The Congressional Budget Office is estimating that the federal deficit would increase by $230 billion over the next decade if Republicans are successful in repealing President Obama’s healthcare law. The CBO also found that repeal would leave 32 million more Americans uninsured over the next decade. Despite the CBO’s finding, House Republicans are pushing forward to repeal the law.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa): "I suggest that we pull Obamacare out by the roots — root and branch; lock, stock and barrel — eradicate it completely, and leave not one vestige of its DNA left behind, because it is a malignant tumor into the spirit of America’s vitality and constitutionality. And if it’s allowed to have any particle left, it will regrow again, it will metastasize like a tumor, and grow back, and it will consume the liberty and the vigor of the American people. We must pull it out by the roots. This Congress has been elected to do so."
While the House is expected to pass a bill next week repealing the healthcare legislation, Senate Democrats say the measure has no chance of passing the Senate.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY): "At every turn, they’re adding ifs, ands and buts to their campaign promises. So we’re here today to say these reckless fiscal policies are dead on arrival here in the Senate."
House Republicans have killed the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming. Meanwhile, Republicans have introduced at least three different bills aimed at blocking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
House Republicans have also passed new rules that prevent delegates representing the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico from having any voting powers in Congress. The rule also affect delegates from American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands. The six delegates have never had full voting rights in Congress, but during the last session they were permitted to vote when the House was in the Committee of the Whole — that is a parliamentary term that describes when the chamber becomes a committee for the purpose of considering certain legislation.
Another new bill introduced in the House would essentially rewrite the 14th Amendment. Republican Steve King of Iowa is proposing to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to end automatic citizenship for anyone born in the country. If passed, the law would bar children born to undocumented immigrants from being granted citizenship.
John Boehner appeared on NBC Nightly News last night in his first interview since being elected Speaker of the House. While Boehner has pushed for $100 billion in budget cuts this year, he failed to identify a single program that could be cut. He was interviewed by Brian Williams.
Brian Williams: "Do you consider the defense budget sacred? Do you consider the Department" —
Rep. Boehner: "Absolutely not."
Williams: "Do you consider the Homeland Security budget sacred?"
Rep. Boehner: "No!"
Williams: "What goes?"
Rep. Boehner: "Listen."
Williams: "Name a program right now that we could do without."
Rep. Boehner: "I don’t think I have one off the top of my head, but there is — there is no part of this government that should be sacred."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has unveiled a five-year plan that would trim about $78 billion from anticipated spending in the Pentagon budget. Despite the proposed cuts, McClatchy Newspapers reports the military budget will still increase by three percent next year to $553 billion, not including spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the past decade, the Pentagon budget has risen 65 percent when adjusted for inflation. Robert Gates outlined his plan on Thursday.
Robert Gates: "More than $6 billion was saved by our decision to reduce the size of the active Army and Marine Corps starting in FY 2015. Under this plan, the U.S. Army’s permanent active-duty end strength would decline by 27,000 troops, while the Marine Corps would decline by somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000, depending on the outcome of their force structure review. These projected reductions are based on an assumption that America’s ground combat commitment in Afghanistan would be significantly reduced by the end of 2014 in accordance with the President’s strategy."
Meanwhile, Robert Gates is heading to China this weekend in order to formally restore military-to-military exchanges. Gates is the first defense secretary to visit China in 10 years.
Banking giants Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase have won approval to set up joint ventures in mainland China. The decision by Chinese securities regulators will enable the two Wall Street banks to underwrite stocks and bonds in one of the fastest-growing securities markets in the world. The decision comes just ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the United States on Jan. 18.
In the latest news from WikiLeaks, a newly disclosed classified U.S. diplomatic cable from 2006 reveals that Coca-Cola and other U.S. companies have complained that a key Israeli cargo crossing for goods entering the Gaza Strip was rife with corruption. The memo indicates that Israeli officials asked a Coca-Cola distributor to pay more than $3,000 to get a truckload of merchandise through the Karni Crossing. Other companies that had complained about the corruption include Procter & Gamble, Caterpillar, Philip Morris, Westinghouse, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola and Dell.
In the occupied West Bank, Israeli troops killed a 65-year-old Palestinian civilian named Amr Qawasme in a pre-dawn house raid earlier today in Hebron. Amr Qawasme’s wife, Sopheye, said the troops stormed into his bedroom while he was sleeping.
Sopheye Qawasme: "He wasn’t even awake. They just entered the door and shot him right away. I had gone to pray. When I came back, they told me. I have no idea how they just broke into the house and shot him. They came at me and put a rifle to my head, and they shot him again."
The Israeli military confirmed that Amr Qawasme was a civilian, but said the raid was justified because a member of Hamas was living in the building.
In Israel, the outgoing head of Mossad said Thursday that he does not believe Iran will have nuclear weapons capability before 2015. Meir Dagan said Iran was a long way from being able to produce nuclear weapons, following a series of failures that had set its program back by several years.
Sudan is preparing to open the polls on Sunday for voters in Southern Sudan to decide whether to break away from Sudan and form a new independent state. The vote is being held under the 2005 peace agreement that ended a nearly four-decade civil war between the North and South that killed some 2.5 million Sudanese. The United Nations has reported thousands of Southern Sudanese are arriving daily from the North ahead of the vote.
David Gressly: "An estimated 143,000 Southerners have left Northern Sudan since the end of October and are continuing to arrive in the country’s Southern states at about a rate of 2,000 people per day. About two-thirds of the returnees are believed to return — reach their hometowns and villages. But many remain stuck in the capital cities of their native states in the South and are waiting means of transport to reach their hometown or village. U.N. humanitarian agencies are working with the government of Southern Sudan to support their return."
The Obama administration has placed sanctions on Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and members of his inner circle because Gbagbo has refused to step down after November’s disputed election. Both Gbagbo and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara have claimed victory in November’s election, but the international community has recognized Ouattara as the winner. On Thursday, Ouattara called for a “special operations” raid to seize Gbagbo and remove him from the country.
In news from Haiti, a group of U.S.-based human rights groups and legal organizations filed an emergency petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to halt the roundups, detention and imminent deportations of hundreds of Haitian nationals by the U.S. government. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has said it is resuming deportations to Haiti this month, even though Haiti is still reeling from last year’s devastating earthquake and a cholera epidemic.
The health insurance company Blue Shield of California is coming under criticism after it announced plans to raise premiums by as much as 59 percent on nearly 200,000 Californians who buy health coverage on their own. If Blue Shield moves forward with the rate hike, it would be the third increase for the company’s customers since last fall.
In other health news, at least two Medicaid recipients in Arizona have died in recent months because the state stopped paying for certain organ transplants. Between 95 and 100 people who were waiting for transplants in Arizona were affected by the cuts.
Helen Thomas’ byline has returned to a newspaper in the Washington, D.C., area. She is now writing a column for the Falls Church News-Press, a weekly paper in Virginia.