaa, which was captured by the rebels, known as Houthis, in September.

Saudi officials declined to immediately comment on Sunday's landing. However, military and security officials have repeatedly said a ground operation would follow the Saudi-led air campaign that began on March 26, after the military capabilities of the Houthis and their allies had been sufficiently weakened.

On Sunday, the Yemeni officials said that streamlining the militiamen fighting the Houthis in Aden was a key step toward establishing a coherent force that a coalition expedition in Aden could lend support to.

Huckabee: "I Am a Candidate For President of the United States”

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), the fiery social conservative and winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, announced today at the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope that he is once again running for president in 2016.

“Folks, it is a long way from a little brick rent-house on Second Street in Hope, Arkansas to the White House,” he began. “But here in this small town called Hope, where a person started [doesn’t determine] where he [ultimately has] to stop.”

Huckabee, who was born and raised in small town America, reflects its values and traditions, having lived there most of his life.

“So it seems perfectly fitting,” he declared, “that it would be here that I announce I am a candidate for president of the United States of America.”

Shifting gears, Huckabee painted an astonishingly grim and dismal picture of American life in the early 21st century, and was extremely critical of the current occupant of the White House.

“It was eight years ago that a young, untested, inexperienced and virtually unknown freshman senator made great speeches about hope and change,” he said. “But eight years later, our debts more than doubled, America’s leadership in the world has completely evaporated, and the country is more polarized than ever in my lifetime.”

“Ninety-three million Americans don’t have jobs,” he said. “And many of them who do have seen their full-time job—with benefits they once had—become two part-time jobs with no benefits at all. We were promised hope, but it was just talk. And now we need the kind of change that really could get America from Hope to higher ground.”

Significantly, however, he also shined a fluorescent spotlight on the scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs, pledging to clean up (and root out) its deadly corruption and greed.

“Our veterans should be getting the first fruits of our treasury, not the leftovers,” he said. “And my friend, when I am president our veterans are not going to be left on the streets, or in waiting rooms to rot; they are going to be treated with the dignity they have earned and deserved.”

Naturally, he also touted his resume and the many reasons why he is qualified to lead the nation in the post-Obama era.

“No Republican governor had more Democrats and fewer Republicans,” he averred, referring to his decade-long stint as the governor of Arkansas. “I challenged the deeply entrenched political machine that ran this state. My friend, it was tough sledding. But I learned how to govern and I learned how to lead. And even in that environment, we passed 94 tax cuts, rebuilt our road system, saw dramatic improvements in student test scores, and fought the corruption of the ‘good old boy’ system so that working class people would finally be given a fair shake.”

“And we saw family income increase by 50 percent during my tenure,” he added.

Finally, tapping into his social conservatism and Christian faith, he blasted the organizations—and judicial activists—who are committed to redefining marriage and extinguishing innocent life under the banner of ‘choice.’

“Many of our politicians have surrendered to the false god of judicial supremacy,” he said. “My friend, the Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being—and they cannot overturn the laws of nature or of nature’s God.”

Huckabee, for his part, is a dark horse candidate for president. A recent poll finds he is polling at roughly five percent nationally.

VA Governor, AG Seek to ‘Expand’ Abortion Services by Easing Clinic Regulations

In July 2013, important regulations were put in place for Virginia’s 21 abortion clinics. The law, SB 924, required clinics to be held to the same standards as hospitals, requiring new hallway widths and equipment standards, for instance. Because of the new regulations, three abortion-providing centers that were not up to par were shuttered. Yet, despite the progress the law has made in protecting women from unsafe or unsanitary abortion centers, Attorney General Mark Herring has just declared that the state Board of Health need no longer enforce the regulations, insisting they are “medically inappropriate.”

After exhaustive and careful review, Attorney General Herring has concluded that:

"...in 2011 and 2013 the Board did not have the authority to apply the design-and-construction section of the regulations to facilities built before the regulations took effect, nor does it have the authority to do so now."

Former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who has warned the Board of Health to not dismiss these standards, told Townhall that Herring knew full well that these regulations were adopted in a common sense, across the aisle effort.

