The Idiots Did It. We’re Sequestered.

This is the low point in my time in the United States Congress. I can not tell you how ashamed I am.  

Senator Lindsay Graham, talking about the sequester. 

The Republican/Democrat game of chicken went to the next round last night when Congressional stonewalling forced President Obama to make good on his threats and sign the sequester order.

We’re sequestered. The Republican idiots and the Democratic idiots drove us over the cliff. 

What does this mean to you and me? 

I’m going to give you two replies. One will be what I’ve heard is going to happen to Oklahoma (and by derivation, to everyone else.) The second will be a more official summary. 

1. Oklahoma. What I’ve been told is that the sequester will take about .05% out of Oklahoma’s state budget. I’m expressing it in percent because that will make it easier for you to compute the effect on your state. Since so many of these things are based on population, that will be more accurate for you. I’m guessing, but I would imagine that the percentage will be similar in other states, while the numbers will (due to their higher populations) be higher. What that means in Oklahoma is several hundred million dollars which we will have to make up out of our relatively small state budget.

While that may not sound like a lot of money, (by government standards) one of the things that makes it hard to handle is that we are already well into the budget process. Coming as it does as an unplanned-for hit, it will be harder to make it up. Also, a good bit of this will ultimately be off-loaded on parts of the private sector such as the hospitals, who will have to handle the problems it creates in people’s lives out of their budgets. There will also be a hit on the economy, which will result in lower tax revenues, which could result in another round of this further down the line.

Oklahoma has fared relatively well in the recent economic downturn because we are an oil producing state and oil prices have been high. However, our tax revenues will fall if people buy less because of this sequester. 

Our military bases, such as Tinker Air Force Base, are predicting that they will have to furlough people in order to make up their part of the shortfall that they expect from the sequester. I believe other government agencies will be similarly impacted. This, of course, will also affect tax revenues and the overall economy.

I think we will see similar things all across the country, which is why I’m am detailing this here.

2. What the sequester does. 

President Obama was forced to sign the sequestration order as a result of Congress’ failure to act. This means that unless the members of Congress come back from their long weekend off with a new attitude, the sequester will take affect.

The sequester totals around $85 billion which will come out of the budget over the next 10 months. Non defense programs will be cut by 10% and defense programs will be cut by 13%.

Most government programs will be cut. Social security, Children’s health insurance, food stamps and Medicaid will not be cut. Medicare won’t be cut, but payments to providers will shrink by 2%. 

Most other government programs will feel the cut, with furloughs predicted for agencies ranging from the FAA to the Bureau of Prisons. 

It’s a little difficult to predict exactly what will happen since the President and the Republican leadership differ in what they are telling us and I think both of them are spinning things to bolster their case. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn says that agencies have plenty of space in their budgets to handle the cuts. From what I know of government agencies, I think he’s probably right. However, from what I know of government agencies, I doubt that they will do this. 

I expect more gamesmanship, which I expect means that agencies will not “handle” the cuts at all, and you and I will end up paying for all this. 

The worst of the sequester will not hit until April, since, by law, the government furloughs can’t start until employees have been given 30 days’ notice. If this goes on long enough for that to happen, we’ll start feeling it in all sorts of ways, including a sudden, powerful drag on the economy. For more information, go here and here.

In the meantime, as I said earlier, the president was forced to sign the sequester orders and Congress has gone off on a long weekend after a hard week of doing nothing good for the country. I’ve been through legislative fights, and I would guess they need a cooling-off period. The best thing they can do for all of us is go soak their swollen heads.

As for you and me, we have to decide for ourselves if this is how we want our government to work. We keep getting choices between bad and worse at election time. As a consequence, we’ve elected a whole Congress of party hacks who do not care enough about this country to do the nation’s business. 

I have never and I will never tell anyone to change their party. I have always, and I will always tell you that you need to demand that whichever party you are in clean up its act and stop giving us puppet people for elected officials. 

If you want to chat with your Congressional delegation about this, you can find their phone numbers and email addresses here

We elected these people. We can un-elect them. 

