TheBlaze - The Furnace Blog

Pete Kasperowicz turns up the heat in Washington, providing an inside look into Congress

  • The White House statement on Cuba that nobody believes
    Posted December 17, 2014 at 5:34 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

    The White House insisted Wednesday that its decision to give Cuba three of its spies back had nothing to do with Cuba’s decision to return Alan Gross back to the United States — a claim that was rejected as baloney by members of Congress, and was also revealed as untrue by the White House’s own spokesman.

    Gross had been held prisoner in Cuba for years, and while Congress pushed the Obama administration to negotiate his release, members were careful to warn against swapping the three spies to win Gross’s return.

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    White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the simultaneous release of Alan Gross and three Cuban spies was unrelated… sort of.
    Image: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

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  • The federal government has a recipe for a healthy winter snack
    Posted December 17, 2014 at 3:01 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

    The Obama administration’s Department of Agriculture on Tuesday wrote a detailed blog post about how people can make winter-themed snacks for their kids out of fruits, vegetables and other healthy snacks.

    USDA’s advice leaves nothing to chance, and warns first: “Before getting started, be sure to wash your hands.”

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    USDA says you can use these common household items to make a winter-themed snack.
    Image: USDA

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  • Marco Rubio: ‘This Congress Is Not Going to Lift the Embargo’
    Posted December 17, 2014 at 1:13 pm by Pete Kasperowicz
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  • Cuban-American senators blast Obama’s decision to swap Cuban spies for American aide worker
    Posted December 17, 2014 at 11:36 am by Pete Kasperowicz

    Cuban-American senators from opposing political parties both had harsh words Wednesday for President Barack Obama’s decision to trade three convicted Cuban spies for an American held prisoner in Cuba for the last five years.

    Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), whose parents emigrated from Cuba, blasted Obama for being “the worst negotiator that we’ve had as president… maybe in the modern history of the country.” Rubio made those comments on Fox News.

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    Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) both blasted President Obama’s decision to swap prisoners with Cuba and ease sanctions against the island nation.
    Images: AP Photos/Molly Riley and Julio Cortez

    Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), another son of Cuban immigrants, said Obama set a dangerous precedent by trading three convicted Cuban spies for one U.S. aid worker.

    “President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government,” Menendez said. “There is no equivalence between an international aid worker and convicted spies who were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage against our nation.”

    The administration told reporters Wednesday morning that it agreed to give back three Cuban spies who were convicted in 2011. In return, Cuba released Alan Gross, an aid worker held by Cuba since 2009, plus another U.S. intelligence official.

    But Rubio said the swap amounted to Obama’s latest effort to coddle dictators.

    “They’ve created no economic openings, no concessions on freedom of speech, no concessions on elections, no alternative political parties,” Rubio said of Cuba. “The idea that this leads to democratic opening is absurd, but it is par for the course for an administration possibly giving away unilateral concessions for Iran or Cuba in exchange for nothing.”

    Comments from Rubio and Menendez are similar to those other members of Congress made when Obama agreed to swap three Guantanamo Bay detainees for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who many said deserted his post. At the time, many said that exchange showed Obama was more interested in emptying Guantanamo Bay than structuring equivalent prisoner exchanges.

    Regarding the new swap, Menendez noted that one of the Cuban spies released by Obama was convicted for his role in the shoot-down of two U.S. civilian planes in 1996, which killed Americans. But he also said the move gives leverage to countries by letting them take innocent Americans hostage in the hopes of swapping them for their spies.

    “It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips,” he said. “I fear that today’s actions will put at risk the thousands of Americans that work overseas to support civil society, advocate for access to information, provide humanitarian services, and promote democratic reforms.”

    “This asymmetrical trade will invite further belligerence toward Cuba’s opposition movement and the hardening of the government’s dictatorial hold on its people,” he said. “Let us all remind ourselves that an untold number of ordinary people yearning for democracy remain imprisoned by the exact same tormentors that have punished Alan Gross and they, along with all Cubans, deserve a free and liberated Cuba.”

    Obama was scheduled to talk about his prisoner exchange with Cuba Wednesday at noon, as well as his plans to reach out to Cuba diplomatically and economically — moves that are already raising questions about how he should proceed.

    But Obama’s move was also being welcomed by other senators who flew back from Cuba with Gross. Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) joined Gross on his return trip, along with Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

    “Those who cling to a failed policy that did nothing to help Alan Gross, and who may oppose the president’s actions, have nothing to offer but more of the same,” Leahy said. “That would serve neither the interests of the United States and its people, nor of the Cuban people. It is time for a change.”

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  • 5 questions raised by Obama’s action on Cuba
    Posted December 17, 2014 at 10:53 am by Pete Kasperowicz

    The Obama administration’s announcement that Alan Gross has been freed after five years of imprisonment in Cuba, and its plans to try to move closer to normal diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba, immediately raised several questions about how it might get there, and what members of Congress think about it.

    As of Wednesday morning, the State Department had not released any information about Gross’s release. Gross was arrested in Cuba in 2009, and ultimately charged with trying to help Cuban dissidents by giving them cell phones and other equipment.