“In this case, the General Assembly’s intent to protect women in Virginia's abortion clinics was clear and bipartisan at the passage of the bill, and Attorney General Herring knows it as he was on the floor as a Senator for the long debate on the bill," he said. "The main complaint during the debate, repeated over and over, was that the regulations would shut down abortion clinics. Such a position would be ridiculous if the law did not apply to existing abortion clinics, as there would be nothing to shut down. Our office provided legal advice intended to effectuate the clear bipartisan intent of the General Assembly. Sadly, Herring is now substituting his political preference for a law legitimately passed. Herring's abuse of his office is particularly unfortunate as it relates to an issue of such sensitivity to so many Virginians.”

Perhaps the issue is so sensitive to Virginians because of the danger unregulated clinics pose to women. Just one look at Mollie Hemingway’s unnerving report at The Federalist detailing Virginia’s “blood spattered” abortion clinics in 2013 proves that planned inspections are necessary to keep these businesses accountable.

Unfortunately, Governor McAuliffe (D-VA) sides with Herring in putting abortion rights over safety standards.

“These regulations were designed not to keep Virginia women safe, but to limit their constitutional right to make their own decisions,” McAuliffe said in a statement Monday. “I have pledged to prevent any further political effort to limit women’s access to health care, and I am committed to ensuring that Virginia is in the business of expanding access to safe and affordable care, not limiting it.”

McAuliffe and Herring’s rejection of Cuccinelli’s urgent advice puts the women of Virginia in danger. Instead of protecting them, the reversal of these regulations will permit women to walk into clinics that lack oversight and are left to operate under substandard conditions.

The Board of Health will reconvene June 4 to discuss the current regulations. For the sake of Virginians, I hope they put the needs of women over pro-abortion politicians.

Winner of Muhammed Cartoon Contest: "Once Free Speech Goes, It's Over"

The winner of Sunday night's draw Muhammed art contest, which was attacked by terrorists influenced by ISIS, is speaking out and pleading for the West to fight back against attacks on free speech. 

"We can't be cowed by this because once this goes, once free speech goes, it's over," Bosch Fawstin said during an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren. "I've been drawing Muhammed for years and I heard about the contest and I took it upon myself to take part in it. I think it's an important thing. It's about freedom of speech, which is deadly important, especially right now. It's under siege by the enemy, the Islamic enemy, by the left, by some on the right and it is a constant attack. We are being told that we 'shouldn't do this' or we 'shouldn't do that,' and we have the right to do that and we need express that right especially right now." 

"I understand the threat that we face and that's why I do what I do," he continued. "I don't refuse to do it because of the threat, I do it because we're being threatened. This has to be fought head on." 

Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch and an organizer of the art contest, also made an appearance on The Kelly File last night to discuss not just the attack from the terrorists, but attacks from those who say the group had it coming by "provoking" Islam.

ISIS Takes Responsibility For Attack on Texas Muhuammed Art Exhibit

ISIS has officially taken responsibility for the attack Sunday night on a Muhammed art exhibit in Garland, Texas. This is the first official ISIS attack to be be carried out on U.S. soil. Thankfully, there was a heavy police presence at the event and the suspects were shot immediately after they opened fire outside the building. More from Fox News

The Islamic State terror group (ISIS) Tuesday issued a claim of responsibility for Sunday's attack on a Texas cartoon contest featuring images of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

The claim was made in an audio message on the group's Al Bayan radio station, based in the Syria city of Raqqa, which ISIS has proclaimed to be the capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate. It is the first time ISIS has taken credit for an attack on U.S. soil, though it was not immediately clear whether the group's claim was an opportunistic co-opting of a so-called "lone wolf" attack as its own.

The message described the shooting suspects as "two soldiers of the caliphate" and added "We tell America that what is coming is more bitter and harder and you will see from the soldiers of the Caliphate what harms you."

The message also said the contest, which was being put on by a group known for controversial rhetoric about Islam, "was portraying negative images of the Prophet Muhammad."


As I wrote yesterday, it's been alarming to watch the reaction to the attack from the media, who has been giving more scrutiny to the event organizers than the terrorists who wanted to kill attendees over cartoons. Free speech and the West are under attack. 

WaPo: 2016 GOP Field 'Might Be The Most Diverse Ever'

With Carly Fiorina and Dr. Ben Carson throwing their hats into the 2016 ring, the GOP field is getting larger and more diverse. In fact, it’s the most diverse since at least 1992, according to Philip Bump of the Washington Post:

The addition of Carly Fiorina (not a white man) and Ben Carson (not a white man) to a Republican 2016 field that already includes Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul means that the 2016 Republican field will likely be the most diverse from either party since at least 1992. Given how the country has diversified -- and given how many non-white-men are already in the GOP field -- it's likely that the current class is the most diverse ever.