Obama Files Brief Asking Court to Overturn Proposition 8

Obama

Think back ten months ago to when President Obama announced that his position on gay marriage had “evolved.”

What his position had in fact evolved from was his prior position when he promised the American people that he was against gay marriage. That was in 2008 when he was working to get elected president. Ten months ago, he announced that his thinking had evolved past his earlier promise and he was now in favor of gay marriage.

At that distant, and now forgotten time of ten long months ago, he promised the American people that his newly-evolved support for gay marriage was just his “personal opinion” and that it would have no effect on the actual laws concerning marriage. After all, the laws in question were not federal laws, and as President of the United States he had no power to or intention of trying to influence state legislatures. 

That, as they say, was then. This is now. And right now it appears that our president has every intention of using the force of his office in whatever way he can to push gay marriage on the country. The fiscal cliff/sequester fight may have robbed him of the economic wherewithal to use his powers as Commander in Chief to send aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf, but evidently there is still plenty of money to buy ink for his office printers.

Yesterday, the president filed yet another of his briefs suggesting to the Supreme Court how they should rule on the question of gay marriage. In this particular brief, he asked them to overturn a vote of the people in California. I realize that President Obama is not one to care about things like consistency in his actions, but I still think it’s interesting that a man whose power of office comes entirely from a vote of the people would be so flip about overturning other votes of the people. 

The people spoke in California. But evidently, the president’s opinion on votes of the people is evolving right along with just about everything else he tells us he believes. So far as I can tell, the only promises this president can be trusted to keep are the ones he made to Planned Parenthood and the abortion on demand crowd. For them, he will do anything.

You can find the full text of the brief here

A New Yorker article describing the brief says in part:

Thursday night, just hours before a filing deadline, President Obama’s Justice Department submitted an amicus curiae brief asking the Supreme Court to strike down Proposition 8—California’s gay-marriage ban. Even more importantly, it did so by asserting a bold claim to full equality for gay and lesbian Americans, which is a significant development in the nation’s rapidly moving consideration of the issue.

 

The brief—which President Obama, according to a report on SCOTUSblog, personally helped craft—did not directly ask the Supreme Court to declare marriage equality a constitutional right. Even so, its legal reasoning points squarely in that direction. If the Court accepts the full weight and reasoning of the President’s arguments, any state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage would fail the test of constitutionality. Twenty-nine states, in addition to California, have such amendments now.

 

Theodore Boutrous, one of the lead attorneys in the small group of legal heavyweights representing the Proposition 8 plaintiffs (a team including David Boies and Ted Olson), said on a conference call for reporters which was quickly arranged after the brief was filed, that they were “extremely pleased” that the government had taken a strong stand for marriage. He added, with respect to other anti-gay marriage bans, “I don’t see any way these laws could survive” under the legal test urged by the Justice Department in its brief.

 

It would have been close to impossible to imagine these developments less than a year ago.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/03/socarides-on-prop-8.html#ixzz2MJ1WdW7a

And in Other News … While the Pope was Resigning, the Washington Squirrels were Chattering

I abandoned my fellow politicians for a few days and focused my heart and mind on the historic departure of Pope Benedict XVI. 

I didn’t have time to watch the events unfold on tv, but I did manage to catch a few news clips on the internet. When I saw the Holy Father, hobbling to the helicopter as he left the Vatican, and then hobbling away from it at Castle Gandolfo, it touched my soul. 

Returning from that to the news out of Washington where the dissolution of our government spins along

on lies, egos and a jaw-dropping lack of concern for the welfare of this country and its people was a little like stepping out of a warm bed straight into a blizzard. What a painful return to the garbage the people we’ve entrusted with our government are spitting out. 

So much madness has happened and is happening while I was pope watching that I’m going to summarize the most ugly stories to bring us up to speed. Here, for your consternation is what is going on in our nation’s capitol.

