This week, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Florida vs. United States Department of Health and Human Services (for an excellent recap, please see this write-up by the Texas Public Policy Foundation), the lawsuit filed by the State of Florida against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka “ObamaCare.”
Florida’s previous Attorney General, Bill McCollum, filed the complaint on March 23, 2010. The litigation was joined by attorneys general in numerous other states, and some states filed separate lawsuits, but Florida’s case has been the linchpin in moving this challenge forward all the way to the Supreme Court.
ObamaCare and its unconstitutional power grab have galvanized conservatives across the country and united them in their opposition to the Obama administration. What many people don’t know is the back story behind how Florida’s lawsuit came to be. I recently came across some interesting information when I was doing some research for one of my last Florida clients before I leave for Massachusetts.
Back in late 2009, conservatives watched with alarm as ObamaCare headed for a vote. Two Florida State Representatives, Scott Plakonand Steve Precourt, were especially concerned about the constitutional infringements of the individual mandate and the disparate impact that the bill’s Medicare changes would have on Florida taxpayers.
Representatives Plakon and Precourt were among the key legislators who consulted with McCollum as his office debated the merits of filing a complaint against ObamaCare and analyzed the potential causes of action that could be alleged. In late December 2009, Plakon and Precourt sent a letter to McCollum’s office urging him to take legal action against ObamaCare:
State Representatives Scott Plakon (R – Longwood) and Steve Precourt (R – Windermere) asked Florida State Attorney General Bill McCollum this afternoon to investigate and to prepare to take appropriate legal action against the federal government in the event the controversial federal healthcare takeover legislation passes into law.
The legislators requested this action in order to pursue relief for Floridians from the unfunded mandates contained in the bill should Florida be forced to comply with the expansion of the federal Medicaid program and to seek relief from the individual mandates proposed which could ultimately result in large fines and/or prison sentences for Floridians based on their good faith healthcare choices.
The Representatives noted that under the bills, Florida would be forced to radically expand the state’s Medicaid program costing the citizens of the state billions of dollars. Floridians would be forced to pay for people permanently exempted from paying the costs, such as in the case of the infamous sweetheart “Cornhusker Kickback” where Nebraska Senator Nelson voted for cloture with the promise that his state could be exempt from Medicaid expansion while Floridians would still pay.
“Such an expansion would place a horrendous burden on the citizens of this state, requiring huge tax increases and/or cuts in critical priorities such as education and public safety,” stated Representative Precourt. “It is also clear by the wording of the legislation that not every state would benefit equally nor face a similar burden. Floridians deserve to be treated fairly under any plan put into law.”
In addition, the Representatives expressed concern over the constitutionality of the unprecedented individual mandates proposed. Under the proposed legislation, the newly created “Health Choices Commissioner” would use the Internal Revenue Service as its enforcement agent to make sure that Floridians purchase an approved policy from a federally approved entity or pay penalties for not doing so. Failure to do so could result in Floridians being subjected in fines of up to $250,000 and/or prison sentences of up to 5 years.
A major issue for all 50 states is that the states are not controlling how these programs are run, but ultimately must find a way to fund them.
“We can’t print money like they do in Washington and it’s important to make sure that our citizens are protected,” stated Precourt.
“Obviously the overwhelming fiscal impact on the states that are already struggling with their budgets is something that the Democrats in control of the levers of power in Washington just don’t seem to care about,” stated Plakon.
Plakon and Precourt noted that since the potential passage of the Senate Bill appears imminent, it’s important that the Attorney General prepare to take immediate action.
“Collectively, we see these actions as a brazen attack by the federal government on our civil rights, our sovereignty, our individual freedom and the Constitution of the United States,” Plakon added.
Plakon and Precourt were among the first in Florida to publicly attach their names to a call for formal action in opposition to ObamaCare, and less than a month after their letter, McCollum sent a letter on January 19, 2010 to the Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Minority Leader John Boehner, with his analysis of the constitutional issues in the ObamaCare legislation, stating that he was “call[ing] [their] attention to these legal concerns so that constitutional issues may be remedied before a final bill is negotiated.”
