Reaffirms Her Support For ObamaCare’s Massive Tax Increase & Medicare Cuts
WASHINGTON — Two years ago liberal U.S. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley – at the urging of Nancy Pelosi – voted for President Obama’s healthcare bill which the Supreme Court recently confirmed was a massive tax increase on the American people. Today, the embattled Congresswoman reaffirmed her support of this job-killing law by voting against its repeal.
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), ObamaCare will cut $500 billion from Medicare, raise taxes by over $500 billion and force every American to purchase health insurance.
Notably, the Wall Street Journal has written that ObamaCare is the largest tax increase in history on the middle class.
- “It is now undeniable that Mr. Obama has imposed the largest tax increase in history on the middle class. Individuals who don’t buy insurance will have to pay several hundred dollars, depending on income. The Congressional Budget Office says that 76% of those who pay the mandate tax will make less than 500% of the federal poverty level, estimated to be $24,000 for a family of four in 2016. That means 76% of the payers will earn less than $120,000 a year.” (Editorial, “It’s Up To The Voters Now,” The Wall Street Journal, 6/28/12)
“Not only did Shelley Berkley vote for ObamaCare, but today she reaffirmed her support for what is the largest tax increase ever on the middle class,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) spokesman Jahan Wilcox. “This election will be a clear contrast between Congresswoman Berkley and her support for President Obama’s big government agenda and Senator Heller who will continue to support pro-growth, pro-jobs initiatives that will get Nevada working again.”
Berkley Voted For The Health Care Reform Law. (H.R. 3590, CQ Vote #165: Motion agreed to, thus clearing the bill for the president, by a vote of 219-212: R 0-178; D 219-34, 3/21/10, Berkley Voted Yea)
Berkley Proudly Voted Against A Full Repeal ObamaCare (H.R. 6079, CQ Vote 460: Passed 224-185, Berkley Voted Nay)
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has sent a letter to Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller clarifying the Nevada Election Code regarding vacancies in major party nominations.
I don’t believe embattled Congresswoman Shelley Berkley has any intention of withdrawing from the Senate race but it’s clear from this letter the NRSC wants to be prepared for any eventuality.
Full letter below:
I’m starting the column as I watch the previews before the movie Ted. They seem to be unending. The one that jumps out at me is the new one for the Hobbit. I’ve seen it before on TV and online but it is really special when seen on the big screen.
The Lord of the Rings Movies were triumphs of the cinematic art, that’s a big mountain for the Hobbit to climb but I suspect it and Jackson will do it.
There are two big developments in the Brett Kimberlin Story, first there is an utter defeat in Court but that defeat is just a start:
I’m very delighted at Aaron Walker’s victory but the fact that he had to go though he had to go through months of this stuff, and the expenses involved in this is a national disgrace.
And it’s not over. Stacy McCain doesn’t have a fixed abode yet, Patterico, Erick Erickson and Wolfe’s swatters are still at large.
There is quite a slog to go through before this is done, but there was, at least to me an even more interesting development to this story. Salon came out and Defended Kimberlin. The question to me is why
There is, in fact, no real plus side to defending Brett Kimberlin. At best he is a small player in the big game and even if he were more, Kimberlin & co are only effective if there is no attention to their activities.
With federal suits, the attention of bloggers around the nation, nearly 90 members of congress either signing documents against Swatting or asked about the same and Robert Stacy McCain not only continuing his revelations but getting so many instalanches it’s a wonder Charles Johnson hasn’t climbed onto a ledge, And argument for Kimberlin’s potential value and effectiveness for the left would be less plausable than the success of a national letter writing campaign in behalf of The Secret Life of Desmond Pfeiffer.
So if this is the case why on earth would Salon bring up the name of Kimberlin, let along defend him? Why would the left invest an asset that has existed for so long in such a losing endeavor? Why even if the MSM is doing their best to ignore developments even bother making the argument from the left in defense of the speedway bomber a figure that a party might not want to associate with in an election year?
I think this is preparing the ground for new revelations that might suggest there is more here than meets the eye.
There is a lot of angst on the left over the PA voter ID law. The media is speculating hundreds of thousands of Democrat voters will not be able to produce a valid ID particularly in cities. One local paper is simply breathless over it:
Second comes the GOP’s own admission — conveniently after the fact, of course — that their agenda was indeed political. The moment came last month at a GOP State Committee meeting, when House Republican Majority Leader Mike Turzai recounted Republicans’ legislative accomplishments for the year. Among them, Turzai announced to enthusiastic applause: “Voter ID — which is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania — done.”
Pennsylvania didn’t need the voter ID law. There was no credible evidence of voters impersonating other voters at the polls. There was one reason, and one reason only, to pass the new requirement, and it wasn’t the security of the ballot. It was the outcome of the election. We knew it all along. Now the GOP House leader has put it out there for everyone to see.
Left unanswered is the question why a democrat voter would be less likely to have an ID, an item that is highly necessary these days, PARTICULAR in a city than a republican.
Why should the use of an item needed at any bank, to cash any paycheck or government check, to use a credit card, an item you are asked to produce at a hospital, at a supermarket or even to buy booze cause the results of an election to change? Do Democrats need these ID less that republicans?
What could possibility be going on that would cause the passage of a strong voter ID law backed by an Army of Davids equipped with iPhones and internet connections along with an energized Tea Party with volunteers willing and able to serve as poll watchers to strike such fear into the hearts of Democrat leaning Union Stewards and Machine Pols who in the past have managed to deliver their precincts to their party by overwhelming margins?
I suspect the people screaming the loudest know the answer and that’s why they are screaming.