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    President Barack Obama’s new effort to get closer to Cuba is already raising several questions, including whether Congress will be willing to go along with him.
    Image: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

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  • Census: Spending on public welfare, unemployment costs create red ink for state and local governments
    Posted December 17, 2014 at 9:25 am by Pete Kasperowicz

    The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that higher spending on things like public welfare, education and unemployment sent state and local governments into the red in 2012.

    Census said total spending by state and local governments rose to $3.2 trillion in 2012, while revenues were $3.0 trillion. Six years earlier, in 2007, state and local governments were running a surplus — they spent $2.7 trillion, and took in $3.1 trillion.

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    Census said state and local governments are now in the red, spending more and taking in less money in 2012.
    Image: Shutterstock

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  • Reports: Federal Judge Says Obama Violated the Constitution With Immigration Action
    Posted December 16, 2014 at 4:26 pm by Pete Kasperowicz
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  • Mitch McConnell says Keystone pipeline bill up first next year…and he’ll allow amendments
    Posted December 16, 2014 at 3:58 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

    Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised Tuesday that the first bill he’d call up in the Senate next year would be one to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

    “We’ll be starting next year with a job-creating bill that enjoys significant bipartisan support,” McConnell told reporters. “First item up in the new Senate will be the Keystone XL pipeline.”

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  • Senate confirms Obama nominee who said it’s not possible to enforce all immigration laws
    Posted December 16, 2014 at 3:14 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

    The Senate on Tuesday confirmed a nomination from President Barack Obama who told Congress that she doesn’t believe it’s possible for her to enforce all immigration laws.

    The Senate confirmed Sarah Saldana to be an assistant secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in a 55-39 vote. Republicans have opposed her since she provided written responses to questions that indicate she is in full support of President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.

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    The Senate confirmed President Barack Obama’s nominee to enforce immigration laws, after she said full enforcement of all the laws is not possible.
    Image: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

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  • State Dept. hints it will waive sanctions against Russia demanded by Congress
    Posted December 16, 2014 at 2:19 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

    The State Department hinted Tuesday that while President Barack Obama will sign a bill calling for new sanctions against Russia, the Obama administration is likely to waive those sanctions.

    State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that the administration has “concerns” with the bill, as it calls for sanctions that go beyond those already agreed by several countries to punish Russia for its decision to annex Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. She also noted several times that the bill allows for a presidential waiver of sanctions, a sign the government will likely use that flexibility.

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    State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki hinted the Obama administration will not impose sanctions against Ukraine under a new bill that will soon become law.
    Image: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

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  • DHS: Obama acted on immigration because no one will ever ‘deport all these people’
    Posted December 16, 2014 at 12:47 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

    Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Monday that President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration reflects the reality that no government will ever be able to deport the millions of illegal immigrants who have been living in the United States for years.

    “This is an act of simple, common sense,” Johnson said Monday during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. “The reality is that no president’s administration – past, present or future, Republican or Democrat – is going to find and deport all these people.”

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    Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson (right) said Monday that President Obama’s immigration order makes sense because it is impossible to deport all illegal immigrants.
    Image: AP Photo/Will Weissert

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  • Ted Cruz tears down Washington: ‘There is a corruption in this town…’
    Posted December 16, 2014 at 11:35 am by Pete Kasperowicz

    Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Monday blasted both political parties for quickly passing a huge $1.1 trillion spending bill that didn’t address GOP objections to President Barack Obama’s immigration move, and didn’t give anyone enough time to understand what was in the bill.

    “There is a corruption in this town that is bipartisan,” Cruz said on the Mark Levin Show Monday night. “That is, Democrat and Republicans, they get together and they fight for those who walk the corridors of power, and they leave working men and women out on the street.”

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    Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) let loose on Washington in a radio interview with Mark Levin Monday night.
    Image: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

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  • Jeb Bush: ‘I Have Decided to Actively Explore the Possibility of Running for President’
    Posted December 16, 2014 at 10:16 am by Pete Kasperowicz
    506 Comments »
  • Government watchdog says VA issued misleading ‘fact sheet’ on health care delivery
    Posted December 16, 2014 at 9:28 am by Pete Kasperowicz

    The Department of Veterans Affairs’ internal watchdog said Monday that the VA mislead Congress and the public by putting out a “fact sheet” on veterans’ medical appointments that was filled with errors earlier this year.

    The VA’s Office of Inspector General said the Veterans Health Administration put out a document that said it reviewed how it treated all new cases of gastronintestinal cancer since 1999. That fact sheet said 76 patients were treated for that condition, and that 23 had died.

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    The Department of Veterans Affairs, led by Secretary Robert McDonald, put out a ‘fact sheet’ that included misleading information earlier this year.
    Image: AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ben Gray

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  • Coburn rejects last-minute pressure to pass bills on VA suicide, energy efficiency
    Posted December 15, 2014 at 7:40 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

    Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) fought some of his final battles as a senator on Monday, by preventing the Senate from quickly passing legislation that he said would only duplicate work already being done by the Department of Veterans Affairs to reduce suicide incidents.