McCollum’s January 2010 letter also included a clear warning: “I will continue to work with my Attorney General colleagues to pursue appropriate legal action should these provisions be in a bill that becomes law.”
That is precisely what happened: McCollum prepared a complaint and filed it in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida mere hours after the president signed ObamaCare into law.
I’m not entirely sure who first came up with the idea to file the lawsuit, but it is clear that Plakon and Precourt’s encouragement came at a crucial point in McCollum’s decision making process. I have confirmed that both Plakon and Precourt engaged in frequent discussions with both McCollum and key staff members in his office during this time period.
Everyone who opposes ObamaCare and its unconstitutional intrusion on our private health care decisions owes a debt of gratitude to Bill McCollum, Scott Plakon, and Steve Precourt for taking the lead on this issue, and of course to Florida’s current Attorney General Pam Bondi for continuing the fight all the way to the Supreme Court.
That being said, Plakon and Precourt are both up for reelection this year. They have earned my enthusiastic endorsement for their commitment to constitutional principles and fiscal conservatism, and I would encourage you to consider supporting them as well.
We are coming up on the end of another fundraising quarter. Please consider sending a contribution to Scott Plakon and Steve Precourt to thank them for their efforts in defense of Florida’s taxpayers, as well as taxpayers across the country:
Disclosure: My consulting company has provided political consulting services for Representative Plakon and Representative Precourt, and I have supported them both since the first time they ran for election to the Florida House back in 2008. I am very proud to have supported these two conservative leaders and encourage you to do the same. This blog post is my own work and opinion, and the content should not be construed as being approved of by either Plakon or Precourt. This is not a political advertisement and is not done with the approval of any other political candidate, elected official, political party, or organization or business.
[Cross-posted at Sunshine State Sarah]
American Energy Alliance reminds consumers that President Obama and his administration are intentionally boosting the price of gas by restricting access to Americas natural resources. We have enough oil to fuel our economy for the next 200 years. To learn more, go to www.americanenergyalliance.org.
The following ad will run in these States over the next two weeks: New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and Michigan
GAS PRICE MYTHS, COURTESY OF THE PRESIDENT
MYTH: ” As a country that has 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, but uses 20 percent of the world’s oil … what that means is, as much as we’re doing to increase oil production, we’re not going to be able to just drill our way out of the problem of high gas prices.” – March 7, 2012
FACT: The reality is that the United States has enough recoverable oil to last for 200 years. In fact, the United States is the third largest oil producer in the world.
When President Obama’s says that the U.S. only has 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, he is only talking about a small portion of our oil resources—reserves that have already been discovered through actual exploration or drilling and can be recovered economically. But that isn’t all of the oil we have or all of the oil we could extract with today’s technology. According to government data, the United States has 1,442 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil—enough to last 200 years.
President Obama’s number does not include oil that we know exists, but are unable to access because of government restrictions. Much of these untapped reserves underlie oil-rich federal lands, including the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, the Naval Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, federal waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, at least 45 percent of the Gulf of Mexico, the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, and oil shale on federal lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, to name a few. In fact, the federal government only leases 3 percent of federal lands for energy development. The 2 percent number is artificially small because the federal government keeps so much of the tax-payer owned federal lands off limits.
To put our recoverable our resources in perspective, 1,442 billion barrels of oil more than six times the proved reserves of Saudi Arabia.
MYTH: “There is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to high gas prices. There’s no silver bullet.” – March 15, 2012
FACT: We agree there is no silver bullet, but we should consider what happened when President Bush allowed lifted the executive moratorium on drilling in most of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The price of oil fell over $9 per barrel almost immediately after the announcement. It fell further when Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that Congress would allow the congressional moratorium on offshore drilling to expire, as well. Ebbs and flows in oil futures prices occur as markets attempt to anticipate what future supply and demand might look like for a global commodity like oil, and much of this access to resources hinges on the decisions of policymakers and world leaders.