Meanwhile while the left complains about a lack of official documents among voters they are now obsessing about Mitt Romney’s Tax returns and once again there is an obvious question that isn’t being asked:
Maybe it’s just me but if the IRS saw something untoward during in Mitt Romney’s tax returns, I have a feeling that they would not hesitate for one minute to pursue it and extract every penalty that would be due.
Now Warren Buffett for example has a big back tax bill that both the Huffington Post and the Blaze has reported on. Maybe it’s just me but I’m thinking if Mitt Romney had a similar problem, if he owed taxes, or had a big penalty or had to go to court to defend such issues we might just have heard about it during the Massachusetts Gov Campaign, or during his Senate Campaign vs Ted Kennedy, or the 2008 Presidential Campaign, or even in the primaries in 2012…
…but we haven’t.
Well after all everybody knows the IRS isn’t interested in digging into the finances of people they think they can get money out of?
This election isn’t going to be close.
Ernest Brognine has died. I grew up on McHale’s Navy and by an odd coincidence was watching bits of season one last week. Borgnine has worked steady in films and even stars in a new picture that was released this year. I suspect his 10 years in the Navy and Italian upbringing had something to do with his work ethic.
Borgnine’s best work was In film, and he won an Oscar for Marty but he will be most remembered for the PT 73 to one generation
and as Mermaid Man in the Spongebob Cartoons to another.
Funny about that isn’t it?
Haven’t talked much Doctor Who, but Rich’s comic blog has a Doctor Who James Bond crossover going on, apparently in this story Bond is a Time Lord and the different actors are regenerations of him.
Don’t care for the current version of Bond myself.
The All Star Game was yesterday and I don’t care. When they decided it was OK to end in a Tie instead of playing it out I lost interest.
Sadly recently found out that an elderly friend’s wife has been diagnosed with Cancer when I mentioned to someone that she was going through chemotherapy at 80+ the person I talked to asked why she was bothering? It reminded me of an old joke:
Three people are in conversation when one mentions an acquaintance of the three has just died at 84. While the first express sorrow the 2nd person declares that nonsense saying:
“He lived a full long life, had a great time and lived into his 80’s. There is nothing wrong with dying at 84.”
At this the 3rd man replies: “Easy for you to say, you’re not 83. “
Every life has value, that’s what pro-life is all about.
My review of TED is available at Amazon.com you can read it there but here is a quick peek concerning something I’ve seen brought up in a lot of reviews
At first glance the idea that John has a smoking hot successful girlfriend, Mika Kunis makes no sense until you realize that every single other male Character in the movie and frankly almost all the female ones are even more dysfunctional or downright sick compared to him. In the population of this movie Mark Wahlberg’s character IS the pick of the litter.
This movie wasn’t as good or as bad as people said it was.
See you all next week.
Today, the Coalition for the Common Defense launched a national advocacy campaign aimed at preventing further, draconian cuts to the U.S. military of $500 billion dollars or more in January 2013 pursuant to the “sequestration” mechanism created under the Budget Control Act of 2011. The campaign will feature a series of video advertisements demonstrating the dangerous absurdity of the sorts of deep and – worse-yet – indiscriminate, across-the-board defense spending cuts now in prospect. The first spot premiered today and can be viewed here:
The campaign is designed to encourage the American public to express their opposition to these cuts. The Coalition will facilitate such communications with the White House and Senate through a portal at its web-site here:
Regarding the campaign launch and the need to avert sequestration, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., a member of the Coalition for the Common Defense, remarked:
“Defense has already paid its fair share into deficit reduction and we cannot safely and responsibly try to balance the budget on the backs of our men and women in uniform. This campaign, and specifically the Coalition’s ads, will bring home to the American people the reckless absurdity of these defense cuts – and the need to avoid the train-wreck they will precipitate.”
The mandated sequestration cuts come on top of an already budgeted $487 billion reduction over the next 10 years as part of Budget Control Act of 2011.
The additional $500 billion in sequestration cuts would prove devastating, both militarily and economically. Militarily, this would result in the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest Navy since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in history. Economically, sequestration could result in $62.9 billion in lost revenues for defense contractors, projected job losses of over 1.3 million, and an $86.4 billion decrease in Gross Domestic Product.
The House of Representatives has already acted on legislation that would stave off these budget reductions and their attendant impact for at least a year, giving the executive and legislative branches time to devise a different, less reckless approach to deficit reduction. The Senate has yet to act, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama insisting that any such relief must be accompanied by tax increases.
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. continued:
“The American people do not want the White House and the Senate to hold our military hostage to budget gamesmanship. It is unconscionable to play politics with the arming, training and sustaining of our troops – particularly if, by so doing, the President and Senate leaders may be jeopardizing not only their missions, but their lives.”
The Coalition for the Common Defense is an alliance of like-minded individuals and organizations who believe that without provision for the “common defense,” as articulated by the Founders, the freedom that has allowed unprecedented opportunity and prosperity to flourish in this country would soon be imperiled. In this new age of budgetary cuts, the Coalition rejects the false choice between military strength and economic health contending that economic prosperity depends on a strong national defense. Through a series of events and strategic partnerships, the coalition is calling on elected officials, candidates for office and others who share our commitment to the common defense to uphold these principles. We must return the United States to sensible fiscal principles without sacrificing our national security.
