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2014 Elections Preview: The Battle for the Senate

Monday, May 12, 2014
By: RJC Congressional Affairs Director Noah Silverman

Democrats did very well in 2008’s Senate elections – expanding their Senate margin of control from 2 (51-49) to 10 (60-40). As a result, they must defend more terrain in 2014.

Democrats are clear underdogs in races to replace retiring incumbents in West Virginia and South Dakota where Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito and former Governor Mike Rounds have emerged as prohibitive front-runners.

In Montana, Democrats tried to give their preferred candidate John Walsh a leg up by engineering the early departure of the retiring Democrat incumbent Max Baucus so that Walsh could be appointed to fill the vacancy and run as an incumbent. But presumptive Republican nominee Congressman Steve Daines, who represents the whole state in the House as At-large Representative, still runs well ahead of Walsh.

Democrats also face stiff challenges retaining incumbents in four other ‘red-state’ seats: Alaska (Mark Begich), Arkansas (Mark Pryor), Louisiana (Mary Landrieu) and North Carolina (Kay Hagan).

Under the leadership of Kansas Senator Jerry Moran, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has worked hard to expand the playing field into “purple states.” As a result, Democrats now find that they are in dead-heat races in three seats they’d considered safe: the open seats in Iowa and Michigan where long-time incumbents Tom Harkin and Carl Levin are retiring – and the Colorado seat held by incumbent Mark Udall, who faces a vigorous challenge from Congressman Cory Gardner.

Republicans believe that they may also be able to surprise a few more ‘purple state’ incumbents in Minne- sota, New Hampshire, Oregon and Virginia if they end up with the right candidate and headwinds from Obamacare, failed foreign policies and a sluggish economic recovery continue to frustrate the President and his party.

With so few opportunities to go on offense, Democrats hope to steal victories by unseating Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky and promoting Michelle Nunn as a centrist in the mold of her father Sam Nunn in the Georgia open-seat contest that will determine Republican Saxby Chambliss’s successor.

The Senate is currently comprised of 55 Democrats and 45 Republicans. With a Democrat Vice President, Republicans will need a net gain of six seats to take control.

In most of the hotly contested states, the Democrats’ Senate leader, Harry Reid, is very unpopular. Senator Moran and his team at the NRSC believe that they stand to gain from making the elections a referendum on Reid’s increasingly erratic and autocratic methods of operating – as well as on the President’s unpopular signature achievements.

This article appeared in the March-April 2014 issue of the RJC Bulletin, our bi-monthly newsletter for contributing RJC members who are current in their dues. To receive the Bulletin, please make your membership contribution or renew your membership here.
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RJC: Obama Must Address Kerry “Apartheid” Comment

Inflammatory Language Casts Doubt on Secretary’s Judgment


Washington, D.C. (April 28, 2014) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) demanded that President Obama address an inflammatory comment that Secretary of State John Kerry made during his remarks to the Trilateral Commission on Friday. He raised the prospect of Israel becoming “an apartheid state with second-class citizens,” according to a recording obtained by the Daily Beast.


RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said:

Kerry’s language is not just inflammatory and inaccurate, it also jeopardizes American peace process efforts. It will further encourage the Palestinians to act and speak as if only Israel must make concessions in the peace process, even as the Obama administration has stressed that the Palestinians must make “very, very tough decisions” for peace.  [White House Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken on Face the Nation, 4/27/2014]


President Obama must clarify whether Secretary Kerry’s statement reflects his administration’s views and policy.

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RJC: Kerry Testimony Blaming Israel for Peace-Talks Impasse is Outrageous

Washington, D.C. (April 8, 2014) - The Republican Jewish Coalition strongly criticized Secretary of State John Kerry's statements placing the bulk of the blame on Israel for the stalled peace talks in testimony today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said:

“After almost nine months of negotiations, during which Israel took concrete steps to advance the process, including the release of 78 prisoners - many of them terrorists - it is outrageous for Secretary Kerry to blame the Jewish state for the apparent failure of the diplomatic process undertaken at his insistence.

"The simple fact is that while Israel has supported the peace talks, the Palestinians have consistently undercut them. Most recently, Israel has pledged to continue talks past Kerry's original deadline and the Palestinian side has refused to do the same.

"Secretary Kerry's testimony today is a troubling consequence of the Obama administration's assumption that increasing the pressure on Israel will bring the Palestinians back to a process they have repeatedly rejected."

