Five Days and the Default Clock Keeps Ticking

Caryn Freeman
The House pulled the debt ceiling bill yesterday the vote is expected later today. Today’s vote will wrap up another week endless back and forth over a possible default. For now here’s the latest on Fast and Furious, radicalization of Muslim communities and H.R. 2572, the "Clean Up Government Act of 2011."
Tuesday: The Justice Department came to the Hill to ask congress for more leadership in ensuring that the Department of Justice and FBI have all of the necessary tools to continue to pursue and prosecute government corruption and fraud with, H.R. 2572, the "Clean Up Government Act of 2011" In New Jersey alone, the United States Attorney’s Office has had twenty-seven convictions, including a state assemblyman, city council president, and mayor.

This week’s Fast and Furious hearing revealed that guns were essentially allowed to “walk” and there was no means to track them. Only six of the two-thousand weapons were assigned GPS tracking devices. Of those guns that were tracked the batteries died therefore the arms were lost as traffickers moved them from the hands of U.S. agents to the streets of Mexican cities. The witness’s explanation was that the guns were tracked as they were seized by authorities. The ATF's method of "tracking" Fast and Furious firearms resulted in only six hundred of the two-thousand weapons released by U.S. officials being returned. 
Wednesday: In the Muslim Radicalization hearing on Al Shahab a report was released documenting the recruitment activities of Al Shahab. Al Shahab is a terrorist group fighting to overthrow the government of Somalia. As of summer 2010, the group is said to control most of the southern and central parts of Somalia. The organization has an active recruitment and radicalization network inside the U.S. targeting Muslim-Americans in Somali communities.  According to the report at least forty or more Americans have joined Al Shahab.
The Financial Services Committee hearing on “Oversight of the Credit Rating Agencies Post Dodd-Frank”, the commission proposed a new rule that would require an NRSRO to have “standards of training, experience, and competence for its credit analysts that are reasonably designed to ensure that the NRSRO produces accurate credit ratings.” The Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organization, (NRSRO) is a credit rating agency that issues credit ratings that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission permits other financial firms to use for certain regulatory purposes.

Thursday: When it came the forty-eight billion in waste due to Medicare fraud the antifraud strike forces in California, Florida and the gulf states working in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s office and aided by the health care anti-fraud account has helped recover six dollars for every one dollar put into the fund. To say the least we owe it to the tax payers to do something about this kind of fraud, it is their money.
In Thursday’s Oversight and Reform hearing on the impact of Obamacare on job creators Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) accused Democrats of inflating the number of uninsured by including fourteen million illegal immigrants and people who were eligible for Medicare but had never applied.  “The number was thirty-million half of whom are here illegally, the other half had not applied but was eligible for Medicare.” By his calculation the other portion were uninsured americans that he described has, “young and bullet proof,” and had opted not to get healthcare insurance.

More Attacks on Obamacare

Caryn Freeman 
At today’s Government Oversight and Reform hearing on the "Impact of Obamacare on Job Creators and Their Decision to Offer Health Insurance" it appeared as though the panel was eager to spew Republican talking points on so-called “job killing policies. “We want to employ people, we want to provide health insurance we just don’t want mandates shoved down our throats,” Will Morey, President & CEO of Morey's Piers told the committee. The argument seemed to shift between the cost of healthcare reducing profits and preventing re-investment in business and the new healthcare mandates making  it easier for employer’s to simply say “I’m out and send them to the exchanges,” Ms. Victoria J. Braden President & CEO of Braden Benefit Strategies, Inc., explained.
Exchanges were a hot topic as the panel seemed to move between arguing to the committee that the mandates were unfair and threating to send employees to the exchanges thereby shifting the burden of insurance to the government and taxpayers.

"Fast and Furious" Guns not Tracked by ATF

William Newell former ATF agent and the OCDETF task force hold a press conference after seizing guns that were later revealed to be part of  the "Fast and Furious" operation.
All fingers point to the Justice Department and the lack of communication to ATF field agents who were on the ground and involved in seizing guns from Mexican cartels. These agents who had never been read in to “Fast and Furious” first became alarmed at the number of guns they were seizing as early as 2009. There was also no communication to Mexican authorities on details of the Fast and Furious operation. ATF agents testified that after noting the significant number of assault rifles and other firearms along the border they communicated these concerns to their superiors but they were still not informed of the operation or the source of these firearms.
William Newell, former ATF Special Agent in Charge Phoenix Field Division, who would have been the agent responsible for notifying these agents under his command said in his opening statement that, “From the beginning of this investigation in late 2009 to the first indictments in January of 2011 I made every reasonable effort to keep the Phoenix PGR representative and my ATF colleagues in Mexico briefed on this investigation. I am also aware of numerous discussions throughout this investigation between the agents working this case with their ATF peers in Mexico, dialogue which I encouraged.” However testimony later revealed that neither ATF agents in the field or Mexican authorities were informed that guns were being trafficked into Mexico as part of the Fast and Furious operation.
Congressman Burton (R-IN) and Danny K. Davis (D-IL) continuously pressed Newell on his personal knowledge of this practice of let guns “walk” into the hands of known felons and arm traffickers, many of whom worked for Mexican Cartels. Newell repeatedly dodged the question by repeating the operations objectives. “Fast and Furious” was an OCDETF operation designed,  to identify the purchasers, financers, transporters and decision makers in a Mexican Cartel based firearms trafficking organization,  to interdict, when lawfully possible, firearms presumptively destined for Mexico, to share, when appropriate, relevant information was with U.S. and Mexican law enforcement authorities, to develop intelligence on other firearms trafficking organizations and to charge, arrest and dismantle the entire organization.”
However none of these objectives were met because after the guns were allowed to “walk” there was no means to track them. Only six of the two-thousand weapons were assigned GPS tracking devices. Of those guns that were tracked the batteries died therefore the arms were lost as traffickers moved them from the hands of U.S. agents to the streets of Mexican cities. Newell insisted that the guns were tracked as they were seized by authorities. The ATF's method of "tracking" Fast and Furious firearms resulted in only six hundred of the two-thousand weapons released by U.S. officials being returned. Although these weapons were eventually confiscated it was well after they were used to commit multiple crimes, including murder on both sides of the border.