‘Worried About Suffering Defections,’ Senator Reid ‘Quickly Dismissed,’ ‘Rejected’ A Vote On Obama’s Tax Hike
“Senate Democrats Have Expressed Skepticism Over Obama’s Plan”
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: “Democrats blocked a Senate vote Wednesday on President Barack Obama’s plan…” (“Democrats Block Senate Vote On Obama Tax Plan,” The Associated Press, 7/11/12)
POLITICO: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked… a plan President Barack Obama called for earlier this week.” (“Senate Theatrics Over Taxes,” Politico, 7/11/12)
USA TODAY: “The Senate’s Democratic majority objected; some Senate Democrats have expressed skepticism over Obama’s plan.” (“Obama, GOP Duel Over Tax Cuts,” USA Today, 7/11/12)
ABC NEWS: “The Democrats blinked and blocked it.” (ABC News Radio, 7/11/12)
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: “Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) quickly dismissed the idea…” (“McConnell Offers Senate Vote On Tax Rates,” The Wall Street Journal, 7/11/12)
THE HILL: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday rejected a Republican request to vote on President Obama’s income tax plan amid defections within his caucus on tax policy.” (“Reid Rejects GOP Request To Vote On Obama’s Tax Plan,” The Hill, 7/11/12)
· “A number of Democrats have voiced openness to extending all the tax rates, however. Party leaders are worried about suffering defections if the tax plans are put forward for a vote, particularly among Democratic senators who are running for reelection this year.” (“Reid Blocks McConnell Attempt To Force Tax Votes,” The Hill, 7/11/12)
Forty Senate Dems Voted To Extend All Tax Rates In 2010
40 Current Senate Democrats Voted To Extend These Tax Rates In 2010: Akaka (D-HI), Baucus (D-MT), Begich (D-AK), Bennet (D-CO), Boxer (D-CA), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Conrad (D-ND), Coons (D-DE), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Franken (D-MN), Inouye (D-HI), Johnson (D-SD), Kerry (D-MA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Kohl (D-WI), Landrieu (D-LA), Lieberman (ID-CT), Manchin (D-WV), McCaskill (D-MO), Menendez (D-NJ), Mikulski (D-MD), Murray (D-WA), Nelson (D-FL), Nelson (D-NE), Pryor (D-AR), Reed (D-RI), Reid (D-NV), Rockefeller (D-WV), Schumer (D-NY), Shaheen (D-NH), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Warner (D-VA), Webb (D-VA), Whitehouse (D-RI). (H.R. 4853, Roll Call Vote #276, Motion Agreed To 81-19: R 36-5, D 44-13, I 1-1, 12/15/10)
The House is scheduled to vote today on full repeal of Obamacare. Although many reports are circulating that Congress has already voted on this numerous times, this is only the second time the House will have voted to fully repeal the law.
Heritage has laid out the impacts of Obamacare on the American people—and according to a poll released this week, a majority of Americans agree that Obamacare should be repealed. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took to the pages of The Washington Post this week to re-argue the Administration’s positions, claiming basically the opposite of the havoc Obamacare is wreaking on the U.S. economy and health care system.
As Congress takes up the issue, we present the Top 5 Reasons to Repeal Obamacare:
5. To stop adding to the U.S. deficit and debt.
Medicare and Medicaid is pushing the federal budget to the breaking point. Obamacare makes the problem much worse by adding to the entitlement crisis in the form of a massive Medicaid expansion and a new entitlement subsidy for households with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. These two spending entitlement programs will add at least 35 million Americans to the government rolls at an expense of more than $200 billion annually by the end of the decade.
4. To help stop Taxmageddon.
In addition to being a massive federal power grab, Obamacare contains a massive tax increase on the American economy—at a time when job growth should be the nation’s number one priority. In total, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the Obamacare tax hikes would raise about $800 billion in new revenue over a decade. Taxmageddon—the unprecedented, $494 billion tax hike scheduled to hit Americans on January 1, 2013 —includes just five of Obamacare’s 18 new taxes.
3. To preserve freedom, including religious freedom, for all Americans.
Obamacare tramples on individual freedom and religious liberty. One of the first examples is the especially controversial provision of the HHS preventive services mandate that takes effect in a few short weeks on August 1. After that, as employers renew their health plans in the coming year, they will have to comply with the HHS mandate’s coercive requirement to cover abortion-related drugs, contraception and sterilization—regardless of religious or moral objections. This is one of the first chilling examples in Obamacare that shows how Americans will lose their individual liberties.
2. To keep health care decisions where they belong—with patients and their doctors.
Obamacare is a massive intrusion in the doctor-patient relationship, micromanaging how health care should be delivered to patients. When the government is given this much authority and discretion, it does not result in higher-quality care for patients. Rather, it leads to price controls and one-size-fits-all regulations that misallocate resources and will lead to headaches for doctors and problems for patients trying to access health care.
1. To make way for real, patient-centered, market-based health care reform.
Health care reform that preserves American liberty is possible and is direly needed. The Heritage Foundation’s Saving the American Dream provides such a plan and would put us on a course toward a truly consumer-based health care system. A starting point should be setting commonsense insurance rules for those who buy their own insurance—individuals and small businesses outside the large group market. Congress should combine sensible individual health insurance market reforms with appropriate tax and Medicaid reforms for a fair and fiscally sound strategy to expand coverage to the currently uninsured.
Is Repeal Possible?
As research by Heritage’s Bob Moffit concludes, “Based on Washington’s record of health policymaking, ending or rolling back Obamacare is hardly implausible.” Moffit points to examples from history: the repeal of the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988 and President Bill Clinton’s failed attempts at reform in 1994. Moffit notes that the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988 was originally enacted with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, but repealed one year later. The reason? Plain and simple: it was the disapproval of the American people that drove the law’s removal.
The failure of Obamacare is not only a matter of the public’s continued opposition to it; the law is also a major policy failure. It is based on the false premise that more government, more regulations, and more mandates are the right solution to America’s health care problems. Obamacare falls short of genuine reform because its alleged benefits increase not only government spending, but also the cost of private health insurance—on the backs of taxpayers.