1. Sequester. They’re now calling the old “Fiscal Cliff” the “Sequester.”

Fancy name change, same old … I’m grasping for a word to describe it that isn’t vulgar or profane … same old irresponsibility. From the comments people usually make on this blog, I expect everyone to line up behind their team and blame the other guy. Not me. My days of pavlovian partisanship are long past. I’m for the USA, and I’m pretty well convinced that the R and the D are only for the R and the D. 

Today, or tonight rather, we are set to go over another fiscal cliff by means of what they are now calling a sequester. What that refers to without the gloss of obscure verbiage is that a round of budget cuts will go into effect in a mindless and punishing fashion which will hurt you and me and our country. This will happen because the overgrown children in Washington care more about pushing one another around than doing the jobs we elected them to do. 

I am well aware that commenters on this blog will say “What could my guys do but throw pies in the face of the other guys?” Just remember folks, those pies they are throwing are your jobs, your house payment, your future. We need to reduce the deficit, sure, but not by just taking a pair of scissors to the things that matter the most in an attempt to scare the other side into bending our way. That’s not deficit reduction, that’s playing chicken with our futures to prove who’s the manliest man in Washington DC. 

2. Bob Woodward, President Obama and the utterly biased, nutso Obama press.

Bob Woodward called President Obama out for what was an obvious … searching again for a word that is not vulgar or profane … piece of political gamesmanship at the expense of the nation. 

It seems President Obama went over the top in his attempts to rally the American people behind his team in the on-going Fiscal Cliff … er … Sequester games by announcing that the aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman couldn’t leave for the Persian Gulf as scheduled because, well, because the “Sequester” meant we didn’t have the money to send them. 

Bob Woodward, who is not exactly a right wing stalwart, violated the Obama press rules by actually disagreeing with the President, calling his actions “a kind of madness.” In a country where the press lines up behind “their” team in these partisan battles with the same pavlovian mindlessness that our elected officials do, Bob Woodward’s comments were nothing short of lemming treason. Puppet politicians pay a price when they cut their strings, as do members of the puppet press. 

I’ll bet Bob Woodward is eating lunch all by himself these days. 

There you have it. The DC boys are still behaving like boys playing soldier behind their cardboard box forts in mama’s living room. The trouble for us is that it’s not mama’s living room; it’s our nation’s capitol, and those aren’t cardboard boxes; they’re the future of our country. 

How sad for all of us. 

Obama Asks Court to Overturn Defense of Marriage Act

President Obama weighed in with the Supreme Court today.

He filed an amicus brief asking the court to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996 denies federal recognition of gay marriages and gives each state the right to refuse recognition of same-sex marriage licenses issued by other states. The act does not prohibit states from allowing gay marriages, neither does it obligate states to recognize the gay marriages from other states.

If the court overturns this act, it would make a muddle of marriage laws within and among the states.

Let me try to explain:

Right now, Oklahoma does not have a law allowing same-sex marriage. In fact, Oklahoma has an amendment to the state constitution which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

If our neighboring state of Texas passes a law redefining marriage as between someone other than a man and a woman, the Federal Defense of Marriage Act would protect Oklahoma’s current law. Oklahoma would not be obliged to honor Texas’ law.

If this act is overturned by the Supreme Court, the question of what Oklahoma must do in this situation would be up in the air. Unless, of course, the Court follows writes its own statutes (calling them Constitutional interpretations) to enforce its own decision. This is what the Court did with Roe v Wade and subsequent rulings on abortion.

The other effect of overturning DOMA would be that it would allow the federal government to put itself in the marriage regulation business. From what I have seen of this president, you’d better get hold of yourself if this happens, because it’s going to be sweeping, heavy-handed and against the religious freedom of practicing Christians and Christian churches.