Similar to allowing the executive moratorium to expire, President Obama could adopt pro-energy policies that would, with reasonable certainty, increase domestic oil production and/or supply to U.S. markets. This anticipated future supply would place downward pressure on global oil prices, which represent the majority of the cost of a gallon of gasoline. However, the Obama administration has undertaken numerous efforts that will instead curtail access to energy, including putting forth a five-year offshore drilling plan that closes the majority of the OCS to new production, restricting 75 percent of federal lands with Western oil shale resources to development, and denying a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have brought up to 800,000 barrels of oil per day to U.S. markets.
MYTH: The long-term solution to rising gas prices is to “invest in the technology that will help us use less oil in our cars and our trucks, in our buildings, in our factories.” – March 7, 2012
FACT: In 2009, the price of natural gas rose to over $14 MMBtu. Today the spot price is $2.03 at Henry Hub. The difference between today and 2009 is an increase in production that outstripped demand. Reducing oil demand faster than oil can be produced is highly unlikely. Oil demand is already falling.
In 2009, the U.S. used less oil than it did in 1978. The U.S. has used less oil 5 years in a row. The problem isn’t our usage—the growth in global demand is coming from countries like China that are using more and more affordable energy to fuel their rapidly growing economies.
Secondly, investments in wind and solar generation technologies have been subsidized since 1978, with even larger subsidies for actual production coming in 1992 and 2004. In fiscal year 2010, subsidies were $775.64 per megawatt hour (mWh) for solar and $56.29/mWh for wind, compared to $0.64/mWh for coal, natural gas and petroleum liquids. The “long-term” approach has been taken, billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent, and no affordable alternative to using oil as a transportation fuel has materialized.
Despite The High Cost Of Fuel, Dems Are Insisting On A Plan That Will Have ‘No Impact On Gasoline Prices’
DEMS: ‘It Is Not A Question Of Gas Prices,’ ‘That’s Not The Issue’
CNN: “…what would their plan do to help lower the high gas prices Democrats came here to illustrate? The answer: not much.” SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): “This was never intended to talk about lowering prices.” (CNN’s “The Situation Room,” 5/11/11)
SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT): “You know, this is not going to change the price at the gasoline pump. That’s not the issue. I don’t see that as an issue at all.” (U.S. Senate, Finance Committee, Hearing, 5/12/11)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): “… it is not a question of gas prices.” (Sen. Reid, Floor Remarks, 5/16/11)
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI): “… this proposal will not alter the economic fundamentals that determine gasoline prices.” (Sen. Levin, Floor Remarks, 5/16/11)
SEN. MARK BEGICH (D-AK): “It won’t decrease gas prices at the pump…” (Sen. Begich, Floor Remarks, 5/11/11)
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): “… No impact on gasoline prices.” (Sen. Cardin, Floor Remarks, 5/16/11)
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA): “It will not reduce gasoline prices by one penny.” (Sen. Landrieu, Floor Remarks, 5/11/11)
POLL: 85% Of Americans Want ‘Immediate’ Action On Gas Prices
GALLUP POLL: “A variety of economic-related issues dominate Americans’ top concerns on a list of 15 issues facing the country today. The economy and gas prices lead the list, with 71% and 65% of Americans, respectively, saying they personally worry ‘a great deal’ about each.” (“Economic Issues Still Dominate Americans’ National Worries,” Gallup Poll, 3/28/12)
67% Of Americans Say Gas Prices Have Caused Financial Hardship For Their Household (“Gas Prices,” Gallup Poll, 3/29/12)
65% Of Americans Worry A ‘Great Deal’ About Gas Prices (“Gas Prices,” Gallup Poll, 3/29/12)
85% Of Americans Want The President And Congress To “Take Immediate Actions To Try And Control The Rising Price Of Gas.” (“Gas Prices,” Gallup Poll, 3/29/12)
For the past three days, the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court heard a series of arguments on Obamacare — what promises to be one of the most seminal decisions in the Court’s history. Now that the dust has settled, it appears more than likely that President Obama’s signature health care law is on the verge of being struck down — perhaps even in its entirety.