To achieve a health care system where patients come first, Congress must not embrace the flawed and failed policies in Obamacare. Instead, Congress must use this opportunity to offer an alternative vision for the future of health care—a future where individuals get better care at lower cost without government controlling the dollars and decisions.
(Las Vegas, NV) — A new ad released by Heller for Senate this week documents seven-term Congresswoman Shelley Berkley’s established pattern of using her office for personal gain. To view the ad, click here.
1) Claim: “An independent watchdog group has named Congresswoman Shelley Berkley one of the most corrupt members of Congress.”
Documentation: “The line between political cause and personal gain is fuzzy for Rep. Shelley Berkley.”
Citation: CREW’s Most Corrupt Report,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, 2011
Full report: http://www.citizensforethics.org/page/-/PDFs/Reports/Most%20Corrupt%20Reports/Berkley%2C%20Shelley.pdf?nocdn=1
See also: Press release, “Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) Earns Dishonorable Mention in CREW’s Annual Most Corrupt Report,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, September 19, 2011)
2) Claim: “Berkley pushed legislation and twisted the arms of federal regulators, advocating policies for financial gain…”
Documentation: “Ms. Berkley’s actions were among a series over the last five years in which she pushed legislation or twisted the arms of federal regulators to pursue an agenda that is aligned with the business interests of her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner.”
Citation: Eric Lipton, “A Congresswoman’s Cause Is Often Her Husband’s Gain,” New York Times, September 5, 2011
3) Claim: “saving her husband’s industry millions…an estimated $250 million annually …”
Documentation: “This year, after Medicaid threatened to cut 3.1 percent of the money for dialysis — to save an estimated $250 million annually — Ms. Berkley led an effort in the House to oppose the cut. Less than a month later, the agency reversed its position, winning Ms. Berkley a personal thanks from industry leaders in press releases and new campaign donations.”
Citation: Eric Lipton, “A Congresswoman’s Cause Is Often Her Husband’s Gain,” New York Times, September 5, 2011
4) Claim: “Shelley Berkley took care of herself, and she got caught.”
Documentation: “This is a very serious conflict of interest,” said James A. Thurber, a former Congressional aide who has helped revise ethics rules and is now director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. “There is an official use of power here to help him and the family — and I think that is unethical.”
Citation: Eric Lipton, “A Congresswoman’s Cause Is Often Her Husband’s Gain,” New York Times, September 5, 2011
5) Claim: Berkley: “We deserve better”
Citation: “Congresswoman Shelley Berkley Extended,” YouTube, Aug. 8, 2011
Ø On Monday, June 9, 2012, the House Ethics Committee announced plans to establish a subcommittee to continue its investigation into Shelley Berkley’s behavior. (Press Release, “Statement of the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Ethics Regarding Representative Shelley Berkley,” July 9, 2012)
News of Shelley Berkley’s questionable ethics resonated in Nevada news outlets.
Ø “But what we did not know for certain until Eric Lipton’s devastating and probing piece is just how committed the congresswoman has been to her husband’s cause…CREW’s chief, Melanie Sloan, told me Berkley should have ‘stayed out of it.’” (Jon Ralston, “The Times’ piece spells trouble for Berkley,” Las Vegas Sun September 7, 2011)
Ø “In Las Vegas, it has been no secret that Rep. Shelley Berkley — our richest representative — is worth millions because of her husband’s dialysis practice. But an article in today’s New York Times suggests Berkley has benefitted by using Congressional influence to subsidize kidney treatments. (Karoun Demirjian, Rep. Shelley Berkley facing questions about legislation that benefitted husband’s practice, Las Vegas Sun, September 6, 2011)
Complete documents available:
New York Times: A Congresswoman’s Cause Is Often Her Husband’s Gain
CREW (Entry page): “CREW’s Most Corrupt Report,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, 2011
CREW (Full Report): DISHONORABLE MENTION: REPRESENTATIVE SHELLEY BERKLEY
CREW (Press Release): Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) Earns Dishonorable Mention in CREW’s Annual Most Corrupt Report
Las Vegas Sun: The Times’ piece spells trouble for Berkley
Las Vegas Sun: Rep. Shelley Berkley facing questions about legislation that benefitted husband’s practice
New York Times
September 5, 2011
A Congresswoman’s Cause Is Often Her Husband’s Gain
By ERIC LIPTON
LAS VEGAS — At the University Medical Center here, alarms were set off three years ago — kidney transplants were failing at unusually high rates, and some patients were even dying.
Federal regulators moved to shut down the kidney transplant program, but the proposed penalty brought a rebuke from Representative Shelley Berkley, Democrat of Nevada, who helped lead a successful effort to get the officials from Washington to back down.
In pleading for a reprieve, Ms. Berkley and other members of Nevada’s Congressional delegation said they were acting on behalf of the state’s families, citing dire health consequences if the program was halted. But the congresswoman’s efforts also benefited her husband, a physician whose nephrology practice directs medical services at the hospital’s kidney care department — an arrangement that expanded after her intervention and is now reflected in a $738,000-a-year contract with the hospital.
Ms. Berkley’s actions were among a series over the last five years in which she pushed legislation or twisted the arms of federal regulators to pursue an agenda that is aligned with the business interests of her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner. In addition to the hospital contract, he operates a dozen dialysis centers in Nevada and has played a central role in an industry campaign to lobby members of Congress — including his wife — on behalf of kidney care providers.
Dr. Lehrner helped build a political action committee that has regularly turned to Ms. Berkley to champion its causes. She has co-sponsored at least five House bills that would expand federal reimbursements or other assistance for kidney care, written letters to regulators to block enforcing rules or ease the flow of money to kidney care centers and appeared regularly at fund-raising events sponsored by a professional organization her husband has helped run.