    Senate Democrats tried one last time to bring up the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act, which would spend $22 million more on suicide prevention at the VA. But as he has over the last few weeks, Coburn said he would not agree that request to take a shortcut on Senate procedures, and said he believes the bill would only add money to an unaccountable VA.

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    Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Monday refused to support quick passage of two bills, which prevented the Senate from passing them in the short time left in the 113th Congress.
    Image: Win McNamee/Getty Images

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  • Senate Approves Obama Surgeon General Who Called Guns a ‘Health Care Issue’
    Posted December 15, 2014 at 6:17 pm by Pete Kasperowicz
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  • Michele Bachmann says spending bill amounts to a ‘voter registration drive’ for Democrats
    Posted December 15, 2014 at 3:56 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

    Outgoing Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) warned Monday that passage of the $1.1 trillion spending bill without any limit on President Barack Obama’s immigration plans will allow Democrats to manufacture a huge, new voting block of illegal immigrants in the next two years.

    “That’s all this was about,” Bachmann said on the Laura Ingraham Show. “This is the voter registration drive for the president’s permanent political class of the far-left into the future, and the Republicans made it happen.”

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  • Dems promise new gun control effort in 2015
    Posted December 15, 2014 at 2:06 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

    Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal (D) and Chris Murphy (D) said Monday they will try again to move gun control legislation through Congress next year, even though that effort will face an additional hurdle in the form of a Republican-led Senate.

    “We will redouble our efforts to stop gun violence. Federal laws need to be greatly strengthened,” Blumenthal said in a news conference in Connecticut. On Sunday, he and others marked the second anniversary of the shootings at Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 students and six adults were shot and killed by Adam Lanza.

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    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Monday he wants to try again with gun control legislation next year.
    Image: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

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  • USDA’s latest recommendation: Obamacare
    Posted December 15, 2014 at 12:33 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture is the latest wing of the government calling on Americans to buy Obamacare.

    While Obamacare might normally be seen as something for the Department of Health and Human Services to promote, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack offered his own advice on the subject late Friday. Vilsack focused his comments on how Obamacare can help rural Americans who might be more likely to live and work on farms.

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    USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack is now pitching Obamacare, which is in its second annual enrollment period.
    Image: David Becker/Getty Images for National Clean Energy Summit

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  • Did Republicans really help Harry Reid confirm Obama’s nominees on Saturday?
    Posted December 15, 2014 at 11:01 am by Pete Kasperowicz

    Senate Democrats have spent the last few days arguing that the Republican push for a vote against President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration actually helped Democrats confirm several of Obama’s nominations.

    But comments from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday morning shows that Democrats were always planning on approving a last wave of Obama nominations before leaving. A basic understanding of current Senate rules also shows that Democrats have the power to approve these nominations whenever they want, without Republican help, because of changes Democrats engineered in the Senate.

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    Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moved several nominations over the weekend, and some Democrats were saying Republicans allowed them to do so.
    Image: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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  • Rand Paul says Obama’s immigration move violates parts of the Constitution, like Articles I and II
    Posted December 15, 2014 at 10:06 am by Pete Kasperowicz

    Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced legislation late last week that would prohibit the executive branch of government from deferring any categories of illegal immigrants from immigration laws, and finds President Barack Obama’s executive action clearly violates the Constitution

    “I believe that the Constitution is clear that the legislative power resides in Congress,” Paul said when he introduced his bill. “The president is not a king and he does not have the power to enact laws then execute his own laws.”

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    Sen. Rand Paul’s legislation picks apart President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration:
    Image: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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  • Ted Cruz, Mike Lee: It’s Not Over
    Posted December 15, 2014 at 8:49 am by Pete Kasperowicz
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  • Here are the 24 Republicans who voted for the $1.1 trillion spending bill
    Posted December 13, 2014 at 10:21 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

    Twenty-four Republicans voted late Saturday night to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill that will fund most of the government through the end of fiscal year 2015, ending a full week of drama over whether the government might shut down.

    The Senate approved the spending bill in a 56-40 vote that split both parties. While many Republicans supported the bill, many others were angry at the idea of approving a spending bill that doesn’t defund President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.

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    Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted for the huge spending bill Saturday night.
    Image: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

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  • Ted Cruz Forced the Senate to Vote on Obama’s Immigration Plan — Here’s How it Turned Out
    Posted December 13, 2014 at 9:51 pm by Pete Kasperowicz
    251 Comments »
  • Senate dodges government shutdown…again
    Posted December 13, 2014 at 4:02 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

    The Senate voted Saturday afternoon to pass a short-term continuing resolution that will keep the federal government open through Wednesday, Dec. 17.

    Passage of the resolution — which the House approved on Friday — lets Congress dodge a government shutdown that was due to take place at the end of the day Saturday.

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    The Senate was in and working on Saturday, and held a vote to dodge a government shutdown in the afternoon.

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