The challengers to the law include more than half of the States of the Union, the National Federation of Independent Business, and private parties, while the Obama Administration is standing in defense of it. Having heard arguments on Monday on whether a law called the Anti-Injunction Act would bar the Court from considering whether Obamacare’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional, the Court on Tuesday moved on to examining the mandate itself and whether Congress vaulted across the Maginot Line of constitutionality when it imposed the mandate on Americans.
The liberal justices of the Court hammered the attorneys who were challenging Obamacare, leaving little doubt where they stand on the law. In their view, it appears, the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which gives Congress the authority “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes,” also empowers Congress to impose the individual mandate. As the government argued, since everyone will have to participate in the health care market at some point, the government is justified in requiring people to buy insurance today. Heritage’s Todd Gaziano explains the failure of this argument:
There’s a difference between regulating commerce that’s already happening and forcing individual Americans to enter into commerce — in this case, the health care market — so that Congress can better regulate it…
If Congress were able to regulate things that people will eventually have to do, then there would be virtually no limits to its power.
That’s an argument that resonated with the Court’s conservative justices and with Justice Anthony Kennedy, who oftentimes votes with the conservatives but is seen as a crucial swing vote in this case. At two different times, Justice Kennedy stated that the government’s theory would “fundamentally change the relationship between the individual and the state.” His thinking on the issue could be a bad sign for Obamacare.
If the Court were to strike down Obamacare’s individual mandate, it would also have to consider what to do with the rest of the law. Should the justices just strike down the mandate? Should they eliminate the mandate and any of the related sections (which would be difficult to identify), or should they throw out the whole law? This question is what’s known as “severability,” and it was one of the focuses of the third day of oral argument. And on this issue, too, the Obama Administration did not have a good day. Heritage’s Todd Gaziano and Hans von Spakovsky explain:
The more liberal justices were clearly hostile to the arguments being made by Paul Clement on behalf of the challengers that the entire statute must be struck down. However, other justices, including Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy, were obviously concerned that the complex scheme designed by Congress will not work as intended by Congress without the individual mandate — which is the ‘heart’ of the law as Justice Scalia and others later referred to it — and thus they may need to strike down the entire law if the mandate is unconstitutional.
One issue remained for the Court — Obamacare’s Medicaid spending provisions under which Congress relies on its “spending power” to expand the program and coerce states to do its bidding. Those challenging the law say that the Medicaid expansion effectively “commandeers” state government, thereby undermining the states’ sovereignty and autonomy. On this question, it is less clear where the Court will come down. Though the liberal justices who would uphold the individual mandate will certainly uphold the Medicaid provisions, it’s less clear where Justices Roberts, Scalia and Thomas stand on the issue. But if the Court chooses to strike down all of Obamacare, the Medicaid provisions will fall along with it and the justices will not have to decide this issue. A ruling on all issues is expected from the Court in June.
In making his final argument in defense of Obamacare, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli alluded to the Constitution’s preamble and its call to “secure the blessings of liberty” in his justification for Congress’ actions. Paul Clement, arguing on behalf of Obamacare’s challengers, eloquently responded to Verrilli’s call to the Constitution:
Let me just finish by saying I certainly appreciate what the solicitor general says, that when you support a policy, you think that the policy spreads the blessings of liberty. But I would respectfully suggest that it’s a very funny conception of liberty that forces somebody to purchase an insurance policy whether they want it or not. And it’s a very strange conception of federalism that says that we can simply give the states an offer that they can’t refuse, and through the spending power which is premised on the notion that Congress can do more because it’s voluntary, we can force the states to do whatever we tell them to. That is a direct threat to our federalism.
The Constitution’s words are stirring, indeed, but have little meaning if Congress is to trample on the founding document’s very real limitations. And so America waits for the Court to decide, two years after a severely divided Congress passed Obamacare and stretched its powers beyond the Constitution. But whether the Court upholds Obamacare or strikes it down, all or in part, it does not have the final say on this issue. It ultimately falls to the American people, through their representatives in Congress, to decide the future of health care in America and whether the federal government will live within its constitutional limits. Obamacare must be fully repealed.
The only candidate worth a damn in this race is conservative blogger Steve Foley.