“This is a very serious conflict of interest,” said James A. Thurber, a former Congressional aide who has helped revise ethics rules and is now director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. “There is an official use of power here to help him and the family — and I think that is unethical.”
Ms. Berkley declined an interview request for this article. But in a statement, she said she was an advocate for a broad range of health care causes and had never acted specifically to help her husband’s practice.
“I won’t stop fighting to give Nevadans access to affordable health care just because my husband is a doctor, just like I won’t stop standing up for veterans because my father served in World War II,” she said.
Dr. Lehrner, though, said he was unabashed about pressing his wife on issues that were important to his practice.
“She is definitely aware of my positions, and the R.P.A.’s positions,” he said in an interview, referring to the Renal Physicians Association, the trade group he has helped run. “We talk politics all the time. We talk medicine.”
Congressional ethics rules are murky — lawmakers can take steps that financially benefit a spouse as long as the benefit is broadly available and there is no “improper exercise of official influence.” Lobbying of lawmakers by their spouses is prohibited, but there is no ban on spouses’ informally acting as industry advocates, like Dr. Lehrner, who is not a registered lobbyist.
The intermingling of Ms. Berkley’s public and private life, though, is striking even among her peers on Capitol Hill, and surfaced in an examination by The New York Times of how lawmakers forge particularly close ties to industries with an agenda in Washington.
As Ms. Berkley has pushed the cause of kidney care in Congress, her husband’s practice has boomed, thanks in part to his joint ownership of dialysis centers with DaVita, a giant in the industry and one of Ms. Berkley’s biggest campaign contributors. She is one of the richest members of Congress, as she or her husband hold assets valued from $7 million to $23 million, according to her most recent financial disclosure forms.
Now running for the Senate seat held by John Ensign until his resignation this spring amid an ethics scandal, Ms. Berkley drives around Nevada in a white Ford Fusion (“United States Congresswoman 1” reads her license plate, referring to her Congressional district).
She often talks about her modest upbringing, in which she ate at Taco Bell while scraping by as a cocktail waitress at a casino resort hotel here. She also frequently mentions her husband’s work — she delivered a “certificate of Congressional recognition” at the ribbon cutting of his latest dialysis center last year — and cites his experiences as evidence for why Congress must act to change federal laws or policy.
“I’m sure he didn’t think in medical school that in his 60s he still would be taking calls on the weekends, but that’s the reality of the situation when you don’t have enough nephrologists to care for the population that you’re living in,” Ms. Berkley said at a House hearing in 2009, at which she pushed for higher federal reimbursements for medical specialists like her husband.
Concerns About Care
Shawn Rowlett, 40, showed up at the University Medical Center with his wife, pale and weak, four days after he had been discharged from the hospital’s transplant center with a new kidney in February 2008. But now he was hemorrhaging, medical records show.
After seeing the hospital’s chief transplant surgeon, Mr. Rowlett was left in the emergency room for five hours before being admitted, according to his wife, Dionne Rowlett. He died less than two hours later, court records show.
“The care was just horrible,” Ms. Rowlett said in a recent interview, shortly after the hospital settled a malpractice suit for $77,500 — the maximum amount allowed in Nevada because of a cap on malpractice payments from public hospitals. (Dr. Lehrner and his practice were not named in the lawsuit.)
Mr. Rowlett’s death and four recent others in the first year after the surgery, as well as 10 transplant failures, were part of a troubling pattern — the death and failure rates were more than twice the expected level. That led the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to issue an order to revoke the certification for the hospital’s transplant program — which does about 50 transplants a year — and cut off Medicare financing, effectively shutting the program down.
Brian G. Brannman, the medical center’s chief executive, acknowledged that the program was in disarray back then. In a recent interview, he said the hospital was mostly to blame, as its lone transplant surgeon had not been provided with a sufficient support system. Federal regulators also questioned the qualifications of the physician whom Dr. Lehrner and his partners had assigned to help screen transplant patients, leading the hospital to acknowledge in writing that he “was not formally trained in transplantation.”
Desperate for a second chance, hospital officials appealed to members of the Nevada Congressional delegation. Ms. Berkley sent a letter, signed by two other lawmakers, warning that cutting off money would “jeopardize the health of hundreds” of constituents. She and the other lawmakers helped set up a series of conference calls between hospital and Medicare officials.
Soon after, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for the first time, agreed to override provisions that would have required decertifying the program. In exchange, the hospital promised to remedy the problems.
“I spoke to the head of C.M.S. yesterday,” Ms. Berkley told local television reporters in announcing the breakthrough. “When I got off the phone, I had a good-faith belief that we were going to come up with a compromise that works for everybody.”
Kerry Weems, then the agency’s acting administrator, said he recalled speaking with Ms. Berkley and Jon Porter, then a Republican House member from Nevada, about the program. Mr. Weems could not recall if Ms. Berkley mentioned her husband’s ties to the hospital. But he said he would have approved the agreement anyway.
“You want to find a way to ‘yes’ — not based on any individual stake that a Congress person might have,” said Mr. Weems, who recently left the agency. “But this really was the only transplant center in Nevada.”
Part of the deal involved significantly expanding the staff of kidney specialists. The hospital turned to Ms. Berkley’s husband to recruit two transplant nephrologists, who, Mr. Brannman said, work more directly with the hospital’s new transplant surgeon.
Mr. Brannman said the selection of Dr. Lehrner’s practice — it was the sole bidder for the contract renewed in December 2010, which increased annual fees by 25 percent — had nothing to do with Ms. Berkley, whom he said he did not know well. The various staffing changes have significantly improved the transplant program’s performance in recent years, according to Mr. Brannman and federal officials.