A FoxNews article discussing Obama’s brief to the Supreme Court on Doma says in part:

The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to strike down the federal law defining marriage as a union between only a man and a woman.
The request regarding the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act was made Friday in a brief by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli that argues the law is unconstitutional because it violates “the fundamental guarantee of equal protection.”
The high court is set to hear two cases next month on the issue: the constitutional challenge on Proposition 8, the 2008 California that allowed same-sex marriages in the state that two years later was overturned, and United States v. Windsor, which challenges DOMA.
Edith Windsor, a California resident, was married to her female partner in Canada in 2007 but was required to pay roughly $360,000 in federal estate taxes because the marriage is not recognized under DOMA.
The law “denies to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are legally married under state law an array of important federal benefits that are available to legally married opposite-sex couples,” Verrilli’s brief in part states.
House Republicans also purportedly filed a brief Friday, arguing for the right to defend DOMA.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/23/obama-considers-weighing-in-on-gay-marriage-case/#ixzz2Lk7tlaUf

If you wish to read the President’s brief to the Supreme Court against DOMA, go here.

Building the Stepford Congress: Chicago Dems and Gun Control

 

Puppet politicians are the order of the day in today’s campaign world.

If an elected official crosses the party line, they may find themselves being attacked by their own party, instead of the other guys.

Just ask former Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Halverson of Chicago. Rep. Halverson is the front runner in a field of 15 (previsously 16) candidates for the Congressional seat vacated by Jesse Jackson Junior.

During her time in office, Rep Halverson racked up a mixed position on gun control. She voted for some gun control measures and against others. She also stated then as she does now that gun control is not the answer to the violent deaths in this country. Her believes that we need to look at the social order itself for our long-term solutions.

This position is clear evidence of independent thinking on Halverson’s part. Sadly, it appears that independent thinking is something that the Democratic Party is will no longer allow it’s elected officials to do.

The response by the national Democratic Party to Rep Halverson’s candidacy has evidently been to load in huge amounts of money against the Congresswoman. The greatest irony is that they appear to be working with the Republican New York mayor and his “super pac” in an effort to defeat Congresswoman Halverson.

I remember years ago when Democrats prided themselves on being the party where people could think for themselves. We had more than a bit of contempt for the threats and bullying we saw the Republicans heap on one another. We didn’t think much of those folks who did what they were told and never had a thought of their own. Sadly, the Democrats have become more and more like the Republicans in this matter until now they are virtually indistinguishable from them.

In both political parties, elected officials either toe the line or pay the price of being attacked by their own party. People they thought were friends become enemies in a single hour. That is politics in today’s America. It’s ugly. It’s cruel. It is totally without personal honor. And it works to silence the voice of the people in elections.

Enter the Stepford Congress and it’s unending failure to act on behalf of the common good. Instead of independent thinking what we have instead are a bunch of legislative “mules” who carry legislation for special interests and do whatever they are told by the left and right wing nuts who control them.

I am not commenting specifically about the gun control issue in this post. I would feel the same if the situation was reversed and the Congresswoman was being attacked by her political party for favoring gun control. The issue at hand is not what an individual political candidate thinks. It is whether or not they are going to be allowed to think for themselves.

I really do not care who the voters in this Congressional district chose to be their voice in Washington. I only hope that whoever they pick he or she is an independent thinker and not someone who will be part of the Stepford Congress.

A Fox News interview with Congresswoman Halverson is below. I’m impressed by how hard she tries to take the high road in all this.

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Bishops: Make HHS Mandate a Bargaining Point in Fiscal Cliff Debates

The suggestion is late to the party, but it is about time it finally came.

The Roman Catholic Bishops here in America have finally asked Congressional supporters of religious freedom to do what they should have done in the first place: Make the HHS Mandate a bargaining chip in political “cliff” negotiations.

I’ve maintained all along that if the House Republicans had made the HHS Mandate the bargaining chip in the 2012 cliff fight over extending the debt limit, the HHS Mandate would never have gone into effect. It was one of those rare opportunities when political brinksmanship might have been about something besides the egos of the players and the wishes of the moneyed interests who control them.

What they did instead was engage in their usual fight to get more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

The bishops have finally decided to call for such action directly. They sent a letter to members of Congress, asking them to make the HHS Mandate a bargaining point in the next found of fiscal cliff stand-offs.

All I can say is, it’s about time.

In fact, it’s past time.

It’s not easy for political outsiders to see through the smoke and mirrors of political maneuvering. But it appears that the bishops are beginning to figure it out.