The newly drawn California District 47 is an open seat due to redistricting from the 2010 census. This new District includes the following cities: Avalon, Cypress, Garden Grove, Lakewood, Long Beach, Los Alamitos, Signal Hill, Stanton, Rossmoor and Westminster.
There are two old Republican dinosaurs running in the open primary for the 47th. Gary DeLong is now serving his second term representing Long Beach’s 3rd District. Steve Kuykendall served in the United States House of Representatives from 1999 to 2001 representing California’s 36th Congressional District. Both of them are anything but vital.
The only candidate worth a damn in this race is conservative blogger Steve Foley. Here are a few excerpts from Foley’s bio:
Founder and managing editor of The Minority Report Blog Network, Steve has also served as Director of New Media for Liberty.com and Chief Managing Editor for 73wire.com. He provided new media content for Liberty First PAC & The Patriot Caucus and was the senior writer for the Hinzsight report.
Prior to launching his own campaign in California’s newly formed 47th Congressional District, Steve was integrally involved in raising a number of other candidates to national prominence. He was instrumental in publicizing Doug Hoffman’s 2009 NY-23 race.
Steve was among the first to nationalize Scott Brown’s U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts, where he spent several days reporting on the ground, and was also highly influential in drawing national attention and dollars to Charles Djou’s 2010 special election campaign for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District. As part of Liberty First PAC, Steve sponsored and reported live from a debate between Djou and his opponent.
With grassroots activist Eric Odom, Steve partnered in Fresh Vision Media. The firm worked for and ultimately helped to put a formerly obscure Christine O’Donnell on the national stage in Connecticut’s 2010 U.S. Senate race. That same year, Steve further provided new media consulting, web development, communications, and viral social network marketing in Dan Benishek’s successful bid for Michigan’s 1st Congressional District.
Steve credits his successes in the business, blogging, and political fields to the dedication he developed while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. The training and leadership skills he garnered during his years of military service have proven invaluable.
Will voters in the 47th go with the old, tired dinosaurs? I hope not. Click here to check out Foley’s website.
Even Within Their Own Caucus, Senate Democrats Are At Odds Over Whether Raising Taxes On Energy Manufacturers Is A Good Idea
Some Senate Dems Call Measure ‘Laughable,’ ‘A Gimmick’
SEN. MARK BEGICH (D-AK): “… we will have wasted 2½ days doing nothing on real energy policy in this country, and people are still going to be paying higher gasoline prices.” (“Senate Votes To Debate Oil Tax Bill,” Politico, 3/26/12)
· BEGICH: “It won’t decrease prices at the pump for our families and small businesses. It will discourage companies, especially the independents, from domestic investment and job creation.” (Sen. Begich, Floor Remarks, 5/11/11)
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA): “Maybe it’s just for [President Obama’s] election, which I hope isn’t the case.” “‘That offset is not going to fly, and he should know that… Maybe it’s just for his election, which I hope isn’t the case.’” (“Hill Dems Pick Apart Obama Jobs Plan,” Politico, 9/14/11)
Dem Leaders Admit It’s ‘Not A Question Of Gas Prices’
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): “This was never intended to talk about lowering prices.” (CNN’s “The Situation Room,” 5/11/11)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): “But it is not a question of gas prices.” (Sen. Reid, Floor Remarks, 5/16/11)
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ): “Nobody has made the claim that this bill is about reducing gas prices.” (“McCaskill: Savings From Cutting Oil Tax Breaks Should Be For Deficit Reduction,” The Hill’s E2 Wire Blog, 5/10/11)
SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT): “You know, this is not going to change the price at the gasoline pump. That’s not the issue. I don’t see that as an issue at all.” (U.S. Senate, Finance Committee, Hearing, 5/12/11)
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI): “…this proposal will not alter the economic fundamentals that determine gasoline prices.” (Sen. Levin, Floor Remarks, 5/16/11)
SEN. MARK BEGICH (D-AK): “A gimmick.” “You’re right, this piece of legislation they put down without really a committee process on it is a gimmick, a gimmick to get the next week of activity, and get some press out there.” (Sen. Begich, Floor Remarks, 5/11/11)
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA): “Laughable.” “You ask me can I vote for a bill like this. No. Not only can I not vote for it, it’s laughable.” (Sen. Landrieu, Floor Remarks, 5/11/11)
Avg. Price Of Gas Nationwide Now: $3.92 Per Gallon