Sources:
Haaretz: "Kerry places blame on Israel for crisis in peace talks"
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.584518

New York Times: "Israeli Settlement Plan Derailed Peace Talks, Kerry Says"
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/09/world/middleeast/israeli-settlement-plan-derailed-peace-talks-kerry-says.html

Times of Israel: "Kerry focuses blame for impasse in talks on Israel"
http://www.timesofisrael.com/kerry-focuses-blame-for-impasse-in-talks-on-israel/
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Obamacare offers health insurance, not health care

Thursday, March 20, 2014
By: RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks

In March, the Obama administration reported on Obamacare’s enrollment numbers. Fewer people have signed up than the administration had hoped, especially among the young and healthy. For many people, even the previously uninsured, the choices in the Obamacare market are simply not what they’re looking for in a health insurance plan.

It’s easy to understand why.

Obamacare replaces a wide variety of market-determined plans with a limited number of plans containing narrow networks of doctors and hospitals and a required set of items covered. No more cheap catastrophic care plan for the young man in his first job. Families and businesses can’t choose an insurance plan that meets their circumstances and needs. Now the government sets the plans and the networks.

The result is that cancer patients are losing access to the doctors and hospitals they rely on. Parents are losing their trusted pediatricians. And families may not have access to the hospital nearest to their homes.

Consider this: In Georgia, one of the five insurers offering plans on the Obamacare exchanges has just one hospital in the entire state in its network. In California and New York, major plans exclude the world-class Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles and New York City’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

For those with serious and chronic illnesses, there is more terrible news. Many people are finding that their expensive, life-saving medications are not covered under their new Obamacare plans.

These narrow plans with narrow networks mean fewer choices, higher costs, and difficult decisions for millions of Americans.

Some families do pay less for their monthly premiums for Obamacare-subsidized plans. Many more working families, who earn too much to qualify for subsidized plans, are paying considerably more each month for their health insurance. But the monthly premium is not the only cost in a health insurance plan.

Families are finding that their insurance won’t begin paying for care until they’ve spent $5,000, $10,000, or more of their own money toward the deductible first. And once the deductible is met, the co-insurance (the amount the plan pays) may be as low as 60 percent, leaving individuals to pay the rest of the bill for their care by themselves.

Most plans in the previous insurance market had an “out-of-pocket” cap to prevent people from losing everything in the event of a serious health problem. But in the Obamacare exchanges, some plans are offered with out-of-pocket protection only for care provided in-network. If you go to a doctor or hospital outside of your network, your insurance plan may pay nothing.

People who rely on an expensive medication—for multiple sclerosis, severe rheumatoid arthritis, or HIV for example—are seeing their medication costs skyrocket. If the medication is covered by their insurance plan, they may still have to pay 40 percent of the cost, or thousands of dollars a year, up to the out-of-pocket limit. If the medication is not covered, they must pay the full price and the cost does not count toward the deductible or out-of-pocket maximum. Their expenses then are literally limitless.

One of the most serious problems with Obamacare is that it mistakes health insurance for health care. Obamacare supporters pretend that if every person has a health insurance plan, then they are getting the health care they need. That is simply not true. As we have seen, a plan that doesn’t include your doctor or your medication doesn’t provide the care you need. But there is another serious problem quickly coming into view.

For decades, poor people in this country have been eligible for Medicaid. The amount the government pays doctors to see Medicaid patients, however, is very low. At some point, when a doctor is not getting paid enough to cover the basic expenses of providing care, he or she will stop accepting Medicaid patients, or get out of medicine altogether. That is why today Medicaid patients can wait months for care, if they can find a doctor who will see them at all.

Obamacare specifically expands Medicaid to a wider segment of the population. Young adults with low incomes and the children of low-income families may have Medicaid as their only choice in the Obamacare exchanges, based on family income. So far, enrollment in Medicaid has been more than half of the signups made under the new Obamacare rules. Who will provide care to those people? How long will they have to wait to see a doctor?

In 2008, about 15 percent of Americans were uninsured. The Congressional Budget office projects that under Obamacare, in the years 2013-2023, the percentage of uninsured will never fall below 11 percent of the population. That’s not much of a change in health insurance rates, at the expense of more expensive, less accessible health care for millions more Americans.

This article was published by JNS.org on March 16, 2014.
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What Constitution? A round-up of the Obama administration's executive overreach

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By: RJC Communications Director Shari Hillman

George Washington and James Madison are spinning in their graves. Both men helped to define the power of the President as a limited executive bound to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” in the words of the Constitution, and as one who does not have the power to make laws, amend laws, or set aside laws on his own. Then came Barack Obama.

Over the last five years, Pres. Obama has essentially made, amended, and set aside laws by executive fiat. The list of his administration’s unilateral actions exceeding the power of the Executive Branch is quite long. In his 2014 State of the Union address he promised to continue to act on his own, without Congressional authority or support, to move his agenda forward.

In some cases, the President has taken actions that go precisely counter to the language of existing law.

The Obamacare law gives a specific date for the employer mandate to kick in. By January 1, 2014, medium and large businesses were required to provide health insurance to all full-time employees, with the attendant paperwork and the costs for non-compliance. President Obama has twice delayed the employer mandate, without any change in the law.