As usual, I support the bishops in this 100%.

A Reuters article describing the bishops’ letter says in part:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Roman Catholic bishops stepped up their battle against President Obama’s contraceptives policy on Friday by urging Congress to use its fiscal debate to free religious employers from a mandate requiring insurance coverage for birth control.

In a letter to all 535 members of Congress, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore suggested two provisions to extend existing federal conscience protections to the contraceptives mandate and strengthen the ability of opponents to seek vindication in federal court.

“The federal government’s respect for believers and people of conscience no longer measures up to the treatment Americans have a right to expect from their elected representatives,” wrote Lori, who chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“I urge you in the strongest terms possible to incorporate the provisions … in the upcoming legislative proposals to fund the federal government,” Lori added.

The conference also plans to send out an action alert via email and text message calling on supporters across the country to visit local congressional offices next week when lawmakers are home on break.

Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide health insurance coverage through group coverage plans for all contraceptives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including the so-called “morning after” pill.

The archbishop’s letter underscored a growing sense of urgency among church leaders over the birth control coverage rules that are due to take effect on August 1 for religiously affiliated employers including universities, hospitals and charities.

The bishops have tried several times to get Congress to act over the past year, amid numerous protests and more than 40 lawsuits by religious groups and employers. But Lori’s letter marks their first attempt to use the debates over deficit reduction, the debt limit and government funding.

“To many people, this looks like the main must-pass vehicle going through Congress this year,” said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the conference’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. (Read more here.)

A Few Quick Takes on Obama’s State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama, official portrait

President Obama gave his annual State of the Union Address tonight.

There were no surprises in the speech. Most of what the President said has been in the news for a long time now. In fact, several of his major proposals, such as gun control, have been the subject of presidential speeches or press conferences in the past few weeks.

I agree with some of his ideas and disagree with others. Quite a bit of the speech was filler of one sort or the other, either introducing people who the president felt would exemplify the need for his proposals, or in just illustrating and explaining what he wanted.

I’ve attempted to boil it down to a few quick takes to make it easier to see where he wants to take the country. We’ve already discussed several of these proposals quite a bit here on Public Catholic. I expect that we will go over some of them in even greater depth in the future.

In the meantime, here are my quick takes on the President’s speech. If you think I left out something important, feel free to bring it up in the comments section.

Jobs, Taxes and Wages

1. … we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful … we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.

2. I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.

3. Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families.

4. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.

The Deficit, Health Care & Energy

1. Reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.

2. Save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected. 

3. My Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water

Climate Change

1. We must do more to combat climate change. 

2. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.

Home Ownership

Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Take a vote, and send me that bill.

Education

1. Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. 

2. I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.

Immigration

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Cyber Terrorism

1. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

2. Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

3. America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.

International Trade Agreements 

1. We intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership.

2. We will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union.

The Military and Defense Spending

1. We will maintain the best military in the world.

2. We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight.

3. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat.

Long Voting Lines

When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. 

Gun Control 

1. Background checks

2. New laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.

3. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets.

HHS Mandate: Bishops Say Obama’s Proposed Compromise “Falls Short.”

I held back on extensive comments on President Obama’s recent “compromise” to the HHS Mandate.

My personal feeling when it was announced was that the compromise would, in the words of today’s announcement from Cardinal Dolan, “fall short.”

My reasons were political, based primarily on my understanding of how politicians behave when they are forced to give the appearance of doing something that they really don’t want to do. I expected smoke and mirrors, and in at least one very serious way, that is exactly what the President gave us.

He left private employers out of his “compromise,” and by doing so essentially stopped the First Amendment at the church door. There is, if you’ve been thinking about the militant secularism in our world, nothing new in this position.

Evangelical atheists and militant secularists (who often but not always overlap) have said repeatedly that their goal is for Christians in particular and religious people in general to “keep their faith at home.” They allow (for now) that we can worship inside the confines of our churches without government interference, and that we can believe within the privacy of our homes (again, for now) as we choose.