President Obama Warns Americans of Econmic Danger if Debt Deal is not Reached

QE3, Obamacare, the War on Terror & the"Super Congress"

Caryn Freeman
August recess is just two weeks away but until then there is plenty of work to be done before the late summer fun begins. This week it’s Fast Furious, QE3, Obamacare, the War on Terror, what’s ahead in Afghanistan and of course job killing policies that are hurting small business. Although temperatures have dropped in the District look for things to be heated on the Hill. With no agreement on the debt ceiling and leadership in both chambers contemplating a “Super Congress” or “Super Committee,” to deal with bipartisan stalemates the Committee on Financial Services has a lot of work to do for the week as well as the constitutional scholars.
By the way this "Super Congress," if you haven’t heard, would be a twelve member panel made up of twelve lawmakers, six from each chamber and six from each party. Legislation approved by the “Super Congress” would be fast-tracked through both chambers, where it couldn't be amended by the full Congress. Those members not on this twelve person committee would only be able to cast an up or down vote on legislation handled by the “Super Committee.”
In the meantime we still have a Congress that functions under the guise of the constitution and here’s what’s up for the week…..
Tuesday, the House Judiciary committee will take up H.R. 2572, the Cleanup Government Act of 2011. I guess while the House works on cleaning up government they might as well sweep that pesky constitution under the rug. With all of its checks and balances designed to prevent exactly what the proposed “Super Committee” will do, who needs the hassle of dealing with a full chamber of Congress. On to “Fast and Furious” we go, the arms trafficking operation led by the ATF. I’m sorry, I should be fair, the ATF operation that was designed to track and monitor arms traded in Mexico by the drug cartels. In time, with no oversight, this program deteriorated into a full blown arms trade that led to the death of at least on Border Patrol agent.
On to green pastures, and I mean really green, QE3 is back on the table. The Financial Services committee will hold a hearing on “Impact of Monetary Policy on the Economy with a Regional Fed Perspective on Inflation, Unemployment, and QE3.” Wall Street will be watching this one closely. Just the utterance of QE3 by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke in his testimony to the committee two weeks ago resulted in small but significant gains on the day for the Dow Jones.
Wednesday, presents us with a day of hearings on radicalization at home and abroad. The Committee on Homeland Security will host a 9:30am hearing in Cannon on, “Recruitment and Radicalization within the Muslim Community and the Threat to the Homeland,” of course. If you miss the 9:30am don’t worry you can catch a 3:00pm hearing on “Preventing Violent Radicalization in America in the basement of Rayburn when the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Subcommittee on Terrorism hosts their own hearing. Personally, I find a trip to the basement of Rayburn for anything other than a soft serve pretty radical myself.
Moving on, from the Axis of Evil comes the  Axis of Abuse: U.S. Human Rights Policy toward Iran and Syria, Part 1, presented by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Subcommittee on Terrorism. If you’re looking for something a bit less radical, the committee on Education and Workforce will host a full committee hearing on  Education Reforms: Exploring Teacher Quality Initiatives. Congress will continue to look into Oversight of the Credit Rating Agencies Post Dodd-Frank and if you’re interested in international intrigue the Committee on Financial Services subcommittee on International Monetary Policy and Trade will be looking into the “Impact of the World Bank and Multi-Lateral Development Banks on National Security and U.S. Job Creation.

Thursday brings, Medicare, Obamacare, the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and, PPACA the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or more Obamacare, are on the table. Thursday’s hearings should bring fervent debate from both sides of the isle and possible campaign attack ad footage. Each one of these issues has galvanized both parties voting base in the lead up to next year’s presidential election. We may see this week’s “best verbal smack-down” on Thursday.

Just a few other hearings Thursday, the committee on Veterans affairs will hold a mark-up hearing. Other legislative hearings Thursday will look at  H.R. 50, H.R. 1760 and H.R. 1761 in the Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs.

Have a great week, just two more weeks until August recess and eight days to the debt ceiling deadline. Soon this debt debacle will all be behind us. Enjoy cooler temperatures for the week and I’ll be back Friday with the weekly wrap-up.