The welfare reform act signed by President Clinton in 1996 required that a certain percentage of able-bodied adults receiving welfare benefits be working or preparing for work. This change succeeded in helping millions get into the workforce and out of poverty. The law specifically forbids the waiver of the work requirements, yet in 2012, HHS announced that states could ignore those requirements and replace them with new standards invented by the Obama administration without congressional action.

In other cases, the President has chosen not to enforce existing law, without any action by Congress to repeal or amend the law.

President Obama instructed federal officials not to enforce immigration laws on a certain group of people who are in this country illegally: nearly all of the estimated 1.7 million people who came to this country before the age of 16. This is the cohort that would have been protected from deportation under the DREAM Act, an Obama administration priority that Congress rejected twice. With his legislative agenda on the issue stymied, the President unilaterally narrowed the reach of existing law as if the Dream Act had passed.

When Americans realized that the President’s promises about keeping your health care plan and your doctor were lies, Pres. Obama tried to “fix” the problem by instructing insurance companies that they would not be penalized for continuing to sell policies that did not meet the standards set out by Obamacare, plans that were therefore illegal after January 1, 2014. State insurance commissioners and insurers balked at the offer.

The Obama Justice Department has instructed the U.S. Attorneys in those states that have legalized marijuana that they should not prosecute marijuana buyers and sellers whose conduct violates federal drug laws. The Supreme Court has upheld the federal Controlled Substance Act as the controlling law when it conflicts with state law, but the President is here again refusing to enforce federal laws against a particular group of people.

In education, the President has used executive power to replace elements of existing laws he doesn’t like with federal “guidelines.”

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act conditions federal funding to public school districts on their meeting certain state-defined educational goals. Some states worried that they would not meet the required goals by the law’s deadline. Pres. Obama told the states that they could request a waiver from those requirements in exchange for implementing the administration’s controversial Common Core standards instead. While the Secretary of Education has the authority under NCLB to waive the requirements for a state, there is no provision in the law for the Secretary to substitute some other, federal standard for the state-defined standards mandated under NCLB.

President Obama has unilaterally acted in contravention to existing law for political reasons, timed around election campaigns.

There are several examples of this, including the President’s decision to delay the Obamacare employer mandate until after the2014 election. Another example comes from the summer of 2012. That July, the Department of Labor told employers that they did not need to issue the legally-required 60-day notices to employees who were being laid off as a consequence of the “sequester,” the automatic spending cuts provided for in the agreement that ended the 2011 debt ceiling standoff in Congress. Those notices are required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining (WARN) Act of 1988.

In addition, the Office of Management and Budget told government contractors that the government would cover certain legal costs they would incur if employees who were laid off because of the sequester sued the companies for not issuing timely notices. Those notices should have gone out just days before the 2012 election. The administration strongly encouraged major defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin to break the law so that the layoff notices wouldn’t hurt the President’s image before Election Day. Defense contractor L-3 Communications has since been sued by former employees over the lack of WARN notices.

President Obama’s actions to change and ignore existing law have been labeled “abusive,” “unlawful,” and “unconstitutional” by legal scholars and legislators on the right, while the left has almost uniformly hailed those actions as policy triumphs. When the rule of law is ignored for political purposes, the people and their representatives must act. Voters should remember these abuses of power when they cast their ballots so that Congress – and future Presidents – can bring back into their proper balance the powers and prerogatives of the separate and equal branches of our government, as set out in our Constitution.


This article appeared in the January-February 2014 issue of the
RJC Bulletin, our bi-monthly newsletter for contributing RJC members who are current in their dues. To receive the Bulletin, please make your membership contribution or renew your membership here.
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RJC: Obama Wants to Slash U.S. Funding for Israeli Missile Defense – AGAIN

Washington, D.C. (March 5, 2014) -- President Obama’s 2015 budget proposal, released yesterday, would slash nearly $200 million from Israeli Cooperative Programs, joint U.S.-Israel missile defense projects including the Arrow II, Arrow III, and David’s Sling. These missile defense systems protect Israeli citizens from rockets fired from Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria into Israel and from possible future attack by Iran.

Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks said:

“Today, the Israelis captured a ship carrying missiles from Iran destined for Gaza and earlier this week a rocket fired from Gaza fell in the Ashkelon region of Israel. The threats to Israel are real, constant, and serious. This is clearly not the time to step back from our support of Israel and her defense. Yet President Obama proposes significantly cutting U.S. funding for joint missile defense projects with Israel at this dangerous time.

“The threats that Israel faces have only worsened in the last three years, in large part because of the Obama administration’s poor handling of the threat of a nuclear Iran, the civil war in Syria, and the situation in Egypt.