But they declaim loudly and vociferously that we should not, must not, may not carry our faith further than that. They do not want us to pray in public, speak about faith in debate or follow our faith when we go to work or interact with other people. They carry this so far in other countries that they have attempted to cost people their employment for wearing a cross around their neck. This happened in Britain and was recently overturned by a court order.

It is entirely consistent for President Obama to attempt to divide Christians and other religious objectors to his HHS Mandate by “giving in” to allow Church related institutions out of the trap, but to turn around and leave private enterprises such as Hobby Lobby in a position of either compromising on core beliefs or facing massive government penalties.

The question then is, does the First Amendment stop at the church door, or does it apply to all Americans as we go about our daily lives, including those of us who do not wear clerical collars?

This is a massively important debate, striking to the heart of what it means to be a free people. Does the Bill of Rights apply to people, or is it only for institutions?

I don’t know of course, but I believe that President Obama expected the Catholic Church to accept his compromise and abandon the Hobby Lobbies out there. I am happy to report that, if that’s what he expected, he was wrong.

Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops came down on the side of individual liberty and freedom of conscience. They reiterated their opposition to the HHS Mandate and proclaimed their support for all people of faith in their right to practice their faith without government bullying.

I am, once again, proud of the bishops. I am determined to stand with them and with my brothers and sisters in Christ of every denomination in this fight.

Cardinal Dolan addresses the Democratic National Convention, 2012

Cardinal Dolan’s entire statement is below. You can find more information at the USCCB website.

Statement of Cardinal Timothy Dolan Responding to Feb. 1 Proposal from HHS

For almost a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have worked hard to support the right of every person to affordable, accessible, comprehensive, life-affirming healthcare.As we continue to do so, our changeless values remain the same.We promote the protection of the dignity of all human life and the innate rights that flow from it, including the right to life from conception to natural death; care for the poorest among us and the undocumented; the right of the Church to define itself, its ministries, and its ministers; and freedom of conscience.

Last Friday, the Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the HHS mandate that requires coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortions.The Administration indicates that it has heard some previously expressed concerns and that it is open to dialogue.With release of the NPRM, the Administration seeks to offer a response to serious matters which have been raised throughout the past year.We look forward to engaging with the Administration, and all branches and levels of government, to continue to address serious issues that remain. Our efforts will require additional, careful study.Only in this way can we best assure that healthcare for every woman, man and child is achieved without harm to our first, most cherished freedom.

In evaluating Friday’s action regarding the HHS mandate, our reference remains the statement of our Administrative Committee made last March, United for Religious Freedom, and affirmed by the entire body of bishops in June 2012.

In that statement, we first expressed concern over the mandate’s “exceedingly narrow” four-part definition of “religious employer,” one that exempted our houses of worship, but left “our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need” subject to the mandate.This created “a ‘second class’ of citizenship within our religious community,” “weakening [federal law's] healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity.”And the exemption effectuated this distinction by requiring “among other things, [that employers] must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith.”

On Friday, the Administration proposed to drop the first three parts of the four-part test.This might address the last of the concerns above, but it seems not to address the rest.The Administration’s proposal maintains its inaccurate distinction among religious ministries. It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education, and Catholic charities. HHS offers what it calls an “accommodation,” rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our Church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches. And finally, it seems to take away something that we had previously—the ability of an exempt employer (such as a diocese) to extend its coverage to the employees of a ministry outside the exemption.

Second, United for Religious Freedom explained that the religious ministries not deemed “religious employers” would suffer the severe consequence of “be[ing] forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions.”After Friday, it appears that the government would require all employees in our “accommodated” ministries to have the illicit coverage—they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children—under a separate policy.In part because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies.Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities. Here, too, we will continue to analyze the proposal and to advocate for changes to the final rule that reflect these concerns.

Third, the bishops explained that the “HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all:individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values.”This includes employers sponsoring and subsidizing the coverage, insurers writing it, and beneficiaries paying individual premiums for it.Friday’s action confirms that HHS has no intention to provide any exemption or accommodation at all to this “third class.”In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath.We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.