Jessica Mackler, Ms. Berkley’s campaign manager, said the congresswoman had no conflict of interest when she intervened, because the money the hospital uses to pay her husband does not directly come from the federal government, and other members of the state’s Congressional delegation were involved in the effort to save the transplant program.
“There really is no issue here,” Ms. Mackler said.
But Mr. Reems, the former Medicare official, is not so sure, given Ms. Berkley’s record of interventions on kidney care issues.
“You never want questions being raised,” he said, “and that means you need to try to avoid any move that makes you seem anything less than an impartial public servant.”
At the annual conference of the Renal Physicians Association in Austin, Tex., in 2008, Dr. Lehrner showed a slide of a smiley-faced doctor with a screw being forced into his mouth, and then ticked off a list of steps the group could take to fight cost control efforts in Washington.
“We have been screwed by our policy makers for 20 years,” he told the crowd. “Only you can prevent the destruction of our profession.”
The doctors, he said, could donate money directly to members of Congress, volunteer on their campaigns, contribute to the political action committee that he had helped build at the Renal Physicians Association and travel to Washington to personally appeal to lawmakers, as he himself does.
Dr. Lehrner added one more option to the list. “Marry an elected official,” he said, evoking laughter.
He may have been joking, but Ms. Berkley, 60, who was first elected in 1998 — a year before she and Dr. Lehrner married — has been largely sympathetic to the doctors’ cause.
The Medicare system spends an estimated $27 billion a year, or about 6 percent of overall Medicare spending, to help some of the approximately 550,000 Americans who have so-called end-stage kidney disease. It is the only chronic disease in which the most severely ill patients get nearly free care, regardless of age.
But Congress and federal regulators, alarmed over the surging costs, have sought to control spending in recent years, provoking protests from Dr. Lehrner and the physicians’ association, as well as the drug companies and dialysis operators that dominate the industry.
When Dr. Lehrner assumed a series of leadership roles at the renal physicians group, Ms. Berkley’s agenda in Washington started to overlap with her husband’s. He became the single biggest contributor to the association’s political action committee, while also serving as its chairman. And she has received the largest share of its contributions, totaling $7,000 since 2007. Over all, kidney care doctors, companies and lobbyists have donated at least $140,000 to Ms. Berkley’s Congressional campaigns.
Dr. Lehrner’s flourishing practice now includes 21 doctors who work out of seven offices in the Las Vegas area, as well as 11 dialysis centers, 10 of them run in a joint venture, started in 2003, with DaVita. He is a paid national speaker for and has received research grants from Amgen, a major supplier of drugs to dialysis centers.
The activities of these interest groups are closely aligned at times.
In early February 2008, for example, Ms. Berkley received a series of campaign contributions, first $1,000 from Amgen, then $2,000 from Kidney Care Partners, a trade group backed by Amgen and DaVita, then $3,000 from DaVita, and then $1,000 from Dr. Lehrner’s group, the Renal Physicians.
The day that two of those checks were delivered, Ms. Berkley sent a letter to Representative Pete Stark, Democrat of California, then chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee with jurisdiction over Medicare, warning him to move carefully in considering changes in compensating doctors who provided dialysis treatments. Echoing concerns raised by the industry, the congresswoman said she worried that patient access to care could be affected.
“While I support initiatives to improve quality and efficiency in Medicare, I do not believe that these efficiencies should come at the cost of patient well being,” Ms. Berkley wrote, without mentioning her husband’s interest in the matter.
Regulators moved ahead with the new reimbursement system, although it was adjusted in a way that the dialysis and drug companies ultimately embraced. This year, after Medicaid threatened to cut 3.1 percent of the money for dialysis — to save an estimated $250 million annually — Ms. Berkley led an effort in the House to oppose the cut.
Less than a month later, the agency reversed its position, winning Ms. Berkley a personal thanks from industry leaders in press releases and new campaign donations.
“She is highly knowledgeable about this complicated and critical area of health care that impacts millions of Americans,” Skip Thurman, a DaVita spokesman said in a written statement, of the company’s donations — which have accelerated as Ms. Berkley runs for the Senate. “The kidney community’s support of her is entirely appropriate.”
CREW’s Most Corrupt Report
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
Shelley Berkley (D-NV) Dishonorable Mention
The line between political cause and personal financial gain is fuzzy for Rep. Shelley Berkley.
The congresswoman vocally advocates for Washington policies that financially benefit her kidney surgeon husband. In turn, she has become a major recipient of campaign donations from those in the kidney care industry.
Rep. Berkley is a seven-term member of Congress, representing Nevada’s 1st congressional district.
CREW: Full Report
DISHONORABLE MENTION: REPRESENTATIVE SHELLEY BERKLEY
Full report attached to this email and available here.
CREW: Press Release
Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) Earns Dishonorable Mention in CREW’s Annual Most Corrupt Report
September 19, 2011
Washington, D.C. –The line between political cause and personal financial gain is fuzzy for Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV). The congresswoman vocally advocates for Washington policies that financially benefit her kidney surgeon husband. In turn, she has become a major recipient of campaign donations from those in the kidney care industry. It’s no wonder Rep. Shelly Berkley has earned a dishonorable mention in Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’s (CREW) annual Most Corrupt Members of Congress Report. Click here to read the full report on Rep. Berkley.
“While it is understandable why a Nevada congresswoman would fight to save the only transplant center in the state, Rep. Berkley should have been clear about her husband’s position at the hospital,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.