“The President continues to claim that he is deeply committed to Israel’s security. But this is the third year in a row that he has proposed massive cuts for these missile defense programs. Once again, his actions on Israel are at odds with his words.

“We strongly urge members of the House and Senate to fully fund all missile defense programs with Israel and reject the President’s unrealistic proposed budget for these programs.”

In February 2012, the RJC released a video ad opposing President Obama’s proposed budget cuts for joint missile defense programs with Israel for FY2013. It is still relevant today. Watch the video here.

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RJC: Palestinian Side Must Take Steps for Peace

Washington, D.C. (March 3, 2014) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) released a statement regarding the meeting today between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. RJC Executive Director Matthew Brooks said:

"It is the Palestinians who need to make the 'tough decisions' and 'compromises' that President Obama called for in his meeting with Netanyahu today. Israel has made tough compromises for peace many times in the past and they were met with 'suicide bombers and rockets in return,' as the prime minister noted today.

"The Israel-Palestinian conflict will remain intractable as long as the Palestinian side is not willing to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, to stop teaching hatred and violence in its media and educational system, and to end support for terrorism.

"The two leaders also talked about Iran. The possibility of a nuclear Iran is not a problem to be managed, but a critical security threat that must be prevented. Strong sanctions are still the best means of pressing the Iranian regime to give up its nuclear weapons program peacefully. We urge the President and Senate Democrats to allow the bipartisan legislation on Iran sanctions (Kirk-Menendez) to move forward."
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RJC Troubled by Robert Malley Appointment

Washington, D.C. (February 19, 2014) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) today responded to the announcement that President Obama has appointed Robert Malley to serve as a senior director of the National Security Council, a powerful post inside the White House.

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks stated:

"We are profoundly disappointed to see Robert Malley return to a senior role in Mideast policy making. His record on regional issues is deeply troubling.

"In 2001, after participating in the Camp David talks as a member of the Clinton foreign policy team, Malley wrote an article in the New York Review of Books that blamed Israel, rather than Yasser Arafat, for the failure of those negotiations. In 2008, Barack Obama severed ties with Malley, then an informal advisor to his presidential campaign, after it was revealed that Malley had met with Hamas terrorists.

"In his second term, Obama has brought back a number of former campaign advisors, who had been put aside for holding unpalatable views in an election year. Malley is the latest and perhaps most disturbing of these. His appointment demonstrates that Pres. Obama was never as in sync with mainstream pro-Israel and Jewish community positions as he pretended to be during his campaigns.

"With the stakes so high, Jewish Americans have more reason than ever to be alarmed by Obama’s personnel choices and the signals they send about the direction of foreign policy - especially with regard to the Middle East and our traditional allies there."
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RJC Mourns the Passing of Gordon Zacks

Washington, D.C. (February 1, 2014) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition mourns the passing of Gordon Zacks of Ohio, one of the founders of the RJC.

RJC National Chairman David Flaum said, "We are deeply saddened by Gordy's passing. He was a great friend. As one of the early leaders of the RJC, Gordy helped to establish the organization as a big tent, where Jewish Republicans from across the Republican spectrum could engage in building, on a national scale, a respected and effective Jewish Republican presence in our party and in our community."

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Gordy made significant contributions to the RJC and to the Republican Party as a leader, advisor, and mentor. He demonstrated his love for this country and for the Jewish people in countless ways. He will be sorely missed."

May his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
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RJC: Feinstein's Comments on Israel Are Outrageous and Baseless

California Senator claims bipartisan Iran sanctions bill allows Israel 'to determine when and where U.S. goes to war'


Washington, D.C. (January 15, 2014) — Today the Republican Jewish Coalition strongly rejected California Senator Dianne Feinstein's suggestion that S. 1881, the bipartisan Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act (Kirk-Menendez), would "let Israel determine when and where the United States goes to war". The RJC urged Senator Feinstein to retract and apologize for the remarks, made in a speech delivered on the Senate floor yesterday, which have already been amplified by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic commentators.

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said:

"Senator Feinstein is within her rights to disagree with a bipartisan majority of her colleagues who support Kirk-Menendez, but her suggestion that those colleagues have ceded control over 'when and where the United States goes to war' to Israel is outrageous, inflammatory and completely baseless.

"The 'provision' of S. 1881 that Feinstein points to is carefully crafted and subject to a special additional provision making it clear that it does not provide an authorization for war in any contingency.

"Moreover, the language of the provision Senator Feinstein cited is identical to language contained in S. Res. 65, which passed the Senate unanimously - and which Senator Feinstein cosponsored!

"We are deeply troubled to see Senator Feinstein making such incendiary and inaccurate remarks on the Senate floor. We call on her to retract this reckless and false charge and apologize to her colleagues and to the millions of Americans who support a comprehensive, robust strategy to prevent the Tehran regime from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability."
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