For 2016, we included a number of people who aren't yet actual candidates, including Martin O'Malley on the Democratic side and Republicans Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal. (Why didn't we include Trump? Because: Who is that? Who is "Trump"? Also.) Those likely candidates are the faded icons on the chart below.

Even once we add in all of those mostly white-male Republican maybes, the party's 2016 field is the most diverse on either side. One more white male, though, and the balance tips to the 2008 Democrats, with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson in a smaller field. (In terms of the sheer number of non-white men, the giant 2016 GOP field will be hard to beat.) There's only one non-white woman on our chart: 2004 Democrat Carol Moseley Braun.

As I’ve said in previous posts, there’s a serious candidate to represent the various wings that make up the Republican Party. They should compete and do battle on the debate stage. We have the luxury of choice. And those choices don’t involve anyone having shady dealings via donations to their family non-profit, or circumventing FOIA laws by having a private email server installed in a family home. As a result of this, Americans do not view the former first lady as honest. In fact, a substantial number of Democrats–four out of ten–in the AP-GFK poll noted that “honest” was not the best word to describe the former secretary of state. As Quinnipiac has said in their polling showing similar dismal numbers on Clinton’s trustworthiness, it’s hard to run as a strong, competent leader, while also being viewed as dishonest.

Reminder: ISIS Camps Are in Mexico Just A Few Miles from U.S. Border

With the events in Texas yesterday, and given that one of the terrorist suspects linked himself to ISIS just before the attack, it’s well worth revisiting the report from Judicial Watch a few weeks ago that ISIS has a camp set up roughly eight miles from El Paso, Texas. There is also another cell near Ciudad Juarez that targets two towns in New Mexico “for easy access to the United States,” according to their sources, who include a Mexican Army field grade officer and Mexican Federal Police inspector.

During the course of a joint operation last week, Mexican Army and federal law enforcement officials discovered documents in Arabic and Urdu, as well as “plans” of Fort Bliss – the sprawling military installation that houses the US Army’s 1stArmored Division. Muslim prayer rugs were recovered with the documents during the operation. […]

According to these same sources, “coyotes” engaged in human smuggling – and working for Juárez Cartel – help move ISIS terrorists through the desert and across the border between Santa Teresa and Sunland Park, New Mexico. To the east of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, cartel-backed “coyotes” are also smuggling ISIS terrorists through the porous border between Acala and Fort Hancock, Texas. These specific areas were targeted for exploitation by ISIS because of their understaffed municipal and county police forces, and the relative safe-havens the areas provide for the unchecked large-scale drug smuggling that was already ongoing.

According to the Judicial Watch report, ISIS in Mexico is also conducting surveillance of “regional universities; the White Sands Missile Range; government facilities in Alamogordo, NM; Ft. Bliss; and the electrical power facilities near Anapra and Chaparral, NM.”

While the report is certainly disconcerting, it’s not the least bit surprising. Lawmakers, pundits, and citizens alike have long known our porous Southwest border is an easy target for terrorists and other criminals to enter the United States. Perhaps that’s why 63 percent of likely voters believe the U.S. military should be at the Mexico border to prevent illegal immigration, according to a new Rasmussen poll. Only 26 percent disagree.

One thing is clear: the longer we wait to get serious about enforcing our immigration laws and beefing up border security, the greater risk we face of seeing terror attacks becoming the new normal.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson Upgrades Soldier's Seat to First Class

Talk about a class act.

Seattle Seahawks' Quarterback Russell Wilson was on a flight to Seattle a few days ago when he saw a soldier, Kane Bernas, board and head for the back of the plane. Wilson, seeing this, decided to take matters in to his own hands and upgraded Bernas to a first-class seat.

Wilson responded about 20 minutes later, thanking the soldier for his service.

According to Bernas, it was the "best flight ever."

It's nice to see a professional athlete, especially a football player, act in such a generous manner. With recent incidents of athletes acting badly, players like Wilson making the news for positive incidents are a welcome change. While upgrading a flight from coach to first class was probably nothing for Wilson, he certainly made Bernas' day. That's what's really important.