Rep. Berkley is married to Dr. Larry Lehrner, a surgeon and a prominent voice within the Renal Physicians Association, an industry trade group. In 2008, federal officials were set to shut down kidney transplant operations at Universal Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, after a string of failed kidney transplants and patient deaths. Rep. Berkley led a successful charge to keep the center – where her husband directs the kidney care department – open. Thanks to her efforts, her husband’s practice now enjoys a $738,000 per year federal contract.
A New York Times exposé revealed Rep. Berkley has co-sponsored at least five House bills to expand federal support for kidney care. She also wrote a letter to Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), then-chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee with jurisdiction over Medicare, to dissuade him from changing compensation for doctors providing dialysis, neglecting to mention her husband’s interests. Dr. Lehrner, for his part, has openly joked “Marry[ing] and elected official” has been a boon to his practice.
“House conflict-of-interest rules warn members to avoid taking action on any matter that may affect their financial interests. Rep. Berkley’s advocacy for kidney doctors crosses this line.”
This is the 7th edition of the CREW’S Most Corrupt Report, an annual look at a bipartisan collection of Washington’s worst. This year’s list includes seven Democrats, and 12 Republicans. Five are repeat offenders. Since 2005, CREW has named 70 members of Congress to the list, 32 of whom are no longer in office.
Las Vegas Sun
The Times’ piece spells trouble for Berkley
Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
There are always three barometers of any story damaging to a political figure: The substance of the piece, the ensuing damage control effort (which either ameliorates or exacerbates) and the political fallout.
What we know for certain is that Rep. Shelley Berkley knew this week’s New York Times investigative piece detailing her advocacy on issues involving her husband would not exactly enhance her chances of winning a U.S. Senate seat. What we also know for certain is that Berkley has never hidden the influence her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner, has on her positions on health care — she mentions his strong views all the time. But what we did not know for certain until Eric Lipton’s devastating and probing piece is just how committed the congresswoman has been to her husband’s cause — or as the Times headline put it, “A Congresswoman’s Cause Is Often Her Husband’s Gain.”
(The piece is here.)
It might be easier to start with what this story is not about: Whether Berkley or the rest of the delegation should have intervened to try to save University Medical Center’s kidney transplant program. Of course they should have. (This is an issue near and dear to my heart, having had a kidney transplant and having wonderful care the last quarter-century — knocking on wood — from one of Lehrner’s partners, Dr. Marvin Bernstein.)
When Berkley and others, including her opponent, then-Rep. Dean Heller, intervened, it was to save a troubled program and when her husband bid on the contract to beef up the transplant department, he was, as the Times reported, the only bidder.
Should Berkley have let Heller or then-Rep. Jon Porter take the lead in trying to save the program, and even stayed out of it? Maybe. But then is she not doing her job?
The other part of Lipton’s story focuses on Lehrner’s political advocacy and his often-flip references to his marriage to Berkley — indeed, the couple’s public references, joking may they be, to their symbiosis has only made this worse.
This paragraph, too, showed perhaps too much symbiosis:
“When Dr. Lehrer assumed a series of leadership roles at the renal physicians group, Ms. Berkley’s agenda in Washington started to overlap with her husband’s. He became the single biggest contributor to the association’s political action committee, while also serving as its chairman. And she has received the largest share of its contributions, totaling $7,000 since 2007. Over all, kidney care doctors, companies and lobbyists have donated at least $140,000 to Ms. Berkley’s congressional campaigns.”
And then there was the propinquity with campaign contributions from the renal physicians PAC and a letter Berkley sent to Pete Stark, her Democratic colleague then chairing a key Ways and Means subcommittee. In the missive, she questioned “an untested bundled payment system” for dialysis patients — arguably one that could affect patient access but also her husband’s (and thus her) bottom line. And earlier this year, she wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services boss Donald Berwick, a missive that could be interpreted as trying to preserve care for patients but also one that could benefit her husband’s practice.
Protecting patients and helping her husband’s business. How does she do one without doing the other? Good question.
But that’s where the damage control comes in — or didn’t.
“I won’t stop fighting to give Nevadans access to affordable health care just because my husband is a doctor, just like I won’t stop standing up for veterans because my father served in World War II,” Berkley said in a statement.
What? Is this a parody? Equating her husband’s business that benefited from her legislation with her father being a war veteran? You must be joking.
Team Berkley also responded with a catalog of articles that it said made the case that the Times “ignored crucial facts in order to drive a misleading narrative about Congresswoman Shelley Berkley’s efforts to improve care for sick patients in Nevada.”
That is, that Berkley was only one member of an activist delegation trying to help UMC and that she was cleared by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. (The latter was quickly debunked when CREW’s chief, Melanie Sloan, told me Berkley should have “stayed out of it.”
I was also astounded that the ever-voluble Berkley refused to comment to the Times while her husband did, perhaps not helping the cause with his flippant quotes. It doesn’t matter if she is being unfairly maligned, as she argues. If so, her argument for silence is that the Times was out to get her. Really?
Berkley can garner testimonials from everyone in sight — Harry Reid says he still supports her! But the ads here write themselves, and we will find out next year if the congresswoman’s husband’s gain is actually her loss come November 2012.
Las Vegas Sun
Rep. Shelley Berkley facing questions about legislation that benefitted husband’s practice
By Karoun Demirjian (contact)
Published Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011 | 7:08 a.m.
In Las Vegas, it has been no secret that Rep. Shelley Berkley — our richest representative — is worth millions because of her husband’s dialysis practice.
But an article in today’s New York Times suggests Berkley has benefitted by using Congressional influence to subsidize kidney treatments.
It’s a charge that’s bound to echo over the next year on the campaign trail, where the Nevada Democrat will likely face Republican Sen. Dean Heller in a race to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated earlier this year by John Ensign.