WASHINGTON POST: “Two months before the summer driving season officially starts, average gasoline prices in the Washington region have shot past $4, the earliest they have ever surpassed that milestone, AAA Mid-Atlantic said Wednesday.” (“Gas Prices In Washington Surpass $4 A Gallon,” The Washington Post, 3/28/12)
· “… the Oil Price Information Service says national gasoline prices could peak as high as $4.25 a gallon on average this spring.” (“Gas Prices In Washington Surpass $4 A Gallon,” The Washington Post, 3/28/12)
· “Across the country, the price of gas has risen for 20 consecutive days, with only three days of decline in three months.” (“Gas Prices In Washington Surpass $4 A Gallon,” The Washington Post, 3/28/12)
“The cheapest gas is in Wyoming at an average of $3.52 and in Montana with an average of $3.63. Michigan is the sixth most expensive in the country, topped by Hawaii at $4.55, Illinois at $4.31, California at $4.23, Alaska at $4.26 and Washington, D.C.” (“Gas Prices
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., issued the following news release:
Today, U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Dean Heller (R-NV), Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and 26 other Senators introduced legislation (http://barrasso.senate.gov/public/_files/CEL12236V2.pdf) to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from taking over all private water in the United States. The “Preserve the Waters of the U.S. Act” prevents the EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers (Corps) from using their overreaching “guidance” to change legal responsibilities under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
“President Obama’s EPA continues to act as if it is above the law. It is using this overreaching guidance to pre-empt state and local governments, farmers and ranchers, small business owners and homeowners from making local land and water use decisions,” said Barrasso. “Our bill will stop this unprecedented Washington power grab and restore Americans’ property rights. It’s time to get EPA lawyers out of Americans’ backyards.”
“As Americans struggle in this anemic economy, the Administration continues to stifle job creation at every turn. Expanding EPA’s authority and threatening personal property rights will only discourage the economic growth we need for long term job creation. It is past time to cut through the red tape, and tear down the barriers to get the American people back to work. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this bill passed,” said Heller.
“The Obama-EPA’s proposed water guidance greatly expands the Clean Water Act’s scope through a slew of new and expanded definitions. This approach is so unpopular, however, that it was originally defeated in the previous Democratic controlled Congress. Nevertheless, the Obama administration continues to move these policies forward. In addition to an increase in Army Corps jurisdictional determinations of as much as 17%, this change in guidance will also result in a change in the responsibilities of states in executing their duties under the Clean Water Act and a change in how individual citizens are governed by the Clean Water Act. These kinds of changes, and passing along more unfunded mandates to state and local governments, should never be done via a guidance document. I call on my colleagues from both the Senate and the House to join us in stopping EPA and the Army Corps from making these unprecedented regulatory changes through a guidance document. I look forward to swift action on this bill,” said Inhofe.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Mike Enzi (R-WY), David Vitter (R-LA), John Boozman (R-AR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KA), John Thune (R-SD), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Jim Risch (R-ID), John Cornyn (R-TX), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Dan Coats (R-IN), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Ron Johnson (R-OH) and Thad Cochran (R-MS).
In May 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) issued draft guidance on “Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act.” This guidance document, which was sent in final form to OMB on February 21, 2012, significantly changes and expands what features are considered protected under the Clean Water Act. It makes substantial additions, such as a first time inclusion of ditches, ground water, potholes, gutters and other water features that may flow, if at all, only after a heavy rainfall.
These new regulations would make it harder for Americans to build in their backyards, grow crops, manage livestock, expand small businesses and carry out other activities on private lands.
Some of the major problems associated with the EPA’s draft CWA Guidance:
* Regulation through Guidance: By issuing a guidance document as opposed to going through the rulemaking process, EPA and the Corps are bypassing the necessary public outreach required under the Administrative Procedures Act and failing to fully consider the legal, economic, and unforeseen consequences of their actions.