Wheel In The Cots: Clinton Agrees To Testify On Benghazi, Will ‘Stay As Long As Necessary’

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will appear before Congress to answer questions relating to the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks in Libya that left Ambassador Chris Steven dead. Yet, this will be a one and done deal. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, requested that the former first lady appear twice before the committee to answer questions about Libya and her private email server. “Respectfully, there is no basis, logic, or precedent for such an unusual request,” wrote David Kendall, Clinton’s lawyer. He did say that Clinton “will stay as long as necessary to answer the Committee’s questions, but will not prolong the Committee’s efforts further by appearing on two separate occasions when one will suffice.”

On April 30, the Committee gained access to 4,000 pages of document from the State Department Benghazi Accountability Review Board. The Benghazi Committee continues to build the most comprehensive and complete record on what happened before, during and after the Benghazi terrorist attacks,” said Gowdy in a statement. “Contrary to those who said all had been asked and answered, the Benghazi Committee has shown there is more still for Congress to consider.”

Copy of the letter via The Hill:

Letter From Kendall to Gowdy

Those records took two years to be released to Congress via subpoena.

Fox News Congressional Correspondent Chad Pergram noted that the Clinton testimony could occur at an offsite location and a closed-door session.  Rep. Gowdy has said would consider Mrs. Clinton's request, and that the sate for the appearance within the next couple of months.

This post has been updated.

Dem Rep: The IRS Should Investigate the NRA

The National Rifle Association is guilty of abusing donations for political purposes, asserts Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. He, along with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, is calling for an investigation into the NRA after a Yahoo News report suggested the gun rights organization had violated several provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act by using funds to support political candidates instead of promoting gun safety.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) has launched a nationwide petition campaign asking the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service to investigate “violations of federal law” by the National Rifle Association.

The petition drive cites the Yahoo News report which disclosed that the NRA had violated multiple provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act, failed to report its political expenditures to the IRS for six consecutive years, and appears to have avoided paying federal taxes.

Thompson said people deserve to know if the NRA is guilty of hypocrisy:

“Many Second Amendment supporters and responsible gun owners contribute to the NRA because of the work it does to promote gun safety and support the hunting community. They have a right to know whether their money is going to these causes or to Beltway-NRA political efforts that undermine common-sense laws designed to keep criminals, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill from getting guns.”

Yahoo did admit that since state election and campaign finance laws vary from state to state, it’s unlikely any repercussions would be administered.

The NRA is well aware of Thompson and his gun control agenda. This time last year, the organization reported on the representative's "Promoting Healthy Minds for Safer Communities Act." Here was an excerpt of their expose, which detailed the bad news Thompson's bill would mean for gun owners.

Title IV of the bill would expand existing prohibited person categories under the federal Gun Control Act. Outpatient mental health treatment would become prohibiting in some circumstances. Misdemeanor prohibitions would also be expanded, including an entirely new prohibition related to "stalking convictions." As defined in the bill, such convictions would not require any finding of violence or even violent intent, nor would they be limited to offenses occurring between persons with preexisting relationships. An existing misdemeanor prohibition would also be expanded to capture a much larger class of people. These prohibitions, moreover, would apply not just to future outpatient "commitments" or convictions but to those that had occurred in the past. Thus, persons who have long been in lawful possession of firearms without problem or incident could suddenly find themselves subject to federal felony penalties for continued possession.

Considering Thompson has a history of trying to sweep Second Amendment rights under the rug, the question arises: Is the new fund abuse accusation leveled against the NRA an actual scandal – or just another attempt by liberal Democrats to scale back gun rights?

BREAKING: Baltimore PD Denies Black Male Was Shot

Moments ago Fox News reported that authorities might have shot another man of color in Baltimore:

Baltimore police shot a man Monday in the same area where massive riots broke out last week over the death of Freddie Gray.

It's unclear what prompted the shooting. A Fox News crew witnessed a young black male running from police before he was shot.

Fox News reporter Mike Tobin was on-the-scene, and he told anchor Shepard Smith that he saw a man get shot.

“I saw a weapon on the ground,” he said. “I only counted one gun shot.”

Stay tuned for updates.

UPDATE: A local Baltimore police officer told Fox News no one was shot.

UPDATE: And apparently he was telling the truth.


UPDATE: No one was shot.