Because the stakes are so high, we will not cease from our effort to assure that healthcare for all does not mean freedom for few.Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage.We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions—we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks.Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration’s invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all.At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York
February 7, 2013

President Obama Supports Boy Scouts of America Allowing Gay Scout Leaders

President Barack Obama, official portrait

President Obama gave his support to recent moves by the Boys Scouts of America to end its policy of not allowing gay Scout leaders or Scouts in an interview today. He also said that he will not hesitate to send women into combat.

Boy Scouts of America won a United States Supreme Court case (Boy Scouts of America vs Dal) in 2000. The Court held that a Constitutional Right to Freedom of Association allowed exclude a person from membership when “the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.”

BSA has come under criticism since then for taking the position that Scout leaders and Scouts could not be gay. The current discussion is whether or not the Boy Scouts should change this position to allow local affiliates to decide this matter for themselves.

The Reuters article describing President Obama’s comments on the matter says in part:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Sunday encouraged the Boy Scouts of Americato end its ban on gay members and leaders, days before the group is expected to vote on the controversial and long-standing rule.

In an interview with CBS, anchor Scott Pelley asked the president if he believed scouting should be open to gays.

“Yes,” Obama said simply.

… The BSA national executive board is expected to vote Wednesday, the last day of a three-day meeting, on whether to lift the ban it had reaffirmed just last year.

The organization said last month it was considering ending its national ban on gay youth and adult members and leaving policies on sexual orientation to its local organizations.

Since coming into office, Obama has presided over several moves to reduce discrimination against gays, including ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prevented gay men and women from serving openly in the military.

He also stopped his administration from defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbade gay married couples from obtaining the same benefits that heterosexual couples receive.

Obama also voiced his support for gay rights during his high profile second Inaugural address last month.

Separately on Sunday, Obama said he would have no hesitation sending women into combat after the Pentagon lifted its long-time ban last month. (Read more here.)

Obama Didn’t Blink. We Can’t Either.

I’ve found that evil usually triumphs…unless good is very, very careful.

–DR. MCCOY, Star Trek: The Original Series, “The Omega Glory”

I’m going to take my time commenting about President Obama’s recent “compromises” on the HHS Mandate. I want to let the fur fly for a while.

In the meantime, here are a few facts and a couple of opinions that I want you to think about as we winnow through the political/media chaff.

1. President Obama did not offer this “compromise” because he was being a statesman. He was responding to the fact that his administration was under a court order to live up to its promises concerning the mandate. I wrote about this when it happened. You can find that post here.

A Hobby Lobby store. Photo courtesy of the Becket Fund.

2. Hobby Lobby’s attorney made a statement to ProLife News affirming what many people had already surmised: The President’s “compromise” will not help companies like Hobby Lobby. I will put an excerpt of this statement and another link to it below.

Cardinal Dolan addresses the Democratic National Convention, 2012

3. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is taking much the same approach to this “compromise” that I am. They want to read through it and think. Their statement says:

In response to today’s release of revised regulations for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, provided the following statement on behalf of the USCCB.

“Today, the Administration issued proposed regulations regarding the HHS mandate. We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later.”

4. I gave my initial reaction to the “compromise” yesterday when I wrote HHS Mandate: Did Obama Blink? My feeling then as now is that no, he did not blink. And we shouldn’t, either.

5. My opinion is that President Obama did the least he could do and still give an appearance of cooperating with the federal court order that his administration was under. I also think that his slave dogs in the media will tout this as the “great compromise” that it is not and that members of the public who either (a) worship President Obama, or, (b) hate Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular will follow right along with this obvious lie.

The article published by ProLifeNews about the statement from Hobby Lobby’s attorney says in part:

“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious liberty of millions of Americans. The rights of family businesses like Hobby Lobby are still being violated,” Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for The Becket Fund For Religious Liberty, said.

He said, “The Becket Fund continues to study what effect, if any, the Administration’s proposed rule has on the many lawsuits on behalf of non-profit religious organizations like Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, EWTN, Houston Baptist University, and Wheaton College.” (Read more here.)


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