* Applies to all CWA Programs: In addition to the Corps Section 404 dredge and fill permits, the guidance applies to all CWA programs including Section 303 water quality standards, Section 401 state water quality certifications, Section 311 Oil Pollution Act (including SPCC), and Section 402 program (including NPDES permits, pesticide general permit, and storm water).
* Increasing Permits: EPA and the Corps affirm that this guidance will result in an increase in jurisdictional determinations which will result in an increased need for permits. In addition to more Corps Section 404 permits, State permitting authorities will be faced with more NPDES permits and more entities will be subject to CWA requirements.
* Economic and Job Impacts: Additional regulatory costs associated with changes in jurisdiction and increases in permits will erect bureaucratic barriers to economic growth, negatively impacting farms, small businesses, commercial development, road construction and energy production, to name a few.
* Impact on State on Local Governments: Changes to the “waters of the U.S.” definition may have far-reaching effects and unintended consequences on a number of state and local programs. The guidance creates significant unfunded mandates and preempts state and local authority.
* Conflicts with Supreme Court Rulings: The guidance uses an overly broad interpretation of the Rapanos decision. The effect is virtually all wet areas that connect in any way to navigable waters are jurisdictional. Both the plurality opinion and Kennedy rejected this assertion in Rapanos.
* Private Property Rights: Expanding federal control over intrastate waters will substantially interfere with the ability of individual landowners to use their property.
From the Harrisburg Patriot-News:
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sam Rohrer added Minnesota Congresswoman and former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann to his growing list of high profile endorsements Wednesday, according to a campaign news release.
Though not endorsed by the state GOP, Rohrer had led in most polls until better-financed candidate Tom Smith recently began running television ads.
But Rohrer created a splash last weekend when former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain endorsed the former Berks County state representative in person at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, an annual gathering of commonwealth conservatives.
Rohrer told reporters during the conference that more heavy-hitter endorsements were coming and delivered Wednesday with Bachmann.
“Our campaign is gaining significant momentum and support from conservatives all over the country,” said Rohrer. “I am proud that conservative leaders like Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain have boldly backed my race against two candidates who were members of the Democratic Party before conveniently changing their party alliance prior to this election.”
After a raucous February, Republican Senate candidates were on the rise in March, making gains in Nevada, Missouri, Ohio and Florida in POLITICO’s Senate Monthly 10, a roundup of the most competitive contests in the country.
Angus King’s independent candidacy in Maine is complicating the GOP’s march to the Senate majority, but developments in the two states where Republicans are on defense — Massachusetts and Nevada — have buttressed the party’s confidence.
Republican Sen. Scott Brown regained some strength in the Bay State, while in Nevada, first-term GOP Sen. Dean Heller is benefiting from his rival’s ethical troubles.
The fourth-graders were unanimous: Quicksand doesn’t scare them, not one bit. If you’re a 9- or 10-year-old at the P.S. 29 elementary school in Brooklyn, N.Y., you’ve got more pressing concerns: Dragons. Monsters. Big waves at the beach that might separate a girl from her mother. Thirty years ago, quicksand might have sprung up at recess, in pools of discolored asphalt or the dusty corners of the sandbox—step in the wrong place, and you’d die. But not anymore, a boy named Zayd tells me. “I think people used to be afraid of it,” he says. His classmates nod. “It was before we were born,” explains Owen. “Maybe it will come back one day.”
For now, quicksand has all but evaporated from American entertainment—rejected even by the genre directors who once found it indispensable. There isn’t any in this summer’s fantasy blockbuster Prince of Persia: Sands of Time or in last year’s animated jungle romp Up. You won’t find quicksand in The Last Airbender or Avatar, either. Giant scorpions emerge from the sand in Clash of the Titans, but no one gets sucked under. And what about Lost—a tropical-island adventure series replete with mud ponds and dangling vines? That show, which ended in May, spanned six seasons and roughly 85 hours of television airtime—all without a single step into quicksand. “We were a little bit concerned that it would just be cheesy,” says the show’s Emmy-winning writer and executive producer, Carlton Cuse. “It felt too clichéd. It felt old-fashioned.” More