UPDATE: An eyewitness, however, claims a "boy" was indeed shot in cold blood.

Despite her testimony, the fact of the matter is no one was shot. So she's either lying -- or was confused by what she saw. Hmmm.

Bill Clinton on Huge Speaking Fees: 'I Gotta Pay Our Bills,' You Know

So says the multimillionaire, channeling his wife's tone-deaf 2014 "dead broke" remark. The former president has reportedly earned nine figures in speaking fees alone since leaving office, millions of which just happened to flow in from entities with active business before Hillary Clinton's State Department. Indeed, both Bill personally and the family "slush fund" took in money hand-over-fist while she held the levers of American foreign policy; plenty of people were willing to dig deep, it seems. And wouldn't you know it, favorable policy outcomes followed, in many cases. But hey, the Clintons were just trying to make ends meet:

I'll say this for Bill: At least he's actually fielding questions from the media about this (or anything, for that matter), unlike the Clinton spouse who is currently seeking the presidency.  He says he and the Clinton Foundation have refused donations in the past, but declined to elaborate. If taking gobs of cash from foreigners (successfully) pressuring the US government to approve the sale of a large percentage of American uranium capacity to the Kremlin wasn't problematic enough to reject, one wonders where the Clintons were willing to draw the line. The 42nd president insists that none of this lucrative hustle and bustle at the intersection of money and power amounted to "knowingly inappropriate" behavior.  Americans shouldn't take his word for it: The Clinton Foundation exploited various tentacles to take in vast sums from unvetted foreign donors and governments, in violation of transparency agreements and commitments.  After getting caught, their excuses fell flat.  They failed to reports tens of millions in foreign government donations on their tax returns, "accidentally" reporting that income as zero.  They "mistakenly" listed paid speeches (taxable) as charitable contributions (tax-free).  They lied about a meeting at their home regarding the shady Russian/Kazakh uranium deal.  And, of course, Hillary essentially broke every rule in existence by setting up a private, under-secure email server as Secretary of State, on which she conducted all of her official business.  When Congressional investigators started asking too many questions, she directed her lawyers to cull those emails without any oversight, then wipe the server.  It appears as though many Americans aren't especially inclined to take the Clintons at their word:

Americans appear to be suspicious of Hillary Rodham Clinton's honesty, and even many Democrats are only lukewarm about her presidential candidacy, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. Is she strong and decisive? Yes, say a majority of people. But inspiring and likable? Only a minority think so. Clinton's struggles to explain her email practices while in government, along with questions about the Clinton Foundation and Republican criticism of her openness, wealth and trustworthiness seem to have struck a nerve in the public's perception of the dominant Democratic figure in the 2016 campaign. In the survey, 61 percent said "honest" describes her only slightly well or not at all. Nearly four in 10 Democrats, and more than six in 10 independents agreed that "honest" was not the best word for her.

In any case, you'll be pleased to learn that about this:

Hey, a couple's gotta eat.

CAIR: We Condemn The Terror Attack In Texas, But Pamela Geller Totally Had It Coming

The Council on American Islamic Relations, better known as CAIR, has issued a statement about the terror attack last night in Texas during a Muhammed Cartoon Exhibit. They're also partially blaming the organizers of the event for the violence and are equating them with the terrorists who carried out the attack. (bolding is mine)

"We condemn yesterday's attack on an anti-Islam event in Garland, Texas, without reservation.

"We also reiterate our view that violence in response to anti-Islam programs like the one in Garland is more insulting to our faith than any cartoon, however defamatory. Bigoted speech can never be an excuse for violence.

"Muslims in North Texas and across the nation are shocked and saddened by this inexcusable attack and pray for the speedy recovery of the officer injured by the attackers.

"We thank the Garland Police Department for its swift actions to ensure public safety.

"Unfortunately, human history shows us that hatred breeds more hatred and extremism leads to more extremism.

"Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Geert Wilders and the perpetrators of yesterday's attack all seek to provoke a downward spiral of mutual hostility and mistrust in America and around the world.

"People of good will must work together to ensure that extremists of all faiths and backgrounds do not accomplish that malevolent goal.

"We reiterate the American Muslim community's support for freedom of speech - even bigoted speech – and its repudiation of terrorism in any form."

A number of CAIR members have been targets of terrorism investigations and the organization has a long history of supporting terror groups like Hamas.