Berkley has been a vocal advocate for funding dialysis treatments, sponsoring at least five bills in the House to expand federal reimbursement rates for kidney care, according to the Times article. She lumps those efforts in with her efforts to cover osteoporosis and heart disease: something she says she has to do to serve the fastest-growing senior population in the country.
But it’s a fact that her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner, has the only kidney transplant contract in the state: a deal with the University Medical Center worth $738,000 a year.
It’s a potentially significant conflict of interest, even if Berkley and Lehrner are operating in a gray area between the letter and the spirit of lobbying law. Spouses of members of Congress cannot be lobbyists, but there’s no prohibition against privately influential discussions.
As Lehrner, whom the Times article says helped set up a political action committee to lobby for federal support of renal care, jokingly put it in 2008: if you want to influence Washington, “marry an elected official.”
But Berkley’s more likely to see fallout from this charge on the campaign trail than in an ethics committee room.
Accusations of nepotism won’t help Berkley as she campaigns on a platform of health and elder care — Berkley has said that she plans to make Medicare and Social Security the pillars of her campaign. And Heller has accused her of lying about Republicans’ intentions when it comes to changing those programs, and taking a spendthrift vote in support of the health care bill.
“I’m a little bit mixed on it,” Melanie Sloan, the head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston this morning. “This is a clear appearance problem and she shouldn’t have done it.”
But Sloan stopped short of calling Berkley’s actions entirely unethical.
While she clearly used her influence as a congresswoman to campaign for her husband’s industry, it doesn’t look like she extended that influence to campaign directly for her husband. Lehrner simply doesn’t have that much competition in Nevada: in his most recent contract with UMC, Lehrner submitted the only bid.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Berkley’s Senate campaign responded to the New York Times story, saying it would have been a conflict of interest and disservice to her constituents not to campaign for increased attention to kidney diseases just because her husband is a kidney doctor.
“While the New York Times may not care about the healthcare needs of my fellow Nevadans, I do,” she said in the statement. “I will never stop fighting on behalf of my constituents just because my husband is a doctor — as I won’t stop standing up for veterans because my father served in World War II.”
Three days ago, the Obama campaign launched a new ad, saying that women are “troubled” with Mitt Romney.
But the real trouble women are having in 2012 is with the Obama Economy.
This morning, American Crossroads released a new video to that effect, entitled “Obama’s War on Women:”
From the video:[list type="arrow"] [li]
- 17 million women are now in poverty in the Obama Economy — 800,000 more than when Obama took office
- 7.5 million women are in extreme poverty
- 4 of 10 female-headed households are in poverty
- The poverty rate among Hispanic women is now near 25% — the fastest growing group
- 2.4 million older women are in poverty
- Men are gaining 4 times as many jobs as women in Obama’s Economy
- 780,000 more women are unemployed in Obama’s Economy
There is a war on women in America — and it’s being waged by President Obama’s job-killing economic policies.
If the president wants to talk about a war on women, let’s have that debate in terms of the economy, and see how many more women are unemployed or have gone into poverty on his watch.
From Roll Call:
Rep. Shelley Berkley in the best possible light, even as the case casts a public cloud over the Nevada Democrat’s Senate bid.
The race is taking place in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) backyard, and it could prove decisive to his party’s ability to keep its hold on a chamber likely to be divided by one or two seats.
When asked by reporters Tuesday whether the investigation affects Berkley’s chances to win, Reid said, “No, I really don’t think so.”
Berkley is challenging appointed Sen. Dean Heller (R) in a presidential battleground state, and Democratic strategists said the investigation does little to change the fundamental dynamics of the race. But Nevada Republican strategists believe the committee’s decision on Monday may have irreparably damaged Berkley’s outreach to voters beyond her Las Vegas district — swing voters that will ultimately decide the election.
Allegations of wrongdoing have swirled around Berkley since the New York Times in September detailed her push to save a kidney transplant program at a hospital where her physician husband had a lucrative contract and preserve reimbursements for other kidney-care services. The story prompted the Nevada Republican Party to ask the nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics to review Berkley’s actions.
The issue has already been highlighted to voters via TV ads across the state. American Crossroads, a GOP-aligned super PAC, launched a significant ad buy last month to broadcast the issue. The Berkley campaign immediately responded with an ad of its own, a sign the campaign has been prepared for these developments for some time.
The latest news of a formal ethics investigation will no doubt be played up even more in ads up until Election Day.
Senate Democrats Are Blocking A Vote On President Obama’s Tax Hike Despite His Monday Plea To ‘Pass A Bill’
OBAMA: ‘Pass A Bill… I Will Sign It Tomorrow’
PRESIDENT OBAMA: “So my message to Congress is this: Pass a bill… I will sign it tomorrow. Pass it next week; I’ll sign it next week. Pass it next — well, you get the idea.” (Laughter.) (President Obama, Remarks, 7/9/12)
SEN. REID: ‘I Object’
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): “On Monday, the president said if the Senate passes this tax hike on small businesses, he would sign it right away. That’s what he said Monday, two days ago. I can’t see why our friends on the other side wouldn’t want to give him the chance. So with that, Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that at 2:00 p.m. today, the motion to proceed to S.2237 be adopted and that the first two amendments in order to the bill be the Hatch-McConnell amendment number 2491, which would provide for the extension of current rates while we work on tax reform, and a Reid or designee amendment to enact the president’s proposal which as I have said would impose job-killing taxes on nearly one million business owners.”
THE PRESIDING OFFICER: “Is there an objection?”
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): “…Madam President, I object.” (Sens. McConnell & Reid, Floor Remarks, 7/11/12)